Tag Archives: Marcus Mariota

NFL 2019: AFC Preview

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No Brown? No Bell? No worries. Here comes Super Ben to save the day. Right?

 

By: Elias McMillan

AFC EAST

For the past 15 seasons, this division has only seen two other teams finish in first place other than the New England Patriots. No one is sure when the Patriots’ domination of the AFC East will end but I doubt it will be this year despite the fact New England really didn’t improve in the offseason. QB Tom Brady returns once again in his quest to add to his already Hall-of-Fame resume. New England has a nice mix of youth and veteran leadership at the skill positions. On offense this year, they will have a huge hole at the TE position thanks to the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. New England’s defense really showed out in the Super Bowl last season, holding their opponent to only 3 points. I think that unit will be weaken this season with the departures of DT Malcolm Brown and DE Trey Flowers. New England usually does a good job reloading on defense with players that we’ve may not even heard of yet. They did trade for aging but still effective DT Michael Bennett. The team in this division that made the most movement in the offseason was the New York Jets. The Jets forked over the big bucks in free agency and brought in RB Le’Veon Bell and LB C.J. Mosley. Bell, one of the top RB’s in football, should be fresh after taking 2018 off. He’ll have a great chance at rejuvenating this Jets offense and taking pressure away from the young QB, Sam Darnold. Darnold showed some promise in his rookie season but the lights on him will be brighter this year. I think having an elite option coming out the backfield will help him. The Jets really don’t have a star at WR but Robby Anderson is underrated and Jamison Crowder can be great in the slot. With the addition of Mosley and first round pick DT Quinnen Williams, the Jets front seven could be really good. “Do-Everything” safety, Jamal Adams, also returns as the leader of this defense. Adams is a rare talent in the secondary who can play the run and cover receivers down field. The Buffalo Bills hope this year won’t be a lost season for their rookie QB Josh Allen. Allen showed last year that he has the athletic tools but the Bills will be looking to seeing him improve as a passer. Buffalo’s backfield will be loaded with a gang of veterans. RB’s Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon join LeSean McCoy and I’m not sure how that competition in training camp will play out. Gore, who refuses to retire, will probably win the starting job, which could make McCoy a surprising cut before the regular season. Buffalo’s defense could be something special this season. Despite losing Stephon Gilmore to New England in 2018, they led the league in pass defense. I don’t believe that it is possible for a NFL to “tank”, especially at the start of the season. But many believe that the Miami Dolphins will be that team this year. Miami actually has a good-to-average offense on paper. I think the young receivers on this team that are waiting to breakout and will love playing with an old gun slinger at QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. But as we all know by now, that will probably last for maybe a month or so. Fitzpatrick will start out the season playing on fire then experience a huge, turnover laced, drop-off right around Week 5. I’m really rooting for QB Josh Rosen to get a chance in this offense since many have unfairly written him off. He’s basically a rookie again after being traded from Arizona and he deserves to start this portion of his career with a clean slate. Miami’s defense lost some key veterans in the offseason. CB Xavien Howard did receive a big contract in the offseason, which was well deserved as he is proving to be one of the top corners in football. Projected Finish: 1) New England, 2) NY Jets, 3) Buffalo, 4) Miami

