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NFL Playoff Predictions

It’s time for my first season playoff predictions. We just saw a decent shakeup this weekend and even saw a few teams show that they’re not able to hang with the big boys and some that can. Some teams are already almost a lock and some not so much. I won’t beat around the bush too much though and get right to the picks. I’m going to pick the playoff picks as well as my favorites to make the Super Bowl. Here we go:

AFC NORTH: PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Not much of a surprise here as the Browns are 3-6-1, the Bengals just lost by 37 points, and the Ravens are tripping up before the finish line. Big Ben is playing at a high level and his weapons are very solid. They just beat a strong Panthers team by 31 and a solid win the week before against division rival Baltimore. The rest of the season will be interesting for this division as each contending team has 2 or more teams over .500. The Bengals have an easier slate with only 2 of those teams to play while the Steelers have 4. Pittsburgh is the only team in the North that’s proven they can win against talented teams. They have beaten a handful of solid teams and just beat the previously 6-2 Panthers by 31 points. This team is ranked in the top 10 on both sides of the ball and will continue that stat trend if they can keep Connor going and keep getting to the QB on the defensive side. If they can beat or force a close game even against NO and NE, they’ll prove they can hang with the best and lock up the division.

AFC SOUTH: HOUSTON TEXANS

So this team is low key on fire right now. Granted the only solid team they’ve played was NE in week 1, but they still have the Redskins and Titans left to play. They’ve proven when they can get Watson in a rhythm, they’re pretty dangerous. Watson has been very efficient recently and the running game has finally caught up. They’re a solid defensive unit and the offense is getting better. They’ve won 5 in a row and are slowly becoming a team others don’t wanna play. They’re forcing turnovers, getting consistent pressure, and haven’t turned the ball over in 3 weeks either. Look for this team to keep rolling and tuning their game going into the playoffs.

AFC EAST: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

If you expected anybody else in this division, shame on you. The Patriots have always been a fierce and dangerous competitor and nobody wants to play them in the playoffs. They did show some vulnerability this weekend as they got pounded by the Titans. Don’t count them out because we’ve all learned by now that you don’t bet against Brady and Belicheck. Brady still looks good and the offense can put up 30 points on any night. However, the defense is very inconsistent. They can allow up to 30 points to anyone and can also hold teams under 10. This will hurt them in the playoffs when they could run into teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City, who can score at will. The Pats will beat out Miami for the division though, so let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

AFC WEST: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

This is much of a surprise but it’s also a closer race than everyone thinks. This offense is one of the most dangerous in the NFL. Mahommes is putting up MVP numbers and breaking records left and right. Hunt, Kelce, and Hill are making sure he has enough weapons to keep rolling. They’re 2nd in points, averaging 35 per game and they’re 5th in 3rd down conversion percentage. The defense has struggling so far but they’re getting better. They allow a lot of yards as they’re 29th in total yards but they have been keeping teams from scoring a lot and have even 6th best in defensive 3rd down percentage. They force enough turnovers and that’s helped them have the 6th best turnover differential. Once they can get some more pressure on the QB, who can stop them? Now you may be saying, “Kyle what does Mahommes offer that Smith doesn’t in terms of playoffs hopes?”. Well let me tell you why that’s crazy. Smith didn’t push the ball downfield and liked the safe check downs. He wasn’t very aggressive and couldn’t make a ton of use of the powerful weapons. Mahommes is a powerhouse that isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield and loves to let it rip to his speedy reveiver, running back, and tight end. Mahommes can make the big throws and also doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. This team is a very strong playoff team and will do enough to keep the divisional crown away from the Chargers.

AFC WILD CARD: LA CHARGERS

This other AFC West team is also very dangerous. Rivers is a very capable QB that is now rolling with some powerful weapons. They’re 10th in total offense, 10th in scoring, and let’s not forget that they have this guy named Melvin Gordon and he’s pretty good. This offense is pretty damn good and any team that says they’re not worried about playing them is either lying or hasn’t done even the slightest bit of research about them. The defense is also good! They rank 14th in total defense and 8th in scoring defense. They’re tied for 1st in giveaways as well. This is a solid team on both sides of the ball and they don’t make mistakes. I look for Rivers and the Chargers to finally get that chance at making a solid run at the playoffs. This is definitely their best chance at a Super Bowl, so they better make good on it while they still can.

AFC WILD CARD: TENNESSEE TITANS

So this one was tough, as the Ravens, Bengals, and Dolphins are all in contention for this spot still. The Titans though have proved more than the other three that they are more capable of competing. They just beat the Patriots by 3 TDs and they beat the Texans also. They have lost to the Ravens and the Bills as well so it’s a tough call. The Ravens have a tougher schedule and they’re struggling to stay consistent. The Bengals just got beat by 37 points and are really struggling without AJ Green. The Dolphins have practically imploded and are really missing Tannehill. Granted Tannehill could return in 2 weeks, but at 5-5 and games coming up against Minnesota and New England they’re in trouble. Let’s not forget the Dolphins have also lost 3 of their last 4. The Titans look very good on defense and the offense is getting fairly comfortable. They have the 6th best overall defense and the best scoring defense. Look for the Titans to roll with Mariota and this stingy defense into wildcard weekend, potentially hungry for a playoff upset.

