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.

904641198

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.

905750918

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.

NBA Midseason Awards

So it’s roughly the halfway point in the NBA season and I’ve barely blogged about basketball since the preseason, so I feel it’s high time I said something. I have been following basketball, I just haven’t found anything blog-worthy of late. Except that whole exchange between the Rockets and Clippers, but I had already written my McCutchen blog by that point. I guess what I will say about that is I’ve never seen anything like it. For those who missed it, apparently the Rockets and Clippers were jawing at eachother during the game. Then after it was over, a few Rockets players, namely James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green, made their way to the Clippers’ locker room in an attempt to “confront” Clippers guard Austin Rivers. Security did escort them out before anything violent could break out. How did the Rockets get to the Clippers locker room you might ask? Well new Rocket Chris Paul was a Clipper last year…nothing has been confirmed outside of the fact that the three aforementioned Rockets players tried to confront Rivers in the Clippers locker room. The NBA is currently investigating. Once we have all the details I’ll try and get something complete out there. Now with that, on to my midseason NBA awards.

NBA MVP: LeBron James-F-Cleveland Cavaliers

904614928

Believe it or not it’s actually been a while since LeBron won an MVP. He’s won it 4 times but last time was 2013. There hasn’t been anything wrong but he’s been so consistently great that people have come to expect it of him and it would take an otherworldly performance for him to actually win the award nowadays. I wouldn’t say his numbers are otherworldly this year in particular, but I do think he’s most deserving of the MVP out of all the other candidates. He’s 4th in the NBA with 27.3 PPG while playing the third most minutes, 26th with 8 RPG, and 5th in APG with 8.8, which is 1.2 per game more than the next closest non-point guard, Draymond Green. LeBron continues to do it all and while I do think that the Cavaliers are overall having a disappointing year, you can’t put that on him.

Others Receiving Consideration: Giannis Antetokounmpo-F-Milwaukee Bucks, James Harden-G-Houston Rockets, Kyrie Irving-G-Boston Celtics

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Drummond-C-Detroit Pistons

899929418

Andre Drummond is the best rebounder in the league and the only other guy you can make an argument for is DeAndre Jordan, who also could’ve won this. But I’m going with Drummond for a couple reasons. One, he’s the number 1-rated defender in the NBA. He’s the only guy with a rating under 100 (the lower the better) at 98.5. Two, he’s tops in the NBA in rebounding at 14.9 per game. Three, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the game at 1.3 per game. I gotta go with Drummond. He may be statistically the worst free throw shooter of all time, but that doesn’t matter for this award.

Others Receiving Consideration: Kyle Anderson-F-San Antonio Spurs, Clint Capela-C-Houston Rockets

Rookie of the Year: Jayson Tatum-F-Boston Celtics

901971572

As I highlighted in my preseason awards, I don’t count Ben Simmons for this award even though he qualifies as a rookie. He had his chance and missed last season due to injury. But I do think he’s going to win the actual rookie of the year award because NBA writers don’t think the way I do. I’m going with Jayson Tatum because he’s blended into the league seamlessly and is a well-deserving starter on arguably the best team in the NBA in the Boston Celtics. In fact, he leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 45.9%, better than even notorious sharpshooters like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. He’s also shooting 49.9% from the field on top of that so if there’s a more efficient offensive rookie, I’d like to see him. Donovan Mitchell was also heavily considered as he has basically already become the face of the Utah Jazz. I’d make him a close second.

Others Receiving Consideration: Donovan Mitchell-G-Utah Jazz, Dennis Smith Jr-G-Dallas Mavericks

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

901301190

Spoiler Warning, this is the only award that has remained the same from my preseason awards. The 76ers have done what I anticipated them doing, which is playing significantly better than in year’s past but not quite where they could end up. They currently sit on the brink of a playoff berth at 20-20 and are 1 game behind the Pistons for the 8 seed. If the 76ers manage to get in, consider Brown a lock for this award.

Others Receiving Consideration: Brad Stevens-Boston Celtics, Erik Spoelstra-Miami Heat

Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo-G-Indiana Pacers

903612174

I’ve always been a fan of Victor Oladipo even before I declared my intentions to attend Indiana University, Oladipo’s alma mater. He was just oozing with talent and we saw occasional flashes of it when he was with the Orlando Magic and as Russell Westbrook’s sidekick in his brief pitstop in Oklahoma City last year. Well the Thunder traded him to the Pacers for Paul George and every Pacers fan I knew was HEATED by that trade because they felt it wasn’t a fair swap. Since then, Oladipo has the Pacers in the thick of the playoff race, as they’re currently the 6 seed at 24-20. Oladipo is 11th in the league in scoring at 24.3 PPG on 49% shooting with 5.2 RPG and 4 APG. He’s really come into his own this season.

Others Receiving Consideration: Dennis Schroder-G-Atlanta Hawks, Jaylen Brown-G-Boston Celtics

Comeback Player of the Year: Tyreke Evans-G-Memphis Grizzlies

905407844

After missing half of last season due to injury, it seemed that the former Rookie of the Year Evans was at a crossroads. He had yet to realize his full potential since a stellar rookie season in Sacramento. Well he’s pretty much returned to that form this season, as his 19.6 PPG is the best rate he’s had since his rookie year when he averaged 20.1. Evans is back to being an offensive threat and despite the fact that the Grizzlies have had a terrible season, Evans at least has been a bright spot.

Others Receiving Consideration: Michael Beasley-F-New York Knicks

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams-G-Los Angeles Clippers

905758562

Williams is averaging 23.3 PPG coming off the bench, which is just absurd. Out of all the players in the top 25, Williams is the only player that hasn’t started every game. In fact, he’s only started 12 out of 42, yet he still plays just as many minutes as a lot of the others on that list. That just goes to show how much the Clippers value him. One could argue that Williams should start at point guard over Patrick Beverley, but he has played so well in this role for so long that it appears that Williams is becoming this generation’s version of Jamal Crawford.

Others Receiving Consideration: Eric Gordon-G-Houston Rockets, Rodney Hood-G-Utah Jazz

That’s going to do it for my NBA midseason Awards. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Divisional Round Picks: Day 2

How about Nick Foles getting the job done against the Falcons? He had a solid game throwing the ball, as he went 23-30 for 246 yards and didn’t turn the ball over once and the NFC Championship will be played in Philadelphia. The Patriots took care of business against the Titans and will be advancing to their 7th straight AFC Championship game. The Titans held their own early but once New England got going, there was nothing Tennessee could do to stop them. There were admittedly a few questionable calls that went against the Titans but overall it was a pretty resounding beatdown by New England. Let’s get to Sunday’s slate of games.

