The Future is Bright in Buffalo

It’s been a rough year for the Buffalo Bills in 2018.  The first nine games were definitely the worst of it, as the Bills suffered blowouts in four of those games, let almost all the other close games get away from them, and dealt with multiple Nathan Peterman meltdowns. However, the second half of the season has been a different story. They’ve been competitive in every game and have had chances to win- foiled by either painful touchdown drops or rookie mistakes. Frustrating losses aside, Bills fans should be excited about the future of the team. Hopeful franchise quarterback Josh Allen played well three weeks in a row and continues to show progression from week to week. He’s becoming a better passer, while also remaining a dangerous running threat. Allen is making multiple reads before leaving the pocket and commanding the offense like he’s been in the league for a while. While he still possesses accuracy issues in the intermediate passing game and occasionally makes rookie mistakes, those errors are decreasing gradually. Allen isn’t the only Bills player impressing though.

Undrafted free agent wideout Robert Foster has only had one game under 90 yards since his promotion back to the 53 man roster. He and Allen really seem to be building chemistry, as he’s obviously Allen’s No.1 receiver. Isaiah McKenzie was also a nice find by the coaching staff and his versatility has opened things up for the offense tremendously. Zay Jones is still inconsistent in his performances, but he’s showing flashes of what he could do in the NFL. Sixth round pick Wyatt Teller has been an upgrade on the offensive line, as he is already the second best lineman on the team and still has a lot of room to improve. The offensive side of the ball isn’t the only side seeing a resurgence of young talent though.

In addition to last year’s stellar picks Tre’Davious White and Matt Milano, the defensive side has seen some talent emerge from the rookie class. First rounder Trumaine Edmunds has been an animal at the middle linebacker spot for the Bills and at 20-years-old, he has a lot of room to mature and grow into his full potential, and he’s getting better by the week. Fourth round pick Taron Johnson has been one of the best rookie corners in the league this year, and once he gets his nagging shoulder injury taken care of, he’ll be on the field to get even better. Undrafted free agent Levi Wallace has exceeded expectations starting across from White while fellow undrafted free agent Ryan Lewis has been decent as well in that same position, when given the chance.

These players all contributed to the stellar season that the Buffalo Bills defense has had so far. The unit is first in the NFL in yards allowed per game. Opposing quarterbacks struggle to get anything going against the Bills’ defense, that arguably has five potential Pro Bowl worthy players on it. This is a result of the coaching of Sean McDermott, who has done a phenomenal job keeping Buffalo competitive despite being huge underdogs in every game this season. McDermott gets the best out of his players week in and week out and they play hard for him. He coaches with a winning mindset that ended the 18 year playoff drought that haunted Buffalo for so long.

McDermott and Brandon Beane carefully constructed a roster built to compete in every game they play in– that’s not started by Nathan Peterman. They’ve had great talent evaluation in the draft, which is one of the key factors to building a championship caliber football team. They have their championship caliber defense and a franchise quarterback. Now all they need is a No.1 wide receiver to play across from Foster and sure up the right side of the offensive line.

The Buffalo Bills aren’t far away at all from being a playoff team, and they’ve got the right coach and the right general manager to realize their true potential. The fututre is bright for the Buffalo Bills.

Washington football is the worst kind of football

Following an arrest in November, former San Francisco 49er and 2017 first round pick, Rueben Foster was cut from San Francisco. The NFL world hoped they heard the last of the young linebacker after an arrest for domestic violence. That is when the Washington Redskins stepped in and picked up Foster off of waivers.

Washington has a long history of being simply the worst run organization in NFL history. They don’t lose like the Cleveland Browns, but they are far worse in every conceivable way. The latest signing is only the cherry on top of decades of football malpractice.

The latest in the legacy of the Dan Snyder era in Washington is not even about the Foster signing. On the same day was the 11th anniversary of the death of Sean Taylor, a former All-Pro safety who was killed at age 24. Snyder decided it was appropriate for the team to sell a plush toy of Taylor for profit.

Taylor is still a fan favorite player and will be remembered as one of the greatest players to have their lives tragically cut short. With that in mind, the owner of the Redskins decided to sell plush toys of Taylor’s likeness for profit on the anniversary of his death. This is only the tip of the iceberg for this organization.

Let’s get the elephant out of the room shall we? The name “Washington Redskins” is absolutely racist. It is not up for debate. However, owner Dan Snyder would have you think otherwise. Despite commons sense and dictionaries defining the name as, “ A contemptuous terms used to refer to a North American Indian,” Snyder refuses to budge.

In 2013, Snyder wrote a letter to fans defending the name. He cited how the team, “cannot ignore our 81-year history,” as well as detailing a story of his first Washington football game. He even came out and stated how he wanted those against the name to, “try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too.”

 

Daniel_Snyder
Daniel Snyder, owner and chairman of the board of the Washington Redskins, speaking at the National Press Club

While an 81- year old history is nothing to scoff at, by his same logic there is a lot of things that are even older that could use a similar logic. By Snyder’s logic, Little Rock Arkansas would have the long tradition of having the National Guard escort their African American students to school.

