Ranking The Teams 18-13: My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Welcome to Part 3 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Last time, I covered the teams that will struggle, but haven’t quite hit rock bottom.  I talked about what they did in the off-season, what the case for them this season is, and what their strong point is.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the mediocre teams, but rather than talking about their bright spots, today I will be discussing what direction these teams are headed in.  Some of these teams don’t know which way to go, rebuild mode or contention mode.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and where they’re headed.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Tuesday, March 27: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*I will also have my latest Baseball Bits coming sometime next week.

 

18. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

Off-Season Review

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After a rebuild, the Braves are getting ready for contention, but their off-season was relatively quiet.  They did just add OF Peter Bourjos to help fill in until Ronald Acuna is MLB ready.  Acuna looks like he is pretty darn close after a strong Spring Training.  They could’ve also added someone at third, but decided not to due to the lack of options.  They weren’t able to get their hands on Moose, so they were not in the market for a 3B after that.  They could be an interesting destination at the deadline for Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, or even Adrian Beltre.  They already have made one trade this off-season, acquiring Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, and Adrian Gonzalez from the Dodgers for Matt Kemp.  Only McCarthy is still in Atlanta, and he will help lead a young rotation alongside Julio Teheran.

The Case for the Braves

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The future is bright for Atlanta baseball.  But the Braves will take another year or two to become an elite playoff contender.  Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies will need more time to develop among others.  This young team is led by star 1B Freddie Freeman, who I am expecting another strong season out of.  They already do have some other veterans who will help make this team better, but younger players on the verge of a breakout make up most of their core.  That will help them in coming years, but they won’t be absolutely amazing in 2018.

Where They’re Headed

The Braves won’t be contending in 2018, but expect a playoff run in the next three years for Atlanta.  As soon as their young talent breaks through, they will add the finishing touches they need and run for the playoffs.  Personally, I see Ronald Acuna as a potential All-Star, so as soon as he comes up, you can expect big things from the Braves.

Best Case Scenario: Acuna, Swanson, and Albies all break out to help lead the team, the rotation filled with a mix of young talent and experience thrives, and the Braves contend for the playoffs right away.

Worst Case Scenario: Acuna turns out to be a bust, as well as some of their other young players.  McCarthy, Teheran, and Freeman also begin to decline, and the Braves finish with just over 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 78-84, 3rd in NL East

17. Image result for reds logo red Cincinnati Reds

Off-Season Review

The Reds stayed put for the most part this off-season, as they have a pretty good roster as is.  They have a strong lineup that is better than you might think, and their young rotation is bound to improve in coming years.  The Reds didn’t even need to resign SS Zack Cozart.  Jose Peraza, Eugenio Suarez, and top prospect Nick Senzel will keep the left side of the infield covered.  Scooter Gennett can be trusted as a full-time second baseman after his strong 2017 season, and Joey Votto should have another top-notch season.  The Reds are all set.  Sure, they could’ve added a veteran starter, but they don’t want to rush contention when their younger players aren’t at that level yet.

The Case for the Reds

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After a rough patch over the last few seasons, the Reds will begin heading uphill again.  After their rebuild, their future is bright, and they will begin to improve in 2018.  Their young rotation should begin to improve.  It will be led by Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan, and Anthony DeSclafani while Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, and Robert Stephenson will also contribute.  They can improve further when Hunter Greene is ready.  The lineup is all set, and if Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Jose Peraza live up to their expectations and Votto, Adam Duvall, and Billy Hamilton keep up the good work, the Reds could have one of the strongest lineups in the league soon enough.

Where They’re Headed

The Reds are going nowhere but up.  They hit rock bottom over the last couple years, and they are looking good post-rebuild, so now there’s no other direction they could go in.  Expect big things in the coming years, but in the meantime, they will be about as good as the Braves are right now.

Best Case Scenario: Votto dominates in 2018, leading a surprisingly strong lineup, the rotation improves fast (and Raisel Iglesias becomes an elite closer) as the Reds finish above .500 and get ready for contention.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by injuries and their young talent is rushed to the majors and struggles.  The lineup also cannot quite live up to its expectations as Cincinnati lingers just above 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 79-83, 4th in NL Central

 

16. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

Off-Season Review

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As they have been since Jerry Dipoto took over as GM, the Mariners were very active again this off-season.  They acquired Marlins 2B Dee Gordon, who will move to center field so Robinson Cano and Gordon can both start.  The Mariners needed a veteran influence in the outfield, and brought back Ichiro to do the same.  They also signed SP Mike Leake to add to a strong rotation that includes Felix Hernandez and James Paxton.  They aren’t clear contenders yet though; they still need to give their younger outfielders more time to develop as well as their pitching staff and a couple other younger players on the team.

The Case for the Mariners

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The Mariners aren’t quite playoff material yet, but they have a shot.  In the meantime, they will have a decent season as their younger players develop.  They need the younger players to step up their game and help carry the load.  Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia, and Ryon Healy are good, but they haven’t reached their full potential.  The Mariners need to keep their team young if they want to avoid a full rebuild, but if they also want to contend in that process, they’ll need reliable young players.

Where They’re Headed

The hope is that the Mariners can contend, but it all depends on the performance of Seattle’s prospects and the general performance of the Mariners.  If Seattle struggles, or their younger players cannot emerge as stars, the Mariners may need to take the rebuild route.

Best Case Scenario: The Mariners’ younger players break out and help lead the team to the playoffs along with the veteran leaders.

Worst Case Scenario: The Mariners struggle, as their older players decline (including King Felix) and their younger players cannot emerge as leaders.  Seattle is forced to rebuild.

