Football season is quickly approaching, and teams have began to prepare for the upcoming year. The AFC could be a very competitive conference, but which teams have enough talent to be playoff contenders? My cousin Michael Philipkosky and I broke it all down in this episode of his podcast, the Master Plan.
The NFL Draft is a week away, and rumors have been all over the place about what will happen. One big question here in New England is how the Patriots will address their QB situation. Bill Belichick made a lot of additions this offseason, and he opted to re-sign Cam Newton. However, are all these additions meant to help build around Newton, or to help make the transition easier for a new quarterback? It will take a lot to get a quarterback in this offense-heavy draft class, but it may be worth it considering this is one of the best QB classes in recent history. I’ve answered that question and more in the mock draft below. The mock is based off a combo of what I think teams will do and what I think they should do.
|1||Trevor Lawrence||QB||Clemson||In my eyes, this one’s a no brainer. Lawrence looks like the best QB prospect we’ve seen since Andrew Luck between his insane accuracy, big arm, and quick release. He is a generational talent who can bring a level of success the Jaguars have never seen before.|
|2||Zach Wilson||QB||BYU||Now that the Jets dealt Sam Darnold to the Panthers, it’s pretty clear that they want to take the quarterback of their future here. Wilson faced lighter competition than other top QBs at BYU, but has a great skillset and might even have a better arm than Lawrence. It will take time for Wilson to adjust to the NFL but it’s a good investment for the future of this team.|
|3||Trey Lance||QB||North |
|The rumors here have mostly been about Mac Jones and Justin Fields. However, I think the Niners have their eye on a different QB. Lance dominated the FCS in 2019 before sitting out 2020, and looks to be the best FCS QB since Carson Wentz (also from NDSU). Lance will benefit from some time behind current Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo but San Fran will have someone to turn to in the case that Jimmy G is hurt again.|
|Justin Fields||QB||Ohio State||Bill Belichick is not known to be someone who trades up for quarterbacks. However, I think it’s very clear that Belichick is taking a different approach this year as he tries to thrust his team back into contention. He has been known to buy low on players, and Fields, once considered a top 2 QB in the class, has seen his draft stock plummet. I think Newton will be the bridge to the Fields era in Foxborough.|
|5||Penei Sewell||OL||Oregon||There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding a Joe Burrow reunion with LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase. However, the Bengals would be foolish if they failed to provide Burrow extra protection. The Bengals offensive line put Burrow and RB Joe Mixon at risk. It should take priority over another weapon, as the Bengals already have WRs Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. In addition, Sewell might be the best o-line prospect since Quenton Nelson.|
|WR||Alabama||Chase is easily my top receiver in this class. However, I do see a QB-WR reunion happening here as Tua Tagovailoa reunites with Jaylen Waddle. Waddle missed time last year but proved to be talented and well-rounded when healthy. He’ll be a good fit in Miami, where he can develop into their WR1 without drawing too much coverage as a rookie.|
|7||Ja’Marr Chase||WR||LSU||Chase could make it past the Bengals and Dolphins, but if he falls to 7 I doubt the Lions pass on him. With Kenny Golladay leaving, the Lions need their next alpha wide receiver. Chase is talented enough to fill that role right away. Look at how good fellow LSU alumnus Justin Jefferson was last year. Chase was as good if not better than Jefferson at LSU, and we could see the same in the NFL.|
|8||Kyle Pitts||TE||Florida||With Greg Olsen gone, the Panthers were lacking at the tight end position last year. Ian Thomas (Olsen’s supposed successor) struggled mightily. Pitts has the potential to be one of the best tight ends ever. He would thrive immediately in Carolina. He reminds me a lot of Raiders breakout star Darren Waller, but could be even better.|
