2018 NFL Week 3 Picks & Previews: Lots of Upsets as Contenders Rise

Welcome to my NFL Week 3 picks and previews.  I had a great week last week, finishing 12-3-1,  That brings my overall record to 21-9-2, better than any ESPN or CBS Sports expert besides Pete Prisco.  If I told you who the current 2-0 teams were before the season started, most of you would be shocked. The Dolphins? The Bengals? The Chiefs?

According to NFL Network, 2-0 teams make the playoffs 64% of the time.  But those odds go up to 75% if they become 3-0. So as NFL Network put it, this is a big week for those 2-0 teams.  Which of them are contenders, and which are pretenders? We will likely get a glimpse at that this week.

Lock of the Week

I know a lot of you think the Vikings are going to blow out the Bills, but it’s hard to imagine any team blowing out another without their star running back (still see the Vikes winning though).  With RB Dalvin Cook out, this becomes the biggest lock in my eyes. The Chiefs defense isn’t anything special, but I think they’ll keep QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s young receivers covered, leaving Garoppolo scrambling to find an open man.  Meanwhile, I cannot see the 49ers defense stopping QB Patrick Mahomes II. Expect Mahomes to toss a few more touchdowns and lead the Chiefs offense to dominate. RB Kareem Hunt will also have a strong game.

Upset of the Week

The Ravens were topped easily by the Bengals last week, and I see Cincy as a pretender who’s just riding an easy schedule to a winning record.  So, I don’t think the Ravens will be able to do much against this shut down Denver D, even at home.  I think the No-Fly Zone will be back up to full speed this week against QB Joe Flacco’s mediocre receivers.  I think the Ravens defense will have a strong game as well, leaving QB Case Keenum with less open men and less TD opportunities than he had in the last two games. But I do think Keenum and the Broncos will find a way to pull off the upset in Baltimore.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night; Actual Score: 21-17 Browns)

The Browns might be without WR Josh Gordon, but they’ll find creative ways to score as their running backs lead the way. Expect the Jets defense to shut down Cleveland’s receivers for a good portion of the game.  But look for TE David Njoku to shine.  The Jets will make it close with strong offense of their own, but I don’t see it being enough as the Browns young offense finds a way.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I’m a little worried about the Raider defense in this game, but I think QB Derek Carr will find open men, taking advantage of Miami’s weakness, their defense.  Look for QB Ryan Tannehill to have a strong game as well, but I don’t think the Dolphins are as good as advertised, and Carr will lead the Raiders to pull the upset.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

This Bills offense has not been able to get into a groove yet this year, and you can expect more of the same in Minnesota.  QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will lead the way for Minnesota with the help of dominant defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Bengals defense will play a factor here, minimalizing what the Panthers offense can put up.  Carolina’s run game will struggle, and Cam Newton will be held to one TD as his receivers are well covered.  Meanwhile, I expect QB Andy Dalton and his receivers to have a pretty strong game.  But I see the Panthers defense completely shutting down the Joe Mixon-less Bengals run game and leading Carolina to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a stellar performance by Houston’s receivers against a banged up New York secondary and a dominant game by QB Deshaun Watson against a below average Giants defensive front.  I think the Giants will take the early lead, but the Texans dominant D will shut them down as Houston comes back.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Jaguars offense to be limited by a somewhat strong Titans D.  But this is Sacksonville, and QB Blaine Gabbert will be their next victim.  Expect the Jags D to dominate, holding Tennessee under 10.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Carson Wentz is back, but with RB Jay Ajayi and WRs Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace hurt, he doesn’t have much left around him.  So I don’t expect an all out domination. Expect the Colts to have a decent offensive day against the young Eagles secondary.  But I think Wentz and the Eagles will be able to squeeze by.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Redskins to have a strong offensive day, but I think strong red zone D by Green Bay will hold them up here.  Meanwhile, expect the Packers to hold the lead for most of the game as Aaron Rodgers tosses multiple TDs and looks a little more mobile in recovery from his knee injury.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST (OT)

Look for the Saints to grab an early lead here, led by RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas.  But I think they’ll slow down, and strong WR play by Atlanta plus sloppy defense by New Orleans will lead to a Falcons comeback in overtime.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

Look for a spot-on game by the Rams entire defense, as they will shut down a high-powered Chargers offense.  I don’t think QB Jared Goff and his offense will look all that great, but they’ll come out victorious thanks to the defense stepping it up.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

I think Seattle’s offense will look alright here, but they’ll begin to miss WR Doug Baldwin.  Meanwhile, their declining defense will blow it as QB Dak Prescott and his receivers dominate.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST (OT)

The hollers for QB Josh Rosen to take over will just get louder this week as QB Sam Bradford blows it in overtime.  I honestly think the Cardinals would be so much better off right now if they had started Rosen.  Chicago’s defense, receivers, and backs will all show promise as Arizona looks better, but can’t pull off a victory at home.  
Sunday, 8:30 PM EST

Check back for a video preview closer to game time!

Expect an offensive shootout here, as both QB Tom Brady and QB Matthew Stafford toss multiple TD.  Meanwhile, the Lions defense will struggle regressively as the Pats score 5 TD. However, New England’s defense will be overwhelmed by Detroit’s offensive depth, and they won’t look much better despite a New England victory.
Monday, 8:30 PM EST

Look for the Bucs to have another strong offensive game and get creative in scoring situations as Pittsburgh’s D tries to limit them.  But I think the Steelers will fall short again without RB Le’Veon Bell, making WR Antonio Brown more fed up with this team.

That’s all for my picks for this week.  Comment with your thoughts, and stay tuned for more posts soon.

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NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East Edition

Welcome to my first NFL Draft Report Card article of 2018.  I have given a grade to every pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and compiled the grades onto 32 report cards, one per team.  I averaged all the grades on each team to determine my final grade for each team’s NFL Draft.  To avoid overly long articles, I have split it into eight parts, one for each NFL division.  Let’s start with the AFC East, the home of the New England Patriots.

NFL Draft Report Cards

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AFC East                                                              NFC East

AFC North                                                           NFC North

AFC South                                                           NFC South

AFC West                                                             NFC West

 

Miami Dolphins

Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Dolphins started off the draft on a strong note.  Rather than trading up for a QB of the future that they do not need quite yet, they took Minkah Fitzpatrick, a versatile defensive back who fits well into a Dolphins secondary that needs significant help.  This was a big steal by the Dolphins, and it’s not the first time they have done this.  They took T Laremy Tunsil, originally the projected No. 1 pick after he slid in the 2016 NFL Draft.  They also did a good job filling their needs early on, taking a strong pair of tight ends, a defensive back, a young RB, and a linebacker.