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

The Jaguars are coming off an ugly win over the Buffalo Bills, but a win is a win, especially this time of year. The defense played exceptionally well while the offense barely did enough to win. Interesting thing I noticed from that game, Jacksonville’s best three healthy receivers are Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, and Kelan Cole. Not one of them caught a pass in that game and were only targeted once apiece. But again, it was enough to get the job done. The Steelers had an odd year. There were times where they looked downright abysmal and others where they looked like the cream of the crop in the NFL and are a poor fake spike decision away from having home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But the game everybody is certainly going to circle on their schedule from this year is their home loss to this same Jaguars team. Back in week 5, the Jaguars annihilated the Steelers 30-9 at Heinz Field, which included intercepting Ben Roethlisberger 5 times. In fact, the defense was playing so well in that game that quarterback Blake Bortles threw his last pass of the game with about 8 minutes left in the third quarter. 23 minutes of game time without attempting a single pass and they were still able to win by 21. It also helped that Leonard Fournette was the definition of a bell cow in that game, as he ran for 181 yards on a whopping 28 carries, both career highs for the rookie out of LSU. He also put the nail in the coffin with a 90-yard touchdown run in which he basically went untouched the whole way. But I think things are going to go differently for the Steelers. After that loss, they seemed to figure their shit out and won 10 of their last 11 games, the one loss being to the Patriots on the aforementioned failed fake spike. Antonio Brown was in the MVP discussion for much of the year before injuring his leg in that loss. He missed each of the final two games of the season but he is expected to suit up for this one. But keep an eye on how well he’s able to make his cuts. Jacksonville boasts arguably the two best corners in the NFL right now in Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye and if Brown isn’t his usual elusive self, he’s going to have a hard time getting open. But if he’s fine and can do what he does best, then we’re going to have some really fun receiver/corner matchups to watch. I think the key to this game is going to be the Steelers’ offensive line. They don’t have to give Roethlisberger a load of time to throw the ball, just enough so that he’s unimpeded in his 3-step drops because you can bet pass rushers Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler are going to be coming for him with Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson bumrushing the middle. They’re also going to need to create the lanes Le’Veon Bell needs to rush through while also throwing linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack off his scent because those two fly through gaps like missiles. I think if the Steelers offensive line has a good day, the Steelers will exact revenge on the Jaguars. If not, I think it’s going to be a loooooong day for the Steelers offense and we may get a repeat of Week 5. But I think the Steelers will pull it off and return to the AFC championship game for the second straight year.

896576374

Projected Score: Steelers 27 Jaguars 24

New Orleans Saints (11-5) vs Minnesota Vikings (13-3)

The Saints are coming off a thrilling victory over the Panthers that came down to the final play and will look to ride that momentum into Minnesota and the same building where Super Bowl LII will be held. The Saints were able to beat the Panthers despite Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara not having great games statistically. That’s why Drew Brees is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, though. Even when defenses force the Saints to become one-dimensional, they’re breathing a little easier than most other teams because they have #9 under center. These two teams squared off all the way back in Week 1, which seems like an eternity ago. In that game, Sam Bradford absolutely picked apart the Saints secondary, which has since done a 180 and gone from a weakness to a strength. Bradford’s season also did the same, as an injury suffered in practice forced Case Keenum into the starting role and he played so well that no matter how this season ends, head coach Mike Zimmer is going to have a real decision to make at quarterback in deciding between Keenum, Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater. Offensively, Minnesota was hovering just outside of the top 10 in pretty much every category. They had to deal with some injuries, as promising rookie Dalvin Cook tore his ACL back in Week 4 after getting off to a really impressive start to his career. LaTavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon were able to pick up the slack in the backfield but the biggest thing that propelled this offense was the emergence of receiver Adam Thielen. Thielen was fantastic in 2017, as he caught 91 passes for 1276 yards and 4 TD’s. He emerged as the biggest threat in a suddenly solid receiving group that features the likes of Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Minnesota’s defense was sensational this year, as they finished the season as the NFL’s #1 defense in both points and yards allowed. Everson Griffen is finally starting to get the respect he deserves as a pass rusher while Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith each continue their astronomical growth as players in the secondary. This is a difficult matchup to pick because I think both teams match up so well with one another. But I think the key thing here is going to be quarterback play and it’s really hard to bet against Drew Brees, no matter how well Case Keenum might be playing. I think the Saints are going to win this one and they’re going to hope it’s not the last time they win a game in Minnesota this season.

902315550

Projected Score: Saints 28 Vikings 23

That’s it for my picks in the divisional round. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

CFP Championship Recap

902796978

Alabama defeats Georgia 26-23 in overtime for their second CFP title, Nick Saban’s 6th championship, 5th at Alabama. Saban’s 6 titles ties Bear Bryant for most by a head coach all time and is more than all active coaches in the FBS combined. Let’s get into some quick thoughts.

-To be honest, I missed a large chunk of this game. I had an “Intro to Games” class from 7-10 (game started at 8). Now normally I would’ve skipped this class, but it’s a class that only meets once a week and there wouldn’t be a class next week since it will be Martin Luther King Jr Day, so I kinda felt obligated to attend. I tried streaming the game on first my phone then my laptop, but the connection wasn’t even close to being satisfactory. Then we had to play a board game called “Ogre” and I couldn’t dedicate my attention to the game. Ogre kinda sucks. It’s a needlessly complicated version of Stratego, which is already kinda needlessly complicated. I didn’t get a chance to REALLY sit down and watch the game until about 10:51 left in the third quarter, so you can imagine my shock when I saw someone else in at QB for Alabama.

-If you picked Tua Tagovailoa (that’s the only time I’m writing out his last name. If I have to do it every single time I mention him I’m going to go insane) to be MVP of this game, I’d like your opinion on some stocks, though I would settle for picking my football games for me. He was totally unknown until he replaced Jalen Hurts at quarterback to start the second half. This decision by Saban apparently was originally supposed to be a rotation, with Tua and Hurts alternating drives. Well Tua led Alabama down the field and threw a touchdown on his first drive and it appears the decision was made. It was a good one too, because after Tua was inserted into the lineup, Alabama outscored Georgia 26-10 after trailing 13-0 at halftime.

-Occasionally, Tua’s inexperience showed through. Look at this interception he threw.

I’m not so sure that play was designed to be a pass. Look at how not a single Alabama receiver is looking in Tua’s direction.

-Speaking of true freshmen, this game was dominated by them. From Jake Fromm to Tua to Najee Harris to DeVonta Smith, this game was all about the 18-19 year olds.

-I’ve gone through four bullet points and haven’t even shown the walkoff touchdown throw by Tua to fellow true freshman DeVonta Smith. Here it is.

If you’re wondering what the caption is all about, Tua got sacked for a loss of 16 on the play immediately preceding this one by Davin Bellamy (who famously mocked Baker Mayfield after the Rose Bowl to “humble himself”). Not to take anything away from Tua or Smith, but where the Hell was Georgia safety Dominick Sanders on this play? I think cornerback Malkom Parrish thought he had help over the top, which would explain why Smith was so open. Maybe Sanders was paying more attention to tight end Hale Hentges (#84) underneath? I mean, the guy did have a whopping 1 catch for 2 yards on the day.

