NFL Week 8 Predictions

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We’re approaching the midpoint of the season, and it’s make or break time for a slew of teams. Almost every matchup has playoff implications which makes for some really exciting football on Sunday. So far, I’m 53-38, but I can do better than 58%. Let’s take a look at what’s going to go down during a crucial Week 8 in the NFL.

Dolphins at Ravens

The Dolphins swim into Baltimore riding an unexpected 3-game winning streak and 4-2 record. A win tonight may not impress the skeptics, but they would remain tied for at least the 4th-best record in the AFC. However, I’m still a fan of Baltimore’s stingy defense. Hopefully for the Ravens, the “elite” Joe Flacco can put up just a couple of touchdowns, and that should be enough to get them back to .500. Ravens win 20-13.

Vikings vs. Browns (in Twickenham, England)

I’m putting the Vikings on upset alert, because the Browns keep on inching closer to that first win. However, Hue Jackson somehow had the guts to put Deshone Kizer back in the saddle, and I won’t be surprised if he gets pulled for a 3rd-straight game. Poor Cody Kessler did the best he could in under 30 minutes of play, but still didn’t do enough to be the starter Sunday morning in Twickenham. A beat-up Vikings team should advance to 6-2 and to put them in the driver’s seat of the NFC North. Vikings win 28-16.

Raiders at Bills

It probably doesn’t matter what I say here because the Bills are just going to do the opposite. I know #BillsMafia want me to go against them again so they can get their 5th win of the season, but I can’t this time. The Raiders were on a sharp decline until an emotional win last Thursday against the Chiefs, but without Marshawn Lynch, they are too one-dimensional and should be pretty easy to stop. Bills win 31-21.

Colts at Bengals

It’s my “Game of the Weak”! The only game that really doesn’t mean anything with regards to the postseason will send one team into panic mode. Both Indy and Cinci had hopes for the playoffs, but without Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton, they have both struggled. Right, Andy Dalton really isn’t there when he is playing. I mean, come on. This will be sloppy, but I’m going to say Bengals win 17-7.

Chargers at Patriots

The Chargers are on a hot streak of their own, but even the most optimistic fans probably don’t see it extending past Sunday. The Patriots thrashed the Falcons in one of the biggest home-field advantages in the league. The Chargers aren’t dead with a loss here, so the goal should be to stay healthy, but also be aggressive and try to steal one. They’ve got nothing to lose. Patriots win 34-7.

Bears at Saints

The Bears’ defense has far surpassed expectations this year. Each week they face a prolific offense and continue to shut them down. Next up, it’s a trip to New Orleans to try to stop Drew Brees’ Saints. I believe they can hold them to 20 points or so, but I don’t trust Mitch Trubisky to outscore them. Saints win 20-10.

Falcons at Jets

The Falcons and the Jets are both trending down at the moment, and only one team can turn it around. While the Falcons offense has left plenty to be desired, my money is on them as the Jets have already surpassed their expectations this year. New York will make it tough on a struggling Matt Ryan, but Atlanta wins a close one. Falcons win 21-17.

49ers at Eagles

The best team in the NFL faces the worst team in the NFL. It won’t be a major blowout, but I don’t think Philly is going to have much trouble. The 49ers finally snapped their streak of heartbreaking losses with a terrible showing against the Cowboys last week, and the Eagles continue to fly high with convincing wins against everyone in their path. They both keep it going. Eagles win 38-20.

Panthers at Buccaneers

This is a major NFC South battle. The winner hangs close to the top of the division while the other enters panic mode. My division champion Bucs are 2-4 and desperately need this win to keep the peace, and the inconsistent Panthers need this to try to find stability. Cam Newton’s off the field issues definitely aren’t helping matters. Buccaneers win 28-17. (Please?)

Texans at Seahawks

Lost in Deshaun Watson’s heroics is the fact that the Texans are still 3-3. While this is partly due to a very tough schedule, it means Houston needs to step up and win some of these hard ones including against the Seahawks this week at CenturyLink Field. I’m excited to see how the rookie does under the pressure of Seattle’s fans and athletic defense. However, Seahawks win 24-17.

 

Cowboys at Redskins

Speaking of crucial divisional battles, right behind the Eagles are the arch-rivals Cowboys and Redskins. In what’s always a fun game, the Boys are coming to D.C. in desperate need of a win to get back over .500. But they face a Redskins team in the midst of what could be a storybook season. There’s nothing better than some Sunday afternoon rivalry football. Cowboys win 27-24.

Steelers at Lions

Another excellent team from Pennsylvania is the Steelers. While their offense still hasn’t hit their former routine of 30-plus points, their defense has been phenomenal. In what was surely tagged as a shootout in the preseason, the Lions’ and Steelers’ struggling offenses might make for a lower scoring game than some anticipated. I’m giving this one to Pittsburgh, but Detroit is coming off an extra week to prepare and could easily come out on top. Steelers win 25-21.

Broncos at Chiefs

The last game of the series is one final divisional duel. The once-undefeated Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium to get back on track and the once-mighty Broncos try to do the same. It has been a bad month for the AFC West, so who can take back control of their season? Chiefs win 17-16.

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NFL Week 7 Reactions

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Week 7 left me with a lot of great impressions, as well as huge disappointments. A couple of teams have resurrected their seasons while others have sunk back down to the bubble. We’re almost halfway done.  Who’s destined to be in, and who needs to find their footing? Let’s take a look at what happened this past weekend.

 

Raiders finish Chiefs 31-30

Thursday night’s game was so good that I contemplated doing a surprise article on Friday for this game alone. Where do I start? Marshawn Lynch was ejected early after picking up just 9 yards leaving Oakland in a heap of trouble, but Derek Carr was incredible by throwing for 419 yards and 3 touchdowns against a very stingy Chiefs defense. Alex Smith had a phenomenal game too, as he threw for 342 yards and 3 scores. Nobody deserved to lose this game.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they drew the short end of the stick when, after a few penalties to extend the game, Michael Crabtree sealed the game with 0:00 on the clock in a truly thrilling finish. With that, the NFL’s ex-best team is now on a two game losing streak, and the Raiders snapped their 4-game skid to get right back in the AFC West title picture. Both of these teams have a ton of momentum going into next week.