 

In fact, if we look at the legacy of Washington, it is one of racism. George Marshall was the owner of the team from 1932 until his death in 1969. After some success early in the team’s history, Washington was one of the worst teams after 1945.

 

President with George MArshall
President Truman (Left) at his desk in the Oval Office, receiving his annual pass to National Football League games from Bert Bell, Commissioner of the National Football League (center), and George Marshall (Right), owner of the Washington Redskins.

 

During this time, Marshall refused to integrate his football team. The situation got so divisive the Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, warned Marshall to integrate his team. Because of a government official warning the president of the team, the Washington team became the last professional American football team to integrate.

The name itself is indication of an organization that simply does not know how to develop a winning team. Washington is known for spending a lot of money in free agency and being an overall mediocre team.

Free agency has always been difficult for Washington. They gave a 32- year old Deion Sanders a seven year $55 million contract in 2000. He retired the next year. They made Adam Archuleta the highest paid safety in the league with a six- year $30 million contract. He was traded for a sixth round pick the following season. They gave a role playing wide receiver in Antwaan Randle El a seven-year $31 million contract. He surpassed 600 receiving yards once in his four years at Washington. For those playing at home, that is over $126 million wasted dollars.

Despite those horrible free agency moves, the most infamous free agent bust is Albert Haynesworth. This player epitomizes the Washington franchise. He was seen as a player with an inconsistent motor, dating back to his collegiate days at Tennessee, his best two seasons were right before he hit free agency, and he lacked any production after he received his money. He even scraped his cleat against the head of a former player, leading to a five game suspension and 30 stitches to the player.

This player received a seven-year $100 million contract as a defensive tackle. Haynesworth went on to record 6.5 sacks in two seasons with Washington. He was out of the NFL by what would’ve been the third year of his record contract. Haynesworth is regarded as the biggest free agency bust of all time.

A team that has a history of racism, poor free agency decisions is a perfect home for Rueben Foster. Despite Snyder sending a strong anti-domestic abuse message to fans during the Ray Rice incident in 2014, his opinions seem to have changed drastically.

Foster has been a controversial player since before he was drafted. He now joins a team stooped in controversy and failure. Foster reportedly isn’t getting a starting job handed to him, but knowing this team he will be a captain by the end of the week, sending a clear message about whether Dan Snyder values talent over criminal charges. This is why Washington football is the worst kind of football.

 

Atlanta is Doing Soccer Right

In 2017, the MLS added two new expansion clubs to bring the league up to 22 teams at the time. The two teams, Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC, arrived in the midst of push to expand the MLS to 26 teams by 2020. Minnesota took a seemingly slow and steady approach, in 2017 they had the 18th highest payroll at around $5.6 million. It’s an approach we see by expansion teams all the time. Other teams have a huge head start, so why try to jump to the front of the line when a new team can slowly build up a solid foundation before pushing for a championship. That’s good logic for someone entering the highly competitive NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL (just don’t tell that to Vegas). The chances of fighting for glory are already low, the chances that a new franchise is just going to pick it up right away is near absurd.

However, the MLS is different because the MLS sucks. It is not the be-all-end-all of its sport like the other leagues are. There is so much room for improvement across the board that anyone with the right moves can make leaps and bounds in the league. There is also an expansive talent pool that exists outside the MLS. No need to swindle trades or wait for the draft because the better talent is almost always abroad. Someone just needs to be willing to spend a little to tap into the wealth of talent in soccer. Enter Atlanta.

Unlike their expansion counterparts, Atlanta did not want to wait around to be successful. In their inaugural season, Atlanta trotted out a roster that already had the 8th highest payroll. They accomplished that by writing out three of the biggest checks in MLS transfer history, including the highest transfer ever in the league. Atlanta United FC paid over $14 million in transfer fees to bring in Hector Villalba, Miguel Almirón, and Josef Martínez. One thing to note is the MLS’s reputation as a retirement league, where old European stars come to play against lesser talent. It’s how players like David Villa, Kaká, Sebastian Schweinsteiger, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have all been able to continue their careers long after their prime. However, Atlanta avoided all of that and paid top dollar for players who were 22/23 when they were signed. On top of that Atlanta was able to bring in Gerardo “Tata” Martino as their head coach. Before coming to the MLS he coached Barcelona and the Argentinian National Team, a resume the league had never seen before.

So did it work?

Well, in 2017 Minnesota finished 9th in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs. They stuck to the build-it-up-from-the-ground mentality the following offseason, this time finishing 10th in the West. Atlanta began their franchise history with a 4th place finish in the East, before ultimately exiting in the first round via penalties. Josef Martínez poured in 19 goals, good for fourth in the league. Unsatisfied with their finish, they once again broke the bank to bring in a star. This time, they smashed the old transfer fee record (which they just set) by spending $15 million to bring in 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco. Apparently spending money is good for you because they improved to second in the East, falling two points behind the Red Bulls in the Conference and in the Supporters’ Shield race. This time Martínez led the MLS with 31 goals, breaking the all-time single season MLS record. They also breezed through the playoffs up to this point and are in the MLS Cup Finals.

