Way too early bold Eastern Conference predictions

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Pascal Siakam going for a jump ball at Game 2 of the 2019 NBA Finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Half the teams in the NBA have yet to play their fourth game of the season, but there are already budding tendencies we see continuing throughout the season. Using these tendencies, we’re making way too early bold predictions for the Eastern Conference!

Is it too early to be making these predictions? Probably. With such a small sample size, it’s hard to know how accurate our findings truly are. We won’t know for sure until much later in the season. However, we believe there are three predictions about the Eastern Conference we have right. Here we’ll break them down one by one, showing you why we believe we’ll see these results by the end of the NBA season.

 

1. Trae Young will be an MVP finalist

Trae Young has played just three games so far this season, but it’s already clear he’s taken his game to the next level. In his rookie year, Young averaged 19.1 points, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 41.8% and a three-point percentage of 32.4%.

In the first three games of his second season, Young is averaging 34.0 points, 9.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 51.5% and a three-point percentage of 52.0%. His points per game have risen by 14.9, assists by 0.9, and rebounds by 2.3. Perhaps what’s more impressive, is the fact that his field goal percentage has risen by 9.7% and his three-point percentage by 19.6%.

Through three games this season, there’s been a clear difference in the way Young is playing. I know three games isn’t much to go off of, but let’s take a closer look into his numbers. During his rookie season, Young scored 30 or more points nine times in 81 games. In three games this season, Young has already done it twice. I foresee his number of 30 point games this season making a big increase, jumping from eight to somewhere between 20 and 30 times.

It’s obvious Young’s shooting has been better, as evidenced by his 9.7% increase on field goals and 19.6% increase on three-pointers. With the way he’s shooting and scoring right now, he honestly looks like MVP Steph Curry. I know that’s a big claim, but through his first three games, Young is averaging more points, assists and rebounds than Curry did in his unanimous MVP season (15-16), all while shooting 1.1% better from the field and 6.6% better from three-point range.

Young currently has his team sitting at 2-1, with their one loss coming to the 3-0 76ers by two points. There are still many games to be played, but if Young can keep up this play, he’ll surely have his team in the top half of the Eastern Conference by the end of the season. If he can do that, he’ll have my vote for MVP.

 

2. The Toronto Raptors will still make the Eastern Conference Finals

The moment Kawhi Leonard left Toronto to join the Clippers, was the moment every fan in the NBA counted out the Raptors this season. Yes, the Raptors are a much better team with Leonard. However, I don’t think it’s fair to completely count them out as Eastern Conference contenders.

We have to remember, Kawhi wasn’t the only player on this team. This roster still holds names like Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. As much as we liked to think he was, Leonard wasn’t a one man show. This Raptors roster was, and still is deep. Through their first four games, the Raptors have five players averaging 12.3 points or more. Those five players are Siakam, Lowry, VanVleet, Ibaka and OG Anunoby. This is evidence this Raptors roster is still built to win, even without Kawhi.

You could easily argue that teams without a star don’t go far, but I’d counter that by saying this team does have a star. Last season we saw Siakam have a breakout year, but he was always in the passenger seat because of Kawhi. Now he’s taking over as the driver.

Through the Raptors’ first four games, Siakam is averaging 27.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s also shooting 48.1% from the field and 42.9% from three-point range. Guess what Kawhi averaged for the Raptors last season. 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 49.6% shooting from the field and 37.1% shooting from three-point range. Overall, Siakam’s numbers are better. I’m not saying Siakam is Kawhi, but I am saying he has taken over the star role for this Raptors team.

With a star player, another all-star (Kyle Lowry) and a roster full of great role players, there aren’t many teams in the Eastern Conference I’d take over the Raptors in a four game series right now. They may not have Kawhi, but they’ll still be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

 

3. The Kyrie Irving led Nets will miss the playoffs

The Kyrie Irving era has officially begun in Brooklyn, but it hasn’t gone as planned to this point. Irving has been putting up massive numbers, averaging 37.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals on 45.6% shooting from the field and 41.2% shooting from three-point range. Irving’s numbers are awesome, but that unfortunately hasn’t translated to wins for the Nets, as they currently hold a 1-2 record.

