College Football Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 86-34

Football’s back. And for that reason, it’s time for me to play spoiler to what’s going to happen week-by-week. I’m going to try and do this every week, but given my schedule, this might not always be possible, but again, I’ll do my best. So enough chit chat, let’s get to picks.

Texas Spring Game

#23 Texas (-13.5) vs Maryland

I think Texas is a little overrated again this year, as they seem to be every year by the preseason AP polls, but I do think they’ll come out with the victory against Maryland. However head coach Tom Herman might have some issues coming his way in the future, as he may have also known about the domestic abuse of a former Ohio State assistant while he was there. Who knows what the future holds?

Projected Score: Texas 38, Maryland 31

Ole Miss vs Texas Tech (-2.5)

Ole Miss got ravaged by the sanctions and aside from tackle Greg Little and receiver AJ Brown, all the talent recruited in the Hugh Freeze era is pretty much gone. Texas Tech will likely be a pushover defensively once again but you can pretty much throw anybody at quarterback there and they’ll throw for 5000 yards. This year, it’s a toss-up as to who will earn the job between JUCO transfer McLane Carter and Jett Duffey, but Texas Tech’s offense had the same success with Nic Shimonek (undrafted) as they did with Pat Mahomes (10th overall pick) so whomever it is, I’m sure they’ll be fine. Texas Tech wins.

Projected Score: Texas Tech 55 Ole Miss 38

#6 Auburn (-2) vs #9 Washington

This is going to be a slugfest. Auburn returns a lot of talent from a top-10 team last year so they’ll be in contention for the SEC crown again this year. Washington is the favorite to come out of the Pac 12 so this could be a potential CFP preview. I think Auburn comes away with this one, though. I think they have more weapons both offensively and defensively and I think this is the year that Jarrett Stidham takes the next step.

Projected Score: Auburn 31 Washington 27

West Virginia v Kansas State

#17 West Virginia (-9.5) vs Tennessee

Will Grier is in the conversation to be the top quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft but I think he’s got a little too much of a gunslinger mentality for me to trust him just yet. But I think he shows plenty of flashes as he takes apart the Volunteer defense.

Projected Score: West Virginia 35 Tennessee 24

North Carolina vs California (-7)

I never know what to expect out of North Carolina on a year-to-year basis. Some years, they’re competing for an ACC title. Others they’re struggling to win 3 games. I think this one leans towards the latter, unfortunately for Tar Heel fans, as they don’t have a quarterback like Mitch Trubisky or the defensive talent to compensate for that. Cal wins and I think they do it handily.

California 42 North Carolina 21

Cincinnati vs UCLA (-15)

The Chip Kelly era at UCLA begins and former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will get the start. Not sure how Speight fits Kelly’s system, but Nick Foles had success in it with the Eagles and he has even less mobility than Speight does so I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it work. I think there will be some growing pains, though, and I think I’m going to pick this game as my upset. Cincinnati is always a tricky team and can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful. Cincinnati edges UCLA as Kelly drops his debut.

Projected Score: Cincinnati 31 UCLA 30

Outback Bowl -  Michigan v South Carolina

#14 Michigan vs #12 Notre Dame (-1)

The rivalry is back on and it looks to be a defensive slugfest. Michigan has about as loaded a defense as there is in the country while there is some uncertainty on offense. Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson is getting the start and while he has shown flashes, he hasn’t quite materialized like everyone expected when he was a 5-star recruit. As for Notre Dame, there’s a little bit of uncertainty at quarterback. Brandon Wimbush showed a lot of ability but was inconsistent at times while Ian Book looked really sharp in relief. It’ll be interesting to see what Brian Kelly rolls out there Saturday night. But I think Michigan’s defense makes more plays and they win a low-scoring affair.

Projected Score: Michigan 20 Notre Dame 17

Louisville vs #1 Alabama (-24)

Alabama has another high profile game to open their season against Louisville and I’m going to be perfectly honest, that line seems a little generous. ‘Bama is as loaded as ever and Louisville lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL, who was the team the last few years. There is some uncertainty at quarterback for the Crimson Tide as Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa both are vying for the spot, but I think Bama wins the game handily with a steady dose of defense and the ground game with Damien Harris and Najee Harris (no relation).

