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NFL Playoffs: 2017 Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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Super Steelers? It does appear that way.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 4-4

Conference Championship Sunday

NFC Championship Game

Green Bay @ Atlanta – The Packers and the Falcons will be riding their high-powered offenses into Championship Sunday. I’m not giving either defenses much of a chance at being the difference makers in this contest. Atlanta’s offense is a lot more balanced that Green Bay’s. The Falcons have a great vertical passing attack led by QB Matt Ryan. WR’s Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel have done a great job at stretching the field on the outside and in the middle of defenses. But unlike the Packers, Atlanta has two legit RB’s while Green Bay has none. Devonta Freeman is a tough runner between the tackles and Tevin Coleman can do similar things but is also a threat as a receiver. Atlanta’s offense is set up to make a Super Bowl run. But the Falcons will have to come out sharp against this Green Bay defense. Dallas didn’t do that last week and that was one of the reasons they lost. Atlanta has had a stigma for a while now for falling short in big games. The Falcons offense is going to have to be the driving force to make sure that doesn’t happen. Green Bay receives decent play from their outside LB’s Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry. Those guys can affect the Atlanta pass game by pressuring Ryan but they are also good against the run. But as a unit, Green Bay doesn’t defend the run or the pass very well. Atlanta will have the opportunity to set the tone on offense in this game. For the Packers, their offense will also have a great chance at success on Sunday. QB Aaron Rodgers was very much the best QB of the league last week as he is playing at a very high level. The Packers have multiple threats down the field at WR and TE even without Jordy Nelson. Atlanta’s defense is average at best and I feel confident that Rodgers can have a big day through the air against them. Green Bay may not have much of a run game but Atlanta isn’t exactly a run-stuffing defense. I think Atlanta’s defense, especially the front seven, could be a bit underrated. I think their LB’s do a good job and outside rusher Vic Beasley is a difference maker on passing downs. Green Bay’s offensive line did a good job last week but Beasley will present a greater challenge for them on Sunday. This game will come down to which defense I trust more at making more stops or which offense do I trust more at performing at a high level for 60 minutes. I don’t think Atlanta is ready defensively to stop Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay does not have a great defense but they are experienced and Atlanta has been prone to let downs in the past. It just feels like this is Aaron Rodgers’ time. This Packers team has come a long way from being embarrassed on Monday Night Football by Washington months ago. I have the Packers advancing to the Super Bowl in the first game. Prediction: Packers 36 – Falcons 31

AFC Championship Game

Pittsburgh @ New England – At the beginning of this season, many pegged the Steelers as a Super Bowl favorite. In fact, in my pre season predictions, I had the Steelers making it out of the AFC over the same Patriots team they will be facing on Sunday. The Steelers have had their issues this season. After falling to 4-5 when they lost to Dallas at home, those Super Bowl predictions took a serious hit. Since then, the Steelers have been able to get back on track, their defense has improved, and the offense look impossible to stop with the way Le’Veon Bell is running the ball. I’ve heard many people say this week that for the Steelers to beat New England in Foxboro on Sunday, they will need a vintage big time performance from Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t feel that way at all. Roethlisberger hasn’t exactly been lighting in up in the playoffs but he doesn’t have to. The most important weapon in this ball game on Sunday will be RB Le’Veon Bell. I think New England’s defense can be underrated at times but I don’t see them being able to shutdown Bell for 4 quarters. I think New England’s front seven could present some issues for the Steelers in terms of stuffing the run and pressuring the QB. I’m a big fan of DT Malcolm Brown who is playing great right now. Edge rushers Trey Flowers and veteran Rob Ninkovich are capable of getting after the QB. But the Steelers offensive line has done a great job for most of the season in the run and in pass protection. New England’s secondary isn’t exactly great either. With time, I think Roethlisberger would find success down the field. CB Malcolm Butler will try his best at shadowing WR Antonio Brown but that is a matchup that I would expect seeing Brown to win. Though Le’Veon Bell might be the best player on the field on Sunday, the New England running game might poise a bigger threat than Pittsburgh’s. New England has a great RB duo in LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Blount is a tough guy to bring down once he gets going and Lewis is a great receiving threat coming out from the backfield. Lewis is also a difference maker in special teams as a returner. We saw that last week. I think the Steelers defense could potential have their hands full with both of those backs. The Steelers will have to key on pressuring Tom Brady as well. Hopefully, the Patriots have learned their lesson from last year’s AFC Championship Game where they allowed Denver’s ace pass rusher harass Brady for most of the game. New England’s offensive line cannot let James Harrison do what Von Miller did last year. I guess we have to give the Steelers secondary credit for playing great against Matt Moore and Alex Smith but we have to believe that Brady will present a greater challenge for them. But again, that unit for Pittsburgh has done a decent job recently. Can we really expect Julian Edelman to be the big play receiver that the Steelers wont have an answer for? I think Brady could play well in this game but I think this offense will really miss Rob Gronkowski on Sunday. The Patriots are gonna need Martellus Bennett to make some big plays but Steeler LB’s Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons have done a great job recently in pass coverage. I’m said before that I think the Patriots defense is under rated but right now, I think I trust the Pittsburgh defense more. Which is saying a lot because, I still don’t believe that the Steelers defense is that good. But they are kind of on a roll right now and I think I have that continuing this Sunday. This will be good game with a classic ending. I said last week that the winner of Pittsburgh-Kansas City is going to the Super Bowl. Plus, I had Pittsburgh making it this far in the pre season. Can’t turn back now. Prediction: Steelers 28 – Patriots 24

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NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Divisional Round Predictions!

