2023 NFL Playoff Preview: Bills return from crisis could resemble “Boston Strong”

My hometown New England Patriots are not in a great spot right now. Their offense has been making costly mistakes week after week, and while they’ve been able to stay competitive in most games, they are truly missing Tom Brady’s ability like no other to clutch up and win in any situation. In a conference loaded with young, exciting QBs, they now lack a franchise guy or a true offensive coordinator to develop Mac Jones into one. What’s worse is that it’s unclear what Bill Belichick is willing to do about it. However, as we begin an NFL playoffs without the Patriots, I think the outcome of these playoffs could still be something Boston fans will appreciate.

No, I’m not talking about Tom Brady going out with a bang and winning his 8th ring. He still has the clutch factor I mentioned earlier, but he can only go so far without scoring touchdowns the first three quarters of games. I’m actually talking about a divisional rival.

It’s not often I’m happy for the Buffalo Bills. They ended New England’s long streak atop the AFC East and if they won a title this year (or anytime during my four years in Ithaca), I would never hear the end of it being a Pats fan in the middle of Bills territory.

However, when I watched last week’s game between the Bills and Patriots, the energy at the stadium seemed unlike many games I’ve seen before. It did remind me of one very special day in Boston.

Back in 2013, I was in attendance for the Boston Red Sox’s first game after the Boston Marathon Bombings. To give you an idea of what Fenway Park was like that day, I give you this excerpt from an article I wrote about the experience:

“The energy inside Fenway that day was indescribable.  The pregame ceremonies began honoring the Marathon bombing victims, the police that hunted down the bombers, and the paramedics who helped many wounded victims.  The Red Sox were wearing special Boston Strong jerseys and there was a “B Strong” symbol on the Green Monster.  As part of the ceremony, David Ortiz firmly stated, “This is Our F***ing City!” I had been to several games before but this was different.”

Not many moments can unite people like that day did, but I think Damar Hamlin’s remarkable recovery from his scary collapse against the Bengals has done just that. Bills fans came ready with signs in Hamlin’s honor, and Hamlin himself delivered an inspiring message to the team from his hospital bed. If you watched the game when Hamlin’s collapse occurred, you will likely remember how shaken up his teammates were that night. This crisis, most importantly, is a wake up call about the need for more attention towards NFL player safety. Regardless, Hamlin and his teammates love this game, and at the end of the day, they’re going to continue to play. When Hamlin woke up, the first thing he asked was, “Did we win?” Hamlin’s perseverance inspired the Bills to play out the rest of this season in his honor.

That day at Fenway Park, the Red Sox won the game with Marathon Bombing victims in mind and went on to win a championship. I expect a similar trajectory for the Bills. While this is about a New England division rival, the Bills taking this energy and turning it into their first Super Bowl victory would be an inspiring story, and one that Boston fans can relate to.

The Bills have one of the best rosters in the league. I feel they have played some of the best football we’ve seen this year. Now, while other teams may have longer win streaks, I feel this energy will give the Bills the momentum they need to win it all.

Below I have outlined their path to victory, as well as my predictions for the rest of the playoff games this season.

Wild Card Weekend

Saturday

49ers, 34, Seahawks, 28

Many are expecting a blowout here, but now is not the time to write off Geno Smith (as if there ever was a time to do that). I expect him to work with WRs D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to put up a fight and expose a secondary that does not quite stack up with the rest of this strong 49ers defense. In the end though, I have the Niners winning this. They just have too much offensive talent all over the map for the Seahawks to handle. RB Christian McCaffrey will likely run all over the Seahawks front seven, forcing the Seahawks into the same fate all other #7 seeds have suffered, and the same fate they suffered in their last two games against San Fran this season.

Chargers, 28, Jaguars, 27

I think this is my pick for the most exciting game of the weekend. Two young franchise QBs on teams peaking at the right time battling it out in their first ever playoff appearances. I’m expecting a close game in which both offenses put up big numbers in both the pass and run game. In the end though, I still think Justin Herbert is the better quarterback of the two for the time being. Look for him to lead a game winning drive as the Chargers move on with a road win.

Sunday

Bills, 28, Dolphins, 17

The Dolphins are the only team on the AFC side of the bracket without a surefire franchise QB. The team has been able to win with Tua Tagovailoa after giving him Mike McDaniel, a coach who believes in him, and two elite receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. However, that’s not enough for the AFC playoffs anymore, and besides, Tagovailoa isn’t a guarantee to play this game after repeated concussion problems. Whether Tagovailoa plays or not, this team is no match for QB Josh Allen and the Bills.

Vikings, 34, Giants, 21

This has been a popular upset pick considering the Vikings have a negative point differential, but come on. Do you really expect Justin Jefferson, the best receiver in the NFL right now, to fold against the 9-7-1 Giants? I’d expect the Giants to keep it close early, but QB Kirk Cousins will clutch up late in the game as he utilizes Jefferson. Let’s save the exposing of the Vikings for a team that has a more serious case for Super Bowl contention.

Bengals, 23, Ravens, 16

You have to give the Ravens some credit for their defensive performance lately; since acquiring LB Roquan Smith from Chicago they’ve allowed just 14.7 PPG. As a result, I’m not expecting an insane stat-line out of Joe Burrow here. The Ravens offense, on the other hand, has been dysfunctional without Lamar Jackson. I don’t expect it to get much better, as Jackson is unlikely to be 100% even if he’s back. Besides, even Jackson is 1-3 in his playoff career. Everything seems to be working for Cincinnati right now, and this Ravens team isn’t the one to stop them.

Monday

Buccaneers, 23, Cowboys, 20 (OT)

The Cowboys are actually favored on the road in this one, but when’s the last time you saw them beat Tom Brady? Fun fact: they never have. Even in this dysfunctional season, the Buccaneers took down Dallas 19-3. To be fair, QB Dak Prescott got hurt midway through that game, but Prescott hasn’t been looking all that sharp lately: he has a 15/11 TD/INT ratio in his last 7 games. I do expect the Cowboys to have the early lead here, as they have a lot of talent all over the map. Tom Brady isn’t going down easy though, and I expect him to lead a fourth quarter comeback and win it for the Bucs in overtime.

Divisional Round

AFC

Chargers, 35, Chiefs, 34

Patrick Mahomes has looked as good as ever despite the loss of WR Tyreek Hill. However, his performances against the AFC’s best this season have not been all that promising. He lost to the Bills and Bengals (despite those teams being seeded lower), and he may have swept the Chargers, but those were 3 point wins in which Justin Herbert was missing key receivers (Allen was out in the first one and Williams was severely limited in the second one). This one should be a close battle in which both QBs thrive. However, the Chargers are healthy and hot. I expect Herbert to shock the world and take down his divisional rival to advance to the AFC Championship.

Bills, 27, Bengals, 24

This will be an interesting one, as we finally see a rematch of Week 17’s canceled game. In addition, these teams have been playing at a level few others can, and I expect the winner of this game to go on to win it all. The Bengals have been on fire lately, with Joe Burrow continuing to improve week after week regardless of what receivers he has to work with. They still don’t have the momentum the Bills will have coming into this game. I do expect it to be very close, but I have Josh Allen working with Stefon Diggs to put together a big drive in the final seconds and set up a game winning Tyler Bass field goal.

