Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

The match-up is set.  The Patriots and Eagles will face off in Super Bowl LII.  Today I will address how they got there, and give you your first look at the match-up.

But first here is the official schedule for my Super Bowl LII Preview. This will be part of each Preview article and will include links to the articles that are finished.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance

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

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

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

How They Got There

Patriots

 

The Pats won in comeback fashion again, this time against the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20.  Early on, Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette, Corey Grant, and the rest of the Jaguars offense dominated, taking a 14-3 lead and challenging the Pats for their chance at making it to their 10th Super Bowl, and their 8th with Tom Brady.  The Pats were unable to stop this powerful Jags offense for most of the 1st half, although they did narrow Jacksonville’s lead with a TD before the half, making it 14-10.  The Jaguars’ powerful pass rush also got on Tom Brady’s nerves in this half.

By halftime, Pats fans were getting worried, and some (but not me) gave up hope.  But the 2nd half brought a turn-around for the Patriots.  In the 3rd quarter, we began to see a better defensive performance by New England, as they held Jacksonville to just a measly 3 points in that quarter.  Lawrence Guy was able to sack Bortles as he led the Pats defense to begin to get pressure on him.  The Jags scored another field goal to begin the 4th and led 20-10.

But better defense set the Pats offense up to come back in the 4th quarter.  Despite TE Rob Gronkowski being ruled out with a concussion, the Pats came back, led by Brady, Danny Amendola (who scored both 4th quarter TDs) and Brandin Cooks.  The Pats came out of nowhere after being down by 10, scoring 14 unanswered points to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl.  But how will they fare against the Eagles, who obliterated the Vikings?

Eagles

 

The Vikings got off to a fast start as Case Keenum connected with TE Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown.  But after that, Nick Foles broke out, leading the Eagles offense to blow away an otherwise unstoppable Vikings defense.  He somehow tossed 3 TDs and 352 yards against the typically dominant Vikings D.  I also don’t know how this defense gave up 38 points.

Not only did Foles do well, but his top four receivers (Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor) all had over 50 yards receiving, combining for 306 of Philly’s receiving yards and all 3 receiving TDs.  The combination of end zone back LeGarrette Blount and lead running back Jay Ajayi also had a big game compared to recent performances.

After that win, the Eagles truly do deserve to fight for that Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis, although it would have been cool to see Minnesota win it at home, or be stopped by the Patriots dynasty.  But will the Eagles put up the same numbers against New England, who has far more experience in the Super Bowl?  Many of New England’s players don’t even know what it is like not making the AFC Championship game.

A First Look at the Big Game

With TE Rob Gronkowski on the practice field as of Saturday the 27th, it’s a good sign that Gronk will be able to clear the concussion protocol and play by Sunday’s big game. Gronk’s status will help determine New England’s offensive schemes against an Eagles defense that can be tricky at times.

Either way, especially with T Marcus Cannon injured, DT Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line could pressure QB Tom Brady and hit him a few times. But I do think Brady should be able to find his receivers against the younger, but still powerful Eagles secondary. With or without him, Gronk will have to get past Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins among others as they will likely keep the star tight end double covered.

Brady will have to mix it up a little, not only passing to Gronk, and dependable passing backs James White and Rex Burkhead, but also to his wide receivers who helped him win with Gronk and Burkhead out late into last week’s game. Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and/or Chris Hogan could have a big game here. But will we see the Eagles look like their inconsistent selves again, or will we see QB Nick Foles and the Eagles offense pick up where they left off?

If they can, they will significantly challenge the Patriots, whose pass rush has struggled to pressure the QB at times this season.  However, it has gotten better since LB James Harrison joined the Patriots.  Not only has he himself made an impact, but he’s also made an impact on other players’ performances, serving as a veteran influence.  The Pats sacked Jags QB Blake Bortles twice last week.  One was by Harrison, and the other by DT Lawrence Guy.  However, the Eagles give Foles better protection than Bortles gets with their strong offensive line.

