The NBA All-Star Game’s Biggest Flaw

By Saransh Sharma, Nikhil Pradeep, & Anish Dhondi

The NBA All-Star Game has a severe problem currently, but it has nothing to do with the game itself. It instead has to do with the fan & coach-controlled voting for players who get the opportunity to play in the game. Sure, some years snubbed players are understandable due to the stacked conferences and players merely being too hard to choose between, yet the past few years have been the complete opposite, with star players who have outperformed one or multiple selected All-Stars snubbed. The thing that is important to note is that every year, there are multitudes of players that are chosen to be All-Stars. With only 12 spots per conference, the selections are difficult, but some are just dumbfounded nonetheless. Here are our takes on how to improve the All-Star Game voting to have fewer snubs and avoid trolls from dominating the voting (such as Klay Thompson nearly being an All-Star despite playing 0 games):

Saransh’s Solution: Have Current Players Vote & No Conferences

Similar to the ‘NFL Top 100’ voting, the NBA should randomly select NBA players currently playing to compile their All-Star Teams, separated by starters and reserves, as well as by conference. Each player would then select 12 players per conference, and they are limited as to how many players from their team they can select to limit ‘troll voting’ by the players. As we have seen, current players such as LeBron James, CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard, and Luka Doncic all voiced their frustrations with players being snubbed. Devin Booker this season, who is an All-Star replacement for Anthony Davis, falls into this category. Also, even Luka Doncic believed that he should not have been selected as a starter, and Damian Lillard should have been instead. Many of the All-Star caliber players in the NBA have tons of respect for each other and see each other players’ games in ways that fans, and even in some cases, coaches, simply cannot. This goes for one of this season’s biggest All-Star snubs, Trae Young. Many coaches around the league have expressed that they do not believe Trae Young is a point guard or that he has the chance to be an elite NBA player because of his lack of size, his shooting and shot selection, and his defense. That should not matter for an All-Star Game as it is a game of enjoyment, but many coaches do not view it that way.

Another big emphasis that should be taken into account is realizing how much certain players impact their teams. For example, Jimmy Butler missed much of this season with COVID-19, yet when he is playing, the Heat are 14-7 (66.7% win percentage), did not make the All-Star team. DeMar DeRozan, another All-Star snub, is leading an underrated Spurs team in the Western Conference to a 16-12 record (5th in the Western Conference). While I do not believe that players on winning teams specifically should be on the All-Star team or not, fans, coaches, and the media have to realize that these players have huge impacts on their team when it comes to winning and losing games, therefore emphasizing player and team records more into choosing the All-Star rosters.

This goes hand-in-hand with the last change that the NBA needs to make for the All-Star Game, which is to have the league remove conferences for the All-Star Game, therefore getting the 24 best players into the game. This would allow a player like Devin Booker or Trae Young to get in over a player like Nikola Vucevic or Julius Randle, whom while they both had great seasons (24.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG, & 41.0% 3PT shooting for Vucevic, having career-high scoring seasons & 3PT-shooting season), he would not be selected over Devin Booker due to the removal of conferences, who is averaging 24.9 PPG on a career-high 49.7% on FGs, and leading the Suns to the 4th seed in the Western Conference (21-11), while Vooch’s Magic are 13th in the Eastern Conference (13-21).

Nikhil’s Solution: Team Central Selection & Subsequent Player-Wide Voting

The NBA’s selection criteria for the All-Star game has been inherently flawed for a while, but in fairness, it has mainly been due to the increasing amounts of player movement within teams. James Harden leaving Houston and teaming up with KD and Kyrie is not something that should be possible in a fair league and tips the balances as far as All-Star voting is concerned. All three are very clearly All-Stars, but this eats up a lot of space for other deserving players to make the rosters. This, combined with clear and rather obvious ‘snubs’ from the rosters and starting spots, such as the case of Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic for the starting guard spot in the Western Conference, makes for a speculative sort of circumstance for voting in general and is usually not representative of what the majority thinks. Thus, a credible, albeit not preferable method of choosing All-Stars could be to preliminarily pick three candidates from each team, and have another subsequent player vote among those selected.

The basic premise of the method is each team selects 3 members of the roster to be selected for All-Star eligibility, and from there a similar player-centralized vote as suggested in Saransh’s solution would be implemented to select the final rosters for each conference. The only downside to this would be the absence of the fan vote but in all honestly, the fan vote has only served to blur the credibility of the entire All-Star voting process, having selected Zaza Pachulia and an injured Klay Thompson as top ten selections in years past. By implementing these such sanctions within the process, it streamlines the eventual outcome and as a result, produces rosters that are seemingly all-inclusive and fair.

Anish’s Solution: Make Fan Vote Worth Less & Remove Conferences

The NBA’s All-Star Game is important to players as it serves as a vital accolade to their careers. That said, the players who truly deserve the spot on the teams must be named All-Stars. In the current day system, fan vote only really has a factor on All-Star starters, and they’re given the 50% for voting while the 25% goes to players and media each. What was flawed this year was between the tiebreaker in the Western Conference between Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic. For many years team success has always been a factor in deciding who’s having a better season and this season Lillard has been winning more with the injured Blazers roster. Now the problem for voting comes where fans voted Luka Doncic (50% of the vote) and Damian Lillard wins in the other 2 categories that add up to the other 50%. The NBA decided to give the tiebreaker to Luka Doncic which tells me the fan vote has too much power. Fans and social media nowadays turns everything into a meme as players like fan-favorite Alex Caruso, or even Klay Thompson, who has not and will not play a game this season due to his ACL injury. Despite that, he proceeds to receive more votes than CJ McCollum, who suffered a foot injury but was averaging 26 PPG prior. 

As much as we want to see fan input, I believe tiebreakers should be through the other 2 categories because if players (who play and know the game) and the media (whose job is to report on the game) think one guy is better than the other, how do they not win that tiebreaker? My other problem is with the conferences there’s a lack of balance all around. Currently looking at the standings in both the West and East you can see the West is much harder. Teams in the West who are barely playoff contention would be Top 5 seed in the East. With a divide shown this strong, the West has better players, but the NBA picks the same number of players from both sides. You can see the unbalance even looking at the All-Star starters as the East has 2 All-Star starters who aren’t even in playoff contention even in the East with Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum (KD replacement). While in the West we see that the Spurs hold a Top 5 seed and somehow don’t have a single All-Star… The NBA needs to do something to counteract this imbalance that has been between the conferences for years to avoid more snubs in the future.

Predicting the 2021 QB Carousel

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, & Pranav Thiriveedhi

The 2021 NFL offseason has produced some of the craziest storylines and rumors we have ever seen, with quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson requesting a trade and Russell Wilson frustrated with Seattle and seeking options out. To sum it all up, many of these rumors are smokescreens and very far-fetched, but to not talk about them would be ludicrous. Here are our predictions for where 9 of the most notable quarterbacks, all of whom are free agents or have trade rumors revolving around them. 

Saransh’s QB Carousel Predictions

Dak Prescott, Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott has been the franchise cornerstone for the Dallas Cowboys for the past 5 seasons, and he has progressively improved, and last season, despite just 5 games, he put himself in elite company, throwing for 1,856 passing yards (371.2 passing yards/game) in those 5 games, including 3 consecutive games of 450+ passing yards (502 against Cleveland). Overall in his career, he has a 42-27-0 record and is one of the winningest quarterbacks in all of football currently (by win percentage). The fact that a player with his resume has yet to receive the long-term contract extension that he deserves is just a long list of failures for Jerry Jones since the Super Bowl glory days of ‘96. Prescott is demanding around $38M-$40M per year on a 4-year deal, but the Cowboys want to sign him for 5 years and pay him around $33M per year, or even put the dreaded franchise tag of $37.7M for the second consecutive season, which would force multiple players on the roster to restructure their contracts or have to be released. If the Cowboys would want to give Dak the ‘Kirk Cousins treatment’ and place the tag on him season-after-season, Dak, like Kirk, will surely walk, and if a quarterback of that caliber hits the open market, Dallas can kiss their chances of keeping Dak goodbye. Prediction: Dak gets franchise-tagged & walks next offseason.

Mitch Trubisky, Previous Team: Chicago Bears, Currently: Free Agent

Mitch Trubisky is one of the most interesting stories in the NFL. The Chicago Bears traded multiple picks to go from the 3rd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, up to the 2nd pick, to take Mitch Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. This move did not work, but the move did not look so bad at one point. In his second season, Trubisky led the Bears to a 12-4 record and was a Pro Bowler. The season following, Trubisky led the Bears to be just a game short of another playoff trip, and in 2020, the Bears made the playoffs as Trubisky went 6-3 in the 9 games he played (was benched for Nick Foles and then was injured, however). The problem for Trubisky has not been winning, but more so his inability to show any consistency and also struggling around great pieces around him and a great defense year-after-year. The issue is that his mediocrity has carried over to the team and put them down, leaving Chicago with zero interest in wanting to bring him back, and much of the NFL viewing him as a backup, as he should be viewed. Teams like Carolina, San Francisco, and New England are very much in the mix in terms of teams that need a serviceable backup who can start a few games while the team figures out their QB situation. We have heard rumors of Teddy Bridgewater and Jimmy Garoppolo either being traded or getting some QB competition, and New England potentially drafting a QB or re-signing Cam Newton and bringing in QB competition. No matter where he goes, Trubisky will most likely be in the mix for the starting QB spot, but he will not be viewed by any team as a starting option. Prediction: 49ers sign Trubisky on a 2-year deal, have Jimmy G compete with him for starting QB spot.

Marcus Mariota, Current Team: Las Vegas Raiders

Marcus Mariota is in a very interesting situation. He was benched 2 seasons ago by the Titans after his first three seasons were rather successful, being named a Pro Bowler in 2016 & making the playoffs, and winning a playoff game in 2017. But Mariota’s downfall in 2018 saw him become a backup in 2019 after Week 6, and his only action since has included the 2019 regular-season finale, one snap in the AFC Championship Game against Kansas City, and a game with the Raiders in 2020 where he replaced an injured Derek Carr and threw for 228 yards & 2 TDs in a 30-27 OT loss to the Chargers. Mariota proved that day that he can still be a good NFL quarterback and rekindle his magic from the start of his career. That being said, his current contract is driving teams away from wanting him, and Derek Carr’s consistent improvement and leadership will keep him as the long-term Raiders quarterback. Mariota could be released according to multitudes of reports, which would result in a much cheaper and lower-risk contract for teams interested in him, such as Washington, Philadelphia, & New England. Prediction: Mariota becomes the long-term QB answer In Washington, signing a team-friendly 3-year deal.

Pranav’s QB Carousel Predictions

Taysom Hill, Current Team: New Orleans Saints

Taysom Hill is one of the craziest quarterbacks in the NFL, and probably one of the weirdest players in NFL history, in terms of what position they play. Like really, what the heck does Taysom Hill even play? In terms of position, he’s a quarterback, tight end, wide receiver, full back, running back, return specialist, and punt blocker. If you could make a player that could play every position in the NFL, Taysom Hill would be your guy. As a member of the Saints, Taysom helped Drew Brees as a wide receiver most of the time, but the guy has a heck of an arm. And with the retiring of Brees inevitable, who’s going to get the job? Taysom or Winston? Taysom Hill hasn’t shown us flashes of being a franchise quarterback, especially since he’s already pretty old at 31. If Taysom decides to be a full-fledged quarterback still, I can see him riding the bench back in New Orleans, under a probably one or two-year deal. But if anything, it would have to be small of a deal, considering the Saint’s cap situation. But Taysom’s dream is to play under center, so I can see him signing with the Atlanta Falcons on a test ride contract if the Falcons decide to move on from Matt Ryan and draft a quarterback in the first round. Prediction: Taysom Hill will be in the QB competition for a starting job in Atlanta for the next season.

