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NFL 2016: Week 7 Predictions!

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Tom Brady and friends should crush a shorthanded Steelers team this Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 12-3

Season: 55-37

Big Five Games of the Week

Indianapolis @ Tennessee – The Colts are trending downward right now. I think offensively, they can still score enough to be in games but their defense will continue to let them down like they did last week when they melted down in Houston. Tennessee is a talented football team who is looking for the chance to climb out of the AFC South basement and I think they’ll have a chance to do just that this season. Step one would be beating a Colts team that has owned them for a while now. I think I read that Andre Luck is 7-0 all time against the Titans. I think Tennessee will flip the script at home this Sunday. We’ll see a strong game from QB Marcus Mariota and he’ll receive great support from DeMarco Murray and the run game. Look for the Titans to finish the game strong in the four quarter while the Colts will fail once again at holding the lead. Prediction: Titans 27 – Colts 20

Minnesota @ Philadelphia – Sam Bradford returns to Philadelphia after being traded to Minnesota right before the season. That trade may have worked out for both teams as Philly was able to hand the keys to the offense to their top draft pick and Minnesota was able to keep their expectations afloat by having a capable QB under center after losing Teddy Bridgewater for the season. The Vikings enter this game undefeated and coming off the bye week. Philadelphia started the season hot and they had the entire league talking. But since then, they have cooled off significantly and if you look at their upcoming schedule, more pain in on the horizon. Carson Wentz was the media darling a couple weeks ago but he is starting to hit that rookie wall as we saw against Detroit and last week vs. Washington. Wentz is going to continue to have a bad time out there as he will be facing a really good Vikings defense on Sunday. Philadelphia’s defense isn’t playing at the level that it was a few weeks ago either. Minnesota isn’t going to overwhelm anyone offensively but with the way their defense is playing, the offense will not have to do very much on the stat sheet but still put away teams late. Bradford will really enjoy this one, as his Vikings will stay undefeated in Philly. Prediction: Vikings 33 – Eagles 21

New England @ Pittsburgh – The Steelers were my pick last week in my Survival Football league. That didn’t go well as they had their annual “play down to a crappy opponent” game last week in Miami. To make matters even worst in Steel town, Pittsburgh lost their starting QB, Ben Roethlisberger to injury. I remember last season when Ben went down due to injury and the Steelers were still able to win ball games with Landry Jones. Fast-forward to today and it sounds like many are not giving Jones a chance this weekend. Maybe it is because they know what they are losing in Roethlisberger. Maybe its because Landry Jones isn’t that good. Or maybe, it is because of who is coming to Heinz Field this weekend. Landry Jones is going to have to be better than good to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots this weekend. Pittsburgh really suffered last weekend defensively as the Dolphins ran all over them. They will receive some help this week as LB Ryan Shaizer will return from injury. But they will still be without DE Cameron Heyward who is a major difference maker on the Steelers’ defensive line. Also missing last week in Miami was the Steelers pass rush, which is currently non-existent. All of those things will equal into some bad news for the Steeler faithful at home this Sunday. With no pass rush, Tom Brady will tear this secondary apart. Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett should be able to have field days on Sunday. New England’s running game is underrated and the current state of the Pittsburgh run defense will give LaGarrette Blount chances to shine this week. All hope isn’t lost for Pittsburgh on offense though. No Roethlisberger will likely mean heavy doses of Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams who are both really good. We will see how well New England defends the run on Sunday. If Pittsburgh is successful in the run game, that will open up some things for Jones and the passing offense. Antonio Brown was almost a no show last week in Miami and the Steelers will have to find a way to get him involved even without the starting QB passing him the ball. I honestly think that the Steelers aren’t in that bad of shape without Roethlisberger but they will not even be close to being able to compete with New England on Sunday. Strange things can happen in Heinz Field, I guess. But I expect the Patriots to roll easily. Prediction: Patriots 42 – Steelers 28

Seattle @ Arizona – Don’t let last week’s home victory over the Jets fool you. Arizona has been disappointing to say the least so far this season. There is a narrative that says that Arizona is really good at home and Seattle is really bad on the road. I think you can throw that narrative out the window this Sunday night. Seattle is currently playing at a high level and Arizona is not. The Cardinals have been really disappointing on the defensive side of the ball. They have talented players in the secondary but as a unit, they are not creating enough stops. Arizona’s fall back has been their high scoring offense but even they have been inconsistent at times this season. RB David Johnson is having a strong season but on Sunday, he’ll face a tough Seattle front four. Arizona’s shortcomings on defense will serve Seattle’s offense well. Russell Wilson will be able to control the game with his legs and his arm. I’m taking the road team. Prediction: Seahawks 27 – Arizona 19

