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NFL 2016: Week 5 Predictions!

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After a monster game in Week 4, Julio Jones will be a great challenge for Denver’s defense this week.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-8

Season: 36-27

Big Five Games of the Week

Philadelphia @ Detroit – The Eagles are coming off the bye and are still riding high on the Carson Wentz hype train. I don’t think I am fully on board on the idea that this Eagles team is good but they are 3-0 and their defense is playing at a high level right now. Detroit is a mess offensively right now and last week, their defense was missing its two best players. DE Ziggy Ansah and LB DeAndre Levy will probably be out again this week when the Eagles come to town. The Lions allowed Brian Hoyer to have a big game last week. The defense couldn’t get key stops and the offense struggled to score points. The Eagles are the hot team plus, they are rested from the bye week. I may have thought this would be a good game is Ansah and Levy were playing but since they are not, I fully expect Philadelphia to roll in this one on the road. Prediction: Eagles 25 – Lions 17

New York Jets @ Pittsburgh – After getting smacked by the Eagles, the Steelers went ahead and smacked Kansas City at home last week. That should prove to be a huge confidence boost going forward in this early part of the season. The Jets had some momentum to start this season but it is starting to fade away. Ryan Fitzpatrick is turning into a turnover machine and the defense is losing at the line of scrimmage. The Jets are supposed to be a strong defensive team up front with the talent they have. Playing against a banged up QB and a young offensive line last week, I thought the Jets defensive line would have a great chance at affecting the result of the game. Instead, Seattle’s offense rolled easily. This week, the Jets front seven on defense will face a decent Steelers offensive line and a more than capable QB in Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers received a boost in the running game last week with the return of Le’Veon Bell. Bell looked as better than ever last week and he’ll be just another weapon that this Jets defense will have to account for. Bottom line, if the Jets can’t win at the line of scrimmage on defense, they will lose this game. Prediction: Steelers 32 – Jets 20

Atlanta @ Denver – Julio Jones was ridiculous last week. Not too many receivers in this league currently can perform at a level as he did last week against Carolina. Atlanta’s offense is red hot going into their road matchup against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos defense will be a good test for Atlanta’s offense. The Falcons have the number one offense in the league right now while Denver’s defense ranks fourth. Atlanta has the weapons to beat you through the air and on the ground. Denver has a strong secondary, a tough run defense, and premiere pass rushers led by Von Miller. It’s going to be interesting to see that matchup play out. Trevor Siemian was a nice surprise this season for Denver but he got hurt last week and the Broncos may have to turn to rookie Paxton Lynch. The QB position has not been a great issue of importance for the Broncos this season. They have the right veterans at the skill positions where Lynch can be successful when he is called to make a play. Plus, Atlanta’s defense isn’t very good. If Atlanta’s offense can get the best of Denver’s defense, it won’t matter if they can’t stop Denver’s offense. For that reason, I like the home team to stay undefeated this weekend. Prediction: Broncos 29 – Falcons 24

Cincinnati @ Dallas – The Cowboys couldn’t of imagined being 3-1 to start the season without Tony Romo. And then, they were able to comeback after being down 14-0 last week on the road. Despite early success from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the next two weeks before the bye will tell us a lot about this Cowboys team. Cincinnati isn’t a great team but they might be the best team this Cowboys team has played this season. Cincinnati is beatable and are greatly inconsistent on offense and defense. The one thing that is consistent is WR A.J. Green who will look to be the difference maker in this game. CB Morris Claiborne is having a heck of a comeback season so far but Green will be his biggest test yet. The Cowboys defense figured out a way to slow down the 49ers offense last week in the second half but they’ll have a much tougher time with Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense. Cincinnati’s defense is beatable and the Cowboys will have the same approach they have had all season. They will test Cincy’s defensive line with the run game and Prescott will take his shots down the field when necessary. Not having a big play receiver didn’t hurt the Cowboys passing game last week but with no Dez Bryant again this week, they will not have the weapons to go toe-to-toe with A.J. Green and the other Bengals receiving threats. I don’t think Cincinnati will be that tough of a game for Dallas and I expect them to be in it until the end. But I’m going to go with the team with the healthiest talent. Prediction: Bengals 27 – Cowboys 21

New York Giants @ Green Bay – Too much talk about Odell Beckham Jr and not enough talk about the shortcomings of the Giants offense so far this season. The Giants paid a lot of money in the offseason on their defense and they have done a decent job so far this season. But with the weapons the Giants have on offense and the QB they have, you would expect them to be able to put up the necessary points to win games. That unit has underperformed so far this season and I get why Beckham Jr is pissed. Green Bay is coming off the bye, they are rested, and they’ll probably play great at home. If the Giants offense doesn’t snap out of their funk, they wont score enough points to win, Beckham Jr will continue to struggle, and he will probably throw another tantrum. The Giants defense will be a good challenge for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense will eventually, they will get tired out and Rodgers will take full advantage in the 4th quarter. Prediction: Packers 30 – Giants 20

The Rest of Week 5

Cardinals over 49ers – Losing NaVarro Bowman will mean more than not having Carson Palmer. At least, I think so. These Thursday night games are weird.

Patriots over Browns – I don’t think Tom Brady will have a monster game in his return. This will be an overhyped preseason game if anything. Brady will just get his feet wet again in this one.

Bears over Colts – Chicago suddenly has momentum thanks to Brian Hoyer. Indianapolis might be in serious trouble if they drop this one.

Titans over Dolphins – Miami doesn’t have an identity. Tennessee might be able to compete for a division title this year.

Vikings over Texans – Minnesota will limited Houston’s scoring chances. Sam Bradford might have a rough game but not as bad as Brock Osweiler will.

Ravens over Washington – Baltimore will finish better than they did last week.

Raiders over Chargers – Oakland has had great success on the road. They need to do the same at home against a struggling San Diego team.

Rams over Bills – Look out, Los Angeles. The Rams have won three straight and their offense looks much better than it did a month ago.

