Tag Archives: NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoffs: Super Bowl LI Prediction!

Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show Press Conference

“I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk awaaaaaaaaaaaaay….”

 

By: Elias McMillan

Conference Championships: 0-2

Playoffs: 4-6

Super Bowl 51 from NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas

New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or Lady Gaga as you may know her, has had a long road to music super stardom. Early in her life, music was a huge part of who she was and who she eventually wanted to be. She began to play the piano at the young age of four and was playing open mics around NYC by the time she was 14. At 17, she was allowed early admission into the top school for the arts at NYU. Two years later, she dropped out of NYU to focus on finding her sound as a professional musician. After creating a cult like following in the NYC Underground music scene, she was signed and then quickly dropped from Def Jam. The experience was heartbreaking but it encouraged her to begin experimenting further with her sound as a performer and with her overall image. Soon after, she found herself on an imprint of Interscope Records where R&B superstar, Akon, recognized her abilities and featured her vocals on one of his albums. Akon then told Interscope executives that Gaga had the potential to be a “franchise player” and a year later, her debut album began production.

“The Fame” debuted in August of 2008 and included mega dance-pop hits like Just “Dance”, “Poker Face”, “LoveGame”, & “Paparazzi”. The debut was a monster success for Gaga who went on to win multiple awards at the Grammys. “The Fame” was named one of the 100 Greatest Debut Albums by Rolling Stone magazine. A year later, “The Fame” was reissued as “The Fame Monster” and included new hits like “Bad Romance” & “Telephone” featuring Beyoncé.

Gaga’s official second LP was “Born This Way” and it proved to be an excellent follow up to her debut. The electric rock & techno influenced record continued Gaga’s streak of massive hits with songs like the title single “Born This Way”, and “The Edge of Glory”.

Gaga’s third studio album “ArtPop” featured hits “Applause” and “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly but was considered lackluster by many music critics. Soon after that release, she left her long time manager and began a new chapter to her career. She collaborated with long time friend and music legend Tony Bennett and released “Cheek to Cheek”. The joint album reintroduced Bennett to a younger audience and was received well by critics, winning at the Grammys that year.

After exploring some ventures in front of the camera as an actress, Gaga returned with a brand new album last October. “Joanne” was released as a much softer version of Gaga’s previous’ works but still featured her incredible vocal ability and her unique sound that creates hit records. Singles “Perfect Illusion” and “Million Reasons” have already shot to the top of the charts and now, Gaga is preparing for her biggest and greatest stage yet, the Super Bowl 51 halftime show.

Prediction: Patriots 34 – Falcons 24

NFL Playoffs: 2017 Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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Super Steelers? It does appear that way.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 4-4

Conference Championship Sunday

NFC Championship Game

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

AFC Championship Game

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

NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Divisional Round Predictions!

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 2-2

Divisional Round

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

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

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

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

Super Bowl 50 Prediction!

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Will Peyton Manning get the story book ending to his career or will the Panthers defense dropkick him into retirement?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Conference Championship: 1-1

Playoffs: 7-3

Super Bowl 50 from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California

Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos

I’m starting to think that the two-week break from Conference Championship Sunday and the Super Bowl is too long. Because now there are a lot of different angles that we could take when talking about this year’s big game because there was so much time for the media to create pointless plotlines. I choose to just focus on the actual game because it probably will be a pretty good one. With the issues Denver had this season at offense, I didn’t see their run to the Super Bowl coming. But you have to give them a lot of credit for taking home field advantage and making the most of it in playoffs. In the NFC, Carolina has been the dominant team all season. They are the favorites on Sunday and for good reason.

I think the most entertaining matchup in this game will be between the Carolina offense and the Denver defense. If you have watched the Broncos this season, you know that they are playing in this game because of their defense. They’ve had the number one ranked defense for most of the season and that unit looked really strong last week against Tom Brady and the Patriots. They are led on defense by two of the best pass rushers in the game today, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Miller, Ware, and the younger inside rusher Derek Wolfe will give the Panthers a hard time on passing downs. Denver is tough to run on as well. Denver’s secondary has been banged up recently and they have some holes. They don’t cover the deep ball well but they are as physical of a group as one Carolina has faced all season. Denver’s defense is great but they’ll also have their hands full with the league MVP, QB Cam Newton. Newton has been in a zone all season and if he continues to play comfortable and loose, good things will continue to happen for this Panthers offense. RB Jonathan Stewart has been sort of an unsung hero for the Panthers this season. Carolina has seen a lot of success in the running game this year and Stewart will hope to continue that on Sunday. If Stewart gets the normal amount of touches, he could produce some of the games biggest plays on Sunday. The critics have been harping on the Panthers receivers all season. They might not have any future Hall of Famers but that group has stepped up in a huge way this season. WR’s Ted Ginn Jr. and Corey Brown have game breaking speed and Ginn offers something to watch for in the special teams area as well. In terms of catching the football this season from Newton, the real star has been TE Greg Olsen. Olsen is a big play target in any situation. Cam will continue to call his number in order to get down the field or in the red zone.

