Hot Stove Roundup

Two players from my Top 10 Free Agent Rankings came off the market among several other moves that were made on Friday. Seems that the signing of Shohei Ohtani by the Angels really did open up the floodgates. So let’s take a look at who’s headed where.

Carlos Santana signs with the Phillies

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This was the big surprise move for me, though I can’t say I’m too shocked to see the Phillies actively searching for some talent now that all those albatross contracts are finally off the books. Though I am surprised that Santana chose the Phillies in this situation. Santana signed a 3-year $60 million deal with a $17.5 million club option for a fourth year with the Phillies, who are coming off a last place finish in the NL East and had the second worst record in the National League. Santana was a part of a winning organization in the Indians prior to this, where he was a big part of their lineup that had the best record in 2017 and nearly won a World Series in 2016. Santana has been one of those guys that, along with some good power, has had a keen eye for the plate. He is coming off a season that featured a 13.2% walk rate, which was the lowest of his career but still ranked 18th in all of baseball. He’s got good power if he does get his pitch as well, as he’s hit 57 home runs over the last two seasons while being a well-above average defender at first base, which is where he will likely slot in with the Phillies. Santana will likely supplant the incumbent Tommy Joseph at first, who underwhelmed in the starting role, as he only hit .240 with a .289 OBP though he showed some good pop with 22 home runs. In addition to the signing of Santana, the Phillies are trading shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres for a minor league prospect, opening the door for top prospect JP Crawford to take over as the full-time shortstop. Here’s what a potential Phillies lineup would look like with Santana.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. JP Crawford-SS

3. Rhys Hoskins-LF

4. Carlos Santana-1B

5. Aaron Altherr-RF

6. Maikel Franco-3B

7. Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp-C

8. Cesar Hernandez-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Still not an imposing lineup by any stretch, but one that definitely looks a lot better than last year with the addition of Santana and the emergence of Hoskins. Santana’s ability to draw walks gives new manager Gabe Kapler a lot of different lineup combinations to play with, as he often batted leadoff for Terry Francona in Cleveland because of his great eye. With how bad most of the NL East is outside of Washington, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Phillies quietly emerge as the second best team in the division. Though it is equally likely that they could finish last again. Such is the NL East. As for the Tribe, there’s a bit of a hole at first base, though I think part of last year’s Edwin Encarnacion signing was in preparation for this. If they want to have Encarnacion return to first base, that gives Francona a bunch of options at DH, such as Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, or Hell, even Jason Kipnis if you want to go with Jose Ramirez at 2B and Giovanny Urshela at 3B (which is the better defensive rotation). Lots of options for Tito to work with despite losing a big bat.

Zack Cozart signs with the Angels

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Anaheim strikes again. This time, they sign Zack Cozart away from the Cincinnati Reds and will move him from shortstop to third base because of obvious Andrelton Simmons-related reasons. Cozart was a guy I highlighted in my Free Agent rankings and I mentioned that he’s had some really good seasons at the plate the last couple of years that have each been cut short due to injury. But when healthy, Cozart is a pretty underrated hitter who was finally getting some recognition, as he was voted to the All Star Game in 2017. In 122 games, Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI and was worth 5 WAR. Had a bigger-name player put up those numbers, they’d be receiving a $100 million contract but because it’s Cozart and he’s not nearly as big a household name, his deal is for 3 years and $38 million. However age might be a concern in the near future, as he is finally truly breaking out at the age of 32, which may explain the lighter contract a little better.I feel like I do this Angels lineup a lot, but here is what the Angels look like with Cozart in the mix.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Zack Cozart-3B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Albert Pujols-1B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

If you were to tell me back in 2011 that Albert Pujols would be the weakest link in his starting lineup headed into 2018, I’d say that’s about as likely as the Houston Astros winning a World Series. Well well we live in a VERY different world today than we did in 2011 as we can plainly see and this Angels team on paper should compete with anybody in baseball. That being said, the pitching staff NEEDS to stay healthy, that’s the real key here. The Halos will score runs, I have no doubt about that. But preventing runs is going to be a struggle if something isn’t done about their pitching, in the starting staff and the bullpen.

Matt Moore traded to the Rangers

XXX at Chase Field on September 26, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The San Francisco Giants traded Matt Moore to the Texas Rangers for some prospects in what was likely a salary dump. Moore is set to make $19 million over the next two years and that’s a lot of money to pay the guy who had the worst ERA amongst qualifiers, which is a shame too because this is a guy who showed a lot of promise in Tampa. He was supposed to become their ace, as he started a playoff game so early in his career that he seemed destined for great things. But then injuries became a factor, as Moore underwent Tommy John surgery not long after making that playoff start after only 9 career innings in the Major Leagues. Upon returning, he had a solid season in 2013, going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts. But injuries struck again as he was only able to make 2 starts in 2014 due to injury. Things just never took off. Eventually, he was traded to the Giants for Matt Duffy. Moore struggled in a Giants uniform, though he managed to stay healthy in his year and a half by the bay. Hopefully this newfound health can help him discover a rhythm and he can find some consistency. If he can, then the Rangers will have a steal on their hands because this guy is as talented as they come.

Yankees are discussing a Gerrit Cole Trade with the Pirates

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Hey, Yankees. Could you fuck off? As if it wasn’t bad enough that the Yankees already acquired Giancarlo Stanton for a bag of peanuts, they’re being linked to the likes of Manny Machado and now Gerrit Cole. Cole has some of the best stuff I’ve seen out of a righty in the Majors. His fastball consistently hits around 96 while his breaking pitches are absolutely ferocious. Cole had a down year in 2017, as he pitched to a 4.26 ERA but that was due in large part to the fact he let up a lot of home runs, as his 1.37 home runs per 9 innings was 15th in the Majors. PNC Park is relatively hitter-friendly in general but if you were to put him in Yankee Stadium, that could spell disaster for the righty. However, in order to hit a home run, you still gotta hit the baseball. Cole is more than capable of 200 strikeout seasons, which he achieved in his excellent 2015 season and nearly achieved in 2017 (196). He missed a large portion of 2016 due to injury. The package being rumored to be involved in a potential Cole trade includes Clint Frazier, who is one of the brighter youngsters the Yankees have in their system. He’s kind of in a logjam in the outfield at the moment, as Judge, Gardner, Ellsbury, Hicks, and Stanton are all likely going to have priority over him. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s outfield has underachieved and the Pirates appear to be shopping basically everybody, so there could be an opening for Frazier. Cole was initially drafted out of high school by the Yankees with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2008 draft but he elected to go to college at UCLA and was the number 1 pick of the 2011 draft by the Pirates, so the Yankees do have some familiarity with the righty. I would just hate to have to face him several times a year.