NFC NORTH: CHICAGO BEARS

This one was extremely tough. The Bears look very strong and are quickly finding their offensive identity and their defense is one of the best in the league right now. They’ll have to beat the Vikings twice and play the Rams on their way to the NFC North crown. Trubisky is blossoming into a very promising QB and is utilizing his weapons perfectly. He has Robinson performing well, Burton steps up when he has to, Miller is becoming a decent threat, and that tandem backfield is scary. We all have seen too that the Bears defense, anchored by Khalil Mack, is one of the best defenses in the league. They lead the league in interceptions and are 5th in sacks. They’re also 1st in turnover differential. This team is highly underestimated as a threat in this league. They will have to hold off the Vikings for the title, but the Vikings schedule is a bit tougher and I honestly believe the Bears are a stronger, more well-rounded team. Look out for the Bears, they’re getting better and better and that’s a very scary thing if they can keep going.

NFC SOUTH: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Man, now this one was really tough to pick. I’m just kidding, this was one of the easier picks of this blog post. This Saints team is arguably the best offense in the league right now. Drew Brees is a dangerous QB to start with, but he’s currently having an MVP-caliber season. He has a ton of dangerous weapons at his disposal, and this defense is beginning to take shape. Even when they can’t stand tall on defense, they have more than managed to outscore them. This team is potentially the best in the league and I’m cutting their breakdown short because there’s not much to say other than, I’m so sorry if you have to play them in the playoffs.

NFC EAST: WASHINGTON REDSKINS

This one is more of a best of the worst situation. This division doesn’t really have a powerhouse. I previously would’ve thought the Eagles would wind up in this spot, but they’ve had a ton of injuries and haven’t been able to recover. The Cowboys are good once every three games, and the Giants are playing for the first overall draft pick. The Redskins are competent and are able to beat the less than formidable teams, but have only beaten one good team and it’s the same team that just lost by 31. The Redskins are top 4th in scoring defense and are 5th in rushing defense. That could help them tremendously in the playoffs against some stand out backs. This defense could help Alex Smith do what he does best, manage the game to a close win. Smith usually does enough to run clock, move the ball, and get the close wins. They’ll definitely do enough to win their division.

NFC WEST: LOS ANGELES RAMS

This was the easiest pick, as the Rams could literally lock up the division by next week. This team almost resembles the team that had Warner, Faulk, Holt, and Bruce. They score at will and Todd Gurley could potentially be this season’s MVP. The defense also is 13th in total defense and 12th in scoring defense. The Rams are also 5th in turnover differential and are even 2-1 against teams with a winning record. The one team they lost to was the red hot Saints in New Orleans and it was very close. If this team can beat Kansas City and Chicago, then I believe only the Saints stand in their way. Hopefully the loss of Kupp won’t hurt their offense too much.

NFC WILD CARD: CAROLINA PANTHERS

The Panthers looked extremely vulnerable Thursday as they lost big. The Steelers carved them up to the tune of 52 points and 460 total yards. The Steelers defense got to Cam Newton 5 times and forced an INT. This team cruised on a solid Baltimore defense and handled the Bengals when they were still hot. This team has lost to Washington and Pittsburgh. They have their issues to work through but then the defense comes together and Christian McCaffrey gets rolling, they’re almost impossible to stop. Cam has looked like Cam again this season and this is a well rounded team that can score in a multitude of creative ways. They could show up in the playoffs and beat anybody, or they could show up and get rolled on. They’ll make the playoffs but the depth of their playoff appearance will depend on Newton.

NFC WILD CARD: MINNESOTA VIKINGS

This one was extremely tough. The Vikings currently hold the spot and have played well. Cousins has done very well and has been very efficient thus far with his solid receiving weapons. They’ve hung with some of the tougher teams but they’re remaining schedule is very tough. The rush needs to get going as they’re 28th in the league. The Packers and Falcons have easier schedules, but neither team has been able to beat anybody over .500 so the Vikings are definitely the best bet to grab up the last wildcard spot. Honestly the Cowboys are a close second because they have an easier schedule, and when They Boys’ offense is rolling they’re dangerous. However the Cowboys are too inconsistent, so the Vikings it is as they’re are better on a consistent basis.

My Super Bowl favorites are the Chiefs and the Bears. I know that Bears pick is a stretch but I just have a gut feeling. When this offense gets in rhythm, they’re deadly and Nagy has a lot of solid tricks up his sleeve. The defense have what it takes to beat the big boys and I believe they’ll surprise everyone. The Chiefs aren’t a huge surprise as they are just too damn good for the rest to stop them. The offense is a freight train and Mahommes is the real deal. I just don’t see even the best AFC teams stopping them from making the Super Bowl. I’m sorry but I won’t be picking a winner yet because I wanna keep you in suspense. Maybe in a week or two you’ll get my pick. I hope you liked my article. Please comment and let me know what you think. Keep reading for more articles and stories. Thank you for reading!!