|9||Mac Jones||QB||Alabama||I don’t think Jones is on par with the other four top QBs in this class. He benefitted a bit from his surroundings. However, it doesn’t seem that Drew Lock is the answer for Denver, and Jones could still be a quality starter in the NFL who’s worthy of a top 10 pick. The Broncos don’t need to trade up for a QB if they can get Jones right here at #9.|
|10||Patrick Surtain II||CB||Alabama||After seeing nine straight offensive players go off the board, this is the perfect opportunity for the Cowboys to address their defense. I think Surtain is the best defensive player on the board after three strong years as a lockdown corner for Alabama.|
|11||Kwity Paye||EDGE||Michigan||There’s a lot of different things the Giants could do with this pick, but they’ve been in the market for a pass rusher for years and Paye would fill that need at long last. He may have played in a 4-3 scheme at Michigan, but we’ve already seen recent Michigan pass rusher Chase Winovich thrive in 3-4 setups. I think Paye is capable of the same.|
|12||Micah Parsons||LB||Penn State||The Eagles have been lacking at wide receiver for years, but I’d argue linebacker is an even bigger need. Parsons was a major playmaker for Penn State’s defense, and I think he’ll stand out on the Eagles defense as well. The Eagles get their star linebacker of the future with this pick and Parsons gets to stay in his home state of Pennsylvania.|
|13||Rashawn Slater||OL||Northwestern||The Chargers may have signed Corey Linsley but there’s still work to be done with this offensive line. Slater has the versatility to play tackle or guard and could be a very valuable part of this line if the Chargers opt to take him.|
|OL||Virginia Tech||Darrisaw has shot up draft boards of late, and the Vikings could use just about any o-line help they can get. Darrisaw would be an instant starter for the Vikings, most likely at left tackle.|
|Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah||LB||Notre Dame||The Falcons could still use more help at linebacker surrounding Deion Jones. It would have been a reach for any linebacker at 4, but taking Owusu-Koromoah at 15 is good value for them. You could even argue he’s better than Parsons. At the very least, he’ll be a solid starting linebacker.|
|Devonta Smith||WR||Alabama||Arizona’s pressing need is at tight end, and they’d be reaching for a tight end in this spot. With Devonta Smith still on the board, I have Indy trading up to capitalize on the opportunity. Smith may be undersized, but he’s a very talented receiver who’s an excellent route runner. He’ll have the opportunity to become Carson Wentz’s top target.|
|17||Jaycee Horn||CB||South Carolina||The Raiders have a decent secondary but lack a true leader there. Horn has the potential to shine in this secondary and become the #1 corner for Vegas. With a lot of the top receivers and linebackers off the board, corner is the right move here.|
|18||Gregory Rousseau||EDGE||Miami||The Dolphins swapped edge rusher Shaq Lawson for Benardrick McKinney to add to the LB corps, but now they need another edge rusher. One of the Miami Hurricanes edge rushers would be a good fit, as they are local prospects and some of the best on the board. I see them taking Rousseau over Jaelan Phillips but they could potentially take either.|
|19||Zaven Collins||LB||Tulsa||Washington needs two major things from this draft: help at linebacker and a better o-line. Once they have those two things they’ll be one of the most well-rounded teams in football and could make a case for a playoff run. Collins will definitely fit well here.|
|20||Trevon Moehrig||S||TCU||The Bears need a long term solution at safety alongside Eddie Jackson. Moehrig is really the only safety worth a first round investment and the Bears should be able to land him here.|
|21||(TRADE)||Pat Freiermuth||TE||Penn State||Freiermuth is still a bit of a reach at 21 but is the best option for Arizona, who desperately needs a tight end. Freiermuth has picked up the nickname “Baby Gronk” and should be a capable pass catcher and blocker in the NFL, even though he’s not on par with Kyle Pitts.|
|22||Samuel Cosmi||OL||Texas||With Isaiah Wilson leaving after one year, the Titans are still looking for their new right tackle, and it’s one of their most pressing needs. Cosmi fits the bill for what they’re looking for and will likely be the best tackle on the board at this point.|
