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NFL 2016: Week 14 Predictions!

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Eric Berry will lead the Chiefs defense in a huge game this week in the AFC West.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 11-4

Season: 120-70-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Oakland @ Kansas City – Thursday Night Football this week features two of the hottest teams in the AFC. The Raiders are one of the top teams in the conference this season and they seem to always be apart of exciting finishes. This is because they are a tough team to put away and are able to mount comebacks late. A big reason for that is that their defense steps up and creates turnovers late in games. Thinking of turnovers, the Chiefs defense used a couple of turnovers caused by Eric Berry to score another huge road victory last week in Atlanta. Kansas City’s defense is as exciting as Oakland and they will make it hard for both offenses in this game on Thursday night. Even though Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are playing at a high level right now, I’m going to give the edge to the Chiefs defense because they have better players in the secondary. After last week, we all saw what Eric Berry is capable of and Kansas City also receives solid play from their corners. On offense, QB Alex Smith will receive a boost in the return of WR Jeremy Maclin who has been out recently due to injury. Oakland’s weakness on defense is in the secondary and I think Smith will work to exploit that on Thursday night. Oakland QB David Carr has been playing great recently but he will find it hard on road this week against a tough defense. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Raiders 20

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo – The Steelers defense really stepped up at home last week and held the potentially explosive Giants offense to just 14 points. That included two huge turnovers in the red zone. The young Pittsburgh defense might be feeling confident about themselves but they will face a tougher challenge this week on the road against the Buffalo Bills. Now, I know that the Bills offense isn’t nearly as explosive as the Giants offense (at least on paper) but Buffalo’s strength will serve them well against the Steelers defense. Pittsburgh’s defense has allowed plenty of big time performances by opposing running backs this year. Buffalo plays a ball control style offense with their running game but the backs they have are supremely talented. I think LeSean McCoy can have a big day on the ground against the Steelers. Also, I’m not ready to count on the Steelers pass defense. The heat is on QB Tyrod Taylor this week to produce results. Taylor appeared to be frustrated with the way last week went in Oakland and how the media pressed him on it afterwards. I think Taylor will be looking to prove himself this week and he will receive great support by his receivers and the home crowd. I like WR Sammy Watkins’ chances against the Steeler corners as well. Buffalo’s defense has gotten tougher as the season has gone on. I think the Steeler offense will provide a great test for Buffalo and they might be able to win the game single handedly if given the opportunity. But I think Buffalo’s offense will do its part with helping the defense by controlling the clock and keeping Ben Roethlisberger and company on the bench. The Steelers maybe feeling “high” right now but they are a team that is usually ripe for a letdown on the road. I’m taking the Bills to keep their playoff hopes alive this week with a big home victory. Prediction: Bills 32 – Steelers 28

Houston @ Indianapolis – The last time I really watched Houston was against Oakland in that Monday night game in Mexico. From there, I believed that Houston was getting a bad wrap from the media and that they are actually better than what most people think. But they had a letdown on the road last week in Green Bay and they are looking more and more like a team that will meltdown in December instead of making a run to the postseason. I thought the Texans would be able to lean on their defense, which was playing well this season. But the injuries to LB Jadeveon Clowney and CB Jonathan Joseph have proved to be costly. I don’t think the Colts are a great or good team. But their offense has improved recently. RB Frank Gore is having a great bounce back season. QB Andrew Luck is finding his groove. The defense is even playing better with the return last week of pass rusher Trent Cole. The Colts are starting the trend in the positive direction and they might be able to score a huge divisional victory this week at home. Prediction: Colts 26 – Texans 23

Dallas @ New York Giants – The Cowboys are 11-1 with a current 11 game win streak. That one loss this season came in Week 1 at home to the New York Football Giants. A lot has changed since then for both teams. This is a huge NFC East contest that might determine the division champion. The Giants were on their own win streak until they ran into Pittsburgh last week. QB Eli Manning made some horrible decisions in the red zone last week and that is not going to cut it for a team that is fighting to stay alive for the postseason. Good news for Manning is that he will be facing a Dallas defense this week at home that doesn’t pressure the QB and seems to be allergic to creating turnovers. The Giants offense will have to have a bounce back performance at home this week in order to stop the Cowboys win streak. The Manning to Beckham Jr connection will have to be on point on Sunday night. I’m not giving that Giants defense much of a chance at stopping the Cowboys offense on Sunday. Like I said earlier, this Dallas team is much different than the one from Week 1. Dak Prescott’s confidence as a passer is improving from week to week. More importantly, this offense can still lean on Ezekiel Elliott and the run game. DE Jason Pierre-Paul is out of the rest of the season as he was injured last week in Pittsburgh. That will deal a huge blow to New York’s chances on Sunday and going forward for this defense this season. I think Dallas will be able to take care of business on the road this week and more on to becoming the NFC East champs. I also think that this will be the beginning of an ugly December for the Giants. Prediction: Cowboys 35 – Giants 30

Baltimore @ New England – The Ravens offense finally exploded last week and that unit has been feeling great going into this huge road game against the Patriots. Historically, Joe Flacco has performed well against the Patriots defense. I mean, that’s not saying much as New England doesn’t really have much of a defense. But still, Baltimore has to keep whatever it is going on offense this week. New England’s defense is an overachieving bunch, again, but if the Ravens can press them and keep the pressure on, they may be able to score in bunches. Baltimore’s defense is talented but they are also beatable. This still isn’t the Baltimore defense of old. I expect Tom Brady to still be Tom Brady on Monday night. I think both offenses could do well in this game. The question will be which defense will show up for both teams. Baltimore has the top ranked run defense in the NFL but New England does a great job on the ground with LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. Something will have to give on Sunday. I don’t know if this Baltimore team is capable of winning a big game like this one on the road. Brady and Belichick at home seem like a safe bet. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Ravens 21

The Rest of Week 14

Browns over Bengals – Cleveland has got to win at least once this season. Terrelle Pryor will have a 12+ catch performance. Robert Griffin III returns in a big way as well. That or the Browns will continue to be the Browns.

Lions over Bears – Chicago will offer no competition for Detroit on Sunday. They are too injured.

Broncos over Titans – Tennessee is still in the playoff race but so is Denver. The Broncos will need this one more.

Cardinals over Dolphins – Miami imploded last week and Arizona showed that they could still play good ball. I think the Cardinals will finish the season strong.