Week 10 score predictions

It’s been a very long time since I last posted and I’m sorry. Let’s not dwell on the sadness of the absence of blog posts, and focus on the future. The best topic to pick up on is football of course. Football is the heartbeat of America, it’s food for the soul, it’s what makes life so great, football is everything and then some. Let’s get right down to the predictions.

NEW ENGLAND (7-2) at TENNESSEE (4-4)

This matchup is either going to be a tough, close game or a blow out. The Patriots look really solid at this point in the season and I don’t see them stalling this week. The Patriots are 9th in total offense and 5th in scoring offense. Tom Brady is Tom Brady and this offense is strong as always. They rank 11th in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage also. The Titans have a very strong defense, ranking 8th overall and 1st in scoring. The strong defense doesn’t do them much justice though, because the offense is 30th in total offense and 29th in scoring. The Titans are the best red zone defense so that could be the big deciding factor this week. Look for the Titans to provide a speed bump or two on the Patriots’ road to victory but not much more than that. PATRIOTS 24 TITANS 13

NEW ORLEANS (7-1) at CINCINNATI (5-3)

If you haven’t watched NFL football at all the past few weeks, first off shame on you that’s just wrong, you wouldn’t know that the Saints are on fire right now. This is the 2nd best scoring offense and they just got a bit better after signing Dez Bryant. This offense is on fire and they’re flying high after handing the red ho Rams their first loss. The Bengals aren’t anything to scoff at either. They’re playing pretty decent football and they’re 3-1 at home this season. The factor for this one could be the absence of AJ Green and the fact that the Saints are 4-0 on the road this season. The Saints will come out slow and complacent into this potential “trap game” but don’t count out Drew Brees to win…ever. SAINTS 31 BENGALS 23

JACKSONVILLE (3-5) at INDIANAPOLIS (3-5)

This game marks the return of Leonard Fournette for the Jaguars. Thank goodness too because they’ve missed him very much. Now they can return to their standard run heavy offense as they look to right the ship. Fournette looks to carve up the Colts defense. They put on 188 yards in Indy last season without Fournette so this could be a bad game for the Colts who is below average on run defense (19th) and is 22nd in stopping the defense on 3rd down. The Colts are also 10th in total offense and the offensive line has been phenomenal lately. The key in this one for the Jags is establishing the run, and the Colts must protect Luck to have a shot at the W this week. COLTS 20 JAGS 13

BUFFALO (2-7) at NEW YORK JETS (3-6)

Sam Darnold is riding the bench with an injury and Nathan Peterman. We could set a record this week for most total turnovers in a single game with this matchup. McCown is a solid backup in his own right, but this Bills defense is actually pretty damn good. The Bills defense ranks 3rd in total offense and do create a lot of fumbles. The team is the worst passing offense in the league though and has almost triple the INTs thrown as they have forced (16 thrown, 6 forced). McCown has actually done well when he plays and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I look for the Jets to play safe and control the tempo as they do just enough to win. JETS 13 BILLS 9

WASHINGTON (5-3) at TAMPA BAY (3-5)

This game is actually pretty tough to analyze because the Redskins offense will be missing 3 starters. This could ruin AP’s rushing game and cause a lot of pressure to make its way to Alex Smith. In the end, the Bucs’ defense isn’t that good so the Skins could find some type of play style that will work for the o-line. Peterson looks like the same guy we used to see several years ago when he was demolishing front 7s. Alex Smith also has a tendency to get rid of the ball quickly so I don’t see the line adjustments playing too huge of a factor. The Buccaneers’ offense isn’t bad either, the only thing they don’t do really well is run the ball. That could be the key though as Washington doesn’t force many turnovers and has a decent run defense. Tampa Bay must get the run game going to set the tempo for Fitzmagic and they must not turn the ball over to have a shot. BUCCANEERS 20 REDSKINS 16

DETROIT (3-5) at CHICAGO (5-3)

The Lions are coming off of a tough loss in which they gave up 10 sacks and they have another team this week with a pass rush. The main ingredient to the Bears pass rush is Khalil Mack. He’s a freakish athlete and seems to get to the QB at will. If the Lions stand any chance this week they must slow him down and give Stafford enough time to make plays. They must also work up a little pass rush of their own to fluster Mitch Trubisky. Chicago’s defense is one of the best in the league right now and they specialize is takeaways (2nd). I think this matchup will play out the same way it appears on paper. BEARS 23 LIONS 10

ARIZONA (2-6) at KANSAS CITY (8-1)