Houston @ Denver – I guess you have to give Houston credit for coming back like they did last week. They were pretty much dead in the water but they ended up finishing strong. They could be a confidence builder going into a big Monday night match up against the defending champion Broncos. Denver lost at home to Atlanta and had a short turn around where they lost at San Diego on a short week. After losing that tough one to Atlanta and then having to turnaround and play on the road on a short week, that is a tough sequence. Did I mention that I think season long Thursday night games are a stupid idea? But anyways, Denver should be pretty ticked off and ready get back to winning at home on national television. Brock Osweiler will be making his return to Denver and the Broncos defense is already chomping at the bit to get after him. Osweiler might have already proved to be a QB who really wasn’t deserving of all that money Houston gave him. I like the Denver defense in this matchup very much. They will get after the QB and Houston will have issues scoring points. Denver’s offense has been struggling a bit recently and Houston’s defense is actually much tougher than anyone gives credit to. I just think Houston will be struggling so much on offense that the defense will get tired late in this game and will be unable to come up with key stops in the 4th quarter. I see Denver getting back on track this week at home. Prediction: Broncos 21 – Texans 12

The Rest of Week 7

Packers over Bears – I know that Green Bay is struggling and that they just lost Eddie Lacy for the season. But Chicago is really bad and they let Jacksonville beat them on a complete accident.

Rams over Giants – The International Series is another thing in the NFL that I would like to see go away. How about the Rams in an upset? Their defense will keep LA in this game.

Bengals over Browns – Cincinnati showed signs of life last week. Cleveland is dead but the Indians are going to the World Series! They really need to get rid of that Chief Wahoo mascot though.

Washington over Lions – Washington is on a winning streak and no one is noticing. Detroit is a team that I can’t trust right now because of all of their injuries.

Chiefs over Saints – Drew Brees is playing at a high level. Kansas City’s defense will face a tall task on Sunday but I like the Chiefs at home.

Bills over Dolphins – Buffalo may be without LeSean McCoy but their defense is playing at a high level right now. A win in Miami would mean five straight for Rex Ryan’s bunch.

Ravens over Jets – This game might set QB play back a few years. It will be a field goal kicking contests. I like Justin Tucker. Hook ‘em.

Raiders over Jaguars – I can’t believe that the Raiders are really leaving California.

Falcons over Chargers – Atlanta fought tough on the road last week in Seattle. They won’t have a let down at home this week.

Buccaneers over 49ers – I don’t know. A complete toss up here.

Week 7 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – Hard for me not to pick Tom. He is facing the third worst pass defense in the league on Sunday.

RB: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs) – This is a complete shot in the dark. Kansas City just traded one of their running backs. Maybe this will mean a bigger role for the now healthy Charles.

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) – Green usually goes big against the Browns.

TE: Delanie Walker (Titans) – Tennessee passing offense has a favorable matchup this week against the Colts secondary. Walker has been quiet lately. Maybe he will break out this week.

DEF: Oakland – Jacksonville has been so bad on offense this season. Blake Bortles might make the Raiders secondary look better than it really is.

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NFL 2016: Week 1 Predictions!

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

By: Elias McMillan

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

2009 Regular Season Record: 169-87

2010 Regular Season Record: 157-99

2011 Regular Season Record: 162-94

2012 Regular Season Record: 163-92-1

2013 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2014 Regular Season Record: 158-97-1

2015 Regular Season Record: 163-93

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

Big Five Games of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 1 Fantasy Football Picks

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

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

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

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

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

NFL 2016: NFC West Preview

Chip Kelly

Was Chip Kelly the right choice at head coach for the 49ers? I say, No.

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona has had plenty of regular season success in the last couple of years. In 2016, they will hope to turn that into a legit run to the Super Bowl. The Cardinals have proven that their offense could be championship worthy. They had the number one ranked offense in the league a season ago. But I think Arizona will be a contender again this season because of the improvements on defense. Arizona is already decent up front as they were one of the top ranked run defenses in the league. DE Calais Campbell is the stand out up front as tall and athletic pass rusher. I’m really excited to see what first round pick, DE Robert Nkemdiche, can do as a rookie. Nkemdiche, much like Campbell, offers crazy athleticism for a defensive lineman and he’ll be able to be a disruptor in this 3-4 defensive scheme. Arizona also upgraded their pass rush significantly by trading for New England defensive star, Chandler Jones. Jones may have some issues off the field but if he can stay on it, he’ll be an important piece on this defense this season. Star veteran Patrick Peterson will lead Arizona’s secondary again in 2016. But Cardinals fans are really excited for the possibility of having safety Tyrann Mathieu back and healthy for 16 games. Mathieu was having a great 2015 season before he was injured. Now that he’s healthy, he will definitely be an upgrade in the secondary in the postseason that they didn’t have during last year’s playoff run. Having a high scoring offense will continue to be apart of what makes this team successful. QB Carson Palmer is back for another year. Palmer is mistake prone at times but he clearly gives this offense the best chance at being at its best. Having a veteran signal caller like Palmer is important in this offense because the Cardinals are loaded with so much offensive talent. Having a veteran at QB assures that all that talent is being led with someone with experience. At the skill positions, the Cardinals have a mix of younger talent and veteran leadership. I think RB David Johnson could have a break out season after a successful rookie year. In relief of Johnson, Arizona brought back Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. That’s a talented trio of backs that can do it all from out the backfield. At receiver, Larry Fitzgerald is the model of what young receivers aspire to be. Fitzgerald may be older but as you saw in the playoffs last season, he can still break a game open in cutch situations. Malcolm Floyd and Jaron Brown are also explosive receivers in this offense. Arizona has a great balance on offense and they can beat you in so many different ways. I think we will see this season that the improvements on the defensive side of the ball will add up to more success in the post season. Prediction: 12-4 (NFC West Champs)