Panthers over Buccaneers – Cam Newton may not play but even of greater concern, the Panthers need to figure out what’s wrong with the defense.

Week 5 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Derek Carr (Raiders) – Carr was great late last week and San Diego’s secondary is banged up.

RB: David Johnson (Cardinals) – You saw what Ezekiel Elliott did last week when NaVarro Bowman left the game. Johnson will have his opportunities tonight against a shorthanded San Fran defense.

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) – Green had a monster game last week against Miami. The Cowboys defense wont be able to pressure Dalton so he’ll have plenty of time to find Green down the field.

TE: Greg Olsen (Panthers) – Cam or no Cam. Olsen will make plays no matter who is the QB on Monday night for Carolina.

DEF: Arizona – If the Cardinals offense can score points, the 49ers will be force to play catch up which might turn into many opportunities for turnovers for the Arizona defense.

 

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NFL 2016: Week 4 Predictions!

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Will the return of Le’Veon Bell lift the Steelers offense on Sunday night?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 29-19

Big Five Games of the Week

Buffalo @ New England – The Bills looked really bad in Week 2. So last week against a much better Arizona team, they were able to pull out all the stops and score a big home victory. Buffalo will look to ride that momentum into New England on Sunday as they take on the Patriots. New England can do no wrong currently. Despite all of the personnel losses on both sides of the ball, they are 3-0. You have to be impressed to see their defense playing at the level that it is right now. But that defense really hasn’t been pressed by a good offense this season. Buffalo may not be a complete offense right now but they can do one thing very well: run the football. I think Buffalo will be successful in the run game on Sunday rather if it’s LeSean McCoy doing the damage or QB Tyrod Taylor. The starting QB for New England this week remains a mystery. Buffalo has plenty of defensive woes right now but no coach knows Bill Belichick’s offense better than Rex Ryan. I think the Ryan brothers are going to have a good game plan this week against a Patriots offense that can really only run the ball successfully. New England will be looking forward to the return of Tom Brady next week. This week, they will be shocked and upset at home to the underdog Bills. Prediction: Bills 32 – Patriots 21

Seattle @ New York Jets – Russell Wilson suffered a knee injury last week but he is planning to play through it. I think this will prove to be a bad decision going up against the Jets on the road this week. Wilson already is dealing with shaky offensive line play and his week, that line will face a powerful, disruptive Jets front four on defense. The Jets took their lumps last week on the road but this week they will be the ones handing out the lumps. Everyone was no hard on Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. And maybe for good reason. It’s never good to throw SIX interceptions in one game. But on the other hand, Kansas City’s defense is really good. Fitzpatrick will face another good defense this week in the Seahawks. I think Fitz will be helped out this week by his defense. The Jets will play ball control football with the defense getting stops and the offense taking advantage of the extra opportunities to score. New York will be without Eric Decker and that might hurt them in the passing game. But Seattle has a rep of being a weaker team on the road. I’m taking the Jets in an upset. Prediction: Jets 21 – Seahawks 20

Oakland @ Baltimore – The Ravens are the 3-0 team that no one is talking about. Probably because they haven’t beaten anyone of significance. But beating teams that you are suppose to beat will go a long ways in terms to getting into the post season. Baltimore just has to keep on trucking along until they face a great challenge. And then, we will see how good they really are. I also haven’t seen them play a lot this season so far. I know that it helps that Joe Flacco is back. Their running game is a mystery to me. Baltimore is getting decent play out of their receivers. And their defense is currently ranked 2nd in the league. The Raiders gutted out a tough victory last week on the road but they’ll have a harder time this week in Baltimore. Derek Carr and the Raiders offense will be a great test for Baltimore’s defense. Oakland’s defense played its best game last week but that unit has mostly been a disappointment in this season. There is a great chance that Flacco will have his best performance of the season this Sunday if he is able to stay away from the Raiders pass rush. Prediction: Ravens 26 – Raiders 17

Kansas City @ Pittsburgh – What happened to Pittsburgh last week, no one saw coming. Giving up 34 points to a rookie QB? Sure, I could see that. But only putting up 3 points on offense? I didn’t know that the Eagles defense was that good. Maybe they are not. Maybe the Steelers just had an off day offensively. But if Philadelphia’s defense was able to play that well, what will happen this Sunday night in Pittsburgh when the Chiefs come to town? As we saw last week, Kansas City’s defense is really good and they will force turnovers. They are tough to run on and they have a good secondary. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off of two straight weeks of lackluster performances. I know he will bounce back as he always does but it will be hard for him this week against the Chiefs defense. I think the return of Le’Veon Bell for the Steelers will greatly affect Pittsburgh’s chances on Sunday. Kansas City has a tough defensive line but Bell can be used it so many different ways on offense. It will be hard for the Chiefs to key on Bell and DeAngelo Williams. Pittsburgh’s defense takes a lot of heat but this week, I believe that match up well against Kansas City’s offense. Jamaal Charles might be making his season debut on Sunday night but Pittsburgh still has a highly ranked run defense. QB Alex Smith will be asked to do more that usual in this matchup but that may not be a bad thing for the Chiefs. I’ve said before that Smith is underrated and he’ll have a chance to look much better than what he really is against the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh will be looking for the chance to rebound after a bad performance last week and they will really want this one at home. It will be close but I’m taking the home team. Le’Veon Bell will make the big play late in this game to clinch a victory for the home team. Prediction: Steelers 25 – Chiefs 23

New York Giants @ Minnesota – I love what Minnesota is doing right now. They lose their starting QB, RB and left tackle but they are still winning ball games. How? Look at their defense. Sacking the QB, creating pressure, causing turnovers. And they are doing it with talent that they drafted. Other teams in the league need to look at Minnesota as an example. Having a decent defense can overcome shortcomings on offense. Plus, you have to bring in high priced free agents to improve defensively. Minnesota drafted top talent on defense and it is starting to pay off. The Giants have been disappointing so far this season. Their defense is improved but the offense is struggling to put up the numbers that everyone thought they would. I think that offense will continue its struggles on the road in Minnesota this Monday night. The way Eli Manning threw that game away late last week was kind of embarrassing. Manning is going to have another tough go at it this week against the Vikings defense. I think the Giants defense will be able to keep New York in the game but they wont win it for them. It will be up to Eli Manning to solve the Vikings defense late in the game in front of a raucous Minnesota crowd. I like the home team. Prediction: Vikings 29 – Giants 24

The Rest of Week 4

Bengals over Dolphins – Miami tried their best to lose to Cleveland at home last week. They are having a tough go at it. Cincinnati better take care of business in this one.