At the start of this season I wasn’t on the Mahommes train. I didn’t think he was capable of providing the surge and accurate deep ball capability on a consistent basis for this team. Boy, did he prove me wrong. This team looks virtually untouchable right now and I don’t see signs of them slowing down. They’re 1st in points per game, and they’re 1st in yards per play. 3 or 4 games of this type of offense isn’t exactly proven, but they’ve done it 9 times now. Playing the Cardinals this week has them in line for another really strong game. Arizona is 31st in scoring offense and 27th in TO differential. They’re also 22nd in total defense giving up a lot of yards to the rushing game. This Kansas City team is dangerous and Arizona isn’t very good, so the matchup speaks for itself. CHIEFS 34 CARDINALS 13

ATLANTA (4-4) at CLEVELAND (2-6-1)

Atlanta is playing really well as they ride this 3 game winning streak. Matt Ryan looks very solid and the team is just doing everything right lately. The Falcons are 1st in 3rd conversion percentage and have the 5th best offense in the league. They are struggling on defense, and Cleveland’s QB isn’t bad…that’s right I said the Cleveland Browns have a decent quarterback. Laugh at that statement all you want but, Baker Mayfield is a reliable QB and makes some very smart and tough throws. If he gets some time and can get through his reads, he can make plays and really move the ball well. The Browns are decent at home and I think they’ll give the Falcons a scare this week. I’m calling it close in this one, and I’m predicting the big upset. BROWNS 23 FALCONS 21

LA CHARGERS (6-2) vs OAKLAND (1-7)

The Chargers come into this game heavy favorites against the Raiders. This Raiders team is bad and they don’t seem to be getting any better. The Chargers can’t get sloppy and overconfident though. Division games are always a competitive spark for even the worst teams. The Chargers have a top 10 offense, and this offense is riddled with weapons. Phillip Rivers is having an MVP caliber season and he has one of the best RBs in the league behind him. The defense isn’t terrible either, as they rank 19th overall. The Raiders defense is bottom 5 and the offense is bottom 10. I look for this game to actually be kind of lopsided as the Raiders will show, once again, that they’re a solid bet for the 1st overall draft pick this offseason. CHARGERS 30 RAIDERS 9

LA RAMS (8-1) vs SEATTLE (4-4)

In week 5, the Seahawks ran wild on LA to the tune of 190 yards in the upset bid that fell just short. Their passing offense though is a bit rough at 27th in the league and the defense struggles to stop the run. The key for them to force frustration and turnovers would be to stuff Gurley and make Goff spread the field. The Rams however have a top offense that seems virtually unstoppable with Gurley scoring 16 times in the first 10 games. This offense is scary good and the defense is actually ranking 12th in total defense and 10th in scoring defense. For a team that has a phenomenal offense and pretty decent defense, there’s not much you can do to stop them. They’re also fueled by a recent loss and coming into a divisional rivalry at home. Sorry Seahawks, maybe next week. RAMS 38 SEAHAWKS 23

MIAMI (5-4) at GREEN BAY (3-4-1)

This might be the first time I’ve ever seen the team with the better record as ten point underdogs. The Dolphins are decent when they’re playing ok offenses without a lot of firepower and playmakers. However, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and sometimes that’s literally all that matters for Green Bay. The Dolphins lead the league in INTs forced but this isn’t just your average run of the mill QB. Their passing offense is 6th overall and Aaron Rodgers has only thrown 1 pick this season. I just don’t see the Dolphins creating enough offensive fireworks to keep pace with A-Rod and the Pack. Plus the Packers are desperate for a win and are In Lambeau this week so you do the math. PACKERS 24 DOLPHINS 10

DALLAS (3-5) at PHILADELPHIA (4-4)

The Dallas Cowboys officially have their backs against the wall and are watching the playoffs potentially slip away. Zeke has 5 games this season where he hasn’t reached 80 yards and he’s usually the key to offensive success. This week the o-line must show up and protect for this team to grab a W in Philly. The Eagles have lots of injuries plaguing them right now as well. Carson Wentz is still dangerous though and does play at an MVP level here and there. If the Eagles’ 2nd best run defense can keep Zeke from running wild and Wentz can play well, look for the Boys to be in more jeopardy of having a lost season. EAGLES 21 COWBOYS 17

NEW YORK GIANTS (1-7) SAN FRANCISCO (2-7)

I’m actually curious for this matchup to see if the legend of Nick Mullins can keep going. Mullins played his first career regular season snap last week in relief of CJ Beathard and totally crushed it. He carved the Raiders defense up for a total of 262 yards and 3 TDS. Granted the Raiders defense isn’t good to start with but nobody expected this brand new guy to come in and just own the game. Against this mediocre Giants defense, he could certainly do the same. The Giants will look to get their abysmal offense going, and that starts with Eli. He must take shots downfield and make plays that eat up yards. He settles for the check-downs too much and that’s lead to their 27th ranking scoring offense. He needs to get Barkley and Odell bigger plays to work with. I like the legend of Nick Mullins in this one. 49ERS 26 GIANTS 17

Well there you have it. Predictions are in and breakdowns have been made. Hopefully next week I’ll post the prediction before the Thursday night game has come and gone. Keep your eyes open for some more articles on all things football and basketball, pro and college.