Seattle Seahawks – Since Seattle’s emergence as a power in the NFC, they have gone through offseason’s that saw them lose starters on both sides of the ball. Despite that, this team will be deep enough again with talent to compete for a division title. Seattle took a step back last season and they probably should have lost that wildcard round playoff game in Minnesota. Seattle also had some key players leave in free agency and thru retirement. RB Marshawn Lynch retired but Seattle seemed prepared for that move. RB Thomas Rawls showed promise last season and he’ll be set to be the starter in the backfield in 2016. Seattle also drafted a couple of RB’s so they will be prepared if Rawls get injured like he did a season ago. The running game will be important in Seattle’s offense this season but as always, QB Russell Wilson will be the player that will make this offense successful or not. Wilson had a great 2015 but the perception still exists that he isn’t a great passer. Wilson may never put up Aaron Rodgers numbers but he still has the ability to come up with big play after big play in key moments in a ball game. One thing that would help Wilson in 2016 would be a better offensive line. Seattle must have realized this because Wilson will have a number of new starters up front that came over in the draft or free agency. Better play upfront will allow Wilson to display his talents inside the pocket as a passer. Seattle’s receivers still don’t get enough credit but that’s ok as long as they keep making plays for Wilson. WR Doug Baldwin is coming off his most successful season yet and is probably one of the best possession receivers in the league. WR’s Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett fit the mold of what Seattle wants out of their receivers. They have an overachieving group at WR and that is just how they like it. TE Jimmy Graham could add a legit dynamic aspect to this passing game if he ever gets healthy. Seattle’s defense lost Bruce Irvin in free agency but they will still have the players upfront to be a dominant defense this season. DE’s Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Frank Clark are a great group at providing pressure in the backfield. Seattle not only has a great pass rush but they ranked number one in the league last season at stopping the run. Without Irvin, Seattle’s LB core doesn’t have a lot of depth with Bobby Wagner as the lone stand out. The Seahawks secondary will be great again in 2016. The Legion of Boom will return three of its main core in CB Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. With the talent Seattle has upfront on defense and in the secondary, I think they’ll be good enough on that side of the ball compensate for the short coming of an offense that might not be as good without Marshawn Lynch. I don’t think Seattle’s offense will be a weakness but I do think that the team’s success will be more about what they get done on the defensive side of the ball. Seattle will be that team that no one will want to play in the post season. Prediction: 10-6 (Wildcard)

Los Angeles Rams – The Rams are back in Los Angeles and honestly, it isn’t as exciting as it sounds. It is a little different seeing “Los Angeles” associated with the NFL again. But they can try to put this team on reality shows all they want. The bottom line is that this team is as average and boring of a team that you will ever see. I mean, they do have two legit stars on both sides of the ball but nothing else really outside of that. I don’t know if this was a marketing move of a football move but the Rams traded to the top spot of this past year’s draft to take QB Jared Goff. Goff was a accomplished QB at Cal but after the preseason, head coach Jeff Fisher proclaimed him to be the “third-stringer”. No matter the case, the Rams really need someone to work successfully at the QB position in 2016. Rather it is Goff or starter Case Keenum. Even if the Rams had legit quarterbacking, the receiving core is extremely average. WR Tavon Austin is game breaker but more so on special teams. Austin just hasn’t been consistent enough as a receiver in this league yet. WR Kenny Britt is an underrated possession receiver and nothing much else. Maybe rookie WR Pharoh Cooper can be a consistent performer. I don’t know. I do know that RB Todd Gurley is the only star on this side of the ball for this team. Gurley is a great, tough runner and he is primed for another big year after a successful rookie campaign that saw him win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The Rams will have the ability to be in a lot of games because of their tough defense. I don’t know if this defense is as good as its reputation but it is still pretty decent. Everyone is going to talk about DT Aaron Donald who is probably the best defensive lineman in the game not named J.J. Watt. Donald will continue to be a terror this season along with DE Robert Quinn. At linebacker, Alec Ogletree is an amazing athlete who plays as physical as anyone at his position. I think it is interesting to see that the Rams moved Mark Barron from safety to linebacker. That might help them to be above average at covering tight ends. Barron may have flamed out as a safety but his physicality will help him at this new position. The Rams lost CB Janoris Jenkins in free agency but I didn’t think he was that good in the first place. The Rams choose to keep CB Trumaine Johnson who is just as average of a player as Jenkins but at a cheaper price. Jenkins and Johnson gamble a lot in the secondary. So, they may rack up interceptions but they also get beat a lot. This Rams secondary will get beat a lot in 2016. They are really thin at the safety position and I don’t think much of corners Johnson or Coty Sensabaugh. “They” wanted a NFL team in Los Angeles and “they” got it. The average Rams are the team that LA deserves. The ownership is clearly too busy counting new revenue to care if this team actually competes or not. They might even give Jeff Fisher another contract extension. Outside of Gurley and Donald, the entire situation with this football organization is a huge joke. But hey, it will be Lakers season soon and the Dodgers might make the playoffs. Prediction: 7-9

