Thanksgiving Day Preview

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions: The Lions have trailed in every single game, yet they have a winning record for the first time since 2014 where they made the playoffs only to blow a fourteen point lead. This is the best I have ever seen quarterback Matthew Stafford play. He is such a competitor. He is a gutsy player, and I like his mobility. I’m not going to say that he is some speedster like Marcus Mariota or Tyrod Taylor, but he has good pocket presence and will run when the time calls for it. It’s pretty amazing that the Lions have a winning record right now. Stafford has strung together a mediocre football team and has lead them to a solid start. He has no running game (30th in the NFL), the pass protection is scarce (30th in the NFL according to Football Outsiders adjusted sack formula), he has an average defense (19th in total yards), and a receiving core that is experienced, but leads the NFL in drops (20) and drop percentage (5.8). The key guy on this Lions offense is Eric Ebron. Coming of of North Carolina, Ebron was portrayed as an athletic tight end who could play on the outside or even in the slot at times. While he hasn’t quite lived up to the bill yet, I have started to see flashes of that playmaker this season. He is the type of guy who could push the Lions into the playoffs. I think from a defensive standpoint the Lions aren’t really that bad. It doesn’t help when your best pass rusher (Ezekiel Ansah) has been hampered by injuries and your best linebacker (De’Andre Levy) has missed all but one game.

Finally, the Vikings have come down to Earth after what was a dream start. Sam Bradford had a 109.8 passer rating during the Vikings four game winning streak, the longest since weeks 6-10 of last season. Going back to Sam Bradford who was brilliant in that four game stretch, his career passer rating is an 83.2. So, an increase that big was impossible to continue, considering his last season was mediocre (31st in total QBR). With that being said, I think Bradford has done a very nice job so far. He has dink and dunked his way down the field with short passes to Stefon Diggs (who will not play today), but he is making good decisions. I think he has done everything coach Mike Zimmer could have hoped for. It is embarrassing that Jerick McKinnon is the Vikings number one running back. A former college quarterback, McKinnon has extremely limited experience at the position and outside of good top end speed, he has less than ideal size and power. So if it’s not McKinnon then it’s Matt Asiata, who has a career yards per carry average of 3.4. Mike Zimmer has brought to Minnesota the tough rugged style of defense he had in Cincinnati. He has some interesting talent especially in the secondary where he has developed fourth year corner Xavier Rhodes into a physical ball hawk.

I have the Lions winning this one because they are at home and are on one of the hottest winning stretches in recent Lions history. I’ll take Detroit 27-23.

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys: This is the best match up of the day in my opinion. The Redskins have finally got the running game looking like a well oiled machine. Rob Kelley is a physical bruiser who has good blocking skills and has played lights out this season. Their third down back Chris Thompson has played really well in his own right and he is more shifty than Kelley, and a much better receiver out of the backfield. So with that two headed monster, the Cowboys have their hands full in that department. Kirk Cousins hasn’t lost his magic from last season. He is on track for nearly 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. That’s a pretty darn good season from a guy who was drafted behind 101 other players in the 2012 draft. Cornerback Josh Norman is overrated in my opinion. Look, when he was matched up against AJ Green, he got torched on nearly every play, but Andy Dalton simply under threw the ball several times. He is a fiesty loudmouth who has superb technique at the line of scrimmage, but he doesn’t have the ability to dominate elite receivers. He is kinda like a taller version of Adam Jones.

Look I know the Cowboys offensive line has been fantastic, but you have to give credit to Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott once in a while. Elliott is the most complete running back in the NFL maybe outside of David Johnson. Name me a player as dominant of a blocker and runner than Elliott. The guy has great top end speed with power and is the type of back that can handle a 350 carry workload. Prescott has played solid football. He is doing the three things as a quarterback you need to do to win a football game. He is taking care of the football (2 interceptions), he is making good decisions (67.7 completion percentage), and he has created a balanced attack (331 passing plays, 333 rushing plays). So give those two rookies credit. I keep getting asked whether Dez Bryant is over the hill, honestly I never thought he was elite. Look, when Tony Romo had a dominant running attack with Demarco Murray, defenses where so fixated on stopping Murray which left room for guys like Bryant to finish off the leftovers. Elite in my opinion, is a player who consistently exemplifies excellent play game in and game out with only a couple of exceptions a year. Even during his career years (2012-2014) he had 10 games (including postseason) where he had 40 yards or less. Since then he has had 6 of his 16 games under 40 yards. So while he is an unbelievable talent does not play at a high level on a consistent basis.

I’ll take Dallas in this game mainly because of their offensive balance vs the Redskins pass heavy offense. Washington has played tough this season, but their defense is simply not good enough to stop an offense that has averages over 400 yards per game. I’ll take Dallas 31-24.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Indianapolis Colts: I’m gonna make this preview relatively brief. From a talent perspective the Steelers should route the Colts, but the Steelers have struggled on the road with a 2-3 record. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been held to a 74.3 passer rating on the road, but got injured in one and played the NFL’s number one defense in the other. It’s also important Look, the Colts have are playing their second string quarterback who has a 1-5 touchdown to interception ratio and a 0-2 record. I’ll take Roethlisberger who has a 292-154 touchdown to interception ratio. I have Pittsburgh winning 38-20.

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Week 10 Pick’em

I know it’s been awhile, but there are going to be some very exciting stuff coming from STWA in the near future.

Green Bay Packers @ Tennessee Titans: Despite all of the criticism surrounding Aaron Rodgers, people need to give him credit for stringing together a mediocre football team. Everyone thought Rodgers was going to have an MVP type of season when Jordy Nelson returned, but Jordy Nelson isn’t as valuable as he used to be. His torn ACL has slightly limited his agility and he wasn’t a burner to begin with. Jordy Nelson is more of a timing receiver who relies on his exceptional route running skills to get him open. It’s not that Aaron Rodgers has been bad, it’s just he has been bad for Aaron Rodgers. His 6.41 yards per attempt is 1.48 yards lower than his career average and his 96.1 passer rating is 7.5 points lower than his career average. This a very important game for the Titans. Standing at 4-5, this game could push them up to .500 and give them a good chance to reach the playoffs this season. I expect this to be a very competitive game, but the Titans are still extremely inexperienced and right now they have only beaten one team with a winning record, the Detroit Lions (5-4). Prediction: Packers 28-20.

