Tag Archives: NFL Playoffs

NFL 2018: Ten Things I’m Sure of Before the 2018 Regular Season

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By: Elias McMillan

10. I’m pretty sure that Jon Gruden will be an utter failure in his second stint as Raiders Head Coach – It’s no mystery why Gruden has been romanticized over for the last couple years. He was a popular personality on ESPN for years and before that he coached successful teams in Oakland and in Tampa Bay. During his time as a media personality, he has painted as this ultimate “X’s and O’s” guy who is also a master at coaching QBs. But there was a reason why he was ran out of Tampa Bay in the first place. All of that yelling, screaming, and funny sound bites can be entertaining but they are not necessarily needed to be a successful NFL coach. It’s starting to look like maybe his past successes maybe had more to do with teams loaded with veteran talent and being in the right situation rather than just his leadership. Now, he will have an uphill battle in the locker room with the trade of Khalil Mack. Gruden was hired again and given a $100 million dollar contract to distract Oaklanders from the fact that their team is leaving them soon. But I’m sure when that time comes, the team may not be as competitive as they once were. It was only a few seasons ago where it looked like the Raiders were looking like they were getting ready to turn the corner. Those draft picks they got for Mack better play well early in their careers.

9. I’m sure the new helmet rule will make things even more chaotic. – The quest to make football “safer” has come to this. Policing lowing your helmet while making a legal tackle creates such a tough job for the officials that seem to be under fire year after year. I’m going to have to assume refs will have to swallow their whistles this year especially in contests were the final may still be in question. Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer has said that this rule could potentially knock teams from contention and cost coaches jobs. The rule will may also affect scoring. Don’t be shocked if penalty yardage and overall scoring to be up this year.

8. I’m sure one of these QB’s will NOT make it to 2019: Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, and Eli Manning. – You can’t play forever. These guys are one blindside hit or one scramble gone wrong away from being on the self for good. Or maybe, one of these guys can have a post-season run that will allow them to have a swan song ending in the Super Bowl.

7. I’m sure that the Dallas Cowboys will NOT make the playoffs but Jason Garrett will remain head coach in 2019. – The Cowboys will not suck enough that will warrant Jason Garrett getting the axe. But really, Jason Garrett isn’t the reason for the Cowboys woes. People act like Jason Garrett was suppose to be the reason for this team being great. Garrett, at the least, is supposed to keep the locker room together and lead from there. The bottom line is that the players need to perform better. They might have a tough time without Dez Bryant in the passing game. Jason Witten and Dan Bailey are also gone. Despite those things, I don’t see Garrett being on the hot seat unless this team really starts to underperform. Plus, I’m afraid of who Jerry Jones would bring in if Garrett is indeed fired.

6. I’m sure that the New York Giants will regret not moving on from Eli Manning. – Eli Manning stunk last season and I have no reason to believe that won’t continue in 2018. When you have the chance to grab a top college QB prospect, you should do it. Ask Cleveland about Carson Wentz. The Giants did work to improve at their skill positions and offensive line in the offseason. But it won’t work unless the QB does.

5. I’m sure that the conversation surrounding Colin Kaepernick will not go away. – The NFL has set a dangerous precedent with how they have treated Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid. While Reid might still have a shot at playing again, Kaepernick’s career is probably over and the list of QB’s that have been signed since his free agency provides enough proof that his absence from a team roster isn’t football related. Though he will not be on a roster, what he stood (knelt) for will have affects on the league for years to come. More and more players will follow his lead and they will not cave in to the fear of having their career taken away from them for making a stand.

4. I’m sure that Aaron Rodgers will be the league MVP if he plays all 16 regular season games. – Rodgers is the top guy in the league at his position. And his team’s success is directly linked to him. Especially this year as Green Bay does not look very strong on paper. If Rodgers is himself and is able to stay healthy, he’ll lift this team to the postseason with his spectacular play.

3. I’m sure that the AFC representative in the Super Bowl this year will be: the Pittsburgh Steelers. – Here’s how I see it:

1) Patriots, 2) Steelers, 3) Texans, 4) Chargers, 5) Jaguars, 6) Titans.

Wild Card Round: Texans over Titans, Chargers over Jaguars

Divisional Round: Chargers over Patriots, Steelers over Texans

Championship Game: Steelers over Chargers

The Steelers have to figure it out this year because it will likely be the final season with Le’Veon Bell. Pittsburgh’s defense might hold them back again this season but you could say the same for New England. For a while, I thought Jacksonville would be able to be back in the championship picture again in 2018 but I’m not buying into their decision to stick with Blake Bortles. Pittsburgh isn’t perfect but all that talent has to amount to something more than just another playoff appearance.

2. I’m sure that the NFC representative in the Super Bowl this year will be: the New Orleans Saints. – Here’s how I see it:

1) Saints, 2) Vikings, 3) Rams, 4) Eagles, 5) Falcons, 6) Packers.