This also helps running backs, who the Pats have struggled even more against.  In their Week 7 win against Atlanta, their big flaw was giving up big plays to Devonta Freeman.  It cost them in Week 1 against Kareem Hunt.  Can RB Jay Ajayi be next?  Will end zone threat Blount Force Trauma get revenge on his former team?  Or will it be younger RBs like Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood who thrive?

The good news is, despite their front seven woes, they have maintained a strong secondary all season long, and don’t be surprised if they annoy Foles’ receivers and pick Foles off a couple times. I do think Foles will continue to thrive though, finding his receivers for most of the game, but making brutal mistakes against this strong secondary that cause the Eagles offense to trail a little behind the “Brady Bunch.”

Who will win Super Bowl LII?  What is the game plan for each team?  What Super Bowl and season-long stats will burden, encourage and/or influence each team?  Find out this week as I release more articles each day.

NFL Divisional Round Picks: Jags Shock Pittsburgh, Vikes Win in Shootout

Welcome to my Divisional Round Picks.  In the Wild Card Round, I went 3-1.  Who will come out on top this week in order to fight for Super Bowl qualification next week?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

(6) Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles (1)

Saturday: 4:35 PM EST on NBC

Eagles, 37, Falcons, 30

Even with QB Carson Wentz injured, I see Philly winning this one.  The Falcons offense is pretty good, but even with Nick Foles at QB, it’s hard to top the Eagles offense.  The Falcons defensive front could get on Foles’ nerves, but Foles and the Philly offense will overcome it.  However, Foles has not been great under pressure, unlike Wentz.  But the tough Eagles defense will have Falcons QB Matt Ryan under a lot of pressure himself, and he will struggle under pressure, failing to repeat last year’s deep playoff run.

(5) Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots (1)

Saturday: 8:15 PM EST on CBS

Patriots, 31, Titans, 23

QB Tom Brady will lead the Pats to victory here with the help of TE Rob Gronkowski and receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, who will dominate against the young Titans secondary.  Gronk will seem unbeatable to this young but strong Tennessee defense.  In his first game against the Pats since his rookie year, QB Marcus Mariota will also have a tough time, especially against the strong Pats secondary.  He will toss just 1 TD.

However, RB Derrick Henry will get on New England’s nerves in his first game against them.  This speedy running back is just too much for the Pats front seven, even with veteran LB James Harrison.  I do see New England coming out on top in the end after offensive dominance and excellent coverage of Titans QB Marcus Mariota.

(3) Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2)

Sunday: 1:05 PM EST on CBS

Jaguars, 27, Steelers, 23

In my opinion, Jacksonville will be the only road team that wins this week.  Although QB Blake Bortles might have a difficult time against the Steelers D, the Jaguars secondary was able to pick off QB Ben Roethlisberger 5 times last time these two franchises played. Plus, between his calf and his illness, WR Antonio Brown will not be 100% for this game whether he plays or not.

Big Ben will experience deja vu against a dominant Jags defense without his favorite target.  The Jags young group of receivers will also thrive as long as Bortles can get the ball to them, which I think will happen for at least parts of the game.  Jags win in a close thriller.

(4) New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings (2)

Sunday: 4:40 PM EST on FOX

Vikings, 37, Saints, 33

In a high scoring rematch of the 2017 season’s first Monday Night game, the Vikes will come out on top, led by rising QB Case Keenum and young receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.  WR Brandon Coleman is out for the Saints as well as G Andrus Peat, causing the Saints offense to be slightly less powerful than usual.  Only slightly though.  The Saints defense will still be great as well, but the Vikings dominant receivers will intimidate the young secondary and the Saints will allow Keenum to toss multiple TDs as Minnesota wins.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for a more in-depth Patriots-Titans preview coming soon.

NFL Playoffs: Bracket and Wild Card Weekend Picks

Welcome to my NFL playoff predictions and Wild Card picks. I finished the regular season with a 150-108 record. Below are my wild card weekend picks. How will I do this week? Keep reading and comment with your thoughts.

Before we begin, I’m going to reveal my playoff bracket:

I have the Patriots topping the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. A lot of people have said the Vikings will make the Super Bowl in their home stadium. If they did that, they would be practically invincible. But I think RB Todd Gurley will lead the Rams past them in Minnesota, and the Rams will fall short in Philly, allowing Philly to advance to Super Bowl LII, losing to New England.