NFC

Eagles, 16, Buccaneers, 10

This Bucs defense should be able to slow down the Eagles run game. However, the Eagles have the perfect defense to shut down Tom Brady. James Bradberry and Darius Slay are one of the best cornerback duos in football. They can each take on one of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, severely limiting the options for Brady to throw to in an offense that’s been dysfunctional at times. Evans may have 9 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, but at the end of the day, he’s a matchup-dependent receivers who feasts on weak secondaries. Brady will probably find Leonard Fournette for some checkdowns. Still, with his best two receivers locked up, it’ll be hard to make anything happen on offense. It could be Brady’s last game in a Buccaneers uniform, or any uniform for that matter.

49ers, 28, Vikings, 23

This is where I see the Vikings season ending. I’m expecting Brock Purdy and the Niners offense to put up a lot of points early on a weak Vikings secondary. Like always, QB Kirk Cousins and WR Justin Jefferson could work some late game magic for the Vikings. I don’t think it will be enough to come back for a win this time around. A 5-point loss is probably a generous prediction. I don’t think Minnesota is anywhere near the level of the Eagles or Niners, who I have meeting in the NFC title game.

AFC Championship

Bills, 34, Chargers, 17

The way I have the Divisional Round matchups working out should make for some close, exciting games. I can’t say the same about this one. I feel the Bills and Bengals are operating on a level no AFC West team has reached, and this game will show it. Look, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert are both great quarterbacks. However, in comparison to the Bills, teams like the Chiefs and Chargers have some serious defensive problems. The Bills run game is nothing special, but I still think it will have an unusual amount of success against a flawed Chargers front seven. With the run game heating up, the pass game strong as ever, and the whole roster motivated, the Bills could be a scary opponent to face in the Super Bowl.

NFC Championship

Eagles, 20, 49ers, 17

This one will be closer since both teams have pretty competent defenses and each QB has an elite supporting cast. Putting the supporting cast aside, Brock Purdy is a pretty good QB, and I think he has a chance to become a franchise guy. However, I think Jalen Hurts’ dual-threat ability will set him apart in this game, and Purdy will fail to keep up with him as the clock winds down.

Super Bowl LVII

Even when the Bills were able to make it this far in the 1990s, this is where they failed; you may have heard about their infamous four straight Super Bowl losses. I have the Bills capping off this historic season with the first Super Bowl win in franchise history as they take down the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. It’ll be hard for the Bills to shut down the combo of mobile QB Jalen Hurts and RB Miles Sanders. However, this Eagles pass game is built very similarly to how the Bills pass game was in Josh Allen’s breakout year. The Bills secondary will take advantage of that, limiting the impact of Philly’s WR duo of A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. Meanwhile, Allen will take advantage of the fact that he has a deeper group of receivers, including all three starters from 2020 in addition to an improving Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie. This Bills team is always ready with their next player up, and that will make the difference in this one.

Comment with your thoughts on these predictions. If you’re a Boston fan, who are you rooting for in these Patriot-less playoffs?

2022 NFL Thanksgiving Day Picks: Expect close nightcap after early blowouts

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m back in Massachusetts for my first Thanksgiving as a college student, and it’s been great seeing my family and some friends back home. What makes it even better is watching a triple-header of NFL football on my home TV, including the first Patriots Thanksgiving football game in a decade (the last one resulted in the infamous Mark Sanchez Butt Fumble). Below you can read more about what I expect from the day; aside from turkey at least.

We kick off the holiday with the annual early afternoon Lions game, and I’m expecting yet another loss for Detroit. The Lions haven’t won their Thanksgiving Day game since 2016, and the Bills are one of the toughest opponents they’ve had in a while. The Lions may be on a three game win streak, but only the best of the best have been able to complete with Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and this elite Bills offense. The Bills just completely picked apart the Browns defense on this same turf, and the Lions defense has struggled the entire season. The Lions have had some strong offensive weeks and may put up some points, but I don’t expect this game to even be close.

Next up we’ll have a classic Thanksgiving rivalry match-up as the Cowboys host the Giants. New head coach Brian Daboll has led the Giants to success in a number of close games, but they still fell short in their first match-up with Dallas, and I don’t expect this one to even be close. Running back Saquon Barkley won’t be able to bail out Daniel Jones against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Meanwhile, I expect the Cowboys offense to keep the momentum going after dropping 40 on the Vikings last week. The Giants are still likely to make the playoffs, but they’ll head home embarrassed after this one. Meanwhile, the Cowboys seem to have a leg up in the Odell Beckham Jr. sweepstakes, and if this game goes how I expect, that will likely seal the deal.

We end the day with what might be the best matchup of the three. With QB Mac Jones getting into a groove again, the Patriots have won three in a row and brought themselves back into the playoff picture. The Vikings will be eager to rebound after what happened on Sunday, but it’ll require QB Kirk Cousins to make a statement in primetime, something he’s struggled to do his entire career. I’m not expecting an outstanding game from Cousins, and that will allow Jones and the Pats to make this competitive. However, Cousins will have help from both RB Dalvin Cook and WR Justin Jefferson. As much as I’d want to see the Pats pull this off, I feel at least one of them will make some big plays that win the Vikings this game.

That game will cap off an action-packed Thanksgiving day slate. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and no matter what happens, I hope you enjoy these games and have a great Thanksgiving experience.

NFL 2022 Preview: Who takes it home in a changing league?

I’ve had a busy first few weeks here in Ithaca. However, this annual article is one I could not miss. Once again, football is back, and I am excited to share my preview for the season.

The NFL seems to be at a sort of crossroads. We may be nearing the end of the story for longtime legends like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Meanwhile, the story for a new generation of players including Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert is just beginning. It’s left the NFL in an interesting position; there are so many competitive teams that the standard for contention has raised. Two years ago Tom Brady won his 7th ring, and last year veteran QB Matthew Stafford finally took one home. Will this year be another win for an aging team, or will the youth of the league begin to take over? Read my predictions below and find out what I think, starting with my division by division standings.

AFC East

  1. Buffalo Bills (15-2, #1 seed in AFC)
  2. Miami Dolphins (9-8)
  3. New England Patriots (8-9)
  4. New York Jets (8-9)

For many years, the Patriots ruled in this division. Now it’s the Bills and then everyone else. Led by young standout QB Josh Allen, the Bills are as stacked on paper as any team in this league. The defense has its inconsistencies, but still has a lot of talent including what’s arguably the best safety duo in the league (Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde). Offensively, Allen has a plethora of weapons including elite WR Stefon Diggs, emerging WR Gabriel Davis, and TE Dawson Knox. 15 wins is a tough feat for any time, but it’s not out of the question here.

I have the Dolphins edging out second as their defense should win them some games. However, I don’t see them making the playoffs with QB Tua Tagovailoa under center. WR Tyreek Hill can make big plays for days but he’s not going to bail Tua out of every situation. If anyone has the chance to sneak into a wild card slot, it would be the Pats. I have them at 8-9, but this team has a high ceiling and a low floor. It all depends on whether QB Mac Jones can build on his rookie success and if Bill Belichick can coach up the young talent on the defense despite losing several big names like CB J.C. Jackson.

