AFC Championship Preview: Pats Will Go To Another Super Bowl After Win over Jags

With Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees among others out of the running for Super Bowl LII, Tom Brady is the only experienced playoff QB left, and the Patriots have a good history against young quarterbacks.

You can’t write off the Jaguars though. They did edge out the Steelers 45-42 despite giving up 469 yards and 5 TDs to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. In addition, Tom Coughlin knows how to beat the Pats after beating them in two Super Bowls as Giants head coach. However, they’re led by Blake Bortles, an inconsistent QB.

In order for New England to win, they’ll need to stop the run, which will be difficult against star RB Leonard Fournette. They’ll also need to pressure QB Blake Bortles to slow down a powerful, but inconsistent Jags offense. Offensively, they’ll need to protect Brady at all costs and make sure he can find open receivers and get into an offensive rhythm. However, it may not be about throwing TDs. I think we will see a lot of run first offense in this game. The Pats and Jags have both struggled to stop the run.

The Jaguars will need to shut down New England’s top receivers like Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks, and they need to keep QB Tom Brady under pressure. They’ll also need to get the run game going, as the Pats don’t always do well against powerhouse running backs like Leonard Fournette.

For injuries, Pats QB Tom Brady has been dealing with a hand injury, but he is expected to play through it. RB Rex Burkhead will also be back after missing time due to an injury. However, DT Alan Branch and RB Mike Gillislee are inactive. It won’t be as easy as the fans expect, but I do see the Pats winning, 30-20, with the three-headed monster of Pats running backs combining for 150+ yards and a TD. They will be headed to their third Super Bowl in four years.

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NFL Divisional Round Picks: Jags Shock Pittsburgh, Vikes Win in Shootout

Welcome to my Divisional Round Picks.  In the Wild Card Round, I went 3-1.  Who will come out on top this week in order to fight for Super Bowl qualification next week?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

(6) Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles (1)

Saturday: 4:35 PM EST on NBC

Eagles, 37, Falcons, 30

Even with QB Carson Wentz injured, I see Philly winning this one.  The Falcons offense is pretty good, but even with Nick Foles at QB, it’s hard to top the Eagles offense.  The Falcons defensive front could get on Foles’ nerves, but Foles and the Philly offense will overcome it.  However, Foles has not been great under pressure, unlike Wentz.  But the tough Eagles defense will have Falcons QB Matt Ryan under a lot of pressure himself, and he will struggle under pressure, failing to repeat last year’s deep playoff run.

(5) Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots (1)

Saturday: 8:15 PM EST on CBS

Patriots, 31, Titans, 23

QB Tom Brady will lead the Pats to victory here with the help of TE Rob Gronkowski and receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, who will dominate against the young Titans secondary.  Gronk will seem unbeatable to this young but strong Tennessee defense.  In his first game against the Pats since his rookie year, QB Marcus Mariota will also have a tough time, especially against the strong Pats secondary.  He will toss just 1 TD.

However, RB Derrick Henry will get on New England’s nerves in his first game against them.  This speedy running back is just too much for the Pats front seven, even with veteran LB James Harrison.  I do see New England coming out on top in the end after offensive dominance and excellent coverage of Titans QB Marcus Mariota.

(3) Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2)

Sunday: 1:05 PM EST on CBS

Jaguars, 27, Steelers, 23

In my opinion, Jacksonville will be the only road team that wins this week.  Although QB Blake Bortles might have a difficult time against the Steelers D, the Jaguars secondary was able to pick off QB Ben Roethlisberger 5 times last time these two franchises played. Plus, between his calf and his illness, WR Antonio Brown will not be 100% for this game whether he plays or not.

Big Ben will experience deja vu against a dominant Jags defense without his favorite target.  The Jags young group of receivers will also thrive as long as Bortles can get the ball to them, which I think will happen for at least parts of the game.  Jags win in a close thriller.

(4) New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings (2)

Sunday: 4:40 PM EST on FOX

Vikings, 37, Saints, 33

In a high scoring rematch of the 2017 season’s first Monday Night game, the Vikes will come out on top, led by rising QB Case Keenum and young receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.  WR Brandon Coleman is out for the Saints as well as G Andrus Peat, causing the Saints offense to be slightly less powerful than usual.  Only slightly though.  The Saints defense will still be great as well, but the Vikings dominant receivers will intimidate the young secondary and the Saints will allow Keenum to toss multiple TDs as Minnesota wins.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for a more in-depth Patriots-Titans preview coming soon.

