The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Welcome to my third article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII, where the underdogs, the Eagles will try to come through on the big stage against the defending champions.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that are already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31: The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

 

The Case for the Eagles

Image result for nick foles eagles

The Eagles are coming off a big win going into this big game.  Nick Foles broke out, throwing for 352 yards and 3 TDs to lead the Eagles to a 38-7 victory.  What Foles proved is that the Eagles have the offensive weapons of a Super Bowl-winning team, they just need a productive night out of their QB.  Nick Foles is the X-factor and the biggest question for the Eagles.  Although the Patriots secondary will be ready to keep Foles’ receivers well covered and make it hard for him to find them in either scenario, having a rough game doesn’t even give him a chance to win it.  Getting into a rhythm is step one for Foles and the Philly offense.

The Eagles have strong receivers that can at least try to get past a tricky Pats secondary, so if Foles picks up where he leaves off, the Eagles could soar.  Otherwise, Foles and the Eagles offense will struggle as the carriage turns back into the pumpkin and the Patriots dominate.  The Eagles also have a great run game that they should take advantage of against a defense that has struggled against running backs.  That’s something that’s not a problem in Philly, as they allowed the 2nd least rush yards during the 2017 regular season.

Speaking of the defense, they’ll need to be on top of their game for the Eagles to win.  If they have a good day, they could get on QB Tom Brady’s nerves and mess up the New England offensive scheme.  Although many people are saying otherwise, the Eagles do have a chance to win the Super Bowl.  These underdogs quietly made their way in through productive offense and dominant defense.  If you’re a Pats fan like me, don’t assume that the Pats are all set and will have it easy.  This will be a close one, at least in my opinion.

It will be especially close if the defense can pressure TB12 and Nick Foles can keep up the good work.  Those are their two major keys to win the game.  They’ll also need to win the turnover battle, get the run game going against a Pats defense which has struggled against running backs this year, and keep receivers open for Foles to make sure he doesn’t throw preventable interceptions.  If Foles makes mistakes like that, it could put a wrench in Philly’s entire gameplan, even if he looks good for the majority of the game.

Although they are clear underdogs, will the Eagles win Super Bowl LII?  Stay tuned for my Super Bowl LII Predictions this Friday to find out what I think.

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The Case For the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Welcome to my second article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII, where the Patriots will try to defend their title and win a 6th Lombardi Trophy.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that are already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29: Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31: The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

 

The Case for the Pats

The Patriots come in to this game with momentum, completing a 4th quarter comeback to advance to the Super Bowl.  QB Tom Brady’s thumb did not appear to be a problem during the AFC title game.  However, TE Rob Gronkowski left the game after a hit to the head, which we later  found out had caused a concussion.  It was tough for Brady and the Pats to succeed without both Gronk and WR Julian Edelman (Missed 2017 with Torn ACL).  The good news is that Gronk is practicing again, which means he’s on pace to clear the NFL concussion protocol and return for this Sunday’s big game.

The Pats are known to do well against inexperienced QBs, and whether this was the case or not, the Eagles are already questioning whether Nick Foles will even put up numbers similar to what he did in the NFC title game, as he led the Eagles to blowout the Vikings, 38-7.  Foles tossed 3 TDs and over 350 yards.  This was the first game that he made that big an impact.  Will he keep up the good work, or will the carriage turn back into a pumpkin for Foles?  Regardless of Foles’ performance, the Eagles are a good team.  They give their QBs better protection than Blake Bortles got last week against New England, and the Pats were held to just two sacks against Jacksonville.

They also have almost as good a run game as Jacksonville does, between the stars like Jay Ajayi, the young guns like Corey Clement, and their dependable end zone back in LeGarrette Blount.  Will the Pats struggle as much as they did against Leonard Fournette and Corey Grant?  These dark horses, or “underdogs” as called by Lane Johnson, are not to be underestimated.  Bill Belichick was not about to take them lightly either.  This is a playoff game.

