Tag Archives: Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL 2019: AFC Preview

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No Brown? No Bell? No worries. Here comes Super Ben to save the day. Right?

 

By: Elias McMillan

AFC EAST

For the past 15 seasons, this division has only seen two other teams finish in first place other than the New England Patriots. No one is sure when the Patriots’ domination of the AFC East will end but I doubt it will be this year despite the fact New England really didn’t improve in the offseason. QB Tom Brady returns once again in his quest to add to his already Hall-of-Fame resume. New England has a nice mix of youth and veteran leadership at the skill positions. On offense this year, they will have a huge hole at the TE position thanks to the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. New England’s defense really showed out in the Super Bowl last season, holding their opponent to only 3 points. I think that unit will be weaken this season with the departures of DT Malcolm Brown and DE Trey Flowers. New England usually does a good job reloading on defense with players that we’ve may not even heard of yet. They did trade for aging but still effective DT Michael Bennett. The team in this division that made the most movement in the offseason was the New York Jets. The Jets forked over the big bucks in free agency and brought in RB Le’Veon Bell and LB C.J. Mosley. Bell, one of the top RB’s in football, should be fresh after taking 2018 off. He’ll have a great chance at rejuvenating this Jets offense and taking pressure away from the young QB, Sam Darnold. Darnold showed some promise in his rookie season but the lights on him will be brighter this year. I think having an elite option coming out the backfield will help him. The Jets really don’t have a star at WR but Robby Anderson is underrated and Jamison Crowder can be great in the slot. With the addition of Mosley and first round pick DT Quinnen Williams, the Jets front seven could be really good. “Do-Everything” safety, Jamal Adams, also returns as the leader of this defense. Adams is a rare talent in the secondary who can play the run and cover receivers down field. The Buffalo Bills hope this year won’t be a lost season for their rookie QB Josh Allen. Allen showed last year that he has the athletic tools but the Bills will be looking to seeing him improve as a passer. Buffalo’s backfield will be loaded with a gang of veterans. RB’s Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon join LeSean McCoy and I’m not sure how that competition in training camp will play out. Gore, who refuses to retire, will probably win the starting job, which could make McCoy a surprising cut before the regular season. Buffalo’s defense could be something special this season. Despite losing Stephon Gilmore to New England in 2018, they led the league in pass defense. I don’t believe that it is possible for a NFL to “tank”, especially at the start of the season. But many believe that the Miami Dolphins will be that team this year. Miami actually has a good-to-average offense on paper. I think the young receivers on this team that are waiting to breakout and will love playing with an old gun slinger at QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. But as we all know by now, that will probably last for maybe a month or so. Fitzpatrick will start out the season playing on fire then experience a huge, turnover laced, drop-off right around Week 5. I’m really rooting for QB Josh Rosen to get a chance in this offense since many have unfairly written him off. He’s basically a rookie again after being traded from Arizona and he deserves to start this portion of his career with a clean slate. Miami’s defense lost some key veterans in the offseason. CB Xavien Howard did receive a big contract in the offseason, which was well deserved as he is proving to be one of the top corners in football. Projected Finish: 1) New England, 2) NY Jets, 3) Buffalo, 4) Miami

AFC NORTH

The AFC North led the league in headlines this past offseason. Pittsburgh, who missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, stayed in the drama thanks to a messy divorce with WR Antonio Brown. With Brown now in Oakland, Pittsburgh is thinking that moving the best receiver in football will prove to be an “addition by subtraction” move. And everything on the offensive side of the ball will be smooth as long as QB Ben Roethlisberger can stand. I’m sure that Ben will continue to be great and the running game will be fine as long as the offensive line continues to play well. But I believe that the offense will feel a drop-off of talent without 84. Go ahead and watch the highlights from 2018. It wasn’t like AB was playing like an aging veteran. AB had a strong productive season and it will be hard for the Steelers to replace that. Juju Smith-Schuster is a talented WR but we don’t know if he is ready for the added attention as a #1 receiver. It’s okay to throw in all of your chips on Roethlisberger to save the offense but he is aging too. Father time is undefeated and it’s going to interesting to see him play without his top guy for the last couple years. With all the talk about offense, Pittsburgh’s defense could be something special this season. I think trading up for LB Devin Bush in the draft will prove to be a great move. Pittsburgh will be great up front with DT Cam Heyward and OLB T.J. Watt but the question will continue to be if their secondary will hold them back. The Browns were the offseason champs of this division despite not even winning 8 games in 2018. But the offense showed excitement and promise under QB Baker Mayfield and trading for WR Odell Beckham Jr. could put their offensive talent over the top. The Browns are crazy deep at WR with OBJ joining Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins. The backfield will be loaded with talent as well with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who will be fresh coming off an suspension. Cleveland is also expected to be strong defensively, led by young guys DE Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward. I think the city of Cleveland has reason to be hype about what could potentially happen with all this talent in 2019. But you have to crawl before you can walk. I’m not saying that the Browns hype isn’t real. I’m saying that the franchise hasn’t won more than 8 games in 11 years. Realistically, I don’t think Cleveland is ready to overtake the division but they’ll at least “be there” this year. Baltimore surprised everyone and won the division last season. Unfortunately, I think they’ll take a step backwards this year. The new offense, now catered to QB Lamar Jackson, will be fun to watch. They’ll probably lead the league in rushing this year. I really like the addition of RB Mark Ingram. The elephant in the room with Jackson at QB will be his ability to pass down the field. I’m hoping exciting rookie WR Marquise Brown (AB’s cousin) will help with that. The real reason why Baltimore will struggle this year is that I think the defense won’t be able to make up the lost of LB C.J. Mosley. Mosley was a guy that Baltimore could not afford to get away. The Ravens defense will also look strange in 2019 without LB Terrell Suggs. Baltimore’s saving grace on defense might be there secondary that looks strong with the addition of Earl Thomas at safety. I’m excited to say that the rebuild of the Cincinnati Bengals is finally on. Marvin Lewis, Vontaze Burfict, and Pac-Man Jones are all gone. Unfortunately, the new look Bengals may already be behind the 8-ball with WR A.J. Green injured and first rounder T Jonah Williams out for the season. Without Green, who will be back after the first four games, WR Tyler Boyd will have the opportunity to shine and he’ll have to after the pay raise he just received. Cincinnati will be strong defensively up front with DT Geno Atkins. The Bengals could be a sleeper even with Green missing time. They will be a team that could hold opponents to less than three scores but their offense might struggle to score that same amount. Projected Finish: 1) Steelers, 2) Browns, 3) Ravens, 4) Bengals