Jameis Winston, Current Team: New Orleans Saints

Jameis Winston is the other moving part of the New Orleans Saints. The current backup to Drew Brees and even Taysom Hill is not like any other ordinary third-string bench warmer. Two years ago in Tampa Bay, before the entry of Tom Brady, Jameis Winston added 5000 yards and 30 touchdowns to his NFL resume but negatively added 30 interceptions as well. Winston is a rough-around quarterback who makes hasty decisions but is overall a diamond in the rough if played in a promising situation. Given a good offensive line, and a plethora of absolute brilliant wideouts, Jameis Winston can truly shine, as he did for Florida State many years ago. Winston was also playing on a very cheap contract for the Saints, and even though he sat all year long, picking a similar contract would suit beneficial for both the Saints organization, who are again deep in cap overflow and Jameis Winston, who deserves the restart on his career. Prediction: Jameis Winston will sign a 2-year deal to prove himself as the Saints’ long-term QB.

Russell Wilson, Current Team: Seattle Seahawks

Adding to the huge quarterback crazy moves is Russell Wilson, a proficient quarterback who is well known as the most liked player in the NFL. Russell Wilson is also one of the best quarterbacks in the league, who led the Seahawks to 2 Super Bowl appearances, including a win against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. All that aside, Wilson and the Seahawks are in some sort of grudge match, due to the offensive line struggles and the fact that the Seattle front office is careless to hear what Wilson has to say. If Wilson is to leave the Seahawks, it would most probably be on a trade, which is because of his three years left on his contract. Earlier last week, Wilson told his agent that he desires to stay on the Seahawks but if trade breaks through, he only had four teams on his mind: Dallas, Las Vegas, Chicago, or New Orleans. We can already rule out New Orleans (they can’t afford him) and Dallas (Dak is the situation to deal with), so we are left with Chicago and Las Vegas, who are both looking to get a replacement at quarterback. If I see Russell Wilson leaving Seattle, it would probably be to the Las Vegas Raiders, who seem to be the only team that has a Wilson-like offense and have money to contribute to a hefty contract. Prediction: In 2022, we see Russell Wilson don the Silver & Black in Vegas

Rohan’s QB Carousel Predictions

Derek Carr, Current Team: Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr arguably had the best season of his career in 2020 despite the team going 8-8. In 16 games, Carr completed 67.3% of his passes for 4,103 yards, 27 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He is in the top half of the league at his position, and if the Raiders gave him a decent defense, they would easily be a playoff team. A recent report from Ian Rapoport said that several teams have called the Raiders about Derek Carr, however, the Raiders aren’t looking to trade Carr right now. He has improved in each of his 3 years with head coach Jon Gruden, throwing for 4,000+ yards in each and registering a 100-plus passer rating in back-to-back years. They also have a powerful bond, and it’s hard for me to see Carr being traded this offseason. Carr is also on a very team-friendly deal, averaging $19.5 million over the next 2 years. Prediction: Derek Carr will remain the Raiders starting quarterback in 2021.

Deshaun Watson, Current Team: Houston Texans

Houston is a huge mess and they are on the verge of losing their franchise star quarterback. It was a string of unpopular moves that led to this situation, from trading All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins for peanuts to keeping around heavily criticized executive Jack Easterby. Deshaun Watson requested a trade back in late January and to this day remains unhappy with no plans to play for the Houston Texans ever again. Watson just signed a lucrative 5-year contract extension last offseason so his only leverage right now is to sit out games. They can play hardball with Watson and wait until the regular season to see if he sits out games and that is what I think they are going to do. According to Ian Rapoport, the Texans do not plan on trading Deshaun Watson for a long, long time and if Watson decides to skip 2021, he would spark a total financial loss of roughly $20 million. Also, I think new GM Nick Caserio is operating on a much longer timeline and is perfectly fine with Deshaun sitting out. I don’t see Watson’s value changing much if he does sit out a year and this upcoming season is a lost one for Houston anyways. Prediction: Houston plays the long-game, wait until 2022 to trade Watson.

Sam Darnold, Current Team: New York Jets

Sam Darnold was the 3rd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he has not lived up to the hype. Most of that blame can be put on the Jets as they have done the least to help out their quarterback, but Darnold has also had his fair share of mistakes. His decision-making and processing have raised lots of questions and he is near the NFL bottom in several areas including passer rating and QBR. However, Sam Darnold is still salvageable and young at 23 and could improve with a change of scenery. The Jets hold the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft and have the chance to pick up a terrific QB prospect like Zach Wilson or Justin Fields. Multiple teams have reached out to the Jets and inquired about trading for Sam Darnold, and it is the right move for New York to deal with him. I think possible landing spots for Sam include the Steelers, Bears, 49ers, and Washington Football Team. Let’s talk about Pittsburgh which is where I think Sam is headed. Ben Roethlisberger’s time is quickly coming to an end and they need a new quarterback to build around. Striking a deal for Darnold would make a lot of sense for Mike Tomlin and his crew as Darnold can develop behind Big Ben. Prediction: The Steelers send a 2021 4th-rounder and 2022 2nd-rounder for Sam Darnold.

Super Bowl LV Predictions: The GOAT vs. The Baby GOAT

By Saransh Sharma, Nikhil Pradeep, Pranav Thiriveedhi, Rohan Krishnan, & Anish Dhondi

Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes. A legend of the game vs. the biggest future phenom. The GOAT vs. The Baby GOAT. This matchup is the highlight of Super Bowl LV and one that we are going to remember for decades as one of the best quarterback matchups ever in a Super Bowl. Tampa Bay will be making history before the Super Bowl even kicks off, with Tom Brady going to his 10th Super Bowl, trying to capture his 7th win, and the Buccaneers being the first team ever to host the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the defending champion Chiefs look even better than they did last year, as they took care of business all season long and did so in the playoffs as well, with and without Patrick Mahomes. Here are our predictions for Super Bowl LV:

Super Bowl LV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Saransh’s Prediction:

When Tom Brady went to Tampa Bay this past offseason, this Buccaneer offense looked great and had finally found the perfect quarterback to lead it, but I would not have expected them to be in the Super Bowl in Brady’s first season with the team. Then again, the mistake I made was doubting Tom and his ability to get to a Super Bowl. Brady has yet to play his usual ‘playoff Brady’ football, but I would expect him to bring it in the Super Bowl. On the other side, we have the defending champion Chiefs coming into the home of the Buccaneers for the Super Bowl with more confidence than ever. They sport a better run game than last season, a better defense, and somehow even more creativity thanks to Head Coach Andy Reid. The last time these teams met was in Week 12 when the Chiefs won 27-24 in Tampa, thanks to 462 passing yards & 3 TDs from Mahomes, 269 of those which went to Tyreek Hill, who will once again be a nightmare for the Buccaneer defense. I expect Hill to eclipse the 150-yard mark for receiving, and I also expect Travis Kelce to eclipse 100 yards. The Chiefs used more of a deep-passing game to exploit the safeties of the Buccaneers and have them matched up against Hill, but expect this time for Hill to be just as involved, but in more of a quick-passing game in order to keep Tampa Bay’s from-7 honest. 

Brady himself put up 385 yards & 3 TDs of his own, but his 2 INTs led to a 20-0 deficit and later a 27-10 deficit, and the Chiefs’ late miscues made the close scoreline look all too misleading. Brady will need to be much sharper and cut down the turnovers against Kansas City because unlike Green Bay, Kansas City’s playcalling will not be passive. The Buccaneers’ key to victory will be to milk the clock with a solid run game, and also to challenge the Chiefs’ linebackers more in the passing game, as a huge reason for their Week 12 loss to Kansas City was due to not mixing up the passing play-calling. 

Expect a ton of points on both sides, expect some of the best we have seen from Mahomes and Brady, and expect the Buccaneers secondary to have no answer for Tyreek Hill yet again. The Chiefs will hoist the Lombardi once again. 

Final Score: 38-33, Chiefs 

Super Bowl MVP: Tyreek Hill

Nikhil’s Prediction:

It is really hard to bet against Brady, no matter what team, no matter what circumstance, no matter what path to the Super Bowl he had to take. The Bucs earlier in the year looked written off, and many stated that the growing pains of Brady and the completely new Bucs roster were going to take at least a year to shake off. But, as is usually the theme with Brady, all critics were swiftly shut up, and the Bucs stormed their way back into contention during the second half of the season. Many had thought the presumed MVP Aaron Rodgers would take his red-hot Packers to the championship game, but somehow, as we have seen time and time again, Brady pulled his magic and vaulted his team ahead. Without any doubt, he is quite literally the greatest to play the game, and the fact that he did it this year in a completely new environment with minimal amounts of practice and preparation further cements his legacy. 

But this Chiefs team he is matched up against is SCARY. Patrick Mahomes seems to be the next in line to Brady’s throne and is storming his way there. Keep in mind, this team lost only 2 games in the regular season, and one of those losses was during a meaningless game against the Chargers in which most of their starters didn’t play. This team in many ways compares directly to the offensive firepower that the Bucs have, but have nearly twice the chemistry. Pieces like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Tyrann Mathieu have only gotten better since last year and having the new addition of Le’Veon Bell only propels their stock even higher. And if there was still any doubt, this team has already proven that they can handle the bright lights, having won the Super Bowl last year. In my mind, it is a bad decision to bet against such a well-orchestrated team like the Chiefs, and although there is always a chance when you have Brady on your team, there are still some crucial short-comings on the Bucs team that will prove costly against such powerful opposition. Thus I am leaning towards the Chiefs to win Super Bowl LV. 

Final Score: 38-31, Chiefs

Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

Pranav’s Prediction:

Tom Brady, in his fight against father time, has almost always been the underdog in every Super Bowl (10 appearances including 2021) he has played. With the New England Patriots, he won 6 out of the 9. But even after winning six rings, people called him a part of Bill Belichick’s system. So what did he do? He dropped everything and moved to Tampa Bay, FL, where he is doing it all over again with his new customized team and game plan, and guess what? He is in the Super Bowl again! Regardless of the roster around him (offense or defense), Tom Brady has always been able to pull off the win, marking his presence as the greatest to ever play, but this time, he has the best offense he has ever played with. With weapons like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and superstar talents in his running back core, the offense should have no problem moving the ball. 

But, do not get me wrong, the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes are pretty damn good. With the best record in the regular season and two strong postseason wins against the Browns and Bills, the Chiefs are looking like the team to beat. The game will be high scoring, whether it is a bomb to Tyreek Hill or a sensational throw to Mike Evans, but what we do know for sure is that this will be a fun Super Bowl for the ages. Tom Brady will get his 7th ring on Sunday, but it will be a hard-earned one. 

