2018 NFL Week 4 Picks & Previews: Which Surprise Teams Come Back Down to Earth?

Welcome to my Week 4 NFL picks and previews.  It was a rough week for me last week, as I finished 6-10.  But luckily, I’m still 27-19-2 (28-19-2 including TNF Week 4) due to my strong week in Week 2.  I’m still ahead of 9 of ESPN’s 10 experts, and half of CBS Sports’ 8 experts. There have been a lot of surprises in the NFL so far this year.  Unexpected contenders have emerged, and what were perceived as some of the NFL’s best teams are struggling to keep up.  I definitely think this week will set some things straight.  Some of the expected contenders will start to surpass the surprise teams.  The question is, which surprise teams come down to earth first?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

QB Sam Darnold and the Jets offense looked good in the first couple weeks.  But this offense is still very young and has things to learn. I expect this dominant Jaguars defense to tear apart New York’s offensive game plan.  The pressure of Sacksonville will get to Darnold, which will mess up the entire offensive scheme for the Jets. The Jaguars offense doesn’t have to have a field day to win a game, and they’ve made that very clear.  RB Leonard Fournette will likely return this week.  They had been fine without him, at home against the Patriots!  Given that, this home game against the Jets with Fournette back should be a clinic in Jacksonville’s favor.  

Upset of the Week

QB Sam Bradford had clearly declined, and after two weeks, all Cardinals fans knew Bradford wasn’t the answer.  But Steve Wilks has finally put QB Josh Rosen in as the starter!  Rosen was my favorite QB of this year’s draft, and I expect him to completely turn around the Cardinals offense this week.  I don’t expect this kind of consistency throughout the year in 2018.  But this will give us a glimpse at what the Cardinals invested in down the road, kind of like what the Jets received from QB Sam Darnold in his first game.  I think Rosen can handle the rebuilding Seattle defense on his home turf. Look for Arizona’s tight ends to have an especially strong game as well.  Meanwhile, the Seattle defense will struggle to contain Rosen and RB David Johnson.  Their offense will see slight improvement with WR Doug Baldwin likely to return, but nothing significant as Arizona pulls off the upset at home.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter Thursday Night, Actual Score: 38-31 Rams)

Don’t expect an especially strong game from WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.  This Rams secondary is one of the league’s best.  However, the ground game will lead the way for the Vikes and make this close.  Look for QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley to lead the Rams to victory with the help of strong defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Miami’s receivers to thrive against a New England secondary that lacks a #2 corner.  #1 CB Stephon Gilmore will shut down WR DeVante Parker though.  However, this Dolphins run game is not the greatest, and if the Pats can shut them down, there is hope for the New England D.  I don’t think the Pats suck. Their last two Super Bowl-winning seasons started with 2 wins and 2 losses. Plus, they lost to a coach who knows them really well and their toughest opponent.  I think QB Tom Brady will find open men to lead New England to victory here.  This victory that will begin a long winning streak for the Pats.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Packers are a pass-first offense, and I don’t think the Bills will be able to keep them under control without CB Vontae Davis.  I don’t see this as a blowout though.  QB Josh Allen and the Bills offense will make it close.  But Green Bay will win at home by a comfortable margin, led by a dominant passing game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Matt Ryan and his newfound WR duo to overwhelm the Bengals secondary and score multiple TDs.  I don’t think the Bengals will be as strong on offense here without RB Joe Mixon. They will lose this one thanks to surprisingly strong defense by Atlanta.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think the Texans will do alright against the weak Colts defense in an effort for their first win.  But depth has been a problem for this team from the start, and that will hinder their success.  The Colts will give the Texans a scare.  This will be thanks to a pretty good week by QB Andrew Luck and his offense, even against the fierce Houston D.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

WR Rishard Matthews was released by the Titans this week.  Now, the Titans lack a healthy QB and lack WR depth.  That will cause the offense regressive struggles.  The Eagles defense will also do their job in shutting down Tennessee’s RB duo.  QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense will cruise to victory, especially if WR Alshon Jeffery plays.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect an offensive shootout here. Both these defenses are some of the league’s worst, and I think both these offenses are underrated.  The Cowboys pass defense will struggle excessively against the LIons strong WR corps.  However, I think QB Dak Prescott will finally turn it around against the struggling Detroit D.  This will lead them to a home win.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

I think the Bucs will start QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in this game.  Look for the Fitzmagic to continue, but will it be enough for the Bucs in Chicago?  I’m concerned that Tampa’s secondary will blow it for them against QB Mitch Trubisky and the Bears underrated WR corps.  I also feel that the Bucs young run game will struggle against Khalil Mack and the Bears run defense. These two things will lead Chicago to victory at home.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

QB Baker Mayfield will lead the Browns to another strong offensive game here against a declining Raiders D.  But you cannot sleep on these Raiders receivers. Against a young Cleveland defense, expect QB Derek Carr and the Raiders deep WR corps to dominate.  I also expect a strong game from Oakland’s running backs that assist Carr in an offensive shootout victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The 49ers will miss QB Jimmy Garoppolo here.  QB C.J. Beathard will do alright in LA, but he will be nowhere near Garoppolo’s level.  I don’t see him finishing the job for the Niners. Meanwhile, the Chargers offense will have a strong day against the 49ers young D.  QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, and the strong offense will lead LA to victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

QB Eli Manning and his receivers should do alright against a Saints defense that has significantly declined since last year.  But they will miss TE Evan Engram. Meanwhile, RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas will have dominant games that lead the Saints to victory despite an underwhelming game by QB Drew Brees.
SNF (Sunday, 8:20 PM EST)

The Steelers may be declining without RB Le’Veon Bell, but they are still an average team that can win some games without him.  I think the Steelers defense will be able to shut down the Ravens attack. Plus, QB Ben Roethlisberger will find plenty of weapons to lead Pittsburgh to victory, even without Bell.
MNF (Monday, 8:15 PM EST) (OT)

This will be a very close game.  QB Patrick Mahomes II will lead a strong Chiefs offense to a big game.  But the Chiefs are all offense, no defense, and they will struggle to contain Denver’s receivers.  I could see this going to overtime, but I don’t see the Chiefs winning with their run game struggling against the unstoppable Denver front seven.

