Ranking the Top 20 Boston Athletes of the Decade

Over the last 10 days, I’ve been on vacation in Florida, visiting my family and spending a few days at Disney World. During that time, I haven’t been very active on here (my apologies for that), though I have provided my Week 16 & 17 NFL Picks and some additional sports insights on my Twitter (@AndrewRoberts1). After a 2 week hiatus on this blog, 2019 has almost ended.

I’ve done some New Year’s articles in the past, but this isn’t just the start of a year. As we kick off the new year, we also start a new decade.

The 2010s were a very memorable decade for me. This was the decade when I really got into sports. This was the decade when I started this blog, and this blog has led to many great experiences for me. So, I’m going to celebrate by looking back on some of Boston’s best athletes of the decade.

In this article, I’ll be writing about my Top 20 Boston athletes of the decade as we head into the 2020s. These rankings include athletes on all four major Boston teams (Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins). I favored players who consistently contributed to Boston teams over big names who were here for a year or two, but there is still a mix of different kinds of athletes in these rankings.

Let’s get this countdown started:

20. Dustin Pedroia

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: 2nd Base (2B)

Despite facing injuries along the way that have caused a significant decline, Pedroia has stuck with the team for the entirety of the decade. Prior to the beginning of the serious injury problems in 2018, Pedroia batted right around .300 on an annual basis, while collecting three Gold Gloves as one of the MLB’s best second basemen of the early 2010s. Pedroia averaged a .386 OBP from 2010-2017, and he was a significant factor when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2013. For most of the decade, he’s been a consistent hitter you can trust to get on base and a strong defender. Until injury problems got serious, he rarely sat out of the lineup, determined to play every day. I just hope we can see him return to form in 2020 as he attempts to return from his knee injury one more time.

19. Kevin Garnett

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Power Forward/Center (PF/C)

Garnett’s six season stint with the Celtics began in 2007 when he helped lead the Celtics to their 17th championship alongside Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. His final three seasons with the Celtics were in the 2010s. In these seasons, Garnett was still a starter and a significant contributor for the Celtics. He averaged right around 15-16 PPG and 8-9 RPG, which was a slight decline from his 2007-08 stats but still pretty good. He’s also one of the team’s best defensive players of the 21st century. But when the Celtics began to rebuild, he was traded alongside Pierce, D.J. White and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for a handful of lower tier players draft picks. These picks have resulted in the Celtics drafting young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who could determine the future of this team.

18. Al Horford

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2016-2019

Position: Center (C)

Horford is alongside Garnett as one of the best Celtics defensive players of the 21st century. In the 2016 off-season, the Celtics signed Horford on a 4 year, $113 million deal with a player option after his third season. Horford averaged 13-14 PPG while making a huge impact defensively in his three years with the Celtics. Horford played in a variety of roles with the team. He was a veteran frontcourt leader in 2016-17, while contributing to a more star-studded lineup in his final two seasons with the team. He played alongside Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in those last two years. The chemistry issues with the team were clear, but the Celtics still had one of the best starting fives in the league last season, and Horford was an important part of it. Since Horford left for the 76ers this off-season, the Celtics have relied on a variety of players at center, and Horford’s defensive presence has been missed.

17. Tyler Seguin

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Center (C)

Seguin started his NHL career in 2010 with the Bruins. Though his best years have come with the Dallas Stars since he left Boston in 2013, he scored 56 goals and contributed 65 assists with the Bruins. He also contributed to a 2011 Stanley Cup victory and a 2013 Eastern Conference victory. Seguin played alongside many other young, talented players that have stuck with the Bruins longer than he did. Brad Marchand, one of these players, is still on the team now. But Seguin showed a lot of promise in these early years of the 2010s with the Bruins.

16. Dont’a Hightower

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2012-2019

Position: Linebacker (LB)

Hightower has dealt with injury issues over the years, but he has been a pretty consistent key piece to this defense for most of his career and most of this decade. Hightower has collected 25.5 sacks over 8 seasons (5.5 of which came in 2019), as well as 42 tackles for a loss and 63 total QB hits. He has also recovered 5 fumbles during his Pats career. He’s no superstar, but when healthy, he’s a leader on the Patriots defense and a factor in both the pass rush and the run defense.

15. Paul Pierce

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Small Forward (SF)

This Celtics legend finished his Boston career in the 2010s alongside Garnett. Pierce averaged right around 19 PPG on an annual basis in his last few years with the Celtics, and ended up falling off significantly after leaving the team. In his early 2000s prime, Pierce was averaging as much as 27 PPG and 7 RPG, but he was still a leader and a significant offensive factor on this team in the 2010s. Pierce led the Celtics to a playoff appearance in each of his three seasons this decade with the team, including one Eastern Conference Finals run in which the Celtics lost to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

14. Rob Ninkovich

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2016

Position: Defensive End/Linebacker (DE/LB)

Ninkovich is arguably New England’s best edge rusher of the decade. Ninkovich joined the Patriots in the 2009 season. Over 8 years with the Patriots, he put up 46 sacks and back to back to back 8 sack seasons from 2012 to 2014. He also posted 55 tackles for a loss and forced 12 fumbles during his Patriots career. Ninkovich retired after the 2016 season. Though it would have been nice to see him stay with the Patriots a little longer, a slight decline in 2016 may have been a factor in convincing the 33-year old to call it a career.