Projected Finish: 83-79, 3rd in AL West

 

15. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

Off-Season Review

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The Giants had a terrible season in 2017, but they made up for it with a strong off-season.  They acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen and 3B Evan Longoria to boost the lineup.  They signed Austin Jackson to upgrade the outfield too.  However, they failed to add too many good starters, which will hold them back despite a great lineup.  They did add Derek Holland on a minor league deal though, so he could crack the rotation, especially with Madison Bumgarner injured again.

The Case for the Giants

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The Giants will improve in 2018, but in a difficult NL West, it will be tough to be much more than decent.  They are lacking rotation depth after the retirement of Matt Cain and the departure of Matt Moore so they will have to find younger pitching talent.  That means it will take time for contention.  Their lineup is looking better, but they do not have the same talent of some contenders.  They have a nice core four in Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria, and Andrew McCutchen, but beyond that, they are no more than decent.

Where They’re Headed

The Giants are headed in an upward direction.  Expect vast improvement from their 64-98 season in 2017, worst in the National League.  Then they can work towards contention once they find the young pitching talent they need behind their core three of their rotation.  They have a nice lineup now that they added Cutch and Longo, but their rotation still has holes, and the lineup could still use work.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns in the rotation are successful early, the lineup returns to dominance after their recent upgrades, and the Giants surprise many by making the playoffs in another successful even year.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation implodes after lacking depth, the lineup also struggles to perform any better than decent, and the Giants cannot get above .500.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 4th in NL West

 

14. new-york-mets New York Mets

Off-Season Review

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The Mets restored their strong, playoff level roster from a couple years back after a rough 2017.  They brought OF Jay Bruce back, signed 3B Todd Frazier to take over third in case David Wright cannot rebound from his injury.  1B Adrian Gonzalez was also added to improve the lineup.  Lastly, they boosted the rotation depth by adding Jason Vargas to aid an injury prone rotation.  Vargas was with the Mets for a year about 10 years ago.  The Mets are in much better shape after a strong off-season.

The Case for the Mets

The Mets face tough competition and may not be able to make the playoffs this year.  But they are back in contention with Bruce back and Frazier on board.  They have set themselves up for long-term success, as David Wright is unlikely to rebound, and it will be tough to depend on Michael Conforto with his health in question.  Maybe they can contend for the NL East if the Nationals fail to add back Bryce Harper for 2019.  But this year, they will have to compete for a wild-card spot.

Where They’re Headed

The Mets should be able to make the playoffs in the coming years if they cannot make the playoffs in 2018.  They have a nice roster full of young talent and veterans who are still elite and can lead this team down the stretch.  Will they be able to make the playoffs this year, or will the competition be too much for them?

Best Case Scenario: Frazier, Bruce, and Yoenis Cespedes help lead the Mets back to the playoffs along with a strong rotation that stays healthy.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by injuries, the lineup is no better than average, and the Mets fail to get above .500.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 2nd in NL East

 

13. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

Off-Season Review

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The Diamondbacks needed a new closer with Fernando Rodney gone.  They did add Brad Boxberger, but is he capable of the closing job?  They also added Japanese reliever, Yoshihisa Hirano.  They also upgraded their outfield by acquiring Steven Souza Jr. in a 3-way trade and signing Jarrod Dyson.  Other than that, their roster is in good shape for contention in 2018.  But in a tough division, will they make it?

The Case for the Diamondbacks

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The Diamondbacks finally cracked the playoffs in 2017, but can they repeat in a very tough division?  They have a strong lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta.  I also think Jake Lamb could break out.  They also have maintained a strong pitching staff, led by starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray.  With an underrated roster, they should at least be able to keep up with their division.

Where They’re Headed

The D-Backs are right on the verge of contention.  They have a good future full of playoff runs ahead of them.  However, I do not think they will make it this year.  The Brewers, Rockies, and Cardinals will beat them out in the wild-card race.

Best Case Scenario: Arizona’s young roster thrives, leading the Diamondbacks back to the playoffs with a 2nd place finish in the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles to live up to its expectations after off-season upgrades, the rotation begins to decline due to lack of young talent, and the Diamondbacks end up finishing around .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in NL West

 

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for Part 4 along with my latest Baseball Bits coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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NFL Week 17 Picks

Welcome to my Week 17 Picks.  Last week I went 10-6, putting my overall record at 144-101.  With playoff contention and seeding on the line, who will come out on top this week?  Read below to find out, and comment on your thoughts.

Note: Due to continuous technical difficulties with one of my editing apps, I was not able to include the score images.

Lock of the Week

Redskins, 30, Giants, 0

Led by QB Kirk Cousins, I expect the Redskins to rout and shutout the Giants in New York.  The Giants will be without WR Sterling Shepard and TE Evan Engram due to injuries, and they are still missing WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall.  Without those four receiving weapons, the Giants will fail to challenge the Redskins D.  That will make it easy for Cousins to lead the Redskins to victory, causing the problematic, injury-riddled Giants to finish 2-14.

Upset of the Week

Panthers, 31, Falcons, 27

I see the Panthers winning in a shootout here.  QB Cam Newton will connect with his favorite target, TE Greg Olsen to help lead Carolina.  RB Christian McCaffrey will also make major contributions to their victory.  The Falcons will challenge them though, as they figure out how to outsmart the Panthers secondary.  WR Julio Jones will dominate, and I think he’ll catch at least 2 TD from QB Matt Ryan.  Their run game will also contribute, but it will not be enough as Carolina snags a victory.