That’s all for my Week 4 picks and previews.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

 

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Massachusetts Pirates Blowout Steelhawks in Final Regular Season Game, Playoff Bound

Yesterday I attended the final Massachusetts Pirates game of the regular season.   I won the tickets in a Mark Fidrych Foundation raffle at the 2018 Make Your Mark Kickoff Event.  (NOTE: the Make Your Mark softball tournament will be held on August 18th at Casey & Memorial Field in Northborough).  I went to the game with my dad, my longtime friend Paul Alfonso, and his dad Tony.

The Pirates play in the National Arena League (NAL), one of many Arena Football leagues across the country.  The season takes place between April and August, ending right around the start of the NFL season.  I’ve been to one Pirates game earlier this year when they played the Maine Mammoths back in May, so I knew that although Arena Football has many differences from NFL football, it was still very exciting.

Arena football is an 8 on 8 game.  There are no designated running backs, but offensive linemen will sometimes run the ball.  Typically, the starting offense is made up of a QB, three wide receivers, and four offensive linemen.  The defense typically has three defensive linemen, two linebackers, and three defensive backs on the field.  The Pirates fans are often called the 9th man, because like the Seahawks in the NFL, they are the league’s loudest fans.  The game is played on a 50-yard field rather than a 100-yard field and is often played in hockey stadiums.  Players will often be pushed into the boards which is considered out of bounds, but sometimes wide receivers dive over the boards to make catches and if they do, it’s considered a completion.  The downsized field makes for much higher scoring.  Although the uprights are narrower, kickers can often make it through the uprights on a kickoff from the opposite end zone, scoring what is often called a “deuce”, worth two points.  The smaller field also makes it so nobody ever punts.  On fourth down, teams will either go for it or go for a field goal.

The 10-5 Pirates were scheduled to play the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, the worst team by win-loss record in the NAL.  They had not won a game all season long, and they were 0-14 going into this game, their final game of the regular season.  The game was held at the DCU Center in Worcester, the home of the Massachusetts Pirates.  The stadium also currently hosts the Worcester Railers, the ECHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, and was formerly home to the Worcester Sharks (now the San Jose Barracuda), the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate.

We all made score predictions on our way to the game:

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We arrived at the game, bought some pizza, popcorn, and soft drinks, and took our seats.  Before the game, the Pirates welcomed members of the Special Olympics of Massachusetts team, who were attending the game.

The game began and the Pirates got off to a fast start after the Steelhawks won the toss and deferred.  Pirates QB Sean Brackett was out with a sprained ankle but QB Darron Thomas was doing a good job filling in.  He completed a deep pass to WR Lavon Pearson to get the Pirates close to the end zone.  A Pirates o-lineman ran in the TD to put the Pirates up 7-0.  Steelhawks kicker Spencer Hotaling was off to a rough start.  He attempted a “deuce” on the opening kickoff and missed.  He also missed in a Steelhawks FG attempt, but the Pirates defense had shut down Lehigh Valley quickly in their first drive, making for a difficult kick.  Despite a nice catch by WR Charles McClain, the Steelhawks were shut down again in their next drive, and Spencer Hotaling’s field goal attempt was blocked.

The Pirates scored another TD on a huge catch by WR Mardy Gilyard.  He was being covered very closely by the defense, yet he still scored.  Although Pirates K Ali Mourtada missed the extra point, he scored a “deuce” on the kickoff, making it 15-0 Massachusetts.

To start the 2nd quarter, Lavon Pearson made a catch that set the Pirates up to score another touchdown.

The Pirates scored another one soon after on a one-handed catch by Lavon Pearson.  The Steelhawks did not make much progress offensively in the 2nd quarter, and they were so far behind that they had to start going for it every time on 4th down.  With little time left in the half, the Pirates had one more scoring opportunity.  Darron Thomas had one long pass that was deflected into the stands but completed a long pass on the next down to make it 1st and goal for the Pirates.  The Pirates tried to eat some clock before scoring in order to make sure the Steelhawks did not get another chance before the half.  But they lost the ball in a fumble, losing the opportunity to score.  However, they were up 29-0 at halftime.  The Steelhawks nearly scored on a nice pass just before the half but failed.