Also Fernando Rodney has a job again, as the Twins signed him to a 1-year deal for $4.5 million with incentives that could push it to $6 million with an option for 2019. This seems to happen every year, as Rodney will have an awful year, hit free agency, get picked up immediately, then have an otherworldly year, then sign with a new team and repeat the process. I’m not even going to try and guess how many times this guy has changed uniforms in the last 5 years. That wraps up another edition of the Hot Stove. Let me know who you think might be next to get off the market in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NFL Picks: Week 14

Last Week: 12-4                 Season Record: 103-58

Last week my misses were Giants-Redskins, Lions-Ravens, Buccaneers-Packers, and Eagles-Seahawks. For the Thursday night game, I picked the Saints, who of course lost to the Falcons. So my shot at a perfect week in the NFL still eludes me regardless of how this week goes. Let’s get picking.

Indianapolis Colts (3-9) vs Buffalo Bills (6-6)

With a Bills loss, the Patriots will clinch the AFC East for the ninth consecutive season. They face a Colts team that has been pretty disastrous this season so I don’t think it will be likely, the Patriots will have to earn that division crown with a win on Monday Night against the Dolphins. The Colts have the worst offensive line in football and this potent defense will be living in the backfield.

Projected Score: Bills 27 Colts 10

Minnesota Vikings (10-2) vs Carolina Panthers (8-4)

The Panthers are in a fight for a wild card spot right now, as the Falcons and Seahawks are in a slugfest with them for the final two spots with the Packers potentially lurking with a potential Aaron Rodgers return. The Vikings are about as difficult a team in football to beat, which hasn’t been done since Week 4, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. Both teams pride themselves on tough, physical defenses but I’m going to give the edge to the Vikings. They’ve been much more consistent offensively than the Panthers and I trust them a little bit more to move the ball against a good defense.

Projected Score: Vikings 23 Panthers 20

Chicago Bears (3-9) vs Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

That was quite an embarrassing loss for the Bears last week. Not only did they lose to the 10-loss 49ers, but all of the 49ers points were scored via field goals kicked by a longtime kicker they had cut in Robbie Gould. Not a good look. The Bengals are also coming off a tough loss against the Steelers that is better remembered for how brutal it was, prayers go out to Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier and his family. The Bengals blew a 17-0 lead and lost 23-20 on a last-second field goal. They nearly lost safety George Iloka to a suspension for this game but he was able to get it reduced to a fine upon appeal. However they will be losing Adam “Pacman” Jones for the rest of the season due to injury. Vontaze Burfict and Joe Mixon will also miss this game due to injury. So a lot to deal with for the Bengals at the moment and for that reason I’m actually going to pick the Bears to get the win.

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Projected Score: Bears 17 Bengals 13

Green Bay Packers (6-6) vs Cleveland Browns (0-12)

This game is interesting mainly because of the shit people in the Browns organization are talking. New GM John Dorsey has gone as far as to guarantee a victory this week! Pretty bold claim coming from a team that’s 0-12. They wouldn’t dare make this claim if Aaron Rodgers were healthy, but Brett Hundley has had a couple nice games during his stint in the starting role. We also saw the Browns compete against a hot Chargers team last week and Josh Gordon looked pretty good in his return from suspension. But I’m still going with the Packers to win.  They’re just all-around better than the Browns. Yes I know, any given Sunday, but come on now. Of course, any time I make a comment like that, it bites me in the ass. Sooooooooo…

Projected Score: Packers 35 Browns 17

San Francisco 49ers (2-10) vs Houston Texans (4-8)

Jimmy Garoppolo won his first start as the 49ers quarterback over the Bears but it came without San Francisco reaching the end zone. That’s going to be an issue because even though the Texans are without many of their stars on defense, they still hold their own very well. I think this is going to be a low-scoring game, both teams have had their struggles on offense and I can’t imagine either team really exploding on the scoreboard. I’m going to give the advantage to the Texans in this one, I trust their defense to make more plays, plus they have more weapons on offense to go to, namely DeAndre Hopkins.

Projected Score: Texans 20 49ers 13

Oakland Raiders (6-6) vs Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

The last time these two teams met, Derek Carr found Michael Crabtree by the pylon for the win in their fifth attempt at a victory to end that game. Since then, the Chiefs have been in an absolute tailspin, as overall they’ve lost 6 of their last 7 after having started the year 5-0. They haven’t been able to make the needed adjustments and it’s really hurting them. Marcus Peters was suspended by the team for this game after throwing the official’s flag into the stands and that’s going to hurt because they struggled to cover Robby Anderson last week, now you’re asking them to cover Amari Cooper and Crabtree without their best corner. I’ve got the Raiders taking the division lead.

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Projected Score: Raiders 30 Chiefs 20

Detroit Lions (6-6) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)

The Lions come off a bad loss to the Ravens and will look to get back on track against the Buccaneers. They’re on the outside looking in on the playoffs as they’ve lost 6 of their last 9 after a promising start to the season. Tampa Bay has Jameis Winston back but it didn’t matter as they still lost to the Brett Hundley-led Packers. This season hasn’t gone the way either team would’ve liked and they’re both looking for some sort of redemption. I’m going with the Lions this week, Jameis Winston hasn’t been taking good care of the football this season and I think this Lions defense will have ample opportunity to take advantage.

Projected Score: Lions 24 Buccaneers 17

Dallas Cowboys (6-6) vs New York Giants (2-10)

The Giants fired Ben McAdoo shortly after the Giants loss to the Raiders last week and interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s first move at the helm was reinserting Eli Manning into the starting role. So basically benching him for Geno Smith was pointless. It’s just a disastrous situation in East Rutherford. The Cowboys are coming off a thrashing of the Redskins but that was more the Redskins playing like shit than the Cowboys being particularly good. I am going to take them this week, though. Say what you will about this season for them, at least there’s some functionality in Big D.

Projected Score: Cowboys 35 Giants 14

Tennessee Titans (8-4) vs Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

Like I said last week, the Titans are probably the weakest team with this good a record I’ve seen in a long time. There’s just no way they should be the 3-seed right now. And now they get a Cardinals team that just got their asses curb stomped by the Rams. But I actually think Arizona is going to win this game. They’re a feisty group that is capable of beating up on the likes of Tennessee, which they did against Jacksonville a couple weeks ago.

Projected Score: Cardinals 27 Titans 24

New York Jets (5-7) vs Denver Broncos (3-9)

The Jets have to be the worst tankers ever. They continue to win their way out of a high draft pick. A lot of credit has to go to Todd Bowles for this season because even though they have a losing record, they’ve far exceeded all expectations. Hell, people were predicting them to go 0-16 for crying out loud. Now they take on the Broncos, who offensively have been an utter trainwreck this year and at this point are playing to try and land either Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. I’m taking the Jets to come out of Mile High with this one.

