Tag Archives: Leonard Fournette

NFL 2018: AFC Season Preview

By: Elias McMillan

In the past, I have really fleshed out these previews for each team. But who has time for that? Here are my protections for the AFC in 2018.

AFC EAST

The Patriots will rule this division again. It is really a shame that the other three teams in the AFC East are so far behind. And New England really isn’t the juggernaut that everyone makes them out to be. Yes, they still have the ageless one, Tom Brady. And he is still able to get the most out of his receivers, especially, all-pro TE Rob Gronkowski. But New England enters this season once again with many of the same weaknesses. The offensive line, especially in pass protection, worries me as well as their lack of a run game. New England did improve defensively up front but their secondary is extremely average at best. Despite this, no one in the division is ready to challenge them. I like what the Jets are building though. They lucked out and drafted possibly the best QB in this past draft in Sam Darnold. Now, they just have to build an offense around him because currently, this team just doesn’t have enough weapons. I really like the young pieces they have on defense like safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Miami is in rebuild mode defensively as they let go a couple of big names in the offseason. I like the addition of DE Robert Quinn who once put up great sack numbers as a member of the Rams. Miami will benefit from the return of QB Ryan Tannehill. They will feel the loss of WR Jarvis Landry but I think RB Kenyan Drake will be a break out player this season. I like the pairing the backfield of Drake and veteran Frank Gore. It was a great story last season when the Bills made the playoffs. I think they will free fall to the bottom of the division this season. I hated the draft pick QB Josh Allen. They have a lot of question marks on offense outside of RB LeSean McCoy who isn’t getting younger. Buffalo’s defense could be able to keep them in some games in 2018 but the lack of offense will keep them from some wins. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Patriots, 2) Jets, 3) Dolphins, 4) Bills

AFC NORTH

The talent that Pittsburgh has will make them the unquestioned favorite once again this year in the North. The big question will again be if the Ben, Brown, and Bell combo can finally break through and win the conference. That question looms even larger in 2018 as it will probably be Le’Veon Bell’s last season in the Black and Gold. The sad part is that it will probably be the defense again that will hold this team back. Can Pittsburgh consistently pressure the QB? Can they get great LB play without Ryan Shazier in the lineup? Can the secondary not be a continued weakness? Those are all legit questions that will need to be answered this season. The good news (if you’re a Pittsburgh fan) is that traditional rivals, Baltimore and Cincinnati, are not in shape to compete with the Steelers. I still can’t believe the Bengals extended Marvin Lewis after last season. The Bengals are still holding on to a talented roster led by WR A.J. Green but they lack the edge to be real players in the division. You never know what you’re going to get out of QB Andy Dalton. He might be able to lean on RB Joe Mixon this year as many are expecting big things out of him. On defense, DT Geno Atkins looks like the lone bright spot on defense for the Bengals. LB Vontaze Burfict can be a difference maker when he is not suspended or acting like an idiot. Baltimore enters this season in a strange place as it is starting to look like the end of the road for many of their veterans. Joe Flacco, who hasn’t been the same player since winning the Super Bowl, looks like he is being groomed to be replaced eventually by rookie QB Lamar Jackson. Flacco will have a fighting chance to solidify his position this year as the team really put out an effort to add weapons around him in the passing game. I think Baltimore will be stout on defense again this year but they are looking mighty old at some key positions. In terms of youth, they still have a good one in LB C.J. Mosley but I believe time is running out for veterans Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Cleveland this year but I don’t understand why. I was rooting for Hue Jackson to succeed there but his shortcomings as a head coach are becoming obvious to everyone. I initially hated what Cleveland did in the draft but I’m starting to warm up to Baker Mayfield. The little kid from Oklahoma has an arm and an “it factor”. I still believe they should have taken Saquon Barkley. On paper, I think the Browns definitely won’t go winless this season. They have a pretty decent cast at the skill positions this year including WR Jarvis Landry, WR Josh Gordon, RB Carlos Hyde, and emerging TE David Njoku. There’s plenty of young talent on the defensive side of the ball as well. DE Myles Garrett could be on the verge of having a productive season. The Browns will still be the Browns in 2018 and I wont mistake a few wins as hope for the future. Especially if that future includes Hue Jackson. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Steelers, 2) Bengals, 3) Ravens, 4) Browns