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 2: Catchers and Infielders

Welcome to Part 2 of my 2018 MLB Free Agent and Trade Predictions. Free agency has been off to a slow start, but it’s far from over. Players like 1B Eric Hosmer, SP Jake Arrieta, SP Yu Darvish, and 3B Todd Frazier will eventually be signed. But where will they go?  That’s the biggest question, and I’m about to try to answer it.  Today I will be predicting landing spots for the MLB’s best catchers and infielders on the market.

If you haven’t seen Part 1, click the link below:

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 1: Pitchers

Photo Credit: ESPN (ESPN updates the player photos when players sign with new teams, so once the off-season is over, you will be able to check back and see how I did.  It currently shows the player’s most recent team)

C

Image result for alex avilaAlex Avila

My Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 2 years, $18 million

After the loss of Wellington Castillo to free agency, I could see another veteran catcher like Alex Avila sign here. They haven’t found the young catcher that will replace Matt Wieters yet, so for now, the O’s should try to replace him with experienced veterans like Avila.

Image result for jonathan lucroyJonathan Lucroy

My Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 5 years, $57 million

Lucroy did well in his first and only year in Colorado, batting .265. Although Martin Maldonado was good in year one as a starter, it would be nice for the Angels to have a veteran catcher in their lineup, and Lucroy can hit although his average was a little low for him last year. I expect he’ll bounce back offensively and continue to do well defensively if he signs here.

Image result for miguel montero Miguel Montero

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 3 years, $16.5 million

The Marlins could also use a veteran catcher, but Montero will be the back-up for starting catcher J.T. Realmuto if the Marlins don’t trade Realmuto away. Montero hasn’t done as well in recent years, but he will thrive as the Marlins backup catcher.

Image result for carlos ruizCarlos Ruiz

My Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks, 3 years, $24 million

The D-Backs are another team that needs a veteran catcher to start in front of either Jeff Mathis or John Ryan Murphy, whoever makes the roster. They could manage with those two, but if they want to contend, Ruiz will help them offensively and defensively.

Image result for geovany soto Geovany Soto

My Prediction: Chicago Cubs, 2 years, $9 million

Young catcher Willson Contreras will start this year.  But I think a veteran behind him in case he struggles in his 2nd full season as a starter would be helpful.  Soto will do just that and will be a cheaper signing than guys like Carlos Ruiz, or even Alex Avila.

1B

Image result for lucas duda Lucas Duda

My Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $15 million

The A’s could use a veteran to rotate with young 1B Matt Olson, and Duda seems like a good fit in Oakland.  The former Met will also help bring some much-needed power to the lineup.  Duda slashed 30 dingers in 2017 despite a lowly .217 batting average.

Image result for adrian gonzalez Adrian Gonzalez

My Prediction: Colorado Rockies, 3 years, $33 million

Gonzalez is not in his prime anymore, and he’s not necessarily an everyday starter anymore either.  But injuries held him back in 2017 and I do not think he’s done yet.  He’ll spend his final few years with the Rockies, who could use another bat in a hitter-favorable ballpark.  If he gets hurt or is slumping, they can just move OF Ian Desmond back to first and start young OF David Dahl.

Image result for eric hosmerEric Hosmer

My Prediction: San Diego Padres, 5 years, $68 million

I was originally thinking Hosmer would go to Boston, but instead of chasing after him, the Red Sox resigned Mitch Moreland and are going after J.D. Martinez.  Although Martinez’s bat would help Boston, I don’t know exactly where he would fit into their scheme, especially with Moreland coming back.  Otherwise, they could have either brought Hosmer in or put Martinez at DH and moved Hanley Ramirez to first full time.  The Padres are a decent fit for Hosmer, even though his best fit was in Boston, in my opinion.  Wil Myers can move back to the outfield, filling a hole they have out there, and Hosmer can play first.  They could also use him to replace power hitter and 2B Yangervis Solarte in the lineup, who will likely be replaced in the field by either Cory Spangenberg or a prospect.

 Image result for logan morrisonLogan Morrison

My Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $12 million

I do not feel that Dominic Smith is quite ready to start at first.  For now, I have the Mets bringing in veteran first baseman Logan Morrison.  Morrison, who slashed 38 dingers last year, will be a help in the lineup and in the field.  Morrison will help the Mets try to return to their 2016 form.  With the combination of a couple more veterans to finish off the lineup and the healthy return of the dominant Mets rotation, there’s a chance that they can make it happen.

Image result for mike napoli Mike Napoli

My Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 2 years, $18 million

The Mariners could also use a veteran to share time with 1B Ryon Healy.  Napoli is a little old to start every day so Healy will take over once he develops a little more.  Maybe spending some time pinch-hitting or playing DH (Nelson Cruz would play RF) will help him eventually take over Napoli’s short-term role.