Colts over Jaguars – I feel sorry for anyone who is planning to get up early to watch this one being played in London. Jacksonville was supposed to be everyone’s sleeper team. What happened?

Panthers over Falcons – Good news for Cam Newton: he won’t be facing the Minnesota defense this week. This will be a good game but Carolina’s defense will be the difference.

Lions over Bears – Chicago is sad. But at least their fans can troll Detroit fans about the MLB Playoffs?

Washington over Browns – Terrelle Pryor will have another strong performance but Cleveland will still lose. Expect that to be the theme in Cleveland for the rest of the season. If I were a Browns fan, I would be watching Louisville/Clemson very closely on Saturday night.

Texans over Titans – J.J. Watt is out for the season but Houston will rally and beat a tough Tennessee team at home.

Broncos over Buccaneers – Trevor Siemien is playing better each week. So much for a Super Bowl hangover. Denver is looking really good right now.

Cardinals over Rams – Arizona will be ready to rebound from a disastrous trip to Buffalo. If the Rams keep winning, we can make fun of their move to LA anymore. That’s no fun. C’mon Arizona!

Chargers over Saints – Drew Brees said that he was looking forward to playing his old team. Phillip Rivers will be looking forward to playing against the Saints defense.

49ers over Cowboys – Here’s an upset. San Francisco will give Dallas the tough game that Chicago didn’t give them last week. San Fran isn’t really good but the Cowboys defense will make Blaine Gabbert look much better than he really is.

Week 4 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Joe Flacco (Ravens) – The Raiders give up the most yards in the air on defense. Flacco will air it out at home this week.

RB: Todd Gurley (Rams) – Arizona couldn’t stop the run last week. LA will use Gurley to their advantage this week.

WR: Marvin Jones (Lions) – Jones is turning into the breaking out player in the Lions offense so far this season.

TE: Dennis Pitta (Ravens) – Pitta is catching a lot of passes so far this season but he has yet to score a TD. Expect that to change this week.

DEF: New York Jets – I like the Jets defense this week against a banged up Russell Wilson.

 

NFL 2016: Week 3 Predictions!

 

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Josh Norman may be looking forward to another shot at Odell Beckham Jr but his Washington team is still looking forward to their first victory in 2016.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 20-12

Big Five Games of the Week

Houston @ New England – The Texans are 2-0 but in those two victories, they really haven’t been overly impressive. New England is dealing with some serious issues at the QB position going into tonight’s game. But New England has been missing some important pieces of that offense all season and it hasn’t stopped them from winning games. I don’t know how well Jacoby Brissett will perform tonight but I think we can count on this veteran Patriots team rallying behind him and doing what is necessary in order to be successful. Brissett will have a good running game to lean on tonight as LeGarrette Blount is running as well as anyone right now. Houston has a good defense and they’ll provide quite a test for the rookie QB taking his first professional snaps tonight. On paper, New England doesn’t have a strong defense but so far this season, they haven’t been exposed. That defensive unit will continue to do just enough to not lose games for the offense. I don’t see Brock Osweiler being the QB to really stretch out the New England secondary. The Patriots will have their hands full with DeAndre Hopkins though. Houston will need a strong game tonight from their defensive line. J.J. Watt is starting to get healthier and he needs to start producing at the high level that he is used to. I think Houston’s defense will be the tone setter tonight and they will give Osweiler the chance to win this game on the road. But it just seems that Bill Belichick can do no wrong this season no matter who is available to play. TE Rob Gronkowski might miss his third straight game this season but Martellus Bennett is coming off his most productive outing this season. I think the “no excuses” approach from the Patriots will continue to breed success tonight in front of a raucous home crowd. Prediction: Patriots 21 – Texans 20

Denver @ Cincinnati – The Bengals were underwhelming again against Pittsburgh last week and I think they’ll have a tougher time this week at home against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Broncos. Denver has been apart of a couple of interesting games to start the season. Each time, the offense has done enough to keep the team’s chances at victory afloat. And each time again, the defense has come up huge in the 4th quarter. Trevor Siemian isn’t lighting up the scoreboard but he is doing the little things right and he isn’t making big enough mistakes that could turn the game the other way. Siemian has a great support system around him with the skill players at RB and WR. That veteran presence is going along way in developing Siemian into a success in his young NFL career. But for Denver, it is more about the defense. Von Miller is playing out of his mind right now. DeMarcus Ware will miss about a month due to injury but this is why the Broncos took Shane Ray in the first round last season. Denver’s defense will continue its dominance on Sunday against the Bengals. Andy Dalton will find it hard to get into a rhythm against the Broncos defense. A.J. Green wasn’t targeted enough last week in Pittsburgh and he might find it tough again this week against the Denver secondary. Cincinnati’s defense is underrated in my mind but I don’t see them making enough big plays like they did in the past when they had Reggie Nelson. I’m taking the road team. Prediction: Broncos 23 – Bengals 17

