Tag Archives: Mike Zimmer

NFL 2016: Week 17 Predictions! (Condensed Version)

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Despite a setback last week at home, Seattle still has a slim chance of earning the second seed in the NFC.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 10-6

Season: 149-89-2

Week 17

Baltimore @ Cincinnati – We wont be seeing the Ravens in the post season so this will be the last game in the career of Steve Smith. Baltimore will be aiming to end his career on a positive note. My Pick: Ravens

Houston @ Tennessee – The Texans will be resting multiple starters in preparation for the playoffs but I have a hard time believing that the Titans will win with Matt Cassell starting. My Pick: Texans

Jacksonville @ Indianapolis – The Jaguars got their only home victory of the season last week. Just in time for them to lay an egg on the road to close out the season. Colts DE Robert Mathis will be playing in his final game. My Pick: Colts

New England @ Miami – The Pats still need to wrap up home field in the AFC. Miami needs to start to prepare for Pittsburgh next weekend. They will rest many of their starters, I think. My Pick: Patriots

Chicago @ Minnesota – A tough second half of the season for Mike Zimmer and the Vikings. They need something positive to take with them to the offseason. My Pick: Vikings

Buffalo @ New York Jets – The Bills organization is a mess and the players are starting to take wind of this. Many people dislike Rex Ryan because of how loud he can be. But the bottom line is that Rex is actually a good coach and he definitely deserved more than two years to help Buffalo turn it around. On top of that firing, Buffalo will start EJ Manuel on Sunday. I know that the Jets have been worst this season but Buffalo is imploding. My Pick: Jets

Dallas @ Philadelphia – The Cowboys will be resting their starters and the Eagles will be looking for anything positive to take with them into the offseason. I hope Tony Romo doesn’t play. He deserved a send off last week at home and not one in Philly where he will definitely get booed. My Pick: Eagles

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh – I’m glad that Cleveland got their one win last week. Pittsburgh will be resting many of their starters. But it won’t matter. My Pick: Steelers

Carolina @ Tampa Bay – The Buccaneers have a laundry list of a playoff scenario to pull off if they hope to make it. Step one: beat Carolina. Step two: Pray. My Pick: Buccaneers

New Orleans @ Atlanta – The Falcons have a good shot at gaining the number 2 seed in the NFC and a first week playoff bye. That’s too big of an opportunity to lose especially at home. My Pick: Falcons

Oakland @ Denver – The injury to David Carr really stinks. Oakland was looking to possibly have the number 2 seed in the AFC. Now, they will have to feed their back up QB to an angry Denver defense on the road. The Raiders will be getting ready for Houston after this one. My Pick: Broncos

Arizona @ Los Angeles – Could this be Larry Fitzgerald’s last game as a Cardinal? My Pick: Cardinals

Kansas City @ San Diego – There is nowhere to go but up after you lose to Cleveland. But Kansas City will be looking to make the jump from wild-card team to AFC West Champions. The Chiefs will be ready to take care of business in this one. My Pick: Chiefs

Seattle @ San Francisco – The Seahawks suffered a major let down last week at home. Now, they will probably have to play next weekend instead of having a bye week in the playoffs. My Pick: Seahawks

New York Giants @ Washington – The Giants really don’t have anything to play for but they don’t want to take their foot off the pedal going into next weekend. Why not knock your rivals out of playoff contention? My Pick: Giants

Green Bay @ Detroit – This is the scenario that everyone saw coming weeks ago. Despite leading in the division for weeks, the Lions have allowed the Packers to catch up and they will now play a winner takes all on Sunday night for the NFC North title. Despite the run that Green Bay is currently on, I don’t see them as a threat in the NFC but that doesn’t mean that they wont be able to finish the job on the road in Detroit. The Lions are basically powered by Matt Stafford and their ability to stage comebacks late in games. I don’t have a reason why Detroit will be able to stop the Packers on offense. At the same time, I could say the same about Green Bay and their defense. This game will be about the QBs: Stafford and Rodgers. I bet the Lions will start out hot at home and Rodgers will start to limp around, causing the commentators to assume the worst about his health. But then in the second half, Rodgers will start playing out of his mind and Stafford will not have an answer. I also predict a happy ending for both teams, as we will see them both next week. My Pick: Packers

Happy New Year!

