A Roller Coaster Ride: Reviewing the Patriots Draft

Welcome to my in-depth draft review for the New England Patriots.  I have already begun writing draft grades for each team (organized by division), but I figured I’d go more in depth for my favorite team.  Plus, I was able to submit this as a critical review for English class.

Read below for my draft grades for the Pats alongside my review.

In addition, I had the chance to catch up with Bob Socci about New England’s draft:

Now, let’s jump right in:

new_england_patriots New England Patriots

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

 

Screenshot 2019-05-30 at 11.23.01 PM.png

Analysis:

Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Patriots should remain elite in 2019.  However, with tight end Rob Gronkowski hanging up his cleats and multiple receivers leaving through free agency, the Patriots still had a few tasks to accomplish coming into the NFL Draft.  

First of all, they needed to find quarterback Tom Brady some receivers.  Going into this draft, Julian Edelman was the only capable pass-catcher on the roster that Brady already has a strong rapport with.  Their depth behind Edelman was limited to Demaryius Thomas (coming off torn achilles) and Phillip Dorsett (has yet to prove himself dependable).  They also added Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a veteran tight end who was signed to help fill the hole Gronk left behind. But ASJ is no more than a temporary solution.  He has been terribly inconsistent throughout his career, and after playing 5 years on 3 different teams, he has never reached 400 receiving yards or 5 TDs in a season.  The Pats will eventually need to find another option there.

Second, they needed to fill some of their other positional needs.  They lack defensive line depth and are in desperate need of an elite pass rusher.  They brought Adrian Clayborn on board for 2018, but he didn’t consistently produce.  They haven’t really had a consistent one since DEs Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich left a few years ago.  The team could also use help at linebacker and in the o-line. Lastly, Brady’s not retiring anytime soon unless his stats suddenly decline.  But they still need time to start planning for the post-Brady era.

I feel the team worked towards achieving all of these objectives, but still could have done more to achieve them.  

There were rumors that New England would consider trading up to draft an elite tight end.  Instead, they opted to wait on a tight end and draft WR N’Keal Harry in Round 1. At #32, Harry was one of their best options, and he fills a need.  Once he gets into a rhythm with Brady, expect to see him starting and producing across from Edelman, so this was one of their better picks in the draft.

I wasn’t a huge fan of their 2nd round trade up for cornerback Joejuan Williams though.  Round 2 is a bit early for Williams; the Pats had bigger needs at #45. For example, they could have taken Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr.  But if they were going to trade up for a cornerback, it should have been LSU’s Greedy Williams. He ended up going to the Browns at #46. He may be a flawed prospect, as he’s not a very physical player and he opted out of visiting with teams prior to the draft.  But he has insane potential and refuses to leave receivers open.

The Pats redeemed themselves in the 3rd round.  After trading their later 2nd round pick, they managed to snag edge rusher Chase Winovich early in Round 3.  At the age of 24, Winovich is an older rookie, but he should still bring the energy to the locker room that Gronk left behind and make an instant impact in the pass rush where Ninkovich previously thrived.  This was the perfect choice for the Pats.

In this round, they also snagged a running back, Damien Harris and a tackle, Yodny Cajuste.  Harris is one of the better RB prospects in this draft, and he was a steal at #87. He has played in committees, but it’s hard to get a lot of opportunities in New England’s four-man backfield, something established in 2017.  As long as Michel is healthy, I’m not so sure they needed a fourth man. But he’s still a decent investment in my eyes.

Cajuste was one of the best tackles on the board and fills a need for the Pats, so I liked the pick.  Isaiah Wynn has yet to play a regular season game after losing his rookie year to an ACL tear, so the left tackle job is anyone’s for taking.

Though it received mixed reviews overall, one of my favorite picks in this draft was the selection of Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham in Round 4.  Stidham may have struggled at Auburn, but he wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for Auburn’s system, and I trust that he’ll fit better with the Pats and is capable of replacing Brady when he retires.

They also took guard Hjalte Froholdt in this round.  This was a bit of a reach, but he does help fill the team’s need for o-line depth.  

I was a bit disappointed at first when the Pats took DT Byron Cowart in Round 5, when better options were on the board.  But since then, I’ve looked further into this pick, and it actually makes sense. It fills a need, and as a former top high school prospect, Cowart has plenty of potential despite underperforming in college.  

On the other hand, it’s hard to argue in favor of the selection of punter Jake Bailey.  First of all, Bailey is a right footed punter, the first right footed punter on the Pats in a long, long, time.  Plus, they already resigned punter Ryan Allen. In baseball, they put right handed batters in a platoon with left handed batters.  Would the Pats consider something similar with punters? Regardless, the 5th round was a bit early to draft one.

Their drafted concluded with the addition of cornerback Ken Webster.  This pick didn’t make much sense, as they had already added depth at the position by drafting Joejuan Williams.  But it’s the 7th round, so I doubt it’ll have that much of an impact in the long run.

Overall I thought this draft class was pretty solid.  Some of the decisions they made were a bit confusing, but that was mixed in with some amazing picks, and it’s hard to doubt Bill Belichick.  This draft class makes a lot more sense now that the Pats have reunited with TE Ben Watson and LB Jamie Collins in free agency.  So if I had to give this draft class a letter grade, it would be somewhere in the B-range.

Stay tuned for more draft grades soon.

The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game

Welcome to my 7th and final post in my series of Super Bowl LIII Preview articles.  With just hours till game time, I will be giving you guys a final update on injuries among other things before the game begins.  In addition, I have included an iMovie trailer to get everyone excited. You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below.

Image result for super bowl liii

Super Bowl LIII: Official Boston Sports Mania Preview Schedule

January 28: Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here

January 29: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 30: The Case for the Rams: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

February 1: Super Bowl LIII Fast Facts and Their Significance

February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

February 3: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview

February 3: The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game (Including iMovie Trailer)

February 3: Enjoy the game and stay tuned for my recap after the game!

Part 1: iMovie Trailer: Back to their Roots

Part 2: Final Injury Report

Both teams are pretty much at full health, which will make for an exciting game.  RB Todd Gurley may not be 100% after an injury suffered late into the regular season, and DE Deatrich Wise Jr. of the Patriots was hurt in the weeks leading up to the game, but unless Wise is a healthy scratch, both Gurley and Wise are expected to play.  I’m hoping DE Adrian Clayborn isn’t an inactive instead of wise.  We need some good pass rushers in this game.