Washington @ New York Giants – Washington was able to win the NFC East last year. Now, they are currently 0-2 and facing an improved, undefeated New York Giants team on the road this Sunday. The Giants are playing well to start the season and Washington will be desperately looking for their first victory of the season. But the real hype behind this game is the matchup between Odell Beckham Jr and Josh Norman. OBJ and Norman got into it multiple times when they faced each other last season. The officials will have a better look at that this time around so the fireworks will probably be at the minimal. Even without the extra stuff (fighting, punching, wrestling, etc.), the matchup between OBJ and Norman is exciting because we are seeing to players opposite each other playing at the top of their games. Norman may not shadow “Number one” receivers often but we saw last week against Dallas how he can affect games in multiple ways. Norman is a physical defender who doesn’t back down and he will be hard for any Giants receiver to deal with on Sunday. This is important because Washington will have to worry about multiple receivers on Sunday. Victor Cruz is healthy and looking like his old self. Rookie Sterling Shepard is coming off his best day as a pro. Eli Manning is playing with his deepest WR core in a while. Washington’s defense will have a long day if they cant rattle Manning. QB Kirk Cousins has been struggling this season so far and he’ll be facing a much-improved Giants defense. I don’t like Washington’s chances at all in this game. They will go to 0-3. Prediction: Giants 34 – Washington 21

New York Jets @ Kansas City – The Chiefs took their lumps on the road in Houston last week. I think they will be ready to get back on track this week at home against the Jets. New York is coming off a Thursday night victory so they will be rested. But despite that, they are pretty banged up at key positions. WR Brandon Marshall may not play. Last week, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had a field day throwing the ball against the Bills secondary. Fitzpatrick will not have it so easy this week as Kansas City’s defense will be much harder to throw on. The Chiefs defense usually plays at a high level at home and they will limit New York’s chances at creating big plays. The Jets defense will create a tough challenge for Andy Reid’s offense as well. New York’s front seven is physical up front, they get after the QB, and they are tough to run against. RB Jamaal Charles might make his return this week but the Chiefs are going to have to find creative ways to get him involved. If they plan to run Charles right into the teeth of the Jets defensive line, he is going to have a long day. Last week, everyone was talking about how bad the Bills secondary was. But in that same game, the Jets secondary also looked mighty suspect. Many may sleep on QB Alex Smith, but I think he will be able to do things with his arm and legs this Sunday. This could be a close one and because of that, I’ll give the advantage to the home team. Arrowhead Stadium is just one of those unique home field advantages in this league. Prediction: Chiefs 25 – Jets 20

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia – All aboard the Carson Wentz hype train! But seriously, everyone needs to calm down. Wentz has been apart of 2 victories so far in his NFL career but he plays in Philadelphia and he played last week in primetime. So, that explains most of the hype. I’ve watched highlights of Wentz and he isn’t exactly lighting up the league. Wentz has done the little things. He is making the right throws and the right decisions. He still has a ways to go. But Philadelphia is so thirsty for some football success that the fans are ready to crown him right now. Wentz and the Eagles need slapped back down to earth. Enter the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the dominant defense like they’ve had in the past but they will create a better challenge for Wentz than Cleveland and Chicago. That’s for sure. One thing that has been an advantage for Wentz and the Eagles offense is that they haven’t been in a situation where they had to score a lot in order to win. Cleveland and Chicago definitely weren’t putting the pressure of Philly’s offense to produce big time numbers. The Steelers offense will do just that. Pittsburgh is able to control the game on offense with their passing game and running game. The Steelers are pretty good upfront and they’ll create a good challenge for Fletcher Cox and the Eagles defensive line. RB DeAngelo Williams is playing extremely well right now and the Eagles will have to key on what Pittsburgh can do as a running football team at the same time being aware of what they can do in the air. The Eagles secondary is still a weak spot on their defense and Ben Roethlisberger should be able to take advantage. If the Eagles cant get to Roethlisberger, there will be nothing stopping Antonio Brown from making the big, game defining plays. Wentz mania may be running wild in Philly right now but I expect the Steelers to put a stop to all of that at least for one week. Prediction: Steelers 29 – Eagles 17

The Rest of Week 3

Cardinals over Bills – Buffalo’s defense is shorthanded and they can’t stop anyone. I don’t see how Rex and his idiot brother will survive this season. It’s a shame because I really like Rex as a head coach. That defense needs to get better but it wont anytime soon.

Packers over Lions – Detroit fell apart late last week. They are banged up and they will be facing a Packers team at home looking to put their fans doubts to rest.

Titans over Raiders – I thought Oakland would have a strong defense this season. They are currently ranked dead last in the league in that department. I like the way Tennessee fought their way back into last week’s game.

Dolphins over Browns – We are still in September and Cleveland is already a dumpster fire. Miami has fought hard in their two losses to start the season. They’ll roll big time at home.

Panthers over Vikings – Minnesota is dealing with a lot of injuries but so is Carolina. Cam Newton will probably be the best running threat on the field on Sunday.

Ravens over Jaguars – What happened to Jacksonville being the sleeper team this season? Baltimore hasn’t been so impressive for a team that hasn’t lost yet. But the Jags have been so underwhelming so far this season. This one is a toss up.

Seahawks over 49ers – Losing to the Rams should be inexcusable for this Seattle team. If they lose this one at home to San Fran, it may be time for everyone to chill on the Russell Wilson bandwagon.

Buccaneers over Rams – The Rams play Seattle hard. I get it. This week, they’ll return to their regularly scheduled programming.

Chargers over Colts – San Diego can run the ball now. Indy is starting the drop like flies already. I’m taking the Bolts on the road for the small upset.

Cowboys over Bears – It’s been awhile since Dallas has won at home but against this wounded Chicago team, they should have no excuses.

Falcons over Saints – New Orleans usually shows up big in these prime time matchups but I’m taking Atlanta because their defense isn’t as bad as their opponent’s. RIP Shawty Lo.

Week 3 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Marcus Mariota (Titans) – Oakland gives up the most in the air defensively so far this season. I think Mariota could have himself a big game.