Wild Card Round: Rams over Packers, Falcons over Eagles

Divisional Round Saints over Falcons, Vikings over Rams

Championship Game: Saints over Vikings

I think the two best teams in the conference are in the same division: the Saints and the Falcons. Their matchups in the regular season and eventually the playoffs will provide for some great drama. Atlanta has just as much talent as New Orleans does but it seems like their coaching and decision-making holds them back. Minnesota will be a tough out this season as well but I don’t see the transition into Kirk Cousins running the offense to go as smoothly as some may think.

1. I’m pretty sure that the Super Bowl Champions this season will be: the New Orleans Saints. – Drew Brees gets his swan song moment, hands over the franchise to Teddy Bridgewater, and lifts Lombardi one last time in his rival’s home stadium.

 

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NFL Playoffs: Super Bowl LII Prediction!

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“Ms. Jackson…….if you’re nasty…….”

By: Elias McMillan

 

Conference Championship Sunday: 1-1

Playoffs: 4-6

Super Bowl 52 from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots

Janet Jackson was the youngest star out of the famed and talented Jackson family. After her first two solo albums which were produced under the watchful eye of her father and manager, Joe Jackson, Janet was looking forward to setting out on her own.

On her third solo album, Janet teamed with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to create “Control”. The crossover pop album found big success with singles “Nasty” and “What Have You Done for Me Lately”. The album went on to be highly acclaimed and nominated for multiple honors but Janet was merely scratching the surface.

In 1989, Janet released her fourth album “Rhythm Nation 1814”. The album included one of the most iconic music videos for the title track “Rhythm Nation” and radio hits “Miss You Much” and “Escapade”. The 1990 Rhythm Nation World Tour, which sold out in record times, established Janet’s status as the “Queen of Pop” for the new decade.

Janet returned to the studio four years later with her self-titled album “Janet”. Lead single “That’s the Way Love Goes” went on the win a Grammy. The album also included massive hits “Anytime, Anyplace” and “Again”, which was written for the film that Janet starred in “Poetic Justice” and was also nominated for an Oscar.

Janet’s next album “The Velvet Room” signaled a change of direction for her career. The album addressed social issues while veering away from the pop genre and included more hip-hop and funk influences. Despite some criticism, the album went triple platinum with hits “Got ‘til It’s Gone” featuring Q-Tip, “I Get Lonely”, and “Together Again”.

As the new millennium approached, Janet prepared for another run to the top of the charts in music while fitting in movie appearances. After collaborating with reggae star Shaggy and rapper Busta Rhymes for a couple hits, Janet was set to appear in the Nutty Professor sequel. The film became her second to open at the box office at number one along with 93’s Poetic Justice. The main single from the film, “Doesn’t Really Matter”, became her 9th number 1 hit on the billboard charts.

Before the release of her next album, “All for You” in 2001, Janet was set to be honored by MTV as a “Icon”. “All for You” went on be a massive success as the exposure from MTV opened the door for her to dominate radio stations and collaborate with younger artists. “Someone to Call My Lover” and “Son of a Gun” featuring Missy Elliott received heavy radio play. So did collaborations with Beenie Man and producer super group, “The Neptunes”, for “Feel It Boy”.

Janet was in the middle of another impressive run when MTV choose her to perform at the halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII with Nelly, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake. What followed ended up becoming infamous. The “wardrobe malfunction” pretty much invented Youtube. Debate rages on to this day about who was at fault in the incident. Was it a planned publicity stunt? Did Janet know what was going to happen? Did Timberlake botch the “pull away”? No matter what you believe, the affects from the aftermath of the incident clearly hampered a career.

Janet was blacklisted from the Grammys that year. Her songs and videos were pulled off stations across the nation. Janet issued an apology and so did Timberlake. It was Timberlake who pulled off the clothing in the incident, but he received no such backlash.

Janet released three more albums since then, but none reached the heights of her previous releases. No one can remain the “Queen of Pop” forever, I guess. But Janet’s stardom had more legs underneath it before the Super Bowl controversy and we never got to see its fruition. With over 100 million records sold, a crazy amount of hits, and some stints on the silver screen, Janet’s impact on pop culture is undeniable. Her success greatly outweighs any past controversy, as she is one of the greatest pop artists of all time.

She just wrapped up her eighth national tour.

Prediction: Patriots 33 – Eagles 27

NFL Playoffs: 2018 Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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In the AFC, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to “steal the show”.

By Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 3-5

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC Championship Game

Jacksonville @ New England – The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens right now. The Jaguars went into Pittsburgh last Sunday and punked a Steeler team that may have been over looking them. Jacksonville took it too Pittsburgh and didn’t let up. I was impressed with how QB Blake Bortles ran the offense against a shorthanded Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers scored 42 points and their QB threw for a bunch of yards but don’t buy into those numbers. Jacksonville got off to a 21-0 start and Pittsburgh was just playing catch up for the entire game. I don’t think the stat sheet tells the story of how good the Jaguars defense is. The Jaguars have one more hurdle in their Cinderella Super Bowl run: the New England Patriots. New England survived a sort of slow start against Tennessee last Saturday and was able to put their opponent away in the 2nd half. The Patriots will be hosting yet another AFC Championship game but this one could be a much greater challenge in comparison to past recent years. The Patriots are great again this season for all the same reasons. They have QB Tom Brady. He leads an offense that can score a lot of points when called upon. No one can cover TE Rob Gronkowski. The defense isn’t great but they over achieve at times. And they are lead by a master football mind in Bill Belichick. Despite all of this, like in season’s past, I still feel that the Patriots are very beatable. In terms of this Sunday, Jacksonville matches up well against them. To stop the Patriots offense, you better have a defense that can rattle the QB. Jacksonville has strong play up front. They have excellent LBs. And their secondary is usually good despite giving up all those yards last week. Brady may also be dealing with a bum hand so, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is tough sledding for the New England offense. Bortles played a game last week where he wasn’t going to be the reason why Jacksonville would lose. I’m not sure if the Jaguars offense will be able to be so successful this week. I think they were aided by the absence of LB Ryan Shazier. I said earlier that New England’s defense is suspect but they did defend the run quite well last week and Tennessee was barely able to get into the end zone for the second time until after the game was out of reach. Despite how well the Jacksonville defense may play, they will still need the offense to score points and I don’t think I trust them to perform well enough again in two straight weeks on the road. The brain trust in New England is still strong and I believe the offense will find a way to consistently get down the field. I think Gronkowski and the different RB’s from out the backfield may create some bad matchup for Brady to exploit. New England is the safe pick. No picked Jacksonville last week and I think they have a real chance to shock everyone again. But I’m not brave enough to pick it. Business as usual in the AFC. Prediction: Patriots 30 – Jaguars 22

NFC Championship Game

Minnesota @ Philadelphia – The Eagles did a great job at home last week grinding out a victory against Atlanta. I shouldn’t have been as shocked that the Falcons under performed, again, but I feel they still could have won that game at the end. It came down to Julio Jones miss timing on a jump ball in the end zone. Julio Jones. Not some rookie. Regardless, we have to give Philadelphia’s defense credit for limiting Atlanta’s scoring chances. They will now host the NFC Championship game on Sunday against a Minnesota team that is coming off a miracle victory. As awesome was Minnesota’s triumph was last Sunday, the Vikings have to erase it from their memory and focus up on the task at hand. Both of these teams are very similar. They both offer good defenses, solid running games, and receivers that are capable to creating big plays down the field. Its hard for me to read how good Case Keenum is but he has done a great job at running this offense this season. He could be the difference in this game because honestly, I’m not expecting much form Nick Foles. Foles didn’t make any mistakes last week but he will face a much tougher defense in this game. Minnesota and Philadelphia both have solid defenses but I think I’ll give a slight edge to the Vikings. They are much younger at key positions and I believe that they have a stronger secondary than Philly’s. I think Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will have their chances to make plays if Keenum is able to stand in the pocket. Playing at home will definitely serve as an advantage for the birds but I think Minnesota has the better team on paper. Honestly, this game is a toss up. I’m not sure how strongly I feel about it but I like Minnesota to end their misery in conference championship games and therefor becoming the first team to advance to the Super Bowl in their host city. Prediction: Vikings 26 – Eagles 20

NFL Playoffs: 2018 Divisional Round Predictions!

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Philadelphia will have to ride their top ranked defense if they hope to advance pass Atlanta.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 1-3

Playoffs: 1-3

Divisional Round

Atlanta @ Philadelphia – I guess I should be embarrassed for taking the Rams last week. The Falcons showed their experience and pretty much shut down L.A. on the road. Now, come a big test in the number one seeded Eagles. It is a big test for Atlanta because they are the favorites and now everyone is expecting to see the Atlanta team from last post season. I think Atlanta is different from a season ago but chances are they will probably get to their second straight NFC Championship game on Saturday. Atlanta brings to the table an offense with a ton of potential in the passing or running game. Philadelphia has been able to lean on its defense this season so that will be a key matchup in this game. I feel confident that the Eagles defense will do everything in their power to try to win this game for the home team. The Falcons have a pair of good RB’s but Philly is strong against the run. The Eagles are vulnerable in the secondary and it should be interesting to see if Matt Ryan can figure out a way to make Julio Jones a big factor in the game. I think this game will turn on the Eagles lack of offense. I have no reason to have confidence in QB Nick Foles. Especially when Atlanta’s defense is playing well. The Eagles were one of the top running teams on offense in the league this season but Atlanta did a really good job limiting Todd Gurley a week ago. I don’t think they will let Jay Ajayi or LeGarrette Blount get off too many big gains. I think Atlanta will be able to ride their defense and just get enough out of their offense to advance to next week while ending Philadelphia’s season. Prediction: Falcons 21 – Eagles 16