The Jets will remain in the basement here, but they’re definitely trending in the right direction. A year from now, this offense could be a scary sight assuming QB Zach Wilson improves and RB Breece Hall is as advertised.

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens (12-5, #4 seed in AFC)
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-6, #6 seed in AFC)
  3. Cleveland Browns (7-10)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-13)

If there’s any team I’m counting on to go from worst to first, it’s the Ravens. With QB Lamar Jackson injured for much of last season, the Ravens were on the bottom of a competitive division. Now, Jackson returns alongside RB J.K. Dobbins, CB Marlon Humphrey, and CB Marcus Peters. Humphrey and Peters now headline what might be the NFL’s best secondary. There’s plenty of signs that the Ravens can put last season’s struggles behind them.

I do think the Bengals remain competitive after their surprise Super Bowl run last year. QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase aren’t going away anytime soon. I don’t expect the kind of run we saw last year, but I also don’t expect the Bengals to revert below .500. That leaves the Browns and Steelers falling behind in this division race.

The Browns will be without their new QB Deshaun Watson for the first 11 games. While I think their RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and their strong defense can win them a few games in that stretch, Watson would have a lot of ground to make up in order to catch these other teams in the division. I’ve been projecting a Steelers decline for years now, but over the last few years Mike Tomlin has kept them afloat. Between a tough schedule, tough division, and declining defense, I find it hard to believe that Tomlin will extend his above-.500 streak any longer.

AFC South

  1. Indianapolis Colts (12-5, #3 seed in AFC)
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-9)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-13)
  4. Houston Texans (1-16)

If the Colts played in any other division, I’d have them around .500. In fact, I have them 6-5 in non-AFC South match-ups. However, I can’t see any other team in this division giving them much of a challenge. Their defense is strong enough that QB Matt Ryan will be able to get the Colts out to leads in these games without much pressure.

The Titans show some promise as usual, and RB Derrick Henry isn’t going away. Outside of Henry though, this roster looks uninspiring when compared to other AFC rosters. If there’s any surprise contender in this division, it would be Tennessee, but I personally wouldn’t count on it. The Jaguars should see marginal improvement from QB Trevor Lawrence, but I don’t think they spent their money in an optimal way to support him. There are still many holes up and down the roster that leave Jacksonville far from playoff contention. They still show more promise than the Texans though. I don’t see QB Davis Mills as much more than a strong game manager, and outside of WR Brandin Cooks he doesn’t have much proven talent around him to rely on.

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3, #2 seed in AFC)
  2. Los Angeles Chargers (12-5, #5 seed in AFC)
  3. Denver Broncos (9-8, #7 seed in AFC)
  4. Las Vegas Raiders (7-10)

Some people expect four teams above .500 in this division, and I think that expectation is a little lofty. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this might be one of the most competitive divisions in recent history. While I do have the Broncos and Raiders losing a decent number of games due to their tough schedules, I think both these teams will be better on the field than their record shows. The Raiders do have some major defensive question marks, but with WR Davante Adams on board, this offense is too good for Vegas to hit rock bottom. I expect the Broncos to be in the mix for much of the season. QB Russell Wilson’s historical late season struggles combined with a tough schedule will cause them to fall behind the Chiefs and Chargers, but I still have them holding onto a playoff spot.

I think the Chiefs maintain the crown here, as QB Patrick Mahomes makes up for the loss of WR Tyreek Hill by utilizing a variety of new faces in the WR corps such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Chargers could be a threat to that, as their defense gets even stronger with the additions of Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. I also think QB Justin Herbert is almost as capable, if not just as capable as Mahomes. Either of these teams could be in for a deep playoff run.

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-6, #4 seed in NFC)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (10-7, #7 seed in NFC)
  3. Washington Commanders (6-11)
  4. New York Giants (3-14)

The NFC East still has not had a repeat winner since the 2003-04 Eagles, and I don’t see that changing this year. The Cowboys, who won in 2021, lost a good portion of the stacked WR corps QB Dak Prescott utilized to get them there. The Eagles, meanwhile, brought in a new #1 WR in A.J. Brown and upgraded the defense significantly. As long as QB Jalen Hurts plays at a serviceable level, I think the Eagles take over in this division, though I still have the Cowboys sneaking into a playoff spot.

The Giants have a lot to prove this year. This might be QB Daniel Jones’ last chance to show that he can succeed with a healthy offense around him. I don’t have much faith in Jones or his WRs though, and I expect now healthy RB Saquon Barkley to get frustrated and leave after another losing season in East Rutherford. The Commanders should outpace them by a little bit, but I don’t see Carson Wentz as the long term answer at QB (who knew Dak Prescott would end up a more reliable QB than either of the top 2 picks from his draft class?). Despite a strong defensive line and some upside across the roster, there are still many problems to address in Washington before they can compete once again.

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers (13-4, #1 seed in NFC)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (13-4, #5 seed in NFC)
  3. Detroit Lions (6-11)
  4. Chicago Bears (2-15)

A lot of people are making the case that either the Packers or the Vikings will be the sole success story from this division. Why not both? The Packers may have question marks at WR, but QB Aaron Rodgers has made do with that before and he can do it again. Meanwhile, the Vikings will leave the Mike Zimmer era behind them. I expect the talent they have in all 3 aspects of the game to finally translate into wins under new HC Kevin O’Connell, and O’Connell has already drawn comparisons between WRs Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp (who had his historic season in O’Connell’s system).

The Lions can only go so far with Jared Goff under center, but this roster does show some promise. Their defense should be at least serviceable at this point and with a strong supporting cast, Goff could have the occasional big game if he’s not under too much pressure. Bears fans may have faith that Justin Fields can lift this team out of its misery, but I’m not expecting much in Chicago this year. Matt Eberflus is not much of an upgrade over Matt Nagy, and I think the Bears will be giving up too many points for Fields to make up the lost ground.

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints (12-5, #2 seed in NFC)
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5, #6 seed in NFC)
  3. Carolina Panthers (8-9)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (5-12)

The Saints are the team I’m expecting to exceed most people’s expectations this year. To start off, their defense might be the most well-rounded, filled out defense in football. In addition, a lot of people are concerned about a RB Alvin Kamara suspension, WR Michael Thomas’ health, or QB Jameis Winston’s capability as a starting QB. I don’t think these are really valid concerns at this point. Winston has been fine and thrown far less picks since his eye surgery a few off-seasons ago, Kamara’s suspension is unlikely to happen until 2023, and all signs point to Thomas being a full-go this season. At their peak, this team could be scary.

I have Saints sweeping the Bucs in the regular season (as usual), but that won’t stop Tampa Bay from staying neck and neck with them in the division race. Even without WR Antonio Brown and TE Rob Gronkowski, any team with Tom Brady (even an aging Tom Brady) under center is going to be competitive. Besides, Brady still has one of the NFL’s best supporting casts.

QB Baker Mayfield should allow the Panthers to avoid the basement of the division and win a few extra games. Mayfield has RB Christian McCaffrey and WR D.J. Moore to lean on, so that should help him out, but this team still doesn’t quite stack up with the Saints and Bucs. That leaves the Falcons at the bottom, who despite an improving defense don’t have much to be excited about this season.