RB: C.J. Anderson (Broncos) – Cincinnati has given up the most yards in the run game so far this season. Anderson has been an important piece for the Broncos offense.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – Buffalo’s secondary has been so bad this season. Fitzgerald is making a big play for this Arizona offense each week so far. That will continue on the road this week.

TE: Jacob Tamme (Falcons) – Tamme has been consistent for the first two games of this season. Against the Saints secondary, Matt Ryan should be able to find him down the field for some huge gains.

DEF: Carolina – Minnesota might become one dimensional without Adrian Peterson. Even if they had Peterson, Carolina is tough against the run. If Bradford is forced to sling it while playing catch up, Carolina will rack up multiple turnovers.

NFL 2016: Week 1 Predictions!

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You may not know Broncos starting QB Trevor Siemian but the Panthers defense will get real comfortable with him on opening night.

By: Elias McMillan

First, here’s a look at how I’ve done picking regular season games in recent years:

2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87

2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99

2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94

2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1

2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

Now, here’s my forecast for Week 1 of the 2016 Season.

Big Five Games of the Week

Carolina @ Denver – This Super Bowl rematch won’t have the same sizzle as the game in February did obviously. First, the stakes aren’t nearly as high and second, Denver is a different team since then. The most glaring difference will be that Denver did not return its starting QB or backup QB for 2016. Instead, Trevor Siemian will take his first snaps ever in the NFL game on opening night against the Carolina Panthers. Many are not expecting much from Siemian but I think that speaks more about how good Carolina’s defense is and less about how good of a QB Siemian is. Lets face it, no one knows how good or bad Siemian is as a QB. But I do know that the Panthers defense will work to get him to look bad on Thursday night. Denver could try to hide Siemian by slowing down the game by running the ball. But Carolina defends the run pretty well too. For Carolina, Cam Newton maybe taking the humble approach but he is definitely thinking of proving him self against this Denver defense that completely humiliated him in last season’s Super Bowl. I think Denver’s defense will still be a tough nut for Newton to crack in this game but Denver will be missing a few key pieces from that championship game that left in free agency. Both defenses will be good in this game but Carolina will be able to use their offensive weapons effectively because of the advantage at the QB position. I don’t think Newton will have a big game but he will do enough to make a big difference for the Panthers. Prediction: Panthers 21 – Broncos 13

Cincinnati @ New York Jets – Cincinnati had a very good team in the regular season in 2015. I think they can be the same in 2016 but they might have to deal through some things before they see consistent success. The Bengals will be missing a few key defenders because of suspension and injuries. But I realize that you could say the same about the Jets defense in this game. The Jets and Bengals offer big play offenses and defenses that are usually tough. I think that I like the home team’s chances in this game because the Jets are a bit tougher upfront defensively. I think it will be a long day for Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. I also think Andy Dalton will be under a lot of pressure in this game. I don’t trust Cincy’s secondary very much and if Ryan Fitzpatrick stays on his feet, he’ll take advantage down the field by throwing to big targets, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. It will be close but I like the Jets in a slight upset. Prediction: Jets 26 – Bengals 23

New York Giants @ Dallas – Tony Romo or no Tony Romo, the Giants matchup very well with the Cowboys in this opening game. Once again, these teams meet to open up the season in what is almost always an ultra competitive game. The Giants enter this game looking to show off its shiny new defense that they spent a lot of money on in the offseason. The addition of DE Olivier Vernon will make this Giants defensive line a force in 2016 and they’ll face a great test on Sunday in the Cowboys offensive line. This game will basically be about those two units. The Giants also brought in new members in the secondary but I still think they’ll have problems containing the Cowboys receivers led by WR Dez Bryant. The Cowboys will be starting a rookie at QB and RB on Sunday. Dak Prescott will be in for the injured Tony Romo and Ezekiel Elliott will be starting a much hype rookie campaign. I think Dallas will be successful running the ball against a Giants defense that struggled at stopping the run last season but I don’t know how well Prescott will do as a passer in this first game. But this game will really be about the shortcomings of the Dallas defense. Eli Manning plays his best football when the defense cannot pressure him. With no heat on Eli, I fully expect him to out play Dak Prescott. Not to mention, the Giants also have a great receiving core led by WR Odell Beckham Jr. These games always manage to be gut wrenchingly close up until the end but I’m giving the advantage to the road team. Prediction: Giants 32 – Dallas 27

New England @ Arizona – Arizona will be fired up on Sunday to play against a team that has dominated the league for a while now. New England comes into this season shorthanded on both sides of the football. Everyone knows about the Tom Brady suspension but on defense, their top pass rusher, Rob Ninkovich is suspend and their other best pass rusher, Chandler Jones, is now a Cardinal. New England’s defense has been known for years as an overachieving group but I expect this Arizona offense to really take it to them in this contest. We will see plenty of RB David Johnson, which will allow a balanced passing attack led by QB Carson Palmer. We shouldn’t write off QB Jimmy Garoppolo as he will have a couple of recent weapons to go to as well. It is going to interesting to see how this Arizona defense decides to attack TE Rob Gronkowski and try to limit his impact on this game. But New England will be too shorthanded to give Arizona the proper challenge in this game. Prediction: Cardinals 31 – Patriots 20

Pittsburgh @ Washington – There is a lot of Super Bowl hype surrounding the Steelers entering this season. But first, they’ll have to beat a pretty good Washington team that is coming off a playoff berth. QB Kirk Cousins will be looking to prove that last season was no fluke against Pittsburgh’s defense. Cousins is going to have to be the driving force for Washington in this game. I feel that Washington’s offensive line will give Cousins the opportunities to go down field and make an impact in this game against a banged up and aging Steelers pass rush. Washington doesn’t have a great ground game and Pittsburgh usually plays the run well defensively. So, it will be all about Cousins for the Washington offense. Thinking of offense, the Steelers have a pretty good one. QB Ben Roethlisberger is primed to have a big season with the many weapons at his disposal. WR Antonio Brown is a player that was made for Monday Night Football. He will be the big play guy in this contest though Washington CB Josh Norman will give him quite the challenge. Washington’s defense is a lot better than advertised and they’ll be tested by the Steelers upfront and by their running game led by DeAngelo Williams. Washington has plenty of big play guys like DeSean Jackson and TE Jordan Reed but I think the Steelers playmakers will make more of an impact. This game will be closer than what the experts will think but I’m still taking the road team. Prediction: Steelers 33 – Washington 28

The Rest of Week 1

Falcons over Buccaneers – Atlanta is a tough out during their home opener. Though I like Tampa’s defense a little more than Atlanta’s. Can Matt Ryan make more big plays than Jameis Winston? Well, one of them has Julio Jones to throw to. The other does not.

