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.
April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. You can check out the AL podcast here, and I have my full AL predictions below.
- New York Yankees (96-66, #2 seed)
- Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, #5 seed)
- Tampa Bay Rays (84-78)
- Boston Red Sox (80-82)
- Baltimore Orioles (58-104)
I think the Yankees are in a good position to win this division. They lost some of the pitching depth they had last year, but this lineup is still on another level compared to the other teams in the AL East. Even with some injuries last year, the Yankees were able to dominate the AL East, and I expect the same this year. The question is whether they have the pitching staff to go all the way.
This should be a competitive division behind the Yankees. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox should all finish somewhat close in the standings. The Jays are really starting to come together. The young talent in the lineup is improving and they’ll be supplemented by new outfielder George Springer and new middle infielder Marcus Semien. Their rotation is also really starting to look sharp.
Tampa was the AL pennant winner last year, but this was a team that was highlighted by its dominant rotation and the Rays lost two of their top three starting pitchers. As a small market team, they tend to subtract in the offseason as opposed to adding. As they lose a key element of their 2020 team, they will see a significant World Series hangover.
The Red Sox should get Chris Sale back towards the end of the year, and when they do they could force the Rays into 4th place. After bringing back Alex Cora and making some underrated signings, I see the Sox finishing around .500 like they did back in 2019. However, this team is hard to read. They have a low floor (they could be a repeat of last year), and a high ceiling (they could potentially contend for a Wild Card). The signings by GM Chaim Bloom have included multiple utility players. Bloom, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, explained some of his reasoning behind this in a Q&A at a UPenn event on Wednesday. He stated that in the past, utility players were often limited to utility role because they weren’t good enough to play a position every day. However, in modern baseball, there are utility players who can play every day at a variety of positions, like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez who he signed. These players likely flew under the radar due to the fact that they’re utility guys.
I can’t really see the Orioles competing with these teams. The Orioles have improved since 2019, but their early 2020 success was a bit of a fluke. I think the young talent is starting to come along but it won’t be enough to make a noticeable difference just yet.
- Chicago White Sox (101-61, #1 seed)
- Minnesota Twins (90-72, #4 seed)
- Kansas City Royals (77-85)
- Cleveland Indians (75-87)
- Detroit Tigers (66-96)
The White Sox are really starting to come together. They have a good ace in Lucas Giolito. The lineup is looking great between young talent like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Nick Madigral and more experienced players like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal. I think they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run this year. I have them ahead of the Twins, who choked in the playoffs last year. Minnesota has a strong rotation headlined by Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Randy Dobnak, but their lack of elite lineup talent compared to other top teams is going to hold them back from more than a Wild Card. The Twins should be able secure 2nd place though, as the rest of this division is unlikely to compete.
The Royals have added talent, including starting pitcher Mike Minor, and they have a decent core led by Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield. However, I don’t think they have quite enough firepower to contend. I think they will get third place over the Indians, who dealt away Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor in an effort to lower payroll. Star hitter and third baseman Jose Ramirez is still in Cleveland, but the Indians don’t have any other big name hitters. They also lack rotation depth behind defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Aside from Bieber and Ramirez, the Indians lack star power. The Tigers got off to a strong start last year thanks to the emergence of outfielder JaCoby Jones. They should perform better than they did in 2019, but I still don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to playoff contention in a 162 game season.
- Los Angeles Angels (87-75, #3 seed)
- Houston Astros (84-78)
- Oakland Athletics (76-86)
- Texas Rangers (65-97)
- Seattle Mariners (63-99)
This division is not nearly as strong as it was last year. The Angels always tend to disappoint with a lack of success surrounding star outfielder Mike Trout, but I think they’ll be able to win this weakened division. That doesn’t necessarily imply playoff success. The Angels did add some pitching help and that should put them in position to win the AL West but taking down the Yankees or White Sox will be a difficult feat. The Astros should come close as well, even though they lost outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick. This lineup’s success between 2017 and 2019 was likely boosted by sign stealing, and the depth of the rotation is slowly dwindling, so I have the Angels edging out Houston here, but it will be close.
The A’s will probably have the biggest drop off in the division. They have a very talented young rotation, but without shortstop Marcus Semien and designated hitter Khris Davis, this lineup is lacking standout hitters. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are improving at the plate, but that’s not enough lineup talent for a playoff team. I have them falling to third place, but finishing ahead of the Rangers and Mariners.
The Rangers failed to contend last year with an awkward mix of young talent and older players, so they’ve torn it down and prepared for a rebuild headed into this season. Joey Gallo is still here but I don’t expect him to stay for long. Seattle has some young talent that is starting to develop and could have a very strong outfield soon once Kyle Lewis and top prospect Jarred Kelenic fully develop alongside Mitch Haniger. Even with the outfield and the rotation improving, this isn’t the year for Seattle to contend.
That’s all for these American League predictions. I’ll have my NL predictions out in the next couple days. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your thoughts.