Projected Score: Alabama 51 Louisville 17

BYU vs Arizona (-11.5)

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is one of the most exciting players in the country and he’ll have a full season as the starter under his belt to cement himself as the most dynamic player in the country. I think he runs all over the BYU defense and Arizona wins handily.

Projected Score: Arizona 48 BYU 24

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#8 Miami (FL) (-3.5) vs #25 LSU

Miami had a breakout season last year thanks to the Turnover Chain but they finished pretty slowly, as they ended the season with losses to Pittsburgh, Clemson, and Wisconsin with the Turnover Chain getting destroyed and humiliated. I have a feeling that LSU is going to take this one in a low-scoring turnover-fest.

Projected Score: LSU 17 Miami (FL) 13

#20 Virginia Tech vs #19 Florida State (-7)

Last year could not have gone much worse for Florida State. They start the year ranked 4th, Deondre Francois goes down for the year in Week 1, they struggle to reach a bowl game, and Jimbo Fisher leaves for Texas A&M. On the other side, things could not have gone much better for Virginia Tech as Justin Jackson showed a lot of flashes as a true freshman quarterback. They will look to build on last year’s success as they try and take down the Seminoles and I think they do.

Projected Score: Virginia Tech 31 Florida State 24

BONUS GAME: Indiana (-10.5) vs Florida International

Only I care about this game but screw it, it’s my blog. FIU tends to play Indiana pretty tough for most of the game, as they nearly pulled off the upset each of the last two times they played (2015 and 16, 17 was cancelled due to hurricane). Peyton Ramsey has been named the starting quarterback and I think he’s an efficient passer, albeit limited in terms of skillset. Indiana will win, but it’ll be close.

Projected Score: Indiana 28 FIU 20

Are there any games I didn’t do that you want my thoughts on? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of each storyline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Super Bowl LII Recap

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The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33. Nick Foles was Super Bowl MVP after a very entertaining game in perhaps the greatest shootout in postseason history as records galore were set in this game. I have a few thoughts, though keep in mind, I’m a very emotional Patriots fan so forgive me if I get a little intense.

-I’ve got to write stuff for the winners first. The Philadelphia Eagles were the better team and Doug Pederson wore his big boy pants. He seemingly made every single correct call imaginable. That play call shortly before the half that everybody is raving over was nothing short of ballsy.

Who cares that it was an illegal formation that didn’t get called (only 6 men were on the line of scrimmage, need to have 7)? That’s what it takes to beat the Patriots.

-Have to give a ton of credit to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. He played the game of his life. He went 28-43 with 373 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 pick that wasn’t really his fault. It was more Alshon Jeffery trying to make a one-handed grab that snuck out of his grasp and into the waiting arms of Duron Harmon. Now the question is what becomes of him because he certainly can’t be their backup after what he did this postseason. They’re either going to have to trade him or trade Carson Wentz so that he can start. Either way, they’re getting a huge haul.

-Corey Clement was a surprise star for the Eagles in this game. Now yes, the undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin was having a nice season leading up to this game, but he had 4 catches for 100 yards, including this questionable touchdown.

He was bobbling it as he was going out. Based on the way the game gets officiated nowadays, that should’ve been an incompletion. That’s 2 TD’s by the Eagles that the officials botched, the first coming on a 4th down play on an illegal formation, the other coming on third, which essentially put 8 points on the board that shouldn’t have been there. And I hate to be that salty asshole, but look at the score differential.

-Zach Ertz’s touchdown was about as clear as day and the fact that we went through so much trouble debating whether or not it was a catch is everything that’s wrong with the catch rule today. How could this possibly be misconstrued as not being a catch, he took about four steps after gaining possession before he dove into the endzone.

-The play of the game though was the strip sack by Brandon Graham. Both offensive lines played out of their minds in this one and Shaq Mason honestly didn’t do a bad job on Graham here. It’s Graham making that extra effort to stick his arm out there and he managed to get the football in a play that a lot of people are calling a reverse of fortunes to what happened with the Tuck Rule 16 years ago and quite frankly, it’s hard to argue with them.

-The fact that the Patriots still had a chance after that play is just amazing to me. For a moment, when Brady chucked this Hail Mary, I thought it might find a Patriots player’s hands. But alas, the ball hit the turf and I was stunned to see that the clock had hit zero. That play did not feel like it lasted 9 seconds.