AFC NORTH

The AFC North led the league in headlines this past offseason. Pittsburgh, who missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, stayed in the drama thanks to a messy divorce with WR Antonio Brown. With Brown now in Oakland, Pittsburgh is thinking that moving the best receiver in football will prove to be an “addition by subtraction” move. And everything on the offensive side of the ball will be smooth as long as QB Ben Roethlisberger can stand. I’m sure that Ben will continue to be great and the running game will be fine as long as the offensive line continues to play well. But I believe that the offense will feel a drop-off of talent without 84. Go ahead and watch the highlights from 2018. It wasn’t like AB was playing like an aging veteran. AB had a strong productive season and it will be hard for the Steelers to replace that. Juju Smith-Schuster is a talented WR but we don’t know if he is ready for the added attention as a #1 receiver. It’s okay to throw in all of your chips on Roethlisberger to save the offense but he is aging too. Father time is undefeated and it’s going to interesting to see him play without his top guy for the last couple years. With all the talk about offense, Pittsburgh’s defense could be something special this season. I think trading up for LB Devin Bush in the draft will prove to be a great move. Pittsburgh will be great up front with DT Cam Heyward and OLB T.J. Watt but the question will continue to be if their secondary will hold them back. The Browns were the offseason champs of this division despite not even winning 8 games in 2018. But the offense showed excitement and promise under QB Baker Mayfield and trading for WR Odell Beckham Jr. could put their offensive talent over the top. The Browns are crazy deep at WR with OBJ joining Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins. The backfield will be loaded with talent as well with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who will be fresh coming off an suspension. Cleveland is also expected to be strong defensively, led by young guys DE Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward. I think the city of Cleveland has reason to be hype about what could potentially happen with all this talent in 2019. But you have to crawl before you can walk. I’m not saying that the Browns hype isn’t real. I’m saying that the franchise hasn’t won more than 8 games in 11 years. Realistically, I don’t think Cleveland is ready to overtake the division but they’ll at least “be there” this year. Baltimore surprised everyone and won the division last season. Unfortunately, I think they’ll take a step backwards this year. The new offense, now catered to QB Lamar Jackson, will be fun to watch. They’ll probably lead the league in rushing this year. I really like the addition of RB Mark Ingram. The elephant in the room with Jackson at QB will be his ability to pass down the field. I’m hoping exciting rookie WR Marquise Brown (AB’s cousin) will help with that. The real reason why Baltimore will struggle this year is that I think the defense won’t be able to make up the lost of LB C.J. Mosley. Mosley was a guy that Baltimore could not afford to get away. The Ravens defense will also look strange in 2019 without LB Terrell Suggs. Baltimore’s saving grace on defense might be there secondary that looks strong with the addition of Earl Thomas at safety. I’m excited to say that the rebuild of the Cincinnati Bengals is finally on. Marvin Lewis, Vontaze Burfict, and Pac-Man Jones are all gone. Unfortunately, the new look Bengals may already be behind the 8-ball with WR A.J. Green injured and first rounder T Jonah Williams out for the season. Without Green, who will be back after the first four games, WR Tyler Boyd will have the opportunity to shine and he’ll have to after the pay raise he just received. Cincinnati will be strong defensively up front with DT Geno Atkins. The Bengals could be a sleeper even with Green missing time. They will be a team that could hold opponents to less than three scores but their offense might struggle to score that same amount. Projected Finish: 1) Steelers, 2) Browns, 3) Ravens, 4) Bengals

AFC SOUTH

I wouldn’t say that the AFC South is boring. But it’s the least interesting division in the AFC. Houston has young and exciting talent but just can’t break through in the playoffs. Jacksonville showed promise a couple years ago before completely falling apart last season. And Tennessee is still waiting for Marcus Mariota to show that he can be a franchise QB. Indianapolis caught momentum late last season only to lose to the top seed in the conference. QB Andrew Luck is still the top dog in the division when it comes to QB play but his health seems to be a question mark every year. Regardless, I think Indy has surrounded him with decent talent at the receiver and running back positions. Indy really started to catch fire last season because of their defense and rookie sensation LB Darius Leonard. In the offseason, they added a pass rushing presence in veteran LB Justin Houston. The Houston Texans should run away with this division if you look at the talent they have on paper. QB Deshaun Watson is a young star in this league and is continuing to improve. WR DeAndre Hopkins catches everything and the backfield should receive a boost with the addition of Duke Johnson; joining veteran Lamar Miller. Houston will continue to have one of the top front sevens on defense led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Houston’s secondary will need to have a bounce back year after finishing 2018 near the bottom of the league in pass defense. Jacksonville will be hoping to have their QB situation fixed this season. I’m not too confident in QB Nick Foles but he enters 2019 with not a lot of pressure. He only has to prove to be better than Blake Bortles. The Jaguars defense looked so strong two years ago. I think what happened to that unit last season will prove to be a fluke. They will be motivated to prove that though the sudden retirement of LB Telvin Smith will not help. That could open the door for rookie LB Josh Allen who looked like the best pass rusher in this past draft. CB Jalen Ramsey returns to a secondary that ranked second in the league in pass defense. Tennessee almost made the playoffs last season but I didn’t see them take a step forward from that in the offseason. Trading for QB Ryan Tannehill will probably not instill confidence for Mariota. The Titans are excited to see more of RB Derrick Henry who broke out last season. They need RB Dion Lewis to rebound from last season, as he was a total bust of a free agent signing. Tennessee will be strong defensively, led by one of the league’s top secondaries. DT Jurrell Casey is one of the best interior linemen and DE Cameron Wake who is coming off a productive career in Miami, will join him this year. Projected Finish: 1) Colts, 2) Texans, 3) Jaguars, 4) Titans