Projected Score: Jets 21 Broncos 14

Washington Redskins (5-7) vs Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

The Redskins were absolutely god-awful on Thursday Night Football last week and they promptly got their asses whipped by the Cowboys. It gets a lot tougher this week when they face the Chargers, who are suddenly one of the hottest teams in football. After starting the year 0-4, they’ve won 6 of their last 8 and are suddenly in a 3-way tie for first place in the division. In fact, the Chargers’ 2 losses during their stretch run were the Patriots and the Jaguars, two teams that will be playing in January. The defense has quietly been one of the best in football, which is a big reason for this in-season turnaround. I’ve got the Chargers winning this one.

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Projected Score: Chargers 28 Redskins 24

Seattle Seahawks (8-4) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

This is going to be a really fun game. Both teams have physical and opportunistic defenses that create a lot of turnovers and can deliver some brutal shots. The Seahawks got a big win over the Eagles last week, as Russell Wilson officially entered his name into the MVP discussion. He played out of his mind in that game. The Jaguars have been a ground and pound team all season with Leonard Fournette and have been winning these games despite Blake Bortles not having a particularly strong season. I am going to give the edge to the Seahawks in this game, quarterback play being the deciding factor.

Projected Score: Seahawks 27 Jaguars 21

Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) vs Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Brace yourselves, commentators comparing Carson Wentz and Jared Goff is coming. But that’s only natural, as Goff and Wentz went 1 and 2, respectively in the 2016 NFL Draft. Their careers will forever be linked, just as Winston and Mariota’s are, or Manning and Leaf’s. Both guys have taken huge leaps forward this season as Carson Wentz is a leading candidate for MVP while Sean McVay has saved Jared Goff’s career after a really poor rookie season. Both teams also have really good defenses so I expect this thing to come down to the wire. But I’m going with the Eagles this week, bouncing back from a loss. This is a gut feeling, as I can really see this thing going either way. Plus, a win here wins the division for the birds.

Projected Score: Eagles 31 Rams 28

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

The Ravens are coming off a beatdown of the Lions while the Steelers are coming off a Monday Night brawl with the Bengals. Both teams seem to be at their best when they play each other so I’m expecting another good, hard-fought contest between them. The Ravens defense is back to their usual tricks, beating up on the rest of the league as Terrell Suggs continues to defy father time, as he’s over 10 sacks again in his age-35 season. But it’s their offense that worries me. I just don’t think they have the consistency or the weapons to keep up with this explosive Steelers offense, even without the aid of Juju Smith-Schuster, who is suspended for a hit on Vontaze Burfict. I’m going with the Steelers.

Projected Score: Steelers 24 Ravens 13

New England Patriots (10-2) vs Miami Dolphins (5-7)

The Patriots will be without Rob Gronkowski this week, who is serving a 1-game suspension for his cheap shot on Bills corner Tre’Davious White. A lot of people are calling bullshit on that decision and are saying he should’ve gotten more games because his late and clearly intentional hit gave the Bills rookie a concussion, but I’m going to say simmer down to those people. While yes, the hit by Gronk was totally uncalled for and has no place in the game, I think 1 game was the right call. It’s to make up for the fact that the officials didn’t eject him (which they should have). Besides, where were all these calls for heads when AJ Green choke slammed Jalen Ramsey? It’s because Green was ejected in that game (also because Gronk is a member of the Patriots, people will feel that the punishment handed down is never enough). I’m still going to go with the Pats in this one. They’re just the Dolphins’ daddy. If my predictions come true, then the Patriots and Steelers will clash next week with both teams at 11-2. Too hyped.

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Projected Score: Patriots 38 Dolphins 17

That’s it for my picks segment this week. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Angels sign Shohei Ohtani

Finally, the first domino of the MLB offseason has fallen. After the Marlins traded Dee Gordon to the Mariners for a bunch of prospects, it seemed like only a matter of time before the floodgates opened. Well, they have, as the Anaheim Angels have signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani just a day after Gordon was traded. Ohtani is probably the most intriguing player to come out of Japan since Ichiro mainly because of the prospect of his being a 2-way player. Not only can he hit 100 mph with his fastball on the mound, but he is also very capable of hitting a baseball a very long way.

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Ohtani has been a professional baseball player for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League since he was 18 years old. When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing the outfield there. His best all-around season was easily his 2016 season, as he hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI, while on the mound he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and struck out 174 batters over 140 innings. So naturally, when it was made public that he had intentions to play overseas in the United States, Major League Baseball got interested.

It was a very interesting signing process, as Ohtani would tell several high profile teams that he didn’t want to play for them, most notably the Red Sox, Yankees, and Twins, all of whom made the postseason in 2017. He even put the Phillies in a bodybag with this comment.

There was some backlash from fans and some members of the media, many of whom criticized Ohtani for being arrogant and seeming to not care so much about winning. Eventually, he narrowed his list down to 7 teams: the Angels, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Giants. Last I had heard, it appeared that the Mariners were the frontrunners to acquire the talented star, which didn’t surprise me as the Mariners had always been a preferred destination for Japanese players, as it is the closest team to their home country (Ichiro and Kenji Johjima come to mind as well as a few others whose names I’m spacing on). This was as recently as Friday morning, just hours before it was reported he was signing with Anaheim.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Ohtani had made his decision and will be signing with the Anaheim Angels (I refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after all these years because that’s stupid. They’re in Anaheim. They’ve been called the Anaheim Angels. What’s the point of putting Los Angeles in front?). Reportedly one of the deal makers for Ohtani was a Facetime call with Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout, who couldn’t meet in person because his wedding is today. It’s unknown what Trout said, but it must have been really convincing because the Angels were never really considered to be favorites to land Ohtani. The most in international bonus money they can offer is around $2.3 million, which is significantly less than what the Mariners and Rangers could have offered. Ohtani’s booking fee is less than the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, luckily for the Angels, as it’s only around $20 million, whereas the former two had booking fees of around $50 million each. As of right now, we don’t know what his actual contract is going to be, but I doubt it’s going to be anywhere near what other Japanese superstars have gotten based on the most recent CBA.