What They Did Wrong: They made some reaches in the later rounds, and they took a second linebacker, TE, and cornerback when they could have used some offensive line help.  But there are no fatal flaws here.  The Dolphins arguably had the best draft in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills

Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Bills had a spectacular Day 1.  They took two grade-A prospects in Round 1, making smart trades to put themselves in position to get what they needed.  Josh Allen has very high potential, and he will definitely compete for the starting job.  Tremaine Edmunds brings much-needed help to the linebacking corps on the outside and on the inside.  They got a steal in Edmunds with the 16th pick. They also had two other quality steals. They took DT Harrison Phillips after he nearly fell to Round 3.  They do not really need a DT, but Phillips was a valuable pick for the Bills at this point in the draft.  They also scored a steal in G Wyatt Teller. Not only was Teller projected to be drafted much earlier, but he fills the hole that Richie Incognito left behind.  Teller has the chance to compete for a starting job and thrive in one across from fellow Bills linemen John Miller and Vladimir Ducasse. They topped off their strong draft with a couple of good wide receivers in the late rounds.

What They Did Wrong: The Bills already had what is emerging as one of the league’s premier secondaries.  Yet they drafted not just one, but two defensive backs. In the meantime, they failed to fill some of their more important needs like tackle and linebacker (they could have still used another prospect there after Edmunds). Despite many steals, they also took a couple guys too early, and they could’ve done a better job addressing their current needs.

New England Patriots

Grade: B-

What They Did Right: The Patriots addressed all of their major needs despite many trades down. They ended up with nine total draft picks and they used them wisely. They eventually selected a QB, RB, WR, TE, offensive lineman, corner, and a linebacker. They started things off strong with two good players out of Georgia to address major needs. They also picked up a major steal in WR Braxton Berrios.

What They Did Wrong: The Pats may have waited too long for a QB, but reports say that they would have traded up if Baker Mayfield is available, which would not be the right strategy either. They could have also taken a linebacker or a tight end earlier. They had four picks in the first two rounds, and they used them on one T, one RB, one CB, and a trade down. I didn’t really see RB and CB as needs that were urgent enough to spend a first or second rounder on, and they did not need to trade down. Their grade gets a boost for addressing all their major needs, something no other AFC East team did in my eyes. But they waited too long for certain needs I saw as urgent.

New York Jets

Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Jets started off strong by taking an NFL ready QB with the 3rd pick. I also liked the players they picked in the 3rd and 4th rounds. These two players addressed needs and are on my list of draft sleepers. But the Jets draft began to plummet from there. Day 3 did not end up looking so good for them.

What They Did Wrong: The Jets could have had a good draft if they continued to address their needs or take top available prospects in the later rounds. But they took CB Parry Nickerson when they did not need a corner, and took a running back I had never heard of when they were totally fine at running back. They have Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell to handle the backfield. I doubt the RB they drafted will ever make an NFL roster, let alone an NFL start. They also took another DT in Round 6 when they had already done enough to address the defensive line.  If they were going to take two d-linemen, at least one of them should’ve been a defensive end, which is more of where the Jets need d-line help.

That’s all for Part 1 of my NFL Draft Report Cards. Stay tuned for more post-draft analysis soon.

Red Sox Report: Sox Off to Dominant Start, But Could Face Tougher Road Ahead

Welcome to my first Red Sox Report article of 2018.  Today, I will be talking about my opinion on the Red Sox this week, and what I expect in the coming days.  I will also be talking about interesting recent Red Sox headlines.

 

Is It Time to Get Concerned About The Red Sox’s Offensive Struggles, Especially J.D. Martinez’s?  

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Up until today, J.D. Martinez had not hit a home run, and the Red Sox had only scored more than 4 runs in a game once this season.  Keep in mind that this is against rebuilding teams, and the Rays only have three regular starters, filling the rest of their rotation with committee days.  Besides Xander Bogaerts, who has shown flashes of power in a potential breakout season, and Hanley Ramirez, who is looking to rebound, the Red Sox have not been that good at the plate.

Sure, they had a 10-run game today.  So they are capable of hitting. But will the lineup show up when they need to?  J.D. Martinez is the most concerning to me. He was here to be a clutch home run hitter, and so far he has hit just 1 home run, which came when the Red Sox had already practically locked in a victory.  Despite a 6-game hitting streak, I am getting worried.

Red Sox Rotation Looking Dominant, Sign of Good Things to Come?

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The Red Sox rotation has looked great so far, and they were without Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Wright to this point.  David Price has looked like his old self in two starts against his former team, the Rays. But will he be able to keep this up against tougher opponents?  I’m sure Chris Sale will be able to keep doing what he’s doing, especially if he pitches to contact more like new manager Alex Cora was hoping for. Rick Porcello also looks like he could rebound, and he has just had two strong starts against the Rays, who caused him serious problems in 2017.

Even Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez, who are not going to be starting regularly much longer are doing well.  But like I said, the Sox are playing rebuilding teams, so we better hope that the offense wakes up and the rotation keeps up the good work when we start playing tougher opponents.  Things also depend on how E-Rod and Pomeranz do in their return, but if they struggle, we do have Johnson, Steven Wright (who is also hurt at the moment), and Velazquez.

Will Alex Cora’s Unique Decisions Help the Red Sox Significantly?

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Cora has been a big part of this team’s success so far.  He has made good moves by giving guys the rest they need, helping Chris Sale and David Price get more innings by pitching to contact, and saving their best stuff for later in the year by giving them rest, and only challenging plays when absolutely necessary.  I like his conservative style, and he will help the Red Sox, but if he goes too far, he could cost us early on by resting guys when they could be helping the team win. He wants to save guys for October, but early success is key because the playoffs are no guarantee for any team.

Injury Update: E-Rod To Return Sunday, How Will The Injuries Affect Us Down the Road?

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It appears that we have done fine without Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Dustin Pedroia so far, but as we face tougher opponents, it may hold us back.  However, there is good news. E-Rod will come off the disabled list to make a start against the Rays tomorrow. If he can get off to a good start and is not held back by his knee injury, he will help the Red Sox significantly.  We may be able to get away with a 4-man rotation until Pomeranz comes back, especially in weeks with more days off.

But I’m sure Johnson will get starts, and Velazquez may even stick around.  Cora’s philosophy has been giving guys more rest, not less. So keeping more starters in the rotation despite injuries may be a good idea.  They could even consider sticking with a 6-man rotation to save their best stuff for October, especially when Wright and Pomeranz return. As for Dustin Pedroia, I think we should be fine with Nunez at second until he returns, but when he does, we will be able to give more infielders rest, including a recovering Pedey.

We will need strong pitching from the rotation, as our bullpen has been inconsistent and unreliable.  Craig Kimbrel has done well, but the Sox have nobody to set him up.

Will Hanley and Bogaerts Build On Their Early Success?

Image result for xander bogaerts and hanley ramirez

Xander Bogaerts has been straight up dominant so far.  He has hinted at a breakout season by hitting two homers, including a grand slam in the team’s first eight games.  He has batted .371/.405/.743 with 9 RBI. I think he can emerge as a 5-tool player, adding power hitting to his resume.  

I could also see Hanley Ramirez bouncing back.  He led this team during the 2-game series against the Marlins, where Hanley started his career.  But he also thrived at Fenway, as he was the hero of the home opener in an extra-innings walk-off win.  He has also hit a home run, and now that he is healthy and motivated (he is in a contract year), he will be a strong asset for the Sox.  I just hope Hanley and Bogey can keep it up against tougher opponents, especially in their upcoming series against the Yankees.