AFC SOUTH

Looking at the AFC South and I think you will see the best roster of teams in the conference from top to bottom. I don’t believe that Jacksonville will be a one-year wonder after their shocking success from a year ago. You can’t fake the talent they have on defense. Though, I think their lack of a passing game will bite them again in 2018. I’m buying into the Houston Texans in 2018 as long as they stay healthy. I think they can be really deadly offensively with QB Deshaun Watson running the show. I think the Texans defense could be really good with the return of J.J. Watt and the continued progression of Jadeveon Clowney. Again, Jacksonville be tough because of that defense they have but their loyalty shown to QB Blake Bortles might hold them back if they can return to the postseason. Tennessee made a surprising run the playoffs last season and I think they can continue to get better. There were times last year that QB Marcus Mariota looked shaky especially in the pocket. But the guy is playmaker, you can’t deny that. I think the addition of RB Dion Lewis will help him. Lewis and RB Derrick Henry should form one of the better backfield duos in the league this year. The Titans also worked to improve their defense through the draft and free agency this past offseason. CB Malcolm Butler will be given a chance to prove himself after a forgetful season last year in New England. In Indianapolis, the Colts will not win many games this year but the season will be all about QB Andrew Luck getting use to live game action after a lengthy break. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Texans, 2) Jaguars, 3) Titans, 4) Colts

AFC WEST

I think we’re going to see a changing of the guard in the AFC West this season. Kansas City has had a good run under Andy Reid but they aren’t getting younger and are beginning a turnover at many key spots on the defensive side. The LA Chargers showed promise last season but it wasn’t enough to make the post season. I think this year’s team will be under a lot of pressure to produce as QB Phillip Rivers could be playing in his last games. I think the Chargers have enough talent to give Rivers one more run in the post season this year. WR Keenan Allen quietly had a productive season last year and the ground game is pretty good led by Melvin Gordon. I’m really excited to see how good their defense can be. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa form a great pass rushing duo. Rookie safety Derwin James could be another young defender who can make plays. There is a lot of hype surrounding the return of head coach Jon Gruden to Oakland but I’m afraid that it is just that: hype. Gruden, a media darling, was always over rated as a coach and is now being used as a ploy to get fans in Oakland to forget that their team is leaving them for Vegas in the near future. Despite the clown show antics from the front office, Oakland returns a decent team in 2018. The David Carr-Amari Cooper connection should continue to lead this offense. Hopefully, DE Khalil Mack can return with no signs of rest after a lengthy contract hold out. Denver will be defined by their defense again in 2018. Von Miller will led a really good front seven this season but the secondary will miss CB Aqib Talib who was traded. The Broncos brought in QB Case Keenum who is coming off a great year in Minnesota. I’m not sure if he can recreate that magic again on a new team but Denver will need him to, as they have nothing behind him at that position. Kansas City has handed over the offense to QB Patrick Mahomes after trading away Alex Smith. Mahomes has impressed in the preseason. WR Tyreek Hill and RB Kareem Hunt will provide him with top-notch options to go to in the air and on the ground. Kansas City has drafted well on defense recently but I think they will miss some of those veterans who did not return this year, especially CB Marcus Peters. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Chargers, 2) Raiders, 3) Broncos, 4) Chiefs

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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

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 Playoffs: 2018 Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

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The Bills will be looking for their first post season win since 1995 in Jacksonville on Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

2017 Regular Season: 151-103

NFL Playoffs: Wild-Card Weekend

Tennessee @ Kansas City – The Chiefs bounced back nicely near the end of the regular season to win their second straight AFC West title. They may not be as strong as they were a season ago, especially on the defensive side, but they are playing well going into the post season. I can’t say that about the Titans. I was waiting for Tennessee’s playoff chances to just die out but luckily they seem to just have Jacksonville’s number. Up until last Sunday, the Titans were trending downwards but they were able to take advantage of poor QB play to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Tennessee’s defense has been inconsistent from most of 2017 and I think Kansas City has the weapons to expose that unit on Saturday. RB Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing this season and he was key in December in helping end Kansas City’s mid season slide. QB Alex Smith has been proven to play well against poor secondaries and Tennessee’s ranks near the bottom in the league. I think WR Tyreke Hill and TE Travis Kelce will have their opportunities in this game. Kansas City usually has a strong front seven on defense but injuries have hurt them this year. Justin Houston is still one of the best pass rushers in the game and in the secondary, you can count CB Marcus Peters to make a play or shut down a side of the field. For Tennessee, QB Marcus Mariota has had a problem with accuracy this season. With TE Delanie Walker as one of the few reliable targets in the passing game, Mariota has had to lean on the run game this year, which really hasn’t been a bad thing. RB DeMarco Murray is a capable back but he will be out this week. That may not be that big of a blow as RB Derrick Henry is having a break out season splitting carries with Murray and leading the team in rushing. Henry is a nice change of pace from Murray but he will have to be a every down back in this game. Tennessee’s front seven on defense is under rated but offense’s with capable QB play should be able to handle them. With Arrowhead rocking, this should be a slam-dunk for the home team. Prediction: Chiefs 38 – Titans 21

