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. 

2019-20 NBA Finals Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, & Nikhil Pradeep

The NBA bubble is soon to come to an end, and what a success it has been, and what a thrilling and unexpected Finals we are set to have. A Miami Heat team that is the third team in NBA history to be a 5-seed or lower to make an NBA Finals, against a Los Angeles Lakers team led by former Heat player, LeBron James, who is star-studded and back in their first NBA Finals since 2010. So much is at stake for both franchises, with Miami able to get their 4th ring and have this team be the greatest underdog story in NBA history, and LeBron James on his quest for being the Greatest of All-Time and winning his 4th ring. Here are our predictions for who wins this highly-anticipated NBA Finals:

Saransh’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As a Heat fan myself, this is beyond my wildest expectations for this season. Early in the regular season, Miami was the 2-seed, but then post-All Star Game hit, and the team started reeling, and I had lost my hope of anything crazy, like an NBA Finals appearance, happening. But then the bubble came around and they unlocked a potential the basketball world was not ready for. An excellent run to end the regular season, and then a sweep of the overhyped ‘MJ Warren’ and the Pacers led us to Milwaukee, whom all season I said Miami would beat, and I did not miss on that one. That being said, I thought our series against Milwaukee would be longer and more physical, resulting in Boston beating us there, but that was not the case at all, and Miami was able to tough it out against Boston in 6 games. Anyways, enough about my internal happiness and joy over us making the NBA Finals, now to the series. 

So Miami started off the season hot, but in the end, got themselves to a position even better than that. This next test against the Lakers is a beast like no other. As amazing as Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson have been, as well as veterans Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, this is something they have not experienced, but they will have a former Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala to help them out with that. Him, along with Butler, will have the duties of guarding LeBron James and trying to slow him down, which I do not see happening. The Heat’s zone defense, however, could cause lots of problems and make the Lakers one-dimensional, meaning the support cast of shooters has to knock down their shots, as coach Eric Spoelstra will flex his forward thinking on this one. The backcourt of Miami, with Herro, Robinson, and Dragic, are going to feast offensively, against Alex Caruso and Danny Green, so one of those guys offensively has to be consistent every game in order for the Lakers to take commanding control of this series. The way that Caruso has been playing offensively with running the offense, he just needs to keep being aggressive as a ball-handler and floor general in order to keep the Lakers over the hump of Miami.

Matchup-wise, the Lakers would have preferred Boston. They could have played with a bigger lineup against guys like Daniel Theis and Jayson Tatum, and forced Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker to be the guys that beat them. This Heat squad makes it much more difficult, as despite their lack of size, they rebound much better than Boston (case in point, Bam Adebayo and Jae Crowder), they have so many different players who can take over a game and keep it close, and they are going to cause headaches at times for the Lakers. At the end of the day, Miami has all the matchups and depth they need, and Bam could do just enough to slow down Davis, but there is simply no one who can stop LeBron James. As great as Butler and Iguodala are at defending him, to see a guy at age 37 dropping 30-point triple-doubles casually might be the scariest sight in NBA history. That alone, along with the impact of having another superstar in Anthony Davis will prove too much for this great, young, and electric Heat team. Lucky for them, and lucky for me, there is going to be lots of success to cheer about coming in the future, and even with a more competitive league next year (with teams like the Nets, Wizards, and Warriors getting fully healthy), Miami is in prime position to make another title run next season. As much as I love my Heat, I can never go against LeBron and the better Lakers team (which, while it is a superteam, it is a balanced one, not like the Warriors of years past). This will go down as one of the most unexpected title runs in history for the Heat, but they will fall just short to an opponent that is simply better than them. 