How Will Michael Chavis’ 80-game PED suspension affect the Red Sox?

Chavis was Boston’s top prospect, and while we have Devers at third, it’s always good to have a strong farm system, and this is a major setback for Chavis, and down with Chavis will go the Red Sox farm system.  The Red Sox traded away many of their strongest prospects in a once stacked farm system when working their way back towards contention in 2016 and 2017. It hurts to lose Chavis, one of their top prospects remaining, to a suspension.  Using PEDs could give him problems staying out of trouble throughout his career, as players who use steroids have a history of frequent suspensions after being caught. We will also have to see if Chavis is really the same without relying on PEDs.

Led by Rotation, Bogaerts, Devers, and Hanley, Red Sox Start Season 7-1, Hope to Continue Success vs. Yankees and Beyond

I expected a strong start for the Red Sox due to their schedule, but I have been overall impressed with how they have done, and if they stay hot, they could continue to dominate.  They have a 7 game winning streak going, led by a strong rotation. The lineup has struggled a bit, but Bogaerts, Devers, and Hanley have made up for the struggles of the rest of the lineup.  I hope J.D. Martinez can begin to help the lineup more too.

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The Red Sox will face their true test this week when they host their archrivals, the New York Yankees.  The Yankees are facing the injury bug right now, and have had depth problems with so many players injured.  They have had to force players into starting jobs who aren’t quite reliable starters yet. But they are still a tough opponent, and the Red Sox will have to be at their best to win this series.

That’s all for this edition of the Red Sox Report.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox coverage coming soon.

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

Each year since 2014, David Schoenfield has ranked all 30 teams in tiers during the preseason.  For the fourth year straight, I am creating my own version.  Throughout the week, I will be posting my rankings.  However, I started a little late this year due to the MLB’s slow off-season.  Today they start with the bottom 6.

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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?

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

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

 

 

30. miami-marlins Miami Marlins

Off-Season Review

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The Marlins underwent a complete overhaul this off-season.  They traded four key pieces from their lineup last year: Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon.  Those guys were leaders for the Marlins.  They could have gone on to contend with that group, but after no success making the playoffs in recent years, they decided to fully rebuild.  Rather than signing a couple pitchers and going for an NL East title, they decided not to sign too many pitchers and to make the series of trades they made.  In these trades, they added members of their future core, such as Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Magneuris Sierra.  They also acquired Starlin Castro to play second and signed a veteran or two including Cameron Maybin to be placeholders in the new look outfield.  These trades further advanced teams like the Yankees, Cardinals, and Brewers as well.

The Case for the Marlins

The Marlins have no intention of contending in 2018.  This year, expect to see veteran placeholders make up the lineup alongside their more seasoned prospects like J.T. Riddle and Lewis Brinson.  In the meantime, the Marlins will be getting their next generation of players ready to play at a big league level.  Starlin Castro was only acquired as a veteran mentor, don’t think he’s a sign that the Marlins aren’t ready to rebuild yet.  They are in full rebuild mode.  But did they rebuild too early?  Could they be contending down the stretch rather than sitting in the basement of the NL East, waiting for their prospects to further develop, and carrying around a bunch of older veterans who are past their prime?

The Bright Spot

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The Marlins may have overhauled most of their lineup, but they still have a couple strong pieces in catcher J.T. Realmuto and first baseman Justin Bour.  Their lineup will remain their strong point in 2018, especially the very core of it.  Their rotation needs work.  They may have a couple good pitchers, but they need to find guys within their system who can lead the next generation of pitching in Miami.  They have plenty of hitting/fielding prospects already making their way towards the majors.

Best Case Scenario: The veterans Miami has signed are consistent and show signs that they still have what it takes to be as successful as they were earlier in their career, and Miami’s prospects get called up quickly and thrive in the majors, leading the Marlins just over 70 wins in Year 1 of a rebuild.

Worst Case Scenario: Miami’s top prospects struggle at the major league level, and their veteran leaders fail to find momentum, as the Marlins lose 100+ games.

Projected Finish: 64-98, 5th in NL East

 

29. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

Off-Season Review

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As they plan to let a strong group of prospects lead the team in 2018, the White Sox were relatively quiet this off-season.  They added Wellington Castillo after several young catchers failed them, and they added a few guys to their bullpen.  They also signed Hector Santiago to top off the rotation.  But for the most part, they are happy with their young roster.  Sure, they could’ve added a veteran leader in the outfield or at third, or even added a new ace, but they can manage with the roster they have, especially if their younger players begin to break out.

The Case for the White Sox

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After a rebuild, the White Sox are ready to take steps back towards contention.  They will start off slow, but they will improve over the next few years, slowly but surely.  Guys like 2B Yoan Moncada, SS Tim Anderson, and CF Adam Engel are hoping to have strong seasons and help lead the team.  Meanwhile, guys like Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, and Lucas Giolito are looking to make an impact at the big league level.  This year will be about finding young leaders to help lead the team in the future alongside veteran 1B Jose Abreu.  I could see Giolito and Engel having strong seasons.

The Bright Spot

It’s younger players who are looking to become the new faces of the team.  But in the meantime, the White Sox have some strong veteran leaders.  Expect Jose Abreu to build upon a strong season.  I could also see James Shields bouncing back to lead the pitching staff and become a mentor for young pitchers like Kopech and Giolito.  Also, keep an eye out for younger breakout players.  Who do you think will emerge as a star on the White Sox in 2018?

Best Case Scenario: Chicago’s strong group of prospects are successful in the majors very quickly and lead the White Sox to a decent year in the AL Central alongside their veteran influences, who have very strong seasons.  In this scenario, they would come in 3rd over Kansas City and Detroit.

Worst Case Scenario: Jimenez, Kopech, and others fail to succeed at the major league level, and Abreu and Shields begin to decline quickly as the White Sox crumble.

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

 

28. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-Season Review

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The Tigers started off 2017 expecting to contend.  But injuries and old age caught up with them, and they ended up trading away their older players and heading into rebuild mode.  They still held onto Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, and Victor Martinez though.  Those four will mentor the younger players taking over, like Jeimer Candelario and Dixon Machado.  They could’ve used another veteran infielder, but instead, Candelario and Machado will start full time, and the only major free agent signings by Detroit were signing OF Leonys Martin and SP Mike Fiers, both of which they got done much earlier in the off-season than most of the free agent signings occurred.  Meanwhile, veterans Jordan Zimmermann, Francisco Liriano, and Mike Fiers, as well as younger starters Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris, will headline the new look rotation.

The Case for the Tigers

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The Tigers don’t have any blatant holes on their roster, but their roster lacks upside.  They have a lot of average players, but no clear superstar.  Even Miguel Cabrera’s numbers have taken a dip from dominant to average.  The question is, can Miggy rebound and lead this young team in 2018?  The Tigers will need someone to step it up and emerge as a true leader.  They have a good amount of veteran mentors, but nobody who can carry the team.  Who will break out and emerge as a star for them?