AFC SOUTH

I wouldn’t say that the AFC South is boring. But it’s the least interesting division in the AFC. Houston has young and exciting talent but just can’t break through in the playoffs. Jacksonville showed promise a couple years ago before completely falling apart last season. And Tennessee is still waiting for Marcus Mariota to show that he can be a franchise QB. Indianapolis caught momentum late last season only to lose to the top seed in the conference. QB Andrew Luck is still the top dog in the division when it comes to QB play but his health seems to be a question mark every year. Regardless, I think Indy has surrounded him with decent talent at the receiver and running back positions. Indy really started to catch fire last season because of their defense and rookie sensation LB Darius Leonard. In the offseason, they added a pass rushing presence in veteran LB Justin Houston. The Houston Texans should run away with this division if you look at the talent they have on paper. QB Deshaun Watson is a young star in this league and is continuing to improve. WR DeAndre Hopkins catches everything and the backfield should receive a boost with the addition of Duke Johnson; joining veteran Lamar Miller. Houston will continue to have one of the top front sevens on defense led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Houston’s secondary will need to have a bounce back year after finishing 2018 near the bottom of the league in pass defense. Jacksonville will be hoping to have their QB situation fixed this season. I’m not too confident in QB Nick Foles but he enters 2019 with not a lot of pressure. He only has to prove to be better than Blake Bortles. The Jaguars defense looked so strong two years ago. I think what happened to that unit last season will prove to be a fluke. They will be motivated to prove that though the sudden retirement of LB Telvin Smith will not help. That could open the door for rookie LB Josh Allen who looked like the best pass rusher in this past draft. CB Jalen Ramsey returns to a secondary that ranked second in the league in pass defense. Tennessee almost made the playoffs last season but I didn’t see them take a step forward from that in the offseason. Trading for QB Ryan Tannehill will probably not instill confidence for Mariota. The Titans are excited to see more of RB Derrick Henry who broke out last season. They need RB Dion Lewis to rebound from last season, as he was a total bust of a free agent signing. Tennessee will be strong defensively, led by one of the league’s top secondaries. DT Jurrell Casey is one of the best interior linemen and DE Cameron Wake who is coming off a productive career in Miami, will join him this year. Projected Finish: 1) Colts, 2) Texans, 3) Jaguars, 4) Titans

AFC WEST

The AFC West featured the most competitive division in the conference last season and I think we’ll see the same in 2019. Kansas City shot their way to the top of the conference thanks to the performance of QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes returns with many of the same weapons from a season ago, WR’s Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and TE Travis Kelce. On defense, they traded away DE Dee Ford but also acquired DE Frank Clark who should serve as a great replacement. Kansas City’s pass defense was among the league’s worst last season. They are hoping that offseason acquisition, safety Tyrann Mathieu, will help them improve in that area. The Chargers will be strong again in 2019, which could be QB Phillip Rivers final season. I get the feeling that Rivers won’t retire until he makes his Super Bowl debut. Rivers will once again have great targets in the passing game to go to in WR’s Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. But most of the talk in the offseason has been about the RB position. I don’t think RB Melvin Gordon’s hold out will last into the season. He will report and I think he needs a wake up call. Gordon is talented but he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on with only one 1,000 yard season. I really like what the Chargers have on defense. Pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are difference makers up front and safety Derwin James is one of the best in the NFL already in his young career. What’s been holding Denver back for the last few seasons has been the QB position. You can laugh now but I think trading for QB Joe Flacco might prove to be one of the smartest moves made in the offseason. Denver gets a veteran presence behind center and he’s looking to prove that he still has some good football left in him. RB Phillip Lindsay who had a breakout rookie season will assist Flacco. WR Emmanuel Sanders will be plus for this passing offense if he can stay healthy. The Broncos defense will be led once again by pass rushing extraordinaire Von Miller. Denver will be looking for someone in the secondary to step up this season, as they are a missing a few pieces from last year. The Oakland Raiders made the biggest move in the offseason, trading for the best WR in the NFL, Antonio Brown. Despite that exciting acquisition, the Raiders are still not ready to compete in this division. I think having Brown in the lineup will improve the passing game, which is good news for QB Derek Carr. But the Raiders will still have unanswered question with their offensive line and backfield. A lot will be expected from rookie RB Josh Jacobs. On defense, the Raiders still are looking to fill the massive hole left by trading away DE Khalil Mack. They spent their top pick on DE Clelin Ferrell who was on no ones radar at the top of the draft. They also brought in talented but constant knucklehead LB Vontaze Burfict. This Raiders squad will be an interesting mix but I don’t think they’ll play good enough football to escape the AFC West basement. Projected Finish: 1) Chiefs, 2) Chargers, 3) Broncos, 4) Raiders

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2019 NFL Draft: No Mock. Just Random Thoughts.

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Where will Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray land? I say, not in Arizona.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Alright. Unfortunately, I did not do a NFL mock draft this year. But I’ve always loved this time of year to research and pretend to know what I’m talking about based on minutes upon hours and hours of watching highlights on YouTube. So, again, no mock, but here are just some random thoughts about how I think this weekend will go down in Nashville.

  • What is Arizona going to do with the first pick? Well, I think it is NOT going to be Kyler Murray, the standout QB out of Oklahoma. I’m not a believer in this year’s QB class but Murray is probably the top signal caller in this draft. I just think that’s not saying much. I don’t see Murray as a NFL caliber passer like Mayfield “appears” to be. He’s indeed a talented player. He can throw. He can run. He can be a playmaker. But the HOPE is that he can be Russell Wilson. Can be. Sounds too risky. Wilson is Wilson. But for every Wilson, there’s been 5 or 6 guys with similar skill sets and ran similar, fast, wide open offenses in college that just haven’t panned out. Bottom line is that Murray could be the next great thing in this league but I don’t see it right now as a sure thing. He is going to need work. Arizona DRAFTED a QB in the first round last year. Arizona was a bad team last season. They need to build that team up, put better players around that QB (Rosen) and not muddy the situation further. Arizona should take the best player available at 1 and that player is Ohio State Defensive End Nick Bosa.