Final Score: 31-27, Buccaneers

Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

Rohan’s Prediction:

The last two quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl will face off in what will be a matchup for the ages. This has been a season unlike any other before it and the NFL has done a fantastic job navigating through this horrific pandemic. This Sunday will be a fitting finale for the most unique season in NFL history. The Buccaneers spent most of the season flying under the radar and the consensus was that they would be behind the New Orleans Saints. However, they shocked the NFC and the rest of the league, defeating the number 2 seeded Saints and the number 1 seeded Packers on the road. We should have known: never doubt the GOAT Tom Brady. Brady has injected life into a stagnating franchise and now the Buccaneers will be the first team ever to play in their home stadium in a Super Bowl. Tampa Bay’s defense, led by star LB Devin White, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Shaquil Barrett, has played a huge part in their Super Bowl run too, becoming a turnover machine and taking things to the next level at just the right time. This elite defense has 7 sacks and forced 7 takeaways in their three playoff games. They will be facing the biggest test of their season yet against a blazing and electrifying Kansas City offense who shredded the Bills defense en route to their 2nd Super Bowl appearance in a row. This Bucs defense also gave up Kansas City’s biggest offensive day of the season back in Week 12, as Mahomes and Co. racked up 543 yards in the Chiefs win. Travis Kelce is having a record-setting season for a tight end and has become one of the most dangerous weapons in the entire league. He is just one of several high-flying threats in the Chiefs league-leading offense as it includes speedster Tyreek Hill and superstar Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes dealt with multiple injuries and still managed to put up 300+ yards and 3 TDs against the Bills. He will be well-rested going into this matchup. Kansas City was the better team when these two teams met earlier in the regular season, and while the Buccaneers have gotten a lot better, so have the Chiefs. Despite Tampa Bay having home-field advantage for the first time in Super Bowl history, I got the Kansas City Chiefs going back-to-back with Mahomes winning the Super Bowl MVP. 

Final Score: 35-24, Chiefs

Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

Anish’s Prediction:

When looking at these two teams, it is clear that the team that has the upper hand on paper is the Chiefs. However, The Bucs are led by the GOAT Tom Brady, and if history has taught us, you can never count Brady out. The Chiefs have the so-called ‘next GOAT’ themselves in Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is the next biggest thing at quarterback as he can throw no-look dimes and amaze with his strong arm. As for his advantage over Tom Brady right, it comes in the QB running ability, which will help keep drives alive and keep Brady off the field. As for the rest of the team, the Chiefs just look too strong with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The Bucs have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but the Chiefs have the advantage in terms of offensive weapons. Therefore, I will have to go with the Chiefs winning back-to-back Super Bowls, with Mahomes as the Super Bowl MVP. That being said, as a Falcons fan myself, I know that it is never a good idea to bet against Brady. 

Final Score: 34-31, Chiefs

Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

2021 NFC & AFC Championship Game Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, & Pranav Thiriveedhi

This NFL Playoffs has had it all. Tom Brady dominating on the biggest stage, this time in the NFC, Aaron Rodgers proving why he is the most talented man to ever play the sport, the Chiefs playing like the defending Super Bowl champions with Chad Henne instead of Patrick Mahomes, and the Buffalo Bills playing like its the 1990s. These 4 teams now face each other for a ticket to Tampa Bay, with history on the line for the Buccaneers, as they could be the first team ever to host a Super Bowl. Here are our predictions for how these Conference Championship Games will go down:

AFC Championship Game: #2 Buffalo Bills @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs

Saransh’s Prediction: One year ago, people were questioning whether Josh Allen was the long-term option for the Bills. He improved quite a bit from his rookie season but still made glaring miscues, and they were most apparent in the Bills’ Wild Card loss to the Houston Texans where they blew a 16-0 lead. Now, Josh Allen is a top-5 QB and is looking to lead the Bills back to the promised land, this time hoping to hoist the Lombardi Trophy instead of watching their opposing team do it, as the Bills did 4 consecutive years (1991-1994). 

On the flip side, Kansas City is looking to repeat and will have Patrick Mahomes back from the concussion he sustained, as well as rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who went down with a knee injury in Week 14. Kansas City went 14-2 this season but at times looked like they were coasting too much and letting go of big leads or getting into close games against teams they should have no problems. That also was true against the Browns, as they let a 16-3 lead go, and had Andy Reid not decided to keep the offense out there on 4th down, the Browns could have won that game. Sure, they did not have Patrick Mahomes, but they still let up a bit and gave Cleveland a chance to win the game. Against a QB like Josh Allen, that cannot happen. No one in that secondary can stick with Stefon Diggs, and he and Allen will feast on the Chiefs. Mahomes or not for Kansas City, Buffalo wins. Final Score: 30-23, Bills 

Rohan’s Prediction: The biggest question and player of this game is Patrick Mahomes. He has now been cleared to play, but is he truly 100%? He suffered not one but two injuries against the Browns: a foot injury and a concussion. The Chiefs were still able to pull out a victory with Chad Henne, but they will be facing a much better and more composed team this time around. Not only that, the Bills are extremely hot as they just dismantled the Ravens and are on an 8-game winning streak. 

Furthermore, they have won all but one of those games by 10 or more points. Their defense is legit and they can certainly handle the dangerous 3-headed monsters of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. Josh Allen did not stuff the stat sheet against Baltimore’s tough defense, but he was able to lead the offense down the field and do just enough to give the Bills the victory. Allen should have a smoother ride against the Chiefs defense, and I expect this game to be a shootout. However, it is hard for me to bet against Kansas City as Andy Reid and company always find ways to get it done Even if Mahomes is less than 100%, I think the Chiefs will win in a thriller due to home field advantage and Super Bowl experience. Final Score: 38-35 Chiefs

Pranav’s Prediction: As Saransh mentioned above, Josh Allen was questioned if he could be a franchise quarterback for any team, not just the Bills. Many questioned his size, talent, and awareness, but those many who questioned him will now be watching him play in the AFC Championship from their couches. Josh Allen is legit, and with the newly acquired talents of Stefon Diggs, who seems to have created beautiful QB-WR chemistry with Josh Allen, The Bills have gone from playoff probable to Super Bowl contenders in just one season. On the other side, the Chiefs, led by Mahomes, are the best team in the NFL, possessing a 14-2 record. The Chiefs are your standards for American Football in the NFL. Mahomes will become one of the greatest to ever play, Tyreek is showing the world why it was a mistake for him to be drafted in the fifth round, and Travis Kelce is en route to upping Rob Gronkowski in the record books. There is so much talent on the offense, as well as promising talent on the defense. However, the Bills possess one of the best defenses in the league. The Bills are ready to break more tables on Sunday, and the Chiefs are ready to make their second consecutive visit to the Super Bowl. A great game calls for a great prediction, and I will be calling the Bills to get business done in Kansas City. Final Score: 27-24 Bills

NFC Championship Game: #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #1 Green Bay Packers

Saransh’s Prediction: Who would have expected that the first time we would see a Brady-Rodgers playoff matchup would not be in a Super Bowl? Many thought that Tom Brady would never leave the Patriots, and those that did think that the Chargers would be the perfect destination. Being in LA would be great as he often stays there in the offseason, LA has great weather, Hollywood, and so much more. Instead, Brady chose Tampa last spring, shocking the football world, but what has not been as much of a shocker is his playoff greatness, as he is yet again competing for a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, we see Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers to the Super Bowl after the Packers decided to draft a QB in the first round of the NFL Draft this past spring. Who knew that all it would take for Rodgers to play the best football of his career again was to make him mad and think he would be replaced? That is mostly a joke, but you get the idea. Rodgers has established himself with Davante Adams, the best WR in the league, and players like Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, and Aaron Jones all stepped up big last week after Adams drew a very tough matchup against Jalen Ramsey. Brady has found himself having a nice rapport with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and of course, his best friend, Rob Gronkowski. Despite that, the team has been a bit shaky in these playoffs despite their wins. In their game against Washington, the defense had lots of trouble stopping Taylor Heinicke, and against New Orleans, their offense did not score a single touchdown except for off turnovers. This team needs to be much more consistent both offensively and defensively to ensure that they can keep pace with this historic Packers offense. Antonio Brown has not been a huge factor for the Buccaneers, but he certainly is a great player who can provide big plays, and for him to be out this Sunday (knee) will loom larger than it seems on paper. This team does not have the secondary to cover Adams and does not have enough balance on offense to keep up with Green Bay. The Brady-Rodgers matchup will be one for the ages, but Rodgers will come out on top. Final Score: 35-31, Packers

Rohan’s Prediction: For more than a decade, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have sat at the top of the league at the quarterback position. On Sunday, we will see these two elite players square off in the postseason for the first time. These two teams have met in the regular season in Week 6 as the Bucs came out on top 38-10. The Tampa Bay defense shut down Aaron Rodgers (160 yards, 2 interceptions) and Aaron Jones (10 carries, 15 yards) en route to a blowout victory. However, things will be different this time around as it will be in Green Bay. The weather is also going to be very cold which works in Green Bay’s favor. The Packers’ offense has improved into a killer machine recently which has also benefited their defense. They simply do not turn the ball over, which helped them hold the highest figure in the league for an average time of possession. Tampa Bay came up with four turnovers against the Saints, so they need to have another multiple takeaway game to control the Packers. This is the toughest opponent Tampa Bay has played in a while and will need to put together their best performance of the season to beat this crazy talented Packers team in the cold. Brady will get it close, but it will not be enough for the Bucs as Green Bay returns to the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade. Final Score: 32-27 Packers

Pranav’s Prediction: We have seen Brady vs. Manning, Brady vs. Brees, and even Brady vs. Mahomes. But now we have the opportunity to see number 12 vs. number 12 in the playoffs, Brady vs. Rodgers. Something football fans have wanted to see for over ten years is coming true this Sunday. The Packers are an incredible team in all aspects on the offensive side. Rodgers is your surefire MVP, Davante Adams is your number 1, league-wide receiver, and Jones is your top 5 running back. Even the secondary on the Packers is scary, with Jaire Alexander. But on the Buccaneers, Brady leads one of the most electric offenses in the NFL, except the Kansas City Chiefs. With so much depth on both sides of the ball, Tampa Bay will surely present an excellent matchup for the Green Bay Packers. We might even witness overtime in this game, as both teams will be dropping points every drive. This is one of the hardest games I will ever have to call, but I know Tom Brady in the playoffs. There is nobody better than him in the playoffs, regardless of who is on the other team. When Manning was the MVP, Brady won. When Mahomes was the MVP, Brady won. Rodgers has presented a historic stat line as one of the greatest to ever play, but he will be facing the greatest to ever play. I will be putting all my money on the table and calling for the Buccaneers to win, which will allow them to host the Super Bowl in February. Final Score: 36-30, Buccaneers

Is The James Harden Trade That Scary For The NBA?

By Saransh Sharma, Nikhil Pradeep, & Anish Dhondi

Guest Writer: Santosh Krishnan

By the time everyone reads this, it will have been about a week from the time that James Harden was traded to the Nets, giving everyone adequate time to come up with their opinions on the trade, but we are taking the approach that this is just after the trade, and the Nets have yet to play any games together with their new Big 3.

The Nets acquired James Harden, of course, but many other teams around the NBA became involved. The Cavaliers got Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen, building up their young starting-5. The Pacers received Caris LeVert, Houston got Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodion Kurucs, four first-round picks, and four pick swaps. Wow, that is a lot of pieces traded. Here is our full analysis of the trade, and why you should not freak out as much as you may want to.

Saransh’s Analysis

Brooklyn’s Perspective: They got what they wanted. To acquire James Harden without giving up Kyrie Irving, but that might be the issue. Kyrie is currently away from the team to attend birthday parties while not wearing a mask, and attend meetings to discuss social justice initiatives. While I am in no way opposed to him working to make changes in this country regarding the racial injustices, to skip games and not communicate with your team to do so is not a good look at all. Do you see LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Wilson, and Patrick Mahomes skipping games to do so? No, they are doing both, and Kyrie’s lack of communication and possibly even lack of care for basketball is concerning. Like Stephen A. Smith said on First Take on Wednesday, retirement is something we should not be surprised to see when it comes to Kyrie Irving.