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins: It does not surprise me at all that Sam Bradford has returned back to Earth. Remember we are talking about a guy who has a career passer rating of 82.7 and a touchdown to interception ratio of 3-2. The outlandish numbers he has produced this year is a result of an impressive start. From a coaching perspective Mike Zimmer needs to find out what is going on with his offense. The offensive line is not getting enough push to open holes for the running backs although, the Vikings feature backs are mediocre at best. Jerick McKinnon is really a natural quarterback who has made a decent transition to the half back spot, but lacks sound blocking skills. Matt Asiata on the other hand looks like a middle linebacker and runs like one too. He doesn’t even come close to good speed although he semi makes up for it with his impressive power. The Redskins on the other hand are coming off a bye week, where they had extra time thinking about how they could have avoided a tie against the Bengals. A lot of things went wrong in that game for Washington. First off, they could not cover AJ Green. Whether it was Josh Norman or Quinton Dunbar, they had no chance. The only reason Green didn’t torch them for close to 200 yards is because Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton under threw every deep ball. The Redskins need to focus on getting back to physical press coverage defense where they can give their pass rush enough time to sack the quarterback. In terms of momentum, these two teams have none. Minnesota has lost three straight games, and Washington missed a 34 yard game winning field goal en route to a tie. So this is a gut check type of game for both teams. I’ll take Washington, they have won their last couple of home games and are playing a team with a quarterback that has a 35.1 QBR in his last three games. For your information, Washington’s quarterback Kirk Cousins has 70.6 QBR in his last three games. Prediction: Redskins 23-16.

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This is the perfect opportunity for the Buccaneers to get back on track. At 3-5 they still have an outside chance of making the post season and they face a Bears that ranks second to last in points. I think the Buccaneers offense starts with quarterback Jameis Winston. He is so young and he is already showing flashes of absolute brilliance. Give him two more years and we will be looking at a perennial pro bowler. I one hundred percent believe that. He is such a competitor and he is a risk-taker I love that about him. Those are two things that will help you succeed in the NFL. The Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is having another average season. Stephen A Smith called Cutler “the worst quarterback in the NFL” and I couldn’t agree with him more. With the type of talent Cutler has, he should be one of the NFL’s best, but he has under achieved his entire career. Cutler has a good arm, but his wild inconsistent throwing motion and decision making has plagued him throughout his career. It might be time for the Bears to let him go. I have the Bucs winning this one mainly because they get running back Doug Martin back and Winston has only turned it over once in his last 4 games. Prediction: Buccaneers 31-23.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Carolina Panthers: When you talk about disappointments, the Carolina Panthers have to be at the top of your discussion. With a quarterback coming off of an MVP season and a defense that ranked in the top 3 in the NFL, they find themselves two games below five hundred, tied for last in their division. I think we need to start putting into perspective how good quarterback Cam Newton is. He is second to last in completion percentage, 26th in passer rating, and has a mediocre interception rate. I have said throughout his career that he is an unbelievable talent who has terrible fundamentals. Despite all of the injuries that the Chiefs have suffered, they are still a top team with an impenetrable defense. Their pass rush is ferocious and they have a secondary that forces turnovers quicker than you can say the word. I’ll take the Chiefs who are 16-2 in their last 18 regular season games. Prediction: Kansas City 20-14.

Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles: I said at the beginning of the season if Carson Wentz showed promise and the Eagles went 4-12 the ownership would be content with that. After a sensational start, Wentz has a 71.5 passer rating, (which would rank 30th in the NFL). He has a very good arm and solid ball placement, but he has gotten a little flustered in the pocket and he is still inexperienced to superior defenses. When you look at Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan you see a tall, pocket passer, who has a cannon arm and loves to attack the middle of the field. That’s one of the reasons Ryan has clicked so well with new receiver Mohamed Sanu, who is a physical possession receiver who loves to run deep dig routes. Ryan is the opposite of Cam Newton. He has not been gifted with type of athleticism as Newton, but Ryan utilizes excellent fundamentals to help him succeed. His 69.6 completion percentage is 12.2 percent higher than Newton’s completion percentage. Even though the Falcons are on the road this week, they are a better team than Philadelphia who is operating under an inconsistent rookie quarterback. Prediction: Falcons 28-24.

Los Angeles Rams @ New York Jets: I’m gonna make this one brief, the Jets are just plain bad. Ryan Fitzpatrick had a dream season in 2015, but has returned to a modest player at best. The Rams have made it clear that Jared Goff is not ready and I don’t think he is even close. The Rams are still competitive, but if they don’t feel like their second string quarterback isn’t ready to backup a guy who is on track for 22 interceptions, then when will he be? With all that said, the Rams own one of the best defenses in the league along with a running back who is coming off of three straight games where he has had 70 or more yards from scrimmage. Prediction: Rams 21-17.

Denver Broncos @ New Orleans Saints: This isn’t Trevor Siemian’s team. it’s Von Miller’s. The only reason that Denver is a playoff team is because of their defense. Siemian hasn’t been bad, but he is nothing more than a good game manager. The Saints come into this game having won 4 of their last 5 including one against the Seahawks. Despite all of the hype surrounding the Saints I will take yet another road team because of their outstanding pass defense. Prediction: Broncos 27-23.

Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars have underachieved and Gus Bradley’s job is on the line because of it. Sure Blake Bortles has struggled, but with the type of talent that the Jags have on their defense, they should at least rank in the top half of the league in terms of points allowed. Their 25th. The Texans have yet to win a game on the road this season, as quarterback Brock Osweiler owns a 58.9 passer rating on the road. I’ll take my chances against Osweiler. Prediction: Jaguars 30-20.

Miami Dolphins @ San Diego Chargers: For the first time in a while, the Chargers are a potential playoff team. Thanks to a balanced offense and a fantastic second year running back, the Chargers are third in the league in points. With that being said they are 26th in points allowed. Phillip Rivers has won his last two games at home including a Thursday night upset against Denver. I think he can handle a Dolphins team that is 0-3 on the road. Prediction: Chargers 33-24.

Dallas Cowboys @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger comes into this game after throwing for 200 yards in the 4th quarter against the Ravens last week. You can call it panic football, but he looked like his old self and got another week to become fully healthy. I do not know how Jerry Jones can legitimately consider starting Tony Romo over Dak Prescott. Prescott has won his last 7 games and owns one of the lowest interception rates in the NFL. The last time Tony Romo started a regular season game he threw 3 interceptions on 21 passes. Dak has thrown only 2 over 248. Do the math. I like Pittsburgh at home defeating a Dallas team that is unsure of what direction their heading in. Prediction: Pittsburgh 35-31.