To be quite honest, this Nets team led by Irving reminds me a lot of the Cavaliers teams Irving led before LeBron decided to come back to Cleveland. I know Irving was a lot younger back then, but he was the star player for the Cavaliers. He was their best player, and he put up good stats, but he could never lead them to a winning season.

Since then, Irving has won an NBA title and made the playoffs a bunch of times, including a couple times with a Celtics team he led. Irving is better than he was when he was a young star leading the Cavaliers, but his tendencies are still the same. Irving can make a lot of great plays and score a lot of points, but none of that really matters if you don’t win. He’s never been the type of player to take a team far when he’s the only star. That’s what he is on this Nets team right now.

Brooklyn has an exciting future, as Kevin Durant will be returning from injury next season. Nets fans should be excited, but they may have to put that excitement on hold for one more season. I’m not so sure Irving can get it done with this team. If the Nets do make the playoffs, I don’t see them being anything above the No. 7 seed. Maybe Irving can squeeze them in, but right now I’m not confident in that.

 

2019 NFL Season: Week 5 picks

Week 5 NFL
Source: https://www.norebbo.com/?s=nfl

Current Standings

Adam: 39-23-1

Aman: 37-25-1

Dan: 43-19-1

Joel: 37-25-1

Rahim: 38-24-1

 

Rams @ Seahawks (Thursday night)

Not sure what happened to the Rams last week on defense, but it was a poor effort. That was against Jameis Winston. If they play that poorly against the Seahawks, Russell Wilson will crush them. I believe their defensive effort will be much better in this game. The Rams and Seahawks always seem to have close games, and I expect this to be another one.

Predictions

Adam: Seahawks

Aman: Seahawks

Dan: Seahawks

Joel: Rams

Rahim: Rams

 

Jets @ Eagles

The Eagles dominated the Packers last week offensively, and I believe they’ll do the same against the Jets. With Sam Darnold still out, the Jets don’t really stand a chance. The Eagles looked good, and the Jets aren’t.

Predictions

Adam: Eagles

Aman: Eagles

Dan: Eagles

Joel: Eagles

Rahim: Eagles

 

Jaguars @ Panthers

The Minshew magic is real! I’m not sure how Minshew continues to do it, but he does. He’s been fun to watch this season. Another quarterback who has been fun to watch is Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen, who has two wins in his two starts this season. Will Allen be able to manage the game enough for the Panthers against a tough Jaguars defense, or will Minshew’s magic continue?

Predictions

Adam: Jaguars

Aman: Panthers

Dan: Jaguars

Joel: Jaguars

Rahim: Jaguars

 

Vikings @ Giants

The Vikings by far have the toughest defense Daniel Jones has faced up to this point. Last week Jones got the win, but he didn’t look great along the way like he did the week before. Despite the Giants not allowing the Redskins to do much on offense last week, I don’t believe their defense is that good. The Vikings will have a much better day against this defense, especially with Dalvin Cook seeking to rebound from a poor showing on the ground.

Predictions

Adam: Giants

Aman: Giants

Dan: Vikings

Joel: Vikings

Rahim: Vikings

 

Falcons @ Texans

The Falcons continue to struggle because they get off to slow starts and can’t catch up later in the game. The Texans continue to struggle because they continue allowing Deshaun Watson to be under pressure and take sacks. Which team will overcome their weakness?

Predictions

Adam: Texans

Aman: Texans

Dan: Texans

Joel: Texans

Rahim: Texans

 

Buccaneers @ Saints

It’s obvious the Saints have built their team to succeed past the Drew Brees era. They dominated defensively last week. They have a tough matchup against the Buccaneers this week, especially after the 50+ points they put up against the Rams a week ago. Can they slow down a hot Buccaneers offense like they did against Dallas last week?

Predictions

Adam: Buccaneers

Aman: Saints

Dan: Buccaneers

Joel: Saints

Rahim: Saints

 

Bills @ Titans

Josh Allen showed his true self against the Patriots last week, throwing multiple interceptions and completing less than 50% of his passes. He may not even play in this game because of an injury, so we’ll have to wait and see there. If he’s out, Matt Barkley will take over. He didn’t look good last week either. Regardless of who plays quarterback for the Bills, their defense can keep them in this game, especially against a Titans offense who has been very inconsistent all season long.