The Bright Spot

Like I said, it’s hard to name one leader or bright spot on this mediocre team, and mediocre teams with a lack of a leader and few experienced players are known to struggle.  I see Miggy and Victor Martinez rebounding for strong seasons and emerging as leaders.  Once the Tigers can find themselves a leader, they could be going places, as the younger players follow in their footsteps and help bring the Tigers back to the playoffs a couple years down the road.

Best Case Scenario: Detroit’s young roster gets off to a hot start, the well-balanced rotation thrives and Miguel Cabrera bounces back to lead the team as the Tigers jump right back into third place in Year 2 of a rebuild.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation cannot find an identity, Detroit’s younger players struggle and disappoint, Miggy continues to struggle, and nobody else steps up to lead as they end up in the American League basement.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 4th in AL Central

 

27. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-Season Review

In 2016 and 2017, the Pirates found themselves stuck in the middle.  They had a strong, but declining lineup and a rotation that was beginning to collapse.  This off-season, they made a definitive choice to begin a rebuild, and they started by trading Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, their best hitter and their best pitcher.  After that, their off-season was very quiet, and Spring Training will be focused on getting their young prospects ready to play every day in the MLB.  They got some of those prospects as a return from the Astros (who acquired Cole) and the Giants (who acquired Cutch).  That group includes RHP Kyle Crick, RHP Joe Musgrove, and 3B Colin Moran.

The Case for the Pirates

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The Pirates have made it clear what direction they’re headed in, and they will not contend in 2018.  They have some nice pieces that will help them alongside their top prospects in the coming years, but right now, the veterans are just there to keep the Pirates playing at a major league level (at the very least).  In the meantime, the Pirates will focus on getting their prospects ready.  Expect to see a lot of Austin Meadows, Colin Moran, Jordan Luplow, Josh Bell, Bryce Brentz and Max Moroff in the Pirates lineup.  All those guys are potential leaders for the next generation in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, their biggest need is a successful young pitcher.  They have yet to find one, but as soon as they do, expect to see him up in the majors getting a chance to prove himself.  The Pirates still have a decent lineup, so if they can get a few young hitters ready and fix up their rotation, expect to see them back in the playoffs in a few years.

The Bright Spot

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The Pirates still have a great group of guys in the outfield.  Not only do the Pirates have some good defense out there, but these guys will continue to lead the Pirates lineup.  Despite trading away Cutch, they have brought in Corey Dickerson, another power hitting outfielder to replace him.  They also have plenty of prospects who will see time back there including top prospect Austin Meadows.  Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco will also continue to serve as leaders on this team.  Their rotation may need work, and the infield has yet to find their starting mix, but this Pirates outfield is all set.

Best Case Scenario: Pittsburgh’s prospects crack the majors and make an impact quickly, Polanco and Marte continue to serve as leaders and mentors, and the young rotation looks a little better as the Pirates get right above the 70-win line.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries and struggles plague the Pirates rotation, Pittsburgh’s veterans decline, and the prospects are forced to lead the team and fail to handle the pressure as Pittsburgh collapses in Year 1 of their rebuild.

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

 

26. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-Season Review

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Last season I said the Padres were in a horrific rebuild after making a mistake in signing a bunch of veterans past their prime to lead the 2016 team and some of you disagreed, saying that the Padres have talent that will anchor their next generation.  Whoever said that is correct because now that the Padres have gotten their top prospects MLB ready, they are ready to take steps back toward contention mode.  Manuel Margot and Fernando Tatis Jr. are some of the young guns who can help lead this team, and the Padres have added a couple veterans to further boost the roster.

They may have made the biggest signing of the off-season when they added 1B Eric Hosmer.  They also acquired SS Freddy Galvis and 3B Chase Headley (who was here to start his MLB career) after giving up infielder Yangervis Solarte.  Wil Myers will also continue to be a veteran mentor as he returns to the outfield.  He will allow San Diego’s younger outfielders to platoon, and they will not be pressured to perform like everyday starters.

The Case for the Padres

After a brief rebuild, the Padres are headed back in an upward direction.  But legitimate playoff contention will take a year or two.  This year, their young roster will continue to develop as their veterans lead the team in an upward direction.  Once guys like Carlos Asuaje and 19-year old prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. are ready to contend alongside Hosmer, Myers, and co., the Padres will be going places.

The Bright Spot

In my opinion, Hosmer will emerge as a leader, star, and mentor on his new team.  With the Royals, Hosmer was never a sole leader or the face of the team, but he was on the brink of stardom as he continued to thrive in Kansas City.  In San Diego, he will emerge as one of the league’s premium position players as he leads the team and emerges as a superstar.  He is already an All-Star Game regular, but he hasn’t received the love and respect he deserves.  Now that he’s arguably the best player on his new team, he will completely breakout, and the league will recognize that.

Best Case Scenario: With an upgraded, well-balanced roster, the Padres will get off to a fast start and compete in the NL West.  However, in what’s arguably the toughest division in the league, they will not see the playoffs quite yet.

Worst Case Scenario: San Diego’s prospects disappoint in their first years, and the Padres fail to find leaders and mentors in their veterans, which will further affect the young guns as the Padres end up in dead last after they cannot handle the pressure of their division.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 5th in NL West

 

25. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-Season Review

Image result for sean manaea

Oakland did not do much this off-season, as many of their younger players are finally ready to become everyday players.  But they did make a few moves to enhance the roster.  They added young OF Stephen Piscotty to take some pressure off rookie CF Dustin Fowler.  Now Boog Powell and Jake Smolinski will be able to back Fowler up.  They also signed SP Trevor Cahill when Jharel Cotton lost his 2018 season to Tommy John Surgery.  Now the rotation will look something like this:

  1. Kendall Graveman RHP
  2. Sean Manaea LHP
  3. Andrew Triggs RHP
  4. Trevor Cahill RHP
  5. Paul Blackburn/Daniel Mendgen*

* A.J. Puk could eventually snag this rotation slot

Other than that, Oakland was pretty quiet this off-season, and it will not hurt them.  They didn’t need to do much to keep the roster in good shape.  But they will not contend yet.  That all depends on when guys like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and A.J. Puk breakout.

The Case for the Athletics

Image result for matt chapman

Like I said, the A’s are on the brink of contention, but they need a breakout star or two first.  They have a lot of great young pieces, and they are headed in an upward direction now.  They have a home run hitter too.  But they need a couple younger players to lead the A’s if they want to get back to the playoffs.  I don’t care who.  It could be Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Matt Chapman, Andrew Triggs, anyone.  I could personally see Manaea or Triggs breaking through, and I also like Olson and Chapman.  A.J. Puk is also a breakout candidate.  Although I do not have the Athletics contending this year, they could be in a great position by Opening Day 2019.