NFC West

  1. Los Angeles Rams (11-6, #3 seed in NFC)
  2. Arizona Cardinals (9-8)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (8-9)
  4. Seattle Seahawks (2-15)

Despite a tough schedule, I expect the Rams to remain on top of this division. QB Matthew Stafford may start off a little slow due to his elbow injury, but he has a strong supporting cast, and Rams DT Aaron Donald is still in every other QB’s nightmares.

Behind the Rams, I don’t see much promise in this division. The Cardinals have relied on strong starts in years they’ve made the playoffs. They’ll be without WR DeAndre Hopkins for 6 games, so that might be more difficult than usual. There is a lot to like about the 49ers, but the secondary is a concern and we haven’t really seen how much QB Trey Lance is capable of. I’ve seen Patrick Mahomes comparisons, and people who expect Lance to be like Mahomes and lead San Francisco to the playoffs in his first year starting may be disappointed.

I still expect those two teams to finish well ahead of Seattle. The Seahawks have no proven options to start at QB, which will likely hold this offense and the entire team back throughout the season.

Playoff Predictions

There’s a lot of competitive teams in the league right now, so I’m expecting a lot of playoff upsets much like last year. I have 4 of 6 wild card teams winning their first playoff game, and essentially half the teams advancing to each round after that are wild card teams.

In the NFC, I have Tom Brady clutching up for the playoffs and beating the Rams, Packers, and Saints on another Wild Card Super Bowl run. In the AFC, I think the Chiefs or Chargers could put up a good fight, but in the end I have Josh Allen leading the top-seeded Bills to a conference title.

A Bills-Bucs Super Bowl will bring a very interesting narrative: Tom Brady against his former divisional rival. I’m expecting a Super Bowl LII like game, with Brady putting up a serious fight, but falling short in the end. It will signal a new era for the league in which the Bills, not Tom Brady, are the team to beat.

If the Bills do actually win this Super Bowl, I may not hear the end of it now that I’m living in Ithaca which is clear cut Bills territory. However, my unbiased opinion is that they are the most likely team to come out on top. This could be the year their roster is talented enough for them to put it all together and win on the biggest stage.

Will Brady retire after playing in another Super Bowl? If he wins, I think it’s pretty likely he does. However, after a loss, he may still be hungry for more.

Before I wrap up this article, I want to include one more prediction: my pick for tonight’s opener.

Opening Night

It would be easy to predict a shootout here. However, I’m expecting more of a close, defensive battle in this one. QB Matthew Stafford should play it a little safer considering his elbow problems, but I still expect him to connect well with WRs Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson. In the end though, QB Josh Allen is better equipped to win this game. Allen and his receivers at full health are a scary sight, and even if Stafford was healthy I think Allen would be likely to outperform him.

Enjoy tonight’s game, and enjoy the rest of the season. I’ll have more NFL coverage on this website as well as weekly Flutie Foundation-sponsored NFL episodes on The Master Plan Podcast with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky.

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Ripple effect follows bombshell at 1

Welcome to my annual NFL Mock Draft. This is one of the deepest classes in a long time, but it lacks standout names at the top. For the first time since 2018, we cannot be sure who is going #1 overall. Many believe it is between edge rushers Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson, but is that really true? Keep reading to find out who I have at 1 and how it will affect the rest of the first round. I have also included a Patriots mock for Rounds 2-7 below.