Predictions

Adam: Titans

Aman: Titans

Dan: Bills

Joel: Bills

Rahim: Bills

 

Cardinals @ Bengals

One of these teams will get their first win of the season. I’m leaning towards the Cardinals because they’ve been the more competitive team between the two so far, but the Bengals have been competitive at times this season too. Expect a good game between two teams seeking their first victories.

Predictions

Adam: Bengals

Aman: Cardinals

Dan: Cardinals

Joel: Cardinals

Rahim: Cardinals

 

Patriots @ Redskins

The Redskins have yet to win a game, and now they play the Patriots. They’ll be waiting at least one more week for their first win.

Predictions

Adam: Patriots

Aman: Patriots

Dan: Patriots

Joel: Patriots

Rahim: Patriots

 

Ravens @ Steelers

The Steelers got their first win of the season last week, but it was against the winless Bengals. Will they be able to keep up with the high powered offense of the Ravens? After the Ravens have lost two straight games to the Chiefs and Browns, they’ll likely come out ready to score a lot of points and get back in the win column. The Steelers will have to play almost perfectly offensively to keep up with what Lamar Jackson might do.

Predictions

Adam: Steelers

Aman: Ravens

Dan: Ravens

Joel: Ravens

Rahim: Ravens

 

Bears @ Raiders

You already know Khalil Mack can’t wait to destroy the Raiders! The Bears dominated defensively last week against the Vikings, and I don’t see any reason why they won’t do so again this week. The Bears may be without Trubisky due to injury, but if the defense can put the offense in good spots, they won’t need him to win this one.

Predictions

Adam: Bears

Aman: Bears

Dan: Bears

Joel: Bears

Rahim: Bears

 

Broncos @ Chargers

The Chargers are the easy choice here because the Broncos have yet to win a game, but this is a division game, so the Chargers should already know it’s not an easy win. The Chargers do get Melvin Gordon back, but how much will he play? With the way Austin Ekeler has been playing, they could take their time to get him all the way back.

Predictions

Adam: Chargers

Aman: Chargers

Dan: Chargers

Joel: Chargers

Rahim: Broncos

 

Packers @ Cowboys

Both teams suffered their first loss of the season last week and will be looking to rebound in this one. After both taking a loss, a win here is very important for each team because of who plays in their division. Both teams are leading their divisions right now, but it may not be the case for long if they lose.

The Packers were good offensively last week for the most part, but their defense gave up a ton of points. On the other side, Dallas had their worst offensive outing by far, scoring just 10 points. However, their defense didn’t allow a touchdown and gave up just 12 points. Who will rebound in this game, the Packers’ defense or the Cowboys’ offense?

Predictions

Adam: Cowboys

Aman: Cowboys

Dan: Cowboys

Joel: Packers

Rahim: Packers

 

Colts @ Chiefs (Sunday night)

Considering the fact that the Colts lost to the Raiders last week, I can’t pick them to beat the Chiefs. The Chiefs are just too good.

Predictions

Adam: Chiefs

Aman: Chiefs

Dan: Chiefs

Joel: Chiefs

Rahim: Chiefs

 

Browns @ 49ers (Monday night)

The 49ers are one of the few undefeated teams left, but now they play a Browns team who all of a sudden turned it on and is now leading their division. Having played the Buccaneers, Bengals and Steelers, the 49ers haven’t really been tested yet. Now they play a Browns team who hung in their with the Rams and beat the Baltimore Ravens. Can the Browns keep this up? Can the 49ers prove they can beat a team who isn’t at the bottom of the league?

Predictions

Adam: 49ers

Aman: 49ers

Dan: 49ers

Joel: Browns

Rahim: Browns

2019 NFL Predictions: NFC East

Although the Dallas Cowboys won this division last season, the Philadelphia Eagles are eager to make their way back to the top of the NFC East. The Washington Redskins and New York Giants both missed the playoffs last season, but will be looking to get back to the playoffs after making some key moves this offseason. How does each team stack up heading into Week 1?