-Nobody is happier than Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos after Smith made that catch. At the end of regulation, he lined up for this 36-yarder.

I’m actually kind of glad Alabama won after a moment like that. We have enough Scott Norwoods in the world.

-Jake Fromm looked like a true freshman with the game on the line. He had some good moments throughout the game, like this throw to MeCole Hardman.

But when the Bulldogs needed him to be great, he wasn’t. After Alabama tied the game up, the Bulldogs ran twice, then Fromm missed an open receiver running a crossing route. Then, in OT, he took a bad sack that nearly knocked them out of field goal range. Luckily for him, Rodrigo Blankenship nailed a 51-yarder to give the Bulldogs the 23-20 lead. He’s got plenty of growth left in him.

-Probably the guys who helped their draft stock the most this game was the defensive linemen. Da’Ron Payne dominated the point of attack and Raekwon Davis was all over the place, including this odd interception.

I don’t think Davis is draft eligible yet, but he’s going to be another guy to look out for when 2019 rolls around. But the guy that really elevated his stock to me was Georgia interior lineman Trenton Thompson. He was all over the place for the Bulldogs and really gave the Alabama offensive line fits all game. He also delivered probably my favorite hit of the game.

I’ll have to go back and take a closer look at this guy because he was catching my attention seemingly every play in this game. Could be a potential sleeper for a defensive line-needy team *cough* Patriots *cough*.

-Take a good look because this is the one time the “WildDog” formation worked all night.

Georgia tried running it several more times throughout the night, and notably in key situations I might add. They got stuffed on seemingly all of them.

-Tua wasn’t perfect throughout the night, in fact there were times where I thought he downright sucked. But his touchdown passes were absolute things of beauties. Here’s the one that tied the game to Calvin Ridley, who had been shut down for most of the game by DeAndre Baker.

He did a similar thing on the first touchdown to Ruggs. Neither he nor Ridley were open when Tua threw the pass, however the pass was thrown in the exact perfect spot. This is the exact definition of “throwing your man open.” Tua also displayed some surprisingly solid arm strength. I was caught a little off guard by how well he can sling it. Probably just because I’m not used to lefty quarterbacks.

-Mekhi Brown is VERY fortunate he didn’t get sent to the locker room for this.

A lot of coaching staffs would’ve sent him packing for trying to fight a coach in the middle of a national championship game after he just got called for a personal foul for seemingly throwing a punch (which the refs should’ve ejected him for anyway). He kind of made amends later, as he made a nice one-armed tackle on kick coverage. It was the exact opposite of form tackling, but it looked cool.

How he managed to not grab any facemask on that is beyond me.

-Jalen Hurts was the definition of class during the postgame interview after getting benched in the biggest game of his life. ESPN had been running the story of how the background on his phone was his defeat in last year’s championship game against Clemson to try and motivate him. This was his opportunity to exorcise those demons and a lot of guys would’ve viewed this benching as their coach taking that away from them. But during his postgame interview, I got the sense that Hurts didn’t care about what kind of impact he had as long as his team won the game. Really classy guy right there and the definition of a team player at that.

-To be perfectly honest, I felt kind of empty after this game ended. It was a crazy finish to an excellent game, but I felt nothing. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown bored of Alabama’s dominance in the national title picture? Perhaps I’m disgruntled that a team that didn’t even win its conference is champ? Couldn’t tell you, but I definitely felt a lot more when Clemson won with 1 second to go last year or even when Alabama was able to hold off Clemson’s comeback the year prior. This game just kind of left me in a weird place. It’s probably just the knowledge that the college football season is over. That usually puts me in a depressing mood. Oh well, time for draft season.

-A couple quick interesting facts about the playoff before I put a bow on the college football season. All 4 championships have been won by the lower-seeded team, or the team wearing their white uniforms. #4 Ohio State beat #2 Oregon, #2 Alabama beat #1 Clemson, #2 Clemson beat #1 Alabama, #4 Alabama beat #3 Georgia. Odd numbered seeds have also yet to win the title game, as only the 2’s and 4’s have won it all.

-I’m going to add one last thing before I end it: my year-end rankings, now that all is said and done.

1. Alabama

2. Central Florida

3. Ohio State

4. Georgia

5. Oklahoma

6. Clemson

7. Wisconsin

8. Penn State

9. Notre Dame

10. Michigan State

11. USC

12. Washington

13. Miami (FL)

14. TCU

15. Oklahoma State

16. Stanford

17. Northwestern

18. Auburn

19. Mississippi State

20. North Carolina State

21. LSU

22. South Florida

23. Wake Forest

24. Boise State

25. Virginia Tech

Welp, that’s gonna do it for this one. This was my 100th blog, by the way. When I started this thing up in late September, I honestly figured I would’ve given up on it by now but the positive responses I’ve been getting to this thing have kept me going so I just wanted to take time to thank all my readers for sticking with me throughout, particularly Heidi and Tom Wyman, my parents. Whenever I look at my site stats and only see 1 or 2 views on a blog, I can safely guess who it is. That’s going to do it for this college football season. Let me know your thoughts on the title game in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

CFP National Championship Preview

So it’s all come down to this, a bona fide SEC championship game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide to decide the best team in college football. Let’s see how all my picks did leading up to this moment.

Regular Season Record: 86-34

Conference Championship Record: 8-0

Army-Navy: 0-1

Bowl Record: 16-23

Yikes, I figured I wouldn’t be great for the bowl games, but I didn’t think I’d miss that many. I mean, I wrote a blog for two days to put up those numbers? Inexcusable. Goes to show you really can never guess what’s going to happen this time of year. Put all these games together and I went 110-58, which suggests theres a 65% chance I get this pick right, no big deal. For this I’m going to go position group by position group and compare each team. Let’s take a look at what both Georgia and Alabama bring to the table.

Quarterback:

Georgia: Jake Fromm

Alabama: Jalen Hurts

Advantage: Alabama

900375388

This was difficult because it’s like comparing apples and oranges with these two quarterbacks. With Fromm, you get a traditional passer in the mold of Alex Smith, as he only threw 5 interceptions as opposed to 23 touchdowns while throwing for an acceptable 2383 yards. Hurts, on the other hand, is pretty much a pure running quarterback who will throw on occasion and most likely to Calvin Ridley. However the thing that puts Hurts over the top for me is his experience in this atmosphere. He was a true freshman when he nearly led Alabama to the National Championship against Clemson before Deshaun Watson’s heroics stole the day. He’s back with a year of maturing under his belt and I think he will be the better quarterback on the field in this game.