-The Eagles are fortunate that they were able to make the plays they did because they needed literally every single one of them to beat Tom Brady, the way he was playing. 28-48, an NFL playoff record 505 yards and 3 TD’s. The great ones don’t lose, they just run out of time and that seems to be what happened in this game with Brady. Father Time is not a factor to the 40 year-old Tom Brady and neither really is the Madden Curse because it wasn’t Brady that lost the game, it was the defense. The NFL MVP curse is alive and well, though. Since 2001, the NFL MVP has played in the Super Bowl the same year 9 times (Kurt Warner 2001, Rich Gannon 2002, Shaun Alexander 2005, Tom Brady 2007, Peyton Manning 2009, Peyton Manning 2013, Cam Newton 2015, Matt Ryan 2016, Tom Brady 2017). They all lost. In fact, the NFL MVP has not won the Super Bowl in the same year since Kurt Warner in 1999.

-Epic rant coming. I’m not going to sit here and say I know more about personnel strategies than Bill Belichick because I obviously don’t. This is more just coming off what I see on the surface. But what the fuck was so bad about Malcolm Butler that he didn’t see a single defensive snap?!?! Now from what I know as of this writing, Butler wasn’t benched for disciplinary reasons, rather it was performance-based. Now yes, Butler was having a down season overall, but you’re going to bench him now? Or was his two weeks of practice leading up to the Super Bowl just so bad that he wasn’t worth playing? Because I can’t imagine that Johnson Bademosi was a better option to have in the critical stretches of the game. The way quick guys like Nelson Agholor and Corey Clement were burning Rowe and Bademosi all game, don’t you think a guy who can run like Butler would be a solid replacement? Again, I’m not Belichick and I’m not an insider with the Patriots. But this just seems like a horrible oversight, especially considering how poor all the corners not named Stephon Gilmore played all game. This basically guarantees Butler won’t be returning to the Patriots next season. He’s quoted as saying “they gave up on me,” after the game. No chance does he return, even if he does get franchise tagged.

-I just got an update on my phone that says Rob Gronkowski won’t commit to playing next season. As if I needed more of this shit piled on. If he does retire, he will be in the discussion for greatest tight end of all time. He vanished in the first half but was terrific in the second, including these two touchdowns.

Overall, Gronk finished with 9 catches for 116 yards and 2 TD’s in the big game after only having 1 catch for 9 yards at the half.

-We also got amazing games out of both Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. Amendola continued his playoff mastery with 8 catches for 152 yards while Hogan recorded 6 catches for 128 yards and this TD grab.

-Losing Brandin Cooks early in the second quarter was a huge blow to the Patriots offense as they lost a guy who could really stretch the field. You saw how well Brady threw the ball all game, imagine if he had Cooks as well. Here’s the hit from Malcolm Jenkins, which would’ve definitely been targeting and an ejection if this were college.

-Special teams for both sides got off to an ugly start. Al Michaels did note that apparently there were some complaints about the paint job on the Super Bowl LII logo, which was located right where the kickers had to kick. Perhaps it was too slippery? Whatever the case, Jake Elliott and Stephen Gostkowski both missed extra points while Gostkowski also missed a field goal, as not great snaps played a factor for both. Also, that end-around try on the kickoff return on the Patriots final drive was fucking stupid. Don’t get cute, that’s the quickest way to lose games. If you’re going to do that, it had better work otherwise you’re going to look as stupid as the Patriots did on that play.

-Alshon Jeffery dominated Eric Rowe for the first quarter or so of the game including this beautiful touchdown grab in the first quarter.

You can’t teach that. Jeffery just used his size to bully Rowe and Foles put the ball in the absolutely most perfect spot possible. The caption the NFL’s twitter page put on this pretty much sums it up. However once the Patriots made the switch that I felt like they should have done from the very beginning by putting the bigger Stephon Gilmore on him, he was shut down.

-The Eagles’ clock management was also tremendous. They killed over 6 minutes on their opening drive, telling the world what type of game this was going to be, then killing about 7 minutes on the drive for the game-winning score. It just seemed like the Eagles had an answer for everything the Patriots tried defensively.

-I thought Pink gave a tremendous performance in the National Anthem and it’s made significantly more impressive by the fact that she currently has the flu. Michael Jordan has his flu game, Pink now has hers.

