NFL: Week 5 Picks

We’re through a fourth of the NFL season, and 3 undefeated teams remain: the Eagles, Vikings and Broncos.  These are three teams who’s defenses have been smothering, and who are starting different quarterbacks then they ended their season’s with last year.

Through four weeks, I have a 34- 30 record picking games.  Here are my thoughts on week 5.

Bye Week: New Orleans, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Kansas City

Thursday Night Football

  • Cardinals @ 49ers: Arizona has gotten off to an p-and-down start to the season, and it continued Sunday against LA. The Cardinals out-gained the Rams 420-288 yards, but committed five turnovers, including fourth quarter interceptions by backup Drew Stanton after Carson Palmer left with a possible concussion. They find themselves with a 1-3 record, and tied with their week 5 opponents at the bottom of the NFC West. San Francisco got off a great start in week 4, putting up 14 points quickly on the Dallas Cowboys, but struggled the rest of the game.  So who can get back on track this week and pull themselves out of the cellar? I’m taking the birds, even with them having to start Stanton under center Thursday. ARIZONA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Texans @ Vikings: Houston is the only team in the AFC South with a winning record, and other than a 27-0 drubbing in week 3, have looked pretty good.  They got their first win without JJ Watt, thanks to breakout performance from Will Fuller, the first player in franchise history to have a TD reception and a punt return for a score in the same game Minnesota’s defense is really, really good and the biggest reason they remain undefeated. Sam Bradford has been pretty good in purple and they’re succeeding without Adrian Peterson. They’ll lose soon, but it won’t be in week 5. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Bears @ Colts: Chicago picked up their first win of the season this weekend, snapping a six-game losing streak. Brian Hoyer was great in his second start for injured starter Jay Cutler, finishing 28-36 for 302 yards and two touchdowns.  The run game got going as well, while the defense picked off Matt Stafford twice in a three-point win.  Indianapolis has to rebound from a loss, in London, to the Jaguars.  Andrew Luck continues to be a no-show in the first half of games, as he threw all three of his touchdowns in the 4th quarter.  The Colts offense was plagued with dropped balls and a costly Luck interception that led to Jacksonville’s first touchdown. And their defense didn’t help, drawing costly penalties to extend a number of Jacksonville’s drives. I want to pick the Colts, who can still rebound from this slow start, but if the Bears can get another game on the ground like they did last week, they’ll get a second straight win. CHICAGO WINS
  • Jets @ Steelers: Two bad weeks in a row for the Jets have them at 1-3 heading into a game with a Steelers team coming off a drubbing of the Chiefs. The same Chiefs who had a field day on defense two weeks ago against New York.  Pittsburgh got Le’Veon Bell back, and it looked like he hadn’t missed any time.  It was another bad week for Ryan Fitpatrick and the New York offense.  The Jets defense let a supposedly hobbled Russell Wilson off the hook, and while they are capable of stopping good teams, I like the home team in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Titans @ Dolphins: Miami continues to struggle, and you have to ask when changes will be made.  They spent all this money last off-season on the defense, yet they’re bottom five there, with an 0-4 record.  Sure they played Cincinnati a week ago, but they’ve been pretty bad on both sides of the ball all year. AJ Green nearly had more receiving yards (173) than Ryan Tannehill did passing (189). Meanwhile, the Titans haven’t been much better in year two of Marcus Mariota.  They’re middle of the pack on both sides of the ball.  This is a good game for both to get things going and get some confidence, so who gets the win? Tennessee has been in every game this season, so I’ll take them to get the road victory this week. TENNESSEE WINS
  • Eagles @ Lions: Philadelphia is alone atop the NFC East, thanks to a great start from rookie Carson Wentz, and a very good defense.  Detroit has lost its last three games after barely holding on to a week 1 win in Indianapolis. Matt Stafford hasn’t been crisp, and they’re not getting much out of the running game. The Lions have been in every game, win or lose, while the Eagles have had an easy time of it early.  They’ll be well rested coming off their bye week and it will show in another victory.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Patriots @ Browns: New England gets  Tom Brady back from suspension after suffering a rare loss at home, a very rare shutout loss, and their first of the season.  That being said, the Pats are in a good place at 3-1 as they welcome back their starter.  Cleveland remains the lone win-less team in the league, despite being right there at the end the of each game the past two weeks. Brady missing 4-games at his age could mean great things for New England, meaning he’ll be fresh, or it’ll mean he’s a bit rusty this week.  Or both.  Cleveland has looked better on offense the past two weeks, particularly on the ground.  But they couldn’t stop the Skins in the red-zone, where Brady thrives.  It’ll be close, but I’ll take the road team here. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Redskins @ Ravens: Washington comes in winners of two straight; Baltimore; off their first loss of the season.  The Skins were great in the red-zone of the second week in a row, and Kirk Cousins continues to be very accurate.  The Ravens lost a one point game to Oakland at home where they both out-gained and held the ball longer.  A successful two-point conversion on a fourth quarter touchdown for Baltimore was immediately followed by a foolish taunting penalty, and then a game winning drive from Derek Carr. Can Washington make it three-straight wins, or will the Ravens pick up their fourth win of the season? It’ll come down to red-zone defense and the run game.  We know both of these quarterbacks in Cousins and Joe Flacco can air it out.  I like the Ravens run game, and trust their defense at home more. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday 4PM/425PM Games

