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.

sportsthrills: The New Team and Our Mission

By Saransh Sharma

Almost 8 years ago, my mom told me to do something with my ‘ESPN-like’ sports knowledge and showcase this talent to the world. That morning, sportsthrills was born. Throughout the years, I have been writing, researching, posting, and promoting this blog to my family, friends, and the world of sports fans all across the world. In those 8 years, and at the time I am writing this post, my blog generated 6,643 views from 3,662 visitors. In my middle school years, the blog was booming, with the majority of my views coming from that time, and me having generated so many blog posts that year, but high school and the beginning of college, it fell off a bit. Now, I am at a point where I am building this back up and see an opportunity of growth and expansion for sportsthrills to not just be a blog, but eventually a brand.

While I still keep ownership and editorial leadership over what I have created, I now have a team of friends who are just as crazy, passionate, and knowledgeable about sports as I am, and bring tons of different viewpoints and expertise to the table to make this into something bigger.

Our mission is to empower people of all ages to showcase what they believe in and what they are capable of, as I did as a 6th grader, and show our viewpoints across to the people within the sports world, from the perspective of people in our generation, but not just on games, or players, but on the culture of sports, the issues that show up amongst these athletes, and how we as fans feel. Now, here is the team I assembled:

Saransh Sharma, Founder, Editor-in-Chief:

Hello everyone, I’m Saransh Sharma, I was born and raised in Northern Virginia, and I am currently a Business Major at Virginia Tech. I have been writing this blog for almost 8 years now and am excited for this next chapter and in bringing on a new team and outlook to sportsthrills. I am a huge fan of the Washington Redskins and Miami Heat, as well as Manchester United for soccer. I will be writing posts along with my teammates and also editing and posting all blog posts, and I will also be working on promotions through social media. I hope everyone enjoys the content and the new opportunities that await, and I cannot wait to work with this amazing team!

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Pranav Thiriveedhi, NFL Co-Analyst:

Hey guys, I’m Pranav Thiriveedhi. I was born in Toronto but lived a majority of my life in New Jersey, right out of Philly. Right now, I’m a CMDA Major studying at Virginia Tech, along with the others. I’m a huge sports fan in general, but I mostly follow football, basketball and hockey. I’m a die-hard Eagles fan and I also praise Tom Brady. So, in advance I would like to apologize for roasting the Cowboys every chance I get. I am a big Philadelphia and Toronto fan; in case any bias gets in the way. I’ll be writing posts mostly surrounding the NFL, so hope you guys enjoy the content, and I’m thrilled to be a part of this team!

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Nikhil Pradeep, NBA Co-Analyst, Twitter Manager:

What’s up everybody, I’m Nikhil Pradeep. I was born in Detroit, MI but I’ve spent the majority of my life in Northern Virginia. I’m an Engineering student studying at Virginia Tech along with the others. I mainly follow the NBA but also keep in touch with the NFL and the top soccer leagues around the world. Thus, I’m a big fan of the Redskins and Wizards, and an avid supporter of Borussia Dortmund in Germany. I’ll mainly be working on NBA related content for the blog, and I’m excited to be part of the team!

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Rohan Krishnan, NBA/NFL Co-Analyst, Graphics Designer:

Hey everyone, I’m Rohan Krishnan and I have spent most of my life in Northern Virginia. Currently, I am a Virginia Tech student studying Business. I am a huge DC sports fan and run fanpages for the Redskins and Wizards on Instagram. I also love working with Photoshop, so I will be providing graphics for sportsthrills. I am looking forward to working with this team!

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Anish Dhondi, NBA Co-Analyst, Graphics Designer, Instagram Manager:

Hey guys, my name is Anish Dhondi and I was born and brought up in Northern Virginia. I’m currently an Engineering student at Virginia Tech. I’m a huge basketball fan (favorite team is the Trail Blazers) and I also run my own NBA page on Instagram (@splashcenter). I’ll mainly be working on NBA related content for the blog and some photoshop graphics. I’m excited to be a part of the sportsthrills team and am looking forward to the future!

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How Will Coronavirus Affect the Sporting World and its Fans?

The current pandemic of coronavirus that has occurred has truly changed the future of sports as we see it for 2020 and beyond. The NBA decided to have a hiatus after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, which then led to many NCAA Conference tournaments being cancelled, which led to March Madness being cancelled. Then, the MLB had their season start postponed for at least 2 weeks, and the MLS has been shut down for at least 30 days. Around the world, the Premier League has been shut down until April after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for Coronavirus. The Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Champions League, Europa League, and all country-run tournaments have been shut down until April. Not only has the sports world been affected, but the real world as well. Currently, many of the States in the US have gone into States of Emergencies, colleges are online for the rest of the semester, and in places like Italy, you cannot leave your house unless for an emergency. Here is what the effects of what has transpired will be, and what more we can expect to happen, not just in our country, but throughout the world:

Did NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Save Sports As We Currently See It?