So where does Ohtani fit in with the Angels? It’s hard to say, really. They’d be fools not to give him a chance to be a two-way player so it will certainly be intriguing to see how manager Mike Scioscia decides to use him. He’s battled injuries throughout his career in Japan so he’s a guy they may want to keep a close eye on health-wise. I have a feeling that being a two-way player may have something to do with his injury history and it could impact him greatly in the Major Leagues. I think after enough DL stints, Scioscia will decide enough is enough and have him stick to one or the other. But for the beginning of the year, at least, he will more than likely do both. It’s likely that he will be in the starting rotation for much of the year and in games he doesn’t pitch in, we could see him DH for the Halos, allowing him to go through a normal regimen for a starting pitcher while also getting a few hacks in. I doubt he’ll see much time in the field, as the Angels already have one of the better outfields in baseball, with Mike Trout in centerfield, Justin Upton in left, and Kole Calhoun in right. Albert Pujols is currently the DH but the only reason he’s still on the roster right now is because of that monstrous contract. If Scioscia really wants to keep him in the lineup, that will likely bump the incumbent CJ Cron from his duties at first base. It seems that Cron is the odd man out in this situation and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded sometime in the near future. Cron is only 27 years old and is making the Major League minimum right now, so you can bet there will be teams calling GM Billy Eppler about him. Here’s what the Angels lineup would look like with Otani:

1. Andrelton Simmons-SS

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

4. Albert Pujols-1B

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Kole Calhoun-RF

7. Luis Valbuena-3B

8. Martin Maldonado-C

9. Jefry Marte-2B

That has the potential to be a very formidable lineup. It’s also worth mentioning that on days that Ohtani is pitching, the Angels could decline their option to use a DH and have him bat for himself. People often forget the DH in the AL isn’t mandatory, it’s an option that’s given to each team, but naturally they use it because most pitchers aren’t exactly Shohei Ohtani with a bat in hand. As for the starting rotation, it would look something like this:

1. Garrett Richards

2. Shohei Ohtani

3. Matt Shoemaker

4. Tyler Skaggs

5. Andrew Heaney

Not as formidable-looking, but it has the potential to be very good if these guys can stay healthy (which has been a MAJOR issue for this bunch the last couple years). Personally, I think Ohtani is better as a pitcher, as his fastball can hit as high as 102 mph with a splitter/sinker that just falls off the table at the end. He was also most consistently good as a pitcher in Japan, as his highest batting average outside of his 2016 season is .274, while his ERA has consistently been under 3 since his rookie year. The main issue for this kid has been health, as he missed a large chunk of his 2017 season due to injury. But when healthy, this is what he can do (just a heads up, it’s long as shit, about 22 minutes).

So that ends one of the more interesting free agent sagas of recent memory. Once the details of his contract are finalized, we can get back into focusing on what other high profile players will do, which I’m chomping at the bit for because the highest-profile free agent to sign with a new team so far is Doug Fister with the Rangers. Not exactly what I’d call earth-shaking.

Also, what is the deal with the spelling of his last name? Every site I go to that talks about this guy, they either spell his last name “Otani” without the ‘h’ or “Ohtani” with the ‘h.’ For this blog, I went with the ‘h’ because that was how it was spelled on the back of his jersey in the video I embedded. But seriously, try googling both spellings. Google doesn’t correct you for the wrong one. If anybody knows why that is, PLEASE tell me, because it is so confusing to me.

So this is what a Saturday is like without college football picks. I know, I did promise I would do a whole Army-Navy segment before, but when I got to writing it, I came to the realization that I don’t know nearly enough about them to do the kind of blog I wanted to do. Then Ohtani signed and I felt that would take precedent. Fear not, I will still pick that game.

Projected Score: Navy 20 Army 17

Sorry West Point, but the Midshipmen regain bragging rights after losing last year for the first time since 2001. But it’s going to be a quick game as neither team commits many penalties and there is a LOT of running the football and very few reasons to stop the clock.

That’s my semi-double-blog for this week. What do you think of the Ohtani signing? How about your thoughts on the Army-Navy game? Let me know in the comments section below and on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NFL Picks: Week 13

Last Week: 12-4                 Season Record: 91-54

So this is going to be a bit different than my usual NFL picks blogs. I’m going to try and keep it a little shorter because I’m writing this at 2 in the morning coming back from the Big Ten Championship Game, won by the Ohio State Buckeyes 27-21. I couldn’t write it earlier in the day because I also cover the Indiana Wrestling team for a school TV station (IUSTV Sports) and Indiana had 3 consecutive duals that I had to be in attendance for and by the time I got out, it was time for me to get to a shuttle. What I’m trying to say is I’m running on fumes right now. And I’m a little pouty because I just had to drop over $200 for an Uber from Indianapolis to Bloomington because they jack up the rates when there’s a big event happening, which I guess is understandable. The driver was pleasant enough. I’m also going to kind of combine my Playoff picks in this because those are being released on Sunday Night rather than the usual Tuesday Night, them being the final ones of the year. I also wanted to mention, I freaking NAILED my conference championship picks. I went 8-0. I kind of feel dirty saying I finally got a perfect week since I did 4 fewer games than usual, so I’m just going to put an asterisk next to that. Sound good? Well, I don’t care, it’s my blog. Also, I picked the Redskins to beat the Cowboys on Thursday. That went VERY poorly, though not as bad as that time I picked the Dolphins to beat the Ravens on a Thursday Nighter and the Ravens ended up winning 40-0. That was fun. So with that, let’s get into the blog.

College Playoff Rankings:

1.Oklahoma Sooners

2.Clemson Tigers

3.Georgia Bulldogs

4.Alabama Crimson Tide

Just Missed:

Ohio State Buckeyes

Wisconsin Badgers

It hurt not including a Big Ten team in this but you just can’t at this point. Had Wisconsin won the Big Ten Title they would absolutely be in, but alas, that schedule. I’m predicting the committee swaps Clemson and Oklahoma on me and we may get a third straight year of Clemson-Alabama in the Playoff, though it could happen a week sooner than usual. And yes, I have Alabama getting in even though they didn’t win their conference. Let’s face it, I would take a 1-loss Alabama (that one loss being a Top-10 Auburn team) over Big Ten champ and 2-loss (including one by 31 points) Ohio State every time. It’s just the way things are. On to the NFL picks.

Minnesota Vikings (9-2) vs Atlanta Falcons (7-4)

Like I mentioned in the intro, I’m not going to go that long on these just simply because of the hour I’m writing them, my brain just isn’t functioning the way it needs to. But if you read my picks blogs enough I’m sure you can get a sense of how I feel about each team considering I feel like I can get a bit repetitive at times. I’m taking the Vikings in this one. I know Julio Jones is coming off that monster 250-yard game against the Buccaneers, but that’s the Buccaneers. Xavier Rhodes is far better than anyone the Bucs have to offer to cover Julio. Rhodes won’t shut him down, but he definitely won’t let up 250 yards. I expect that to be enough for an efficient Vikings team to get the job done.

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Projected Score: Vikings 28 Falcons 20

Detroit Lions (6-5) vs Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

I’m going to pick the Lions here. Joe Flacco is just too inconsistent for me to trust and this Lions defense can be pretty potent at times. I do think it will be a low-scoring game because Baltimore’s defense is firing on all cylinders right now, but I trust Stafford more than I do Flacco.

