Super Bowl LV: The Case for Each Team and Game Predictions

This past year has been like no other, but like every year, this first Sunday of February is Super Bowl Sunday. This day has something for everyone, whether it’s the game itself, the ads, or The Weeknd’s halftime show. Before we all grab some snacks and sit in front of our TV for the most viewed event in the United States, I’m taking a closer look at the game in this post. I’ll be writing about keys to the game for both teams and showing you my predictions for the game. As always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Keys to the Game

Chiefs

The Chiefs offense can thrive as long as star quarterback Patrick Mahomes is able to connect with wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. That trio alone has taken the Chiefs a long way. The Buccaneers defense will likely try to key in on these two, so Mahomes needs to seize the opportunity when they are open. They should outplay the Tampa Bay secondary, but will likely face some double coverage which is difficult for anyone to overcome.

Historically, quarterback Tom Brady has been extremely difficult to stop in the Super Bowl. Brady is still a great quarterback, but he’s not what he was in his prime. Brady has great surroundings, but if the Chiefs can put pressure on him, they can limit Brady to an extent.

Offensive Key: Get the ball to Hill and Kelce
Defensive Key: Put pressure on Brady

Buccaneers

The Buccaneers offense has been somewhat inconsistent this year, but Brady has been known to dig himself out of holes on the Super Bowl. I wouldn’t be counting on that against Mahomes, who also dug himself out of a hole in his first Super Bowl win last year. Brady and the Bucs need to start strong out of the gate so they don’t find themselves in a close, back and forth battle later. This will not be easy to do, but I feel Brady is capable of it. He’ll need to do this if he doesn’t want a repeat of his Super Bowl loss against Philly.

Hill and Kelce can do a lot of damage, so the Bucs secondary needs to focus in on them. They can’t forget about Mahomes either though. Mahomes is the most crucial piece of this Chiefs offense, and even if the Bucs try to focus in on Hill and Kelce, Mahomes will find a way to get by. The Bucs do have a chance if the front seven rises to the occasion. Their front seven outmatches the banged up Chiefs o-line. They should take advantage of that fact and blitz frequently.

Playing in their home stadium could help matters as well. This has never happened before in the Super Bowl, and I’m curious to see what impact it has.

Offensive Key: Get off to a Running Start
Defensive Key: Outplay the Chiefs o-line and get to Mahomes

Game Prediction

I posted some of my prediction in my school newspaper, the Harbinger alongside a few other people. I’ll be providing the full version, including my projected stats, MVP, and scoring summary below.

Expect a close, high scoring game in which both quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, live up to the hype and make it one of the best Super Bowl quarterback matchups we’ve seen. Look for Brady to utilize his deep supporting cast, including wide receivers Mike Evans and Antonio Brown and a familiar face in tight end Rob Gronkowski. Mahomes doesn’t have as many elite options around him, but just the combo of speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill and star tight end Travis Kelce make the Chiefs offense extremely difficult to stop, even for a strong Buccaneers defense. This could go either way, but I expect Mahomes, Hill and Kelce to lead the Chiefs to a last minute win and their second straight Super bowl ring.

Projected Stats

Chiefs

Passing

  • Patrick Mahomes: 30/41, 396 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT

Rushing

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 13 rushes, 41 yards, 0 TD
  • Le’Veon Bell: 2 rushes, 5 yards, 0 TD
  • Darrel Williams: 2 rushes, 5 yards, 0 TD
  • Patrick Mahomes: 1 rush, 3 yards, 0 TD

Receiving

  • Tyreek Hill: 9 receptions, 170 yards, 2 TD
  • Travis Kelce: 12 receptions, 118 yards, 1 TD
  • Sammy Watkins: 3 receptions, 41 yards, 1 TD
  • Mecole Hardman: 2 receptions, 32 yards, 0 TD
  • Bryon Pringle: 1 reception, 14 yards, 0 TD
  • Demarcus Robinson: 1 reception, 11 yards, 0 TD
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD
  • Darrel Williams: 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD

Notable Defense:

  • Tyrann Mathieu: 1 INT

Buccaneers

Passing

  • Tom Brady: 35/53, 351 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing

  • Ronald Jones II: 22 rushes, 87 yards, 0 TD
  • Leonard Fournette: 17 rushes, 56 yards, 0 TD
  • Tom Brady: 1 rush, 1 yard, 0 TD

Receiving

  • Mike Evans: 7 receptions, 108 yards, 1 TD
  • Antonio Brown: 7 receptions, 75 yards, 1 TD
  • Chris Godwin: 7 receptions, 58 yards, 0 TD
  • Tyler Johnson: 3 receptions, 31 yards, 0 TD
  • Rob Gronkowski: 3 receptions, 28 yards, 1 TD
  • Cameron Brate: 3 receptions, 22 yards, 0 TD
  • Leonard Fournette: 3 receptions, 18 yards, 0 TD
  • Scotty Miller: 1 reception, 6 yards, 0 TD
  • Ronald Jones II: 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD

Notable Defense:

  • Jason Pierre-Paul: Sack

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

  • Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce for 14 yard TD: 7-0 KC
  • Ryan Succop 33 yard FG: 7-3 KC

2nd Quarter

  • Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski for 8 yard TD: 10-7 TB
  • Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill for 50 yard TD: 14-10 KC
  • Ryan Succop 24 yard FG: 14-13 KC

3rd Quarter

  • Tom Brady to Antonio Brown for 14 yard TD: 20-14 TB
  • Harrison Butker 50 yard FG: 20-17 TB
  • Tom Brady to Mike Evans for 15 yard TD: 27-17 TB

4th Quarter

  • Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill for 3 yard TD: 27-24 TB
  • Harrison Butker 33 yard FG: 27-27 TIE
  • Ryan Succop 42 yard FG: 30-27 TB
  • Ryan Succop 24 yard FG: 33-27 TB
  • Patrick Mahomes to Sammy Watkins for 18 yard TD: 34-33 KC

Projected MVP: Patrick Mahomes

That’s all for my preview of this exciting game. This could be one of the best Super Bowls we’ve seen in a while, with the Greatest of all Time taking on the current best QB in the league. I think Mahomes comes out on top, but this truly could go either way. Will Tom Brady win his 7th Super Bowl ring and further assert his status as the G.O.A.T., or will Patrick Mahomes win his 2nd straight Super Bowl and make way for a new Chiefs dynasty? We’ll all find out tonight.

2021 NFL Playoff Predictions: How far can Henry take Titans, who wins it all?

The largest NFL playoffs in history start tomorrow with a crazy Wild Card Weekend. 6 playoff games will air over the next two days. Even though the Patriots missed the playoffs, I’ll be excited to watch as I keep an eye on Tom Brady’s Buccaneers among other teams. Below I have my playoff bracket and have broken down each game. However, before we get to that, I thought it would be interesting to touch on a big storyline from last week that could have implications for the playoffs: Derrick Henry’s 2000 yard season.

Henry is the 8th 2000 yard rusher in history. You would think teams with 2000 yard rushers would come from dominant teams. However, teams with 2000 yard rushers don’t really have an amazing history. Check out some data I gathered on the 2000 yard rushers and their teams:

Here’s some quick facts I have about the data:

  • Of the other 7 teams with 2000 yard rushers, 2 missed the playoffs, 4 lost a wild card game, and 1 (the 1998 Broncos) won the Super Bowl
  • Titans are the first franchise with two 2000 yard rushing seasons – the first was by speedster Chris Johnson in 2009
  • The all time single season rushing record belongs to Rams legend Eric Dickerson (2105 yards). Adrian Peterson’s 2012 season came close to that marker, but not Henry’s 2020 performance
  • Only two of the other teams with 2000 yard rushers had Pro Bowl QBs, the 1998 Broncos had John Elway and the 2009 Titans had Vince Young
  • The 2020 Titans were top 5 in offensive PPG and total offense. Only two of the other teams with 2000 yard rushers (the 1997 Lions and 1998 Broncos) had a top 5 offense in both categories
  • Of the 8 teams, only the 1998 Broncos were top 10 in total passing
  • All 8 teams were 1st or 2nd in total rushing. The 2020 Titans trailed their wild card opponent, the Ravens in total rushing
  • 6 of the 8 teams were top 16 in both total defense and PPG allowed. Both Titans teams were 28th in total defense. The 2009 Titans were also 28th in PPG allowed, while the 2020 Titans were 24th in that category
  • The 2020 Titans, at 11-5, have the second best record of the 8 teams. The Super Bowl winning 1998 Broncos had the best at 14-2
  • The 2020 Titans won the AFC South. Only two of the other 7 teams, the 1998 Broncos and 2003 Ravens won their division

The 1998 Broncos were a breed of their own among this group of teams with 2000 yard rushers. Terrell Davis’ 2000 yard season was in addition to big years by Hall of Fame QB John Elway and legendary TE Shannon Sharpe, as well as 1000 yard seasons by WRs Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey. They were top 10 in PPG, total offense, total passing, and total rushing, and they had a top 12 defense to compliment it. The Broncos were a 14-2 super-team.