The Other Games

Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Patriots, 23, Jets, 16

Expect a better performance out of the Pats front seven.  They will pressure QB Josh McCown and slow down the Jets run game as new LB James Harrison leads them.  I expect him to come through as he is seeking revenge on his old team, the Steelers.  I also think QB Tom Brady will find his receivers against the young Jets secondary and will avoid being picked off for the first time in weeks.

The Pats secondary will also have a big game in my opinion.  They will also be motivated to beat the Steelers.  They will make it hard for McCown to find his receivers and slow down the rhythm of the Jets offense.  This motivated Pats team will play complementary football and win the game.

 

Steelers, 28, Browns, 20

The Browns will try to grab their first victory of 2017, but will not succeed against the playoff-bound Steelers, who are fighting for a chance at the #1 seed.  The Browns offense will actually look decent here, but the Steelers offense will top that, even without WR Antonio Brown.  QB Ben Roethlisberger will find other options with Brown hurt.  Pittsburgh should grab a victory with ease, even without Brown, as the Browns go 0-16.

 

Colts, 23, Texans, 21

I think Texans QB T.J. Yates will actually look decent against the weak Colts defense, but he won’t be able to do as much without his #1 receiver, DeAndre Hopkins.  The Texans run game will also do well, as the duo of Lamar Miller and Dont’a Foreman will score two of the three Houston touchdowns.  But the Colts offense will get the edge as QB Jacoby Brissett tosses 2 TD and leads Indy to victory.

 

Eagles, 30, Cowboys, 27

The Eagles will top Dallas, but it will not be as high scoring as last time.  QB Nick Foles will have a decent game, but he will not be able to do the same thing that star QB Carson Wentz was able to do.  But the Eagles offense will still do well, and they will also use their run game to their advantage.  The Eagles defense will also do well, holding off Dallas as Philly wins, going 14-2 on the season.

 

Lions, 27, Packers, 6

Unfortunately, I think the injury-riddled Packers will end up finishing the season in shambles, losing to the Lions in 2017 season finale.  Lions QB Matthew Stafford will throw a trio of TD to take the early lead, and Green Bay will fail to fight back.  The Lions will win with ease as the Packers start focusing on next season, hoping to come back healthy in 2018.  This year, they were devastated by injuries to their QB, Aaron Rodgers among other stars.  This week, Rodgers is out, and so are wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams.

Vikings, 28, Bears, 9

Expect the Bears offense to struggle against the tough Vikes defense.  Their run game will be shut down, and QB Mitch Trubisky won’t be able to start an offensive rhythm as there is a lack of receiving weapons in Chicago right now.  On the other hand, the Vikings offense will continue to strive as the Vikes win, led by dominance on both sides of the ball.

Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Bills, 27, Dolphins, 24

The WR trio of Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, and Jordan Matthews will help lead the Bills to victory in Miami against the young, struggling Dolphins secondary.  The Dolphins will be able to slow down RB LeSean McCoy, but not the Bills’ receiving trio.  The Miami receiving trio will also do well, but their lack of a run game will cost them as Buffalo wins.

Ravens, 20, Bengals, 13

The Ravens defense will be dominant in this game, shutting down Bengals QB Andy Dalton and holding him to just 1 touchdown.  The Ravens offense will also thrive, even without starting WR Jeremy Maclin and even against a tough Bengals defense.  They will be led by their other starting WR Mike Wallace.  Baltimore will win in a low scoring game after a strong performance on both sides of the ball.

 

Titans, 23, Jaguars, 20

The Titans will edge out the Jaguars in a relatively low scoring game.  The Jags defense will slow down Titans RB Derrick Henry, and the Titans will fail to run the ball with Henry well covered and RB DeMarco Murray out.  However, the Jags will fail to do the same against the versatile group of Titans receivers.

The Jaguars will struggle to perform offensively without some of their key weapons like receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee.  But they will come close to spoiling the Titans’ chances, led by their younger receivers like Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole.   In the end, the Titans will grab the victory.

 

Chiefs, 16, Broncos, 13

The Chiefs offense will not be the same with WR Tyreek Hill resting up for the playoffs, and the Broncos defense will be able to hold the, down early.  But TE Travis Kelce, the run game, and other receivers will help the Chiefs take the lead later on.  Denver will also struggle offensively without a definitive starter at QB and with both WR Emmanuel Sanders and WR Cody Latimer hurt.  But the combo of QB Trevor Siemian and WR Demaryius Thomas will grab the lead early.  However, they will blow it later on as the Chiefs make an effort to come back and succeed.

 

Chargers, 45, Raiders, 34

The Raiders will make a good effort here.  They will target the Chargers’ weakness in the secondary by going with a pass-heavy offense.  QB Derek Carr will dominate, throwing for 350 yards and 4 TD.  But it won’t be enough against the dominant Chargers offense.  LA’s offense will electrify as they play for one last shot to make the playoffs.  With playoff contention on the line, the Chargers will score 5 or more offensive touchdowns, led by QB Philip Rivers as well as their TE duo among others.  The Chargers will win in a shootout as Oakland cannot keep up despite Carr’s huge game.

 

Saints, 30, Buccaneers, 26

QB Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense will come close against the Saints, but the powerful New Orleans secondary will slow them down as they play great red zone defense.  The Saints will also put up another strong offensive performance as Brees tosses 3 TD, leading the Saints to victory.

 

Seahawks, 27, Cardinals, 24

Despite a strong effort by the Cardinals with WR John Brown, the Seahawks will comeback to win at home.  The Seahawks defense will not be able to shut down the Cardinals receivers without CB Richard Sherman, but the TE Jimmy Graham and the Seahawks offense will lead Seattle to victory.