The Bright Spot

Image result for khris davis

The A’s may not be contending yet, but if they can combine rotation and lineup consistency with the power hitting core they already have, they can make a run at the playoffs.  Khris Davis was one of the Top 5 HR hitters of 2017 (the top three are now all part of the AL East).  Yes, only Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and J.D. Martinez hit more.  I see Davis repeating this over the next couple years, and combining that with Oakland’s flurry of young talent on the brink of a breakout could make for great things.  The future is very bright in Oakland.

Best Case Scenario: Davis continues to keep up with the best in the power-hitting department, many of Oakland’s younger players break through, and the A’s jump right back into contention with a record around .500, putting them in great shape for 2019.

Worst Case Scenario: Davis drops off, the rotation is plagued by injuries, and nobody emerges as a leader/star as the A’s disappoint and bore many in 2018.

Projected Finish: 68-94, 5th in AL West*

Note: Although I see a lot of potential here, they need to prove themselves before I can rank them too much higher.

 

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon.  I will also have my preseason Baseball Bits up before the regular season begins next week.  On a side note, I was unable to finish my March Madness previews, but my bracket is busted anyway, and you can click here for my second chance picks.  Also, stay tuned for my update on NFL free agency.

March Madness 2018: Previewing The Midwest Region

Welcome to my second annual March Madness preview series, where I break down each region on the bracket and pick my winners for the first two rounds and make my pick on who’s going to the final four.  If you’d like to see my full bracket, click on the link below.

Tournament Challenge – ESPN – Boston Sports Mania.pdf

I am starting with the Midwest region.  It was named the strongest region of this year’s tournament by Jim Nantz on the Selection Show, and I agree.  It’s top three seeds are Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for upsets.

Round of 64 Preview

Wichita: Games Start Thursday, March 15 at 2:00 PM EST on TBS

#1 Kansas Image result for kansas logo vs. Related image #16 Pennsylvania

Penn put up a nice victory over Harvard in the Ivy League finals.  But the Jayhawks have had another great season, and there’s no way they will lose to the #16 seed in the first round, something that has never happened to a 1 seed.  Ivy league things have had a strong history of upsets in the NCAA Tournament, but Kansas won a much bigger conference, the Big 12, and this will be easy for them.

The Pick: Kansas

 

#8 Seton Hall Image result for seton hall logo vs. Image result for nc state logo #9 North Carolina State

NC State had a strong season, and they deserved a tournament bid now that I think about it.  But their loss to Boston College was embarrassing.  They also lost to Georgia Tech, UNC Greensboro and Northern Iowa during the season, their best wins being over UNC, Arizona, and Duke.  The point is that Seton Hall has the better profile this season.  They’ve gotten more quality wins on a tougher schedule, and they match up well against NC State.

The Pick: Seton Hall

 

San Diego: Games Start Friday, March 16 at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#4 Auburn Image result for auburn logo  vs. Image result for charleston logo #13 Charleston

The Tigers were another team who had a late-season skid.  They were in the conversation for a 2 seed back in February, but an early loss to Alabama in the SEC tournament hurt them, and they went just 4-4 in their final 8 regular season games, including a loss to the 17-16 South Carolina Gamecocks.  But Charleston had it pretty easy in the CAA, and they aren’t the team to upset Auburn.  They are just 56th in RPI and had a very easy schedule.  Their strong defense will not be enough to top an all-around good Auburn team, who will win game one in their first NCAA Tournament since 2003.  Although they finished 4-4, the SEC was really good this year, and Auburn kept up and won the regular season title despite their conference tourney loss to Alabama.

The Pick: Auburn

 

#5 Clemson Image result for clemson logo colored background  vs.  #12 New Mexico State

The Aggies have had a better season than you might think.  They dominated in the WAC, ranked 35th in RPI, and scored more points per game than Clemson.  They’ve also allowed less PPG to their opponents than Clemson has.  Clemson skidded a little towards the end of the season after a great start, so they are not coming into this game with as much momentum as they would’ve liked.  Clemson’s schedule was much stronger, but recently, Clemson has struggled to keep up with their tough competition, going 9-8 in their final 17 games.  Meanwhile, NM State went 12-2 in the WAC while beating Miami, Davidson, and Illinois out of their conference.  I’m sensing an upset.

The Pick: New Mexico State

 

Pittsburgh: Games Start Thursday, March 15 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Rhode Island Related image  vs. Related image #10 Oklahoma

Oklahoma is another team that really struggled late in their season, but URI was not great in late season play either, losing to Davidson in the Atlantic 10 championship.  The Sooners did beat Kansas, Texas Tech, and TCU (twice) early on though.  They also beat Wichita State as well as Oregon and USC, who were both on the bubble before the Selection Show.  However, Rhode Island had a great season, and they had a fair share of quality wins.  They beat Providence and Seton Hall outside the Atlantic 10, and did not have any notably bad losses despite being swept by Davidson.  Their RPI is also 14th, which is great compared to Oklahoma’s #48 in RPI.  URI’s strong defense will shut down Trae Young and the Sooners, who have proven that they cannot always beat who they need to beat in losses to OSU, Baylor, Texas, and Iowa State in their final games before the tournament.  But Oklahoma will come close.

The Pick: Rhode Island

 

#2 Duke Image result for duke logo blue background vs. Image result for iona gaels logo red and yellow #15 Iona

After making the tournament for the third straight year, it’s about time Iona pulls an upset.  But Duke is not a team they can get past.  The Blue Devils, led by Marvin Bagley III (put up 21.1 PPG this season) have a dominant offense that the Gaels will fail to slow down.  Iona is just #108 in RPI, which is even low for a mid-major in the tournament.  Somehow, they still keep winning MAAC championships.  I don’t know when they’ll be able to go any further.

The Pick: Duke

 

Detroit: Games Start Friday 3/16 at 7:10 PM EST on CBS

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo vs. Image result for bucknell logo  #14 Bucknell

Bucknell did really well in the Patriot League, but they failed to grab hold of Quadrant 1 wins, and they had chances against UNC and Arkansas among others.  That means that they don’t have the same profile that other potential Cinderellas have, due to the fact that they failed to win quality games, even when given the chance.  MSU also had a pretty easy schedule, giving them fewer opportunities for quality wins, but any team who goes 29-4 in the B1G should beat mid-majors without quality victories with ease.  They will be led by Miles Bridges, the Spartans guard who averaged 16.9 PPG.

The Pick: Michigan State

 

#6 TCU Image result for tcu basketball logo vs. Related imageImage result for syracuse logo  #11 Arizona State/Syracuse

First of all, I have Syracuse beating the Sun Devils.  ASU struggled in a weak Pac-12, which weighs them down despite wins over Kansas and Xavier.  Syracuse had some nice wins despite a roller coaster of a season, and I can see the Orange winning.  TCU put up a nice season in the Big 12 after struggles in 2016-17, but they slipped up a couple times against mediocre teams like Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt.  I could see the same happening against Syracuse, who has had some strong wins mixed in with their tough losses, including one over Miami and one over Virginia Tech.  Syracuse advances to the Round of 32 after beating both ASU and TCU.

