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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone and hope you’re enjoying the holidays with your families. While we anxiously await for the playoffs and enjoy the Holidays, I figured I’d talk about the surprises of the NFL this season. There were quite a few surprises this year that really impacted the league.
Juju Smith-Schuster was picked in the second round with the 62nd pick. His talent and strength as a receiver was undeniable going into the draft, but a lot of people didn’t think he’d have much of an impact this season. On a team with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell, Smith-Schuster wasn’t expected to make many waves with such a strong receiving duo and receiving back. Smith-Schuster proved all the doubters wrong. Juju basically stepped in and acted almost as a second receiver in Pittsburgh this year. He made some strong plays, put up a couple 100 yard games, found the end zone 5 times, and was a solid crutch for Big Ben to lean on. He played like a veteran WR2, not like a rookie WR3. He put up very solid numbers and proved he belongs on that high-powered Steelers offense.
Case Keenum came into Minnesota’s offense as their 3rd string QB. He’s started before in his career, but hasn’t made any waves. He came into an offense with little expected fire power and wasn’t expected to do much at all. Well, those expectations proved to be dead wrong. He stepped in and played like a very talented, veteran QB. He propelled this team up to the top of the league, proved any doubters wrong, and made a name for himself. He displayed expert vision, expert arm strength, accuracy, and decision making. He looked very composed in the pocket and masterfully ran that offense. Case Keenum vaulted himself from an unreliable backup, to a solid starting QB. He helped rejuvenate Latavius Murray, brought the talents of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph to their peak, and just gave a new respect to this Vikings offense. He has done big things to help this team this season and it’s been nothing short of remarkable.
THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Before the start of the season everyone expected this Eagles team to finish under .500. They weren’t expected to do much at all and even were expected to finish 3rd or 4th in their division. Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson took a team that finished 7-9 and turned it all around to end up with a first round bye in the playoffs this year. Wentz put on a masterful performance before falling to injury and the defense has been just as impressive. We’ve seen Alston Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz come to life in the passing attack. The Eagles also added Jay Ajayi to a committee backfield that all-around helped the passing attack open up very nicely. The Eagles went from a rough team to a very solid and dangerous team.
Cooper Kupp was drafted by a previously 4-12 Rams team with the 69th in the 3rd round. He wasn’t expected to do much of anything this season. He was joining a team with an offense that struggled mightily last season and few thought Goff could provide any promise for the rookie receiver out of Eastern Washington. Boy we’re we all wrong! Kupp came into the offense and, with Robert Woods’ help, turned this passing game into a very reliable force! Goff’s second year resurgence, and Gurley’s MVP-caliber performance were all tied together by the arrival of Cooper Kupp. Granted his numbers weren’t gaudy, but on a team that finished 4-12 in the previous season and being a rookie, his numbers are surprising and impressive for a 3rd round pick that wasn’t expected to do much. One of many bright spots on this sharp young team.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Some of the biggest surprises this season have been the turn around that some teams have made this year. The Los Angeles Rams are one of the biggest examples of that. Starting with the QB, Goff had a tough season last year. He struggled to show a solid pocket presence, failed to show good composure, and wasn’t making good decisions with the ball. He changed all of that this season. He was looking good in the pocket, making solid throws in tight spaces, and playing smart football. He looked like a solid, reliable QB this season. The man in the backfield has been a deadly force for the Rams. He had a bit of a rough season last year, as he failed to crack 900 yards and only had 6 touchdowns. He also turned everything around this season as he’s in the MVP debate having accrued 1300 yards and 13 touchdowns so far. He’s been running wild and has become a solid receiving back as well. Of course you can’t talk about this team without mentioning this young receiving group. Kupp has been a good rookie wideout, as he’s just 150 yards short of putting up 1,000 yards, Robert Woods has been very solid when healthy, and the addition of Sammy Watkins has paid off. This is a solid receiving group made up of young talented players. Goff has plenty of weapons that help him make this a very solid offense. The defense has just been lights out on the other side of the ball. They’ve been forcing turnovers, getting to the passer, and helping set this offense up. All in all they’ve completely shattered their preseason expectations and predictions and become a real force in the NFC. It’ll be exciting to see what they can do in the playoffs.