13. Xander Bogaerts

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2013-2019

Position: Shortstop (SS)

Before Bogaerts, it had been a long time since the Red Sox had a reliable shortstop. You could argue Bogaerts is the best Red Sox shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra was traded in 2004. Bogaerts debuted at 20 years old in September 2013 as the Red Sox prepared for a playoff run. Bogey was instantly a factor, playing 18 regular season games while batting .250. He was also a regular starter during the World Series run. It took a while for Bogaerts to emerge as a star. But prior to his breakout year in 2019, he was still a factor in the Red Sox lineup, a strong defender, and one of a few five tool players on the team. After signing an 8 year extension prior to 2019, he batted .304 with a .939 OPS, hit 33 home runs, and put up 117 RBI. Bogaerts has been one of my favorite players on the Red Sox since his debut, and is my favorite since David Ortiz retired. At 27 with 7 years left on his new contract, Bogaerts is here to stay, and despite his slow emergence, he should be a leader on this team for years to come. He’s already won three Silver Slugger awards (2015, 2016, and 2019), and I think there’s much more to come.

12. Milan Lucic

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2015

Position: Left Wing (LW)

Lucic was a consistent top contributor for the Bruins throughout the early 2010s. Lucic joined the Bruins as a rookie in 2007 and stayed with the team until 2015. The 2010-11 season was a breakout year for Lucic in which he put up 62 points. He nearly matched that in 2011-12 (61) and 2013-14 (59). He also put up 27 points in the shortened 2012-13 season. Lucic fell off a bit in the 2014-15 season, scoring just 18 goals with 26 assists. The Bruins also disappointed as a team, just barely missing the playoffs. As a result, Lucic was traded to the Los Angeles Kings as the Bruins began a miniature rebuild. However, for the first few years of the decade, Lucic was a rising star for the Bruins, and one of their best players.

11. Isaiah Thomas

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played: 2015-2017

Position: Point Guard (PG)

Thomas only played 2.5 seasons with the Celtics. He was traded from the Phoenix Suns at the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline, and he was sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the famous 2017 Kyrie Irving trade. He’s also one of the shortest players in the NBA, standing at 5’9″. However, IT was in his prime with the Celtics, posting his only two 20+ PPG seasons with the C’s. He shattered his personal record with 28.9 PPG in the 2016-17 season and averaged 5.9 APG that same season. Thomas injured his hip in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, and he hasn’t quite been the same since then. But he was a superstar with this team, leading the Celtics to a deep playoff run in 2017 and helping them return to the playoffs in 2015 and 2016 after a brief rebuild. He is easily the best Celtics player of the decade, as Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving played even less in Boston this decade, while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown weren’t really superstars until this season.

10. Stephon Gilmore

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2017-2019

Position: Cornerback (CB)

Gilmore emerged as one of the best corners in the league in his first three years with the Patriots. In his first season, he picked up 2 interceptions and excelled at breaking up passes, but struggled with penalties more than most Patriots players. He cleaned up his act in 2018, and continued to emerge as an elite corner, defending a total of 20 passes compared to 9 in 2017. But 2019 took things to another level. He picked up 6 interceptions (led the league), and matched his 20 PD total from 2018 (also led the league this year). He has made a clear case for himself as the Defensive Player of the Year, and in three years with the Patriots, Gilmore has made a bigger impact this decade than some Pats players who have been here much longer.

9. Zdeno Chara

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Defense (D)

Chara, the long time Bruins player and captain, is one of the best defensive players in Bruins history. Chara joined the Bruins from Ottawa in 2006, and has stuck with the Bruins since. Despite playing for both the Islanders and Senators early in his career, Chara has spent more than half his career with the Bruins. Most (but not all) of this stint has been in the 2010s. In addition to his defensive success, Chara has one of the longest slap shots in the league. In 2011-12, he set a personal best with 52 points. He has declined since that year, but at the age of 42, Chara is still a key piece for the Bruins, and plays in the 1st or 2nd defensive pairing each game. Chara will go down as a Bruins legend.

8. Devin McCourty

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Cornerback/Safety (CB/S)

McCourty’s entire career so far has taken place in this decade with the Pats. He was drafted by the Patriots in 2010 and has stuck with the team. In the last two years, Devin has played alongside his twin brother Jason in the Patriots secondary.  Devin began his NFL career as a cornerback like Jason, but switched to safety in 2013.  As a corner in his first three seasons, Devin collected a total of 14 interceptions.  After six straight years without more than 2 interceptions, he had 5 in 2019.  Devin was one of our best defensive players in his first few years with the team.  He had begun to decline with age and after moving to safety.  But he has reemerged as an elite safety this season, and he has been a quality starter for the Patriots in all 10 years of this decade, something not many Patriots players have been able to acheive.

7. Julian Edelman

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played this Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Wide Receiver (WR)

Edelman, an undersized QB from Kent State was drafted in Round 7 by the Patriots and converted to wide receiver.  He went from a no-name to a Top 10-15 wide receiver in this league.  I consider Edelman (aside from Tom Brady) one of the biggest surprise breakout players in NFL history.  Edelman contributed minimally in his first few seasons with the team.  2012 was when he first started to show promise, as he caught 21 balls for 235 yards.  In the 2012-13 off-season, WRs Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd left New England for the Broncos.  The Pats signed Danny Amendola to help fill the gap.  But in the end, Edelman made a bigger impact, breaking out for 1056 receiving yards.  Since then, Edelman has been Brady’s reliable slot receiver, usually the #2 or #3 target on the team.  In TE Rob Gronkowski’s absence, Edelman has even emerged as Brady’s favorite target.  He took things to another level starting in 2016, collecting 1106 yards that year and making an unbelievable catch in Super Bowl LI to help the Patriots come back from a 28-3 deficit.  Edelman has continued to improve as the decade progresses, and he has been on the Patriots from the very beginning of the 2010s.