2B

Image result for eduardo nunez Eduardo Nunez

My Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $19 million

Nunez showed promise last year with the Giants and Red Sox, but can he be trusted as the everyday starter for the Mets if they sign him?  The Mets do have 2B Wilmer Flores if he’s not ready to be part of their everyday scheme.  Flores may be needed at third if they cannot find another back up for the injured David Wright, but if they can find a backup there, Nunez could be an intriguing signing.

Image result for jace peterson Jace Peterson

My Prediction: New York Yankees, 3 years, $16.5 million

Peterson batted just .215 last year with just 2 dingers.  He did lose at-bats last year due to struggles and the signing of 2B Brandon Phillips, our next free agent in this article.  Whoever signs him will be hoping he develops into a better hitter next year.  As a utility, he is good in the field, but the Yankees will be looking for a guy who can hit to play second.  If Peterson fails, they could consider a trade in the off-season or regular season.  I think 2B Robinson Cano might even be someone good to try and retain from Seattle.

Image result for brandon phillips Brandon Phillips

My Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million

Phillips still has something left in the tank as he showed with 13 dingers, 60 RBI and a .285 average in almost 600 at-bats.  The Tigers could use a couple more veteran leaders in the midst of a rebuild, and Phillips is a good fit here and should be one of them.

Image result for chase utley Chase Utley

My Prediction: Cincinnati Reds, 2 years, $13 million

Utley is not necessarily a starter here, just a veteran influence who will share time with fellow middle infielders Jose Peraza and Scooter Gennett.  I do think the Reds could use another veteran in addition to Utley, but they could probably find one in the trade market.

Image result for neil walker Neil Walker

My Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $46 million

Walker looked good in Milwaukee, and I think this is a great fit.  Walker should be signed to a long-term deal in Milwaukee as they begin a run for the playoffs.  They could use the veteran leader in the middle infield in addition to 2B Jonathan Villar and young SS Orlando Arcia.

SS

Image result for mike aviles Mike Aviles

My Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 2 years, $14 million

Aviles is another veteran shortstop who has declined, but the Orioles need a shortstop starter fast.  I don’t expect them to chase after a top dog SS like Alcides Escobar, or even trade for SS Xander Bogaerts.  But a short-term signing like Aviles might be reasonable, and they might even want to re-sign Ryan Flaherty to platoon with him.

Image result for erick aybar Erick Aybar

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 1 year, $5.5 million

Aybar is not an elite shortstop anymore, but he could be a good addition to Miami as a backup to SS J.T. Riddle, or potentially a short-term starter if Riddle is not ready yet.  He will have a similar role to what he did in San Diego, but with even less time as the #1 guy at shortstop.  Aybar’s career went downhill since he was traded to Atlanta prior to 2016, and don’t expect him to return to his 2015 form all the sudden.

Image result for stephen drew Stephen Drew

My Prediction: Washington Nationals, 2 years, $13 million

Drew did well as a backup for Trea Turner last year in Washington, but didn’t get that many appearances.  I see him returning to the Nats in a similar role, but this time he will back up at multiple positions in the infield as he takes on more of a utility role.  The Nationals could use backup in other infield spots as well, and Drew will help take care of that.

Image result for alcides escobar Alcides Escobar

My Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 3 years, $46.5 million

I doubt the Royals will resign all the guys they lost in free agency this year, like 1B Eric Hosmer, OF Lorenzo Cain and 3B Mike Moustakas.  But Escobar would be a good veteran influence going into the new era in Kansas City.  I know Raul Mondesi may be ambitious to start, but he can probably platoon somewhere in the infield and eventually take over for Escobar before this contract expires.  Hosmer could also do this job if he’s left around, but they’ll only sign one.  Besides, for the most part, it’s time for a rebuild.  Maybe they’ll sign a couple more infield veterans just to back up for the rookies too.

Image result for jj hardy J.J. Hardy

My Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 3 years, $36 million

Hardy’s time in Baltimore might finally be over.  I see him heading to Detroit as another veteran influence to play alongside Brandon Phillips.  Don’t be fooled and think they could go for a playoff run after signing Phillips and Hardy.  Phillips and Hardy will not start all the time, and they need to develop their prospects eventually.  According to Al Avila, it’s time, as he already traded away guys like OF J.D. Martinez, who is now a free agent.

3B

Image result for yunel escobar Yunel Escobar

My Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $39 million

After a strong 2017 season, I think Escobar still has something left in the tank, even at age 35.  He is not an expensive purchase anymore though as he gets closer to retirement age.  I see Escobar signing in Chicago, where they could use a veteran at third as they cope with a rebuild and need some veteran influences.  Escobar will be one of them, and even with Escobar starting at third, at least this year, Yolmer Sanchez, Yoan Moncada, Tyler Saladino and Tim Anderson will still all get significant time on the field.