Second, Harden is a pure 1v1, iso-ball player, with an enormous ego. Undoubtedly he will be able to score in bunches, but will players like Kyrie and KD be able to as well with him involved in the offense? Sure, Harden averages a lot of assists, but a lot of those assists come off of lob and alley-oop passes off the pick-and-roll. For Head Coach Steve Nash, the question will be to see if Durant, coming off of an Achilles injury, is willing to take on that task of being a more inside/paint-oriented player and attacking the basket. Due to having had the injury, I would expect Durant to miss some guys to rest the Achilles. If Harden can figure out how to give up the ball more, then Durant can thrive, as he has so far this season when Kyrie has done the same.

Third, what more does Kevin Durant need to beat LeBron? You already had Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, and now you have Kyrie and Harden at your disposal? I do not think we can judge KD and give him a ‘legacy’ of any sort besides saying that he needed superstars around him.

Lastly, I believe this team should make the Finals, but they will not beat the Lakers. There will be chemistry issues between the three of them and the rest of the team, the Nets now lack depth due to having traded players like Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, and Taurean Prince, so seeing players like Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan play big minutes all season long will be interesting. Also, not having Spencer Dinwiddie due to his ACL injury which has him out for the season, puts even more responsibility on Harris, and Landry Shamet, who acquired this past offseason to be a key backcourt depth piece. With Kyrie AWOL, Harden’s love for strip clubs, and Durant having not played without multiple superstars for years, this team will have plenty of bumps along the road, and teams like Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee, will give them a good fight, but they will still prevail and win the East. But beating LeBron James, Anthony Davis, the rest of that defending champion roster, and that depth and coaching? Come that time of year, the bumps in the road will be too much to drive over, and the team will be deemed a failure, much like the Warriors when they got DeMarcus Cousins, and much like the Rockets when they had Westbrook and Chris Paul alongside James Harden. Also, given that they gave up 8 years’ worth of draft capital and LeVert for Harden in what will be a 1-3 year experiment at the max is crazy. Then again, we have seen this with Brooklyn before.

Cleveland’s Perspective: Not much to say here. They got great young players who can be valuable trade pieces once this team gets ready to compete in the playoffs and also can give Collin Sexton more to build around and lead the team with. Cleveland has way too many big men now that they acquired Allen, so trading Andre Drummond and Kevin Love will be their top priorities, and if they play the cards right with the trades, they could sneak into the playoffs this season. Unlikely, but not impossible. This trade is a win and can be even better based on their future decisions around this trade.

Indiana’s Perspective: The Pacers are in the middle of being a contender and going into a full rebuild with this move. This allows the offense to be fully run with Malcolm Brogdon off-ball, LeVert can shine as a scoring star, and Domantas Sabonis can show how good he is, but in the end, same old Indiana. It is a winning trade to get younger, but it may not make them better.

Houston’s Perspective: Getting Victor Oladipo was probably not what the Rockets thought would happen in this Harden trade, but they will gladly take it if they can keep him this offseason, as he is a free agent after this season. As for this season, Oladipo alongside John Wall in the backcourt gives them an exciting backcourt with elite defensive skills, and his facilitating ability can make DeMarcus Cousins at least his Pelicans self if not his elite Kings self. The Rockets also have all of those picks for the future and can rebuild smoothly, without having to deal with any players that become distractions. 

Santosh’s Analysis

Brooklyn’s Perspective: This trade is scary because if all goes according to plan, the Nets might rewrite the scoring record book every night. Of course, it has to go according to plan. As of right now, James Harden is merely a Kyrie-goes-rogue safety net, but once Kyrie gets back and is fully focused, the Nets are capable of putting up 75+ points a game with just KD, Kyrie, and Harden. The big if is, as usual, Kyrie. ‘Kyrie, the Intellect,’ has decided to take a sabbatical from the NBA that includes Zoom calls during games and birthday parties, while Harden has his desires in strip clubs, leaving KD to be a leader, which he has not been most of his career. On top of that, all the scoring depth provided by players like Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen are gone, along with any future depth in the years to come with the absence of three first-round picks. Brooklyn is in win-now mode, but how are they going to win? In the regular season, it is easy to put up historic numbers, but playoff basketball slows down a lot due to the increase and defense, and the Nets have defensive liabilities everywhere at the moment. Kyrie cannot guard a tree, Harden only guards when he feels like it, and the Nets no longer have a strong interior presence with the absence of Jarrett Allen, who was traded to Cleveland as part of the 4-team Harden deal. Sure, DeAndre Jordan is on the team, but when ESPN displayed the potential starting lineup, they put in Jeff Green instead of DeAndre Jordan, showing how much of a threat he is to anyone in the paint nowadays. That leaves KD to play the 3, 4, and 5 positions on the court, which is not what you want a star player coming off an Achilles injury to be doing. Brooklyn has to acquire a big man ASAP, whether it is someone cheap off the free-agent market or lure someone out of retirement, but they need someone because DeAndre Jordan is not the answer to this problem.

Now let us acknowledge that Brooklyn has acquired 3 of the top 10 players in the league. Why would you be willing to have such a high payroll for a big three when the rage is all about dynamic duos? It turns out that the only way to beat LeBron now is to acquire a minimum of 3 Hall of Fame players on the same roster, as stated by Nick Wright on FOX Sport’s ‘First Things First’. Kevin Durant decided that Kyrie and a strong bench was not enough to handle a 36-year-old LeBron James? And people think he is better than LeBron? That’s all I will say about that, but what does this mean for the expectations for this team? It is as championship-or-bust as it can get.  

The last time a team traded this much for one player was when the Los Angeles Lakers for AD, and when the Clippers traded for ‘Pandemic P’. The only team to successfully utilize this star player was the Lakers, who won the title last year, and to no one’s surprise are the favorites this year.  

I believe that the Nets will be plagued with chemistry issues due to a power struggle over the ball and a lack of depth. Brooklyn has the individual pieces to win, but do these pieces fit together? I do not think so, and like the KG and Pierce trade the Nets made years ago, I fear the Nets just made another one today. Last LeBron note; this was trending on Twitter, but did anyone notice that LeBron made a Stephen Curry no-look three, and the next day a super-team was assembled? Ooooh, the Nets are in trouble.

Cleveland’s Perspective: Cleveland got some nice pieces, but really how many big men does one team need? You got Drummond at point guard turning layups into turnovers, Kevin Love wasting a great career playing power forward, Larry Nance Jr dunking all the time at the 3, and Javale playing center as a center does. So I guess you bring in Jarrett Allen to play the 2, turning him into a splash brother? I have no clue what the Cavs think they are doing, and this accumulation of big men gets them nowhere.

Indiana’s Perspective: Giving up Oladipo for LeVert does not improve the team, but it keeps that a contender level while getting rid of the cloud of issues regarding his desire to be there in the first place. LeVert is a solid 1/2 hybrid player who can distribute and score at a great clip. Pair him with Brogdon and Sabonis, and the Pacers remain the contenders they are. However, I do not believe they will advance farther than the second round and will be a 5-6 seed in the East. Giving up Oladipo also removes the Pacers’ obligations to pay Oladipo big money, as they can instead focus on building a contender team with cheaper pieces.

Houston’s Perspective: In all fairness, the Rockets won this trade. They netted four first-round picks, four pick swaps, Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, bench depth, and a solid future. They don’t have to deal with distractions caused by James Harden or his ridiculous commands and can start a rebuild without developing a losing culture. With guys who will work hard like John Wall and Boogie Cousins, along with a less ball-dominant 2 in Victor Oladipo, the Rockets and Stephen Silas have a lot of pieces to work with to build something special. As John Wall and Boogie Cousins round into form and Silas integrating Oladipo into a game plan that allows Wall to be Wall and not have to defer to Harden all the time, the Rockets can play free-flowing basketball the way Silas wants to and continue to keep a winning culture while harvesting picks for the years to come.

Nikhil’s Analysis

Brooklyn’s Perspective: The move is quite obviously a win-now type of play from the Nets’ head office, but all indications just seem to be heading towards failure. Yes, this team will win games; a large sum of them as well. But the age-old question that seems to be the demise of most superteams not named the Warriors is called back into question: who takes the last shot? I have sat here and thought about this for a while now, and I still cannot come up with a genuine answer. The crux of the problem lies in the personality of each player, and the fact that they are all HUGE ball-dominant guards (Yes, Kevin Durant is not technically a guard, but his game most closely resembles that of one). James Harden is known to be a huge ball-hog and one that usually dribbles for more than 5 seconds before making some kind of slow-motion and hitting a step-back jumper. Kevin Durant is known to be a crossover killer and one whose size is so hard to guard in any situation. Kyrie Irving is known to be an insane dribble move user, who has the best passing attributes of the three but will not shy away from a shot of his own. Combine this with the fact that off the court, these three players are the three most egotistical in the NBA, and you have to think that somewhere, something will go wrong. 

Irving himself took an extended leave of absence that the Nets organization has no reason for, and Harden’s entire saga of blatant disregard for an organization will not bode well for a championship-caliber team. Each of these three guys will be the one without the ball in their hands during a potential game-winning sequence of play at some point in the season, and when it happens, we will truly see how this team will work, will thrive, or will ultimately fail. Steve Nash has a hell of a job to do, and in all honesty, I do not think he can do it.

Houston’s Perspective: The Houston Rockets, without Daryl Morey, managed to come away as the big winner of this trade in my opinion, as they manage to set themselves up for the future brilliantly, while still keeping a passable playoff-caliber roster right now. Just listen to the haul they got for Harden: Victor Oladipo, Rodions Kurucs, Dante Exum, four unprotected first-round picks (Brooklyn 2022, 2024 and 2026, Milwaukee 2022), and four unprotected first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027). The sheer amount of picks is almost comparable to what OKC has been doing with their picks and ultimately sets them up for a good number of future players, a good proportion of which are bound to be gems. The biggest piece of the puzzle right now, however, is Victor Oladipo, who is more than a passable guard that has nearly all the skill needed to pilot the ship next to John Wall. That backcourt in all honesty is reminiscent of the notorious Wall-Beal backcourt that thrived so many years in Washington, the difference being that the rest of Houston’s roster can provide some help. Eric Gordon, Demarcus Cousins, Christian Wood, and PJ Tucker have experience being the follow-up option to a ball-dominant player in James Harden, so they would only thrive in a much more pass inclined system under Wall and Oladipo. Houston has a lot to look forward to, now and the future, even though on the surface it may look like a downgrade.

Cleveland’s Perspective: I cannot lie to you guys, I know almost nothing about the current Cavs roster, or how well they play. All I know is that they’re 7-7, and have WAY too many big men, especially given the league-wide tendency to go small nowadays. So, acquiring Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince just does not seem like a roster friendly move to make. However, Andre Drummond has an expiring contract, which could indicate that he could be on the move shortly, or even more moves for Allen and Prince. All in all, however, whoever it is they keep will not make a huge difference record or skill-wise. They will, however, make a difference in the locker room. Having two guys who are widely regarded as very decent players and can contribute immediately will do wonders for this young squad.

Indiana’s Perspective: There was news a long while ago that Oladipo wanted out of Indiana, and that finally came true in exchange for a younger Caris LeVert, and a 2023 second-round pick. LeVert has lived up to his major upside and showed so last year when he began to pick up steam and started dropping big-time performances. But under the dictatorship of KD and Kyrie, his usefulness was bound to take a hit, and riding the bench is never what someone of his skill level and upside should do. So, this move makes sense for both parties, and in turn, gives Indiana a viable asset for the future. Will we see a major difference? No, the Pacers are still going to be a middle of the table playoff team, but a team that could be a dark horse in the East if things go their way.