6. Brad Marchand

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Left Wing

Marchand made his debut at the beginning of the decade, and he was quick to make an impact.  Marchand put up 41 points in his first full season with the team (2010-11) as the left wing of the 2nd line.  He has continued to improve throughout the decade, and took things to another level when he joined the first line in Milan Lucic’s absence.  Marchand scored 61 points in 2015-16, followed by back to back 85 point seasons and an 100 point season.  In each of those four seasons, Marchand scored 30+ goals to contribute to those point totals.  Marchand stands just 5’9″, but he makes up for it with his aggressive play style.  He has gotten into many fights, resulting in harsher punishments for fights in recent years.  But it has become part of his playing style, and Marchand did clean up his act a bit in 2018-19 as the Bruins made a run at the Stanley Cup.  Marchand started the decade as the latest young talent to join the team.  Now, he’s a 1st line superstar.

I met and interviewed Marchand back in 2015: Bruins Treat Me to Greatest Sports Experience of my Life

5. Mookie Betts

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2014-2019

Position: Outfield (OF)

I attended Betts’ debut, and I clearly remember his immediate impact.  In his first game, he showed off his speed with an infield double and helped the Red Sox come back to win 5-4.  He finished the 2014 season batting .291 with an .812 OPS.  Betts has remained a valuable five-tool player for the Red Sox throughout the rest of decade, and he took things to another level in 2016 and 2018.  In 2018, Betts won MVP, batting .346 (led league) with a .640 slugging percentage (led league) and 32 home runs.  Betts had 31 dingers back in 2016 as well as a .318 batting average.  Betts is a bit inconsistent.  Some years, he looks more like a slightly above average five-tool player (not quite a superstar), and other years, he looks like an MVP candidate.  I hope he stays with this team for at least 2020, as he is one of Boston’s best athletes this decade.  But they need to be careful not to overpay Betts.

4. Patrice Bergeron

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Center (C)

Bergeron is a true leader on this team, as he has been throughout the decade.  Bergeron has been a career Bruin, debuting in the 2003-04 season.  At the age of 34, he is still improving.  Last season, Bergeron set a personal record with 79 points, and he is on pace to come close to that again this year.  Bergeron is also on pace to post his third straight 30+ goal season.  Bergeron has been a consistent offensive contributor throughout the decade, and this is in addition to strong defense.  Bergeron and Marchand are very different players, but they are easily the two best Bruins players of the decade.

3. Rob Gronkowski

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2018

Position: Tight End (TE)

Gronkowski’s career was cut short by injury issues that occurred throughout the decade.  But when healthy, Gronk was the decade’s best tight end and Tom Brady’s most reliable weapon.  Gronk posted four 1000+ yard seasons in his nine year career despite many injuries.  In addition to that, he is arguably as good a blocker as he is a pass catcher.  Gronk and Aaron Hernandez were drafted to split TE reps for the Pats in 2010.  Gronk contributed in 2010, but his true breakout and best season came in 2011.  Gronk had 1327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns that year, helping Brady lead the Pats to an AFC Championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens.  In 115 games, Gronk scored 79 touchdowns and posted 7861 receiving yards.  Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in NFL history, and was Brady’s right hand man in the second uprising of the Patriots dynasty.  This decade, Brady and Gronk helped lead the Pats to eight straight AFC title games and three Super Bowls.  It’s a shame Gronk retired so early, but it was in his best interest.

2. David Ortiz

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played: 2010-2016

Position: Designated Hitter (DH)

Known as Big Papi, Ortiz really owned the title of designated hitter.  Ortiz joined the Red Sox in 2003, and he broke out with the team.  From 2003-2016, Big Papi was one of Boston’s best hitters.  In the 2010s, he was arguably Boston’s very best hitter.  Ortiz finished his career with 541 home runs, as he hit the 500 HR mark in 2015.  In this decade, he has made five All Star Games and won three Silver Sluggers.  In this decade, Ortiz averaged 32 home runs per season.  Most of all, Ortiz helped lift the city of Boston out of a terrorist attack, the Boston Marathon Bombings, with his famous “This is Our City” speech that I witnessed live.  After this speech, Ortiz led the Sox to a 2013 World Series victory, the third World Series victory of his career.  He will go down as a Boston legend, and there is only one man more deserving of the title of “Best Boston Athlete of the Decade.”

That man is…

1. Tom Brady

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Quarterback (QB)

Tom Brady is the greatest NFL player of all time without a doubt.  He most definitely deserves the #1 spot in these rankings.  At the age of 42, Brady is still playing.  He might not quite be as good as he used to be, but he’s still playing.  One of his best seasons came in 2017 at the age of 40, when he led the NFL in passing yards.  He has also had very strong seasons in 2010 (led league in TDs), 2011 (broke 5000 passing yards), and 2015 (led league and TDs.)  Even though his individual performance has made him an elite QB for most of the decade and allowed him to fight for all time passing records, what really makes this decade special for Brady is that he led the Pats to three more Super Bowl victories this decade.  He broke the record for most Super Bowl rings by a player (6) and now hopes to lead the Patriots to break the team record (Steelers are tied with them at 6).  He’s not only Boston’s best athlete of the decade.  You could argue he’s Boston’s best athlete yet.  If not, he’s up there with Larry Bird and Bobby Orr at the very least.

 

That’s all for these rankings.  Stay tuned for more articles in 2020, including my NFL Playoff Predictions.  Happy New Year!

2019 NFL Week 15 Picks & Previews: Which Teams Will Be Held Back by Injuries?

Welcome to my Week 15 NFL Picks & Previews.  Last week I went 13-3, putting my overall record at 125-81-1 (126-81-1 with Week 15 TNF).  As we approach the end of the regular season, many teams, contenders included, have been decimated by injuries.  Some teams have been able to adjust, while others have fallen behind due to injuries. More injuries have occurred in the past week.  Which contenders will be able to adjust? Which contenders will fall short? Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

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QB Carson Wentz won’t do quite as well with WRs Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor all sidelined.  But he’ll rely on the TE duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to lead the Eagles past an underrated Redskins defense.  Most teams would be able to put up a fight against a 20 point performance. But without RB Derrius Guice, Washington’s offense will appear anemic against an above average Philly defense.  This will allow the Eagles to win with ease.