Projected Score: Lions 21 Ravens 13

New England Patriots (9-2) vs Buffalo Bills (6-5)

It’s 2 am. I’m not going into any depth on what’s essentially been a lock every year since Brady took over for Bledsoe.

Projected Score: Patriots 35 Bills 14

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) vs Chicago Bears (3-8)

This is just a cavalcade of shit right here. Though it will be interesting for the sheer fact it’s two young and inexperienced quarterbacks with bright futures going head-to-head. Jimmy Garoppolo is making his starting debut for the 49ers against Mitchell Trubisky, who appears to be the future of the Chicago Bears. Having seen what Jimmy G can do, I’m going to go with the 49ers in this one.

Projected Score: 49ers 27 Bears 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) vs Green Bay Packers (5-6)

I really don’t know what to expect with either team, they’ve just been so maddeningly inconsistent. Jameis is back, though I don’t know if that can save this season. Plus he’s in some pretty hot water for allegedly groping a female Uber driver. We’ll have to wait and see what comes of that. For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers is practicing again just 5 weeks after breaking his collarbone. It’s still going to be Brett Hundley in this game, who admittedly played pretty well on Sunday night against the Steelers. This is a tough game to call so I think I’m going to give the edge to the Buccaneers just simply because they’re getting their starting quarterback back.

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Projected Score: Buccaneers 24 Packers 21

Indianapolis Colts (3-8) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)

I just don’t get it with the Jaguars sometimes. One minute they look like world eaters and the next they lose to the Cardinals. I don’t know, man. I just don’t. But if you lose to the Colts, you have some serious effing problems. The only teams the Colts have beaten are the winless Browns, the 1-10 49ers, and Tom Savage’s first start back with the Texans. Jags fans, you’re going to be fine.

Projected Score: Jaguars 38 Colts 13

Denver Broncos (3-8) vs Miami Dolphins (4-7)

Welp, Paxton Lynch is out with a bum ankle. Back to Trevor Siemian! My God this Broncos quarterback situation is a train wreck. They just can’t seem to catch a break. The rest of this roster is far more talented than 3-8 so if I’m the Broncos, I play for next year and try and tank to land either Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen. Those dudes are the real deal. The Dolphins do just enough to prove to people they still have a pulse. Cutler is back this week and I think he’ll lead the Dolphins to an underwhelming victory.

Projected Score: Dolphins 21 Broncos 17

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) vs New York Jets (4-7)

Remember when the Chiefs were cream of the crop in the NFL? Pepperidge Farms remembers (wait…I think…yep, we did it, folks, that’s the billionth time somebody referenced that Family Guy meme! Congratulations!). But in all serious, here’s a pretty interesting video that showcases some of the flaws the Chiefs have that were exposed by the Dallas Cowboys. It basically gameplans what the Jets are going to do to win this game.

Projected Score: Jets 28 Chiefs 20

Houston Texans (4-7) vs Tennessee Titans (7-4)

Is there a less impressive 7-4 team than the Titans right now? I don’t mean just this season, I mean ever. I really don’t know how they’ve gotten this far. And they’re probably going to make it to 8 wins because they’re facing perhaps the most injury-riddled team in the NFL in the Houston Texans. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Projected Score: Titans 19 Texans 10

Cleveland Browns (0-11) vs Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)

This was the one game the Browns won last season but I don’t see history repeating itself here. The Chargers, despite their record, are one of the hottest teams in football right now. Last year when these two squared off, the Chargers were basically in “meh” mode. Right now they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs the way the Chiefs are spiraling out of control right now. Imagine a home playoff game in that empty soccer stadium. It’s so awful it just has to happen.

Projected Score: Chargers 27 Browns 14

Carolina Panthers (8-3) vs New Orleans Saints (8-3)

The winner of this game is in the drivers’ seat in the NFC South. It’s easily the most important game going on this week. The Saints smacked the Panthers around the last time these two teams met but a Carolina win here would put them at an advantage in case of tie breakers. But I think the Saints will win this. Yeah, they lost last week to a good Rams team, but the Saints are still one of the hottest teams in football and I think they bounce back here.

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Projected Score: Saints 35 Panthers 31

Los Angeles Rams (8-3) vs Arizona Cardinals (5-6)

Sean McVay proved he belonged last week after beating Sean Payton’s Saints. It was their first win over a really legitimate team and it was done so in impressive fashion. As for the Cardinals, I really have no idea what to make of this team but they feel a lot worse than 5-6. Which is a shame, too, because there is still a lot of talent on this roster even with the injuries to David Johnson and Carson Palmer. They beat the Jaguars last week, but the Rams are far more consistent than the Jags and I expect them to be fine here.

Projected Score: Rams 34 Cardinals 17

New York Giants (2-9) vs Oakland Raiders (5-6)

The Giants are awful and they’re benching Eli Manning for Geno Smith in this game. I don’t need to explain myself further, do I? The Raiders have new motivation now that the Chiefs suddenly suck and they have a legitimate shot at the division again. Motivation is a pretty big factor in winning football games.

Projected Score: Raiders 31 Giants 14

Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) vs Seattle Seahawks (7-4)

This game’s going to be awesome, I just know it. Seattle always seems to put on a show one way or another in prime time, no matter the injury situation (and it is steep). For the Eagles, Alshon Jeffery just got a $52M contract extension, so I’m expecting an extra spring in his step. I’m going to give the edge to the Eagles to run their winning streak up to 10 games. While Seattle has proven they are capable of overcoming injuries to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, I just think Philly is a different beast this year.

Projected Score: Eagles 28 Seahawks 24

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) vs Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

The Steelers are starting to run away with this division. Hell it’s feasible they could be 11-0 right now. Their first loss was a fluke against the Bears and their other was an anomaly where Big Ben threw 5 picks against the Jaguars. Antonio Brown has been unbelievable and Le’Veon Bell has been a workhorse while the defense has quietly been one of the better units in the NFL. Cincinnati just isn’t consistent enough to where that’s going to make a difference.

Projected Score: Steelers 35 Bengals 20

So those are my picks for this week. Sorry they aren’t as in depth as usual, but hey, maybe you guys like this more. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Potentially Franchise-Altering Days for Two Organizations

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photo credit: SB Nation

The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers made headlines on Tuesday in regards to their quarterback situations. The Giants announced they are benching (“benching” may not exactly be the right word in this situation, more on that in a moment) 2-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith and occasionally rookie third-rounder Davis Webb. Just a few hours later, the 49ers announced that Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starting quarterback on Sunday against the Bears.