San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers have gone through a lot of changes since their most recent Super Bowl appearance. That team’s roster has been pretty much gutted and replaced with not much. San Francisco was just dealt a bad card where many players just left via free agency or through retirement. The 49ers organization is starting the climb back but I’m starting to believe that it will take awhile before they get back there. I understand that Jim Tomsula (the mic rula) wasn’t going to work out as head coach for this team. I believed that this team needed a NFL vet that would command respect while attracting free agents to this history-laced organization. Instead, they hired Chip Kelly who will do neither. QB Colin Kaepernick has been dragged through the media recently and not because of his protest of the national anthem. People will say that Kaepernick is washed up and not the same player he was when he was winning playoff games in Lambeau Field while leading his 49ers to the Super Bowl. Amazing. It’s amazing that many in the media are ignoring that his roster has been completely gutted since then and very few QB’s would see success in that situation. I’m not saying that makes up for Kaepernick’s failures but it definitely means something. Kaepernick is also coming off shoulder surgery, has recently changed up his diet and is looking a bit skinny. Coach Kelly actually alluded to this recently. This is the only way I could excuse starting Blaine Gabbert over him. Once Kaepernick is 100%, he should start immediately. Even if he does or doesn’t, he is in a no win situation with Chip Kelly in San Francisco. Kelly is not going to attract free agents to San Fran and I don’t trust him with building a team with “his guys”. I don’t know what held up the proposed trade in the offseason involving Kaepernick but he needs to find a way out of there. Denver would have been the perfect landing spot. But I digress. The passing game this season will not mean much for the 49ers as their WR core is extremely thin on talent. WR Torrey Smith is the clear-cut best option from a group of no names. RB Carlos Hyde was supposed to be a break out player last season but he kind of disappointed. I think Hyde is talented enough to bounce back in 2016 and this team will really need him to do so. I feel a lot better about the 49er defense than I do the offense. It will be interesting to see this Oregon led defensive line with 2nd year guy, Arik Armstead and rookie DeForest Buckner. The real standouts on this defense will be at the linebacker position. LB Ahmad Brooks is a dynamic pass rusher and LB NaVorro Bowman is still a run stopping missile. This defense has a pretty good mix at safety with Eric Reid and veteran Antoine Bethea. The Niners are really thin at corner where safety turned corner Jimmie Ward might be a full season starter this year. It is going to be a long climb back for this franchise but I don’t think Chip Kelly or Colin Kaepernick will be there long enough to see it. Prediction: 4-12

Throwback Thursday: Revisiting my 2011 NFL MOCK Draft

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Five years ago, my MOCK draft had Cam Newton dabbing in the AFC South.

By: Elias McMillan

 

The 2011 NFL Draft might prove to be one of the best draft classes of all time based on overall talent. Almost half of the players taken in the first round have at least been to one Pro Bowl. The top two picks in that draft, QB Cam Newton and OLB Von Miller, will face off next weekend in Super Bowl 50. Coincidentally, I completed my very first NFL MOCK draft that year. Link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/10150228171096343/

Lets revisit my selections now just to see how much I could have screwed up the very landscape of certain NFL franchises, as we know them now.

1) Carolina Panthers

           My Pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

            Actual Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

Off the bat, I’m off to a great start. Going into this draft, there were a lot of questions about Cam’s off the field issues and his actual talent on the field. Was Cam just another great running college QB? Was he just a one-year wonder? Can he make all of the throws? I thought that the question marks around his ability to be an accurate passer in the league would stop him from becoming the top pick in this draft. Patrick Peterson was being hyped as a mixture of Darrelle Revis and Deion Sanders. And with the state of the QB position in the NFC South (Good thing Josh Freeman didn’t pan out), I thought Carolina needed to combat that with an elite defender. Both Peterson and Newton ended up great players in this league but obviously, the Panthers made the correct choice.