I do not believe many people would have thought that sports being shut down in the United States was even imaginable if it were not for Adam Silver having suspended the NBA. The important thing to realize is that Adam Silver did the best thing possible by suspending the NBA season. The importance of keeping the players, coaches, front office, team staff, media, and fans safe is far more important than the remaining 20+ regular season games plus playoffs. Not only did Silver suspend the season, but he already came up with a plan for how players and teams must react over the ‘minimum of 30 days’ hiatus.

The reason why it is important to note how important this gesture was by Adam Silver is the fact that every major league in our country followed suit. The NCAA Conferences cancelled their basketball tournaments and all other sporting tournaments, as did the NCAA with March Madness and their championships, the MLB postponed their start by at least 2 weeks, the MLS and NHL shut down for a month, and the NFL, while their season is over, is discussing ways to change the NFL Draft. Also, multiple tennis tournaments supposed to happen in the US have been cancelled, and now even the French Open, and The Masters’ have been postponed.

Did Rudy Gobert Also Contribute to Saving Sports Now?

I know a lot of people have been giving Gobert a lot of hate for how he handled the situation and for originally taking the whole notion of Coronavirus and social distancing as a joke, but he has since owned up to it, made public statements, and donated money in order to let people know that this is very serious indeed. But if GObert did not get Coronavirus, Silver wouldn’t have suspended the NBA season and no leagues would have followed (at least in the United States). So, indirectly, Rudy Gobert did help out with that. But this should be a lesson to everyone to practice social distancing, keep your hands to your own belongings, and if you do touch someone else’s belongings, to wash your hands and clean the things that you use frequently.

Will and When Will the 2020 Olympics Happen?

Honestly, while I do think the Olympics will happen, the question is of when. There is currently talk of many Olympic qualifiers being cancelled (not even postponed), such as the 2020 Euros and Copa America for soccer now happening in 2021. As of this past week, the Olympics are scheduled to go on as scheduled, but the talk of postponing them is very serious. Honestly, I think the best option is to hold the Olympics in 2021 after all the qualifiers which are now getting postponed to 2021 are happening.

How Would the NFL Draft Take Place?

So, before the outbreak of coronavirus, the NFL Draft was set to take place in Las Vegas at the Fountains of Bellagio, but now no one seems to know what is going to be the alternative option. Players and families will definitely be asked to stay home, and the NFL has already said there will be no fans present. I am not really sure what the NFL is going to do about it, but I have seen that they are discussing what to do, as they have already indefinitely cancelled OTAs and free agency visits.

How Do College Athletes Get Affected?

The NCAA had announced a few days back that all spring sports players are getting what is called a ‘Redshirt Corona Year’ (not the official name, but it is the name that spring sports athletes used in order to plead for this to be taken into effect), meaning that now all spring sports athletes will have an additional year of eligibility, and that this lost year will not affect them. So, while academically they can move on, athletically their eligibility will not be affected.

When Will the NBA Come Back, and Will the NFL Be Affected?

The current talks are that the NBA could come back around July and end in August, but whether this means that the regular season will continue or not remains to be seen. NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie suggested that we have a 28-team tournament in replacement of the NBA Playoffs, almost as if we are making the NBA Playoffs like March Madness, and the NBA is taking that into consideration. On a more serious note, the NBA is discussing permanently starting the season on Christmas Day, as they did during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. That season ended like regular in June and the regular season was cut down to 66 games. Whether or not that is the new format of the regular season remains to be seen, but how this season plays out is so vital to the future of the NBA.

As for the NFL, with OTAs now cancelled, the talk of training camp being cancelled as well and going straight into preseason is a very real possibility. Assuming that the statement made from the White House that the Coronavirus lasts until July or August, training camp would be cancelled, and the NFL would have either have the choice of going straight to preseason or skip preseason and go into training camp in order to avoid player injury. With the new 14-team playoff being put into effect this upcoming season, avoiding player injury is more vital than ever, and with a 17-game regular season starting as soon as 2021, this coming season could be a way to see how shortened or no preseason would work out.

A General PSA

As I am writing this, I am currently at home with my family doing my best to practice social distancing and preventing the spread of Coronavirus. This virus is very scary, so I highly encourage everyone to please stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible. With many grade school and college students now finishing the rest of their semesters at home, and with many people working their jobs from home, it is imperative that we realize the seriousness of this. Sure, there are times when we will need to go out places and see people and go study or work, but health always comes first. So please, I encourage everyone reading this to please wash your hands constantly, practice best health and hygiene, practice social distancing, try to avoid big gatherings and going traveling or eating out, and most importantly, realize that this isn’t a joke and that we can go on with life, even though these tough times are upon us.

Super Bowl LIV: Does Speed Kill, or Defense Win Championships?