This Vikings team has been nothing short of spectacular. There were lots of questions at the quarterback position after losing Bridgewater and then Bradford. They were starting a rookie running back and a questionable Latavius Murray at back up. They were leaning on young receivers on the offense in Thielen and Diggs. The defense was expected to be stout but it wasn’t known just how stout they would be. This Vikings team is now as lethal as any team in the league. Keenum is rolling and doing things nobody would’ve ever expected of him. This team was expected to do really bad without Bradford or Bridgewater. Keenum just wasn’t able to prove any reliability as a starter during his time in LA. He came into this lineup and made the Vikings a force to be reckoned with. I see a strong, formidable Vikings team that is highly capable of making a strong playoff run.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints aren’t a total surprise to do well enough to make the playoffs. Drew Brees is a great QB, Mark Ingram is a solid RB, and this receiving group is more than reliable. We expected to see a Saints team that has to air it out and put up gaudy numbers on offense to try to overshadow their mediocre defense. Boy were we wrong! The two-headed monster of Ingram and Kamara really helped bring this offense to life. Kamara burst into the scene as a solid runner and a deadly receiver out of the backfield. Ingram ran wild this season and showed that he is a very talented back. Drew Brees did what Drew Brees does, and that was even easier with Thomas and Ginn stepping up this season. The real turnaround for this team was the defense. The emergence of the rookie Lattimore helped power this defense. They were slowing down the run, stopping the passing game, forcing turnovers, and getting to the QB. This team proved this season that they could perform on both sides of the ball. The Saints also like a scary team to play in the playoffs.
Of course we can’t talk about this Saints team without mentioning their big surprise in Kamara. He was getting some comparisons and praise coming into the season, but he wasn’t expected to do anything spectacular. He came out and put on a show in his rookie season. Even though he shared a backfield with Mark Ingram, the rookie running back still put up 1,300 yards total from scrimmage. He’s an elusive and speedy running back that can really do spectacular things catching out of the backfield. He has this quickness and vision that is just unmatched. He makes something big out of nothing. He’s helped push this Saints offense over the top and just really did some great things for this team. If Kamara can keep playing at this level in the playoffs, the Saints will be a very tough team to beat.
This young team finished their 2016 season at 3-13. They looked young, inexperienced and a long ways away from even resembling a good team. What a hell of a turnaround! This season, they’re currently 10-5, they’ve won their division, and they have the top defense in the league. Bortles wasn’t embarrassed or awful this season, and has even been a solid quarterback. They force tons of turnovers, pressure the QB, and they make good of those opportunities on the offensive side. They’re going to be a tough playoff team and it’s just very weird to say that about the Jaguars. They’ve established a solid pass game with Bortles and the young receivers in Cole, Westbrook, and Horns. They have their first 1,000 yard rusher since 2011 in Fournette. They have a very talented and lockdown defense led by star corners Bouye and Ramsey. They simply have the pieces to make a decent playoff run. I still can’t believe it’s the Jaguars I’m talking about like this!
JARED GOFF AND CARSON WENTZ
Of course I have to talk about these two together. They were drafted 1 and 2 in 2016, they both didn’t stand out much in their rookie seasons, and they’re both proving the doubters wrong in their second seasons. Wentz was putting up MVP caliber numbers before his injury and really made this Eagles team look untouchable. He showed so much poise, confidence, and QB IQ. He looked like a veteran quarterback and put himself front and center as the future of the quarterback position. Pederson did a great job of setting up a very solid team around him and Wentz rewarded him by playing great football. Goff has been very impressive as well. Gurley overshadows some of Goffs success as Gurley has had the numbers this season to put him right in the middle of the MVP conversation. We still have to acknowledge that Goff has played very well. He has help bring this team from the basement of the NFC to the top. Among the league leaders Goff is 4th in TDs, 8th in yards, and 5th in QBR. He literally has the numbers that made him a top 10 QB this year. He’s helped lead this team and helps make them the #1 offense that they are. He’s proven that it’s time to start talking about Jared Goff.