They don’t just dominate the standings, as they have been murdering the attendance records as well. Give credit to Atlanta fans because boy do they show up, though it helps to have a product on the field that is actually pleasant to watch. In both years of their existence they led the league in average attendance, toppling the Sounders who were consistently on top. They also hold the top SEVEN single game attendance records. The former record had been in place since 1996. Now you can go around saying it’s because of the large capacity stadium that they share with the Falcons, but people still have to fill up the seats, and they fill them up in droves. In addition, they hold the top three single game attendance records for playoff games. They have only ever played in three playoff games. They haven’t even been to the finals, and people still buy tickets to watch them. I mean just look at this…

One would think that this was Camp Nou during El Clasico or something. Three games, three attendance records, each one beating the last.

It’s not like this showed up out of nowhere, someone has to actually be writing these checks. That man is Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and as of 2017 Atlanta United FC. As an NFL fan, it was fun watching the New England Patriots blindside this idiot as he stood on the sideline at Super Bowl LI watching his team fall apart. Robert Kraft would go on to claim his fifth title while Blank had to stand there with the confetti falling for the Patriots. As an MLS fan, though, Arthur Blank blows Kraft and every other MLS owner out of the water. Kraft hasn’t paid for a good player since Jermaine Jones in 2014. Jones brought them to the Finals, but when he asked to be paid, Kraft shipped him to Colorado. Blank, on the other hand, understands that if you want to make money, you need to spend money. It’s working. The product on the field is great, and the people want to see it. I have full respect for this man and his ability to own a soccer team, and I hope other owners begin to see the lucrative side of soccer.

Atlanta United FC, in their second season, are in the MLS Cup Finals on Saturday the 8th against the Portland Timber, the 2015 champs. I am hardcore rooting for Atlanta because I want teams to see that what Atlanta is doing is working. It might be nice to slowly build up one’s academy and sign young homegrown players in hopes of building a solid foundation. But in a country whose youth just isn’t that good and in a league that is just waiting for someone to jump to the top, the better option might just be doing what Atlanta is doing. It’s worked with other teams, too. New York City FC signed aging stars Andrea Pirlo and David Villa and they are always in the top of the standings. The newest team, LAFC, had the third highest payroll this season and achieved the fifth best record and eight highest average attendance. It does not take a whole lot to be competitive in this league, and the talent to do so certainly exists. Atlanta is an example that an exciting soccer team will bring in excited soccer fans. Soccer is a universally loved sport, but no one in the U.S. seems to be getting it. Atlanta, however, is doing soccer right.

The 2018 Dallas Cowboys have arrived, and they’re a scary bunch.

They were 3-5.

A 28-14 blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football fresh off giving up a first round pick for a wide receiver in Amari Cooper who had not been productive in Oakland for two years. Dak Prescott looked lost, Ezekiel Elliott was barely touching the ball in the second half of games, the offensive line was not playing up to par, and Jason Garrett’s job looked to have a certain number of days attached to it.

Such is life in the NFL. Ups and downs define the life of a Dallas Cowboys fan. You always have to be cautiously optimistic because the downs are always so brutal.

A lot of people and “experts” looked at last night’s game as just another stepping stone for a New Orleans Saints team trying to secure home-field advantage. The word “blowout” and laughter from America’s favorite Cowboy-hater Stephen A. Smith were thrown around when asked about Dallas’s chance against the visiting Saints. But the lead up to this game felt different, it felt like the Cowboys were ready to make a statement.

Much was made about DeMarcus Lawrence’s comments earlier in the week about the Saints offense when he said “ If you hit a (expletive) in the mouth and then they ain’t doing what they’re regularly doing, putting up 50 points, they start to get a little distressed. Now you got them where you want them at, and then you (expletive) choke their ass out.”

It was hard to find someone outside of that Cowboys inner circle and fanbase who would support what Lawrence said. To many, it came off “cocky” and “disrespectful” to what had been the league’s most potent offense with MVP-favorite Drew Brees at the helm and weapons in Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram that would embarrass the level of talent at those positions on any other NFL roster. Thomas even responded on Twitter saying “If they trying to send a message, we not going to receive it.” It was setting up for another laughter and ridicule-filled day after that would have everyone and their mother pinning the Cowboys as the recurring joke of the league that hasn’t been relevant since the ‘90s.