I know that it is very late to be writing this, with the Super Bowl less than 24 hours away, but I’ll blame it on the flu. Anyways, better late than never, I guess. Let’s get into the game and my prediction:

Super Bowl LIV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers, 6:30PM EST, FOX

The talk of the week has bene about the difference in styles of these teams. Kansas City, whom I predicted to be in the Super Bowl since the preseason, is a very fast-paced, Olympic track-star studded-type of team with the guy who may become the Greatest Player of All-Time one day in Patrick Mahomes. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a team that uses the clock, but slow and steady is what wins them the race. The most run-heavy team in the NFL ran so much that in the NFC Championship Game, QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball just 8 times (out of which he only completed 4), but lucky for them, Raheem Mostert had 220 yards on 29 carries and FOUR touchdowns. The defense of San Francisco is the best in the NFL no doubt, with the most ferocious pass-rush of them all, led by Rookie Defensive Player of the Year, DE Nick Bosa, and former Chiefs LB Dee Ford. Their defense is led by a Super Bowl champion in Richard Sherman, who won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks and their vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’ defense. Sherman hopes to get his team to that level this year and win this game. But his matchup, Tyreek Hill, might present him with some serious challenges.

To beat the Chiefs is doable, but to truly slow down Patrick Mahomes has only effectively been done once this season. In Week 9, the Chiefs hosted the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football, and Mahomes was held to under 200 yards passing in the game and had multiple turnovers and his only touchdown was on the ground in a 19-13 loss. The Colts won that game through playing lots of zone, but mixing it up a ton, whether the type of coverages, or the personnel packages. The 49ers can do that very well, especially under their current Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh, but going back to Tyreek Hill, he is the one whom I think will break the game open. In the NFC Championship Game, despite the emphatic win, Packers WR Davante Adams had 9 catches for 165 yards receiving, and Sherman really struggled guarding him, mainly on the 69-yard catch-and-run that started the comeback for Green Bay. As great as Adams is, he’s no Tyreek Hill in terms of speed, and Sherman, who has been criticized all season for his lack of speed despite his great talent, he might have trouble with Hill. I mean, Hill said he will try out for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics for the US Track Team, so you know this guy is a problem for him. I think that alone is going to be how the 49ers defense is beaten. Of course, TE Travis Kelce is there and no one can cover him, but Hill will be the difference. Also look out for WR Mecole Hardman, another track star-type of talent. Kansas City will score a lot of points.

All that being said, can such a run-heavy offense actually slow down Kansas City’s rapid-fire scoring. Well, no, to beat Kansas City, Jimmy G will need to throw more than 8 passes, but San Francisco can definitely slow momentum from Kansas City down with long, time-consuming drives. Jimmy G will be using guys like TE George Kittle and WRs Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders a lot in the passing game, but they need to make big plays downfield to keep San Francisco in it. The run game led by Mostert could be a little slower than expected, as Titans RB Derrick Henry was held to just 69 yards rushing on 19 carries, so the 49ers will desperately need their receivers to step up. The good thing to note is that the 49ers came on top of another high-scoring team earlier in the season in New Orleans, when they won 48-46 in the Bayou, where Sanders had 157 and a touchdown on 7 carries, and Jimmy G threw 35 passes and had 349 passing yards.

All that being said, I think that the Chiefs offense simply has too much talent to handle, and Patrick Mahomes is unstoppable right now, and I do not see the 49ers slowing him down anytime soon. Prediction: 41-34, Chiefs.

2020 College Football National Championship: ‘Geaux Tigahs’ or ‘Go Tigers’

Coach O vs. Coach Swinney. Burrow vs. Lawrence. Stingley vs. Higgins. ‘Tigahs’ vs. Tigers. This is LSU vs. Clemson. This is the College Football Playoff National Championship that will kick off the new decade. This game has Instant Classic written all over it. In what could go down as the best College Football Playoff ever, with 3 of the 4 teams having come in undefeated, the top 2 offenses (LSU and Clemson) and defenses (Ohio State and Clemson) in the nation featured, and 3 of the 4 best coaches in the game right now (Coach O, Swinney, and Lincoln Riley). It is only fitting that the way this season ends, is with the best matchup possible at every position, coach, stat, you name it. Here is how this heavyweight matchup will be won:

#1 LSU vs. #3 Clemson: Jan 13th, 8:30PM, ESPN/ABC

To win or not to win is the question with two undefeated teams remaining going into the National Championship, the first time that two 14-0 teams have ever met in the College Football National Championship. Since the inception of the Playoff, the higher-ranked team has never won the championship, and Clemson vs. Alabama has been the most frequent matchup. This year, Clemson goes to play a different top dog in the SEC in LSU, and a transcendent talent like no other.

While many people thought that Trevor Lawrence could be the next transcendent QB talent, it was Joe Burrow who stepped into the spotlight after transferring this year from Ohio State to LSU. Burrow’s pocket presence, throwing on the run, accuracy, poise, and winning attitude caught the eyes of many, as he has beaten at the time top-10 teams in Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. If he were to win this National Championship, he and LSU would have beaten 7 Top-10 teams in the Nation in one season, the most ever in College Football history in one season. All these traits and wins led him to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, and now he is on pace to be the most obvious Number 1 pick in the NFL since Jadeveon Clowney in 2014 when the Houston Texans drafted him. Burrow in the semifinal against Oklahoma had 403 yards passing and 7 TDs at halftime, 8 in total, 4 of them to Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase added 2 more. Oh, and starting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire got shut down after the first half and they still put up 63 points. Don’t be surprised if they put up 50 on Clemson.