Washington over Eagles – Washington took their lumps last week on the road but they are still in a position to make a run towards the playoffs.

Chargers over Panthers – San Diego is more of a complete team than Carolina is right now.

Vikings over Jaguars – This might not be a slam-dunk for Minnesota. Minnesota was dealt another key injury last week. It has been that kind of year for them this season.

Jets over 49ers – I feel sorry for anyone who has to watch this on Sunday.

Seahawks over Packers – I know Seattle has had its troubles on the road and they are dealing with the lost of Earl Thomas but they can’t drop this one to a bad Packers team. Everyone is selling that Green Bay is still fighting for life in the playoff race but I just don’t see it.

Falcons over Rams – LA will not be able to out score the Atlanta offense. This will be too big of a chore for the Rams defense.

Buccaneers over Saints – Tampa Bay is right in the thick of things in the NFC South. Crazy.

Week 14 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – At the bottom of the ranked pass defenses in the league this season, you will find three NFC South teams. One of them is the Carolina Panthers, the team that Rivers will face on Sunday.

RB: David Johnson (Cardinals) – Johnson has been playing as well as any RB in the league lately. On Sunday, he’ll face a poor Miami run defense.

WR: Mike Evans (Buccaneers) – The Saints secondary will not have an answer for Tampa Bay’s main passing target this weekend.

TE: Dwayne Allen (Colts) – I don’t think Allen will score three times like he did last week but Andrew Luck will give him more targets after his big performance last week.

DEF: Minnesota/Jacksonville – For the first time ever, I’m taking two opposing defenses. The Vikings/Jaguars game has the potential to be such an ugly game. Big day for the field goal kickers.

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NFL 2016: Week 13 Predictions!

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

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 12-4

Season: 109-66-2

Big Five Games of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Week 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 13 Fantasy Football Picks

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

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

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

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

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

NFL 2016: AFC East Preview

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Despite age and suspension, the Patriots train is on track once again in 2016.

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC East

New England Patriots – Obviously, the headlining story with the Patriots this upcoming season will be the Tom Brady suspension. Brady will miss the first four games in the regular season this year and Jimmy Garoppolo will beging the season as the starting QB. Garoppolo has been in Brady’s shadow for years now and even though he doesn’t have a lot of regular season experience, I think he’ll be able to handle the situation well until Brady returns. It’s hard to tell if Garoppolo will light up the stat sheet in Brady’s absence but I think I can say that the offensive personnel that New England has will be a big help for him in those first four games. New England isn’t known for having a great running game but they struggled with running the ball when RB’s LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis both went down due to injuries. Having those two guys back and healthy will definitely help the running game especially if they can both last 16 games. When you’re a young QB that lacks experience, the TE usually becomes a safe bet when it comes to targets. If this is true about Garoppolo, he’s going to be in pretty good shape as he has the best TE in the league to throw to, Rob Gronkowski. Along with Gronkowski, the Patriots also brought in another huge TE to the passing game, Martellus Bennett. Between Gronk and Marty B, the Patriots will have probably the top TE duo in the league. Gronk is a threat as a big target in the open field no matter what the situation. Bennett isn’t the same but he’ll be a huge target as the Patriots march towards the end zone. Also with the wealth of talent at the TE position, the Patriots have an underrated veteran led receiving core. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are somewhat injury prone but when healthy they are as tough as they come. The way to stop the Patriots offense has always been through the offensive line and that won’t be any different in 2016. The Patriots will be looking to get better play from that unit this season but it’s unclear if that will come in fruition. New England made a trade for OG Jonathan Cooper but he is already facing injury problems much like he did in Arizona. Thinking of Arizona, it’s time to talk about that defense because the Patriots got Cooper by trading away their best defensive player. Even though the Patriots have been successful in recent years without having a top defense, they will greatly miss Chandler Jones on that defensive line. The Patriots do have a nice mix of young guys and veterans on the defensive line but no players on the level on a Jones. At defensive end, Rob Ninkovich returns and Jabaal Sheard will probably be the guy who will get the first crack at replacing Jones. The Pats also brought in veteran Chris Long from the Rams but his best days as a pro are probably behind him. New England had a top ten run defense in 2015 and they’ll look to continue that success in 2016. Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch will probably be the starters inside on the defensive line. I like the addition of DT Terrance Knighton who didn’t have a great season last year in Washington but he’ll be a key mentor and leader this season. At linebacker, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are a decent duo. They brought in Shea McClellin from Chicago who didn’t fit over there in a 3-4 defense. If he can improve, he’ll add some flexibility as a guy who can play outside linebacker and can rush the passer on passing downs. New England’s secondary was a middle of the road unit last season and I don’t see how they improved in the offseason. CB Malcolm Butler is probably their best corner but I’m not sure if that’s really a good thing. Safety Devin McCourty is a leader in the secondary and probably the only consistent playmaker. Patrick Chung has had some rough recent season in New England but they have failed to replace him. I’m not sure how much of an impact a rookie can have but I really like 2nd round pick, Cyrus Jones out of Alabama. So basically, I think this Patriots team will be much like how they’ve been recently. The defense may overachieve but it will be Brady and the offense as the tone setters on this team. Despite being dominated in that AFC Championship game a season ago, it was amazing to see Brady and the offense rally and still almost pull off the comeback. That will serve as motivation going into this season. Again, they will not face much of a challenge in the AFC East but because of their losses on defense, I’m not sure if they’ll be able to match what they did a season ago in the playoffs. I think Brady will return ready and refreshed. But Father Time is still undefeated and you have to wonder if this will be the season where he starts to decline. I don’t think we’ll see that happen in 2016 but I don’t know how good New England will be in the post season this year because of the losses on defense. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC East Champs)