Runningback:

Georgia: Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift

Alabama: Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, Najee Harris

Advantage: Georgia

900371636

At the beginning of the season, I would’ve called this a very difficult decision. But after the play of the Georgia backfield, which practically kept pace with Baker Mayfield all by itself, and the decline in play of Bo Scarbrough, this was an easy decision. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are a dominant 1-2 punch by themselves but throw in D’Andre Swift, who is also a capable pass catcher, and it’s just downright domination by the Georgia backfield.

Pass Catchers:

Georgia: Javon Wims, Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta (TE)

Alabama: Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III

Advantage: Georgia

900368358

Yes, the best receiver on the field is by far Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, however he’s the only receiver that poses any sort of threat on the Crimson Tide offense. He recorded 935 receiving yards on 59 catches. Next best? Jerry Jeudy, who had 244 yards on just 13 catches (averaging 1 catch per game). That’s really bad and basically screams to the opposing defense who’s getting the ball when Hurts drops back to pass. Georgia’s stable of receivers isn’t great, but each guy is pretty solid and they spread the ball out pretty well. Wims, Godwin, and Hardman all had at least 20 catches and 300 yards receiving, with Wims leading the way in both categories at 44 catches for 704 yards.

Offensive Line:

Georgia: Isaiah Wynn, Kendall Baker, Lamont Gaillard, Ben Cleveland, Andrew Thomas

Alabama: Jonah Williams, Ross Pierschbacher, Bradley Bozeman, Lester Cotton, Matt Womack

Advantage: Alabama

860616684

This is a hard decision mainly due to the success of both ground games. However I’m giving the edge to Alabama as they have more NFL-caliber talent and it’s pretty hard to block, typically, when the defense can pretty much just decide between a run or a pass to Calvin Ridley on every play. For Georgia, Isaiah Wynn is the only real NFL talent on that offensive line at the moment whereas Alabama’s entire offensive line could find themselves on NFL rosters in the near future.

Defensive Line:

Georgia: Trenton Thompson, John Atkins, Jonathan Ledbetter

Alabama: Da’Shawn Hand, Da’Ron Payne, Raekwon Davis

Advantage: Alabama

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Alabama wins a nail-biter and the deciding factor was probably recency bias for me, as Da’Ron Payne and Raekwon Jones in particular were absolutely DOMINANT against Clemson while Georgia’s defensive line had problems against Oklahoma’s offensive line. This group is extremely hard to run on and will be critical to Alabama’s success, which I’ll delve into a bit more as to why that is in the linebacker position group.

Linebacker:

Georgia: Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Reggie Carter

Alabama: Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings, Mack Wilson, Jamey Mosley

Advantage: Georgia

900366328

Georgia gets a major advantage in this category for one main reason: health. With everyone healthy, this would likely end up being a draw, as these may be the two absolute best linebacking corps in the nation. However, Alabama has lost Shaun Dion Hamilton and Dylan Moses for the season due to injuries and will have to count on the less talented Mack Wilson and Jamey Mosley. Rashaan Evans might be the most important player in this game, as much of the onus is on him to stop the Georgia ground attack, though a lot of pressure could be taken off if the defensive line gets a good push. As for Georgia, their linebackers struggled in the first half against Oklahoma, Roquan Smith in particular, but they really stepped up big in the second half, imposing their will on a previously dominant Oklahoma offense. They looked like their old selves and if they can do what they typically did all year against Alabama, then the Crimson Tide will have a hard time running the ball.

Defensive Back:

Georgia: Malkom Parrish, DeAndre Baker, Tyrique McGhee, Dominick Sanders, JR Reed

Alabama: Anthony Averett, Levi Wallace, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison

Advantage: Alabama

900379106

No knock against Georgia’s secondary, as those guys are a part of one of the better units in the country. But they don’t hold a candle to Alabama’s secondary. They have three guys who could potentially be first round picks in the NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick, Harrison, and Averett, and you’ll basically need a dominant receiver to beat these guys, which Georgia lacks. I think this group is going to have a big game in this one.

Specialists:

Georgia: Rodrigo Blankenship, Cameron Nizeliak, Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin

Alabama: Andy Pappanastos, JK Scott, Trevon Diggs, Xavien Marks

Advantage: Georgia

900362160

The main deciding factor in this is Georgia’s kicker. First of all, just look at him in all his glory. The other reason is his name. Blankenship. There was an amazing TV show from the early 2000’s called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) where they showed footage of a Japanese game show but with English dubs and the dubs were hilarious. One of the commentators was named Kenny Blankenship in the dub and he would make lots of hilarious remarks, whether that be in regards to potentially critical injuries (“let’s hear the bones crack!”) or perverted analysis (using slow motion replay to look up a female competitor’s skirt). That show was so funny to me I just have to pick Georgia for this category thanks to Blankenship.

Head Coach:

Georgia: Kirby Smart

Alabama: Nick Saban

Advantage: Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

In my humblest of opinions, Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time. It’s harder to win now than it’s ever been and Saban’s Crimson Tide is consistently in the discussion for the nation’s best in every season. They’re the only team to make the playoff all 4 years of its existence and he will be coaching his third straight national championship game, 7th overall (he carries a 5-1 record in Natty’s, 4-1 as Alabama head coach). He has also never lost to a former assistant, which Georgia coach Kirby Smart is. Smart hasn’t been a head coach long enough to even be in the same discussion as Saban, but he’s on the right track if his first couple years are any indication.

Score: Alabama-5 Georgia-4

902069314

Congratulations on your national championship, Alabama. Don’t worry about playing the game Monday Night, I’ve already made the decision. Let me know what you think of my championship game comparisons in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Wild Card Round Picks: Day 2

Welp the Titans made me look pretty stupid. But that’s why I don’t gamble on sports, things like that happen. Though I think Travis Kelce getting knocked out with a concussion was a huge blow for the Chiefs, as I don’t think they scored a single point after he went to the locker room. That was, to me, the biggest factor in their blowing a 21-3 lead (just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it that 28-3 does). There was a brief shining moment as it appeared Marcus Peters had stripped Derrick Henry of the football and Derrick Johnson took it to the house, only to have it overturned by replay, which was the correct call as Henry was clearly down before the ball left his possession. As for Falcons-Rams, I may have gotten that pick wrong, but I feel that if the Rams’ special teams didn’t dig them into an early hole like it did, then they probably would’ve beaten the Falcons because as the game went along, that offense looked more and more comfortable until the Falcons regained their footing. Though I could have sworn I read somewhere that Julio Jones and Marcus Mariota were both going to be scratches from their games. Maybe I misread or read fake accounts. *UPDATE* I figured out what happened with that. PFT Commenter of Barstool Sports was quote tweeting injury reports for both players from past seasons and making them out to be for these games and I fell for the trap. It happens to the best of them. So with that, let’s get to the Sunday picks. Make sure you read all the way through, because I do have an announcement to make at the end of this blog.