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Anish’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As the Lakers and Heat meet in the NBA Finals I can say I was only surprised about the Heat, very surprised. I confidently had the Lakers and Celtics as my finals prediction but the Heat took the East by surprise and absolutely dominated as a team. Different players would go off different nights, as much as we’d call this “Jimmy Butler’s team” stat wise it was very balanced. The Heat have an incredibly deep roster where guys like Tyler Herro can come off the bench and drop 37! It’ll be exciting to watch this matchup, however I think the Lakers are clearly the favorite to win. It appears to be just another NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James as fans/haters are already getting to pull out LeBron’s finals record at the end of this. The LeBron slander has completely changed as now the West is being appeared as the “weaker” conference compared to the battles in the East. The hate towards LeBron James as a basketball fan is just laughable. I see LeBron dominating in this series, but when necessary he will take a step back to Anthony Davis. Regardless, the Lakers will win this series because they have the star power and are far more experience playoff wise. Miami is a great young team who just had an incredible run, however it’s no match for an experienced LeBron James led Lakers.

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Nikhil’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As a Wizards fan, it’s somewhat heartwarming to see a comparatively mediocre team like the Miami Heat make the NBA finals. By all means, the Heat are in no way, shape, or form lackluster in any respect, but the fact that they had to earn the respect of the league first, and then had to defy all expectations kind of shows how much of an uphill climb this roster had to make. In this respect, I’ve morphed into a Heat fan ever since the beginning of these weird and extenuating circumstances. The Heat have broken the stereotype of two all-stars per team and have managed to spread the wealth among their entire roster, spearheading this approach with the play of the totally deserving de facto leader of their squad, Jimmy Butler. They’ve used such unique techniques, like a 2-3 zone defense reminiscent of high school ball among other things, to get to this position, and head coach Eric Spoelstra has to be hailed for his forward thinking.

But this is the Lakers we’re talking about. And if history has taught us well, it’s that you bet on LeBron James when the odds seem to be in his favor.

The Lakers are the true embodiment of where the league finds itself today: a double-headed monster in James and Anthony Davis, surrounded by specific skill set journeymen, like Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, and Alex Caruso. This is the definition of a super-team, but one that seems to be pretty balanced in comparison to the 4 All-Star Golden State Warrior teams from years past. It just seems wrong not to pick this team, especially having beaten all opposition up until this point by 4-1 in each series. The Heat are a very similar threat to the Nuggets in many ways: underdog mentality, a well spaced out roster, a lot of young talent, but we all saw how that went. As much as the fan inside me wants to see Miami make this a series, deep down we all know what’s about to happen, and who’s about to pop off.

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

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NFL 2020 Season Playoff Predictions: Before Week 1

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Nikhil Pradeep

The 2020-21 NFL season is just days away from us, as on September 10th, the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Houston Texans to kick off the NFL season, and through everything that has been going on around the world, especially with COVID-19, which has forced some players to miss practices and maybe even season games, and has also kept fans out of stadiums, there is just so much uncertainty around if the NFL can even manage to have an entire season. As we are seeing with the MLB, without a bubble, players and coaching staff members are most likely going to end up getting COVID-19 throughout the season, and with how big NFL rosters are, it could force teams to go deep into their practice squads, put backups in quarantine (Seattle is doing that with Russell Wilson and his backup quarterbacks), or even simply put the NFL on pause until they find a bubble, or even completely cancel the season. With this post, we will try not to get into that, and treat it as if it is just a normal season, and let you know our predictions for the NFL season, based on our post from June with the NFL standings.

NFL Consensus Standings (Based on our NFL Records Predictions)

NFCAFC
1 – New Orleans Saints (13-3)1 – Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
2 – San Francisco 49ers (12-4)2 – Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
3 – Dallas Cowboys (11-5)3 – New England Patriots (11-5)
4 – Green Bay Packers (10-6)4 – Houston Texans (11-5)
5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)5 – Buffalo Bills (10-6)
6 – Seattle Seahawks (10-6)6 – Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
7 – Atlanta Falcons (10-6)7 – Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

Saransh’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta has so much talent on the offensive side of the ball, and Julio Jones will be a tough cover, even for Richard Sherman. The daunting task of facing the 49ers defense, however, especially the front 7, is too much for Atlanta to handle, paving the way for a 49ers victory.