During the half, I enjoyed a mini football game between the Worcester Police Department and the Worcester Fire Department.  More fans were rooting for the fire department but it ended in 14-14 tie.  Here is some video I took of this mini-game:

The Pirates scored another pair of touchdowns in the third quarter.  They scored one on a fumble by Steelhawks QB Patrick Ryan that was recovered for a TD by RJ Roberts, and the other on a deep pass to Lavon Pearson.  Ali Mourtada scored a deuce after that one to make it 44-0 Pirates.  Mardy Gilyard scored another TD just minutes into the 4th.  Here is Gilyard’s TD:

The Steelhawks scored their only TD of the game by recovering their own fumble. The ball was nearly recovered by two Pirates players but found its way into the end zone, where Jason Johnson recovered it for the TD.  The Pirates scored 2 more touchdowns before the end of the game.  Lavon Pearson scored on a long ball to make it 58-7 Pirates, and another Pirates TD was scored when Spencer Hotaling missed a long field goal that Pirates DB John Hardy-Tulieau returned for the touchdown.  Mourtada made one more deuce to make the final score Pirates, 67, Steelhawks, 7.  My dad came the closest to predicting the score but we all overestimated the Steelhawks offense.

During the game, I noticed a man with a laptop sitting near us.  I gave him my business card and it turns out that he was writing a recap on the game for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  His name was Bill Gilman.

The Pirates, who finished the season 11-5, will play at home in the NAL semifinals next week.  They will host either the #3 seed, the Carolina Cobras, or the #4 seed, the Columbus Lions.  It all depends on whether the Jacksonville Sharks beat the Maine Mammoths tonight.  If the Sharks win, the Pirates are the #2 seed and play Carolina.  Otherwise, the Pirates are the #1 seed and host Columbus.  The Steelhawks missed the playoffs after a 0-15 finish.

After the game, they allowed fans to walk onto the field for an autograph and photo session.  Paul and I took plenty of pictures on the field, some of them with Pirates players.  I gave the players and a couple fans my business card as well.  Paul got his Pirates football signed by all the players we took photos with.

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Me and Paul in the end zone
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With OL Cornelius Lewis
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With WR Mardy Gilyard
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With OL Bill Vavau
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With DL Kaelin Burnett
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With DB Cheatham Norrils
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With OL Thomas Claiborne

I even met Special Olympic powerlifter Joe Morrill, Team Massachusetts’ only powerlifter at the USA Games, on the field.  He had his USA Games medals with him.  He won two golds (combo and deadlift) and two silvers (bench press and squat).  He had roomed with Tyler Lagasse in Marlborough before.  Speaking of Tyler, I am meeting with him and his family at APEX tomorrow to celebrate his silver medal win at the USA Games, where I will go live on Facebook with Tyler and compete with him in simulation golf, go-kart races, Olympic bubble hockey, candlepin bowling, and other games.

I had a great time at the Pirates’ final game of the season.  Arena football is fast-paced and very exciting.  The rule differences from the NFL give football fans a nice indoor viewing experience during the NFL offseason.  I’d like to thank Ann Fidrych, Jessica Fidrych, and the Mark Fidrych Foundation for making this amazing experience possible.

March Madness 2017: Previewing the East Region

Welcome to Part 3 of my March Madness preview.  Last time, we looked at the Midwest region.  There were some potential upsets there but in the end, the top seeds rule that conference.  Now, we move on to the East Region, one of two regions that will truly define March Madness.  Yes, there will be some pretty hardcore madness in both the East and West.  Now let’s get to it.
Missed a previous article?  Check here:
 If you were also wondering about my full bracket, here it is.
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#5 Virginia Image result for virginia logo colored background vs. Image result for unc wilmington logo colored background #12 UNC Wilmington

Thursday 3/16 @12:40 PM EST on truTV

Virginia is a pretty good team, but I just don’t see them as a contender.  Sure, they had tough competition but they were very streaky and looked terrible at times.  UNC Wilmington didn’t play in as big a conference, but they were a much more consistent team.  They nearly upset the Duke Blue Devils last year in the first round.  UNC Wilmington has four players that average 12 PPG or more.  The Cavaliers only have one.  UNC Wilmington is the better team based on consistency and scoring and will pull the upset here.

The Pick: UNC Wilmington

 

#4 Florida Image result for florida gators logo colored background vs. Related image #13 ETSU

Thursday 3/16 @3:10 PM EST on truTV

Eastern Tennessee State was not even the favorite to win the Southern conference, a small conference.  I think you can trust the Gators here, at least in this round.  Sure, they’re an upset target after their SEC tourney performance.  But I think they can beat a team like ETSU, a team that wouldn’t be here without their conference tournament win.  Gators win easily in this round, but could the UNC Wilmington Seahawks give them trouble?

The Pick: Florida

 

#1 Villanova Related image vs. Image result for mount st mary's logo colored background  #16 Mount St. Mary’s

Thursday 3/16 @7:10 PM EST on CBS

Mount St. Mary’s just beat New Orleans in their First Four game, but beating Villanova, the defending champion and number one overall seed will be a much tougher challenge.  Villanova will have it easy here.  There’s no way the #1 seed will be beaten by the #16 seed, especially when it’s the #1 overall seed.  This game is going to the Wildcats in a clear blowout.

The Pick: Villanova

 

#8 Wisconsin Image result for wisconsin badgers logo colored background vs. Related image #9 Virginia Tech

Thursday 3/16 @9:40 PM on CBS

Virginia Tech has had a good season, but the Badgers are an underrated team that should be higher.  They were runner-up in the Big Ten tourney and regular season play.  Wisconsin should’ve been seeded higher, but even in the #8 seed, they could be a serious contender and sneaky dark horse team, especially if they face Villanova in the Round of 32.  That game could go either way.  Yes, I think Wisconsin is good enough to potentially beat the Wildcats.  They should be able to top the Hokies.