Atlanta @ Los Angeles – This is an old school NFC West matchup if you remember how the divisions were formatted in the early 90’s. I wish the NFL would allow the Falcons to wear their throwback red jerseys and the Rams can wear their throwback royal blues with yellow. Anyways, this matchup will have the NFC Champion from a season ago against a Rams team that finally broke thru this year. Atlanta is a team that is definitely capable of making a run back to the Super Bowl with the talent they have on both sides of the ball. But for whatever reason, they have under performed and have been inconsistent this year. It almost cost them a chance to get back into the playoffs. QB Matt Ryan must have a strong game on Saturday night. He will be facing a Rams defense that struggles against the run but is among the league leaders in sacks. The Falcons must do anything in their power to account for DT Aaron Donald who is as good of a defender than anyone in the league. Despite having that strength in the middle of the defense, the Rams are vulnerable against the run. RB Devonta Freeman might have a chance to help Atlanta run a balanced attack on offense. WR Julio Jones is still one of the best in the league but Ryan must find a way to increase his scoring chances. Atlanta’s defense has quietly delivered this season but they’ll face a tall task in slowing down RB Todd Gurley. Gurley has established himself as a legit MVP candidate and he has been a driving force behind the turn around of his QB, Jared Goff. LA’s balanced and steady attack on offense has served them well this season. Keeping the pressure off Goff will be key in this game as Atlanta offers a decent pass rush. Between Gurley and Donald, the Rams have the two best players in this game and I think they’ll be able to ride them both to a home victory on Saturday night. Atlanta has the potential to make this a close one though. Prediction: Rams 24 – Falcons 20

Buffalo @ Jacksonville – Thanks to Cincinnati, Buffalo is everyone’s lovable underdog in this post season. The Bills will be making their first playoff trip in 17 years and they’ll be looking for their first playoff victory since 1995. Jacksonville was riding high about a month ago. There were even whispers that they could have jumped up to the second seed in the AFC. The last two weeks, The Jaguars have trended downward since clinching the AFC South, losing two straight include last week’s embarrassing loss at Tennessee. We all know how strong Jacksonville’s defense has been all season. They have the second ranked unit in the league and the top pass defense in football. Everyone has serious doubts about their situation at QB. Blake Bortles was starting to play better at the beginning of December but has regressed to his regular self recently, just in time for the playoffs. Jacksonville’s passing game has also struggled with all the injuries they had to deal with at the WR position. It seems to me that they might have to lean on rookie RB Leonard Fournette. That may not be a bad thing as the Jags have the league’s leading rushing attack. The Jaguars have a tremendous pass rush and secondary but they struggle against the run and that is where Buffalo can take advantage. RB LeSean McCoy is having another strong season. He suffered an injury last week but he appears to be ready to return for Sunday. Buffalo is going to need a big day on the ground if they hope QB Tyrod Taylor will be able to get anything in the passing game. Buffalo’s air attack has been feast or famine this season and things will definitely be tough for them against this secondary. I think Jacksonville’s defense will continue to be the strength for their team on Sunday but I think their offense will continue to struggle. Buffalo will be able to take advantage of some mistakes on the road and they will avoid an emotional letdown after what happened last week. I’m taking the Bills in an upset and they’ll advance to face division rival, New England next week. Prediction: Bills 21 – Jaguars 20