The 2020 Titans are definitely not as good as that Broncos team. However, they have a strong offense around Henry with QB Ryan Tannehill and the WR duo of A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. They did have the 2nd best record of these 8 teams, and they were one of three that were top 5 in total offense and offensive PPG. The question is whether they are more similar to the 1998 Broncos, or more similar to the other 6 teams, none of which made it past the wild card round.

The 1997 Lions, like the Titans, had a top 5 offense around RB Barry Sanders. However, their turnover prone QB Scott Mitchell and their inconsistency led them to a 9-7 record and a wild card loss. I think Ryan Tannehill and the 2020 Titans are better than this. However, the Titans have one of the worst defenses of these 8 teams, which could be a problem in these playoffs. I do think they’ll make it past the Ravens in the wild card round, as they know how to stop Lamar Jackson. They do also have the best offense with a 2000 yard rusher since the ‘98 Broncos. However, I can’t see them even coming close against if they have to face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs or Josh Allen and the Bills. Those two teams are on another level.

Now, let’s get to the rest of my bracket:

2021 NFL Playoff Bracket

I have QB Josh Allen and the Bills taking it all. While the Chiefs have the #1 seed in the AFC, the Bills have looked really good down the stretch as Allen and the Bills defense improve.

Here’s my prediction and breakdown of each matchup:

Wild Card Weekend

Bills, 30, Colts, 17

The Colts defense has been pretty good this year, but it’s no match for dual threat QB Josh Allen, WR Stefon Diggs, and a stacked Buffalo Bills passing attack. Indy will lean on RB Jonathan Taylor in order to put up some points, but it won’t be enough for the victory.

Browns, 28, Steelers, 27

This one could truly go either way. QB Ben Roethlisberger will give the Steelers a boost compared to Week 17, but this Browns team is still no joke (even though Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster seems to think so). Even with HC Kevin Stefanski off the sidelines due to COVID, I think QB Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense will edge out a victory and win their first playoff game of the 21st century.

Titans, 24, Ravens, 16

These two teams have a history, and I think history will repeat itself here. This Titans offense is too strong to lose in the wild card game. I have RB Derrick Henry running all over this defense. While the Ravens will do a good job establishing the run between QB Lamar Jackson and RB J.K. Dobbins, Jackson will struggle to establish the passing game and break away for big plays.

Saints, 33, Bears, 30

I think Chicago is going to give the Saints a scare. QB Mitch Trubisky has looked good lately. Meanwhile, the Saints will be getting back into a rhythm with RBs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray alongside WR Michael Thomas returning. The Saints will struggle early on but eventually get their act together and advance.

Seahawks, 23, Rams, 17

These teams split the regular season series, and now they face off for one last time. QB Jared Goff won’t be 100% even if he plays, so I don’t see the Rams winning this one. It will be close since the Rams defense knows how to slow down QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.

Buccaneers, 27, Washington, 17

The Bucs should be grateful they have the 5 seed. They get to play the winner of a division that didn’t even have a team above .500. Even without WR Mike Evans, QB Tom Brady and his strong group of receivers will be too much for any NFC East defense, even Washington’s, to handle. I think QB Alex Smith will post a decent performance, but not enough to keep up with Brady.

Divisional Round

Chiefs, 45, Browns, 41

This Browns offense has looked really good lately.  I have them powering their way past Pittsburgh’s D and putting up even more points on this Chiefs defense.  The RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt has worked really well and they will thrive here.  The Browns will make this a shootout, but I think QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will prevail.  Mahomes was clutch in the regular season and could continue to show that in the playoffs.  With the help of WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce, Mahomes and the Chiefs will hang on for victory and move on to the AFC Championship.

Bills, 33, Titans, 13

The Titans may beat up on the Ravens (again), but they’re no match for this Bills team. I’m expecting that Allen and Diggs will dominate against a flawed Titans D here. He should significantly outperform QB Ryan Tannehill, who will face pressure from a stronger Bills D.

Buccaneers, 31, Packers, 28 (OT)

I think QB Aaron Rodgers will make this matchup closer than it was last time, leaning on star WR Davante Adams. This one could go either way, and I have it going to overtime after strong performances from both Brady and Rodgers. In overtime, Brady will prevail once again, helping his legacy as a clutch playoff QB.

Saints, 38, Seahawks, 28

The Saints will have gotten into more of a rhythm after finishing strong against the Bears. This game will be easier for them, as QB Drew Brees and his offense thrive against a Seattle D that has struggled all year. Yes, Russ will look better in this one than the wild card game, but it won’t be enough to keep up with Brees in his element.

AFC/NFC Championships

Bills, 38, Chiefs, 34

Mahomes will stay in this game until the very end. However, the Chiefs still have flaws on defense, and even if Mahomes dominates, it won’t guarantee a Chiefs win. I think the Chiefs secondary will struggle to keep up with Allen and his receivers, especially Diggs. The Bills will expose Kansas City’s defense as they advance to the Super Bowl.

Saints, 34, Buccaneers, 31

Brees has beaten Brady twice this year, and this one will be very close, but it seems the Saints defense knows how to limit Brady. I have the Saints prevailing in the end. I think both QBs will post dominant performances in this one, adding to their amazing careers, but motivated to get his second ring, Brees will beat out a six-ringed Brady in an intense game.

Super Bowl LV: Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints

Bills, 21, Saints, 16

This is a battle of two of the most well balanced teams in football. A lot of these playoff teams are offense heavy, but both the Bills and Saints have established a strong defense, so I’d expect a low scoring Super Bowl if this is the game. While Brees will be motivated to win another ring, he’ll struggle under pressure from this Bills D and CB Tre’Davious White should be able to shadow Michael Thomas. Meanwhile, Allen won’t post his typical numbers, but he’ll perform just well enough to lead the Bills to at long last, a Super Bowl win. That’s something Bills legend Jim Kelly could never do.

I’m really excited to see how these playoffs turn out, as there are many possibilities. Feel free to comment with your thoughts on these predictions and stay tuned for more NFL coverage in the coming weeks.

NFL Week 17 Picks: Which teams try, which teams win, and what that all means

As I said in my post about the unique changes in 2020 sports, the 14 team NFL playoffs leads to more exciting late season action. Well, here we are. It’s Week 17, and there are still 18 teams in contention. Only 7 have clinched. The other 11 are fighting over another 7 playoff spots. My Week 17 picks are here. I have predicted which teams will put an effort in, which teams will win, and what that all means for the playoff picture. Last week I went 10-6, bringing my overall record to 148-91-1. Which teams will be in? Which teams will be out? Will I break my single season pick’em record of 160-94-2? Keep reading for my picks and comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

It seems the 49ers are playing for pride to an extent, as star TE George Kittle will be active despite lingering injuries throughout the year. WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk will sit out though, as well as a handful of Niners defensive players. The Seahawks could be in competition for the first round bye if they win this game, so they have plenty on the line. While Kittle should help the 49ers put some points on the board, it won’t be enough to even come close against a motivated Seahawks offense.