 

Bills survive Buccaneers 30-27

After a hot start by the Bills, the Bucs mounted another 4th quarter comeback, but their efforts were thwarted when Stephen Hauschka nailed a chip-shot field goal to win it with 14 seconds remaining. That puts yours truly on a remarkably ineffective 4-game losing streak when choosing for or against the Bills.

Next week, the Buccaneers must recoup after falling short on two straight comebacks and beat their division rival Panthers to keep their season alive. The Bills remain in a strong position as they welcome the Raiders, and with LeSean McCoy finally showing up with 122 total yards and 2 touchdowns, I know better than anyone that anything is possible for Buffalo.

 

Bears shut down Panthers 17-3

Eddie Jackson-12, Panthers-3. The Bears offense was just as atrocious as Carolina’s on Sunday, but thanks to Jackson’s defensive heroics with two 75 yard turnovers for touchdowns, Chicago came out on top. Cam Newton’s ugly 211 yards and 3 turnovers were matched by Mitch Trubisky’s lame 107 yards. That’s it.

I don’t think the defenses were that stingy; it was just a lot of miscues and failures with the ball. Newton is also a prolific rusher, but as I’m accustomed to saying, his 50 yards led the team and results in an L every time. Let your running backs run the ball. It’s their job. Luckily for the Panthers, no one wants to take control of the NFC South, so they stay within a 1/2 game of 1st place.

 

Titans out kick Browns 12-9

It was the Browns’ closest battle yet as they got into a field goal war with Tennessee. It was a pretty ugly game as DeShone Kizer got pulled again after throwing for only 114 yards and picking up 2 interceptions. He had no business starting this game, and it’s clear that Hue Jackson has lost all confidence in the rookie. Cody Kessler came in and did marginally better with 121 yards and 1 INT. I bet he’ll be the starter next week because the Browns mustered two field goals on his watch as opposed to Kizer’s one. I’m hoping Kevin Hogan gets another chance soon.

The Titans weren’t much better. Marcus Mariota’s offense only fared 283 total yards against a weak Cleveland defense. They do have a strong defensive line which bothered Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, but Mariota is 100% healthy, and there is no reason he shouldn’t have torn up the Browns on Sunday. In any case, the Titans hung on to win it in overtime and they can breathe a sigh of relief over their bye week.

 

Saints beat Packers 26-17

I think the Packers did better than most expected without Aaron Rodgers, and I still see them as a playoff contender. Rodgers is tentatively scheduled to return in December, so Green Bay just needs to be within 3 games of the Wild Card spot by that point to have a fighting chance.

Meanwhile, Drew Brees and the Saints have won 4 straight as they lead the NFC South. While there are still some questions on defense, the offense is finding its rhythm. Mark Ingram surpassed 100 yards, and Brees threw for 331. The game was probably closer than New Orleans would have liked, but Brees stretched just enough to seal the win and hang on to first place.

 

Jaguars blank Colts 27-0

This dominating win doesn’t prove anything in and of itself, but it solidifies the Jaguars as a legitimate playoff contender. At 4-3, the Jags have now beaten the Steelers, the Ravens, and the Texans leading me to believe that they are capable of competing against anyone. On Sunday, in addition to having one of the best defenses in the NFL, Blake Bortles came to play with 330 yards and a touchdown in Leonard Fournette’s absence.

Meanwhile it’s back to the drawing board for the Colts as they might want to consider cutting their losses and shutting down Andrew Luck. It’s getting to the point where his return will be in the presence of an insurmountable hole. Even with a win against the Bengals next week, they have a very tough schedule in the second half of the season, so it might be best to compete for a top draft pick rather than for a playoff spot.

 

Rams dismantle Cardinals 33-0

The Rams and the Eagles are the best teams in the NFC. I know it’s weird, but as of today, nobody has played as completely as Los Angeles and Philly. In a game for which the Cardinals came into L.A. Colosseum hot on the heels of a revival victory, the Rams completely shut them down in every aspect of the game. Todd Gurley surpassed 100 yards again and added another touchdown to his MVP resume, the defense picked off Carson Palmer a couple of times, and Jared Goff?  Well, he was just okay.

Yeah, I’m still not on the hype train with Goff. Just because the Rams are dominating does not mean it’s a direct result of quarterback performance. He averages under 250 yards per game, and his season high is 306 yards. He also averages 1.28 touchdowns and 0.6 INTs per game. Excuse me if I’m not impressed. I will say that he does belong in the NFL as a 23 year old, and that’s definitely saying something. Goff has a bright future ahead of him, but he’s not there yet.

 

Dolphins dodge Jets 31-28

The Jets are the Jets again. Up by 14 with 11:30 remaining, there was no way they could lose, right? Well, despite Josh McCown’s 4-touchdown performance, the Jets did just that. Matt Moore replaced an injured Jay Cutler and led the Dolphins to a dramatic fourth quarter comeback and an unexpected 4-2 record. With Matt Moore at the helm, Miami hopes to quell the shaky laughter about the Dolphins being any good, because it’s not far from the truth.

After a promising start for New York, they now have a losing record and are probably out of both the race for a top draft pick and the playoffs. Nice job. I assume they’ll end up floating around this middle ground for the rest of the season and thus never find their true identity. Next, they welcome the Falcons before a crucial clash with the Bills on Thursday night football. With their luck, I’m sure they’ll split the two games.

 

Vikings control Ravens 24-16

If not for a buzzer beating touchdown by the Ravens, this score would’ve appeared appropriately a little uglier. After an interception on the first play, the Vikings scored on 7 of their 9 drives in a torching of a good Ravens defense. Most of the work was from an old favorite, Latavius Murray, who channeled his Oakland days in a 113-yard game with a touchdown. Hopefully, this will lead to Minnesota giving him the touches he has deserved.