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NFL 2016: Week 13 Predictions!

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The Oakland Raiders are the hottest team in the AFC going into December.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 12-4

Season: 109-66-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Dallas @ Minnesota – The Cowboys are winners of 10 straight going into December. They are still the hottest team in football but they now enter a crucial part in their schedule. Minnesota went through a rough patch and many written them off, me included. But Mike Zimmer’s team is tough and they seem to always compete down til the last second. This will especially be the case when the Vikings are at home tonight in their new stadium in front of a raucous crowd. The big match up in this game will be the Vikings defense vs. the Cowboys offense. Minnesota’s defense is a talented group with young talent and key veterans in all position groups. Minnesota’s defensive line is tough and they have the ability to pressure the QB. I really like the LB’s Minnesota has and their secondary is ranked in the top 5 in the league. I feel like I’ve said this every week but the Cowboys offense has been able to take on all challengers week after week. But I think I can say with confidence that this Minnesota defense at home will be the toughest test yet for rookie QB Dak Prescott. Minnesota doesn’t have a highly ranked run defense but they will key against the run and they might be able to win some battles with the personnel they have. Cowboys fans should be worried about Prescott and if he will be able to move the ball through the air if Minnesota can slow down Ezekiel Elliott. For the Cowboys on defense, they have been such a curious case. In November, the team went undefeated while the defense did not cause a single turnover. This was the first time in league history that a team was able to do so. That’s kind of impressive but really, it isnt a good thing. Minnesota’s offense has been short handed for most of the season but if the Cowboys defense doesn’t find a way to challenge them, Sam Bradford might have one of his best games in weeks. I don’t think that will happen but mainly, the Cowboys defense has to figure something out soon. Why not on Thursday night against an offense that can’t run the ball and has protection issues up front? I think the Vikings will play Dallas tough at home but I’m sticking with the hot team on the road. Jason Garrett’s team is starting to build a rep as a tough visiting team. Prediction: Cowboys 27 – Vikings 24

Kansas City @ Atlanta – The Chiefs scored an impressive road victory last week at Denver but I feel that they aren’t getting enough credit. Everyone is focusing on the bad decision that the Denver coach made in overtime. But I like this Chiefs team a lot. I like their pass rush and I like their ball control offense. Atlanta scored a lot of points last week but they’ll face a greater challenge this week in Kansas City. The Chiefs will present many problems that may slow down Atlanta’s high-powered offense. I think the Chiefs pass rush will be able to get after Matt Ryan. I think Kansas City will be tough to run against. I think Atlanta will be leaning on Julio Jones to provide most of the big plays down the field but a pretty good CB, Marcus Peters, will challenge him. I don’t think Alex Smith will out gun sling Matt Ryan but I do not trust Atlanta defense right now. Yes, that unit has gotten better this season but they are dealing with some injuries right now. I like the Chiefs to score their second straight road victory. Prediction: Chiefs 35 – Falcons 28

Houston @ Green Bay – The Packers won a prime time game as an underdog last week so now everyone is riding high on them. I am not. This is the same Packers team that can’t stop anyone. This is the same inconsistent Packers offense from this season. This is the same Packers team that has already lost some big ones at home this year. Everyone is ready to write off Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans but I am not. First, they have a decent defense. Houston has one of the top pass defenses in the league and they are getting decent play out of their defensive line. Second, though Osweiler has been inconsistent, Houston can lean on Lamar Miller and the run game. Especially against the Green Bay defense. Lets face it, we all thought that the Packers were going to lose last week in Philly but that win for them wasn’t that impressive. We should have known that the Eagles were capable of laying an egg at home like they did. Houston will not lay an egg on the road this week as they have realistic playoff hopes still. I like the Texans this week. Prediction: Texans 32 – Packers 23