  • Falcons @ Broncos: This is a match-up of two of the hottest teams in the NFL.  Atlanta is on a three-game winning streak, scoring at least 45 in the last two.  They’re the only team above .500 in the NFC South and coming off a game where Matt Ryan threw for over 500 yards against the Panthers.  Denver meanwhile, hasn’t lost since a week 15 road loss last year to the Steelers; and their last home loss came in week 10 last year to the Chiefs.  The Broncos defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this season, so this will be a test of an extremely hot defense, versus an extremely hot offense. Which wins out? I’m going with the old adage that defense wins championships; the reigning champs will remain undefeated. DENVER WINS
  • Bengals @ Cowboys: Dallas hasn’t lost since week 1, and even that should have probably been a win.  They’re getting huge production from their rookies with no sign of slowing down.  The Bengals got back on track and evened their record up in week 4 against the Dolphins.  Both teams have defenses capable of making the stops down the stretch when necessary, but with no Dez Bryant, the Bengals have the biggest play threat on the field in A.J. Green, and that’s why I like them to snap the Cowboys win streak. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Chargers @ Raiders: San Diego’s problem this season hasn’t been scoring, it has been their inability to finish games this season, losing by less than a score each time. Oakland is starting to figure things out on offense, winners of two straight including handing the Ravens their first loss of the season. The Raiders defense is actually allowing the most yards per game, and the 11th most points per game, so there’s work to do there.  They’re going to beat the Chargers this weekend, on the strength of their offense. OAKLAND WINS
  • Bills @ Rams: In week 4, the Bills did something most teams in the Belichick era, shut out the Pats in New England. The deefnse, as well as LeSean McCoy had big gmaes for Buffalo.  The LA Rams are playing up to their competition this season, and finishing the job.  They took advantage of the Cardinals losing Carson Palmer last week, and find themselves 3-1.  Considering they havent had a winnning season 2003, this is a huge thing in itself.  Their offense is inconsistent, which is where Buffalo  will take advantage. BUFFALO WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Giants @ Packers: After starting the season 2-0, the Giants have sputtered in all areas of the game the past two weeks.  They’ve allowed big play after big play on defense, while not getting any of their own on offense.  Turnovers on special teams and offense aren’t being nullified with forcing opponents to do the same.  Green Bay hasn’t been as sharp as they’ve been in the past, but will be rested after their bye week.  The Giants have won the last three match-ups in this series, but I’m taking Aaron Rogers in this one. GREEN BAY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Buccaneers @ Panthers: Carolina should be worried. They looked lost against Atlanta this past week, never having an answer on how to cover Julio Jones, a guy you should always game plan for as a top priority.  Tampa Bay is in the bottom third scoring wise in the league, despite putting 30-plus points on the board in two of their first four games.  Their defense has allowed at least 24 in each game as well.  So this is a good game for the Panthers to figure some stuff out on both sides of the ball before they fall any further in the standings. CAROLINA WINS

NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS

NFL: Week 3 Picks

We’ve reached week 3 of the season, and still have 8 undefeated and 8 winless teams. There have also been a lot of big injuries early that will have a big impact on week 3 and beyond.  As for my picks, I’m 18-14 through 2 weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking going into week 3.