 

  • So, where does that leave Murray? I predict that a big trade will happen. I think Arizona, San Fran, the Jets, or Oakland will be the ones to receive the “King’s Ransom”. Which team will pull the trigger? My first thought was maybe the New York Giants. They need to face the facts in the first place about Eli Manning and work on replacing him. If the Giants were crazy enough to trade away OBJ, maybe they would do the same in terms of finding a new QB. But now, I’m hearing a more logical option: Washington. It would be such a Dan Snyder move. Despite that fact such a trade would echo the disaster that was the RG3 situation, Washington is in desperate need for a QB. Freak accidents to Alex Smith and then Colt McCoy completely wrecked their 2018 and the signs are pointing to both of those guys not being back. Ever. Washington NEEDS a QB and I believe that they can convince themselves that Kyler Murray can be their “Russell Wilson”. I can only imagine the trade package they dream up but it will have to be ridiculous.

 

  • Again, I think Murray is the best QB in this draft. From what I’ve seen, I’m not impressed with Dook’s Daniel Jones. I don’t understand the whole “I’ve worked with David Cutcliffe and he knows the Mannings so that means he knows quarterbacks” angle. He might be a better passer but not nearly in the same class of a playmaker. Ohio State quarterbacks have burned me before (I really liked Cardale Jones) but I’m kind of rooting for Dwayne Haskins to fall into a good situation. I think he’s better than Jones and he’s a guy who has shown improvement during his time in college. I think it means something that he’s been able to show improvement as his college career went on. It shows that he’s coachable. I’m not a big fan of this QB class but other passers that intrigue me are West Virginia’s Will Grier and Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson.

 

  • As for the rest of the draft, ehhhhh, I don’t know. Let’s talk the AFC North because there’s been so much talk within that division this offseason. The Pittsburgh Steelers have replaced the Dallas Cowboys in terms of being in the news every week for some unimportant, social media back and forth or whatever. Despite all the talk about AB and Bell and the “Killer B” era ending without a championship, I hope the Steeler faithful realize that the real reason why that era ended the way it did was because of the opposite side of the football. The Steelers have had multiple draft misfires on defense during that time and THAT’S what held them back. I think Pittsburgh will probably look for help on the defense side again. They need to. Inside Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, Pass Rusher. They are all options. They just need someone to really pan out. Either way, I’m excited about what is about to happen in that division. Because I believe that a changing of the guard is about to happen. You can place your faith in a 37-year-old QB and yes, Ben is still supremely talented. And yes, offensive talent can be replaced and reloaded and blah, blah, blah. But I believe that they will truly miss the production from those guys because they were really, really, good. Especially AB. Ben lead the league in passing last season, I know. But, Father Time is undefeated. So, Pittsburgh really needs a strong defensive draft to finally pan out. I’m not saying that I’m buying into all the Cleveland hype either. But I believe that they will at least be there. I won’t say that the Browns are automatically “contenders” because of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. They certainly have the talent to maybe be an 8-win team. The AFC North schedule will be tough for all 4 teams in 2019. The Steelers COULD be an 9-10 win team. That’s not far from 8. I think the division will be a dogfight into December. I feel that even Cincinnati could be there. I’m excited to see what they can do now that they finally have a new regime. I wonder if they’ll take a new QB in Round One to really signal the end of the Marvin Lewis/Andy Dalton era. Too bad Baltimore’s defense was gutted in free agency. They now need as much defensive help as Pittsburgh. Either way, the changing of the guard is coming to the AFC North and personally, I can’t wait……

 

  • Let’s talk about my Cowboys finally, who do not have a first round pick. Which I’m not upset about. I guess the Amari Cooper trade “worked”. Dallas went on a run. Won the division. And now they at least have reasonable hope going into 2019. But that hope usually does not translate with this franchise for whatever reason in recent years (23 years to be exact). Especially following a “successful” season. What is a successful season for Dallas anymore? A playoff win? Sad. Anyways, I think Dallas can still find the help they need with their late round selections. A run stuffing DT could be an option. A young safety or tight end prospect could be in play as well. I really want to see which young running back they select because as good as Ezekiel Elliott is, he is still a RB. And watching him last year, I saw a guy who was TIRED. Because they are running him into the ground. Because he is Dallas’ greatest weapon on the entire team. You can’t really say that about any other team where the Running Back, the most expendable player in football, is THE guy who makes it work. PSU’s Miles Sanders, Stanford’s Bryce Love, and Trayveon Williams out of Texas A&M are runners that could be a nice fit.

NFL 2018: Week 4 Predictions

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Everything’s all good in Steel Town now that they’ve got their first victory of 2018, right?

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 6-10

Season: 22-24-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Minnesota @ LA Rams – The Vikings absolutely laid an egg at home last week against a terrible Buffalo team. But I believe they can bounce back this week even on the road against a good LA Rams team. The Rams have significant injuries in their secondary and I believe this will give Kirk Cousins full range in terms of attack them through the air. LA’s offense is pretty capable as well but I just think Minnesota will be anxious to get the bad taste from Week 3 out of their system. Winner: Vikings

Miami @ New England – New England had their annual early season “are they done” loss last week. The Patriots will obviously bounce back. But not enough people are talking about this undefeated Miami Dolphins team. They are proving that addition by subtraction can work out if you look at the changes that they’ve made in the offseason, which are now paying off. New England’s defense is struggling right now and I believe that Miami’s offense is capable of attack them through the ground and in the air. Instead of bouncing back at home, I think New England will lose their second straight. Winner: Dolphins

New Orleans @ NY Giants – The Giants finally got a win last week but I think that may have said more about Houston than about them. New Orleans has been apart of a close finish in each game this week. This tells me that their defense needs fixed. I think the Giants will be able to put up points against this team but I don’t think that will be enough for them to win. If they are able to go “tit-for-tat” offensively, I’ll still bet on the Saints to win another close one. Winner: Saints

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers finally won last week so everything’s all-good in Yinzer land. Right? Hardly. Pittsburgh’s defense is poor and they almost blew a 20-point lead last week in the second half. I think Baltimore coming to town will be a good thing for them because they should know what to expect. These games are usually a tough-drag ‘em out type of contest. Everyone knows about Pittsburgh’s struggles on defense but I don’t think the Ravens offense is good enough to exploit it. I am looking at you, Joe Flacco. I wonder if the Baltimore defense will be able to make enough stops against a Pittsburgh offense that has so many ways to beat you. The road team typically has the tougher up hill climb in these matchups. Winner: Steelers

Kansas City @ Denver – Patrick Mahomes is the talk of the NFL right now and the lights will be extra bright on him and the Chiefs offense on Monday night. I’m looking forward to see how this kid deals with being chased by Von Miller for 4 quarters. Going into the 2018 season, I believed that Kansas City would take a step back this year because of their defense. The good news is that I don’t see Denver’s offense being able to push the issue against them especially since Case Keenum will be tasked with out dueling the hottest QB in the league currently. Playing at Mile-High can prove to be a challenge but I believe Mahomes and the gang will be up for it. Winner: Chiefs

The Rest of Week 4

Falcons over Bengals – Rookie WR Calvin Ridley is starting to become an x-factor for the Atlanta offense.