AFC WEST

The AFC West featured the most competitive division in the conference last season and I think we’ll see the same in 2019. Kansas City shot their way to the top of the conference thanks to the performance of QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes returns with many of the same weapons from a season ago, WR’s Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and TE Travis Kelce. On defense, they traded away DE Dee Ford but also acquired DE Frank Clark who should serve as a great replacement. Kansas City’s pass defense was among the league’s worst last season. They are hoping that offseason acquisition, safety Tyrann Mathieu, will help them improve in that area. The Chargers will be strong again in 2019, which could be QB Phillip Rivers final season. I get the feeling that Rivers won’t retire until he makes his Super Bowl debut. Rivers will once again have great targets in the passing game to go to in WR’s Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. But most of the talk in the offseason has been about the RB position. I don’t think RB Melvin Gordon’s hold out will last into the season. He will report and I think he needs a wake up call. Gordon is talented but he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on with only one 1,000 yard season. I really like what the Chargers have on defense. Pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are difference makers up front and safety Derwin James is one of the best in the NFL already in his young career. What’s been holding Denver back for the last few seasons has been the QB position. You can laugh now but I think trading for QB Joe Flacco might prove to be one of the smartest moves made in the offseason. Denver gets a veteran presence behind center and he’s looking to prove that he still has some good football left in him. RB Phillip Lindsay who had a breakout rookie season will assist Flacco. WR Emmanuel Sanders will be plus for this passing offense if he can stay healthy. The Broncos defense will be led once again by pass rushing extraordinaire Von Miller. Denver will be looking for someone in the secondary to step up this season, as they are a missing a few pieces from last year. The Oakland Raiders made the biggest move in the offseason, trading for the best WR in the NFL, Antonio Brown. Despite that exciting acquisition, the Raiders are still not ready to compete in this division. I think having Brown in the lineup will improve the passing game, which is good news for QB Derek Carr. But the Raiders will still have unanswered question with their offensive line and backfield. A lot will be expected from rookie RB Josh Jacobs. On defense, the Raiders still are looking to fill the massive hole left by trading away DE Khalil Mack. They spent their top pick on DE Clelin Ferrell who was on no ones radar at the top of the draft. They also brought in talented but constant knucklehead LB Vontaze Burfict. This Raiders squad will be an interesting mix but I don’t think they’ll play good enough football to escape the AFC West basement. Projected Finish: 1) Chiefs, 2) Chargers, 3) Broncos, 4) Raiders

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NFL 2018: Week 17 Predictions

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All eyes on Sunday will be on Cleveland’s rookie QB, Baker Mayfield.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 138-100-2

Week 17 Picks

Bills over Dolphins – Buffalo gives DT Kyle Williams a hero’s send off into retirement.

Packers over Lions – This meaningless game will be highlighted by Aaron Rodgers, I guess.

Patriots over Jets – New England still needs to lock up that first round bye in the playoffs. They’ll put their best foot forward against a competitive Jets team.

Saints over Panthers – Teddy Bridgewater will hope to have a strong game as he auditions for a potential job elsewhere.

Giants over Cowboys – Dallas can’t improve their seeding in the NFC. I think New York will win it late against the Cowboys’ backups.

Falcons over Buccaneers – Atlanta’s defense will strive against a Tampa Bay offense that turns over the ball too much.

Texans over Jaguars – Houston is still in play for a potential bye in the post season.

Chargers over Broncos – LA was bullied last week. They’ll need a strong performance this week to put that Baltimore loss in the past. Also, the AFC West crown is still up for grabs.

Chiefs over Raiders – KC needs this one to lock up the AFC West in what could be a high scoring affair.

Rams over 49ers – No Todd Gurley worries me for LA. San Francisco has played decently at times late this season. I still like LA in this match up but don’t be surprised if the Niners make things interesting.

Vikings over Bears – I thought Minnesota would falter on the road last week. This week, I think they’ll clinch the final playoff spot in the NFC. Minnesota has been a stronger team at home. Chicago may want to knock Minnesota out this Sunday but they might be better off facing a familiar opponent in the wildcard round.

Steelers over Bengals – Pittsburgh needs help to get into the playoffs but in terms of this week’s game, they should roll against the 2ndstring of the Bengals.

Seahawks over Cardinals – Seattle may rest their starters but that may not even matter. Arizona will lock up the first overall pick in next April’s draft.

Eagles over Washington – The way Philadelphia has rallied behind Nick Foles is reminiscent of last season. Too bad they won’t make the post season.

Ravens over Browns – Baltimore has only lost once since their bye week. If the Ravens defense shows up like they did last week, Bayer Mayfield will be in for a world of hurt.

Colts over Titans – With the final playoff spot in the AFC on the line, I’m going with the healthiest team. Marcus Mariota will try to give it a go on Sunday but I doubt that he’ll be able to play the entire 60 minutes. I like Andrew Luck and the Colts on the road.

NFL 2018: Week 16 Predictions (Condensed Version)

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The Chargers could find themselves on top the AFC West after this weekend.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 127-95-2

Week 16 Picks

Titans over Washington – Jacksonville gifted Washington a victory last week on a late turnover. Tennessee will not blow this opportunity as they still have post-season hopes.

Chargers over Ravens – This should be a really good game. Both defenses will make a lot of plays but I think the difference will be Phillip Rivers. It will also help that Melvin Gordon may be returning from his injury.