Carolina @ New Orleans – The Saints almost blew their chance at the division crowd last week. Luckily for them, Carolina fell on the road against Atlanta. I’m not going to take much away from the loss last week in Tampa. I still think the Saints are a strong contender in the NFC. Carolina has had their struggles this year but also look like a team that could go on a run. I think the winner of this game will probably go to the NFC Championship game. The Saints beat the Panthers twice already this year and it seems that they just have their number. Carolina’s defense will play tough but they have a lot to contend with. The Saints offer a balanced running attack with Mark Ingram and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara and down field threats in the passing game like WR Michael Thomas. Carolina has a good defense but this isnt the same unit from two seasons ago. New Orleans’ improved defense should be able to limit the damage that Cam Newton is capable of. Newton will have his backfield at full strength on Sunday as Jonathan Stewart will return from injury to be paired with another rookie sensation, Christian McCaffrey. Despite trading away Kevlin Benjamin to Buffalo, Carolina has been able to create big plays in the passing game. But their WR core may be short handed in this one due to injuries and they’ll be up against a much-improved Saints secondary. Not to mention, the crowd in the Super Dome will really make it tough for the Panthers offense to operate. I like the home team to advance. Prediction: Saints 34 – Panthers 24

NFL 2017: Week 6 Predictions!

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Are Cam Newton and the Panthers starting to regain the form they showed in 2015?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 4-10

Season: 42-35

Big Five Games of the Week

Philadelphia @ Carolina – The Panthers went from an unimpressive 2-0 to a very impressive 4-1. The Panthers netted a big road victory last week in Detroit. Now, they’ll return home to face a hot Philadelphia team. The Eagles passing offense is looking really strong right now. The offensive line is holding up and QB Carson Wentz is finding his big targets down the field. The Eagles still have an inconsistent run game and their secondary on defense is shaky but right now things are just clicking on that team. On a short week, I like the home team’s chances but I think the Eagles are going to be able to win some key matchups in this game. I think the Eagles front seven will limit Carolina on the ground and get after Cam Newton. And I like Philadelphia’s chances to make more big plays down the field against Carolina’s secondary. This should be a really good game. I can’t believe it but I’m going with the road Eagles in an upset. Prediction: Eagles 27 – Panthers 20

Green Bay @ Minnesota – The Vikings have the defense to get after Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. Especially at home. But I don’t trust their offense even against a Packers defense that isn’t that great. Playing at Minnesota can be a tough task but the Packers will have more opportunities to put points on the board. Minnesota’s offense is handicapped by the injuries they have at QB and RB. Prediction: Packers 29 – Vikings 18

New England @ New York Jets – The Jets enter this game with 3 wins. The Jets enter Week 6 of the 2017 season with six wins. They can’t fire Todd Bowles after this season. Some in the Jets locker room have said before the season that they are NOT tanking. I guess, they were right. New England is better team and should own them. But then again, I think the Jets have a better chance than most believe. New England is beatable. This year, the familiar flaws (defense and offensive line play) have returned to the Pats. And there are whispers about Tom Brady maybe playing through a shoulder injury. Also, I love the story line of DE Kony Ealy who was a Patriot to start training camp after a trade from Carolina only to get cut before the start of the season and getting signed by the Jets. Ultimate revenge factor for him in this game. I suspect Bowles will allow him to pin his ears back and chase Brady all game. I don’t think the Jets have the offense to out score the Patriots but then again, New England’s defense is in a rut. I’m not picking the Jets but I’m saying that being the Pats at home isnt as tall of a task than it sounds. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Jets 30

Los Angeles Rams @ Jacksonville – Jacksonville’s defense balled out last week but the Jags will be fighting a stigma this week at home against the Rams. The Jaguars can’t seem to put together a pair of good performances in a row. The LA Rams were a dropped pass in the end zone away from coming away with their most impressive win of the season at home against Seattle. I think the progress seen in LA is real and they play Jacksonville tough on the road. The Rams will take the ball out of Jared Goff’s hands and give it to Todd Gurley as much as possible against a Jaguars defense that isn’t strong against the run, usually. I think the Rams front seven on defense, led by Aaron Donald, will be a great test for Leonard Fournette and the Jags running game. Both QB’s in this game stink and they wont matter in this match up. I think the Rams will be able to hide Goff better than the Jaguars can hide Bortles. Prediction: Rams 13 – Jaguars 10

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City – So much drama in Pittsburgh recently. But I’ve seen this movie before. The Steelers are in an early season rut. And they still have enough talent to bounce back. Enter the Chiefs who are undefeated and are playing as well as anyone right now. The Chiefs have to be thinking about how Pittsburgh has punked them in their last two meetings. I think this game will come down to who can control the clock better. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is begging for more touches and I think he will get his wish on Sunday. The Chiefs have a pretty good RB on their team too. Rookie RB Kareem Hunt should see plenty of opportunities in this game. Both QB’s, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith, will not be shy about airing it out. The Antonio Brown/Marcus Peters matchup should be entertaining. And the Chiefs will be looking for big plays from WR Tyreke Hill who will be the fastest player on the field Sunday. This game will come down to execution. The Chiefs will have the home field advantage but Pittsburgh has the experience in these situations to bounce back after a few tough weeks. I like Pittsburgh to right the ship in an upset. Prediction: Steelers 34 – Chiefs 30

The Rest of Week 6

Falcons over Dolphins – Atlanta will be fresh coming off the bye. I feel that injuries are their greatest enemy so far this season.