Thursday Night Football

  • Texans @ Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo left with a shoulder injury for New England, who still managed to move to 2-0.  This was thanks in large part to Garoppolo’s 3 touchdown passes before his injury as well as a big performance from LeGarrett Blount in the run game. The Texans took down the Chiefs on the strength of their defense to move to 1-1, a stark difference from their 33-0 loss to Kansas City in the playoffs.  Without Garoppolo, I think the Texans will do enough to get another win to start off the week 3 action. HOUSTON WINS

Sunday 1pm Games

  • Ravens @ Jaguars: Baltimore got very lucky in week 2, as they overcame a 20-0 1st quarter deficit to improve to 2-0.  Cleveland never scored again, while Joe Flacco brought his team back with a 25-45, 302 yard performance.  Their opponents have been disappointing to me so far.  While I didn’t think the Jaguars were going to make the playoffs this season, I thought they’d be better than they’ve shown, starting 0-2 again after They crossed midfield only six times and committed three turnovers. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Both teams enter 1-1 after losing in week 2, and are looking to keep pace with the 2-0 Vikings.  The Packers lost their game in the 4th quarter, turning the ball over twice, while allowing Rodgers to be sacked 5 times. Detroit also lost their game in the 4th quarter when they were outscored 13-0 by the Titans, including a 93-yard game winning drive.  The Lions didn’t have a go to back in week 2, losing Ameer Abdullah to an injury.   So who gets back in the win column this week? I’ll take the Packers at home with a much-needed big day from Eddie Lacy. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Redskins @ Giants: Washington won the NFC East a year ago, but have opened up this season 0-2.  Struggles in the red zone and an inability to force turnovers meant a loss in a back-and-forth affair with Dallas last week. New York’s offense moved up and down the field pretty easily on Sunday, but also struggled in the redzone, and had too many turnovers in the 1st half.  But the defense and special teams stepped up and they moved to 2-0. So who takes this division matchup?  Give me the home team to get over their redzone struggles and take advantage of Eli Manning’s league leading completion percentage, which should be even better as the Giants receiving core dropped at least 5 balls in week 2. NEW YORK WINS
  • Browns @ Dolphins: For the 5th week in a row (dating back to last season), Cleveland will be starting a different QB.  Someone should tell them this isn’t baseball, there’s no starting rotation in football.  Even with the QB carousel, the Browns almost, and should have, pulled out their first win in week 2.  They were up 20-2 on the Ravens, thanks in big part to their ground attack, but fell late.  Miami isn’t in any better a position than their week 3 opponents, as they enter action at 0-2 as well.  The Dolphins were down big early to the Pats, but made a comeback after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury.  Cleveland will be in this game until the end because Miami has had issues stopping the run early.  But even of Isaiah Crowell goes big on the ground, I still think they pull out the win at home. MIAMI WINS
  • Vikings @ Panthers: Minnesota will now be without their starting QB and running back for the rest of the season after Adrian Peterson went down in their game on Sunday night. The Vikings defense looked stong against Aaron Rogers in week 2. As for Carolina, they rebounded offensively in week 2, but they still struggled a bit on defense, allowing the Niners to score 27.  They’ll be without their running back Jonathan Stewart, but were picked up by Fozzy Whittaker on the ground.  Despite the 27 points allowed, I like the Panthers chances of stopping Sam Bradford and the new Vikings weapon and league receiving yards leader Stefon Diggs. CAROLINA WINS
  • Broncos @ Bengals: Andy Dalton has gotten off to a nice start this season, leading the league with 732 passing yards, so here’s a good test for the Broncos league leading defense.  CJ Anderson is having a good start to the season, and we’ve seen the Bengals give up the most rushing yards per game to start the season, so he should be able to help eat a lot of clock for Denver. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ Bills: Arizona rebounded from a tough week 1 loss by handily beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Cardinals led the league in total offense, while the Bills dropped to 0-2 despite putting up 31 points of their own in week 2. Buffalo has let their offensive coordinator go, so they really need this game.  Too bad I don’t think they’ll get it.  Look for a big game from running back Daniel Johnson. ARIZONA WINS
  • Raiders @ Titans: Oakland has not been able to stop anyone through two weeks, something I wasn’t expecting, allowing 70 points so far.  Tennessee has actually done a very nice job on defense.  Both teams are 1-1 heading into this game, but I still like the Raiders better.  The Titans offense hasn’t shown the big play ability the Raiders have, so Oakland should be able to hold them down better than they did with New Orleans and Atlanta. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425pm Games