There is one thing that could mess Foles up, even in the midst of a big game, the Patriots secondary. Will CB Stephon Gillmore finally get the interception he is long overdue for?  He’s made some great plays, but an interception for Gillmore hasn’t been seen for a long time.  The Eagles do have a great defense too, though, so just because the Patriots get the ball, it doesn’t mean it will be easy.  DT Fletcher Cox could be a threat to TB12 among others in the Eagles front seven, and the Pats o-line is especially weak on the right side, where they’ll be without Marcus Cannon.

But with Gronk in the game, I do think they’ll be able to beat out the Eagles secondary, as long as Brady is well protected.  In order to win, the Pats will need to do so.  They’ll also need to keep Nick Foles’ receivers well covered and their secondary needs to have another big game.  That way, whether it’s elite Nick Foles or struggling Nick Foles that shows up for the Super Bowl, the Pats have him covered.  They’ll need to make sure the Eagles don’t control the turnover battle, as fumbles, picks and strip sacks are the last thing they need.  Lastly, they’ll need a big game out of other receivers besides Gronk.  If Gronk plays, he’ll have just recovered from a concussion.  They’ll also have to depend on guys like Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola.  Mixing up who they throw to will confuse the Eagles D, but it will only be effective if multiple receivers perform well.

Will the Patriots win Super Bowl LII?  Stay tuned for my Super Bowl LII Predictions this Friday to find out what I think.

Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

The match-up is set.  The Patriots and Eagles will face off in Super Bowl LII.  Today I will address how they got there, and give you your first look at the match-up.

But first here is the official schedule for my Super Bowl LII Preview. This will be part of each Preview article and will include links to the articles that are finished.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29: Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31: The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

How They Got There

Patriots

 

The Pats won in comeback fashion again, this time against the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20.  Early on, Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette, Corey Grant, and the rest of the Jaguars offense dominated, taking a 14-3 lead and challenging the Pats for their chance at making it to their 10th Super Bowl, and their 8th with Tom Brady.  The Pats were unable to stop this powerful Jags offense for most of the 1st half, although they did narrow Jacksonville’s lead with a TD before the half, making it 14-10.  The Jaguars’ powerful pass rush also got on Tom Brady’s nerves in this half.

By halftime, Pats fans were getting worried, and some (but not me) gave up hope.  But the 2nd half brought a turn-around for the Patriots.  In the 3rd quarter, we began to see a better defensive performance by New England, as they held Jacksonville to just a measly 3 points in that quarter.  Lawrence Guy was able to sack Bortles as he led the Pats defense to begin to get pressure on him.  The Jags scored another field goal to begin the 4th and led 20-10.

But better defense set the Pats offense up to come back in the 4th quarter.  Despite TE Rob Gronkowski being ruled out with a concussion, the Pats came back, led by Brady, Danny Amendola (who scored both 4th quarter TDs) and Brandin Cooks.  The Pats came out of nowhere after being down by 10, scoring 14 unanswered points to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl.  But how will they fare against the Eagles, who obliterated the Vikings?

Eagles

 

The Vikings got off to a fast start as Case Keenum connected with TE Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown.  But after that, Nick Foles broke out, leading the Eagles offense to blow away an otherwise unstoppable Vikings defense.  He somehow tossed 3 TDs and 352 yards against the typically dominant Vikings D.  I also don’t know how this defense gave up 38 points.

Not only did Foles do well, but his top four receivers (Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor) all had over 50 yards receiving, combining for 306 of Philly’s receiving yards and all 3 receiving TDs.  The combination of end zone back LeGarrette Blount and lead running back Jay Ajayi also had a big game compared to recent performances.

After that win, the Eagles truly do deserve to fight for that Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis, although it would have been cool to see Minnesota win it at home, or be stopped by the Patriots dynasty.  But will the Eagles put up the same numbers against New England, who has far more experience in the Super Bowl?  Many of New England’s players don’t even know what it is like not making the AFC Championship game.