Clemson, on the other hand, had a much tougher matchup against the 3rdundefeated team in the playoff in Ohio State. Looking very lost and lifeless while down 16-7, Trevor Lawrence slid awkwardly and had a helmet-to-neck collision with an Ohio State defender which was called targeting. Lawrence looked gimpy but only sat out one play, and that play ended up being a 67-yard touchdown run by Lawrence to bring Clemson right back in it. The rest of the game ended up being a classic, but the determination from Trevor Lawrence, the big plays down the stretch by Travis Etienne, having Tee Higgins healthy for the right moments (him and Justyn Ross’s health will be key to the Championship Game), and the interception to seal it by Nolan Turner were key. At the end of the day, Dabo Swinney did what he does best, outcoach the opposing coach.

So, the big question rising is, can Dabo outcoach Coach O? Well, yeah, he could outcoach him, but the way LSU has played this year, is outcoaching Coach O enough for you to beat LSU? One thing you have to realize is that LSU has only scored under 35 once, and that was against Auburn. In that game, Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn outcoached Coach O, but then Coach O got LSU’s offense to turn on the jets in the second half with a heavy dose of read option between Edwards-Helaire and Burrow, and once Auburn got down, they couldn’t come back. If Clemson wants to have a chance against LSU, it has to be the players on the field, not the coaches, who find their way to sustain the lead, if they get one. I think Clemson could get off to a hot start, but LSU won’t be slowed down long enough to not win this game. Coach O will have the whole nation saying ‘Geaux Tigahs’. Prediction: 51-41, LSU.

2019-20 NCAA College Football Playoff Semifinals Predictions

The New Year’s Eve fireworks will be arriving a little earlier this year, as the College Football Playoff Semifinals get set to kick off this Saturday. Clemson and Oklahoma return to the stage with Clemson being the defending champion, and Oklahoma returning for the 3rdconsecutive year. This year, however, LSU enters the playoff for the first time and dethrones their SEC counterpart in Alabama, and Ohio State returns to the place they thought they should have been last year. This year also features a new feat, where 3 transfer quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State to LSU; Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma; and Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia to Ohio State), are leading their teams into the College Football Playoff. So, will it be a transfer quarterback leading their team to a championship, or will Trevor Lawrence lead Clemson to a repeat?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU, 4PM EST, ESPN

The first game to kick off the playoff will be the battle of the Heisman winner and runner-up, Burrow and Hurts. This will be Hurts’ fourth time in the College Football Playoff (technically his third since he was backup and did not play last year, but it is his 4thsince he was with Alabama the past 3 years), with his 7thOffensive Coordinator (he had 5 different coordinators at Alabama and two Co-Offensive Coordinators at Oklahoma), coming off his third Conference Championship win. In terms of winning, overcoming adversity, and constantly playing the underdog role, Jalen Hurts might be the most decorated college football player ever. He is the true definition of a winner. While many scouts believe he is not the most NFL-ready QB, he certainly deserves the shot to be a starter on an NFL team come next season after he is drafted.

On the other side is Joe Burrow, Heisman-winning QB who has broken every SEC passing record in the book by a healthy margin, will be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals come April, and will lead the heavily-favored LSU into the Peach Bowl as the #1 team in the country. But things didn’t come that easy for Burrow. Burrow in 2017 was part of the Ohio State College Football Playoff team, where he played backup behind JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. At the time, not many people knew who he was, as he was a 3rd-string QB who had been redshirted. In 2018, Ohio State looked to life after Barrett, and then-Head Coach Urban Meyer, chose Dwayne Haskins well before the season began, leading Burrow to go into the transfer process, where LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron, served him to a lobster dinner and got him. Burrow last season led a struggling LSU offense that could barely put up 27 points in a game. This year, under new Offensive Coordinator Joe Barry, he leads the nation’s #1 offense, and has two 1,000+ yard receivers to throw to in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson, and a 1,000+ rusher in Clyde-Edwards Helaire (whom he may not have on Saturday due to injury). The transcendence of Burrow has been one of the most unexpected, but the story is incredible.

Now, to the game. Oklahoma’s wide receiving core, led by CeeDee Lamb, who is regarded by many including me as the best receiver in college football and the upcoming NFL Draft, will cause problems for Derek Stingley and Grant Delpit, the best cornerback and safety in the country, respectively. His speed and quickness is almost Tyreek Hill-like, as he has the ability to take any pass to the house. The problem here for Oklahoma’s offense come with the running backs, who will be led by redshirt sophomore Kennedy Brooks. Brooks is getting the starting nod after Trey Sermon had a season-ending injury midseason against Iowa State, and after Rhamandore Stevenson was one of 3 Sooners players suspended for failed drug tests. Brooks is a great back, but not good enough to lead an already-fringe running game. Hurts will be required to put his head down and run with the ball himself quite a bit, which, as great of a runner as he is, is exactly what LSU wants, is for their linebackers to stop the run and not have to worry about helping out too much in the passing game.