-Not sure which commercial was my favorite, there were some pretty good ones. I particularly liked the Danny DeVito M&M’s commercial because any day I can see him on my screen is a good day, regardless of what’s in store for my Patriots. The Giants Dirty Dancing commercial was also cute. I also saw teasers for the Han Solo spinoff and Jurassic World 2. Both are probably going to suck but I’m going to see them at least twice in theaters anyway because both franchises have me by the balls.

That’s going to do it for my recap of what was really an excellent football game that did not go the way I had hoped it would. But such is life. The Patriots have been playing with fire with all these close Super Bowls, it was only a matter of time before they got burned. Let me know what you thought of the game in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. It’s baseball season now, bitches.

Super Bowl LII Preview

So it’s all come down to this. Super Bowl Sunday. The Eagles and Patriots took very different routes to get to this point. The Eagles were running roughshod over the league before losing their potential MVP quarterback in Carson Wentz to an ACL tear. He gets replaced by Nick Foles, who had been inconsistent up until the NFC Championship game, where he absolutely lit up the NFL’s #1 defense in the Vikings. Meanwhile the Patriots got off to a rough start and everybody wondered if this was the beginning of the end of their dynasty. Then they remembered they were the Patriots and proceeded to collect win after win en route to another AFC Championship game appearance, where they had to overcome a 10-point 4th quarter deficit to defeat the upstart Jaguars. So lets do what I always do with championship games and go position-by-position to see which team has the advantage.

Quarterback

Patriots: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Eagles: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Advantage: Patriots

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Was there really ever any doubt? Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time whether he has protective bandages over his throwing hand or not. While Nick Foles played extremely well in the NFC Championship game, he’s too inconsistent for me to really give him a chance here. And as much as I love Nate Sudfeld, him being the previous Indiana quarterback, he can’t hold a candle to Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was the 49ers starting quarterback to start the season and how many guys can say they have a winning record as a starter for the reborn Browns? Just Hoyer. So this was a pretty easy choice here.

Runningback

Patriots: Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Patriots

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While I do think that the Eagles runningbacks are better rushers, the Patriots runningbacks are far more dynamic and versatile. Ajayi and Blount are good running the football, but they have bricks for hands out of the backfield. They usually have Clement receiving the passes. Lewis, White, and Burkhead are all not only good rushers, but they’re good receiving out of the backfield as well, which is why they’re getting the nod over the Eagles backs.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Patriots: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Advantage: Patriots

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A healthy Julian Edelman would’ve made this an easy choice, but alas, we take what we get. This is probably one of the most balanced receiving groups the Patriots have had since the Moss-Welker days as they have a speedster who can take the top off (Cooks), possession receivers that can move the chains (Hogan and Amendola) and a huge red zone threat (Gronkowski). The Eagles have a similar group of guys (Agholor moving the chains, Smith the speedster, Jeffery the huge red zone threat), but I think the Patriots have utilized them most effectively this season.

Offensive Line

Patriots: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, La’Adrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming

Eagles: Hal Vatai, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson

Advantage: Eagles

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Finally, the Eagles are on the board here and it’s thanks in large part to probably the best right side of an offensive line I think I’ve ever seen. You can make an argument for all three of Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson being the best at their respective spots on the offensive line in the entire NFL. While the Patriots’ O-line is solid, they don’t have nearly enough talent to contend with the Eagles. And imagine if Jason Peters were healthy on the left side. Vatai is the weakest link on either of these offensive lines, but his teammates are so good they make up for his shortcomings.

Defensive Line

Patriots: Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Alan Branch, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Ricky Jean Francois, Eric Lee

Eagles: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Vinny Curry

Advantage: Eagles

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There’s just too much talent on this Eagles defensive front. In fact, I think Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, the starting DT’s, are going to be the most critical pieces if the Eagles hope to beat the Patriots. Brady does pretty well when there’s pressure coming from the tackles but he’s like a deer in the headlights when there’s pressure coming up the middle. Cox and Jernigan are one of the best DT duos in the NFL and they’re going to need to get lots of pressure to stifle Brady. For the Patriots, their defensive line is a patch-up job as they lost a lot of their guys to either free agency in the offseason or to injury and it’s resulted in them being possibly the weakest unit on this team.