Anish’s Analysis

Brooklyn’s Perspective: This was the biggest acquisition by the Nets who received former MVP, James Harden. The Nets appear to be a super team with one of the best scoring trios of all time in Kyrie, Harden, and Durant. However, this team still has its problems. Aside from wondering how chemistry and egos will stay intact with these superstars, even on the court, there can be issues for this stacked team. They traded a lot of their bench depth to acquire James Harden, previously the Nets had one of the best benches in the league with Dinwiddie (out for the season), LeVert (stellar play with Irving out), and Jarrett Allen (phenomenal rebounder and rim protector). After the trade, the Nets have no bench depth which plays a big role in coaching now. An advantage they do have is having three offensive superstars. In this case, there should always be at least one of these three superstars on the court to run the offense and the Nets should manage well. However, their lack of defense could also be a problem after losing Jarrett Allen, there are no great defenders on the Nets team (maybe aside from Kevin Durant too). In all, if the Nets do not win a championship with this trio, they completely threw away their future as they do not get another draft pick till 2028. The Nets going all reminds me of the similar situation with them giving up picks to the Celtics for washed stars, hopefully, this situation turns out different. 

Houston’s Perspective: I think Houston got a decent amount for James Harden. They did not get a future star or anything like Ben Simmons, but they got draft picks and a good player in Victor Oladipo. Oladipo was on a tear before he got injured and he has been trying to work his way back. However, in Indiana, he did not get as many opportunities as Sabonis and Brogdon began to take off. In Houston, this is perfect for Oladipo as he is in the backcourt with John Wall who came back from a bad injury and they can work together to succeed.

Cleveland’s Perspective: Cleveland seems to be the forgotten team in this chaotic trade. However, I think Cleveland won this trade. Cleveland did not have to give up any valuable players or too many draft picks and they acquired a young big in Jarrett Allen. You may be thinking, why would the Cavs need another big man they already have Drummond? Initially, I thought the same, but I believe they can easily trade Drummond for a final piece to build around the young core of Sexton, Garland, and Allen. This team could be scary in a couple of years if they play their cards right!

Indiana’s Perspective: I would not say Indiana won or lost this trade because right now, we cannot tell. LeVert and Oladipo seem to be on the same skill level with LeVert producing more with less opportunity. However, LeVert is out indefinitely with finding a mass in his kidney during the physical. The true winner of this trade is Caris LeVert because without this physical, who knew when he would find that he had a small mass in his kidney. I hope for a speedy recovery. If LeVert comes back to his usual self, Indiana won this trade mainly because Oladipo was about to become a free agent so they at least got a player equal to him in LeVert.

2021 NFL Divisional Round Playoff Predictions

By Saransh Sharma & Rohan Krishnan

The 2021 Super Wild Card Weekend was one of the most memorable ones in recent memory. We saw Tom Brady set up Brady-Brees III, Taylor Heinicke had the performance of his life and maybe the best quarterback performance of the Wild Card Weekend in Washington’s loss to Tampa. We saw Buffalo and Cleveland break their playoff win droughts, a Nickelodeon NFL game, the Rams run the Seahawks out of Seattle, and Lamar Jackson got his first playoff win as Baltimore got their revenge against Tennessee. This weekend should set up one of the most Divisional Rounds in recent memory, with many young, up-and-coming superstar QB in the AFC and legendary QBs in the NFC. Here are our predictions for the Divisional Round:

AFC Divisional Round

#6 Cleveland Browns @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs

Saransh’s Prediction: Cleveland just came off of what may have been their biggest playoff win in team history with their upset victory over the Steelers, and what a display they put on. With great defensive play all night to give the offense short fields to work with, along with the poise of Baker Mayfield and the running game from Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, this Browns team proved how legit they are. The Browns proved to be a team that could give Kansas City problems. In Kansas City’s first loss of the year to the Raiders, the Raiders grossly outrushed the Chiefs, which ultimately led to the win, as every other stat was almost identical for both teams. Despite that, the Chiefs offense will have all their cannons out ready to fire, and the Browns offense will have much more work to do than they had on Sunday Night. Chiefs win, but the Browns keep it very close. Final Score: 37-34, Chiefs

Rohan’s Prediction: What a win for the Cleveland Browns, getting their first playoff victory in 25 years! Cleveland dominated the Steelers with almost no practice and their head coach in quarantine. They showed they can overcome adversity and find ways to win games shorthanded. However, they are about to face a very well-rested Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and the Kansas City Chiefs on the road with 17,000+ fans in attendance. The Browns secondary will get torn apart, and this game will not be close. Browns fans should be proud of their season and have a lot to look forward to in the future. Final Score: 41-20, Chiefs

#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #2 Buffalo Bills

Saransh’s Prediction: Two of the most electrifying QBs in the league, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, have led their teams to this position, along with great weapons around them and defenses to complement them as well. This game is calling for 1-3 inches of snow on Saturday, and Lamar Jackson said earlier this week that he has never played in the snow and hopes not to. That to me is all the difference, as that, coupled with Bills Mafia in the stands, boosts the Bills to victory. Final Score: 24-17, Bills

Rohan’s Prediction: Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, both getting their first playoff win last weekend, are a pair of thrilling dual-threat playmakers, which makes this matchup very exciting. Both teams are evenly matched and had very hot finishes to the regular season. Baltimore did a fantastic job containing Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry last week, but this week will have a more difficult test against the electric Buffalo offense. I anticipate a down-to-the-wire game, but Buffalo will come out on top by controlling Baltimore in the red zone. The weather will be in favor of Buffalo too, and Lamar does not have experience playing. Final Score: 23-20, Bills

NFC Divisional Round

#6 Los Angeles Rams @ #1 Green Bay Packers

Saransh’s Prediction: The hype around the Rams defense is legit, and they are the undisputed best defensive group in all of football, but against the best offense, led by arguably the most talented quarterback in NFL history in Aaron Rodgers, and all of his pass-catching options, at some point the Rams defense will bend enough to the point where Rodgers makes them break. Davante Adams and Jalen Ramsey will have the most exciting WR-CB matchup we have seen in ages, but Rodgers will keep the Packers’ offense afloat. That, along with the uncertainty of Jared Goff at QB, who will be asked to throw late in the game, and in the cold, possibly-snowy winter wonderland of Lambeau Field, that should propel Green Bay to the win. Final Score: 28-14, Packers

Rohan’s Prediction: The best defense in the league against the best offense in the league, what more could you ask for? No NFL team has scored more points in the regular season than the Packers, while the Rams defense is responsible for most of the team’s wins. The Rams have the issue of having both Jared Goff and Aaron Donald banged up coming into this game. Dealing with injuries to these key players will be a headache for Sean McVay and his squad, along with the icy conditions, nothing like that nice Los Angeles weather. That said, I feel an upset brewing. Even though MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers has been on a tear, I think the Rams secondary can contain Davante Adams and the rest of the receivers. Also, the Packers will be missing All-Pro David Bakhtiari, which is a concern against the team that leads the NFL in sacks (53). Rams will shock the world and play in the NFC Championship for the 2nd time in 3 years. Final Score: 26-23, Rams

#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #2 New Orleans Saints

Saransh’s Prediction: Brees vs. Brady, Part III, live on The History Channel. Well, that is a joke but has become viral on Twitter during the past few days. All jokes aside, this matchup has the legacies of Brady and Brees on the line, as Brady losing three times in one season to Brees could put a bit of a dent on his legacy, especially now that he is in Tampa as opposed to New England, where the competition was typically much younger and less experienced. Both times these teams have played, Brees has calmly picked apart the Buccaneer defense, Alvin Kamara has done his thing on the ground, and the elite front-seven has fooled Brady and forced mistakes. While Tampa Bay may have figured out how to beat Washington’s elite front-seven, them doing it twice in a row, is unlikely. I expect Brees to have a very similar game to the one he had against the Bears last week, where he constantly found Michael Thomas and led the Saints on methodical, clock-chewing drives. Final Score: 30-21, Saints


Rohan’s Prediction:  This game should be a memorable one as it will be the last time we will see Drew Brees and Tom Brady face off head to head. The Saints have swept the Buccaneers in the regular season by a combined 72-26 score. New Orleans has an elite defense and showed that when they held the Bears to 9 points and the Bucs to just 3 points in their most recent matchup. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers managed to take care of Washington but it was not easy by any means, and it went down-to-the-wire. On paper, the Saints have the better defense, better offensive line, and know-how to win games against elite opponents. However, you can never count out Tom Brady, who has the most impressive playoff resume and has weapons like Evans, Gronk, Godwin, and AB. I expect this to be a close game, but the Saints will come out victorious thanks to their defense and controlling the clock. Final Score: 33-28, Saints

2021 NFL Super Wild Card Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, & Pranav Thiriveedhi

For the first time in the NFL’s history, we will be seeing a playoff with 14 teams, as opposed to the usual 12 teams, with each conference having 7 representatives, and one team in each conference receiving a bye week, bringing us our first-ever Super Wild Card Weekend, where we get to see 6 games between Saturday and Sunday played to decide who moves throughout the playoffs. Here are our predictions for who will prevail in the Super Wild Card.

AFC Predictions

#7 Indianapolis Colts @ #2 Buffalo Bills

Saransh’s Prediction: The Buffalo Bills have at times looked like the scariest team in the NFL not named the Kansas City Chiefs, and it is no secret as to why. Josh Allen has played like an MVP candidate all year and drastically improved and like the Chiefs with their QB-Receiver duo of Mahomes and Kelce, Allen has found his duo partner in Stefon Diggs, who was acquired this past offseason. 

Meanwhile, for the Colts, they signed QB Philip Rivers to a 1-year, $21M deal, which surprised many, but his consistent play in the late-season stretch, along with the elite defense, helped Indianapolis secure the 7-seed in the AFC. This game features two defenses that have been hot for the majority of the season, but the Bills’ offense is far superior and more consistent than that of the Colts, propelling them to a win. Final Score: 31-21, Bills

Pranav’s Prediction: The Buffalo Bills are your AFC East Champions! That is something the world has not been heard in over 20 years, but after an upsetting season from the New England Patriots, who placed 3rd in the division, the Bills not only filled the seat but also took the #2 seed in the AFC conference. The Bills are a scary team on all sides of the ball. A very dynamic yet work-in-progress quarterback Josh Allen is the leader for arguably the best wide receiver core in the league. Stefon Diggs, the NFL’s leader for receiving yards and receptions, is finally on a team with a quarterback that can reach his ceiling. 

On the other side, the Indianapolis Colts have proven to be an excellent team, especially with their destructive defense. They ranked first or second in the categories that matter, including points and rushing yards allowed. Matching up a weaker secondary against a strong suited receiving core, though, could prove to make the difference in a win or loss. The Bills are going to take the dub here, but watch out for the Colts next year. 

Final Score: 38-31 Bills

Rohan’s Prediction: The Bills will be hosting their first playoff game in 24 years! A lot has changed for the franchise as they have returned to relevance thanks to HC Sean McDermott, GM Brandon Beane, and MVP candidate Josh Allen. Allen has shattered franchise records this year, throwing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns. Stefon Diggs, who was acquired in a trade this past offseason, was a big part of that and became Buffalo’s first player to lead the NFL in catches (127) and yards receiving (1,535). Furthermore, the Bills are perhaps the hottest team in the NFL as they are winners of six straight to end the regular season. 