A First Look at the Big Game

With TE Rob Gronkowski on the practice field as of Saturday the 27th, it’s a good sign that Gronk will be able to clear the concussion protocol and play by Sunday’s big game. Gronk’s status will help determine New England’s offensive schemes against an Eagles defense that can be tricky at times.

Either way, especially with T Marcus Cannon injured, DT Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line could pressure QB Tom Brady and hit him a few times. But I do think Brady should be able to find his receivers against the younger, but still powerful Eagles secondary. With or without him, Gronk will have to get past Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins among others as they will likely keep the star tight end double covered.

Brady will have to mix it up a little, not only passing to Gronk, and dependable passing backs James White and Rex Burkhead, but also to his wide receivers who helped him win with Gronk and Burkhead out late into last week’s game. Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and/or Chris Hogan could have a big game here. But will we see the Eagles look like their inconsistent selves again, or will we see QB Nick Foles and the Eagles offense pick up where they left off?

If they can, they will significantly challenge the Patriots, whose pass rush has struggled to pressure the QB at times this season.  However, it has gotten better since LB James Harrison joined the Patriots.  Not only has he himself made an impact, but he’s also made an impact on other players’ performances, serving as a veteran influence.  The Pats sacked Jags QB Blake Bortles twice last week.  One was by Harrison, and the other by DT Lawrence Guy.  However, the Eagles give Foles better protection than Bortles gets with their strong offensive line.

This also helps running backs, who the Pats have struggled even more against.  In their Week 7 win against Atlanta, their big flaw was giving up big plays to Devonta Freeman.  It cost them in Week 1 against Kareem Hunt.  Can RB Jay Ajayi be next?  Will end zone threat Blount Force Trauma get revenge on his former team?  Or will it be younger RBs like Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood who thrive?

The good news is, despite their front seven woes, they have maintained a strong secondary all season long, and don’t be surprised if they annoy Foles’ receivers and pick Foles off a couple times. I do think Foles will continue to thrive though, finding his receivers for most of the game, but making brutal mistakes against this strong secondary that cause the Eagles offense to trail a little behind the “Brady Bunch.”

Who will win Super Bowl LII?  What is the game plan for each team?  What Super Bowl and season-long stats will burden, encourage and/or influence each team?  Find out this week as I release more articles each day.

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 3: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to the third and final part 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 outfielders on the market, and trade ideas.

Free agency is finally kicking into gear, and my predictions have been shaken up after the Giants traded for OF Andrew McCutchen and signed CF Austin Jackson.  I had originally predicted Lorenzo Cain to sign here, but after these two moves, I was reconsidering and began a prediction for Cain to sign in Milwaukee.

Then soon after, it happened, and the market shook up again when the Marlins dealt their last sign of hope to the Brewers in Christian Yelich.  Just hours later, the Brew Crew signed Cain and suddenly had a good problem.  They had five “starting outfielders” on their roster or five outfielders that could use a starting job.  Now, the question is, will they trade Domingo Santana or Keon Broxton?  Will Ryan Braun play first base as he said he is open to?  Find out my thoughts on that and much more below.

If you haven’t seen the first two parts, click the links below:

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 1: Pitchers

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

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)

OF

Image result for jose bautistaJose Bautista

My Prediction: Texas Rangers, 1 year, $9 million

Bautista doesn’t have many more years left in him.  He looked like he was on the decline last year, and as the Blue Jays are ready to let younger players take over in the outfield, he will not be signing another 1-year deal with them.  However, the Rangers could use one more veteran outfielder to add depth to the outfield and to be a role model for guys like Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields.  He will not sign a long-term deal though as I do not think he has more than one or two good years left.

Image result for melky cabrera Melky Cabrera

My Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $42 million

The Braves are another team that lacks outfield depth.  Bringing back a power hitting veteran like Cabrera is a smart choice because this young lineup needs some power, and the outfield needs another option in left field beside Preston Tucker or Lane Adams.  After playing here in 2010, this would be Cabrera’s second stint in Atlanta, so he at least vaguely knows the organization.

