Basketball Bits #1: What do the Celtics need to win it all?

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This year’s NBA off-season will be pivotal for many teams across the league. Going into free agency, I see no clear favorite to win the NBA Finals. Even the Warriors could fall out of contention if Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins all leave as free agents. A handful of big names will be on the open market, and whoever dominates in free agency should have a good chance to win it all. Even teams who struggled mightily in 2018-19 like the Knicks and Lakers have the chance to jump into title contention with the help of a strong off-season.

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The Celtics are in an interesting situation. Last season, they were expected to be serious title contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury alongside the rise of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. But Kyrie Irving did not mesh well with the team, and he grew to dislike Boston. The expectation going into the season was that Kyrie Irving would return to the Celtics on a long term deal or at least 1 more year on his player option before agreeing to a long term deal. But now, Irving is expected to leave for Brooklyn, LA, or somewhere else.

With Irving expected to leave, what do the Celtics need in order to stay relevant and a potential championship contender? Do they need a star who will be a better leader than Kyrie was? Do they need multiple stars? Will they just roll with the young core of Tatum and Brown? Do they have enough cap space to do what they need to do? I researched every NBA champion in history and looked at how many star players they had, using 20 PPG as criteria for stardom. I also included the number of 25 PPG and 30 PPG scorers, as these players are less common. Check out my research as well as some Basketball Bits.

The Research

Basketball Bits #1_ Stars on Championship Teams – Sheet1

The “Basketball Bits”

  • The NBA has 73 champions all-time
    • Just 14 of 73 (19.2%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
      • 35 of 73 (47.95%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
      • 22 of 73 (30.1%) had 2 20 PPG scorers
      • Just 2 of 73 (2.7%) had 3 20 PPG scorers:
        • The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant)
        • The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Durant)
    • 47 of 73 (64.4%) lacked a 25 PPG scorer
      • 20 of 73 (27.4%) had 1 25 PPG scorer
      • 6 of 73 (8.2%) had 2 25 PPG scorers
    • 67 of 73 (91.8%) lacked a 30 PPG scorer – nobody had more than 1
  • The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships:
    • None of them had a 30 PPG scorer
    • Only 2 of 17 (11.8%) had a 25 PPG scorer
    • 5 of 17 (29.4%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
    • 8 of 17 (47.1%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
    • 4 of 17 (23.5%) had 2 20 PPG scorers 
  • In the last 25 years:
    • Only 3 teams (12%) have won it all without a 20 PPG scorer:
      • The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (Most recent)
      • The 2007-08 Boston Celtics
      • The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
    • Only 10 teams (40%) have won it all without 25 PPG scorer
  • In the NBA’s first 25 years:
    • 6 teams (24%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 21 teams (84%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • Between 1972 and 1994 (everything else):
    • 5 teams (21.7%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 16 teams (69.6%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • There are only 3 franchises who have ever won a championship with a 30 PPG scorer:
    • The Chicago Bulls (4 times, Michael Jordan)
    • The Milwaukee Bucks (1 time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    • The Golden State Warriors (1 time, Rick Barry)

The Verdict

In this era, the Celtics will need at least one consistent 20-25 PPG scorer to win a title, and a second would be helpful. You never know, maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can be our guys. But I think pairing Tatum and Brown with a star point guard or star center would be ideal. The Celtics did win with a handful of 15-20 PPG scorers in 2008. That was in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. I doubt they can put something like that together again in today’s NBA with all these stars on the open market.

But if they sign one star player that can allow Tatum and Brown to thrive while that player still puts up 25 PPG, such as PG Kemba Walker, PG D’Angelo Russell, or C Nikola Vucevic, this team could have the chance to contend. They aren’t going to pull the trigger if it puts their future at risk. I don’t think that will happen. But do they have enough money? Do these stars want to sign in Boston unlike Kyrie Irving? I can’t wait to find out, and I’ll be releasing my predictions soon.

