MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers and Infielders

Welcome to Part 2 of my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent catchers and infielders, including Wilson Ramos, Josh Donaldson, and Manny Machado.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Note: These predictions were made before Atlanta’s signings of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann on November 26.

C

The Nationals signed C Kurt Suzuki this week, and the Mariners dealt off C Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay. That should cause the catcher market to keep moving quickly. The Angels need a catcher upgrade desperately. They will be in the market for top options Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy. The A’s will also look for a catcher after losing Lucroy. I could see them adding Ramos. I have Grandal returning to the Padres, where his career started. He will split time with C Austin Hedges. Wieters will head to Seattle. The Mariners are looking for a cheap option at catcher to support C David Freitas. I have the Marlins signing McCann after trading C J.T. Realmuto (I think he’s going to either Atlanta or Milwaukee). That leaves Devin Mesoraco, who will sign with the Phillies and split time with C Jorge Alfaro. The Mets will miss out in the catcher market and stick with Travis d’Arnaud at catcher.

Corner Infielders (Combined 1B and 3B due to shortage of options)

The Braves’ biggest hole is at third base. They are doing whatever it takes to add a top line third baseman to help their contention efforts. Donaldson is a great fit. I think the Yankees will pass on Manny Machado and use Didi Gregorius in the long term. But they will add 3B Mike Moustakas to give them flexibility in the infield, whether Gregorius is hurt or not.

The Marlins are looking for a cheap replacement for Justin Bour, and Duda is a strong fit. That will cause Matt Adams to return to St. Louis, and the Royals will add Logan Morrison with Duda signed. The Orioles do need free agent help, but they will look for bargains. Valbuena could be a good bargain signing. He can provide support at second and third.

2B

The Twins are in it to win it, and reuniting with Dozier after a deadline deal will help fill one of their biggest holes: middle infield.  They may need a shortstop next to Dozier.  I also have LeMahieu returning to Colorado.  If the Rockies part ways with LeMahieu, they may have a hard time finding a replacement.  They definitely need a second baseman, and LeMahieu is the best fit.  I have Murphy heading to the A’s, who will be able to afford him.  It was a down year for Murphy, and it could make for a bargain signing for a small market team with a hole at second like Oakland.  That leaves Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Logan Forsythe as the top 2B options remaining.  The Angels will sign Cabrera as an upgrade over Ian Kinsler.  Lowrie and Forsythe could be afforded by rebuilding/small market teams like the Tigers and Rays.  The Tigers desperately need middle infield help.  They will look for bargains as they find their free agents.

SS

Whoever signs Machado will need to offer a lot, and the Phillies have enough to sign Machado with money to spare for Mike Trout or another big free agent in a couple years.  The Phillies are ready to make the jump to contention, and Machado plus some cheaper free agents might be enough to do it.  The Twins will add Mercer to support Dozier, and Alcides Escobar will go to the Padres, who will seek veterans as insurance for their younger players.  That leaves guys like Adeiny Hechavarria, Jose Iglesias, and Freddy Galvis for rebuilding teams.  I have the Royals adding Hechavarria as another infield option, the Tigers reuniting with Iglesias, and the Marlins adding Galvis to support the young J.T. Riddle.

That’s all for today’s predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will predict where the top outfielders and designated hitters sign.  I will also add some ideas for trades.  Unlike others, I do not have many big stars being traded, but I could see some smaller trades occuring.

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2018 NFL Week 12 Picks & Previews: Contenders Arise

Welcome to my Week 12 NFL Picks and Previews.  On Thanksgiving Day, I went 3-0, putting my overall record at 88-74-2.  However, I am still only ahead of 1 expert from CBS Sports, and none from ESPN.  This week, I think we will see the biggest contenders besides the Rams and Chiefs (who both take a bye after last week’s shootout) will rise to the top with victories this week.  Meanwhile, teams that had snuck into the playoff picture despite an underwhelming season will fall. With the playoffs approaching, this week it will begin to become clear who’s really here to stay.

Lock of the Week

Look for the Panthers to shut down Seattle’s run game here.  This will put a lot on QB Russell Wilson and his receivers, and I don’t think they’ll put up enough for Seattle to make this close in Carolina.  They will fail to step it up in the place of the run game. Meanwhile, QB Cam Newton and his receivers will be all over the Seahawks’ young secondary as Carolina dominates in a blowout victory.