Buffalo Bills (9-7) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

This will be the Bills first playoff appearance since 1999, which had been the longest such drought in the major four sports. It was kind of an odd season for them. They went 9-7 after starting out 5-2 and included a disastrous quarterback switch. For whatever reason, Tyrod Taylor was benched in favor of Nathan Peterman against the Chargers. Peterman promptly threw 5 first half interceptions (not all of them were his fault, but they’re still charged to him). He was benched in the second half for Taylor, who played reasonably well in what was basically the perfect moment for Taylor to establish himself as the unquestioned starter. Week 17 came along with their playoff hopes on the line and they got the job done by beating Miami. They just needed the Ravens to lose to the Bengals, since the Titans and Chargers had won their games, in order to make the playoffs. 4th and 12, Andy Dalton hits Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard TD and the Bills are going to the playoffs. It came at a price, though. In their victory over Miami, Buffalo lost star runningback LeSean McCoy due to an ankle injury, where he had to be carted off the field. Good news for Bills fans, though, McCoy said the injury wasn’t as bad as he thought and he’s hoping to suit up against Jacksonville. I’m not so sure if that’s going to help them a whole lot. McCoy is at his best when he’s able to make hard cuts and juke guys out. That’s hard to do on a bad ankle. I don’t think it’s going to go well for him in this one, especially against a Jaguars defense that’s as dominant as this one. Jacksonville has been a revelation this season. They recorded their first winning season in a decade and were the breakout team of the AFC en route to a 10-6 record despite inconsistent play from quarterback Blake Bortles. However Bortles looked pretty good to close out the season and I think it may have the higher-ups in Jacksonville rethinking their plans to move on from him. The only way I think Bortles has 100% job security is a Super Bowl victory, though. But the story of this Jaguars team has been the defense. I’ve raved about the impact signing Calais Campbell has been ad nauseam, but he really has been the difference. The Jaguars were just okay defensively prior to his arrival from Arizona with a lot of young players with potential. Campbell arrives, then suddenly they’re the #2 overall defense in the NFL behind only the Vikings. Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye (whose arrival I also think contributed heavily to the defense’s success) have been shutdown corners, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler have been absolute studs rushing the passer, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack have been holding down the second level, really no matter where you look on this Jacksonville defense, you’ve got guys that are kicking ass. It’s that fire on defense that I think is going to give the Jags the win in this game, though I think the Bills will be competitive throughout. Their defense is pretty underrated.

900962704

Projected Score: Jaguars 20 Bills 17

Carolina Panthers (11-5) vs New Orleans Saints (11-5)

In my opinion, this is the game of the Wild Card Round. This will be the third time these two teams will square off this season, each of the prior two meetings being won by the Saints, which gave them the tie-breaker for the division crown. The Panthers defense has looked similar to the one that helped lead them to an appearance in Super Bowl L, as Kawann Short continues to dominate on the interior of the defensive line, which sucks because he’s a Boilermaker. The Boilermaker on the other sideline, Drew Brees, has also been damn good for the Saints, as his connection with Michael Thomas is reminiscent of when he was hitting Marques Colston on a consistent basis. But the biggest matchup I’m going to watch for is Saints runningbacks vs the Panthers front 7. The Saints offensive line has been very good this year despite injury troubles. Rookie tackle Ryan Ramczyk has been very good like I expected him to be (which unfortunately wasn’t published because this blog didn’t exist back then) and Andrus Peat has adjusted very well to a move to guard. Larry Warford has also been terrific and Max Unger has been his usual self. Their runningbacks Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have been the deadliest 1-2 punch in the game this season. To think, this group included Adrian Peterson for a few weeks before getting sent to the Cardinals. Imagine if that trio had been able to gel. Turns out it took Peterson leaving for this group to really come together. Ingram finished with 1124 yards rushing, fifth in the NFL, while Kamara had over 1500 yards of total offense. Both players’ play styles complement each other so well that defenses have a hard time keeping up. But the Panthers defensively have one of the best front 7s in football, as you’ve got guys like Short and Star Lotulelei clogging the interior, Mario Addison on the edge, and Shaq Thompson, the ageless Thomas Davis, and Luke Kuechly at linebacker. So if any team were to match up with well with the Saints, it would be the Panthers. However that hasn’t been the case this season, as the Saints beat the Panthers twice by scores of 34-13 in Week 3 and 31-23 in Week 13. So perhaps the Panthers are figuring things out, as that margin of defeat was cut significantly the second time around. I really want to pick the Saints for this game but I just have the weirdest gut feeling that the Panthers are going to pull this one out. I’m going with the Panthers, however my brain doesn’t feel good about it.

900702004

Projected Score: Panthers 24 Saints 20

That’s it for the blog. As promised, I have an announcement to make. I’ll be adding a new writer to my staff. When that will be I’m not sure, we’re still working out how we want to do things. But I’m very excited to get another guy producing content, as writing 1000+-word articles a day while balancing school and work can get a bit rough. Let me know what you think of my picks or my new “hire” (I say that very loosely, as I still don’t have a revenue stream to pay anyone with) and hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Top 10 NFL Players By Position for 2017

Yesterday was my NFL Awards for 2017, now we move on to the next segment of my postseason NFL series: Top 10 players by position. Now I’ve got to put a disclaimer on this: this isn’t necessarily who I think is the best at each position, I’m going by who had the best seasons. So guys who missed significant time due to injury will be at a serious disadvantage. For example, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt did not make the lists and will not appear on my Top 100 that I’m posting tomorrow, which follows the same rules. I’m trying to not take past success into consideration, buuuuut I’m only human and certain guys may have gotten some preferential treatment due to what they’ve done in the past. It’s my list, if you think it sucks, make your own. Better yet, leave a comment and tell me how bad my list is. So with that, let’s go position by position to see who the best in the NFL were.

Quarterback

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

1. Tom Brady-New England Patriots

2. Carson Wentz-Philadelphia Eagles

3. Russell Wilson-Seattle Seahawks

4. Alex Smith-Kansas City Chiefs

5. Jared Goff-Los Angeles Rams

6. Drew Brees-New Orleans Saints

7. Philip Rivers-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Matt Ryan-Atlanta Falcons

9. Kirk Cousins-Washington Redskins

10. Ben Roethlisberger-Pittsburgh Steelers

If you read my awards blog, you would know that Tom Brady was my runner-up for MVP, an award he has somehow only won twice. Then again, Babe Ruth only won 1 MVP in baseball (granted, he played at a time when the MVP award was the Chalmers Award and the trophy was a car so you were only allowed to win it once. What a strange thing classic baseball was). But Brady, at 40 years old, is still the best quarterback in the game and it doesn’t matter who is on the field or is injured or whatever, Brady’s going to do big things. Carson Wentz and Jared Goff were revelations this season as they seem to be jumpstarting the next wave of superstar quarterbacks in the NFL. Philip Rivers quietly finished second in the NFL in passing yards and was instrumental in helping the Chargers out of a 0-4 hole and nearly became the second team ever to make the playoffs after starting so poorly.