The difference? Talk was backed up with action. That “league’s best offense” was held to just 176 yards of total offense. That guy no one seems to talk about, Byron Jones, shut down the NFC’s most prolific pass-catcher. The “Wolf Hunter” and wonder-rookie Leighton Vander Esch showed up yet again on national television to let everyone know who the defensive rookie of the year is. Jaylon Smith continues to shed the label of that linebacker who had a devastating knee injury and instead as that linebacker who is one of the best in football. Oh, and Lawrence? Yeah, he had a pretty nice game with a sack and drawing double teams all night making it hard to remember who that other DeMarcus was on this Cowboys roster not too long ago. The scariest part about this Cowboys defense that has now nicknamed themselves the “Hot Boyz”? Star linebacker Sean Lee has been out the last several weeks and plans on making his return next Sunday in a division clash against the Eagles.

You see, for the first time in recent memory, the guys wearing the Star on defense have made a name for themselves. No more 38-35 heartbreakers. No more having to worry about potent offenses running away with the game before the Dallas offense ever has a chance to get into it.

No, the game now lies in the hands of the defense. The offense does not have to chew the clock with Zeke to keep the defense off the field anymore. The offense has four straight three-and-outs and this defense STILL comes out firing, howling, swiping, and hitting every snap and possession.

So, does 2018 feel like 2016, 2014, 1996, 1994, or 1993? You’re damn straight it doesn’t. This team flies around the field looking to take someone’s head off and make a statement to whoever is on that other sideline that these Cowboys are different. These aren’t your granddaddy’s’ Cowboys, these aren’t your dad’s Cowboys, these are the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. They punch you in the mouth and don’t stop until that final whistle blows.

And for the first time in a while, it feels like when they say something they mean it. How many times have Cowboys fans everywhere heard the optimistic spin on a bad situation or the hype going into a big game? Time and time again the let down was just as large as the promises made by the organization and its players.

Even before the game yesterday, reporters attempted to get another proclamation out of Lawrence. His response? “Enough talking, it’s time to play.” This time around, DeMarcus Lawrence and everyone in that locker room is letting the football world know that when they say something, they plan on proving it in between those painted lines.

They may be the third youngest team in the NFL, but the 13-10 victory over the Saints on Thursday night sent a message to the rest of the league that not many can.

And to paraphrase a line from Michael Thomas….

Message received.

The Boston Red Sox Are Your 2018 World Series Champions

Man, oh man. I don’t even know where to start with this one. You see, the thing about championships is you’re never quite sure when you started expecting your team to actually pull it off. Besides the Patriots, who are championship or bust basically every year, championship teams only feel like championship teams part-way through the season. For the 2013 Red Sox, there were approximately zero (0) expectations at the beginning of that year. They were last in the division the year prior, John Farrell was a new manager with the team, and the roster moves in the offseason were pretty lackluster. Even when the season began it was just, eh, they’re doing alright. It wasn’t until June/July where that team picked up steam and really made it feel like they could actually make some noise. There was no question that there was magic surrounding that team, but there’s always a little something in the air whenever a team makes a run at a title.

This season, while there were plenty of expectations, it certainly wasn’t title or bust. Hell, the Sox weren’t even favored to win their own division. That’s right, in case everyone forgot the New York Yankees were literally everyone’s favorite team to win the American League East. That just goes to show how much people were expecting much of the same from the Red Sox, and truthfully I can’t really blame them. This was a team that won the same amount of games the past two seasons, won the division both years, and then proceeded to do absolutely nothing in the postseason. Even their offseason moves didn’t entail much, they hired a new manager and signed a new offensive weapon. However, the Yankees got the shinier toy in Giancarlo Stanton, and the Red Sox could’ve traded for Marcell Ozuna but failed to do that, too. How much could one new guy on the roster and one new manager actually change?

As it turns out, a whole lot.

Alex Cora and J.D. Martinez were exactly the culture shock this team needed to wake up and play some damn good baseball again. Almost everyone on the 2017 team had a down year. Mookie went from MVP runner up in 2016 to just pretty good. Bogaerts took a step back, Hanley (when he was still on this team) took a step back. Benintendi had a good rookie season but some guy in New York just had a better one. Travis Shaw was gone, Pedroia was hurt, JBJ still only played defense, and Mitch Moreland was good but not good enough. This season, however, everyone came into their own. Mitch Moreland filled in his new role nicely, Devers hit well (I can’t say much about his defense), Brock Holt played well, Bogaerts and Benintendi stepped it up, JBJ still couldn’t hit much but my god his defense, and Mookie Freakin’ Betts returned to MVP status. Oh, and that bat we signed? He only swatted 43 home runs and drove in 130 runs. No biggie.

This team was the pits. Those locker room troubles the Red Sox ran into last year? They were completely gone. Cora’s player management and ability to create a new culture really showed. We had Eric on the show last semester and he and Dubs railed on the Red Sox and all their locker room troubles. I tried my best to explain that Cora was creating a new culture and the chemistry of the team was changing but they just wouldn’t listen. But when all was said and done, those group of guys had each other’s backs every step of the way. Cora gave everyone in the team room to grow, and made it fun to play baseball. It showed by how much every player on that team was able to bounce back from 2017, and how JD Martinez was able to step right into the thick of it and perform at the highest level. Mookie absolutely deserves the AL MVP, but I also think that what Cora did to this team should not be looked past, and he should be AL Manager of the Year.