The Pick: Wisconsin

 

#3 Baylor Image result for baylor logo colored background vs. Image result for new mexico state aggies logo colored background #14 New Mexico State

Friday 3/17 @12:40 PM on truTV

Baylor started off the season very strongly.  They looked like a #1 seed.  However, towards the end of the season, they quietly collapsed.  They eventually started losing to teams like Iowa State and ended up far from the regular season Big 12 title.  The Aggies have found their way to pull some upsets in this tourney before, and they might have a chance to shock Baylor here while they’re on a downward track.  This game could actually go either way.

The Pick: New Mexico State

 

#6 SMU Related image vs. Image result for usc logo red background Image result for providence logo black background #11 USC/Providence

Friday 3/17 @3:10 PM EST on truTV

I know, SMU is one of the highest trending teams in the league and a serious sleeper, but their fate depends on this First Four game.  If Providence wins, SMU could move on to be a serious sleeper.  If USC wins, they could have the power to upset SMU before they can upset other teams.  USC just barely made it, but they weren’t so bad in a tough Pac-12.  Now that they’re here, USC could be very sneaky and dangerous for other teams.  They just have to beat Providence, which I think they’ll do.

The Pick: USC

 

#2 Duke Related image vs. Related image #15 Troy

Friday 3/17 @7:20 PM EST on TBS

Troy wouldn’t be here if they didn’t win their conference, and they weren’t even close to being the favorite to win it.  They were not even in the Top 5 in the Sun Belt Conference,  and they don’t have that hard a conference to play in.  Duke will surely be able to top them.  You can never count out Duke.  They had some inconsistencies this season, but this game is clearly in their favor.  They will at least make it far.

The Pick: Duke

 

#7 South Carolina Image result for south carolina logo colored background vs. Related image #10 Marquette

Friday 3/17 @9:50 PM EST on TBS

The Gamecocks finished the season poorly, but Marquette should not be here.  They’re 19-12 in the Big East and they made it to the NCAA Tournament.  South Carolina may have it easier than you think in the first round.  This could be anybody’s game, but this will be painful to watch.  The winner will go on to play Duke and likely be annihilated.  But in this game, I think South Carolina will edge out the victory.

The Pick: South Carolina

 

Round of 32 Preview

Here’s a look at what the Round of 32 may look like:

#1 Villanova Related image vs. Image result for wisconsin badgers logo colored background #8 Wisconsin

#4 Florida Image result for florida gators logo colored background vs. Image result for unc wilmington logo colored background #12 UNC Wilmington

#14 New Mexico State Image result for new mexico state aggies logo colored background vs. Image result for usc logo red background #11 USC

#2 Duke Related image vs. Image result for south carolina logo colored background #7 South Carolina

Like I said, Duke will annihilate South Carolina, or Marquette if they win.  Now for the true meaning of March Madness.  First off, it’s tough to pick between NM State and USC, but one of them will face Duke in the Sweet 16.  They probably won’t get much farther than that, though.  Now, the two upsets I will predict in this round are UNC Wilmington over Florida and Wisconsin over Villanova.  Despite Villanova being the #1 overall seed, it’s hard to win two years in a row.  Villanova has struggled as a #1 seed, and Wisconsin could be a very sneaky sleeper.  I also think UNC Wilmington is capable of making the Sweet 16.  Florida did not do well in the SEC tourney and UNC Wilmington is a serious dark horse.  That would send Wisconsin, UNC Wilmington, New Mexico State or USC, and Duke to the Sweet 16,

 

And the projected East champion is…

#2 Duke Related image

You can never count out Duke.  Still, the Blue Devils have been inconsistent, so they will make it far, but I don’t think they’ll win the championship.  However, the trio of Grayson Allen, Jayson Tatum and Amile Jefferson should allow Duke to come out of this region.  Especially if Villanova is upset like I think they will be, Duke could become a serious threat in this region.  Like I said, I trust all the #2 seeds to go far.

 

That’s all for Part 3.  In Part 4, the final part, we will look at the West Region, and I will share my reason behind my Final Four predictions.  Part 4 will be coming before the tourney starts on Thursday.

NFL Week 3 Picks

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The last two weeks have been big disappointments for me, in picks at least. I have been limited to just an 18-14 record in the last two weeks. I’m hoping this week is at least a 12-4 week, and so far I’m 1-0. Will this week be different? Read my picks to see how I’ll do in your mind. You can share your opinions in the comments.

Me vs. The Pros

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Lock Of The Week

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The 49ers did show promise the last couple of weeks, but they were up against defenses that were good in one area, and weak in another. Both the Panthers and Rams have a great pass rush, but their secondaries struggle. The Seahawks overpowered defense has no known weakness for the Niners to go at. The Seahawks will continue a low scoring trend and only score 20 against the Niners decent D, but this will be an all out shutdown game, as the Seahawks overwhelm the 49ers offense. The Seahawks will also continue their trend of being nearly impossible to beat at home. Quick win for the Seahawks.

Upset Of The Week

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At the start of the season, I had been saying that the Eagles will be terrible, but Carson Wentz has really impressed me these first two weeks and I have grown to like this 2016 Eagles offense. Sure, the defense still isn’t great, but they have something going on the offensive side of the ball. Personally, if everyone gives it their all, I think thy have enough willpower to shock the Steelers. I started the season thinking the Steelers were overrated, but right now the Steelers are just in a big pickle without many good receiving weapons besides Antonio Brown. The Steelers were already lacking depth on offense, now the problem has gotten out of hand. I say the Eagles pick up the win in an offensive shootout. Down with the Steelers!