Runningback

896546644

1. Todd Gurley-Los Angeles Rams

2. Le’Veon Bell-Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Kareem Hunt-Kansas City Chiefs

4. Mark Ingram-New Orleans Saints

5. Alvin Kamara-New Orleans Saints

6. LeSean McCoy-Buffalo Bills

7. Jordan Howard-Chicago Bears

8. Ezekiel Elliott-Dallas Cowboys

9. Leonard Fournette-Jacksonville Jaguars

10. Dion Lewis-New England Patriots

Naturally, my league MVP is going to finish at the top of my positional rankings. Todd Gurley had over 2000 yards from scrimmage so naturally, being the most complete back in the NFL today, he’s going to win out. Le’Veon Bell was also terrific, but his yards per carry was below 4.0 for much of the season, which is probably the thing that hurt him the most in my rankings. The fact that I had to say that and he’s still #2 on my list goes to show what I think of the guy. Ezekiel Elliott likely would’ve been much, much higher had he not had to serve the suspension because he actually was pretty quietly his same old self on the field. Dion Lewis makes the list purely for how well he finished the season, as he was torching opposing defenses to the point where it didn’t matter if Brady wasn’t at his best.

Wide Receiver

896643106

1. Antonio Brown-Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Julio Jones-Atlanta Falcons

3. DeAndre Hopkins-Houston Texans

4. Keenan Allen-Los Angeles Chargers

5. Michael Thomas-New Orleans Saints

6. Adam Thielen-Minnesota Vikings

7. Tyreek Hill-Kansas City Chiefs

8. AJ Green-Cincinnati Bengals

9. Brandin Cooks-New England Patriots

10. Golden Tate-Detroit Lions

After the top 2, this list got pretty tough. Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are clearly the two best receivers in the game. After that things get pretty tight. I went with Hopkins at 3 because he was the league leader in receiving touchdowns. Keenan Allen was nearly my comeback player of the year, perhaps should’ve been because he was terrific. Adam Thielen carried my fantasy team to another third-place finish. Deciding who was 10th was probably the hardest choice, as there were a lot of different guys that could’ve been there and no matter who I chose, somebody deserving would be left out. I went with Golden Tate, though his teammate Marvin Jones could have also been the choice. Tate is one of the more dynamic receivers in the league and is basically a poor man’s Antonio Brown.

Tight End

879672826

1. Rob Gronkowski-New England Patriots

2. Travis Kelce-Kansas City Chiefs

3. Zach Ertz-Philadelphia Eagles

4. Delanie Walker-Tennessee Titans

5. Evan Engram-New York Giants

6. Jack Doyle-Indianapolis Colts

7. Hunter Henry-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Jason Witten-Dallas Cowboys

9. Charles Clay-Buffalo Bills

10. Cameron Brate-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gronk could be the greatest tight end of all time when all is said and done, his career has been that tremendous and he’s not even 30 yet. He led all tight ends in receiving yards despite missing a game due to suspension and having no catches in the season finale, hence my conspiracy theory that he finished with exactly 69 catches for the season on purpose. Evan Engram was probably the lone bright spot for the Giants this season, as they appear to have a really talented player at the tight end position. I hate making this comparison because of the things that happened off the field, but Engram kind of reminds me of Aaron Hernandez with his athleticism and ability to play all over the field.

Offensive Tackle

639004198

1. Tyron Smith-Dallas Cowboys

2. Trent Williams-Washington Redskins

3. Alejandro Villanueva-Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Andrew Whitworth-Los Angeles Rams

5. Taylor Lewan-Tennessee Titans

6. Lane Johnson-Philadelphia Eagles

7. Terron Armstead-New Orleans Saints

8. David Bakhtiari-Green Bay Packers

9. Cordy Glenn-Buffalo Bills

10. Jack Conklin-Tennessee Titans

The main thing that put Tyron Smith at the top of this list is what happened to the Cowboys while he was injured. His replacement, Chaz Green, let up 6 sacks against Adrian Clayborn of all people and the Cowboys offense couldn’t even score on a hooker for the couple weeks Smith was out. But once he was back, it was like they were their old selves again even without Ezekiel Elliott. That’s MVP stuff right there out of the offensive line. Alejandro Villanueva is not only a really good football player, but he’s a Hell of a man as well, particularly as a veteran of the Armed Forces. Go read up on the guy, you’ll see some pretty cool stuff.

Offensive Guard

896665256

1. Zack Martin-Dallas Cowboys

2. Brandon Brooks-Philadelphia Eagles

3. Marshall Yanda-Baltimore Ravens

4. Kelechi Osemele-Oakland Raiders

5. Joel Bitonio-Cleveland Browns

6. David DeCastro-Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Xavier Su’a Filo-Houston Texans

8. Brandon Scherff-Washington Redskins

9. Kevin Zeitler-Cleveland Browns

10. Shaq Mason-New England Patriots

The Cowboys front office continue to reap the rewards of telling Jerry Jones “no” when Jones wanted to draft Johnny Manziel over Zack Martin. This is what happens when you don’t surround yourself with “yes men.” Martin is about as well-rounded an offensive lineman as you’ll ever find. Despite their poor season, the Browns had some pretty solid pieces on the offensive line in Bitonio and Zeitler. They would’ve had Joe Thomas too if not for injury.

Center

843376154

1. Alex Mack-Atlanta Falcons

2. Travis Frederick-Dallas Cowboys

3. Jason Kelce-Philadelphia Eagles

4. Rodney Hudson-Oakland Raiders

5. Maurkice Pouncey-Pittsburgh Steelers

6. Max Unger-New Orleans Saints

7. Brandon Linder-Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Mitch Morse-Kansas City Chiefs

9. Ryan Kalil-Carolina Panthers

10. Corey Linsley-Green Bay Packers

I don’t know if I respect any player in the NFL more than I do Alex Mack, who played the Super Bowl on a broken leg, and played well I might add. I don’t think people understand just how much of a factor your legs play in blocking, given how large the upper bodies of these offensive linemen are. Jason Kelce, brother of Chiefs tight end Travis, is quietly his brother’s equivalent on the offensive line, as he was arguably the most important part of keeping Carson Wentz, and then Nick Foles, upright.

Defensive Line

894356806

1. Calais Campbell-Jacksonville Jaguars

2. Aaron Donald-Los Angeles Rams

3. Cameron Heyward-Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Geno Atkins-Cincinnati Bengals

5. Malik Jackson-Jacksonville Jaguars

6. Kawann Short-Carolina Panthers

7. David Irving-Dallas Cowboys

8. Gerald McCoy-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

9. Jurrell Casey-Tennessee Titans

10. Fletcher Cox-Philadelphia Eagles

This was kind of a tough one because while it’s hard to leave JJ Watt off any list, I really had no choice but to do it. He didn’t play enough. It became tough again putting Campbell over Donald because while I do think Donald is the best at his position, I think Campbell had a better season. Plus Donald held out the first game of the season, losing some ground on surpassing the Jaguars stud. David Irving was quietly among the best pass rushing interior linemen in the NFL. After having previously been best known as being the guy who got his nipple ring ripped out during practice, Irving went on to record 8.5 sacks at a position of constant double teams. Maybe that dumb thing was holding him back, who knows?