Tennessee @ New England – The Titans were a nice surprise last weekend as they came back from a 21-3 hole to win in Kansas City. They will have to get it done on the road again this week against top seeded New England. I think Tennessee stands a better chance in this game than most people are giving them. Really, I do. New England is New England. But they can be knocked off their game. They are beatable. I don’t have much faith in the Titans defense though. Shutting out Alex Smith for one half is one thing compared to going up against Tom Brady. New England has so many weapons and so many ways to attack. Tennessee will have problems with the Patriots balanced attack. Tennessee is really physical up front on defense so I want to see if they can defend the run well again this week while putting heat on Brady. I big part of last week was that Travis Kelce was knocked out of the game. The Titans will have to account for another dominant, pass catching TE in Rob Gronkowski. I think New England will have an advantage their. The main reason why New England is beatable is because of their defense. Marcus Mariota had a strong second half last week in Kansas City but he has been wildly inconsistent this season. Mariota has Derrick Henry to lean on and Tennessee has a pretty good record with him as the main option in the run game. Outside of Henry and TE Delaine Walker, Tennessee really doesn’t have a lot of reliable players at the skill positions for Mariota to go to. Tennessee may have a “fighter’s chance” but New England should be able handle business at home. I can see Brady having his way with the Titans secondary and Mariota will over extend himself trying to keep up. Prediction: Patriots 38 – Titans 23

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh – Jacksonville’s win over Buffalo last week sure wasn’t pretty but it was definitely better than losing. The Jaguars will take their strong defense to Pittsburgh on Sunday to face a Steelers team they defeated earlier this season. Week 5 was a long, long time ago but I think Jacksonville can take a lot from what happened in that game and maybe find themselves with a chance to score a big upset on Sunday. There is a lot of talk about the Jaguars having to deal with playing in the cold weather on the road. But playoff football usually comes down to two things: defense and the run game. And Jacksonville has both. The Jaguars have studs on the defensive line that can stuff the run and pressure the QB. They have a talented group of linebackers. And their secondary is close to what Seattle had a few years ago, led by standout Jalen Ramsey. All that being said, Pittsburgh has a really good offense. We all know what Ben Roethlisberger is capable of in January. I do have questions about how WR Antonio Brown will look, as he will be returning after dealing with a lower leg injury. Even if Brown is rusty, Pittsburgh’s WR core is solid. RB Le’Veon Bell is one of the best at his position in the game but Jacksonville did such a great job against him earlier this season. I think this will be a game where the Steelers offense cannot abandon the run. Bell can lead this offense when called upon. I know that the Steelers are not a run first offense anymore but Bell need at least more than 25 touches. For the Jaguars, their offense is a point of weakness but they can at least run the ball. RB Leonard Fournette is ready for another heavy workload. He had a strong performance in Pittsburgh in Week 5 and this time around, he’ll be facing the same defense without its starting middle LB. I believe Pittsburgh could be vulnerable defending the run in this game but unfortunately Jacksonville can’t run it every play. Eventually QB Blake Bortles will have to try to look like a NFL QB in this game. I don’t think Bortles is the worst starter in the league but the Pittsburgh secondary will have to be really off their game for him to be able to do anything substantial. Much like in 2007, I think the Jaguars have the tools to upset the Steelers on Sunday but I’m not brave enough to pick it. It will be tough sledding for the Pittsburgh offense but they’ll find a way to outscore a Jaguars team that may have problems on their own scoring points on the road. Prediction: Steelers 23 – Jaguars 13

New Orleans @ Minnesota – New Orleans clearly outclassed Carolina at home last week. They didn’t add any “cool” points with the way they finished but they at least got the job done. I believe they will face a tall task this week in Minnesota. The Vikings are very tough at home and the Saints should remember that. Minnesota opened this season beating the Saints at home. New Orleans will be looking to reverse that result on Sunday. I like Minnesota in this game because of their defense. I think Drew Brees will not have the passing windows that he had last week against Carolina. Minnesota does a great job at limiting the run with their front seven. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram found it hard to find space last week and I think that will continue in Minnesota. The Saints also bring into this game a good defense. New Orleans has a legit secondary this year and they are coming off a game where the pass rush made a big impact. But I think the Vikings offense will be able to excel by just playing at their own pace while not trying to do too much. QB Case Keenum will use the running game to keep Brees on the bench but he will also take his shots down field as he has a top-notch group of receivers. I think Brees has an edge over Keenum but Minnesota’s defense has an edge over on New Orleans’. Prediction: Vikings 29 – Saints 21

NFL Playoffs: 2018 Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

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The Bills will be looking for their first post season win since 1995 in Jacksonville on Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