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Atlanta hasn’t forgot about what happened when they faced Seattle earlier this season. They will be hoping for some revenge at home this weekend in the NFL Playoffs.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 2-2

Divisional Round

Seattle @ Atlanta – This first divisional playoff matchup this weekend is a rematch from a closely contested game earlier this season, which saw the Seahawks get the victory in a close one. Atlanta actually impressed many in that game as they were able to hang with Seattle on the road and how they might have won that game if not for a botch PI penalty that wasn’t called late in the 4th quarter. Both teams have changed since then but I think Atlanta will definitely have revenge on their minds this Saturday. Seattle was able to take care of Detroit last weekend but on Saturday they will face a much more talented and balanced offense in Atlanta. The Falcons are powered on offense by their dynamic passing game led by QB Matt Ryan and his lead target WR Julio Jones. But don’t sleep on the way Atlanta can run the ball. RB’s Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are as a dynamic running duo as any other one in the league. We all know about how good this Atlanta offense can be but history dictates that really good offenses usually fall to good defenses in the playoffs. I think Seattle’s defense will put up a great challenge for Atlanta but they are not at full strength with Earl Thomas out of the line up. Even with Thomas in the secondary, the Falcons were still able to put up production in that first meeting earlier this season. Seattle will have to fight hard on both sides of the ball to compete with Atlanta on Saturday. Last weekend, Seattle ran the ball very well behind RB Thomas Rawls and with that running game; they were able to control the tempo for most of the contest. Seattle might have to implement that game plan again on Saturday, as Atlanta is just an average defense at defending the run. They might help QB Russell Wilson in terms of protecting himself from Atlanta’s pass rush. Edge rusher Vic Beasley was the league leader in sack this season and with the state of Seattle’s offensive line, I think he will be in pursuit of Wilson for the majority of this Saturday afternoon. But if Wilson can find time, he will be throwing against a Falcons secondary that ranked near the bottom this season. I think Seattle will have a good shot at winning on the road this weekend but the Seahawks have historically had let down on the road in the regular season and in the playoffs. I think Atlanta will jump out on top early and they’ll be able to hold off a Seahawks comeback late. Much like the last time these teams played in the post season in Atlanta. Prediction: Falcons 28 – Seahawks 24

Houston @ New England – I guess we have to give Houston credit for beating up on an injured Oakland team last week. But on to this week where no one on earth is giving the Texans a chance at going up to Foxboro on Saturday night and leaving with a victory. I don’t know if Houston has a real chance or not but I’ll try my best to sell that to you. First, the Texans have the number one ranked defense in the NFL. DE Jadeveon Clowney was a real difference maker last week and he will be used in a similar way this week against a Patriots offensive line that can struggle against the premier pass rushers in this league. Houston also has a stingy secondary. They will get physical with New England’s smaller receivers and create tough passing windows for QB Tom Brady. And my third point: the Texans coaching staff is made up from Bill Belichick disciples. Bill O’Brien is the head coach and Romeo Crennel is the defensive coordinator. They know Belichick. They know their offense. Could this prove to be an advantage for Houston? I don’t know. Also, I’m not going to bet on it. I think New England will use this game to prove why they are favored by so much in this game. I think New England will be aggressive offensively and they will tire out the Texans up front with their running game. New England’s defense is also unheralded and they will have the opportunity to appear to be really good against Houston’s offense. I think Houston’s defense might be able to keep the Texans in this game but I have no faith in QB Brock Osweiler going toe to toe with Tom Brady in terms of offensive production. The Patriots will dominate in this one. Prediction: Patriots 35 – Texans 17

Green Bay @ Dallas – On Sunday, the marathon of rematches from the regular season will continue. Green Bay won last week at home convincingly against the Giants and they are feeling pretty good going into this matchup in Jerry’s World. They maybe feeling good about there chances but they may not be feeling so good health wise. Green Bay is banged up on both sides of the ball while the Cowboys are rested and are as healthy as they’ve been all season. A lot of people like the Packers right now because of the play of QB Aaron Rodgers and I can’t blame them. Rodgers is having one of those seasons that is proving that he is the best QB in football. Even with the Jordy Nelson injury, the Packers are well equipped at the WR position with players like DeVante Adams, Randall Cobb, and TE Jarred Cook. Adams had a big game against the Cowboys 2 years ago in the playoffs in memory serves me correctly. Green Bay isn’t going to beat anyone in the ground game but Ty Montgomery’s ability as a versatile runner and receiver from out of the backfield will make him into a player that the Cowboys defense will have to account for. Montgomery is a Dallas native and he will have the extra motivation to show out in front of his family. I don’t know how the Packers held the Giants to only 13 points last week. Green Bay has some talented players on defense like Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. But as a unit, Green Bay isn’t very good defensively. That banged up secondary will mean that the Packers will have to lean on their front 7 to created stops and turnovers. The Cowboys offensive line handled the Packers front 7 quite easily in their matchup earlier this season. I don’t think the Packers will have an answer for rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas run game. In passing situations, I am scared to death of the matchup between Peppers and right tackle Doug Free. But rookie QB Dak Prescott had a decent day passing against the Packers earlier this season and he was able to play well even without WR Dez Bryant. With the current state of the Packers secondary, I fully expect Bryant to be a difference maker down the field in a way that Odell Beckham Jr wasn’t last week. The Cowboys have a highly ranked defense but really, those numbers aren’t as impressive if you’ve watched the Cowboys this season. Rodgers will have a chance at creating some big plays down the field against a defense that struggles to provide pressure or create turnovers. But the Dallas defense this season has been known for bending but not breaking. I think the Cowboys defense could be a weakness but it is a unit that is better than it was in 2014. The Cowboys had an impressive regular season but they are now approaching rare air for them. This is a franchise that hasn’t advanced to Conference Championship Sunday in 21 years. This is a huge game for the entire franchise and I believe that they will not let their inexperience of Aaron Rodgers squander their opportunity. Many of the talking heads like Green Bay on Sunday but I’m thinking that is just more wishful thinking than really believing that Dallas will lose this game. The opportunity will be too big for this team to miss. I like the Cowboys at home. Prediction: Cowboys 33 – Packers 24