Part 3: Final Outlook

I’m pretty confident that the Patriots can win this.  But in addition to winning the turnover battle, scoring early, and stopping the run, they’ll need the special teams to step it up.  If the Patriots want to win, they need to play complimentary football: good offense, good defense, and good special teams.  Though a big game from Edelman or Gronk would be nice, I see WR Phillip Dorsett as an X-factor for us.  Some games, he has made next to no impact.  In other games, he has been an unsung hero.  I saw Dorsett at training camp, and he looked like one of the best receivers there.  Apparently, Bill Belichick had wanted to draft this guy in 2015 (he traded for him later on).  There’s got to be a reason for that.  I have confidence that Dorsett has the potential to make a big impact.  Plus, if he does well, he may be rewarded with a return to the Patriots (he is an upcoming free agent).

Image result for phillip dorsett

If the Rams can outrun the Pats, they’ll be in good shape.  But they’ll also have to outplay QB Tom Brady, which will require not only Gurley and Anderson but also QB Jared Goff to be at his best.  If Goff has a big game, and the Rams defensive line (who I see as their X-factor) is at their best, pressuring Brady and stopping the run, the Rams have a chance.  But I still have more confidence in my home team.

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This will definitely be close, and it could be another classic, as most Patriots Super Bowls are.  But I think this is the year that the Pats finally get their sixth ring and tie the Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins ever.

Image result for patriots win super bowl vs rams

That’s about all I can say that I haven’t already said.  With just about six hours left, food has been purchased.  Parties have been planned.  Commercials have been made.  Now, it’s just time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the game with friends and family, commercials, halftime, and all.  Unlike other football games, anyone can enjoy the Super Bowl thanks to the funny ads and the halftime show added in to appeal to all audiences.  I hope everyone enjoys the game, and stay tuned for my recap when it all ends.  Go Pats!

 

 

Texans @ Patriots Preview: Getting Creative

Below is my preview for the Patriots Week 1 game against the Houston Texans as well as the voice-over script used in the video.

The Patriots open their season today against the Houston Texans. With Deshaun Watson healthy, this is bound to be an exciting game between two of the league’s top quarterbacks. The Texans and Patriots are arguably two of the AFC’s best teams this year, but we’ll have to see how they do down the road, because it’s only Week 1, and anything can happen from here.

With Julian Edelman suspended, the Patriots are left with just 3-4 reliable receivers, if they even have that. Brady and the Pats are going to have to do something they’ve done very well at in the past: finding creative ways to score. Whether this means throwing to running backs or putting your 3rd string tight end in the starting lineup, the Pats will do what it takes.

Before Bill Belichick, it was common practice for teams to receive when winning the coin toss. When Belichick started deferring, people wondered why. But Belichick chooses what he thinks is best for the team and always sticks to that even if some think it may not appear as best. He sets the standards and players who don’t buy in are cut.

The Texans have a tough game ahead, especially with WR Will Fuller and RB D’Onta Foreman injured. However, they have star players in WR DeAndre Hopkins and RB Lamar Miller, so the Pats will have to keep them covered and prevent them from leading the Texans to victory with big plays. Defensively, the Texans will have to keep Tom Brady under pressure and TE Rob Gronkowski well covered. I think the Texans strong D is up to the challenge. However, New England will have a game plan to counter and it will come down to which team executes better.

For injuries, the Patriots have RB Sony Michel out and T Marcus Cannon and TE Jacob Hollister Questionable. The Texans have it off worse: WR Will Fuller, a key player on this offense, is out, and RB D’Onta Foreman is on the PUP list. In the end, I have the Patriots working around Houston’s shut down D and winning, 30-23, with Phillip Dorsett stepping it up and leading New England in receiving yards.

 

Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance in the Game

Welcome to my fourth article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII.  Today I will be talking about interesting stats I’ve seen and what they mean to the game.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance 

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

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

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

 

Super Bowl Fast Facts

Below are 5 fun facts that could mean a lot to the game:

 

1. The Patriots have struggled to stop the run, and the Eagles are 7-0 this season when the LeGarrette Blount-Jay Ajayi duo has combined for 100+ yards

Expect the Eagles to run the ball, especially based on the fact that their 7-0 when Blount and Ajayi combine for 100 or more yards.  The Patriots have struggled to stop elite running backs all season, and the Philly RB staff could just be a pain in the neck for the Pats.  Will the Pats finally stop the run, or win despite failing to do so?  This stat gets me a little worried, especially with LeGarrette Blount seeking revenge on New England.

2. Only eight teams won a conference championship in the Super Bowl era by 30+ points before the Eagles did.  Only two won the Super Bowl.  Will the Eagles look burnt out in the big game?

This brings up a good point, especially thinking about Eagles QB Nick Foles.  It may be a sign that we do not see a repeat of the NFC Championship for him, and the carriage will turn back into the pumpkin.  However, he had shown promise prior to that game, back in his first stint with the Eagles.  Was Foles’ performance a one-time thing, or is he just a good QB looking for a little consistency?  It’s good news for the Pats if Foles gets off to a rocky start.

3. In the Brady-Belichick era, none of New England’s other Super Bowl opponents have had both a Top 5 scoring offense and scoring defense.  In each category, the Eagles are 3rd and 4th, respectively.  

This worries me a little bit, but I don’t necessarily think it means that the Pats will lose.  However, not even the Giants in 2007 or 2011 had what this Eagles team has.  If they didn’t have QB Carson Wentz for three-quarters of the season though, they may be lower on the offensive side of things.

They have a lot of great weapons offensively and even acquired RB Jay Ajayi midway through the season.  But if Nick Foles can’t keep up the good work, this Eagles offense will not challenge the Pats nearly as much, bringing hope for them to win.  I do think this Eagles team could give New England a scare and come close to victory, but I think the Patriots are capable of beating a team with top 5 scoring offense and defense, especially with Philly’s backup QB under center.

4. Pats QB Tom Brady has as much Super Bowl experience as the entire Eagles 53-man roster combined (7 games)

This is an unbelievable stat, and Bill Belichick is great against teams with minimal playoff experience.  This is the perfect example.  A lot of Pats players have not played an NFL season without making the AFC Championship, while this entire Eagles roster has only made 7 combined Super Bowls.  Belichick will take advantage of the lack of experience on the Philly roster.  That may help him win this game.

5. According to ESPN, the most significant difference in yards per attempt between the QBs facing off in a Super Bowl was between Tom Brady and Eli Manning in Super Bowl XLII, and Brady, the much better QB lost.  Can Nick Foles be the next QB to shock Brady?

2007 was Brady and Eli Manning.  This year, it’s Brady against a backup quarterback (Foles).  Although the YPA difference between Brady and Manning (4.0) was greater than the difference between Brady and Foles (2.9), if you are measuring this on overall performance, Manning in 2007 was slightly better than 2017 Nick Foles.  But, you cannot rule out an underdog victory, especially based on these stats.

 

Some of these stats are favoring the Pats.  Others favor the Eagles.  But what it really comes down to is how these two teams match-up.  I will preview that in the next article that will be posted shortly.