The NFL off-season has been one of the craziest ever. Tom Brady left Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Instead he went to Tampa, building his own offense. This caused the biggest off-season QB carousel in a long time. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NFL Draft virtual and canceled the NFL preseason. But despite the pandemic and all the unusual events, football is coming back. With or without fans attending the game, this NFL season will go on, and so will my weekly NFL pick’em posts. Each week, I’ll have my NFL picks on this website as well as some fantasy content on my fantasy football Instagram account, @bsmfantasyfootball. I think this could be one of the most competitive seasons in a while, and that will mean a lot of close games. Keep reading to see my predictions of them all. I’ll say one thing, we could see multiple games go to overtime this week alone.
Lock of the Week
As I said, there should be a lot of close games this week. This is not one of them. I expect the Bills to have a lot of success running the ball. The combo of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and running QB Josh Allen will just be too much for a Jets front seven that will be without LB C.J. Mosley. Allen will also rely on his new star WR Stefon Diggs in this one. QB Sam Darnold will struggle, as a strong Bills defense shuts down his banged up arsenal of weapons.
Upset of the Week
I think the 49ers are the better team here. But WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are recovering from injuries, leaving QB Jimmy Garoppolo with solely star TE George Kittle to rely on. The Cardinals defense will focus in on Kittle, making it difficult for Garoppolo’s offense to function. QB Kyler Murray won’t be that much better against a strong San Francisco D. But with WR DeAndre Hopkins in the mix, I think Arizona will put up enough points to pull off the upset this time around. The Niners will have a chance at revenge later this season after Garoppolo’s receivers heal up.
The Other Games
|Thursday Night Football||I expect the Chiefs to come out on top in the end here. QB Patrick Mahomes’ offense is a dominant force and I doubt this weakening Texans D will be able to keep up. However, the Texans will make it close, as the duo of WR Brandin Cooks and WR Will Fuller should be able to outplay Kansas City’s secondary. I think they might even force OT.|
|I think QB Cam Newton will rely on pass catching RB James White and slot WR Julian Edelman to beat out an improved, but still below average Dolphins defense. On the other hand, WR DeVante Parker and TE Mike Gesicki are no match for Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty.|
|The Browns have a good front seven, but it won’t be enough to stop dual threat QB Lamar Jackson. I expect Kevin Stefanski to completely modify the Browns offense and that will allow them to make this competitive. However, in Baltimore I see them falling short.|
|QB Gardner Minshew II is lacking surroundings. I expect WR D.J. Chark to have a good game thanks to their chemistry, but it’ll be tough against this improved Colts D. The Colts also have an improved run game behind an elite o-line that should dominate against a crumbling Jaguars defense.|
|The Raiders do have an improving offense centered around RB Josh Jacobs and TE Darren Waller, and they will make it close against an unproven Panthers defense. But I expect RB Christian McCaffrey to run all over the Raiders D in this one.|
|Washington’s defense is looking better than it has in a while, with a front seven led by rookie Chase Young and veteran Ryan Kerrigan, plus a secondary that includes CB Kendall Fuller and S Landon Collins. They will hold the Eagles to just 1 TD, but fall short due to anemic offense.|
|The Vikings D is looking strong after adding DE Yannick Ngakoue, so I expect a strong Week 1 performance against Green Bay. RB Dalvin Cook will lead Minnesota to victory, but it will be close with natural slot WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson rotating outside.|
|The Lions won’t put up too many points as I expect the Bears D to improve upon last year. But the Bears QB troubles will cause them to fall short. I think QB Mitch Trubisky will have some success with RB Tarik Cohen and WR Allen Robinson, but be too inconsistent to finish the job. I have Detroit taking it in OT.|
|This is definitely going to be a close one. But on the road, I have the Seahawks falling short. QB Matt Ryan will lean on his strong WR duo and RB Todd Gurley to lead Atlanta to victory in overtime.|
|The Chargers secondary is looking strong, but the loss of S Derwin James hurts. I think QB Joe Burrow will capitalize on his connection with WR Tyler Boyd and find ways to beat out this strong Chargers D, pulling off the upset in his debut. The Chargers offense will show flashes of a strong performance but struggle overall with Tyrod Taylor at QB.|
|QBs Tom Brady and Drew Brees face off twice this year. In this one, I’m expecting the Saints to squeeze by for a victory in a back and forth offensive shootout. WRs Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin will all get the chance to stand out here.|
|Sunday Night Football||I’m expecting an OT thriller in the first edition of SNF this year. QB Jared Goff will be under center in a pass heavy offense that outplays the Cowboys secondary and makes this one close. But QB Dak Prescott will rely on what’s arguably the best WR trio in the league alongside RB Ezekiel Elliott as he leads the Cowboys to last minute victory.|
|Monday Night Football||This could be tough for the Giants as Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses in the league. But the Giants defense has also improved, and I expect them to slow down RB James Conner and make things difficult for QB Ben Roethlisberger in his return. This could go either way, but I have New York pulling off an upset in overtime.|
|Monday Night Football||I think the Broncos will shut down QB Ryan Tannehill and make it hard for the Titans offense to put up much. But RB Derrick Henry will just be too much for Denver, allowing the Titans to stay in this game. Denver’s offense will take time to click after all the new additions, but I think RB Melvin Gordon and rookie WR Jerry Jeudy will make a difference as the Broncos narrowly get by here.|
Which teams do you have winning this week? Comment with your thoughts.