  • Rams @ Buccaneers: LA’s defense showed up in week 2, Tampa’s did not.  The difference between these two teams is the offense.  While the Bucs went from scoring 4 TDs to 1, I feel more confident about their offense than the Rams, who have scored just 9 points in two games.  The best chance the Rams have is if their defense can do what it did a week ago, and good game out of Todd Gurley. That being said, I’ll take the home team in this one. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: This is a big (albeit early) NFC West battle between two 1-1 teams.  San Francisco followed up a surprise week 1 win with a defensive breakdown against Carolina.  Seattle had one of their worst offensive games in this recent stretch of Superbowl quality teams, scoring just a field goal against the L.A. Rams. I can’t see the Seahawks being held down again, especially by the Niners.  Russell Wilson should be able to dominate in this one. SEATTLE WINS
  • Steelers @ Eagles:  I never thought this would be a game where both teams have a chance to move to 3-0, but here we are.  DeAngelo Williams has been huge for Pittsbrgh in the abscense of Le’Veon Bell, who is out one more week due to suspension. Philadelphia has gotten about as good as you can ever hope to from a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, who hasn’t turned the ball over yet. It should be a good game, but I will go with the experience in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jets @ Chiefs: Two teams I picked to make the playoffs in the AFC face off in Kansas City this weekend.  New York picked up their first win last week, thanks to the offense.  Off-season acquisition Matt Forte finished with 100 yards rushing, and three rushing touchdowns. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall both finished with 100 receiving yards as well.  The Jets defense wasn’t as impressive as it was week 1.  The Chiefs hope that’s the case again this week, as they couldn’t get much of anything started against Houston. A lot went right for New York last week, and I can’t see them doing quite that well against Kansas City’s defense as they did against Buffalo.  If this were a home game for the Jets I might choose differently, but it’s a home game for the Chiefs, so I’ll go with them this week.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Colts: San Diego is 2-0, Indianapolis is 0-2.  I really thought that the Colts would be able to do better than they have on defense, but they haven’t. San Diego has looked very good on offense to start this season, Indy has been very up and down. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bears @ Cowboys: Chicago is 0-2 despite holding early leads in both week 1 and week 2.  And now they’ll be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler due to a thumb injury.   Their best hope to beat the Cowboys is to continue limiting the passing game, as the Bears rank 4th in the NFL allowing 224 yards a game.   As for Dallas, they picked up their first win thanks to another clean day from Dak Prescott and a big night on the ground. The Boys were already a better team than the Bears before the Cutler injury, so give me Dallas at home to move to 2-1. DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Falcons @ Saints: Atlanta picked up their first win against an impressive Raiders team in week 2, while New Orleans dropped to 0-2 after a game winning field goal by the Giants.  Atlanta hasn’t had any problems scoring this season, but their defense has struggled at times.  New Orleans’ defense was much better in week 2, forcing 3 turnovers, but it wasn’t enough.  I picked the Saints to make the playoffs, so this is a huge game for them.  If they want to get their first win, they have to figure out how to run the ball.  The Falcons tend to be very inconsistent, so give me New Orleans at home in a shootout. NEW ORLEANS WINS

NBA Finals: Spurs Kawh-It the Heat En-route to Fifth Title

FinalsThe rematch wasn’t quite what we hoped for after a 7-game thriller of 2013.  But with the Western Conference being far superior to the East all season, were you really surprised the NBA Finals ended up following suit? The San Antonio Spurs made easy, and I mean easy work of the two-time defending Champion Miami Heat.  The Spurs finished off the Heat in 5 games, but if not for missed free-throws late in game 2, it could have been a sweep.