Linebacker

Patriots: Kyle Van Noy, James Harrison, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, David Harris

Eagles: Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Dannell Ellerbe, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Advantage: Eagles

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This was probably the closest one to choose from and I debated calling this a tie. But I hate ties so I decided to go with the pure talent aspect and that’s where the Eagles won out. Both teams lost their star middle linebackers midway through the seasons (Dont’a Hightower for the Patriots, Jordan Hicks for the Eagles) and they’ve both been trying to get by with the pieces they have. While Van Noy is having a career year, the talent around him in Elandon Roberts and a 39 year-old James Harrison doesn’t quite stack up to what the Eagles have in Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham.

Secondary

Patriots: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Johnson Bademosi, Brandon King, Jordan Richards

Eagles: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Rodney McLeod

Advantage: Patriots

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It was a tale of two halves of the season for the Patriots’ secondary and no better was it personified than in the play of Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore looked lost in Matt Patricia’s system his first few weeks, as he would blow coverage after coverage while the Patriots would get lit up by quarterbacks that probably shouldn’t be doing so. He suffered a concussion midway through the year and after he returned, he’s been his old Pro Bowl-caliber self, locking down any receiver that he’s matched up on. Eric Rowe has also been a bright spot in this secondary as well and it’s interesting to note that the Patriots acquired him from the Eagles in a trade a couple years ago after a poor showing to start his career in Philly. For the Eagles, their secondary is considered their weak spot as their cornerbacks in particular have been very inconsistent this season.

Specialists

Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jake Elliott, Donnie Jones, Nelson Agholor, Rick Lovato, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Eagles

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I’d probably give this a tie to the kickers and punters, as both units for both teams have been very solid this season. The thing that puts the Eagles over the top is Kenjon Barner as their return man. While he isn’t Devin Hester by any means, Barner would definitely be an upgrade over Lewis and Amendola as returners.

Coaching

Patriots: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia

Eagles: Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz

Advantage: Patriots

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Got to go with the Patriots here for obvious reasons. While it can’t be overstated the job that Pederson and company have done with this Eagles team, it’s Bill Belichick for Christ’s sake. Plus, he’s got two head coaches serving as his coordinators in McDaniels and Patricia, who will be taking over the Colts and Lions respectively after this game ends.

Scoreboard: Patriots 5, Eagles 4

No need to even watch the game now, congratulations to the Patriots on their sixth Super Bowl victory. As a Pats fan, I pray I don’t regret that sentence. This will be my third championship prediction segment, first time around I picked the Dodgers to win the World Series (I was wrong) then I picked Alabama to win the CFP National Championship (I was right). So really there isn’t anything to suggest how this is going to go based on my picks. Let me know who you think is going to win the Super Bowl in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Conference Championship Picks

So it’s come down to this. The final 4 teams left with a shot at Super Bowl LII on the line. The New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, and Minnesota Vikings are the only teams left standing after a grueling NFL season. It’s also possibly the most interesting group of quarterbacks remaining as well, as it’s down to Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum. One is the greatest of all time, one is basically a meme at this point in his career, and the other two were backup quarterbacks when the season started. So let’s see who I think will go to the Super Bowl. One quick thing to note if you’re a gambling man. I’m 2-6 in the postseason so far. I’ve gone 1-3 in each round, including being winless in all of my NFC picks (the only ones I’ve hit were Jags-Bills and Pats-Titans). So take what I say with a grain of salt.

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) vs New England Patriots (13-3)