We’re just a few days away from the return of baseball, and today, the second episode of my 2020 MLB prediction podcast series with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky, was released as a part of his podcast, the Master Plan. After covering the AL and NL East in the first one, we covered the AL and NL Central in the second one.
You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify using the links below:
In addition, I have added both of our standings predictions below alongside my brief breakdown of each of these 10 squads. Keep reading to check that out.Continue reading
Training camp is here, and it’s time for my final batch of NFL Draft Report Cards. Last time, I reviewed the AFC South, where several teams struggled. But the AFC West had some teams with much better draft classes. Who are they? Keep reading to see my grade for each pick as well as my final grades. As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.
NFL Draft Report Cards 2019
Overall Grade: A-
Draft Report Card:
The Broncos put together one of the league’s best draft classes. The trade down in Round 1 was very smart, as Fant fills a huge need and was an amazing fit. They added a tackle (Risner) in Round 2, and if he can make a successful move to guard, he could really help the team. Lock was a bargain as well, and Dre’Mont Jones will fill another big need for Denver. The Broncos could’ve added more secondary help and another WR, but every pick had a purpose, and with just six picks, they filled a good amount of needs.
Los Angeles Chargers
Overall Grade: B+
Draft Report Card:
The Chargers started this draft off very strong. But they made some confusing choices later on. They didn’t have too many needs to fill, and they filled them early. Tillery and Adderley were great adds, and Pipkins was a reach but should still compete for a tackle job and have success. Later on though, they reached a bit on several picks. It was smart to take a QB, but Round 5 is too early for Stick. They also reached for Tranquill, Broughton, and Egbule. Still, LA filled their needs earlier and more efficiently than any other team, making for a strong draft class where the later rounds didn’t matter nearly as much.
Kansas City Chiefs
Overall Grade: B-
Draft Report Card:
The Chiefs reaches on a handful of these selections, but they did filled a decent amount of needs. They boosted the interior o-line. They drafted extra RB and WR help. They even added a safety with their first pick. But even with Frank Clark on the roster, the Chiefs’ biggest need for an edge rusher, and that need has yet to be filled. That fact, alongside the lack of interior o-line depth and the numerous reaches the Chiefs made, brings down KC’s grade.
Overall Grade: B-
Draft Report Card:
The Raiders went into this draft with a handful of defensive holes and a few offensive holes as well. They filled most of these, but they took players that they could’ve drafted in later rounds. If they had traded down a couple times, they would likely have more help at guard and defensive tackle than they got, and they’d get some of their targets at better values. Clelin Ferrell could’ve been taken at #24 or #27. They took him at #4. The Raiders did have some really good picks as well though. I liked the choices of Trayvon Mullen, Foster Moreau, and Hunter Renfrow. But they could have done a better job at managing their draft picks and focused more on value.
That’s all for my 2019 NFL Draft Report Cards. Stay tuned for more NFL coverage as the regular season looms.
Welcome to Article #1 of my 6th annual set of MLB preseason power rankings and 5th annual MLB power ranking series. Back in 2015, I got the idea to break up my pre-season Power Rankings into 5 articles from David Schoenfield of ESPN. Even though Schoenfield no longer posts power rankings in this format, I have stuck with it and given the rankings my own flavor in recent years. In this article, though I am covering some of the worst teams in the league, all of these teams have some good pieces, and I will be pointing those out. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):
2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:
I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!
30. Miami Marlins
The Case for the Marlins
The Marlins traded away most of their best players a year ago, and after dealing away C J.T. Realmuto this off-season, things can only get worse from here. The hole Realmuto left behind should outweigh the upside of Miami’s younger players, for now. The Marlins did add a couple veterans to the lineup and signed a new closer in Sergio Romo. Plus, the bulk of the prospects acquired from their recent rebuild should be making their way up as 2020 and 2021 approach, and when that time comes, this team will be on the rise again. But for now, they remain in the NL East basement after a rough 2018.
The Bright Spot
It was not easy coming up with something here. A lot has gone wrong in Miami in the last year and a half. But I think the bright spot of this team is the top of the rotation. Jose Urena, Miami’s longest tenured player, leads the group, with seasoned veterans in Wei-Yin Chen and Dan Straily behind him. Straily has had a lot of success with the Marlins, and when Chen is healthy, he shows flashes of dominance.
Projected Finish: 61-101, 5th in NL East
29. Baltimore Orioles
The Case for the Orioles
Baltimore’s 2018 season was historically bad, as they won just 47 games. But with Dylan Bundy and Alex Cobb (likely out of it early in 2018 after lack of Spring Training time) primed to bounce back, they should improve at least slightly from their nightmare season. Adam Jones’ departure hurts, but Cedric Mullins is ready to replace him, and Yusniel Diaz will be here soon. Maybe Chris Davis can even rise to the occasion with Jones out of the lineup. The bullpen is still a major concern, and the lineup could be better, but I don’t think we’ll see any team perform worse than the 2018 Orioles for a long time.