Upset of the Week

The return of QB Ryan Tannehill will give the Dolphins offense a big boost.  Expect Tannehill to throw multiple TDs and shock the Colts in Indy.  The Colts will make it close thanks to dominance by the combo of QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton.  But the Colts will fall short against Miami’s revamped offense, and the weak defensive game will not help matters.

The Other Games

Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Jets young, but underrated defense to limit the abilities of QB Tom Brady and his offense.  But the Patriots should find a way to score in New York. Meanwhile, Jets QB Josh McCown will struggle regressively against an improved New England defense.  This will lead to a Patriots blowout victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Jaguars D will get back on task in Buffalo, holding QB Josh Allen and the Bills to just 1 TD.  Meanwhile, QB Blake Bortles will improve against a mediocre Bills defense, throwing 2+ TD. This will lead to a Jaguars road win in a surprisingly easy game.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Lamar Jackson will thrive again here, utilizing Baltimore’s strong run game and tossing multiple TD.  The Ravens will struggle to win the turnover battle against an Oakland D that has forced a surprising number of turnovers.  But the Ravens will come out on top after a very strong offensive game and another clutch defensive performance.  Expect the Ravens to hold the new-look Raiders offense under 20 in the victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Andy Dalton and his receivers to find a way here without WR A.J. Green.  The Browns offense will look alright, but I don’t see it being enough against the stingy Bengals D.  This will allow Cincy to prevail despite an underwhelming offensive game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a big game from QB Carson Wentz as he throws 3 TD against a washed-up Giants D.  Giants QB Eli Manning should continue his multi-TD game streak here and look better than usual.  But it won’t be enough against the high-powered Philly offense. The Eagles’ hopes of winning the division will be restored in this divisional victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Bucs to catch a break at home against the Jimmy Garoppolo-less Niners.  The Tampa Bay run game could look surprisingly strong against San Francisco’s young defense.  If not, QB Jameis Winston will perform better than QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did. It won’t be perfection, but it would be enough for the Bucs victory.  QB Nick Mullens and his receivers will make this close against a struggling Bucs D, but it won’t be enough against the strong Buccaneers offense.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for a surprisingly low scoring game here despite a battle of two strong offenses.  Both defenses will thrive in the red zone, as only 4 total TDs are scored in 10+ opportunities.  QB Josh Rosen and RB David Johnson will lead a strong Arizona offense, but expect them to fall short against QB Philip Rivers and the high-powered Chargers offense.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Denver offense may struggle after the Demaryius Thomas trade.  But the Broncos defense will make up for it, silencing Pittsburgh’s typically dominant offense by holding them TD-less in Denver.  The Steelers will continue to miss RB Le’Veon Bell after a tough loss in Denver.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

Against a strong Vikes secondary, QB Aaron Rodgers will struggle to find his receivers, especially with TE Jimmy Graham injured.  Expect a Vikings victory thanks to the strong defense as well as a strong, multi-TD game by QB Kirk Cousins. This will cause the Packers to begin worrying that their wrath in the NFC North is over.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

Expect QB Deshaun Watson to utilize his newfound WR duo in a home victory.  The young Tennessee defense will do a good job imitating Houston’s shut down D, but they won’t quite get up to Houston’s level.  The Texans will come out victorious in primetime as they play complimentary football.

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including Part 2 of my MLB free agency predictions.

Thanksgiving Day Picks: Two Home Teams Prevail, One Has Their Thanksgiving Spoiled

Welcome to my Thanksgiving Day NFL Picks. Last week was not great for me. I went 4-9, putting my overall record at 85-74-2. I am no longer ahead of any experts, but I am tied with CBS Sports expert Jason La Canfora. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food, I love seeing my family, I enjoy watching the parade, and I especially love the football. Who will win in today’s football games? Expect a big week for home teams, but I think one home team will have their Thanksgiving spoiled. Keep reading to find out which team that is, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

12:30 PM EST

Look for a dominant day by Khalil Mack and the Bears defense against Detroit. Without WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, the Lions offense will struggle to get into a rhythm. Chicago’s offense won’t be at its best either, but the defensive excellence makes up for it. This will allow the Bears to spoil Detroit’s Thanksgiving.

4:30 PM EST

The injury-riddled Washington offense will miss QB Alex Smith and WR Jamison Crowder. But they will manage to keep this close against the young Dallas D. Meanwhile, QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will continue to improve with the addition of WR Amari Cooper, leading the Cowboys to win their Turkey Day game in a close one.