 

Image result for rajai davis Rajai Davis

My Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 2 years, $17 million

The White Sox lack a definitive group of major league ready outfielders as they enter a rebuild, so signing one more veteran at that position would be helpful.  It doesn’t have to be a big move, just someone who can start for them like Rajai Davis.  They don’t need anyone for more than a couple years either due to the fact that they’ll have more outfielders ready to start in a couple years.

For now, while Davis plays left, Adam Engel and Charlie Tilson can work out some sort of platoon in center.  Then as time passes, guys like top prospect Eloy Jimenez or RF Willy Garcia could take over for Davis, and Engel and Tilson could get more time as starters.

Image result for jarrod dyson Jarrod Dyson

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 3 years, $24 million

After trading away outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Marlins are in rebuild mode and will have a new look outfield this year.  But they need a couple more ready to start players in case new outfielders Lewis Brinson, Braxton Lee or Magneuris Sierra cannot handle full-time jobs yet.  Dyson is one of the younger outfielders on the market and would be a good fit in Miami to play this role.

Image result for andre ethier Andre Ethier

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 1 year, $7 million

Although Ethier is injury prone and his bat may not be as powerful as it used to be, he would be a good veteran influence in Miami if he stays healthy.  If he gets hurt, the Marlins will likely have Braxton Lee or Magneuris Sierra ready to be in a full-time job.  After missing most of 2017 with injuries, the Marlins will have to hope that he’s still a reliable starter and that he doesn’t get hurt, so there are some risks to this signing.

However, I think it will happen as the Marlins need a veteran influence for these young outfielders.  Part of me does not understand why the Marlins are rebuilding so early, but it might be because they want to deal their stars away before they lose value and the Marlins become an old, mediocre team with nowhere to go.

An early rebuild gives them the opportunity to acquire a lot of young talent in exchange for some of their current starters, but they still need some veteran influences to start until the young guys are ready.  Don’t expect the Marlins to be anything more than a 70-win team though, with or without veterans.  The Marlins missed the window to contend with their last era of players, can they contend with this new squad?

Right now, if they sign Ethier and Jarrod Dyson, I could see Lewis Brinson and Dyson in full-time jobs, while Ethier and Magneuris Sierra platoon.

Image result for carlos gomez Carlos Gomez

My Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 2 years, $23 million

Baltimore would be a good fit for Gomez, who will bring some power to the lineup of whatever team he signs with.  The O’s have a powerful lineup, but after losing Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy’s bats over the last two off-seasons, they could use one more power hitter to top the lineup off.  They never really found a powerful replacement in the lineup for Wieters, and this will also fill their hole in the outfield.

Image result for carlos gonzalez Carlos Gonzalez

My Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 3 years, $34.5 million

Even after acquiring Dee Gordon to play outfield, I don’t trust the Mariners outfield to come through right now.  Maybe they could consider trading away 2B Robinson Cano to open up second for Gordon before spring training.  But they will only do that if they can get a starting outfielder in return.  Either way, signing Gonzalez is a good move for them.  He will be a veteran influence on the young guns as he is a strong player in the field and at the plate.  Although he has declined, I could see a bounce-back year in the works.  If he doesn’t bounce back, they have platoon mates ready for him such as Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia or Mitch Haniger.

Image result for jon jay Jon Jay

My Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $22 million

In an effort to finally break through this season, the A’s could use another veteran in their outfield.  Even with Dustin Fowler and Boog Powell among others ready to start, there are no locks for Oakland’s third starting outfielder.  Jay is a good fit for them, as although he is not necessarily an everyday starter, the A’s can let the younger guys rotate with Jay and fellow starter Stephen Piscotty, while star left fielder Khris Davis starts daily.

Give him a two or three-year deal to come to Oakland, and when his contract expires, the younger players will be ready for a full-time role.  For now, they can have Jay start some games in center, where they desperately need another option.