For LSU, the running game will most likely feature Edwards-Helaire (according to Coach O), but even if they don’t have him available, the three backup running backs have had healthy doses of experience in the offense this season and have been very effective in scoring touchdowns, with 9 TDs between the 3 of them. As far as defenses, don’t expect too much of it, this will be a high-scoring game. But as I said earlier, the lack of ability to keep pace could haunt them, much it did for Oklahoma the past few years. Oklahoma is too thin in the run game, and does not have enough talent in the secondary to stop the core of Chase, Jefferson, Thaddeus Moss, and Terrace Marshall. Prediction: 49-41, LSU

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #3 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State, 8PM ET, ESPN

The defending champion Clemson Tigers find themselves playing in a playoff game rematch once again, but not against Alabama this time. Clemson instead is squaring off against Ohio State this year, the team with the nation’s best defense and best defensive player in Chase Young. Clemson has been decimated by the media the entire year for having an incredibly weak schedule for an elite Power 5 conference team, yet that criticism hasn’t slowed them down one bit. Coach Dabo Swinney has kept his mouth out of the media trap and instead focused on the field and players and looks to go for back-to-back 15-0 seasons. Trevor Lawrence has had a down year but really picked up last year’s form towards the end of the season, Travis Etienne keeps showing why he could be the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Brett Venables-led defense keeps feasting on opposing offenses.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been Top 2 in the rankings ever since they went into Madison, Wisconsin and won 48-0 on Saturday Night Football back in October. Their electric defense has helped them sport a ball-control oriented offense that is run-first behind JK Dobbins and then uses a lot of 5-wide Spread to pass the ball out of with Justin Fields, a transfer QB from Georgia (Georgia is probably regretting benching him for Jake Fromm, which prompted Fields’ transfer request). Speaking of Fields, another Heisman finalist who has defied odds, he is coming into this game nursing a knee injury he suffered against Michigan back at the end of November, and it hasn’t shown too much improvement since. Fields had a great one-legged performance in the B1G Championship Game against Wisconsin in their 14-point comeback win, however, and despite the knee, looked good for most of the game. Much like in that game, Ohio State will use Dobbins on early downs, and then look towards their Fields and their receivers, such as KJ Hill Jr. and Chris Olave to make plays downfield.

This game comes down to running back play, Dobbins vs. Etienne. Whichever team can control the line of scrimmage better in this one will win the game, as ball control and clock management will be vital. Clemson often goes for this approach in semifinal games, and. Ohio State will need to use this in order to keep Fields healthy, because unlike in 2017, they do not have a Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow-type guy on their bench that can come in and perform on the big stage. While on paper this matchup would favor Clemson, the Chase Young-led pass rush might be too much for Lawrence and could force him into throwing interceptions, something he has done often this season compared to last. Predcition: 34-31, Ohio State

2020 NFL Playoff Predictions: Who Wins the NFC East, and Who Can Beat Baltimore?

The 2020 NFL Playoffs are soon to commence, with many of last year’s better teams are fighting for better playoffs spots, such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, those fighting for dear life just to make the playoffs like the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams, and newcomers like the Buffalo Bills. In what has been one of the most interesting years for playoff races, here are my predictions for who makes it and what damage those teams could do:

Who Takes the NFC East?

Remember when Dallas started 3-0 after beating the Miami Dolphins and people thought they could win the Super Bowl? Well, whoever actually said and believed that might not have a job by the end of this year, because beating the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Miami Dolphins, teams that will have 3 of the top 4 draft picks come this May, is not an accomplishment. In fact, since then, they have only beaten one team that is .500 or over, which was last week against the Rams.

The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, at one point looked like a team that had no chance of making the playoffs, first when they were 3-4 following blowout losses to Minnesota and Dallas, and then just 3 weeks ago, when they lost at Miami as part of their 3-game losing streak. Now, sure, the Eagles have lost every offensive weapon possible at some point during the season aside from their QB Carson Wentz, have had no secondary to work with all year, and have had play-calling and locker room issues. Yet despite all that constant adversity being faced, they sit here 7-7 with a home date this Sunday evening against Dallas, where the winner takes the East (if Dallas wins they will be guaranteed the East, while Philadelphia, although very unlikely they don’t win, need a bit to go in their favor).

In the division that has been the laughingstock of the NFL this year, one must make the playoffs and then prove that they are worthy of being there. The past two weeks, Philadelphia has looked like they have figured things out, with a new two-headed monster in the backfield with rookies Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, new wide receivers like Greg Ward stepping up and filling the voids at that position, and the defense finally being healthy, Philadelphia looks like a team who, while they may not make a playoff run, they look like a team that can give a fight. This Sunday, Philadelphia takes the win and division.