8:20 PM EST

Expect the Saints defense to perform better than usual, holding Atlanta to 1 TD in New Orleans. New Orleans won’t be at their best offensively either, but expect them to get by against the weak Falcons D. The Falcons will begin to panic as they struggle in all aspects in this game.

That’s all for my Thanksgiving Day Picks. Stay tuned for the rest of my picks later this week.

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Welcome to my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent pitchers.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 19 or 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Starting Pitchers

Top Tier

Note: These were made BEFORE the James Paxton trade

The Jays have a lot of infield prospects on the rise.  But their starting rotation needs some help if they want to contend.  They will surely go after the market’s top starters.  They are open to bringing back J.A. Happ, but I think Dallas Keuchel and Ervin Santana fit their mold better.  Keuchel will serve as Toronto’s ace, where they will need an upgrade with Marco Estrada leaving.  Santana isn’t what he used to be, but will still boost their rotation, especially if he rebounds fully from his injury in 2018.  Meanwhile, Happ will head to the Angels to provide stability in an injury prone rotation that will be without Shohei Ohtani.  The Yankees will pursue a younger starter like Patrick Corbin to upgrade the rotation in the long term, and an older starter to supplement the rotation until younger Yankees pitchers are ready to take over.

Jerry Dipoto had intended to rebuild this off-season.  But they have too much talent on the rise to just start over now.  It would be a Marlins-like move to rebuild now.  I think it would be smarter for them to add a mid to high tier starter such as Gio Gonzalez or Nathan Eovaldi and an outfielder or two to supplement the young talent.  Charlie Morton will leave Houston for and sign with the Nationals, who could use a #3 starter to replace Gio Gonzalez and add depth to the rotation.

High to Mid-Tier Starters

Shields will return to the White Sox.  They will seek to be led by young talent, but need Shields back for depth.  The Padres will also bring back their veteran starter, Tyson Ross for similar reasons.  I could also see them adding Garrett Richards among other veterans as future investments to guide their return to contention.  Richards will miss 2019, but hopefully, he’ll come back as a better pitcher in 2020.  I think Jason Hammel is a good veteran fit for the Yankees.

If the Rays want to make the playoffs, their “committee day” in their rotation isn’t going to fly.  They’ll need to add rotation depth, and Estrada seems like a good fit for them.  He has experience in the AL East, and a mid-tier starter or two is just what Tampa needs.  The Orioles could also use another starter.  They aren’t signing anyone too expensive as they start a rebuild, but Yovani Gallardo has been on the team before and could be a good bargain signing for them.

Mid to Low Tier Starters

Eovaldi really boosted his free agent profile in the playoffs.  But I think the Red Sox will be willing to offer him a long term contract after his playoff performance.  The Rays will add Derek Holland as another option for the rotation.  Holland, Tyler Glasnow, and Brent Honeywell will likely fight for the final two spots in the rotation.  I think Ryan Yarbrough fits best as a long reliever.  Similar to the O’s, the Royals and Tigers will look for affordable rotation depth.  I think Lynn and Santiago are good fits.  I could see Chris Tillman joining the Braves, who may seek a veteran starter to fill in until their pitching prospects are ready.  I think the Giants should sign a lower tier starter, such as Jaime Garcia to give them options if young starters Chris Stratton, Tyler Beede, and Ty Blach struggle.

Relief Pitchers

Top Tier Closers and Late-Inning Relievers

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Kimbrel after he turned down the qualifying offer, but I think he will return to the Red Sox.  He just wanted a longer term deal.  The teams that were in the running for Kimbrel such as the Angels and Phillies will settle for other top closers such as Mark Melancon and Zach Britton.  I think Jeurys Familia, another top closer will go to the White Sox as they try to take steps toward contention.  I could see the Mariners keeping active in the free agent market by adding another bullpen arm in Miller.  The Reds could also use a bullpen arm to replace Drew Storen, and Brach seems to be a good fit.  He can close or set up, and he and Raisel Iglesias could make a strong veteran-younger player late-inning combo.

Mid-Tier Closers

Pittsburgh’s #1 hole right now is their bullpen.  They’ll look to add multiple quality relievers.  As they rebuild, they are not in the running for the market’s top closers.  But Herrera is a reasonable closing option for them.  Some other rebuilding teams who need closers, such as the O’s, Royals, and Rangers, will have to settle for lower-tier closers such as Tyler Clippard and Cody Allen.  Meanwhile, I see veteran closer Greg Holland headed to Tampa, hoping to rebound from a rough 2018.  Holland is an affordable option for a Rays team that wants to make the jump from mediocre to playoff contender.  Storen, another seasoned veteran, could make for a good duo with fellow late-inning reliever Addison Reed for Minnesota.