Lions over Saints – Stafford vs. Brees should provide some great QB theater.

Washington over 49ers – This game will feature two young up and coming defenses in the league.

Ravens over Bears – Have the Ravens righted the ship after a bad start? Maybe. They can’t have a let down at home against a weak opponent.

Texans over Browns – Deshaun Watson is looking like a real answer at QB for Houston. DeShone Kizer was benched last week and lost his starting job. Who has worst luck at picking QB’s than Cleveland? The Watt and Clowney injuries will hurt but I’m still going with Houston.

Buccaneers over Cardinals – Arizona’s defense is an embarrassment right now.

Chargers over Raiders – David Carr or no David Carr, the defensive woes are what are what is holding Oakland back.

Broncos over Giants – The New York Giants are sad. The entire WR core is out for the season. THE ENTIRE CORE. The top four options. How could this happen? Denver should roll at home.

Titans over Colts – Tennessee has to turn it around this week on Monday night. If not, their season will get longer and longer.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Jameis Winston (Buccaneers) – Jameis has had some shaky starts in games this season but the Cardinals defense gives up plenty of big plays down field.

RB: Todd Gurley (Rams) – LA will use Gurley like Pittsburgh should have used Le’Veon Bell last week.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) – Hopkins is building a great connection with the rookie QB, Watson. Sunday against the Browns could be like a glorified practice session.

TE: Ed Dickson (Panthers) – Dickson has put together a small string of good performances recently. Newton will continue to look his way on Thursday night.

DEF: Denver – The Broncos are a defensive team and they’ll face an offensively wounded Giants team this week.

Elias McMillan’s 2017 NFL MOCK Draft!

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Is Myles Garrett the guy for the job of fixing Cleveland’s pass rush?

By: Elias McMillan

 

The NFL Draft is a crap shoot and unlike last year, teams have not made a trade up into the top 5 for one particular player. That would make predicting the picks easier but instead I feel like I made a few guesses this year that might feel like reaches. I’m sure it can’t be as bad as anyone else’s Mock Draft. Anyway, Cleveland is on the clock…..

ROUND ONE

1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, OLB/DE, Texas A&M: This should be a no brainer for the Browns. Myles Garrett has been the projected as the number one pick in this draft early in the process. The Browns have had numerous high draft choices in round one in recent years but they’ve never had a chance to draft anyone as talented or anyone who can change their defense like Garrett could. Garrett is an athletic freak who can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. The combination of size and speed that he brings to the table is drawing comparisons to Julius Peppers and Jadeveon Clowney. Garrett out produced both of those guys in college. He will bring big time talent to a Browns defense that only had two players to get double-digit sack totals in a season in the last ten years.

2. San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: The 49ers could go a lot of different ways with this pick. They need defensive help but they also need a QB. I think the Niners will wait on a QB in later rounds. To get their defense back to where they once were only a short time ago, they need a player who can get to the QB. San Fran has spent recent top draft picks on the defensive line already but they are still missing the pass rush that they lost when Aldon Smith left the team. Solomon Thomas had a tremendous final season at Stanford where he looked unblockable at times. Thomas has a really quick first step and the way he penetrates the line of scrimmage really sets him apart from most pass rushers in this draft. Thomas would be a great fit as a pass rusher in San Fran’s 3-4 defense.

3. Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams, S, LSU: Jamal Adams is the most complete safety in this draft. He is great in the open field as a tackler and he can defend passes down the field. The Bears need plenty of defensive help. Adams would be a bad place to start.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama: The Jaguars have been trying to build up their defensive line for a while now. They’ve brought in multiple free agents to that unit recently. But I think that Jacksonville needs youth in that area. Allen was an absolute force inside at Alabama where he played at a high level for three years. The addition of Allen to what they already have on the defensive line could produce immediate results.

5. Tennessee Titans – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State: Tennessee recently cut one of their veteran safeties and they can draft a replacement for him in round one. I like Malik Hooker’s game a lot. He isn’t the complete safety that Jamal Adams is but he is a ball hawk who can make plays when the ball is in his area consistently. Hooker needs to work on becoming more of a physical tackler but I don’t see defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau passing on him especially with Adams off the board.