The Ravens are in some trouble now. Two games behind the Steelers in the AFC North, Baltimore cannot seem to give their defense any help. They only surrendered an average of 21 points per game, and yet they find themselves at 3-4. Well, with 208 yards of total offense Sunday, the “elite” Joe Flacco still isn’t living up to his self-given moniker. More performances like that, and it’s just going to get embarrassing… if it isn’t already.

 

Cowboys crush 49ers 40-10

Have a day, Ezekiel Elliott! In a 500-yard day for the Cowboys, Elliott accrued 219 total yards and 3 touchdowns. So if you thought he couldn’t beat his 157-yard, 2-touchdown performance against the 49ers from last year, you were mistaken. Now back to .500, Dallas looks to knock off their arch-rival Redskins and get back in the division race.

And for the Niners, at least this one wasn’t close, right? At 0-7 and stuck in the basement of the otherwise best conference in the NFC, San Francisco should be in tank mode. Luck or not, 0-7 is a tough place to be. They need to work on getting experience and figuring out what works and what doesn’t and try again next year. C.J. Beathard has been a nice replacement as a signal-caller, but he’ll need to hang on to the ball more as two fumbles is two too many for a quarterback.

 

Seahawks humble Giants 24-7

The Giants found their season’s first win two weeks ago against the Broncos on Sunday night, but were promptly returned to their losing ways against an athletic Seahawks defense. Eli Manning was held to just 134 yards, and the running game couldn’t muster 50. New York can look for more answers over their bye week this week.

Russell Wilson can be as good or as bad as any quarterback in the league. He was amazing again on Sunday by going for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns. This, after a disappointing game against the Rams. So who is this guy? I would rather a Goff who I know will throw for a below average 250 yards consistently, than a Wilson who only plays half of the games. It’s really hard to be a threat when you don’t know who you have behind the center.

 

Chargers buck Broncos 21-0

The Broncos are in some serious trouble. After their defense made them a heavy favorite to contend with the Chiefs for the division title, they now have two incredibly disappointing losses…to the Giants and to the Chargers. The offense continues to be the focal point as they only managed 251 total yards and a big goose egg in the score column. Luckily, the Chiefs have also lost two straight, so it’s not over yet, but they meet on Monday night in what will be the biggest game of their seasons to date.

On the other hand, the Chargers have resurrected their season with 3 straight victories as they prepare for a trip to Foxborough. With the way the Broncos and Chiefs have struggled recently, anything is possible for Los Angeles. However, Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon will have to play better than they did last Sunday. I’ll cut them some slack because Denver’s defense is still pretty good.

 

Steelers decimate Bengals 29-14

Things got a little chippy as usual in this one, but when it came to football, the Steelers were all over the Bengals. Interesting Fact of the Day: Le’Veon Bell picked up 192 total yards on the game while all of the Bengals combined for 179. Bell basically beat the Bengals by himself. While they still didn’t eclipse the 30 point bar, this is the kind of offense the Steelers want to run this season. They’ll try again on Sunday night against the Lions.

The Bengals have now lost 8 of their last 9 meetings against Pittsburgh, and this one hurts because it drops them to 2-4 on the season. It’s not time to panic yet, but a loss against the Colts next week will really scare some people in Cincinnati. At the very least, they should be able to get more yards than the opposing running back this time…

 

Patriots deflate Falcons 23-7 (That’s right I’m still not over it)

The Patriots won the rematch in convincing fashion during a fog-filled edition of Sunday Night Football. I probably should have known better than to have gone against Tom Brady in Gillette Stadium as he was in firm control of the game from start to finish. Furthermore, the defense came through by holding one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL to just 7 points. Anyone who thought that the Patriots aren’t the same team that they have been in recent years will have to think again.

On that note, those who thought the Falcons would run roughshod through the NFL got a reality check. Matt Ryan is certainly not the MVP he was last year, and Julio Jones was held without a touchdown until his 1-yard grab in garbage time on Sunday night. A great way to snap a 3-game losing skid is to play the Jets, so Atlanta can get some momentum back this weekend.

 

Eagles edge Redskins 34-24

I was a little afraid of “Monday Night Massacre 2.0”, but it stayed the game I expected. In fact, my 31-21 score prediction was pretty close. Carson Wentz stayed hot by adding 4 touchdowns to his league-leading 17. LeGarrette Blount really struggled though, as he only averaged 2.1 yards per carry. In any case, they’ll take another W and move on to face their arch rival Giants.

This wasn’t a bad loss for the Redskins, but it was definitely a missed opportunity. They are now tied with the Cowboys at 2.5 GB from the Eagles ahead of their clash this weekend. I’m really excited to see how these division races end up, and another big matchup will be this classic Boys-Skins game. It should be fun. I’ll see you on Thursday with some more predictions.

2017 World Series Prediction

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The Fall Classic is upon us, and with apologies to the Indians, it’s fair to say we are down to the two best teams in baseball. The Dodgers have made mincemeat of their postseason competition so far, while the Astros are on an emotional high coming off of a thrilling 7-game series. I’m coming off of an amazing week in which I was 9/10 in predicting games during the Conference Series including picking the two league champions. Who do I think has the edge? Let’s take a look at who will be the 2017 World Series Champions.

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The Astros have won the pennant for the second time in franchise history, but it’s their first in the American League. Yes, because they switched leagues in 2013, they are the first franchise in baseball history to win both the AL and NL pennants. However, their last trip to the World Series didn’t end so well, as they were swept by the White Sox in 2005. Of course, their goals this week stretch far beyond just winning their first World Series game.

At 5’6″, second baseman Jose Altuve leads the charge for Houston as he carries his MVP numbers into the playoffs. His unreal .346 average in the regular season actually jumped to .400 in October, along with a proportionally impressive 5 home runs and 8 RBIs. Altuve is a tough out, and there is nobody more passionate about the game in either clubhouse than this superstar. Well maybe one person… but I’ll get to him.

Altuve isn’t alone on this stacked batting order. Everyone from top to bottom is a threat including George Springer and Carlos Correa. It seems as though the Astros are now on the top of their game after a slight dip towards the end of the regular season. Without a home loss this postseason, it’s hard to imagine the offense will let up anytime soon.