Now here are my picks for this week:

(5) Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (4)

Saturday: 4:35 PM EST on ESPN

Titans, 30, Chiefs, 27

Titans QB Marcus Mariota and his group of versatile receivers will be dominant against the Chiefs secondary, who is still without S Eric Berry. But the Chiefs will make it close. They will shut down Titans running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and they will be competitive offensively. WR Tyreek Hill will outsmart the young Titans secondary, as well as star TE Travis Kelce. But in the end, Mariota will lead the Titans to victory, as the Chiefs fall just short.

(6) Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams (3)

Saturday: 8:15 PM EST on NBC

Rams, 31, Falcons, 23

Atlanta will fall short in LA. RB Todd Gurley will overtire the Falcons front seven in a dominant game. QB Jared Goff will also do well, tossing a trio of touchdowns. The Rams defense will also help, shutting down Atlanta’s running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. WR Julio Jones will have a good game, but it will not be enough in Los Angeles.

(6) Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars (3)

Sunday: 1:05 PM EST on CBS

Jaguars, 31, Bills, 26

The Jaguars defense will dominate here, slowing down a strong group of Bills receivers with their young, elite secondary. They will also slow down star running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy. The Jaguars will also contribute offensively although QB Blake Bortles will be under a lot of pressure. RB Leonard Fournette will do well against the Bills defensive front though, and Jacksonville’s young receivers will outdo the Bills stingy secondary.

(5) Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (4)

Sunday: 4:40 PM EST on FOX

Saints, 30, Panthers, 19

QB Drew Brees and his versatile receivers will lead the Saints to victory here. They will dominate against the young, inexperienced Carolina secondary although the tough Panthers front seven will shut down the Saints RB duo. But the New Orleans defense will also do well, overwhelming QB Cam Newton, shutting down the strong Carolina run game, and holding Carolina to just one TD. The Saints defense has significantly improved since last season. They support the dominant offense, and that will bring New Orleans a successful playoff run as they win here at home.

That’s all for my playoff Predictions and wild card picks. Check back next week for my updated divisional round picks. In addition, stay tuned for my predictions on where the top free agents and players on the trade block will land. I will also be releasing more recaps on the Patriots and my middle school’s basketball teams, so check back soon.

NFL Week 13 Picks: Mediocre Teams Make For Great Matchups

Welcome to my NFL Week 13 Picks.  I went 12-4 last week, placing my overall record at 100-76.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

QB Marcus Mariota will lead the Titans offense to a huge game and a victory.  TE Delanie Walker and WR Corey Davis among others will help Mariota as the Titans offense takes advantage of the Texans weakening secondary.  With the help of the offensive line, the Titans RB duo will also help out the offense against the depleted Texans front seven.  For the Texans, QB Tom Savage will struggle to generate offense and score TDs, especially without WR Will Fuller.  Titans win after Houston’s struggles.

Upset of the Week

The Falcons depleted defense will fail to shut down the Vikings strong group of receivers.  Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will help lead the Vikings offense to dominance and help lead the Vikings to victory.   For the Falcons offense, QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones will lead the Atlanta offense to a strong game, but it won’t be enough against the relentless Vikings.

TNF

After a rough week last week, QB Dak Prescott will lead the Cowboys offense to a big game, even without RB Ezekiel Elliott.  Both defenses will struggle after losing key players.  The Redskins lost S DeAngelo Hall, and the Cowboys lost LB Sean Lee.  With Lee out, the Redskins will also thrive offensively in this game.  QB Kirk Cousins will lead them to dominance and keep this close.  But the Cowboys will outscore them in an offensive shootout.

Sunday’s Games

The Bills will struggle to establish a passing game here due to their QB problems, and the fact that WR Kelvin Benjamin is out.  The Pats secondary will be able to shut down the receivers that do play, as the Pats secondary has been dominant lately.  For the Patriots offense, a balanced attack will lead them to thrive against a Bills defense that has begun to struggle after a strong start to the season.  Pats win as the Bills can’t find their rhythm.