6. New York Jets – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State: The Jets would get a steal here if the best corner in the draft is still available at pick number six. If you are looking to replace a player like Darrelle Revis, Lattimore would be a great place to start. Lattimore offers great speed and instincts, which make him look like a future all-pro. The Jets are in an interesting place right now because they’ve gotten rid of so many veterans in this offseason. They could really go anywhere with this pick. But getting Lattimore at six would be a steal.

7. Los Angeles Chargers – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: I didn’t really know where to go with this one. I’m betting that the Chargers are hoping for one of the top two safeties to drop down to them. If not, they will most likely trade down. If they don’t trade down, I have them drafting for need with a CB. Taking a corner here might be a reach but the Chargers secondary dealt with injuries last season and they need more depth. Humphrey was a great corner on a pretty good Alabama defense and he was able to be pretty durable during his college career. He will help a Chargers secondary that needs to get younger.

8. Carolina Panthers – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: In Super Bowl 50, Cam Newton got beat up. Then, during the 2016 regular season, Newton got even more beat up. You got to find a way to protect your franchise QB. Michael Oher is a great success story but he cannot be a starter on this offensive line. Carolina brought in Matt Kalil from Minnesota and they can draft a starting offensive tackle for the immediate future with this pick. Ryan Ramczyk comes from a school that seems to just breed great offensive linemen. Carolina could go with a RB or some defensive help here but I think they need to prioritize protecting their franchise QB.

9. Cincinnati Bengals – Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama: Reuben Foster is an absolute thumper for a LB. He is a big time hitter and was the best player from a talented Alabama defense. The Bengals cut ties with veteran LB Rey Maualuga in the offseason and drafting Foster here would provide their defense with an instant replacement. Foster does has some red flags for some off the field stuff but I think he’s too good to drop out of the top ten.

10. Buffalo Bills – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan: This might come as a shocker. Many think that Buffalo will be concerning a QB at pick 10. But I think they need to stick with Tyrod Taylor and draft him some weapons. I do like Clemson’s Mike Williams a lot but the Bills already have a receiver with a similar skill set and he just happens to be from Clemson as well. I think that small school product, Corey Davis, would complement Sammy Watkins better than Mike Williams. Davis is a streaky receiver with superb route running skills. He was very productive as a college player and he should be ready to provide Taylor with another target down the field to take the pressure off Watkins.

11. New Orleans Saints – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State: The Saints need all the defensive help. Bring in Gareon Conley from a deep and talented Ohio State secondary. New Orleans’ pass defense has ranked near the bottom in the league for a while now.

12. Cleveland Browns – Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: If the Browns have two picks in round one, you better believe the second one will be a QB. You might expect me to vouch from Mitch Trubisky because he’s a Tarheel but actually, I don’t think he is the best QB in this draft. Trubisky needs a lot of work and he would probably be better off sitting in his rookie season. But Cleveland reportedly likes Trubisky a lot. For Trubisky, it’s all about his potential. Trubisky has a good arm, his athletic, and he played with a talented bunch of WR’s in college. Trubisky also only has one-year experience as a starter. I think Hue Jackson will love the opportunity to mold Trubisky into something but they will need to be patient and resist the temptation of throwing him to the lions in year one. But with Cleveland’s QB situation, Trubisky may have to get ready sooner than later.

13. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Here’s a shocker. Arizona takes a QB for the future, as Carson Palmer’s time is almost up. Mahomes has a great arm that the pro scouts love. Much like Trubisky, Mahomes needs some pro coaching seasoning and Bruce Arians has a good track record with young QB’s.

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Dalvin Cook did it all in the backfield at Florida State

14. Philadelphia Eagles – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: I don’t think Dalvin Cook is the best RB in the draft but he fits what the Eagles need at that position. Cook is in the mold of a Jamaal Charles type player and head coach Doug Pederson is very familiar with such a player from his time in Kansas City. Cook is a complete back as he can fill the role as a tradition RB but can also provide the QB with a pretty good target in the passing game. He will remind Eagles fans of a better version of Brian Westbrook.

15. Indianapolis Colts – Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple: With Robert Mathis retiring, the Colts need a talent on defense who can create pressure in the backfield. Haason Reddick has sky rocketed up draft boards after a great Senior Bowl. He was a player at Temple who improved each season and did whatever to help on the defensive side of the ball. He needs to bulk up some but with his small size, along with that comes great speed along the edges, which is key for a OLB in a 3-4 defense.