Despite sharing a backfield on a team with a mediocre offense, Alex Collins has done so much better than anyone expected. The Ravens scooped Collins from Seattle having shown little to no signs of being a reliable running back. On a team with a subpar offense in a committee backfield, he wasn’t expected to standout much in Baltimore. He really proved a lot of doubters wrong. He came into this season expected to share the load with various Ravens backs and to not do very much. He ended up rushing for just short of 1,000 yards and 6 TDs. He helped the Ravens out a lot this year and made plenty of big plays. Having fallen short of the playoffs, we won’t get to see what kind of playoff magic he’s capable of. Hopefully he’ll be just as good, or even better next season. He’s a special player and proved that he’s not a lost cause at Running back.
Deshaun Watson’s season wasn’t very long but boy was it exciting. He was expected to step in and start. He just wasn’t expected to play so prolifically. He was putting up phenomenal numbers and making the Texans offense look deadly. With the Miller, Fiedorowicz, Fuller, and Hopkins, this offense was looking unbeatable with Watson at the helm. In only 7 games, he had 1,700 yards and 19 TDs. He looked composed, talented, and smart as a QB. Often times he looked like he already had played a few years in the league. He has all the talent and IQ that a quarterback needs to succeed. I can’t imagine how things would’ve played out, had he not gotten hurt. Hopefully next year we can see the same production from him. When Watson is behind center, the Texans offense is just as entertaining as they are skilled.
The Saints defense last season was bad. The defense was just full of holes and mediocre play. They were getting out passed and out ran. They put up great offensive numbers, but they still couldn’t do enough to overcome their sloppy defense. This year was a whole different story. The defense stepped it up and it got a nice boost from rookie corner Marshon Lattimore. He blanketed receivers, shutdown plays, and just was a great corner all-around. He was the definition of a shutdown corner and was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl. He wasn’t just good, he played great. He covered guys like Brandon Cooks, Devante Adams, Mike Evans, and Julio Jones. He didn’t just cover those guys, he practically shut them down in those games. He played great and he more than deserves his pro bowl invitation.
KAREEM HUNT AND TYREEK HILL
The Chiefs’ rookie and sophomore took the NFL by storm early this season. Prior to this season, the Chiefs were a very slow-paced and low risk offense. Hunt and Hill completely revitalized this offense this season. Hunt and Hill started off with a historic first half of the season and then came back to earth in the second half of the season. Hunt won the rushing title, tallying up 1,300 yards and Hill finished 7th in receiving in a league where there are plenty of talented receivers. They just looked extremely explosive and elusive. This slow and lackluster offense just came to life and balled out when they caught fire in the first 6 or 7 games. It’ll be very interesting to see how they play next season with Mahomes at the helm instead of Smith.
In a season full of craziness, fantasy busts/sleepers, playoff droughts ended, a winless season from Cleveland, and injuries left and right, we witnessed so many surprises. Rookies took over and put up solid numbers, teams turned things around and silenced the haters, and others recovered from iffy rookie years to put up great second years. This season was great to watch and I really can’t wait for the playoffs. The NFL is always full of surprises, Cinderella stories, upsets, and excitement and I can’t wait to see what next year brings! Happy New Year and thanks for reading!