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2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC North Edition

Welcome to the second part of my NFL Draft Grades.  Today, I’ll be reviewing the draft classes from the NFC North.  None of the teams in this division dominated in this year’s draft, but all four teams ended up with draft classes that were at least respectable.  What prevented each of these teams from draft dominance?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

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NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

Image result for detroit lions logo Detroit Lions

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The #8 pick was a bit early for the Lions to draft a tight end, but it’s hard to pass up on Hockenson, so hopefully it pays off and Hock is an instant starter over Jesse James for Detroit.  Nauta was a steal in Round 7, but at that point the team had enough tight ends on the depth chart.

The Tavai pick, on the other hand, should help fill the team’s need for linebackers, but it was a bit of a reach.  I didn’t like the Harris pick either: the team was set at safety between Miles Killebrew and Tavon Wilson.

But after this, the team turned it around, getting great value and filling their gaping hole at DE by drafting Austin Bryant.  Bryant will fill the role Ezekiel Ansah formerly played, playing across from free agent signing Trey Flowers.

The Oruwariye pick was also a steal and added some good DB depth.  But for the most part, the later rounds of the draft were a disappointment for Detroit.  They reached for several players they didn’t even need while leaving holes at OLB and G wide open.  They did add G Beau Benzschawel as an undrafted free agent, but I would’ve expected the team to fill more needs during the draft with the amount of picks they had.

chicago-bears-logo Chicago Bears

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

I can’t believe I’m saying this, because the Bears didn’t pick until Round 3.  But this draft was extremely top heavy.  The Bears started strong by finding Jordan Howard’s replacement in David Montgomery.  They added additional WR depth by drafting Riley Ridley, and I thought that was a good pick too.

But the rest of the draft was confusing.  They didn’t add depth where they needed it, and they took a couple players that shouldn’t have even been drafted at all.  They didn’t need another RB after drafting Montgomery.  An o-lineman or d-lineman would’ve contributed much more to the team.

Despite the struggles on Day 3, this was at least a decent draft as the Bears started off strong when it mattered most.

gbpackers2 Green Bay Packers

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Packers drafted some quality athletes in the early rounds.  But despite a desperate need for WR help, they didn’t draft a single receiver.  Who’s going to start across from Davante Adams at WR?  I don’t think anyone on their current roster is a viable option.  Expect to see a lot of two TE schemes, especially after the addition of Jace Sternberger.  Jenkins does help add some o-line depth, but he’s not a good fit.  He entered this draft as a center.  Now he’ll have to be pushed over to guard where Green Bay needs him most.

I am a big fan of the Darnell Savage Jr. pick though.  Expect to see him making an impact right away next to veteran Adrian Amos.  The Dexter Williams pick was smart as well.  The Packers needed the RB depth, as they have yet to find a consistent RB1.  Aaron Jones has a ton of upside, but he is far from consistent.

The rest of this draft was no more than mediocre, as they continued to ignore their need for WR depth despite drafting at least 3 other players they didn’t need.  But they deserve some credit for the few picks they did fill needs with.

min-vikings-logo2 Minnesota Vikings

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

This is a huge draft class, and some of these picks were very smart, but others were big mistakes.   The Marcus Epps selection was not necessary.  The Vikings have one of the league’s best secondaries, so adding a safety that never should’ve been drafted was not the smartest move.  I didn’t mind the Kris Boyd selection though, because the 7th round was actually a reasonable time to draft him.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the Bradbury pick either.  The o-line depth is helpful, but Bradbury’s not a great fit, and they had better options: Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford were both still on the board at #18.  The Vikings needed guards and tackles much more, and drafting Bradbury either will force center Pat Elflein to shift to guard or force Bradbury to return there.

Unless Minnesota still wants to trade TE Kyle Rudolph, there was no need to draft Irv Smith Jr. when they could’ve drafted a defensive tackle.  They ended up with a DT steal in Round 6, Armon Watts.  But in my opinion, DT was their biggest draft need after Sheldon Richardson’s departure and the need should’ve been filled much, much earlier.  In the end, the Vikes did fill the rest of their needs, and Dillon Mitchell was a bargain in Round 7.  But they made a lot of unnecessary reaches and could’ve filled most of their positional needs a lot earlier.