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

This is probably a division-winner’s worst nightmare for a Wild Card Game, to play Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, just ask the Philadelphia Eagles (although had Carson Wentz not been injured in that Wild Card Game last season, this is a whole different conversation). The Cowboys are going to be a good team, but their core is very young outside of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, and that is going to hurt them quite a bit, not to mention their suspect defense. The run-first mindset of the Seahawks, combined with Russell Wilson’s talent and experience, beats Dallas. 

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brady vs. Rodgers in the playoffs, could you ask for a better matchup? I mean that alone gives this matchup so much hype and potential. Defenses will be non-existent in this one, as both teams are very offense-first and have high-scoring potential. Brady will outplay Rodgers, but Rodgers will do enough to complement the run-game to beat Brady and the Bucs. 

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

The last time Lamar Jackson faced Philip Rivers was in the 2019 Wild Card Round, when rookie Lamar entered the game in place of Joe Flacco, down 23-3, and was 50 seconds away from pulling off the upset, but fumbled. Now, Jackson is the reigning league MVP and leads one of the most exciting teams in football and one of the biggest Super Bowl contenders. Rivers and Indianapolis will put up a valiant fight, but Lamar and Baltimore get the win this time. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

Cam Newton might not be in the MVP form he once was in, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots are going to help him get back to elite-quarterback status this season, and that is going to be hard for anyone to stop, even for a defense as good as Pittsburgh’s. Getting Ben Roethlisberger back will get this offense back to having its high-scoring potential as always, but it might not be enough in this game to stop Cam and Co. 

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

These two teams met last year in the Wild Card Game, and man was it a great one. Down 16-0 most of the game, the Texans battled back to force overtime, and then some costly mistakes by Josh Allen in the overtime period gave Houston an easy field goal to win it. That game will be much different than this in large part to the fact that the Texans do not have DeAndre Hopkins, who had 90 yards on 6 receptions. Not having that nearly-unguardable player is going to be the difference this time around, as an improved Josh Allen and improved Bills team will take this one. 

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Call me crazy, but the Saints have not exactly been very good in the postseason the last few years. Oh wait, I am not crazy, I am right. That theme unfortunately continues yet again for the Saints, as Russell Wilson and his monstrous receiving core comes up big and denies Drew Brees of a chance at a second Super Bowl ring for perhaps the last time in his NFL career. 

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (4) Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is a guy you do not want to mess with, even at this stage of his career, where his team is not the usual, pass-heavy, everything-goes-through-Aaron Rodgers type team, and his numbers might not be as glamorous as it has been, but Aaron Rodgers is still one of the greatest football players and intellectuals of all-time. Not only that, but the Packers defense knows what to expect from the 49ers after last season’s NFC Championship game, where Jimmy Garoppolo only threw 8 passes. The Packers will be much more prepared for the run-game this time around, and make Garoppolo do the thing he hates the most, throw the ball in the clutch. I mean, he is a quarterback and does not make big plays throwing, weird right? His job is to throw the football, especially in the clutch, right? Just ask Emmanuel Sanders why he left San Francisco to go play for Drew Brees instead. All jokes aside, Rodgers and the Packers get their revenge. 

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Unfortunately for the Bills, there is not much they can do. The Chiefs take this one easily.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (3) New England Patriots

Lamar Jackson vs. Cam Newton. John Harbaugh vs. Bill Belichick. This matchup is one filled with tons of starpower, both on the field and on the sidelines, and to see Cam Newton revitalize his career and play against a quarterback like Lamar Jackson, whom many compare to a young, MVP Cam Newton, is going to be a great matchup to see and an instant classic. However, Lamar will have learned from his playoff mistakes previously. Baltimore will find a way to outsmart Belichick’s defensive gameplan and lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game. 