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Dallas Cowboys Randy Gregory – Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Last season’s record: 9-7

Postseason Result: Lost to Saints in Divisional Round 20-14

Offseason Acquisitions:

Singed:

  • DT Malik Jackson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
  • WR DeSean Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  • LB L.J. Fort (Pittsburgh Steelers)
  • DE Vinny Curry (Tampa Bay)
  • RB Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears)
  • DT Hassan Ridgeway (Indianapolis Colts)
  • DE Eli Harold (Buffalo Bills)
  • QB Josh McCown (New York Jets)

Drafted:

  • OT Andre Dillard (22nd)
  • RB Miles Sanders (53rd)
  • WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside (57th)
  • DE Shareef Miller (138th)
  • QB Clayton Thorson (167th)

Offseason Departures:

Waived CB Elie Bouka, LB Asantay Brown, G Kaleb Johnson, CB Chandon Sullivan, WR Johnny Holton and S Tre Sullivan, released QB Nick Foles, S Chris Maragos, DE Kasim Edebali, DE Eli Harold, LB Hayes Pullard, CB Orlando Scandrick and TE Will Tye and WR Charles Johnson injured.

The big question:

This is not an attack to take lightly. After last season’s hiccups, the Eagles have been keen to have ample resources in the event of injuries, as the signings of DeSean Jackson and Howard signal. There is the uncertainty to if the injury plague hits again, can the Eagles’ draft picks step up? However, the bigger question would be if quarterback Carson Wentz can stay healthy. Every time he’s been unable to play, Nick Foles graciously stepped up, but Foles is now in Jacksonville. How will their backups play if Wentz goes down again?

Prediction: 10-6

2. Dallas Cowboys

Last season’s record: 10-6

Postseason Result: Lost to Rams in Divisional Round 22-30

Offseason Acquisitions: 

Signed:

  • WR Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers)
  • RB Alfred Morris (San Francisco 49ers)

Drafted:

  • Trysten Hill (58th)
  • Connor McGovern (90th)
  • Tony Pollard (128th)
  • Michael Jackson (158th)
  • Joe Jackson (165th)

Offseason Departures:

Waived LB Justin Phillips and WR Lance Lenoir. Released WR Allen Hurns and OL Larry Allen Jr.

The big question:

The Cowboys are hoping to have a repeat of last season, so it’s clear as to why they weren’t too active in free agency. They’ve added to an already stout offense with the signings of Cobb and Morris. The focus will be on stars RB Ezekiel Elliott and QB Dak Prescott to deliver and lead by example. It’s also dangerous to assume that the Cowboys will automatically at least get second place in the NFC East. f Washington or New York all-of-a-sudden are able to perform, how will Dallas cope with that? Can Elliott & Prescott stand up and lead the Cowboys to the playoffs?

Prediction: 9-7

 

3. Washington Redskins

Last season’s record: 7-9

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions: 

Acquired:

  • QB Case Keenum (Denver Broncos)

Signed:

  • S Landon Collins (New York Giants)
  • OT Donald Penn (Oakland)
  • DB D.J. White (Indianapolis)

Drafted:

  • QB Dwayne Haskins (15th)
  • EDGE Montez Sweat (26th)
  • WR Terry McLaurin (76th)
  • RB Bryce Love (112th)
  • G Wes Martin (131st)
  • LB Cole Holcomb (173rd)

Offseason Departures:

Released LB Zach Brown, DL Stacy McGee and LB Mason Foster and waived DB Alex Carter, G Kyle Fuller, OT Darius James, WR Tre McBride, RB Russell Hansbrough and LB DeMarquis Gates.

The big question:

The Redskins had a team who led the NFC East last season before Alex Smith went down. They had a great defense, and they made an improvement to that defense by adding S Landon Collins. After Smith was injured, the offense was the problem. That’s why they added Case Keenum and drafted Dwayne Haskins. Although they drafted Haskins in the first round, will he take over as their starter this season? This dilemma can make or break the success of Washington’s offense this season.

Prediction: 6-10

 

4. New York Giants

Last season’s record: 5-11

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions: 

Acquired:

  • S Jabrill Peppers (Cleveland Browns)
  • G Kevin Zeitler (Cleveland Browns)
  • WR Da’Mari Scott (Buffalo Bills)

Singed:

  • WR Golden Tate (Philadelphia Eagles)
  • RB Rod Smith (Dallas Cowboys)
  • OT Mike Remmers (Minnesota Vikings)
  • WR T.J. Jones (Detroit Lions)
  • TE Eric Tomlinson (New York Jets)

Drafted:

  • QB Daniel Jones (6th)
  • CB Deandre Baker (30th)

Offseason Departures:

Traded WR Odell Beckham Jr. and LB Olivier Vernon, waived WR Quadree Henderson, WR Jawill Davis, DE Alex Jenkins, TE Eric Dungey, TE Isaiah Searight, WR Da’Mari Scott and LB B.J. Goodson, DE Nate Harvey and WR Corey Coleman injured and released DB Tony Lippett. Lost S Landon Collins to the Redskins.