The NFL playoffs are drawing closer and closer. Every year countless people try to predict and analyze the playoffs. I️ love the game of football and I️ like to think I️ know a thing or two about football, so why can’t I do the same? I’m going to break down each team that is a playoff lock, in the hunt for a wildcard spot, or just sitting pretty. Let’s get started shall we:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
With a record of 11-3 the Patriots currently sit atop the AFC. Tom Brady is the likely front-runner for MVP, the diversified backfield looking solid, the defense and receiving core doing enough to make a difference, and Gronk just being Gronk. The Patriots look like the same juggernaut that we see year in and year out. The few times we’ve seen New England struggle were a result of the defense lacking a pass rush, allowing the QB to get comfortable, and the offensive line struggling to protect Brady and establish a running game. The offensive and defensive line seems to be the main factor that leads to Patriots losses. That hasn’t happened much this season, but the playoffs has its fair share of tough pass rushers and strong offensive lines. In most recent years of the Patriots’ domination, this year seems to be one of the most vulnerable teams. A team like Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles(Rams), or Minnesota could present them with a lot of trouble. I️ could see them either bowling through the AFC entirely or getting upset at any moment. However, Belicheck is Belicheck and the Patriots are the Patriots and they will be in the AFC Championship once again. I️ do think their journey stops there against the AFC’s surprise Jaguars.
Standing at 11-3 and the 2 seed in the AFC, the Steelers look very dangerous and very capable of making a run. The killer B’s in Ben, Bell, and Brown are doing the special things everyone assumed them to be capable of. Bell is proving to be a top, if not the top back in the league. Brown has put on another record breaking performance. Big Ben is proving that he has what I️t takes to keep playing and is doing his best to put the retirement rumors on the back burner. The killer B’s have always been the talent that we’ve seen this season so there’s no surprise there. The big surprise for the Steelers this season has been the electrifying rookie Juju Smith-Schuster. He’s been putting up strong numbers for a rookie and a lot of times showing a ton of potential and skill. He’s even proven that in Brown’s absence that he can provide a solid spark for the team. However with Brown battling a tough calf injury and Shazier gone with a spinal injury, we might see them struggle to make I️t past the divisional round. As hot as they’ve been this season their defense has shown a lot of vulnerability without Shazier anchoring that defense. I️ see them losing a close game in the divisional round to the Jaguars.
Sitting atop the AFC South at 10-4 the Jaguars have proven that they are a force to be reckoned with. They have the best passing and scoring defense in the league. This young team is proving all the doubters wrong as they continue to shut down opposing offenses and get their own offense rolling. Bortles has put together a solid season despite Hurns’ struggles and Robinson missing the whole season. The younger receivers have stepped up and Fournette has been a tank in the backfield. The defense is doing great things to set up the offense and the offense is taking advantage. The true question will be if this young team can handle the pressures of the playoffs. This is the team’s first playoff birth in 10 years, making this type of atmosphere very new to this team. It’s a tall task for a young team to take down the Patriots and Steelers in the playoffs, but I️ think they will do just that. They have the pass rush to disrupt Tom Brady, and the speed and coverage to smother the Killer B’s. I️ know it’s a very bold statement, but the Jaguars are my favorite to make I️t out of the AFC.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
As you can see, the Chiefs are my pick to win the AFC West. The Chargers just looked to inconsistent against the Chiefs last week to show any signs of winning out and taking the division and the Raiders are pretty much done for. The Chiefs have shown us a very strong team when they can let Smith go downfield and get creative. When they get Hill and Hunt involved as well, they could beat just about anybody. They were a very strong team to start the season and they showed us that team again last week. Aside from last week and the first 6 games, the Chiefs have been mediocre at best. The defense didn’t play well, Smith was playing his usual conservative self, and the two rookies virtually disappeared. With the 4 seed the. Chiefs will play the first wildcard team and I️ believe that team will be the Baltimore Ravens. I️ also believe the Ravens squeak by the Chiefs in this wildcard matchup, ending their playoff run before I️t can get started.