Upset of the Week

Yes, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is far better than Bears QB Mitch Trubisky. However, division games are never truly locks, because it’s hard to beat the same team twice. Trubisky is on a hot streak, and at Soldier Field, I think Trubisky and his offense will post respectable numbers with a playoff spot on the line. The Bears D will also step up in this pressing situation, limiting QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Davante Adams, and the Packers offense to just 24 points. I have the Bears securing their playoff spot as the Packers falling short, opening the #1 seed up to the Saints and Seahawks.

The Other Games

Sunday, 1PM
The Bills and Steelers are fighting over the #2 seed, and with Pittsburgh resting QB Ben Roethlisberger, the Bills should seize this opportunity. They will be resting some banged up players, but I expect the duo of QB Josh Allen and WR Stefon Diggs to post a strong performance. QB Tua Tagovailoa will rely on RB Myles Gaskin and WR DeVante Parker to make this close with a playoff spot on the line, but it won’t be enough to outperform the Allen-Diggs duo. That will leave Miami’s fate in the hands of teams like the Steelers (without Big Ben), Bengals, Texans, and Jaguars.
Sunday, 1PM
No matter how far out of the playoffs they are, Bill Belichick will never throw a game. Could he give QB Jarrett Stidham a chance? While he’s leaning towards starting veteran QB Cam Newton, that remains to be seen. I think this will be a close one, as the Jets have nothing to lose either way and should put their best effort in for a 3rd straight win. I have Belichick and Pats winning in a nail biter though.
Sunday, 1PM
The Browns should have a fairly easy win against a Steelers team that is without QB Ben Roethlisberger, TE Eric Ebron, and several key defensive players. The Browns did lose to the Jets last week, but they’ll get WRs Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and Donovan Peoples-Jones back for this one, as well as several offensive linemen. I expect QB Baker Mayfield to pick up where he left off when this offense was last at full health and lock up a playoff spot for Cleveland.
Sunday, 1PM
The Bengals would be better off losing this one since they have a chance to win back the #3 overall pick. Meanwhile, the Ravens have a win and they’re in scenario, so this shouldn’t even be a contest. QB Lamar Jackson and his RBs should run all over the Bengals D.
Sunday, 1PM
Both of these teams still have a chance at the playoffs. Yes, they would also need an Eagles win over Washington, but both of these teams need this win badly. Neither QB is great here, but they’ll post respectable performances in this one. I think this will come down to the wire with both offenses playing well. I have the Giants winning thanks to a Graham Gano game-winning field goal.
Sunday, 1PM
The Vikings will be without RB Dalvin Cook, which means QB Kirk Cousins will have to air out the ball. I expect WRs Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen to dominate against a below average Lions secondary. QB Matthew Stafford is suiting up and should help the Lions keep this competitive, but I see them falling short as they lack the star power to keep up with Thielen and Jefferson.
Sunday, 1PM
While QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski are questionable, it appears the Bucs will put their best effort in for this one. I think Brady will rely on a deep group of receivers to outplay the Atlanta defense and win this game fairly easily. I think QB Matt Ryan and WR Calvin Ridley will put on a show to stay in the game to an extent, but Brady and the Bucs should win rather comfortably.
Sunday, 4:25 PM
If the Titans win this, they clinch the AFC South and a playoff berth. The Texans won’t get much from throwing this game, as their first round pick belongs to Miami. I see QB Deshaun Watson and this offense putting up some points, but it won’t be enough against Tennessee. RB Derrick Henry is going for 2000 rushing yards, and he has already posted multiple 200 yard games in his career against Houston. I expect Henry to lead the way for a dominant offensive performance by the Titans.
Sunday, 4:25 PM
With the Dolphins falling short to Buffalo, the Colts will have a win and they’re in scenario here. The Colts lost to Jacksonville in their season opener, and they’ll be hungry for revenge. I have the Colts winning this easily as they utilize the 1-2 punch of RBs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. Jacksonville won’t even really be trying here, and they’ll be guaranteed the top pick in the draft whether they win or not.
Sunday, 4:25 PM
The Chiefs have clinched everything they can possibly clinch. They come into Week 17 with the #1 seed and the best record in the NFL guaranteed. They have every right to rest this week, and they plan to rest QB Patrick Mahomes and WR Tyreek Hill at the very least. The Chargers don’t have anything to play for, but QB Justin Herbert should lead the Chargers to an easy victory here. He nearly upset the Chiefs at full strength back in his Week 2 debut.
Sunday, 4:25 PM
Neither of these teams have anything to play for, but they wouldn’t really gain all that much from a higher draft pick, so I expect both to play for pride. While the Raiders D will give up some points as usual, I’m expecting a strong offensive performance from QB Derek Carr, RB Josh Jacobs, and TE Darren Waller. The Raiders should finish the season with a .500 record while the Broncos fall to 5-11 and likely get a top 10 pick in the draft.
Sunday, 4:25 PM
The Saints will be missing RBs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray (COVID protocols) as well as WR Michael Thomas (lingering ankle issue). If they lose this, they’d have to play a playoff game without Kamara. This is QB Drew Brees’ final playoff run of his career, and he’ll be motivated to make the most of it. The Saints D will slow down Carolina’s strong group of WRs to allow Brees to edge out the victory despite missing multiple teammates. With the win, the Saints will lock up the first round bye, which should make it easier for Kamara, Murray, and Thomas to return for the next Saints game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM
The Rams are in a rough situation with a playoff spot on the line. They’ll be without QB Jared Goff, RB Darrell Henderson, and WR Cooper Kupp. RB Cam Akers is also questionable. QB Kyler Murray and the Cardinals also have a playoff spot on the line here, so they should be able to get past this banged up Rams offense.
SNF
This game will decide the fate of whoever wins the Cowboys-Giants game. The Jalen Hurts experiment will continue here for the Eagles, but they’ll be without TE Dallas Goedert, RB Miles Sanders, and WR DeSean Jackson among others. That should allow Washington to slow down Hurts and the Philly offense and win this game. With the win they’ll take the NFC East and take on Brady and the Bucs on Wild Card Weekend.

That’s all for my picks this week. I referred to the playoff scenarios on the line throughout the article. If my picks are right, the playoff picture will look like this:

I hope you all enjoy the final week of the NFL’s regular season, and I’ll have my playoff predictions out in another few days.

2020 Sports: Which changes from this year should stick around?

2020 was not an easy year for the sports world.  From March to July, there were no sports.  Sports looked very different in the second half of the year.  Some of these differences should stick, while others will not.  Below is a change I liked and a change that I didn’t like so much for each of the four major US sports. 

MLB

What Should Stick Around: Universal DH

The concept of universal DH has been in talks for years.  2020’s modified schedule involving more inter-league play was just the final factor that convinced the MLB to implement it.  Before universal DH, it was almost like Major League Baseball was two separate leagues.  The World Series was a matchup of an AL champion and NL champion who got there playing slightly different versions of the game.  The NL champions tended to have more pitching because they didn’t need as good of a lineup, while the AL champions usually had to have strong lineups.  The NL is still more pitcher-heavy than the AL, but at least this unites the MLB under one rulebook.  It was long overdue, and it needs to stay this way.  

What Should be Left Behind: The Endless Negotiating

The MLB could have started the season safely as early as the end of June and they would have the whole sports market to themselves for about a month.  Instead, they delayed the start of the season even more because of what was essentially a lockout.  Rob Manfred did not handle the preseason negotiations well, and in the process he probably lost some MLB fans.  If the MLB and MLBPA don’t get their act together and come to faster agreements, it could jeopardize the long term success of professional baseball.  The financial toll on the league is already having an impact, as this off-season seems to be even slower than previous baseball off-seasons.  Most of the top free agents are still available (I’ll have an article about that out soon).

NFL

What Should Stick Around: Expanded Playoffs

The 14-team playoff bracket causes more exciting late-season action and allows more teams to stay competitive throughout the year.  Only the worst of the worst have really given up on this season, and even they might still be trying if it weren’t for Trevor Lawrence.  The expanded playoffs also make the #1 seed more valuable, as only the #1 seed gets a first round bye.  The only bad idea surrounding these expanded playoffs?  That would be putting one of the extra wild card games on Nickelodeon to try to get more kids interested.  Plenty of kids watch football without Nick having to get involved.