New York Jets – The Jets had surprise success in 2015 and even more surprising, they have IK Enemkpali to thank for that. But seriously, I don’t see the Jets having the success they had offensively with Geno Smith as the starting QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick may be a career journeyman but he was exactly what the Jets needed at QB last season. After a lengthy contract holdout, Fitzpatrick is back for 2016 looking forward to leading the Jets aerial attack once again. I don’t know if Fitzpatrick will be able to create the same success he had a season ago but the Jets will have the tools on offense once again to succeed. The offensive line may have gotten better as they traded for a new left tackle, Ryan Clady, who started for a Super Bowl champion a season ago. Fitzpatrick built a great relationship with the two, big outside receiving threats on this team, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Marshall is coming off one of his best seasons and Decker proved to be a valuable piece of the passing attack. The Jets need to develop more depth at that position though. I also think the Jets got better at RB. Chris Ivory left for Jacksonville but they signed Matt Forte. Forte isn’t a tough, between the tackles, runner that Ivory is but he is a lot more versatile as a receiver out of the backfield and he offers more speed once he gets to the second level. The Jets also have decent depth at the RB position with Bilal Powell and Bernard Pierce. There is a lot to be optimistic about for the Jets on offense this season. Going into the offseason, there were a lot of questions surrounding the strength of the Jets defense, the defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson was in a contract dispute and Sheldon Richardson was rumored to be facing a lengthy suspension. Wilkerson got his long-term contract, Richardson will only miss one game, and they also have a young beast in 2nd year tackle Leonard Williams. The Jets will continue to be strong up front defensively in 2016. At outside linebacker, the Jets will be looking for some more growth from Lorenzo Mauldin who had a decent rookie season. The middle of the defense will continue to be anchored down but veteran LB David Harris. Also keep an eye out for rookie, first round pick, LB Darron Lee, who was among one of the quickest at the position in this past draft. CB Darrelle Revis returns once again as the leader of the secondary. Revis is still a top defensive player in this league but their really isnt much around him in this Jets secondary. Safeties Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist are average at best and the Jets really don’t have a solid starter opposite of Revis at CB. Outside of Revis, I don’t think the Jets secondary is that great but the strength of the defense comes from up front and that usually always helps out that unit. The Jets return a defense that was 2nd in the league at stopping the run last season. Head coach Todd Bowles surprised everyone with that success his Jets had a season ago and they will hope to build on that in 2016. The Jets actually look strong on paper but I think last year was a case where a lot of things went right. And even with that, the Jets still missed the playoffs. I think the Jets will be a tough football team again this year but I don’t see them overtaking New England in 2016. They will definitely compete for a playoff spot. Prediction: 8-8

Buffalo Bills – Rex Ryan arrived in Buffalo last year with so much noise and hype but it didn’t really materialize into anything last year. The Bills played some stretches of good football but by the end of the season, they fell apart. The Bills still have some good players going into 2016 but now they are completely rebuilding the defense and I don’t know if they’ll be able to resemble the team that Ryan wants so quickly. I’m confident that Rex Ryan can be successful in Buffalo but I’m worried about the Bills giving him enough time to build up his defensive scheme. On offense, Buffalo is pretty much set and they’ll be looking to continue the success they had a season ago especially on the ground. The Bills found their QB last season in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is a great athlete and an average QB but he fits what the Bills want to do on offense. Buffalo had the best running attack in the league a season ago and Taylor is apart of that. Even a bigger part of the running game is all-pro LeSean McCoy. McCoy had a disappointing season by his standards and he’ll be looking forward to starting 2016 completely healthy and with a chip on his shoulder. Last year, RB Karlos Williams was a break out player and was a great compliment to McCoy. Williams is currently facing suspension and is dealing with some injury issues. So, Buffalo also brought in veteran Reggie Bush who might have a role early on this season while Williams is out. I’m not sure what Bush has left in the tank but at the least, Buffalo run blocks very well and Bush might have some left to offer in special teams. Buffalo’s passing attack could be better but lets face it: passing isn’t Tyrod Taylor’s strong suit. And its really a shame because WR Sammy Watkins is able to put up much better numbers than what he has shown but they need to find a way to get him more touches. QB’s like Taylor usually have a decent option at TE and that what he has in Charles Clay. In 2016, the running game will set the tempo for the Bills offense again. When pressed, Taylor can be a playmaker with this arm and his legs. But I don’t know if he can be good enough where the offense doesn’t have to lean on the running game so much. I don’t know what to expect from the Bills defense this season because Rex Ryan is in the process of completely rebuilding that unit in his 3-4 scheme. On the defensive line, DT Marcell Dareus will continue to be a disruptor but he will need more help around him. For a team making a transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, the Bills actually have a decent group of LB’s. But they may be already hurt in that department due to injuries. First round pick, Shaq Lawson, will miss the beginning of the season and second round pick, Reggie Ragland, is going to miss his entire rookie season. Inside at linebacker, I think Preston Brown and Zach Brown (no relation) will do just fine. But the Rex Ryan defense needs pass rushers to excel. OLB Jerry Hughes can get the QB but Buffalo needs more than just him. In the secondary, Buffalo has a good pair of starting CB’s in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby. Also, Ed Reed will coach the secondary, which is exciting. I like Buffalo’s core as a ground and pound team on offense and a tough run stuffing team on defense. But there aren’t enough pieces on both sides of the ball where I can see this team taking the next step. I sure hope that the Buffalo front office realizes that Ryan needs at least one more offseason to get the defense closer to what he had in New York. The blueprint for success is there in Buffalo. They are just going to have to give Rex a little more time. Prediction: 7-9

Miami Dolphins – A season ago, Miami made so much noise in the offseason with the moves they made in free agency. At the end, it proved to be a disaster and their head coach was fired. Going into 2016, I was hoping that Miami would hire a stronger personality to really grab ahold of this locker room instead of hiring “insert successful coordinator’s name here”. Instead we got the latter and I don’t sense much excitement surrounding this team going into this season. Everyone is still waiting for QB Ryan Tannehill to break out. I’m starting to think that this isn’t a good thing that we are still waiting. Either Tannehill is going to become this next great Dolphins QB or he is not. To Tannehill’s credit, he has done better statistically each season but he hasn’t done good enough where he can raise Miami out of mediocrity. Again to his credit, that task might be too tall for just for him. Miami’s supporting cast on offense didn’t get better in the offseason with the departure of starting RB Lamar Miller. Miller left for Houston and Miami really didn’t think much on the subject of replacing him. They have second year RB Jay Ajayi who is still struggling to stay healthy and they brought in Adrian Foster from Houston who is an aging veteran. Journeyman Isaiah Pead might end up being the Week 1 starter. At receiver, Tannehill has a good collection of talent to throw to. Jarvis Landry wont get the fame that fellow LSU Tiger Odell Beckham Jr receives in New York but he is probably just as good of a receiver. DeVante Parker merely scratched the surface in his rookie season and Miami will be looking for him to have a bigger role in the passing game in 2016. Tannehill also has a good target at TE in Jordan Cameron. Not having a running game will hurt this Miami offense but I think its time for Tannehill to go all-gunslinger this year and see if he can become an elite passer in this league. Miami’s defense was a massive disappointment last season. Ndamukong Suh got the big money deal from Miami but the team isn’t getting a fair return as Miami had one of the worst run defenses last season. Suh should be extra motivated to return to the form that made him one of the most feared defenders in football. DE Cameron Wake is still one of the best pass rushers in football. DE Mario Williams was brought in from Buffalo to replace Olivier Vernon. Wake is coming off from an injury and Williams is an aging vet at this point of his career. Miami’s defensive line was such a disappointment last season; I really don’t have any realistic expectations for them in 2016. But Miami is going to have to have that unit improve if they hope to amount to anything in 2016. Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins are decent LB’s and Miami brought in Kiko Alonso who is coming off injury-plagued seasons in Buffalo and Philadelphia. If healthy, Alonso will improve the Miami LB core. Miami’s secondary is headlined by safety Reshad Jones who is coming off his best season as a pro. Miami brought in Byron Maxwell who found out last season that life outside of Seattle can be rough. I expect even more abuse for him in 2016 as he just wasn’t that good to begin with. Miami’s secondary was a weak point last season and that will probably be the same in 2016. With the hiring of Adam Gase at head coach, I really don’t know what is Miami’s long-term plan with this team. With so many high profiled veterans, this locker room is not the place for a rookie head coach. Miami is short on talent and leadership. Prediction: 5-11