|23||Caleb Farley||CB||Virginia Tech||The Jets have had a hole at corner for multiple years, and the departure of Jamal Adams has only made their secondary worse. Farley would be a good start in building this secondary back up to where it needs to be for contention.|
|24||Travis Etienne||RB||Clemson||I think Najee Harris is the most well rounded back in this draft class, but Etienne is a better fit here in Pittsburgh. He is not a power back but is an elusive and speedy back who is capable of playing all three downs. Early on, I see Benny Snell Jr. having a role here, but Etienne will eventually be able to take over the backfield. I see a lot of D’Andre Swift in Etienne, except mixed in with the speed of someone like Nick Chubb.|
|25||Rashod Bateman||WR||Minnesota||The Jaguars may have signed Marvin Jones this offseason but could still use another weapon. Bateman adds depth to the Jaguars WR corps and like the three receivers taken before him, he has the potential to emerge as a #1 receiver. Bateman will likely be the last WR remaining from the top tier of this draft class so the Jags should take advantage.|
|26||Nick Bolton||LB||Missouri||The Browns look to be a fairly complete team and with a good season from QB Baker Mayfield they could be Super Bowl contenders. The only need I really think they have is at linebacker, and that can be taken care of easily with this pick.|
|27||Wyatt Davis||OL||Ohio State||The Ravens recently lost star interior lineman Marshal Yanda to retirement. Davis has the potential to fill that role in Baltimore for years to come. With the top tier of wide receivers out of the question, addressing the o-line will be a priority here.|
|28||Christian Barmore||DL||Alabama||After releasing a handful of guys to save cap space, the Saints will need to upgrade the defense, including the defensive line. This is a rather weak d-line class, but Barmore stands out among the rest of the defensive linemen available.|
|29||Alijah Vera-Tucker||OL||USC||Vera-Tucker has risen up people’s draft boards lately, but I think he fits best in a very specific role where he has the flexibility to play tackle or guard. He’ll be able to do that in Green Bay, especially with Elgton Jenkins starting to see time at center now that Corey Linsley is gone.|
|Jaelan Phillips||EDGE||Miami||The Rams haven’t had a first round pick in a couple years due to the Jalen Ramsey trade. I think they’ll put a package together to move up if Phillips falls this far. Phillips shined as part of a strong Miami pass rush and could have the chance to stand out in LA’s pass rush.|
|Najee Harris||RB||Alabama||Running backs like Harris aren’t available every day. The Jets still need to find a starting running back, and I think they’ll be willing to move up a few spots from their early second round selection to secure one. Harris’ raw strength reminds me of Derrick Henry, and unlike Henry he can catch passes too.|
|32||Creed Humphrey||OL||Oklahoma||The Buccaneers pretty much brought back their entire Super Bowl roster, but some more protection for Tom Brady can’t hurt. They secured a tackle in Tristan Wirfs with their last first rounder. This time around I see them addressing the interior.|
In the later rounds, I think the Patriots will add a wide receiver as well as some front seven help. I could see them targeting a receiver like Elijah Moore or Amon-Ra St. Brown on Day 2. That’s all for today’s mock draft, but my coverage of the draft will continue on draft day when I take part in a livestream on The Master Plan YouTube channel with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky.
Free agency is underway. If you’ve been following my Twitter, you’ve seen updates on the free agents who have signed so far and my defensive free agency predictions. I’m writing this article to take a deeper dive into those defensive predictions. Feel free to comment with your thoughts.
It’s going to be tough this offseason for teams who need d-line help due to a shallow draft class and shallow DL market in free agency. I have the Lions and Titans, two teams with big DL needs, bringing back familiar faces in Suh and Casey. Short, the long time Panther, was recently released. I have him taking a cheaper deal with the Vikings.
Guy and Gotsis will sign a second contract with their 2020 teams, while Jones leaves Tennessee with Casey back and heads to Tampa Bay, replacing Suh.
I think Fletcher Cox will either be released or traded by the Eagles, so he could be another hot commodity on the DL market.