 

 

The Other Games

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I originally thought the Bills revamped defense was going to win them this game, but no way in a million years will that happen! These Cardinals aren’t going anywhere. They are arguably the best all-around team in the league, and I thought the Bills were going to beat them. This week, I see the Cardinals scoring a good amount of points and the Bills offense not scoring quite enough to challenge the Cards. Yes, the Bills may look impressive early in the game like they sometimes do. But if they do, don’t expect them to hold the lead very long. The Bills haven’t made the playoffs since the 1990s. I don’t know what made me think they’d go back this year.

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You may be wondering why I predicted such a low scoring game when the Vikings could just throw the ball and take advantage of Carolina’s weak secondary if the Panthers offense doesn’t score as much as expected. But, you can’t throw the ball when your QB is being overwhelmed by a league-best pass rush. Sam Bradford will not have the chance to throw. He will be stuffed, over and over again. Without Sam Bradford at his best, the Vikings won’t have a chance in this game. Unless Bradford really is back to normal health and Philly was just a bad fit for him, I don’t see that happening. The Panthers pass rush saves their butts in this game.

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The Broncos defense will be good in this game against a weakened Cincinnati offense, but I think the most underrated unit in this match-up is the Bengals defense. They don’t have Vontaze Burfict back yet, but they have some great pass rush guys who are going to take care of Trevor Siemian. The Broncos offense will flop in this game after being pressured by the Bengals defense. Without Siemian playing well, this whole offense goes down the drain. That’s why a good QB was so important for this team. But Siemian has proved us wrong. In the last two weeks, he has proved to be a good QB. But this week, his lack of experience will just lash out against a tough D, and the Broncos will drop this game, especially since they’re on the road for the first time this season. As you know, the Broncos are a very different team at home, and it is hard to win at their stadium if your team is not named the Denver Broncos.

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The Lions offense will be a lot better in this game, but in Green Bay, the Packers will just be too tough to beat. The Packers offense is even better than the Lions offense. This game should be fun to watch. I see a very high scoring game where good defense is nowhere to be found. Especially without Ameer Abdullah though, the Lions offense won’t have nearly enough in them to compete with this Packers team. Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, what a great offense. They won’t let Packers fans down at Lambeau. In addition, the Packers defense is at least mildly better than the Lions D. Clay Matthews and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are a lot better than Haloti Ngata and Glover Quin in today’s NFL.

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The Ravens have really bounced back this season. Mike Wallace has been straight-up awesome, and this offense looks like it belongs to a playoff contender again. But what, you think they’ll go so far that they go undefeated? No way! The Jaguars were robbed in the first two weeks of the season, and I expected a lot better. I also expect that the young offense will bounce back this week, and earn themselves a big win. Look, the Jaguars beat the Ravens a year ago, when both of these teams were bad. This year, they’re both revamped, and in Jacksonville, the Jags should win again. They have revamped defense, young offense, and at least at the start of the season were spectated as as much of playoff contenders as the Ravens are. Expect the Jags to pull off a lot of upsets in the coming weeks, even with a tough schedule.

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Okay, the Dolphins aren’t typically this good, in any game. But this is the Browns, down to their third string QB, with a defense terrible as always. The Dolphins will rout the Browns, the defense will look better than usual, and the Dolphins offense that’s full of potential will take advantage of the Browns weak defense. I think this week we will see a very different Dolphins team than usual. Ryan Tannehill will look better, DeVante Parker will have a breakout-leading game, and Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron will also be on their best. I know Arian Foster is out, and they’re down to Jay Ajayi at running back. But the Dolphins offense, especially Tannehill and his receivers and tight ends will do strongly against the weak Browns D.

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This is going to be a very interesting game. For the first of two times this season, Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. are going to be going at it again. I think the Giants will try and use the rest of their offense to power past the Redskins. OBJ will have a very tough match-up, but Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz will get some receptions and possibly a TD as well. The running game will also be strong, and the defense should still be good. Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense will have success, but not enough to top the Giants. Towards the end of the game, the Giants offense will lash out and the defense will shut down the ‘Skins for the remainder of the game.

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Yes, the Titans offense has shown improvement. But the Raiders are shaping into a decent all around team. The Titans defense is still an absolute joke. Derek Carr and his offense will dominate the Titans D, and while the Titans offense tries to do the same to the Raiders and make this a shootout, the Raiders defense will take charge, overpower the Titans, and hold them to one TD. The Raiders are highly underrated, and will take a win here, earning them a winning record once again. Marcus Mariota and the Titans will try, but the all-around revamped Raiders will be too much for them. Amari Cooper should have a huge game against a weak Titans D, and Derek Carr and the Raiders will get a big win.

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The Buccaneers had a rough week last week, but they enter a much easier match-up. I see Jameis Winston and the offense bouncing back, making fans remember what Winston did in Week 1. The only reason the Rams did win last week is that the Seahawks offense is not great on the road. The Rams are not that great a team, especially if they’re not even going to start the 1st overall pick. Look at what Carson Wentz has done in Philly! For now, the underrated Buccaneers defense should beat the Rams down, and Jameis Winston will bounce back completely against a much easier NFC West opponent this week. That should lead to a big win for the Bucs.

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The Chargers offense has been brilliant the last two weeks. But even with Andrew Luck struggling last week, Andrew Luck will be on his best this week, and lead the Colts to a big win over the Chargers. The Colts defense should be able to hold up the Chargers, and prove their big push faulty. I actually think the Colts defense has improved in the last 2 years. Andrew Luck and the offense will also be a lot better against the weak Chargers D, and the Colts should get an easy win here. I don’t know why so many people think otherwise, or even think about picking the Chargers.