The Pick: Syracuse

 

Round of 32 Preview

If my first round picks are correct, the Round of 32 will line up like this:

#1 Kansas Image result for kansas logo vs. Image result for seton hall logo #8 Seton Hall

#4 Auburn Image result for auburn logo  vs.  #12 New Mexico State

#2 Duke Image result for duke logo blue background vs. Related image #7 Rhode Island

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo  vs. Image result for syracuse logo  #11 Syracuse

I think Kansas will beat Seton Hall here.  Seton Hall has had a nice season with quality wins in their conference on a tough schedule, but again, Kansas went 27-7 and won the Big 12 with the 2nd hardest schedule in the league, ranking 5th in RPI.  The Jayhawks have a dominant offense that will make the case for them.  I think there will also be more upsets in this round though.  New Mexico State will beat Auburn.  The Aggies were dominant all season, not just in the WAC but against high major non-conference opponents like Miami.  Auburn skid late into the season, going 4-5 to finish, losing to South Carolina in a regular season game and Alabama in the SEC tournament.  New Mexico State’s defense will shut down Auburn.

I see Rhode Island pulling an upset over Duke as well.  Name one game Rhode Island should be ashamed of losing.  There are none I can name, besides their losses to Davidson, and the Wildcats are underrated.  Duke has a history of losing in early rounds of the Big Dance, and they already lost to St. John’s, Boston College, and other lower tier teams this season.  I do think MSU will top Syracuse though.  The Orange may have had some good wins this season, but overall, it wasn’t a great season, and I think the committee had better options for the last team in when building the bracket, such as USC.  So don’t expect Syracuse to get past MSU and make the Sweet 16.  The Round of 32 is not out of the question though.

And The Projected Midwest Champion Is…

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo

With Duke being eliminated early by an underrated URI team, MSU’s odds to win this region will increase.  You could argue for them as a #2 seed, but they lucked out with their schedule, even though they might have to face Duke and/or Kansas, which would be tough.  They’ve had it easy in terms of scheduling all season, but they went 29-4, and just because their schedule was easy, it doesn’t mean they can’t beat other top teams.  Getting past Kansas will be tough, but I think this team is capable of great things.  This is their time to prove that they are the championship contender people think they are.

 

 

That’s all for this preview.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will take a look at the East Region.

 

 

 

 

NFL Week 7 Picks

Here are my NFL Week 7 Picks.  Last week I went 5-9, placing my overall record at 41-50.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

Teams on Bye: Detroit Lions, Houston Texans

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

Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi had another 100-yard game last week and he led Miami to victory.  Expect that to happen again against the Jets.  The Jets have allowed the 5th most rush yards per game this year (138.8), and Ajayi should be the next to dominate against them.  I also think Miami QB Jay Cutler will find an offensive rhythm against the young Jets D, as a good run game should set up the play action passing game.  The tough Dolphins front seven will pressure Jets QB Josh McCown and hold the Jets to field goals.  Dolphins win with ease.

 

Upset of the Week

Just because QB Aaron Rodgers is hurt, it doesn’t mean the Packers won’t win any games, especially at home.  I like Packers new QB Brett Hundley and he will get the chance to prove himself in this game.  The Saints will fail to pressure him and he’ll thrive in this game by spreading the ball around to top GB receivers Jordy Nelson and DaVante Adams.  Even without Rodgers, this will still be an offensive shootout as both teams have struggled defensively especially against strong passing offenses.  The Saints will fall short of the 52 they put up last week without the benefit of the home dome.  Packers pull the upset on the not yet frozen tundra.
TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday before the game)

I thought Kansas City would come into this game undefeated after winning their first 5 games but the Steelers had their number.  The Raiders will be able to do the same.  Oakland has struggled over the last couple weeks but at full health I expect them to rebound on Thursday Night.

Chiefs corner Marcus Peters will limit Oakland WR Amari Cooper but Raiders WR Michael Crabtree will have a huge game.  Raiders QB Derek Carr, Crabtree, and Raiders TE Jared Cook will dominate against a Chiefs secondary that lost playmaking safety, Eric Berry.  The Chiefs offense will make it close as QB Alex Smith finds a rhythm with his star tight end Travis Kelce but the rest of the offense will continue to look off their game against the tough Raiders D.  Raiders win in a close one.

 

Sunday’s Games


The Rams offense may have had an off week against Seattle last week, but I expect them to rebound this week and find ways to score against the tough Arizona secondary.  Defensively, the Rams will slow down RB Adrian Peterson after his big debut in Arizona.  However, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and his receivers will find a rhythm and thrive.  But in the end, I have the Rams winning in a close one as London will feel like home for them after playing there many times before.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston was injured in last week’s game but he’s expected to return this week.  I see him returning strong with 2 TDs as Bucs WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson will challenge the Bills secondary and keep breakout star S Micah Hyde without an interception in this game.  Hyde may lead the league in interceptions but he won’t have one this week.  The Bucs defense will shut down the Bills offense that’s without top TE Charles Clay.

The Vikings will find an offensive rhythm in this game even without WR Stefon Diggs.  WR Laquon Treadwell will continue to make an impact in Diggs’ absence and I also expect WR Adam Thielen to keep making plays for Minnesota.  However, they will struggle in the run game without RB Dalvin Cook, especially against the Ravens’ tough run defense.

Even with TE Kyle Rudolph matched up against Baltimore’s star safety Eric Weddle, the Vikings should be successful on offense.  Defensively, the Vikings will do a good job pressuring and shutting down Ravens QB Joe Flacco and give the Vikings offense plenty of opportunities.

The Titans offense will continue to look strong against a young Browns D that is still finding its way.  QB Marcus Mariota will play like he did on Monday Night against the Colts and should have another 300-yard game.  Defensively, I think the Titans will struggle to stop RB Isaiah Crowell and the Browns run game, but without a strong passing offense, the Browns won’t have enough to keep up with the Titans.  Cleveland QB Hogan will struggle and the Browns will fail to challenge the Titans in this game.

The Jaguars run game will dominate against the Colts this week.  The Colts weak defensive front will not be able to stop the Jaguars running game even with RB Leonard Fournette out with an injury.  Fournette was injured late in last week’s game and while his injury was not deemed serious, he has been ruled out for this game.  The Colts, however, will still be without star QB Andrew Luck.  Backup QB Jacoby Brissett will make some plays but the Jaguars versatile defense will limit him enough as Ivory carries the Jags to victory.

The Panthers will dominate offensively in this game as I expect RB Christian McCaffrey to make an impact in both as a runner and as a receiver.  In addition, QB Cam Newton will have a big day against a weak Bears defense.  Expect RBs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to struggle against a tough Carolina defensive front and force Bears QB Mitch Trubisky to carry the Bears offense.  It won’t be enough and the Panthers will win this one on the road.

The Cowboys will have a huge offensive day in San Francisco.  The run game will do especially well against the young 49ers defensive front.  The Cowboys’ dominant o-line will create running lanes for RB Ezekiel Elliott (still active thanks to winning another legal battle) as well as other Cowboys backs.  The 49ers may have some success offensively with rookie C.J. Beathard at QB facing a weak Cowboys secondary but they will be outscored by a large margin.