Image result for todd frazierTodd Frazier

My Prediction: New York Yankees, 4 years, $56 million

I thought Frazier was a great fit in a Yankees uniform, and he thrived with the Yankees after getting off to a rough start to the season in Chicago.  After being dealt to New York, he improved.  Now that the Yanks traded 3B Chase Headley back to where they got him in San Diego, they need a full-time third baseman, and if Frazier can keep up what he had in New York last year, he could be the man for the job.

Image result for mike moustakasMike Moustakas

My Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million

St. Louis would be a great fit for both 1B Eric Hosmer and 3B Mike Moustakas, but they will only sign one as they have Matt Carpenter to play whatever infield position they cannot fill.  The middle infield is all set between Jedd Gyorko, Paul DeJong, and Kolten Wong.  But they could use a veteran 1B or 3B after the recent departures of both Aldemys Diaz and Matt Adams.  I believe Moose can thrive here, but the Cardinals will have to be willing to give him a good-sized contract.  Matt Carpenter will stay at first will Moose starts at third like he did in Kansas City.

Image result for trevor plouffe Trevor Plouffe

My Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 2 years, $16 million

Plouffe is not necessarily a starter here, but it will be nice to have a backup if 3B Hunter Dozier or INF Cheslor Cuthbert turns out to flop.  Plouffe will also serve the role of another veteran influence alongside SS Alcides Escobar, OF Alex Gordon, and most of the Royals strong rotation.  This is not a long term signing though as I am sure someone will secure the starting job within the next one or two years.

Image result for jose reyesJose Reyes

My Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $18 million

Reyes will fill in while 3B David Wright recovers from back surgery.  I’m thinking some sort of platoon could start when Wright returns, especially if Wright is not quite himself after surgery.

That’s all for Part 2 of my free agent predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 3, where I discuss outfielders in the market, and potential trade ideas for teams across the league.

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 1: Pitchers

Welcome to Part 1 of my 2018 MLB Free Agent and Trade Predictions. Free agency has been off to a slow start, but it’s far from over. Players like 1B Eric Hosmer, SP Jake Arrieta, SP Yu Darvish, and 3B Todd Frazier will eventually be signed. But where will they go?  That’s the biggest question, and I’m about to try to answer it.  Today I will be predicting landing spots for the MLB’s best pitchers on the market.

Photo Credit: ESPN (ESPN updates the player photos when players sign with new teams, so once the off-season is over, you will be able to check back and see how I did.  It currently shows the player’s most recent team)

SP

Image result for jake arrieta Jake Arrieta

Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 4 years, $92 million

It would be crazy if Arrieta returned to Baltimore, but I think he’s a great fit. The O’s have serious rotation problems. They lack depth and they need an ace, and this helps resolve both of those problems. But Arrieta won’t be able to fix the Orioles rotation alone. They’ll need to sign a 5th starter to complete the rotation behind Arrieta, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Mike Wright/Alec Asher.

Image result for andrew cashnerAndrew Cashner

Prediction: San Francisco Giants: 2 years, $19 million

After the retirement of Matt Cain and the departure of Matt Moore, the Giants need some depth in the rotation behind Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija. Cashner will help do that as the Giants try to rebound from a rough season where they finished last in the NL West. However, more starters might not be enough to get the Giants into the playoffs and continue their even year success.

Image result for alex cobbAlex Cobb

Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $42 million

There have been a lot of rumors about Cobb going to the Cubs, but I think the White Sox could also use an elite veteran starter as an influence for the younger guys. The White Sox could also use one more starter in case one of the younger guys struggles. I know the White Sox are in rebuild mode, but that doesn’t mean they can’t go out and sign a couple veterans to help their cause. That will be a theme throughout this series.

Image result for yu darvishYu Darvish

Prediction: Chicago Cubs: 5 years, $135 million

Darvish is another pitcher that the Cubs have been chasing after this off-season, and I do think they’ll pursue him. He will be Arrieta’s replacement in the rotation. But after playing the role of #2 starter on both Texas and LA last season behind Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw, respectively, can he step it up and become a reliable ace again?

Image result for matt garzaMatt Garza

Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 2 years, $17 million

Garza will also add depth to San Francisco’s rotation in an effort to bounce back from their rough season. With the additions of Cashner and Garza, their rotation will have a strong group of five veteran starters to guide the pitching staff.

Image result for ubaldo jimenez Ubaldo Jimenez

Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $33 million

After the departure of Lance Lynn and Mike Leake, the Cardinals will need another pitcher in the rotation. Alex Reyes should be in the rotation this year, but Jimenez will be the mid-rotation starter they need. As the Cardinals hope to return to the playoffs this year, they will need another veteran starter.