#TeamPlayerPositionCollegeWhy
1Ikem EkwonuOLNC StateMany are projecting the Jaguars will take an edge rusher with this pick due to the strength of this class at that position. I have also heard whispers about d-lineman/edge rusher hybrid Travon Walker, but I feel this might be a bit early for him despite his recent rise up draft boards. Jacksonville already has a solid edge rushing duo in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson though. I see them giving Chaisson more time to develop and opting for an offensive lineman here. The Jags have worked to improve the line already this offseason, but a better blindside protector for Trevor Lawrence can’t hurt, and it gives the team flexibility to move Jawaan Taylor or Cam Robinson inside. Doug Pederson reportedly liked Ekwonu and I see them taking him here.
2Aidan HutchinsonEDGEMichiganThe Jaguars may pass on Hutchinson, but I cannot see him falling any further. Edge rusher is not Detroit’s biggest direct need, but the defense could use help overall. Hutchinson was a Heisman finalist and he should be an instant playmaker wherever he goes. I can’t see the Lions passing on this Michigan hometown hero.
3Derek Stingley Jr.CBLSUStingley has been a playmaker since the Joe Burrow era at LSU, even though he was only a freshman at the time. While the 2021 season initially hurt his draft stock, his name has gained steam in the last couple weeks. The Texans have a decent secondary, but they lack a truly dependable #1 corner. I think they’ll trust Stingley, the longtime LSU standout, with that role over the other rising name at corner in this class, Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner. 
4Kayvon ThibodeauxEDGEOregonPrior to this season, Thibodeaux was seen as a generational talent. Much like Stingley, I doubt he falls very far. The Jets have been in the market for star wide receiver Deebo Samuel, but if they want to contend their priority should be on fixing up this defense. While the Jets could consider a top corner in Gardner here, it’s hard to pass on Thibodeaux with a need at edge rusher. Gardner is also more likely to fall to the Jets’ next first rounder at #10.
5Evan NealOLAlabamaI honestly think Neal is the best tackle in the class, and he would be a huge help for QB Daniel Jones. Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart are a decent duo of tackles, but with all the injuries the Giants suffered last year, this o-line clearly was not cutting it. Ekwonu gives the Giants skill players a higher chance of staying healthy and the team a better chance of success.
6Kenny PickettQBPittsburghThe Panthers may claim they’re sticking with Sam Darnold at starting QB, but it may be time for a change after Darnold’s inconsistencies last year. Pickett is one of the most NFL ready QBs and is a safer bet to perform at a starter quality level out of the gate. With strong QB play, the Panthers have a window of opportunity for contention, and Pickett could help them get there.
7(TRADE)Travon WalkerDLGeorgiaI don’t see the Giants staying in this spot as they would be reaching to fill needs. Walker might very well be the hottest name in this draft class and as they have multiple holes to fill on this defensive line, I feel the Ravens would be willing to make a move for him. Walker has the versatility to play defensive line or edge rusher and should be a staple of this Baltimore defense for years to come alongside star corner Marlon Humphrey. While I don’t buy the Walker rumors at #1, I don’t think he falls much further than this.
8Garrett WilsonWROhio StateIt’s up in the air as to whether WR Calvin Ridley will ever play again, and if he does, it probably won’t be for the Falcons. While Atlanta is left with star TE Kyle Pitts, they won’t be able to get by with Damiere Byrd and Olamide Zacchaeus as their best receivers. Wilson was splitting targets with Chris Olave at Ohio State, but he is a huge upgrade over any receiver the Falcons have and should be an instant alpha dog receiver in Atlanta. 
9Malik WillisQBLibertyWhile Pickett offers a safer floor, I’d argue Willis has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class. The Seahawks will likely roll with QB Drew Lock in the short term, but I see Willis as a strong long term replacement for Russell Wilson. Like Russ, Willis has a nice combo of arm talent and mobility. This isn’t Seattle’s year, but Willis could help them speed up the process of their rebuild and put them in position to contend a couple years down the line.
10Ahmad GardnerCBCincinnatiWhy don’t you look at that, between the slide of Travon Walker and the run of offensive players, Gardner makes it back to the Jets at #10. This would be a steal for them, as the combo of Gardner and Thibodeaux would immediately change the narrative on this Jets defense. 
11Kyle HamiltonSNotre DameWhile Washington isn’t necessarily a Super Bowl contender, they are a fairly well rounded team with very few holes. The safety position is one exception. The signing of Landon Collins did not work out so well, and it leaves the Commanders with unproven options to start at safety. Hamilton is seen as one of the most talented safety prospects in a long time, and he would provide a major boost to a struggling Commanders secondary.
12Charles CrossTMississippi StateI’d like to think Minnesota’s defensive struggles had more to do with coaching than personnel. The offensive line is just as big of a concern as the defense. The Vikings miss out on Neal and Ekwonu, but Cross, who has been a rumored top 10 selection, still provides good value here. I expect him to make an immediate difference opposite last year’s first rounder, Christian Darrisaw. 
13Jameson WilliamsWRAlabamaBrandin Cooks’ name has been floating around in trade rumors, and even if Cooks sticks around, the Texans lack depth at receiver behind him, and I think that takes priority over another defensive first rounder. Williams was putting up insane stats at Alabama before tearing his ACL late into the season. His recovery is also reportedly going faster than expected. While I personally prefer guys like Drake London or Chris Olave over Williams, it would be surprising to see him fall much further than this, and the Texans are a strong fit. Williams could have the opportunity to shine alongside Cooks. It really comes down to whether they have a competent QB. 
14
(TRADE)
Devin LloydLBUtahThe Giants could use some more help at linebacker beyond Blake Martinez. Lloyd twould provide that immediately and should still be available for the Giants at this spot, making the trade down worth it. I see the Giants choosing the Utah product, who has gained momentum on draft boards, over Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean.
15Andrew BoothCBClemsonThis may be a slight reach for Booth, but the Eagles are in dire need of some more corners alongside Darius Slay. In the two years since the departure of A.J. Terrell, Booth has had a total of 44 tackles and 5 interceptions. He quickly established himself as a top corner in Clemson’s defense and should be able to fit right in immediately in Philly.
16Jordan DavisDLGeorgiaMany have the Saints focusing on offense in Round 1, and I expect that to be the case at #19. However, the Saints could definitely use another defensive lineman next to David Onyemata. Walker will be off the board here, but he has two teammates in Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt that joined Walker in a historic Georgia Bulldog defensive line. All three have a good amount of draft stock, and Davis and Wyatt are definitely reasonable options here. I give Davis, once touted as the top d-lineman in the class, the slight edge.
17Trevor PenningOLNorthern IowaThe Chargers added Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley last offseason, but this offensive line still has a lot of holes. With the top tier of offensive linemen off the board, Penning seems like a logical pick here. While he’s not on par with Neal or Ekwonu, he is capable of starting opposite Slater from day one.
18Tyler LinderbaumOLIowa StateJason Kelce is likely nearing retirement. At one point he had even retired and unretired. As the top interior lineman in the class, Linderbaum is a fitting long term replacement for Kelce, and could even see some reps at guard in the meantime.
19Drake LondonWRUSCWhile I do have the Saints starting off this draft on the defensive side of the ball, it would be shocking to see them ignore the offense with both their first rounders. London is a physical, big-bodied receiver who would make for a great complement to Michael Thomas. Even if Thomas left New Orleans or missed time, London would be fine. He has the talent to thrive as a #1 receiver for a team if necessary.
20
(TRADE)
Jermaine Johnson IIEDGEFlorida StateMany have Johnson going even earlier than this, but not many teams have a need for an edge rusher. The Chiefs are one exception to that predicament, and I feel they will trade up for Johnson. Johnson may be taken simply as the best player on the board if he falls too far, so the Chiefs need to make a move if they want him.
21Trent McDuffieCBWashingtonWith Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson on the outs, the Patriots need their star corner of the future. Bill Belichick has never been shy drafting corners, so I expect him to take care of business in Round 1. Washington has produced some of the Pac-12’s all time best DBs like Budda Baker. The Huskies have also produced many other NFL starters like Byron Murphy and Kevin King. Groomed by the same staff as these successful NFL players, McDuffie has posted a strong college career and should be ready for NFL action from the beginning, which the Patriots are looking for.
22Chris OlaveWROhio StateThe Packers have been hesitant to draft WRs for Aaron Rodgers in early rounds, but with Davante Adams on the outs, they do not have much of a choice. As long as they want to contend this year, they’ll need some new receivers. Olave was already a top college receiver for a handful of QBs including Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields. and C.J. Stroud. Rodgers should help elevate his game to a high level in the NFL. 
23Roger McCrearyCBAuburnThe Cardinals may have a decent secondary, but much like the Patriots they lack a true standout corner. McCreary is no guarantee at that, but likely a safer bet than anyone else on the roster, in free agency, or remaining on the draft board at this slot.
24Tyler SmithOLTulsaThe Cowboys are on the lookout for a La’el Collins replacement. One option is to move Connor Williams to tackle and find another guard. However, Smith could be a smart selection here as it keeps everyone in place on this Dallas offensive line. I honestly think he’s just as good a pick here as someone like Kenyon Green or Zion Johnson.
25Nakobe DeanLBGeorgiaThe Bills may have a great LB in Tremaine Edmunds but lack depth behind him. I don’t think it would be as huge of a problem if they made it a solid duo by adding Nakobe Dean. Dean has the potential to make this the best LB corps in the league, and even at his floor he’ll provide a rotational option for in Buffalo.
26DeMarvin LealDLTexas A&MDevonte Wyatt is a popular pick for the first round, but I have the Titans deviating from the Georgia d-line and taking Leal, the Texas A&M product. Leal may be the best non-Georgia d-lineman in this class, and he could make for a great duo with Jeffery Simmons at the line of scrimmage.
27
(TRADE)
David OjaboEDGEMichiganThis is a very deep draft class, so there is little reason to trade up. However, with the excess of top level edge rushers compared to teams who need them, I expect a couple edge rusher needy teams to make a move for a safe player at the position. The Bears have a lot of needs, but Ojabo would definitely be a good start for the rebuild of this defense after the departure of Khalil Mack.
28Chad MumaLBWyomingWith Lloyd and Dean gone, I have the Packers dipping into the next tier of linebackers to fill their need at the position. Muma has been touted as an early 2nd round option, and with a lack of proven linebackers on the inside, I don’t see any reason why the Packers can’t reach a little and snag him here. I could also see Quay Walker in this spot, but I give Muma the slight edge.
29
(TRADE)
Kyler GordonCBWashingtonGordon, another Washington corner, has fallen down draft boards as McDuffie, his teammate, rises. That doesn’t mean Gordon has lost his ability to become a successful NFL corner. Gordon is almost as talented if not just as talented as McDuffie, and they put up similar numbers this past year. If all goes well, look for Gordon to take Joe Haden’s spot as Pittsburgh’s new top corner.
30Treylon BurksWRArkansasBurks may not have the tape of guys like Wilson and Olave, but that’s to be expected considering he played for Arkansas. Compared to other Razorback receiving options, he put up impressive numbers this past season. The Chiefs are in need of an outside complement to free agent addition JuJu Smith-Schuster. Burks could definitely fill that role.
31Travis JonesDLUConnJones may have gone to UConn, but he stood out within this Husky defense. Jones totaled 8 sacks over his final two years at UConn. He is a versatile defensive lineman with strong pass rushing ability. While the Bengals already have two excellent edge rushers, they are in need of a long term replacement on the inside for Geno Atkins. Jones could be their guy, and I think he has the upside for even more.
32Matt CorralQBOle MissI’m far from Corral’s biggest fanboy, but QB Jared Goff was not meant to be Detroit’s franchise guy. I don’t see what other QB the Lions would take here, and if they wait too long they could miss out on the QBs with any potential at all.