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This is a very intriguing match-up. The Jets offense is pretty good, and Matt Forte has looked awesome. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have a good connection with Ryan Fitzpatrick too. The Chiefs defense is also really good, and the Chiefs are really a great all around team this year. I think the Chiefs pass rush and the rest of their strong defense will overpower the Jets decent offense, and the Chiefs powerful offense will be too much for the Jets defense. Basically, this game is good against decent, and the Jets will compete, but the Chiefs should grab the win in the end.

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Dak Prescott was really impressive in the preseason. But in regular season, he hasn’t been quite as good. This week will be an easy match-up for him, but the Bears offense is good, and upset hungry. This will be a pretty high scoring game, but in the end the Cowboys will win. Dak Prescott will show signs of bringing back preseason glory. Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and Jason Witten could be dominant with a good QB. The Bears offense will take advantage of the easy Cowboys D, but they don’t have the Cowboys’ dominance, and that will be the difference in the game.

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The Saints defense will give up some points, but the offense is still really good, and I still trust them after a disappointment last week. The Falcons defense honestly isn’t great either, and this Saints offense still looks great at its best. Mark Ingram, Brandin Cooks, Coby Fleener and Drew Brees all have it in them. This one should be a high scoring game, and the Saints offense will make up for a terrible defensive performance against Matt Ryan and the Falcons. This will be a good game for all fantasy players, even Matt Ryan owners this week.

TNF

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I was right that Jacoby Brissett actually would lead the Pats to a victory, but I was wrong about Brock Osweiler’s offense. The Texans defense is really good, despite weak spots. I didn’t expect Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins to do so badly against the Pats defense. One thing I did know is this would be a watchable game that is a preview of the playoffs. The Texans were doing well with Osweiler, and I think they still will, but the Patriots were too tough for them. Nobody messes with the Pats. They’re 3-0 already, and I’m sure they’ll continue to do well.

This week is full of good games, surprises and upsets in my opinion, but what do you think of this week’s games? Comment your picks below!

 

 

 

NFL Divisional Round Picks: Seahawks Win Again, Pittsburgh, Green Bay Just Lose

The playoffs have began to unfold, and at this point we have gotten to the Divisional Weekend.   This is the weekend that decides the final four teams, and the top 28 teams, maybe top 27 if the Pats lose, draft picks.  But I doubt it’ll be 27 because the Pats have the biggest lock of any favorite and seek revenge on the team that blew them out in 2014 like they did to the Texans last week.  Here’s an overview of all my score predictions.  Then I’ll talk about each individual game’s match-up.

NFL Postseason Schedule

Divisonal Round Playoffs Time (ET) Stadium TV
Sat, Jan 16
4:35 PM
Kansas City Chiefs
(11-5)
@ New England Patriots

(12-4)
Gillette Stadium CBS
Sat, Jan 16
8:15 PM
Green Bay Packers
(10-6)
@ Arizona Cardinals

(13-3)
University of Phoenix Stadium NBC
Sun, Jan 17
1:05 PM
Seattle Seahawks
(10-6)
@ Carolina Panthers

(15-1)
Bank of America Stadium FOX
Sun, Jan 17
4:40 PM
Pittsburgh Steelers
(10-6)
@ Denver Broncos

(12-4)
Sports Authority Field at Mile High CBS

Patriots, 30, Chiefs, 23

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Minitron stars and the defense steps up as the Pats get revenge on the Chiefs.

 

 

 

 

The last time these two teams played, the Pats lost to the Chiefs by 27 points.  But things are different this time.  First the rosters.  The Pats have gone younger, the Chiefs are without Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe (gone now) and newbie Jeremy Maclin (questionable with injury).  Second, the place.  The game was in KC last time, but the Pats host them at Gillette this time around.  Third, the environment.  It was the regular season on Monday Night Football last time, this year it’s a 4:30 playoff game on a Saturday.  Fourth, the conditions.  It may be rainy again, but it will be colder, with more of sleet-ish showers.  The other difference is that it’s winter.  That all completely changes the game.

The Chiefs have plenty of offense, Charcandrick West, Travis Kelce, Albert Wilson, Knile Davis and Jeremy Maclin if he play, but this is a defense based team with an offense that has good individuals, but lack overall depth.  The Pats defense should be good enough to contain the Chiefs offense at least they can’t fully emerge and pick off Alex Smith, or return fumbles for touchdowns.  They’re good enough to limit them to 20 or 25 points.  The question is, is Tom Brady protected enough by a weak o-line and is the offense healthy enough to outscore that?

Some keys to the Pats offense doing well are the o-line providing enough protection, with or without Sea Bass.  They also need all their best receivers in the game, like Gronk and Edelman, to improve how the Pats do on 3rd down conversions and increase how often they score to what it was before the injuries got to this point of severity.  That is how they can get revenge.  Also, I could easily see that happening because the Pats are pumped up.  Belichick probably showed the tape from these two teams’ last meeting.  They want revenge and Belichick explained to them how to do it and had guys like Jimmy Garroppollo try to mimic Alex Smith and the Chiefs’ play style for the defense while backups on defense likely mimicked Justin Houston and Tamba Hali for the o-line and Brady to prepare.

Cardinals, 30, Packers, 26

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The Packers try their hardest, but the Arizona offense and defense steps up and works as a team to win them the game.