Podcast up and running!

So I haven’t posted in my blog for awhile. I’ve been pretty busy with work and such and just haven’t had a free minute. I’ve also been working on starting up a podcast. The Podcast is hosted by my good friend Julian Baires-Tweed and myself. You can see the official trailer on his YouTube channel and the first two episodes will be put out tomorrow the 23rd or Tuesday the 24th. We talk about who we are and why we started the podcast. We talk about Free Agency, the state of the NFL, and the Draft (including our own Mock Drafts of who WE personally would take in each first round spot). Make sure you check it out and be sure to leave comments, love, critiques, and anything in between! We love the feedback! Hope you check it out and enjoy!

NFL Conference Championship Week Breakdown and Predictions

The Divisional round brought us plenty of action, surprises, and upsets. The Patriots are still here, the Jags are still in it, the Vikings just hung on, and the Eagles are still hang tough. We had four quality matchups of old, experienced QBs, against younger, inexperienced guys. The young guns pulled through in 3 of the games to make this next round interesting. These playoffs are sure delivering the drama. I’m going to break down these two big games and make predictions for both!

Patriots vs Jaguars

This matchup was a bit surprising. So many people, including the Steelers were expecting a Pittsburgh vs New England rematch. On paper, The Steelers offense just looked like it was going to control the game and put up points while the defense got pressure on Bortles and kept the ball out of his hands. The Jaguars defense didn’t really slow Pittsburgh down but they made key stops and Pittsburgh just struggled to stop the Jaguars offense from moving down the field. Jacksonville came into Pittsburgh and pulled off the upset to head to Foxborough. New England had to get through the Titans. New England was expected by many to coast through this game comfortably and roll by the Titans without any hint of an upset. They certainly delivered at that expectation. The Titans couldn’t get the run going, so the offense couldn’t really move the ball much at all. The Patriots offense just put the ball in Brady’s hands and he did the rest as they rolled to an easy 3 score win. New England’s next test isn’t quite as easy. Tom Brady does so well when he has time and can get the ball out to Cooks, Hogan, and Gronk. Not many teams have enough personnel to match up with all those guys. The Titans certainly lacked the man power to double cover Gronk and still cover the receivers and running backs. Do the Jaguars have the guys to stop or at least slow down the Patriots? I say yes. The Steelers have just as many, if not more weapons than the Patriots and the defenses are similar in terms of skill and talent. Jacksonville has the quickness at linebacker to stick with Gronk, as well as the physical safeties over the top to maintain Gronk. They also have the very talented corners in Bouye and Ramsey to cover Hogan and Cooks. So who’s left to cover the running back? Leave that to Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, or Church. They certainly have the speed, athleticism, physicality, and manpower to slow down this offense. If they can pressure Brady throughout, they could very well punch their ticket to the big game so long as they keep the ball moving on offense. For the Patriots, they need to give Brady time and let the various receivers get the mismatches. Lewis or White could capitalize on a matchup with Posluszney or Jack with their sheer speed and quickness. Brady might need to rely on the quick check-downs and short cross routes to move the chains. If Brady can get time and move the chains, they might not even have to worry about what the Jacksonville offense does. Both teams have pretty solid chances of punching their tickets to Minnesota, but who is most likely to be able to put their winning game plan into action. I think it’s more likely that the Jags’ defense does their thing than the Pats’ defense. The Patriots defense isn’t quite as physical as the Steelers defense and don’t get near as much pressure on the pass rush. This will give Fournette better opportunities to bull his way down field and let Bortles have more time to move the chains. The Steelers offense also has just a bit more talent and firepower than New England so I can see the Jags matching up better on defense and making more stops. I just can really see Jacksonville forcing the Patriots into some tough spots then converting when they have the ball. The defense will make some key stops and Fournette will keep the chains moving and get into the end zone with Bortles. I like the Jaguars here.