2017 Regular Season: 151-103

NFL Playoffs: Wild-Card Weekend

Tennessee @ Kansas City – The Chiefs bounced back nicely near the end of the regular season to win their second straight AFC West title. They may not be as strong as they were a season ago, especially on the defensive side, but they are playing well going into the post season. I can’t say that about the Titans. I was waiting for Tennessee’s playoff chances to just die out but luckily they seem to just have Jacksonville’s number. Up until last Sunday, the Titans were trending downwards but they were able to take advantage of poor QB play to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Tennessee’s defense has been inconsistent from most of 2017 and I think Kansas City has the weapons to expose that unit on Saturday. RB Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing this season and he was key in December in helping end Kansas City’s mid season slide. QB Alex Smith has been proven to play well against poor secondaries and Tennessee’s ranks near the bottom in the league. I think WR Tyreke Hill and TE Travis Kelce will have their opportunities in this game. Kansas City usually has a strong front seven on defense but injuries have hurt them this year. Justin Houston is still one of the best pass rushers in the game and in the secondary, you can count CB Marcus Peters to make a play or shut down a side of the field. For Tennessee, QB Marcus Mariota has had a problem with accuracy this season. With TE Delanie Walker as one of the few reliable targets in the passing game, Mariota has had to lean on the run game this year, which really hasn’t been a bad thing. RB DeMarco Murray is a capable back but he will be out this week. That may not be that big of a blow as RB Derrick Henry is having a break out season splitting carries with Murray and leading the team in rushing. Henry is a nice change of pace from Murray but he will have to be a every down back in this game. Tennessee’s front seven on defense is under rated but offense’s with capable QB play should be able to handle them. With Arrowhead rocking, this should be a slam-dunk for the home team. Prediction: Chiefs 38 – Titans 21

Atlanta @ Los Angeles – This is an old school NFC West matchup if you remember how the divisions were formatted in the early 90’s. I wish the NFL would allow the Falcons to wear their throwback red jerseys and the Rams can wear their throwback royal blues with yellow. Anyways, this matchup will have the NFC Champion from a season ago against a Rams team that finally broke thru this year. Atlanta is a team that is definitely capable of making a run back to the Super Bowl with the talent they have on both sides of the ball. But for whatever reason, they have under performed and have been inconsistent this year. It almost cost them a chance to get back into the playoffs. QB Matt Ryan must have a strong game on Saturday night. He will be facing a Rams defense that struggles against the run but is among the league leaders in sacks. The Falcons must do anything in their power to account for DT Aaron Donald who is as good of a defender than anyone in the league. Despite having that strength in the middle of the defense, the Rams are vulnerable against the run. RB Devonta Freeman might have a chance to help Atlanta run a balanced attack on offense. WR Julio Jones is still one of the best in the league but Ryan must find a way to increase his scoring chances. Atlanta’s defense has quietly delivered this season but they’ll face a tall task in slowing down RB Todd Gurley. Gurley has established himself as a legit MVP candidate and he has been a driving force behind the turn around of his QB, Jared Goff. LA’s balanced and steady attack on offense has served them well this season. Keeping the pressure off Goff will be key in this game as Atlanta offers a decent pass rush. Between Gurley and Donald, the Rams have the two best players in this game and I think they’ll be able to ride them both to a home victory on Saturday night. Atlanta has the potential to make this a close one though. Prediction: Rams 24 – Falcons 20

Buffalo @ Jacksonville – Thanks to Cincinnati, Buffalo is everyone’s lovable underdog in this post season. The Bills will be making their first playoff trip in 17 years and they’ll be looking for their first playoff victory since 1995. Jacksonville was riding high about a month ago. There were even whispers that they could have jumped up to the second seed in the AFC. The last two weeks, The Jaguars have trended downward since clinching the AFC South, losing two straight include last week’s embarrassing loss at Tennessee. We all know how strong Jacksonville’s defense has been all season. They have the second ranked unit in the league and the top pass defense in football. Everyone has serious doubts about their situation at QB. Blake Bortles was starting to play better at the beginning of December but has regressed to his regular self recently, just in time for the playoffs. Jacksonville’s passing game has also struggled with all the injuries they had to deal with at the WR position. It seems to me that they might have to lean on rookie RB Leonard Fournette. That may not be a bad thing as the Jags have the league’s leading rushing attack. The Jaguars have a tremendous pass rush and secondary but they struggle against the run and that is where Buffalo can take advantage. RB LeSean McCoy is having another strong season. He suffered an injury last week but he appears to be ready to return for Sunday. Buffalo is going to need a big day on the ground if they hope QB Tyrod Taylor will be able to get anything in the passing game. Buffalo’s air attack has been feast or famine this season and things will definitely be tough for them against this secondary. I think Jacksonville’s defense will continue to be the strength for their team on Sunday but I think their offense will continue to struggle. Buffalo will be able to take advantage of some mistakes on the road and they will avoid an emotional letdown after what happened last week. I’m taking the Bills in an upset and they’ll advance to face division rival, New England next week. Prediction: Bills 21 – Jaguars 20