16. Baltimore Ravens – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: This would be a dream come true for Baltimore. Mike Williams is arguably the best WR in the draft and the Ravens need a big time target for Joe Flacco. Williams isn’t going to blow the top off of defenses in the NFL with his speed but with his size and the way he attacks the football while in the air will make him an attractive prospect as a rookie. Williams is a playmaker when the ball is thrown his way and he could develop into the Ravens new number one target in the passing game sooner than later.

17. Washington – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: Many believe that Leonard Fournette is a lock to be a top 10 pick or at least the first RB selected. I don’t have him in either category. Why? I like Fournette is going to be hurt a bit by the load he had to carry at LSU. He was basically their entire offense and he went through a lot of wear and tear in college. Despite that, I still think he is the best RB in the draft. He is a physical runner, he’s hard to tackle, and he has underrated speed. Washington has been waiting for a RB like him since Clinton Portis left town. Washington would rush to the podium if Fournette some how slips all the way down to pick 17.

18. Tennessee Titans – John Ross, WR, Washington: I’m not a big fan of John Ross but after going with defense with their first selection in round one, the Titans will be looking for a new target for their franchise QB. I’m not a big fan of Ross because of his durability issues. He is the fastest WR in the draft but I’m worried about his ability to stay healthy. Either way, Tennessee would be drafting a player with future number one receiver potential if he is able to stay healthy.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan: No prospect in this draft has been picked apart like Jabrill Peppers. Is he a player without a position? Is he too small to play safety? There are a lot of questions about Peppers. I like him as a prospect and I think he versatility in college was more about sacrifice and giving Michigan all he had to offer. As a safety, I think Peppers could develop into a Troy Polumalu type of player in the league. Despite his size, he is a pretty sure tackler. He is a playmaker as a “in the box” safety. And he can do special things with the ball in his hands, especially as a kick returner. Tampa could use a guy like Peppers on defense and special teams. It’s not like the Bucs have a sure starter at safety away. They will give Pepper a chance to silence his critics.

20. Denver Broncos – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: Many have the top TE prospect, O.J. Howard, going in the top 10. Howard is one of the most talented TE to come out of college in a while now but I don’t think the TE position is that valuable to take a guy that high in the draft. However, Howard would be a great fit for a Denver offense that needs to help whoever ends up as their QB. Howard was a game changer at Alabama and he played at his best in the biggest moments. He could play immediately in Denver.

21. Detroit Lions – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: Ziggy Ansah is the star DE on the Lions but he is coming off a majorly disappointing 2016 season. I think the Lions know that Ziggy can regain his form going forward but he would probably benefit from another talent lining up opposite of him on that defensive line. Derek Barnett was a big time player at Tennessee where he broke the school’s sack record previously held by Reggie White. Barnett didn’t blow scouts away at the combine but his game film speaks for himself. The guy is relentless at getting after the QB and he could help improve Detroit’s sack total, which was 30th in the league last season.

22. Miami Dolphins – Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA: The Dolphins need to get younger at defensive end. Cameron Wake is still there but they need a replacement for Mario Williams who was let go in the offseason. I like Takk McKinley’s game a lot. The way he attacks offensive tackles with his explosiveness off the ball really stands out. There is a bit of an injury concern with him but I think he is good enough for Miami to take a chance with him at 22.

23. New York Giants – David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla): I feel like I mock a TE to the Giants almost every year I do this. The Giants seem to get by just fine without a dynamic TE on offense. I think in this part of the draft, NY will be looking for the best player available and that could be the TE out of Miami, Florida. Njoku is a crazy good athlete with great speed for his size. He will provide Eli Manning with a big fast target down the field.

24. Oakland Raiders – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: This selection just screams “Oakland Raiders”. How about this scenario: the Raiders convince Marshawn Lynch to come out of retirement and then they pair his thunder with the lightning of Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey was an electrifying player in college as a shifty RB that could do it all. The Raiders ran the ball well last season but their starter left for Minnesota. The combination of McCaffrey and maybe Lynch would mean that the Raiders would still have a running game to support QB David Carr but they would also have a more dynamic backfield with the rookie from Stanford.

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DeShaun Watson is a winner and Houston needs a new signal caller.