 

Ultimate Super Bowl LI Preview: Video, Prediction and More

The Super Bowl is almost here.  The snacks are ready and the Pats and Falcons are about to face off in a great game.  So, it’s time to look a little bit deeper.  Who will win the big game on Sunday?  Keep reading to find out what I think!

Here’s my video preview for the big game:

 

 

I also have an iMovie trailer, check it out!

 

Okay, that gave you a brief preview, but it’s time to go deeper.  This may be one of the greatest Super Bowls ever.  Either team has a shot to win.  

The Case for the Pats

The Patriots are four time champions looking for a fifth.  One thing that will come to their advantage is their depth.  They have so many options on offense, and rotate the defense very frequently.  Tom Brady is on fire, and the defense is first in scoring defense and has the power to slow down and overwhelm Matt Ryan.

If the Pats win, Brady will be known as the G.O.A.T, and Bill Belichick will be known as the greatest head coach ever.  I think things are looking good for the Pats.  I really think that the Patriots were meant to win this season.  

The Case For The Falcons

Matt Ryan is trying to win the Falcons their first Super Bowl, and I think he has a good chance. The Falcons have an awesome QB-RB-WR combo.  The Falcons don’t have the best defense, but Matt Ryan and his offense have had an MVP caliber season.  The Falcons may not have the awesome past of the Patriots, but they can overwhelm a defense, and they actually looked really good this season.  I think they have a legitimate chance.  

Super Bowl Fast Facts

  • The Patriots have not lost a Super Bowl when they’ve had a Top 10 defense, they are first this year.  
  • However, the Pats have not faced a Top 10 passing QB this season, Matt Ryan is number 1.
  • Matt Ryan has won against 5 of 6 winning QBs in 2016.  
  • However, the Falcons have scored 540 points this season.  No team to score 540 points or more in a season has ever won the Super Bowl.  
  • The Patriots are 17-0 when Dion Lewis plays.  Lewis will play in Super Bowl LI.
  • The Patriots have only thrown 2 turnovers, fewest in the NFL
  • Despite ranking 25th in offensive yards per carry, they only allow 3.85 to opponents.  
  • The last 7 MVP winners to make the Super Bowl have lost

The Final Pick

Typically, I just predict the score. But it’s the Super Bowl, so I went a little deeper.  I simulated the entire game based on my basic score prediction.  Below are the final score and stat predictions I came up with.  

Patriots, 30, Falcons, 23

I think the Patriots will win by a touchdown.  The Falcons just don’t have the depth to cover the Pats offense.  Their defense is terrible in the red zone and will let the Pats score on them.  Although Brady will do strongly and throw for 2 TDs, I think we will also see a Patriots rushing touchdown.  Both these teams went from having a desperate running game to an amazing backfield.  The Falcons will also score at least 1 rushing TD.  

However, this is number one offense (Falcons) against number one defense (Patriots).  Who won the last match-up like that?  The Broncos did, they had the number one defense.  Defense wins games, and the Pats defense will pressure Matt Ryan well, and the whole Falcons offense will be messed up by it.  The Falcons have only faced three really good defenses this year, the Seahawks (twice), Broncos and Chiefs.  They went 2-2 in those match-ups, one of their wins at home.  In the Super Bowl, it’s a neutral match-up, and unlike those other teams, the Patriots have amazing offense.  They also have depth that Atlanta lacks.  So, after a grand effort by both teams, I see the Patriots edging this one out.

Stat Projections (Passing, Rushing and Receiving)

Patriots

Passing

Tom Brady, 34/54, 348 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks

 

Rushing

LeGarrette Blount, 17 rush, 76 yards, TD

Dion Lewis, 6 rush, 28 yards

James White: 7 rush, 24 yards

 

Receiving

Julian Edelman, 8/11, 96 yards

Malcolm Mitchell, 6/14, 68 yards, TD

Martellus Bennett, 8/8, 66 yards, TD

Chris Hogan, 6/10, 65 yards

Danny Amendola, 3 /4, 30 yards

Michael Floyd, 2/ 3, 19 yards

Dion Lewis, 1/1, 4 yards

Matt Lengel, 0/1, 0 yards

 

Falcons

 

Passing

Matt Ryan, 31/50, 314 yards, TD, 1 INT, 4 sacks

 

Rushing

Devonta Freeman, 23 rush, 113 yards, TD

Tevin Coleman, 10 rush, 41 yards

Patrick DiMarco, 1 rush, 2 yards

 

Receiving

Julio Jones, 13/22, 139 yards

Mohamed Sanu, 8/11, 68 yards, TD

Austin Hooper, 6/6, 62 yards

Taylor Gabriel, 4/10, 45 yards

Levine Toilolo, 0/1, 0 yards

 

The Super Bowl is almost here.  The food is ready (hopefully).  The game is recorded, and my Super Bowl Sunday is planned.  All that’s left is the wait.  Are you ready for the Big Game?

NFL 2016 Preview: Crazy Season Is Ahead

 

It’s that time of year again.   Training camp’s here, and the draft is in the books.  It’s time for this year’s NFL predictions.  Get ready for some big shockers, this year will be very different from recent ones.  Some of the NFL’s once horrible teams will rise from the bottom, and some of its top teams will finally slide.  A crazy NFL season is about to begin.

AFC East

  1. New_England_Patriots.jpg New England Patriots 12-4 (1)
  2. buf.jpg Buffalo Bills 10-6 (6)
  3. Jets-Logo.png New York Jets 6-10
  4. Dolphins-logo.jpg Miami Dolphins 4-12

Patriots

After a 2015 disappointment when they lost in Denver twice, 2016 is looking good for the Pats.  The first few games could be tough if Brady is out, but I’m sure he’ll find a way out of this nonsense for good.  Even if he does remain suspended, they’ll sign a veteran QB, and when Brady returns, him and his new weapons in Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and Nate Washington plus his old targets like Gronk, Edelman and Amendola will bounce back and finish off well.  This team has an improved offensive line and front seven and if they can keep healthy, and Jimmy Garoppolo can lead a loaded receiving group to victory in the first four games, they will be dominant.

Bills

The Bills had a rough free agency season, but they didn’t need that much.  They knew they had many players on the rise that could work towards a rebuild.  It’s a lot more likely after the Bills just came out of their best draft in years in my opinion.  They have a dramatically improved pass rush, added to a blooming offense, and overall, improved. The Bills filled almost all their major holes.  After all that, this roster is outstanding on paper. As long as this young team meets its expectations, it will be good for real too, and the Bills could be headed for playoff town.

Jets

What a disappointment.  The one year they had a chance to return to playoff form, they blew it in Week 17.  Ryan Fitzpatrick did resign after a lot of melodrama, but the defense lost Antonio Cromartie and is a little out of shape. They have the right pieces, they just need to put them together, make up for the losses on defense, piece together a better offensive line, and they can thrive in the league.