The regular season was nuts. Again, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it was that a team went from just being pretty good to actually feeling like they could win it all. I guess it varies person to person. Was it when they started the season 17-2? Was it when they headed into the All-Star Break at 68-30? Was it when they swept the Yankees to essentially clinch the division? Maybe it took some people until they broke the franchise record for most wins in a season (and then kept going) to feel that this team was special. Whatever the case may be, when Game 162 was over, the Red Sox had the best record in baseball with 108 wins. Despite that, some people still doubted them. It was justified, since the Red Sox still had one major hole heading into the playoffs: their bullpen.

The Yankees won the Wild Card game which meant that the Sox and Yanks would square up in the postseason for the first time since 2004, where we should all know what happened by this point. The Red Sox won Game 1 but our suspicions were true, the bullpen still looked shaky. Another playoff demon emerged as David Price did not look good in Game 2. However, Aaron Judge played Sinatra’s “New York, New York” for the world to hear after that game, and the Sox got the message loud and clear. The Sox would go on to continue their streak of postseason victories in the Bronx by completely wiping the floor with them in Game 3, and then by dancing on their graves in Game 4. A theme we will see quite often.

The ALCS was pegged to be the biggest matchup of the playoffs, as the defending champs took on the best team in baseball this year. Advantage: best team in baseball. The Red Sox forgot to show up in Game 1 and the bullpen sucked again. However, that would be the last time the Red Sox lost a nine inning game for the rest of the postseason. David Price didn’t do great, but did enough so that the Red Sox got a win out of it, even though the W went to Barnes. Eovaldi proved to be a great mid-season acquisition by making people forget it was the other starting pitcher that was a Cy Young winner. The Red Sox gave up a lot of runs but scored more runs so it didn’t matter in Game 4. Lastly, with the ability to send the Sox to the World Series, David Price pitched well and the Red Sox proceeded to dance on the Astros graves.

As was true with the 2004 World Series, this series seemed like a formality more than anything, though they sure made it interesting. But a few things stood out. First, the bullpen was actually the least worrying thing about the 2018 playoffs for the Red Sox. After a few troublesome innings in the early goings, the bullpen was lights out and probably the strongest part about their pitching. Second up, the heroes of each game were not who you’d expect, and that’s reflected in who the MVPs were. Our typical stars, Betts/Bogaerts/Martinez, were not really there throughout the entire postseason. It was up to people like Bradley, Pearce, and even a player like Nuñez. Who’d have thunk? And lastly, speaking of Pearce, while Dombrowski did not go and get a bullpen arm like everyone else, the people he did bring in proved to be very valuable. Take away one certain play, Pearce, Kinsler, and Eovaldi all added something special to this team throughout the playoffs. Pearce was the World Series MVP, Eovaldi cemented himself in postseason legend with some special appearances, and Kinsler was a defensive weapon but really screwed the pooch in a play that cost them a game (but not the series so who cares).

Some people wanted the Sox to lose two out of three so they could win it in Boston. Personally, I wanted the champagne to be popped as quickly as possible, wherever that occurred. Also, I wanted to dance on the Dodgers graves again, because it was a lot of fun doing so the first two times (three if you count clinching the division in New York). The Red Sox must’ve listened to our special Colbert & Dubs episode Sunday, because they hurried it up and clinched the series in Game 5. Even better, Chris Sale ended it by striking out Machado on a nasty slider that made Machado look like the fool that he is. It cemented this team as one of the greatest Red Sox teams of all time, if not THE greatest. Let’s go ahead and call this one of the greatest teams ever. Regular and postseason, this team won 119 games. They blew through the playoffs, only losing three times total. In case you forgot to read the title of this blog, the Boston Red Sox are your 2018 World Series Champs. And I will say that every day going forward until the new season begins. Boston is still Titletown, and the Red Sox just added one more ring to the growing collection.

Ranking the 2018 Rookie Quarterbacks So Far

The 2018 quarterback class is one of the most highly touted in recent memory, with 4 potential star signal callers being selected in the first 10 picks. Let’s see how they’ve fared so far.

DISCLAIMER: Lamar Jackson will not be included, as he has not started a game yet and he’s mostly used to run the ball. We’re ranking quarterbacks not running backs.

1: Sam Darnold (New York Jets)

Considering his first ever NFL pass attempt was a pick six, Jets fans have to be very happy with Darnold thus far. He had a rough of it between weeks 2 to 4, then he made a solid improvement to bring the Jets back to contention. Although he’s been picked off 10 times in 7 games, He’s thrown for the most yards (1552) and touchdowns (10) out of any of the rookie quarterbacks. It certainly seems as if the game is slowing down for the 3rd overall pick, and hopefully Darnold builds off of the solid start he’s had.