The Bright Spot
The rotation could be better, but so long as Bundy and Cobb bounce back, the rotation could potentially be a bright spot for this team. Bundy and Cobb could provide Baltimore a 1-2 punch, with Andrew Cashner and Nathan Karns among others serving as depth.
Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL East
28. Detroit Tigers
The Case for the Tigers
Detroit’s rebuild kicked into full swing in 2018 after they dealt away several older players at the 2017 Trade Deadline. Their remaining veterans, even Miguel Cabrera, are declining quickly. This rebuild has dragged on for a while now, leaving the Tigers among the league’s worst teams for a third straight season. Even in a weak division, I can’t see them doing much. Before they contend, Casey Mize and Matt Manning will need to make their way up and Christin Stewart, Jeimer Candelario, and others will need to make their big break through. In the meantime, it could be a long year for the Tigers despite some new additions to their lineup including Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison.
The Bright Spot
The infield could shine with the additions of Mercer and Harrison. If Candelario continues to develop this year, and Cabrera regains a bit of what he has lost during the last couple of years, people may begin to wonder how the Tigers are stuck in the AL Central basement.
Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL Central
27. Kansas City Royals
The Case for the Royals
The Hosmer-Moustakas era in Kansas City is officially over, with Alcides Escobar leaving in free agency, and Mike Moustakas leaving at the 2018 Trade Deadline. The team still has a capable rotation, but the bullpen lacks the depth it has contained in past years. The lineup may lack power this year with Salvador Perez on the IL and Hosmer and Moose gone, but hopefully, Billy Hamilton’s speed will at least partially make up for it. Even with Hamilton and Chris Owings on board, this team is bound to decline a little bit more before the rebuilding is over. The next crop of prospects is not ready yet, and during this transitional period for the Royals, things could get ugly.
The Bright Spot
Speed and youth will make the Royals special this year. A lot of young players are primed to breakout, including INF Hunter Dozier, RHP Jorge Lopez, and C Cam Gallagher. Hamilton and Gore will make for a dynamic outfield and add speed to an otherwise dull starting lineup.
Projected Finish: 67-95, 4th in AL Central
26. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Case for the Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks declined a bit in 2018 despite minimal roster subtractions. You might think they would bounce back considering their young roster, but after trading away star 1B Paul Goldschmidt, this team is not going far. The lineup lacks big hitters beyond underrated outfielder David Peralta and new addition Adam Jones. The pitching staff is thin behind Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray. In a tough division, the Diamondbacks will struggle this year, as Manny Machado leads the Padres to outperform them, the Giants exceed expectations, and the Rockies and Dodgers sit on top.
The Bright Spot
The rotation may have lost some of its depth. But until Greinke or Ray leaves, the rotation will still highlight this team. Taijuan Walker’s return from the IL will only boost this strong rotation further. Luke Weaver is also underrated and could make an impact.
Projected Finish: 68-94, 5th in NL West
25. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Case for the Pirates
The Pirates exceeded expectations with a sub-.500 season in 2018. But the departures of Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer (both fled for Detroit) leave a huge hole in the middle infield, and the rotation is extremely top-heavy. The Pirates would perform better with 5 average starters than their Big 3 and little depth behind them. The outfield is this team’s strong point right now, but Gregory Polanco will be missed during his time on the IL. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes and other top prospects may fix Pittsburgh’s infield problems once they make their way up, and Mitch Keller could make this rotation even scarier. But for now, the Pirates will be stuck on the bottom of a tough division.
The Bright Spot
There are multiple bright spots to consider for this team. But the infield is in such bad shape that it’s hard to rank them much higher than this in such a tough NL Central. The outfield could make things interesting once Polanco returns, as they will own three outfielders who could be considered Top 10 at their positions. The incoming prospects could help accelerate their progress as well.
Projected Finish: 67-95, 5th in NL Central
That’s all for Part 1 of my MLB 2019 preseason power rankings. Stay tuned for my next power rankings article, where I will look at the teams I ranked #24-19 and discuss things to look forward too for those teams.
Welcome to my 6th post in my series of Super Bowl LIII Preview articles. My video preview of the game with a transcript is below. How do these two teams match up? Watch the video to find out what I think. You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below. I will be posting preview articles throughout the week as festivities in Atlanta take place.
Super Bowl LIII: Official Boston Sports Mania Preview Schedule
February 3: The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game (Including iMovie Trailer)
February 3: Enjoy the game and stay tuned for my recap after the game!
After taking the Rams down in the first Super Bowl of the Brady-Belichick era, the Patriots take them on again in Super Bowl LIII. Coming off an OT thriller over the Chiefs, the Pats should have plenty of motivation for this game after losing the Super Bowl last year. In addition, a win will give the Pats 6 Lombardi trophies and tie the Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins all time by an NFL team. The Rams made it here after an overtime victory of their own that was made possible because of a Rams pass interference no-call, but they’ll look to get revenge on the Pats for derailing the “Greatest Show on Turf” back in 2001. 17 years later, the Pats are the experienced dynasty, and the Rams are once again on the rise. But the Pats took down a high scoring Rams offense back in 2001 and with 2 weeks to prepare, Belichick should have a game plan to shut down the Rams again. Though the Patriots dynasty is headed “Back to their Roots”, there are several factors that make this game different.