Ok I️ know me explain myself here. The first half of the season we saw a very shaky defense, a reserved and inconsistent Joe Flacco, and a still developing running game. They didn’t look anything like a viable playoff team during the first 8 or 9 games. Lately this team has let Flacco get loose and the offensive line has gotten better. They have found a decent passing game, and the emergence of Collins and Allen has helped them become a solid offense that can do enough to capitalize on the defense’s forced turnovers. Weddle has found the fountain of youth as he is now tied for second with 6 interceptions. The front seven have been good, led by the trio of Mosley, Suggs, and Williams. Humphrey has stepped up in Jimmy Smith’s absence and shown he’s one of the best rookie corners in the league. All around, I️ think we’re seeing the typical Ravens team we usually see in December and January when Flacco becomes a formidable QB for the playoffs. This team has a decent to solid offense lately and the defense is stout and game-changing. As inconsistent as they’ve been this season, they’re proving their strength as they will finish 10-6. Tucker is still the best kicker in the league and he and the rest of the team will slide past the Chiefs and then just barely fall short against the top seeded Patriots.
The Bills retain the 6th seed for this year’s playoffs with a record of 9-7. I️ know what you’re thinking; “what about the Titans?”. Well considering the Titans play Jacksonville and the Rams to finish the season and they struggle to be a force on either side of the ball, I️ don’t see them winning either game to finish 8-8. The Bills may lose their next matchup to the Patriots but they won’t lose the final game against the Dolphins. The Bills have a streaky and unexciting passing attack with Taylor and a solid and strong backfield in LeSean McCoy. The defense shows up when they want, but when they show up, they can actually pose trouble for some stronger offenses. As much as I️ like rooting for the underdog, I️ don’t see this underdog doing much in the playoffs. They will be matched up with a very tough Jaguars team that will beat the Bills very convincingly.
The Eagles have been the best team in the league while being led by the apparent QB of the future. Carson Wentz was putting on a season that was leading him to MVP greatness. The offense was absolutely rolling and the defense was playing pretty solid. They were preforming very well on both sides of the ball and were looking like a solid candidate to play in the super bowl. Now that Wentz has gone down for the season, things don’t look quite as bright without their second year stud under center. Foles is a decent quarterback that can play well enough to get wins, but the NFC is full of solid competition. The Eagles are still a good team with a solid committee backfield, a pretty good receiving group, and stout defense. Without Wentz, I️ just can’t see the Eagles getting passed the stronger teams in the conference and I️ think they’ll go down in the divisional round at the hands of the New Orleans Saints.
The Vikings roll in as the number 2 seed. They are another team that is almost unbeatable when they’re rolling. Keemun has surprised everyone by looking like a pretty good QB. He’s played very well this season, and has led this team along with a solid backfield and defense. Keemun has been a strong surprise but has gotten help from his RB group of Murray and McKinnon and his decent receiving group led by Adam Thielen. The defense has been a force, disrupting even the better league defenses. When they are clicking, very few teams stand a chance. So long as the run game stays consistent and opening up the passing game for Keenum, they should do well in the playoffs. I️ think they will lose in the NFC divisional game to the red hot Rams.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams have been another one of those surprise teams as they currently sit at 10-4. They have a very tough defense, a top 10 offense, and a favorable final 2 games. The Rams were expected to maybe break .500 and nothing more. Instead this team leads the league in point differential (+166) and is tied for first in points scored (31.3/game). The defense is very solid and makes stops and turnovers. The offense run by Goff and Gurley has indefinitely taken advantage of those chances all season. Goff is proving that he’s a good QB, Gurley is putting up monstrous numbers and is in running for MVP, Kupp and Woods have been dangerous receivers, and the line is giving them time to make plays. This team is functioning like a well oiled machine and has all the looks and talent of a Super Bowl contender. It’s a tough road to the Super Bowl having to get passed the Lions (yes the Lions), Vikings, and Saints, but I️ strongly believe this will be the team to get there.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints have been another team that has done things that we wouldn’t have expected this season. Drew Brees has done typical Drew Brees things irregardless of his age. The real surprise has come from this defense and his backfield. Many would’ve thought they’d rely very heavily on the pass to help create a somewhat decent run game and to keep pace with the defense allowing other teams to roll offensively. That’s just what we’ve seen from them before this year. What we got was a great running game behind the two headed monster of Ingram and Kamara, a top overall offense, and a defense that ranks 11th in total yards. They have played great football this season and with a veteran like Brees at the helm, I️ think we’ll see some solid playoffs performances out of this team. Kamara and Ingram just became the first RB duo to make the Pro Bowl since 1975 and that’s phenomenal. Brees will just be Brees and that’s always great to have for a team. This defense will continue to play at a high level lead by Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore. They will be a strong team and a tough out in the playoffs. They will make I️t to the NFC Championship game and finally get ousted by the Rams.