Carolina @ New Orleans – The Saints almost blew their chance at the division crowd last week. Luckily for them, Carolina fell on the road against Atlanta. I’m not going to take much away from the loss last week in Tampa. I still think the Saints are a strong contender in the NFC. Carolina has had their struggles this year but also look like a team that could go on a run. I think the winner of this game will probably go to the NFC Championship game. The Saints beat the Panthers twice already this year and it seems that they just have their number. Carolina’s defense will play tough but they have a lot to contend with. The Saints offer a balanced running attack with Mark Ingram and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara and down field threats in the passing game like WR Michael Thomas. Carolina has a good defense but this isnt the same unit from two seasons ago. New Orleans’ improved defense should be able to limit the damage that Cam Newton is capable of. Newton will have his backfield at full strength on Sunday as Jonathan Stewart will return from injury to be paired with another rookie sensation, Christian McCaffrey. Despite trading away Kevlin Benjamin to Buffalo, Carolina has been able to create big plays in the passing game. But their WR core may be short handed in this one due to injuries and they’ll be up against a much-improved Saints secondary. Not to mention, the crowd in the Super Dome will really make it tough for the Panthers offense to operate. I like the home team to advance. Prediction: Saints 34 – Panthers 24

NFL 2017: Preseason Awards & Playoff Predictions

 

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

Here’s a Super Bowl Prediction that is guaranteed not to come true. Maybe.

By: Elias McMillan

 

First, here are my picks for the 2017 post-season awards:

MVP: Tom Brady, QB (New England Patriots) – Despite missing the first four games of the season and not having his number one weapon in the passing game (Rob Gronkowski), Tom Brady still had a dream season in 2016. Going into to this season, Brady has Gronk healthy and an even talented WR core to work with. And he is determined to break the Madden Curse. I think Brady will turn back the clock again this year.

Offensive MVP: David Johnson, RB (Arizona Cardinals) – Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell get most of the headlines when it comes to RB’s in the league but David Johnson can be just as productive. I think Arizona will continue to lean on him this season. Especially, with Arizona’s questions in the passing game.

Defensive MVP: J.J Watt, DE (Houston Texans) – Watt will probably will NFL Man of the Year with the work he has done in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. But Watt will also have the goal of reminding the league this year of how dominant he can be. I think he will have a huge season lining up opposite of Clowney.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB (Carolina Panthers) – I criticized this draft pick numerous times since April. But Carolina seems to be highly impressed with what McCaffrey will bring to this offense. He will definitely get the touches in Carolina and his numbers will impress in his first season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Reuben Foster, LB (San Francisco 49ers) – Its an absolute shame that Foster dropped all the way to the bottom of round one in this past draft. Foster will be playing this first season with a chip on his shoulder and will remind 49er fans of Patrick Willis.

Comeback Player of the Year: Earl Thomas, S (Seattle Seahawks) – Earl Thomas was pondering retirement when he went down with a significant knee injury last season. Now, he will have a chance to be apart of a pretty good Seattle defense once again. He will prove to be the most valuable piece of the Seahawk defense this year.

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick (New England Patriots) – It seems like Belichick has everything. Its been a while since he has won this award. New England is bound to have a killer regular season this year so, why not?

And now, here is my forecast for the playoffs this season. As a reminder, here are the teams I see qualifying in 2017:

AFC

  1. New England Patriots – 15-1 (AFC East)
  2. Oakland Raiders – 12-4 (AFC West)
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers – 11-5 (AFC North)
  4. Tennessee Titans – 10-6 (AFC South)
  5. Houston Texans – 9-7 (Wild-card)
  6. Denver Broncos – 9-7 (Wild-card)

NFC

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 13-3 (NFC South)
  2. Seattle Seahawks – 11-5 (NFC West)
  3. New York Giants – 10-6 (NFC East)
  4. Green Bay Packers – 10-6 (NFC North)
  5. Arizona Cardinals – 10-6 (Wild-card)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 9-7 (Wild-card)

Wild-Card Weekend

AFC: (3) Steelers over (6) Broncos, (5) Texans over (4) Titans

NFC: (3) Giants over (6) Buccaneers, (5) Cardinals over (4) Packers

Divisional Round

AFC: (1) Patriots over (5) Texans, (2) Raiders over (3) Steelers

NFC: (1) Falcons over (5) Cardinals, (3) Giants over (2) Seahawks

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC: (2) Raiders over (1) Patriots

NFC: (1) Falcons over (3) Giants

Super Bowl LII from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Atlanta Falcons over Oakland Raiders

Recap: The Patriots might have been the number seed in the AFC playoffs last season but they were not supremely talented. They traded away many of their better defensive players. They had injury problems on offense. And they still won the Super Bowl last February. This offseason, the Patriots reloaded much like they did in 2010. And much like 2010, I think we will see New England slice through the regular season only to see them fall short in the playoffs. I think Oakland needs this season. That fan base in Oakland is ready to tear the city apart. They need one last shot at glory while in that city. I think David Carr will return this season and play at a high level. Oakland has some things to figure out defensively but behind Khalil Mack and that talented front seven, they’ll get after the QB and they’ll administer some revenge in Foxboro in January. In the NFC, I think we’ll see a two-dog race between Atlanta and Seattle. I have the Giants as a sleeper team because I like their defense and that have so many offensive weapons. But Atlanta’s defense is young and on the rise. Coming off of what happened last year, I believe Atlanta will ride a story of redemption all the way back to the Super Bowl. I know that Atlanta has a long history of folding under pressure. I know picking a team to return to the Super Bowl and win really isn’t bold and it kind of jinxes it. But I had to pick somebody. I think Atlanta can correct the ending from a season ago this upcoming February in Minneapolis. But then again, it is September.