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Grades.  Next time, I’ll take a look at the NFC South, where two teams thrived in the draft and the other two struggled mightily.

NBA 2019 Playoff Predictions: Who Finally Takes Down Golden State?

I know, it’s a little late.  But before we know the surefire winner of each series, I figured I’d share my NBA Playoff bracket.  Believe it or not, I don’t think Golden State’s championship-winning streak will stay alive.  But who could possibly beat the Warriors?  See my prediction below:

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I have the Celtics taking down the Warriors in a 7-game series.  But how will they get there?

I think Boston should easily take down the Pacers.  With Victor Oladipo out of the picture, I cannot see Indiana doing much in these playoffs.  Kyrie Irving ruined the Celtics’ chemistry during the regular season, but I don’t think this will be as apparent in the playoffs, where the whole team will be motivated and willing to do whatever it takes to win it all.

The Pistons may have Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to lead them, but that won’t be enough to pull off a series upset over Giannis Antetokounmpo and a powerful Milwaukee Bucks team.  However, the Celtics have multiple star players on their roster who will outplay Greek Freak’s teammates and help Boston win in the Eastern Conference semifinals.  I can’t see anyone getting in Toronto’s way until they face the Celtics.  The Raptors are by far the strongest team in their quadrant of the bracket, led offensively by Kyle Lowry and defensively by Kawhi Leonard.

But I do see Boston riding the momentum and overcoming adversity as they take down Toronto.  Their roster is stacked, so if the Celtics are on the same page motivation-wise and get off to a strong start (as I see them doing against Indiana), they could be a threat to Golden State.

The Warriors should not have a hard time with Western Conference opponents though.  Besides Boston, the Warriors are the only team I have sweeping their first round opponent.  The Rockets won’t be as easy an opponent as the Clippers, but a healthy Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will outplay James Harden and Chris Paul.  I could see the Thunder, KD’s old team, making a run as well.  Portland is known for playoff choking, and Denver’s lack of experience could come back to haunt them.  I think they should be able to handle the San Antonio Spurs, but the Thunder might be a bit much for an inexperienced team like the Nuggets.

Golden State, however, will end Oklahoma City’s run.  With Marcus Smart back and the team united by a common goal, the Celtics should have a chance at Golden State and I’m staying optimistic with this bracket.  I’m sick of Golden State winning, and it would make it even better if the Celtics could be the team to finally beat them.  As long as Kyrie Irving’s selfish ways don’t come back to haunt them, the Celtics should have a chance.

That’s all for my playoff predictions this year.  Stay tuned for more Celtics playoff coverage soon.

Baseball Bits #12: Can Sox Repeat like Few Teams have?

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Welcome to my annual preseason Baseball Bits article!

If you were unaware, today marks 5 years since I started my Boston Sports Mania blog!  The Red Sox were just about to begin their regular season when I started, and just like this year, they were coming off a World Series victory.  On my first day, I posted an article titled “MLB 2014 Preview”, which included my predictions for the 2014 MLB season. I still write these prediction articles every year, including this year

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I call March 25th my “blog-a-versary”, and this year is a big milestone.  All of my opportunities are a result of this blog.  Most recently, I delivered a motivational keynote speech about my story so far at the Visions of Community Conference hosted by the Federation for Children with Special Needs at the Boston Seaport World Trade Center (see below):

I started this blog to write about my favorite sports like baseball, which is what today’s post is about.

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Top: After the Red Sox’s 100th win                     Bottom: After the Red Sox’s World Series win

In 2018 the Red Sox became the 16th team in the 162-game era to win over 100 regular season games and then go on to win the World Series.  They were led by new manager Alex Cora and a new star in J.D. Martinez.  But what most Boston sports fans are wondering about now is how the Red Sox will do in 2019 and whether they will repeat.  I did some research on 100+ win World Series winners in the 162-game era and how they did in their next season below.  