 

Image result for jd martinez J.D. Martinez

My Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 5 years, $75 million

There have been so many rumors that this deal will happen, that I’d almost consider it inevitable.  The Red Sox are probably just waiting because there hasn’t been much buzz surrounding Martinez or much of a rush to sign him.  Martinez will probably play a mix of DH and outfield during his time in Boston, but either way, he will bring the some of the power the Red Sox need to make up for the loss of David Ortiz’s presence in the lineup.  But none of the home run hitters on the market can make up for what the Sox lost when Big Papi retired.

Image result for jayson werth Jayson Werth

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

I know that the Giants have already spent a lot on their outfield this off-season between Cutch and Austin Jackson.  But I think Jackson could use a veteran platoon-mate.  Werth still should have a couple good years left in him, and he may not be an everyday starter anymore, but I see him as a great fit in San Francisco.  They could have younger players like Jarrett Parker or Gorkys Hernandez rotate with A-Jax, but I think the Giants had three major priorities this off-season: fix the outfield, get a new third baseman to replace the washed-up Pablo Sandoval, and add a couple more starters.

They have already acquired Evan Longoria to play third and A-Jax and Cutch in the outfield.  So if they sign one more outfielder and add a little depth to the starting five, they could be legitimate contenders, even in one of the tightest divisions in the MLB.

 

Other Predictions:

Peter Bourjos (PHI, 2 years, $16 million)

Alejandro De Aza (CIN, 1 year, $4.5 million)

Matt Holliday (HOU, 1 year, $6 million)

Cameron Maybin (LAD, 2 years, $17 million)

Colby Rasmus (PHI, 2 years, $14 million)

Ben Revere (DET, 1 year, $3.5 million)

Michael Saunders (CLE, 2 years, $12 million)

 

Trade Ideas: These trades would work on both sides, but it’s doubtful that most of them actually go through

Boston Red Sox trade DH Hanley Ramirez & SP prospect Williams Jerez to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for SP Kyle Gibson (In this case, the Sox would sign 1B Eric Hosmer or OF/DH J.D. Martinez)

If they can find a destination for Hanley Ramirez, it would give the Red Sox some flexibility in the free agent market.  They’ll be able to sign a free agent DH or first baseman and get him into a full-time role.  It would’ve given them even more flexibility to just forget about resigning Mitch Moreland because then Hanley could play whatever position they cannot fill in free agency, either DH or first base.  But it’s too late for that.

It will be tough for them to dish away Hanley’s contract though.  Who would want to take that on?  The only team that I think might be up for it is the Twins, who could be looking for an upgrade at DH over Kennys Vargas.  However, it would be nice, especially if we can get a decent starter in return like Gibson.  It would be nice just to have another option in the rotation in case Price or E-Rod struggles.  In the meantime, we could sign either Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez to fill our need for a power hitter, and they would have a full-time role for whichever one they sign.

In this case, signing Hosmer would mean Hosmer plays first and Moreland plays DH, and signing Martinez would mean that Moreland stays at first and Martinez replaces Hanley at DH.

New York Yankees trade OF Brett Gardner, INF prospect Gleyber Torres, and OF prospect Jake Cave to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for 2B Robinson Cano 

I was suggesting that the Mariners consider trading Cano to open up second base for the newcomer Dee Gordon, but it would be crazy if this happened.  This would just give the Yankees another home run hitter when they already got Giancarlo Stanton this off-season.  I even have them re-signing 3B Todd Frazier.

But it would be a good trade on both sides as the Yankees fill the hole that Starlin Castro left, and the Yankees already have enough outfielders with Hicks, Judge, Ellsbury, and Stanton out there.  Cano knows the offensive scheme in New York too, and that always helps.  They do need a DH, but they have guys like Tyler Austin and Miguel Andujar that could become a full-time DH.  This is also good on Seattle’s end, as they open up second base for Gordon and get a much needed full-time outfielder in return.  It’s a nice thought, but it would be absurd if this actually went through.