2) Denver Broncos

           My Pick: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

            Actual Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

3) Buffalo Bills

           My Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

            Actual Pick: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

So, I actually ended up flip-flopping these two next selections. The Broncos and the Bills both ended up with two of the top defenders in this draft. I wonder if Miller ended up a Bill, would they still be running a 3-4 defense in upstate New York. Marcell Dareus doesn’t get the attention that Von Miller gets but he is still a great player in this league in his own right.

4) Cincinnati Bengals

           My Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

            Actual Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

Ha! Here’s my first correct selection! It was a forgone conclusion that the Bengals were ready to move on from the Ochocinco/T.O. regime. Green has been killing it for the Bengals ever since. Great selection. An obvious home run.

5) Arizona Cardinals

           My Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

            Actual Pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Wow. What a massive bullet avoided by the Cardinals here. But what in the hell was I thinking having Gabbert picked over Cam Newton?!?! The knock on Gabbert going into this draft was how he was more “NFL ready” than Newton and a much more polish passer. This would have been an absolute disaster for Arizona who didn’t actually have the chance at Newton but instead got a really good player in Peterson who was my top pick in this draft.

6) Cleveland Browns (Traded to Atlanta Falcons)

           My Pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

            Actual Pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

So, I got the player correct at the six slot and Jones ended up being another great player in this league along with fellow WR A.J. Green. But I have to wonder what the hell Cleveland was thinking making this trade? I know that the draft picks they got in return ended up as nothing. I guess that’s why the Browns are the Browns. Julio Jones must wake up every morning thanking God that he isn’t a Cleveland Brown.

7) San Francisco 49ers

           My Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

            Actual Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri

I knew that the 49ers would go defense with this pick but I got the wrong player. Nick Fairley was being hailed as the next Warren Sapp after his great performance in that National Title game. But ultimately, he wouldn’t have been a fit for Jim Harbaugh’s defense. Instead, San Fran went with Smith who was a great pass rusher for a few seasons before becoming a guy to just finds trouble off the field.

8) Tennessee Titans

           My Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

            Actual Pick: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Well, I knew that the Titans would have a QB penciled in at this pick. Could you imagine if Newton was still available at this selection? Talk about a potential franchise changer! No one really knew how good Newton would end up being but having him drop all the way down to 8 is just embarrassing on my part. Honestly, the evaluation of Locker wasn’t that far away from Newton’s. Locker was a great athlete in college who happened to play QB. Locker wasn’t nearly the player Newton was at Auburn and concussions pretty much shorten his playing career. But again, imagine how different the NFL would be today with Newton as a Titan? Tennessee would be contenders right now instead of dwelling in the AFC South basement.

9) Dallas Cowboys

            My Pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

            Actual Pick: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Taking an offensive lineman seemed so boring to me at the time, I guess. The Cowboys needed to upgrade their pass rush opposite of DeMarcus Ware at the time. But they ended up making the wiser decision that ultimately ended up extending Tony Romo’s career. Smith is probably one of the best if not the best left tackle in football today while Quinn is an elite passer in this league as well.

10) Washington Redskins (Traded to Jacksonville Jaguars)

           My Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

            Actual Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Gabbert is still in the league as a back up but its known that this plan didn’t work out for the Jags. Or for Washington. I cant tell you what they ended up doing with those extra picks from this trade. But both teams missed out on getting a pretty good defensive lineman.

11) Houston Texans

           My Pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

            Actual Pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Considering that Watt is now the face of the franchise in Houston and the best defensive player in all of football, Houston made out pretty well with this selection. I mean, the Texans did need secondary help and Amukamara is one of the better defensive backs in football today. But the Texans obviously made the right choice here.

12) Minnesota Vikings

            My Pick: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

            Actual Pick: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

Again, I was right on the position but wrong on the player. This was a shocking pick went it happened and it still kind of is. I don’t think anyone had Ponder as a first rounder before the draft. Ponder was a decent athlete in college but not on a level as a Newton or even a Locker. I was high on Ryan Mallett for this draft. He had the big arm that looked great on film. I didn’t think the character issues were a big deal but it turned out that those issues did seriously affect his rep around the league. Minnesota would have to wait longer to find its potential franchise QB.

13) Detroit Lions

            My Pick: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

            Actual Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

This was another shocking pick when it happened. Fairley along with Suh was destined to rule the line of scrimmage against the NFC North for years. Fairley and Suh did make up for a great defensive front for the Lions for a few seasons but both have left the team since then. If Tyron Smith was available at this pick, QB Matt Stafford might be even better than he already is right now.