As for the pitching, Charlie Morton shut out the Yankees in Game 7 and proved that Houston is more than just Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander.  Morton’s contributions will be desperately needed, as the latter pitchers will not be able to hoist the trophy by themselves. Having depth at pitching is crucial, and Morton might be the unsung hero to make it happen for the Astros.

Speaking of depth at pitching, if the Astros  have a weakness, it’s their bullpen. Their two best arms have combined for a 9.00 ERA in October, which puts a lot of pressure on the starters to perform. Unlike the Dodgers, the Astros don’t have that security blanket to reliably come in and bail out a bad start. If Ken Giles and Chris Devenski don’t turn it around, it just might be the undoing of the Astros.

On to the Dodgers, who appear to be on cruise control. Continuing their dominance of the regular season and putting aside their September struggles, L.A. looks to seal the deal and secure their first championship since 1988. It’s a little weird to think that the 5-time defending NL West champions haven’t won “the big one” yet, but they’re confident that the drought ends now.

Perhaps the best thing about the Dodgers is the fact that literally anyone in the lineup can be the hero on any given night. For example, none other than Enrique Hernandez hit 3 long balls for 7 RBIS in a Game 5 series-clinching victory for L.A. Six All-Stars or not, having every single man in the lineup capable of taking the game over is a nightmare for opponents.

Also a nightmare? Yasiel Puig. Love him or hate him, this man loves baseball. No one else has the guts to do a bat flip-stare down combo on a routine single. Honestly, his gumption infuriates me, but if I’m a Dodger fan, I love his heart and how he can spark the team at any moment. He might not be the most talented guy, but it would behoove the Astros to make a note of shutting Puig down.

So far, the Dodger pitching has been phenomenal, but they haven’t faced an offense like Houston’s yet. Clayton Kershaw has the worst ERA of the starts with a respectable 3.63 and 0.98 WHIP. Rich Hill is right behind him with a 3.00 ERA but a 1.11 WHIP. Those are the Dodgers’ #1 and #2 pitchers. It’s definitely concerning to see that they’ve struggled the most, but you could chalk that up to more high leverage situations because the Dodgers haven’t lost at home or lost before Game 4 in any series so far. This leeway surely takes a lot of pressure off of the back end of the rotation and the bullpen.

The bullpen is what really separates Los Angeles from the Astros. Of the 34 relief appearances, these pitchers have combined to give up only 3 runs. Kenta Maeda has yet to allow a hit, and Kenley Jansen is getting about 1.5 strikeouts per inning. While I still think the Yankees had the best bullpen in baseball, the Dodgers are certainly a close second, and that’s a big reason why they could win the World Series.

Predictions:

Game 1- Dallas Keuchel at Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers win 7-6

Game 2- Justin Verlander at Rich Hill, Astros win 8-2

Game 3- Yu Darvish at Lance McCullers, Dodgers win 6-3

Game 4- Alex Wood at Charlie Morton, Astros win 7-5

Game 5- Clayton Kershaw at Dallas Keuchel, Astros win 8-3

Game 6- Justin Verlander at Yu Darvish, Dodgers win 2-1 (Instant Classic)

Game 7- Lance McCullers/Charlie Morton at Rich Hill, Dodgers win 8-5

Dodgers in 7.

World Series MVP: Justin Turner

NFL Week 7 Predictions

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We head into Week 7 and we’re getting a good sense of how this season is going to go: unpredictable… just don’t tell the writer here at Sports Thoughts. There are some really cool divisional battles that are vital for determining the early playoff picture, and there’s the highly anticipated Super Bowl LI rematch on Sunday Night Football. Let’s take a look at who’s coming out on top.

Chiefs at Raiders

The Chiefs are coping with their first loss of their season while the Raiders deal with inexplicably plummeting to last place. With another loss for Oakland, the Raiders will suddenly dig themselves into a huge hole if they want to be AFC West champs. Unfortunately for them, even though they are back to full health, I think Kansas City will turn it around tonight. Chiefs win 27-21.

Buccaneers at Bills

I feel pretty obligated to go with the Bucs here. I took a chance with Buffalo for their last game against the Bengals, and they failed me, and every time I’ve picked against the Bills, they have stolen a win. Furthermore, the Buccaneers were my preseason NFC South champions, so I guess I have no choice. Just don’t be surprised if the Bills cheat me again. Buccaneers win 21-13.

 

Panthers at Bears

I’m not very good at picking the Bears either. Their defense can play with the best in the league, but the offense is so hit or miss. Cam Newton plays that way too, so I’m thinking this can go either way. In the end, I don’t think Mitch Trubisky is ready for the athleticism of Carolina. Panthers win 16-10.

Titans at Browns

No! Don’t bench Kevin Hogan already! Hue Jackson, you took out DeShone Kizer after 5 bad weeks before Kevin Hogan took the starting job. Why are you judging him after one bad start against a really good Texans defense? Benching him now is going to kill his confidence after you already did it to Kizer. Ugh. Just when I thought the Browns had a future. Titans win 30-13.

Saints at Packers

There is no question that the Packers live and die by Aaron Rodgers. Well, he’s gone for at least a couple of months, so the franchise falls on Brett Hundley. It’s definitely early for Hundley to be thrust into this position, but the Saints defense is a great way to start. I think this will be closer than most think, but it’s going to take time for Hundley to get his first win. Saints win 35-20.

Jaguars at Colts

This doesn’t look exciting to the casual fan, but it’s HUGE for those involved. In a division that’s still up for grabs, the Colts have a chance to get to closer to .500 and stay within a game of the Titans. The Jaguars have a chance to stay in 1st place. Obviously, 2 GB isn’t the end of the world for anybody, but coming out with a win against your rival sets the tone for the 2nd half of the season. Jaguars win 20-17 (OT).

Cardinals at Rams

Speaking of crucial divisional battles, the Cardinals and the Rams fight for NFC West supremacy. Todd Gurley is putting up MVP numbers, and the Cardinals are legitimate again with Adrian Peterson filling in for David Johnson. As both teams excel at the run and have lackluster passing games, this should be a slugfest. Cardinals win 24-17.