Browns over Bengals – Baker Mayfield gets another chance to stick it to his former head coach, Hue Jackson.

Cowboys over Buccaneers – After no showing last week, Dallas absolutely needs this one to clinch the division once and for all. They can not sleep on this Tampa team which offers a high scoring offense and quality players on their defensive line.

Lions over Vikings – Minnesota has been so inconsistent this year. I think those issues will pop up once again on the road.

Colts over Giants – Indy’s defense is playing at a high level right now.

Dolphins over Jaguars – Jacksonville has already checked out mentally this season. Miami has slim playoff hopes but they’ll play their best at home.

Patriots over Bills – New England is going through some issues but they’ll right the ship at home against Buffalo.

Jets over Packers – I don’t think Green Bay has won a road game all year.

Eagles over Texans – I don’t think Houston is as good as their record is. Philly is a wounded animal but they believe that still have a shot at the post season and they will rally around Nick Foles at home.

Falcons over Panthers – Carolina’s collapse this season has been unbelievable.

Rams over Cardinals – I wouldn’t panic yet about how Jared Goff has looked recently. A loss here against a bad Arizona team wouldn’t help though.

Bears over 49ers – San Francisco has played great a home recently but I think Chicago will get it done on the road by the strength of their defense.

Saints over Steelers – New Orleans’ defense didn’t start the season great but they are now hitting their stride at the right time. I like Brees to outduel Roethlisberger in what could be a high scoring contest.

Seahawks over Chiefs – After a bad loss on the road, I think we’ll see Seattle bounce back at home this week.

Broncos over Raiders – The only reason to watch this game is to see what the fans of Oakland will destroy in the stands.

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

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 16 Predictions! (Condensed)

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Todd Gurley and the Rams are looking strong in the NFC weeks away from the post-season.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 12-4

Season: 132-92

Week 16 Picks

Ravens over Colts – Indianapolis allowed Brock Osweiler to look like a serviceable QB last week. Joe Flacco and the Ravens are marching towards a post-season berth.

Vikings over Packers – With Atlanta winning last week, Green Bay is eliminated from postseason contention and they are shutting down key players like Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Minnesota is rolling with plenty left to play for.

Browns over Bears – Cleveland gotta win this week. Because they wont win in Pittsburgh next week. I don’t want to see a 0-16 team.

Bengals over Lions – Going out on a limb here. Cincy has been awful recently. Detroit is fighting for a playoff spot but isn’t doing so convincingly. Expect a big game from A.J. Green.

Rams over Titans – I’m ready to close the book on the Titans season. Marcus Mariota’s struggles seem to be holding the team back. The Rams are getting hot at the right time. They could be a tough out in the playoffs.

Chiefs over Dolphins – Kansas City saved their season last week at home. I see more home cooking this week against Jay Cutler.

Patriots over Bills – I wonder if certain Buffalo defenders will be gunning for Rob Gronkowski in this game. Buffalo should stay away from that as a loss here in Foxboro could really be damaging to their post-season dreams.

Saints over Falcons – New Orleans lost their composure in Atlanta two weeks ago. They learn from that and bounce back strong at home this time.

Chargers over Jets – The Chargers still have postseason hopes. They may be slim but there’s a chance.

Washington over Broncos – Defenses will look good in this one. Kirk Cousins will do more to win it than lose it at home.

Panthers over Buccaneers – Tampa is too injured to play spoiler here.

Jaguars over 49ers – This is a trap game for Jacksonville. San Fran is playing well with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. The Jaguars defense must get in his face early and often.

Cowboys over Seahawks – The return of Ezekiel Elliott will be huge. The status of left tackle Tyron Smith will be bigger. Seattle got crushed last week. I don’t see them being able to bounce back on the road. Russell Wilson will have to win this game pretty much by himself. Not impossible but it will be tough for him with the state of his offensive line.

Giants over Cardinals – Eli Manning will basically be auditioning for Bruce Arians.

Steelers over Texans – Pittsburgh on the road against a bad Houston team. Get ready for all the “playing down to their weaker opponents” narrative. The Steelers will have to try really hard to lose this one on the road.

Eagles over Raiders – Oakland isn’t the team they were in 2016. The Eagles will dominate another weaker opponent this week. Sigh.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Cam Newton (Panthers) – Newton is playing well right now and Tampa allows the most yards through the air.

RB: C.J. Anderson (Broncos) – Anderson will get his touches with the Broncos QB situation the way it is.

WR: Adam Thielen (Vikings) – Adam Thielen has been a great story this season. Him and Stefon Diggs should have a solid day at the office against the Green Bay secondary.

TE: Antonio Gates (Chargers) – Gates is back as the main option at the TE position for the Chargers. Rivers will look for him in the red zone.

DEF: Baltimore – The Ravens defense will put on a strong performance at home against an almost toothless Colts offense.