14) St. Louis Rams

            My Pick: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

            Actual Pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

Here is an instance where I thought the Rams would pick based on need and not based on the best player available. The Rams didn’t value outside linebackers in a 4-3 defense at the time. Instead they wanted to get as many pass rushers as possible and that strategy worked out for them with the Quinn selection. Ayers has bounced around a few teams since this draft and has never been voted to the Pro Bowl. But in a strange twist, Quinn and Ayers are now teammates in St. Louis. Oops. I mean, Los Angeles. I’m going to have to get used to that eventually.

15) Miami Dolphins

           My Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

            Actual Pick: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

Its hard to decide which selection would have been better for the Dolphins at 15. I wasn’t high on Mike Pouncey at all going into this draft. He had an awful final season at Florida without his brother and accounted for multiple muffed snaps. Ingram may not have been worth a top 15 pick but he is currently a decent runner in this league. Mike is one of the leaders on the offensive line for Miami. This was truly a toss up.

16) Jacksonville Jaguars (Traded to Washington)

            My Pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California

            Actual Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

After trading down with Jacksonville, Washington ended up with a decent defensive end in Kerrigan but they could have drafted a better player in Cameron Jordan. The Jordan pick for Jacksonville made sense to me at the time because the Jags already had his Cal teammate, Tyson Alualu. Clearly, I should have been Washington’s GM.

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Imagine a world where J.J. Watt and Rob Gronkowski are teammates.

17) New England Patriots

            My Pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

            Actual Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Could you imagine Watt lasting all the down to the evil Patriots?!?! I wonder how that could have affected Watt’s likability and marketability around the league. He would have made the defense in New England instantly better and he would be hoisting a couple Super Bowl trophies instead of wasting his talents away in Houston. Of course Watt wasn’t there for the Pats at pick 17. Instead, they got some offensive line help with Nate Solder who is still a starter on that offensive line.

18) San Diego Chargers

            My Pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

            Actual Pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

Blah. Nothing to report here. Liuget is still in San Diego. They extended his contract so he must be okay. I thought they would go with some offensive line help for Phillip Rivers.

19) New York Giants

           My Pick: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia

            Actual Pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

I don’t think I realized that Houston was a pass rushing linebacker who didn’t fit New York’s 4-3 defense. But he still would have significantly helped this Giants team that seemed to not have enough of pass rushers at one time. Taking Prince Amukamara worked out for them as well though.

20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

           My Pick: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

            Actual Pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Da’Quan Bowers was hyped in this draft as a possible top five selection. But then, questions about his health dropped his stock and he ended up becoming a Buccaneer but not until the second round. Tampa did go defensive end at pick 20. Adrian Clayborn was an unstoppable force at Iowa but injuries have prevented that to be a reality at the pro level.

21) Kansas City Chiefs (Traded to Cleveland Browns)

           My Pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

            Actual Pick: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

Cleveland screws up again. At least Carimi is still in the league. Taylor had a decent rookie season but then, it all went downhill from there.

22) Indianapolis Colts

           My Pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

            Actual Pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

These two names link up again. Check out my selection for the Chargers at 18. Both are still starting for their respective teams.

23) Philadelphia Eagles

           My Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

            Actual Pick: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor

Jimmy Smith is currently a decent corner in the NFL when healthy. Danny Watkins is currently a firefighter in Texas. That’s actually a cooler story than Smith’s. But my point, this didn’t pan out for Philly.

24) New Orleans Saints

           My Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri

            Actual Pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California

The Saints hit a home run with this pick, as Jordan is a top pass rusher in the NFL. Smith went earlier to the 49ers but either way, the Saints were gonna grab a great pass rusher. It really worked out for the Saints when you think about all the trouble Smith could of gotten in New Orleans.

25) Seattle Seahawks

           My Pick: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

            Actual Pick: James Carpenter, OT, Alabama

Locker would have been a great story if taken by his hometown Seahawks but Seattle would have to wait a couple more years to find that athletic QB phenom. The pick of James Carpenter actually worked out for Seattle as he started on that offensive line during Seattle’s Super Bowl runs in the last two seasons.

26) Baltimore Ravens

           My Pick: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL)

            Actual Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

I had the Ravens penciled in for some secondary help at pick 26. Brandon Harris was probably a bit over hyped going into this draft and I thought that his ties to “Da U” would be his road to the Baltimore Ravens. Instead, Baltimore got a better corner in Smith.

27) Atlanta Falcons (Traded to Cleveland, then Traded to Kansas City)

           My Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

            Actual Pick: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh

This is a lot to digest because all of the trades. First, Atlanta got their guy in the top ten in Julio Jones but Kerrigan would have helped their struggling pass rush. Baldwin did not pan out at all for the Chiefs in Kansas City. And the Browns are still the Browns. Any questions?

28) New England Patriots (Traded to New Orleans Saints)

           My Pick: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

            Actual Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

The Saints finished out a great 2011 draft by trading back in the first round to land the best RB available. I already stated that the Pats needed offensive line help, which they actually got with their first selection.