On the other side, Phillip Rivers, who was signed on a 1-year deal, is a veteran passer who can take the offense down the field. He needs to hit on all cylinders Saturday and put the ball into the endzone as the Bills’ offense is dangerous. The run game and defense are the highlights of this Colts squad. The defensive unit is fantastic and has not allowed more than 90 rushing yards in any of the last five games. Furthermore, Jonathan Taylor is a joy to watch and became the third rookie in Colts history to have 1,000-plus rushing yards and 10-plus rushing TDs in a season. The run game will be key to the Colts victory, and if they can find leaps of success, they can pull off the upset. The Bills defense is poor against the run but tightened up recently and has played much better in the 2nd half of the season. It will be a close battle, but the hot Bills will take this one and get their first playoff win since 1995. Final Score: 24-16 Bills

#6 Cleveland Browns @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers

Saransh’s Prediction: If the Cleveland Browns did not have their head coach, along with four other players out for this game due to them having tested positive for COVID-19 or having been in close contact with those that did test positive, I would pick Cleveland, but without them, especially without your head coach, that will be a difficult task. Pittsburgh started as maybe the most underwhelming team ever to start a season with 10+ wins and be undefeated, with losses to the Washington Football Team, Buffalo Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals, and big losses at that proved exactly why. The offense was simple and easy to figure out for defenses after a while, there was no run game, and the defense never missed a beat all year, until that Washington game. 

Cleveland, meanwhile, looked like they were headed for a bit of a downfall when they had gotten their season back on track, but then Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL, but they found themselves finishing the season 11-5 and having a Week 17 rematch with the Steelers as their Wild Card matchup. This game will come down to the wire and Cleveland will earn the respect of the NFL, but Pittsburgh will take advantage of the players out for Cleveland. Final Score: 34-27, Steelers

Pranav’s Prediction: Cleveland is going into their first playoff game in a very long time. That is hard to win with a team that has no playoff experience. Cleveland is going into their first playoff game without their head coach, without their best player [Odell Beckham Jr], and four other players. The Browns are an exceptional team who have proved to show that they are not quitters. They have the guts and talent to win games against any team. But being matched up against their division rivals, who they barely beat after the Steelers rested many starters, is not a welcoming entry into the playoffs. 

I have to congratulate them for doing what would have been the impossible two years ago, and even though they possess the running power to beat many teams. The Pittsburgh defense, along with Cleveland’s vacancy in the head coach position will cost the Browns their first playoff win in a long time. 

Final Score: 28-13, Steelers

Rohan’s Prediction: Browns fans have been waiting nearly two decades for their team to return to the playoffs, and it finally happened. Sadly, Cleveland will be without COTY candidate Kevin Stefanski, safety Ronnie Harrison, and LG Joel Bitonio, the longest-tenured player on the team and made three consecutive Pro Bowls. They could also be without tight end Harrison Bryant and cornerback Denzel Ward as they are still on the COVID-19 list. Moreover, the team has not practiced all week and their facility remains closed, which is brutal for Cleveland considering the magnitude of this game. 

It is difficult for me to pick Cleveland to win here despite the Steelers finishing the season 1-4. To be fair, Pittsburgh took Cleveland to the final minutes in Week 17 without Ben Roethlisberger, TJ Watt, and Cam Heyward. The Steelers will win this one comfortably. Unfortunately for Browns fans, they will have to wait a little longer for a playoff win. Final Score: 24-13 Steelers

#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #4 Tennessee Titans

Saransh’s Prediction: The whole ‘Lamar Jackson is 0-2 in the playoffs’ narrative has been the biggest topic of discussion coming into this matchup, but the real talk should be about how the Titans beat them in the playoffs last year, and that this year they may be even better. Titans RB Derrick Henry rushed for over 2,000 yards this season, Ryan Tannehill had a career-high in passing TDs and won 11 games and the AFC South, and Mike Vrabel continues to be one of the NFL’s premier coaches. 

One big advantage that Tennessee has had is to have fans (14,500 total) since October. Having fans during the playoffs will give them a true home-field advantage. The Ravens defensive line will do their job to stop Henry, but it will come down to which QB will make more big plays, and I will take the most underrated QB in football in Ryan Tannehill, in what should be the most exciting game of the weekend. Final Score: 41-37, Titans

Pranav’s Prediction: I agree with Saransh that Tennessee is a good team, but Baltimore is better on paper. I will wait for him to prove that Lamar Jackson truly is a playoff quarterback so I will keep this short and sweet. Final Score: 28-21, Titans

Rohan’s Prediction: The Titans stunned the Ravens in last year’s postseason and the Ravens are looking to get their revenge, this time in Tennessee. This will be an exciting matchup as two of the NFL’s most explosive offenses go head-to-head, with the spotlight being on Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry. Tennessee built off of last year’s playoff run and got better this year. Derrick Henry had another impressive 2,000 rushing yard season, and Ryan Tannehill had the best season of his career, throwing for a career-high 33 touchdowns and leading the Titans to an 11-5 record. The receiving core of AJ Brown and Corey Davis is no joke, and the Titans defense is very talented. 

Meanwhile, the hungry Ravens are looking to redeem themselves and are entering the playoffs on a 5-game winning streak. Lamar Jackson endured a midseason slump but bounced back in December thanks in part to an easy schedule. The Ravens also have a great rushing attack like the Titans, averaging 191.9 yards per game with Jackson, rookie J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards. I think it will come down to the defenses. Baltimore has a far superior defense, and the Titans just gave up 38 points to a Texans team that had nothing to play for. The defenses will prove to be the deciding factor, and the Ravens will come out on top this time around. Final Score: 34-30 Ravens

NFC Predictions

#7 Chicago Bears @ #2 New Orleans Saints

Saransh’s Prediction: Alvin Kamara tweeted on Thursday evening ‘See y’all Sunday,’ signaling to fans, as well as the Chicago Bears, that he should be back on Sunday evening after having tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday. Chicago’s offense has been explosive as of late, and Drew Brees has had his playoff struggles the past few years, but with the return of both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, Chicago may not have much of a chance. Final Score: 38-28, Saints

Pranav’s Prediction: This is a very complicated game for me to predict. On one side, the New Orleans Saints are a heavily talented team on both sides of the football, but even with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas returning to the lineup, Drew Brees has not played like his former self. I think a strong Chicago defense can step up and steal a few possessions from the Saints. While I do not believe an inexperienced Mitch Trubisky will be enough to take down the Saints, I will call the upset thanks to that defense.

Final Score: 17-14, Bears

Rohan’s Prediction: Alvin Kamara is a huge factor here. He is currently on the COVID-19 list but the Saints are hopeful that he plays and he recently tweeted “See y’all Sunday”, suggesting that he plays. Drew Brees loves to depend on Kamara, who leads the Saints with 83 receptions, and Brees still looks shaky after returning from his rib injury. 

The Bears and Saints met in the regular season and went into overtime, but things are different this time around. Mitchell Trubisky is now the starting quarterback for the Bears, and both Drew Brees and Michael Thomas are back for the Saints. The Bears defense is elite and is among the best at stopping their opponent’s wide receivers, but I do not see their offense giving enough firepower to win this game. With Michael Thomas back and Kamara likely to play, I think the Saints will move on. Final Score: 26-10 Saints

#6 Los Angeles Rams @ #3 Seattle Seahawks

Saransh’s Prediction: What if I told you that since Week 11, the Seattle Seahawks had the #1 scoring defense in the NFL? After the historic start to the season for the offense, setting multiple scoring records and such, the defense was on pace to a historically tragic start, and at one point could have allowed the most yards per game on average. The return of Jamal Adams and the trade for Carlos Dunlap has changed the fortune of this defense and has made them lights-out, but their offense has sputtered since. The offense that could once put up 30+ effortlessly every week can barely even score 20, and this Rams defense that ended the season as the #1 defense in the NFL will hold that Seahawk offense in check, but potentially without QB Jared Goff or Jared Goff at 100%, the Rams defense may be asked of too much, and we all know that Russell Wilson and this offense always finds a way. Final Score: 23-20, Seahawks

Pranav’s Prediction: Is it just me, or has the Seattle Seahawks offense been playing badly recently. So bad that the defense that once was atrocious is now winning them games. I like Russell Wilson, but he has not been meeting any marginal expectations, regardless of his record. A strong Rams defense against a weaker Seattle offense will sputter points for Seattle, and an explosive offense (even if Goff does not start) will be the deciding factor for whether the Rams can pull off the playoff upset. But for my prediction, I will be taking the Rams. 

Final Score: 21-20, Rams

Rohan’s Prediction: The Seahawks got off to a hot start to begin the season, but the offense, led by Russell Wilson, started to run out of gas and became inconsistent. The defense, however, is the complete opposite, as the unit is improving and was responsible for the Seahawks winning 6 of their last 7 to finish the year. No matter what the records were, games between these two teams were always tight, and I expect a close game once again. The Rams have an elite defense and held Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense in check in both games. 

A player to keep an eye on is quarterback Jared Goff who did not play in Week 17 due to a thumb injury and is questionable for this wild-card matchup. The problem with Los Angeles is poor QB play, limiting their potential. Even though Goff has had a subpar year, he is better than backup John Wolford and gives them the best chance to win. Due to the inconsistencies at quarterback for the Rams, I am going to go with the Seahawks here. Final Score: 20-14 Seahawks

#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #4 Washington Football Team

Saransh’s Prediction: The Washington Football Team, who would have thought that after everything they endured, such as Alex Smith’s near-death injury, Ron Rivera’s battle with cancer, Dwayne Haskins being one of the most immature football players of recent memory, and a major scandal involving owner Dan Snyder, that the Washington Football Team would host a playoff game? Well, not any of us, as you can see from our preseason predictions. The NFC East was not great, but teams like Washington and New York both played better than what their record shows. Washington sports the #2 defense in the NFL with the most intimidating front-4 that we have seen since ‘Sacksonville’ in 2016. Alex Smith is 5-1 as a starter, and even without the most impressive numbers, one thing that has stayed consistent with him is that he is a winner. He battled back to the playing field, and Ron Rivera, who battled through cancer, got this team from 2-7 and the bottom of the division to the playoffs. 

Meanwhile, the Bucs acquired Tom Brady, and they have had a mostly consistent season, with most of their mishaps coming in primetime games against strong blitz defenses, which bodes well for Washington. Brady also may not have Mike Evans, but Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski are plenty to work with. Washington’s defense will pressure Brady all night and slow down this offense, but the Bucs defense, who has been solid all season, should slow down the injured Alex Smith, and backup QB Taylor Heinicke. It will be a slugfest, but Tampa should pull it out. Crazier things have happened, however. Final Score: 24-22, Buccaneers

Pranav’s Prediction: The Washington Football Team has a top-five defense that is like none other, and Chase Young is my vote for DROY, but their offense is atrocious compared to any other playoff team. I know the saying, “Offense wins games, Defense wins championships,” but a 7-9 Washington Football Team that doesn’t even possess a mascot, has not won a sufficient amount of games to show me that they belong in the playoffs, regardless of how the playoffs work. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the far better team here. With future HoF quarterback Tom Brady, who is the greatest of all time, and a crazy offense to counterpart (even without Mike Evans), Washington’s defense is like a wall with a big door. Tampa Bay also has a top-10 defense to complement themselves as well. And against a weak WFT offense, who will not move the ball, expect a playoff blowout Saturday night.