What Should be Left Behind: The Lack of a Preseason

While the season generally went well without a preseason, there were definitely more injuries than usual.  Teams with lackluster offensive lines were especially vulnerable, like the Giants (who lost RB Saquon Barkley to an ACL tear) and Bengals (who lost rookie QB Joe Burrow to an ACL tear and RB Joe Mixon to a foot iniury).  In addition, many talented rookies, such as Vikings WR Justin Jefferson, got off to extremely slow starts.  Jefferson posted an 1000 yard season and even broke some of Randy Moss’ Vikings WR rookie records, but he barely participated at all in the first two games of the year.  Yes, the preseason should be cut down a bit, but I think you need to have at least a couple preseason games to get the players ready to go.  I’d propose a two game preseason, one preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the season, and one preseason game prior to roster cut down day.  

NBA

What Should Stick Around: The 2020-2021 Schedule

I’ve got to be honest with you all, I like this year’s NBA schedule more than the normal NBA schedule.  Shifting the start of the season to Christmas is smart, as the NBA playoffs can cut into sports viewership ratings during the dog days of summer when baseball is the only other sport on TV.  Having a different season timeline than the NHL and stretching across winter, spring, and summer makes the NBA a little more unique than other leagues.  Who knows, maybe outdoor summer playoff games are in the NBA’s future.  In addition, I like the simple breakdown of the schedule: 2 games against every team in the other conference and 3 games against every team in your own conference.  Divisions in the NBA are barely utilized to begin with, and shifting to a more balanced conference schedule without extra division play is a smart idea.  

What Should be Left Behind: Universal Location Playoffs

The NBA bubble worked extremely well during the pandemic.  It’s not going to work in the future.  The lack of home-field advantage was probably a factor in the insane amount of upsets in the NBA bubble.  Yes, a universal location playoffs might be a good way to check the power of super teams, but taking away home field advantage entirely is not the answer.  I think the NBA bubble may have given an unfair advantage to certain teams.  Lowering the salary cap might be a better idea.

NHL

What Should Stick Around: The Realigned Divisions

I actually really like the idea of an all-Canadian division.  It was utilized this year to minimize border crossing, but it’s also going to revive classic Canadian hockey rivalries.  It’s not going to work when the Seattle Kraken join the league, but the Arizona Coyotes were already going to have to change divisions.  Why not stick with this realignment, put Seattle in the Western Division, and have the Coyotes pack their bags and relocate to Quebec City?  The Coyotes don’t have a very good hockey market in Phoenix.  In Quebec City, there are more hockey fans, and the Videotron Centre would easily be able to host an NHL team.  I could see the North Division sticking around if the Coyotes move to Quebec. It may take a couple years, but I think the all-Canadian division should return in future seasons.

What Goes: The 24 Team Playoffs

Some of the teams in the NHL’s bubble did not deserve to be there.  I don’t think there’s any reason to expand the NHL playoffs.  16 teams is plenty in what’s soon to be a 32 team league.  If anything it’s too easy to make the NHL playoffs, but the 16 team bracket works.  If they realign the league like I was talking about, they could even make the playoff bracket a four quadrant bracket by division (like they did in the NHL bubble) and make a big event out of the “Final Four” with the four divisional round winners.  

To Conclude…

2020 has forced and inspired a lot of change in the sports world.  Along the same lines, this website is about to undergo some change.  At certain points during the year, I didn’t have much to post about, and I think the entire sports world is ready to move on from this crazy year.  To begin 2021, I will be upgrading to WordPress Premium and changing my URL from andrewr1008.wordpress.com to simply be bostonsportsmania.com.  This is to make my website more accessible by making the URL easier to remember.  I may make some other changes to the site and start with some new kinds of posts as well, so be on the lookout as 2021 begins.  In the meantime, I hope you all have an enjoyable and safe New Year’s Eve.

NFL Week 16 Picks: Plenty on the Line over this Holiday Weekend

Merry Christmas everyone! Week 16 is here, starting with today’s Christmas matchup between the Saints and Vikings. Today I’ll be writing about all 16 of my weekly picks as usual. Last week I went 11-5, bringing my overall record to 138-85-1. Keep reading to see how I have each game ending and what the implications of it are.

Lock of the Week

The Jets picked up their first win against the Rams, a playoff contender. I don’t see them winning a second game in a row, especially against a Browns squad that has beaten up on bad teams all year. RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt should dominate against this Jets defense. Meanwhile, I think QB Sam Darnold will be able to rely on WR Jamison Crowder but struggle without other weapons stepping up for him.

Upset of the Week

The Vikings have had success against this Saints team in the past. They pulled off the Minneapolis Miracle against the Saints, and they beat the Saints in another wild card game during the 2019 season. WR Michael Thomas is out, so I don’t think QB Drew Brees and his receivers will do as well as some teams have against this Vikings secondary. Meanwhile, the Vikings offense will score just enough points to take down the Saints, relying on RB Dalvin Cook and slot WR Justin Jefferson.

The Other Games

Look for QB Tom Brady and his strong group of WRs to post a strong showing against a struggling Detroit secondary. Meanwhile, a Buccaneers front seven that has stopped top RBs all year should be able to slow down Lions RB D’Andre Swift. I think QB Matthew Stafford will connect well with WR Marvin Jones and TE T.J. Hockenson, but that won’t be enough to outplay TB12 with a Bucs playoff berth on the line.
I originally thought the 49ers would heal up for this one and even the series with Arizona after a loss in Week 1. The 49ers still have injury issues, and they have regressed significantly from last season. TE George Kittle will be a big help for San Francisco in his return, but that won’t be enough against QB Kyler Murray and an explosive Cardinals offense. This win should put Arizona in a good position to grab a wild card spot.
The Dolphins are off to a 9-5 start and currently hold a wild card. In the last two weeks, they face two tough matchups, traveling to Vegas and facing Buffalo. The Raiders have beat playoff contenders many times this season, and whether it’s Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota starting, I think the Vegas offense will post a strong showing and win this won. QB Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins should make this very close though, especially with RB Myles Gaskin among others back in the lineup.
The Steelers offense hasn’t been the same the last couple weeks, and I’m not expecting a huge game here either. However, I think Pittsburgh’s D will make things difficult for QB Philip Rivers, RB Jonathan Taylor and the Colts. This front seven is amazing at stopping the run and OLB T.J. Watt has led a strong pass rush. That will be the key in the Pittsburgh victory.
The Giants D has been pretty good so far this year, but the secondary is mediocre aside from CB James Bradberry, and I don’t think the front seven is any match for QB Lamar Jackson and RB J.K. Dobbins. Meanwhile, the Baltimore defense should be able to slow down QB Daniel Jones and secure the Ravens victory and put them in a good position to make the playoffs.
The Bengals offense has struggled mightily without rookie QB Joe Burrow. I think QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans should win here, but it won’t be a blowout. Watson lacks the surroundings for an offensive domination in this one. This Bengals defense isn’t anything special, but it isn’t terrible either.
The Bears won’t dominate this one like the Ravens did against Jacksonville last week. QB Mitch Trubisky should be able to rely on RB David Montgomery and WR Allen Robinson to put up enough points for the victory. If the Jaguars weren’t tanking though, they’d probably have a chance. Jacksonville has enough talent that they should be set up for success once they draft QB Trevor Lawrence.
If the Falcons were fully healthy, this would be a shootout. With RB Todd Gurley and WR Julio Jones banged up, I can’t even see Atlanta coming close. Even without RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, it should be business as usual for the Chiefs against the Atlanta D.
I don’t see the Broncos winning much more this season with Drew Lock at QB, and they’d probably rather have a higher draft slot at this point in order to find Lock’s replacement. Meanwhile, QB Justin Herbert and the Chargers will be playing for pride, as they are in good position to improve next year with some better luck and some small changes. This will be close with the Chargers a bit banged up, but Herbert will rely on RB Austin Ekeler here and ultimately lead LA to victory.
Even without WR Terry McLaurin, I think the Washington offense will find success here against a flawed Carolina D. They’ll have to rely on the RB duo of Antonio Gibson (who’s trending in the right direction to play) and J.D. McKissic, as well as TE Logan Thomas. The Panthers would probably have a better chance if it weren’t for the injury to RB Christian McCaffrey, but it seems like McCaffrey is gearing up for a 2021 return with the Panthers out of contention.
As crazy as it sounds, both of these teams still have a chance at the NFC East. The Cowboys won last week as they hosted San Francisco, and Philly has looked better with Jalen Hurts under center. I think Hurts will post an impressive game against the Cowboys D. However, this will be a classic Cowboys shootout. QB Andy Dalton and his strong group of WRs will make this close and I think Greg Zuerlein will make a last minute game winning field goal for Dallas here to allow for a Cowboys upset.
I think CB Jalen Ramsey will do a good job slowing down WR D.K. Metcalf, but QB Russell Wilson will rely on WR Tyler Lockett and his backfield to lead the Seahawks to split the season series with the Rams. Sean McVay seems to have Seattle’s number, but the Rams lack momentum after the Jets loss and it’s hard to beat the same team twice in a year. QB Jared Goff and his receivers should make this close, but in Seattle I don’t see the upset happening as the Seahawks stay in first place.
SNF
This will be a shootout as both RB Derrick Henry and RB Aaron Jones dominate. I think the difference here will be CB Jaire Alexander shutting down Titans WR A.J. Brown while Packers WR Davante Adams posts a strong showing against the Titans D. The Packers should come up clutch despite a big game from Henry.
MNF
The Patriots will be playing for pride here, as Bill Belichick historically does not tank. I still think they’ll come up short against a strong Bills squad. QB Josh Allen won’t be quite as good as usual against the New England D, but CB Stephon Gilmore would have covered WR Stefon Diggs and he is done for the year. Allen should be able to rely on his star WR and lead the Bills to victory in a close one.