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City – I’m glad that this game was pushed back into primetime for the safety of the fans traveling to Kansas City and also I can now sleep in on Sunday without fear of missing any of the NFL Playoff action. This matchup should be a good one in Kansas City in a great atmosphere like Arrowhead Stadium. That place will be packed and rocking. I also want to say this first: I think the winner of this game will end up advancing to the Super Bowl. That being said, it is going to be really hard for me to not pick the Steelers to win this game. Pittsburgh was a pre season favorite going into this season but they kind of lost their way and found themselves with a 4-5 record after 9 games. They may not have had a tough schedule to close out the season but that doesn’t matter really. We have to give them credit for the run they are currently on and they did have to overcome some adversity against division rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore. The reason why the Steelers were pre season Super Bowl favorites was because of the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball. And that talent was on full display last week against Miami. I know that Miami isnt a good team and they kind of backed into the playoffs but WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell looked unstoppable last week. QB Ben Roethlisberger also had an impressive outing. I guess we can talk about the defense starting to play better even though last week they were hardly tested against an one-dimensional offense led by a backup QB. But still, that defense improving will be key if the Steelers want to make it to the Super Bowl. And that unit is improving. But here comes the bad news Pittsburgh fans: Kansas City isn’t Miami. I liked Kansas City all season. I like their defense. I like their ball control offense. I like Andy Reid and his experience. Limiting the combo of Bell, Brown, and Big Ben maybe a huge chore for the Chiefs defense but I think they will at least be up to it. I like Kansas City up front on defense. They have three really good pass rushers in Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston. I think they will be able to pressure Big Ben in a way that he hasn’t felt in a while. Though on the other hand, the Pittsburgh offensive line has been performing well this season and they do not get enough credit. Protecting Ben will be a huge part of this game especially when you figure in Ben’s ankle injury. The Chiefs suffered a tough injury near the end of the season to LB Derrick Johnson. Since then, the Chiefs have struggled at stopping the run. I think they better figure out a way to slow Bell and the Pittsburgh running attack. If Bell can get loose, he will control the tempo of this game. Antonio Brown is the best WR in the league but KC’s secondary is really good. CB Marcus Peters is a tough player who has the knack at creating big plays. Safety Eric Berry is probably the best at his position in the league and he will be an issue in the box defending the run and covering the deep ball. Many people are saying that they cannot count on QB Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense out scoring the Steelers with their many offensive weapons. Alex Smith has been forever slept on especially in the playoffs and I think he will prove on Sunday night to be better than what most people believe. Even without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have a decent run game. Plus, Smith has some pretty good receivers to go to as well. TE Travis Kelce is a difference maker down the field. WR Jeremy Maclin is good on his own right. And rookie WR Tyreek Hill is a speedster who can affect the game as a kick returner. I think the Chiefs offense is more capable than what people believe. It has been a long time since the Chiefs have won a home playoff game and Andy Reid as a coach has a great record when coming off of the bye week. Earlier this season, the Steelers squashed the Chiefs at home. KC then went on the bye week and returned to go on a great run which led them to the AFC West crown. I don’t think the Chiefs have forgot about that Sunday night beat down in Heinz Field. I think that the KC front seven on defense will find a way to bother Roethlisberger and they will come up with more stops than the Steelers defense will produce. It will be close but I’m taking the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Steelers 20

NFL 2016: Week 15 Predictions!

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 128-78-2

Big Five Games of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Week 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 15 Fantasy Football Picks

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

NFL 2016: Week 14 Predictions!

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-4

Season: 120-70-2

Big Five Games of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Week 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 14 Fantasy Football Picks

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

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

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

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

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

NFL 2016: Week 7 Predictions!

tom-brady-rob-gronkowski-nfl-cincinnati-bengals-new-england-patriots4

Tom Brady and friends should crush a shorthanded Steelers team this Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 12-3

Season: 55-37

Big Five Games of the Week

Indianapolis @ Tennessee – The Colts are trending downward right now. I think offensively, they can still score enough to be in games but their defense will continue to let them down like they did last week when they melted down in Houston. Tennessee is a talented football team who is looking for the chance to climb out of the AFC South basement and I think they’ll have a chance to do just that this season. Step one would be beating a Colts team that has owned them for a while now. I think I read that Andre Luck is 7-0 all time against the Titans. I think Tennessee will flip the script at home this Sunday. We’ll see a strong game from QB Marcus Mariota and he’ll receive great support from DeMarco Murray and the run game. Look for the Titans to finish the game strong in the four quarter while the Colts will fail once again at holding the lead. Prediction: Titans 27 – Colts 20