Vikings over Titans – This one is another toss up. Minnesota’s QB situation has thrown their entire season into doubt already but I trust Mike Zimmer to have his team ready. Tennessee is improved but Minnesota’s defense is tough and will slow down Mariota and the new Titans running attack.

Chiefs over Chargers – Kansas City’s home field advantage is like none other. Even without Jamaal Charles, the San Diego defense wont slow down the Chiefs’ attack.

Saints over Raiders – I struggled picking this one too. I really like the Raiders this season but the Saints are a tough out in the Super Dome. If Oakland wins, I’ll kick myself.

Browns over Eagles – Cleveland hasn’t won a season opener since 2004. That streak ends on Sunday. I don’t know if Carson Wentz will be booed at the Linc but I do know that RG3 will outplay him.

Packers over Jaguars – Everyone is hyping the Jaguars. That hype machine would get even louder if they beat a team like the Packers at home on Sunday. Sounds too good to be true. I’m betting on Aaron Rodgers.

Ravens over Bills – Buffalo is dealing with too many things off the field. Baltimore will be looking to show their fans that this year will be different than last.

Texans over Bears – Chicago doesn’t have the defense to slow down this new Houston offense. Houston won’t even need J.J. Watt in this one.

Seahawks over Dolphins – Nightmare matchup for Miami. That inconsistent offense against that powerful defense on the road? Bad news for Ryan Tannehill. The L.O.B.’s will eat. The 12th man will be loud.

Lions over Colts – I think Indy’s slump from last season will continue into this one. Detroit’s defense is underrated and they’ll get after Andrew Luck. The Colts don’t have the defense to slow down Matt Stafford.

Rams over 49ers – This game is an absolute stinker. The team in LA has Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald. The end.

Week 1 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Eli Manning (Giants) – With no pressure from the Dallas defense, the “not retired” Manning brother will put up big numbers in Jerry’s World.

RB: Lamar Miller (Texans) – Houston will be looking to show off its newest acquisition against a really bad Chicago run defense.

WR: Julio Jones (Falcons) – Jones will be the best player on the field in this game. So, why not?

TE: Jordan Reed (Washington) – Pittsburgh doesn’t have a great secondary so expect Cousins to find Reed plenty of times on Monday night.

DEF: Seattle – It’s simple really. Miami’s offense will be greatly outmatched on the road in Seattle. Expect multiple defensive touchdowns from the L.O.B.

NFL 2016: AFC East Preview

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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

NFL 2015: Week 5 Predictions!

APTOPIX-Vikings-Bronc_NH

Denver’s defense has been the key to their success so far in 2015.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 9-6

Season: 39-24

Big Five Games of the Week

Seattle @ Cincinnati – The Bengals are playing well on both sides of the ball right now. Andy Dalton is leading this Bengals offense in the right direction through the air and the running game is closing out ballgames. Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard are both playing well right now. The Bengals offense will face a tough test at home on Sunday in the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is slumping right now but their defense is playing well right now with S Kam Chancellor back in the lineup. Cincinnati has a lot of offensive weapons but Seattle is equipped to stop the run and defend the pass well. It should be an interesting chess match between those two units. Seattle’s offense is sloppy right now without RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch’s status for Sunday is unclear and they’ll probably also be without veteran backup Fred Jackson. Besides of the health problems, Seattle has bigger issues with their offensive line right now. With the running game struggling, QB Russell Wilson is going to have to do more than usual while running for his live. Wilson can make some amazing plays outside the pocket but when pressured enough, he will make some mistakes. Cincinnati has been tough defensively so far this season and I think they’ll do well at limiting Seattle’s production on Sunday. Cincy will do enough to put this team away at home. Prediction: Bengals 25 – Seahawks 17

Chicago @ Kansas City – I’ll give the Bears credit for coming back and beating Oakland last week. But I still don’t have much confidence in them going forward. Kansas City needs a win in a bad way and they are at home this weekend. The Chiefs matchup well against Chicago on both sides of the ball. The Bears still have issues with stopping the run and the Chiefs offense goes through RB Jamaal Charles. QB Jay Cutler struggles under pressure and the Chiefs have two the best pass rushers in the game in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Kansas City gives up a lot of yards through the air but Cutler is lacking the weapons to really expose the Chiefs secondary. Kansas City should be able to take care of business on Sunday as long as Alex Smith doesn’t give the game away. Prediction: Chiefs 27 – Bears 14

Cleveland @ Baltimore – I saw nothing great about this Ravens team last Thursday night. Joe Flacco is playing poor football right now and he wont get better with all the injuries at the WR position. Baltimore’s saving grace on offense right now is Justin Forsett and the running game. On defense, Baltimore can’t stop the pass or pressure the QB. Cleveland has lost two straight since committing to QB Josh McCown but the losses really haven’t been the offense’s fault. Cleveland needs a better effort from the defensive side of the ball and I think they’ll get it on Sunday on the road. With the state of the Ravens passing game, Cleveland will make a greater effort at stopping the run this week. Cleveland’s passing game has been surprisingly efficient recently and WR Travis Benjamin has proven to be a reliable target. I’m going out on a limb here but I like the Browns to score an upset victory inside of the division on the road. Prediction: Browns 21 – Ravens 20