It looked like it would be a close, hard-fought series after through two.  Game 1 was close until LeBron James suffered the cramps stemming from the AC going out at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.  That’s when the Spurs pulled away.  But the Heat bounced back in game 2, thanks in part to those previously mentioned missed free-throws by the Spurs.  But then the series went back to Miami, and San Antonio showed their road-warrior spirit, and just ran the Heat of their own court, TWICE.

It was surprising to see Miami, a team led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to show so little fight.  Wade was absent most of the season, looking like an old 32-year-old despite all the regular season rest he was given.  Miami didn’t use Bosh appropriately and James, despite being the best player on the planet, is only one person.  It didn’t help that their starting point guard Mario Chalmers, and bench guys like Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Norris Cole gave them close to nothing on either end of the floor.

Ok, that’s enough about what the Heat didn’t do. Let’s talk about what the new NBA Champs did to win.  They played team basketball.  When you can name 3 or 4 players all worthy of winning Finals MVP, you know you’ve done something right.  Tim Duncan, the 17-year veteran was the most consistent, surpassing Magic Johnson for most double-doubles in Finals history.  Manu Ginobili put a horrible 2013 Finals behind him and turned back the clock.  I mean can we talk about that poster dunk followed by a 3 in game 5?  How about Boris Diaw, a guy who couldn’t stay on the Charlotte Bobcats roster a year ago.  As a big man, he was a better facilitator than all of Miami’s guards put together in this series!  And finally the eventual winner, 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard.  After foul trouble kept him off the floor in games 1 and 2, boy oh boy did this kid step up and put San Antonio on his back.  Big shots, big defense.  It was great to see.  In fact, basically everything the Spurs did in this series was great to watch.  The unselfish ball movement, the consistent defense.  Basketball fans got to enjoy the work of Gregg Popovich, who is in the conversation of greatest coaches to ever grace the sidelines.  It doesn’t matter what pieces he’s given, he finds a way to make them fit into his system.  And it’s a system that has made San Antonio, a small market don’t forget, the toast of the NBA for nearly two decades.

So that’s it.  Another great NBA season is over.  But with the draft 10-days away, as well as free agency upon us, the story-lines continue.  Who goes number 1 to Cleveland?  Will this loss mean James opting out and leaving Miami? Will Duncan retire on top? Will Kevin Love be with the Timberwolves come the start of next season?  What happens with Donald Sterling and the Clippers? And so much more.

NBA Playoffs: Conference Finals Recap

And then there were 2.

It’s a rematch of the 2012-13 NBA Finals, with the only difference being the team holding home-court resides in the West.

Before I breakdown what I see happening, let’s look back to what went down in the Conference Finals.

Eastern Conference Finals

(2) Miami Heat vs (1) Indiana Pacers

  • For a team that worked very hard to get home-court advantage, the Pacers looked like they forgot the goal is to WIN in the playoffs.  After making things tough on themselves in the 1st two rounds, Indiana was out of this before it started.  Sure they forced it to 6 games, but even in wins they didn’t look impressive.  Lance Stephenson became a distraction unable to back up his words.  Roy Hibbert finished the playoffs with 4 games where he didn’t score.  The defense wasn’t up to their normal standards and turnovers continued to plague them.  Oh and the Miami Heat have LeBron James. And Dwyane Wade.  And Chris Bosh.  And they know how to win, at home AND on the road.  It’s pretty simple.