The big question:

It honestly isn’t looking good, is it? The Giants did away with Beckham Jr., Vernon and Landon Collins. With that being said, the Giants have made some good signings and they are nurturing a new, young defense. Another place to look at is the QB spot. It seems pretty obvious that QB Eli Manning would start, but what if draft pick Daniel Jones is able to get some game time? Could he prove to be good enough for New York?

Prediction: 4-12

 

Predicted Division Standings

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
  3. Washington Redskins (6-10)
  4. New York Giants (4-12)

2019 NFL Prediction: NFC North

Last season, this conference took the NFL by surprise. One team, in particular, caused a Midwestern storm: the Chicago Bears. QB Mitch Trubisky in his second season caused mayhem along with LB Khalil Mack’s excellence in defense and a Green Bay Packers’ team without QB Aaron Rodgers fell off the tracks and was forgotten about. This season, the Bears are favorites to win the conference yet again, but they still need to play their cards carefully and not let their guard down against the Minnesota Vikings or the Packers. The big question regarding this conference might be as to whether the Vikings or Packers can make playoffs this season as well or not if the Bears most likely will. 

Chicago Bears Lance Briggs” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

Chicago Bears

Last season’s record: 12-4

Postseason result: Cody Parkey’s missed field goal saw the Bears lose to the Philadelphia Eagles by one point in the second round of playoffs.

Off-season acquisitions:

Signed:

  • C Ted Larsen (Miami Dolphins)
  • RB Mike Davis (Seattle Seahawks)
  • WR Marvin Hall (Atlanta Falcons)
  • LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (New York Jets)
  • OT T.J. Clemmings (Oakland Raiders)

Undrafted signed players:

  • DL Daryle Banfield (Brown University)

Traded for:

  • K Eddy Pineiro

Drafted:

  • WR Riley Ridley (University of Georgia)
  • RB Kerrith Whyte Jr. (University of Florida)
  • RB David Montgomery (Iowa State)

Off-season departures:

Released TE Dion Sims, K Parkey (thank God) and Adrian Amos and waived OL Dejon Allen, K Redford Jones, K John Baron, DB Adarius Pickett, DE Lawrence Marshall and K Chris Blewitt.

The big question: 

The Bears’ current situation feels kind of like the Atlanta Braves’. A team with quality and skill in a good position, but with one major issue. In the Braves’ case, it would be their bullpen but for the Bears, the kicker situation seems a bit uneasy. As you can read, four kickers were either released or waived and Pineiro didn’t have a good day out in the Bears’ preseason match against the Tenessee Titans. But if the Bears can get the kicking situation sorted out, Bears are just as capable of repeating last season’s theatrics, if not do better. Davis and Hall are excellent additions for the offense to pair up with Trubisky, but last season, it was the Bears’ defense, led by Mack, which won them matches. Can Mack and his defense repeat last season’s heroics?

Prediction: 10-6

Green Bay Packers

Last season’s record: 6-9-1

Postseason result: Sorry, 2018 just wasn’t the year.

Off-season acquisitions:

Signed:

  • S Adrian Amos (Bears)
  • LB Preston Smith (Washington)
  • LB Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore Ravens)
  • OL Billy Turne (Broncos)

Resigned:

  • TE Marcedes Lewis

Drafted:

  • DE Rashan Gary (University of Michigan)
  • QB Manny Wilkins (Arizona State)

Claimed:

  • WR Jawill Davis (New York Giants)

Off-season departures:

  • Released LB Antonio Morrison, LB Nick Perry, G Nico Siragusa, S Jason Thompson, DL Mike Daniels and RB Darrin Hall, waived CB Javien Hamilton and WR Jordy Nelson retired.