Low Tier Closer-Mid Tier Set-Up

Herrera isn’t quite enough to fill Pittsburgh’s late inning hole.  Romo could be a good fit.  The Brewers could also use another late inning arm.  They don’t need a top tier guy, but someone like A.J. Ramos or Santiago Casilla could definitely help.  I think Casilla will return to the A’s though, and Zach McAllister, another mid-tier reliever, will return to Detroit, where he spent just about a week in his final MLB stint of 2018.  The Rockies could resign Adam Ottavino, but I think they will go for a slight upgrade, Justin Wilson, with the Indians adding Ottavino to supplement Brad Hand and replace Andrew Miller.

Low Tier Late Inning Relievers

The Braves have been a rumored suitor to bring back Craig Kimbrel, but they should trust Arodys Vizcaino as their closer and add a lower tier late inning reliever to support him (I see them adding Maurer).  The White Sox will sign Tony Sipp as a slight upgrade over Jeanmar Gomez, who I have going to Detroit.  Gomez and McAllister will set up closer Shane Greene.  The Royals will also look for an affordable bullpen arm.  They should be set in the late-inning department with the duo of Clippard and Boone Logan.  The Mets will be active in this free agent market, and they need late-inning help.  Aaron Loup is a good addition, but I don’t have them adding a closer. Jenrry Mejia is eligible to return in 2019, and the Mets should be hopeful he can close.  Duke will play a similar role in Toronto, setting up closer Ken Giles.

High Tier 7th Inning Relief

If the Red Sox bring back Kimbrel, they should be fine to let Carson Smith and maybe even Joe Kelly test the market.  I think Smith will find a destination despite his injury, as the Twins sign him to supplement the late-inning duo of Storen and Reed.  The Angels, who will still look for more bullpen help beyond Britton, will sign Kelly.  If he’s having a good year, Kelly can become the full-time set up man in LA over Cam Bedrosian.  Norris, a former starter, can provide the Rays with a trustworthy 7th inning arm.  Jake Diekman should play a similar role in San Francisco.  The O’s and Reds could also use bullpen help, but cannot afford the top guys in the market.  They will settle for Axford and Warren, respectively.

That’s all for Part 1 of my MLB FA Predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will evaluate the catcher market and the infield market.  This comes in good timing, as Kurt Suzuki just signed in Washington, and J.T. Realmuto trade rumors are reaching their peak.

Note: I think the Marlins will end up trading Realmuto to Atlanta with Kurt Suzuki off the table.  The Marlins should sign another catcher to supplement Chad Wallach.

2018 NFL Week 11 Picks & Previews: Defense Wins Games

Welcome to my Week 11 NFL Picks and Previews.  Last week was a rough week for me. I went 6-8, putting my overall record at 81-65-2 (81-66-2 including TNF Week 11).  I am still ahead of 1 expert from ESPN and 1 from CBS Sports. I’m expecting a low scoring week this week. The top defenses in the league will thrive, and after an offense-heavy year, defense really will win some games.  Which defense first teams will prosper? Which will fall short due to a regressing offensive scheme? Comment with your thoughts, and keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

Both these teams have struggled regressively this season.  At the start of the year, I had projected this to be an exciting match-up between two contenders.  That is not the case, as these two teams have only combined to beat two other teams this year: the Browns and the 49ers (twice).  I cannot see Oakland winning in Arizona. They are now without Marshawn Lynch (injury), Amari Cooper (trade), and Khalil Mack (trade).  QB Josh Rosen and the Cardinals will win triumphantly on home turf. They may be in the basement of the league, but they will touch the ceiling of that basement with 3 wins against other bottom of the barrel teams.  

Upset of the Week (SNF)

This won’t be Minnesota’s best offensive game as the Bears hold them back quite a bit.  But the Vikes defense should be at its best in Chicago, overwhelming rookie QB Mitch Trubisky and his young offense.  The Bears run defense will succeed here, but the secondary may struggle against Minnesota’s deep group of receivers. This will allow the Vikings to pull the upset in Chicago and take the NFC North lead.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 27-24 Seahawks)

Note: Not only did Mike McCarthy blow it, he also prevented me from a correct pick and exact score.