Edge Defender

at the Hard Rock Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

1. Von Miller-Denver Broncos

2. DeMarcus Lawrence-Dallas Cowboys

3. Chandler Jones-Arizona Cardinals

4. Khalil Mack-Oakland Raiders

5. Joey Bosa-Los Angeles Chargers

6. Everson Griffen-Minnesota Vikings

7. Cameron Jordan-New Orleans Saints

8. Ryan Kerrigan-Washington Redskins

9. Yannick Ngakoue-Jacksonville Jaguars

10. JaDeveon Clowney-Houston Texans

Von Miller might not have had as many sacks as the guys behind him on the list, but he impacted games the way no other edge defender could. You have to double team him on the edge to really stop him and even then it might not work. When running the ball, you have to run to the opposite side of the field and he’s still fast enough to catch you. Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks and as a Patriots fan, letting him go for just a second round pick that was used on Cyrus Jones continues to haunt me, especially when we had to go to a 39 year-old James Harrison to get some competence opposite Trey Flowers. JaDeveon Clowney continues to get better with each year as his pass rushing skills are starting to catch up to his dominance against the run.

Linebacker

879854910

1. Bobby Wagner-Seattle Seahawks

2. Luke Kuechly-Carolina Panthers

3. DeMario Davis-New York Jets

4. CJ Mosley-Baltimore Ravens

5. Deion Jones-Atlanta Falcons

6. Telvin Smith-Jacksonville Jaguars

7. LaVonte David-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8. Vince Williams-Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Joe Schobert-Cleveland Browns

10. Alec Ogletree-Los Angeles Rams

I feel like people don’t give Bobby Wagner enough credit for what he does for this Seahawks defense. Everyone likes to point to the Legion of Boom, but Wagner may be even more critical than the tandem of Earl Thomas-Richard Sherman-Kam Chancellor. Telvin Smith played a similar role with the Jaguars, as their secondary got a lot of the praise, but he was the main cog that made things go. Joe Schobert may be a surprising entry on this list but he actually led all NFL linebackers in run stops.

Cornerback

877759972

1. Patrick Peterson-Arizona Cardinals

2. AJ Bouye-Jacksonville Jaguars

3. Xavier Rhodes-Minnesota Vikings

4. Marcus Peters-Kansas City Chiefs

5. Darius Slay-Detroit Lions

6. Marshon Lattimore-New Orleans Saints

7. Casey Hayward-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Jalen Ramsey-Jacksonville Jaguars

9. Jimmy Smith-Baltimore Ravens

10. Tre’Davious White-Buffalo Bills

This one’s kind of tough because it’s hard to measure a cornerback’s success. On the one hand, you can go with interceptions, but that’s often the result of being in the right place at the right time or could be an indicator that quarterbacks think they can challenge you. Really you have to go with advanced metrics, which I can’t provide without a Pro Football Focus subscription, which I’d be able to get if PEOPLE CONTRIBUTED TO MY FUCKING PATREON! *Exhales* I’m calm, I’m calm. But Patrick Peterson is not only an excellent corner, he’s also dynamite in the return game, which kind of puts him over the top for me. Darius Slay tied for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions this season, which when watching him play seemed to be more of a skill thing than a luck thing. Richard Sherman was left off this list mainly due to the fact he was battling injuries, which hurt his production some before he had to get shut down for the season.

Safety

867905710

1. Earl Thomas-Seattle Seahawks

2. Harrison Smith-Minnesota Vikings

3. Eric Weddle-Baltimore Ravens

4. Kam Chancellor-Seattle Seahawks

5. Landon Collins-New York Giants

6. Kevin Byard-Tennessee Titans

7. Tashaun Gipson-Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Jamal Adams-New York Jets

9. Glover Quin-Detroit Lions

10. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix-Green Bay Packers

It was a hard choice between Earl Thomas and Harrison Smith for top safety in the NFL this season, as both guys were terrific and leaders of top defenses. I went with Thomas simply because he’s been doing it for longer, though they’re basically 1A and 1B. Kevin Byard tied with Slay for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions, which I actually think means more for safeties than it does for corners because playing safety is more about reading the field and deciphering what the quarterback is thinking rather than just straight up covering a guy like a corner. Jamal Adams was one of my favorite prospects from the 2017 NFL Draft and he and fellow rookie Marcus Maye were big parts in the Jets being somewhat relevant in 2017.

Those are my rankings by position for the 2017 NFL season. Check back in tomorrow for my Top 100 players, followed by my first Mock Draft. Let me know what you thought of these rankings in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Wyman’s Sports College Football All Americans

My apologies for there not being a blog yesterday. I did have some material but I was absolutely exhausted. I had to fight to keep myself from passing out in the middle of my Inside Nazi Germany class. Just had a terrible night of sleep the night before. But I’m very well-rested now and college football awards are starting to roll in, such as the Heisman finalists having been released (that blog is coming tomorrow) and I thought it would be a good idea to get into who I thought the cream of the crop in college football was this season. I will be breaking this up into 3 teams and will encompass all of FBS college football.

First Team:

Quarterback: Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

Runningback: Bryce Love-Stanford

Runningback: Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

Wide Receiver: James Washington-Oklahoma State

Wide Receiver: Anthony Miller-Memphis

Tight End: Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

Tackle: Dalton Risner-Kansas State

Tackle: Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

Guard: Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

Guard: Will Hernandez-UTEP

Center: Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

Defensive End: Sutton Smith-Northern Illinois

Defensive End: Nick Bosa-Ohio State

Defensive Tackle: Maurice Hurst-Michigan

Defensive Tackle: Jalen Jelks-Oregon

Linebacker: Micah Kiser-Virginia

Linebacker: Roquan Smith-Georgia

Linebacker: TJ Edwards-Wisconsin

Cornerback: Joshua Jackson-Iowa

Cornerback: Denzel Ward-Ohio State

Safety: DeShon Elliott-Texas

Safety: Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

Kicker: Matt Gay-Utah

Punter: JK Scott-Alabama

All Purpose: Saquon Barkley-Penn State

848044388

So for this team we have a few obvious names (Mayfield, Love, etc). One name that you might not recognize on here is Norther Illinois defensive end Sutton Smith. Well get to know that name, because he led the nation in sacks this season with 14 and added 28.5 tackles for loss. He was an absolute game wrecker for the Huskies. DeShon Elliott for Texas was a guy I picked up on when I was watching highlight tapes for his teammate Malik Jefferson. The guy was all over the field, always making plays and it showed, as he was amongst the nation’s leaders in interceptions with 6.