 

Rams, 34, 49ers, 27

The success of new 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo will not be enough against the powerful Rams offense.  The 49ers offense will come close though, as Garoppolo connects with multiple receivers for touchdowns.  But it still will not be enough, as RB Todd Gurley, QB Jared Goff and WR Sammy Watkins lead LA to victory in a close game.

 

That’s all for my Week 17 Picks.  If my predictions are right, according to the ESPN Playoff Machine, the playoff seeding will look like this:

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Stay tuned for more NFL preview videos and picks coming soon.  In addition, with MLB free agency kicking into gear, my prediction article is coming soon.  Also stay tuned for my article about 2017 in sports as we ring in 2018 tonight.

NFL Thanksgiving Day Picks

Thanksgiving is finally here.  The parades, the food, and best of all, an NFL Thursday tripleheader.  Here are my predictions for today’s games.  Last week I went 10-4, putting my overall record at 88-72.  Comment with your thoughts, and have a great Thanksgiving.

Note: In the images, the team on the top is the road team, and the team on the bottom is the home team.

 

 

Game 1: Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions, 12:30 PM EST, FOX

The Lions will win as their offense continues to roll.  The Lions have won three straight, scoring at least 27 points in all games during that span.  For the Vikings, QB Case Keenum will have another big game as his receivers, especially Adam Thielen, come up big against the weak Lions secondary.

But despite being slowed down by a tough Vikings D, QB Matthew Stafford and WR Kenny Golladay will lead the offense in this game, connecting for 150 yards and a TD.  Stafford’s other receivers will also step it up, and the Lions will win in a close one.

Game 2: Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 PM EST, CBS

The Cowboys run game will continue to struggle without RB Ezekiel Elliott, especially against the tough LA front seven.  But QB Dak Prescott will thrive in this game with the help of the league’s best offensive line.  He will find his receivers and boost the Dallas offense.  However, it won’t be enough as the Chargers offense continues to dominate.  Expect the Chargers to keep the momentum they developed last week, scoring 30+ points again.  Chargers win the Turkey Day battle.

Game 3: TNF: New York Giants @ Washington Redskins, 8:30 PM EST, NBC

The Redskins may be slowed down by a stingy Giants secondary, but not enough to keep them from having a big game offensively.  The Giants will continue to struggle to produce offensively, even though the Redskins defense hasn’t been great.  Redskins win led by big games out of QB Kirk Cousins and TE Vernon Davis.

 

That’s all for my Thanksgiving Picks.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and once again, have a great Thanksgiving.

NFL Week 6 Picks: Contenders and Pretenders

Welcome to my NFL Week 6 Picks.  Last week I went 6-8, placing my overall record at 36-41.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.  This week is when the contenders start to separate themselves from the pretenders.  Who will come out on top?

Teams on Bye: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks

Note: In the images, the team on the top is the road team, and the team on the bottom is the home team.  

Lock of the Week

The Jets have been on a pretty good run but all will come to an end against the Patriots.  I think the Patriots defense will continue to see improvement in this game.  Their secondary will shut down the depleted Jets receiving corps, even without CBs Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe.  Expect the Pats defense to force lots of turnovers as well, giving the potent New England offense more scoring chances.  In addition, I think Pats TE Rob Gronkowski will have a strong return from a leg injury that held him out last week.  He will dominate against the Jets D in this game.  Pats win with ease.

Upset of the Week 

The Lions have had a surprisingly strong start to the season.  I expect that to continue against an aging Saints team.  Lions QB Matthew Stafford will have a huge game as the Saints defense struggles to put pressure on him, giving the strong Lions receivers more time to get open.

Expect the Saints offense to struggle to run the ball effectively against the Lions D, especially after trading away RB Adrian Peterson.  Peterson was not making the biggest impact in New Orleans, but he provided the Saints with options in the run game.  If Saints RB Mark Ingram starts to look off his game, who do they turn to?   Lions pull off the upset.

 

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday before the game)

After last week’s big victory, the Eagles offense is beginning to gain some momentum.  Expect that to continue against the Panthers as they put up 30+ points.  I also think the Eagles receivers will have another huge day against a rebuilding Carolina secondary.  Even though Panthers QB Cam Newton has gotten back in the swing of things, I think Newton will be the next victim of the Eagles defense.  Newton will be hammered in this prime time match-up.

Sunday’s Games

The Falcons are well rested coming off their bye week and their dominant offense should shine in this match-up.  Falcons WR Julio Jones will not be stopped by CB Byron Maxwell and the rest of the Dolphins secondary.  On defense, LB Vic Beasley and the Atlanta pass rush will not allow Jay Cutler to get into a rhythm.  Jay Ajayi could also have another rough day against a tough Atlanta run defense.  Atlanta will win easily at home.

The Ravens will win but it won’t be easy.  After facing two tough defensive fronts in Weeks 4 & 5, Ravens QB Joe Flacco should have an easier time this week against a weak Bears secondary.  I also expect Ravens WR Mike Wallace to lead the Ravens to victory with another 100 yeard game like last week (133-yard).

However, the Bears will also look a little better offensively with rookie QB Mitch Trubisky under center.  In addition, WR Kendall Wright will be targetted more with injured receiver Kevin White out again.   But things won’t be easy against a tough Ravens defense.  It will be close but I have the Ravens holding on in a tight one.

The Texans front seven will be challenged this week after losing defensive stars DE J.J. Watt and LB Whitney Mercilus for the season.  Expect Browns RB Isaiah Crowell to have a strong game.

On offense, the Texans will continue to do well with rising star rookie QB Watson.  They’ve put up a total of 91 points over the last two weeks (45.5 PPG)!  The Browns had the chance to draft Watson and after this game may wish they did.  Texans offense will deliver again at home.