Tampa Bay Rays trade OF Kevin Kiermaier to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 2B Devon Travis

I don’t think the Jays are done dealing.  Even with Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk on the roster, I think the Jays could use one more outfielder.  Kiermaier is a great fielder who can fill that need.  The Jays don’t really need Travis anymore since they traded for 2B Yangervis Solarte.  On Tampa’s side of things, they already have a surplus of starters in the outfield, and first base is their biggest offensive hole.  Acquiring a second baseman like Travis will allow Brad Miller to spend some time playing first while Travis shares time with Micah Johnson and/or Joey Wendle at second.

Texas Rangers trade 3B Adrian Beltre to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for SP Julio Teheran and RP Mauricio Cabrera

This might be the craziest trade I’ve predicted yet.  I highly doubt this will happen, but if it did, it would work for both teams.  The Braves will be able to give their younger pitchers more time in the starting five, and they will fill their gaping hole at third that was left by Adonis Garcia when he left to play in Korea.

Meanwhile, in Texas, they would acquire a flame-throwing reliever looking to bounce-back from an injury-riddled season (Cabrera) and a top-tier starter to grab the second spot in the rotation behind Cole Hamels (Teheran).  With Beltre out of Texas, 3B Joey Gallo will finally have a full-time job as well.  I doubt this will happen, but it is an intriguing trade that would shake up the rosters of both of these teams.

Milwaukee Brewers trade OF Domingo Santana and SP prospect Freddy Peralta to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for SP Danny Salazar

This would balance out the rosters of both the Indians and Brewers.  Of all the trades I’m predicting, this is the most likely to happen.  It is practically a perfect fit on both sides.  The Indians have already been open to trading Salazar, as, since the end of 2017, they have had six valid starters.  Without Salazar, they will still have a solid rotation as seen below:

  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Trevor Bauer
  4. Josh Tomlin
  5. Mike Clevinger

Meanwhile, with the addition of Salazar, the Brewers rotation will begin to look more intriguing, and they will look more like a playoff team as seen below:

  1. Danny Salazar
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Zach Davies
  4. Chase Anderson
  5. Jhoulys Chacin (He will start until Jimmy Nelson returns)

Despite a defined ace, they will have multiple pitchers with ace potential.  Meanwhile, the Brewers will be able to cut down their outfield to three everyday starters in Cain, Yelich, and Braun.  Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips can back them up.  The Indians outfield will finally have the right-handed everyday starter they need in Santana.

He will start alongside Michael Brantley, and either Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, or someone else.  The Indians have Melvin Upton Jr. signed to a minor league deal as well, and I could see him returning to the majors.  The point is, the Indians will at least have two defined starters after this trade, and both teams will fill a crucial need and give up a player at a position they have plenty of depth at.

 

That’s all for my 2017-18 MLB Free Agency Predictions.  Feel free to comment on any of these articles with your thoughts.  In addition, if you haven’t seen my APEX go-kart experience article yet, click the link below:

Race to the APEX For Non-Stop Entertainment

While I was there, my dad and I faced off in NFL Blitz, and we simulated the Super Bowl LII match-up.  Playing as the Pats, my dad beat me (as the Eagles), 31-3.  I was unhappy that I lost, but also happy that the Pats won our simulation.  As for the real Super Bowl, I will have an in-depth look at it throughout this week, so stay tuned.

Race to the APEX For Non-Stop Entertainment

 

Image result for apex center new england

A huge plaza known as the APEX Center of New England recently opened in Marlborough, Massachusetts.  It is located on US-20, near Exit 24 on I-495.  One of the best parts of this new plaza is the APEX Entertainment Center, which just opened its three-story, quarter-mile long, go-karting track this week.