NFL 2015: Week 14 Predictions!

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DeAndre Hopkins is having a strong season in Houston this year.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 122-70

Big Five Games of the Week

Minnesota @ Arizona – A couple of weeks ago, Minnesota looked like they were ready to go on a run towards the NFC North title. Instead, they have seriously regressed against tougher opponents. Tonight, they’ll visit Arizona who looks like the most complete team in the NFC. Arizona has a top ranked offense and a stingy defense to match. Last week, the Vikings offense didn’t score a single point and RB Adrian Peterson received less than ten carries. Peterson definitely needs to get more touches than that if Minnesota stands a chance in this road game. Along with Minnesota’s offensive woes, their defense is starting to underperform as well. This will be coming at a bad time for Minnesota as I believe that they wont be able to slow down the Cardinals offense. QB Carson Palmer is having a great season, he has great receivers to throw to, and rookie RB David Johnson is stepping in quite nicely for the other injured veterans at RB. Arizona is also a tough draw when playing at home. Prediction: Cardinals 35 – Vikings 14

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati – Remember in Pittsburgh’s first meeting this season against Cincinnati, it was a wonder how the Steelers lost that game. I would think that the Steelers would take lessons from that game into this one coming up on Sunday. The Bengals are playing at home, they are coming off a lopsided victory, and they are favored in this game. But Cincinnati still has a complex when it comes to big games. They usually play better at home but I still don’t trust them. I think Cincinnati will continue to put more faith into Andy Dalton and the passing game. I mean, the Bengals do have a lot of receiving weapons and the Steelers secondary is a weakness for Pittsburgh. But Dalton played so badly in that first matchup until late in the game. Cincy’s running game has underperformed this season and Pittsburgh is a tough team to run against. But I think the Bengals should try to work in Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard as much as possible to help set up the big passing plays. Instead, I think the Bengals will continue to use the pass to set up the run, just like in the first meeting, and the results will not be ideal. On the other hand, Pittsburgh’s offense looks like a well-oiled machine right now and I don’t think the Bengals secondary will be able to contain all of Pittsburgh’s weapons. Ben Roethlisberger appears to be healthy and he is making every throw out there. Antonio Brown is unstoppable right now, Markus Wheaton is starting to come along, and Martavis Bryant is showing plenty of big play ability. The Bengals wont be able to contain the Steelers air attack. Cincinnati does have a tough front four and they will have to get after Ben in order to limit Pittsburgh’s scoring chances. These divisional games are usually close but I’m not trusting Andy Dalton to out gun Roethlisberger, even at home. Prediction: Steelers 27 – Bengals 20

Buffalo @ Philadelphia – I love this revenge games. Especially this one because there is plenty of bad blood. The Eagles caught New England on a bad day last week but I have to imagine that they feel great after knocking off one of the best teams in the league. Buffalo is starting to put things together on both sides of the ball as they gear up for a playoff run in these last four weeks. QB Tyrod Taylor is back to playing efficient football. If his offensive line can give him time, he’ll be able to hit his receivers for big plays against this Eagles secondary. Philadelphia does have an active, tough front seven but they’ll be challenged greatly by Buffalo’s rushing attack. LeSean McCoy will be looking to score on every play but he’ll need to keep his emotions in check to avoid trying to do too much. I hope Philly doesn’t forget about rookie RB Karlos Williams who will present his own style of running to this Eagles defense. Philadelphia’s offense is in a mess right now. They lack an identity even with QB Sam Bradford back in the lineup. Buffalo’s front four will present to them plenty of problems. I don’t think its great sign that Kenjon Barner is getting more carries than the big free agent acquisition, DeMarco Murray. There is unrest in Philadelphia right now even though they are coming off their best win of the season. I think the Bills will outclass the Eagles in everyway and Shady McCoy will get his revenge. I even think the Eagles fans will cheer for McCoy. Prediction: Bills 26 – Eagles 17

Dallas @ Green Bay – Dallas finally scored a victory without Tony Romo last week. They have a slim chance at still winning the horrible NFC East but they are still a bad football team. They’ll face a big challenge this week against the Packers. The Cowboys defense had a strong performance last week and they could continue that success this week on the road. Green Bay has plenty of offensive issues going into this game. The Packers don’t have a strong offensive line, the receiver play has been inconsistent, and Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been the same sharp QB that he has been in the past. Dallas got really good play from their defensive line last week and I think they’ll be able to pressure Rodgers. If not, Rodgers will be able to expose Dallas’ secondary. Green Bay has also been inconsistent defensively. But I don’t see the Cowboys offense taking advantage. The Cowboys offense still has the same problem without Romo: they can’t score touchdowns. I think Green Bay will be able to do enough offensively while the Dallas offense will continue to settle for field goals and not score touchdowns. The Packers are usually a much tougher team at home. Prediction: Packers 28 – Cowboys 21 (Seven Dan Bailey Field Goals)

New England @ Houston – Houston is hanging on to slim playoff hopes as the slumping Patriots come to town. New England is coming off a bad lost at home to Philly as they have dropped their last two games. I don’t think Brady and Belichick have lost three straight ever but if they have, its been a long time ago. I think New England will be able to bounce back this week as long as they stay away from the turnovers. New England’s offensive line is coming off a poor performance and that isnt good news with J.J. Watt on the horizon. Brady and the passing game will have to be sharp with the quick throws especially with the pressure brought on by Watt. New England’s defense has been underrated all season and they’ll face favorable matchups this week against the Texans offense. Bill Belichick should know Bill O’Brien’s offense as well as anyone and that will give the Patriots defense an advantage. Prediction: Patriots 29 – Texans 17

The Rest of Week 14

Bears over Washington – Chicago will play tough at home again this week. Washington is a team that I’m not taking seriously as a playoff contender.