Western Conference Finals

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (1) San Antonio Spurs

  • This was the story of holding home-court. Blowouts for the home teams is how the first 5 games went.  You can argue Serge Ibaka going down for games 1 and 2 turned the series in San Antonio’s favor, and it sure helped, but he did return to get it back to a place where OKC had home-court again, and a chance to advance tied 2-2.  But the Thunder defense was not good, Kevin Durant was exposed and they didn’t get help off the bench.  The Spurs bench can hurt you in so many ways, and they proved it in the clincher when Tony Parker went down and a guy like Boris Diaw helped close out Oklahoma City in overtime. Oh and Tim Duncan thinks he’s 30 again.  That helps.

NBA Finals

(2) Miami Heat vs (1) San Antonio Spurs

  • Here we are.  A rematch of last seasons NBA Finals.  The Spurs looked to have the championship in the bag late in game 6.  Then everything went right for the Heat, including a game winning Ray Allen 3.  A game 7 win sealed Miami’s 2nd straight championship.  And now it’s the question of dynasty or revenge: which will be the ultimate headline? On the one hand, with how easy it was for the Heat to get out of a very down Eastern Conference, you’d think it’s got to be then.  And on the other, you’ve got the Spurs who finished with the best record in the league, making their way out of a stacked West.  They’ve proven themselves against the top teams this year, while Miami has bested the West’s best the past two years.  So which do I think comes to pass?  Revenge is a dish best served on the games biggest stage.  Give me the Spurs.  I said all along that the Thunder would win it all, but if OKC didn’t make it to the finals, that I’d take the West representative. San Antonio has been consistently great for nearly 2 decades.  Yes, Tony Parker is questionable with an ankle injury (boy do ankles HATE point guards huh?), but knowing him and the Spurs way, if he can put any kind of pressure on it, he’s on that court.  That heart, plus the depth of San Antonio vs the Heat depth, is the advantage I give the Spurs.  I know, I know. LeBron James is the best basketball on the planet.  I’m still going with the Spurs in 7. Final answer.

Now tell me if you agree with the team I think is hanging another banner!

7 games again.  We deserve it as fans.  Stretches of this season were dull and after a great 1st round of the playoffs, the best game was Spurs/Thunder game 6.  This fairly predictable finals match-up dictates high drama every game.  We want, and I believe we will get, at least 6 hotly contested games.  No more of this home team blowout non-sense.  Big 3s, defense and two of the best to ever play the game (James and Tim Duncan), trying to add another ring to their legacies.  These are two fantastic organizations, and I cannot wait til Thursday in San Antonio, the site of game 1.

Enjoy it NBA fans. Enjoy it sports fans.  Just enjoy.

NBA Playoffs: Round 2 Recap

After a fun first two rounds of the playoffs and here are, down to 4 teams.  Out West you’ve for last years runner-up San Antonio Spurs, and MVP Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder.  And of course in the East you have a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals.  The top-seeded Indiana Pacers, and the 2-time reigning World Champion Miami heat.  After a 5 1st round series going 7, the top 2 seeds in each conference have advanced, show just how hard it is for low seeds to make it through all 3 rounds of the playoffs leading up til the finals.

So here’s what I see happening we march one step closer to determining this years champion.

Eastern Conference Finals

(2) Miami Heat vs (1) Indiana Pacers

  • It’s the match-up we all predicted back when they were the only two East teams over .500.  It’s the rematch the Pacers worked so hard to ensure would happen with home-court advantage after losing game 7 in Miami a year ago.  Despite a bad 2nd half to the season, and a strange post-season, Indiana is here.  Miami had a fairly easy road here in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and you know they don’t care if they have to go into Indy and win.  They did show some stretches that could be concerning in their match-up against the Brooklyn Nets, but showed they still know how to execute late game situations better than most teams. So what happens?  The Pacers biggest advantage comes in the front-court, if and only if, Roy Hibbert plays closer to his 28 point performance, and not his 0 point playoff performance. But LeBron James is the biggest advantage of them all, and to that how well Ray Allen has looked, and how healthy Dwyane Wade has looked, I’m not sure home-court comes into play here. So give me the Heat in 6.