Upset of the Week

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Even with QB concerns, expect Jacksonville to pull off an upset, as RB Leonard Fournette has a day up against a depleted Raiders front seven.  QB Gardner Minshew will put up a decent performance as well, but will struggle with consistency. Minshew and Fournette’s success should be enough for the Jaguars victory.  QB Derek Carr and his offense will make this close, but expect them to fall short against a middle of the pack Jags defense.

 

The Other Games

Posted to Twitter Thursday

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Expect QB Lamar Jackson and his offense to thrive against a depleted Jets defense.  However, this will be a run heavy game, as Jackson and RB Mark Ingram lead the way for the Ravens.  Meanwhile, RB Le’Veon Bell will have a strong game for the Jets. But a struggling QB Sam Darnold will fail to keep up with Jackson as the Jets fall short. 
img_6458 This game will go how most of New England’s games against bottom of the barrel teams have gone.  The Pats defense will hold Cincy to just 1 TD. But this won’t exactly be a field day for QB Tom Brady and his WRs.  Until he finds some more help at WR, don’t expect the Pats to drop 30+ points on any defense, even the Bengals.
img_6459 Even against an aging Giants defense, Miami will struggle to put up points.  WR DeVante Parker will be the lone sign of hope for this offense, as the run game struggles without RBs Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage.  Meanwhile, RB Saquon Barkley will lead the way for the Giants against an inexperienced Dolphins front seven as QB Eli Manning takes the back seat in his first victory of 2019.
img_6460 Look for Houston to win with ease here, especially with WR Will Fuller V slated to play.  The Titans will put up some points, but QB Ryan Tannehill will struggle against a Texans front seven that is still good despite the losses of DE J.J. Watt (injured) and OLB Jadeveon Clowney (traded).  RB Derrick Henry will put up a decent game, but it won’t be enough.
img_6461 The Broncos will put up more of a fight here than most people expect.  The run game will thrive against a flawed Chiefs defense. Denver may even take this game to overtime, as their defense limits QB Patrick Mahomes and his receivers.  But Mahomes and the Chiefs will find a way to victory against a team that is highly unlikely to make the playoffs.
img_6462 Look for QB Aaron Rodgers and his offense to edge out a victory as the Packers sweep Chicago, even against a strong Bears D.  Meanwhile, QB Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense will make this close, but they will fall short against a young Packers D.  
img_6463 Without WR Mike Evans, the Buccaneers will struggle to put up enough points for victory.  Even without QB Matthew Stafford, the Lions offense will do alright against an inexperienced Tampa Bay, leading the way for a Detroit victory. 
img_6464 This will be a pass heavy game, as the WRs thrive against two of the weakest secondaries in the league.  With their WRs wide open, QBs Russell Wilson and Kyle Allen will both have very strong games. But Wilson’s experience will give him the edge over Allen and Seattle the edge over Carolina, even on the road.
img_6465 With unmotivated WR Odell Beckham Jr. covered by CB Patrick Peterson, QB Baker Mayfield will struggle to connect with his receivers.  This will allow QB Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to edge out a victory at home. Against a banged-up Browns defense, Murray will thrive, throwing for 200+ yards and multiple TDs.
img_6466 Expect the Minnesota defense to step it up here, holding aging QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers to just 1 TD.  Meanwhile, the combo of RB Dalvin Cook and WR Stefon Diggs will just be too much for LA’s defense to handle, and their success will allow the Vikings to win comfortably.
img_6467 QB Jared Goff and his receivers will put up enough points here to take down Dallas, even without TE Gerald Everett.  QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott will look alright against the Rams D. But they will be prevented from scoring too much, especially with CB Jalen Ramsey shutting down Prescott’s favorite target, WR Amari Cooper.  
img_6468 The 49ers offense has been dominant all year, and the Falcons defense will struggle to contain them.  Meanwhile, with WR Calvin Ridley out for the season, QB Matt Ryan will lack the weapons to keep up with San Francisco.
img_6469 Without WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, this will be close, as Buffalo will shut down Pittsburgh’s other WRs with ease.  But QB Duck Hodges will lean on RB James Conner and TE Vance McDonald to help the Steelers to victory. However, an underrated Steelers D will nail in the win, shutting down the Bills run game, and significantly limiting QB Josh Allen.
img_6470 Expect a dominant game out of QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Michael Thomas against a rather inexperienced Colts defense.  QB Jacoby Brissett and his offense will find a way to put up some points and make this a bit competitive. But it won’t nearly be enough to give the Colts any kind of chance at a victory.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon.

2019 NFL Week 14 Picks & Previews: Lots of Scoring, Divisional Match-ups as Playoffs Approach

Welcome to my Week 14 NFL picks and previews.  Last week, I went 8-8, putting my overall record at 112-78-1 (113-78-1 with Week 14 TNF).  As the playoffs approach, this week will be filled with scoring and exciting rivalries. Which teams will come out on top and advance in the playoff race?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.  

Lock of the Week

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Against an underrated Titans defense, QB Derek Carr and the Raiders will struggle to put up points.  Carr will be without WR Hunter Renfrow, and the Tennessee defense should be able to handle RB Josh Jacobs, WR Tyrell Williams, and TE Darren Waller.  Meanwhile, expect Oakland to struggle stopping RB Derrick Henry. QB Ryan Tannehill will also have a strong game, tossing multiple touchdowns and leading the Titans to a blowout victory with help from Henry.

Upset of the Week

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This one should be close, but look for the Rams defense to slow QB Russell Wilson down more than usual. Meanwhile, QB Jared Goff and his receivers will take advantage of a good match-up against an inexperienced Seahawks secondary.  RB Chris Carson should have a strong game for Seattle, but it won’t be enough as the Rams have too big an advantage against the Seattle secondary.  