Final Score: 38-7, Buccaneers

Rohan’s Prediction: You could say that Washington only made the playoffs due to how atrocious the NFC East is, but they are the best team in the East, and it is very impressive how big of a leap they made from last season to this season. Ron Rivera is a Coach of the Year candidate, fighting cancer at the beginning of the season and taking Washington from 2-7 to 7-9 and a division title. They also have the Comeback Player of the Year, Alex Smith, who has inspired millions of people with his road back from his devastating injury and was a big part in taking the team to the playoffs. 
Washington’s defense is tremendous, ranking 2nd in the NFL, with a phenomenal pass rush that should force a lot of pressure on Brady this weekend. However, this is going to be a tough task as the Buccaneers have a crazy loaded offense that has Tom Brady coming off a 40 touchdown season. They arguably have the best receiving core consisting of Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and potentially Mike Evans will be a handful for Washington’s secondary. Also, Alex Smith is still nursing a calf injury that has affected the offense as a whole. Washington’s run game, headlined by Antonio Gibson, keeps the offense alive, but Tampa has the number-1 ranked rushing defense. WFT has the defense to make this a battle and shock the world, but I feel that their offense just will not give enough to win. Tampa takes this one. Final Score: 31-20 Buccaneers

2020, The Most Unthinkable Year In Sports

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, Anish Dhondi, Rohan Krishnan, & Nikhil Pradeep

2020, who saw this coming? A worldwide pandemic, systemic racism across the world, an election that tore people apart from each other, horrifying tragedies, yet through all the challenges we faced, all the sacrifices every one of us made, we, whether we know it or not, prevailed. We grew braver, grew an appreciation and gratitude for the people we had, the objects we possessed, the values we hold. One of the biggest things that kept us going all year was sports. Whether it was an ugly Sunday Night Football game between the Eagles and Cowboys, an NBA Bubble playoff game, whatever the spectacle may have been, sports brought people together, and at times, made us escape the reality we were facing in our world. We saw the power athletes had not just through playing their sports, but with their voices, with their actions, with their perseverance, that it inspired us to do the same, and it lifted us during these difficult times. Here are some of the monumental moments that we saw in 2020:

The Day Sports Came to a Halt by Saransh Sharma

On August 26th, 2020, we saw the Milwaukee Bucks boycott their first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man who was shot 7 times in the back and killed while unarmed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just 30 miles away from Milwaukee. The fallout led to the cancellation of two other NBA playoff games that day. The rest of the MLB games on that night were postponed, and tennis star Naomi Osaka announced that she would not play in her Western & Southern Open Semifinals match, set for August 27th, the next day. On the 27th, many NFL teams had canceled their practices in tribute to Blake, and all seven major league sports in the United States went to a halt. We also saw the NBA nearly boycott the remainder of the season. Players such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard favored the motion to boycott unless a plan to keep the conversations to help end racial injustice. A plan was put in place by the NBA of initiatives to support throughout the NBA bubble, and thanks to the help of Former President Barack Obama, the NBA was able to get back and continue the season.

These actions led to many players having their forms of silent protest before their games or matches, such as taking a knee during the National Anthem, wearing a mask or shirt with the names of victims killed by police due to racial injustice across the country. Overall, it brought more awareness to the injustices going around our country into the sports world, as fans learned of the importance to push for changes for this country. Had it not been for the events that transpired on August 26th, which led to a full day without any sports nationwide on the 27th, we as a country would be in a much different position.

NBA Season Dropped for the Second Time in the Last Ten Years by Pranav Thiriveedhi

In 2011, the NBA season under commissioner David Stern saw a league-wide lockout, allowing for the absence of professional basketball across the country. Many people thought that the issues present under David Stern would not be a problem under incumbent commissioner Adam Silver, but on March 11th, 2020, the NBA season was suspended. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz All-Star Center and two-time Defensive Players of the Year tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the postponement of their game against the OKC Thunder. Gobert’s positive test led to the indefinite suspension of the 2019-2020 NBA season. Word of this terrible news spread like fire across the United States, even while NBA games were being played that day. Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, was devastated to hear about the season suspension moments after coming out with a win over the Denver Nuggets. With so much emotion and tragedy going across the NBA world, and even after the news of Kobe Bryant’s death, the suspended season was the worst thing for many to hear. 

But we are not quitters. The coronavirus pandemic has affected every single person not only around the country but around the world, making us rethink and reinvent our old ways. After the NBA’s indefinite hiatus, and after a struggle to make it work, on June 4th, the NBA board of governors approved for the resume of the season in a competitive bubble format on July 30th, 2020. And you guys know how the rest went. The Orlando bubble proved to be very successful, all the way from the last eight regular-season games to the NBA finals, which helped show that the 2019-2020 NBA season was the most historic and craziest professional basketball season ever. 

The ‘Flex My House’ NFL Draft by Rohan Krishnan

The National Football League was preparing to have their annual draft at Las Vegas this year, and the plans were so extravagant that it included a stage on the water at Bellagio Fountains. Players would be taken by boat to the main stage to be drafted. This spectacle would have made for one of the most memorable drafts of recent memory. Due to the pandemic, however, it became a TV-only event. Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, started the Draft from his basement and behind him was a huge video screen, showing the fans for each team and reactions from players and their families. It was a weird experience for prospects and fans as they did not get to walk up to a stage and get the customary hug from Goodell. Nothing is the same without a huge crowd to cheer or boo for their team’s selection. However, the first night had stellar ratings, drawing a record 15.6 million viewers.

The NFL did a fantastic job of not having any technical issues and proved that in the face of a crisis, a Draft can be done from home. It was also fun to see the memes pop up on social media, giving plenty of memorable moments. Roger Goodell looked like he was about to fall asleep on Day 2 of the Draft, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury did the Draft from his $4.45 million mansion, as he dunked on everyone else’s draft setup, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was chilling on his yacht. Watching the event was a welcome distraction for all fans across the country since it was one of the very few live sporting events since the pandemic started in mid-March. It was also special to watch the draft prospects hanging out at home with their loved ones and showing their reactions to the world as they start a new chapter in their lives. 

The Struggle of the Bubble by Anish Dhondi

After the NBA shut down in March, the NBA planned its way back to a restart in July. The process was strange for both players and fans. The world had to go months without sports, one of the largest forms of entertainment. When the NBA restarted again, players were in an unorthodox situation. They were restricted to their hotel ‘bubble’ in Orlando, where after they played games, they could see their opponents walking around in the same bubble, which gave a unique experience. The style of the game also changed with no fans, the games for the players were very quiet. Watching on TV, we did not notice as much as they add in fan audio, but the players could hear every little thing that they all were saying. This led to players on the bench getting more technical would than usual, as any chatter on the bench could be heard very clearly by the referees. At the end of the NBA Playoffs and Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers were the NBA Champions. Strangely, people will find any reason to discredit a LeBron James ring, calling it a ‘Mickey Mouse Ring.’ In reality, winning the championship was more difficult than fans realize. Portland Trail Blazers star, Damian Lillard, came out and said that playing in the bubble was a lot harder competition-wise. Traditionally, the season and playoffs require a lot of traveling to satisfy homecourt advantages along with other distractions, Dame said that in the ‘bubble life’ was just eat, sleep, and ball. NBA players were also fully rested as they did not have to deal with any travel or jet lag and could recover their bodies for the next game much faster than usual. Overall, the bubble was a huge success, with no positive cases that required a second shutdown. Credit to Adam Silver, one of the best, if not the best commissioner in sports, for creating the safest environment possible for players and teams. After this strange bubble experience, it was not over for 2020. 

The 2020-21 NBA season had to begin to avoid future seasons from being delayed. Teams that played in the bubble received the shortest offseason (72 days for the defending champion Lakers) of all-time, while players outside of the bubble received the longest. The shortened offseason has resulted in players taking additional rest during the regular season to avoid injuries, like Westbrook, Kyrie, Kawhi, and Kevin Durant periodically sitting out games. No fans, along with the difference in rest have made a big difference, as teams that received the most rest are seemingly starting the season on fire. The Magic and the Cavs are surprise teams in the East who were well-rested and started the season with wins that no one expected. In the bubble, we saw a whole different type of play from some players who went off like TJ Warren, Devin Booker, and Damian Lillard with no fans to cheer or boo at them. As many described, it felt like playing at an empty practice gym. 

As the vaccine is slowly getting pushed out, I truly hope that the NBA can start incorporating fans into the games safely because, without fans, the game does not feel as exciting to watch or play.

A New Injury Designation in the NFL by Nikhil Pradeep

Most avid viewers of the NFL know that injuries are simply part of the game, and no matter how far medical and biophysical science goes to improve safety equipment, that fact is not going to change. The sheer amount of force, power, and most importantly, the heart that NFL players play with is just too much for injuries not to be an integral part of the league. In 2020 however, a new type of injury designation showed up in the game-day rosters and fantasy team news articles for those associated with the NFL: the COVID-19 identifier. In these unprecedented times, there were insane circumstances that left NFL general managers scratching their heads and fantasy football players livid. The prime example that inevitably will go down in history is the Denver Broncos having no available QBs to play Week 12 against the New Orleans Saints, a situation that some believe to be poorly handled by the league office and commissioner. There was no exception granted to the Broncos after having pleaded their case for excruciating circumstances, with the game played with Kendall Hilton, a practice squad wide receiver, at quarterback. The result of the game needs no explanation, but the event itself shows the frailty of the NFL’s plan to get their league running again during the time of this virus. Couple this with the league’s handling of the Ravens’ multiple weeks long COVID-19 spread, which resulted in the shifting of games throughout the weekend schedule, and you start to see how bad of a job the league did in handling this year’s rollout of the NFL season. Compare this to the NBA bubble that was deemed a complete success by many within the media, and you begin to wonder how Roger Goddell and his team thought their plan would suffice in the first place.

But we are talking about 2020, and anything that could have happened did happen this year. All things considered, it might have been necessary to play this year and steamroll through multiple COVID-19 cases to even have a league to play in for years in the future. The NFL is by no means a graceful sport, and maybe the methods the league office takes to run it are the same way. All in all, there were not an absurd amount of cases, especially not an amount that endangered a significant portion of people’s lives, and it resulted in a rather entertaining season in a rather dreadful year. On the positive side of things, there were not games completely canceled, all 256 games were fully played. That being said, there are ways to improve the handling of an unforeseen event like this in the future. The NFL will not be praised for their forward-thinking in handling this virus, but at the end of the day, the league, players, and personnel will all benefit.