I do think the matchup between the Denver offense and the Carolina defense will determine this game though. I think QB Peyton Manning has benefitted from opponents not expecting much from him in recent games. Manning clearly isn’t his old self and he could be playing in his last game on Sunday, but as you saw two weeks ago, Manning still has some ability left when it comes to driving the ball down the field. I think Carolina’s defense is good enough to defend Manning as if he was his old self but they can’t forget about Denver’s running game. Denver has quietly ran the ball at a decent pace this season. RB’s C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman are tough runners between the tackles and they can turn on the jets in the open field. Manning also has a great group at the WR position. WR Demaryius Thomas is the prototypical big outside target that is hard to defend and WR Emmanuel Sanders is a quick game breaker with the ball in his hands. But I think the Carolina defense will be able to dictate how successful Peyton Manning will be in this game. Carolina has the ability to pressure Manning from all angles at the line of scrimmage. They don’t have a dynamic outside pass rusher from the past like Greg Hardy or Julius Peppers but they have tough grinders who can take up blockers and shoot the gaps into the backfield. DE Charles Johnson is a name you might hear on Sunday as well as veteran Jared Allen who has an outstanding rep as a pass rusher. I love Carolina’s interior defensive lineman as well. Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei are both as good at stuffing the run as they are at making plays in the backfield. Carolina also has an outstanding group at linebacker led by defensive POY candidate Luke Kuechly. LB Thomas Davis might be playing with a broken arm but he is one of the fastest LB’s in football so if his speed and quickness is still at 100%, he’ll be able to make an impact in this game. Carolina’s secondary has really overachieved this season I think and they’ll continue to play great as long as the front seven does its job. CB Josh Norman has been playing lights out this season. Norman is the mouthpiece of the defense and he may not be as good as Richard Sherman but this year, he has been as effective. I think Carolina’s defense will be able to control the pace of the Denver offense and the game as a whole.

If Carolina can stop the run like they can, they will force Peyton Manning to go beyond his means. I think Denver has the tools to be successful in the passing game on Sunday but this Carolina defense doesn’t give many chances for offenses to have success. I think Carolina will force some mistakes from the Denver offense and in return, there’s offense will take care of business with the short field. I don’t think that this game will be a blow out. I think this Denver team is good enough to be in striking distance at least in the 4th quarter. I think Carolina will start out hot and gain a double-digit lead. Denver will slowly crawl back into the game in the second half but Cam Newton and Carolina’s ball control offense will deliver the game deciding blow.

It should be a good enough game that will definitely overshadow the hype, the commercials and the halftime show. Here’s some advice: watch as many of the new commercials online before Sunday. The Super Bowl commercials are usually corny or just flat out suck. And as for halftime: who gives a crap about Coldplay? I don’t care if they bring out Beyoncé or Bruno Mars. The NFL really dropped the ball this year by not letting Migos headline the halftime show. But anyway, my point is that this game will be a great one with Carolina coming out on top. I hope this win will catapult Cam Newton as the new face of the NFL for years to come. Prediction: Panthers 34 – Broncos 24

NFL 2016: Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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Carolina’s impressive season will mean nothing if they can’t advance to the Super Bowl on Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 3-1

Playoffs: 6-2

AFC Championship Game

New England @ Denver – Last weekend, both of these teams didn’t really impress me as much I thought they would have. New England clearly outclassed Kansas City and we saw how deadly the Pats offense can be when healthy. In the other divisional game, it was hard for me to say that Denver clearly deserved to beat Pittsburgh. Denver under performed in a big way and it almost cost them. I was expecting the Denver defense to look better than they did and I was disappointed. I’m not going to say that they were lucky to beat a shorthanded Pittsburgh team but they cannot come out the same way this week at home against the Patriots or else they’ll be facing a blow out. On paper, Denver has the ability to slow down the Patriots on offense. Denver has the pass rushers to get after Brady. They are decent against the run though New England doesn’t have much of a run game anyways. And Denver’s secondary is usually tough. But I didn’t really see that last week against Pittsburgh. Maybe Wade Phillips can get his group to refocus this week because if not, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense could steamroll over them. WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski seem to be healthy and ready for another Super Bowl run. On offense, Denver has had a hard time getting it together all season and last week, you really could not put it all on the QB. Peyton Manning is clearly not the guy he used to be but he was hitting open receivers last week. They just weren’t catching them. In their previous meeting this season, Denver was able to be very successful in the run game. With the current state of the passing game, I would expect a heavy dosage of C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman on Sunday. The real sad thing about the state of the Broncos passing attack is that New England’s secondary isn’t really all that great. Peyton Manning and his receivers are really going to have to figure it out on Sunday if they hope to stand a chance. Maybe Denver’s defense will perform better than they did last week but I expect Brady and the Patriots to be able to move the ball for most of the game. Sadly, Brady-Manning XVII will be more about Brady advancing to another Super Bowl and less about a NFL legend that might be on the way to retirement. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Broncos 21