I have the Chargers re-signing Ingram. They’ll need Ingram and Henry back plus more if they want a playoff spot this year. The Jets and Bengals, who have lots of cap space, will also get in on this pass rush market. I have Dupree leaving the Steelers for New York and Ngakoue staying in the AFC North as he heads to Cincinnati to replace Carlos Dunlap.
I see Clowney back in Tennessee, but on a much cheaper deal. Houston and Kerrigan will also need to take cheaper deals, and I think they will get them on new teams. The Browns can bring in Houston as a slight upgrade over Olivier Vernon, and signing Kerrigan is only the beginning of what this Atlanta pass rush will need.
Note: I was unable to update these predictions after Tampa Bay’s signing of Shaquill Barrett
The Dolphins just acquired Benardrick McKinney in exchange for Shaq Lawson, but that won’t be enough to fulfill the LB corps. Barrett can play a mix of OLB and ILB for the Dolphins. Judon is asking for a lot of money, but the Ravens have the cap space to afford him. I also think Wright returns to his long-time team.
Reddick will be the Kerrigan replacement in Washington, getting reps at 4-3 OLB and DE. Van Noy heads to Cleveland to headline an underwhelming LB corps there. Davis would simply be a depth signing for the 49ers, but they need more around Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner to complete their LB corps.
This is one of the best cornerback markets in a long time. I think Rhodes and Jackson both sign back with their 2020 teams, but other top corners will move around. I have two veterans switching teams: Peterson heading to the Jets and Sherman heading back to Seattle. The Jets could really use a big name corner, and Peterson isn’t in his prime but would be the best corner on the Jets roster.
Two corners formerly from a strong Chargers secondary, Hayward and King, have also hit the open market. I have Hayward heading to the Bay Area to replace Sherman and King headed to the Raiders to supplement Trayvon Mullen in the Vegas secondary.
I see a lot of movement happening in the remaining free agent safety market. Two elite safeties in Justin Simmons and Marcus Maye received the franchise tag, and I don’t see any other notable safeties aside from Gipson returning to their 2020 teams.
I have Neal heading from Atlanta to the 49ers, a team that could use more flare to their secondary. I have the Vikings moving on from Harris and signing a cheaper option in Vaccaro. Harris will head to Arizona to form a star-studded duo with Budda Baker.
Hooker will head to Detroit after the rise of Blackmon set up Indy for a bright future at safety. Joseph would be replaced in the lineup by a young, healthy Grant Delpit if he stayed, so I have him headed to Jacksonville, a team that could use more defensive depth all over the place.
That’s all for my defensive free agency predictions. I’ll have more NFL coverage soon. In addition, the 7-year anniversary of my site is coming up, and I have a big announcement coming that day, so stay tuned.
One of the busiest weeks in sports is upon us. NFL free agency is around the corner, March Madness will be starting in just a few days, and Spring Training is in action as MLB teams prepare for the season. Today, I’m here with the first half of my NFL free agency predictions. This article will cover all offensive players, while I’ll be covering defensive players in the next one. As always, feel free to comment with your thoughts, and keep reading for my predictions below.
The NFL draft is the best route for teams who are in need of QBs, but some teams will settle for a free agent or bring in a free agent QB as a backup or bridge.
I have Winston resigning in New Orleans and getting a chance to start, but none of these other QBs are a sure thing to get a starting job. I have Fitzpatrick headed to Denver to compete with Drew Lock, but there’s no guarantee he’ll end up starting. Smith and Brissett both secure backup roles in the NFC East, while Dalton will remain in the NFC East and compete for the Washington Football Team QB job. He’ll probably compete with both Taylor Heinicke and a rookie in an open battle. Trubisky will also be limited to a backup role this year, but in Pittsburgh, he can learn from QB Ben Roethlisberger and potentially get a chance to succeed him as QB of the Steelers in 2022.
Note: Aaron Jones has signed with Green Bay, and it was too late for me to modify my RB predictions accordingly.