NFC Championship Game

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Rodgers vs. Wilson yet again in the NFC Championship Game? Yes, please. Last year, Rodgers got revenge for the 2015 NFC Championship Game loss, but this year, in yet another classic matchup between these two, Wilson gets his revenge. Seattle stuns Green Bay in Lambeau and goes to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens

Mahomes vs. Jackson, yet another amazing quarterback battle, and one of the MANY we will hope to see this postseason. Kansas City is the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl, but many forget that there has not been a repeat Super Bowl champion since the Patriots did it back in 2003 and 2004. After two years of disappointment, it is only fitting that Jackson comes into a league of his own through this postseason run and takes down the defending champions, showing yet again how hard it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions in the NFL. 

Super Bowl LV: Baltimore Ravens vs. Seattle Seahawks

This Super Bowl is going to be a historic one. It will feature one of youngest Super Bowl matchups amongst the two quarterbacks (combined age), the first Super Bowl featuring two Black starting quarterbacks, and just the third time that a 6-seed has made a Super Bowl. Yet again, the quarterback battle does not fail to disappoint anyone, and in a year filled with so many unknowns, a potential playoff bubble, and so much more, I pick an even more unpredictable Super Bowl champion. Russell Wilson and that monstrous receiving core I mentioned earlier (Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett, plus Greg Olsen and Will Dissly at Tight Ends), along with a great running mentality, they will present a challenge that the Ravens simply cannot match, no matter how great the heroics of Jackson are. The Seattle Seahawks are your Super Bowl LV Champions.

Pranav’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta has been the most iffy team in the last few years, not only on the football side but literally with every other sport in the city. But for the Falcons, a promising offense with star receiver Julio Jones and a reliable Matt Ryan could pose a major threat in the NFC playoff side. On the other hand, the 49ers, have arguably the best defense in the league and were the NFC’s rep for last year’s Super Bowl. Depending on the performance of Atlanta’s offense and how well Todd Gurley fits into Dan Quinn’s scheme, Atlanta has a shot at upsetting San Francisco. 

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Dallas Cowboys, once again, are in a position where they have to match up against one of the hardest teams to play, on both sides of the ball. Unlike their path to the playoffs (which was to just win the NFC East) they will have to prove they are the real 3rd seed and show the entire NFL they are the team to be scared of. But let’s be realistic. Other than Elliot, Cooper and Martin, what other talent resides in Dallas that can stand up to Russell Wilson and the dangerous Seattle Seahawks. Seattle will easily step over Dallas and move onto the next round.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like Saransh said above, this round will feature Brady vs. Rodgers in the playoffs, something fans have been dying for since forever. Guess what? It’s going to happen and the game will come down to the wire. Brady is probably the most reliable player in the NFL when it comes to the playoffs and with a strong and loaded offense, I think the Packers defense will have too much to handle. Brady and the Bucs take this game. They definitely won’t forget it.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

Lamar Jackson was last year’s MVP. MVP is a regular season award to clarify. When it comes to the playoffs though, Lamar Jackson really drops out of that “MVP Race.” Last time Jackson played Rivers in the playoffs, Lamar got a taste of what really goes on in win-or-go-home games and unless he is healthy and is able to lead the Ravens to start off the game well, this will be a cakewalk for Baltimore. Rivers and the Colts will put up a good fight, but a more experienced Lamar Jackson (at least more than last year) will lead the Ravens to the next round.

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

The New England Patriots were expected to have a losing record after losing the biggest player in franchise history. The Pats had even more bad news with the opting out of almost the entire defense due to the Coronavirus. But, with the addition of former MVP Cam Newton and the more experienced Gilmore, Belichick can definitely prove the doubters wrong once again. New England will end their “rivalry” with the Steelers and move on to the next round.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

This matchup is a repeat of last year’s playoffs, where the Texans took the game in what was a very close and competitive matchup. I think the loss of Deandre Hopkins will play a significant part in Houston’s struggle but I still think they have a shot. Houston will beat Buffalo.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Saints once again will have the opportunity to show the world they are the best team in the NFC. But for the New Orleans Saints, a playoff struggle drought is hard to overcome. Not much changed with the team, but some things are happening as we speak that can alter the future of the Saints organization. Seattle on the other hand looks rock solid and can definitely pull off a “seeding mistake” upset. Seattle takes this game. 