Dolphins

What the heck is this team doing?!! They had an ugly draft, completely ignored their backfield woes, and have done nothing to bring themselves in an upward direction.  The offense is declining, the defense is declining, and keeping the team like this is not going to make it easy for a bounce back season.  Personally, I think the Dolphins will finish even lower this year.  This is getting pathetic.  Make some moves that actually will help your team next time.

 

AFC North

  1. pittsburgh-steelers.jpg Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6 (4)
  2. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo.jpg Baltimore Ravens 9-7
  3. cincinnati-bengals.jpg Cincinnati Bengals 9-7
  4. cleveland-browns-brown.jpg Cleveland Browns 3-13

 

Steelers

The Steelers have been called Super Bowl LI Winner by many.  I still think the Steelers have what it takes to win the division (just barely), but the Steelers are not winning the Super Bowl, especially without Martavis Bryant, and Le’ Veon Bell for the first four games!  The defense just isn’t there yet and they a don’t have enough receiver depth to help out Big Ben.  Did I mention injuries?  How do you know that won’t interfere?  They do have a lot of amazing, league-best stars, but the holes they have are too big to call them a Super Bowl threat or contender.  Looking for a contender in the AFC besides the Patriots?  Call up the Texans, they have a better idea of what they’re doing than the Steelers.

Ravens
The Ravens had an ugly 2015 campaign, caused by some injuries and some roster holes. But the Ravens really stocked up this off season, and they probably won’t have that many health issues two years in a row. Between the draft and free agency, they filled most of their major roster holes, and they look like a division competitor. However, after all that last season, some of it had to be roster holes, and the holes they didn’t fill could cause this team to lose some games, and will keep them out of the playoffs this year. Sure, Eric Weddle, Ronnie Stanley and Mike Wallace are game changers, but they can’t address all the Ravens’ issues. That’s management’s job, and right now is a little too late.
Bengals

The Bengals are still relevant now, but little by little, they are on the decline and nobody has noticed.  Andy Dalton is on the decline and Tyler Eifert was already at his best last season. The loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu has also caused lack of wide receiver depth. They lost Reggie Nelson and have a hole at safety, and Vontaze Burfict´s 3 game suspension creates a hole at linebacker, despite signing Karlos Dansby. The Bengals are losing more and more pieces, and if they do not take action in the next few off-seasons, they could fall apart, they could eventually fall below the young Cleveland Browns even. They seem to have more and more holes every season, and it´s not leading them in the right direction.

Browns

The Bengals may be in a bad direction, but this team has already lost hope. If they make the playoffs, I will have no idea how. Unless they become the 2016 Orioles of football, you can rule out the Browns. They may have had a league best draft, but that will take a while to kick in. For now, they are an old washed up team that needs to keep going younger. The draft definitely helped, and Corey Coleman should definitely make a big impact, but is it enough to change a franchise completely, even with such an overpowered draft class?  Two words.  No.  way.   What they have done the past few off-seasons is not enough. They need to go full rebuild, or they are not going anywhere.

AFC South

  1. hou-texans Houston Texans 10-6 (3)
  2. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7
  3. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans 6-10
  4. indianapolis-colts Indianapolis Colts 5-11

 

 

Texans

 

In recent years, the Texans have had one of the best defenses in the league.  Last year and likely this year, the ferocious front seven combined with a quality secondary has led to league best defense.  But good offense helps good defense, and that’s the one thing the Texans had lacked, until this off-season.  After star receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ breakout a season ago, the Texans added elite RB Lamar Miller and rising QB Brock Osweiler, who is finally out of Peyton Manning’s shadow.  They drafted a WR2 and WR3 to add to it, and now their offense looks much better, despite lacking tight end depth.  Good offense plus good defense equals good team, and that’s what the Texans appear to be.

 

Jaguars

 

The Jaguars were showing signs of a breakout last year, but they just didn’t have the defense.  This off-season, they have boosted a young team with veterans to support the defense and offense, and push towards a full breakthrough.  I especially like the moves they made on defense.  They upgraded a once weak defense with quality starters in the front seven and secondary.  In addition to the big defensive upgrade, the offense has a ton of rising talent.  Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns all just keep getting better.  Julius Thomas should be better too.  He wants to win after all those years on such a good Broncos team and a better Jaguars team will help him.  The Jags are a changed team, and they will be able to contend in 2016.

Titans

The Titans have a lot of developing talent that could lead to a better 2016.  Marcus Mariota is feeling more comfortable at the NFL level, especially with better protection in front of him.  The Titans added RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to additionally support him.  He now has some good offensive depth and plenty of weapons to throw to after this off-season.   Although they may see some improvement, I don’t expect them to contend for one reason.  Their defense still has many issues of its own.  Despite a defense centered draft, the Titans still have big problems at linebacker and the front seven in general.  They boosted their secondary big time with Rashad Johnson, but the draft just won’t do enough to fix all of the front seven’s problems.  Expect a jump in 2016 but I don’t think the Titans will be anything near playoff material.  

Colts

What did the Colts do to lead to improvement?  Not very much.  They did ink Dwayne Allen to a new contract.  But they are leaning too much on luck.  Speaking of which, one of the main things they’re leaning on is the comeback of quarterback Andrew Luck.  They also are relying on Frank Gore to stay in shape, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett taking the next step and the defense to carry on without Jerrell Freeman and Greg Toler.  I just don’t see how the Colts are going to do all that, especially after an 8-8 season.  If they don’t act fast, they won’t do better, but they’ll slide even further in 2016.  They need to either try and trade for game changers, dig through the bottom of the barrel of free agency, or find another way to make all these questionable aspects of the team work out.  The Colts need a miracle to make that happen.  The next time you want to say the Colts are going to be back to business next year, think before you speak.

 

AFC West

  1. kansas-city-chiefs-logo.jpg Kansas City Chiefs 11-5 (2)
  2. oakland-raiders.jpg Oakland Raiders 10-6 (5)
  3. denver-broncos-logo.jpg Denver Broncos 8-8
  4. San_Diego_Chargers.jpg San Diego Chargers 6-10

 

Chiefs

Please don’t criticize me for this prediction.  This is just my opinion.  I know how much grief the Chiefs have gotten in many people’s predictions, but I think this team will rise in 2016.  Alex Smith looked great last year and I think he could put up a strong performance again this year.  The now healthy Jamaal Charles rejoins a young backfield in good condition, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin plus star tight end Travis Kelce could bring in a lot of receptions.  The offensive line has two new tackles, and the Chiefs pass rush should be unstoppable, especially when Justin Houston comes back.  Despite a quiet off-season, the Chiefs even have rising young talent in corner Marcus Peters, linebacker Dee Ford, wide receiver Albert Wilson and running backs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West.  I’m liking this new era of the Chiefs between unstoppable defense and better offensive depth.