The big question:

So as long as QB Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get injured, everything should be fine, right? Well, not entirely true. This Green Bay Packers team is a completely new Green Bay Packers with Matt LaFluer as head coach. The coaching staff has been completely remodeled from last year’s disappointing season. Due to all the changes, there’s plenty of questions to be asked regarding the starting line-up. It seems that draft picks Gary and Darnell Savage won’t have to wait too long before getting starts, but there’s still some uncertainty as to who will pair with Rodgers as a wide receiver? Green Bay would, of course, want to see big seasons from the likes of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and/or Equanimeous St. Brown, but one thing Green Bay fans should know from the last season is that you can’t expect anything and anything is unexpected. With that being said, can Green Bay’s wide receivers step up and support the offense in scoring?

Prediction: 7-9

Minnesota Vikings

Last season’s record: 8-7-1

Postseason result:  So about that…

Off-season acquisitions:

Signed:

  • RB Ameer Abdullah (Detroit Lions)
  • K Dan Bailey (Dallas Cowboys)
  • CB Bené Benwikere (Oakland Raiders)
  • G Josh Cline (Tennessee Titans)

Drafted:

  • C Garrett Bradbury (North Carolina State)
  • TE Irv Smith Jr. (University of Alabama)
  • RB Alexander Mattison (Boise State)
  • G Dru Samia (Oklahoma)
  • LB Cameron Smith (USC)

Off-season departures:

Waived CB Jalen Myrick, RB Roc Thomas and G Tyler Catalina and DE Brian Robison retired.

The big question:

The Minnesota Vikings were disappointing from the start last season. Disregarding the results, new quarterback Kirk Cousins didn’t prove to be good enough for Minnesota. The Vikings did an excellent job if filling in patches and rebuilding their defense with the likes of Cline in the off-season, but as to how well the offense will perform this season is like flipping a coin. QB Kyle Sloter may try to make a case for himself ahead of Cousins, but the Vikings have also improved their running game with the likes of Abdullah, Benwikere and Mattinson. With all that being said, however, can Cousins return to form a make a feared Vikings’ offense again?

Prediction: 8-8

Detroit Lions

Last season’s record: 6-10

Postseason result: Let me know when this changes.

Off-season acquisitions:

Signed:

  • WR Danny Amendola (Miami Dolphins)
  • OL Oday Aboushi (Arizona Cardinals)
  • S Andrew Adams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  • CB Justin Coleman (Seattle Seahawks)
  • DE Trey Flowers (New England Patriots)
  • TE Jesse James (Pittsburgh Steelers)
  • WR Tommylee Lewis (New Orleans Saints)
  • TE Logan Thomas (Buffalo Bills)
  • CB Rashaan Melvin (Raiders)

Drafted:

  • TE T.J. Hockinson (Iowa)
  • DE Austin Bryant (Clemson)
  • Amani Oruwariye (Penn State)

Off-season departures:

Released S Glover Quin, WR Bruce Ellington, LB Nicholas Grigsby, WR Brandon Reilly, LB Tre’ Williams, WR Brandon Reilly and C Luke Bowanko cut G T.J. Lang and waived LB Juwon Young, TE Michael Roberts, LB Tre Lamar, DB Andrew Adams, DB Andre Chachere, WR Jordan Lasley, DE Eric Lee, WR Tommylee Lewis, DE Mitchell Loewen, OT Ryan Pope, P Ryan Santoso, G Micah St. Andrew and DB Jamar Summers.

The big question:

Coach Matt Patricia is being given a second chance, but that still doesn’t guarantee stability. Even if he doesn’t take the Lions to the playoffs, he still needs to improve on that 6-10 record, which, unfortunately, in the NFC North, will be very difficult to do. Patricia has improved on last season[‘s performances through his signings, but nothing is guaranteed as to whether they will perform or not. The Lions are yet to win in preseason as well. However, the second half of last season, their defense gave away just an average of three touchdowns, so that could be a bright spot to improve upon. The offense’s effectiveness will be the main focus as the Lions now have a good addition of tight ends and running backs. Can the Lions’ offense improve from last season? 

Prediction: 6-10

Predicted division standings:

  1. Chicago Bears (10-6)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
  3. Green Bay Packers (7-9)
  4. Detroit Lions (6-10)

2019 NFL Predictions: NFC South

It seems like so long ago that the New England Patriots won yet another Super Bowl, but nonetheless, we are all ready for this next season to start. The NFC South has four distinct stories to tell. One of the New Orleans Saints aiming for the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers trying to recover from poor seasons and if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can turn some magic into success. Last season was somewhat of a let down since this division was promised to be one of the more competitive ones and in reality, the one one the Saints had to compete was themselves. But hopefully, this season won’t be the case, and perhaps more than one team from this division can make the playoffs?