49ers over Browns – Manziel will finally get the start to finish out the season behind a shotty offensive line and a depleted receiving core. The moment for his in Cleveland has passed. San Fran’s defense will have its way.

Chiefs over Chargers – Kansas City has a clear path to the playoffs with their favorable schedule.

Lions over Rams – Detroit should be angry over how they lost last week. St. Louis will be ready to mail it in as they are a banged up team right now.

Jets over Titans – Expect plenty of yards in the air in this one. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a great story this season.

Buccaneers over Saints – Tampa Bay is slowly becoming a playoff contender. New Orleans is a contender for worst defensive secondary ever.

Panthers over Falcons – I think Carolina will lose in the regular season eventually. It wont be this week.

Colts over Jaguars – Indy cant take Jacksonville lightly. But Matt Hasselbeck should have a strong game through the air against that secondary.

Seahawks over Ravens – Seattle is starting to look like a serious contender. Baltimore will not present a challenge for them with the way they’ve been playing recently.

Broncos over Raiders – I don’t know if I’m buying that this is the end for Peyton Manning but with the most victories under the belt of Brock Osweiler, the more likely that seems to be true.

Dolphins over Giants – The New York Giants cant get right and Miami will be wearing some sweet throwback uniforms on Monday night.

 

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Jameis Winston (Buccaneers) – Winston has been finishing some impressive games recently and that should continue against the Saints secondary.

RB: LeSean McCoy (Bills) – I’m worried about McCoy trying to do too much against his former team but his emotions will be high and he’ll receive plenty of touches.

WR: DeVante Parker (Dolphins) – Parker made his mark last week and he’ll get more opportunities this Monday night against the Giants who give up the most yards through the air.

TE: Julius Thomas (Jaguars) – Thomas is starting to receive more targets in this offense as the season goes along.

DEF: Detroit – The Lions defense has been playing decent football since the midseason mark. St. Louis is pretty one dimensional on offense right now.

NFL 2015: Week 13 Predictions!

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The Steelers will need a strong performance from their offense this Sunday night.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 13-3

Season: 114-62

Big Five Games of the Week

Green Bay @ Detroit – A couple weeks ago when the Packers crushed Minnesota on the road, it seemed like Green Bay was ready to make another strong run at the NFC North. But the Packers had an absolutely deflating lost at home last week vs. Chicago and now there are more questions than answers in Green Bay. Tonight, the Packers visit a suddenly hot Detroit team that looks like they’ve completely rebounded from a disastrous start to this season. The Lions are playing inspired on defense and on offense, Matt Stafford is rediscovering his franchise receiver, Calvin Johnson. Green Bay didn’t really get dominated offensively vs. Chicago last week but Detroit will issue some challenges that Green Bay didn’t face last week. Aaron Rodgers play has been shaky for most of the season and Detroit’s defense has been coming on strong as of late. The Lions look like they could be the team ready to go on a run in this division and sweep for the Packers for the first time in forever. Prediction: Lions 31 – Packers 21

Houston @ Buffalo – Houston is playing well going into this week’s game in Buffalo, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Last week, Houston completely shut down Drew Brees and the Saints offense while keeping them out of the end zone. Also with QB Brian Hoyer back in the line up, the Texans offense is looking more efficient each series. Buffalo has been inconsistent this season but they usually play stronger at home. Houston will be challenged greatly by Buffalo’s rushing attack. Houston’s secondary has been playing better lately but they will have their hands full with WR Sammy Watkins who is starting to demand the ball from Tyrod Taylor. Buffalo’s defense gave up too many yards last week in Kansas City and I think they’ll be up to the challenge to rebound from that performance this week at home. Buffalo has the front seven to stuff Houston’s run game and that will allow them to focus their attention on WR DeAndre Hopkins who is playing out of his mind right now. I’m going out on a limb on this one but I’m picking the home team. Prediction: Bills 22 – Texans 16

Seattle @ Minnesota – Russell Wilson had far and away his best passing game of the season last week at home vs. a weak Steelers secondary. I think Seattle’s offense is getting too much credit for last week. I mean, I don’t mean to take anything away from Wilson and the Seahawks passing game but Pittsburgh’s secondary was horrible last week. This week in Minnesota, Seattle will face a much tougher secondary and overall defense in the Vikings. Seattle’s defense also gave up a lot of yards through the air last week and their pass rush didn’t have an affect on the game until the second half. I think Minnesota will be able to play ball control football by feeding their beast, Adrian Peterson, and giving QB Teddy Bridgewater time to execute big plays through the air. Prediction: Vikings 27 – Seahawks 20

New York Jets @ New York Giants – This edition of the battle for New York is especially important because both teams are competing for a playoff spot in their respected conferences. The Giants laid an absolute egg last week on the road at Washington. Meanwhile, the Jets were dominant against a weak Miami team. The Giants are trending down going into this week but they matchup well against the Jets. The Giants have issues with running the football and that should continue this week as the Jets have a strong defensive front seven. However for the Jets defense, they might be without CB Darrelle Revis again which would spell bad news for this secondary going up against WR Odell Beckham Jr. Eli Manning struggled for most of last weeks game and the Giants will need him to be sharp this week against a shorthanded Jets secondary. The Giants defense underperformed last week and they’ll be challenged again this week against the Jets. The Jets offense had a strong performance last week as Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for multiple touchdowns, Brandon Marshall continued to be a reliable target, and RB Chris Ivory was able to get the tough yards for this offense. I believe that the Jets will be able to get their offense going this week but the Giants are in “must win” mode and are the most desperate team in this contest. I think Eli Manning will be able to rebound and play great for all 4 quarters this week. Prediction: Giants 25 – Jets 24

Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh – Indy’s victory over Tampa Bay last week was closer than what the scoreboard read. I remember last season when the Colts played in Pittsburgh in an absolute shootout. With the current state of the Colts passing game, I don’t see that happening this time around. Or maybe not because the Pittsburgh secondary is coming off its worst performance of the season. Last week, Jameis Winston left a lot of yards on the table against this Colts defense. That wont be the case for Ben Roethlisberger and the many weapons at the receiver position. Roethlisberger is coming off a concussion injury so we do have to wonder if he will be still feeling effects from that injury on Sunday night. If Ben is not 100%, Pittsburgh may have to lean on its running game this week. That might not be a bad thing, as Indy doesn’t really have a tough run defense. The Colts defense has been playing better recently but they still have been an underachieving unit for most of the season. With all the injuries Pittsburgh has had to deal with, I think they are still head and shoulders the better team on the field this week. If Pittsburgh drops this one at home, their playoff chances will be in serious jeopardy. Prediction: Steelers 28 – Colts 20

The Rest of Week 13

Bears over 49ers – This Chicago squad is playing hard for head coach John Fox.

Bengals over Browns – Cleveland is starting Austin Davis at QB this week. What kind of message do you think that sends to the Browns locker room? Does Davis, who has only been in Cleveland for weeks now, truly give Cleveland its best chance to win on Sunday? Does Mike Pettine believe that his locker room will rally around Davis? Cleveland is a mess. This should be an easy week for the Bengals. #FreeJohnnyFootball

Titans over Jaguars – Tennessee lost a close one last week. Their efforts will be awarded this week vs. Jacksonville.

Cardinals over Rams – Arizona must keep their current momentum to fend off Seattle for the division.

Ravens over Dolphins – Miami is playing awful right now. Ryan Tannehill may have hit his ceiling.

Falcons over Buccaneers – Atlanta must win this one to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Chiefs over Raiders – Kansas City is getting the most out of their offense while the defense is playing at a high level.

Broncos over Chargers – The Brock Osweiler hype train in gaining stream but everyone needs to relax. Then again, he’ll probably play good again this week at San Diego.

Patriots over Eagles – No Gronk, no problem? I don’t know about that. I do know that the Eagles secondary can’t stop anyone.

Panthers over Saints – After that horrible offensive performance, New Orleans will face a tough, undefeated Carolina defense. Bad news for the Saints.

Washington over Cowboys – I’m not sure if I’m buying Washington has the best team in the NFC Least. Who knows what Dallas can offer with the type of season they are having. They could easily regroup and win this game on the road or continue to disappoint. Who knows.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Cam Newton (Panthers) – Newton isn’t leading in any passing category but he will look sharp against this New Orleans secondary.

RB: C.J. Anderson (Broncos) – After ending New England’s undefeated season last week, Anderson may have another big day against San Diego’s run defense.

WR: Brandon Marshall (Jets) – Marshall is quietly having a nice season and that should continue against the Giants secondary.

TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – Kelce has been a reliable target for Alex Smith this season.

DEF: Chicago – The Bears defense did a great job last week limiting Aaron Rodgers. Hopefully they can continue that success against San Francisco’s woeful offense.

NFL 2015: Week 10 Predictions!

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New England’s defense will be aiming to slow down New York’s Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 8-5

Season: 86-46

Big Five Games of the Week

Buffalo @ New York Jets – Big game tonight in the AFC East. The Jets are looking to keep their momentum after defeating Jacksonville last week. The Jets are currently in second place in the division and they have a favorable schedule leading up into December. Buffalo has had their issues this season but now they appear to be healthy and ready to make a push towards the post season. This matchup will feature two tough defenses but I’ll give the edge to Buffalo because New York’s secondary is rather weak sans Darrelle Revis. WR Sammy Watkins finally had a big game last week but he’ll face a huge test in Revis tonight. Opposite of Revis is where the Jets defense will be in trouble. The Jets offense is able to be successful because of RB Chris Ivory and the running game but Buffalo has one of the best defensive lines in football. The same can be said when the other team has the ball. Buffalo has had success running ball with rookie Karlos Williams and the now healthy LeSean McCoy but the Jets also are a tough team to run against. Because this is Rex Ryan’s homecoming game, I’m expecting Buffalo to come out with a little extra edge tonight. I’m taking the road team in the bright red unis. It will go down to the wire though. Prediction: Bills 24 – Jets 21

Minnesota @ Oakland – Minnesota has an impressive 6-2 record but no one is really talking about them. This Sunday, they’ll travel to Oakland to face a Raiders team that took its lumps last week in Pittsburgh. Minnesota has the tools to attack this Raiders defense on the ground and through the air. RB Adrian Peterson is looking like his old self again and the Vikings will continue to feed him on Sunday. QB Teddy Bridgewater took a big hit last week but he will start this Sunday. Oakland’s secondary is pretty suspect so I would expect Bridgewater to get his hook on with his new favorite target, rookie WR Stefon Diggs. Oakland has a decent balanced attack on offense as well but Minnesota is a lot better defensively. The Raiders usually play better at home but I think this Vikings team is tough enough to get a big road victory. Prediction: Vikings 35 – Raiders 27

Kansas City @ Denver – Denver had a poor showing last week in Indy. They were in a close game but then they completely lost their cool. Divisional matchups are always tough but I would expect the Broncos to bounce back at home this week against the Chiefs. The Chiefs are short handed on offense and they will find it tough to score points against Denver’s top ranked defense. Kansas City will have a chance if Peyton Manning is pressured and he turns over the ball. I think Denver learned from last week and they’ll be able to take care of business on Sunday. Prediction: Broncos 22 – Chiefs 10