 

Raiders

I love what the Raiders have done in their rebuild.  This off-season they added to young talent with some veterans to upgrade a defense that lost Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson to retirement.  Going for dirty players might be an issue, last off-season they signed Aldon Smith, who’s suspended yet again.  This off-season, they signed Bruce Irvin.  Yes, it’s Mr. I Started A Fight After The Game Was Practically Over In Super Bowl XLIX And Got Ejected himself.  They also signed deals with safer options to rebuild the secondary, Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith.  The offensive line is revamped as well.  The Raiders already had young stars  in Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray.  Now, with a revamped defense and o-line to ad to it, they’re ready to break through this season.

 

Broncos

Four words.  What did Denver do?  They let Brock Osweiler, their five year development float in free agency after Peyton Manning retired.  Then they were down to their third string QB, and have since only put Paxton Lynch and Mark Sanchez ahead of him in the pecking order.  Due to free agency and other problems, they also had holes at third receiver, tight end and inside linebacker.  Their offensive line is highly questionable as well.  They did resign C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman and draft DeVontae Booker to fix the RB problem, but they only have Garrett Graham, Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman at tight end and desperately need a third receiver.  All they have is two elite ones, not three!  Shane Ray can move to inside linebacker, and the defense is still strong, but major holes across the offense will bring this team down to .500, especially the issue at quarterback.

 

Chargers

Alright, I have to give the Chargers credit for some things.  They filled some of their holes on defense.  Brandon Mebane and Casey Hayward help make up for the lack of veterans Eric Weddle left behind.  They still won’t be playoff material, but they will make some improvements.  Melvin Gordon definitely has room to do better and carry the team.  Hunter Henry can make up for Antonio Gates’ decline, and a full season from Keenan Allen will help the receiving corps, along with depth behind him in Travis Benjamin, recently signed James Jones and Stevie Johnson (depending on Johnson’s health).  However, the offensive line still has holes, and across the team there are still risks of injuries and bust seasons.  Guys like Brandon Flowers and Melvin Gordon have make or break seasons ahead of them.  I don’t feel comfortable saying that the Chargers will definitely go back to their form from a few years ago.  I do see small improvement happening, but nothing major.

 

NFC East

  1. dalcowboyslogonew.png Dallas Cowboys 11-5 (4)
  2. new-york-giants-logo.jpg New York Giants 10-6
  3. washingtonredskins2.png Washington Redskins 7-9
  4. philadelphia-eagles-logo.jpg Philadelphia Eagles 4-12

 

Cowboys

Last season was just unlucky.  That won’t happen again.  Especially with big name rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott entering the backfield, a 4-12 season won’t happen again if the Cowboys can stay healthy.  When healthy, this offense is just plain out ferocious.  Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott stand behind a league best offensive line.  The offense has depth, plenty of stars, and is very well protected.  The defense may be some of an issue, but after the first four games, what’s the big issue?   All they’ll be missing is Rolando McClain, and Dwight Freeney is still available. I think the secondary is extremely underrated and the front seven isn’t that bad when you throw in McClain, Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.  In such a weak, crazed division, an 11-5 or 10-6 season will make the cut for the playoffs, and I think that they are highly capable of that.

Giants

The Giants had a really strong off season, and it should pay off.  They made some major upgrades to the front seven, by hauling in Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison and resigning JPP, who will play a full season this year.  They also signed big name corner Janoris Jenkins, and drafted Eli Apple.  The Giants also added to an already powerful offense, especially in the draft.  They selected running back Paul Perkins and wide receiver Sterling Shepard.  They also have Larry Donnell coming back healthy this season in addition to Will Tye at tight end, and they signed Bobby Rainey at RB.  The only thing preventing the Giants from playoff contention is a weak offensive line.  There’s no point in having a growing offense if they have no protection.  If they don’t have protection, their weak spot at starting running back could also factor in.  If they do, that issue might not show up.

Redskins

I feel like Kirk Cousins’ breakthrough season will end up being a fluke.  The kind of sudden rise Cousins went through is not a permanent breakthrough.  Kirk Cousins will be known as a one year wonder.  It doesn’t help when you have an empty backfield to add to it.  The Redskins won’t be able to lean on Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Keith Marshall.  The defense may have made improvements, and the receiving corps may have grown stronger, but without a quarterback, running back and even a consistent offensive line to protect them, a season above .500 will not happen.  They did sign Josh Norman in the off season and upgraded the defense, but will it be enough?  I’m expecting the Redskins to fall a few wins this year.  They won’t be as bad as the 2013-14 version of themselves, but the Redskins won’t even come close to matching last year.

Eagles

The Eagles are looking so bad right now that they’ll miss Chip Kelly.  This team is rebuilding from a rebuild, there’s no way they’ll compete this year!  It’s bad enough what Kelly did.  What’s worse is how Howie Roseman attempted to fix it.  They were in a decent spot with Kelly; I could’ve seen them easily return to contention, but they’ve made the team look foolish.  Ryan Mathews is not an RB1 at this point in his career, and the Eagles are in desperate need of a wide receiver and are in such a bad situation with Sam Bradford that they traded up a total of 11 spots (between two trades) to draft Carson Wentz!  In the process, they gave up DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell.  I don’t know what the heck the Eagles are doing, but whatever their plan is, it isn’t helping, especially for the current team.

 

NFC North

  1.  Green Bay Packers 12-4 (2)
  2.  Detroit Lions 10-6 (6)
  3.  Minnesota Vikings 10-6
  4.  Chicago Bears 4-12

 

Packers

This dominant team won’t lose the division two years straight.  Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the league, and he along with wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed all of last season, are ready to strike back.  This offense just looks a lot better.  Eddie Lacy slimmed up a bit, Jordy Nelson has returned to health, even Aaron Rodgers took part in some serious off-season workouts.  Jared Cook joins Richard Rodgers at tight end, and this offense is suddenly looking dominant again.  The defense may have lost B.J. Raji and Casey Hayward, but still have plenty of key players to run the team, including Julius Peppers, Damarious Randall, Morgan Burnett, Sam Shields, Sam Barrington, Mike Daniels, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Clay Matthews, who’s back to his natural position, outside linebacker.  He was actually a lot better as an OLB than he was in a couple years at middle linebacker.