Jets at Dolphins

Alright good, so the Jets have lost two straight and are reverting back to normal while the Dolphins appropriately hover around .500. Both of these teams’ strengths is on defense, but they’re not overly powerful. I can think of a few options to how this will play out, but I’m going with Jay Ajayi finally making a name for himself again by powering through a really good New York defensive line. Fingers crossed. Dolphins win 27-17.

Ravens at Vikings

There are so many mid-tier teams in the NFL right now, and here are two more. The Vikings caught the injury bug with Sam Bradford, Dalvin Cook, and Stefon Diggs all going down, while the Ravens would be better off getting injured as an excuse for their poor offense. In this case though, it should be good enough to win and the NFC North will remain a giant question mark. Ravens win 23-14.

 

Cowboys at 49ers

I’m really sorry, San Francisco. As you could easily be 5-1 with a lucky break or two, instead you’re 0-6… and it’s not getting easier. The Cowboys are still at full strength, and they’re probably going to give you another close loss. Just try to remember that you’re going to get a better draft pick than you deserve. Cowboys win 27-23.

 

Seahawks at Giants

Okay, I don’t know what happened last week, but there’s no way New York can embarrass me again, right? The Seahawks are in position to take charge this season, and the Giants should still have little hope despite thrashing the Broncos. I would’ve said this will be a blowout, but what do I know? Seahawks win 27-10.

Broncos at Chargers

Another crucial divisional clash in the AFC West. If the Chargers are for real about turning their season around, this is a must-win. The Broncos are coming off the heels of an embarrassing home loss to the Giants as they look to find their footing and stay in contention in the toughest division in the NFL. I say Denver gets it done. Broncos win 21-19.

Bengals at Steelers

The Steelers’ defense seems to be surprising everybody this year. I knew they had it in them, but the offense still can’t break 30 points. This is their best chance to date as the bitter rivalry gets renewed. Expect a really close, physical battle all afternoon, but Pittsburgh will pull away in the end. Steelers win 31-20.

Falcons at Patriots

Is your mouth watering? We’re in for a battle between two of the league’s best teams under the bright lights at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots’ defense has been pretty sublime this year, but the Falcons’ offense hasn’t packed the punch I’m used to seeing either. However, I know they’re hungry for some revenge, and I think they will pull it out in the late going. I’m going with them again. Falcons win 41-34.

Redskins at Eagles

The Eagles are in a position to get a stranglehold on the NFC East. At 5-1, somehow Philadelphia is operating at peak condition, but so is the surprisingly stingy ‘Skins secondary.  LeGarrette Blount is probably going to have to take this game over, and I don’t put it past him. As long as Philly keeps winning, I’m going with ’em. Eagles win 31-21.

2017-2018 NBA Predictions

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It only took 6 minutes for the entire landscape of the NBA to change. The defending champions Golden State Warriors continue to look strong while their biggest threats shake things up to take their throne. For those out of contention, the rebuild is underway… but who has what it takes to make moves in the playoffs, and who’s staying in the basement? Let’s take a look at what we can expect this season.

 

Trending Up

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Minnesota Timberwolves- Minnesota was a big buyer in the offseason, and they hit the jackpot with Jimmy Butler. I’ve always loved the Timberwolves’ roster, but they never seem to get wins. Well, now the Big 3 of Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are sure to make waves in the Western Conference. I’m very high on the Timberwolves this year.

Denver Nuggets- I think people are going to underestimate the effect Paul Millsap will have in Denver. He was a key piece in getting the Hawks to a 5th seed in the East last year, and he can put the Nuggets into the playoffs as well. While Denver doesn’t have the best backcourt, Millsap and Nikola Jokic are both dynamic big men that can dominate similarly to the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Sacramento Kings- Okay, the Kings may be trending up, but that’s not saying much. Coming off of a year in which they sold the face of the franchise to New Orleans for pennies, they picked up a really good draft class headlined by De’Aaron Fox. Sacramento won’t be in the playoffs or anything, but Fox is one of my favorites to win ROY.

Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers have a bright future with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle. They are still extremely young, but full of potential. While I have them narrowly missing the playoffs, I believe L.A. has plans to grab some major talent this offseason and make a big leap up the standings in 2018. You know who I’m talking about.

Milwaukee Bucks- The Bucks are one of the most underrated teams in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a freak of nature who hasn’t yet gotten the hardware he deserves. He’s definitely a preseason MVP candidate and a top 3 talent in the entire Eastern Conference behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. I’m tagging Milwaukee to move up from 2016-2017.

Philadelphia 76ers- The Sixers are stacked with draft picks, it just hasn’t come together yet. Well, I’m calling it: this is the year; Ben Simmons’ de facto rookie campaign begins and Philadelphia will exploit a bad Eastern Conference. Joel Embiid will have a career year despite a couple of minor injuries and the 76ers will be back in the playoffs. Trust the Process.

 

Contenders

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Golden State Warriors- Everyone’s pick to repeat is as strong as ever. They lost to the Rockets last night by 0.1 seconds, but that’s not changing anyone’s opinion. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all All-stars, and there isn’t a chance they don’t finish as the best in the West.

Cleveland Cavaliers- Helped out by yesterday’s gruesome injury to Boston’s Gordon Hayward, the Cavs are now the clear favorite to win the East. Despite trading Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, Cleveland hauled in the likes of Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, and eventually, Isaiah Thomas. This is the last gasp for the Cavs as James’ and Thomas’ contracts expire in June, and I’m not exactly expecting them to stay put.

Boston Celtics- Six minutes and Boston’s future has changed. After claiming the hottest free agent of the 2017 offseason, Celtics fans see him literally crumble to the ground after going up for a rebound in last night’s game. While the world waits for the severity of Gordon Hayward’s injury, I’m fearing the worst. However, it’s important to remember that they were the #1 seed last year without Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and my ROY Jayson Tatum. The season is far from over.