That would be all for my picks this week. Stay tuned for more posts this coming week as I have a break from school, and be sure to check out the 2020-21 NBA Predictions I posted yesterday.

NFL Week 15 Picks: Many Close Games Ahead with Divisions on the Line

The college football regular season is over, and that means NFL football will dominate the TV networks this weekend. After a game on Thursday night, there will be two Saturday games, the regular large Sunday slate, and the typical Monday night game. There should be many close matchups throughout the weekend, including some crucial divisional rivalry games. Last week, I went 8-8 in picks to bring my overall record to 127-80-1 (128-80-1 including TNF). I’m hoping to beat that this week. Keep reading to find out who I think will win all the big games this weekend, and comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

QB Josh Allen has taken the next step this year, and QB Drew Lock hasn’t. It’s as simple as that. Allen should easily outperform Lock in this game, leading the Bills to a blowout victory. Denver has a good run defense that can stop Buffalo’s duo of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. I think Allen will use his arm to defeat the Broncos, relying on trustworthy WRs Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. Lock will struggle under pressure from a strong Bills D and he’ll be unable to even make this close.

Upset of the Week

Head coach Brian Flores has had a lot of success transforming Miami’s defense. However, Flores worked for many years under Bill Belichick. Belichick knows every trick Flores has up his sleeve and can coach his offense to work around it. I expect QB Cam Newton and the Pats offense to win this game through a successful run game. QB Tua Tagovailoa has looked good, but he’ll be unable to put up many points against Belichick’s defense considering his banged up surroundings. RB Myles Gaskin, WR DeVante Parker, and TE Mike Gesicki could all miss the game. That’s bad news for Tua against a defense that normally dominates young QBs and did so against Justin Herbert just two weeks ago. The Pats should win this in a defense heavy game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pick six in this one.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Instagram Thursday)
Vegas has struggled of late due to lackluster defense. I expect the same against an underrated Chargers offense. They may be eliminated from the playoffs, but QB Justin Herbert and his offense have played well all year long. LA’s flaws come in the form of a banged up defense and a struggling special teams unit. I’m expecting a high scoring game here and have the Chargers winning in the end as Herbert performs slightly better than Raiders QB Derek Carr.
Saturday
After a Bills blowout in the early window on Saturday, I’m expecting an exciting evening game between these two teams. The Packers have the far better record, but this Carolina offense has looked flashy all year and could give the Packers D a headache. The Packers may have star CB Jaire Alexander, but he can only cover one guy and the Panthers have three capable receivers. I do think Green Bay wins in the end. The Panthers will be unable to keep up with the combo of star QB Aaron Rodgers and a strong Packers run game led by Aaron Jones.
The Ravens are missing several of their receivers due to COVID. This Jaguars offense could put up a fight against a banged up Ravens squad, but I think Baltimore wins in the end. They will dominate Jacksonville’s defense on two fronts: by running the ball well and by relying on standout TE Mark Andrews. I think Andrews will catch multiple TDs. Meanwhile, the combo of mobile QB Lamar Jackson and RBs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards will be too much for the Jaguars D to handle.
RB Derrick Henry just dominated the Jaguars and I’m expecting an encore against a struggling Lions run defense. The Lions offense should put up some points with QB Matthew Stafford and RB D’Andre Swift healthy, but it won’t be that close. Swift is good, but he’s no Derrick Henry.
There was a point when I thought this Colts team was overrated. Over the last few weeks they have proved me wrong. QB Deshaun Watson is better than Philip Rivers, but the Colts beat the Texans when they were much healthier two weeks ago. Now, this banged up Texans offense will be no match for the Indy D and that will allow for a Colts victory.
Unless TE George Kittle returns, this will be a historic day for the Cowboys: their first win with less than 30 points in almost 2 years. Most receivers dominate this Cowboys secondary, and WR Brandon Aiyuk will still have a big game I think. However, the 49ers have one of the weakest receiving corps in the NFL. That will allow the Cowboys D to focus in on San Fran’s run game and impress. Meanwhile, the Cowboys offense will put up enough points for a victory, and for once, a non-shootout victory.
Sure, the Seahawks may have played the Jets last week, but their dominant win should give them momentum headed into this game. Despite facing a strong Washington secondary, I think QB Russell Wilson will connect well with WRs D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett here. The Washington offense will be unable to keep up, especially considering the fact that QB Alex Smith and RB Antonio Gibson will have to miss the game.
Even though the Bears D should limit them, I think the Vikings offense will still post a strong game. I do expect WR Allen Robinson to dominate and allow the Bears to get in this game. However, I think the Vikings will complete the season sweep with a close victory.
This Falcons offense has done fairly well. They are still no match for the Tampa Bay D, especially without WR Julio Jones. I’m also expecting a big game from QB Tom Brady and his strong offense against a flawed Atlanta D. Without Julio playing, this won’t even be close.
Annihilating the Jets has almost become a confirmation of whether a team is good. Teams like the Raiders who have let the Jets come close have been exposed as flawed teams. Teams like the Rams should win comfortably here. I think QB Jared Goff and his receivers will perform better than usual here, and I also expect RB Cam Akers to build on his success against the Patriots. QB Sam Darnold might lead a couple scoring drives against this Rams D, but he still won’t make this very close.
I’m impressed by QB Jalen Hurts after he led Philly to upset the Saints last week, and I think the Cardinals win this one but Hurts could give them a good challenge in Arizona. Hurts has been relying on RB Miles Sanders and the TE duo of Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz, which has worked. QB Kyler Murray doesn’t have good TEs, but he does have a strong run game around him as well as star WR DeAndre Hopkins. He’ll rely on those things to edge out the victory here.
The Saints have already looked pretty good without QB Drew Brees. Now, Brees is cleared to play, and we could have one of the most exciting matchups of the year on our hands. QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have seemed unstoppable this year, but I think the Saints D will be able to slow down the Kansas City run game and limit Mahomes. Meanwhile, Brees and the Saints offense will post a strong enough game to pull off the upset and hand Kansas City their second loss of the year.
I was thinking the Giants might have a chance here considering their improved defense. However, star CB James Bradberry is out, so I’m expecting another big game from this Browns offense. I think QB Baker Mayfield throws multiple TDs while also relying on his RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Freddie Kitchens, the Browns former head coach, will be calling offensive plays for the Giants, so I think New York will impress against the Browns D. It still won’t be enough to keep up with Mayfield’s stacked offense in prime time.
This was probably put on Monday night because of the impression that it would be QB Joe Burrow taking on Pittsburgh. Instead, Burrow’s season is over, and it’ll be Brandon Allen under center for Cincy. QB Ben Roethlisberger is far better, and this won’t be a competitive game.