This will be a blowout because other than Niners WR Pierre Garcon, I don’t believe there’s anyone else that could step it up for San Francisco offensively.  Redskins QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will thrive against the rebuilding Niners secondary.  They will lead the Redskins to an easy win.

Over the last three weeks, the Packers have averaged 32.3 PPG.  Expect their offensive success to continue, even against a tough Vikings defense.  The Vikings secondary will fail to hold back a stacked group of talented Packers receivers.  Packers receivers Nelson, Cobb, and Adams are all at full health this week so expect the Vikes D to have a rough day.  I think the Vikings run game could struggle without starting RB Dalvin Cook.  They’ll also be without WR Stefon Diggs.  Packers win as the Vikings struggle to get into an offensive rhythm.

The Rams have gained some momentum over the last few weeks but it’s never easy to win on the road.  The Jags have been off to a pretty strong start as well and their defense could put a stop to Ram’s run.  They will contain LA’s playmakers, making it tough for QB Jared Goff to play like he has for most of this season.

However, this win won’t be easy for the Jags.  Blake Bortles will be under pressure but I see him having enough success to lead the Jags to a win.  He will have to because I believe the Rams will slow down Jas star running back Leonard Fournette.  In the end, the Rams won’t produce enough offensively and they’ll fall short against the Jags.

As the Bucs defense finally starts to make its way back to full health, I think they’ll lead Tampa Bay to bounce back win after a tough Thursday night loss to the Pats at home.  I expect Cards QB Carson Palmer to take a lot of hits like Tom Brady did last week against an aggressive Bucs defensive front.  I don’t think Palmer has much left in the tank as he has struggled this season to help AZ put points on the board.  However, young Bucs QB Jameis Winston will thrive in this game, rebounding from a rough game last week against the Pats.  His receiving corps will create match-up problems against the strong Arizona secondary as Winston will buy his receivers more time with his elusiveness.  The Bucs will win the game with strong performances on both sides of the ball.

The Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated team and the Steelers have been inconsistent losing 2 of their last 3 games to teams they should have beaten, the Bears and the Jags.  Before I pick the Steelers to win again, they need to play more consistently.

Steelers QB Big Ben and RB Le’Veon Bell will struggle against the tough KC front seven that has shut down some top RBs and QBs during their 5-0 start.  The Steelers will also struggle defensively against speedster WR Tyreek Hill and one of the leagues best TE, Travis Kelce.  Big games from both Hill and Kelce will be just enough for KC to win by a Field Goal.

The Raiders offense should be back to full strength this week with star QB Derek Carr, WR Amari Cooper, and WR Michael Crabtree all healthy.  I think they’ll put up 30+ points against a weak Chargers defense.  The Chargers defense has cost LA many of their games as Chargers have averaged 19.8 PPG but are only 1-4.  The Chargers offensive success will bring them close but the Raiders offense will be too much in this shootout.

SNF

The Giants lost their top three receivers to serious injuries last week.  None of them will play in this game and the Giants will likely struggle offensively especially since RB Paul Perkins will also be out with an injury.  The Broncos arguably have the best defense in the league and will pressure Giants QB, Eli Manning all day.  Denver will pull away with the win even with their own offensive struggles.  The Broncos defense will carry them to a victory in a low scoring Sunday Night game at Mile High.    

MNF

This game will be a thrilling high scoring game that will be much more fun to watch than the Sunday Night defensive battle between the Broncos and Giants.  The Titans offense should score with ease against the struggling Colts defense, scoring 5+ TDs.  But this isn’t going to be a blowout.  Jacoby Brissett has led the Colts offense to win two of their last four games as they have scored over 22 points a game in the last 4.  Brissett will hit his star receiver T.Y. Hilton often as he will have a big game against the Titans secondary.  But in the end, the Titans’ offensive dominance will be too much for the Colts on the road and carry them to victory on Monday Night.  

That’s all for this week.  What do you think will happen this Sunday?  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.  This season has been full of surprises so you should expect more.

NFL Week 5 Picks: Several Games Will Come Down to Final Seconds

Welcome to my picks for Week 5 of the NFL season.  Last week I went 8-8, making my overall record 30-33.  This week I’m hoping to get myself above .500.  How do you think I’ll do?  Read below and chime in with your thought.

Note: In the pictures, the team on the top is the road team and the team on the bottom is the home team.  

Lock of the Week


Jags QB Blake Bortles was really off his game last week, and it will be hard for him to improve.  Bortles was picked off once and only had 1 TD.  The Steelers defensive front dominated against Ravens QB Joe Flacco.  Expect them to do the same up against Bortles and the Jags.

In addition, the Jaguars offense will still be short on passing options with WR Allen Robinson out for the season and the Steelers D will overwhelm their other receivers.  In addition, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and the Steelers offense will dominate against the young Jags defense.  Pittsburgh should win with ease.

Upset of the Week


This will be a very competitive match-up between 2 teams doing whatever they can to get their first win of the season.  The Giants receivers will create match-up problems for the Chargers secondary as I expect Giants QB Eli Manning to have the time to hit deep threats WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.

The Chargers tight end duo of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry will have success against the Giants D which has underperformed this season.  The Giants have a good pass rush and will pressure Bolts QB Philip Rivers but not enough to keep him from having a lot of success through the air because the rest of the Giants defense needs work.  In the end, I have the Chargers pulling off the upset in this offensive shootout.

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night before the game)


It could be very tough for the Pats with Gronk out, but the Buccaneers defense is depleted by injuries, and that will make it easier for the Pats offense to get into a groove.   The Bucs front seven will struggle to pressure and hit Pats QB Tom Brady without LBs Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David.