The Other Games

Posted to Twitter Thursday

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Look for QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers to have a strong day against a young Cowboys secondary and lead the Bears to victory.  However, RB Ezekiel Elliott will help Dallas make this close against a strong Bears defense that will shut down QB Dak Prescott.  
img_6380 Led by their strong run game, the Bills will put up a good amount of points and make this close.  But even a rising Buffalo defense is no match for QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson will rely on RB Mark Ingram and a variety of receivers in addition to running the ball himself.  Jackson’s versatile skillset will lead Baltimore to a fairly easy victory.
img_6381 Without RB Le’Veon Bell, the Jets will have to rely on QB Sam Darnold and his receivers.  But against a Dolphins secondary that’s decimated by injuries, I think the Jets are capable of victory without Bell.  The Dolphins will put up a fight, but they won’t win in New York.  
img_6382 With TE David Njoku back, QB Baker Mayfield and his offense will be up to full speed in this game.  They’ve had time to develop chemistry and get healthy. Now they’ll take advantage of a favorable match-up against Cincinnati.  QB Andy Dalton and his receivers will make it close, but the Browns should win in the end.
img_6383 Even without WR Will Fuller V, the Texans should be able to take down Denver here.  Expect the Texans D to severely limit QB Drew Lock and his offense. It’s hard to tell how QB Deshaun Watson and his receivers will do, but the Texans should win with ease regardless.
img_6384 The Colts young secondary will have a very hard time stopping WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.  This will allow QB Jameis Winston to have one of his best games of the year and lead the Buccaneers to victory.  QB Jacoby Brissett and the Colts will put up some points on an inconsistent Tampa Bay defense, but without WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Eric Ebron, they won’t have enough in the tank.
img_6385 This will be closer than people expect, as Washington surprises against a young Green Bay defense.  But the Packers will win in the end, as they rely on RB Aaron Jones and QB Aaron Rodgers, who can make just about any WR look good.  
img_6387 Even without WR Adam Thielen playing, this should be a blowout.  The Vikings will lean on RB Dalvin Cook to lead them. Meanwhile, the Minnesota defense will easily shut down QB David Blough and his receivers, and with RB Kerryon Johnson hurt, Bo Scarbrough is the best RB the Lions have to compete with Cook.
img_6388 This will be an exciting game, as it could preview this year’s NFC Championship.  QB Drew Brees will lean on RB Alvin Kamara and TE Jared Cook with WR Michael Thomas likely to be covered by CB Richard Sherman for most of the game.  QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his receivers will find a way to make this close, but the Saints will prove themselves as NFC frontrunners in this one.
img_6389 In Atlanta, QB Kyle Allen will struggle with TE Greg Olsen sidelined.  RB Christian McCaffrey will have a strong game, but he cannot win Carolina games on his own.  QB Matt Ryan and a strong Falcons offense will be too much for McCaffrey to compete with here.
img_6390 Even with QB Gardner Minshew starting again, the Jags will struggle against the Chargers D.  WRs Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark will be out-matched by a strong Chargers secondary, especially now that S Derwin James is back. Meanwhile, QB Philip Rivers will rebound against a weak Jags D after a tough loss.
img_6391 This is going to be the biggest shootout of the year.  Against a below average Chiefs D, QB Tom Brady will rebound.  The Pats defense will struggle as QB Patrick Mahomes continues to succeed and makes this close.  As Brady relies on his young receivers, the Pats will edge out a victory. But it won’t be easy.
img_6392 Even with QB Duck Hodges starting, I think the Steelers should be able to take down Arizona.  Hodges and his offense will put up a decent game against a young Cardinals defense, and Pittsburgh’s defense will limit QB Kyler Murray and his receivers to just 2 TDs to allow Pittsburgh to edge out the victory on the road.
img_6393 With QB Daniel Jones out, QB Eli Manning will have to start.  Under pressure from a strong Eagles front seven, he will struggle.  The Eagles won’t have the most flattering of games, but they’ll get by against an aging Giants defense as QB Carson Wentz relies on his tight ends.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including some MLB free agency coverage as Winter Meetings approach.

2019 NFL Week 13 Picks & Previews: Road Upsets Continue in Fight for Playoff Contention

Welcome to my Week 13 NFL Picks.  On Thanksgiving, I went 2-1 as all 3 road teams won, putting my overall record at 106-71-1.  I expect lots of road teams to win today as well, with teams hungry to clinch and other teams looking for their last chance at contention.  Who will lock up a playoff spot, and who will lose their chance at one? Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

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QB Jacoby Brissett is running out of options.  RB Marlon Mack, WR T.Y. Hilton, and TE Eric Ebron are all injured.  The rest of this depleted Colts offense is sure to struggle against an underrated Tennessee defense.  Meanwhile, the success of QB Ryan Tannehill and his receivers will continue against a young Indy secondary.  TE Delanie Walker will be out, but that won’t come close to stopping the Titans here.

Upset of the Week

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Seattle has a good chance at winning the NFC West at this point.  But Minnesota will be hungry to take over their own division, and I could see them pulling off the upset here.  QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will have a field day against the young Seattle secondary. QB Russell Wilson and his offense will struggle to keep up, especially as they will be limited by one of the best defenses in the league.  Wilson will find a way to make this close, but the Seahawks will still struggle to keep up in this one.