Bears over Buccaneers – Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue to fall back down to earth against a Chicago defense that will get after him. Winston will be the starter when Tampa returns from the bye week in Week 6.

Lions over Cowboys – I’m buying into Detroit’s performance last week but Dallas is a team that cannot score points. Last time I checked, you have to score points to win.

Packers over Bills – Green Bay is not a good team. Buffalo and especially rookie QB Josh Allen would definitely have my attention if they were able to win in Green Bay.

Eagles over Titans – I like Philly here in a low scoring affair. Tennessee is close to being down two quarterbacks. I think Carson Wentz will continue to feel more comfortable back in the lineup.

Colts over Texans – The talk in Texas maybe about the Cowboys’ struggles but what in the world is going on in Houston? Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, Clowney, Hopkins, Lamar Miller. They are all healthy. Yet, Houston is winless. The hot seat will be on coach Bill O’Brien real soon if they go to 0-4.

Jaguars over Jets – Jacksonville is a good team that just can’t beat Tennessee. It makes no sense but it’s true.

Browns over Raiders – I like Bayer Mayfield to keep Jon Gruden’s Raiders winless in a road upset.

Seahawks over Cardinals – Arizona made the right decision benching Sam Bradford for the rookie Josh Rosen. But this Cardinals team doesn’t look like they are in shape to compete this year.

Chargers over 49ers – The Jimmy Garoppolo injury has taken the air out of the entire season for San Francisco.

Fantasy Picks of the Week

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – Rivers should have plenty of opportunities against the 49ers that might have trouble scoring points themselves.

RB: Kenyan Drake (Dolphins) – Many are waiting on a breakout out game from Drake. It could come this week in New England.

WR: Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants) – The New Orleans secondary is back to being bad. That should be good news for New York’s top receiving target.

TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – Kelce is pretty reliable is playing with house money with how well the Chiefs offense is operating.

DEF: Jacksonville – I like the Jaguars defense to limit rookie QB Sam Darnold this week.

 

 

 

 

NFL 2018: Week 1 Predictions

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Nick Foles had a nice moment last January but he is still Nick Foles.

 

By Elias McMillan

Past Regular Season Records:

2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87

2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99

2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94

2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1

2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

2017 Regular Season Record: 151-103

 

Big Five Games of Week 1

Atlanta @ Philadelphia – The home team usually does well in these season opening Thursday night games. But I don’t feel too good about Philadelphia tonight. I think they are primed some Super Bowl hangover type performances this season and we will see one tonight. What’s going to hurt the Eagles tonight will be their lack of offense. QB Nick Foles has struggled recently. Atlanta has one of the better rosters in the league and I think they’ll be looking to put on an impressive performance tonight. Philly’s defense may be able to keep them in this game but I don’t think they’ll get enough from the other side of the ball tonight. Prediction: Falcons

Houston @ New England – If memory serves me right, I think the Patriots lost in their home opener last season. Either way, I’m going out on a limb and saying that I really like Houston’s chances in this game. With a healthy J.J. Watt and other key pieces on defense, I think the Texans will be able to limited Tom Brady on Sunday. QB Deshaun Watson led a dynamic Texans offense before he got injured last season. I think they’ll be able to attack an underrated but not strong Patriots defense. The Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection will be a force for the Houston secondary to deal with but I think this game will end with a failed Tom Brady comeback attempt. Prediction: Texans

Jacksonville @ New York Giants – The Jalen Ramsey and Odell Beckham Jr. matchup makes this game must see TV. The offense on display here probably will not be pretty. This could be an old school drag ‘em out type of game with the lack of scoring. The Giants retooled their offense in the offseason and there is a lot of hype behind the debut of Saquon Barkley but I still believe that the Jacksonville defense is really good. They’ll force Eli Manning into some mistakes and Blake Bortles and his lack of weapons in the passing game will not have to do much heavy lifting. Prediction: Jaguars

Dallas @ Carolina – I’m having nightmares about what Cam Newton did to Dallas on Thanksgiving a few years ago. Both teams are different now, obviously. The buzz around Dallas for the start of this season is that the defense is supposed to be vastly improved; Especially at the defensive line. That unit may have a chance to shine Sunday as Carolina’s offensive line is banged up. If they can get after Cam Newton, they could have the potential to create some big plays. The Dallas offense vs. the Carolina defense is the matchup that may determine this game. Carolina still touts a good defense and the Cowboys offensive line is also not at 100%. Dak Prescott and even Ezekiel Elliott might face a uphill battle in this contest offensively. I think Carolina is vulnerable but I trust Newton’s big play ability. He usually balls out in season opener. Prediction: Panthers

Chicago @ Green Bay – This game might be one that everyone will be talking about on Monday. I think the addition of Khalil Mack drastically changes Chi-Town’s outlook for this season. The Bears really focused this offseason on adding pieces on offense but then they ended up adding a big fish in the world of pass rushers. I think we are all aware of what Aaron Rodgers is capable of but the Bears could be able to up the pressure on him that night. I wouldn’t count on Mitch Trubisky dueling with Rodgers but Green Bay’s defense has been on the downside recently. I don’t think Chicago will win but they’ll have the potential to make this one interesting. Prediction: Packers

The Rest of Week 1

Steelers over Browns – This might sound strange but Pittsburgh is vulnerable going into this one. Cleveland has the momentum just from being under the radar. They must execute or just be the Browns again.

Bengals over Colts – Andrew Luck is back but he doesn’t have enough weapons. Marvin Lewis is also back and his team has a knack for giving away victories. Something will have to give.

Titans over Dolphins – I think Tennessee will have a big day on the ground in this one.

Vikings over 49ers – Jimmy G will find it tough against Minnesota’s defense on the road.