The Patriots defense isn’t quite as good as it was back in 2001. So for the Pats to beat the Rams again, they’ll need to play like they did in the first half in KC and stop the Rams running game led by Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. The Patriots defense has struggled to contain big name running backs in recent years, and if they fail to contain Gurley and Anderson, it may prevent them from winning. Winning the turnover battle will also help their case. Both QBs have had interception troubles this year, and both teams are Top 5 in interceptions. The question is, who will throw more? About 80% of the time, teams who win the turnover battle win the game. The Pats will also need to score early as they did against the Chiefs and Chargers. Though they did score their only Super Bowl first quarter points in the Brady-Belichick Era last year, they were outscored in the first quarter. Starting out strong with a TD will prevent that from happening again.
If the Rams want revenge, they will need to put pressure on QB Tom Brady. If they can apply the pressure up the middle, Brady could be limited and interception-prone. The battle in the trenches will be key as New England’s offensive line has been playing well but the Rams defensive line is probably the toughest they’ve faced all year.
QB Jared Goff will need to show that his lack of experience doesn’t matter and avoid interceptions. Gurley and Anderson cannot lead the offense alone, and Goff has not been throwing it as much since WR Cooper Kupp got hurt. Interceptions could significantly impact the game so it will be interesting to see if he forces some throws.
I expect Julian Edelman to have another stellar playoff performance with about 100 receiving yards and a TD. I also won’t be surprised to see Gronk play a big role in what could be his last game.
This will definitely be a close one like all of the Pats Super Bowls but in the end, I believe the Pats win 26-24 making it 3 Super Bowl wins in 5 years.
Stay tuned for a final update before the game including my iMovie Trailer.
Welcome to my 1st of several Super Bowl LIII Preview articles. The match-up is set, the teams are in Atlanta for Opening Night, and today I will be looking at how the Patriots and Rams got here and taking a first look at the match-up. What can we expect from this year’s big game? Keep reading to find out what I think. You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below. I will be posting preview articles throughout the week as festivities in Atlanta take place.
Super Bowl LIII: Official Boston Sports Mania Preview Schedule
January 27 or 28: Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here
January 28 or 29: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game
January 29 or 30: The Case for the Rams: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game
January 30 or 31: Super Bowl LIII Fast Facts and Their Significance
January 31 or February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP
February 1 or 2: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview
February 2 or 3: The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game (Including iMovie Trailer)
February 3: Enjoy the game and stay tuned for my recap after the game!
How They Got Here
The Patriots were off to a rough start this season, going 1-2 in their first three games without WR Julian Edelman. However, they brought in WR Josh Gordon to add back WR depth they’d lost in the off-season. Gordon thrived in his first game with the Pats, and when Edelman returned, they made for a dynamic duo that led the offense to dominate.
Though they started 7-2, they lost their third game in Tennessee before the bye as TE Rob Gronkowski sat out an extra game after an injury. After the bye, they did win a couple games, playing the Jets and Vikings. But after that their road struggles continued as they lost in Miami and in Pittsburgh. After 14 games, the Pats were 9-5, and they were at risk of missing out on a first round bye. They had the tiebreaker over the Texans, but the Texans were 10-4 at this point. The Pats needed to win one more game than Houston.
It wasn’t a good sign when WR Josh Gordon was suspended indefinitely once again for marijuana, but the Pats took care of the Bills and Jets easily in New England. They nearly shut out the Jets in Week 17! They did grab hold of the first round bye, but the question was, were these blowouts against the league’s worst a fluke, or were the Pats legitimate Super Bowl contenders?
The fans’ doubts were silenced when the Patriots dominated their Divisional Round match-up, hosting the Chargers. They would head to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in the AFC title game. This was bound to be a close one, especially because the Patriots lost the last time they had played on the road. They were off to a strong start, but they began to fall behind late in the game.
With two minutes to go, it was 28-24 Chiefs. The Pats had the ball in what was still a one possession game. They marched down the field and Burkhead scored the TD, but they scored a little too fast. They left enough time for the Chiefs to add a field goal to tie it up at 31-31 and force overtime.
After that the Patriots won the toss, and though it was a nail biter with many close calls and 3rd downs, the Pats made their way down the field for the TD, winning the game 37-31! This was Brady’s third OT victory in a postseason game, making him the first player to do so. This was also the first time two playoff games had gone into overtime in one day.
You can read more about the AFC Championship at the link below:
The Patriots are now headed to their 4th Super Bowl in 5 years, as Brady looks to ‘Blitz for Six’ and Gronk looks to potentially end his career with a bang. The best part is, as intriguing as a Brady vs. Drew Brees match-up would be, they’re playing the Los Angeles Rams, taking the Brady-Belichick dynasty back to their roots. Back in 2001, Brady led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory over the QB Kurt Warner-led St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams. You could also compare that victory to this year’s AFC Championship when Brady and co. took down QB Patrick Mahomes II and an explosive Chiefs offense after coming in as 3 point underdogs.