29) Chicago Bears

            My Pick: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

            Actual Pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

The Bears did end up getting offensive line help but at a different position. I wasn’t big on Pouncey’s pro prospects, which was why I barely had him going in the first round. Pouncey did end up panning out in Miami while Carimi is still a starter for Jay Cutler’s offensive line in Chicago.

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The Jets were going to get help for their defensive line at pick 30. It could have been Hayward who instead went to Pittsburgh at pick 31.

30) New York Jets

            My Pick: Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State

            Actual Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

I knew that the Jets were looking for more help along that defensive line. Wilkerson and Heyward ended up pretty decent players in this league. Wilkerson just established his all-pro status before Heyward did but still, they are both really good at what they do.

31) Pittsburgh Steelers

            My Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

            Actual Pick: Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State

No loser here at this selection. The Steelers opted to find offensive line help later and instead took Heyward who really became a dominant player this past season.

32) Green Bay Packers

           My Pick: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor

            Actual Pick: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

This pick was just a disaster for the Packers and myself. I told you earlier about Watkins’ new profession. But the actual selection, Sherrod, was doomed during his rookie season when he suffered a broken leg. He never could become the player that he was coming out from college after that injury. What a sad story to end the first round.

 

So, what is the moral of all of this? I think it is how myself and other draft forecasters really know nothing about anything when it comes to the draft. But its still fun to guess and speculate which is why I still do. Two biggest things to take away from here: Cam Newton as a Tennessee Titan and J.J. Watt as a New England Patriot. Man, that would have made things so different in the NFL currently.

 

NFL 2016: Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 3-1

Playoffs: 6-2

AFC Championship Game

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

NFC Championship Game

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

NFL 2016: Divisional Playoff Round Predictions!

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 3-1

Playoffs: 3-1

Divisional Round

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

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

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

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

NFL 2015: Week 11 Predictions!!!

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Oakland Raiders

Adrian Peterson and the Vikings are ready to stake their claim for the NFC North.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 7-7

Season: 93-53

Big Five Games of the Week

Indianapolis @ Atlanta – Coming off the bye week, Atlanta needs a win in the worst way. The Falcons started out this season as one of the most surprising teams in the league but in the weeks leading up to their bye, they have significantly cooled off. Atlanta still has one of the league’s most explosive offenses but I do question their ability to keep the other team off the scoreboard. Indy has also had a shaky season to say the least. Despite falling short of their high expectations and losing their starting QB to injury, Indy still has playoff hopes thanks to playing in the awful AFC South. Even before the injury, QB Andrew Luck wasn’t having a good season. QB Matt Hasselbeck will get the start for the next couple of weeks and he is probably one of the best if not the best QB you would want in this situation. I can really see Hasselbeck rallying the troops while Luck is out and get this Colts offense back to playing good football. I also think Indy’s defense is stingy enough to keep Atlanta from lighting up the scoreboard at home. I’m taking the road team in an upset. Prediction: Colts 34 – Falcons 28

Denver @ Chicago – Denver has been able to ride their top ranked defense for the majority of this season. The last two weeks have been tough as they lost their first game of the season and then last week when the offense completely imploded. Now, Peyton Manning is injured but having him on the bench might be a good thing. QB Brock Osweiler has been waiting for a while for this opportunity and he’ll finally get it this Sunday in Chicago. The Bears are quietly playing some good football right now. They still have serious defensive problems but the offense has been impressive lately. QB Jay Cutler is playing well right now and he is getting the most out of his TE’s Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller. Denver’s defense might still be good enough to limit the Bears on offense. But the big question this week will be how the Denver offense operate with a new untested QB? Bears head coach John Fox was in Denver for some years and he probably knows Osweiler better than any coach right now. Maybe that inside information will help the Bears defense to rattle and confuse Denver’s new starter. Going out on another limb here but I think Denver will lose their third straight game this Sunday in Chicago. Prediction: Bears 29 – Broncos 21

Green Bay @ Minnesota – What happened to the Packers? Well, when the offense isnt as sharp as it should be, the chain reaction from that affects the entire football team. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t look like Aaron Rodgers. Defenses are figuring out how to get after him and he is seriously lacking a go to receiver when under pressure. RB Eddie Lacy has been benched, as the Packers running game has been inconsistent this year. Green Bay also ranked near the bottom of the league defensively. With all of those problems, the Packers have a big game on Sunday against rival Minnesota. Minnesota only has two losses but is really not on the national radar. They can change that at home this Sunday. Head coach Mike Zimmer was an assistant in the league for a long time but now he can really put a stamp in this division on Sunday with a victory. Minnesota is on a roll right now and they being lead by the league’s top rushing attack and a defense that ranked in the top ten in the league. Adrian Peterson is in a grove right now and is showing no signs of slowing down. QB Teddy Bridgewater is an exciting playmaker that can make the big play happen when called upon. I don’t think Green Bay has the defense to stop Peterson on Sunday and their offense wont be able to match his production on the field right now. It’s been awhile since Green Bay has been realistic underdogs going into a game. Life comes at you fast. Prediction: Vikings 32 – Packers 24