This is a battle of two high-powered pass offenses.  However, the X-Factor in this game will be defense. The young Seattle defense will struggle to contain Green Bay’s top receivers, and that will cost the Seahawks.  This would make them the first home team to lose on TNF. The Packers will win thanks to QB Aaron Rodgers’ dominance of the Seattle D. The Seahawks receivers will overwhelm the Green Bay secondary though, making this close.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Jags have regressively struggled over the past few weeks.  But these are the kinds of games Pittsburgh will blow without RB Le’Veon Bell.  They are on the road in a warm-weather stadium against one of the best underrated defenses in the league.  Expect the Jacksonville D to rebound at home. Meanwhile, QB Blake Bortles will turn it around for a multi-TD game, as Pittsburgh’s average defense cannot handle Bortles.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This could be an ugly game.  Ravens QB Joe Flacco and Bengals WR A.J. Green are both out.  That being said, don’t expect much offense, especially considering this is a match-up between the AFC North’s two best defenses.  I could see QB Lamar Jackson leading Baltimore to victory, but it won’t be pretty.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This will be another low-scoring game thanks to Houston’s defensive dominance.  QB Deshaun Watson and his receivers have not been all-out dominant for the Texans.  But they should score enough with their defense holding the Redskins to 10 or less points.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

It has been a pass-heavy season around the league.  But I see the run game leading Tennessee to victory here against the rebuilding Colts defensive front.  Look for Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry to combine for 150+ yards in this game, running all over the Indy defense.  QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton will connect in the end zone and keep this close, but I don’t think they will be able to keep up.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect Dallas to struggle in containing QB Matt Ryan and his WR trio.  The Cowboys should keep it close against the weak Falcons defense, using WR Amari Cooper to their advantage.  However, I see Atlanta holding on to win at home despite the struggling defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Giants will keep this close with QB Eli Manning putting up another decent game.  However, look for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers offense to gather a rhythm on the road.  They will win this thanks to another strong offensive performance.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Matthew Stafford will look better offensively here, but they will miss WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.  They will have to rely very heavily on young WR Kenny Golladay. It won’t be enough against QB Cam Newton and the Carolina offense.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Denver offense may struggle here against a rejuvenated Chargers D.  Meanwhile, Denver’s D will slip against a high-powered LA offense. This will lead to an easy Chargers victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

QB Carson Wentz will struggle to find his receivers here up against a young but stacked New Orleans secondary.  Meanwhile, Philly will struggle to contain New Orleans’ WR duo without CB Ronald Darby. The Eagles will give the Saints a scare, but the Saints should win easily in the end.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

In 2016, the Saints and Giants played and we were expecting the shootout of the season.  What we received was a dud. I see the same thing happening here as the Rams D comes out of hibernation to severely limit QB Patrick Mahomes II.  Meanwhile, the Chiefs defense will be able to handle the Rams’ receivers with WR Cooper Kupp done for the year. I see the Rams winning in the end thanks to the defensive dominance.

 

2018 NFL Midseason Report: Who’s Contending and Who’s Pretending

Welcome to my 2018 NFL Midseason Report.  Today, I will show you my Power Rankings for the first half of the 2018 season and show you my revised season predictions.  Comment below with your midseason Super Bowl prediction and keep reading to find out mine.

Part I: Updated NFL Power Rankings (Posted to Instagram Earlier this Week)

Note: Jaguars should say 3-5, not 5-3; otherwise records are as of 11/7.

Before the season, I was not that confident in the Chiefs, Saints, or Rams.  But all three have lost just one game in the first nine weeks, so I couldn’t disregard that fact.  They all rank Top 4 here, alongside the Patriots, who are riding a 5-game win streak and have dominated offensively week after week since WR Josh Gordon joined the team.  I base these Power Rankings not just on performance so far, but ability to continue to thrive, the Pats clearly have that ability.

The Chargers, Panthers, Texans, and Vikings have also been off to strong starts.  The Texans started the season 0-3, but have been able to overcome the slow start and win six straight.  The Vikings’ record isn’t looking as good as we expected, but their early-season schedule was very difficult.  Things should be smooth sailing from here.  The Vikes really only had one disappointing loss, and that was to the Bills in one crazy game.  The Vikings have not let one embarrassing loss derail them.