Minnesota @ Philadelphia – Sam Bradford returns to Philadelphia after being traded to Minnesota right before the season. That trade may have worked out for both teams as Philly was able to hand the keys to the offense to their top draft pick and Minnesota was able to keep their expectations afloat by having a capable QB under center after losing Teddy Bridgewater for the season. The Vikings enter this game undefeated and coming off the bye week. Philadelphia started the season hot and they had the entire league talking. But since then, they have cooled off significantly and if you look at their upcoming schedule, more pain in on the horizon. Carson Wentz was the media darling a couple weeks ago but he is starting to hit that rookie wall as we saw against Detroit and last week vs. Washington. Wentz is going to continue to have a bad time out there as he will be facing a really good Vikings defense on Sunday. Philadelphia’s defense isn’t playing at the level that it was a few weeks ago either. Minnesota isn’t going to overwhelm anyone offensively but with the way their defense is playing, the offense will not have to do very much on the stat sheet but still put away teams late. Bradford will really enjoy this one, as his Vikings will stay undefeated in Philly. Prediction: Vikings 33 – Eagles 21

New England @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers were my pick last week in my Survival Football league. That didn’t go well as they had their annual “play down to a crappy opponent” game last week in Miami. To make matters even worst in Steel town, Pittsburgh lost their starting QB, Ben Roethlisberger to injury. I remember last season when Ben went down due to injury and the Steelers were still able to win ball games with Landry Jones. Fast-forward to today and it sounds like many are not giving Jones a chance this weekend. Maybe it is because they know what they are losing in Roethlisberger. Maybe its because Landry Jones isn’t that good. Or maybe, it is because of who is coming to Heinz Field this weekend. Landry Jones is going to have to be better than good to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots this weekend. Pittsburgh really suffered last weekend defensively as the Dolphins ran all over them. They will receive some help this week as LB Ryan Shaizer will return from injury. But they will still be without DE Cameron Heyward who is a major difference maker on the Steelers’ defensive line. Also missing last week in Miami was the Steelers pass rush, which is currently non-existent. All of those things will equal into some bad news for the Steeler faithful at home this Sunday. With no pass rush, Tom Brady will tear this secondary apart. Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett should be able to have field days on Sunday. New England’s running game is underrated and the current state of the Pittsburgh run defense will give LaGarrette Blount chances to shine this week. All hope isn’t lost for Pittsburgh on offense though. No Roethlisberger will likely mean heavy doses of Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams who are both really good. We will see how well New England defends the run on Sunday. If Pittsburgh is successful in the run game, that will open up some things for Jones and the passing offense. Antonio Brown was almost a no show last week in Miami and the Steelers will have to find a way to get him involved even without the starting QB passing him the ball. I honestly think that the Steelers aren’t in that bad of shape without Roethlisberger but they will not even be close to being able to compete with New England on Sunday. Strange things can happen in Heinz Field, I guess. But I expect the Patriots to roll easily. Prediction: Patriots 42 – Steelers 28

Seattle @ Arizona – Don’t let last week’s home victory over the Jets fool you. Arizona has been disappointing to say the least so far this season. There is a narrative that says that Arizona is really good at home and Seattle is really bad on the road. I think you can throw that narrative out the window this Sunday night. Seattle is currently playing at a high level and Arizona is not. The Cardinals have been really disappointing on the defensive side of the ball. They have talented players in the secondary but as a unit, they are not creating enough stops. Arizona’s fall back has been their high scoring offense but even they have been inconsistent at times this season. RB David Johnson is having a strong season but on Sunday, he’ll face a tough Seattle front four. Arizona’s shortcomings on defense will serve Seattle’s offense well. Russell Wilson will be able to control the game with his legs and his arm. I’m taking the road team. Prediction: Seahawks 27 – Arizona 19

Houston @ Denver – I guess you have to give Houston credit for coming back like they did last week. They were pretty much dead in the water but they ended up finishing strong. They could be a confidence builder going into a big Monday night match up against the defending champion Broncos. Denver lost at home to Atlanta and had a short turn around where they lost at San Diego on a short week. After losing that tough one to Atlanta and then having to turnaround and play on the road on a short week, that is a tough sequence. Did I mention that I think season long Thursday night games are a stupid idea? But anyways, Denver should be pretty ticked off and ready get back to winning at home on national television. Brock Osweiler will be making his return to Denver and the Broncos defense is already chomping at the bit to get after him. Osweiler might have already proved to be a QB who really wasn’t deserving of all that money Houston gave him. I like the Denver defense in this matchup very much. They will get after the QB and Houston will have issues scoring points. Denver’s offense has been struggling a bit recently and Houston’s defense is actually much tougher than anyone gives credit to. I just think Houston will be struggling so much on offense that the defense will get tired late in this game and will be unable to come up with key stops in the 4th quarter. I see Denver getting back on track this week at home. Prediction: Broncos 21 – Texans 12

The Rest of Week 7

Packers over Bears – I know that Green Bay is struggling and that they just lost Eddie Lacy for the season. But Chicago is really bad and they let Jacksonville beat them on a complete accident.