Denver @ Oakland – This game would be a lot more interesting if Oakland was 3-1. But still, the 2-2 Raiders are looking a lot better than recent past Raider teams. This will be a huge test at home this week against Denver. Denver isnt lighting up the score board this season but they are boasting the league’s best defense right now. The offense isnt playing too bad either and they are doing enough to allow the defense to close out victories. Oakland will have a chance in this game by keeping Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense off the scoreboard. Oakland is getting great play in the secondary from veteran Charles Woodson and they have an impressive pass-rushing duo in Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith. I think Oakland’s defense will be able to keep this game close. I’m not sure how the Raiders offense will be able to score enough points though. Denver has been fairly decent at stopping the run and preventing big passing plays. Derek Carr and rookie Amari Cooper have been impressive so far this season but they’re going to have to play their best games on Sunday to get the victory. I’m taking the road team in this game but don’t be surprised if Oakland has a chance to steal a victory at the end. It’s a shame that most of the country will miss this game. Should be a good one. Prediction: Broncos 23 – Raiders 17

Pittsburgh @ San Diego – The Steelers have the weapons on offense to keep winning games while Ben Roethlisberger is out from his injury. Mike Vick is an obvious drop off at the QB position but he can still do some things to help this Steelers teams and he showed that last week. Vick and the offense kind of over complicated things at times last week and that really cost them the game. That and they had a kicker who couldn’t make a field goal. I think Pittsburgh will work this week to make sure that they wont have to kick field goals at all on Monday night in San Diego. Martavis Bryant returns from his suspension this week and he’ll give Vick another deep target to go to along with Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. I think the Steelers should really focus less on the passing game as long as Ben is out. Especially when you have a guy like Le’Veon Bell in your backfield. Bell needs to get Adrian Peterson like carries in this offense, especially in short yardages situations. Bell has the potential to have some monster games on the stat sheet. He just needs to demand the ball. San Diego doesn’t have a great run defense so I can see Bell getting a heavy workload on Monday night. San Diego does a great job attacking defenses through the air with QB Phillip Rivers and Rivers will be receiving one of his favorite targets back this week in TE Antonio Gates. I think this should be a high scoring game between the Chargers and the Steelers and that might favor the home team. But even without Ben, the Steelers have the greater offensive weapons and they’ll be ready to take a positive step this week after a disappointing ending last week. Prediction: Steelers 35 – Chargers 28

The Rest of the Week 5

Colts over Texans – Andrew Luck isn’t healthy. Matt Hasselbeck has been in a hospital all week. But those two options at QB are still better than what Houston has.

Falcons over Washington – Atlanta is not going to be derailed at home.

Packers over Rams – After a great victory in the division last week, the Rams will under perform on the road this week.

Bills over Titans – Buffalo’s performance last week was embarrassing. Tennessee’s defense will be a sight for Tyrod Taylor’s sore eyes.

Eagles over Saints – I’m not sure how long Drew Brees can go without throwing deep passes. Philly has a great front seven and they’ll have a favorable matchup against this short passing attack. Sam Bradford discovered his arm last week and he’ll be in attack mode against the New Orleans defense.

Buccaneers over Jaguars – Jacksonville’s defense is horrid but Jameis Winston really needs to make an effort at cutting down on the turnovers.

Cardinals over Lions – Detroit is desperate and winless but I can’t see this Arizona squad losing two straight.

Patriots over Cowboys – Most of the nation will see this game and it’s really a shame. Without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, this game will be one sided offensively. Dallas will be receiving defensive help this week but I’m not betting on Tom Brady coming off a bye.

Giants over 49ers – After this game, the New York Giants future NFC East Champion hype train will be in full swing.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Eli Manning (Giants) – San Francisco doesn’t have the defense to slow down the Giants passing attack.

RB: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs) – Charles usually has his best games at home and that might especially be the case against Chicago’s run defense.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – Fitzgerald is having a surprising start to his season.

TE: Martellus Bennett (Bears) – Bennett is basically is the only healthy, reliable target left for Cutler and the Bears passing offense.

DEF: New York Giants – San Francisco has been seriously limited on offense this season. The Giants have the best run defense in football right now.

NFL 2015: NFC North Preview

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After only playing in one game a season ago, Adrian Peterson is back in 2015 to lead Minnesota to the postseason.

By: Elias McMillan

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – Green Bay solidified themselves as a serious contender for Seattle’s top spot in the NFC last season. It is especially painful for the Packers and their fans once they look back and realize how close they were from making it to the Super Bowl last January. But that should serve for some motivation going into the 2015 season. Green Bay returns with arguably the best QB in the league in Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers fought through injuries a season ago and was still able to win his second MVP award. If Rodgers can get better protection from his offensive line, he will definitely be in line for another MVP type season. Rodgers will need some of the younger WR’s to step up this season as the team has already lost WR Jordy Nelson for the season due to injury. WR Randall Cobb will be ready for the opportunity to be the number one receiving option in this offense as he was the skill set but Cobb is already going to have to shake off a preseason injury. A lot will be expected of second year WR Davante Adams who showed some promise in his rookie season. Adams has great size and underrated speed so, he could have a breakout 2015 season. On the ground, the Packers will have a solid one-two punch at running back with the star Eddie Lacy and the tough running James Starks. On defense, Green Bay has trouble with stopping the run and that might continue in 2015. Green Bay’s secondary is underrated but they’ll need some younger guys to step in and play valuable snaps right away. On the defensive line, they have a big difference maker in DE Mike Daniels who is starting to make a name for himself after a solid 2014 campaign. In terms of pass rushers, the Packers have a pair of great ones in Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Peppers is an ageless wonder and still a pretty versatile athlete. You could say that same for Matthews as he is good enough of a player to play multiple linebacker positions on this defense. Matthews might have to move around this season if Green Bay struggles against the run and if they’ve failed to replace A.J. Hawk who left in the offseason.  Green Bay has a couple of nice, young pieces in the secondary but I think they’ll miss CB Tramon Williams who had a knack for creating big plays. The Packers took two CB’s in the first two rounds of this pass draft, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Green Bay does have a decent pair of safeties in HaHa Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett. Green Bay will still have its weaknesses on defense but once again we can count on Aaron Rodgers carrying this team into title contention. Prediction: 13-3 (NFC North Champs)