So first, I guess the biggest news in this is that Eli Manning will not be the starting quarterback for the Giants on Sunday, the first time since Week 9 of the 2004 season, Eli’s rookie year when he replaced Kurt Warner. That will snap a streak of 210 consecutive games started at quarterback, second all-time (Brett Favre holds the record at 297). “Benching” isn’t the greatest word in the world to describe this situation, because believe it or not, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo offered Eli to keep starting in order to keep the streak going, but that he would get pulled in each game for Geno or Webb. Naturally, Eli declined that offer. Not exactly a great one, it’s hard to give it your all when you know you aren’t going to finish the game. As controversial as this may sound, I don’t hate the move by the Giants, but I would like it more if they had an heir apparent on their roster already. The Giants’ season is lost. They’re 2-9 and are at this point just playing to get as high a draft pick this April as they can (if the season were to end today, it would be third overall). Why not see what your other guys can do? The problem is, it’s Eli Manning you’re benching, a guy that has stuck with this organization through the good times and the bad and gave you everything you had week in and week out. Hell, the man won two of your franchise’s four Super Bowls (a fact that still haunts me as a Patriots fan). Naturally, a lot of people who have had some sort of affiliation with the Giants had some thoughts on this.

So that may spell the end of Eli Manning’s tenure with the Giants. One potential location that seems to be SCREAMING for Eli to go to is Jacksonville. Hell, there was trade speculation at the beginning of the season about the potential move (don’t know if it ever really got serious or if it was just an internet pipe dream). Tom Coughlin is running the show there and if you will remember, he and Eli got a lot done together in the past. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Giants and Jaguars tried to work out some kind of deal for the 2-time champ. As for the Giants, this is clearly a full tank move to try and secure a spot in the top 3 picks of the Draft to secure either UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen or USC’s Sam Darnold. Because let’s face it, Geno Smith wasn’t the future of the Jets and he isn’t the future of the Giants and if Davis Webb feasibly was the future of the Giants, he wouldn’t be third on the depth chart behind Smith. But again, I don’t hate the move by New York. See what your young guys can do. If I’m McAdoo, I think I give more of a look at Webb, considering his youth and that he’s been groomed in your system. He has yet to take an NFL snap or even suit up as a pro so who really knows what he can do against higher competition? One more interesting tidbit, when Geno Smith starts this game against the Raiders on Sunday, every NFL team will have started a black quarterback at some point in their franchise’s history. The Giants are the last to do so (the Patriots were the most recent team to break the trend, having started Jacoby Brissett in two games last year).

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On a more positive note for a franchise’s direction, the 49ers have announced that Jimmy Garoppolo, whom they acquired in a trade with the Patriots, will be starting Sunday against the Bears. As a Patriots fan, this gets me very excited because now all three quarterbacks who were on the Patriots roster for their Super Bowl 51 run will be starting in the NFL the following year (Brady with the Patriots, Garoppolo with the 49ers, and Brissett with the Colts). If you’re a 49ers fan, you have to be excited about this. Garoppolo looked very good in relief of Brady last season and he’s probably the best protege the Patriots have ever groomed since Brady became the starter. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is a good offensive mind and Garoppolo has a similar skillset to Matt Ryan, whom Shanahan was offensive coordinator for in Atlanta. I’m not sure if this starting nod has anything to do with the injury to CJ Beathard during the 49ers’ loss to the Seahawks on Sunday, but regardless, it’s worth a shot if you’re San Francisco. Like the Giants, their season has been over for a while now, as they sit at 1-10 on the season. So why not get a glimpse at what your new young quarterback can do? The way things stand right now, it can’t hurt to get Garoppolo more acquainted with your offense and the guys around him, you’re really just playing to get guys experience at this point and to try and secure a high draft pick (if the season ended today, the 49ers would hold the second pick). Also, Garoppolo did appear in the loss to the Seahawks late in the game. Here’s how he did:

Some beautiful plays from a beautiful man.

So those are my thoughts on the quarterback changes for the Giants and 49ers. Is there something I missed in regards to these moves? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. I’ve also started a Patreon account in the hopes of getting paid for my efforts on this blog. Don’t worry, this won’t affect how frequently I post or your access to my articles. It’s just me hoping that this thing can take off and I can make it more of a full-time gig. I don’t have anything to offer patrons as of yet, but if I do come into the money to do so, I promise I will make it up to you some way or another. But my bare minimum goal for this is to raise enough money to afford a subscription to Pro Football Focus. That shit gets expensive. But they do have some very high-end stats that I could use to make my blogs sound more professional. Here is the link to my Patreon page if you feel inclined to become a patron: https://www.patreon.com/jimwyman.

 

NFL Picks: Thanksgiving Edition

Welcome to a special edition of my NFL picks. I will only be doing the Thanksgiving Day games today but I will also be going a little more in depth with them. I’m going to do my best to watch every second of all three, but I will likely be in a food coma by the Chargers-Cowboys game. So with that, let’s get picking.

Minnesota Vikings (8-2) vs Detroit Lions (6-4)

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Case Keenum is having a career year in 2017 (photo credit: USA Today)

Quarterbacks: Case Keenum vs Matthew Stafford

Injury Report: Nobody of major concern is officially inactive, however defensive ends Brian Robison of the Vikings and Ziggy Ansah of the Lions are questionable. Robison will probably play, he was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. Ansah will also likely play, but he was limited all week.

The Vikings haven’t lost since October 1st…against the Lions. Detroit won that defensive slugfest 14-7 and Case Keenum struggled, completing 16 of 30 passes for 219 yards and no touchdowns. Matthew Stafford wasn’t much better, however. He completed just 19 of 31 for 209 yards and no touchdowns. Both teams had relatively effective ground games, however, as Lions runningback Ameer Abdullah got 94 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Dalvin Cook for the Vikings got 66 yards on 13 carries, however he tore his ACL and is out for the season. The duo of LaTavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have picked up the slack nicely since then, however. Both teams are totally different since this game. Case Keenum is playing the best football of his career right now and that has helped Adam Thielen have big-time success as well. The Lions have gotten contributions from all over the place at receiver. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have been excellent this season and they’ve also gotten contributions from Theo Riddick out of the backfield, TJ Jones, and rookie Kenny Golladay, who is finally healthy again. Last week the Vikings convincingly beat up on an extremely talented Rams team while the Lions won after Chicago badly missed a last second field goal. The Lions just claimed Dwight Freeney off waivers from the Seahawks. I can’t imagine him having too much of an impact in this one, if any at all given the fact that he won’t even have 24 hours to learn the playbook. The Lions won this Thanksgiving matchup last year, but I’m going to give the edge to the Vikings this year. They’re too hot right now and they look like one of the most complete teams in the NFL.