The Other Games

img_6315 Look for the Jets to keep their win streak alive against the winless Cincinnati Bengals.  RB Joe Mixon will have a strong game, but don’t expect much from QB Andy Dalton and his shallow group of receivers against a young, underrated Jets secondary.  Meanwhile, QB Sam Darnold will throw multiple TDs against a banged up Bengals D and lead the Jets to a comfortable victory.
img_6316 Expect Philly to revive themselves against a weak Miami defense.  QB Carson Wentz will turn things around, and the RB duo of Miles Sanders and Jay Ajayi will succeed against Ajayi’s former team.  Meanwhile, the Eagles secondary will be capable of containing Miami’s receivers, and RB Kalen Ballage will continue to struggle against a strong Eagles defensive front.
img_6317 The Niners defense will be no match for QB Lamar Jackson.  Jackson and his offense will continue to dominate, exposing the 49ers as overrated.  San Fran will have a strong game offensively as well, but this will mostly be a result of a strong game by RB Tevin Coleman against a DB-heavy Ravens defense.  The Ravens should succeed in limiting QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s receivers and outscoring the Niners.
img_6318 Look for QB Baker Mayfield to continue to succeed, even going against an improving Pittsburgh defense without TE David Njoku.  With QB Mason Rudolph, RB James Conner, and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster out of the lineup, the Steelers will fail to keep up.
img_6319 QB Jameis Winston will turn it around against a Jaguars secondary that has struggled without CB Jalen Ramsey.  QB Nick Foles will improve in this game now that he’s been healthy for a few weeks, utilizing all three of his best receivers.  However, it won’t be enough to outscore a strong Tampa offense, even in Jacksonville.
img_6320 The Giants would have a good chance here if they were fully healthy.  But WR Golden Tate and TE Evan Engram highlight a long list of absent Giants players this week.  The Giants have struggled with injuries all season, and those struggles will cost them as they fail to outscore a strong, but flawed Green Bay offense.
img_6321 Washington’s defense has done fairly well this season, but their offense has looked anemic at times.  Expect that pattern to continue in this defensive battle between the Redskins and Panthers. The Redskins will be able to limit Carolina’s offense.  But RB Christian McCaffrey is the one person Washington won’t be able to stop.
img_6322 The Rams are decimated by injuries, and QB Jared Goff has declined throughout the season.  But they’ll be able to take down a below average Cardinals offense. The Rams defense will hold Arizona TD-less, making it easy for Goff to lead the Rams to an important road victory.
img_6323 Oakland’s offense is pretty good, and they will put up a decent game against the Kansas City defense.  But without WR Hunter Renfrow in the mix, Oakland will fall short to QB Patrick Mahomes and an even stronger Chiefs offense.  Mahomes will lean on WR Tyreek Hill in this one, but WR Sammy Watkins, TE Travis Kelce, and RB LeSean McCoy will also put up big games.
img_6324 QB Philip Rivers is in danger of being benched, but the Chargers defense will save him here as they shutout Denver.  Rivers will look alright, throwing multiple TDs despite turnover concerns. But the Chargers D will be the real reason for the LA victory, making Rivers look a lot better than he actually is.
img_6325 In this Sunday Night game, the Pats will clinch a playoff berth as they take down the Texans in Houston.  CB Stephon Gilmore will shut down WR DeAndre Hopkins, forcing the Texans to rely on WR Will Fuller V. The Texans run game will succeed against the Pats defense too.  But QB Tom Brady and co. will find a way to lead the Pats to edge out a victory despite many player absences due to the flu.  

 

2019 Thanksgiving Day NFL Picks: Home Field Advantage won’t mean much

Thanksgiving is here, and so are my Thanksgiving Day NFL picks.  Last week, I went 10-4 in picks, putting my overall record at 104-70-1.  On Thanskgiving, the Lions and Cowboys will continue the day’s tradition of playing a home game.  But will their home field advantage matter that much?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions: 12:30 PM EST on CBS

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The Bears offense may be bad, but the Lions defense just might be worse. After a strong first few games in which the offense led them, the Lions have fallen out of the playoff picture. Without QB Matthew Stafford, there’s little hope for a victory, even against an offense like Chicago’s. The Bears run game will thrive especially against Detroit. Meanwhile, the elite Chicago defense will prevent QB David Blough and his offense from scoring a single TD in a one-sided game.

Buffalo Bills @ Dallas Cowboys: 4:30 PM EST on FOX

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This will be the closest of the three NFL games today, but look for Dallas to pull ahead early and hold on for victory. The Bills defense is pretty good, but they’re no match for QB Dak Prescott and his trio of capable WRs. They may have trouble stopping RB Ezekiel Elliott too. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s WRs will outmatch a young Cowboys secondary. But the Cowboys will stop the run, preventing QB Josh Allen from scrambling as much as he usually does and allowing the Cowboys to hold on for victory.

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons: 8:20 PM EST on NBC

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The Falcons did get RB Devonta Freeman back for this one, but they’re still missing TE Austin Hooper (injured) and WR Mohamed Sanu (traded). The defense was struggling as it is, but they’ve lost S Keanu Neal to an injury. Against one of the best offensive cores in the league, they will struggle. QB Drew Brees and the Saints will go all out here, as RB Alvin Kamara and TE Jared Cook have especially strong games. QB Matt Ryan will rely on WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to keep the Falcons in the game. But it won’t nearly be enough to take down New Orleans, even in Atlanta.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Watch some football, eat some good food, spend time with family, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I just came back from the Algonquin vs. Westborough Thanksgiving game, which Algonquin won 24-7.  Stay tuned for a link to my Harbinger article on that game alongside my other fall sports posts.

2019 NFL Week 12 Picks & Previews: Lots of Scoring Across the Board, who Stands Out?

Welcome to my Week 12 NFL Picks & Previews.  Last week, I went 9-5, putting my overall record at 94-66-1 (95-66-1 with Week 12 TNF).  This week, I expect a lot of high scoring games. But only a few of these high scoring teams will be able to stand out, winning this week’s shootouts and proving themselves capable of playoff contention.  Which teams will stand out? Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

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After a big win over Pittsburgh last week, Cleveland will begin to turn their season around.  Even without DE Myles Garrett, expect the defense to show promise against an anemic Miami squad.  Meanwhile, QB Baker Mayfield will have another big week, throwing 3 TD and utilizing RB Nick Chubb as he leads the Browns to an easy victory.