The 6-Seed Battles, Who Takes Which?

Currently, the NFC’s 6-seed is the Minnesota Vikings and the AFC’s 6-seed is the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Minnesota’s remaining schedule being at home against the Green Bay Packers, and at Chicago to play the Bears. Pittsburgh gets the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens, both road games. If the Steelers were to lose one game, which would be the Ravens game, and the Tennessee Titan were to win one out of the two games remaining for them (they are at New Orleans and at Houston), then they would take the spot of the Steelers.

For Minnesota, if they lose out, and the Rams win out (they are at San Francisco and then at home against the Cardinals), then they would take the 6-seed. Aside from that, no scenarios seem very interesting to me. Pittsburgh will split their last two games, yet will keep the 6-seed, as I do not see the Titans beating either New Orleans or Houston. As for Minnesota, neither game is easy, as Green Bay could potentially be the 1-seed in the NFC, and the Bears are no cakewalk either considering how well their offense has played lately. Also, I see LA beating both San Fran and Arizona and seeing their way into the playoffs.

Who Can Challenge Baltimore?

In the preseason, I said that the Super Bowl would be Kansas City and New Orleans. While New Orleans looks like they are the favorites in the NFC (don’t count out the Packers, however), Baltimore is the CLEAR favorite to make the Super Bowl. All that being said, however, I still believe in Kansas City.

The early season challenges of not having a solid run game, and having a lack of weapons outside of Travis Kelce, have been fixed. The defense has stepped up mightily since last season, Mahomes has found his MVP-touch again, and the run game is getting back in shape, as LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams are picking up the slack. The Chiefs have also fixed their biggest flaw from last season, which was taking time off the clock on offense. The Chiefs were one of those teams that scored very quick touchdowns late in games, but then would set the opposing offense with too much time to score and run out the clock. This year, however, they have gone with more of a balanced attack which has allowed them to keep wins late in games. Come playoff time, that, along with the experience in favor of the Chiefs, is enough for me to believe that they present a challenge to Lamar Jackson and Co. and go to the Super Bowl. Don’t count them out.

2019 Heisman Watch: Does Chase Young Deserve Heisman Consideration?

Yesterday marked a day in which this year’s Heisman contenders shined brightest. LSU QB Joe Burrow hit 4,000 yards passing for the season and became the 4thSEC QB to do so after torching Arkansas for 327 yards and 3 TDs. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts kept playoff hopes alive for the Sooners with 173 yards and 2 TDs rushing, along with 145 yards and 2 TDs through the air in a gutsy 28-24 win over TCU. Oregon QB Justin Herbert ended all consideration for himself winning the award with a loss to the lowly Arizona State, despite his 304 yards and 2 TDs. The biggest standout from yesterday was the most dominant player in college football, Ohio State DE Chase Young, who after a short suspension over a loan from a family-friend cost him a few games, came back in full force, with 9 tackles, including 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Despite his dominance, which has featured 16.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles for him throughout the season, will he get Heisman consideration, and does he deserve it despite being a defensive player? Here are my 3 candidates for the Heisman and who I believe will win.

Player Profile: Chase Young

College football’s most dominant player has simply everything you could ask for in a defensive lineman. Size, speed, power and finesse moves on the edge, and a strong tackling ability. Well Chase Young has that and then some. As I mentioned earlier, his season has been shortened by 2 games due to the suspension, so he has put up all of these stats in just 9 games. Numbers like that are almost unheard of from any defensive end in college, which brings up the point of the Heisman Trophy. The last defensive player to win a Heisman was Desmond Howard, but him also having played a little wide receiver helped him out in his case for the Heisman. But other than Howard, no defensive player has ever won the trophy, and only 3 non-quarterbacks have won it. So, while he most definitely deserves to at least be one of the 3 Heisman candidates, do not expect him to win it.

Player Profile: Joe Burrow

My, oh my, has Joe Burrow been terrific. Going into this season as the reigning Fiesta Bowl MVP and having led the Tigers to a 10-3 season, the expectation was more of the same from Burrow and Co., but Burrow had other ideas. LSU currently sports the No. 1 rank, an 11-0 record, and the deadliest offense in football, with 1 4,000-yard passer in Burrow, a 1,000-yard rusher in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and 2 1,000-yard receivers in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson. Burrow also has the 3rd-most TDs thrown by an SEC QB with 41 already this season (he needs 4 more TDs to break the single-season TD record), and his passing yardage total puts him 4thAll-Time amongst SEC passers (he needs just 262 more yards to break the single-season passing yardage record). With these records he is about to break, he is the clear front-runner and should probably win the Heisman. If Chase Young wasn’t suspended for 2 games and he could have a chance to break records, then the race between them would be closer. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Player Profile: Jalen Hurts