San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals: Let me makes this simple. The 49ers have lost seven consecutive games and allowed 33 points the last time they played Arizona. I’ll take the defending division champion Cardinals. Prediction: Arizona 30-14.

Seattle Seahawks @ New England Patriots: The last time Tom Brady lost a home game that he started dates all the way back to December 28, 2014 and he didn’t even play most of the game. I’ll take the Patriots quarterback who has been on one of the most dominant stretches in his unbelievable career. Prediction: New England 31-23.

Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Giants: The last time these two met, was in week 10 of 2012. The Bengals were 3-5 and the Giants were 6-3. The Bengals went on to win 31-13 in one of the biggest and most important wins of the Andy Dalton era. That game energized the Bengals as they would go on to win 7 out of their last eight en route to their second straight playoff appearance. In 2016 Cincinnati is 3-4-1 and are in need of a win if they want to continue their impressive run of playoff appearances. Interestingly enough Giants quarterback Eli Manning had nearly an identical stat line then: 287 passing yards per game, 12 touchdowns, 9 interceptions in 2012 compared to 281 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions this season. Coincidence, I think not! Considering that these two teams are relatively evenly matched I have to go with the team that has the most momentum and home-field advantage. Right now the Giants have won three straight and if they won on Monday night, it would match their longest winning streak since that 2012 season. Prediction: Giants 27-24.

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Week 3 Pick’em Early Games

I know missed week 2’s pick’em, but I went 10-6 making me 20-11 for the season, not great, but we still have so many more games. This week is an interesting slate, as there are several 0-2 teams looking to get their first wins.

Arizona @ Buffalo: Last week I saw the explosiveness of the Cardinals defense as they intercepted young Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston four times. Here is the thing about Arizona’s defense. They will take advantage of weak offenses and absolutely dominate them like they did last week. Though against solid offenses like New England, Seattle, etc they almost seem irrelevant. I don’t know why that is. Buffalo needs to win against the Cardinals. They need to stop finding scapegoats and just win. I think they get that first magical win in what could be a very interesting final 14 games for them. Prediction: Bills 31-27.

Oakland @ Tennessee: Oakland spent millions of dollars repairing their defense and they come out in 2016 allowing the second most points and most yards in the league. That sounds like a joke, but in only two games, Oakland has allowed 1,035 yards per game.  To put this into perspective, the Seahawks have only allowed 497 yards this season. So, for Oakland to get back into shape, their defense is going to have to start working as a unit. When I look at Tennessee play I feel like I see a lot of drives that have potential, but never materialize. With Marcus Mariota coming into his second year, I think the expectation would be that they would be one of the NFL’s better offenses. While that hasn’t happened yet, I think they could get that kick-started as they face the NFL’s worst defense. Prediction: Titans 24-20.

Cleveland @ Miami: I know that this is going to sound wild, but with options so slim for the Browns, I don’t think that it would hurt them to play Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. At this point with how thin they are at the position, why not take a risk that could payoff. I know it’s a long shot, but Cleveland’s quarterbacks have a combined 69.2 passer rating. Miami enters this game 0-2, but they have been competitive in their first two games. I feel like the Dolphins are one of those teams that are a lot better than their record at times. If Miami cannot take care of Cleveland today, than Adam Gase might be on his way out of Miami. Prediction: Dolphins 27-17.

Denver @ Cincinnatti: Denver has manhandled every single offense that has come their way. They face a Bengals offense that has only scored 39 points this season. Do the math. Prediction: Broncos 23-17.

Baltimore @ Jacksonville: The Jaguars have turned the ball over five times and average 58 rushing yards per game. Now they face the Ravens that has allowed only 273 yards and 13 points per game. Jacksonville will get their first win soon, but not this week. Prediction: Ravens 27-21.

Detroit @ Green Bay: The Packers were 23rd in the league last season for total offense. This season their 29th despite getting a lighter Eddie Lacy and healthy Jordy Nelson. Aaron Rodgers is excellent, but with virtually no blocking and limited help running the football he has done his best to make the Packers look like a .500 team. He has an excellent oppurtunity to get his Packers back on track as he faces a Lions defense that has allowed opposing quarterbacks a 112 passer rating. Prediction: Packers 31-23.

Washington @ New York: I don’t want to hear one word about the Odell Beckham, Josh Norman matchup. It’s just two quality players playing their hearts out, there is nothing to it. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is one of those guys who needs a really good supporting cast around him in order to be successful. he finally has that ideal cast, but the Redskins are 0-2. Go figure. The Giants defense is much better than last season, but Kirk Cousins has something to prove and he had a 114 passer rating against the Giants. Prediction: Redskins 24-20.

Minnesota @ Carolina: Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford played very well in his last game, but how will he fare going up against a team where he had a 58 passer rating against last season. Has much really changed for Sam Bradford? Perhaps, but I’ll bet on a Panthers offense that scored 46 points last week. Prediction: Panthers 31-17.

St. Louis @ Tampa Bay: Prediction: Buccaneers 23-14.

San Francisco @ Seattle: Prediction: Seahawks 28-17.

New York Jets @ Kansas City: Prediction: Jets 27-23.

San Diego @ Indianapolis: Prediction: Colts 31-20.

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia: Prediction: Steelers 30-20.

Chicago @ Dallas: Prediction: Dallas 24-17.

Unfortunately I was not able to give analysis on the later games, but I will preview the Monday Night game between Atlanta and New Orleans.

 

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Week 1 Pick’em

Cleveland Browns @ Philadelphia Eagles: Cleveland has been at the bottom of the AFC North for so long now that you cannot expect them to do anything, but finish last. Sure, they got a new quarterback, their 24th since 1999. Cleveland has some talent around new quarterback Robert Griffin 111, but Griffin hasn’t had a good season since 2012 and didn’t even play last year. Now he steps onto a team with a weak defense and inexperienced targets and you expect him to win? The Eagles have tempered their expectations since naming Carson Wentz their starter, but they still think that they can be competitive for a division title. With a whole new set of running backs, some young and talented receivers, and a defense that is simply better than Cleveland as a whole, the Eagles should be able to take care of business. It is important to note that last year at home Eagles quarterbacks threw for 294 yards per game compared to 217 on the road. Prediction: Eagles 23-17.