Western Conference Finals

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (1) San Antonio Spurs

  • In a super talented, hotly contested West, the top 2 seeds found a way to get it done and advance again.  OKC’s defense has been spotty at times this postseason, but they’ve come up big when needed.  The same can be said for San Antonio, though I think the Spurs look like the best team of the 4 left standing after shutting down the up-and-coming Portland Trailblazers squad.   I’m most looking forward to the point-guard match-up in this one.  Tony Parker has carried this team throughout the playoffs, and Russell Westbrook has been dominant offensively.  It’ll be interesting to see which bench provides the most consistent spark.  I picked the Thunder to win it all before the playoffs began, and I think OKC wins it in 7.

So that it, I think we’ve got a 2012 NBA Finals rematch on top, pitting the two best players on the planet and their deep teams against each other.

 

NBA Playoffs: Round 1 Recap

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You get a game 7! And you get a game 7! Everyone gets a game 7. (And apparently 4-point plays are a common thing now.)

I’ve never enjoyed the first round of the playoffs before.  They say any team can beat any other team on any given night.  And in the NBA Playoffs, that was true.  The only series that ended quickly was the World Champion Miami Heat knocking out the Charlotte Bobcats in a 4-game sweep.  But even 3 of those 4 games could have gone either way.

Let’s start in the West, where all season the competition was at a high level, and man-oh-man, was every series fun and hotly contested! You’re going to really earn representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals this year.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Dallas Mavericks

  • Vince Carter’s game winning 3 gave them a 2-1 series lead, but San Antonio answered to make it 3-2.  The Mavs would not go quietly, forcing a decisive game 7.  But the Spurs said enough was enough, and easily eliminated Dallas at home.  Manu Ginobili resurfaced in the clincher, while Tony Park continues to do what he does best, help his team win.  The troubling part of the Spurs showing in this series was their defense, though that turned itself back on in game 7 as well.

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies

  • Memphis was maybe the best number 7 seed in the history of basketball.  After digging themselves in a hole early when Marc Gasol went down, they got hot in the second half, and earned the last spot in the playoffs.  The Thunder had to compete with a top defense and they had their issues. It was an even series throughout, with the Grizzlies unable to close some games out late, leading to a rare 4-straight overtime games.  But they were able to close out enough to put OKC on the brink of elimination in big part because of the defense played on MVP-favorite Kevin Durant.  But in game 6, Durant woke up big time, and stayed awake to lead them to into the 2nd round. And don’t forget his sidekick Russell Westbrook, who finished with two triple-doubles in the series.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) Golden State Warriors

  • Both teams blew the other out at home.  But after LA owner Donald Sterling said some things (you know what things), and was subsequently banned for life, the Clippers played with renewed vigor and took care of GSW on the road.  They were pushed to a game 7 (who wasn’t?) and in a thoroughly enjoyable, they pulled it out, thanks in big part to the play of DeAndre Jordan and clutch free-throw shooting. Doc Rivers after said he’d remember this game 7 because of everything that happened and how his team responded.  The Warriors played well, despite losing their best post presence before the series started, but it wasn’t enough as the Clips nearly doubled them up in the paint.

(4) Houston Rockets vs (5) Portland Trailblazers

  • So much offense!  Not a lot of defense.  I picked the Rockets to win this one because they were playing better heading in and have a better bench.  But the Blazers reverted back to the team they were early in the year, and stole two on the road to open up, and won the series 4-2. A big reason for the advancement? The outstanding play of LaMarcus Aldridge the entire series, as well as the cold-blooded clutchness (that’s a word right) of one Damian Lillard.

Now let’s break down the Eastern Conference.

(1) Indiana Pacers vs (8) Atlanta Hawks

  • The Pacers were so focused on getting the number 1 overall seed all season, in case they faced the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals again, that they forgot they need to make it that far in the playoffs first.  They won’t. Atlanta grabbed home court in game 1, and again in game 5.  Roy Hibbert, who many thought coming into this season was the best big man in the NBA, didn’t play like it.  Rebounding and offense was an issue for the All-Star.  But don’t worry, we found Roy, at least kind of, in game 7.  But the reason they won the game, and the series, Paul George stepped up big time.  And they’ll need more of that on both ends of court going forward.