Saints over Buccaneers – This matchup is ironic because it was Tampa that should have traded for Teddy Bridgewater. I like the New Orleans defense to really flex their muscles at home.

Ravens over Bills – Buffalo is going to stink so bad this year. And it might be all directly linked to the QB position. Baltimore’s third string signal caller is better than the guy Buffalo will start Sunday.

Chargers over Chiefs – The Chargers had to hear all offseason about how their slow start in September kept them from the postseason. They’ll have that in mind Sunday against a divisional opponent.

Broncos over Seahawks – Russell Wilson will try to win this one by himself. Life without the Legion of Boom will be tough this season for Seattle.

Cardinals over Washington – The lack of a run game in Washington means Chandler Jones and company will have opportunities to get after Alex Smith.

Lions over Jets – I’m excited about Sam Darnold but the Jets are a few weapons short to go toe to toe with Matt Stafford and the Lions passing attack.

Rams over Raiders – The offseason champs should smash this Oakland team that has just been hit by a bus this past week with the trading of their best player.

Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Drew Brees (New Orleans) – Brees at home against Tampa’s secondary. He is a must start.

RB: Todd Gurley (LA Rams) – Gurley should run wild against a Raiders defense without a soul.

WR: Antonio Browns (Pittsburgh) – AB big play ability will make everyone forget about the drama with Le’Veon Bell.

TE: Greg Olsen (Carolina) – Cam Newton will be facing a lot of pressure. Olsen, his security blanket, will get plenty of looks.

DEF: Baltimore – Against Nathan Peterman, the interception could rack up for the Ravens.

NFL 2017: Mid-Season Report

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At the midway point of the 2017 season, a all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl doesn’t seem like a crazy idea.

By: Elias McMillan

 

We have seen some surprises and disappointments so far this 2017 season. Here’s my list. Also, I had to change my original Super Bowl prediction of Falcons-Raiders from last August.

 

Top 5 Surprising Teams

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) – The Eagles look right now like the class of the NFC. Their young QB, Carson Wentz, is leading an explosive offensive attack that can create big plays on the ground and thru the air. On defense, the Eagles are strong up front against the run and can get after the QB. Time will tell if this Eagles team is for real or not. They’ve had a cakewalk of a schedule so far this season and they still have remaining games against Dallas, Seattle, and much improved Los Angeles.
  2. New Orleans Saints (6-2) – The Saints are the sleeper team in the NFC South that Tampa Bay was suppose to be this year. QB Drew Brees is still getting the job done despite his age and he is receiving great support from his running backs. Defense has been the main issue in New Orleans for years now but we are seeing a much-improved secondary in 2017.
  3. Los Angeles Rams (6-2) – The Rams has had the individual talent on the roster for a while now. But this year, they are finally putting it together to where they might actually be a playoff team. RB Todd Gurley and DT Aaron Donald continue to be great but that young defense is really beginning to thrive under coordinator Wade Phillips and QB Jared Goff is having a bounce back season after a tough rookie campaign.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3) – Jacksonville’s defense has become good enough where it is single handedly winning games for the team. The Jaguars are loaded with talent across the board defensively and they are now witnessing the fruits of their draft labor. If the offense can do just a little more than the minimum, Sacksonville will win the AFC South.
  5. New York Jets (4-5) – The Jets were supposed to win three games this year. At the half waypoint, they have four. You have to give head coach Todd Bowles credit for what he has been able to do with this roster. They are giving maximum effort each week and it shows. The Jets wont make the playoffs this year but I really hope they stick with the coaching brain trust that they currently have.

 

Top 5 Disappointing Teams

  1. Oakland Raiders (4-5) – The Raiders were my Super Bowl pick but they look like a mess right now. The defense has really disappointed and QB Derek Carr isnt getting much from his offensive line. Oakland has enough talent to turn their season around but it doesn’t seem likely.
  2. New York Giants (1-7) – Even before the injuries, the Giants were a mess from Jump Street in 2017. The offense is in crisis mode without Odell Beckham Jr. and it look like they are starting to prepare for life without Eli Manning. I thought New York at least had a promising defense at the beginning of the season but they have also been a massive letdown.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) – Tampa was my sleeper in the NFC South. I thought QB Jameis Winston would blossom with all the talent they surrounded him with in the offseason. Instead, Winston and the entire offense have struggled. Tampa also isn’t getting much from their defense either. I wonder who will receive most of the blame at season’s end: the head coach or the QB?
  4. Atlanta Falcons (4-4) – Atlanta is still in the hunt for a playoff berth but they have massively under performed this season. Despite having the talent on both sides of the ball, the offense has yet to find consistency and the defense is not closing out game in the second half. Atlanta will have to start playing with some urgency in the second half of the season.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (4-4) – I had Arizona as a playoff team before the season started. Their struggles can be accounted for different reason. Losing their best player, RB David Johnson, hurt. But to add on to that, they also lose starting QB Carson Palmer. Injuries happen but the real disappointment with this team lies on the defense. OLB Chandler Jones is having a great season as one of the leading pass rushers in the league. But the rest of the defense, especially the secondary, has really let this team down so far this year.

 

Mid Season Awards

MVP: Carson Wentz (QB – Philadelphia) – Wentz has been very impressive so far this year and his team has the best record in football.

Offensive MVP: Tom Brady (QB – New England) – The ageless one continues to lead the league in passing categories. New England remains so confident in him that they traded away his back up.

Defensive MVP: Calais Campbell (DT – Jacksonville) – We have to give someone credit for helping the Jacksonville defense take that next step. Calais Campbell has provided leadership with that group while being on the league leaders in sacks at the halfway point of the season.

My REVISED Pick of Super Bowl 52

In the AFC, I think it is Pittsburgh’s conference to lose. The Steelers have had the best roster in the AFC for some years now but for one reason or another, they haven’t been able to put it together in January. With Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement looming, the Steelers have to get it done this season. New England will meet Pittsburgh again in the playoffs but I think Pittsburgh is able to finally slay their “dragon” this postseason if they are healthy. In the NFC, I see a wide-open field. Everyone loves Philadelphia right now but they have had a cake schedule so far. We will see how good they really are, as we get closer to the postseason. Minnesota could be a sleeper. They have a great defense and Teddy Bridgewater will be returning at QB soon. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take New Orleans seriously yet. In the West, Seattle just dropped two straight at home, which literally never happens. And can’t fully trust the LA Rams with their inconsistent offense. I love the idea of Dallas wrecking stuff as a wildcard in the playoffs but I’m not entirely sure if they will even make the playoffs. Despite their recent struggles and because there was no way I was going to pick the Eagles, I’ll go with Seattle because their defense can still be good when it wants to. REVISED Super Bowl 52 Prediction: Steelers over Seahawks

 

NFL 2017: NFC Preview (Condensed)

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Dak Prescott has the keys to the castle in Dallas. What will he do with it? And can Matt Ryan get over what happened in the Super Bowl?