Green Bay Packers @ Jacksonville Jaguars: A fit Eddie Lacy for the Packers is huge. Last season, Lacy was about 25 pounds overweight and this offseason, Lacy dropped some weight and had an enormous preseason. Lacy is not a goal line rusher, he is a lead tailback for a Super Bowl caliber team. It is important to note that quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have Jordy Nelson back after Nelson tore his ACL in preseason last year. Aaron Rodgers made last year look okay even though he had no targets around him. He strung together a team that had no solid tailback, no receivers, and an offensive line that was subpar and he lead them to the playoffs. The Jaguars have a totally different lineup this season and I think that they will be competitive for a division title. Just look at their depth at the running back position, or at receiver,  Jacksonville knows that they have found their franchise quarterback and they have done a great job of signing and drafting quality targets. Despite all of Jacksonville’s talent, I will take the Packers. Green Bay has too much experience and with Nelson coming back Rodgers should ascend to being one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Prediction: Packers 34-24.

Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens: I’m just gonna start off by saying that I think the Ravens will win. Their at home, have a healthy Joe Flacco, have better depth at the wide receiver position, and drafted a blindside protector for Flacco. Nothing against the Bills, but like I said in the preview, their too depleted on the defensive side of the ball and they don’t have enough targets around Tyrod Taylor. I don’t necessarily expect the Ravens to win the division, but they should be much better than they were last season. Prediction: Ravens 27-20.

Chicago Bears @ Houston: There is no way that Brock Osweiler deserves even half of his contract. Osweiler only started a few games last season and was far from dominant. He was good, don’t get me wrong, but 72 million? No way. The Texans did a solid job of adding new pieces for Osweiler, but we are talking about a quarterback who has six career starts and had an average quarterback rating last year. The defense for Houston is solid, but they are still waiting on former number one pick Jadeveon Clowney to produce. He has done nothing in his first couple of years, nothing! I will need to see some production out of Clowney this year before I give him the bust label. There is something about the Bears where they simply cannot get out of being mediocre. Their consistently 7-9, 8-8, 9-7, and while that is not enough to change the system, it is starting to get to a boiling point for the Bears management. They signed quarterback Jay Cutler to a massive deal and he still hasn’t lead the team past mediocrity. Will this be the year? I have to take the Texans in this one, they have so many targets around Osweiler in addition to an already strong defense, they should be able to take care of business against the Bears. Prediction: Texans 28-20.

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta: Tampa Bay would be happy if they could build on what was a very successful first season in the Jameis Winston era. Winston played pretty well in the two games last season against the Falcons which resulted in two wins. I think the Buccaneers will make it three for three in the Jameis Winston era because Atlanta ended last season on a huge losing streak and quarterback Matt Ryan has been mediocre in his 16 career games against Tampa. Prediction: Tampa 31-27.

Minnesota @ Tennessee: Teddy Bridgewater’s injury took the Vikings out of playoff contention. Sam Bradford has never been better than an average quarterback and Shaun Hill has not taken a meaningful snap in the regular season since 2014. The Vikings cannot simply rely on Adrian Peterson otherwise teams will expect the run and stack eight guys in the box. The Titans did a good job this offseason, finding running backs for quarterback Marcus Mariota, but boy are they thin at the receiver position. I still have the Titans taking care of business in the opener at home. Prediction: Titans 24-17.

Cincinnati @ New York: After last seasons playoff debacle, the Bengals are determined to move past that and win a playoff game for the first time since 1990. They will have to first try and beat the Jets without tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Still the Bengals return their number one receiver AJ Green and a strong defense that allowed only 17 points per game last season. I know that I heavily criticized Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for being a mere average quarterback and I do not rescind those comments. He has so many targets around him, any quarterback would be successful with a supporting cast like Fitzpatrick’s. Still I have the Jets winning this one because of their excellent defense that ranked among one of the best last season. Prediction: Jets 23-20.

Oakland @ New Orleans: The Raiders are going to surprise a lot of people this season. In a division that is wide open and an offense that has gotten better since Derek Carr stepped under center. The Saints on the other hand of struggled to reach .500 that last couple of seasons and have a defense that had one of the worst seasons of all time last year. I’ll take the team that is moving in the right direction. Prediction: Raiders 28-24.

San Diego @ Kansas City: Now that all of the Joey Bosa drama is finished the Chargers can get back to business. That will start with quarterback Phillip Rivers and getting back to a winning mentality. The Chargers weren’t as bad as the record showed, they just had a tough time closing out games. The Chiefs finished last season on a tear and won their first playoff game since 1994. I’ll stick with the team who has momentum. Prediction: Chiefs 28-21.

Miami @ Seattle: The Dolphins haven’t gotten to the playoffs since 2008 and they intend to change that. They nabbed Arian Foster in the offseason in addition to a pretty strong supporting cast and front seven. The Seahawks are Super bowl favorites, but they don’t know who their running back is going to be considering Thomas Rawls ankle injury late last season. Still the Seahawks are a much better team than Miami and they should be able to take care of business at home. Prediction: Seahawks 31-17.

Detroit @ Indianapolis: Andrew Luck just got signed to the biggest deal in NFL history after coming off his worst season, which makes no sense. He has a good enough supporting cast and defense to take care of the Lions, but I cannot be too sure. The Lions did the best of their abilities to replace Calvin Johnson who is irreplaceable. I’ll take the Colts in this one, Matthew Stafford loses his number one receiver who accounted for a third of the Lions targets. Prediction: Colts 27-23.

New York @ Dallas: Dak Prescott is making his first career start after Tony Romo injured his lower back in the preseason. I already wrote a little segment about Prescott, which is in the previous article. Dallas is facing one of their biggest rivals and would like to improve upon a horrific record that they had last season when Tony Romo was injured. The Giants come into this game after making several key additions to their defense and adding a couple new pieces to their offense. If Eli Manning can avoid turnovers, the Giants should be able to take care of the opener. Prediction: Giants 30-17.

New England @ Arizona: With Rob Gronkowski out with an injury and Jimmy Garroppolo making his first career start, the odds are against the Patriots. Somehow despite any drama that revolves around Bill Belichick, he always finds a way to win. The last game that the Cardinals played, they got blown out due to several turnovers and an injured Carson Palmer. Now that Palmer is healthy and he returns most of his starters, the Cardinals should win the opener. Prediction: Cardinals 38-24.

Pittsburgh @ Washington: The Steelers will be without Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant due to suspension, but I still think that they will win. How do you stop Antonio Brown. You cannot stop him, you can only slow him down. He is so quick and elusive that it is almost impossible. The Redskins did sign Josh Norman who is one of the best cover corners in the game and he will make it tough on Brown. The Redskins offense is very good, but how will young starting running back Matt Jones do? He is coming off a very up and down rookie season where he averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Prediction: Steelers 35-31.