 

 

NFL 2017: AFC Preview (Condensed)

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Tom Brady and the Patriots reloaded in the offseason. Does the rest of the AFC stand a chance?

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC East

New England Patriots – The Patriots won another title last season with a roster that wasn’t supremely talented. During this offseason, New England added significant upgrades on offense at RB and WR and on defense at DE and CB. Also, TE Rob Gronkowski returns after missing much of last year due to injury. It looks like the Brady-Belicheck combo will be the cream of the crop once again in the AFC. Although, it seems when the Patriots reload like this, they find a way to disappoint in the post season. We’ll see if this season will be different. Prediction: 15-1 (AFC East Champs)

Miami Dolphins – Miami made the playoffs somehow last season. But they don’t have much momentum going into 2017. It doesn’t help that they lost Ryan Tannehill to injury in training camp and had to replace him with a Jay Cutler they had to drag out from the announcer’s booth (Why didn’t they sign Kaepernick?). Positives: they found an answer a RB last season (Jay Ajayi) and they are pretty solid at the receiver positions. On defense, they have a tough front four and I like the offseason addition of Lawrence Timmons. Negatives: Miami secondary may be the down fall for this defense, yet again. And you’ll never know which Jay Cutler that you’re going to get. Prediction: 8-8

Buffalo Bills – Buffalo did Rex Ryan wrong and now they seem to be tanking. They traded their best WR and CB for draft picks. The Bills made a smart trade on draft day in April. Buffalo is stockpiling draft picks. It’s good idea but its not going to help them win 2017. I feel bad for LeSean McCoy who is wasting his talents up there. I’m interested in seeing how QB Tyrod Taylor will fair with limited weapons in the passing game. Buffalo has young talent on defense. I really liked Shaq Lawson from the 2016 draft. If he’s healthy, he’ll be impact player. Regardless, I don’t see many wins in Buffalo this year. Prediction: 5-11

New York Jets – The Jets are tanking. I hope it doesn’t cost head coach Todd Bowles who won 10 games in New York just two seasons ago. The Jets literally got rid of every veteran on the team except RB Matt Forte. The QB position is a disaster. What is josh McCown doing to keep finding work in this league? WR core? Garbage. They do have some promising talent on defense. It’s going to be an ugly year for the Jets. Prediction: 2-14

 

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers return with supreme talent on the offense between the QB (Roethlisberger), RB (Bell), and the WR (Brown). That, along with that over achieving offensive line, Pittsburgh should be able to rule the North again. What will stop them in the playoffs? If it isn’t the inability to stay healthy, it will be the lack of big plays from their defense. Losing and not replacing Lawrence Timmons at middle linebacker will prove to be a mistake. Pittsburgh is solid on the defensive line but they lack players in the secondary that can make big plays. But what they are really missing is an impact pass rusher. Can rookie T.J. Watt be that guy? Despite the questions, Pittsburgh should be New England’s main rival for the AFC crown. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC North Champs)

Baltimore Ravens – Baltimore quietly made some improvements this offseason especially on defense. I like the addition of S Tony Jefferson. They have solid veteran leadership in the secondary between him and Eric Weddle. Terrell Suggs returns for what maybe his final season. Look out for rookie Tyus Bowser to become a difference maker off the edge on this defense. Baltimore’s defense will keep the Ravens in a lot of games but they have serious questions on offense. It feels like everyone has been waiting for 2012 Joe Flacco to return and it just hasn’t happened yet. It would help if he could get some consistency from his supporting cast. Maybe WR Jeremy Maclin can help. The success of this season for the Ravens will be up to if the offense can finally figure itself out. Prediction: 8-8

Cincinnati Bengals – Cincinnati again brings a talented roster to the table but their undisciplined nature seems to be their undoing. I like Marvin Lewis but how does he still have a job as he continues to vouch for Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict? On offense, the Bengals need Andy Dalton to stay healthy because he has a great collection of skill players around him, highlighted by WR A.J. Green. The Bengals have a talented defense led by DT Geno Atkins. But I think their immaturity will hold them back. They might push Baltimore for second place in the division. Prediction: 8-8