After seeing what the Steelers did to the Chiefs last week, I’m taking the Steelers.  They proved that they can win a big game against a tough AFC opponent.  Their defense will continue to step it up and they will shut down QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense.  I don’t see this being very high scoring as both defenses slow down their opponent.  In addition, neither Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown nor Bengals star receiver A.J. Green will have good games against these tough defenses.  I have the Steelers winning it at home by a touchdown.  

I think this week could be a turning point in the AFC West.  With this win for LA, the Chargers and Raiders will continue to gain on the Broncos and Chiefs.  By the end of the year, I still think the Raiders will take the division lead in the AFC West, as the Chiefs and Broncos falter down the stretch.  

In this game, the Broncos may limit RB Melvin Gordon but they won’t stop QB Rivers who will find enough time to connect with his receivers despite pressure from the Broncos front seven.  Siemian and the Broncos offense will continue to struggle as they did last week to become the only team to lose to the 1-5 Giants last week.  Even against a subpar Chargers defense, the Broncos will fail to find their offensive rhythm, especially without top WR Emmanuel Sanders.


Seattle has one of the top defenses and with the Giants top 2 WRs out for the season, I’m predicting my first shutout game this year.  The Seahawks defense will hold the depleted Giants offense scoreless.  QB Eli Manning will struggle without his star receivers especially because I see the Seahawks pressing him all day.  The Seattle offense will struggle as it has but will score enough to win in this defensive battle. 


Expect a Sunday Night thriller in this Super Bowl LI rematch.  I think Pats QB Tom Brady will thrive against the Falcons D like he did in the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, especially with star LB Vic Beasley banged up.  However, it won’t be easy for the Pats.  Falcons WR Julio Jones will dominate against a banged-up Pats secondary, and RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will have good days against a struggling Pats defensive front.  But in the end, Brady and the Pats offense will find a way just as they did in the Super Bowl.

This one should be fun to watch.  I expect the Eagles offense to explode for 5 TDs as the Redskins defense looks off their game.  The Redskins offense will also thrive, continuing their momentum from last week.  Washington will come close but the Eagles will come out on top in this Monday Night Football division showdown.  

Please comment with your thoughts.

NFL Week 2 Match-Up Preview

Another week of exciting football is almost here!  But unless you’re a fantasy football fanatic like me, watching NFL RedZone from 1-8 each week, or are a diehard fan of one team that plays at an off time, the one thing you don’t know is which games to watch!  Even if you are a diehard fan or fantasy football fanatic, there will be extra time to watch another game during Football Sunday.  That is the purpose of this article.   Who’s ready to dig in?

Each week, I will go over five of my favorite matchups. I will provide detail about each matchup so you know which game is for you. It’s an extended preview beyond my NFL Picks for my five favorite games.

 Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM, CBS

The Jaguars absolutely dominated the Texans last week and the Titans fell short at home against Oakland.  Week 1 showed the Titans aren’t necessarily up there with teams like Pittsburgh, Oakland, and Kansas City, and it also shows that the Jaguars are legit.  Will the Jaguars be a fluke as the Titans show what they can do, or will Jacksonville continue to thrive in the AFC South?

Keys to a Win

Titans

  1. The Titans can’t let the Jaguars defense control them.  They have a very good offense, led by QB Marcus Mariota and RB DeMarco Murray.  But they will continue to struggle if they let defenses contain them.
  2. They also need to take advantage of the fact that the Jags lack depth at receiver.  Allen Robinson is out for the season.  If nobody steps up in his place, the Jags will have an ugly season.

Jaguars

  1. The Jags need someone to step up at receiver.  They have no good tight ends, and right now Allen Hurns looks like their only viable option at receiver.  They need somebody to step up.  Maybe Marqise Lee will?  If he doesn’t, who will?  Dede Westbrook is on IR.
  2. They also need to stop the run.  Tennessee has a great run game.  But if the Jacksonville front seven can get in their heads, they will struggle.

3 Burning Questions

  1. With Dede Westbrook on IR, who will assist Allen Hurns at receiver for the Jaguars?
  2. What is the weak spot of Jacksonville’s D and will the Titans take advantage of it?
  3. The Titans have a lot of good players, but who will play like their superstar this week?

The Jags are running out of options here.  Could Max McCaffrey do big things?  If not, can Marqise Lee be their guy this season?  Hopefully, they can survive until Westbrook returns.  It’s hard to find a weak spot in this improving Jacksonville D, but the Titans should look to take advantage of the Jags d-line.  The Titans have plenty of budding stars on their team, but this week, I think veteran tight end Delanie Walker will be their go-to guy.

Key Injuries

Jaguars

  • Allen Robinson – WR (Knee) – IR
  • Calvin Pryor – SS (Ankle) – Out
  • Jalen Ramsey – CB (Ankle) – Questionable

Titans

  • Johnathan Cyprien – SS (Hamstring) – Out

Bold Prediction: With the receiving game lacking depth, the Jags score 2 rushing TDs as Fournette and Ivory will combine for 250 rushing yards

Leonard Fournette could be the Jags’ biggest weapon this week.  Chris Ivory will also continue to get touches.  I think both of them could be in for big games today.  It’s a pretty good match-up for them, the Titans lack a good front seven aside from defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.

The Pick

jacksonvile-jaguars

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM EST, FOX

This could be a very good game.  The Eagles looked great after a blowout over the Redskins, and the Chiefs look like one of the best teams in the AFC after pulling an upset over the Pats.  Will Carson Wentz and his offense keep flying, or will the Chiefs bring them back down to earth?

Keys to a Win

Eagles

  1. Carson Wentz can’t let the Chiefs pressure him too much.  The Chiefs defense knows how to rush the passer.  If Wentz can’t overcome a pesky Chiefs defense, the whole Eagles offense could fall apart.
  2. The Eagles can’t allow any 75-yard TDs like the Pats did.  Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill can be very dangerous for defenses.  They are both very fast.  Fast enough that they can speed past the entire defense.

Chiefs

  1. Whatever Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill had going last week will need to continue this week.  The Chiefs may be lacking offensive depth, but they don’t need it as much if Hill and Hunt can supply them with all the offense they need.
  2. With Eric Berry hurt, the Chiefs need to find a new defensive leader.  Justin Houston is a sack machine, but will he thrive in a defensive leadership role?

3 Burning Questions

  1. Will the Chiefs miss Jeremy Maclin after this week?
  2. Who will emerge as Carson Wentz’ favorite target?
  3. Which defense will have the better game?

I think the Chiefs will miss Maclin pretty soon.  I don’t care if Hill and Hunt are superstars, they will burn out eventually.  I think new receiver Alshon Jeffery will have a big week and emerge as Wentz’ favorite target this season.  Lastly, I think the Eagles defense will have the better game.  The Chiefs defense need a new leader.  The Eagles have a dangerous front seven that could really make Kareem Hunt look like a fluke if they do well.