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC East

New York Giants – I think the Giants have the best defense in the NFC East. They are strong up front with two passing rushing vets (JPP & Vernon) and a big run stuffer (Damon Harrison). I think they are weak at the LB position but they are loaded with talent in the secondary. New York should also have a sound passing attack on offense. Eli Manning will have a wide array of weapons to choose from this season with Beckham Jr, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and rookie TE Evan Engram. The Giants do have question marks with their running game and offensive line. But I think they can outlast the competition in a tight NFC East race. Prediction: 10-6 (NFC East Champs)

Dallas Cowboys –For whatever reason, the Cowboys haven’t been able to string together back-to-back successful seasons too many times since the 90’s. And after blowing a great opportunity the change the narrative last season, they return this season with little or no improvements. I think the offense will be okay. I think Dak Prescott will not fall into a sophomore slump. There are some changes on the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott might miss the start of the season but I think the run game will still be strong. And the Cowboys do return many weapons in the passing game led by Dez Bryant and the leadership of Jason Witten. On defense, all eyes will be on LB Jaylon Smith who missed all of last season due to injury but the Cowboys are expect big things out of. Outside of that, the Cowboys return a defense that cant create pressure and are featuring wholesale changes in the secondary. At this point, I feel bad for Jason Witten. I feel good about Dallas in 2018 though. Prediction: 8-8

Washington – I like what Washington has on defense. If they could just find some consistency on offense they could be a sleeper team in the NFC East. QB Kirk Cousins is a mixed bag but I like his gunslinger mentality. Many are expecting a big year from free agent signee WR Terrelle Pryor. Washington also had a nice big target for Cousins in TE Jordan Reed if he can stay healthy. Much like New York, offensive line and running back are where the question marks lie. Like I said earlier, I like many of the pieces on this Washington defense. They have already suffered some injuries on the defensive line and at LB but they wisely prepared for this in the draft. I’m interested in seeing how rookies DE Jonathan Allen and LB Ryan Anderson develop in their first years. Washington may have some weak spots in the secondary but they at least still have CB Josh Norman. Because of what they have defensively, Washington might surprise a bit this year. Prediction: 7-9

Philadelphia Eagles – Some have Philadelphia as a sleeper team in this division. I just don’t see it. Is Carson Wentz going to turn out to be a baller in his 2nd year? Maybe. He’ll have pretty weapons this year at WR with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The Eagles are still reeling at the RB position from the LeSean McCoy trade. Do they really expect LeGarrette Blount to be their #1 back? Philly’s defense will be pretty much the same from a season ago: decent front seven, trash secondary. I like DT Fletcher Cox and rookie DE Derek Barnett. In a best-case scenario for this team, I don’t even see them making it past 8 wins. Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – I really don’t see how this Packers team got better in the off-season. A lot of familiar faces from the last couple seasons are gone. The Packers are in the transition of getting younger on defense with OLB Clay Matthews the lone veteran holdover. They let Eddie Lacy go in free agency. Ty Montgomery is talented but can he really be an every down back? But as last year proved, because they really weren’t that good either, as long as they have Aaron Rodgers behind center, they’ll be okay. Prediction: 10-6 (NFC North Champs)

Minnesota Vikings – I like this Minnesota team because Mike Zimmer has himself a tough defense on this squad. It was the defense that led them to a hot start to begin 2016. Eventually, they fell apart down the stretch but as long as that same defense returns, they’ll be in a lot of games this year. Obviously, there are plenty of questions on offense especially at the QB position. QB Teddy Bridgewater may not be ready until the middle of the season so they will have to ride it out with Sam Bradford for now. Minnesota will also be dealing with a couple of new starters on the offensive line. But I think they will have a better run offense this season even with the departure of Adrian Peterson. I’m expecting big things from rookie RB Dalvin Cook. Prediction: 8-8

Detroit Lions – I don’t even remember that the Lions made the playoffs last year. They really didn’t make any dramatic changes in the offseason. QB Matthew Stafford will give them a chance to win every week. The Lions are still missing consistency in the run game. Stafford has pretty good targets to go to in the passing game. This has to be the season where TE Eric Ebron proves himself as a legit TE in the league and not just an athlete. Detroit will be solid defensively, at least up front. First round pick LB Jarrad Davis will be counted on early in his career. And you could say the same about second round pick CB Teez Tabor. I think the Lions are a running game away from challenging Green Bay in the division. Prediction: 7-9

Chicago Bears – The Bears are still rebuilding but with a veteran head coach. Weird. I’m wondering if John Fox will be around to see the final product. After spending money on QB Mike Glennon for some reason, the Bears went ahead and traded for QB Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky has shown promise in the pre-season and Chicago might as well stop wasting everyone’s time and insert him into the lineup. RB Jordan Howard is returning after an impressive rookie season. The Bears have question marks at WR. Kevin White is healthy and he will receive plenty of opportunities this year. Chicago’s defense is a mess. They need to build that side of the ball up as soon as possible if they want to climb out of the basement in this division. Prediction: 5-11