Patriots Round 2-7 Mock

54. Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati

85. Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA

127. Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati

158. Jordan Williams, DL, Virginia Tech

170. Abram Smith, RB, Baylor

210. Kellen Diesch, OL, Arizona State

That’s all for this year’s mock draft. However, I will be live streaming tomorrow with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky on The Master Plan YouTube, so check that out.

NFL 2022 Playoff Bracket and Wild Card Prediction Podcast

The NFL playoffs are finally here. This is one of the most wide open years we have seen in a while, and I truly believe almost anyone on this playoff bracket has the chance to win it all. However, this is how I see these playoffs going down:

I went on The Master Plan Podcast with my cousin and Syracuse University freshman, Michael Philipkosky to break down the Wild Card Weekend games.

After most of the higher seeds win this weekend, I expect chaos to ensue in the later rounds. Look for QB Mac Jones and the Patriots to keep up with QB Ryan Tannehill and the #1 seeded Titans to advance to the AFC Championship. I think they could even give the Chiefs a hard time in the AFC Championship.

On the NFC side of the bracket, I expect QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to suffer another playoff choke in what might be the final year before a major rebuild.

The conference championships I am predicting will create the potential for four very exciting Super Bowl possibilities: a third Super Bowl battle between the Patriots and Rams, a Chiefs-Buccaneers rematch, a rematch of the 105 point shootout between the Chiefs and Rams, or the most hyped matchup of all: Tom Brady and the Buccaneers versus Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

As much as I would like to see a Pats-Bucs Super Bowl, I see QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs edging out the Pats despite defensive struggles. In addition, I see QB Matthew Stafford fixing his turnover problems to lead a highly talented Rams offense past a Buccaneers team that has lost two of their three big name WRs in Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown.

I do not think this Chiefs-Rams rematch will have nearly as much scoring. However, I expect the same result, as Sean McVay is able to figure out how to limit QB Patrick Mahomes and allow for a Rams Super Bowl title. Their high spending and win-now trades over the last few years will finally pay off.

What’s your Super Bowl prediction? Comment below.

Fundraiser: 2021 Flutie Foundation Fantasy Football League

The second year of the Flutie Foundation Fantasy Football League is underway! While we compete for the belt TrophySmack generously donated as pictured above, we are all raising money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism through Facebook fundraisers.

You can learn more about the fundraiser by watching this video from The Adam Jones Show on November 16.

Click here to donate and help people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest

2021 NFL Week 9 Picks: A week of Super Bowl rematches and revenge games

Did you know that 5 of this week’s 14 games are rematches of previous Super Bowls? In addition, we’ll have some revenge games (like Stephon Gilmore facing off against the Patriots) and crucial divisional matchups (such as a cross-state battle between Cincinnati and Cleveland). This week’s games are going to draw from many old rivalries, and it should make for some loud crowds and a lot of close matchups. Who will benefit from all this? I have broken down each matchup below. Last week was a rough one for me, as I only picked 7 games correctly, but my overall record stands at 77-46.

Lock of the Week

In recent history, matchups between these two teams have been close. While the Bills might not play at their best in the warm Jacksonville weather, they should still win this game comfortably. I don’t see this Jaguars defense making it very difficult for QB Josh Allen to post another multi-TD game. Expect Allen to thrive both as a runner and a passer.

Upset of the Week

It remains unclear whether Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is truly 100%. I expect his offense to be less explosive than usual against a Denver defense that still has plenty of talent despite trading star edge rusher Von Miller. Meanwhile, look for QB Teddy Bridgewater to lead the Broncos to victory by relying on the run game as well as revitalizing his chemistry with WR Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy is in his second game back from an extended IR stint.

TNF (Actual Score: 45-30 Colts)

While QB Mike White posted a rather impressive game against the Bengals, this Indy defense is a big upgrade compared to Cincinnati’s, and it’s been on a good stretch lately. Look for the Colts to come out on top in a low scoring affair under the lights.

The Other Games

After a couple of higher scoring games by the Patriots, I’m expecting a more defense-heavy battle in this one. This Carolina defense has been sneaky good all year, and the trade for ex-Patriot CB Stephon Gilmore has only helped matters. The return of RB Christian McCaffrey should also give the Panthers offense a boost. However, I have QB Mac Jones and the Pats edging out a victory as they maintain some of the offensive momentum they’ve gathered over the last two weeks.
I’m surprised sidelined Texans QB Deshaun Watson was interested in heading to Miami, because I don’t feel the Dolphins are miles ahead of Houston this year. However, I don’t see QB Tyrod Taylor and the Texans offense putting up many points in this one. The offense was already struggling before RB Mark Ingram was traded to New Orleans. Without Ingram, Houston’s offense will likely be borderline anemic for the remainder of the season.
I think the Browns are ready to move forward after a drama-filled week headlined by the release of WR Odell Beckham Jr. Quite honestly, the Browns have performed better without OBJ as the offense just meshes better. QB Baker Mayfield is continuing to play through numerous injuries, but I think he’ll rely on RB Nick Chubb against an inexperienced Bengals front seven to get out to a lead in this one. QB Joe Burrow should make this one close, as he’s been able to compete in just about every game this year. However, I think this week will be remembered as a turning point for Cleveland’s season.
I’m expecting a close, run heavy game here. While the Ravens have one of the most effective overall backfields in football, they lack a star running back to compete with Vikings RB Dalvin Cook. I have this Ravens team holding onto the AFC North lead with a victory, but Minnesota should provide them more of a challenge than one would expect out of a .500 team.
Until this New York offense is closer to 100%, it’s going to be difficult for the Giants to win games. I do expect RB Devontae Booker to impress against his former team though, and I could see his strong performance making this close. In the end, I do have the Raiders winning as QB Derek Carr relies on slot WR Hunter Renfrow and his star TE Darren Waller. This trio will maintain a high level of production for the offense in the wake of WR Henry Ruggs III’s arrest and release from the team.
This game will come down to which offense can get into a better rhythm despite key players missing. With both QB Jameis Winston and WR Michael Thomas done for the year, the Saints are going to have to make the most of what they have. Against a struggling Falcons defense, I think their current offensive corps will impress. Atlanta’s offense has some of their own challenges as WR Calvin Ridley takes some time away to focus on mental health. As a result, QB Matt Ryan will have to develop chemistry with some unfamiliar faces in his effort to keep up with the Saints.
I have the Chargers coming out on top here as QB Justin Herbert leans on his three main targets: RB Austin Ekeler, WR Keenan Allen, and WR Mike Williams. If I’ve learned anything this season though, it’s that you can never count out QB Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense from a game. Hurts has been unstoppable late in games. I expect the Eagles to have a late charge against Los Angeles, but it won’t be enough.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is out this week with COVID, so it will be up to backup QB Jordan Love to outperform a flawed Chiefs defense. Love has a talented supporting cast to rely on including RB Aaron Jones and WR Davante Adams. Despite another poor showing by the Chiefs D, I believe QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will come out on top in the end, winning by a field goal.
If QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins both end up having to sit this one out due to injuries, the Cardinals could be in trouble. However, with or without them, in contrast to the low scoring win against San Francisco earlier this season, the Cardinals should win in a shootout. The Cardinals still have several reliable weapons including WR Christian Kirk, WR Rondale Moore, and TE Zach Ertz. The 49ers should see the return of TE George Kittle, but I think it’s the run game that will stand out for the Niners offense as they make this close.
Without RB Derrick Henry, this Titans offense could take a major step back. Tennessee will have to rely on the WR duo of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, who will face an elite duo of corners, Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. Considering this, I expect a smooth sailing victory for QB Matthew Stafford and the Rams against a much weaker Titans defense.
This Bears offense has underperformed for just about the entire season, regardless of match-ups. Facing a highly experienced Steelers defense is likely to be too much for them to handle. QB Ben Roethlisberger won’t need to have a field day to win this one on Monday night.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts on these picks, and stay tuned for more content in coming weeks.