San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs are probably trending in the wrong direction, but never underestimate Gregg Popovich. Kawhi Leonard is my NBA MVP as I look for him to lead the charge in San Antonio. Veterans Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and LaMarcus Aldridge are ageless as they continue to churn out wins. If not for the improvements in the rest of Texas, San Antonio would be just behind Golden State in the West.

Washington Wizards- Living near Washington D.C. is just heartbreaking. The Capitals always dominate the Metropolitan Division before losing in 6 or 7 to the Rangers or the Penguins in Round 1. The Nationals continue to destroy the NL East just to lose in 5 in the NLDS to the Dodgers or Cubs. The Redskins will make the playoffs just to lose in the Wild Card Round. Finally, the Wizards can win the Southeast all they want with John Wall and Bradley Beal, but they can never make it to the Conference Finals. So please, please, win a playoff series for D.C. They need you.

Houston Rockets- The Rockets are going to be my favorite team to watch this year. I LOVE Chris Paul, and I think he’s the perfect fit in Houston for James Harden. Paul loves to win and has his own playoff woes, and the Rockets look destined to make something happen this year. I’m pegging the Rockets to be Golden State’s biggest threat this year, and last night’s win solidified that.

 

The Thunder

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Bold Prediction: The Thunder do NOT get home court advantage in the playoffs. That’s right, I have Oklahoma City as a 5 seed or below, and here’s why. Russell Westbrook was good with Kevin Durant. OKC was a 3 seed and nearly knocked off GSW before blowing a 3-1 lead in 2016. Then Durant left and Westbrook exploded to one of the most dominating MVP performances in history (not even close, Harden).

So the Thunder pick up Paul George. That’s fine. Whatever. I don’t like taking touches away from Westbrook, but the Thunder dropped to a 6 seed without Durant, so Westbrook needed the help. Cool. Here’s where I draw the line- Carmelo Anthony makes it worse. I’m willing to bet that not a single Thunder fan will prefer to let Anthony shoot when George or Westbrook has a shot of his own. In other words, every touch Anthony has is one taken away from a better George and Westbrook.

Instead of empowering Westbrook with George (who by the way is a free agent after this year and will probably leave after the disappointing season), the Thunder dilutes the two stars by trading for a ball hawk in Anthony. I’m in no way believing that Anthony is willing to take a step back from his controlling tendencies for the good of the team.

Even if Anthony has changed, the chemistry isn’t there because Westbrook isn’t a pure point guard like Chris Paul. Westbrook is a spot-up shooter that attacks first and passes second. That is what the game has evolved into, and that’s fine. However, in this big 3 format, it doesn’t work. Mario Chalmers led the Heat, Rajon Rondo led the Celtics, and Chris Paul leads the Rockets; all of them pass first and score second. Westbrook is best at attacking, and there is no way these personalities mesh in Oklahoma City. I’m sorry.

Predictions:

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Charlotte Hornets
  7. Miami Heat
  8. Philadelphia 76ers

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Houston Rockets
  3. San Antonio Spurs
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder
  6. Portland Trailblazers
  7. Denver Nuggets
  8. New Orleans Pelicans

1st Round

Cavaliers beat 76ers in 4

Celtics beat Heat in 5

Wizards beat Hornets in 5

Raptors beat Bucks in 7

 

Warriors beat Pelicans in 4

Rockets beat Nuggets in 4

Spurs beat Trailblazers in 6

Thunder beat Timberwolves in 6

 

Conference Semifinals

Cavaliers beat Raptors in 5

Celtics beat Wizards in 6

 

Warriors beat Thunder in 4

Rockets beat Spurs in 5

 

Conference Finals

Celtics beat Cavaliers in 7

Warriors beat Rockets in 7

NBA Finals Prediction: Warriors beat Celtics in 6

NFL Week 6 Reactions

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I promised some more shakeups in Week 6, and the NFL delivered. With a host of upsets, only six teams in the entire league are outside of 2 games back of first place in their division. In other words, nobody… nobody… is done just yet. Let’s take a look at what just happened in Week 6.

 

Eagles execute Panthers 28-23

The Eagles are arguably the surprise of the league so far. At the beginning of the season, I easily had them in last place in the East, but now they sit at 5-1 as the #1 team in the entire NFC. Carson Wentz is slinging touchdowns while LeGarrette Blount picks up the yards for him. It’s an interesting formula that only took me 42 days to figure out. The Eagles fly into Monday Night Football against the Redskins next week to try to strengthen their grip on the division.

I picked Philly to pull through, but many were surprised to see the Panthers come up short in this one. Whenever I’m confused about a loss I check the box score. Let’s see… 80 team rushing yards. That’s not so good for a team that excels in the run game. Who led the team? You guessed it…quarterback Cam Newton had 71 of the team’s 80 yards. Newton is a gifted runner so I expected him to tally some carries, but to have 89% of the team’s rushing yards in half of the team’s touches when he’s supposed to be throwing is pretty awkward… especially when you throw three interceptions too.

 

Dolphins dodge Falcons 20-17

The Falcons jumped off to a 17-0 lead before halftime, but then the wheels came off. Whether they got complacent or something else, the offense just didn’t have it on Sunday. Matt Ryan is not even close to the MVP he was last year, and Devonta Freeman has to split carries with a pretty good Tevin Coleman. I’m okay with that, but it takes the backs out of their rhythm when they have to switch off every series. I give credit to Miami though; their defense got it done, and they pulled off a big win.

After a miserable first half for the Dolphins that saw 3 punts and 2 turnovers, all they did was score after the break. Jay Cutler picked up two quick touchdowns in a poor 151-yard performance as he was almost outgained by Jay Ajayi’s 130 yards rushing. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Great comeback and some excellent motivation to roll into New York and beat their division rival Jets next week.

 

Vikings vanquish Packers 23-10

One word: Disaster. About 8 minutes into the game, Aaron Rodgers take the snap and rolls right. It’s a routine play that the Packers like to do with their mobile quarterback. He lets go of the ball in mid-stride just as Viking Anthony Barr hits him from the side and slams him hard into the ground. Rodgers stays down. It’s another broken collarbone, and his season is likely over. Barr delivered a clean, but unfortunate, hit on Rodgers. It’s his second collarbone injury and this one requires surgery. The 4-2 Packers are now in deep trouble. But it’s not panic time… it’s trust time. Brett Hundley may be pushed into a role he’s not fully prepared for, but what better way to learn and set up for the future than to get some experience right now? Hundley was a star at UCLA, and he has the talent to play the position. He didn’t show it on Sunday, but give him some time. I’m not saying I still believe in Green Bay, but trust the process a little.