That’s all for my picks this week. The playoffs are getting closer, and after this week multiple teams will either clinch or be eliminated. It only gets crazier next week.

NFL Week 14 Picks: Which Teams will Stay Alive, Fall Short in the Playoff Race?

There’s only 4 weeks left in the NFL season. Bye weeks are over. The Chiefs and Saints have already clinched a playoff berth and three more teams can lock one up this week. Several teams could be on the brink of elimination with 4 already out of it. The NFC East remains a close division that has allowed several struggling teams to keep their playoff hopes alive. My NFL Week 14 picks are here, and I’ll be discussing each game and the impact of it. Last week I went 9-6, bringing my overall record to 119-72-1 (119-73-1 including TNF). I hope to improve on that with this week’s 16 game slate.

Lock of the Week

I can’t see the tanking New York Jets beating a playoff contender after all this. The Seahawks were just embarrassed by the Giants at home. They don’t really have to try to win this one, but this is QB Russell Wilson’s opportunity to gather momentum and bounce back from his recent struggles. I think he’ll show off his skills with a strong offensive game. QB Sam Darnold and the Jets will not be competitive, especially with multiple receivers sitting out.

Upset of the Week

I’m taking Vegas in the upset here. Expect another strong game out of TE Darren Waller, who is coming off a dominant performance at MetLife Stadium. The Colts are in for a close one. I think QB Philip Rivers will have some good moments, but struggle with turnover issues that prevent him from leading the Colts to victory. Even though they almost lost to the Jets, the Raiders will remain in the playoff race after this win.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Social Media Thursday)
After annihilating the Chargers, the Pats will have the tougher of their two LA matchups. This one should come down to the wire. Rams DT Aaron Donald could make it hard for the Pats to run it up the middle, but they’ve gotten innovative with the run game in the past and can do it again. I do think QB Cam Newton will need to pass a bit more in this one though. The Rams should make it close, but CB Stephon Gilmore and the Pats secondary will limit QB Jared Goff’s receivers and allow for the Pats to edge out a victory.
Especially now that RB Myles Gaskin is out, I can’t see a Dolphins upset happening. The Chiefs offense should be able to perform at its usual level, even against Brian Flores’ defense. I’m expecting a decent game out of QB Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, but it won’t be enough to keep up with Kansas City.
This is a battle of two backup QBs, so one would expect a low scoring game. I don’t think so. Both these defenses have struggled this year. I think this will be a typical Cowboys shootout. The Cowboys will post a strong offensive performance, only to be defeated because of their lackluster secondary.
RB Derrick Henry typically dominates against Jacksonville, and I’m expecting the same in this one. QB Ryan Tannehill is throwing the ball a bit more and will contribute a couple pass TDs as well. I think RB James Robinson will try to keep up with Henry, but the Jaguars will not be competitive here as QB Mike Glennon struggles.
The Texans offense is in shambles, so if they have a standing chance at a victory, they need to step up on defense. That shouldn’t be that hard against QB Mitch Trubisky. I still think the Bears will win in the end as Watson struggles without WR Will Fuller and with WR Brandin Cooks shadowed by CB Kyle Fuller. The Bears should remain in the playoff race after this one.
QB Teddy Bridgewater is lacking weapons here, as WR D.J. Moore is out. WR Curtis Samuel will play but missed several practices this week and we don’t know how prepared he’ll be for this matchup. Even so, I think Bridgewater will be able to outperform struggling Broncos QB Drew Lock and lead Carolina to victory in a close game. He’ll rely on WR Robby Anderson in the victory.
The Cardinals have struggled a bit lately, while the Giants have taken the edge in the NFC East. The Giants just beat the Seahawks in Seattle with backup QB Colt McCoy. I think they can handle the Cardinals at MetLife Stadium with QB Daniel Jones back. QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins will lead the Cardinals to keep this one close, but it won’t be enough.
The Vikings secondary has had problems all year, so I don’t expect them to be able to stop what might be the best WR trio in the league. Minnesota’s offense has had some insane success of late too, and while I expect to see some of that against Tampa, it won’t be enough to take down QB Tom Brady and his offense.
The Falcons should be able to put up some points against a struggling Chargers D. However, QB Justin Herbert will be motivated to bounce back after getting shutout by New England. Look for the Chargers offense to succeed at this against a flawed Falcons D.
This is a battle of two of the league’s newest mobile QBs, Taysom Hill and Jalen Hurts. Hill has been getting into a groove with the Saints which isn’t surprising if you consider his excellent surroundings. I think Hurts will make this close as he relies on checkdowns to RB Miles Sanders and his tight ends, but he’s no match for this Saints offense.
With CBs Jeff Okudah and Desmond Trufant both injured, I’m expecting a monster game out of QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Davante Adams. The Lions will be more competitive in this one with RB D’Andre Swift back in the lineup. However, Swift is no Dalvin Cook. He won’t be enough for the Lions to keep up with a thriving Rodgers-Adams duo. I have the Packers winning this and clinching a playoff berth.
I think Washington will struggle against this San Francisco D. WR Terry McLaurin will meet his match in CB Richard Sherman. The rest of the offense will struggle under pressure from a strong front seven. The Niners won’t score that much either, but I could see a strong game out of TE Jordan Reed and some big plays by the RBs to allow for the 49ers to get out to a lead and keep their playoff hopes alive.
SNF
The Steelers started this year 11-0. Then they lost to the Washington Football Team. Even if they hadn’t lost to Washington I would have predicted the Steelers to fall short in this one. The Bills run game will most likely struggle here, but QB Josh Allen has a cannon for an arm and can beat the Steelers by relying on WRs Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. Pittsburgh will struggle against the Bills secondary as Allen is able to outplay QB Ben Roethlisberger and lead the Bills to victory. However, it’ll be the Steelers who clinch a playoff berth, as the Bills would need a Raiders loss to clinch, and the Steelers just need a loss from one of Miami, Vegas, or Tennessee.
MNF
In the first game between these two teams, QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens dominated. A lot has changed since that game. The Ravens have lost 4 of 6 after a 5-1 start. I’m expecting them to get into a groove here despite the tough matchup. QB Lamar Jackson will put up a decent game but be unable to dominate like he did in Week 1 as defenses have begun to figure him out. I have the Browns pulling off the upset in a close one as Baltimore’s path to the playoffs narrows.

That’s all for my picks for this week. Stay tuned for more NFL coverage and posts about other sports soon.

NFL Week 13 Picks: Who will take the edge in NFC East, other Competitive Races?

As bad as the NFC East is right now, it’s still a very competitive playoff race. That’s not the only playoff race on the line this week either. My NFL picks are here, and I’ll be discussing each game and any playoff implications it might have. Last week I went 11-5, bringing my overall record to 110-66-1. Keep reading for my predictions for this week.

Lock of the Week

For my lock this week, I’m taking the undefeated Steelers over another NFC East squad in Washington. Sure, Washington has looked impressive the last few weeks as RB Antonio Gibson and WR Terry McLaurin improve with Alex Smith under center. However, Pittsburgh took down all three of the division’s other teams and I cannot see Washington doing any better and ending Pittsburgh’s undefeated run. The win here will keep Pittsburgh in line for the #1 seed, and prevent Washington from pulling ahead in their division.

Upset of the Week

The Cardinals offense has impressed all year, and I’m expecting that to continue here. The Rams strong defensive performance has allowed them to overperform in the NFC West. I still don’t see them slowing down Arizona too much. Even if they put star CB Jalen Ramsey on WR DeAndre Hopkins, QB Kyler Murray still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. This will be close though as QB Jared Goff and his receivers post a respectable performance in Arizona.