Rams over Giants – The International Series is another thing in the NFL that I would like to see go away. How about the Rams in an upset? Their defense will keep LA in this game.

Bengals over Browns – Cincinnati showed signs of life last week. Cleveland is dead but the Indians are going to the World Series! They really need to get rid of that Chief Wahoo mascot though.

Washington over Lions – Washington is on a winning streak and no one is noticing. Detroit is a team that I can’t trust right now because of all of their injuries.

Chiefs over Saints – Drew Brees is playing at a high level. Kansas City’s defense will face a tall task on Sunday but I like the Chiefs at home.

Bills over Dolphins – Buffalo may be without LeSean McCoy but their defense is playing at a high level right now. A win in Miami would mean five straight for Rex Ryan’s bunch.

Ravens over Jets – This game might set QB play back a few years. It will be a field goal kicking contests. I like Justin Tucker. Hook ‘em.

Raiders over Jaguars – I can’t believe that the Raiders are really leaving California.

Falcons over Chargers – Atlanta fought tough on the road last week in Seattle. They won’t have a let down at home this week.

Buccaneers over 49ers – I don’t know. A complete toss up here.

Week 7 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – Hard for me not to pick Tom. He is facing the third worst pass defense in the league on Sunday.

RB: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs) – This is a complete shot in the dark. Kansas City just traded one of their running backs. Maybe this will mean a bigger role for the now healthy Charles.

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) – Green usually goes big against the Browns.

TE: Delanie Walker (Titans) – Tennessee passing offense has a favorable matchup this week against the Colts secondary. Walker has been quiet lately. Maybe he will break out this week.

DEF: Oakland – Jacksonville has been so bad on offense this season. Blake Bortles might make the Raiders secondary look better than it really is.

NFL 2016: Week 6 Predictions!

NFL: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Green Bay’s defensive front seven has been impressive so far this season. They’ll see their toughest test this weekend when Dallas comes to town.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-7

Season: 43-34

Big Five Games of the Week

Cincinnati @ New England – I don’t know what’s wrong with Cincinnati but they better get it figured out real fast. Last week in Dallas, they found themselves down 28 nothing in a game that ended up not being close at all. The Bengals seem to have major problems defensively and they are struggling up front offensively, which is affecting the run and pass game. Cincinnati took their lumps last week and that will probably continue on the road this week against New England. The Patriots got their leader back last week in Tom Brady. They also received reinforcements on the defensive line. New England is stronger on both sides of the ball now compared to earlier in the season and they are going to play at a high level for the foreseeable future. Cincinnati has most of the same talent they got them into the playoffs for the last couple of years but they are currently trending down. I don’t see them competing with the Patriots on Sunday in Tom Brady’s homecoming at Gillette Stadium. Prediction: Patriots 35 – Bengals 20

Baltimore @ New York Giants – The Giants struggled on offense again this past week but it was against a pretty good defense in Minnesota. This week, the Giants offense will look to get back on track against a Ravens defense at home. Baltimore is still an inconsistent team and you really can’t get a good read on them. The Ravens are usually a tough defensive team but their offense cant get on track or score enough points to put opponents away. Joe Flacco and company will probably find it tough this week against New York’s defense on the road. Baltimore’s weakness on defense is in the secondary and that should serve Eli Manning and the Giants passing attack well. Without Steve Smith in the lineup, Flacco will be looking for his younger receivers to step up this week but they will struggle to go blow for blow against Manning’s passing attack. Eli Manning has been heavily criticized this season but I believe that he will be able to look like his old self this week. Prediction: Giants 33 – Ravens 23

Kansas City @ Oakland – The Raiders are a fun team to watch each week. This is mainly because their defense can’t put away opponents, which leads to late game heroics by David Carr and the offense. This week, the Raiders are at home against a Kansas City team that is coming off the bye week and is looking to play much better than they showed so far this season. Kansas City will receive full contributions this week from Jamaal Charles who is finally really to take the reins of the KC backfield. Kansas City usually runs the ball well but they will be tested by a very good Raiders front seven on defense. Oakland struggles mightily against the pass, which is good news for Alex Smith. If the Raiders can’t pressure Smith, he’ll be able to go throw for throw against Oakland’s offensive attack. Kansas City’s defense took some serious beatings early this season but coming off the bye, that unit will be looking prove themselves this week on the road. The matchup between Marcus Peters and Amari Cooper should be an interesting one. It seems like the Raiders are a different team at home compared to on the road so, I expect them to take a step back this week. I think Kansas City will prove this week that they are still a contender in this division. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Raiders 21

Dallas @ Green Bay – In this old school NFC matchup, we will see strength vs. strength. The Packers have the top ranked run defense in the league. The Cowboys have the league’s best rushing attack. The team that controls the line of scrimmage will win this game. Green Bay defensive line is good but I don’t think they have faced an offensive line as good as the one in Dallas or a running back running as well as rookie Ezekiel Elliott. But on the other hand, Dallas hasn’t played against a run strong run defense this season unless you count how the Giants played in Week 1. Green Bay’s defense is impressive with the way they can stop the run and pressure the QB but they are beatable in the passing game. Rookie Dak Prescott has gotten better week after week at going down the field and I think he will get his chances this week. QB Aaron Rodgers is playing at a high level again and that is probably bad news for the Cowboys defense. That Cowboys defense is coming off two very strong performances though. CB Morris Claiborne is playing like a legit shutdown corner and the defensive line received a huge boost last week with the return of DE DeMarcus Lawrence. I think the Packers will have opportunities to soften up the Dallas defense with Eddie Lacy and the run game. With that, Rodgers will have his opportunities down the field as well. But Green Bay’s offensive line is a weakness in pass projection and I think the Cowboys pass rush will have a presence in this game. Dallas is the hot team right now and I’ve picked against them for 4 weeks now. I think the rookies will keep this thing rolling into the bye week. Prediction: Cowboys 28 – Packers 24