Minnesota Vikings – There are multiple reasons for fans in Minnesota to be optimistic about this upcoming Vikings season. Minnesota has enough young talent to compete and an experienced coaching staff will lead them. But the real reason to be excited for the Vikings this season will be the return of RB Adrian Peterson who should be fresh after missing 15 games last season. Peterson will have a big chip on his shoulder and that will probably mean a huge season for him on the ground. With the return of Minnesota’s running game that should take the pressure off second year QB, Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater had a decent rookie season but he left plenty of room to improve going into this season. Having Peterson around will change everything about this offense from a season ago so, I expect Bridgewater to improve from his rookie season. At receiver, Minnesota brought in Mike Wallace who will be looking to prove that he is much more than just a speedster. WR Cordarrelle Patterson suffered through a sophomore slump last year and he’ll be also looking to prove that he can be an effective receiver in this league and not just a great return man. I am concerned about the offensive line and they already lost a starting tackle to injury. Rooke T.J. Clemmings will hope to become the long-term answer at right tackle in this first season. Minnesota’s defense has a lot of young talent mixed with some experience. DE Everson Griffin is the lone proven pass rusher on the defensive line but also look out for DT Sharrif Floyd who is starting to make some strides in his game play. Veteran Chad Greenway leads the linebacker group. LB Anthony Barr had a strong rookie season and he’ll be joined this year by rookie LB Eric Kendricks who should fit perfectly in this 4-3 defense. The youth movement continues in the secondary with CB’s Xavier Rhodes and this year’s first round pick Trae Waynes. They brought in CB Terrance Newman in free agency and he should serve a good mentor for the younger players in this secondary as he has years of experience playing in Mike Zimmer’s defense. The secondary is also rounded out nicely by play making safety Harrison Smith who is truly one of the league’s most underrated players. Minnesota might be a candidate to be a surprise playoff team this season. If the defense can perform up to its expectations and Peterson can continue where he left of in 2013, Minnesota could compete for a playoff spot. Prediction: 9-7 (Wildcard)

Detroit Lions – The Lions made a surprise run at the division last season and lost a nail biter in the playoffs. The main reason for this success last season was the improved defense, I thought. I think this year’s Lions team will find it tougher as they lost some good pieces on both sides of the ball. The Lions could be improved on offense though. I say this because I really like the effort they made in the offseason to improve the offensive line. They signed free agents, traded for veterans, and spent their top draft pick on that unit. That should prove to be great news for QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford will be in a great position for success again this season with all the talent he has around him. Calvin Johnson will be looking to bounce back for an injury filled season and he’ll be looking to prove that he is still one of the league’s best wide outs. WR Golden Tate definitely proved his worth last season, as he is especially tough after the catch as a ball carrier. At TE, Detroit will be counting on Eric Ebron to have a breakout second season, as he was an afterthought in his first year. Detroit might be better at the RB position even with the loss of Reggie Bush. Joique Bell will be the starter and the tough runner between the tackles but there is a lot of hype surrounding rookie RB Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah is a small, shifty back with blazing speed and he’ll definitely get touches this season as an option on third downs. The main reason why I think Detroit will take a step back this season is because of the losses on the defensive side of the ball. They will greatly miss DT’s Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. They swung a trade for DT Haloti Ngata and he can definitely still be a great player on the defensive line. But Hgata is starting to get up there in age and has already started to become a weekly fixture on the injury report. But with Suh and Fairley gone, I think DE Ziggy Ansah will really begin to flourish as a leader and lead playmaker on the defensive line. In the middle of the defense, LB DeAndre Levy is the lone stand out and he is coming off his best season. Also coming of his best year as a pro is safety Glover Quin. Levy and Quin were both great last season but I wonder how well they will be and the defense as a whole will be without those monsters on the defensive line. Uncertainly on the defensive side of the ball will keep Detroit from the playoffs in 2015. Prediction: 7-9

Chicago Bears – The Bears don’t have a lot of buzz surrounding them going into this season. They lost some talent in the offseason and I don’t see how they’ll be able to improve going into this season. It’s hard to think that QB Jay Cutler can provide stability at his position for this team. Cutler has been able to play well when surrounded by great talent. WR Brandon Marshall is gone and he replacement, rookie WR Kevin White, has already been lost for the season due to injury. WR Alshon Jeffery could be on his way towards a breakout season as one of Cutler main returning targets. Cutler also has a great relationship with veteran WR Eddie Royal so he should be a great help to Chicago’s depleted WR core. It will also help to have a proven talent in TE Martellus Bennett who is coming off a pretty productive 2014. The Bears also have one of the league’s best RB in Matt Forte. Forte gets over looked in this division with Peterson and Lacy but he is one of the better runners and receivers at the RB position in the league. Chicago’s run defense was a disgrace last season and this year they’ll have to depend on some unproven players to improve those numbers. Rookie DT Eddie Goldman will be a day one starter on this defense and second year player, Will Sutton, will be looking to make the jump to be a main contributor on the defensive line. At outside linebacker, the Bears have a decent group of veteran pass rushers led by Jared Allen. The Bears also have a nice young nucleus at inside linebacker with Shea McClellin, Jon Bostic, and Christian Jones. Outside of second year player, Kyle Fuller, I don’t like anything about the Bears secondary. That unit is filled with veteran castoffs from around the league. I think the Bears made a great decision hiring John Fox as head coach in the offseason. Unfortunately for Fox, this team will fall into the basement of the division in 2015 and he’ll be tasked with the duty to build up the roster to get them back into contention. Prediction: 6-10