The Research

Baseball Bits #12_ 100-Win World Series Winners – Sheet1

The “Baseball Bits”

Note: In the context of this article, a team who repeats for 2 years in a row is counted for 1 repeat, 3 years in a row is counted for 2 repeats, 4 years in a row is counted for 3 repeats, etc

  • Only 23 of 115 (20%) World Series winners have repeated
  • In the 162-game era, only 16 of 57 (28%) 100-win teams have won the World Series, including the 2018 Red Sox
  • In the 162-game era, only 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox have repeated, with 4 of the teams repeating after 100-win seasons
  • Of the 15 100 win World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox:9 teams (60%) made the playoffs4 teams (26.67% of the 15) repeated2 of those teams reached 100 wins when they repeated:1976 Cincinnati Reds
    • 1978 New York Yankees
  • 2 of those teams failed to reach 100 wins again when they repeated:1962 New York Yankees
    • 1999 New York Yankees (repeated again in 2000
  • The Red Sox did not win the World Series in an 100 win season in the 162-game era until 2018
  • Another 2 of the 15 (13.33%) lost the World Series:1968 St. Louis Cardinals
    • 1978 Baltimore Orioles
  • 3 of the 15 (20%) lost in the LCS2010 New York Yankees
    • 2017 Chicago Cubs
    • 2018 Houston Astros
  • 6 of the 15 (40%) missed the playoffs entirely1969 Detroit Tigers
    • 1970 New York Mets
    • 1977 Cincinnati Reds
    • 1979 New York Yankees
    • 1985 Detroit Tigers
    • 1987 New York Mets
  • Each of the last 3 100-win World Series winners lost in the LCS the next year

The Verdict

Based on the research, I believe the Red Sox have a 20 to 25% chance to repeat.  I believe that there is still a select group of elite teams that could win the World Series this year.  World Series repeats are less common during the 162-game era as just 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners repeated.  However, 4 of those teams were 100-win teams. World Series winners who did not reach 100 wins in this time frame only repeated 12.1% of the time since 1961.  That’s more like a 1 in 8 chance.  100-win World Series winners have repeated 26.67% of the time during the same time frame.  I think the significance of being a 100-win team helps improve the Sox chances to repeat. 

However, as much as I hate to admit it as a huge Boston fan, I am sticking with my prediction that the Sox will fail to reverse the trend of World Series winners.  I think they will lose in the ALCS to either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros.  The odds are stacked against the Sox reaching 100 wins as well since only 4 of the 15 100-win World Series winners even reached 100 wins again the next year.  I don’t think the Red Sox will reach the century mark but will come close at somewhere between 92 and 96 games. A bullpen with no proven closer to start the season helps support my prediction  A World Series repeat is unlikely to happen, though you shouldn’t rule it out yet.

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Alex Cora did wonders for this team last year, so maybe he’ll be able to recreate the magic of 2018.  If he can, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be 2019 AL Manager of the Year.

That’s all for today’s Baseball Bits.  After all I have accomplished in the last 5 years, I look forward to creating even better content over the next 5 years.  Stay tuned for more soon, including the next portion of my MLB Preseason Power Rankings.

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Welcome to Article #1 of my 6th annual set of MLB preseason power rankings and 5th annual MLB power ranking series. Back in 2015, I got the idea to break up my pre-season Power Rankings into 5 articles from David Schoenfield of ESPN. Even though Schoenfield no longer posts power rankings in this format, I have stuck with it and given the rankings my own flavor in recent years.  In this article, though I am covering some of the worst teams in the league, all of these teams have some good pieces, and I will be pointing those out.  Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

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2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

30. Image result for marlins new logo Miami Marlins

The Case for the Marlins

The Marlins traded away most of their best players a year ago, and after dealing away C J.T. Realmuto this off-season, things can only get worse from here.  The hole Realmuto left behind should outweigh the upside of Miami’s younger players, for now.  The Marlins did add a couple veterans to the lineup and signed a new closer in Sergio Romo.  Plus, the bulk of the prospects acquired from their recent rebuild should be making their way up as 2020 and 2021 approach, and when that time comes, this team will be on the rise again.  But for now, they remain in the NL East basement after a rough 2018.