NFC Championship Game

Arizona @ Carolina – This years NFC Championship game features no underdog. Carolina and Arizona has both been consistent contenders this season. Last weekend, Carolina started hot against Seattle and it was enough to keep the Seahawks at bay despite a last effort at a comeback in the second half. Carolina was largely impressive in that victory but every one in that locker room knows that they should have finished the game a lot better than they did. Arizona had a thrilling victory in overtime against the Packers. It was good obviously that they were able to pull that one out but Arizona wasn’t really as impressive as I thought they would be. Arizona’s high-powered offense did not make an appearance and the defense let the Packers back into the game late. If anyone for the Cardinals took a hit last weekend, it was QB Carson Palmer who didn’t play like a MVP candidate. He will have to find a way to rebound from that performance, as he will face a much better Carolina defense on Sunday. Arizona’s offensive line didn’t play well last week and that plays right into the hands of the Panthers who are really good upfront defensively. Palmer is going to need better protection if he hopes to attack the Panthers secondary. Arizona does have a tough defense and they’ll have their hands full with Cam Newton on Sunday. Arizona can still play the run tough but their secondary also under performed last weekend. When Newton has time, he will be able to go down the field with little resistance. Arizona’s defense can get creative when it comes to creating pressure and Newton will have to beware of that on Sunday. I think the matchup between Newton and the Cardinals defense will be a true chess match. Carolina has so much momentum going into this home game and it will be tough for Arizona to waver their confidence. I think this game might be closer contested than what people think but I don’t think we’ll see an upset. Carolina’s great season will roll on to the Super Bowl. Prediction: Panthers 35 – Cardinals 27

NFL 2016: Divisional Playoff Round Predictions!

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Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will have to be better than lucky to escape Carolina on Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 3-1

Playoffs: 3-1

Divisional Round

Kansas City @ New England – Last week, Houston suffered through horrible QB play and even worst play calling. But still, it is impressive that the Chiefs were able to shut them out at home in a playoff situation. Kansas City will take its win streak to New England this Saturday to take on the Patriots. New England has had an extra week of rest but they are not coming into this game with much momentum. First off, they ended the regular season on a bad note. Because of all the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, the offense really ran out of gas in those last two weeks and it cost them the top seed in the AFC. Tom Brady is dealing with an ankle injury but he is expected to be his regular old self this weekend. WR’s Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola also have been fighting injuries but those two are also expected to be ready to perform at a high level this weekend. Brady’s main target in the passing game, TE Rob Gronkowski, is also dealing with an injury going into the playoffs. New England also doesn’t have the best offensive line or running game. Kansas City’s defense is really good. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali will be able to lead that pass rush to get after Brady. Kansas City is tough to run against and they have a stingy secondary led by safety Eric Berry. I don’t see New England scoring a bunch against these guys. But Kansas City’s offense is going to have to amount something this week against New England’s defense. QB Alex Smith, who probably never gets enough credit, has been playing well but he might without his top receiver on Saturday. WR Jeremy Maclin is dealing with an ankle injury so his status is in the air. New England’s defense has been underrated for most of this season but they can give up some yards from time to time. The Patriots have a top ten rushing defense but I don’t think much of their secondary. I don’t Alex Smith will be able to have a huge game against them but I think Andy Reid’s knowledge and a balanced attack will help the Chiefs offense find success on Sunday. But maybe, Brady will go on a warpath like he has been on for the most part of this season. But I think that the Chiefs defense will seriously limit this limping Patriots offense. I’m going out on a limb but I’m taking the road team in a playoff upset. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Patriots 20