In the middle of the pack, you’ll see teams like the Steelers (started slow but have picked up the pace), Bengals, Bears, and Redskins (who surprised early), and teams like the Packers, Eagles, Titans, Falcons, and Jaguars.  They have been off to shaky starts, but I expect them to rebound, especially Philly, who does not have that difficult of a schedule remaining.  The Eagles and Vikings, last year’s NFC Championship opponents, have struggled early thanks to a tough schedule, but should rebound from it.  I could even see them pulling upsets to meet in the NFC Championship again.

The Ravens, Dolphins, Buccaneers, and Broncos are on a down-trend and fall just below this middle group.  The Seahawks, Lions, and Cowboys have rode easy schedules to early success, so don’t expect much more from them.  I see the down-trending teams as far better than this group.  At the bottom, we have the teams that are likely out of contention: the Cardinals, Browns, Colts, Bills, Raiders, Giants, and 49ers.  These teams have really struggled early and it will be hard for them to rebound.  The Colts may be 3-5, but their wins came against the Raiders, Bills, and Redskins.  That’s not a very impressive resume.

Part II: Updated Season Predictions

AFC East

  1. new_england_patriots New England Patriots (13-3, 1st Seed in AFC)
  2. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (8-8)
  3. Jets-Logo New York Jets (5-11)
  4. Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills (3-13)

They may have started 1-2, but the Patriots have been dominant since Week 4’s match-up against Miami.  They should keep on rolling and finish with a 13-3 or 12-4 record, only losing 1-2 more games thanks to offensive dominance.  The Dolphins may have started strong, but they should level off now that QB Ryan Tannehill has been hurt for several weeks and their win streak is over.  This offense is good but they cannot compete with the top teams in the AFC.  QB Sam Darnold and the Jets should win a couple more games, but the injuries they’ve sustained will prevent them from making any kind of playoff run.  I don’t see the Bills improving much consdering the QB situation they are in.

AFC North

  1. pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1, 4th Seed in AFC)
  2. cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
  3. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
  4. cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns (3-12-1)

The Steelers should end up winning the division, but they won’t be the playoff powerhouse they usually are if RB Le’Veon Bell keeps holding out.  They may manage to make it this year, but could this be the beginning of the end of the Steelers?  The Bengals and Ravens have had decent seasons and are knocking on Pittsburgh’s door.  Meanwhile, the Browns are still not very good, but they’ve clearly improved from last season and could be on the rise in years to come.

AFC South

  1. hou-texans Houston Texans (12-4, 2nd Seed in AFC)
  2. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6, 6th Seed in AFC)
  3. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
  4. indianapolis-colts Indianapolis Colts (3-13)

The Texans may have started off slow, but they had a very tough early schedule, and the season only gets easier from here.  They should cruise into a Top 3 playoff spot.  The Jaguars struggled without RB Leonard Fournette, but I think Fournette’s return should make a difference as the Jags rebound and snag a Wild Card.  The Titans aren’t quite as good as they were in 2017, but should still compete for a playoff spot.  If I’m wrong about Jacksonville, the Titans may sneak in to the playoffs.  The Colts should not win many more games with one of the worst defenses in the league.  They’ve only beat one team above .500, and QB Andrew Luck may lead them to another victory or two, but no more than that.

AFC West

  1. kansas-city-chiefs-logo Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, 3rd Seed in AFC)
  2. San_Diego_Chargers Los Angeles Chargers (12-4, 5th Seed in AFC)
  3. denver-broncos-logo Denver Broncos (8-8)
  4. oakland-raiders Oakland Raiders (3-13)

The Chiefs have dominated offensively thanks to the breakout of QB Patrick Mahomes II.  Alex Smith left Mahomes with a strong offensive core surrounding him, so the Chiefs should keep rolling.  However, the Chiefs have been known for late season plummets and chokes after strong starts.  Something tells me their inconsistent defense is going to cost them late in the season.  The Chargers may catch up; they’ve only lost to Kansas City and the Rams so far, and it’s hard to beat the same team twice.  Denver has looked alright so far with Case Keenum at QB, and the improved offense and strong defense should lead them to a smooth sailing 2nd half.  However, I’ve lost hope in the Raiders at this point.  Jon Gruden is a good coach.  The Raiders just need some defensive talent and a better QB.  That won’t come before the end of 2018.