The Jaguars showed up to play in the AFC Divisional Round against the Steelers while Pittsburgh was thinking about New England. In fact, there has been so much dysfunction in that organization that one has to wonder if Mike Tomlin’s job is safe or not. But that’s for another blog entirely. But the Jaguars have had an incredible turnaround after having gone 3-13 last season. Doug Marrone has done a terrific job in his first year at the helm in Jacksonville and the biggest part of that resurgence has been the defense. Despite the fact that they gave up 42 points last week, I still thought the Jaguars defense played well. On all four of Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown throws, he had to squeeze the ball into the tightest of windows or drop a perfect deep ball right into his receiver’s lap. The one rushing touchdown was a weird lateral play to Le’Veon Bell that I think would’ve caught most defenses off guard anyway. Plus, Yannick Ngakoue’s strip sack of Roethlisberger resulting in a Telvin Smith scoop-and-score was the point of no return in my opinion, especially considering Pittsburgh had been gaining some momentum. Meanwhile the Patriots started off slowly against the Titans, trailing 7-0 after the first quarter and their offense looked pretty stagnant. Then Tom Brady remembered that it was the Titans and the offense got their act together and dropped 35 unanswered en route to a 35-14 win. The defense played great, particularly the pass rush, which hasn’t been a strong suit for New England. They registered 8 sacks, bullying Jack Conklin’s injury replacement seemingly the moment he stepped into the game. The Patriots open this game as double-digit favorites, however things aren’t going as smoothly as one might expect. Tom Brady is dealing with a bum right hand after a teammate (which we just found out was Rex Burkhead) ran into it and created a lot of pain for the 5-time champ. The fact that it was Burkhead that caused the injury tells me that perhaps it occurred on a botched handoff in practice rather than some defender not respecting the red jersey. Jacksonville’s defense is a scary one to face when you aren’t 100% but if anybody can do it, it’s Tom Brady. However it does level the playing field a bit, as before it was unthinkable to ask Blake Bortles to defeat Tom Brady, but now that Brady isn’t at his best, it seems to be a more realistic belief for the Jaguars to reach the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl. I’m anticipating a lot of dinks and dunks from New England, particularly to runningbacks such as Burkhead and James White, whom I think will be the X factors in this game. I’ve got New England winning it just simply because I don’t think that Jacksonville will be able to score enough points to top the Patriots, who will be headed to the Super Bowl for the third time in 4 years and 8th time overall under the Brady-Belichick regime.

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Projected Score: Patriots 23 Jaguars 17

Minnesota Vikings (13-3) vs Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The ending of the NFC Divisional Round between the Vikings and Saints was probably the craziest ending I’ve ever seen in a football game. While I was watching it and saw Case Keenum heave the ball toward the sideline, I immediately figured Stefon Diggs would go for a toe-tapper to stop the clock with about 3 seconds left. He turned upfield and I thought to myself “what the Hell are you doing?!” until I realized there was only green grass ahead of him after Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams whiffed on the hit. Diggs scored the walkoff touchdown as time expired and perhaps the greatest moment in Vikings history (so far) had been cemented. One thing to say before I get to this matchup: lay off of Marcus Williams. That could’ve been anybody. It looked to me like he was trying to balance a lot of things with that tackle attempt. First of all, no, he was not going for the knockout hit like an idiot. Anybody watching could see that. He also had to make sure he didn’t get there too early or else it would be pass interference, the ball would be placed at the spot of the foul, which was well within Vikings kicker Kai Forbath’s range, and the clock would’ve stopped and he’d still be the pariah. Plus, he wanted to make sure that he tackled Diggs in bounds so that the clock would tick down to zero since the Vikings had no timeouts left to stop it. However, all those things racing through his mind appeared to throw him off his game because it amounted to nothing as he missed the tackle and Diggs trotted into the endzone, ending New Orleans’ season. Now onto the matchup itself, the Vikings will look to host the Super Bowl with a victory over the Eagles after a pretty unlikely season. After Sam Bradford torched the Saints in Week 1, it looked like it would be him that would lead the Vikings charge. However he got injured in practice, forcing Case Keenum into the starting lineup. Keenum has pretty much entered journeyman status at this point in the league, getting opportunities in both Houston with the Texans and St. Louis/Los Angeles with the Rams before being forced out of both. He was seemingly on his last legs in Minnesota and likely would’ve been the third string quarterback there had Teddy Bridgewater not still been recovering from a gruesome ACL injury a year prior. But there he was in the starting lineup and he played great, throwing for 3547 yards, 22 TD’s and only 7 INT’s with a quarterback rating of 98.3. There was a brief moment where the Vikings tried to reinsert Bradford into the starting lineup, but Bradford clearly wasn’t ready and Keenum was able to save the game by beating the Bears. They face an Eagles team who is also on their backup quarterback in Nick Foles. Carson Wentz had been fantastic all year for the Eagles heading into their Week 14 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. He was arguably the frontrunner for NFL MVP and had the Eagles at 10-2. Then he tore his ACL diving for the goalline and Nick Foles had to be inserted into the lineup. It had been a mixed bag for Foles as Eagles starter. He played well in the Eagles’ comeback victory over the Giants in his first start, was unimpressive in their Week 16 win over the Raiders, and downright sucked in Week 17 against the Cowboys before being sat for Nate Sudfeld. Eagles fans were a little tense about how Foles would play in the Divisional Round against the defending NFC champion Falcons and their fears were not consoled very well when he threw a duck on his first pass that got knocked down by the wind. Foles recovered nicely, though, and finished the game with a solid line of 23-30 for 246 yards with no TD’s and no turnovers. The Eagles were able to come away with a 15-10 victory over the Falcons after some poor playcalling by Atlanta doomed them on the final drive. Both the Eagles and Vikings feature very impressive defenses that helped carry the team through their occasional offensive struggles and I expect a low-scoring affair in this one. However I do believe that the Vikings will prevail in this and will take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LII in their home stadium.