New England @ New York Giants – New England is on a roll once again going into the second half of a season. Tom Brady is doing it all for the offense and the defense is under rated and not getting enough press. There will be plenty of press this week as the Pats will travel to New Jersey to take on the rival Giants. Now, I know that the Patriots and the Giants aren’t really rivals but because of the fan bases and because of the recent history in the post season, this is a rivalry game. Like the other NFC East teams, the Giants really stink this year but it appears that they can do enough to win their division. Eli Manning isn’t turning over the ball as much and he is getting the ball to his talented receivers, led by WR Odell Beckham Jr. The Patriots will have its hands full with trying to slow down Beckham Jr. as they don’t have a strong presence in the secondary. New England’s strength on defense comes from their defensive line, where they are tough against the run and have the league’s leader in sacks, Chandler Jones. We all know how Manning can play when under pressure so I would expect that the Patriots defense will make it a point to get after him on Sunday. Brady has been playing well on the other side of the ball but the Giants will up their efforts at pressuring him on Sunday as well. DE Jason Pierre-Paul is back and it may other have 8.5 fingers but he still have plenty of ability as a pass rusher. The Giants are poor at stopping the run but New England will be shorthanded without Dion Lewis. RB LeGarrette Blount has been playing well as of late though so I would expect plenty of touches for him on Sunday. The Giants usually have New England’s number in the post season but Sunday’s game is taking place in the regular season. I expect New England to stay undefeated. Prediction: Patriots 31 – Giants 21

Arizona @ Seattle – This is a big game for Seattle coming off the bye. They should be all rested up and ready to stake their claim for the NFC West against the rival Cardinals. Arizona has looked good this season but much like last season, they have faltered against better opponents. Arizona will be in this game on Sunday because of their defense. Seattle has issues on the offensive side of the ball. RB Marshawn Lynch will continue to be the heartbeat of the offense for Seattle. But when Seattle is passing the ball, they cant protect QB Russell Wilson and they still don’t have a big time play maker at receiver. This serves well for the Cardinals as they have a good secondary lead by CB Patrick Peterson. Seattle does have a big play target in the passing game in TE Jimmy Graham but they haven’t been consistent at feeding him the football. Hopefully, this was something that they worked on during the bye week. Arizona’s offense will find it hard in this matchup as well. Seattle is still a tough team to run against and their pass rush will be able to get after Carson Palmer. If Palmer does have time to throw, Seattle’s secondary will have its hands full with Arizona’s talented receivers. This should be a close game but I expect Seattle to continue the tradition of playing better than what they really are at home. Prediction: Seahawks 30 – Cardinals 24

The Rest of Week 10

Packers over Lions – It has literally been forever since Detroit has won in Green Bay.

Panthers over Titans – Carolina handled Green Bay pretty well last week and the score of that game didn’t really tell the story of that game. I think Carolina stays undefeated this week in Nashville.

Bears over Rams – Chicago is quietly still breathing this season. St. Louis has a lot of talent but they are easily unlikable because of that coaching staff.

Eagles over Dolphins – Philadelphia’s offensive line deserves a lot of credit. Their running game has successfully bounced back from how bad it looked earlier in the season. Miami is starting to lose the momentum they created by firing their coach.

Steelers over Browns – Pittsburgh will be without its starting QB but it wont matter. It’s Cleveland. Cleveland.

Buccaneers over Cowboys – This is a must win for Dallas. The pipe dream of Tony Romo returning and saving this season hinges on this game. Tampa is beatable but they have a tough defense and their offense is getting better. I have no reason to believe in this Dallas team right now.

Saints over Washington – Rob Ryan’s bad defense made an appearance last week. Lets see if that unit can bounce back on the road against Kirk Cousins.

Ravens over Jaguars – I thought Jacksonville was really to make their move last week. I was wrong. Baltimore is awful but is coming off the bye and is playing at home.

Bengals over Texans – Houston wont be able to score enough points on the road. Cincinnati completes what I think will be a clean sweep for the undefeated teams in the league on Monday night.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots) – Brady will be facing the second worst pass defense in the league on Sunday.

RB: DeAngelo Williams (Steelers) – Williams was decent last week against Oakland and without Roethlisberger, he’ll get extra carries against Cleveland’s pitiful run defense.

WR: Allen Robinson (Jaguars) – Baltimore’s secondary isnt very good. Robinson is putting up consistent numbers and he might get extra targets this week as his teammate, Allen Hurns, is fighting a foot injury.

TE: Jordan Reed (Washington) – New Orleans’ secondary is a joke. Cousins loves going to his TE. He is one of the few Washington receivers that can stay healthy.

DEF: Carolina – The Panthers are the easy choice here and they’ll be facing an usually poor Titans offense.

NFL 2015: AFC East Preview

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Miami has the talent assembled to overtake New England. Can head coach Joe Philbin lead them?

By: Elias McMillan

AFC EAST

New England Patriots – After the offseason that the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots just went through, the target on the entire organization’s back has never been larger. On top of that, they are also coming off an offseason that saw them lose some key talent especially on the defensive side of the ball. Despite that, everyone in the NFL knows by now that Bill Belichick strives on getting the most out of his football team and that might be the case once again in 2015. The biggest storyline is of course, Tom Brady and his suspension. It will most definitely hurt the Patriots offense to not have its leader for the first 4 weeks of the season. Can backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo do enough to keep the passing game afloat? I’m not sure but I think Belichick will have a plan in place where Garoppolo wont have to go beyond his means to win football games. Will that plan involve the running game? New England weren’t particularly great at running the ball last season. They lost two of their main contributors in the backfield in the offseason but replacement them shouldn’t be a big chore. RB LaGarrette Blount will be back though he will miss Week One. Behind him, New England has plenty of depth with Jonas Gray and Travaris Cadet just a name a few. The running back depth chart isn’t filled with names that will “wow” anyone but the Patriots have always figured out how to get enough production from who ever is lined up at the position. And you can say the same about the WR position. I think WR Julian Edelman has solidified himself as a legit threat with every touch and WR Danny Amendola has proven to be serviceable but outside of those two, this receiving core is pretty average. Which again has been proven to be good enough for Brady and the offense. The rock star of the passing game, figuratively and literally, is TE Rob Gronkowski and he will be ready for an injury-free campaign in 2015. I think when Tom Brady returns, the league will be in big trouble. After all he has gone through in the offseason, I think Brady will be looking to make a statement in 2015. I’m worried about the Patriots defense this year after losing Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, and Brandon Browner. At defensive end, Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones return and I really liked the signing of Jabaal Sheard who showed some potential in his time in Cleveland. Inside at defensive tackle will be a question mark though. New England might have gotten a steal in the 1st round of the draft last April in DT Malcolm Brown and he may have to pay dividends early in his career. New England does return a solid group at LB lead by Don’t’a Hightower. But the secondary might be a weak link his season with safety Devin McCourty as its lone standout. New England didn’t really have a great defense last season and that didn’t stop them from winning it all. I expect the Pats to be contenders again this season unless they falter under the pressure of trying to answer their critics every week. As long as they follow the Belichick mantra of “Do Your Job” week in and week out, the Patriots will give the critics something to really hate on in 2015. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC East Champs)