Atlanta @ Seattle – It’s starting to look like the Falcons will be the front-runners in the NFC South this season. Usually, it would be too soon for me to make such a statement but the rest of the division looks like such a mess. The Falcons looked mighty impressive last week on the road at Denver. This week, they’ll be looking for another big road victory in Seattle. The Seahawks are a tough team at home and they are coming off the bye week. Russell Wilson was dealing with some injuries but you couldn’t tell with the way he was playing before the bye week. Now that he is rested up, I expect him to be as effective as usual on Sunday. I’m not sure how improved the Falcons defense is yet but Wilson and the Seahawks offense will test them often through the air and on the ground. Seattle has the top ranked defense in football and their secondary will be taking on the top ranked passing attack in football. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have been on a roll recently but Sunday will be their biggest task of the season. In terms of these “top offense vs. top defense” matchups, it is usually wise to go with the defense. Especially in this case with Seattle being so good at home. An Atlanta win here would be most impressive but I’m sticking with my guns here and going with the home Seahawks. Prediction: Seahawks 31 – Falcons 23

The Rest of Week 6

Chargers over Broncos – Here’s a Thursday night upset. San Diego’s pass rush looked like a monster last week with the addition of rookie Joey Bosa. They will get after Trevor Siemian tonight and San Diego will score the upset at home.

Bills over 49ers – The talk before the game will be about the return of Colin Kaepernick. The talk after the game will be about how Buffalo hasn’t lost since firing their offensive coordinator.

Jaguars over Bears – Jacksonville is coming off the bye. Chicago isn’t that good. C’mon Jaguars. Do something for once.

Lions over Rams – This is a toss up.

Titans over Browns – Tennessee needs to start stacking up wins if they want to contend for the AFC South title.

Steelers over Dolphins – Trap game for Pittsburgh. Miami stinks and Ryan Tannehill is starting to run out of chances at being the guy in South Florida.

Saints over Panthers – Here’s another small upset. Carolina’s downward spiral continues. What’s wrong with their defense?

Eagles over Washington – Without Jordan Reed, Washington’s offense will not be able to go toe to toe against Philadelphia’s offense. Carson Wentz will bounce back this week.

Colts over Texans – Houston has some serious offensive issues. Indy will play them tough on the road.

Cardinals over Jets – Both pass defenses will keep this interesting. I trust Arizona’s offense a lot more than New York’s right now.

Week 6 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Carson Palmer (Cardinals) – The Jets have serious issues in the secondary. Palmer will have his pick of receivers on Monday night.

RB: LeSean McCoy (Bills) – Shady has been tearing it up recently. San Fran run defense hasn’t been the same since the NaVarro Bowman injury.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) – Houston will need some one on offense to step up on Sunday night. Hopkins will have to be that guy against a weak Colts secondary.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) – Marty B has taken up some attention in New England. Gronk is starting to look like his old self though and he’ll probably break out any game now. Why not this week against a struggling Bengals defense?

DEF: Buffalo – The Bills defense is slowly starting to improve. If Kaepernick tries to hard to show that he is back to his old self, this Bills defense will take advantage.

NFL 2016: AFC East Preview

jimmy-garoppolo-tom-brady-nfl-new-england-patriots-training-camp-850x560

Despite age and suspension, the Patriots train is on track once again in 2016.