Image result for john lackey headshotJohn Lackey

Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 2 years, $32 million

I still think Lackey has a couple more years left in the tank, and despite the fact that the Royals are trying to rebuild, I think they could use a veteran starter to top off the rotation. They have a lot of young talent in the lineup, but I don’t know if all their pitching prospects are major league ready yet. They might need a couple more years, and that’s where Lackey comes in.

Image result for lance lynn Lance Lynn

Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $27 million

The Marlins need a couple more veteran starters to add to the depth of their rotation, even in rebuild mode. Lynn will help fill that role as well as Chris Tillman, who I also think will be signed by Miami.

Image result for chris tillman Chris Tillman

Prediction: Miami Marlins, 3 years, $30 million

Tillman will also help add depth to the Miami rotation. Neither will get more than a few years though because by then, there will be more pitching prospects ready to join the rotation.

Image result for jason vargas Jason Vargas

Prediction: San Diego Padres, 4 years, $62 million

The Padres could use a veteran influence in the rotation as well. Vargas had a career year last year, but can he repeat that? Either way, Vargas will be a leader in the Padres young rotation and he will be a role model for the younger starters on the rise.

 

Other Predictions:

Jesse Chavez (OAK, 3 years, $18 million)

R.A. Dickey (TEX, 2 years, $11 million)

Scott Feldman (TOR, 1 year, $7 million)

Jaime Garcia (NYY, 4 years, $26 million)

AJ Griffin (LAA, 1 year, $4.5 million)

Jeremy Hellickson (BAL, 2 years, $10 million)

Francisco Liriano (COL, 3 years, $24 million)

Wade Miley (TB, 3 years, $31.5 million)

Ricky Nolasco (MIN, 2 years, $15 million)

Hector Santiago (DET, 2 years, $17 million)

 

RP

Image result for joe blanton Joe Blanton

Prediction: Cleveland Indians, 2 years, $11 million

Blanton will add depth to the Indians bullpen. He will likely be their 7th inning guy or set up man if they sign him. They have signed Alexi Ogando and Evan Marshall to minor league deals, but in case those two don’t come through, I think the Indians will sign Blanton as a safe veteran option.

Image result for tyler clippard Tyler Clippard

Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 4 years, $28 million

The Pirates have good depth in the bullpen, but they need a closer and set-up guys who can lead the bullpen. Will Clippard be able to handle the role of closer? That is what must be found out. Pittsburgh might need to go for another late-inning reliever to help him out. Maybe they’ll even resign set-up man Joaquin Benoit.

Image result for jason grilli Jason Grilli

Prediction; Detroit Tigers, 1 year, $6 million

Grilli might be determined to keep pitching, but I doubt he was more than one or two more years left in the tank. I think Detroit will sign him as a closer until they find a younger replacement, which they will need as they enter rebuild mode.

Image result for greg holland Greg Holland

Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 5 years, $42.5 million

The Brewers are another team that could use a closer/late inning reliever, and Holland is a great fit in Milwaukee. Although they have been off to a slow start, expect the Brewers to be active buyers this off-season as they prepare to make a playoff run.

Image result for jj hoover J.J. Hoover

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 3 years, $19.5 million

Hoover will be the late-inning reliever the Angels need. He will assist others like Cam Bedrosian to finish off games. The Angels may want a top tier closer like Greg Holland, but the combination of Hoover and Bedrosian may just do the trick.

Image result for boone loganBoone Logan

Prediction: Cincinnati Reds, 3 years, $16.5 million

After the departures of Drew Stanton (who I do think the Reds will also resign), Tony Cingrani, and J.J. Hoover, the Reds need depth in the bullpen and late-inning relievers to finish off the game.  This is the year where the Reds could start contending, and Logan will help their case.  He will be a part of their revised late-inning staff and add depth to the pen.

Image result for bud norrisBud Norris

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 2 years, $8 million

The Phillies will sign Norris as a reliever, but knowing that he has started in the past, I wouldn’t rule out a role in the Phillies rotation for him.  If they sign him, he will make the roster either as another starter or someone to add depth to the bullpen, but will he beat out the younger players and make the rotation?

Image result for huston street Huston Street

Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $18 million

The Braves could use a reliever to set the stage for closer Arodys Vizcaino, and that’s what Street would be here for.  In general, the Braves could use some more veteran relievers to add depth to the bullpen so this signing will kill two birds with one stone.

Image result for tony watson Tony Watson

My Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks, 4 years, $30 million

The D-Backs lost a couple of their veteran relievers to free agency and trades, and I just feel that Watson would fit in well in Arizona.  Throughout the last couple of years, the Diamondbacks have lost J.J. Hoover, Evan Marshall, and David Hernandez.  They already lacked depth in the bullpen with those guys on board, so they need it now more than ever.