QB Jay Cutler will look a bit better in his return, but he will still struggle against the dominant Broncos defense.  The Dolphins defense will also do well though, shutting down the Broncos run game.  But despite a hole at QB, the Broncos will still be able to generate an offensive rhythm.  However, the Dolphins will win after a defensive rebound led by defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, as well as safety Reshad Jones.

The Chiefs offense hasn’t been able to lead Kansas City to victory lately, but in this game, I think the defense will.  The Chiefs D will shut down the pesky Jets offense with the addition of CB Darrelle Revis against his former team.  The Jets defense will fail to shut down deep threat Tyreek Hill and star TE Travis Kelce.  After the Jets D struggles and the Chiefs D dominates, the Chiefs will win on the road.

QB Matthew Stafford will lead the versatile Lions receivers to thrive against a banged-up Ravens secondary.  But the Ravens will fight back as their younger players like RB Alex Collins and WR Breshad Perriman help lead their offense to dominate.  In the end, the Ravens will win in a close game that results in one of the most underrated matchups of the season.

The Jaguars secondary will be dominant against the Colts receivers, and the Jags defensive front will look unstoppable as they shut down the Colts running backs.  Meanwhile, the Colts defense will struggle to shut down the Jags young receivers and standout RB Leonard Fournette.  The Jags will win after the young offense comes through.

QB Jameis Winston will return to rejuvenate the Bucs offense against a struggling Packers team.  The Packers will continue to struggle offensively as well, failing to produce much offense against the underrated Buccaneers defense.  Tampa will win after defensive dominance and an offensive bounce back.

This game won’t be too exciting, but the Bears RB duo will help bring some excitement and lead Chicago to victory.  The 49ers’ QB problems will cause them to struggle, even against the Bears.  The Niners lack depth at receiver, especially without WR Pierre Garcon.  The Bears will win,  but the game will bring some of the sloppiest defense of the season from both teams.

WR Josh Gordon will help lead the Browns offense to a slightly better game in his return, but it won’t nearly be enough against the Chargers’ electric offense.  Besides, this is Gordon’s first game since 2014, so there’s a chance he gets a rude awakening.  LA’s offense will just be too strong for the Browns, and Philip Rivers will toss for 400 yards and 5+ TD against the weak Browns defense.  The Chargers will win despite the Browns’ efforts to push closer to victory.  It will be a more exciting game than you might expect.

The Giants defense will slow down the Raiders’ versatile receivers, especially with WR Amari Cooper out.  But the Giants will fail to produce offensively with Geno Smith at QB, and Smith will be knocked around a lot by the Raiders strong defensive front.  The Raiders will win after Smith fails another New York team.

The Saints offense won’t be in full swing against the tough Panthers front seven, but they will still have a huge game, even without TE Coby Fleener.  The Panthers will struggle to match the Saints’ success without TE Greg Olsen (foot injury) and WR Kelvin Benjamin (mid-season trade).  New Orleans will win after their defense slows down the depleted Carolina offense, and the Saints offense puts up another strong game.

The Rams defense will shut down the Cardinals offense that will be without WR John Brown in this game and without RB David Johnson and QB Carson Palmer for the rest of the season.  The Rams offense won’t look like themselves against the stingy Arizona secondary, but they will still manage to pull away with a victory against a troubled Arizona offense.

QB Carson Wentz will lead the Eagles to victory in a Sunday Night offensive shootout.  Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will also look good during primetime and he will challenge Philly.  But the Eagles will be dominant as they take advantage of the depleted Seahawks secondary and win the game.  Seattle’s secondary will be without CB Richard Sherman and S Kam Chancellor in this primetime clash.

The Bengals offense will struggle in the heat of primetime, especially against Pittsburgh’s difficult front seven.  On the other hand, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense will look good against their divisional rivals on Monday Night.  Big Ben will lead a great group of Steelers receivers to dominate, and the Steelers will win again.  The return of WR JuJu Smith-Schuster will help them.

That’s all for my Week 13 Picks.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

NFL Thanksgiving Day Picks

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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