NFC East

  1. philadelphia-eagles-logo Philadelphia Eagles (10-6, 4th Seed in NFC)
  2. washingtonredskins2 Washington Redskins (6-10)
  3. dalcowboyslogonew Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
  4. new-york-giants-logo New York Giants (4-12)

Look for QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles to dominate the second half.  The Golden Tate trade was a good move, and that will help them jump right back into contention, especially considering their easier 2nd half schedule.  They may face the Saints and Rams, but don’t have any other tough match-ups.  The Redskins, on the other hand, don’t have it so easy.  They’ll face the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans down the road.  The Cowboys will improve after the Amari Cooper trade, but I don’t see it being enough.  The Giants should win a few more games, as I expect QB Eli Manning to improve slightly in the 2nd half.  But they aren’t going anywhere in the NFC East.

NFC North

  1. min-vikings-logo2 Minnesota Vikings (11-4-1, 3rd Seed in NFC)
  2. gbpackers2 Green Bay Packers (10-5-1, 5th Seed in NFC)
  3. chicago-bears-logo Chicago Bears (7-9)
  4. Related image Detroit Lions (5-11)

The Vikes had a tough schedule early on, but the Patriots are their only remaining opponent with a current record above .500.  Things should be smooth sailing from here, especially with RB Dalvin Cook back.  The Packers should also make the playoffs.  I cannot imagine a healthy Aaron Rodgers missing the playoffs, even with the lack of talent around him.  The Bears still face the Vikings twice and the Packers and Rams once each, so I could see them fall out of the playoff picture.  I don’t see the Lions winning many more games either after giving up WR Golden Tate.  They’re an okay team, but they need defensive help and they play in such a tough division.

NFC South

  1. nosaints New Orleans Saints (13-3, 1st Seed in NFC)
  2. carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers (10-6, 6th Seed in NFC)
  3. tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
  4. atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons (8-8)

The Saints have been off to a strong start.  They added Eli Apple on defense, and they may have a lack of offensive depth, but Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas alone have led them to a strong season.  Carolina should put up a fight for the division as well.  Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey have dominated, and the defense has definitely improved despite giving up 52 points to the Steelers.  The Bucs might be out of contention, but they do look better than before.  They have a deep offense and a young, rising defense that should help them turn it around in the 2nd half.  In this tough division, the Falcons will fall behind.  They are dominant offensively but the defense has been painfully inconsistent.

NFC West

  1. Related image Los Angeles Rams (13-3, 2nd Seed in NFC)
  2. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks (6-10)
  3. az-cards Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
  4. sf-49ers San Francisco 49ers (5-11)

Until their loss in New Orleans, the Rams were undefeated.  So I’ll admit I was wrong about the Rams being overrated.  I was also vastly wrong about the Cardinals.  They clearly have potential, but QB Josh Rosen needs a couple years to develop.  Maybe he’ll have a second-year breakout like Jared Goff did.  The Seahawks have been alright so far, but they should also plummet due to a difficult upcoming schedule.  The Niners are likely also out of it now that QB Jimmy Garoppolo is done for the year.  But QB Nick Mullens should win them a few more games.

Playoff Predictions

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I could see a lot of upsets in these playoffs.  Look for the Eagles and Vikings to make runs despite rough starts.  In the AFC, I think the Pats will see the Chargers in the Championship game.  I think the Chiefs will be upset by Jacksonville in the first round.  I think it will be a Patriots-Vikings Super Bowl, with the Pats winning in the end.

That’s all for my NFL Midseason Report.  Stay tuned for more news soon.

 

2018 NFL Week 10 Picks & Previews: Contenders Arise in Unsurprising Outcomes

Welcome to my Week 10 NFL picks and previews.  Last week I went 8-5, putting my overall record at 76-56-2 (76-57-2 including TNF Week 10).  I’m still ahead of 2 ESPN experts and a CBS Sports expert. Don’t expect too many upsets this week.  I see this as a week where contenders will begin to rise after underwhelming starts.  This week will mark the beginning of the end of the surprise runs by teams like the Lions, Redskins, and Dolphins.  Meanwhile, expected contenders that have been struggling so far like the Eagles, Jaguars, and Packers will begin to rise. There will be a couple upsets, but who will pull them? Comment with your thoughts below, and keep reading to see my upset picks.  

Lock of the Week (SNF)

Look for QB Carson Wentz to start off the 2nd half of the season strong with a 3+ TD game.  The Eagles don’t have that difficult of a schedule remaining, which could provide an opportunity for Wentz to make a run for MVP with a big 2nd half.  Dallas should look alright on offense here, but Philly’s front seven will limit RB Ezekiel Elliott and overwhelm QB Dak Prescott. Philly will come out on top thanks to Wentz’s big game, as he connects with 7+ different receivers.  