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – There’s a lot of talk about the blown lead in the Super Bowl and the hangover from that. I know that Super Bowl losers, especially in this fashion, usually have a hard time getting back but I think Atlanta may have something going. I think this way because I liked what I saw from their defense last season and I like the additions they made in the offseason. Atlanta has a legit pass rush with Vic Beasley and I think rookie Takkarist McKinley could make an impact up front as well. I’m a big fan of the young LB’s they have especially Deion Jones who had a great rookie season. Atlanta will also see reinforcements in the secondary with the return of Desmond Trufant who missed most of last season. Everyone knows about what Atlanta has on offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, etc. But I think the improvements on this young defense will really make this team dangerous in the NFC again this season. Prediction: 13-3 (NFC South Champs)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – For the first time in a while, the Bucs enter a football season with some momentum. This team will be led by QB Jameis Winston who has really taken on a leadership role in that locker room and the team has brought in. Winston will be surrounded by probably the most talented he’s been around in his career. Tampa is loaded at WR with Mike Evans and newcomer DeSean Jackson who can really stretch the field. TE Cameron Brate impressed last season but the team decided to really maximize the TE position with the first round selection of TE O.J. Howard. I’m worried about the suspension of RB Doug Martin but this Tampa offense will be about what Winston can do in the passing game. Tampa returns a solid defense led by DT Gerald McCoy. I really like their LB core. They are missing playmakers in the secondary though. I think Tampa should be good enough to make that jump in the post season in 2017. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Carolina Panthers – The Super Bowl hangover was real in Carolina in 2016. I think Carolina is in a position to rebound and maybe return to the playoffs but they need to do two things. First and more importantly, they need to ensure that the defense can stay at the level they were in during 2015. And secondly, they need to get Cam Newton better protection and younger players at the skill positions on offense. They did the latter in this offseason and I’m afraid that wasn’t the direction that this team needed to go. I think Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel will do good things in their rookie seasons but I prioritize the line scrimmage over the flashy skill players. I think Newton will be able to use those young guys effectively but I’m worried about his protection especially that he is coming off off-season surgery. On defense, Carolina is starting to look old. They gave up on Kony Ealy and brought back an ancient Julius Peppers. I really like Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly but they both have injury concerns. Carolina may slightly improve from 2016 but they need to do a better job at protecting their franchise QB and getting younger talent on defense. Prediction: 8-8

New Orleans Saints – There isn’t much buzz surrounding the Saints going into 2017. We know they will pass the ball well with QB Drew Brees. Its too bad that they couldn’t make it work with Brandin Cooks but they did bring in Ted Ginn Jr. to take his role as the speedster at WR. RB Mark Ingram is the established back in this offense so, I don’t understand why they brought in an aging Adrian Peterson. Defense remains the main issues on this team. DE Cameron Jordan can only do so much. The Saints did make an effort on improving their secondary through the draft this offseason. I think the Saints will compete. But they wont be on the same level as the three other teams in this division. Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks are still in the mist of a decent run in the NFC as consistent title contenders. But I get the feeling that their window is starting to get smaller. Which is supposed to happen in the NFL. You can’t resign and keep everyone for only so long. But Seattle should be in pretty good shape in 2017. QB Russell Wilson returns and Seattle continued their efforts in the off-season to improve his offensive line. I think the Eddie Lacy signing could improve the run game if he can stay healthy. And that’s a big “if”. WR Doug Baldwin is massively underrated and TE Jimmy Graham can still take over a game when called upon. This team will continue to be led by the defense though. The front seven is tough and can pretty much do it all. Pass rush, run stuff, etc. The Seahawks also still have the three major cogs in the L.O.B., Sherman, Thomas, and Chancellor. Prediction: 11-5 (NFC West Champs)

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona massively under performed last season and they return in 2017 with a supremely talented roster. On offense, RB David Johnson established himself last season as one of the top RB’s in the league. Arizona’s passing game is still dependent on QB Carson Palmer’s health. Head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t think much of the WR’s on the roster but WR Larry Fitzgerald is still as good as they come. Arizona has recognizable names on defense but they need to become an elite unit if Arizona hopes to make the postseason. They will miss Calais Campbell up front but Chandler Jones is still a pretty good pass rusher and first round pick Haason Reddick could develop into a difference maker. I feel that Arizona secondary under performed last season but that should change as long as Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu can stay healthy. I think the Cardinals have too much talent to miss the playoffs for a second straight season. Prediction: 10-6 (Wild-card)

Los Angeles Rams – The Rams hired a 30-year-old coach to lead the team in 2017. Maybe that youth can energize a team that hasn’t done anything note worthy in a while. Can second year QB Jared Goff show that he is worth his top selection in the draft a year ago? Can RB Todd Gurley return to form? Can the Rams finally get some consistency out from their recievers? Will the newly acquired Sammy Watkins keep the number 2 as his jersey number? Has the only player worth a damn on this roster (DT Aaron Donald) ended his holdout yet? Too many questions. Prediction: 5-11

San Francisco 49ers – Nothing quite says “we’re rebuilding” like saying “we’re rolling with Brian Hoyer as our QB this year”. San Francisco should be a complete disaster offensively this season. Its fitting that the offensive coordinator that blew it for Atlanta in the Super Bowl is now the head coach. On the bright side, San Fran is building a defense that might become a problem real soon. They basically have an all-Pac-10 defensive line and I liked the late addition of veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. LB NaVorro Bowman returns and he’ll get a chance to groom rookie Reuben Foster who dropped right into the 49ers lap in the draft this pass April. Foster should have been a top 15 pick. The secondary leaves much to be desired but that front seven might end up being one of the best in the league. But with Brian Hoyer at QB, that tells me that this team must be tanking for one of the top signal callers in college. Prediction: 3-13

 

NFC Playoff Picture Prediction

  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)

NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

jay-ajayi

Miami’s run to the playoffs started in Week 6 against the Steelers. On Sunday, the Dolphins will meet them again in Pittsburgh.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 14-2

Final 2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Weekend

Oakland @ Houston – For the second straight year, ESPN gets stuck with coverage of a playoff game in Houston that no one really wanted to see. Oakland was such a great story this season until about 2 weeks ago. Within that time, they have lost their starter and backup QB in rout to already being clinched for a post-season berth in the playoffs. Where Oakland goes from here is anyone’s guess. Houston has had its QB troubles recently too. Houston’s 72 million dollar man, QB Brock Osweiler, was bench about 3 weeks ago but because of a concussion suffered by his replacement, backup Tom Savage, Osweiler will be back in the starting position this Saturday. We have to imagine that Osweiler isn’t feeling too confident about his standing as the leader of the offense or as a competent QB in this league. The fact is that Osweiler hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. I’m not sure if Houston is going to need Osweiler to be great to win this playoff game. Houston has other weapons on the team that will make them a tough out for the Raiders. RB Lamar Miller had a good first season with the Texans. He was held out from the last two games of the regular season and he should be fresh and ready to go this weekend. Oakland will have to find a way to account for Miller as they ranked 23rd in the league in run defense. Houston is going to have to run the ball effectively in this game in order to control the clock and to keep Osweiler from making a mistake. Oakland doesn’t have a strong run defense but their defense can affect the game in other ways. Edge rushers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, have made a living this season at creating chaos in the opponents back field. Oakland allows quite a few yards through the air but I like the way safety Reggie Nelson has been playing lately. Oakland doesn’t have the best defense in the playoffs but they have the ability to create turnovers that can change the game. After being down two QB’s, the Raiders will have to start QB Connor Cook on Saturday who is making his career debut as a pro. Cook is a real wildcard in this matchup because no one knows what to expect from him. Oakland’s offensive line has a huge task ahead of them as they will have to protect their young QB against a pretty good Houston defense. DE Jadeveon Clowney has finally emerged as a difference maker on the field with the absence of J.J. Watt. Oakland has had a serviceable running game this season so with Cook starting, we may see a steady dose of RB Latavius Murray. Houston has one of the top pass defenses in the league so it will be interesting seeing how Cook want to attack them with Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree. In their matchup earlier this season, Houston outplayed Oakland really but they were on the wrong end of a couple of bad calls. I bet Oakland thinks that can play better than what they did in the last matchup but Houston probably has the bigger revenge chip on their shoulder. Oakland won 12 games this season and I think their playmakers on defense will be the difference. I’m taking the Raiders in a low scoring affair. Prediction: Raiders 18 – Texans 14