Los Angeles @ San Francisco: With all of the Colin Kaepernick drama that might surround this game from a football standpoint it is very intriguing. The Rams play their first game in LA since 1994 and have the first pick of the draft in Jared Goff though he is not slated to start. I am gonna take the Rams who have one of the best front sevens in the NFL and a pretty darn good running back in Todd Gurley. Prediction: Rams 24-17.

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NFC East Preview

With the preseason coming to an end, here is my NFC East Preview.

Washington Redskins: I think the Redskins are ready for a big time playoff push. Quarterback Kirk Cousins ended last season on an absolute tear and comes into this season with the best supporting cast he has ever had. With that being said, Cousins is far from a guarantee. Before last season Cousins had an 18-19 touchdown to interception ratio, and he completed a mere 58 percent of his passes compared to last seasons 69. I still like what I saw from Cousins last season. He looked more relaxed and was not afraid to take gambles down the field. I really like his boldness, sometimes plays don’t go according to how they were drawn up and Cousins has the determination to make them work. He is kinda like a poor man’s John Elway at times. The Redskins took quite the gamble letting Alfred Morris walk and naming Matt Jones their starting running back. Jones is an intriguing athlete, but his 3.4 yards per carry last season are shaky to say the least. The Redskins are stacked at the wide receiver position with a good balance of speed and finesse. I don’t know if Josh Norman is worth 75 million. I like his aggressive style of play, but the Redskins are trying to get past the first round and Norman doesn’t have a lot of playoff experience. And honestly, how many good seasons has he put up, one maybe two. I think he will be an impact player, but his ego can get in his way at times. The real wild card on the Redskins defense is rookie cornerback Kendall Fuller. He is as feisty as it gets and if he hadn’t gotten injured last year, I have no doubt that he would have been a first round pick. Bottom line: the Redskins are ready to win, will that be this year? I think so. It all rests on Kirk Cousins shoulders because the Redskins defense will not be doing him many favors. Projected record: 10-6.

Kirk Cousins about to throw. With so many talented players around him, it would be tough to imagine Cousins struggle to reach 4,000 yards.

Kirk Cousins about to throw. With so many talented players around him, it would be tough to imagine Cousins struggle to reach 4,000 yards.

Dallas Cowboys: I like rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. He has torn up the preseason and to me he is like a small Cam Newton. I don’t think the Cowboys will miss Tony Romo at all. I was worried about how Prescott would transition into the NFL because he is not the most natural quarterback I have seen, but he looks like a solid pocket passer. Remember Tony Romo likes to operate outside of the pocket more than most quarterbacks so I would imagine that Dak will do the same. I’m not sure about Ezekiel Elliott. I think he is a great running back, but I don’t know if his head is screwed on properly. Visiting a marijuana dispensary before game day? Is that really a good decision. The assault accusations made against him, whether all of this is ramble or true, I don’t like it. We are talking about the fourth pick of the 2016 NFL draft, not some low life bum who happens to be talented at football. It looks like Dez Bryant is finally healthy which is huge for the Cowboys. He is a game changer, but last season he wasn’t even close to 100 percent. I like wide receiver Cole Beasley. When it comes down to it he is nothing special, but he is the best route runner on the Cowboys with reliable hands. He will never be a number two receiver, but he plays so hard and is a safety net. Every team needs a guy like that. The Cowboys defense has not been very good in a long time. I don’t know whether that’s a philosophy, but they just haven’t. I like some of the guys they have in their front seven, but I don’t know who is really gonna come out and be a consistent pass rusher like DeMarcus Ware. Second year man Randy Gregory is suspended for 4 games, but he has the most raw ability to be a stud as the main pass rusher for Dallas. The secondary for Dallas is also filled with a lot of guys who have their moments, but don’t produce on a consistent basis. Bottom line: I think Dak Prescott will keep the ship afloat until Tony Romo comes back, but even when he does I don’t see Dallas going to the playoffs. Projected record: 8-8.

Dez Bryant catching a pass against the Giants. In 9 games last season Bryant struggled, catching not even 50 percent of his targets and averaged a mere 44 yards per game.

Dez Bryant catching a pass against the Giants. In 9 games last season Bryant struggled, catching not even 50 percent of his targets and averaged a mere 44 yards per game.

New York Giants: Offense, offense, and more offense. That is new coach Ben Mcadoo’s philosophy. I have never been a fan of Eli Manning. He has virtually no mobility (I guess that is a Manning trait) and he makes some of the worst decisions I have ever seen. From a quarterback standpoint he is hardly above average. With that being said, he has played very well in the last couple of seasons and I wouldn’t bet against him having another one. Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, and Bobby Rainey are all vying for time at the running back spot. I don’t see there being a true number one with such a cast of characters. Rainey is more of the unknown having only a couple of solid seasons, but he is strong. He was the perfect backup to Doug Martin in Tampa Bay. I would say Rainey is the best all-around, but he lacks ideal experience and top-end speed. Jennings is the most experienced, but he has had two seasons to nail down the Giants starting running back job and he hasn’t. He is well rounded, but he has a lot of tread on his tires. Finally, Shane Vereen is really a receiver at the running back position, but he is by far the fastest of the three. I see all three getting some action. I’m not quite sure if Victor Cruz has nailed down the number two receiver position. It seems like a given, but he has only played six games in the last two seasons and he is now dealing with a minor groin injury. The Giants have spent so much money on defense you would think that they would at least be above average by now, but I am not so sure about that. Olivier Vernon was probably the Giants best signing, but Vernon has struggled to make the Miami Dolphins starting lineup in the last few years. The real issue with the Giants defense is their secondary, and they addressed that by signing Janoris Jenkins and Leon Hall. Jenkins is more of a play maker who is over aggressive and Hall is just a solid cover corner with experience. Bottom line: the Giants offense is solid and their defense isn’t that bad, but I need to see some major improvement from that department to put the Giants in my playoff bracket. Projected record: 8-8.

Eli manning about to throw a pass.

Eli manning about to throw a pass.