The NFC (L)East: The Worst Competitive Division Ever

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC East’s current leader, the Philadelphia Eagles, has a half-game lead over the other 3 teams in the division, who are in a 3-way tie for second place in the division. These teams must be good, right? Well, they certainly are competitive, and they have had their fair share of injuries, unlucky losses, roster changes, blowouts, coaching turmoil, and everything in between. All of these teams have 3 wins, with the Eagles only having a half-game lead over the rest of the division due to the tie they had with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. This week has some big division games coming, with the Cowboys hosting Washington on Thanksgiving Day, the Giants playing the Bengals, and the Eagles hosting the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Here are our predictions for who wins the NFC East:

Current NFC East Standings:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1), Division Record: (2-2)
  2. New York Giants (3-7), Division Record: (3-2)
  3. Washington Football Team (3-7), Division Record (2-2)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (3-7), Division Record (1-2)

Saransh’s NFC East Winner: Washington Football Team

Washington Remaining Schedule: @ Cowboys (3-7), @ Steelers (10-0), @ 49ers (4-6) vs. Seahawks (7-3), vs. Panthers (4-7), @ Eagles (3-6-1)

Yes, I am a Washington fan, but no, I am not saying this in a biased sense. Right now, of the 4 starting quarterbacks in the NFC East, the one quarterback that I trust most to not turn the football over and make poor decisions, win games, and use their experience to their advantage, is none other than Alex Smith. For New York, Daniel Jones has shown improvement over a 2-game stretch, where they played Washington and Philadelphia, but is still a turnover machine. For Dallas, Andy Dalton is still shaky and does not have the best chemistry with all of the Cowboys’ WRs, although he has a very nice connection with CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. And lastly, for Philadephia, Carson Wentz has the clock ticking on him as the starter in Philadelphia. Alex Smith is a born winner, and when he had come into Washington, he was at the time in the top-5 in terms of winningest active QBs at the time (2018). Then, of course, the gruesome leg injury happened which nearly ended his career and his ability to ever walk again, yet he is here on a football field, inspiring the young Washington Football Team to be in winning situations and even win games, something that has not been seen in Washington for years. Alex Smith may never be even half of what he was as a QB before his injury, but he is still a winner and a leader, and the other quarterbacks in the division are not showing that right now. On top of that, Terry McLaurin has been unreal and is easily the most underrated wide receiver in the entire league, but most of all has been another great leader on the field and in the locker room.

The defense, who are middle-of-the-pack against the run, is ranked #1 in the NFL against the pass and 3rd in sacks. Having guys like rookie sensation Chase Young be double and even triple-teamed at times, has allowed the rest of the front seven, like Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan, to get constant pressure along with Young. Then there is the secondary, led by cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, who have quietly led the #1 pass defense in the entire NFL. To be fair, the stats are misleading, as this defense has had some big games, such as their 7-sack performance in Week 1 against the Eagles, but also poor games, like giving up 30 points to a Lions offense without Kenny Golladay. If they can find even the slightest bit of consistency, as the offense is beginning to show now under Alex Smith, this team can win the games they should win, and do enough to win the division.

Washington should beat Dallas on Thanksgiving and should beat the Eagles to complete the season sweep to finish 4-2 in the NFC East overall. Outside of that, Carolina should be a win, and a sneaky win could come against the 49ers, who will be without George Kittle and most likely also Jimmy Garoppolo. Without the 49ers win, they would finish 6-10, and they would finish 7-9 with it. Either way, I do not think any other NFC East team finishes with more than 5 wins. The Giants, who are the biggest competition to Washington for the division title, have all but two of their remaining games against teams with winning records, and I do not see the Giants doing enough to get past Washington. HC Ron Rivera has battled through cancer this season, and Alex Smith, while being nothing more than an average QB, has still made one of the greatest comebacks from an injury in the history of sports. This team not only could end up being the best in the NFC East when it is all said and done, but also the most inspiring. Whatever happens in this wild division, it will be intriguing (and ugly) to watch, and all of these teams will have their work cut out for them this offseason.

Pranav’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

Let me start by saying I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. ‘Go Birds’ and all that stuff, but this year? The Eagles stink, and no single person can be blamed. Sure, Carson Wentz and his disgusting attempt at being a marginally good quarterback, or Doug Pederson and his awful play-calling, have failed miserably, but this is a team problem that is not a one-week fix. Let us face reality here, the Eagles have tried to fix these problems every week, yet nothing has changed. Fans and critics thought it might be because half the team is injured but the truth is the Eagles are not the best in the NFC East, regardless of their place in the division presently. At the beginning of the season, Dallas and Philadelphia split the predictions for winners of the NFC East, but after the injury to Dak Prescott, Dallas doesn’t have a shot. The Philadelphia Eagles, for the last few weeks, have been too quick to crown themselves as the division winners, but now everyone can see that they might have called it too early. They have probably the hardest remaining schedule in the NFC East, playing four Super Bowl contenders in a row: Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona. 

On the other hand, the dark horse team in the NFC East, the New York Giants, are riding on a few wins. The New York Giants and I hate to say this, are the best team in the division. No one expected them to be anywhere outside of the last place in the division to start the season, and even more after Saquon Barkley’s season-ending injury, but things change. For starters, the Giants have the easiest remaining schedule, and being tied for second is a big help for them because one win already puts them in the driver seat for the East. The Giants are better than the Washington Football Team, having the series sweep. The Giants are also better than the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite having split the season series, the Giants have dominated both matchups with ball control, as they lost their first matchup with Philly due to avoidable penalties. And lastly, the Giants are better than the Dallas Cowboys, and I do not even have to explain. I know I should have no bias as an Eagles fan, but I will never give the Cowboys any love unless they have 1:1 odds to win something.

That being said, the Giants are in the position to take the NFC East, but this is still a division too early to call. We don’t know what is going to happen, or what more (or less) to expect, and to be honest with you, it is not good. All I can say is that none of these teams are going anywhere this season and will be undergoing major changes this offseason. 

Rohan’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

I am also a Washington fan like Saransh, yet I believe the Giants will come out on top and take the NFC East crown. Joe Judge is doing a solid job in his first year as head coach of the Giants, and the team is making incremental progress game after game. Daniel Jones is starting to pull it together with consecutive no turnover performances, and I trust the Giants defense the most in this division. The Giants defense is ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring average this season, with several standout players, including lockdown cornerback James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Leonard Williams. Also, over the last 6 games, the Giants are 3-3 and those three losses are just by 6 points. One of those losses includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are viewed by many as Super Bowl contenders. The Giants were playing the best football of any team in the NFC East before their bye, and I think they will get 3 more wins (CIN, CLE, DAL) to win the division. I view Dallas as the biggest competition to the Giants. They have the easiest road as they still get to play each of the East teams once and have opponents like the 49ers and Bengals on their schedule. They have also been very competitive, nearly beating the undefeated Steelers at home and knocking off the Vikings recently on the road. The offense looked solid with Andy Dalton back and Zeke had his best game in a while, totaling over 100 rushing yards for the first time this season. Tony Pollard has also been a nice touch, as he added some quality carries and a TD against the Vikings. They also have a special talent in CeeDee Lamb who is looking like the best rookie receiver in the draft class. However, the Cowboys defense needs to improve, especially their poor secondary. Their run defense is atrocious as well, allowing a whopping 153.8 yards on the ground per game to opposing offenses. 

The Cowboys hopes for winning the NFC East division will likely disappear if their defense is not up for the task. Washington, meanwhile, has a solid chance but a few problems of their own. Let us start with the defense, who was supposed to be one of the best units in the league under DC Jack Del Rio but has not lived up to the hype. By looking at the numbers, you might think that Washington has an above-average defense, however, it’s the complete opposite. Their defensive line has plenty of talent like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne, but have failed to take advantage of poor offensive lines, which proved to be critical in getting swept by the New York Giants. These losses hurt Washington big time as the Giants now have the tiebreaker. The linebacker core and secondary are both very weak and it showed when they played average offenses like the Lions. However, I also think a better offense would have a positive impact on the defense. The offense is badly underperforming overall, ranked 29th in the league, and Alex Smith is nothing more than an average quarterback. Washington has a bright future with star receiver Terry McLaurin and rookie running back Antonio Gibson, and their offensive line is looking better than expected, but aren’t going to go far with the style and play of this offense. The Thanksgiving game between Washington and Dallas will be very critical, as Washington can take the tiebreaker over Dallas with a win. 

Finally, Philadelphia is terrible, starting with QB Carson Wentz. He currently leads the league in interceptions and is making head-scratching mistakes game after game. Ever since that ACL injury, Wentz has been trending downward and could crash down to the point of no return. Carson is not the only one to blame, though. The coaching staff has regressed, and Head Coach Doug Pederson should be fired this offseason. Veterans like Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Mills are on the decline. The Eagles are a dumpster fire and could very well lose out and only win 3 games this season, as they have the toughest remaining schedule in the division. 

This division is all-around terrible, and we might see the worst division winner of all time. The worst record that a playoff team has ever recorded is 7-9 (Seahawks, 2010), and it is hard for me to envision an NFC East team even getting to 7 wins. It is crazy to think that one of these teams is going to host a playoff game. I do see this division coming down to the very last game, however, and that game would be Week 17: Cowboys @ Giants, a winner-take-all game to decide the division. One thing we can all agree on is that the team that makes the playoffs will not go far, and all of these teams have to make major changes this offseason. 

sportsthrills Q&A With NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

By: Pranav Thiriveedhi

The Opportunity With Adam Silver

Recently, I got the opportunity to attend a Zoom call with Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver. Adam Silver has been the Commissioner of the NBA since 2014, and he is one of the most respected and most popular executives in all of the sports world, having an amazing relationship with all 30 NBA teams, and the various basketball leagues around the world. The call I had attended was on a specific agenda, regarding the schedule for the NBA in terms of the 2020-2021 schedule and future basketball operations moving forward. A lot of things are coming for the next season, adding onto an already historic season, but here are some questions I was able to get answered during that informative call.

The Q&A With Adam Silver

The first question I asked was geared to spark more than just an answer, but a story. We all know that since the NBA came back to finish the regular season and hold the playoffs in the Orlando bubble, the spread of COVID never affected the players, staff, and teams. The play was easily done, and was very enjoyable, which made the bubble so successful for the NBA. So I had to get an answer for what Adam Silver thought about it.

Q: What do you think was the best part of making the NBA bubble so successful?

A: According to Commissioner Silver, the best part of making the bubble so successful was that they started planning and going through their operations for it early, way in advance than more people thought. The NBA had already started planning for the bubble before the first NBA player, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for the coronavirus, which started the shutdown of the league. Even before then, the executives and planning teams had already come up with strategies to test for the coronavirus efficiently. This was possible because of the NBA’s amazing relation with China, where the coronavirus broke out first, and with the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). The NBA was able to see the effects of the coronavirus and the severity of it due to their relation with China, something the United States wasn’t able to see yet. Adam Silver stated they were preparing for something big, but no one expected that this would turn into a global pandemic, but early preparation helped them stay aware that it could be an impending issue especially so early.  

Q: Due to the success of the NBA playoff bubble this year, and the continued issue of the coronavirus, could we see another playoff bubble for the 2020-2021 season?

A: The NBA bubble was one of the best moves by any sports leagues across the world. Many sports and their respective leagues tried to recreate the success of the NBA, which is a supporting fact the bubble was very successful. But, the bubble was the league’s spontaneous move, something that needed to be done when the entire country was in confusion. Now, that containment and experience are more established, and even though the coronavirus case numbers aren’t slowing down, the NBA would be able to effectively plan for the future, whether the coronavirus stays at large or a new pandemic comes along. Silver and the league anticipate that the NBA bubble that we saw from July to October could be a once in a lifetime thing, and most likely will not be a thing for the 2020-2021 NBA season. Of course, the league has a lot to plan for the upcoming season, but the bubble will not be on the agenda.

What We’ve Learned

Something I think I learned not only from the call but from the action of the NBA throughout the last few months is how effective planning and communication is for the success of anything. The NBA took on so many problems and struggles to kickstart the season back up, and they were able to solve these problems and more in such a short time, and set a standard that other major leagues could not get to. Adam Silver and the league have also adapted with their changes to this upcoming season, such as a 72-game schedule, early start to the Draft and to the season, and a play-in, this year with the 7-10 seeds of each conference. It will be interesting to see how effective the NBA’s changes are, and how the teams handle traveling across the country to play their games without the risk of infection. As more time and preparation becomes a factor for the future, the NBA will have a plan to surely add to such a historic season, and I am excited to see what will happen.