Detroit @ Seattle – In the second game on Saturday, we’ll see two teams that don’t look like they are ready to make a run towards the Super Bowl. Detroit squandered their lead in the NFC North to the Packers in a matter of 3 weeks. Seattle wrapped up the NFC West earlier but since the injury to Earl Thomas, they haven’t looked the same. Detroit still has its work cut out for them if they hope to upset Seattle who is usually a monster at home. But with the way Seattle has been playing lately, they are definitely vulnerable right now, even with the home field advantage. If Detroit can keep Seattle from controlling the clock on offense, they’ll have a shot at winning this game. Detroit has been inconsistent at stopping the run on defense but Seattle’s run game has been inconsistent as well. I don’t know how well Russell Wilson will play but Detroit will have to find a way to pressure him in order to keep him from making big plays. Last year in the playoffs, Wilson struggled in that first game at Minnesota but was still able to make the big play late to help Seattle get the victory. With the state of the Seahawks offensive line, I believe the Lions will be able to get after Wilson. Seattle is still pretty good defensively even without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks have a good pass rush and one of the top run defenses in the league. Detroit should have a hard time getting the run game going which will open the door for QB Matt Stafford to try to win the game with his arm. The Legion of Boom isn’t quite that without Thomas in the lineup so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford find the matchups that will help him get his team down the field. TE Eric Ebron has emerged recently and WR’s Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin are more than familiar with the Seattle secondary. I think this game will be closer than what many people think. Detroit hasn’t won in a month and I don’t think I have faith in their defense to totally shut down Seattle offensively. A wildcard in this game will be TE Jimmy Graham who can destroy a defense’s game plan at any moment. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Seahawks 26 – Lions 21

Miami @ Pittsburgh – Miami starting the season with a 1-4 record going into their Week 6 matchup at home against the Steelers. Who would have known that game was the start of a 9-2 run in the post season? Miami has had a remarkable and unlikely run to the playoffs this season and it is fitting that they’ll be in Pittsburgh on Sunday for this Wildcard matchup. People see the city name “Miami” and think, “Oh. There’s no way a team from Miami can win in Pittsburgh in January!” That thinking is common but couldn’t be more false. Miami is a ten-point underdog this weekend but I think they could stand a chance in Pittsburgh. Miami was able to beat Pittsburgh in their first matchup this season because of RB Jay Ajayi and the Miami run game. A great coach once said that a good run game is one thing that is guaranteed to travel with teams no matter which stadium they’re playing at. If Miami brings their running attack and is able to control the clock, they’ll be able to limit Pittsburgh’s scoring chances on offense. QB Matt Moore will be starting for the Dolphins and I don’t see him coming out with the goal to just air it out against the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh’s defense as a whole has gotten a lot better since Week 6 so Moore will have to be careful and be selective about the shots to take down field. Miami does have more than capable WR’s in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. This game will feature two defenses that can allow both offenses to put up a lot of numbers but again; I see where Pittsburgh’s defense has improved. Not so much with Miami. I don’t have much confidence in Miami limiting Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, or Antonio Brown on Sunday. For Miami to stand a chance on defense, they will need to bring the pressure towards Roethlisberger for all 4 quarters. The Steelers have a decent offensive line but they’ll have a huge chore ahead of them on Sunday in the shape of DE Cameron Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh. I think too many things would have to go right for Miami for them to upset Pittsburgh on Sunday. Miami could slow the game down with Ajayi or harass Roethlisberger behind the line of scrimmage. But the Steelers just have too many weapons for Miami to account for. They wont be able to stop Bell on the ground and with time, Roethlisberger should be able to find big plays down the field against the Dolphins secondary. Miami could make it interesting but I like the Steelers at home. Prediction: Steelers 36 – Dolphins 28

New York Giants @ Green Bay – The second matchup on Sunday features two of the hottest teams in the NFC. Green Bay rode their hot streak into winning the NFC North last week. The Giants have looked impressive down the stretch and many believe that they could be gearing up for another championship run. I have to give Green Bay credit for catching up with Detroit and winning the division but on Sunday, they might match up poorly against the Giants. The Giants have done a tremendous job defensively recently and they might present some issues to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. New York may not have the same pass rushing abilities they had when Jason Pierre-Paul was healthy but they playing well against the run and the secondary is also playing out of its mind right now. If the Giants can’t get after Rodgers, he will have time in the pocket but many QB’s have found it tough recently against the Giants secondary. Green Bay is going to have to figure out a creative way to get receivers open down the field. Another thing I don’t like about this matchup for the Packers is that their defense really isn’t good. They have had their issues this season at stopping the run and they are recently faced with multiple injuries in the secondary. The Giants don’t have a strong rushing offense but they do have some talented backs that might be able to find some space against the Packers front seven. And with a hurting secondary, the Giants and their talented trio of receivers should be able to make big plays down the field. Rodgers is the hot QB right now and he has powered the entire Green Bay squad during their run into the playoffs. Green Bay has been an overachiever in recent weeks so; I think they’ll be able to put up a good fight especially at home. But with the way that the Giants defense has been playing recently and with the state of the Packers secondary, I can see the Giants winning this one by the skin of their teeth. Prediction: Giants 24 – Packers 21