Buffalo @ Oakland – The Raiders are the hottest team in the AFC right now. Last week’s close victory at home against Carolina was a classic and one that the Raiders of old would have lost. These new Raiders will be looking to keep it rolling at home this Sunday against a Buffalo team that is fighting to stay in the playoff race. Buffalo has an overachieving defense under Rob Ryan and I think they’ll figure out a way to slow down David Carr and the Oakland offense. The Bills defense will keep it close and the ball game will come down to who can make the more big plays. Recently, Buffalo’s offense has been proving that they are much more than just LeSean McCoy. Shady is a big part of their success but Tyrod Taylor and the passing game is starting to become a factor as well. The Raiders have a really good defensive front seven and they played last week against the best mobile QB in the league. I think Khalil Mack and company will be prepare for what Taylor tries to throw at them. But Oakland’s weakness on defense is that secondary and Buffalo will have Sammy Watkins back from injury this week. Oakland’s defense did a great job at creating turnovers against Cam Newton and they will have to do the same this week against a different mobile QB. I think Buffalo will keep this one close but it is hard for me to pick against this Raiders team at home. Prediction: Raiders 22 – Bills 16

New York Giants @ Pittsburgh – The Giants quietly have the second best record in the NFC and they have won six straight. But lets be real, who have they beaten in that streak. A bunch of nobody’s. The 2016 Steelers may not be world-beaters but they will bring this Giants team right back down to earth on Sunday at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh seems to always have a big victory at home against a NFC team. It wasn’t going to happen against Dallas this year but I think it has a better chance of happening this week. The New York Giants shouldn’t be able to slow down the Pittsburgh offense. Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and company should be able to have impressive stat sheets once this one is done and over. But Pittsburgh’s defense really isn’t that good, either. So, we will be likely looking at a shootout between Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Odell Beckham Jr and Antonio Brown will be trying to one up each other on each possession. Both QB’s will throw the long ball with ease. The Steelers do have the edge at running the football but Bell will be facing a tough defensive line that the Giants offer. Jason Pierre Paul was a beast last week but again, that was against Cleveland. I don’t trust either defense in this matchup and the winner will likely be the team with the ball last. Mike Tomlin will make damn sure on Sunday that the Steelers will be that team. Pittsburgh needs this one at home to start out December on the right foot. Prediction: Steelers 39 – Giants 33

The Rest of Week 13

Bears over 49ers – Colin Kaepernick is playing well recently but the San Fran defense is still so bad. They will make the Chicago second string look like Pro Bowlers.

Eagles over Bengals – Philadelphia stinks and it is time to pack it up for their 2016 season. Lucky for them, Cincy appears to be done as well without a couple of key players missing from the offense.

Patriots over Rams – New England won ugly last week and they’ll probably have to do the same this week against a bad but tough LA team.

Lions over Saints – Detroit needs to begin their push towards the postseason on Sunday on the road.

Broncos over Jaguars – Jacksonville should bring out the 1998 team that upset Denver in the playoffs to play in this game. They might stand a better chance than the current team.

Dolphins over Ravens – Pittsburgh fans will rejoice to see this final. Miami has confidence and they are looking to stay in the playoff picture.

Cardinals over Washington – Arizona is bad this year but they have a pretty good secondary and they will challenge the suddenly hot Kirk Cousins. I like the Cards in an upset.

Chargers over Buccaneers – Tampa scored a huge upset at home this week. A long flight to southern California will serve as a wet towel. San Diego will play great at home for once.

Seahawks over Panthers – A Bad road loss followed by an ultra impressive home victory. Same old Seahawks.

Colts over Jets – Indy would have actually stood a chance last Thursday if they had Andrew Luck. That should serve as motivation this week but the Jets will be a tough out at home in primetime.

Week 13 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Matthew Stafford (Lions) – Stafford should be on his “A” game against the New Orleans secondary.

RB: Jordan Howard (Bears) – The young Chicago runner will find plenty of room against the 49ers defense.

WR: Antonio Brown (Steelers) – Brown will have a good time on Sunday against the trash talking, loud mouthed Janoris Jenkins of the Giants.

TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – Kelce was Alex Smith’s go to receiver down the stretch last week at Denver.

DEF: New England – I kind of feel sorry for rookie Jared Goff this weekend going up against a Bill Belichick coached defense. He will definitely see some things that he didn’t see in college.

NFL 2016: Week 7 Predictions!

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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: NFC North Preview

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The Vikings have a shiny new stadium and great expectations in 2016.