The Other Games

Without QB Joe Burrow, it’s hard to see Cincinnati winning this. The Bengals offense will be at a significant disadvantage without Burrow. Meanwhile, Miami will get QB Tua Tagovailoa and RB Myles Gaskin back from injury. I have Miami winning, guaranteeing them a winning percentage of .500 or better.
Heading into the season I was a non-believer in Vegas. Originally, I had the Jets winning this one as I was under an impression that these would be the league’s worst teams. The Raiders haven’t been amazing, but I think they’re capable of taking down the Jets here. RB Josh Jacobs may be out, but RB Devontae Booker is a reliable replacement. I think the entire Raiders offense will thrive here and the anemic Jets offense will struggle to keep up.
The Browns may be 8-3, but they haven’t been able to take down elite teams. I think they will make it close against Tennessee, but once again fall short when it matters. Without WR Odell Beckham Jr. in the picture, QB Baker Mayfield lacks the weapons to keep up with a strong Titans offense. The Titans will solidify themselves as a legitimate contender while the Browns hold out hopes for a wild card considering the fact that they will be 3-4 games behind Pittsburgh.
I think Houston would win this if their WR corps wasn’t missing Will Fuller and Randall Cobb. Without those two, the Colts secondary can focus in on WR Brandin Cooks and make it difficult for this Texans offense to succeed. Even with QB Philip Rivers banged up, I think the Colts will win this one with Houston’s offense decimated by injuries as well as Fuller’s suspension.
Considering how much this Vikings secondary has struggled, I think QB Mike Glennon and his receivers will be able to keep this close. Minnesota should be able to win in the end though. The Vikings entire offense should thrive against Jacksonville’s D. I expect RB Dalvin Cook as well as WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson to dominate once again.
Though I have the Bears blowing out Detroit, I could see a wide range of outcomes occurring here. The Bears can pull off a blowout if QB Mitch Trubisky connects well with WR Allen Robinson and stop WR Marvin Jones and TE T.J. Hockenson. I think they’re capable of doing all those things. The Bears D has thrived in favorable matchups like this one, and I see them preventing the Lions from keeping up with Chicago here.
The Falcons run D has been surprisingly impressive. I don’t think they’ll be able to handle the trio of mobile QB Taysom Hill and RBs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. In addition, WR Michael Thomas should have a big day against a struggling Atlanta secondary. Even with WR Julio Jones back, I can’t see the Falcons offense keeping up with that. The Saints D has been one of the NFL’s best this year. I think the Saints hold on to the top seed in the NFC despite Drew Brees’ absence.
With a win here, the Seahawks can truly pull ahead in the competitive NFC West. I think the Giants offense will post a respectable performance here despite the absence of QB Daniel Jones. Seattle’s struggling secondary has made for some nail biters and I expect the same here. However, I think QB Russell Wilson and his receivers will step up to lead Seattle to victory. Even in a matchup with CB James Bradberry, I think D.K. Metcalf will post a strong game. I think the Giants will stay on top of the NFC East after this week, but they won’t pull ahead by any means.
Originally I thought QB Justin Herbert and the Chargers could win this one. The Pats are coming off a win against Arizona though, so I think they can handle a 3-8 Chargers squad. Don’t get me wrong, the Chargers are no joke. With a stacked offense that includes RB Austin Ekeler, WR Keenan Allen, and TE Hunter Henry, they will stay competitive here. However, I think QB Cam Newton will come up clutch against an inconsistent Chargers D and lead New England to victory, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
QB Carson Wentz owned up to his struggles this week, and I think he’ll be motivated to bounce back in an important game against Green Bay. I think Wentz will throw for 300+ yards and several TDs here, looking a little bit more like a 2nd overall pick and giving Green Bay a difficult matchup. I think QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will take this one in the end though, as he comes up clutch in the offensive shootout.
SNF
If the Chiefs want a chance to take the 1 seed away from Pittsburgh, they need to win this primetime game. Even with QB Drew Lock back, I don’t see the Broncos making this a competitive game. QB Patrick Mahomes should dominate as usual, even against an above average Denver defense, allowing the Chiefs to win with ease and remain 1 game behind Pittsburgh.
MNF
The 49ers can stay competitive this season after taking down the Rams last week. They’d need to win this game though. TE George Kittle is still out, but QB Nick Mullens can rely on WR Deebo Samuel, who posted a dominant game last week. Neither of these defenses are the powerhouses they were last year. I still expect a close, low scoring affair here, and I have the 49ers coming out on top to keep their season alive.
Tuesday
Even against the Ravens D, I think the Cowboys will post a strong offensive performance as usual. However, the Ravens should be getting plenty of players back from COVID, including rookie RB J.K. Dobbins, who had a strong game and led the backfield the last time he played. That will allow them to come out on top against a flawed Dallas defense and stay in the playoff race as the Cowboys and all three of their division rivals take another loss.

That’s all for my picks this week. Stay tuned for more next week when the playoff race intensifies.

NFL Week 12 Picks: Plenty of Close Games to Start the Holiday Season

After two surprising outcomes on Thanksgiving Day, there are a lot of exciting games remaining that could truly go either way. My hometown Patriots host QB Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. The Titans have a rematch with the Colts. The Vikings take on a strong Carolina offense. The Niners and Rams have an important NFC West rematch. The Ravens and Steelers (barring any more COVID cases) will have a rematch to top off the week on Tuesday. The week is highlighted by a potential Super Bowl preview, Buccaneers vs. Chiefs. Last week I went 10-4 in pick’em, bringing my overall record to 99-61-1 (99-63-1 including the Thanksgiving games). Keep reading for my picks for this week.

Lock of the Week

Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt might very well be the best RB duo in the league. I think they’ll both dominate here in an easy Browns victory over Jacksonville. Jaguars RB James Robinson has been successful despite the Jags playing from behind most of the season. It won’t be enough to allow for a Jaguars comeback or even make it close.

Upset of the Week

This will be a very exciting game. The G.O.A.T. takes on the best young QB in this league. It could even be a Super Bowl preview. Right now, Patrick Mahomes is the better QB of the two. However, Tom Brady has the best surroundings he’s had in a long time. These surroundings are even better than what Mahomes has in WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce. This hasn’t won him every game. I think it’ll make a difference here with Brady motivated to show that he’s still a good QB in this league and defend his G.O.A.T. status.

The Other Games

Posted to Twitter Thursday
Both offenses are missing pieces here, so this will probably be an ugly game. I think Detroit will win in their traditional Turkey Day matchup, but that win will not come easy. The Lions will probably struggle to limit QB Deshaun Watson and his receivers. I think QB Matthew Stafford will lead this Lions offense to keep up though.
Posted to Twitter Thursday
With QB Andy Dalton back, I have the Cowboys turning things around after losing in Washington. Dalton is surrounded by a strong offense. He got concussed by an illegal hit to the head in the last game against this squad, so he’ll be hungry for revenge. QB Alex Smith has had success under center for Washington and this will be close, but Dalton will be motivated to finish this one off strong and avoid the season sweep.
The Chargers will be without top corner Casey Hayward, which should be the recipe for a big day out of QB Josh Allen and star WR Stefon Diggs. Expect this duo to lead the Bills to victory. RB Austin Ekeler is back though, so the Chargers should be able to keep up with Buffalo for a good portion of the game.
I think this will be a run heavy game in a battle of two mobile QBs and two talented backfields. The Cardinals should see good production out of Kyler Murray and his RB duo of Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds. I think Cam Newton and the Pats will slightly outperform by relying on their own RB duo of Damien Harris and James White.
Even with Tua Tagovailoa doubtful, the Dolphins should win this with ease since Ryan Fitzpatrick is also a solid starting QB. With QB Sam Darnold back, I’m expecting a slight improvement from the Jets offense. It still probably won’t be enough to make this competitive as New York’s chances at Trevor Lawrence increase.
With QB Joe Burrow done for the year, it’s a whole new story in Cincinnati. This offense will be without its newfound firepower. This will allow for a Giants victory that believe it or not, will make them tied with Washington for the NFC East lead. The Giants don’t have an amazing offense either, but QB Daniel Jones should be able to outperform Brandon Allen, who will be under center for Cincy.
The Titans suffered an embarrassing loss to Indy a couple weeks back. They will be hungry for revenge. I think the Colts will double team WR A.J. Brown, but that will take attention away from WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith. I’m also expecting a respectable game out of RB Derrick Henry despite the difficult matchup. Without RB Jonathan Taylor, the Colts will be forced to rely on QB Philip Rivers’ arm, and his accuracy has been a serious concern over the last two seasons.
RB Josh Jacobs and WR Calvin Ridley have both stood out within their offenses so far this year. I’m expecting the same in this game. Jacobs will be too much for the Falcons run defense to handle. Even with WR Julio Jones out, the Raiders don’t have enough good DBs to keep Ridley in check. This will be a close offensive shootout, but the Falcons are not finishers, and without Jones I don’t like their chances here.
If you think you’ve seen RB Dalvin Cook dominate, just wait until you watch this game. I’m expecting one of his best performances to date in this one, as he’ll need to step it up with WR Adam Thielen out. I also expect WR Justin Jefferson to step up in Thielen’s absence. Carolina has had offensive success all year and has the firepower to keep up with a shorthanded Minnesota offense. However, I think Cook leads the way to a Vikings win here.
The Broncos will have to start former Wake Forest QB and current WR Kendall Hinton under center. It’s not like the Saints have an orthodox QB either; they’ll be starting Taysom Hill. Both these QBs lack experience as passers but know how to succeed outside the pocket. I’m expecting creative offensive schemes by both sides and I think this will be closer than most people expect. However, the Saints should still win in the end with RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas making it easier for Hill to succeed.
This will be an important game in a close NFC West. The Niners are in need of a division victory, but I don’t see it happening here. The offense will look better with RB Raheem Mostert and WR Deebo Samuel back in the mix. It still won’t be enough to keep up with QB Jared Goff and his WR duo of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. I have the Rams taking this in a close one.
SNF
I think this will be a close one in which QB Mitch Trubisky will prove he is better than Nick Foles. Nick Foles has proven that he is a system QB. Trubisky isn’t great, but he’s the better option of the two. The Bears D should limit QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers more than usual. It still won’t be enough for a Bears upset.
MNF