Other Predictions:

Joaquin Benoit (PIT, 3 years, $20 million)

David Hernandez (ARZ, 2 years, $15 million)

Zach Putnam (CWS, 3 years, $22.5 million)

Addison Reed (BOS, 2 years, $14 million)

Drew Storen (CIN, 2 years, $17.5 million)

 

That’s all for Part 1 of my MLB Hot Stove predictions.  Check back soon for Part 2, where I talk about catchers and infielders.

 

NFL Playoffs: Bracket and Wild Card Weekend Picks

Welcome to my NFL playoff predictions and Wild Card picks. I finished the regular season with a 150-108 record. Below are my wild card weekend picks. How will I do this week? Keep reading and comment with your thoughts.

Before we begin, I’m going to reveal my playoff bracket:

I have the Patriots topping the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. A lot of people have said the Vikings will make the Super Bowl in their home stadium. If they did that, they would be practically invincible. But I think RB Todd Gurley will lead the Rams past them in Minnesota, and the Rams will fall short in Philly, allowing Philly to advance to Super Bowl LII, losing to New England.

Now here are my picks for this week:

(5) Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (4)

Saturday: 4:35 PM EST on ESPN

Titans, 30, Chiefs, 27

Titans QB Marcus Mariota and his group of versatile receivers will be dominant against the Chiefs secondary, who is still without S Eric Berry. But the Chiefs will make it close. They will shut down Titans running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and they will be competitive offensively. WR Tyreek Hill will outsmart the young Titans secondary, as well as star TE Travis Kelce. But in the end, Mariota will lead the Titans to victory, as the Chiefs fall just short.

(6) Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams (3)

Saturday: 8:15 PM EST on NBC

Rams, 31, Falcons, 23

Atlanta will fall short in LA. RB Todd Gurley will overtire the Falcons front seven in a dominant game. QB Jared Goff will also do well, tossing a trio of touchdowns. The Rams defense will also help, shutting down Atlanta’s running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. WR Julio Jones will have a good game, but it will not be enough in Los Angeles.

(6) Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars (3)

Sunday: 1:05 PM EST on CBS

Jaguars, 31, Bills, 26

The Jaguars defense will dominate here, slowing down a strong group of Bills receivers with their young, elite secondary. They will also slow down star running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy. The Jaguars will also contribute offensively although QB Blake Bortles will be under a lot of pressure. RB Leonard Fournette will do well against the Bills defensive front though, and Jacksonville’s young receivers will outdo the Bills stingy secondary.

(5) Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (4)

Sunday: 4:40 PM EST on FOX

Saints, 30, Panthers, 19

QB Drew Brees and his versatile receivers will lead the Saints to victory here. They will dominate against the young, inexperienced Carolina secondary although the tough Panthers front seven will shut down the Saints RB duo. But the New Orleans defense will also do well, overwhelming QB Cam Newton, shutting down the strong Carolina run game, and holding Carolina to just one TD. The Saints defense has significantly improved since last season. They support the dominant offense, and that will bring New Orleans a successful playoff run as they win here at home.

That’s all for my playoff Predictions and wild card picks. Check back next week for my updated divisional round picks. In addition, stay tuned for my predictions on where the top free agents and players on the trade block will land. I will also be releasing more recaps on the Patriots and my middle school’s basketball teams, so check back soon.

Top 10 Boston Sports Events of 2017

Welcome to my 2017 sports year in review!  This year has been historic in Boston sports, as all 4 of our teams made the playoffs and the Pats won a championship.  Today I will list the Top 10 stories of the year.

10. Patriots lock up home-field advantage throughout 2017-18 AFC Playoffs

Image result for brandin cooks jets @ patriots

With a win over the Jets today, the Pats locked up the #1 seed, giving them home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs.  The Steelers, who also went 13-3, grabbed the 2nd seed, but the Pats have the tiebreaker after a big win over Pittsburgh, which may be mentioned later on our list.

9. Celtics Sign Gordon Hayward

Image result for celtics sign gordon hayward

This summer, the Celts signed former Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.  Although he did not get to play much due to a brutal leg injury, it was a good signing that will help the Celtics offensive efforts in coming years.  The question is, will Hayward ever fully heal?

8. Red Sox Clinch Division

After a tough fight for the division with the Yankees, the Sox clinched the division in a 6-3 win against the Astros.  The Sox won the division for the 2nd straight year, but it will be tougher this year as the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton.

7. Pats Trade Jimmy Garoppolo to 49ers

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This was a surprising move as Brady is 40 years old and should have a young backup ready.  Garoppolo also did really well during Brady’s suspension.  The Garoppolo effect has led the 49ers to a pretty good final record.  How much longer can it last?