By: Elias McMillan

NFC NorthWritten August 30, 2016 (Before Bridgewater injury)

Minnesota Vikings – Last season, the Vikings had a small taste of success. This season, the Vikings are opening up a new stadium and they are hoping to have bigger moments in their new home this season. I think one of the reasons for Minnesota’s success a season ago is that they are one of the league’s youngest teams. They have a lot of young talent but the veteran leadership they have at key positions is valuable as well. QB Teddy Bridgewater is coming off his best season as a pro and I think this year, we’ll see him do little bit more with his passing. Everyone is aware of Bridgewater’s athletic ability outside the pocket but he doesn’t really take many chances down the field. I think we will see this change in 2016. Last season, they found out that their fifth round pick, Stefon Diggs, actually has a future in this offense as Bridgewater’s number one target as a WR. Diggs is a good player and I liked him a lot coming out of Maryland but I think this year’s first round pick will really emerge as a down the field target for Bridgewater. Rookie WR Laquon Treadwell looks the part as a prototypical “#1” receiver and his ability will allow the Vikings passing offense to stretch the field in 2016. As always, the backbone of this offense will be RB Adrian Peterson and the running. Peterson is showing no signs of slowing down as he seems to get better year after year. Minnesota also beefed up their offensive line in the offseason so I feel even better about their ability to run the ball and protecting their future star QB. Looking at the defensive front four on paper and you’ll see a group that underperformed in 2015. DE Everson Griffin seems to be the lone standout as the team’s best pass rusher. Bottom line is that the Vikings need to do better at stopping the run this season. Minnesota has one of the better LB groups in the league with Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and veteran Chad Greenway. I really like Minnesota’s secondary as well. CB Terrance Newman continues to have a career renaissance in this secondary but the Vikings have plenty of younger guys that can play too. More responsibility will be put on CB’s Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes this season. At safety, they get great play out of Harrison Smith and they brought over veteran Michael Griffin who will be trying to prove that he has more left in the tank after a mainly success career as a Titan. I don’t know if this team is ready to become one of the best teams in the conference but I think head coach Mike Zimmer will have this team ready to repeat as division champions. If Teddy Bridgewater improves like many thinks he will, Minnesota will definitely be a tough out in the post season. Prediction: 11-5

Green Bay Packers – The Packers weren’t as sharp as usually in 2015. And there was plenty of blame to go around. Mainly, there were health problems and the defense struggled mightily. I think this team is too dependent of their star QB, Aaron Rodgers. It’s either that or Rodgers just wasn’t that good last season. Either way, optimism is high in Packer land going into 2016. The offense is healthy and ready to go after a tough 2015. Aaron Rodgers is expected to be his regular self this season and it will really help that WR Jordy Nelson is back after missing last season. Many people believed that the Packers passing offense would be ok without Nelson but that wasn’t the case. WR. Devante Adams and even Randall Cobb underperformed last season. But with Nelson back in the fold, maybe the Packers passing attack can be as overwhelming as before. Green Bay also hopes to be a better running team in 2016. RB Eddie Lacy worked extremely hard in the offseason to drop weight and we’ll see soon if that will pay off this season. Green Bay also brought back James Starks who will continue to be a valuable third down option as a receiver coming out from the backfield. On defense, the Packers will be looking to improve a defensive line that ranked near the bottom in the league at defending the run. First round pick Kenny Clark will hopefully help with the youth movement up front defensively. Green Bay will return both of their star pass rushers, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Inside at LB, the Packers are very young and don’t have much depth at the position either. Green Bay’s secondary is decent, as they will return all of their starters from a season ago. CB’s Sam Shields and Damarious Randall do a good job and HaHa Clinton-Dix is one of the better, young safeties in the league. I think this Packers team will be relying on the offense more again this season but I think Rodgers and the passing attack will be up to task on improving from a season ago. Prediction: 10-6 (Wildcard)