The last time the Rams won the NFC was back in 2001, when QB Kurt Warner led an offense known as ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ to their second Super Bowl in three years. They would face QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Though they had won in 1999, they could not get past Brady and Belichick, who won their first championship together and started a legendary dynasty. 17 years later, the Rams will seek revenge.
After Warner left St. Louis, things were ugly for the Rams for much of the 2000s. But in 2015, they began rebuilding, drafting star RB Todd Gurley in 2015, trading up in 2016 to draft the QB of their future: Jared Goff, firing head coach Jeff Fisher, and hiring the young Sean McVay to replace Fisher. To top off their rebuild, they moved back to Los Angeles as they seeked a culture change heading in to the second half of the 2010s.
In 2017, Goff, Gurley, and McVay led the team back to the playoffs with help from a star-studded defense led by DT Aaron Donald. However, as the #3 seed, they lost on Wild Card Weekend. The 2017-18 off-season was a busy one for the Rams. The Rams made it clear they wanted to win now, exchanging WR Sammy Watkins, TE Lance Kendricks, DE Robert Quinn, OLB Alec Ogletree, and CB Trumaine Johnson for WR Brandin Cooks, DT Ndamukong Suh, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib, and CB Sam Shields. Later in the season, they added RB C.J. Anderson and pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. as well. They now had one of the best secondaries in the league, Gurley and Anderson made for a dominant RB duo, and WRs Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods broke out, giving Goff a WR trio for most of the season. Kupp has since torn his ACL and ended his season, but the Rams dominated in all aspects for most of the season.
After starting 8-0, the Rams headed to New Orleans, where they lost their first game in a shootout. The Rams lost WR Cooper Kupp the next game despite a win. Without Kupp, they weren’t as dominant, going 4-2. But they took care of business against the Cowboys, winning 30-22. They would travel to New Orleans once again for the NFC Championship.
They were trailing for most of the game as expected, but they came back to tie it up at 20. The Saints were going for one last drive. When QB Drew Brees threw it to WR Tommylee Lewis, he was hoping for a first down. However, the pass was broken up on a hard hit by CB Nickell Robey-Coleman. I am not alone in my belief that the play by Robey-Coleman was blatant pass interference. But the refs didn’t call it. The Saints made the field goal. But the Rams had time to respond with a field goal of their own.
The game went to overtime, and New Orleans won the toss. But after S John Johnson picked off QB Drew Brees, the Rams drove down the field, kicked another field goal, and won the game, 26-23. Saints fans were heartbroken. But the Rams were ecstatic – they had won the NFC for the first time in 17 years. This was only their third Super Bowl appearance, the other two coming during the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ era.
Championship weekend and the weeks leading up to it were very exciting. But moving on to the Super Bowl, the Rams will take on the Patriots in just 6 days. Who will come out on top? Keep reading to hear my initial take on the match-up.
First Look: Patriots vs. Rams
This is definitely going to be close. The Pats aren’t coming off a great season by Brady-Belichick standards. They went 11-5 for the first time since 2009, and the first time since their run of seven straight AFC Championships (now eight) began. But the Pats have dominated offensively in each of their last 4 games, and they have motivation going on as QB Tom Brady looks to win his sixth ring and TE Rob Gronkowski looks to potentially end his career with one more. Until this year, Gronk had been spoiled year after year with records of 12-4 or higher. Despite a rough regular season, the Pats will look to make up for it with another Super Bowl victory (which would be Gronk’s third). To get past a difficult Rams defense, they’ll have to use a large variety of plays to try and fake them out. If they are as strong offensively as they have been in the last 4 games, they should be capable of winning this. But the Rams’ D might be the toughest New England has faced since their latest win streak.
Coming off a first round playoff exit and a busy off-season that got fans excited, the Rams went 13-3 and earned the #2 seed in the NFC behind only the New Orleans Saints (who they lost to). After being ‘overthrown’ by Brady-Belichick dynasty in 2001, they will look to dethrone the Pats in their return to the Super Bowl. In order to do so, not only will they need QB Jared Goff and the RB duo of Gurley and Anderson to step it up, they’ll need the entire offense around Goff and Gurley to thrive against a mediocre New England defense.
Who will win Super Bowl LIII? What is the game plan for each team? What Super Bowl and season-long stats will burden, encourage and/or influence each team? Find out this week as I release more articles each day.
It was 31-31 in overtime. After winning the toss, the New England Patriots had the ball on 3rd down at the Kansas City 30 yard line. QB Tom Brady had made two straight third down conversions going to WR Julian Edelman, but this time, he looked in the direction of TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had not been himself for most of the season. But after stating that he would ‘seriously consider’ retirement with the conclusion of the season, he had stepped it up so far in this game, with 5 receptions for 64 yards. He was tightly covered by S Eric Berry, but it didn’t matter. He reached up and caught it, keeping the Patriots’ drive alive with a clean set of downs. After that, Brady handed it off to RB Rex Burkhead three times, and he finished the job. Touchdown. 37-31, Patriots win!