Lions

You may think that the Lions are in some rough times without Calvin Johnson, but really, if they buff up on depth with guys like Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts, who both worked out and signed with the Lions, they’ll be fine.  Golden Tate should breakthrough without Megatron limiting his targets.  Marvin Jones is a big sleeper ready to breakout.  Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron have plenty of room for improvement, and Matthew Stafford can still play at an average QB level.  You can’t discredit all that.  You may say the defense isn’t doing enough, but really, they’re not in too bad of shape.  The addition of A’Shawn Robinson should help.  They still have Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah too. I don’t think DeAndre Levy is too bad, and I don’t know why Stephen Tulloch was released.  The secondary has some breakout candidates too.  Darius Slay has been underrated all his career, and Glover Quin is still playing well.  I don’t see the problem with a few holes considering the stars they already have, especially if it’s just for a 6th seed.

Vikings

The Vikings 2015 season was no fluke, but it was a high point for them.  They’ll still be in contention, but they’re going down the mountain now.  They were going up until last year.  Why is that?  Well, for one, the Vikings don’t have depth behind Adrian Peterson!  Peterson is not at his peak anymore, and this may be his final elite season.  Laquon Treadwell may help, but the receiving game is still thin, with just him and Stefon Diggs worth throwing to frequently for wide receivers.  The Vikings may have fierce defense and some stars on offense, but they don’t have the depth at running back, wide receiver and offensive lineman to match last year’s performance.

Bears

I know a lot of people are predicting the Bears at higher records, I’m rating them a lot lower than I have in recent years.  The Bears may have some serious talent developing but they’re rebuilding, let them rebuild.  They aren’t ready to return to contention quite yet.  They don’t even have many other options besides the young guns.  In the past two off-seasons, they’ve let Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett go.  Kevin White, Zach Miller, Jordan Howard and Jeremy Langford should build up the skill to replace them eventually, but for now, they can’t run the team by themselves!  Besides Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal at receiver and Ka’ Deem Carey at running back, the Bears have no impactful backups for these players.  Don’t even get me started on the defense.  The defensive line has practically no significant players.  They do have some decent veterans at LB and on the secondary, but they don’t have any stars, and despite an underrated secondary and linebacker corps, the defense is in pretty bad overall shape.

 

NFC South

  1. carolina-panthers-logo.jpg Carolina Panthers 13-3 (1)
  2. tampabaybuccaneers.png Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6
  3. nosaints.png New Orleans Saints 4-12
  4. atlfalcons.png Atlanta Falcons 3-13

 

Panthers

Especially with Kelvin Benjamin back, I think the Panthers can have another strong year, but it won’t be flawless.  The Panthers either just got lucky to be able to carry on with slim receiving depth in 2015, or Cam Newton was just an absolute monster.  Probably the Cam Newton thing.  There will be rough weeks for Cam Newton and the Panthers offense.  But still, the defense is monstrous, even though it lacks corner depth beyond Bene’ Benikwere.  The o-line has some weak spots, but is dominant in other ways, and the offensive players at the top of the depth chart are beastly, including Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.  The Panthers will never match last year’s numbers, but they will be dominant, and they could come close.

Buccaneers

The Bucs have a lot of talent developing, and a defensive boost this off season helps.  One thing the Bucs never had before was a legitimate secondary.  They now have a pair of powerful corners in Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III.  They also added to an already fierce pass rush.  The signings of Daryl Smith and Robert Ayers along with the draft selection of Noah Spence put some of the pressure off just Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David.  They also have some serious stars developing, especially on offense.  Jameis Winston has the potential to be great, especially with rising receivers Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, possibly even Cameron Brate in his receiving scheme.  Although ASJ has looked lousy this off-season, he could be a TE2 for the Bucs, considering the fact that the Bucs only have two receivers worth noting (Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson).  They even have a developing star on defense, Kwon Alexander.  He was in the race for the DPOY award Marcus Peters won.  It looks like the Bucs’ rebuild could finally pay off this season.

Saints

The Saints’ offense may be in shape, but the defense is just too broken down for this team to function.  They have serious problems in their pass rush, and lack depth at corner.  Drew Brees isn’t even in full condition anymore.  He’s only going to get older and weaker, and that could additionally hurt the Saints.  He may have a good receiving staff to throw to, but if he can’t complete passes as often, he’ll have to rely on a weak and overrated running game.  It doesn’t help that the offensive line has holes and is inconsistent and overrated.  So, the offense is in declining in condition and the pass rush is just pathetic.  The only pass rusher that the Saints really have contributing is Cameron Jordan.  Really, what backup do the Saints have to support a good season?   Until they find that out, they’ll have no chance of bouncing back.

Falcons

Everyone thinks this team will be the closest to dethroning Carolina, but really, this team has some serious problems.  First of all, Julio Jones is a great player, but do they have any quality pass catchers besides him?  The next best option is MOHAMED SANU.  He’s more of a WR3 than a WR2, which the Falcons desperately need.  The Falcons are also counting too much on Devonta Freeman.  He had one good season, and just like that he’s considered a star?  Not in my book.  He needs to earn back his job, especially with Tevin Coleman developing.  Speaking of which, they need to give that guy a chance.  I also think the secondary is very slim besides Desmond Trufaunt.  They need more quality corners and safeties.  Really, even with some all stars leading the offense, this team has no offensive depth.  Depth is a problem all over this team, and they won’t do anything without some insurance for their best players.  Even a mediocre defense has depth problems.  The pass rush is revamped, but the secondary has nothing.  How does lack of depth affect a team?  The Falcons will find out this season from a rough ride.

NFC West

  1. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks 12-4
  2. az-cards Arizona Cardinals 12-4
  3.  Los Angeles Rams 3-13
  4.  San Francisco 49ers 3-13

 

Seahawks

The Seahawks are back and better than ever.  The offense has gotten younger, as Thomas Rawls steps into Marshawn Lynch’s shoes.  Jimmy Graham should be back fresh, and Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin also look to be in great shape for this season.  The offense may have lacked depth, but the last two drafts have helped.  They now have Trevone Boykin at QB, Luke Willson at tight end, C.J. Prosise, Christine Michael and Alex Collins at running back, and Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse at receiver.  The defense is still powerful as well.  The secondary got boosted even further with the resigning of Brandon Browner, and the front seven may have some holes, but is still ferocious.  This team is ready to climb back to the top of the division and dominate, and a quiet but active off season has helped.

Cardinals

Alright, last year the Cardinals were at their absolute peak.  If they stay healthy, they can do well again, but they won’t match last year.  Last year, the Cardinals had a magical season.  Everything worked out.  The defense made a big jump, and the offense’s best players stayed healthy, and did well.  You can’t guarantee that things will work out again.  the defense is still very fierce, but it has some missing pieces, and if Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd gets hurt, the Cards could be in big trouble.  Still, I don’t expect them to slide too significantly, they have one of the best coaches in the league, they have a Top 10 defense in the league, and the offense has reformed in to a dominant force.  There are problems that could hold them back, but they’re looking good overall.