The Bright Spot

It was not easy coming up with something here.  A lot has gone wrong in Miami in the last year and a half.  But I think the bright spot of this team is the top of the rotation.  Jose Urena, Miami’s longest tenured player, leads the group, with seasoned veterans in Wei-Yin Chen and Dan Straily behind him.  Straily has had a lot of success with the Marlins, and when Chen is healthy, he shows flashes of dominance.

Projected Finish: 61-101, 5th in NL East

29. Related image Baltimore Orioles

The Case for the Orioles

Baltimore’s 2018 season was historically bad, as they won just 47 games. But with Dylan Bundy and Alex Cobb (likely out of it early in 2018 after lack of Spring Training time) primed to bounce back, they should improve at least slightly from their nightmare season.  Adam Jones’ departure hurts, but Cedric Mullins is ready to replace him, and Yusniel Diaz will be here soon. Maybe Chris Davis can even rise to the occasion with Jones out of the lineup. The bullpen is still a major concern, and the lineup could be better, but I don’t think we’ll see any team perform worse than the 2018 Orioles for a long time.

The Bright Spot

The rotation could be better, but so long as Bundy and Cobb bounce back, the rotation could potentially be a bright spot for this team.  Bundy and Cobb could provide Baltimore a 1-2 punch, with Andrew Cashner and Nathan Karns among others serving as depth.

Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL East

28. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

The Case for the Tigers

Detroit’s rebuild kicked into full swing in 2018 after they dealt away several older players at the 2017 Trade Deadline. Their remaining veterans, even Miguel Cabrera, are declining quickly. This rebuild has dragged on for a while now, leaving the Tigers among the league’s worst teams for a third straight season. Even in a weak division, I can’t see them doing much.  Before they contend, Casey Mize and Matt Manning will need to make their way up and Christin Stewart, Jeimer Candelario, and others will need to make their big break through. In the meantime, it could be a long year for the Tigers despite some new additions to their lineup including Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison.

The Bright Spot

The infield could shine with the additions of Mercer and Harrison.  If Candelario continues to develop this year, and Cabrera regains a bit of what he has lost during the last couple of years, people may begin to wonder how the Tigers are stuck in the AL Central basement.

Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL Central

27. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals

The Case for the Royals

The Hosmer-Moustakas era in Kansas City is officially over, with Alcides Escobar leaving in free agency, and Mike Moustakas leaving at the 2018 Trade Deadline. The team still has a capable rotation, but the bullpen lacks the depth it has contained in past years. The lineup may lack power this year with Salvador Perez on the IL and Hosmer and Moose gone, but hopefully, Billy Hamilton’s speed will at least partially make up for it. Even with Hamilton and Chris Owings on board, this team is bound to decline a little bit more before the rebuilding is over. The next crop of prospects is not ready yet, and during this transitional period for the Royals, things could get ugly.

The Bright Spot

Speed and youth will make the Royals special this year.  A lot of young players are primed to breakout, including INF Hunter Dozier, RHP Jorge Lopez, and C Cam Gallagher.  Hamilton and Gore will make for a dynamic outfield and add speed to an otherwise dull starting lineup.

Projected Finish: 67-95, 4th in AL Central

26. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

The Case for the Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks declined a bit in 2018 despite minimal roster subtractions. You might think they would bounce back considering their young roster, but after trading away star 1B Paul Goldschmidt, this team is not going far. The lineup lacks big hitters beyond underrated outfielder David Peralta and new addition Adam Jones. The pitching staff is thin behind Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray. In a tough division, the Diamondbacks will struggle this year, as Manny Machado leads the Padres to outperform them, the Giants exceed expectations, and the Rockies and Dodgers sit on top.