2021 NFL Week 8 Picks: Who will emerge as contenders with deadline nearing?

The trade deadline is almost here, and this week could be a big indicator for what moves are going to happen, including the destination of QB Deshaun Watson. My picks for the week are below. Last week I went 10-3, bringing my overall record to 69-38. After two straight weeks with 3 or less incorrect picks, I hope to keep it up.

Lock of the Week

I doubt this Texans offense will be able to get much done with DT Aaron Donald in QB Davis Mills’ face and CB Jalen Ramsey locking down WR Brandin Cooks. Meanwhile, I’m expecting QB Matthew Stafford to toss multiple TDs, continuing along on his MVP trajectory in this blowout victory.

Upset of the Week

Even without WR Corey Davis, I have the Jets pulling off an upset here. The Jets run defense has been awful thus far, but I could see improvement in this one against a lackluster Bengals o-line. Look for a big game out of RB Michael Carter to make a difference as well. QB Joe Burrow will put up a fight as usual, but fall short as the Bengals begin to fall back to Earth.

TNF (Posted to Social Media Thursday night)

The Other Games

The Bills took down the Dolphins with ease in Miami. While I think the Dolphins will be able to make some adjustments the second time around, I still have the Bills coming out on top. QB Josh Allen and his receivers will be able to significantly outplay QB Tua Tagovailoa.
This one could be closer than most people expect as the Browns continue to fend off the injury bug. I’m expecting a big game out of RB Najee Harris. However, I still have Cleveland winning a close one in the end as QB Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles continue.
Without WR Julio Jones in the game, this Titans offense is much easier to shut down. Look for the Colts defense to come up big again as Indy continues to trend in the right direction and fight for a playoff spot.
Look for the Lions to come close yet again, but I’m beginning to have doubts that the Lions have the talent to finish the job. Against an inexperienced Lions defense, look for QB Jalen Hurts and his offense to have a field day and outpace QB Jared Goff.
Honestly, I feel that head coach Matt Nagy is holding this Bears team back. With Nagy dealing with COVID while the Bears face a young Niners secondary, I could see QB Justin Fields putting up a surprisingly strong game. I don’t think QB Jimmy Garoppolo will be able to keep up without his star TE George Kittle.
Even without WR Calvin Ridley, I have the Falcons coming out on top here. QB Sam Darnold is really struggling without his star RB Christian McCaffrey, and the only thing that I could see saving him is McCaffrey’s return. QB Matt Ryan will have to rely on RB Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Russell Gage, and TE Kyle Pitts in Ridley’s absence, but it will be enough to outperform Darnold.
Bill Belichick is always able to make it a close game. However, QB Mac Jones is not Tom Brady. I expect the Patriots to fall just short in LA. They were able to shut down QB Justin Herbert as a rookie, but this is an even stronger Chargers team than the Pats faced a year ago.
I do not have much faith in these Seahawks without QB Russell Wilson. Under head coach Urban Meyer though, Jacksonville has not been much better. Look for QB Geno Smith to lead the Seahawks in a close one on their home turf.
I don’t expect much of an improvement out of QB Teddy Bridgewater with WR Jerry Jeudy back. However, I do see Denver’s defense comfortably shutting down an ailing Washington squad. This will allow the Broncos to snap their skid at Mile High and jump back into the playoff race.
The Saints defense should be able to keep this close against a Tampa Bay offense that’s missing WR Antonio Brown. However, I don’t think the Saints will be able to defeat Tampa until they get their own star WR in Michael Thomas back. Even then, a victory would be a tall task.
I think the Vikings will come out on top here whether QB Dak Prescott plays or not. Look for RB Dalvin Cook to dominate against the Dallas defense, and I’m expecting a strong game out of QB Kirk Cousins to add to it. If Prescott does play, the Cowboys offense should put up a significant amount of points as usual, but I don’t see it being enough to win in Minnesota.
The Chiefs defense has not lived up to expectations this year, but I don’t think that will be much of a problem against an ailing Giants team. Meanwhile, I expect QB Patrick Mahomes to return to form after suffering a mid-game injury last week.

That’s all for my picks this week. Stay tuned for more Boston and national sports content in the coming weeks.

2021 NFL Week 7 Picks: Which teams keep their momentum with bye weeks widespread?

After a brief hiatus, my NFL picks are back for this week. My record is now 60-35 after going 11-3 in Week 6. I had 10 correct picks in a row before the later games broke that streak. Maybe a new streak will begin with this week’s games. There’s also been a lot of streaky NFL teams, but with lots of bye weeks occurring, it could impact the momentum of certain teams. Which teams will stay hot? Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

This Cardinals offense continues to improve. After losing TE Maxx Williams for the season, they went out to acquire an even better TE in Zach Ertz. Look for QB Kyler Murray to have a field day against a rebuilding Texans defense. The Texans won’t even be able to come close despite putting up some points.

Upset of the Week

The 49ers are still figuring out their QB situation, and I’m expecting even less from this offense without TE George Kittle and against a strong Colts run defense. QB Carson Wentz won’t have to do anything special to pull off the upset here.

TNF (Actual Result: 17-14 Browns)

With a good portion of the Browns offense including QB Baker Mayfield out, this could be close. The Broncos have yet to prove themselves capable of taking down contenders though. While I expect their run game to thrive, they will fall just short against a well-rounded Browns squad.