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Next up is another great matchup for Tom Brady and his new team. A game against his former apprentice in what will be a thriller for the ages. A booming Tampa offense against San Francisco’s wall defense will definitely be a hard game to predict a winner but I can see Tom Brady’s experience overcoming the 49ers. Bucs move onto the championship game.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (4) Houston Texans

Mahomes is too good. Sorry, not sorry. Chiefs will move on.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (3) New England Patriots

Lamar will definitely win his last game but can he overcome another round of the playoffs in the same year? And against Belichick and Cam? I don’t see this happening for the Ravens. Patriots take this game and move onto the AFC Championship.

NFC Championship Game

(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Last time Brady played Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in the playoffs, he needed the luckiest play in the world to win (Malcolm Butler interception). But this time, a stronger Seahawks offense and defense will provide a reckoning for Brady and will show the Bucs they aren’t ready yet. Hopefully the Seahawks run the ball this time. Seattle moves on to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (3) New England Patriots

Two years ago, the Patriots and Chiefs played in what was the craziest AFC championship game in a long time. Brady and Mahomes went back and forth, which caused the game to come down to the wire, where the Patriots got the edge and were able to win. But this time, Brady won’t be there to provide that insurance against the Chiefs. Cam Newton will perform his best, but an already Super Bowl contender in the Chiefs will show the NFL why they belong in the Super Bowl again.

Super Bowl LV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Seattle Seahawks

If the Super Bowl comes down to the Seahawks playing the Chiefs, this will surely be a hard one to predict, with an amazing matchup at every position on the field. The most exciting one would obviously be the Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes showdown. Mahomes got the best of the 49ers last year, but the Seahawks are not the same team they were last year. They are stronger and have a real hunger in the team’s heart. I think this game will be a showdown that comes down to the wire, but I definitely see the Seahawks pulling away with the Lombardi Trophy.

Rohan’s predictions:

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

I think Atlanta is going to surprise a lot of people this year. Matt Ryan always performs well in even years, and they have weapons like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Todd Gurley. Despite Atlanta’s electric offense, the 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league. San Fran moves on in a nailbiter. 

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Dallas and Seattle are going to be a high scoring affair. You got two of the best quarterbacks in the game as Prescott and Wilson will have high passing games. However, I think Wilson will outduel Prescott and the Seahawks defense, with newly acquired backs Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar, will make a couple of needed stops for the victory. Seattle advances.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here we have another legendary quarterback duel. Aaron Rodgers vs Tom Brady is always a fun one as these two are bound to be in the Hall of Fame. Tampa Bay has a sneaky good defense though and I think the Buccaneers will outduel the Packers in the end. Tampa wins by a touchdown.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis is a sleeper team this year. They went 7-9 last year but they arguably got an upgrade at QB and their defense has one of the better linebacker corps with Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker leading the way. But they are playing Lamar Jackson, who is coming off an MVP season and is looking for redemption after a disappointing playoff loss last year. I think the Ravens take this one easily at home in a blowout. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

I am surprised to see the Patriots at the third seed, but I could see it happening. Cam Newton would have to be playing close to what he was before injury and offensive pieces like N’Keal Harry and Sony Michel have to step up. However I think the Steelers are the better team here. Big Ben is back and JuJu will have a bounce back year because of that. They also have James Conner who has suffered injuries in the past but I think he will be healthy this year. I got the Steelers winning on the road.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Despite the Texans losing Hopkins, they still have a very solid team. I think Will Fuller is massively underrated and can take a step up in his production this year. They also have newly acquired deep threat Brandin Cooks and David Johnson who could have a bounce-back year. The Bills are another team that I really like this year. Josh Allen continues to trend up and now he has Stefon Diggs to help him out. A rematch of last year’s playoff game, I think the Bills get revenge and win this one thanks to their defense.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

I am not sure how to feel about the Saints. Every postseason it seems that they choke and lose to an inferior opponent. But in this matchup, Seattle is a very good team and I feel that they are better than the Saints. New Orleans postseason woes continue and Seattle clinches an NFC championship berth.