The Bright Spot

The rotation may have lost some of its depth.  But until Greinke or Ray leaves, the rotation will still highlight this team.  Taijuan Walker’s return from the IL will only boost this strong rotation further.  Luke Weaver is also underrated and could make an impact.

Projected Finish: 68-94, 5th in NL West

25. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

The Case for the Pirates

The Pirates exceeded expectations with a sub-.500 season in 2018. But the departures of Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer (both fled for Detroit) leave a huge hole in the middle infield, and the rotation is extremely top-heavy. The Pirates would perform better with 5 average starters than their Big 3 and little depth behind them. The outfield is this team’s strong point right now, but Gregory Polanco will be missed during his time on the IL. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes and other top prospects may fix Pittsburgh’s infield problems once they make their way up, and Mitch Keller could make this rotation even scarier. But for now, the Pirates will be stuck on the bottom of a tough division.

The Bright Spot

There are multiple bright spots to consider for this team.  But the infield is in such bad shape that it’s hard to rank them much higher than this in such a tough NL Central.  The outfield could make things interesting once Polanco returns, as they will own three outfielders who could be considered Top 10 at their positions.  The incoming prospects could help accelerate their progress as well.

Projected Finish: 67-95, 5th in NL Central


 

That’s all for Part 1 of my MLB 2019 preseason power rankings.  Stay tuned for my next power rankings article, where I will look at the teams I ranked #24-19 and discuss things to look forward too for those teams.

2018 NFL Week 16 Picks & Previews: No(t Many) Surprises Here

Welcome to my Week 16 NFL picks and previews.  Last week, I went 11-5, putting my overall record at 126-97-2 (127-98-2 including Week 16 Saturday games).  For the most part, there are very few upsets in the final few weeks of the season. I don’t think there will be many upsets this week, either.  But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any surprises. There’s bound to be a couple surprise victories. But who will be the team to surprise us this week?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

Expect Detroit’s offensive struggles to continue against the strong Vikings defense.  The Vikings won’t be at their best offensively either in this game, but they should still score multiple TDs.  The combination of these two factors will help the Vikings win with ease in Detroit.

Upset of the Week (SNF)

I think QB Patrick Mahomes II could have a dominant game against the inexperienced Seahawks defense, tossing 3+ TDs.  But I expect Seattle’s versatile, consistent offense to put together more quality drives and find a way to win at home, especially against one of the worst defenses in the league.  The Chiefs will be without not only RB Kareem Hunt, but also WR Sammy Watkins. I see them just barely coming up short at CenturyLink Field.

The Other Games

Saturday, 4:30 PM EST (Posted to Twitter on Saturday; Actual Score: 25-16 Titans)

Look for QB Marcus Mariota and the young Titans offense to get it done against an unmotivated Redskins defense.  QB Josh Johnson and his offense will not help matters for the Redskins as they fail to score a TD. This will partially be due to Washington’s QB struggles without Alex Smith, but also partially due to a dominant defensive game by Tennessee that secures them a victory.
Saturday, 8:20 PM EST (Posted to Twitter on Saturday; Actual Score: 22-10 Ravens)