Detroit Lions – The Lions had a disastrous start to their season last year but they finished off very strong and they’ll hope to bring over some of that momentum in 2016. Their offseason was headlined by the shocking retirement of WR Calvin Johnson but I actually think that the Lions will be better off after moving on from that situation. I’m not saying that the Lions are going to be able to replace him easily but I think the team will be better as whole as group that is fully motivated on being its best. QB Matt Stafford was probably pleased to see that the Lions spent multiple draft picks on their offensive line. Better play up front will put Stafford and the running game in much better situations. I expect Detroit to have a really good running duo this season with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. If those two guys can stay healthy for the season, they’ll help take some of the pressure off the QB. I really like Stafford’s receiving core going into this season. WR Golden Tate proved last season that he can be a number one option in the passing game. Detroit also brought over Marvin Jones from Cincinnati who has plenty of ability. But I really liked the signing of WR Anquan Boldin. Boldin is an absolute gamer and he’ll fill the veteran role in the WR room left by the retirement of Johnson. During Detroit’s run near the end of last season, their defense really began to improve. Upfront, they have a beastly pass rusher in DE Ziggy Ansah and DT Haloti Ngata was brought back to prove that he is still one of the best run stoppers in the league. At LB, the Lions are very thin on depth but DeAndre Levy is one of the best tacklers in the league. I’m not sure how good the Lions’ secondary can be as they were pretty average a season ago. Darius Slay is the lone standout from the group of corners on this team. Safety Glover Quin will continue to be a veteran leader in the secondary. He is coming off his second Pro-Bowl season. The Lions have plenty of holes on defense but they are an overachieving group that will compete in every ball game. I think the Lions are a sleeper team in 2016. I don’t have them making the playoffs but they may make a push at the end of the season. Prediction: 9-7

Chicago Bears – The Bears didn’t really improve during the offseason and they’ll have plenty of question marks going into 2016. Last season, I think QB Jay Cutler earned my respect. I say this because he had every excuse to mail it in but you could tell that Cutler really made the most of his time on the field. Cutler has a great connection with WR Alshon Jeffery and he will hope to build the same relationship with WR Kevin White. White was the team’s first round pick a season ago but he missed his entire rookie season due to injury. If White can be the player that he was at West Virginia, he’ll form a great 1-2 punch in the passing game with Jeffery. TE Zach Miller had a very successful 2015 and he’ll enter this season as the starter at the position. The Bears will greatly miss Matt Forte at starting RB but they have been grooming Jeremy Langford for that position. Langford has showed promise last season and he’ll receiver plenty of more opportunities in 2016. The Bears have seen better days defensively but they are on the road to getting better. Chicago has struggled for years at stopping the run and they will need some of the young guys they drafted to step up this season. Outside at the pass rushing positions, they have veterans Lamarr Houston and Willie Young but look out for first round pick Leonard Floyd. Floyd looks like a wideout playing defensive end but his great speed will be a positive factor for this defense eventually. At inside LB, they brought in Danny Trevathan who is coming off a pretty success campaign with the Super Bowl champion Broncos. LB Jerrell Freeman racked up a lot of tackles last season for the Colts and he’ll help form a great tackling duo inside with Trevathan. The LB core on this defense will definitely be a strength this season. In the secondary, the Bears have two decent corners in the veteran Tracy Porter and the younger Kyle Fuller. The Bears will be relying on some unknowns at safety this season so, I view that position as a question mark going into 2016. Prediction: 6-10

NFL 2016: Wild-Card Playoff Round Predictions!

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“You like that?!” I can’t believe Washington might be the home underdog that might actually win this weekend.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Final 2015 Regular Season: 163-93