2: Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)

The number one overall pick has been just about what most expected so far, solid but not flawless. He is certainly an upgrade from Tyrod Taylor. He has thrown for 1,291 yards this season, averaging out to 258 per game. Baker desperately needs help from his receivers, as the Browns wide receiving core has the highest drop rate in the league. He has won the Browns 2 games to this point, and keeping them competitive in the overtime losses to the Raiders and Buccaneers. Despite throwing 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions, Baker has turned out to be solid thus far, and continues to improve on a weekly basis.

3. Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)

With Allen and Rosen it’s 3a and 3b really, but Allen has been a hair better than Rosen so far. The 2 touchdowns to 5 interceptions isn’t a good look, neither is the 138 yards per game. While Allen at times has looked erratic, you can’t pin it all on the 7th overall pick. Brian Daboll has been shaky at best with the offensive play calling. With an arm like Josh Allen has, checkdowns are doing nothing for him or the offense, let him off the leash. Allen also has no time to throw, as he’s been sacked 21 times through 6 games (2nd most in the league). That issue got him injured. While you can rightfully point the finger at those issues, you would still like to see improvement out of Allen, which so far we have not.

4. Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals)

For the hype surrounding Rosen as being the most NFL ready QB in the class, he has been pedestrian to this point. Averaging just 164 yards per game in his 5 games played, he has been dreadful thus far. Considering he has Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and David Johnson available to him, you should expect a little more out of the 10th overall pick. He turns the ball over quite frequently, but he doesn’t score frequently either. It’s still early, but Rosen has not wowed anyone to this point.

2018 NHL Predictions: Playoffs

To conclude this series, we will be looking at the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

East:

Philadelphia vs. Columbus

The Blue Jackets have never won a playoff series in their history. They unfortunately continue that burden here. They’ll give it a good fight, but the Flyers should take this series.

Philadelphia in 6 games

Pittsburgh vs. Washington

The Capitals finally got their revenge on the Pens last season en route to their Stanley Cup victory. Neither one of these teams got any better this offseason, so it’s a toss up. I have to go with Pittsburgh here.

Pittsburgh in 7 games

Tampa Bay vs. New Jersey

Tampa and New Jersey met in the playoffs last season, and the result was pretty much what we all expected. The Bolts thwarted the Devils in 5 games. You can expect more of the same here.

Tampa Bay in 5 games

Boston  vs. Toronto

Another first round rematch occurs here. Last year the Bruins eliminated the Maple Leafs in yet another Game 7. Both teams should be solid again and it should be a competitive series, but Toronto’s lack of defense will fail them yet again.

Boston in 7 games

Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh

The Flyers and Penguins meet in the playoffs again in one of the NHL’s fiercest rivalries. One that has been in control of Pittsburgh for the last several years. These two teams usually play a very competitive series. So competitive in fact, that the Flyers have lead the all time matchup 4 series wins to 3 in the playoffs, and 21-20 in the games themselves. Expect another hotly contested series between these two. It will come down to 7 games, but the younger, faster Flyers get the edge here.

Philadelphia in 7 games

Boston vs. Tampa Bay

The Bruins were thwarted in the second round last year by the Lightning in 5 games. Many expected a closer series than what we got. This time around should be different, as the Bruins won’t want to be embarrassed again. This one should go down to the wire as well, but the Bruins will squeak out a win en route to the eastern conference finals.

Boston in 7 games

Philadelphia vs. Boston

The Flyers and Bruins are both franchises with a lot of playoff success. In 6 meetings between the sides in playoff history, they split an even 3-3. Two teams who are both fast and physical should make for a fun series, but the Flyers will win the 7th postseason meeting between these two in 7 games. The Flyers will be advancing to their first Stanley Cup finals since 2010.

Philadelphia in 7 games

West:

Nashville vs. Calgary

While the Flames improved enough to return to the playoffs, they are still no match for the juggernaut that is the Predators. They’ll put up a fight, but Nashville won’t sweat this one too much.

Nashville in 5 games

Winnipeg vs. St. Louis

The Blues are in the same boat as the Flames in the sense that they improved but ran into a powerhouse in Round 1. The Blues won’t get steamrolled by the Jets, but they won’t make Winnipeg sweat either.

Winnipeg in 6 games

San Jose vs. Arizona

What a Cinderella story it would be if the Arizona Coyotes could knock off San Jose in Round 1, even if they took them to 7 games and lost. Unfortunately for the ‘Yotes, that’s not at all likely. The Sharks should roll through Arizona.

San Jose in 4 games

Vegas vs. Los Angeles

We have our third Round 1 rematch of the playoffs in this series. The Golden Knights swept the Kings last season on their way to their Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Vegas got better, and the Kings stayed the same. While that would normally signal another sweep, these two see each other too many times a season for that to happen again. Vegas won’t be threatened too much though.