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Projected Score: Vikings 20 Eagles 14

That’s going to do it for my Conference Championship picks. I’m predicting it will be Patriots-Vikings for the Lombardi Trophy. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Is There Legitimate Concern Over Tom Brady’s Right Hand?

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It was recently reported that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s hand was run into by a teammate during Patriots practice and he had to undergo an MRI. As of now, the player responsible for hitting Brady’s hand is unknown, likely for his own safety. According to reports, Brady should be fine and ready to go for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars but that hasn’t stopped the media from firing in articles suggesting the Patriots should panic. Now to be clear. The hand in question is his throwing hand and could be catastrophic for the Patriots if he is indeed unable to go because he is unable to throw a football. But his teammates seem to not be all that worried. In interviews carried out by NESN, when asked about how Brady looks, safety Devin McCourty stated that “Tom looks excellent every day. One of the best-looking people I’ve ever met. When you look at Tom, the facial region, it’s hard to look at anything else. So I really only saw his face.”

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy added “Tom always looks good. He’s handsome and he’s good at football.”

So with McCourty and Van Noy both echoing the sentiments of every single New Englander, it appears that Brady will be fine. But what if he’s not?

Well knowing Brady, I’m willing to bet that you’d have to carry him out in a coffin for him to miss this game. But Jacksonville is the worst defense to face when you’re not at 100%. They’re fast, they’re physical, and they can wreck any gameplan you set up against them. Sure, the Steelers did drop 42 points on them in the Divisional Round and Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers managed to drop 44. But watch where each quarterback is placing his passes in both games. Those were VERY small holes that they were fitting their passes into. Watching those games, it seemed to me that it was more Roethlisberger and Garoppolo throwing the ball extremely well rather than poor defense by the Jaguars. And how will this hand injury affect Brady’s ability to put the ball where he wants it? I’m really not sure if he’ll be able to. Unless he tells his brain to not feel the pain in his right hand like the TB12 Method would suggest. If anyone can do it, Brady can, though.

But if he does struggle and the Jaguars start bashing him around, I wouldn’t put it past Bill Belichick to sit Brady in favor of a totally healthy Brian Hoyer. Belichick’s known to be the type of guy who doesn’t care what your name is, he wants the best 11 for each situation on the field at all times. If Brady isn’t at his best and Belichick feels Hoyer might be better, he typically doesn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Kinda like what Nick Saban did with Jalen Hurts and Tua in the National Championship.

There’s no doubt in my mind Brady plays this game with the hand injury. It’s just a matter of if he finishes it. Though if he doesn’t play, the final four quarterbacks remaining in the playoffs will be Nick Foles, Case Keenum, Blake Bortles, and Brian Hoyer. My God, one of those men has to win a Super Bowl.

That’s going to do it for this blog. Yes, I know it was a short one, but I’m really digging for topics at this point and I already took a day off a couple days ago and I’d like to avoid multiple days off in a week if I can help it. You can voice your fears about Brady’s hand in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Divisional Round Picks: Day 1

The Wild Card Round was rough for my picks segments, as the only game I hit on was Jaguars-Bills (one of the worst playoff games I’ve ever had the privilege to miss most of due to being on a plane). But now the winners of those games face the teams that had a week to prepare for them but history has shown that it’s not always a guarantee the team with the extra week will win. So with that, let’s get to the picks.