Green Bay @ Arizona – Green Bay’s offense finally got its house in order last week in Washington but I don’t think that performance changed how good I think this team is. On Saturday, they’ll face a really good Arizona team in the desert. Arizona’s defense will pretty much control the tempo of this game of Sunday. Green Bay’s offensive line and lack of playmakers in the passing game will serve to Arizona’s strengths on defense. Arizona is tough up front against the run and in their last meeting against the Packers offensive line, the Cardinals pretty much lived in the Green Bay backfield. I don’t know what Green Bay can do offensively to avoid a similar fate this weekend. Green Bay’s defense didn’t look all too impressive last week either and they’ll face an Arizona offense that usually scores in bunches. I think this will be the easiest game to pick this weekend. Arizona has been fairly consistent this season and with the extra week off they will keep that momentum going into championship weekend. Prediction: Cardinals 36 – Packers 24

Seattle @ Carolina – Seattle didn’t play great last week in Minnesota and they got extremely lucky when they were able to leave with a victory. Good news for Seattle, even though they played like crap, they will visit Carolina on Sunday and they can play them tough. I think Seattle will be able to be in this game on Sunday because of their defense. I think Seattle will be able to play tough at the line of scrimmage against Carolina’s running attack and the Legion of Boom will be able to limit the Panthers receivers. QB Cam Newton had a heroic moment in Carolina’s last meeting against Seattle. That moment had to happen the way it happened because the Seattle defense made things tough for him for most of that game. I believe that will be the case this week. I think Newton will be able to be effective but the opportunities to do so will not be as often as he will like. Seattle’s offense was really underwhelming last week in Minnesota. Most people will want to blame this on the extreme cold temperatures but really that had nothing to do with it. QB Russell Wilson was not effective for most of that game last week and it told a lot for him to find a way to make the big play that ultimately changed the game. That wont be enough against this Carolina defense. I think the Panthers defense will be able to keep Wilson in the pocket and play tough against their running attack. RB Marshawn Lynch might play this week but I don’t see him having that big of a role or impact on this game. Carolina also does a great job at defending the pass in the secondary and with their linebackers. I don’t see Wilson being able to have the time to find his receivers open in many situations this weekend. I think this game will be close throughout but Cam Newton and the Panther will find a way at the end to pull away. Prediction: Panthers 28 – Seahawks 20

Pittsburgh @ Denver – The Steelers survived a bar fight last week with the Bengals. Or better yet, they won the battle but lost the war. Despite all of the extra stuff involved with that game last week, Pittsburgh didn’t really prove anything that we already didn’t know. It doesn’t matter the circumstances or situation, the Bengals just don’t have the mind set to beat Pittsburgh in a big game. Because of last week, the Steelers will be shortchanged in more ways than just one this Sunday against the Broncos. Denver will not be interested in being in a bar fight with Pittsburgh. Denver’s post-season run last year had such a disappointing ending and I don’t think they have forgot about that. Denver will be extra motivated this Sunday and they’ll be looking to leave no doubt against a hobbled Steelers team. Pittsburgh will be seriously limited on offense obviously. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a shoulder injury last week and he hasn’t thrown the ball around a lot all week at practice. Roethlisberger just isn’t a deep ball QB and he can still run a dink and dunk passing offense. Roethlisberger has found success with the short passing game usually because of WR Antonio Brown and what he can do with the football after the catch. Unfortunately, Brown will be out this week because of a concussion so the other talented receivers on the roster will have to step up. Pittsburgh’s backups at RB will have to step up again this week, as DeAngelo Williams will also not play. Honestly, I find all of the injury talk to be pointless because Denver has a really good defense. Even if Ben, Antonio, and Le’Veon Bell were all healthy, the Steeler offense would still have a tough time against this Broncos defense. Denver has a great pass rush, they are tough against the run, they have great athletes at LB, and their secondary will fully healthy for the first time in a while. I think Denver’s defense will be able to set the tone for this game early and often. Denver’s big question for most of this season has been their offense. Peyton Manning is now healthy and he’ll get the start on Sunday. I think this is a good thing because even though Manning has thrown a lot of interceptions this season, his experience and knowledge of the offense will better serve Denver during this playoff run. It’s hard to gauge how well the Pittsburgh defense is playing going into this game because they were playing against an awful QB last week. I think Denver’s offense will be fired up and they’ll be able to execute big plays through out the day. I think Denver’s receivers will be able to overwhelm Pittsburgh weak secondary. Manning will be able to pick out the correct matchups and the offense will go from there. If Pittsburgh offense were fully healthy, maybe this game would be a thriller to the end. But because of the situation and because of Denver’s motivation factor, I think the Broncos will be able to take care of business at home on Sunday. Prediction: Broncos 32 – Steelers 20

NFL 2016: Wild-Card Playoff Round Predictions!

Kirk Cousins

“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