Vegas in 6 games

Nashville vs. Winnipeg

In last year’s Western Conference semi-finals, the Jets stunned the Predators in 6 games, eliminating the Stanley Cup favorites. Both teams are loaded, but the Predators are more talented and well rested, having played one less game than their adversaries. This one will be a thriller, but the Preds will get their revenge.

Nashville in 7 games

San Jose vs. Vegas

Last year’s meeting between the Knights and Sharks was another classic example of the notorious Sharks meltdown that happens every postseason. In fairness to the Sharks, Vegas was red hot coming into their meeting. This year, however, the Sharks look like a new team, a faster, more physical team. Vegas is solid, but they are not as talented as San Jose. No one in the league may be as talented as the Sharks. The Sharks should cruise into the Western Conference Finals.

San Jose in 5 games

San Jose vs. Nashville

The two losers in last year’s Western Conference semi-finals both get their revenge and get through to the conference finals. Before Vegas, these two were the last two conference champions, both falling to Pittsburgh in 6. Both of these sides are absolutely loaded and it should be a competitive series, but the Sharks are ultimately better equipped and rested. The Sharks will make their 2nd Stanley Cup finals appearance in four years.

San Jose in 6 games

Final

San Jose vs. Philadelphia

Finally, after five weeks, we have reached the point everyone has been waiting for, the Stanley Cup Final. Both of these sides are worthy of being crowned Stanley Cup Champions. In what should be a competitive series, the Sharks just have too much talent for the young and fast Flyers to tame. The San Jose Sharks will be the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Champions, their first cup win in franchise history.

San Jose in 6 games

Not Great…

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that the past two weeks as a Patriots fan hasn’t been enjoyable. These have been some suffocating losses, where it feels like the offense just couldn’t get anything going, and the defense couldn’t get the big plays they needed. It doesn’t help that their offseason was just awful, which makes this start to the season appear like it could be the norm. Of course Tom’s getting pressured, they didn’t address the offensive line. Of course Tom can’t find anyone downfield, they lost two of their top receivers and did not find replacements. Of course they can’t stop a nosebleed, they failed to address the secondary. Stuff like that.

However, if there’s one thing I learned as a Patriots fan it’s that these first four weeks are a total crapshoot. The product on the field in September is virtually never the product in January and sometimes (a lot of times) February. The NBC team brought up the time five years ago when Bill and the gang got smacked by Kansas City on primetime, and everybody questioned whether this was the end. Bill just told everyone that he was on to Cincinnati, and they would go on to hold the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season. So yes a loss is a loss is a loss, but a loss in September does not project how this team will do.

I also take solace in the fact that the Jaguars were essentially ready to declare themselves Super Bowl champs after their Week 2 victory. Once again, when the clock ran out in Detroit, Lions players were jumping for joy after a Week 3 victory to “improve” to 1-2. As Dubs likes to say during the pick ‘em segments, there are 17 weeks in an NFL season. Celebrate when you’re winning games against the Patriots in the playoffs, if you’re so lucky.

So yes, losing back to back weeks to essentially kick off the season is not great. Losing against a former assistant after Bill usually spanks them time and time again, also not great. But, if history means anything, then it’s not yet time to start sweating, or hitting the “panic button.” Lose to Miami to fall three games back? Then I’ll consider it. For now, though, I’ll stand by the fact that Bill is the GOAT, Tom is the GOAT, and the Patriots are a good football team.

2018 NHL Predictions: Pacific Division

In part 4 of my NHL Predictions series, we will be looking at the Pacific Division.

San Jose: 113 points

Wow this roster is good. Like… really good. They made a splash just last week by acquiring Erik Karlsson from Ottawa, and with that addition, this team went from elite to overpowered. He should pair up nicely with Brett Burns on the first line. The Sharks still have the pieces that got them second place in the Pacific last year in Couture, Thornton, Meier, Pavelski, and Kane. This team is stacked, and should cruise to a Pacific Division title.

Vegas: 105 points

Last season was dominated by headlines of the expansion Golden Knights doing what no-one thought they could. A roster full of nobodies and outcasts who were predicted to finish at the bottom of the standings turned around and nearly won the Stanley Cup, falling to the Washington Capitals in the Final. An already good roster got better with the additions of Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, combine those two with the already potent Marchessault, Smith, and Karlsson trio and you’ve got a recipe for success. They still have Marc-Andre Fleury in net as well, so they are set for success. Unfortunately, for the second year franchise, almost their whole division improved, so another division title isn’t guaranteed. With that being said, they should still cruise into the playoffs.

Los Angeles: 96 points

A Kings roster with some talent on it didn’t really change much, other than the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk. They locked up their best defenseman Drew Doughty for 8 years as well too. The main guys from their playoff roster are still there: Kopitar, Doughty, Martinez, and Dustin Brown among others. The front office didn’t improve much, but they didn’t mess anything up, that’s enough to get the Kings back to the playoffs.