Philadelphia Eagles: After the Sam Bradford trade, the Eagles are forced to do what they say they wouldn’t: starting Carson Wentz in week one. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is a very talented player. He stands at six foot five, has sneaky athleticism, and impressive arm strength. These traits are what intrigued scouts about quarterbacks: Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Ryan Tannehill. I still would not want Wentz starting in week one. Ryan Matthews got so much hype coming into the NFL out of Fresno State and he has been relatively disappointing. Now entering his seventh season, Matthews is primed to start for an offense that had one of the worst running attacks in the NFL. Despite limited carries last season Matthews averaged over 5 yards per carry, thus earning him a starting spot. Of all of the receivers for Philadelphia, I would say that Dorial-Green Beckham is the most intriguing. I don’t really take into consideration what the Tennessee Titans owner said about Green. I don’t really know much about Green’s football intellect or mentality, but he is extremely talented. When Chip Kelly traded LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso, I thought it was a terrible trade. Now that Kiko Alonso is no longer playing with the Eagles, everyone thinks it is a bad trade. What a waste. Bottom line: unless Wentz comes out in week 1 and looks like a seasoned player, I highly doubt the Eagles will be even competitive for a division title. Their defense is far from dominant and while their running game isn’t completely irrelevant it also isn’t very good. I would assume that if Carson Wentz stayed healthy and showed promise, the Eagles would have no problem going 4-12. Projected record: 4-12.

Carson Wentz during the NFL Combine.

Carson Wentz during the NFL Combine.

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AFC East Preview

It’s football season and it’s time for my AFC East Preview. Honestly, this is one of the toughest divisions to preview because each team in the division could go to the playoffs.

New England Patriots: Obviously the main headline going into camp for the Patriots was whether backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would be ready for week one. So far two weeks into the preseason, Garoppolo has been nothing short of excellent. A second round pick in 2014, Garoppolo has played very sparingly thanks to Tom Brady’s excellent durability. Brady, forced to serve a four game suspension due to his act in deflategate, Garoppolo is the Patriots starting quarterback (by default) for the first quarter of the season. The Patriots should have to rely a little more heavily on the running attack due to Jimmy’s inexperience, but the Pats running back depth is full of unknowns. LeGarrette Blount, the favorite to win over the Patriots starting running back role has provided teams with a physical running style since his debut in 2010. That being said, Blount has not rushed for more than 1,000 yards since his rookie season and provides poor top end speed for a starting running back. The Patriots have intriguing depth at the wide receiver and tight end positions starting with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as the two starting receivers. Edelman’s solid route running and excellent speed make him more of a slot receiver, but he has looked fine as Brady’s number two option behind tight end Rob Gronkowski. The defense for New England is a bit of a wildcard as a whole. With a boatload of veteran talent starting in the front seven to the secondary, the Patriots allowed quarterbacks to throw for over 260 yards per game against them last season, towards the bottom of the league. Give them credit though, for doing a nuance job of signing veterans like Chris Long and Terrance Knighton to improve upon a defensive line who sacked the quarterback 49 times last season. Bottom line: the Patriots face teams in their first 4 weeks who had a combined 36-28 record last season, so it’s not unreasonable to expect Garoppolo to finish his 4 game stint at 0-4. If the Patriots can get off to a good enough start so that Tom Brady can comfortably lead his team to a 9-3 record or so when he gets back, you can expect the Patriots to return to the playoffs and fight for another opportunity to get back on the podium. Projected Record: 11-5.

Jimmy Garoppolo in his rookie season. The Patriots will have to rely on the inexperienced Garoppolo in their first four games.

New York Jets: The Jets are a tough team to predict because they are so hit and miss at the quarterback position. Their starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will never be known as an above average quarterback. Yes, he had a career year last year, leading the Jets to a 10-6 record while throwing for 31 touchdowns, but in his career he holds a 43-61 record. His winning percentage is below Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, and many others. So when you put him into perspective he is nothing more than a serviceable player. The Jets have given Fitzpatrick many experienced targets. I like the Jets signing of Matt Forte. He is much more versatile than Chris Ivory and has been an elite running back since his rookie season, averaging 105 yards per game compared to Chris Ivory’s 63 yards per game. The Jets are not going to contend because of their offense, they will contend because of their strong defense. They have built a defense that has a mix of experience and youngsters who are still developing. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is extremely athletic for his size and he is finally starting to hit his peak (12 sacks last season). The secondary for the Jets is excellent. Darrelle Revis is obviously one of the greatest cover corners of all-time, but the Jets nabbed Buster Skrine last season who is a little more aggressive than Revis, but is a solid cover corner himself. While Dee Millner is coming into his fourth season in the NFL, injuries have plagued his career so far (27 missed games), but he is still a physical corner next to Revis. Bottom line: it comes down to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play. He has a solid supporting cast, but he has only put together a couple of decent seasons in his long career. Projected Record: 10-6.

Muhammad Wilkerson going after Ryan Tannehill.

Miami Dolphins: I have a tough time understanding why the Dolphins have not gotten to the playoffs since 2008. I really like the Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He has all the talent in the world. He is an excellent athlete (5.1 yards per carry) and has thrown for more yards each year since being drafted. Is this going to be the year that the Dolphins reach this playoffs? I certainly hope so. I loved that the Dolphins signed running back Arian Foster. The Houston Texans were foolish to drop him. So what, Foster tore his Achilles and had his worst season of his career, he is still an all-pro back who has four 1,000 yard rushing seasons. That all being said I do not know who Adam Gase is going to start at running back on day one. They signed Isiah Pead who has been a huge bust (2nd round pick in 2012), drafted Jay Ajayi in 2015 (49 carries, 187 yards), and signed Foster. Pead is likely going to be a third stringer, but has been solid so far this preseason. I think wide receiver Devante Parker is going to have a big season in 2016. He played sparingly last year, but in the last three games he had a combined 13 receptions, 286 yards, and a touchdown. The Dolphins defense should improve on what was a disappointing year from the defense (25th best). Mario Williams, Cameron Wake, and Ndamukong Suh headline a front seven that is more like a three headed monster. I would argue that Suh is the best defensive lineman next to JJ Watt. His combination of size, technique, and speed is impressive for defensive tackle. Bottom line: the Dolphins have plenty of play makers for them to be a wild card team, but the team will likely rest on Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder. If he can improve upon what was a somewhat disappointing 2015 the Dolphins should return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Projected Record: 8-8.

Ndamukong Suh after signing with the Dolphins last year. Suh hasn’t produced enormous numbers since his rookie season, but he still has the raw tools to be a one man wrecking crew on the defensive line.