 

Saints squash Lions 52-38

Now there’s an old fashioned shootout! What’s crazy about this scoring is that the Saints and the Lions defenses scored 32 and 16 points in fantasy football respectively, despite giving up a combined 90 points in the actual game. New Orleans had 3 defensive touchdowns on 5 turnovers, while Drew Brees only had a chance to throw 2 touchdowns. For what is commonly thought of as one of the worst defenses in the league, five turnovers is not too shabby. But that 38 points… yeesh.

It’s not the Lions defense’s fault that they surrendered 52 points. Three touchdowns came at the hands of Matthew Stafford’s three interceptions and two fumbles, so that’s on him. Stafford himself actually scored 18 points for the Saints and 18 points for the Lions after his 3 passing touchdowns. Bottom line: A lot of points were scored, but most of it was because of defensive scores and turnovers.

 

Redskins ravage 49ers 26-24

I really feel for you, 49ers fans. At 0-6, San Fran has lost each of their last 5 games by a margin of 3 points or less. Just heartbreaking. The good news is that C.J. Beathard came in for Brian Hoyer and immediately earned the starting job next week. I’m not a huge fan of his, but he is a pure pocket passer that hit 245 yards in 36 minutes of work on Sunday. We’ll see if Beathard can push San Fran into the win column as he nearly overcame a 17-point deficit against Washington.

Yeah, Washington survived nearly blowing a 17-point lead. However, now they get ready to face the division-leading Eagles on Monday night to get within half a game of first place. Kirk Cousins was incredibly accurate with 330 yards through the air, and Chris Thompson was able to get 138 all-purpose yards for my fantasy team… I mean, the Redskins. It was probably closer than Redskins fans would like, but they’ll take the W and the 3-2 record.

 

Patriots (controversially) defeat Jets 24-17

I’m getting really sick of this catch/no catch talk. I think replay is important and all, but it’s taking away from just playing the game. In case you didn’t see it, Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught what seemed by all indications to be a clear touchdown. However, upon further review, officials ruled he momentarily didn’t have full control of the ball as he crossed the goal line, and by the time he established it again, he had just rolled out of bounds, resulting in a fumble, touchback, and the Patriots’ ball at the 20.  Look, if you watch the play in real-time, there is no sign that Seferian-Jenkins ever lost control of the ball. It was a clear catch, run, and dive. During the dive, the ball floats in the air for half a second before he gathered it again, and even so, it still looks like a touchdown to the naked eye. I get that we need to get the call right, but let’s call a spade a spade. Give the man a touchdown, and let’s play football.  The same thing happens in baseball where a runner will slide into a base and lift his foot a fraction of an inch off the bag while the tag is applied. I guess it’s an out… but seriously? Do we need that kind of technicality in the game? I get it, but I’m not a fan. Maybe I’ve just been on the wrong side of too many calls. Anyway, nice job Patriots.

 

Bears beat Ravens 27-24 (OT)

The score doesn’t indicate just how much the Bears controlled this game. Baltimore made a late charge to force overtime with a long field goal followed by a touchdown and 2-point conversion, but the Bears finished off the Ravens in overtime. Mitch Trubisky only threw 16 times at a 50% rate for 113 yards and a score, but Jordan Howard carried the day with 167 yards.

The Ravens still have to be pretty disappointed with their offense. If not for a 96-yard kick return for touchdown, and a 90-yard pick-six, the score would be closer to what the Ravens deserved. Joe Flacco was abysmal, and they failed to capitalize on Chicago turnovers that didn’t immediately result in a touchdown. The defense can only do so much.

 

Texans dominate Browns 33-17

Kevin Hogan’s first start for Cleveland was way less than impressive. He threw 3 interceptions and only salvaged a meaningless garbage time touchdown with a minute to go. I’m not that disappointed as I fully expected the Texans to control this one, but it was pretty ugly.

Texan QB Deshaun Watson was great again, as he got 225 yards with 8 different receivers, and 3 touchdowns to 3 different men. He scrambled for a respectable 23 yards and allowed both Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman to run the ball effectively. Furthermore, it’s nice to have a defense forcing turnovers week in and week out, and an 82-yard pick-six is always fun. The Texans are rolling.

 

Cardinals escape Buccaneers 38-33

Going into the 4th quarter, the Cardinals led 31-6 before giving up 27 points to make this interesting. Adrian Peterson made his Arizona debut and in the process turned back the clock on his career. Without the additional pressure he had competing for touches in the Saints’ backfield, Peterson exploded for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns to give the Cardinals something to lean on for the next part of the season.

The Bucs looked pretty sloppy for the first 45 minutes while dealing with an injured Jameis Winston. Then, Ryan Fitzpatrick came alive in the 4th with 3 touchdowns to Tampa Bay’s primary targets. While it’s a disappointing loss, the comeback effort tells a story about this team’s perseverance rather than taking the blowout loss on the road.

 

Rams steal from Jaguars 27-17

The Jaguars did everything right and still lost by double digits. Blake Bortles outthrew Jared Goff by 117 yards, and Leonard Fournette beat Todd Gurley by 14 yards. Still, the Rams capitalized on an opening kickoff return for a touchdown immediately followed by Fournette’s 75-yard touchdown dash on the first play from scrimmage. Luckily, they did not keep up the 258-258 scoring pace.

This game is a great example of the value of special teams. Besides the touchdown return, the Rams were constantly given good field position off punt returns and making their field goals. Even when they are marginally beaten on the offense and defense, in a game as close as this one, the Rams’ special teams came through.