Injuries have made a big impact on the playoffs.  I originally went with the Cards.  When I first broke it down, I changed my mind and went Packers.  But with Davante Adams out, I now have Arizona again, because I had Adams scoring the go-ahead touchdown.  Yup, injuries can decide a lot.  This game is a rematch of the ugly match-up in Week 16, when the Cards blew Green Bay out.  Aaron Rodgers struggled as the Arizona defense attacked him  Last week, Rodgers really shined.  Now he has a move on going and they might actually have a legitimate chance.  The Packers’ other issue though, is their own defense.  They have a ton of minor names that you may know but they don’t do much, like Damarious Randall, Sam Shields and Micah Hyde.

Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense can surely score on them.  They have the weapons, Fitzy, Michael Floyd, John Brown, David Johnson and Andre Ellington, despite injuries and they have the teamwork.  Meanwhile, the Packers offense has began to really get a move on.  Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, James Starks, James Jones and Richard Rodgers struggled at one point but are all on their highest end of their seasons.  But the Cardinals defense, in some ways, can match up to them.  They got the RBs with a good rush D, but don’t have quite that good a secondary without Tyrann Mathieu healthy, not enough to even guard both Randall Cobb and Richard Rodgers, unless guys like Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers step up, but for those reasons, the Cardinals will slip away and prevail.

 

Seahawks, 33, Panthers, 24

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Marshawn Lynch leads the Seahawks offense in his return and gets them the win.

 

If I was still doing lock and upset of the week, the Pats would be my lock, while this would be my upset.  But I say Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks keep rolling.  Lynch being back will really help.  Despite the fact that the Panthers beat the Seahawks, the Panthers only beat one other team with a record above .500.  The other 13 were against pretty bad teams.  So I thought they were the most likely to go one and done.  The Panthers have a pretty good offense,but the Seahawks defense matches up with them and will hold them up.  The Panthers defense is really good too, but I really think the Seahawks are bouncing back from a rough start and they will outlast the Panthers.  Even with Jonathan Stewart back, Beast Mode is too, and Beast Mode is boss.  He’s really good.  Top 5 running back in the league.  So Beast Mode leads the Seahawks offense and they earn a nice win.

 

Broncos, 27, Steelers, 20

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The Broncos offense could struggle a bit, but the Steelers offense is too banged up and the Broncos defense is good enough anyways.

Again, injuries make an impact.  I would have went Pittsburgh if Antonio Brown was playing, Big Ben could even be out.  But the Steelers are battling a seriously banged up offense, and their offense is what took them to the playoffs.  Especially against an amazing, healthy Denver defense, the Steelers offense I don’t think will have enough power to score that much.

But the Denver offense is a little banged up itself, and it is very feast or famine, especially with Peyton Manning back in the mix.  Risk of them struggling is high, even against such a weak defense.  But I think the Denver offense has just enough in the tank to edge the Steelers.

 

So those are my picks for the Divisional Round.  Comment with your thoughts.

NFL Playoff Picks: Wild Card Weekend

4 non division winners will challenge the teams the edged a division win.  First, which teams are more of super bowl threats?  Second, who will win?  Let’s start with a look at my straight up playoff bracket.

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I have the Seahawks knocking out the top 3 NFC seeds and losing in the Super Bowl, and the Steelers upsetting Cincy in the wild card round but losing to Denver.

Here are my picks:

Texans, 23, Chiefs, 20: Saturday, 4:35 PM EST

Both of these teams are on fire.  Kansas City has clearly shown themselves by winning 10 straight.  Houston struggled for a longer period of time, but have bounced back with 3 wins in a row.  This will come down to every last second.  The Texans have DeAndre Hopkins at his prime, who has broken out this year, and the Chiefs have Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin who will make an impact.  But one thing that will surely impact this game is defense.  In my opinion, both teams have a top 10 defense in the league.  They both have extremely powerful pass rush and good to decent secondaries.

I don’t think this will be very high scoring, and I think it will come down to a field goal.  Neither of these kickers, Nick Novak and Cairo Santos, are that good, but Santos has been streaky in good and bad ways.  Novak once was very solid.  I think Novak still has some of that consistency in him and that he can save the Texans’ butts in this game.

Steelers, 34, Bengals, 26: Saturday, 8:15 PM EST

I think that Pittsburgh’s run game will really miss DeAngelo Williams, not to mention Le’ Veon Bell.  But the powerful pass and a solid QB in Big Ben should make up for it as he throws four TDs in this 8 point upset win.  Ben Roethlisberger will go to his favorite trusty receivers, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Heath Miller, maybe Darrius Heyward-Bey, Matt Spaeth and Jacoby Jones for a bit.  But the point is, Ben Roethlisberger and the pass will make a huge impact.

The Bengals on the other hand, have just mediocre receiver depth with a QB that’s a novice to the playoffs.  Their run game trumps Pittsburgh as it’s at full health, but passing and QBs, along with experience are very important in the playoffs.  Despite a much better defense than Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ offense will pay off.

 

Seahawks, 30, Vikings, 24: Sunday, 1:05 PM EST

Despite missing Marshawn Lynch this week, Seattle still has a shot to take down the Vikes on Sunday.  The Seahawks are starting to discover a decent pass game, and the defense has been awesome.  The pass rush should be good enough to limit AP, especially if he’s still a little banged up.  The secondary should help limit Teddy B’s new receivers as well.

The Vikings defense is still young and developing, and should be able to limit the Seahawks, but not as much as they limit Minnesota.  Seattle has edge in that way, and they should win, despite a weaker, more injured offense.  They have great sleepers that haven’t come out of their shell yet this season.