Calgary: 95* points

The Flames had a lot of promise going into last season. And with that promise, they turned in one of the most disappointing performances in the league a year ago. A season after looking like a dark horse to make the cup final, they didn’t even make the playoffs. Many felt that a roster with Johnny Gaudreau, Travis Hamonic, and Michael Stone should have been able to get to the playoffs. The front office took some initiative to act upon the disappointment, adding T.J Brodie and Noah Hanifin to the blue line, and James Neal to the wing. If the Flames could get some consistency in net from Mike Smith, they could be a playoff team. I count on their talented core getting them there.

Arizona: 94* points

The Arizona Coyotes will make the playoffs in the 2018-19 season. You may be calling me crazy, but hear me out. Last year’s Coyotes squad finally clicked when they caught fire in the last third of season. Clayton Keller proved that he belonged in the Calder Trophy discussion with Barzal and Boeser. The team that finally clicked last year got even better this offseason. Acquiring the likes of Michael Grabner and Alex Galchenyuk. Add these two to a core of Keller, newly named captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Nik Hjalmarsson, and you’ve got some talent on your top two lines. If Dylan Strome and Vinnie Hinostroza can develop into the players many thought they could be, they could add even more depth to this team. They’ve also got Antti Raanta in net, who has the potential to be the next elite netminder in the NHL. If they stay healthy, the Arizona Coyotes will return to the playoffs for the first time since they made the Western Conference Finals in 2012.

Anaheim: 87 points

The Ducks have a very slow start to their campaign last season. Most of that can be accredited to the injury bug. While Anaheim surged into the 3rd place position in the Pacific division, they got crushed by the San Jose Sharks in a clean sweep in the first round. That series showed the age of this once elite core. The only player on this team who’s under 30 that is showing signs of life is Adam Henrique, and he’s 28. Getzlaf and Perry are both 33 and on a steady decline, the same could be said for Ryan Miller. This team doesn’t have enough left in the tank to return to the postseason.

Vancouver: 81 points

The Canucks are quietly developing a nice core for their future. The likes of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Peterson, and Thatcher Demko should be the foundation to a bright future. Unfortunately, this roster lacks any sort of depth, and looks similar to the last few rosters they’ve built. While they should improve, they won’t even sniff the playoffs.

Edmonton: 79 points

Peter Chiarelli has done an absolutely terrible job of building around a generational talent in Connor McDavid. All his acquisitions seem to just make the roster worse. Milan Lucic and Mike Cammalleri are the two biggest examples. Now tell me, can you name an all-star caliber talent on this Oilers roster aside from McDavid? Adam Larsson is the one who comes the closest, and he’s a maybe. This is a poorly built team and their record will reflect that.

The Team to Beat in LA Next Year is… the Clippers?

If you pay attention to NBA rumors you know that Jimmy Butler wants out of Minnesota. That wasn’t really news to anyone, really since the end of the season we’ve all known that Jimmy has been super disgruntled and not at all happy with his situation. However, today Butler met with head coach Tom Thibodeau and officially requested a trade. He even asked for three specific teams to be a destination: the Knicks, Nets, and Clippers.

Each of these teams have cap space next summer to be able to offer Butler a max deal. The first choice is a little more obvious than the others. Butler has not kept it secret that he wants to play in New York, and that the Knicks are the franchise to be. Me and Dubs on the show today even talked about how that could work with young players like Porzingis and newly drafted Kevin Knox could make that an interesting team in the East. The other two are a little more perplexing. While yes the Nets are in New York and would fulfill Butler’s dream of playing in NYC, the state of the team is questionable. Even with adding Butler, the only other noteworthy players are D’Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe, and that trio is not exactly a playoff team. Remember the Bulls when it was just Butler and a bunch of scrubs? Not great. Same with the Clippers… until the great Adrian Wojnarowski brought this to my attention.

The Knicks are able provide Butler with a capable partner in Porzingis, but the Clippers can entice Butler with the opportunity to play with any free agent in 2019 (theoretically). Here’s the kicker though that really got me thinking: who else has the L.A. Clippers on his short list of destinations? That’s right… Kawhi freakin’ Leonard. Both Butler and Leonard want to play in Los Angeles, both of them don’t want to live in LeBron’s shadow, and most importantly, both of them can be signed to the Clippers for max deals. Could Butler make more money by extending with Minnesota? Yes. Could Kawhi make more money by extending with Toronto? Yes. But are either of them in ideal situations? No.

The one fault in the plan is that the Clippers don’t have a lot going for them at the moment. When LeBron and Chris Bosh both agreed to go to Miami, it’s because they had Dwayne Wade and mastermind Pat Riley waiting for them in South Beach. There is no star currently on the Clippers that Butler and Leonard can form a super team with, and Doc Rivers hasn’t reached a conference finals since 2012. However, the idea that both of them have the same target in mind, and that both of them can get paid the money they want is something to look out for next summer. So maybe Magic and LeBron’s plan to wait to strike in 2019’s free agency may have backfired, cause the Clippers are all of the sudden one hot destination.