Rams

Recent news about Jared Goff being nowhere near ready to start in Week 1 makes things even worse for this team.  If he can’t step in and produce, how will this team be any better, let alone as good as they were last year?  Todd Gurley could step up big time, but that’s not good enough.  The Rams need a dependable QB to thrive.  They may have some ferocious pass rushing, but without a QB, and even an elite pass catcher, this team is going nowhere.  The Rams have a tough schedule.  They can’t count on running the ball every game, especially against other teams with a powerful pass rush, who they will face plenty of this year, including the Dolphins, Giants, Bucs, Panthers, Cardinals and Seahawks.  Unless Jared Goff and his receivers can make the leap, the Rams won’t be going anywhere.

49ers

Don’t even get me started here.  Look, I’ll tell you broad and clear.  The 49ers are terrible!  Their QB job is a battle between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick (remember him?), they have no backup if Carlos Hyde goes down again, and Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton (who’s he?) are their starting wide receivers.  The defense is in even worse shape!!  Their secondary depends on Kenneth Acker, Tramaine Brock and Antoine Bethea to perform, and the pass rush has some serious holes next to NaVorro Bowman, Arik Armstead, Glenn Dorsey and DeForest Buckner.  Look, this team won’t be a contender in a million years without some sort of unimaginable miracle!  They have nothing!!!!!!!!!

 

2016 NFL Playoffs

 

FullSizeRender (12).jpg

My playoff bracket may look crazy, and it’s full of upsets, surprises, blowouts and underdogs, but here I will breakdown every match up.

Wild Card Weekend

Bills @ Texans

Young, but powerful defense and a strong backfield despite a lack of weapons for Tyrod Taylor got the Bills into the playoffs, but against the Texans, it won’t pass for a even a chance at winning.  This team’s defense has been some of the best over the last few years, led by sack king and legendary edge rusher J.J. Watt.  With a healthy weapon in the backfield (Lamar Miller), and a better QB in Brock Osweiler, a much improved offense will be the deciding factor in the Texans winning this game.  I say the Texans offense may have some troubles with the Bills D, but they’ll edge them slightly, and the Texans pass rush will annihilate the Bills backfield full of depth.

Prediction: Texans win, 34-17

 

Raiders @ Steelers

The Steelers offensive force may be dominant and full of stars on the outside, but especially without Martavis Bryant, the Steelers don’t have too much depth.  The defense doesn’t seem to belong to a contender either, although it is mediocre.  The newly upgraded Raiders defense may be trampled, but young Derek Carr and his superior target Amari Cooper will be all over the defense, and the Raiders will shock the Steelers.  In a huge upset, Big Ben, Le’ Veon Bell and Antonio Brown get topped by a revamped Raiders team, simple as that.

Prediction: Raiders win, 24-16

 

Lions @ Seahawks

I said the Lions would make the playoffs, with some clear defensive holes and lack of a true star on offense.  They do have a lot of potential breakout players, especially on offense, but against the Seahawks and their mighty defense, do you expect this riddled team to win?  In the playoffs?!!  Not happening.  The Seahawks defense will win them this game, with a thin but powerful offense with plenty of star power edging out the Lions D.  I doubt the dark horse of the NFL will beat out the #1 defense in the league.  Barely anyone else expects the Lions to even be playoff contenders!  This one’s an easy pick.

Prediction: Seahawks win, 27-13

 

Cardinals @ Cowboys

Yes, at this point in the season (as long as Ezekiel Elliott isn’t suspended through the playoffs), the Cowboys should be at full strength.  But the Cardinals will be relentless and win hungry in this game.  This team’s offense is dominant with a strong QB/RB/WR combo, even with the lack of an offensive line and an true starter at tight end.  The defense also has plenty of talent scattered across the different positions.  There may be a slight lack of star power in the front seven especially, but this team has few defensive holes, and the ones they do have are small.  Even with a revamped pass rush and underrated secondary, I think the Cardinals offense will be all over the Cowboys, and Dallas’ superior offense won’t get a chance.  It will be a tough competition, but the Cards should win in the end.

Prediction: Cardinals win, 33-27

 

 

Divisional Round

 

Raiders @ Patriots

With Brady most likely back at full speed by this point, the Patriots will crush the Raiders.  Oakland does have revamped defense and rising offense, but this 10-6 wild card surprise will be no match for Bill Belichick’s Patriots.  Hey, the Pats had defensive upgrades too, and the offense is better than ever, with tight end Martellus Bennett playing across from Gronk.  The Patriots will rout the Raiders, I can guarantee you that.  Even against the Steelers they’d win.  At full power, the Patriots are by far the best AFC team.  The Steelers are overrated and dirty, and this game is only the start of the Patriots’ path to victory.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 37-23

 

Texans @ Chiefs

The Chiefs will go all this way, having an awesome regular season, Jamaal Charles completely bouncing back to revamp the offense, Justin Houston coming back better than ever, to lose to Houston.  Sounds like a terrible note to end on, but actually not.  Houston’s a strong team.  The Chiefs are pretty darn good, but in Houston, you have youth, new signings in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, a star receiver, and the best defense in the league led by J.J. Watt, who should return from injury sometime around October.  The Chiefs don’t have anything close to a guy like Watt.  The Texans defense is even better than the mighty Chiefs D.  That plus the diverse, but strong offense will be the difference in this game as the Texans head to the AFC Championship Game, in hopes of dethroning the almighty Pats.

My Prediction: Texans win, 24-13

 

Cardinals @ Panthers

We saw this game in the NFC Championship last year, Carolina won.  We saw the same match-up in 2014’s Wild Card Weekend.  Carolina won both.  With the Seahawks winning the division, the Cardinals would fall to the 5th seed, making this a Divisional Round match-up.  I think the Panthers will take the cake again.  The Panthers may have lost a ton of key secondary guys, but the front seven is still going to be on to David Johnson.  They don’t have much to rely on besides Bene’ Benikwere and rookies James Bradberry, Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez for receiver coverage.  However, Arizona’s stars are scattered.  I think things will be a little easier for the run game in Carolina.  That’s good for Cam Newton, who loves to run the football.  Personally, I think Carolina’s slightly better defense will make the difference in this game.  They have a superior defensive line, some star pass rushers behind them, and even some possible future big names at corner.  The Cardinals may have Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, but have some holes and weak spots in the front seven, and even some playing across from Peterson and Honey Badger.

My Prediction: Panthers win, 33-28

Seahawks @ Packers

Seattle will be good again this season, especially if everyone’s healthy.  They have the offense now, Jimmy Graham will be back, Thomas Rawls and Doug Baldwin should help.  But Green Bay’s offense could be unstoppable.  With Jordy Nelson back, the Packers have yet another weapon for Aaron Rodgers.  The only reason they lost to the Vikings in the NFC North is because of Nelson’s absence!  The Packers offense will be a challenge for Seattle’s Big D.  This should be a high scoring back and forth game, but in the end, the Packers have the better roster, I like Mike McCarthy as head coach, and they will edge the Seahawks.