APEX Entertainment also includes these attractions:

  • A huge arcade, including a mix of classic and modern arcade games
  • A bowling alley (with 30 lanes) that includes both 10-pin bowling and a New England favorite, Candlepin bowling.  At the end of each lane above the pins are huge TV screens to watch current sports events
  • A ropes course above the arcade with a view of the go-kart track
  • Several sports simulation machines
  • An American Bar and Restaurant named the Pit Stop Tavern, also with a great view of both the go-karting track and the bowling alley
  • A Boston themed laser tag arena, complete with a 3-story model of the Prudential Center
  • Bumper cars

If you’re interested in more formal dining, the 110 Grill is a few doors down in the same plaza.  The management at APEX Entertainment provided me with an all-access tour and gave me the opportunity to try out the go-karts and the bumper cars.  My dad, my brother and I were greeted by Sherie Gaw, one of the managers at APEX Entertainment.

She showed us the sports simulators first.  Not only can you play virtual baseball, football, basketball, golf, and soccer, but you can also play other games such as zombie dodgeball.  They even have a carnival simulator.

Next, she took us to one of her favorite spots, where we could get a great view of the bowling alley and the movie-screen sized TVs. From where we were standing, we could see all 30 bowling lanes, some of which are candlepin lanes.  In addition, they have a special feature in some of the 10-pin lanes called Angry Birds bowling.  For dedicated bowlers, they will have leagues starting this summer.

The APEX is also a great place to watch sports.  Their bowling alley includes several huge TVs, and there are many more TVs around the Pit Stop Tavern and the bowling alley.  We had a great time when we came there to watch Week 17’s match-up between the Patriots and Jets, the game that secured home-field advantage for New England.

img_5426
My dad and I bowling and watching the game

On our way to the go-kart track, we walked by the classic section of the arcade, which included 1999 NFL Blitz and a vintage hockey game.

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After that, we headed right to the go-kart track, known as the IC Federal Credit Union Speedway.

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Me in front of the logo for the go-kart track

Nobody was racing yet when we got there, so Sherie took us on a walk around the track.  It was the longest, most interesting go-kart track I had ever seen!  The track is a quarter of a mile long.  Sherie led us through one lap in the direction that the go-karts are supposed to go.  I even got a picture in the special 110 Grill go-kart after!

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Next up, we walked through the part of the arcade filled with lots of new arcade games.  Next to the arcade were the bumpers cars. There are six bumper cars and my dad, my brother, Sherie, 2 other APEX employees and I filled the arena and had some fun-filled bumping action.

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Once the go-karts opened for the afternoon, we registered ourselves and the three of us had the whole track to ourselves as they had just opened.  We put on head-socks and sized ourselves for helmets, and soon enough, we were in the go-karts and ready to race.  The maximum speed for the go-karts was 40 mph, but we went around 20 mph.  Although I wasn’t going at full speed, it was the best go-kart ride of my life!

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Me after I got all geared up to race

My favorite part is where you go down to the lowest part of the track, through a tunnel, and right back up.  Soon after that, you can make a hairpin turn that leads you up to the highest part.  On your way back down, they say you can even get some air if you’re driving at top speed.

In my fastest lap, I went at a speed of 19.5 mph, finishing the lap in 46.3 seconds.  My dad won the race, going 20.5 mph in his fastest lap, which he finished in 44 seconds.  I came in second, just ahead of my brother, who went at a speed of 17.75 mph during his fastest lap, which took about 51 seconds.  You can get your race results using an app called “Activity Box.”  To log in, just ask to view your license at the go-kart registration desk.

After the race, we went upstairs to play arcade games and cool off with a refreshing iced beverage from the Pit Stop Tavern.  My dad and I faced off in NFL Blitz.  He played as the Patriots and I played as the Eagles.  Although I was upset that he beat me 31-3, I was also happy that the Patriots won as we were simulating this year’s Super Bowl match-up.

Before I left, I watched a number of racers going at top speed in a very competitive race.  Check out my video of two racing drivers here:

I’d like to thank Sherie Gaw for taking the time to show me a first class APEX experience and Ashley Coffey for setting it up.  If you haven’t visited yet, I recommend that you race to the APEX for non-stop entertainment.

See the APEX Entertainment website here: https://www.apexentertainmentcenter.com

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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.

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.