6. Celtics Trade #1 Pick to 76ers, Acquire #3 Pick Instead

The Celtics had won the pick in the lottery after their trade with the Nets.  However, it didn’t matter as the guy they wanted, Jayson Tatum, was not going before Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, and the Celtics were able to draft him.  Honestly, he’s doing better than Fultz or Ball.  He’s led the Celtics as a rookie, something that has not happened in a long time.

5. Celtics surprise Wizards as they win Game 7 of Eastern Conference Semifinals

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I was losing faith in the Celts, but they pulled it off.  However, they lost to Cleveland the next round.

4. Pats Trade with Saints, Acquire Brandin Cooks

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This was a good move as Cooks became the Pats’ #1 receiver and deep threat this season as Julian Edelman went down with a torn ACL.

3. Celtics acquire Kyrie Irving from Cavaliers, Give Up Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder

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Irving has made a difference this season, and Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder haven’t done nearly as much as him.  This is a good trade so far, but Thomas has been hurt, so the outcome is still unknown.

2. Patriots shock Steelers to secure tiebreaker, clinch division

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This was the Game of the Year.  The Pats came back at the last minute with a TD and 2 point conversion.  To read more about it, check out this article: Pats Stun Pittsburgh and Steal Win

1. Pats Win Super Bowl LI as Falcons blow 28-3 Lead

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If there’s any game this year that was better than the Pats-Steelers match-up this month, it’s this one.  The Pats came back from a 25-point Falcons lead, going to the first ever Super Bowl overtime and winning the game, 34-28.  To read more about it, read this article: Best Super Bowl Ever: Pats Win 5th Ring in OT Miracle

That’s all for this article.  Happy New Year, and stay tuned for playoff predictions coming tomorrow.

NFL Week 17 Picks

Welcome to my Week 17 Picks.  Last week I went 10-6, putting my overall record at 144-101.  With playoff contention and seeding on the line, who will come out on top this week?  Read below to find out, and comment on your thoughts.

Note: Due to continuous technical difficulties with one of my editing apps, I was not able to include the score images.

Lock of the Week

Redskins, 30, Giants, 0

Led by QB Kirk Cousins, I expect the Redskins to rout and shutout the Giants in New York.  The Giants will be without WR Sterling Shepard and TE Evan Engram due to injuries, and they are still missing WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall.  Without those four receiving weapons, the Giants will fail to challenge the Redskins D.  That will make it easy for Cousins to lead the Redskins to victory, causing the problematic, injury-riddled Giants to finish 2-14.

Upset of the Week

Panthers, 31, Falcons, 27

I see the Panthers winning in a shootout here.  QB Cam Newton will connect with his favorite target, TE Greg Olsen to help lead Carolina.  RB Christian McCaffrey will also make major contributions to their victory.  The Falcons will challenge them though, as they figure out how to outsmart the Panthers secondary.  WR Julio Jones will dominate, and I think he’ll catch at least 2 TD from QB Matt Ryan.  Their run game will also contribute, but it will not be enough as Carolina snags a victory.

The Other Games

Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Patriots, 23, Jets, 16

Expect a better performance out of the Pats front seven.  They will pressure QB Josh McCown and slow down the Jets run game as new LB James Harrison leads them.  I expect him to come through as he is seeking revenge on his old team, the Steelers.  I also think QB Tom Brady will find his receivers against the young Jets secondary and will avoid being picked off for the first time in weeks.

The Pats secondary will also have a big game in my opinion.  They will also be motivated to beat the Steelers.  They will make it hard for McCown to find his receivers and slow down the rhythm of the Jets offense.  This motivated Pats team will play complementary football and win the game.

 

Steelers, 28, Browns, 20

The Browns will try to grab their first victory of 2017, but will not succeed against the playoff-bound Steelers, who are fighting for a chance at the #1 seed.  The Browns offense will actually look decent here, but the Steelers offense will top that, even without WR Antonio Brown.  QB Ben Roethlisberger will find other options with Brown hurt.  Pittsburgh should grab a victory with ease, even without Brown, as the Browns go 0-16.

 

Colts, 23, Texans, 21

I think Texans QB T.J. Yates will actually look decent against the weak Colts defense, but he won’t be able to do as much without his #1 receiver, DeAndre Hopkins.  The Texans run game will also do well, as the duo of Lamar Miller and Dont’a Foreman will score two of the three Houston touchdowns.  But the Colts offense will get the edge as QB Jacoby Brissett tosses 2 TD and leads Indy to victory.

 

Eagles, 30, Cowboys, 27

The Eagles will top Dallas, but it will not be as high scoring as last time.  QB Nick Foles will have a decent game, but he will not be able to do the same thing that star QB Carson Wentz was able to do.  But the Eagles offense will still do well, and they will also use their run game to their advantage.  The Eagles defense will also do well, holding off Dallas as Philly wins, going 14-2 on the season.