Cleveland Browns – Same as it ever was for the Browns. QB questions. Young talent on both sides of the ball. Seasoned veterans. Cleveland just can’t seem to put it all together. But this season could set the table for some success down the road. The Browns will see what they have in rookie QB DeShone Kizer right out of the gate. First round pick Myles Garrett will receive tons of playing time as well and he has impressed in the pre-season. I will be interested in seeing how Cleveland does with this current crop of young talent. I’m a believer in Hue Jackson. Prediction: 6-10

 

AFC South

Tennessee Titans – I’m buying into the Titans this season. They impressed a season ago and they may have made the post season if QB Marcus Mariota doesn’t get hurt late in the season. Tennessee has a good mix a RB with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, a great offensive line, and they added weapons in the passing game. Once the defense figures itself out, they could become a contender in the AFC. But for now, I think they’ll be good enough to win the AFC South. Prediction: 10-6 (AFC South Champs)

Houston Texans – Houston has made the playoffs in two straight seasons. I would say this is mainly because of their defense. In 2015, in was all about J.J. Watt. In 2016, while Watt was injured, it was all about Jadeveon Clowney. Who knows what this defense will be capable of with both Watt and Clowney in the line-up. Houston has a legit starter at RB (Lamar Miller) and a legit number one receiver (DeAndre Hopkins). What they don’t have is a legit starting QB. Could it be the returning backup Tom Savage or the rookie who just won a national championship, Deshaun Watson? Either way, I’m expecting more big things from the defense in Houston. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Indianapolis Colts – I feel like the majority is expecting nothing from this Colts team, which makes them kind of underrated. But they still have plenty of issues. Issues number one: the health of Andrew Luck. I expect Luck to start out on the PUP list (6 Games) so they are going to have to roll with Scott Tolzien. Good thing for Tolzien, the best player on the team is a WR (T.Y. Hilton). The defense is full of cast offs from another teams. I think a lot of teams will sleep on Indy and for good reason. But I don’t think they’ll completely stink. Prediction: 7-9

Jacksonville Jaguars – Jacksonville should have been the team that brought in Colin Kaepernick. The jig up for Blake Bortles. The Jaguars actually have promising talent on both sides of the ball. It is clear that the QB position is holding them back. It’s too bad, I guess. I really like what they have on defense. But it wont be enough to make up for the shortcomings offensively. Jacksonville will likely be drafting a new QB early in the draft next April. Prediction: 4-12

 

AFC West

Oakland Raiders – The Raiders had a great 2016 season that was derailed by Derek Carr’s injury before the playoffs. Now, Carr returns to a team that is ready to take the next step and win the AFC West. Oakland is set up pretty well offensively. I think Marshawn Lynch’s return to the NFL wont have as much as an impact as some people may want to but at the least, he’ll serve well as a weapon in the red zone. Outside of their front four, I’m still worried about the defense especially in the secondary. Prediction: 12-4 (AFC West Champs)

Denver Broncos – Denver suffered through a Super Bowl hangover last year but I think they can rebound in 2017. I still like what their defense brings to the table. Von Miller is one of the best players in the league. I’m not sure how far this offense will be able to take them under the command of QB Trevor Siemian. But the Broncos have plenty of weapons at the skills positions on offense. They still have a stacked WR group led by Demaryius Thomas. Also, remember this name from out of the backfield: sixth round pick RB DeAngelo Henderson. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid has won 10+ games in Kansas City 3 out of the 4 seasons as head coach. And in the one season he didn’t, the team still finished over .500. I think that impressive streak will come to an end this season. The Chiefs are in the process of pushing out many veterans on the roster and that turnover will affect their chances to compete in the AFC West. Alex Smith will be feeling the heat all season from the first round QB they selected in April, Patrick Mahomes. The offense will feature TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreke Hill but Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin are both gone. They do have a great defense to lean on but that group is starting to age. This will be a down year for the Chiefs. Prediction: 7-9

Los Angeles Chargers – I absolutely hate the Chargers move to LA. It stinks to the high heavens. It stinks for the NFL. As for the team, they could be a sleeper in the AFC West if they can stay healthy. I feel like you could say that every year about this team though. Phillip Rivers returns for yet another season where he will see his WR core suffer through many injuries. At least he still has an aging TE Antonio Gates to go to. It would be nice if RB Melvin Gordon can continue the success he had a season ago. I think the story from this team this year will be the emergence of DE Joey Bosa as he will become a defensive star in this league. Between Melvin Ingram and Bosa, the Chargers could have the best pass-rushing duo in the division. It would be cool to see this team grab some success while they still have Phillip Rivers but I don’t see it happening. Prediction: 6-10

 

AFC Playoff Picture Prediction

  1. New England Patriots – 15-1 (AFC East)
  2. Oakland Raiders – 12-4 (AFC West)
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers – 11-5 (AFC North)
  4. Tennessee Titans – 10-6 (AFC South)
  5. Houston Texans – 9-7 (Wild-card)
  6. Denver Broncos – 9-7 (Wild-card)