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC East

New England Patriots – Obviously, the headlining story with the Patriots this upcoming season will be the Tom Brady suspension. Brady will miss the first four games in the regular season this year and Jimmy Garoppolo will beging the season as the starting QB. Garoppolo has been in Brady’s shadow for years now and even though he doesn’t have a lot of regular season experience, I think he’ll be able to handle the situation well until Brady returns. It’s hard to tell if Garoppolo will light up the stat sheet in Brady’s absence but I think I can say that the offensive personnel that New England has will be a big help for him in those first four games. New England isn’t known for having a great running game but they struggled with running the ball when RB’s LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis both went down due to injuries. Having those two guys back and healthy will definitely help the running game especially if they can both last 16 games. When you’re a young QB that lacks experience, the TE usually becomes a safe bet when it comes to targets. If this is true about Garoppolo, he’s going to be in pretty good shape as he has the best TE in the league to throw to, Rob Gronkowski. Along with Gronkowski, the Patriots also brought in another huge TE to the passing game, Martellus Bennett. Between Gronk and Marty B, the Patriots will have probably the top TE duo in the league. Gronk is a threat as a big target in the open field no matter what the situation. Bennett isn’t the same but he’ll be a huge target as the Patriots march towards the end zone. Also with the wealth of talent at the TE position, the Patriots have an underrated veteran led receiving core. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are somewhat injury prone but when healthy they are as tough as they come. The way to stop the Patriots offense has always been through the offensive line and that won’t be any different in 2016. The Patriots will be looking to get better play from that unit this season but it’s unclear if that will come in fruition. New England made a trade for OG Jonathan Cooper but he is already facing injury problems much like he did in Arizona. Thinking of Arizona, it’s time to talk about that defense because the Patriots got Cooper by trading away their best defensive player. Even though the Patriots have been successful in recent years without having a top defense, they will greatly miss Chandler Jones on that defensive line. The Patriots do have a nice mix of young guys and veterans on the defensive line but no players on the level on a Jones. At defensive end, Rob Ninkovich returns and Jabaal Sheard will probably be the guy who will get the first crack at replacing Jones. The Pats also brought in veteran Chris Long from the Rams but his best days as a pro are probably behind him. New England had a top ten run defense in 2015 and they’ll look to continue that success in 2016. Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch will probably be the starters inside on the defensive line. I like the addition of DT Terrance Knighton who didn’t have a great season last year in Washington but he’ll be a key mentor and leader this season. At linebacker, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are a decent duo. They brought in Shea McClellin from Chicago who didn’t fit over there in a 3-4 defense. If he can improve, he’ll add some flexibility as a guy who can play outside linebacker and can rush the passer on passing downs. New England’s secondary was a middle of the road unit last season and I don’t see how they improved in the offseason. CB Malcolm Butler is probably their best corner but I’m not sure if that’s really a good thing. Safety Devin McCourty is a leader in the secondary and probably the only consistent playmaker. Patrick Chung has had some rough recent season in New England but they have failed to replace him. I’m not sure how much of an impact a rookie can have but I really like 2nd round pick, Cyrus Jones out of Alabama. So basically, I think this Patriots team will be much like how they’ve been recently. The defense may overachieve but it will be Brady and the offense as the tone setters on this team. Despite being dominated in that AFC Championship game a season ago, it was amazing to see Brady and the offense rally and still almost pull off the comeback. That will serve as motivation going into this season. Again, they will not face much of a challenge in the AFC East but because of their losses on defense, I’m not sure if they’ll be able to match what they did a season ago in the playoffs. I think Brady will return ready and refreshed. But Father Time is still undefeated and you have to wonder if this will be the season where he starts to decline. I don’t think we’ll see that happen in 2016 but I don’t know how good New England will be in the post season this year because of the losses on defense. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC East Champs)

New York Jets – The Jets had surprise success in 2015 and even more surprising, they have IK Enemkpali to thank for that. But seriously, I don’t see the Jets having the success they had offensively with Geno Smith as the starting QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick may be a career journeyman but he was exactly what the Jets needed at QB last season. After a lengthy contract holdout, Fitzpatrick is back for 2016 looking forward to leading the Jets aerial attack once again. I don’t know if Fitzpatrick will be able to create the same success he had a season ago but the Jets will have the tools on offense once again to succeed. The offensive line may have gotten better as they traded for a new left tackle, Ryan Clady, who started for a Super Bowl champion a season ago. Fitzpatrick built a great relationship with the two, big outside receiving threats on this team, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Marshall is coming off one of his best seasons and Decker proved to be a valuable piece of the passing attack. The Jets need to develop more depth at that position though. I also think the Jets got better at RB. Chris Ivory left for Jacksonville but they signed Matt Forte. Forte isn’t a tough, between the tackles, runner that Ivory is but he is a lot more versatile as a receiver out of the backfield and he offers more speed once he gets to the second level. The Jets also have decent depth at the RB position with Bilal Powell and Bernard Pierce. There is a lot to be optimistic about for the Jets on offense this season. Going into the offseason, there were a lot of questions surrounding the strength of the Jets defense, the defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson was in a contract dispute and Sheldon Richardson was rumored to be facing a lengthy suspension. Wilkerson got his long-term contract, Richardson will only miss one game, and they also have a young beast in 2nd year tackle Leonard Williams. The Jets will continue to be strong up front defensively in 2016. At outside linebacker, the Jets will be looking for some more growth from Lorenzo Mauldin who had a decent rookie season. The middle of the defense will continue to be anchored down but veteran LB David Harris. Also keep an eye out for rookie, first round pick, LB Darron Lee, who was among one of the quickest at the position in this past draft. CB Darrelle Revis returns once again as the leader of the secondary. Revis is still a top defensive player in this league but their really isnt much around him in this Jets secondary. Safeties Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist are average at best and the Jets really don’t have a solid starter opposite of Revis at CB. Outside of Revis, I don’t think the Jets secondary is that great but the strength of the defense comes from up front and that usually always helps out that unit. The Jets return a defense that was 2nd in the league at stopping the run last season. Head coach Todd Bowles surprised everyone with that success his Jets had a season ago and they will hope to build on that in 2016. The Jets actually look strong on paper but I think last year was a case where a lot of things went right. And even with that, the Jets still missed the playoffs. I think the Jets will be a tough football team again this year but I don’t see them overtaking New England in 2016. They will definitely compete for a playoff spot. Prediction: 8-8