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 49ers are looking for redemption after losing a lead and the Super Bowl last season. It is also nice to see Garoppolo go against Tom Brady since Garoppolo was his backup back in New England. In this matchup, we have a firepower offense consisting of Brady, Godwin, and Evans against a defensive juggernaut of Bosa, Sherman, and Armstead. I see the 49ers coming on top in a close one thanks to their elite defense.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Listen, I love Josh Allen and the young Bills, but the Chiefs are going to blow them out period. Kansas City kept the same team from last year and got better. Chiefs move on easily. 

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

Man what a game this would be. One of the greatest rivalries in all sports in the AFC Divisional Round. I definitely think this will be a close game despite Baltimore having a much better and deeper team. Lamar will learn from his previous mistakes and have one of the best Ravens playoff performances but the Steelers will give a very good fight. Ravens by a field goal.

NFC Championship Game

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is one of the best in the NFL. If you want proof, just take a look at their two most recent matchups. In Week 10, the Seahawks grinded out an overtime win but in Week 17, the 49ers got a last second stop and won the NFC West. I think this one will be another one for the rivalry books, as the Niners come out on top in a thriller. 

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens

This is the matchup many people were expecting in last year’s postseason, but the Ravens flamed out in the divisional round. Mahomes and Lamar are the future of the NFL and this game is going to be a fun scoring affair. Kansas City is the high favorite here, however I think the Ravens will win thanks to Lamar who further cements his place as one of the most dynamic QBs in the league.

Super Bowl LV: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers

A rematch of the 2013 Super Bowl, this one is definitely going to be a treat. This game will go back and forth, but the swarming 49ers defense will have its ways with Lamar and shut him down. The 49ers get their redemption this year and win the Lombardi Trophy, becoming the third team to win 6 championship wins.

Nikhil’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

The 49ers proved a lot of people wrong last year by making it to the super bowl, and for all intents and purposes kept the same team and mentality for this year as well. The ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality applies perfectly fine in my opinion, and this matchup against Atlanta should not be a real threat to their postseason aspirations. With a staunch defense that will pose real problems even for Atlanta’s high-powered offense (headlined by Julio Jones, Todd Gurley, and Matt Ryan), and a decent enough run-central offense, I see the Niners winning this one in a secure manner.

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Somehow, some way, the Seattle Seahawks always manage to make it into the postseason one way or another. The reason behind this has to be Russell Wilson, and his MVP caliber play in recent years. With Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson on offense, and an already solid defense that just got better with the addition of Jamal Adams, there isn’t any real doubt here that they’ll win this game handily. Especially when a team as mired in mediocrity as the Dallas Cowboys steps up to be the opponent, Seattle will keep the ship sailing right through to the next round.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ah yes, the two old men of the league, in a good ol’ fashioned shoot-out. Nothing gets better than this type of matchup. As I sort of alluded to already, this game is all about the high-powered offenses. And with the recent addition of Leanord Fournette, the Bucs seem to take this one. When you have names like Brady, Gronk, Godwin, Evans, and even Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy as members of a rotating RB committee, there really is only so much Aaron Rodgers can do with his comparatively weaker offense. I do see the Packers making it difficult for the Bucs, but in the end the Bucs take this one.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