Upset of the Week

Look for the TE duo of Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron to help the Colts offensively.  Jacksonville’s D will improve from the last couple of weeks, but I don’t see them holding Indy TD-less.  The Jaguars offensive rebound will make up for it. With RB Leonard Fournette healthy, this run game will thrive.  They suddenly have a lot of depth between Fournette, Carlos Hyde, and T.J. Yeldon. Look for QB Blake Bortles to improve as well.  He should have minimal issues against a rebuilding Colts defense that’s regarded as one of the NFL’s worst.  Indy will give up 30+ points in a loss here.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 52-21 Steelers)

Carolina should struggle to contain QB Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers.  But they will shut down a Le’Veon Bell-less Steelers run game. At this point, Bell will likely miss the whole season.  The Panthers should also be strong on offense again, as QB Cam Newton and his receivers lead Carolina to victory up against a mediocre Steelers defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

With TE Rob Gronkowski out, the Pats offense will not be up to full speed.  But expect a New England win anyway, as the Pats step it up on D against the young Titans offensive core.  QB Marcus Mariota will struggle to find open men as the Patriots defense keeps him and his receivers pressured.  The lack of WR depth will hurt the Titans in a loss.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

The Bills are down to their fourth string QB with Nathan Peterman struggling regressively and Derek Anderson and Josh Allen hurt.  However, the Jets are also without their starter, Sam Darnold.  Look for QB Josh McCown to succeed in filling in for Darnold, leading the Jets to a high scoring victory.  The defense will slip a little against QB Matt Barkley and the Bills, but Buffalo will not be able to put up enough points with Allen and TE Charles Clay injured.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Saints find themselves with a lack of WR depth with Dez Bryant, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. all on IR now.  That being said, New Orleans will not be at their best offensively.  But the Bengals shouldn’t look much better without WR A.J. Green.  QB Drew Brees and his receivers should edge out a victory despite an underwhelming performance.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Matt Ryan and his receivers to put up another big game in Cleveland.  The Browns will try to keep up, but their young core won’t quite do it. The Falcons D will continue to struggle and give up a good number of points to the Browns, but the offensive dominance will be enough for Atlanta.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This will not be easy for Kansas City.  QB Josh Rosen, RB David Johnson, and the Arizona offense should have a day against a banged-up Chiefs D.  However, QB Patrick Mahomes II should keep up the good work and this offense should be enough for the Chiefs to keep rolling at home despite defensive struggles that may cost them when it matters.  I’m honestly surprised they didn’t seek defensive help at the deadline.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick should be able to take advantage of his deep core of receivers to lead Tampa to victory here.  Also expect the Bucs D to surprise many with as they get in the way of QB Alex Smith and the Redskins offense.  Smith will struggle to find his receivers with the Bucs pressuring him and WR Paul Richardson sidelined with an injury.  The Buccaneers will play complimentary football and win triumphantly here.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Detroit’s offense will continue to miss WR Golden Tate as they struggle in Chicago.  Look for another big game by the Bears defense here.  QB Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago offense won’t be on their best either, but the shut down defense should be enough for the Bears to hold on for a victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Chargers D should look better than usual against a deep but struggling Oakland offense.  Meanwhile, QB Philip Rivers and his receivers will put up another big game as Rivers throws multiple TD.  The combination of these two things will cause the Raiders to fall short again at home.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST (OT)

Look for another overtime thriller out of QB Aaron Rodgers and his receivers.  Expect the Packers D to nearly cost them the game as they struggle more than they should against a Brock Osweiler-led Miami offense, but look for Rodgers to come up clutch and save the Packers once again.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The dominance of the LA defense should continue with DE Dante Fowler Jr. on board.  Expect them to hold Seattle TD-less here.  The Rams offense won’t be at their best here, but QB Jared Goff and his WR trio will help lead the Rams to victory, supplemented by the shut-down D.  The Seahawks will continue to miss WR Brandon Marshall as the Rams keep Seattle’s other receivers well-covered for majority of the game.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

 

Expect the struggles of QB Eli Manning to continue as he throws just 1 TD and multiple picks.  RB Saquon Barkley will keep this close with a big game despite Manning’s struggles. But the Giants will fall short as the defense limits, but cannot stop QB Nick Mullens and the young 49ers offensive core.  

That’s all for this week.  Stay tuned for my NFL midseason report later today, and stay tuned for my MLB off-season coverage throughout the rest of November.