The Patriots are now headed to their 4th Super Bowl in 5 years, as Brady looks to ‘Blitz for Six’ and Gronk looks to potentially end his career with a bang. The best part is, as intriguing as a Brady vs. Drew Brees match-up would be, they’re playing the Los Angeles Rams, taking the Brady-Belichick dynasty back to their roots. Back in 2001, Brady led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory over the QB Kurt Warner-led St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams. You could also compare that victory to tonight’s when Brady and co. took down QB Patrick Mahomes II and an explosive Chiefs offense after coming in as 3 point underdogs.
The Pats set themselves up for success with a strong start to the game where they showcased complimentary football. The Pats were in no rush in the 1st quarter, so they took their time, running the ball and eating clock on their first scoring drive of the game. It was important to get into a rhythm early on to keep up with the Kansas City, but keeping the ball for 80% of the first quarter works. Their opening drive was the longest playoff opening drive in the history of the Brady-Belichick Patriots. The Pats held Kansas City to under 3 minutes of 1st quarter possession time by sacking Mahomes and shutting down the Chiefs offense quickly. Preventing the Chiefs from developing a rhythm of their own also works. In fact, while the Pats had 100+ total yards after one quarter, the Chiefs had negative yardage.
New England had another drive going that continued into the 2nd quarter, but things went south when Brady threw an end zone pick to LB Reggie Ragland. The Chiefs had just successfully pressured TB12 and taken control of the turnover battle in one measly play. Many people say this was a blatant mistake by Brady, but I saw it as a job well done by an underrated, young Chiefs D. Though the Pats had lost their rhythm after marching down the field, they did shut down the Chiefs easily after the interception, forcing 3 and out. With just about 7 minutes left in the 1st half, the Pats had 155 total yards, and the Chiefs still had just -2.
It took a bit for the Pats to get back into the swing of things after the pick, but on a deep throw to WR Phillip Dorsett, they scored again two drives later. Utilized as a receiver, White led them through majority of the drive, but it was the deep throw to Dorsett that scored the TD for New England. After their defense’s big showing in the first half, the Pats held a 14-0 lead at halftime. The defense had held the Chiefs to just 32 total yards in the half, and this was the first time the Chiefs had been shutout in the first half at home in 51 games
However, the Chiefs figured out New England’s formula in their first drive after halftime, marching down the field in 4 plays for a TD thanks to a huge catch by WR Sammy Watkins and a quality TD by TE Travis Kelce in tight coverage. Preventing big plays is a definitive weakness of the Pats D. The Patriots needed to extend their lead so they didn’t have to press the panic button when Mahomes and co. started dominating. They failed to score another TD in the 3rd quarter, but they did add a field goal to their lead, making it 17-7 Pats. However, Mahomes and RB Damien Williams led the Chiefs on a huge drive to end the 3rd quarter. This one did end in a touchdown, narrowing New England’s lead to just 3 points after a somewhat questionable pass interference call. It had been 14-0 at half, but the Chiefs offense had just taken control of the game, outscoring New England 14-3 in the 3rd quarter.
The Pats tried again to score a TD at the beginning of the 4th quarter, but they couldn’t convert on 4th down. They forced the Chiefs to punt on the next drive, but initially, the refs called the punt muffed by Edelman when the Chiefs picked up the ball. However, the call was overturned after instant replay showed that Edelman never touched it. Edelman ended up costing the Pats the following drive though, as he bobbled a pass, allowing the Chiefs to intercept it and go on to take the lead with a TD the following drive.
The 4th quarter was a back and forth battle with several lead changes. The Pats and Chiefs each scored a touchdown on their next drives, making it 28-24 Chiefs. With two minutes to go, the Pats had the ball in what was still a one possession game. The Pats marched down the field and Burkhead scored the TD, but they scored a little too fast. They left enough time for the Chiefs to add a field goal to tie it up and force overtime. It was 31-31.
After that the Pats won the toss, and though it was a nail biter with many close calls and 3rd downs, the Pats made their way down the field for the TD, winning the game! This was Brady’s third OT victory in a postseason game, making him the first player to do so. This was also the first time two playoff games had gone into overtime in one day.
Despite 2 interceptions, Brady finished 30/46 with 348 passing yards and a TD. Sony Michel rushed for 113 yards and scored two TDs, and Burkhead had two rush TDs of his own. Edelman and Gronk each had 75+ receiving yards, and James White nearly had 50.
Mahomes threw 3 TDs and 0 interceptions as the Chiefs won the turnover battle despite losing, but Mahomes only threw for 295 yards, partly because the Pats had the ball for much longer. Though Watkins had 114 receiving yards, Damien Williams caught 2 TDs as well as rushing in one.
It’s hard to name one MVP for the Pats in this game, because everyone did their job. The important thing is, the Pats will travel to Atlanta to take on QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, and the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. In Belichick terms, ‘We’re on to the Super Bowl’. The Red Sox beat the LA Dodgers in the World Series just three months ago. Can Boston teams not only win two championships in a year, but also beat the city of LA twice?