 

Lions, 27, Packers, 6

Unfortunately, I think the injury-riddled Packers will end up finishing the season in shambles, losing to the Lions in 2017 season finale.  Lions QB Matthew Stafford will throw a trio of TD to take the early lead, and Green Bay will fail to fight back.  The Lions will win with ease as the Packers start focusing on next season, hoping to come back healthy in 2018.  This year, they were devastated by injuries to their QB, Aaron Rodgers among other stars.  This week, Rodgers is out, and so are wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams.

Vikings, 28, Bears, 9

Expect the Bears offense to struggle against the tough Vikes defense.  Their run game will be shut down, and QB Mitch Trubisky won’t be able to start an offensive rhythm as there is a lack of receiving weapons in Chicago right now.  On the other hand, the Vikings offense will continue to strive as the Vikes win, led by dominance on both sides of the ball.

Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Bills, 27, Dolphins, 24

The WR trio of Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, and Jordan Matthews will help lead the Bills to victory in Miami against the young, struggling Dolphins secondary.  The Dolphins will be able to slow down RB LeSean McCoy, but not the Bills’ receiving trio.  The Miami receiving trio will also do well, but their lack of a run game will cost them as Buffalo wins.

Ravens, 20, Bengals, 13

The Ravens defense will be dominant in this game, shutting down Bengals QB Andy Dalton and holding him to just 1 touchdown.  The Ravens offense will also thrive, even without starting WR Jeremy Maclin and even against a tough Bengals defense.  They will be led by their other starting WR Mike Wallace.  Baltimore will win in a low scoring game after a strong performance on both sides of the ball.

 

Titans, 23, Jaguars, 20

The Titans will edge out the Jaguars in a relatively low scoring game.  The Jags defense will slow down Titans RB Derrick Henry, and the Titans will fail to run the ball with Henry well covered and RB DeMarco Murray out.  However, the Jags will fail to do the same against the versatile group of Titans receivers.

The Jaguars will struggle to perform offensively without some of their key weapons like receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee.  But they will come close to spoiling the Titans’ chances, led by their younger receivers like Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole.   In the end, the Titans will grab the victory.

 

Chiefs, 16, Broncos, 13

The Chiefs offense will not be the same with WR Tyreek Hill resting up for the playoffs, and the Broncos defense will be able to hold the, down early.  But TE Travis Kelce, the run game, and other receivers will help the Chiefs take the lead later on.  Denver will also struggle offensively without a definitive starter at QB and with both WR Emmanuel Sanders and WR Cody Latimer hurt.  But the combo of QB Trevor Siemian and WR Demaryius Thomas will grab the lead early.  However, they will blow it later on as the Chiefs make an effort to come back and succeed.

 

Chargers, 45, Raiders, 34

The Raiders will make a good effort here.  They will target the Chargers’ weakness in the secondary by going with a pass-heavy offense.  QB Derek Carr will dominate, throwing for 350 yards and 4 TD.  But it won’t be enough against the dominant Chargers offense.  LA’s offense will electrify as they play for one last shot to make the playoffs.  With playoff contention on the line, the Chargers will score 5 or more offensive touchdowns, led by QB Philip Rivers as well as their TE duo among others.  The Chargers will win in a shootout as Oakland cannot keep up despite Carr’s huge game.

 

Saints, 30, Buccaneers, 26

QB Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense will come close against the Saints, but the powerful New Orleans secondary will slow them down as they play great red zone defense.  The Saints will also put up another strong offensive performance as Brees tosses 3 TD, leading the Saints to victory.

 

Seahawks, 27, Cardinals, 24

Despite a strong effort by the Cardinals with WR John Brown, the Seahawks will comeback to win at home.  The Seahawks defense will not be able to shut down the Cardinals receivers without CB Richard Sherman, but the TE Jimmy Graham and the Seahawks offense will lead Seattle to victory.

 

Rams, 34, 49ers, 27

The success of new 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo will not be enough against the powerful Rams offense.  The 49ers offense will come close though, as Garoppolo connects with multiple receivers for touchdowns.  But it still will not be enough, as RB Todd Gurley, QB Jared Goff and WR Sammy Watkins lead LA to victory in a close game.

 

That’s all for my Week 17 Picks.  If my predictions are right, according to the ESPN Playoff Machine, the playoff seeding will look like this:

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Stay tuned for more NFL preview videos and picks coming soon.  In addition, with MLB free agency kicking into gear, my prediction article is coming soon.  Also stay tuned for my article about 2017 in sports as we ring in 2018 tonight.