Miami Dolphins – Miami kind of surprised me last season and they’ll definitely have something to build upon going into this season. And with the moves they’ve made in the offseason, the hot seat just got a bit hotter in Miami for head coach Joe Philbin. On offense, they’ll be lead by QB Ryan Tannehill who is coming off his best season yet. Tannehill has improved each season and Miami is counting on that trend to continue in 2015. Tannehill will have a young and talented receiving core in 2015. WR Greg Jennings will serve more as a mentor and he will mean a great deal to Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and rookie DeVante Parker. I believe Miami also upgraded the TE position with the signing of Jordan Cameron. Cameron had a disastrous final season in Cleveland but he could rebound nicely with the talent he now has around him. At RB, Lamar Miller quietly had a nice season in 2014. He will hope to build upon that going into this season but also look out for rookie Jay Ajayi who was a great value pick for Miami in Round 5. On defense, everyone will be raving about this defensive line. Miami landed the big fish in free agency this offseason in DT Ndamukong Suh. Suh along with defensive ends, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, should form a monstrous force that will give opposing QB’s fits and stuff the run. Miami’s LB core is young is underrated. Jelani Jenkins led the team in tackles last season and Koa Misi is an active playmaker when healthy. Miami’s secondary was decent last season and they should be even better this season with the improvements made on the defensive line. Safeties Louis Delmas and Reshad Jones are one of the better safety combos in the league. CB Brent Grimes is a leader and a difference maker who will help bring along the younger corners on the team. I think Miami looks impressive on paper but something about them just screams “under achiever”. I’m not very confident that Philbin is the right coach to get this team over the hump and to over take New England for the division. The pressure will be on the coaches because they’ll have the talent on the field. I still expect Miami to at least contend to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Prediction: 9-7

Buffalo Bills – The Bills might already be my favorite team in the AFC this season. With Rex Ryan leading the way and the talent already on the defensive side of the ball, optimism is abounding in upstate NY. Rex Ryan has a rep of bringing intensity on defense and he won’t really have to build that up from scratch in his second head-coaching gig. Buffalo had a top five defensive unit in 2014 and they could be even better under Ryan. The defensive line they have in Buffalo is amazing. Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes are a top pass rushing duo and they are able to stuff the run with defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. Not having LB Kiko Alonso might hurt but in his absence last season, LB Preston Brown led the team in tackles and he’ll probably continue to be a huge contributor this season. Buffalo also had one of the best secondarys in the league last season led by corners Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin. Buffalo’s defense is stacked which means, much like in New York, a Rex Ryan led team will need the offense to pick up the slack. Ryan loves to run the football and new offensive coordinator Greg Roman follows a similar philosophy. Buffalo made the deal of the offseason when they traded for star RB LeSean McCoy. It’s hard to think of McCoy as a veteran but he is one with plenty of football left in the tank. I think McCoy will be a great match with this offense and he’ll make Buffalo look like bank robbers by the end of the season with the totals he’ll put up. With the QB situation shaky, the Bills will probably run the ball a lot of offense this season which wont be problem as there’s plenty of depth behind McCoy with Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown, and impressive rookie Karlos Williams. Buffalo has decent talent at the WR position with Sammy Watkins as the obvious stand out. WR Robert Woods has shown some ability and veteran Percy Harvin will be looking to prove that he can still be a difference maker in this league. But again, the question marks at QB could single handily derail Rex Ryan’s first season in Buffalo. Here’s my theory on Buffalo’s QB situation: Matt Cassel stinks and I’m not sure why he keeps getting chances in this league. Greg Roman’s offense really excelled in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick, who is a mobile QB. Cassel certainly isn’t mobile so that leaves EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor. Manuel isnt really getting votes of confidence so far in training camp and Taylor has yet to really get a shot at being a starter in this league. I think Taylor will end up winning the competition but how good he can be will still be a question mark until the season starts. If Taylor can ride the running game, the great defense, and do enough to get Sammy Watkins involved, Buffalo could be in better shape than Miami to challenge New England for the division crown. Buffalo would be a bold playoff pick right now but I need to see how the QB competition shapes out first. This team will definitely be fun to watch in 2015. Prediction: 8-8

New York Jets – I believe the dog days will be back for this franchise in 2015. The biggest problem on this team is that they just don’t have the enough talent yet. That’s pretty much the same story from last year. I really like new head Todd Bowles and he knows how to get the most out of players but he’s going to have a rough go of it in his first season. Bowles coached a pretty good, over achieving defense in Arizona last season and he should have another good defensive squad already in New York. On the defensive line, the standouts are Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. Richardson will be suspended for the first four games of the season and they will affect the defense. But luckily, defensive star Leonard Williams was able to drop to NY in the draft last April. Williams will be able to help this team as a rookie and will provide depth once Richardson returns. The Jets did a decent job at sacking the QB last season but they still need more production from their outside linebackers, Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples. I do like the depth they have behind Pace and Coples with Jason Babin and rookie Lorenzo Mauldin. LB David Harris returns for another season as the Jets leading tackler and run stopper. Jets fans should be excited for the return of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie but in reality, they should only be excited for the return of Revis. Revis proved last season in New England that he can still be one of the top corners in the league. Cromartie proved last season to an opportunist who doesn’t give full effort when plays break down. The Jets secondary will still be improved regardless. At safety, Calvin Pryor must bounce back from a tough rookie season. On offense, the Jets still have a good offensive line and they acquired WR Brandon Marshall. That’s about the only good things I can come up with on that side of the ball. But seriously, Marshall should greatly improve the Jets receiving core that is rounded out nicely but vets Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley. Also keep an eye out for rookie Devin Smith who might develop into a great pro. The Jets running game is in great need of a home run hitter and I don’t think that guy in currently on their roster. Chris Ivory is a decent back and they also traded for Zac Stacy in the offseason. But I just don’t see this running game carrying this offense far. Now with a broken jaw, can this be the season where QB Geno Smith can turn it around and show that he has improved? Ryan Fitzpatrick’s best days maybe behind him but can he thrive under Chad Gailey’s offense? The defense in New York might be good enough to keep them in some games this season but I think the QB position will hold this team back again this season. Like I said earlier, I like Todd Bowles but this team is a few pieces away from competing in this division. The defense should provide a good foundation for Bowles to build upon though. Prediction: 4-12