Second Team:

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson-Louisville

Runningback: Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

Runningback: Josh Adams-Notre Dame

Wide Receiver: Anthony Johnson-Buffalo

Wide Receiver: Michael Gallup-Colorado State

Tight End: Adam Breneman-UMass

Tackle: Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

Tackle: Will Richardson-North Carolina State

Guard: Kyle Bosch-West Virginia

Guard: Cody O’Connell-Washington State

Center: Billy Price-Ohio State

Defensive End: Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

Defensive End: Anthony Winbush-Ball State

Defensive Tackle: Ed Oliver-Houston

Defensive Tackle: Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

Linebacker: Joe Giles-Harris-Duke

Linebacker: Garrett Dooley-Wisconsin

Linebacker: Uchenna Nwosu-USC

Cornerback: Darious Williams-UAB

Cornerback: Jalen Davis-Utah State

Safety: Derwin James-Florida State

Safety: Lukas Denis-Boston College

Kicker: Eddie Pineiro-Florida

Punter: Michael Dickson-Texas

All Purpose: Ronald Jones II-USC

617287078

You might find it weird to see a UMass player on this list. Well Adam Breneman is about as good a tight end as they come. He had the most targets in the nation at any position without registering a single drop. Get to know him as well, as he is on a lot of NFL radars. The defensive tackles on this team are two of the best football players in the country, Ed Oliver and Dexter Lawrence. If both were eligible, they’d likely be in the discussion for top 10 draft picks. But alas, we will have to wait for 2019, when the defensive line class will be STACKED (Oliver, Lawrence, Bosa, and Michigan’s Rashan Gary will all be in the running for top 10 picks).

Third Team:

Quarterback: Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

Runningback: Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Runningback: David Montgomery-Iowa State

Wide Receiver: Steve Ishmael-Syracuse

Wide Receiver: Trey Quinn-SMU

Tight End: Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

Tackle: KC McDermott-Miami (FL)

Tackle: Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

Guard: Hjalte Froholdt-Arkansas

Guard: Jacob Alsadek-Arizona

Center: Brian Allen-Michigan State

Defensive End: Mat Boesen-TCU

Defensive End: Hercules Mata’afa-Washington State

Defensive Tackle: Will Geary-Kansas State

Defensive Tackle: Taven Bryan-Florida

Linebacker: Ja’Whaun Bentley-Purdue

Linebacker: Josey Jewell-Iowa

Linebacker: Malik Jefferson-Texas

Cornerback: Brian Peavy-Iowa State

Cornerback: DJ Reed-Kansas State

Safety: Tarvarious Moore-Southern Miss

Safety: Armani Watts-Texas A&M

Kicker: Griffin Oakes-Indiana

Punter: Johnny Townsend-Florida

All Purpose: Marcell Ateman-Oklahoma State

<> on November 7, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.

We have one of the most intimidating names on this list, Hercules Mata’afa, and one of the least intimidating names, Josey Jewell. A name like “Hercules Mata’afa” just screams “power” and that was exactly what you got out of him, as he registered 10 sacks this season while facing a lot of double teams. Don’t be fooled by his girly name, Josey Jewell is one of the best linebackers in the country, in fact he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in a conference with the likes of Nick Bosa, TJ Edwards, and Maurice Hurst to compete with. That should tell you something right there.

So those are my All Americans for the 2017 college football season. It was an entertaining season and there is a lot of talented kids out there, so it is more probable than not that some deserving players got left off. Agree with my teams? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NFL Draft Big Board 1

I know it might seem a little bit early to do an NFL Draft Big Board, but look at it this way: some teams’ seasons are over and they need to look towards the draft. How can they know who’s good and who’s not if I don’t post this thing? The college football regular season is over anyway so why not? When football season ends, I’m going to end up doing a bunch of Draft-related stuff because I love this event more than a 21-year old dude probably should. I don’t know what it is that gets me so excited for the Draft, but I almost made my family late for a wedding to try and squeeze in one more pick during the 2009 Draft (that pick ended up being the Broncos taking Knowshon Moreno. Not super exciting I guess). I’ll probably post a new Big Board at select intervals, the next one will probably come after the National Championship Game next month. My Big Boards will consist of my Top 50 players, regardless of position. So without further ado, here are my Top 50 favorite Draft prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name still have eligibility remaining and could return to school.

50. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville*

879155694

49. Anthony Averett-CB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

48. Frank Ragnow-C-Arkansas

853810272

47. Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana

874679880

46. Mitch Hyatt-OT-Clemson*

849296274

45. Tremaine Edmunds-EDGE-Virginia Tech*

868762854

44. Shaun Dion Hamilton-LB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

43. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville*

842694674

42. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia*

870220064

41. DeShon Elliott-S-Texas*

848580052

40. James Washington-WR-Oklahoma State

871004758

39. Braden Smith-OG-Auburn

860687052

38. Dre’Mont Jones-DT-Ohio State*

842652022

37. Dorance Armstrong-EDGE-Kansas*

860224484

36. Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State*

864789654

35. Marcus Allen-S-Penn State

872977440

34. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

873798516

33. Mark Andrews-TE-Oklahoma*

877292834

32. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

DallasGoedert-SouthDakotaState-FB-catch-2016-2

You know you go to a small school when Getty Images doesn’t have a single picture of you (photo credit: HERO Sports)

31. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC*

873042172

30. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State*

877851096

29. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State*

881816194

28. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas*

842739124

27. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

492180502

26. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU*

879223912

25. Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma*

880535324

24. Vita Vea-DT-Washington*

842326242

23. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M*

877322916

22. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama*

873799154

21. Christian Wilkins-DT-Clemson*

849296312

20. Joshua Jackson-CB-Iowa*

869120150

19. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

876040470

18. Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson*

879206586

17. Da’Ron Payne-DT-Alabama*

860616816

16. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama*

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

15. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado*

856247132

14. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU*

868393550

13. Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

883584946

12. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame*

867656218

11. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama*

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

10. Connor Williams-OT-Texas*

882726114

9. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU*

854697660

8. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming*

617313558

7. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

859849808

6. Derwin James-S-Florida State*

872930398

5. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

868368660

4. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State*

877873132

3. Sam Darnold-QB-USC*

876127632

2. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA*

876061002

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama*

Alabama at Vanderbilt

So that’s my first edition of my Big Board for the 2018 NFL Draft. I expect a lot to change by the time I do this again. I’ve only been able to get around to watching footage (mainly Youtube highlight videos) on some of these guys so many of these aren’t set in stone. Is there anybody I forgot about? Did I rank somebody too high or too low? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Potentially Franchise-Altering Days for Two Organizations

smelli_1.0

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).

879852630

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.