Projected Score: Vikings 27 Lions 24

Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) vs Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

San Diego Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs

Melvin Ingram is having a career year for the Chargers (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Quarterbacks: Philip Rivers vs Dak Prescott

Injury Report: Cowboys Linebacker Sean Lee is the only player already considered to be out as of this writing, however Dallas is still without suspended runningback Ezekiel Elliott. Tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are both questionable and were limited participants in practice, as is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Nobody major seems to be in danger of missing this game for the Chargers.

Boy have the Cowboys been a mess since Zeke’s suspension was finally enforced. They’ve scored a grand total of 16 points in the two games without their star back. But I’m going to go on a limb and say that the Cowboys miss Tyron Smith more. He’s questionable for this game and his availability will be a huge deciding factor if the Cowboys have any chance at winning. They missed his absence horribly against the Falcons, as evidenced by Adrian Clayborn’s six sacks. The Eagles also had some success against the Cowboys’ offensive line. Rookie Derek Barnett had two sacks and Brandon Graham and Timmy Jernigan also got past the otherwise all-world offensive line. Dallas has some health issues and it could come back to bite them, especially against a Chargers team that has to feel on top of the world right now. The Chargers were the team that victimized Bills rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman for 5(!) first half interceptions as they blew out Buffalo 54-24. If Tyron Smith can’t go, the Chargers will have a field day with this offensive line and Dak Prescott will be running for his life. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are both in the top 7 in the NFL in sacks and it wouldn’t surprise me if defensive coordinator Gus Bradley blitzed on most downs to take advantage of this weakened line. I’m going to give the edge to the Chargers here. The Cowboys just have too many issues working against them right now and even if Tyron Smith is able to go, I can’t imagine him being nearly as effective as he usually is.

Projected Score: Chargers 28 Cowboys 20

New York Giants (2-8) vs Washington Redskins (4-6)

New York Giants v Washington Redskins

Landon Collins is one of the best defensive playmakers in the NFL (photo credit: USA Today)

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning vs Kirk Cousins

Injury Report: Giants Offensive linemen DJ Fluker and Justin Pugh are out as well as linebacker BJ Goodson. Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Sterling Shepard are all questionable, however they were able to play in their victory against the Chiefs on Sunday. The Redskins placed swiss army knife Chris Thompson on IR with a broken fibula. That’s going to hurt not only the Redskins, but my fantasy team. Terrelle Pryor was also placed on IR, however he hadn’t been contributing like the Redskins hoped when they signed him away from the Browns. Tight end Jordan Reed is also out, but that’s been an issue for the Redskins all season and isn’t anything new. Vernon Davis has been stepping up in his absence. Offensive linemen Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff are listed as questionable, so that could be a potential issue for the Redskins

Welp, I’m going to eat shit for this segment of last week’s picks:

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As many of you probably know, the Giants ended up beating the Chiefs 12-9 in overtime. So if any Giants fans out there want to harass me online, you have every right to do so. Defensively the Giants were really impressive against the Chiefs. The weather did play a factor, as it was cold and very windy all game, which definitely aids the defense. When the Giants are playing hard, their defense is as tough as any in football. It also helps when Janoris Jenkins is actually trying, which he was last week. If he puts forth the effort he did against the Chiefs, then Redskins receivers will have a hard time getting open. Josh Doctson has been very inconsistent for the Redskins but when he’s on, he makes some fantastic catches. Jamison Crowder is the top option for the Redskins, who are suddenly very depleted on offense. Defensively they’re actually one of the healthier teams in the league. They did lose rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen for the season and he had been playing very well in a rotational role, but the rest of the line has really stepped up in his absence. I’m actually going to give the edge to the Giants this week. Like the Cowboys, the Redskins are dealing with a bunch of injuries to key players right now and the Giants are coming off a big momentum swing. Plus, I feel like I owe it to Giants fans after that disaster from Sunday.

Projected Score: Giants 19 Redskins 14

Those are my picks for Thanksgiving. There won’t be a blog on Friday, as I will be spending the day with family and won’t have time for it. Fear not, my weekend picks will be posted as scheduled. Have a happy Thanksgiving everybody!

NFL Picks: Week 11

Last Week: 11-3                  Season Record: 69-46

Damn, 69 wins again. Just like with college football last week, I may try and sabotage my picks segment for the NFL just so I can stay at 69 wins. However that won’t end up happening because I won the Thursday night bout between the Steelers and Titans in NBC’s experiment with sky cam cameras for most of the game. I thought it was okay, I prefer the traditional camera view mainly because I can see everything, sky cam cuts off my view of the receivers. However I did appreciate sky cam on running plays more. But with that, let’s get to the picks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) vs Miami Dolphins (4-5)

So this was the game that was supposed to happen in Week 1 but Hurricane Irma had other ideas. Personally, I liked Chris Long’s idea to move this game to a neutral site and donate the proceeds to relief efforts, but the NFL decided moving this game to the week where both teams have a bye would be a better idea, leaving these teams with having to play 16 straight weeks with no bye. Seems smart. The Buccaneers are coming off an odd week for them, beating the Jets on field goals, something that was a MAJOR issue for this team over the last couple years. Patrick Murray hit 5 through the uprights and it was enough to give the Bucs their first win since Week 4. The Dolphins’ spectacular defensive performance this season finally ran out of steam on Monday night against the Panthers. I think this will be a more defensive game, both teams’ normal starting quarterbacks are out and they’re pretty limited offensively as is. I’m going to give the edge to the Dolphins, I think they’re better suited to win a defensive game.

Projected Score: Dolphins 20 Buccaneers 13

Detroit Lions (5-4) vs Chicago Bears (3-6)

The Bears finally let Mitchell Trubisky loose last week against Green Bay and he looked solid. 21-35 with 297 yards and a touchdown. The problem was the Packers stacked the box to stop Jordan Howard and it worked, as Howard was limited to just 54 yards on 15 carries and Brett Hundley was able to have his best game as a pro, leading the Packers to victory. The Lions seem to be back on track, winning back-to-back games since falling below .500 a couple weeks ago. Matthew Stafford has been leading this team through thick and thin but this team goes where the defense is willing to take them. I think Detroit’s defense steps up and gets the job done.

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Matthew Stafford has been up to his usual tricks this season (photo credit: Fan Rag Sports)

Projected Score: Lions 24 Bears 14

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) vs Cleveland Browns (0-9)

I want to say the Jaguars broke their streak of good-bad-good-bad but they didn’t play too well in their victory against the Chargers. It just seemed like the Chargers wanted to win a little less, especially in that wildly unimpressive overtime period. By that logic, the Jaguars are slated to have a good performance and they face the perfect team to do so in the Cleveland Browns. Ahead of the game, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles gave some sound advice to Browns quarterback Deshone Kizer: “Try to throw it to your team as much as possible.” That’s good advice, Blake. The Browns offense has been abysmal this season and it’s going to be a looooooooooooooooong day against this explosive Jaguars defense.