Upset of the Week

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RB Devonta Freeman and TE Austin Hooper are still out, so the Falcons will fall short here as Tampa’s deeper offense thrives.  I can’t see both WR Mike Evans and WR Chris Godwin having a big game, but one of them should thrive against a below average Falcons secondary.  Meanwhile, TEs O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate will see improvement, helping nail in a Bucs win.

The Other Games

Posted to Twitter Thursday

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WR T.Y. Hilton is expected to play, but even with Hilton in, RB Marlon Mack will be out.  In Houston, I can’t see the Colts pulling off an upset without their lead RB. QB Deshaun Watson and his receivers wlll thrive in this game as they face an inexperienced Colts secondary.  QB Jacoby Brissett and Hilton will score some points for Indy, but it won’t nearly be enough for victory.
img_6267 The Bills won’t be at their best in this game against a strong Denver D.  But they should still win with margin for error. QB Josh Allen and his offense will work around star OLB Von Miller and CB Chris Harris Jr.  Meanwhile, Denver will struggle against a rising Buffalo D.
img_6268 QB Sam Darnold and his offense will put up a pretty strong game.  RB Le’Veon Bell will lead that effort in his strongest game yet. However, this Oakland offense is one of the league’s deepest, and against a banged-up Jets D, they should thrive.  RB Josh Jacobs and the rest of Oakland’s run game will also look strong, but QB Derek Carr will also throw multiple TD’s to nail in the Oakland victory.
img_6269 This will not be easy for Pittsburgh, as RB James Conner and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster are out.  But look, they’re playing the 0-10 Cincinnati Bengals. A Steelers loss here would be disgraceful.  I think this will be down to the wire, but Pittsburgh will lean on TE Vance McDonald against a weak Bengals secondary.  
img_6262 With WR Josh Gordon on board, the Seahawks have one of the best groups of WRs in the league.  QB Russell Wilson will have a huge game here. But against a troubled Seattle secondary, QB Carson Wentz and his receivers will look even better.  Wentz has the TE duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to rely on. This will be a close shootout, as both passing games thrive and both secondaries struggle.
img_6252-2 Washington will be without CB Josh Norman, but the defense should be able to stop QB Jeff Driskel, preventing the Lions from scoring much.  Meanwhile, the RB duo of Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson has an optimal match-up against a flawed Lions front seven. These two will lead the Redskins to victory.
img_6253-2 You might expect this to be a battle between RBs Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara.  But both these teams are much better against the run than against the pass, so I expect more passing in this game than you might think.  It will be close, but a strong game from QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas will help lead the Saints to edge out the victory.
img_6266 QB Mitch Trubisky and his offense hit rock bottom last week, as Trubisky was benched for QB Chase Daniel.  Even if Trubisky does get the start here, I don’t expect Chicago to outscore an improved Giants offense in this one.  Though the Bears have one of the best defenses in the league and should slow New York down, QB Daniel Jones and his offense will still put up a solid game.  Look for RB Saquon Barkley to be hungry for improvement after regressive struggles last week. Trubisky and his receivers should look alright, but they won’t score enough to top the Giants here.
img_6255-2 This will be a defense heavy game, as QBs Ryan Tannehill and Nick Foles struggle to keep up with the young, energetic defenses they’re facing.  WR D.J. Chark will put up a strong game for Jacksonville, but that won’t be enough in Tennessee after Tannehill’s recent performances.
img_6256-2 Even with WRs Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett banged up, QB Tom Brady will find a way to lead the Pats to victory.  Expect him to rely on TE Ben Watson as well as young WRs N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers. RB Ezekiel Elliott will lead Dallas to make it close, but QB Dak Prescott and his receivers will struggle against a strong Pats defense.
img_6257-2 With TE George Kittle returning, QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his receivers should have enough in the tank to take down Green Bay on Niners turf.  The Packers will make it close, but with CB Richard Sherman zeroing in on star WR Davante Adams, QB Aaron Rodgers will struggle to find enough open receivers to lead Green bay to victory.
img_6258-2 In a Monday Night game that will be featured at Gonk Knocks Football Night, QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens will continue to thrive.  But QB Jared Goff will rely on his backfield, as well as WR Cooper Kupp, to lead the Rams to a close home victory.  Meanwhile, LA’s strong defense will limit Jackson’s surroundings, holding the Ravens back from outscoring Goff and Co.

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more NFL coverage soon.  I mentioned Gonk Knocks Football Night in my Rams-Ravens pick.  If you’re wondering what Gonk Knocks Football Night is, you can check out this post for more information.  This Monday at APEX Entertainment, we’ll be showcasing Season 2 of Gonk Knocks as well as MNF while raising money for the Algonquin Football Boosters and the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.  Come on Monday to bowl, eat, and have fun.

2019 NFL Week 11 Picks & Previews: Who Will Come up Big when it Matters?

Welcome to my Week 11 NFL Picks.  Last week, I went 7-6, putting my overall record at 85-61-1 (85-62-1 with Week 11 TNF).  This week, many marquee match-ups will take place. The Patriots and Eagles have a Super Bowl LII rematch.  The next two best AFC teams in the Ravens and Texans face off. AFC South rivals in the Colts and Jaguars will battle it out in an important game for the Wild Card race.  On Monday Night Football, the underperforming Chiefs and Chargers will play an important AFC West game in Mexico. Which teams will emerge as contenders this week, and which teams will fall behind or fall flat?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

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The Dolphins have won two in a row, and the Bills are a bit overrated.  But QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and his depleted offense are no match for a rising young Bills D.  Without CBs Xavien Howard and Aqib Talib, the Dolphins will also struggle to contain WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley.  The Dolphins run defense isn’t in much better shape against the RB duo of Devin Singletary and Frank Gore. The Bills will be at their best in this game, and that will make things too difficult for Miami to pull off another upset.