The only free agent RB I could see earning a workhorse role with a new team is Aaron Jones. Some of the teams who need a RB most will want to wait for the NFL Draft and target RBs like Travis Etienne, Najee Harris, and Javonte Williams. I have the Steelers, Jets, and Falcons waiting for the draft.
I have Carson headed to Buffalo to lead the committee with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, giving the Bills an extra flare to their run game when he’s healthy. I had the Seahawks replacing Carson with a RB who’s arguably better in Jones. The rest of these backs, like Carson, will be in time shares. Bell will take the third down role in New England with James White and Rex Burkhead leaving. Fournette will head to Philly, who wants a RB to pair with Sanders. Drake will head back to Arizona for a committee with Chase Edmonds.
Gallman, who I have back in New York, should get some reps early in the season as Saquon Barkley recovers and replace Barkley in the case of an injury. The Giants don’t have a backup for Barkley on the roster right now so bringing back Gallman or bringing in someone else is important.
The free agent WR market will be one of the most active parts of this free agency, as several high profile wide receivers capable of #1 roles hit the open market. I have Golladay headed to Jacksonville as they bulk up the offense for Trevor Lawrence. I also think Allen Robinson will be traded to resolve his dissatisfaction with the franchise tag (I have him headed to Miami). Those two aren’t even the only significant names available.
The Patriots are another team that could use a #1 receiver, and I think Fuller fits the bill. He really proved himself in his contract year with the Texans despite a PED suspension cutting his season short. I have AB headed to the Ravens to form a duo with his cousin Marquise. Davis heads to Detroit, as they have limited money but only have 2 WRs on the current roster (I do also expect the Lions to draft 1-2 receivers). The Colts will probably be in the mix for guys like Golladay, but I have them signing a cheaper former Lion in Marvin Jones to play next to Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell.
Smith-Schuster heads to Washington, as he was good in a #2 role with Pittsburgh when AB was there and would be good in a #2 role with the team who needs it most. It would take pressure off Terry McLaurin and make the offense easier to work with for whoever the new QB is.
In addition to these guys, Zach Ertz and David Njoku could receive attention on the trade market, and Kyle Pitts could easily land a starting job via the draft. I think the Patriots and Cardinals will wait on a tight end in hopes of landing one of those guys.
Meanwhile, expect the Chargers and Titans, two other teams with a big tight end need, to resign their 2020 tight ends to new contracts. I also have Tonyan, a restricted free agent, returning to his 2020 team, the Packers. The second tier of tight ends will see more movement in the free agent market. I have Everett leaving his time share with Tyler Higbee for the Jaguars starting TE job. Similarly, I have Burton, who was part of Indianapolis’ TE trio, headed to Carolina. The Panthers could still easily pair Burton with Pitts from the NFL draft. I have Cook, an older tight end, headed to Cincinnati to add depth to young QB Joe Burrow’s offense.
I have a lot of top offensive linemen resigning with their 2020 teams, including Linsley, Williams, Mack, and Andrews. If they resign Andrews, they probably won’t need Thuney as they can run with a starting o-line of Trent Brown, Michael Onwenu, Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Isaiah Wynn. I have Thuney headed to the Chargers, who probably need to sign multiple interior o-linemen this off-season. It will be hard for Fisher, who was released by the Chiefs, to land another left tackle job over guys like Orlando Brown (who will probably be traded to a team in need of a LT). I have him landing in Seattle and playing the right side.
That’s all for this portion of my free agency predictions. Stay tuned for my defensive predictions in the next 24 hours.
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
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
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
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.
- Patrick Mahomes: 30/41, 396 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
- 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
- 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
- Tyrann Mathieu: 1 INT
- Tom Brady: 35/53, 351 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
- 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
- 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
- Jason Pierre-Paul: Sack
- Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce for 14 yard TD: 7-0 KC
- Ryan Succop 33 yard FG: 7-3 KC
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.