Welcome to my 2018-19 NFL Playoff Predictions. Today, I will show you my playoff bracket alongside score predictions and analysis for each game. Next week, I will update you with Divisional Round predictions unless all of this week’s games are predicted correctly. Below is my official playoff bracket:
I have the Patriots winning it all, though I don’t see them as the most talented team here. I think a favorable schedule, including home field advantage in the AFC Championship after Kansas City’s elimination will help them to a Super Bowl victory. The Super Bowl itself will be an epic battle of two aging superstar QBs, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. It will be close, but I have the Patriots coming out on top. Check out my score predictions and in-depth analysis for all 11 games below.
Wild Card Weekend
Offensively, these two teams are pretty evenly matched. The Colts have given the Texans a hard time in the past. But on Wild Card Weekend, I expect Houston’s defense to step it up and secure the Texans a victory. While Indy struggles to get into the red zone against a strong Texans D, Houston will score on an inexperienced Colts defense with ease as WR DeAndre Hopkins puts up another huge game.
This will be a high scoring game, and it could potentially end up being a complete shootout. Both these defenses lack the experience to thrive in the playoffs. This will allow QB Dak Prescott to find his receivers and lead the Cowboys to victory. However, QB Russell Wilson and his versatile offense will make it close and come within one possession of the victory.
With TE Hunter Henry back, this Chargers offense will only get better from here. I think they’ll be able to handle the rising Ravens D this time around. You know what they say: it’s hard to beat the same team twice. This time around, the Chargers D will figure out how to shut down QB Lamar Jackson, RB Gus Edwards, and a talented Ravens offense. It won’t be easy, but I see the Chargers as the only road team to win on Wild Card Weekend.
This will be closer than most people expect. QB Nick Foles has unlocked the full potential of the Eagles offense, and it will not be easy for even a dominant Bears D to contain them. But I see QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers stepping it up and leading a late comeback effort. They will take advantage of the banged-up Eagles secondary and eventually secure the victory in overtime.
This will not be an exciting one to watch. The banged-up Houston offense will struggle to put up points, even against a mediocre New England D. Don’t expect Brady the Pats to score much either against Houston’s strong defense. But I see the Pats getting by, as Brady and his receivers take advantage of Houston’s defensive weakness: their secondary. On the other hand, the Patriots’ well-rounded defense will stand strong.
No matter who wins in this divisional rubber match, it will be a complete shootout. The Chiefs have next to no defense, which will not serve them well against any playoff team. But will QB Patrick Mahomes II and company put up enough points to get by anyway? In the playoffs? I don’t think so. Mahomes will put up a multi-TD effort. But the Chargers’ revamped offense will dominate a weak Kansas City defense and outplay Mahomes and his squad. Even with Mahomes replacing QB Alex Smith, the Chiefs will choke in the playoffs, again, as the Chargers move on to face New England in the AFC Championship.
This will be another close one. But I don’t see this being as high-Scoring as Chicago’s Wild Card Weekend match-up with the Eagles. The Rams have one of the most star-studded defenses in the league. They will severely limit the abilities of a young Bears offense. But Chicago’s D is up there with LA’s. QB Jared Goff has had a good season in general, but he has put up a few duds here and there. After putting up a dud the last time these two teams played, I could see him doing it again. RB Todd Gurley is not at full health and WR Cooper Kupp is done for the year. Goff will find himself short of weapons and will fall short in OT, going one and done for the second year in a row.
Dallas will be able to get by in the first round, but wait till they see an elite contender. The Saints should be able to top the Cowboys with ease, even after their defeat in Dallas. This game will take place in New Orleans, and it will be easier on the Saints now that they have an idea of what they’re up against. Brees and his receivers will put up a decent game, but it’s the Saints defense that I could see stepping it up here against Prescott and his young offense.
In order for TB12 and the Patriots to take down this dominant Chargers offense, they’ll need to get their own act together offensively. But at Gillette Stadium, I have confidence in them. As long as the Chargers or somebody else dethrones the Chiefs before New England has to play them, the Pats will get the opportunity to play the AFC Championship at home, where they are undefeated on the season. Against a decent Chargers D, Brady will have to use a variety of receivers, and the Pats will have to run the ball occasionally. But I have confidence that they are capable, especially on home turf, though this will not be easy. If this was played anywhere but Gillette, the Patriots would likely fall short to LA’s overpowered offense.
Against a tough Bears D, you cannot expect a huge game out of Brees and company. But the Saints have made defensive improvements of their own throughout the season, and I could see them holding the Bears to just 1 TD of their own. The Saints will get by in the end, making the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009.
Fun fact: In 2009, the Saints went 13-3, losing to the same opponents as they did this year. They went on to win the Super Bowl that year.
Super Bowl LIII
In a battle of two star QBs in Brady and Brees, I have the Pats winning it all. But it won’t be Brady who drives the victory. The Saints have succeeded in stopping the run for most of the season, but the at times dominant Pats RB trio might overwhelm them. Meanwhile, Brees will have a strong game here, but I think the Pats’ star-studded secondary will stand strong, holding Brees and his receivers to just 2 TDs. These two things along with a vintage game by TE Rob Gronkowski will lead New England to a 6th Super Bowl victory. I think RBs James White and Sony Michel will shine in this game, and I see the future of this team depending on their success.
That’s all for today’s predictions. Stay tuned for more NFL Playoffs coverage and updates soon.