Buffalo Bills: Of all the teams in the AFC East I think the Bills have the opportunity to pile on enormous numbers thanks to their spread-option offense. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor proved that he has the skill set to be a starting quarterback, now he has to prove that he can be a winning one too. The Bills have really developed the offense entirely around him, but they don’t any proven players outside of Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy. With that being said, look out for former track star Marquise Goodwin to play a big role for the Bills. Goodwin, who has only played in 24 games in 3 seasons, has been targeted 7 times in the two preseason games he has played in. With Tyrod Taylor only measuring up to six foot one, he is relatively vulnerable to injuries especially with his running style. The Bills have solid depth at the quarterback position with EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones, who are both two big dual-threat options. The Bills lost defensive end Mario Williams to the Dolphins and rookies Reggie Ragland (linebacker) and Shaq Lawson (defensive end) to injuries, so the Bills front seven is fairly thin. Bottom line: the Bills have a talented offense that could make a playoff push possible, but with so many injuries to their defense, there could be too much pressure put on the offense. The Bills should be competitive, but I don’t think that this is their year. Projected Record: 7-9.

Tyrod Taylor diving for the pylon. This dual-threat quarterback out of Virginia Tech was not handed a starting job. He had to battle it out with EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel and after a ho-hum win over the Colts in week one, he never looked back.

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Kevin Durant signs with the Warriors

I admit it, this is a weak title for a big story, but it was a weak move for a big time superstar. Former Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant signed a 2 year/54 million dollar contract with the Golden State Warriors. Allow me to give you a little background on this story. About a month ago, The Oklahoma City Thunder led the Golden State Warriors 3-1 in the Western conference finals. If Oklahoma City won one more game they would have faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals. Golden State would win three straight games and advance to the NBA finals only to lose a 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers. The NBA finals result does not matter. The Thunder could have and should have easily been in the finals. The Warriors are a dynasty with or without Durant. They made it to the finals two years in a row without Durant.

Many will compare this to what LeBron James did a few years back. It has some similarities. Both were in their prime. Both had not won a title for their respective franchises. Even though they have those two things in common, comparing LeBron’s situation to Kevin Durant’s is like comparing apples to oranges.

Here is how I view Kevin Durant’s signing. There are two ways to face a challenge.  You could either run right at it and fight it, or you could go around it, making a shortcut around the challenge. Kevin Durant took a shortcut. When LeBron was in Cleveland it was a one man show. In Oklahoma City, Durant had another superstar in Russell Westbrook. It wasn’t a one man show! This is one of the weakest moves I have ever seen in sports history. You could say that Kevin Durant is just trying to win a championship. He could have won a championship in Oklahoma City. They were one game away from closing out the Warriors to go to the NBA finals. They had three opportunities! To add insult to injury, Durant signed with the team that defeated his team in the conference championship.

Stephen A Smith said it perfectly, “Kevin Durant is one of the top three players in the world. And he ran away from the challenge that he faces in order to jump on the bandwagon of a team that’s a little bit better.” I expected a different result from Durant. I think the entire world learned a lot about his character this weekend. I don’t think that he is going to have a similar result to LeBron. I guarantee you that he will not sign with Oklahoma City when his contract expires. Why? Because he slammed the door shut by going to a team that came back to beat them. LeBron only closed the door when he left for Miami. Durant slammed it. There is no coming back for KD. And if I were OKC I wouldn’t want him back.

I was talking to a few friends of mine about the Durant situation and I said, “If Durant leaves for another team (like Golden State or San Antonio) he is looking to get an immediate championship and leaving his respect and dignity in Oklahoma City. If he returns back to OKC he is building a legacy.” Durant left his respect in OKC and he might never get it back.

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US Open Overview

What an impressive week for Dustin Johnson. Only a day ago at Oakmont Country Club, millions of fans watched and smiled as Dustin Johnson won his first major at a course which hosted Jack Nicklaus’s and Ernie Els first majors. A course stretched to about 7,300 yards, Oakmont Country Club played as a perfect setup for the 116th United States Open Championship.

Grades

USGA: I have been waiting to bash the USGA since they selected Chambers Bay and Pinehurst as US Open locations for 2014 and 2015. The way they treated the Dustin Johnson situation was horrible. Let me give you a little insight on what happened. On the fifth hole, a 373 yard par 4, Dustin Johnson, lined up for his par putt. It was only about three feet, but he still took his time and took a few practice putts. Before he grounded his club on the green the ball moved. The USGA official told Johnson at the time that he was fine and that Dustin could resume play without a penalty. The 10th hole comes around and a USGA official told Dustin that he might be penalized and asked him if he caused the ball to move in any way. Dustin said he did not know. Let me give you a little background about Oakmont. These greens are some of the fastest greens in the world. In a close up of Dustin’s putt, it clearly shows that he did not ground his club, or strike the ball in any way. Yet, the USGA held the penalty over Dustin Johnson’s head until he finished and they would penalize him. Sure it would not have mattered in the end, but one stroke is all it takes. Jordan Spieth won the US Open last year by one and Zach Johnson won the British Open last year by one. Imagine for a moment that you are Dustin Johnson. You are on the 12th hole knowing that even though you are tied with Shane Lowry, that you might be penalized for what you did seven holes back. That would mess a person up mentally. This is not only the first time USGA has gotten heavily criticized. Last year, at Chambers Bay, players constantly complained about the bumpy greens and on television you could tell that they were bumpy and did not run true. Look, the US Open is supposed to be a United States style course, not a links style course. I am going back to last year because I did not criticize the USGA, I just thought they made a bad decision. Like they say in baseball, “one, two, three strikes you’re out.” Grade: F

Chambers Bay host f the 2015 US Open.

Oakmont: I thought Oakmont was a fantastic destination for the US Open for 3 key reasons. One, it combined a fair amount of risk/reward holes. With the advanced technology with drivers nowadays, players can hit the ball further than ever. Let me give you an example of a risk reward hole at Oakmont. Go to the 3rd hole. A 430 yard par 4 that slopes uphill. On the right side are several deep bunkers. On the left side are Oakmont’s iconic church pews. The church pew is a fairway bunker that has large lumps of fescue. If a player favored the left side they would get a much better angle to the green. If they favored the right, they would have virtually a blind shot into a green which has a false front and back. Reason 2, it combined an American style golf course with links effects to it. I did say that the US Open should not be links styled, but I never said it couldn’t have links effects to it. Oakmont featured ditches of fescue on 13 of the 18 holes. Links courses feature fescue on a majority of their holes as well. Reason 3, the course is absolutely stunning. Chambers Bay was in okay shape, I would say that it was more brown than green, Pinehurst was more brown than green. But Oakmont was an absolute beauty. Their fairways were cross cut, greens were rolling extremely fast, and the rough was in perfect condition. That is a US Open golf course. Grade: A+

The iconic church pews on the 3rd and 4th holes.