If you asked me before the season who my Heisman pick was (aside from Tua), I would have said Jalen Hurts, and everyone would have thought I was crazy, but Hurts has had a Heisman-candidate worthy season. He has thrown for 3,184 yards, 30 TDs, 6 picks, is 4thin the nation in QBR, and has run for 1,156 yards and an outrageous 17 TDs, all of these numbers are a career-best in any full season he has played. Oh, and he has been the ‘Comeback King’ of the season, including the illustrious 28-3 comeback last weekend at Baylor. Hurts has proven every doubter wrong and goes into the NFL Draft this coming April as a guy who teams can build around yet wait until the 2ndor 3rdround to get. Very comparable to the career Dak Prescott had at Mississippi State. As far as his Heisman chances, had guys like Burrow and Young had seasons like this in another year, then he would be the frontrunner, but unfortunately not this year.

My Heisman Pick

Joe Burrow. The way he came out of nowhere into the Heisman conversation, the fact that the SEC QB record books will have his name all over it, and the lack of love defensive players get in the Heisman consideration, he’s the clear frontrunner.

2019 NFL Midseason Predictions

The first half of the NFL season has presented us with many surprises, and a surge of a new generation of NFL talent. The San Francisco 49ers remain the only undefeated team in the NFL currently, the Cincinnati Bengals remain the only winless team, and players like Christian McCaffrey are taking over the league and putting on an MVP-worthy performance. Here is what has happened this season, and what will continue throughout the season.

The Panthers are 5-3 Without Cam Newton, and Will Make the Playoffs

Currently, the Panthers are on the outside looking in as the 8-seed in the NFC and 2ndin the NFC South, but their 5-3 record, Christian McCaffrey’s video-game numbers, and the new-look defense has put them in a position to compete with Kyle Allen, not Cam Newton, at quarterback. Allen, who took over for the now-on-IR Newton in Week 3, has gone 5-1 as the starter, losing only to the undefeated 49ers. Allen hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary, just played mistake-free, smart football that has kept his team in a position to win. Sure, they have 2 dates with New Orleans, a home game against Seattle, and tough road games against Green Bay and Indianapolis, they should be able to win the home games, Indianapolis, and potentially one game against New Orleans to go at least 9-7, and considering how teams like the Eagles, Vikings, and Rams have struggled this season, Carolina should be able to get the 6-seed in the NFC.

Like I Predicted in Preseason, Aaron Rodgers Will Be the MVP

Aaron Rodgers got off to, well, a sluggish start in the new Matt LeFleur offense, but Green Bay’s defense stepped up big. Then, Rodgers said that the offense needed to ‘step it up’, and A-Rod and the Pack offense has not looked back since. Currently standing at 6-2 and the 3-seed in the NFC, they will be one of the top NFC Super Bowl contenders along with the Saints. Rodgers is currently 5thin passing yards and 4thin passing TDs, is among the top of the MVP race along with Russell Wilson and Christian McCaffrey, and if he keeps this pace up, he can outpace Wilson in the MVP race and get his 2ndNFL MVP award.

Lamar Jackson Proved Everyone Wrong… and He Won’t Stop Anytime Soon

Lamar Jackson was critiqued by Bill Polian before last year’s NFL draft and was told to convert to Wide Receiver. Jackson was drafted in the first round as a QB by the Ravens and guaranteed that they would get a Super Bowl out of him. He eventually took the starting job from Joe Flacco and led the Ravens to the playoffs. This season, Lamar has been able to use his arm along with his legs and become an elite QB. Last Sunday, he beat the record-setting Patriots defense and the GOAT Tom Brady to end their undefeated season up to that point. Now, he put the Ravens in position to potentially go to the Super Bowl, currently leading the Ravens to the 2-seed in the AFC, good enough for a first-round bye and homefield in the AFC Divisional Round. Expect Lamar to keep playing the way he always does, prove people wrong, and keep winning.

The Eagles Need to Sign Either Dez Bryant or Antonio Brown

So, yeah, Philadelphia, the Super Bowl 52 Champions, have changed a lot roster-wise since then. They have lost LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, Torrey Smith, Trey Burton, a plethora of signings that have not worked out, such as DeSean Jackson and Zach Brown, and many underperforming players, such as Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, and just about everyone on defense. Oh, and they lost their savior Nick Foles, but everyone knew Wentz would be starting either way. Anyways, the Eagles have lost many games this season due to their poor receiver play, most notably Agholor. Wentz has been let down by receivers dropping passes than I could catch, and has lost many winnable games because of it, like the game at Atlanta where Agholor dropped the ball, the game at home against Detroit where rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside dropped a wide-open TD. The other games they lost, being to Dallas and Minnesota on the road, they’ve simply been blown out due to poor overall team play. If Philadelphia really wants to compete and be the Super Bowl-contending team they once were, they NEED to sign a big-name wide receiver. They missed out on Josh Gordon, as he went to Seattle to join Russell Wilson and his already-stacked WR core, so now that leaves them with Dez Bryant, who tweeted today that he is ready to reach out to teams soon, and of course, the drama-king of the NFL, Antonio Brown. While both risky due to character issues and health, either would be an immediate impact to a team that desperately needs hands. With AB, the Eagles can challenge Green Bay, Seattle and New Orleans, and with Bryant, they can at least win the NFC East if not contend with Green Bay, Seattle and New Orleans. Whoever they decide out of these two, they need to sign one of these in order to be a legit contender.