JAX 24 NE 20

Vikings vs Eagles

The NFC matchup certainly is an interesting one! These quarterbacks are both players that have been repetitively counted out in their careers and been overlooked. Both quarterbacks weren’t even supposed to start this season and thanks to injuries and solid play, here they are. Keenum went undrafted when he entered the league and was never given much of a chance to succeed. He swooped in when Bradford went down and began making his name known. He ran a solid Vikings offense and helped make this team a viable threat. He helped compliment this rock solid defense, and just chalked up win after win. He’s stepped into this offense and helped make them a top 10 offense in the league. Keenum has played incredibly efficient football, helped make Thielen a star, and made the Vikings a winning juggernaut in the league.Foles was drafted back in 2012 in the 3rd round but never really stood out. He had a short time of playoff football but he never really got his feet off the ground. He was sent to St. Louis in 2015 where he went 4-7 as a starter and then got sent to the Chiefs the following year where he went 1-0 as a starter. After having one season of success followed by 4 mediocre seasons, Foles has taken over for the injured Wentz and has complimented this team wonderfully. He’s not the flashiest passer in the league, but he manages the game very well and moves the chains with ease. He makes the plays necessary to work the clock, get first downs, and win games. He is now at the helm of a very good team and might not need to do more than manage games. Will Keenum be able to step up and make plays if the running game gets stuffed? Can Foles do enough to overcome the leagues best defense? In this game I’m betting on Keenum and this great defense! Keenum has the knowledge and patience to make plays. The Eagles run defense is the best in the league and could very well stonewall Murray and McKinnon. When the rush struggles to do very much at all, Keenum will need to step up. The Vikings defense will stop the Eagles offense. They have the second best pass defense the second best run defense and they have allowed the fewest points in the league. Foles will certainly struggle to move the ball and this run game lead by Blount and Ajayi will be slowed down. They have shut down Jordan Howard, Kamara/Ingram, and Gurley this season and this game won’t be any different. The defense will give Keenum plenty of chances with the ball and I think he’ll do enough to reward the defense’s hard work and get the win.

MIN 16 PHI 10

The Vikings and Jaguars are my picks to make it to the Super Bowl. It’ll be a Super Bowl of firsts as the Vikings become the first team to play at home. The Jaguars make it to their first Super Bowl in team history. I can’t wait to watch these exciting games. These championship games will be must watch football.

The X Factor(s) for each team still in the playoffs

The playoffs are shaking out with plenty of excitement and drama. We’re now down to 8 teams and the excitement is only going to grow. Each of these 8 teams has its own X factor(s) that can help them move on or cause them to crash and burn. Here’s the X factor(s) for each team.

SAINTS: ALVIN KAMARA AND MARSHON LATTIMORE

One of the few examples here that has two X factors. Alvin Kamara is the big game changer for this offense. Drew Brees will do what he has to do whether it’s manage the offense or light up the opposing defense. The real factor in offense is Kamara because he effects the run and the pass. He helps take pressure away from Ingram and helps open up the passing game for Brees by catching out of the backfield or the slot. Lattimore has been amazing on defense. He’s shut down opposing offenses and has helped bring the defense together. He’s a shutdown corner that also acts as a spark plug for the rest for the defense. If the Saints are going to have a shot at the Super Bowl, they need solid play out of Kamara and Lattimore.

EAGLES: NICK FOLES

This Eagles team was masterful with Wentz at the helm. Once Wentz went down and Foles stepped in, they showed some weakness. Foles is a decent QB, who can really help put up wins when he manages the game well. He is familiar with the offense and can manage well. Is he good enough to beat the other teams in the league though? In my opinion I don’t think so but it’s possible. If Foles can play anywhere similar to how Wentz played, they might have a shot. Foles must play dominate football to have a shot, but is he capable of doing that? We’ll find out.

VIKINGS: THE OFFENSIVE LINE

The Vikings have played masterfully this season. Keenum has played solid and managed the game well. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have run well. This defense has played well led by Harrison Smith. The big factor that could mean the difference between Super Bowl run and an early playoff out is the offensive line. The games they’ve lost this season have primarily been a factor of poor run and pass blocking. When they give Keenum time and give some space to Murray, they’re a powerhouse. This offensive line is the key to the Vikings Super Bowl run.

FALCONS: RUNNING GAME

I say running game instead of Freeman because this is a balanced attack that needs various looks from the backfield to beat this solid competition. When they mix Coleman and Freeman into the game they are tough to beat. This two headed monster backfield is the difference for them. When they both combine for over 100 yards they just win games. They’re going to need a string of top-notch performances out of this strong backfield to keep this Cinderella story going.

STEELERS: DEFENSE

We know the offense will do their thing as they always do. They have a top notch offense and the Killer B’s are always deadly. The game changer in this one will be the Steelers defense. They are missing Shazier which hurts a lot because he’s the leader and best player on this defense. They have struggled a bit without him. They have a very solid rush to stop this Sunday and Tom Brady or Derrick Henry to stop next week. They really need to lock down that front seven to make a big difference. They need to stop the run and pressure the passer. That’ll be their best bet to ensure a lengthy playoff run.

PATRIOTS: DEFENSIVE FRONT

The Patriots have a similar soft spot that the Steelers do. In their three losses they all struggled to stop the rush and get pressure on the QB. Tom Brady needs the ball to manage the game. If the opposing team isn’t getting off the field, he can’t win games for them. They need to stop the rush and get to the QB to have a shot at a long run. They’re playing some very tough rushing attacks coming up so they need to tighten up that front seven to stand a chance of playing in the big game. Brady and the offense can’t do their thing without the ball.