Cincinnati @ Arizona – The Bengals displayed an ugly brand of football last Monday night. The offense couldn’t do anything and eventually the defense couldn’t continue to bail them out. Now, after their first loss of the season, the Bengals will be in serious trouble this Sunday night when they travel to the desert to take on the Cardinals. Arizona had a defining victory last week at Seattle. I know that Seattle isn’t the team from last season but they are still tough at home. Arizona dominated that game last week, let Seattle back in the game, and then dominated them again to close them out on Seattle’s our turf. That was impressive. Arizona’s confidence must be sky high right now and University of Phoenix stadium will be on fire for this home prime time game. Arizona has been inconsistent this season but I think they are ready to put that to past and make a huge push towards locking up the NFC West. QB Andy Dalton played his worst football last week and he’ll find it harder this week going up against the Cardinals defense. Arizona has one of the better run defenses in the league and Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard are already having a tough time recently at finding yardage. Dalton will not be able to carry this offense this week. When the Bengals are having a tough day on the offensive side of the ball, the defense isn’t able to get the stops they would usually get. Arizona will test that secondary as they have a top five passing attack. The Bengals are potentially walking into a buzz saw on Sunday night. Prediction: Cardinals 33 – Bengals 20

Buffalo @ New England – New England barely escaped the Giants last week but they are still undefeated. I have to wonder when they will slow down offensively because the injuries are starting to pile up. RB Dion Lewis is already out for the season and now Brady’s go-to receiver, Julian Edelman, will miss weeks due to a broken foot. Tom Brady prides himself at executing the offense no matter which receivers are in the lineup but that task might be tough this week as he will face a tough Buffalo defense on Monday night. In their week two meeting, Buffalo came in as loud as a lion but left the game as quiet as a mouse. New England completely punked Buffalo in that early season match up and now Rex Ryan will try to do the same this time around. The matchup of the game will be between Buffalo’s top ranked rushing attack against New England top ranked run defense. If Buffalo cant get the running game going, can they trust Tyrod Taylor to get them in the end zone? Buffalo should have an advantage in the passing game but New England’s secondary is under rated. The Bills will need to get Sammy Watkins involved often in this matchup. Without Edelman, the Bills will need to key on TE Rob Gronkowski as Brady will definitely look towards him more times than usual. I think Buffalo will play New England a lot more tougher than they did Week 2 but Brady usually is hard to beat at home. Prediction: Patriots 24 – Bills 17

The Rest of Week 11

Titans over Jaguars – I’m sorry but I wont be able to take Jacksonville seriously tonight with those all-gold uniforms. All they need is black spots to complete the “Jaguar” look.

Lions over Raiders – Detroit got a huge confidence boost with the victory last week at Green Bay. I don’t think Oakland has been as good on the road this season.

Dolphins over Cowboys – Finally, Tony Romo is back! Which means he will be able to get the defense to play better. And he will be able to get the coaching staff to call better plays. And all will be right in the world in Dallas! Yeah, I’m not buying it either. Miami will play them tough.

Eagles over Buccaneers – Tampa stinks and they tried their best to lose last week. Philadelphia might appear to be trying hard to lose this week now that Mark Sanchez is commanding the offense. Seriously, this game will be awful to watch. Much like Dallas/Tampa from last week.

Panthers over Washington – Washington’s passing attack is a serious threat. Carolina has the defense to match them. Plus, Washington’s defense wont be able to slow down Cam. More dabbin in the end zone, please.

Ravens over Rams – Baltimore stinks but St. Louis wont be able to score any points. Justin Tucker will single handedly win this for Baltimore. But, can he still win it “single handedly” while being a kicker? Hmmm.

Jets over Texans – I love T.J. Yates but Houston will find it hard to score points. The matchup between DeAndre Hopkins and Darrelle Revis should be a good one.

Chiefs over Chargers – Kansas City can still play great defense. Phillip Rivers needs a second bye week.

Seahawks over 49ers – No way Seattle loses two straight at home.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Matt Stafford (Lions) – Stafford will be facing one of the worst pass defenses in the league at home on Sunday.

RB: Adrian Peterson (Vikings) – Green Bay’s run defense ranks in the bottom ten in the league. They wont have an answer for Peterson.

WR: Julio Jones (Falcons) – Coming off the bye week, Jones still leads the league in catches.

TE: Jimmy Graham (Seahawks) – Jimmy Graham has had some of his best games against the 49ers. Seattle needs to feature him on Sunday.

DEF: Arizona – With the way Andy Dalton has been playing recently, Arizona’s defense might be a safe bet on Sunday night. Arizona leads the league in returning interceptions for touchdowns.