 

Chargers shock Raiders 17-16

The Raiders will probably never take extra points for granted again. Thanks in part to Giorgio Tavecchio’s toe, the Raiders fell one point shy of the Chargers as Nick Novak kicked a short field goal as time expired. Derek Carr failed to eclipse 175 yards in his return, and was only able to get 1 touchdown with 2 interceptions. Marshawn Lynch’s average 63-yard performance also isn’t enough on most days. In a way, the Raiders were lucky to be as close as they were.

The Chargers aren’t dead yet. They’re finally winning the close games as Philip Rivers distributes the ball among receivers, tight ends, and running backs. Melvin Gordon had an amazing day with 150 yards and both touchdowns to give L.A. the chance to win. Now that they’ve won two straight, they can get back in the race as a big divisional tilt awaits them when they host the Broncos this Sunday.

 

Steelers slip by Chiefs 19-13

The final undefeated team fell Sunday afternoon as the Steelers’ Antonio Brown snagged a tipped pass and scampered 51 yards for the game-winning touchdown in the late going. I was really impressed with the Steelers defense as they held an explosive Kansas City offense out of the end zone for the entire game minus an odd 57-yard pass play resulting in a swerving De’Anthony Thomas touchdown in the 4th quarter before Brown’s play.

That said, the Steelers high-powered offense is supposed to be the best in the league, and they have yet to break 30 points. I didn’t think they would against the stout Chiefs defense, but the point is still valid. The Steelers’ strength is in their offense and they’re still not performing at optimal levels. A great chance for them to pass 30 comes in the form of the Bengals next week. For the Chiefs, this isn’t a bad first loss. It’s clear that the AFC hierarchy goes Patriots- Steelers- Chiefs, but KC looks to change all of that when they meet in the playoffs.

 

Giants destroy Broncos 23-10?

Uhhhhhh.

 

Titans too much for Colts 36-22

It was a great back-and-forth affair on Monday night between the Titans and Colts. The teams traded blows for 45 minutes, but the Colts were able to find the end zone while the Titans settled for 5 straight field goals before finally breaking the goal line. Then, with 5:29 to go, Marcus Mariota’s perfect deep ball put the Titans ahead for good.  Derrick Henry’s subsequent 72-yard run put the final nail in the Colts’ coffin.

The Colts aren’t dead though. At 2-4, they are just 1 game back of the division lead and Jacoby Brissett is performing admirably in Andrew Luck’s absence. Next week’s duel against the Jaguars will likely determine the fate of Indianapolis’ season, and it won’t be an easy victory at home.

2017 NLCS Predictions

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It’s a rematch of last year’s NLCS in which the Cubs won in 6 en route to their 1st World Series championship in 107 years. The Dodgers made quick work of the upset-minded Diamondbacks in 3 short games, while Chicago gutted out 5 tough games against the Nationals in NLDS play. You may wonder who has the advantage: L.A. had nearly a week off while the Cubs have a rhythm going even on short rest. Let’s take a look at who’s got the edge in the NLCS.

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The Dodgers enter Saturday Night five days removed from their sweep of the Dbacks. It’s hard to generate a report on L.A. because there isn’t much to go off of. However, we do know that Clayton Kershaw continues to struggle in October. He got the win in Game 1 of the NLDS, but not before allowing four long balls which were luckily solo shots for Arizona. He is still in search of his first World Series trophy, and that search could continue if he doesn’t improve soon.

The Dodgers need him, too. Rich Hill wasn’t great in Game 2 either, and Alex Wood and Hin Jin Ryu have very limited postseason experience. Luckily, Yu Darvish came to play after a disappointing playoff stint with the Rangers. Whether or not he keeps up his 1.80 ERA remains to be seen, but it won’t get much more difficult than a series-clinching Game 3 win on the road.

The late-season struggles of the Dodgers appear to be behind them as they tore up Arizona’s aces. Five starters are currently hitting over .333, but again, this is only over the course of 3 games. However, L.A. had an MLB-best 6 All-Stars, so they are definitely not slouching at the plate. As well as the Cubs pitched against the Nats, the Dodgers will be a different story.

Lastly, phenom Corey Seager has been left off of the roster for the NLCS citing a back injury. The Dodgers will surely miss his glove at shortstop as well as his base running ability. He can still be a fiery leader from the dugout, but it’s a huge loss not to have him in the lineup this week. Los Angeles is hoping they can keep up their stellar team play without him.

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The grittiest team in baseball keeps on grinding as they survive and advance past the Nationals. I could go on forever about D.C.’s woes, as their last chance to finally win a playoff series may come down to next year despite consistently dominating the NL East. Hopefully the Nats can get a good playoff manager to get them over the hump.

Anyway, Chicago is back in the NLCS with a chance to repeat as champions behind some really good starting pitching and Wade Davis. Kyle Hendricks shutout the Nats in Game 1, but let up 4 runs in Game 5. Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta performed admirably in losses, but Jose Quintana has emerged as a game changer as he has yet to allow a run in his short postseason career.

The Cubs are surely a bit gassed after a long week and flight to L.A. from D.C., but they’re fired up to bring back the Commissioner’s Trophy. After Quintana squares off against Kershaw, the rotation gets a bit foggy.  Regardless, I really question their bullpen. Wade Davis has been great, but Joe Maddon is already pushing him to his limit.  It’s only a matter of time until he blows up.

For the most part, Chicago hitters had a tough time against Nationals’ pitching, and it barely gets easier in Los Angeles. The bottom of the lineup was picking up most of the hits, but unlike the Dodgers, Chicago only has one player hitting .333 or above: Albert Almora Jr. I’m not counting out Chicago, but they are probably too tired to hang with the Dodgers in this NLCS.

PREDICTIONS:

Game 1- Jose Quintana at Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers win 5-4

Game 2- John Lackey at Rich Hill, Dodgers win 8-6

Game 3- Yu Darvish at Jake Arrieta, Dodgers win 3-2

Game 4- Alex Wood at Kyle Hendricks, Cubs win 5-1

Game 5- Clayton Kershaw at Jose Quintana, Cubs win 4-2

Game 6- Jon Lester at Rich Hill, Dodgers win 10-7

Dodgers in 6.