NFL Wildcard Playoff Round

Kansas City @ Houston – On paper, this wildcard matchup doesn’t provide much flash but it could really turn into one of the better games this opening playoff weekend in the NFL. Kansas City may have benefited from a weak schedule but they are entering the playoffs on a great stretch that goes back to the middle of the regular season. Its amazing how the Chiefs were able to rebound and make a playoff run after losing its best player, Jamaal Charles, to injury. Houston was a pretty average team for most of the season and coach Bill O’Brien was largely rumored to be on the hot seat at one time. Houston got their act together in time to make the playoffs but they got a lot of help from the imploding Colts. This match up will be all about the defenses as both units rank in the top ten in the league. Houston does a great job up front at stopping the run and they are led up front by all-world DE J.J. Watt. Watt is going to automatically affect the way Kansas City runs their offense, which will give Houston an advantage. Kansas City has done a decent job at running the ball without their star this season though. QB Alex Smith has had a bounce back season in 2015 and you can charge that to the improvements at the receiver position. Smith has dynamic targets to go at WR (Jeremy Maclin) and at TE (Travis Kelce) but Houston usually doesn’t allow tons of yards through the air. Kansas City is pretty solid defensively as well. They have a pair of great pass rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, they are stout against the run, and safety Eric Berry leads a tough physical secondary. I really like rookie CB Marcus Peters but he will have his hands full on Saturday against WR DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is having a breakout season and has already seen success against this defense earlier this season. QB Brian Hoyer will be starting in his first ever playoff game and Houston really isn’t a strong running team so they will be counting on Hopkins to provide the big plays on offense. The Chiefs are favored in this game probably because they have more offensive weapons than the Texans. I think both defenses will play great in this game but I think I’ll trust the veteran Alex Smith to make more plays on offense than Hoyer. I don’t know if J.J. Watt can win this game for Houston by himself but he is capable. And if he is successful at doing so, ESPN will never shut up about it. I’m taking Andy Reid’s bunch. Prediction: Chiefs 22 – Texans 16

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati – With this being the lone divisional matchup this wildcard weekend, this game is easily the main event. The hatred between these two teams will make this an entertaining game but really, this rivalry lacks the heat that Pittsburgh had with Baltimore. About 5 years ago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore made a great rivalry because it wasn’t overly one-sided. The Pittsburgh-Cincinnati rivalry mainly exists because Cincinnati can’t win a big game to save its life. And that will be the case once again on Saturday night as the Bengals are playing for their season (life). If you look at how each team is trending going into this game, you would think that Cincinnati should be the home favorite. But they are not because you simply can’t trust this team in the post season. Even against an injured and currently playing below average Steelers team. After Pittsburgh had that big comeback at home against Denver, they kind of skated through the last two games of the regular season. They played awful at Baltimore, which ended in a loss and really should have kept them from making the playoffs. Last week, they were able to beat Cleveland but they didn’t look too impressive in that game either. To make matters even worst, RB DeAngelo Williams injured his ankle last week and will probably be unavailable on Saturday night. The Steeler running game will be led by a couple of no names and that might cause the offense to be one-dimensional. That might not be a bad thing because the Steelers passing game has been their bread and butter this season. With a QB like Roethlisberger and the wealth of talent at the receiver position, passing the ball 50 times might not be a bad thing. But I have to bring up that also since that Denver game, Roethlisberger has been noticeably not as sharp as he once was. I think Cincinnati has the defense to slow down the Pittsburgh offense but I also think they will lack the ability to really make a game changing turnover in this game. Cincinnati has a scrappy defense but they don’t have a player on that unit that could possibly change the outcome. Cincinnati will be without starting QB Andy Dalton and despite his record in the post season, this is a bad thing for the Bengals. The only good thing about starting A.J. McCarron is that no one will expect anything from him so he might actually surprise some folks. Everyone and their mother knows that the Steelers have a weak secondary. And despite starting a backup, the Bengals will attack the Steelers defense through the air. I know that the Steelers rank in the top five in run defense but I think Cincinnati needs to get more creative on offense when attacking this defense. We keep hearing about how great a coordinator Hue Jackson is but he needs to find a way to get RB’s Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard more involved in this offense. Both backs have been inconsistent this season but they both have the skill set to be valuable pieces for this offense especially with starting a backup QB. The rivalry, the trash talk, and the extra stuff aside, this game will probably go as expected because Cincinnati lacks the killer instinct to beat Pittsburgh in a big game. When Pittsburgh beat Denver two week ago, every talking head was talking about how dangerous they are and how no one wants to play them in January. Its funny how fast things can change in the NFL. The Steelers are not that dangerous team that no ones wants to play but they’ll still be better than Cincinnati on Saturday night. Pittsburgh will probably start out the gates hot, they’ll let Cincy back in the game in the 2nd half but then they will close them out in the 4th quarter. Prediction: Steelers 28 – Bengals 21