The Pats defense will also continue to struggle, but I think with Hightower back, the Pats will do a decent job keeping young QB Jameis Winston off his game.  The Pats secondary will also turn it around after struggling with communication last week.  This will be an extremely high scoring prime time game with both defenses struggling.  I think the Pats come out on top in a shootout.

Sunday’s Games


Titans QB Marcus Mariota is unlikely to play, but I still see the Titans winning this one.  Their receiving game will be their strong suit.  The Dolphins secondary will fail to keep up with TE Delanie Walker and WR Corey Davis among others.  Both Mariota and backup QB Matt Cassel have the experience with this versatile passing offense.

However, Titans running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will struggle against a tough Miami run defense.  But whoever’s at QB for Tennessee should stay out of trouble thanks to an o-line that has done a good job protecting Mariota.  In addition, the Dolphins will continue to look off their game offensively without starting QB Ryan Tannehill.  Their offensive struggles will cause them to fall short against Tennessee.

Bengals WR A.J. Green should make a big impact offensively.  I also expect RB Giovani Bernard to be a dangerous weapon in the run game and the receiving game.  But the Bills have put up strong offensive and defensive showings over the last few weeks and arguably are the biggest surprise team of the season so far.  The Bills defense is second in the league in forcing turnovers with 7 over their first four games.  The offense has picked it up as well of late, scoring 20+ points in each of the last two weeks.  Expect the Bills to keep their momentum going this week with a win.  

These may be the two worst teams in football, so don’t expect the most exciting game.  What I would expect is a lot of sloppy football and a rough game on both sides of the ball.  I think it will be tough for the Jets to win for the third week in a row.  

RB Bilal Powell is emerging as a star running back but the Jets need to establish a passing rhythm in order to win more games.  In the end, I think Kizer and the Browns will be able to find a little bit of an offensive rhythm and edge out the win.  

This could be another sloppy game, especially without Colts QB Andrew Luck.  Colts RB Frank Gore won’t be as sharp either.  The 49ers are very familiar with his running style since he played in San Francisco for 10 years.  But the 49ers have really struggled offensively; they haven’t scored a TD in 3 of their 4 games this season.  For the Colts, backup QB Jacoby Brissett hasn’t been all that bad.  He led the Colts to victory against Cleveland at home.  I think he’ll be successful again on home turf. 

Even with RB Wendell Smallwood banged up, I think the Eagles will have success on the ground against the underperforming Arizona defense.  On the other side of the ball, the Philly secondary will be challenged to stop WR Larry Fitzgerald from having a big game.  However, even without star pass rusher Fletcher Cox look for the strong Eagles defensive front to pressure the Cardinals QB Carson Palmer just enough to help the Eagles to their 4th win. 


Carolina may have upset the Pats last week but this week they face a Lions team that could be 4-0 if not for a last-second TD that was reversed by instant replay.  Even with WR Kenny Golladay hurt, the Lions receivers will thrive against a Carolina secondary that’s in a rebuilding year.  The dominant Carolina pass rush will not be enough to stop Lions QB Matthew Stafford.

The Panthers offense will struggle against the Lions defensive stars, DE Ziggy Ansah, CB Darius Slay and S Glover Quin.  With Lions offensive star Golladay out, the Lions defense will step up and hold the explosive Panthers offense to under 20 points and carry the Lions to the win.

Even with Oakland QB Derek Carr out, the Raiders will still win this game.  After two rough weeks, it will be hard for Ravens QB Joe Flacco and his offense to get back into the swing of things against DE Khalil Mack who leads the tough Raiders pass rush.  The Baltimore offense has averaged just 8 points per game over the last two weeks and just 15 PPG this season.

It will be tough for 2nd-string QB E.J. Manuel to lead the Oakland offense and develop a connection with them, but the return of versatile receiver Michael Crabtree will help him.  Crabtree and WR Amari Cooper should dominate against the Ravens secondary if Manuel connects with them.  Raiders win a close game at home, holding off a late-game comeback through the air by Baltimore.

These teams have had some pretty exciting games throughout the years.  This time around the Rams are favored at home.  They have looked like a whole new team this season, jumping out to a 3-1 start.  The Seahawks offense that has struggled at times will not be effective against the Rams defensive front.  DT Aaron Donald and the Rams front seven will keep Seattle QB Russell Wilson under pressure.  The Rams will win despite facing a tough Seahawks defense.

The Packers offense will continue its momentum from last week and overwhelm a so-so Cowboys defense.  QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will be motivated after a high scoring affair last week.  But RB Ezekiel Elliott will be slowed down by the Packers defensive front.  I predict that the Cowboys key receiving weapon TE Jason Witten will struggle.  But the rest of the receiving threats will thrive, especially star WR Dez Bryant.  In the end, I think the Packers will come out on top in a shootout.

SNF

The Texans dominated on home turf last week, scoring 57 points.  They go into this week’s primetime home game with momentum and motivation facing the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team.  DE J.J. Watt and the Texans defense will really hold up the Chiefs’ offensive stars RB Kareem Hunt and WR Tyreek Hill.  The Chiefs will fall to a fired up Texans offense led by successful rookie QB Deshaun Watson.

Even with rookie RB Dalvin Cook out for the season, I think the Vikings will win this one.  RB Latavius Murray should be able to fill in for Cook as he was a starting RB just one year ago.  QB Sam Bradford and Murray will have a huge day as the Bears front seven struggle with LB Danny Trevathan serving a suspension.  On the other side of the ball, the Vikings defensive front will be able to slow down a strong Chicago run game.  Vikings win easily.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  What do you think?  Please comment below.

Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: The Contending

Welcome to Day 4 of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Last time, I broke down the middle of the pack and the pros and cons of each team there.  Now we’ve made it to the playoff contenders.  Each of these teams has something that’s holding them back from dominance, though.  Today, I will break down what that is for each team.  Now, let’s get started with #12.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

 

12. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

Off-season Review

The Giants definitely could’ve had a bigger off-season.  It’s an odd year, and the rotation is still good, and they did upgrade the bullpen with Mark Melancon among others, but the Giants could’ve done more to boost a mediocre lineup that lacks depth.  Sure, they did improve the depth of their lineup, by signing Gordon Beckham, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Morse and Nick Hundley, but if there wasn’t a gaping hole in the outfield, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson would not be fighting for the left field job.  The Giants have other holes and weaknesses as well.

The Case for the Giants

The Giants have some of the best pitchers in the entire MLB.  The lineup is decent but lacks stars.  Their only superstar players in the lineup are Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.  Those guys are good, but there are other problems.  There’s a hole in the outfield, and I don’t know if Eduardo Nunez will repeat what he did last year, and before last year, Eduardo Nunez was a backup infielder that was moving from team to team frequently.

What’s Holding Them Back

It’s pretty clear that depth problems and holes in the lineup are holding this team back.  They need a left fielder and some other options in the infield and outfield.  The bullpen still lacks depth as well, despite adding several quality relievers, including star closer Mark Melancon.  The Giants could contend, but these problems will really hold them back, and the fact that the bottom end of the lineup is not great.

Best Case Scenario: The better pitching helps the Giants contend, and the lineup is better than expected, helping the Giants win the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems hold the Giants back, and they cannot contend.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in NL West

 

11. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

Off-season Review

Image result for jose bautista

The Blue Jays didn’t do much this off-season, which might hurt them.  However, they were pretty situated where they were, so won’t be impacted that much, and the moves they did make really made up for it.  The Jays lost Josh Thole and Edwin Encarnacion but signed Kendrys Morales and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in their place.  They also resigned Jose Bautista, which was a big move for them that prevented them from having a big hole in the outfield.

The Case for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have a strong all-around team.  But they’re playing in a tough division, and have a lot of competition.  One thing they do lack is superstars.  I cannot name a single legitimate MVP or Cy Young candidate on the Blue Jays.  That wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t have a lot of other teams with stars to compete with.  The Blue Jays would be a lot better if every team better than them didn’t have superstars.  But that’s the truth.

What’s Holding Them Back

Two things are holding this team back.  First of all, there’s too much competition in the wild card race and in the AL East.  Second, the best the Blue Jays have for a star player is Josh Donaldson.  They clearly lack a true star.

Best Case Scenario: The Blue Jays dominate the tough competition in the AL East, cruise through the playoffs, and win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The Blue Jays decline this season due to tough competition, and the Blue Jays finish around .500.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL East

 

10. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-season Review

The Tigers didn’t do much this off-season.  They did sign Omar Infante to a minor league deal and got Alex Avila back, but they didn’t add any quality players.  Their lineup has some holes and weaknesses yet to be fixed, which they should’ve fixed in free agency.  Despite a better rotation, this team will face depth problems and lineup problems in 2017.

The Case for the Tigers

Image result for miguel cabrera

The Tigers have a young rotation that will look better in 2017.  Their bullpen is also loaded.  The lineup, led by Miguel Cabrera, is also pretty good but lacks one thing, depth.  After losing Cameron Maybin in a trade, the Tigers only have two good outfielders, and the best they’ve got as a reserve infielder is Omar Infante.  Some of this lineup is also very inconsistent, so the Tigers could completely flop, or they could have a great season.

What’s Holding Them Back

Depth problems and inconsistency in the lineup have held this team back.  The Tigers could be great, but inconsistency may get in the way.  They don’t have a consistently good lineup, and their rotation still needs work despite improvement.  The Tigers will be better, but because of this fact, they won’t quite dominate yet.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation gets better, the lineup has a strong year, and the Tigers dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to struggle, the lineup is inconsistent, and the Tigers finish under .500.

Projected Finish: 89-73, 2nd in AL Central (2nd Wild Card)

 

9. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-season Review

Image result for logan forsythe welcome to dodgers

The Dodgers re-signed their key free agents and upgraded what was a weak bullpen to add to it.  They also traded Jose De Leon for Logan Forsythe.  The rotation is one of the league’s best, and the lineup is pretty good as well but is held back by a lack of veterans.  Andre Ethier’s a little too washed up, same with Chase Utley.  That leaves just Adrian Gonzalez for experience in the lineup.  However, the Dodgers are looking better for 2017.

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers are looking good on paper, but have some hidden problems.  The pitching staff is looking a lot better, but with how many injury prone guys they have, it will be hard to keep that rotation the way it is.  The lineup is also good but isn’t as good as last year.  Guys are getting older, Howie Kendrick is gone, and the lineup just doesn’t look as good as it used to in LA.

What’s Holding Them Back

The Dodgers are being held back by several things.  Depth problems, aging players, and a whole bunch of stuff that’s not clear on paper.  The Dodgers may be the best team on paper, but realistically, they have a lot more issues than you’d think.  I mean, look at the Buffalo Bills from the last two years.  They looked like playoff teams on paper.  The result?  Two mediocre seasons and one fired head coach.  The Dodgers won’t be that bad, but they won’t necessarily make it very far in the playoffs.