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Charlotte Bobcats

  • No one really saw Charlotte getting into the playoffs, but in what was a weak Eastern Conference for much of the year, they did. Their defense carried them, while Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker did the rest on offense.  They played well, with the exception of a blowout in game 3.  But the reigning champs were just too much for them.  Charlotte goes back to being the Hornets, so the Bobcats finish their tenure with this lone playoff appearance, and no wins on their resume.  But look for this team to be back and even better next year.  They head into the next round the most rested, and most experience team left.

(3) Toronto Raptors vs (6) Brooklyn Nets

  • Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were brought in for the playoffs.  Yet they sat the entire 4th quarter of game 5 as the Nets made a furious comeback from down 26 to tie late.  Brooklyn lost.  I said before the series that the play of the back-court would be the difference, and it sure was.  Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan outplayed Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston in every facet of the game.  Fast-forward to the waning seconds of game 7.  A reoccurring issue between these two teams was the Nets inability to get a ball in late.  The Ratpors were all over their in-bounds plays, and stole one with 6.2 to go.  So the season came down to defense, and who made the final play?  Paul Pierce blocked a Lowry drive, after KG and Williams swarmed.  But it was Joe Johnson, the Nets best player all season, that put this team on his back and played the most consistent ball of them all in black and white.  So now, the lowest seed left, and only team to win on the road during game 7, the Nets move on to face the reigning world champs, and a team they beat 4 times in the regular season.

(4) Chicago Bulls vs (5) Washington Wizards

  • Losing Derrick Rose for the entire season, again, and trading away such a big piece in Luol Deng could have left the Bulls with a good excuse to fall in the East.  But did this team fights for 48 minutes, and were lifted by Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah to home-court.  And it took awhile for the Wizards to find themselves this season, but when they did… boy oh boy they find a good team. John Wall and Bradley Beal have quickly established themselves as one of the best back-courts in the league.  Washington enters well-rested, which could be important for a young squad.

Here are the second round match-ups and what I see happening:

Eastern Conference

(1) Indiana Pacers vs (5) Washington Wizards

  • Can the Pacers build off their game 7 performance?  Or can the Wizards continue their run?  It’s going to come down to the play of the front-court.  NeNe outplayed the Defensive Player of the Year in Noah, while former DOY Roy Hibbert looked terrible on both sides of the ball.  Not to mention the Wizards biggest advantage is Wall over George Hill at point guard. It’s going to be a tougher series than Washington had in round 1, but honestly, give me the Wizards in 6. (Had Bulls beating them in 7)

(2) Miami Heat vs (6) Brooklyn Nets

  1. I’m sticking with my original pick of Heat in 6 of Brooklyn in round 2.  I wanted to pick the Nets, and if they’d had an easier time with the inexperienced Raptors, maybe I’d give them more of a chance.  Miami will find a way to make the plays they didn’t in the regular season down the stretch, especially with a healthy and rested Wade on the floor.   The best chance Brooklyn has lies on the glass, in the hands of Joe Johnson, and whoever is tasked with defending LeBron James. That will probably be a team effort led by Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson.  The King will get his, but if they make it hard on him, that will be huge.

Western Conference

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (3) Los Angeles Clippers

  • The Thunder played very good defense against Memphis, while the Clippers thrived on offense against the Warriors. Neither had the series was crisp, but here they are.  I picked OKC before the playoffs in six, and I’ll stick with that.  It’s going to be a close, hard-fought series, and while I think the scores will be high, in crunch time, I think the Thunder will dig deeper and get the stops needed.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (5) Portland Trailblazers

  • (Originally I had Spurs in 6 over Houston), but here are the Blazers after they won in 6.  I’m still taking the Spurs in 6 because of experience and if they an defend the way they did in-game 7, they should be okay.  But man did Portland show us something.  Or rather remind us of something . The Blazers were so hot to start the season, and they got back to doing those things that got them off to the quick start.  Aldridge was the best player on the court, and Lillard showed in just year two he’s not afraid to take the biggest shot. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t be surprised if the regular season’s best team falls to the upstart team from the north-west.

So there you go, that’s what I saw from the magical 1st round, and how I think round 2 goes. Here’s to another fun and nail-biting round of the NBA Playoffs.