Seattle @ Minnesota – I was really happy for Mike Zimmer and his Vikings last Sunday night. They were able to beat a struggling Packers team and outright win the NFC North. Then, I learned their opponent for wildcard weekend and began to feel sorry for them. It’s been a long time coming for this Minnesota team. They’ve spend many mow draft picks, they have youthful talent of defense, and they’ve finally broken through to overtake Green Bay. Now, they have a very tall task at home Sunday in the 2-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. Not only is Seattle the better team but they also matchup so well against Minnesota. Minnesota’s offense is led by their rushing attack and Adrian Peterson. Seattle has the best run defense in the league according to the numbers and they shut down Peterson earlier this season. Young QB Teddy Bridgewater has been playing well as of late but he is going to have to have the game of his life against Seattle’s second ranked pass defense. The real story of this game will be the matchup between Seattle’s offense and Minnesota’s defense. Russell Wilson, except for the St. Louis game, has been on a roll recently and I don’t remember the last time Seattle’s passing game has looked this good. Seattle’s rushing attack has dealt with many injuries this season but they’ll receive a huge boost this Sunday when Marshawn Lynch returns to the lineup. Minnesota’s defense isn’t bad but they are quite average against the run. I like Minnesota’s secondary a lot. They have a good mix of veterans and young talent. The key for the Vikings defense on passing downs will be getting pressure on Wilson. If Wilson has time to run around and use his legs, he’ll provide the game with the big backbreaking play to Minnesota’s hopes. I think Seattle will be able to put up points in ways that Minnesota wont be able to. The freezing temps in Minnesota might have an affect on how this game is played but it wont decide the contest. A Minnesota victory would be one of the biggest upsets in wildcard weekend history. I don’t see that happening. Prediction: Seahawks 36 – Vikings 24

Green Bay @ Washington – I couldn’t foresee the Green Bay Packers backing into the playoffs like they did. But they have been struggling for the most part during the second half of the regular season. Green Bay has a lot of talent but a lot of things have been off for them this season. I guess you have to give Washington credit for winning the joke that was the NFC East this season. But they are on a roll right now and their chances to win on Sunday against the Packers are very realistic. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t looked like his usual self this season. It may be because he is missing his favorite target, Jordy Nelson. It may be because his offensive line has been horrible. Whatever the reason may be, Rodgers hasn’t been right and we saw proof of that as recently as last Sunday at home vs. Minnesota. Washington doesn’t have a dynamic pass rush but they’ll figure out a way to get after Rodgers. Washington isn’t strong against the run so Green Bay might have to find a way to get Eddie Lacy and James Starks going with the running game. Green Bay’s defense has been inconsistent at times this season and they’ll face a red hot QB on Sunday. QB Kirk Cousins may not be a sure thing for Washington in the future but he is playing well enough currently. Washington also has a lot of weapons at the skill positions that the Packers will have to contend with. Washington has dynamic pass catchers in DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and TE Jordan Reed. The Washington passing game has carried the offense this year as RB Alfred Morris and the running game had a lackluster season. This game will be weird because I feel like everyone will be waiting for the real Aaron Rodgers to show up but I feel like we’ll be waiting forever. The Packers are favored, barely, but they are easily the most vulnerable road team this wildcard weekend. I can’t believe it either but I’m taking Washington in a small upset. Prediction: Washington 24 – Packers 23

NFL 2015: Awards & Playoff Predictions

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I have two of the league’s top young QB’s facing off in Super Bowl 50.

By: Elias McMillan

First, here are my picks for the post-season awards:

MVP: Andrew Luck – QB (Indianapolis Colts) – The Colts are loaded for a Super Bowl this season and the spotlight will be even brighter than before on their star QB Andrew Luck. And I think Luck will rise up under the pressure and lead this team to a great regular season. With the talent surrounding him, Luck should be able to put up the numbers that would rival Peyton Manning’s or Tom Brady’s MVP seasons.

Offensive MVP: Adrian Peterson – RB (Minnesota Vikings) – Adrian Peterson should be well rested going into this season and he’ll be hungry to remind everyone of the player that he was before he was put on the exempt list last season. Peterson will put up big numbers and could be the reason why the Vikings may contend for a playoff spot.