Buffalo Bills – Rex Ryan arrived in Buffalo last year with so much noise and hype but it didn’t really materialize into anything last year. The Bills played some stretches of good football but by the end of the season, they fell apart. The Bills still have some good players going into 2016 but now they are completely rebuilding the defense and I don’t know if they’ll be able to resemble the team that Ryan wants so quickly. I’m confident that Rex Ryan can be successful in Buffalo but I’m worried about the Bills giving him enough time to build up his defensive scheme. On offense, Buffalo is pretty much set and they’ll be looking to continue the success they had a season ago especially on the ground. The Bills found their QB last season in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is a great athlete and an average QB but he fits what the Bills want to do on offense. Buffalo had the best running attack in the league a season ago and Taylor is apart of that. Even a bigger part of the running game is all-pro LeSean McCoy. McCoy had a disappointing season by his standards and he’ll be looking forward to starting 2016 completely healthy and with a chip on his shoulder. Last year, RB Karlos Williams was a break out player and was a great compliment to McCoy. Williams is currently facing suspension and is dealing with some injury issues. So, Buffalo also brought in veteran Reggie Bush who might have a role early on this season while Williams is out. I’m not sure what Bush has left in the tank but at the least, Buffalo run blocks very well and Bush might have some left to offer in special teams. Buffalo’s passing attack could be better but lets face it: passing isn’t Tyrod Taylor’s strong suit. And its really a shame because WR Sammy Watkins is able to put up much better numbers than what he has shown but they need to find a way to get him more touches. QB’s like Taylor usually have a decent option at TE and that what he has in Charles Clay. In 2016, the running game will set the tempo for the Bills offense again. When pressed, Taylor can be a playmaker with this arm and his legs. But I don’t know if he can be good enough where the offense doesn’t have to lean on the running game so much. I don’t know what to expect from the Bills defense this season because Rex Ryan is in the process of completely rebuilding that unit in his 3-4 scheme. On the defensive line, DT Marcell Dareus will continue to be a disruptor but he will need more help around him. For a team making a transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, the Bills actually have a decent group of LB’s. But they may be already hurt in that department due to injuries. First round pick, Shaq Lawson, will miss the beginning of the season and second round pick, Reggie Ragland, is going to miss his entire rookie season. Inside at linebacker, I think Preston Brown and Zach Brown (no relation) will do just fine. But the Rex Ryan defense needs pass rushers to excel. OLB Jerry Hughes can get the QB but Buffalo needs more than just him. In the secondary, Buffalo has a good pair of starting CB’s in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby. Also, Ed Reed will coach the secondary, which is exciting. I like Buffalo’s core as a ground and pound team on offense and a tough run stuffing team on defense. But there aren’t enough pieces on both sides of the ball where I can see this team taking the next step. I sure hope that the Buffalo front office realizes that Ryan needs at least one more offseason to get the defense closer to what he had in New York. The blueprint for success is there in Buffalo. They are just going to have to give Rex a little more time. Prediction: 7-9

Miami Dolphins – A season ago, Miami made so much noise in the offseason with the moves they made in free agency. At the end, it proved to be a disaster and their head coach was fired. Going into 2016, I was hoping that Miami would hire a stronger personality to really grab ahold of this locker room instead of hiring “insert successful coordinator’s name here”. Instead we got the latter and I don’t sense much excitement surrounding this team going into this season. Everyone is still waiting for QB Ryan Tannehill to break out. I’m starting to think that this isn’t a good thing that we are still waiting. Either Tannehill is going to become this next great Dolphins QB or he is not. To Tannehill’s credit, he has done better statistically each season but he hasn’t done good enough where he can raise Miami out of mediocrity. Again to his credit, that task might be too tall for just for him. Miami’s supporting cast on offense didn’t get better in the offseason with the departure of starting RB Lamar Miller. Miller left for Houston and Miami really didn’t think much on the subject of replacing him. They have second year RB Jay Ajayi who is still struggling to stay healthy and they brought in Adrian Foster from Houston who is an aging veteran. Journeyman Isaiah Pead might end up being the Week 1 starter. At receiver, Tannehill has a good collection of talent to throw to. Jarvis Landry wont get the fame that fellow LSU Tiger Odell Beckham Jr receives in New York but he is probably just as good of a receiver. DeVante Parker merely scratched the surface in his rookie season and Miami will be looking for him to have a bigger role in the passing game in 2016. Tannehill also has a good target at TE in Jordan Cameron. Not having a running game will hurt this Miami offense but I think its time for Tannehill to go all-gunslinger this year and see if he can become an elite passer in this league. Miami’s defense was a massive disappointment last season. Ndamukong Suh got the big money deal from Miami but the team isn’t getting a fair return as Miami had one of the worst run defenses last season. Suh should be extra motivated to return to the form that made him one of the most feared defenders in football. DE Cameron Wake is still one of the best pass rushers in football. DE Mario Williams was brought in from Buffalo to replace Olivier Vernon. Wake is coming off from an injury and Williams is an aging vet at this point of his career. Miami’s defensive line was such a disappointment last season; I really don’t have any realistic expectations for them in 2016. But Miami is going to have to have that unit improve if they hope to amount to anything in 2016. Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins are decent LB’s and Miami brought in Kiko Alonso who is coming off injury-plagued seasons in Buffalo and Philadelphia. If healthy, Alonso will improve the Miami LB core. Miami’s secondary is headlined by safety Reshad Jones who is coming off his best season as a pro. Miami brought in Byron Maxwell who found out last season that life outside of Seattle can be rough. I expect even more abuse for him in 2016 as he just wasn’t that good to begin with. Miami’s secondary was a weak point last season and that will probably be the same in 2016. With the hiring of Adam Gase at head coach, I really don’t know what is Miami’s long-term plan with this team. With so many high profiled veterans, this locker room is not the place for a rookie head coach. Miami is short on talent and leadership. Prediction: 5-11