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) vs Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The Falcons dispatched an inexperienced Rams team in Los Angeles in their 26-13 victory. The Rams special teams unit made botch after botch, most of them revolving around Pharoh Cooper and the Falcons managed to take advantage. They take on an Eagles team that is actually quite similar statistically. The Eagles averaged exactly one more yard per game than the Falcons did offensively and defensively both teams sport top 10 defenses. The Eagles were the talk of the NFL for most of the year, getting out to a 10-1 start and finishing the year as the 1 seed in a stacked NFC at 13-3. Quarterback Carson Wentz was having an MVP-caliber year and may be the favorite had he not torn his ACL in the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Rams in Week 14. Nick Foles has been the Eagles quarterback since then and he hasn’t been particularly great, just good enough to get the job done. The Eagles were 2-1 in his starts, the one loss being when he didn’t play a whole lot in Week 17 against the Cowboys and was sat to rest in favor of former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who actually finished with the highest completion percentage amongst quarterbacks playing their first game at 83% (minimum 20 attempts). Foles’ line as starter was 47-87 for 439 yards with 5 TD’s and 2 INT’s in 3 starts, which isn’t awful overall, but it’s a far cry from what Carson Wentz was doing. The Eagles’ rushing attack was also quietly very good, as the stable of LeGarrette Blount, midseason acquisition Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood combined to be the 3rd best rushing attack in the NFL. They also got a potentially career-saving year out of Nelson Agholor at receiver and a breakout season from tight end Zach Ertz. Defensively, the Eagles thrived under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who may be in line for his second head coaching gig when all is said and done. They were 4th overall in scoring and total yards and were best in the NFL at stopping the run. However I think they’re going to run into some problems against the Falcons. They’re going to have to ask Nick Foles to keep up with the reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan and I just don’t think he’ll be able to do that. It’s not 2013 where that isn’t so ridiculous a thought (seriously, go back and look at Foles’ stats when he was the Eagles’ starter in 2013. He was fantastic). But despite how good the Eagles have been defensively overall, stopping the pass has been more of a weak point for them, as they’re only average at that (17th against the pass). Their corners will have a hard time stopping the trio of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel. Plus, the Falcons were a top-10 defense this season and have guys that can fly around the field and cause problems for the Philly offense. I’m actually going to pick the Falcons to advance to the NFC championship game for the second consecutive year. However had Carson Wentz been healthy, I think this might be a different story.

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Projected Score: Falcons 27 Eagles 20

Tennessee Titans (9-7) vs New England Patriots (13-3)

What a game between the Titans and Chiefs. I expected the Chiefs to win in a bloodbath, which it looked like they were well on their way to doing. However Travis Kelce suffering a concussion late in the first half plus a lack of touches for Kareem Hunt really hurt the Chiefs as the game went along and allowed the Titans to creep back into the game. It was 21-3 at halftime in favor of the Chiefs, then Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass to himself and momentum seemed to swing in the exact opposite direction. The Titans were able to pull out a 22-21 victory over the Chiefs and will take on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The Patriots had a year that seemed akin to their 2014 run with a blend of 2015 in it. They got off to a slow 2-2 start to the point where everyone was questioning if this was the year the Patriots would finally fall off. But then the Patriots remembered they’re the Patriots and finished the year going 11-1 and seemingly fixing every problem they had in the first four games. Except there’s one little blemish for New England that makes there some resemblance to the 2015 team: injuries. It started with Julian Edelman tearing his ACL in a preseason game against the Lions and it hasn’t let up since. The list of Patriots on IR include Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, Marcus Cannon, Derek Rivers, Malcolm Mitchell, Vincent Valentine, Shea McClellin, Cyrus Jones, Nate Ebner, and Martellus Bennett. That’s a lot of key contributors. But the Patriots have had guys step up in big ways. Kyle Van Noy was able to adequately fill the void left by Hightower’s injury. The combination of La’Adrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming have adequately filled in for Cannon. The Patriots have continued to follow their “next man up” mantra and it has helped them finish near the top in the NFL in many major categories. They’re the #2 scoring offense, #1 in total yards, #2 in passing, #10 in rushing, and #5 in scoring defense despite being #29 in yards allowed. That’s the definition of a bend-but-don’t-break defense right there. One of the breakout stars for the Patriots has been Dion Lewis, who has reinvented himself from just a scat back that was used as a change of pace to an all-around back that isn’t afraid to run through defenders from time to time. In fact, Lewis led the NFL in rushing in the second half of the season to finish with 896 yards rushing on just 180 carries (5 yards per carry). I’m predicting in this game that Lewis will again be a big factor in a Patriots victory over the Titans to advance to their 7th straight AFC Championship game against either the Steelers or the Jaguars.

at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Projected Score: Patriots 30 Titans 17

That’s going to do it for my picks for day one of the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Let me know what you think about this slate of games in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.