Defensive MVP: Justin Houston – LB (Kansas City Chiefs) – Houston ended his 2014 season on a crazy streak. I think he’ll be able to ride that momentum into another crazy productive season in 2015.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Jameis Winston – QB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Is has been awhile since a top pick has won this award especially at QB. So why not Winston? Winston will definitely have the opportunity in Tampa when it comes to playing time and the weapons that he will be able to go to in his first season. Winston may not put up monster numbers in his first season but I think that he’ll be impressive enough to win this award.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Vic Beasley – DE (Atlanta Falcons) – Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn is going to need Beasley to play at a high level early in his career. Beasley will be a walk-in starter on this defense and his job will be simple enough: chase the QB. Beasley has the chance to make the biggest impact out of any other defensive rookie this season. Beasley has raw pass rushing ability and he’ll be a nice start for Quinn when it comes to rebuilding that Falcons defense. Other candidates could by Dallas’ Randy Gregory or New York’s Leonard Williams.

Comeback Player of the Year – NaVarro Bowman – LB (San Francisco 49ers) – The 49ers maybe awful this season but they’ll receive a huge boost from the return of Bowman. Bowman has been out for longer than a year from a gruesome leg injury suffered in the 2013 NFC Conference Championship game. Bowman is now healthy and judging from what we have seen in training camp, he will back to his old self in 2015.

Coach of the Year – Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings) – Success as a head coach has come a long way for Zimmer but he’ll finally get some this year in Minnesota. Zimmer and his staff has done a great job bringing in young talent and now that Adrian Peterson is back, the postseason is a real possibility. Zimmer’s true mark on this team will be how well the defense performs. If the defense is improved, the league will take notice and Zimmer will win this award.

And now here is my forecast for the playoffs this season. As a reminder, here are the teams I see qualifying:

AFC

  1. Indianapolis Colts – 13-3 (AFC South)
  2. New England Patriots – 11-5 (AFC East)
  3. Denver Broncos – 11-5 (AFC West)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers – 10-6 (AFC North)
  5. Baltimore Ravens – 9-7 (Wildcard)
  6. Kansas City Chiefs – 9-7 (Wildcard)

NFC

  1. Green Bay Packers – 13-3 (NFC North)
  2. Seattle Seahawks – 12-4 (NFC West)
  3. Dallas Cowboys – 11-5 (NFC East)
  4. Carolina Panthers – 8-8 (NFC South)
  5. New York Giants – 9-7 (Wildcard)
  6. Minnesota Vikings – 9-7 (Wildcard)

Wildcard Weekend

AFC: (3) Broncos over (6) Chiefs, (4) Steelers over (5) Ravens

NFC: (3) Cowboys over (6) Vikings, (5) Giants over (4) Panthers

Divisional Round

AFC: (1) Colts over (4) Steelers, (3) Broncos over (2) Patriots

NFC: (1) Packers over (5) Giants, (2) Seahawks over (3) Cowboys

Championship Sunday

AFC: (1) Colts over (3) Broncos

NFC: (2) Seahawks over (1) Packers

Super Bowl L (AKA Super Bowl 50)

Indianapolis Colts over Seattle Seahawks

Recap: The AFC is going to be interesting this season because when I look at the top teams, I don’t see strong defensive teams. Which could mean good news for the Steelers. The Patriots wont be able to ride Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s rage so far. Besides, New England’s losses on defense will be too great. But if you think about it, New England didn’t have a great defense last season. Denver’s defense has notable names but they massively under performed last season. Wade Phillips will have that defense right and they might have a bigger chance to make the Super Bowl than what people think. Indy’s defense was really bad last season too. But they’ve also made improvements. Its time for the young superstar QB to finally go on his playoff run, so I have the Colts making it out of the AFC. The NFC is wide open again this season. Once again, I think there isnt many strong defensive teams in this conference other than Seattle. Dallas will be the wildcard. The defense is improved I think and if they are, they’ll be serious contenders this season along with Seattle and Green Bay. It’s a big question mark so I’ll need to see prove before believing in that. Another big question mark that needs to be answered: the Cowboys’ running game. Green Bay will be good again but they’ve already been affected by injuries. Seattle has the same team from a season ago pretty much plus all world TE Jimmy Graham. Seattle on paper this season looks better than the teams they were able to take the Super Bowl in the last two seasons. I have Seattle making its third straight Super Bowl but they’ll far short to Andrew Luck’s Colts.

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