Despite an ugly game, expect QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers to prevail here.  RB Melvin Gordon and WR Keenan Allen will boost the Chargers in their return, but the entire offense including Gordon and Allen will be limited by the overwhelming Baltimore defense.  QB Lamar Jackson and his offense will make this close, but they even after the strong defensive performance, the Ravens will fail to keep up with Rivers, Gordon, and Co.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Pats to rebound from two straight losses in their return to Gillette.  Even without WR Josh Gordon (who was suspended earlier this week), I think QB Tom Brady will turn it around for 3+ TDs.  Even the Pats defense will improve here as they hold Buffalo to just 1 TD.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Dolphins to win here, but it will not be easy.  First of all, I’m expecting a low scoring, ugly game. In addition, I see the Jags forcing overtime as their defense gets back on track here.  However, Jacksonville will fall short as their offense struggles to produce without a quality starting QB.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Green Bay to get by due to a consistent offense led by QB Aaron Rodgers.  Expect New York’s offense to look good at times as the Packers struggle at times to contain the Jets’ receivers.  But the Packers defense will still prevent them from getting into a real rhythm.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Cleveland has struggled in overtime throughout the season.  For all we know, they could be leading the division if it weren’t for their OT struggles.  But in this game, I see the Browns winning in overtime thanks to a clutch performance by QB Baker Mayfield and his young offense.  Cincy will make it close thanks to the emergence of WRs Tyler Boyd and John Ross agains the inexperienced Browns D. But I still expect them to fall just short.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Philly to pull the upset after a strong offensive game supported by QB Nick Foles.  Their case will be helped by Houston’s offensive struggles without RB Lamar Miller. The Texans D will limit Foles and the Eagles, but it will not be enough.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Andrew Luck and his offense to find a way against a weakened Giants D.  The Giants should be alright without WR Odell Beckham Jr. against an inexperienced Colts defense.  But Luck and the Colts will be able to lead Indy to victory regardless.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

Expect QB Dak Prescott to lead the Cowboys to victory in a relatively high scoring game.  QB Jameis Winston will toss 2-3 TDs of his own against a young Dallas defense, but the Bucs D will struggle regressively as usual, allowing the Cowboys to outplay Tampa’s offense and win easily.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Taylor Heinicke will not be able to compete with QB Matt Ryan like QB Cam Newton would.  Look for Ryan and the Falcons offense to dominate against a weak Carolina secondary as Atlanta wins in a blowout.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for the Bears to get by in a defense-first game.  Chicago’s D will hold QB Nick Mullens and the Niners to just 10 points.  Don’t expect a field day for the Chicago offense, but they should put up enough points for a road victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for the Rams strong D to shut down the Cardinals’ young offense.  The Rams won’t be great offensively, but they’ll put up enough to get by despite an ugly overall game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Saints won’t be up to full speed offensively, as WR Michael Thomas is the only trustworthy receiver QB Drew Brees has right now.  But the Steelers’ offense won’t be at full capacity either with RB James Conner out. QB Ben Roethlisberger will toss multiple TD, but it won’t be enough as the run game is practically non-existent.  This will allow the Saints to get by at home.
Monday, 8:15 PM EST

Look for the Broncos’ to win in primetime thanks to a strong game by not only RB Phillip Lindsay but the entire Denver run game.  The Raiders’ offense will struggle to produce against a strong Denver defense, even in Oakland.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Stay tuned for more NFL coverage soon.

2018 NFL Week 13 Picks & Previews: Lots of Crucial Divisional Matchups Occur

Welcome to my NFL Week 13 picks and previews.  Last week, I went 11-4, putting my overall record at 96-78-2 (96-79-2 including Week 13 TNF).  I am still ahead of 1 CBS Sports expert. This week, a lot of divisional matchups occur, with many of them having playoff implications.  The Eagles and Redskins play for 2nd place in the NFC East, and the loser may be knocked out of contention. The Colts visit Jacksonville hoping to increase their chances at a wild card spot.  Who will win these divisional games? Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

Look for dominance from the Rams defense in the first shutout of the NFL season.  The revamped duo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters won’t give up anything to Detroit’s depleted WR corps, and DT Aaron Donald and company will shut down QB Matthew Stafford and the run game.  The Rams will not need more than a couple touchdowns for a Rams clinic victory thanks to the strong defense. Meanwhile, The Lions will begin to miss RB Kerryon Johnson and WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones in a shutout loss.  