My Prediction: Packers win, 34-20

 

 

AFC Championship

Texans @ Patriots

This is an awesome match-up.  The Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller led Texans are extremely underrated, and a league best defense leads them to be a great team this year, even dark horse Super Bowl contenders, because if they make it there, they’re sure to win in their home stadium, but this is the New England Patriots we’re talking about.  Yes, the same New England Patriots with Tom Brady and Gronk who won 4 Super Bowls, their only Super Bowls since Brady joined the team.  Brady is easily the greatest to play the game, all time.  He truly has defined himself as the G.O.A.T.  If he gets a fifth ring, that would be true dominance.  Bill Belichick should be at his old tricks again and the powerful Patriots offense and underrated defense will work their way through the great wall of Houston, AKA: the Texans pass rush, and the defense should be able to hold the strong QB/RB/WR combo up while the offense does its thing.  This is a Patriots team hungry for revenge, and they will be motivated to rout the Texans, and they will go out there and do their job.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 34-27

 

NFC Championship

Packers @ Panthers

The Panthers will have another strong season.  At 13-3, they should earn the #1 seed.  But the Packers will have more challenges on the 2016 schedule, and they still will go 12-4 and get the 2nd seed.  The Packers are a dominant team, especially in these clutch playoff situations.  With Josh Norman, Charles Tillman and Roman Harper off the secondary’s depth charts, Carolina’s much less likely to reach the Super Bowl, especially in a tough, straight forward NFC.  Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of Carolina’s holes, and throw to underrated receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.  Eddie Lacy could also be successful against an aging defensive line, and the Packers offense will edge out Carolina’s D.  I think Cam Newton and Co. should be about evenly matched with the Packers defense, even lacking receiver depth, but the new holes in the secondary will be the sole deciding factor in the game.

My Prediction: Packers win, 37-31 in OT

 

Super Bowl 51

Patriots (AFC) vs. Packers (NFC)

This may be one of the toughest Super Bowl matches ever.  the 2016 Patriots and Packers are two of the most well crafted teams of their era.  Part of this will be based on the performance of the two star QBs, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.  Both these offenses are also very strong.  The Packers may have more dependable wide receivers but Gronk and Bennett act like receivers, so the Pats have a lot of edge at tight end.  the defenses are very similar as well.  There are holes in each pass rush, but also stars.  Green Bay may have more big names, but this young Patriots group was led and mentored by veteran Jerod Mayo.  Mayo retired, but now in comes Terrance Knighton.  Malcolm Butler and crew should cover the Packers receivers better, where as the young, still developing Packers secondary may struggle to keep up with the best Pats receivers, especially Gronk.  Tom Brady and his bunch plus excellent coaching from Bill Belichick that I think is slightly better than Mike McCarthy’s should boost the Patriots to edge out the Packers.

My Prediction: Patriots win, 34-30

 

Awards:

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB

Offensive Player of The Year: Le’Veon Bell, RB, PIT

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, HOU

Offensive Rookie of The Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, TB

Comeback Player Of The Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, GB

Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

 

Between the shocks, blowouts, amazing plays and more, the NFL 2016 season is going to be great, and I can’t wait for it to come back.  For now, I’m following training camp and you guys can look at my season previews by team.  I have a couple up and more are coming soon.

 

Revenge: Patriots-Chiefs Preview

Week 4, 2 2014.  The Chiefs blow out the Patriots, 41-14, dominating the ball.  The Patriots fell to 2-2, and the Chiefs rose to it.  That is what happened the last time these two teams played.  This time around, our roster is younger and better and the Chiefs’ is more banged up.  The weather will be colder, which is good for the Pats, and the game is at Gillette.

Image result for chiefs at patriots

Also, Bill Belichick had the backups mimic the Chiefs’ stars play style.  Plus, Belichick showed the tape of 2014 to the current players and told them what they need to do differently that can really help.  The environment is also different.  It was a Monday Night Football game early in the regular season.  This is a 4:30 playoff game on a Saturday.   The Patriots have done plenty to prepare.  Plus, none of the coaches have interviewed for jobs for us, put Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson interviewed for and got the job as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach.

Now here are the keys during the game to the Patriots winning.

  1. The Patriots need to do better on third down.  The return of Julian Edelman will really help with that, but he is still hurt, they have to be careful and have other guys ready to make third down conversions.
  2. The offensive line needs to do a better job protecting Tom Brady from the great Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.  Despite LaAdrian Waddle and Tre’ Jackson being out, Sea Bass’ return will really help with that
  3. The run needs to continue to make an impact.  Weren’t you jumping for joy when Steven Jackson scored his first Patriots touchdown 2 weeks ago?
  4. The defense needs to contain the Chiefs offense.  Maclin, Albert Wilson and Travis Kelce will all be playing, other dangerous names are running backs Charcandrick West and Knile Davis, so the Chiefs offense is at a high point.  But they need to contain them, no matter who’s playing.

My pick is that the Patriots win 30-23.  I’m a little worried about players re-njuring themselves or the offense continuing to struggle regardless of Edelman’s return, but I think the o-line and defense have enough guys active to contain the Chiefs.  Here’s the projected starting o-line today

LT: Sebastian Vollmer

LG: Shaq Mason or Bryan Stork

C: Bryan Stork or David Andrews

RG: Josh Kline

RT: Marcus Cannon

 

Not bad, but still not ideal.

 

Surprise Stars: My predicted stars of the game are Steven Jackson,Brandon Bolden, James White, Julian Edelman, Keshawn Martin, Rob Ninkovich, Jamie Collins and Malcolm Butler.  Butler has top 5 league CB potential, Collins and Nink could continue what they did against the Jets, Keshawn Martin and Edelman are primed to breakout as they lead the team in 3rd down conversions, and Steven Jackson is ready for an encore of both last week and previous years after being team-less most of this season.  Bolden and White should have good runs too.

Inactives

 

Chiefs

Marcus Cooper CB Inactive  Decent Corner
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif OG Inactive  —
David King DE Inactive  —
Mitch Morse C Inactive  Good Center
Aaron Murray QB Inactive  Need QB Depth
Rakeem Nunez-Roches DT Inactive  —
Ramik Wilson ILB Inactive  Decent Pass Rusher

Patriots

Jon Bostic OLB Inactive
 Need The Extra LBs
Geneo Grissom OLB Inactive  Need The Extra LBs
Chris Harper WR Inactive  —
Tre Jackson OG Inactive Made Impact on Line
Ishmaa’ily Kitchen NT Inactive  —
LaAdrian Waddle T Inactive Made Impact on Line
Tavon Wilson SS Inactive  Helped Secondary