My Saints-Chiefs Super Bowl Prediction Remains the Same

I still see these two teams meeting in the Super Bowl. In the AFC, do I think that the Ravens are ready? Not yet, simply because the defense has been suspect for the majority of the season. Does New England beat Kansas City in the playoffs again, if they meet up? No because the offense isn’t at the point where they can keep up with Kansas City. Their inconsistency in the run game will outweigh the consistency of Julian Edelman, James White, and Mohamed Sanu’s production. In the NFC, is Green Bay good enough on defense to sustain the play of A-Rod and the offense? To me, this is the very-early frontrunner to win next year’s Super Bowl, but not this year. Seattle lies in the same realm, with their defense not being able to get to the level of Wilson and the offense. The Saints and Chiefs have complete rosters, and defenses good enough to meet the level of the offense and keep them in it. Kansas City has dropped games this year due to Mahomes playing through injury and not because they have regressed as a team. If anything, they are probably better, especially with their run game, and New Orleans, the NFL’s most complete team currently, just has everything you want in a team, with their next-man-up mentality, going 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater replacing the injured Drew Brees and Latavius Murray replacing the injured Alvin Kamara, and their big-play ability on defense as well. So, expect some fireworks in Miami on February, and expect the Saints to take home the Lombardi.

Antonio Brown vs. NFL: Who Wins the Helmet Dispute?

Over this past weekend, newly-acquired Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown made a claim that if he wasn’t able to wear the helmet of his choice, he would retire from the NFL. The NFL established a new rule which would prevent players from being able to wear certain helmets which are too old and do not have the technology needed to protect players from current head injuries. Brown, however, is convinced that his 10-year old helmet is worth wearing and has filed a grievance against the NFL to wear the helmet. Of the 2,016 NFL players that have to follow this new rule of not wearing old helmets, Brown would be the one player that could get the benefit of the rule, it the NFL allows him to. Here I present both sides of the argument, and which argument is more logical:

The Case for AB to Keep His Helmet

Antonio Brown has been wearing this exact helmet that he is pleading for his entire career with no issues whatsoever, so now that a new rule has come, saying that ‘any helmet 10 years or older cannot be used anymore,’ he could say that he should keep it because he has had no issues. While Antonio Brown has only had one serious issue of a head injury, which was due to a helmet-to-helmet hit from Adam Jones in the 2015 AFC Wild Card Game against the Bengals, it is interesting to wonder how this situation would play out if he had gotten injured more. That being said, the only thing Brown has going for him is that he has used the helmet and been healthy, meaning that he could win the grievance by showing the evidence of his lack of injuries against that of the NFL’s saying that his helmet is unsafe. Also, he has the support of his new team, the Oakland Raiders, who will do everything they can to keep Brown on their team and in the NFL, though I don’t know how much value they can add to Brown.

The Case for the NFL to Prevent AB from Keeping His Helmet

Well, this is obvious. The helmet is shown to be unsafe and is over 10 years old. The new helmets have the technology needed to withstand the hits that players now take compared to how they were 10 years ago. The NFL tackling rule changes are the reason why this is an argument. As a result of the rule change, the helmet technologies have to be updated, and we are now at a point where Antonio Brown’s helmet is unsafe. Also, the NFL has a case in which an NFL player has changed helmets after being told of the rule. San Francisco 49ers Offensive Tackle Joe Staley had been using the same helmet since college and used it his entire NFL career until this offseason when the NFL told him to change helmets. The NFL would be extremely unfair to the rest of the players in the league if they said that only AB could wear the helmet of his choice, as it would cause discrepancies in rules, as well as players finding loopholes to get non-approved helmets.

What If AB Gets Injured with the New Helmet?

This is the biggest nightmare of the NFL in this situation right now. If there is a way that Brown wears a new helmet and doesn’t retire, which more recent reports suggest he will do that, but he suffers a head injury, then a whole new debacle starts for the NFL. Because the NFL then would have failed to back up their ’10 year-old helmet rule’, and would have to retest every helmet older than 10 years and see which are still functional or can be updated to be allowed in the NFL.

Should Antonio Brown Really Retire?

Two letters. N-O. No chance whatsoever should Brown seriously retire over a helmet. A guy who is at the prime of his career, has not had major injury problems, is in a new scene where he is happy, he should not even consider retiring. Not to mention, he has yet to win a Super Bowl. All that being said, I do not think Oakland is the place where he will win a Super Bowl, but he has so much more that he can accomplish and do with his career, so the thought of him retiring at the age of 31 is ridiculous.