Upset of the Week

The Panthers are coming off two frustrating last-minute losses, and the Buccaneers are coming off a much-needed victory.  Look for QB Jameis Winston to ride the momentum and put up his best performance yet against Carolina. The Bucs D will still give up plenty to QB Cam Newton and his versatile offensive core.  But a 3 or 4 TD game from Winston should be enough for the Buccaneers to pull the upset.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 13-10 Cowboys)

QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will be slowed down significantly by the improving New Orleans defense.  Meanwhile, QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas will lead the Saints to victory despite the Dallas defense’s shut down of the Saints RB duo.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Miami to hold on for a home victory against a young Bills defense that is not great but can be pesky at times.  QB Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins here, even without WR Danny Amendola. QB Josh Allen and his offense will perform better than they usually do, but expect them to just fall short in Miami against a mediocre, but not putrid Dolphins defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Atlanta defense to step it up against rookie QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, especially with RB Alex Collins on IR.  QB Matt Ryan won’t have an amazing game against this strong Baltimore D, but it will be enough thanks to the improving Falcons defense.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Broncos will ride the momentum to a third straight win as the defense dominates against a banged-up Cincinnati pass offense that will miss QB Andy Dalton, especially since WR A.J. Green is not 100%.  The Broncos will be alright offensively without TE Jeff Heuerman, as QB Case Keenum finally begins to rely on his receivers more in the Denver victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect QB Deshaun Watson to put up another strong game against the inexperienced Browns defense.  Meanwhile, the Texans D will do a respectable job in shutting down QB Baker Mayfield and this young Browns offensive core.  The Texans will win triumphantly as they play strong football all around.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Jaguars to win by a surprisingly large margin as they host the Colts.  They came close in Indy, so I expect a win in Jacksonville. QB Cody Kessler will also help the Jags improve as he outperforms QB Blake Bortles.  QB Andrew Luck and his receivers will struggle to handle the Jags strong D, but they’ll still manage to score a couple TDs.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Eli Manning will have to dig into New York’s WR depth here to even score a TD against this improving Chicago defense.  The Giants’ experienced defense will limit the QB Chase Daniel-led Bears offense, but Daniel will still throw multiple TDs in the victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Packers should manage to win at home here, but as they nearly blow it, the “fire Mike McCarthy” campaign will just get louder.  QB Aaron Rodgers will rely on his younger receivers as they just barely get by the Cardinals. QB Josh Rosen will find his receivers more easily against a struggling Green Bay secondary, but it won’t quite be enough.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

QB Josh McCown should struggle regressively as his receivers are out done by a Titans secondary that is no more than average.  This will highlight the Jets’ flaws as the Titans win by multiple TD. A strong all-around offensive game as well as a clutch defensive performance will help Tennessee in the home win.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Chiefs won’t be at full strength after the release of RB Kareem Hunt.  But QB Patrick Mahomes II will still lead the Chiefs to victory though, with 3 TD and 0 INT.  The Raiders will come close though as QB Derek Carr relies on his younger receivers (since WR Jordy Nelson is struggling).
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Neither offense will be up to full speed here as both defenses thrive.  But QB Tom Brady will lead the Pats to get by at home as he uses his WR depth, something New England has at full health.  The Vikings will make this close, led by QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Seahawks will be able to get by here, but the 49ers will come close to an upset and play the better all around game, as young QB Nick Mullens throws multiple TD against the young Seattle D.  The Seahawks, however, will find a way to win thanks to veteran QB Russell Wilson.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

The Steelers offense will look good here, as QB Ben Roethlisberger tosses multiple TD.  But even without RB Melvin Gordon, QB Philip Rivers and his deep WR corps will be too much for the Pittsburgh D to handle as they outperform the Steelers significantly.  The Chargers will be able to handle Pittsburgh’s offense a little easier, helping their case in a road primetime victory, handing the Steelers their second straight loss.
Sunday, 8:15 PM EST

Expect the Eagles to win in a shootout thanks to the strong game by QB Carson Wentz and his receivers.  QB Colt McCoy will outperform his expectations though, tossing multiple TD and making this close. But the Eagles will still get past McCoy’s Redskins as their run game thrives in addition to the pass offense.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including Part 3 of my MLB free agent predictions.