The Panthers have been solid for the most part this season. We’ve seen a lot of Cam playing the way he did when he made I️t to the Super Bowl two years ago. Adding in a dual-threat backfield, a solid receiving group, a healthy Greg Olsen, and a stout defense and I️t sounds like a real Super Bowl contender. However, we’ve seen a handful of games where Cam struggled to produce. We’ve also seen Olsen struggle to stay healthy. The running game has been the most promising part of the offense with Stewart still playing well and McCaffrey bursting into the scene as a solid receiving back. The defense has played well and that has helped overshadow some of Cam’s bad games, and Funchess has helped pull some spotlight away from Olsen’s injury troubles. The playoffs are a different type of scene, and all those imperfections and struggles are thrust into the spotlight and exposed for all to see. Maybe an MVP caliber Cam Newton and a healthy Greg Olsen could’ve have helped this team make a run but without that, they just don’t have what I️t takes this year to make I️t out of a very tough NFC. They won’t make I️t passed the Saints in the wildcard round.
Yes I️ believe the Lions will win out and take the 6 seed in the NFC. The Lions have an exciting offense for sure. A good QB in Matt Stafford, a crowded backfield, Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, and Eric Enron give this team a solid offensive attack. Granted the rushing attack has struggled, but there’s no doubt that the talent is there. This offense generally has to play keep up however, because aside from Darius Slay, this defense tends to lack the ability to lockdown or play stout defense. The offense 27th in overall offense and 25th in points allowed. The best shot they have at making any waves in the playoffs lies directly in the hands of Matthew Stafford and that solid passing game. Will that be enough for them to pull out a win or two? Unfortunately I️ will have to say no as they would be matched up against the red hot Rams. Maybe next year Detroit.
SUPER BOWL PREDICTION
I️ know my Super Bowl prediction here seems too good to be true, but I️t is highly possible. This pick is more than just wishful thinking as I️ believe we’ll see the Jacksonville Jaguars facing off against the Los Angeles Rams in the big game in Minnesota. Both teams are very dangerous and they seem very similar. Both have young QBs who have struggled in past seasons and are proving themselves now. Both have strong young running backs that are anchoring their offenses. Both have young, talented receiving groups that have surprised us all. Both have very strong and deadly defenses as well. They have a solid amount of similarities between them and they both are two of the most dangerous teams in the league. Both teams protect the quarterback well and both teams have solid pass rushing attacks. The two teams are ranking 1st and 2nd in sacks(Jax-51, LAR-47), and they also rank 5th and 8th in sacks allowed (Jax-21, LAR-24). They’ve both also done well with turnover differential ranking 2nd and 8th (Jax-+15, LAR-+6). The defense is stronger for the Jaguars, and the offense has an edge for the Rams. So in a battle of offense vs defense, who gets the edge? I️ might have to give the edge here to the Jaguars. They have that deadly defense with a shutdown defensive backfield and a strong, quick front seven. On the other side of the ball, Bortles isn’t getting pressured a lot and has made the defenses pay for giving him time. Normally we don’t see solid play like this from Bortles, but this is a product of a solid o-line and I️ don’t see that changing in this matchup. Fournette only looks better too behind this line. He’s a physical and talented young back and will pound out the yardage to open up the passing game. The defense will do just what it’s done all season. They’ll pressure Goff and slow down Gurley as they bottle up this offense. These corners will bottle up these young receivers and will have Goff frustrated and uncomfortable all day. I’m picking the Jaguars to best the Rams in the Super Bowl this year! I️ know that’s bold and crazy to say but the numbers and matchups speak for themselves.
PREDICTION : JAGUARS 23 RAMS 17