I think Lamar Jackson is mad. Mad about going out so early in last year’s playoffs, even after completing one of the most jaw-dropping seasons for a QB in recent memory. And if sports has shown us anything in past years, it’s that you should never make a team’s best player angry. This Raven’s team is nuts, and that’s an understatement. Matched up to a rather unproven Colts team with so many new moving parts, and it’s hard to go against the Ravens blowing them out of the water. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

If Lamar Jackson is mad, Cam Newton is FURIOUS. And again, you never want to make a former MVP mad. Again, there is so much we don’t know about the Patriots right now, and that makes it even harder to predict this matchup; we don’t even know if they’ll put the pieces together to make it into the playoffs. But for arguments’ case, when matched up against a rather uninspiring Steelers team, if they can figure it out I can see the Patriots sneaking by to the next round.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

The Texans are a rather interesting case, because many thought they had the potential to contend last year, but they’ve seemingly gone backwards by getting rid of Deandre Hopkins this offseason. Don’t get me wrong, this team is definitely still talented, with Watson, Johnson, Fuller V, and of course JJ Watt, but the way this league has headed in recent seasons, the Texans simply haven’t made the right moves to contend. The Bills on the other hand are on an upward trend, having proved a lot of doubters wrong last season as well. With the addition of Stefon Diggs to a rather underrated offense, I think we see the first upset in my set of predictions, and see the Bills advance to the next round.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Saints have to break this curse that they are in eventually, and I believe this is the year. Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and of course Drew Brees are in dire need of a NFC Championship appearance, and it feels like, now more than ever, they want it more. The Seahawks will definitely provide a hell of a fight, but in the end I don’t think their defense can contain the offense of the Saints enough to see them through. New Orleans advances.

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Apprentice meets master. Jimmy Garrapollo showed the world that he was no joke last year, carrying the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Even though the Bucs have the one person that Jimmy G learned under in the New England system, I think the 49ers are more adapted to deal with the other team instead of vice versa, and it’s mainly because of their amazing defense. Brady has not been the human highlight reel he has been in previous years, and I think the Niners defense capitalizes on this. Expect the Niners to advance.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs (5) Buffalo Bills

Mahomes. Ok cool, glad everyone’s on the same page. Kansas City flies past.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs (3) New England Patriots

The Patriots are too new of a team to expect the most from in their first year without Tom Brady, and even having them this high up in my prediction is giving them a huge benefit of the doubt. I don’t think their offense can put up enough points to contend with the absolute machine that is the Ravens offense. Thus, the Ravens advance to the next round.

NFC Championship

(1) New Orleans Saints vs (2) San Francisco 49ers

This is where these predictions get interesting. Both of these teams have strengths on different sides of the ball: New Orleans has their offense, the 49ers have their defense. We’ve emphasized those strengths so much, so in my mind it depends on who wins the matchup of their weaker ends of the ball. In my opinion, I think the Saints put it together on defense and are able to shut down the run-heavy Niners offense, and thus, advance to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs (2) Baltimore Ravens

Again, I think Lamar Jackson has something to prove, and is going to flourish in this matchup. I think he matches Patrick Mahomes in production, which will inevitably result in a complete shootout between the two. What seems to be the deciding factor in this matchup is the defense, and I think the Ravens can muster up enough secondary structure to contend and limit Mahomes’ production. It will be a crazy, hard, but earned win for the Ravens.

Super Bowl LV: (1) New Orleans Saints vs (2) Baltimore Ravens

Throughout these predictions I’ve been on the Ravens bandwagon, stating that Lamar Jackson will play like someone with something to prove, and the Ravens will rally behind his play. I also think the Saints have matured from their previous blunders and have finally moved away from their fragile nature. Thus, both of these teams are teams that have learned from the past, and have in some ways turned the corner. In the end, I think the hunger that the Ravens can tap into, as well as the jaw-dropping talent that their roster has gives them the upper hand. It will definitely be close and a high scoring affair, but I predict the Baltimore Ravens as the next world champions.