The Other Games

Look for QB Mac Jones and his receivers to put up an impressive game against a young Jets secondary. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick will be able to outsmart another rookie QB, making it 3 wins over rookies despite none over veteran QBs.
With several receivers missing, I think QB Tua Tagovailoa is going to have a hard time putting up enough points here. He’ll be no match for a well rested QB Matt Ryan and a fully loaded Falcons offense that already looked sharp headed into their bye.
The Bengals have exceeded expectations thus far this season. While I expect the Ravens to win this game after establishing the run, Cincinnati will make this closer than usual. QB Joe Burrow and his reliable trio of receivers are fueling their explosive offense.
Look for this Chiefs defense to rebound against QB Ryan Tannehill and a banged up Titans receiving corps. Meanwhile, I’m expecting both QB Patrick Mahomes and his speedy, reliable WR Tyreek Hill to meet their typical high standards.
This Giants offense is really lacking the personnel to put up many points, regardless of opponent. I do not think we’ll see a full bounce back from QB Sam Darnold as RB Christian McCaffrey remains on IR. However, Darnold will put up enough points to outperform QB Daniel Jones with depleted surroundings.
I don’t expect this to be an amazing game by Aaron Rodgers standards, but he’ll still put up a respectable amount of points as he relies on RB Aaron Jones and WR Davante Adams. It’ll be hard for Washington to compete with that trio as RB Antonio Gibson continues to deal with a shin injury and WR Curtis Samuel remains out.
QB Jalen Hurts is likely going to help the Eagles establish the run. That will be enough to make it close in Las Vegas, especially if TE Darren Waller sits. However, I expect QB Derek Carr to come up clutch and hold on for another victory, keeping the Raiders in the race for this competitive AFC West.
Look for QB Jared Goff to rely on TE T.J. Hockenson to stay in this game. Goff is still no match for his former team, now led by QB Matthew Stafford and his former head coach in Sean McVay. I’m expecting an explosive game out of Stafford as he turns to WRs Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in a high scoring victory.
QB Tom Brady will be missing some familiar faces in WR Antonio Brown and TE Rob Gronkowski. Look for WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to step up and allow the Buccaneers to remain comfortable favorites over the Bears. The Bucs secondary may have trouble against Bears WRs Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, but there is still little chance QB Justin Fields can keep up with the G.O.A.T.
WR Marquez Callaway was a preseason standout, likely due to light competition. Most of this year, he’s had to fend off star cornerbacks. However, this matchup against an inexperienced Seahawks secondary could allow him to finally blow up for a big game. Look for QB Jameis Winston and Callaway to connect for several big plays. The Seahawks offense will struggle to match that performance with QB Russell Wilson sidelined. Wilson is a big part of what makes these Seahawks special, so it could be difficult to win without him.

That’s all for my picks this week. Stay tuned for more content to come, both about the NFL and other sports.

2021 NFL Week 5 Picks: Which teams will stay on top at quarter mark of season?

There’s been a lot of teams that have been pleasant surprises this year. It’s not the Chiefs, but the Raiders and Broncos who started 3-0 to lead the AFC West. The last remaining undefeated team is not the Rams or Buccaneers, but the Arizona Cardinals. Things like this have made the season difficult to predict, but I might as well continue to try. Last week, I went 11-5, bringing my overall record to 38-26 (39-27 including TNF and the London game). This week, I’ll be predicting each game, as well as which of these strong starters will keep it up.

Lock of the Week

Despite Minnesota’s record, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has consistently performed at an elite level this year. Against a struggling Lions defense, look for Cousins to blow up for over 300 yards and 4 pass TDs. Checkdowns to RBs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams won’t be enough for Detroit to even come close.

Upset of the Week

This Colts defense came up big last week and I expect the momentum to carry into this week against Baltimore. The Ravens aging RB committee will be no match for DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and the Colts front seven. I don’t see QB Carson Wentz putting up a huge game, but it’ll be enough for an upset as the Indy defense performs at an elite level.

The Other Games

The Patriots may be missing some offensive line personnel, but either way, I expect a pretty strong performance out of QB Mac Jones in this favorable matchup. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick should be ready to stop Houston’s rookie QB, Davis Mills. It’s been a rough start for the Patriots but this game could help them get back on track.
With QB Tua Tagovailoa, WR Will Fuller, and others missing from this Miami offense, the Dolphins are no match for the defending Super Bowl champions. QB Tom Brady may be missing his trusted TE Rob Gronkowski, but he’ll have two other tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate to rely on.
Expect QB Aaron Rodgers to rely on RB Aaron Jones and WR Davante Adams and win this game in the end. However, with CB Jaire Alexander out, I expect the Bengals trio of WRs to put up big games and allow QB Joe Burrow to make this close.
This is a battle of two fairly strong defenses, and also simultaneously a battle of two banged up QBs. I don’t expect much out of either offense, but look for QB Ben Roethlisberger to lean on checkdowns to RB Najee Harris and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster to win this.
QB Trevor Lawrence and the Jags should show some promise against a lackluster Titans defense. It still won’t be enough to outpace RB Derrick Henry, who always tends to put up a big performance in Jacksonville.
The Washington defense has disappointed most of the year, but I expect that to shift against an inconsistent Saints squad. Look for them to rely on this defensive performance as well as the run game in a home victory.
The Panthers offense has quietly become one of the most dominant forces in football, and I expect them to put up another strong performance this week against Philly. Expect QB Jalen Hurts to rely on his legs and make this close, but I doubt he’ll be able to outplay a revitalized Sam Darnold.
LA has been off to a strong start this year, but this Chargers defense is no match for Cleveland’s RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. I also expect QB Justin Herbert to face a lot of pressure in this one. Look for the Browns to succeed on both sides of the ball against SoFi Stadium.
Despite last week’s loss, I don’t think the Raiders are an early season fluke. Look for QB Derek Carr and his receivers to bounce back against a Bears secondary that has lost a step over the last couple years. It’ll be hard for QB Justin Fields and the Bears to keep up with RB David Montgomery on IR.
It’ll be hard for Dallas to stop a nearly healthy Saquon Barkley. However, I don’t see QB Daniel Jones doing much in the passing game here. He’ll be significantly outperformed by QB Dak Prescott and his receivers as the Cowboys hold on to the NFC East.
I think there’s going to be some growing pains for QB Trey Lance, especially against a Cardinals squad that has dominated every opponent this season. Look for QB Kyler Murray to remain on an MVP pace against a struggling Niners secondary as he leads Arizona to a comfortable victory.
This one is going to be a wake up call for the Chiefs: their defense needs help, and fast. I just don’t see this inexperienced Kansas City secondary stopping QB Josh Allen and his plethora of receivers. I expect an especially big game out of WR Stefon Diggs. QB Patrick Mahomes will toss the usual 3 TDs and make it close, but the Chiefs will fall just short once again.
TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night)
These offenses are pretty much on par with each other, but QB Russell Wilson has to face an elite Rams D, while QB Matthew Stafford gets a favorable matchup against an underperforming Seahawks secondary. This will allow Stafford to put up better numbers than Wilson and lead the Rams to victory.
London Game (Posted to Twitter this morning)
The Falcons offense was already disappointing this year. As they travel to London without WRs Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, their chances at outperforming the Jets are even slimmer. QB Zach Wilson has made a lot of mistakes this year, but should be more consistent in this one.

That’s all for my picks this week. Stay tuned for more NFL and Patriots content in the coming weeks.