The Seahawks have not blown out an opponent yet this year. You might think they’d pull it off against a struggling NFC East opponent, but I don’t see it being so easy. Philly’s receivers and TE Dallas Goedert should have some success against an ailing Seahawks secondary. QB Russell Wilson should lead Seattle to victory in the end though, relying on a balance of returning RB Chris Carson and his receivers.
Tuesday
Baltimore is without QB Lamar Jackson, their top two RBs and TE Mark Andrews due to COVID. I think the Steelers win in the end, but this won’t be a cake walk. The Ravens secondary should still be able to limit QB Ben Roethlisberger’s receivers and make this close. A strong defensive performance by Pittsburgh will make for one of the lowest scoring NFL games this season.

That’s all for my picks this week. Stay tuned for more NFL coverage soon.

NFL Week 11 Picks: The Playoff Push is Beginning

Most teams have already had their bye if they don’t have it this week, and at this point, we know which teams can contend and which teams will sit in the league’s basement. There are probably about 20 teams capable of making the NFL playoffs, but there are only 14 spots available. Teams will need to gain momentum in this last handful of weeks in order to make the playoffs. Which teams will pick up crucial wins this week, and which teams will suffer tough losses? Keep reading to find out what I think. Last week I went 7-7 in my picks, bringing my overall record to 89-57-1 (90-57-1 including TNF). I’m hoping to beat that this week and be above .500.

Lock of the Week

This won’t even be close. Sure, James Robinson has kept Jacksonville’s offense alive thus far. He still hasn’t had to face Pittsburgh’s dominant front seven. This defensive front will also be too much for young QB Jake Luton. Meanwhile, QB Ben Roethlisberger should perform at an elite level against a flawed Jacksonville defense.

Upset of the Week

So far, QB Drew Lock has been a major disappointment, while QB Tua Tagovailoa is off to a 3-0 start. That won’t matter this week. I think the Broncos RB duo of Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay will be too much for the banged up Miami front seven to handle. Meanwhile, Miami’s depleted backfield will struggle. Though Tua will outplay Lock, the Broncos will pull off the upset due to a much more effective run game.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Social Media Thursday)
After a couple of rough games, QB Russell Wilson will be motivated for a bounce back. I expect Wilson and his receivers to overcome a pesky Arizona secondary. QB Kyler Murray will stay right on Wilson’s tail throughout the game, connecting well with WR DeAndre Hopkins. However, it’s hard to beat the same team twice in a season, and the Cardinals will fail to do so here.
The Pats are coming off a big win against Baltimore. With momentum in their favor, I think they’ll take down the Texans this week. QB Cam Newton will continue to rely on second year RB Damien Harris and WR Jakobi Meyers. QB Deshaun Watson should be able to keep it competitive with help from WRs Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller V. I think Bill Belichick’s defense will shut down Houston’s run game though. That will make the difference in a Pats victory.
This will be a close one, especially considering what RB Derrick Henry did to this Ravens defense a year ago. Henry could have another dominant game, but I think Baltimore’s front seven has improved and should be able to prevent Henry from a complete encore. I think QB Lamar Jackson will be supported by WR Marquise Brown and a big day from K Justin Tucker in a crucial Ravens victory.
The Browns RB duo is hard for any defense to stop, and Philly is no different. QB Carson Wentz’s offense is definitely in better shape than it has been, but Cleveland has capitalized on favorable matchups and I expect that to continue here.
Washington’s offense has improved with Alex Smith back under center. I expect the success to continue as they host the Bengals. QB Joe Burrow and the Bengals will make it close, but the underrated Washington defense will come up clutch, limiting Burrow enough to defeat Cincinnati.
The Lions will be missing RB D’Andre Swift and WRs Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola. It was one thing when Golladay sat, but half of QB Matthew Stafford’s weapons are now hurt, and even Stafford is a little banged up. This will allow Carolina’s offense to outperform Detroit, even with P.J. Walker under center.
It’s Taysom Hill season in New Orleans. Expect Hill to rely on RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas in addition to his own legs in his debut under center for the Saints. I think QB Matt Ryan and his receivers will make this close, but Hill has the tools in this offense to lead New Orleans to victory.
I’m expecting a big game from RB Kalen Ballage against one of his former teams. He’s now the lead back for the Chargers and has had more success in LA than he’s had anywhere else. QB Justin Herbert will also rely on WR Keenan Allen (as always) to give the Chargers a substantial lead. The Jets offense will struggle to keep up, and Herbert should finally win his second game.
I’ve been skeptical about this Colts team all season, but after the win in Tennessee, they’ve proven themselves as a legitimate contender. I think their RB committee will thrive against a flawed Packers front seven. QB Aaron Rodgers will struggle to keep up due to the lack of weapons aside from RB Aaron Jones and WR Davante Adams. Philip Rivers is by far the lesser QB in this one, but that won’t stop the Colts from a victory. A victory here in addition to a Titans loss could give the Colts a firm hold of the AFC South lead.
With QB Andy Dalton back and the Cowboys facing one of the NFL’s worst secondaries, I’m expecting a classic Cowboys pass heavy shootout. Dalton and his receivers will dominate, making for one of Dallas’ best offensive games this year. I still the Vikings will keep up through it all and snag the victory. Expect RB Dalvin Cook and WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson all to post strong showings for the Minnesota offense.
SNF
This Raiders defense wasn’t anything special at full health. Now, a large amount of the Raiders D has COVID-19 after a failure to follow protocol. Vegas may have won the first round of this match-up, but a banged up Raiders D is the recipe for a dominant game from QB Patrick Mahomes. QB Derek Carr will impress once again and make this close, but it won’t be enough for victory this time around.
MNF

This will absolutely be an exciting Monday Night game. I think QB Jared Goff and his receivers will impress against an inexperienced Bucs secondary, but QB Tom Brady will post a big game of his own. The Rams can put CB Jalen Ramsey on WR Mike Evans and they’ll have DT Aaron Donald applying pressure at the line of scrimmage. However, Brady has a plethora of weapons in this offense and the Rams will fail to stop them all. That should be enough for a Bucs victory in an important game.

That’s all for my picks this week. Stay tuned for more NFL coverage, including coverage of the Thanksgiving Day NFL slate. In addition, I may have some college basketball content out in the coming weeks.