Projected Score: Jaguars 35 Browns 10

Baltimore Ravens (4-5) vs Green Bay Packers (5-4)

This is a tough game to project because both teams have stout defenses but have had their struggles offensively. The Ravens are coming off their bye week following a narrow 23-20 defeat at the hands of the Tennessee Titans while the Packers won their first game under Brett Hundley on the strength of their defense. It’s going to come down to which offense can make a play because you can bet both teams’ defenses will be bringing a little something extra as they try and keep their playoff hopes alive. I’m going to pick the Packers this week. I think they’re riding a little more momentum right now and that can come in handy.

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Brett Hundley has the unenviable task of trying to to match Aaron Rodgers’ production (photo credit: 247 Sports)

Projected Score: Packers 24 Ravens 20

Arizona Cardinals (4-5) vs Houston Texans (3-6)

Blaine Gabbert vs Tom Savage. A match made in heaven. The Cardinals are hovering around mediocrity and things don’t appear to be getting any better, however the Texans are in full tank mode with all the injuries to critical players they’ve had this season. If I’m Houston, I prepare for next year by having everyone get healthy while also testing out some young guys to see what they can do. They traded their first round draft pick in 2018 to the Cleveland Browns for the right to draft Deshaun Watson so playing for the high pick isn’t really an option. I think Arizona is going to win this game, however it wouldn’t shock me to see Houston compete simply because of how inconsistent the Cardinals have been.

Projected Score: Cardinals 20 Texans 17

Los Angeles Rams (7-2) vs Minnesota Vikings (7-2)

If I were to tell you at the beginning of the year that the best matchup in Week 11 would be Jared Goff vs Case Keenum, you’d laugh in my face and revoke my rights to talk football, and rightfully so. But that just goes to show the job that head coaches Sean McVay and Mike Zimmer have done this season. Goff has taken a HUGE leap in year 2 of his NFL career and the Vikings have been overcoming some injuries to key players. This is going to be a really good game. I think I’m going to give the edge to the Vikings. This is more a gut feeling than anything because these two teams do match up really well with one another and there isn’t a big enough edge for either team where I’d feel totally confident in a decision based on numbers or the eye test.

Projected Score: Vikings 28 Rams 27

Washington Redskins (4-5) vs New Orleans Saints (7-2)

The Saints continue to be the hottest team in football, having won 7 in a row and last week may have been their most impressive performance of the season as they dropped 47 points on the Buffalo Bills through almost exclusively running the football. The Bills are no slouches defensively so it came as a shock to me to see the Saints score that many points on them, though if I had to pick one team that would do that, it would probably be New Orleans. I just would’ve guessed they’d be throwing the football some more, but six rushing touchdowns will get the job done every time. The defense has also been terrific and I think the Redskins will struggle to score points against them. I think the Saints win again and increase their win streak to 8.

Projected Score: Saints 35 Redskins 17

Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) vs New York Giants (1-8)

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Ben McAdoo may get fired after this game.

Projected Score: Chiefs 42 Giants 0

Buffalo Bills (5-4) vs Los Angeles Chargers (3-6)

The Bills benched Tyrod Taylor after a lackluster performance against the Saints in favor of rookie fifth rounder Nathan Peterman. Peterman played okay in relief of Taylor late in the game, throwing the team’s only touchdown on the day for the first of his NFL career. The Chargers are a tough team to make your starting debut against, however. Defensively they’re quietly one of the top units in the NFL thanks in large part to the pass rush duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. I think the Chargers defense is going to frustrate this Bills offense and the Bolts will get the win.

Projected Score: Chargers 23 Bills 14

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) vs Denver Broncos (3-6)

This is a game between two struggling offenses and some stellar defenses that are probably feeling pretty frustrated considering how much they have to do to accommodate their offenses. Andy Dalton and the duo of Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler have struggled this season and I wouldn’t be surprised if either coach goes to backup quarterbacks AJ McCarron or Paxton Lynch to try and get a spark. These are two teams with plenty of weapons on offense but the quarterback play has held them back. I’m going to go with the Bengals. I think they’ve shown me a little more this season than the Broncos have.

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Geno Atkins has continued to dominate on the interior of the line (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Projected Score: Bengals 17 Broncos 10

New England Patriots (7-2) vs Oakland Raiders (4-5)

This game will be played in Mexico. It’s the Raiders’ second straight year playing with our neighbors to the south, where they beat the Houston Texans last season. The Patriots are on fire right now, winning five in a row, including a beatdown of the Broncos on Sunday night where special teams were the main deciding factor, as the Broncos muffed a punt, let up a kick return touchdown, and had a punt get blocked all in a matter of 20 minutes of game time. The Patriots likely won’t get that kind of help against this scrappy Raiders team but I still think they will prevail, I just think Oakland is too unbalanced an offense to pose too much of a threat.

Projected Score: Patriots 27 Raiders 17

Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) vs Dallas Cowboys (5-4)

This is a fun game on paper, however the Cowboys are missing some key members of their squad. Sure, Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension hurt, but my god, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team miss an offensive lineman as much as the Cowboys missed Tyron Smith last week against the Falcons. Chaz Green was absolutely manhandled by Adrian Clayborn so bad that Clayborn nearly set an NFL record for sacks in a game with 6 (the record is 7 by Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas). Clayborn isn’t exactly the late-great Derrick Thomas, he had 2 sacks going into that game and came out of it has one of the league’s leaders. Smith is expected to miss this game as well so the Cowboys are going to have to find some way to give Green help on the left side because you can bet Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is going to be bringing the house against him. I have the Eagles in this one.

Projected Score: Eagles 24 Cowboys 7

Atlanta Falcons (5-4) vs Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

The Falcons, as mentioned in the previous game, absolutely ransacked the Cowboys offense in their victory last week, spearheaded by Adrian Clayborn’s 6 sacks. They face an even weaker offensive line in Seattle, though it has admittedly played a lot better since acquiring Duane Brown from the Texans. However the Seahawks lost both star defensive backs Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor for the season and that’s going to hurt badly. Those are two of the biggest leaders of this defense and their presence will be sorely missed against a Falcons team that appears to be regaining its confidence. I have Atlanta in this one.

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The Cowboys couldn’t stop Adrian Clayborn all afternoon last week. (photo credit: MyAJC.com)

Projected Score: Falcons 30 Seahawks 20

Teams on Bye: New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers

Those are my picks for this week. About five or six shots left at a perfect week, so fingers crossed I can nab one before the season gets out. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.