25. Houston Texans – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: I think Deshaun Watson is the best QB in this draft. But why do I have him as the third QB selected then? I know that many think that Watson doesn’t have the intangibles to make a quick transition into a NFL QB. But I choose to judge Watson as a QB by looking at his body of work while at Clemson. He won a lot of big games against some of the best defenses in the country. Many are concerned about Watson being a system QB or that he doesn’t have a big time arm or that he can’t pass in the pocket. But he was able to make all the throws and the plays while at Clemson and that has to count for something. He was definitely a better QB in college than Trubisky or Mahomes. He would be welcomed with open arms at QB-needy Houston.

26. Seattle Seahawks – Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama: Seattle went with offensive line in round one last year but that shouldn’t stop them from doing the same this year. That offensive line still ranked near the bottom in the league in allowed sacks. I think Cam Robinson can be plugged in as a future starting tackle for QB Russell Wilson.

27. Kansas City Chiefs – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt: When the Chiefs lost starting LB Derrick Johnson to injury late in the season, it hurt their run defense tremendously. Johnson is getting up there in age and the Chiefs need an insurance policy. Cunningham is one of the top LB prospects in the draft and he specifies at stopping the run. He would be a great fit in the middle of Kansas City’s already talented defense.

28. Dallas Cowboys – Kevin King, CB, Washington: Every year during draft season, I yell and scream about the Cowboys needing a pass rush. That remains a problem area for yet another offseason but I think the Cowboys have to account for losing 3 starters in their secondary. I would be okay if they went with a pass rusher that they really liked and that fit their system but it hard to find a true difference maker as a pass rusher when you are picking at the bottom of each round. Luckily for Dallas, this year’s draft is rich with talent in the secondary. For example, Washington’s Kevin King would provide a great combination of size and speed that would serve him well as a pro. King might of benefitted from the injury of teammate Sidney Jones who would have been a top 20 pick if he didn’t go down to an injury during the draft process. Regardless, King is talented on his own right and Dallas would be thrilled to take him at 28.

29. Green Bay Packers – Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky: I like I said for Carolina’s selection: You have to protect your franchise QB’s. The Packers lost their starting guard in free agency. Here, they can draft a replacement to play right away in Green Bay’s offense.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri: Once again, the Steelers are asking themselves if they can really count on James Harrison to be an effective starter at his age. Pittsburgh has stuck out recently with draft picks aiming to push Harrison out of the starting lineup but with Charles Harris, they might actually find success this time. Harris is a tremendous pass rusher off the edge and comes from a program that has produced some nice NFL products on the defensive side of the ball. Harris’ size and speed make him ideal for a 3-4 defense. He could be a nice fit for the future of Pittsburgh’s defense.

31. Atlanta Falcons – Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida: Atlanta hit the jackpot last season with their late selections at the LB position. They could really solidify that position with the selection of Davis. Jarrad Davis has a great motor and he hits like a truck. Run defense was a weakness for Atlanta and Davis could really help them immediately.

32. New Orleans Saints – Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State: New Orleans’ defense is really bad. That need all the help they can get. I think I said the same thing at pick 11. Malik McDowell would be a nice addition to their defensive line. McDowell is a tall, athletic defensive lineman that could play multiple positions in New Orleans’ scheme.

ROUND TWO

  1. Cleveland Browns – Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
  2. San Francisco 49ers – DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana
  4. Chicago Bears – Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
  5. Los Angeles Rams – Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
  6. Los Angeles Chargers – Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston
  7. New York Jets – Evan Engram, TE, Virginia Tech
  8. Carolina Panthers – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
  9. Cincinnati Bengals – Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
  10. New Orleans Saints – TreDavious White, CB, LSU
  11. Philadelphia Eagles – Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
  12. Buffalo Bills – Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
  13. Arizona Cardinals – Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
  14. Indianapolis Colts – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
  15. Baltimore Ravens – T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
  16. Minnesota Vikings – Duke Riley, LB, LSU
  17. Washington – Budda Baker, S, Washington
  18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
  19. Denver Broncos – Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte
  20. Cleveland Browns – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
  21. Detroit Lions – Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
  22. Miami Dolphins – Desmond King, S/CB, Iowa
  23. New York Giants – Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
  24. Oakland Raiders – Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
  25. Houston Texans – Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
  26. Seattle Seahawks – Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
  27. Kansas City Chiefs – Jordan Willis, DE/OLB, Kansas State
  28. Dallas Cowboys – Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio
  29. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama
  30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
  31. Atlanta Falcons – Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA

64. Carolina Panthers – Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State