Key Injuries

Eagles

  • Ronald Darby – CB (Ankle) – Out
  • Corey Graham – FS (Hamstring) – Questionable

Chiefs

  • Eric Berry – FS (Achilles) – IR
  • Parker Ehringer – G (Knee) – Doubtful
  • Reggie Ragland – OLB (Knee) – Doubtful
  • Ron Parker – SS (Ankle) – Questionable
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis – OLB (Illness) – Questionable

Bold Prediction: Carson Wentz will throw for 350+ yards, 3 TDs

Wentz really looked like an elite QB last week, and I expect that to continue throughout the season.  I think he will really develop as a QB this season.

The Pick

UPSET ALERT

philadelphia-eagles-logo

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 1:00 PM EST, CBS

This could actually be a close game.  Both these teams are coming off wins, but they were both against bad teams.  This game will really test if these teams are for real or not.  Who’s the contender in this match-up, or are both teams really pretenders?

Keys to a Win

Bills

  1. The Bills need to take advantage of the Panthers’ biggest weakness: their secondary, but do they have the receivers to do it?
  2. The Bills also need to keep Greg Olsen covered well.  His performance can really decide how the Panthers offense does.

Panthers

  1. The Panthers need to look out for LeSean McCoy.  They have a great front seven so it shouldn’t be too difficult.
  2. They also need Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel to be at their best.  The rookies on this offense could be the difference in who wins this game.

3 Burning Questions

  1. Who will lead the Panthers in receiving this week?  Will anyone have a 100-yard game?
  2. Will LeSean McCoy be able to score a TD against this Panthers defense?
  3. Will the Bills defense cost them the game if they can’t keep the Panthers offense under control?

Greg Olsen is going to have a big week for Carolina, I think he leads in receiving.  On the other hand, I don’t think LeSean McCoy will be able to score on Luke Kuechly and the Panthers front seven.  Lastly, I think there’s a chance the Buffalo offense will be able to save them in this case but it’s very unlikely.

Key Injuries

NONE

Bold Prediction: The Panthers will rush for 250+ yards 

Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey are both great running backs, but they’re not the only ones I see having big rushing games.  Curtis Samuel and Cam Newton can both run the ball so it won’t be as hard as it seems to rush for 250 yards.

The Pick

carolina-panthers-logo

 

 

 Sunday, 9/17/2017, 4:05 PM EST, CBS

The Dolphins will make their debut away from home as they visit the Chargers in LA.  With Tannehill out for the year, the Dolphins are not as sharp as they have been.  In the meantime, the Chargers could be in line to be better this season if they stay healthy.  In the end, these two things could combine to make this a very close game.  Who will come out on top?

Keys to a Win

Dolphins

  1. With Tannehill out, running back Jay Ajayi needs to step it up.  The Chargers defense isn’t that good so it might not be as hard as it usually is this week.
  2. The Dolphins need to rush the passer.  They have a great defense, and stopping Philip Rivers is the key to slowing down the LA offense.

Chargers

  1. The Chargers need to mix up who they throw it to.  They have so many good receivers and they can confuse the Dolphins secondary by doing this.
  2. They also need to contain Jay Ajayi.  Ajayi was a machine at times last season and he might be even more effective with Tannehill out.

3 Burning Questions

  1. Will Jay Cutler make a good connection with DeVante Parker like he did in the preseason?  If this happens, will Jarvis Landry struggle?
  2. Which third-year running back will have a better day, Jay Ajayi or Melvin Gordon?
  3. Do the Chargers have enough depth at receiver without Mike Williams?

I think Cutler will continue to connect with Parker, and Landry will not benefit from this.  In my opinion, Jay Ajayi will have the better day, but this is all about the match-up.  Melvin Gordon is facing one of the better run defenses in the league.  Lastly, between Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, and Tyrell Williams, I think the Chargers have plenty of receiving options.  Mike Williams will just add to that when he returns.

Key Injuries

Dolphins

  • Rey Maualuga – ILB (Hamstring) – Out
  • Jarvis Landry – WR (Knee) – Questionable

Chargers

  • Jason Verrett – CB (Knee) – Out
  • Mike Williams – WR (Back) – Out
  • Jeremiah Attaochu – DE (Hamstring) – Questionable
  • Dontrelle Inman – WR (Groin) – Questionable

Bold Prediction: Philip Rivers throws for 400 yards and 4 TDs

I think Rivers is set up for success if he takes advantage of the Dolphins’ weak secondary and his great group of receivers and tight ends.

The Pick

San_Diego_Chargers

  Sunday, 9/17/2017, 8:30 PM EST, NBC

Sunday Night Football tonight could very well be the game of the week.  This is a clash of two great offenses that just faced off in the 2016 NFC Championship.  Each of the last two times these teams clashed, the Falcons won.  Will the Falcons make it a streak, or will the Packers give them a rude awakening?

Keys to a Win

Packers

  1. The Packers need to find their run game and avoid being stopped by Vic Beasley and the Falcons front seven.  Hopefully, they’ll still be able to score rushing TDs without Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and Christine Michael.
  2. They also need to pressure Matt Ryan.  Matt Ryan isn’t the same elite QB when he’s pressured well.  With how inconsistent he is, it’s doubtful he’ll win MVP for the second straight year or even come close.

Falcons

  1. Whatever the Falcons had going on offense last year needs to continue.  Last year’s Falcons offense was one of the best in the league.  Will that continue into this season?
  2. The Falcons secondary needs to keep Jordy Nelson and Martellus Bennett covered.  Aaron Rodgers has some great receivers that could score multiple times if they aren’t covered well.

3 Burning Questions

  1. In their first real challenging match-up, will the Falcons offense look better, worse, or the same as they did last season?
  2. Which receiver will make a big impact for the Pack in this game?
  3. How will the Green Bay run game look?

I think the Falcons offense will be about as good as they were last season, not much better, not much worse.  They should be good enough to get them into the playoffs but not as far as they did last season.  I think both Nelson and Bennett will make a big impact for the Packers in this game, especially if the Falcons fail to cover them.  I don’t think the Green Bay run game will look that bad, and I’ll explain why in my bold prediction.

Key Injuries

Packers

  • Jason Spriggs – T (Hamstring) – Out
  • Ahmad Brooks – OLB (Concussion) – Doubtful
  • David Bahktiari – T (Hamstring) – Questionable
  • Kentrell Brice – SS (Quadricep) – Questionable
  • Bryan Bulaga – T (Ankle) – Questionable
  • Mike Daniels – DT (Hip) – Questionable

Falcons

NONE

 

Bold Prediction: Jamaal Williams will break out for 150 yards and a TD

He’s the reason why the Packers run game won’t be all that bad.  I think he’s a very intriguing rookie RB, one of many in the league.  By the end of this game, he will have stolen the starting job instead of Ty Montgomery.

The Pick

atlfalcons

 

 

That’s all for this week.  Comment what your favorite match-up of the week is.  Stay tuned for more NFL and Pats articles, including a recap of today’s Patriots game.