JAGUARS: BLAKE BORTLES

This strong defense will make stops and play ball and Fournette will help move the chains along with Yeldon and Ivory. However, if Bortles doesn’t manage the game and play smart, the defense will stay on the field and tire out. The running game also struggles of the Jags can’t establish more of a diverse offense. The whole team plays solid on both sides when Bortles plays decent. He doesn’t have to throw for 300 yards and 3 TDs, he just has to manage the clock, move the chains, and not make mistakes. Bortles is the key to the Jags’ Super Bowl chances.

TITANS: DERRICK HENRY

Mariota has played rough this season but they’ve done well enough to win because the running game has been solid and he has helped move the chains when it matters. So long as the defense stays decent and Mariota manages the game, Henry is the key factor. Henry is the back for the next game and he was masterful last week. They need him to run well and move the chains. He’s going to need to be the spark plug for this offense to keep the defense from getting tired. Henry has to show up and be a game changer to keep their hopes alive.With the Divisional around right around the corner, the drama continues. The wildcard was fun to watch and shook up the playoffs a bit. Hopefully we’ll see more of the same when these X factors either shows up or stays home.

NBA AWARD FRONTRUNNERS AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON

We’re about halfway through the NBA season and things are starting to become clear. We’re beginning to see the teams likely fighting for playoffs, players finding their groove, and even who’s the favorites to win each award. The major performance awards given to the players are always tough to choose one but it’s not always tough to narrow down. This is how I think it shakes down.

MVP AWARD:

The MVP award usually goes to the player that makes the biggest difference for their team and also has the best stats. It focuses on points, assists, rebounds, efficiency, and estimated wins added by that player. Right off the bat James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lebron James, and Kevin Durant seem to be at the forefront. Harden is the leading scorer and is second in assists. Giannis is second in scoring and ninth in rebounds. Lebron is third in scoring is isn’t far off from averaging a triple double. Durant is scoring 25 a game and helps with assists and rebounds. I think Westbrook and Demarcus Cousins just slip in too. Westbrook hasn’t scored as much as last year with the addition of George and Melo. Cousins gets overshadowed by Anthony Davis’ numbers also. I think if you go by overall play the King has the nod here almost averaging a triple double and still standing out on a team of studs. He makes the team who they are and they just wouldn’t be the same without his numbers.

PREDICTION: Lebron James

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:

This award is always tough! They don’t just focus on players they’re fresh out of college. They focus on all players who are playing their first seasons in the league, sometimes not always their first season out of college. The main front runners of the award appear to be Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, and Jayson Tatum. Then Lauri Markkanen and Kyle Kuzma are flying under the radar. Mitchell, Kuzma, and Tatum are all neck and neck but they’re not leading the pack, they are all working to catch up to Ben Simmons. Simmons is putting up solid scoring numbers, but on top of that he’s passing very well, rebounding well, and is playing efficiently. Simmons is the front runner for this award with Mitchell and Kuzma closest on his heels.

PREDICTION: Ben Simmons

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

This award is very clearly given to the best defensive player all around. Right now the front runners are Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert, Draymomd Green, Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis. These players stand out because they not only stop their assignments consistently but they help anchor the whole defense when they’re on the floor. They just play great defense and motivate and help others play good defense. Green and Leonard are previous winners and look like solid candidates but I believe they’re both being led by Rudy Gobert. Gobert holds Utah’s defense together and he just completely shuts down anyone that enters the paint. Anybody who comes inside the paint immediately regrets that decision against Gobert. It really speaks volumes when teams specifically have to change their game plans based on your defensive presence.

PREDICTION: Rudy Gobert

COACH OF THE YEAR:

Generally with the coach of the year award, it’s given to the East team that surpasses the teams preseason expectations. That could mean Brad Stevens, Brett Brown, Stan Van Gundy, or Jason Kidd, or it could be surprises in the West like Alvin Gentry, Tom Thibodeau, or Micheal Malone. I think we’ll see Brad Stevens, Brett Brown, Jason Kidd, and Tom Thibodeau as the front runners having turned their teams around the most. I’m going to give the nod to Thibodeau. He has helped bring Butler to Minnesota and brought the best out of this team. They’ve made their way out of the West basement and a lot of that is because of Thibodeau.

PREDICTION: Tom Thibodeau

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR:

This award is tough because it’s not just a measure of statistics but also the overall play whether it’s with or without the ball. It’s guys that not only put up stats but also provide a mental spark for the team. You’ve gotta think the guys up for this are Kelly Oubre, Tristan Thompson, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Eric Gordon, and Andre Iguodala. Oubre helps provide a spark off the bench and scores. Teodosic scores some and provides masterful passing. Iggy is the best example of a spark off the bench. I think the two front runners are Williams, Thompson, and Gordon. Thompson provides rebounds, defense, offensive flow, and spark. Williams and Gordon provide chemistry, spark, and a ton of scoring. I give the nod here to the big scorer off the bench that has made the biggest impact in times of injury and plays for the team that needs him most as a bench leader.