Dustin Johnson: Tee to green, this guy is the best in the business. He showcased his tremendous power off of the tee, by ramming a 378 yard opening drive leaving him 104 yards in on a 482 yard par 4. His wedge play was good yesterday, not great. While he is known for his inconsistency as a putter, Johnson made some huge putts on the back nine. I was not just impressed with his overall game this week. His mental game was sensational. He shot an even par 35 after being warned that he might be penalized on the tenth hole. It did not even faze him. That shows tremendous mental toughness. Also to rebound from last year’s three putt on 18 at Chambers Bay was impressive. This win for him was not just one, it was one of many future major wins. Grade: A+

Dustin Johnson wins his first major championship.

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NBA Finals Preview

It’s that time of year again, the NBA Finals. Kudos to the Golden State Warriors for mounting an impressive comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It is a rematch of last year’s NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers (CLE) and Golden State Warriors (GSW).

Point Guard

Stephen Curry vs Kyrie Irving: We all know Stephen Curry for his tremendous ability to shoot the three pointer and dribble behind his back, but arguably his biggest skill is his passing ability. Curry is involved in about 40 percent of the team’s offense. So yeah, he is a huge part of the offense. When he comes off of a screen, he is almost unstoppable. His quick release is the key. When most guys come off of a screen they need a second or two to get set and then shoot. Curry gets the ball and puts it up in the air. Unreal. Kyrie Irving has a Stephen Curry like game to him, but he isn’t quite as good as a shooter. Irving has excellent ball handling skills and is crafty around the rim. Advantage: Stephen Curry.

Shooting Guard

Klay Thompson vs JR Smith: I actually really like JR Smith’s game. Sure he is maybe the streakiest player in the NBA, but when he is on there is no end. He has a good shot and he is a good athlete. Klay Thompson was brilliant against OKC. We all know how good of a shooter Steph is, but wow, Thompson is right up there. Advantage: Klay Thompson.

Small Forward

Andre Iguodala vs LeBron James: Andre Iguodala is an interesting player because of his motor and shot. Sure, he is not a guy who will score 20 points every night, but I’ll take 10-15 with the type of effort and experience he brings to the table. We all know LeBron by now. He has shown what type of player he really is in the playoffs. He is treating every game like a game 7 and as a coach you have to love that determination. He is as close as it gets to a train when he is running down the court on a fastbreak. My god, can he move for his size. Advantage: LeBron James.

Power Forward

Draymond Green vs Kevin Love: For how much I like Draymond Green’s physicality and passing ability, he is not the best athlete out on the court. He is more of a facilitator of the offense and I think an unhealthy Draymond is almost equivalent to an unhealthy Stephen Curry. Green is so vital to the Warriors offense from a passing standpoint. And this year he has also developed an ability to step back and knock down a three. Kevin Love has looked great in the playoffs. He has been hitting his threes and that’s a huge advantage because he has no problem moving down to the center position where he can outrun a majority of the league’s centers. The key is his size, because with teams starting to go smaller with their lineup, Love will play center and he is as tall or taller than almost every center he faces. Advantage: Kevin Love.

Center

Andrew Bogut vs Tristan Thompson: T0 me, Andrew Bogut is not half the man he used to be. He has been hampered with so many injuries, he is much slower, but the good news is that he is still big and can get rebounds and give the Warriors second chance opportunities. He is 22 pounds and 3 inches taller than Thompson. Though Thompson is quicker than Bogut. He will go up and get rebounds and he is aggressive around the rim. Advantage: Andrew Bogut.

Benches

Golden State vs Cleveland: These two teams benches are fascinating. The Warriors have surrounded themselves with quality role players like: Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, Festus Ezeli, and Harrison Barnes. To me, the most interesting out of that group is Shaun Livingston. He is a wild-card for this Warriors team. He has the size to be a small-forward, yet he is strictly a point guard because of his passing skills. He knows how to get to the rim and I love big point guards. The Cavs also have a good bench. To me, Channing Frye is the key. When Kevin love comes out, the six foot eleven monster comes in. Frye has shot beautifully in the playoffs and has tremendous size to play the power forward position. Also I like Matthew Dellavedova’s aggressiveness and shot. He adds a lot of effort at the point guard position. Advantage: Cleveland.

Overall

I have Cleveland winning the series in 7 games. There is something different about them this year and I think LeBron James has a lot to do with it. He has instilled a hunger in this Cavs team like never before. They want it. Not to belittle Golden State, but I feel if the Cavs lose this one they will lose some of their core players. To me, Cleveland has a better starting lineup and more depth than Golden State.

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Round 1 Overview

After staying up hours last night watching the first round, I had some major concerns regarding some teams first round picks. Here was the best and worst picks of last nights first round.

Best Pick: Robert Nkemdiche Arizona Cardinals 29th Pick: The only reason Nkemdiche slipped this far is due to character concerns. He has a tremendous combination of size and speed and dominated against Alabama as a Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior. He was charged with drug possession in December. I like this pick for the Cardinals because they have a great locker room environment where Nkemdiche will not only grow as a player, but also as a person. The Cardinals already have a solid defensive line, so Nkemdiche won’t have to start immediately. Grade: A

Denver Broncos find themselves a new quarterback: The Seattle Seahawks had the 26th pick of the draft until Denver traded up to draft Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. Lynch is a big kid at six foot seven and he has good mobility. If I were Denver I would have gone with Connor Cook. Why? Because Cook comes from a pro-style system and while he might not have the upside as Lynch he is a more complete player at the moment. Lynch has great size arm strength, and mobility, but he does not come from a pro-style system and he is not nearly as accurate as Cook. That being said, in a few years I might look at that comment and laugh due to my inaccuracy. Grade: B-

Worst Pick: Eli Apple New York Giants: At times in the early rounds, the Giants get flustered and don’t make a quality selection. Here is a good example. The Giants passed over Vernon Hargreaves and Karl Joseph, two explosive defensive backs. Hargreaves is easily the best cover corner in the draftaside from Jalen Ramsey and if it was not for his size, Hargreaves would have been picked over Ramsey. The Giants are in need of secondary help, but this was simply the wrong selection. Grade: C-

Riskiest Pick: Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams: I would not be trading up in the draft to pick a quarterback who had a 14-23 record in college and who does not come from a pro-style system. That all being said, Goff does have tremendous upside. He has tremendous pocket presence similar to another California quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He has good arm strength and accuracy and while I wouldn’t have picked him over Carson Wentz he still has the potential to be a quality starter. Grade: B

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