Best Case Scenario: A strong, balanced Dodgers team stays healthy and at it’s best, and the Dodgers make it far in the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries leave an impact, and the whole team declines and regresses, finishing third in the NL West.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 1st in NL West

 

8. new-york-mets New York Mets

Off-season Review

The Mets did resign a lot of their key free agents, but couldn’t grab on to any from other teams.  They also lost some of the depth of their lineup and rotation.  However, it’s hard not to like this team.  They arguably have the best rotation in the league and their lineup is looking a lot better than it used to.  The Mets are in a good position to win, but could depth bite back and be a problem?

The Case for the Mets

The Mets have a good lineup and a good rotation, but they lack two things.  One thing they lack is bullpen options.  They have a good closer and set up man, but beyond that, the Mets’ bullpen needs some work.  The second thing they lack is depth.  Depth is a team-wide problem for the Mets.  The depth of the lineup isn’t great.  The depth of the rotation is a problem.  The bullpen is suffering from lack of depth, which is depriving the Mets of a good bullpen.

What’s Holding Them Back

Didn’t I make it clear about what’s holding this team back?  Things weren’t like this last year.  This is the one cost of their quiet off-season.  This team lost Alejandro De Aza, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett, Justin Ruggiano and James Loney to free agency.  That was half the bench, and both of the Mets’ spot starters and fill-in starters, gone.  However, the Mets didn’t contend last season because the lineup was still a work in progress.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup thrives, the rotation kicks butt, and the Mets win the NL East by a longshot.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup continues to struggle, the young rotation doesn’t do as well, and the Mets struggle to stay over .500.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 2nd in NL East

 

7. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-season ReviewImage result for carlos beltran astros

The Astros had a very active off-season.  They still have some holes in the lineup and the rotation is just mediocre, but they really upgraded their lineup.  They signed Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, and Norichika Aoki.  They also traded for Brian McCann.  This lineup does lack depth and has holes in some spots, but its core just got a whole lot stronger.

The Case for the Astros

Image result for altuve and correa

The Astros have the upside to win a World Series.  Their lineup looks a whole lot better but has a hole at first base that’s been there since Jon Singleton’s decline.  The infield, led by Jose Altuve is young and intriguing but also still in development.  The outfield is full of experienced veterans who will help lead this team.  The rotation isn’t amazing, but is still good and has some good depth.  If the young players can continue to perform well consistently, the Astros could be in for a great season.

What’s Holding Them Back

It’s not one singular thing that’s holding the Astros back.  It’s multiple things.  Depth problems and holes in the infield are just two minor issues that will make a slightly bigger impact.  The bullpen could be better too, and the Astros are still developing a little bit.  If by the end of the season, the younger players are seasoned enough, the Astros could easily win the World Series.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns dominate and the Astros win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth and holes bite back, the young guns fail to perform well, and the rotation struggles as the Astros finish around .500, between many AL West contenders.

Projected Finish: 91-71, 2nd in AL West

 

So, that’s all for Day 4 of these rankings.  The final part is coming tomorrow, so stay tuned!

 

NFL Week 13 Picks

 

The fantasy regular season is almost over, but now, it’s time to focus on the real games. Who will grab a playoff spot? Who will be knocked out. Who will win and who will lose? Well, my weekly picks are back with playoff scenarios for many of the games. I had a great week last week, putting me at 12-4 for last week and 107-68-2 overall in straight up picks. Now, let’s get started.

Lock Of The Week

Patriots 30, Rams, 16

I’m sorry, but there’s no way on Earth that Jared Goff and his banged up Rams offense that lacks big name players. Even without Gronk. The Pats will have some problems without him, in tight end depth and lack of receivers, but Martellus Bennett should be able to fill in at tight end, for now. They at least need a good blocker though. The thing is, even if the Rams D pressures Brady, Brady knows how to quickly get rid of the ball. He should take advantage of the weak Rams secondary and have some passing success, scoring enough to beat LA’s weak offense. The Pats pass rush has been a problem, but the Rams o-line has problems too, and the Pats secondary should take care of a group of below mediocre Rams receivers easily.

Upset Of The Week

Giants, 30, Steelers, 26

Image result for eli manning and obj vs big ben and ab

I had many upsets, but I think this one stands out the most. The Steelers are fighting for an AFC North division win. The Giants are a top wild card contender that needs some more wins to lock up their spot. The Steelers offense really isn’t overly good. They have depth problems that have really hurt them this season, and the defense has not lived up to it’s expectations. The Giants on the other hand, have a strong offense led by star receiver OBJ and his QB, Eli Manning, and assisted by rookies Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. Rashad Jennings, Victor Cruz, Will Tye and Larry Donnell have also done their part to help the Giants succeed. The defensive moves this offseason turned out to be a big success. I think even on the road, this team has the capacity to beat a team like the Steelers. This win will really help them, and with a predicted win by me this week, maybe the Ravens can grab a playoff spot as well.

The Other Games

Chiefs, 16, Falcons, 13

49ers, 28, Bears, 20

Bengals, 37, Eagles, 36

Packers, 30, Texans, 27

Ravens, 30, Dolphins, 17

Jaguars, 29, Broncos, 19

Lions, 41, Saints, 26

Raiders, 33, Bills, 23

Cardinals, 34, Redskins, 30

Buccaneers, 17, Chargers, 16

Seahawks, 27, Panthers, 26

Colts, 26, Jets, 22

Thursday Night’s Game
Cowboys, 33, Vikings, 19

Want more analysis on games that have a meaning in how the season ends?  My match-up preview is back this week for you to take a look at.  Disagree with my picks?  Comment your picks below.  I will also be answering Start/Sit questions on my Twitter, @AndrewRoberts1.