PREDICTION: Eric Gordon

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:

Obviously this award goes to the player that improves the most between last year and this one. Clint Capela has improved in every aspect of his game and he has completely changed the defense of this Rockets team. Giannis Antetokounmpo has improved all around but he’s a significantly better scorer and leader this year than ever before. Victor Oladipo has become a better scorer, leader, shooter, and defender. Oladipo was always good but now he’s just becoming a big time threat like we haven’t yet seen from him. Kristaps Porzingis has become a reliable scorer, leader, passer, rebounder and spark. He just looks much better this season. Joel Embiid also looks better, plays smarter, and has been leading this team out of the basement of the East. I’ve gotta pick one of these guys and it’s gotta be the one who was the least expected to make the leap he has so far.

PREDICTION: Clint Capela

If the rest of the season shakes out the way it has so far, I think these are the award winners we’ll see. They’re difference makers, and the best the league has to offer. I’ll be back later in the NBA season, hopefully with more of an “I told you so” type vibe as opposed to “well I was wrong” type vibe. That’s the beauty of the NBA, you never know what heroes will spring forward after the all-star break.

My College Football National Championship Breakdown and Prediction

Another year of college football and another championship featuring Alabama. It’s extremely special to see one team tear up college football. They’re like the Patriots of college football. The matchups have been great to watch. This matchup is going to be an awesome matchup! A virtually unstoppable rushing attack against a stout defense. Hurts vs Fromm, Chubb/Michel vs Scarbrough/Harris, Smith vs Evans, Davis vs Fitzpatrick. There’s so many player matchups and it’ll be fun to watch. I’m going to break down each team then make a prediction.

ALABAMA

This team is just a force to be reckoned with every year! Nick Saban brings a squad each season that is so talented, disciplined, and smart. No matter what seniors they lose or who falls to injury, they always seem to have talented guys at the ready to step up. Whether it’s just an expertise in recruiting and developing players or some kind of bribery or black magic, Saban and this Alabama staff sure knows how to put a team together. Their offense is never the flashiest or the best, but the offense usually scores when it matters and they always make the best of what their defense gives them. They rank 27th in the country in total offense and only 89th in passing offense but they rank 12th in scoring. They run the ball well with their strong committee backfield and their scrambling quarterback. The offense makes the best of the field position and scoring chances and that is what helps them be one of the top teams in the country every year. This defense is the real deal for this team. They’re first in total defense and scoring defense. They’re also first in team efficiency overall as well as they are the best at not giving the ball away. They don’t turn the ball over and they force the fifth most turnovers playing on the road. The best way to stop this team seems to be to stop the run, forcing turnovers and not turning the ball over themselves. Alabama is going to be extremely tough to beat in this bowl game but, not necessarily impossible to beat. In their game against Auburn, they lost to Auburn 26-14. Auburn forced a turnover, slowed down the Alabama offense, and they moved the ball well and scored when they were on offense. Alabama can be beaten but it’s very tough to do so, but can Georgia pull it off?

GEORGIA

Georgia has had a great season. One of the things required to beat Alabama is a solid rushing attack to keep the ball and chains moving. Kirby Smart has done a great job putting together a deep, balanced, and disciplined team. Chubb is an absolute stud with plenty of power at running back, and he has help from the speedster ball carrier Michel. From isn’t the most standout passer but he moves the ball well enough to pick up key first downs and manages the game well enough to keep the offense moving. This defense, just like Alabama’s, is formidable and sturdy. They have a strong defense that can slow down the best of offenses and prevent teams from scoring. They’re 5th in rushing yards, 17th in points per game, and 2nd in overall team efficiency. They move the ball and protect the ball just as good as Alabama. They definitely keep pace on offense with that duo backfield of Michel and Chubb. Aside from the running game, Fromm is more than reliable at quarterback and can do what he has to do to win and manage games. Now they have a prominent and formidable offensive attack that’s for sure but do they stack up on defense? The answer to that question is actually yes. They rank 6th in total defense, 2nd in scoring defense, and rank towards the top in turnover margin. They don’t force a lot of turnovers but they also don’t turn the ball over often either. Looking at the numbers and analyzing how to stop this team, they are very similar to Alabama. They have a rushing attack that leads and paces the offense, a QB that manages the game well, and a stout defense that just shuts down the offense. The formula for beating them should be much of the same as well. For Alabama to beat them, they need to stop the rush, force them into turnovers, and move the ball on their offensive end. Just like Alabama this team is a tough team so beat.

When it all comes down to it, this teams are statistically very similar. They also have similar team schemes and they both have smart, capable coaches. In my opinion, the determining factors will be who has a better passing game, and who forces more turnovers. This will be a tough game and it will be entertaining to watch but somebody has to win this game and i believe it will be Georgia. Their running backs are just slightly better, and I believe Fromm will manage the game better. Hurts runs more than Fromm and with Georgia being able to force fumbles more often than Alabama, I believe Hurts or Harris might lose a fumble that’ll help decide this game. Saban will lose his first game against former coaching assistants!

PREDICTION: Georgia 27 Alabama 23