Upset of the Week

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I’m a believer in QB Derek Carr and the Raiders offense.  But without S LaMarcus Joyner (injured) and CB gareon Conley (traded), I’m worried that the Raiders will have trouble containing WR Tyler Boyd and the rest of Cincy’s receivers.  The young Oakland front seven has improved, but they may also struggle since they’re facing 2018’s AFC leading rusher in Joe Mixon. With help from Mixon, Boyd, and a banged-up but underrated defense, the Bengals will come out on top here and pull off a huge upset, exposing the Raiders and winning their first game of 2019.

The Other Games

Posted to Twitter Thursday

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Expect WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and TE Vance McDonald to outmatch Cleveland’s young secondary, helping QB Mason Rudolph lead Pittsburgh to an upset victory.  With ex-Browns and current Steelers CB Joe Haden out, the Steelers secondary will also be a bit shorthanded, making things easier for QB Baker Mayfield. I do expect Cleveland to turn their season around, and this game will help build momentum.  But I think they’ll need TE David Njoku back on the field to give them the boost they need for wins and contention.
img_6209 I don’t expect much more from Washington this year, but QB Dwayne Haskins, RB Derrius Guice, and WR Terry McLaurin will thrive against a depleted Jets defense, showing promise for the future.  QB Sam Darnold will connect with WR Jamison Crowder here as usual, but he’ll have trouble connecting with his other receivers against an underrated Redskins D, causing the Jets to fall short.
img_6210 I had originally said Houston would pull off an upset here coming off the bye.  But with WR Will Fuller V and CB Bradley Roby still sidelined, I don’t think the Texans have enough in the tank for a victory here.  They should come pretty close, as the run game thrives and WR DeAndre Hopkins outmatches a strong Ravens secondary. However, QB Lamar Jackson will rely on his usual tactics as he leads the Ravens in a close one.
img_6211 Many people have said the Colts’ fate this week depends on QB Jacoby Brissett’s health.  But even with Brissett playing, I don’t think the Colts will be able to take down Jacksonville.  The Jaguars will have QB Nick Foles back to lead them. Meanwhile, the Colts will still be without WRs T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell, leaving Brissett with minimal options as Indy falls short.
img_6212 This will not be as easy for Minnesota as people think.  The Vikes are still without WR Adam Thielen, and CB Chris Harris Jr. will have WR Stefon Diggs in tight coverage throughout the game.  The Broncos run defense should be able to slow down RB Dalvin Cook as well. That will leave QB Kirk Cousins with less options, but with a lot of help from the defense, I still expect the Vikes to come out on top here.  
img_6213 The Lions run game is running out of options, as RB Kerryon Johnson is done for the year now.  Though QB Jeff Driskel will put up a slightly better game against an inexperienced Cowboys secondary, the Lions will fall short at home.  Expect Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott to be able to run all over Detroit’s weak front seven, and the rest of the offense should do alright as well.
img_6214 Tampa’s offense will put up another strong game here, especially against a Saints secondary that’s missing CB Marshon Lattimore.  But QB Drew Brees and his receivers will put up a field day against a crumbling Buccaneers secondary. Tampa’s run defense has been pretty good, but it’s their secondary that will cost them here, as WR Michael Thomas dominates.
img_6215 This Falcons offense just keeps losing weapons.  WR Mohamed Sanu was traded. TE Austin Hooper and RB Devonta Freeman are hurt.  But I think Atlanta will take one last victory lap against a weak Carolina secondary before struggling down the stretch.  The WR duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will thrive, and RB Christian McCaffrey will have another strong game as well.  But McCaffrey can’t lead the Panthers alone.
img_6216 I’m a little concerned about the 49ers right now with WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Dante Pettis, and TE George Kittle banged up.  This game will definitely be close, as QB Kyler Murray and his offense continue to succeed, even against a strong 49ers D. But San Fran will still edge out a home victory.
img_6220 The Eagles secondary has improved, but it is still no match for QB Tom Brady and his receivers.  Especially in a favorable match-up, Brady can make any receiver look like a star. The Eagles will put up a good fight, as their backfield will improve with RB Jay Ajayi in the mix and QB Carson Wentz will have a strong game.  But without WRs Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles will fall behind.
img_6218 This will be a very defense-heavy game.  The Rams offense has struggled more and more as the season progresses, and they are no match for an elite Chicago defense.  However, QB Mitch Trubisky and his offense have been even worse, and I don’t expect anything special for them in LA either. In the end, I have the Rams winning in overtime, but this will be an ugly game.
img_6219 QB Philip Rivers has declined significantly this year.  But with help of RBs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, I think he can lead LA past the Chiefs.  The Chiefs run game will struggle against DE Joey Bosa and a strong Chargers front seven. QB Patrick Mahomes and his receivers will thrive as usual, but if the Chargers offense puts up a strong game all around against a flawed Kansas City defense, the Chiefs might not have enough in the tank.

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon.

In addition, as many of my readers are football fans living in the Boston area, I wanted to mention that I’m putting on a charity event at APEX Entertainment, where you can bowl, eat, and watch Monday Night Football as well as Gonk Knocks, my series about how my high school’s football team prepares for the season.

Go to https://www.accelevents.com/e/GonkKnocksFootballNight to buy event tickets, buy raffle tickets, bid in the silent auction, or make a straight donation.  The event will benefit the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and The Algonquin Football Boosters.

You can also text “Auction” to 201.241.4608.