Packers, 34, Redskins, 27: Sunday, 4:40 PM EST

I think this is a game that will be surprisingly high scoring due to bad defense.  Aaron Rodgers is finally starting to throw the ball around a bit, and Eddie Lacy has begun to return to full form. James Starks has done well too.  This team has gone a little bit young, but is growing power once again, power that may be strong enough to take out a top seed team after this.  But Kirk Cousins will provide a challenge.

He has found his guys that he needs to win games and the Skins’ offense works very well together as a team.  They’re good too.  They’re o-line is much better, they have some reliable young receivers and the whole team is beginning to re-develop.  But in the end, the Washington secondary is just too empty to stop the Packers in their reign and they will win by a touchdown or so.

So those are my picks for the week.  Comment what you think will happen in the games.

 

10 Bold Predictions For The Upcoming NFL Season

1 day into the season, here are some things to look out for.

1.The Cowboys will sign Montee Ball, and he’ll dominate

Montee Ball was ditched by Denver last season after injury.  Before then, he was a star.  Now CJ Anderson is there.  In Dallas, their old star, DeMarco Murray, is gone.  Ball can fill in that slot, and I believe he can make a comeback to the top 10 fantasy running backs.  The Dolphins may also need him to backup Lamar Miller, but Dallas is a better fit for Ball. Comeback Player of The Year, no decision.

2. Peyton Manning will conclude his NFL career

This year I think is Peyton Manning’s last. Manning is getting older, and he isn’t as dominant anymore.  I would rank Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford before him, at this point.  The burning question is, how will to Broncos do without him?  Unless they get a sharp rookie QB, not as good.  More like 10-6, 9-7 than 12-4, 13-3.   I expect Manning to announce his retirement any moment now.

3. The Packers will struggle at receiver

The Packers still have Randall Cobb, but Davante Adams is not a WR2, and James Jones is not a good WR3.  they’ll depend on Aaron Rodgers, Cobb and Lacy.  Who else do they have.  This is not as dominant of an offense without poor Jordy Nelson.  Nelson is amazing, probably top 3 in the league, of any position, along with Rodgers and DeMaryius Thomas.  Hope for 11-5, 12-4 if the D is sharp.

4. The Seahawks defense will slow down

Besides Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, who do they have anymore.  This years ‘Hawks will be more base offense, using Marshawn Lynch, and Jimmy Graham like their wide receiver that can fill that hole, while they continue using the same old guys like tight ends.  I wouldn’t be shocked if Graham became a receiver permanently. This is another slowing team.  In the future, look Eagles, Cowboys, Colts, Ravens, Steelers, Pats and Bengals.  Maybe also the Pack if Nelson returns.  Not the Seahawks as much.

5. The Texans will not perform offensively

the defense in Houston is amazing.  J.J Watt and Vince Wilfork on one defense, joined by Brian Cushing, Jadeveon Clowney, and Johnathan Joseph.  But the offense, when you think about it, isn’t so great.  Brian Hoyer is not very good, and with Arian Foster out, Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and  Jonathan Grimes are the only running backs left.  And at receiver, DeAndre Hopkins I think is overrated.  Then you have Jaguars and Titans former sleepers Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts III.  Shorts could be alright, but I don’t feel it in Washington.  And that leaves you with rookie Jaelen Strong, and I feel that Strong is a strong player.  Then at tight end, Garrett Graham, C.J. Fieodorowicz and A.J. Griffin.  The offense is not as good as you might think.

6. The Vikings won’t get better, but get worse

This sounds stupid, stating the fact that Teddy Bridgewater is emerging and Mike Wallace got bring some power to his options, but the defense has not improved very much, and that will impact the team.  Adrian Peterson has returned, but that thins their other options.  If they don’t play, what happens if Peterson gets hurt like he did in 2013?  At receiver, it’s the same.  After Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson are the next best options.  And the tight ends are better that 2014, but they can’t always catch passes.

7. The Buccaneers go 2-3 in the first 5, but won’t win another game

The Buccaneers have easy matches against the Titans and other bad teams early on that they can easily win.  But when their schedule gets tougher in the last eleven weeks, don’t expect another victory.  Everyone on the Bucs is pretty much a sleeper or developing player.  EVERYONE.  Even Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey.  When they don’t have an easy match, they can’t win.

8. The Rams will make the playoffs

Things are looking up in St. Louis.  Nick Foles is a less injury prone quarterback, so that straight-up trade for Foles was worth it, even if it was good for Philly too.  At wide receiver, I see potential in sleepers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt.  These two players never fully adapted last season, and they can this year.  The defense has also improved.  Aaron Donald should be better in year two, and Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree should still be within stardom.  There are also many more offensive sleepers that push it so much, that the Rams should get an NFC wild card, giving them a ticket to the playoffs.

9. Matt Ryan, Tevin Coleman and the Falcons will have a bust season

I wouldn’t go expecting much from rookie Tevin Coleman, or any Falcons running back, and I have a feeling Matt Ryan will also have a bust season.  Even with Julio Jones and Roddy White at receiver, the rest of the offense is in bad condition.  And the defense isn’t any better.  The Falcons are not going to perform this season, at least that’s what I think.

10. The Colts will power the defense to win Super Bowl 50

The Colts already have a great offense.  Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, TY Hilton and Andre Johnson are all primed for a breakout.  And there’s more.  Don’t forget Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.  The Colts will be the best offense in the NFL.  But imagine the defense doing the same.  Dwight Freeny, Robert Mathis, D’Qwell Jackson and Vontae Davis are all great players. What stops them from working together to make the defense much better than it really is?  They have super bowl potential.