0 Atlanta Falcons Julio Jones – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Leonard Johnson” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

New Orleans Saints

Last season’s record: 13-3

Post-season result: Lost (debatably) to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship

Offseason acquisitions: 

Signed:

  • RB Latavlus Murray (Minnesota Vikings)
  • DT Malcom Brown (New England Patriots)
  • DE Mario Edwards Jr. (New York Giants)
  • TE Jared Cook (Oakland Raiders)
  • DE Wes Horton (Carolina Panthers)

Drafted:

  • WR Emmanuel Butler

Offseason departures: Released S Kurt Coleman, placed C Max Unger on the retired list and waived DB Chris Campbell.

Preview: All eyes this season will be on Running back Alvin Kamara. It’s highly unlikely that the New Orleans Saints won’t finish first in the NFC South again and the Saints may be NFC favorites for the Super Bowl. Last season’s 883 yards, resulting in 14 touchdowns, took the league by storm. Along with Kamara, the Saints will look to stick with nearly the same team as last season. Saints’ fans will pray that their team doesn’t become plagued with injuries. The Saints did waive most of their draft picks, but those who were retained have shined through in preseason thus far. Even in defense, Marson Lattimore made a name for himself against the New Jersey Jets, forcing a turnover on the 30-yard line. The Saints, last season, ended games really well, but started quite slowly, and if this season, they’re likely to face tougher competition in their conference, can the Saints score more in the first half? 

Prediction: 13-1-2

Carolina Panthers

Last season’s record: 7-9

Post-season result: Didn’t qualify for playoffs (sorry Cam Newton)

Offseason acquisitions: 

Signed:

  • DE Bruce Irvin (Falcons)
  • WR Chris Hogan (Patriots)
  • WR Aldrick Robinson (Minnesota Vikings)
  • RB Javelin Elliott (Dallas Cowboys)
  • LS Andrew DePaola (Oakland Raiders)

Drafted:

  • LB Brian Burns
  • QB Will Grier.

Offseason departures: Released LB Ben Jacobs,  CB Captain Munnerlyn, T Matt Khalil, S Da’Norris Searcy and Waived T Isaiah Battle, G Brendan Mahon andTE Ethan Wolf.

Preview: The Carolina Panthers have been very active in the transfer window and have a lot of work to do if they want to make the playoffs this season. Actually, as long as QB Newton doesn’t get injured, it should happen. With Newton, last season, the Panthers started 6-2, a franchise record. The Panthers have bought well and hopefully, a backup in Greir can prove fruitful to Carolina. However, I feel like the Panthers didn’t work on their defense as much as they did their offense and I wonder if that will cost them. The Panthers’ biggest competition would be a fully-fit Falcons team in competing for that second-place spot. Can the Panthers offense beat the Falcons to second or will their defense hold them back?

Prediction: 9-7

Atlanta Falcons

Last season’s record: 7-9

Post-season result: Didn’t qualify for playoffs (everything kinda went wrong from the start)

Offseason acquisitions: 

Signed:

  • RB Kenjon Barner (Patriots)
  • DT Stefan Charles (San Antonio Commanders)
  • TE Thomas Durate (Los Angeles Chargers)
  • K Blair Walsh (Seattle Seahawks)

Drafted:

  • OT Kaleb McGary
  • RB Tony Brooks James

Offseason departures: Waived DE Brooks Reed, T Ryan Schraeder, CB Rashad Causey, S Jason Thompson, CB Hamp Cheevers, LB Stephone Anthony and OL Tommy Davis.

Preview: Last season, I was quite confident in my prediction that the Atlanta Falcons would make the playoffs, but boy, was I well wrong. Defensive injuries plagued Dan Quinn’s Falcons, but this season, the chances of that happening once again are unlikely, so I’m going to bet the Falcons will have a better season this time around. The likes of Charles in the defense will bring some relief but there are still some concerns regarding this Falcons team, however. Kicker Walsh didn’t have a good day out in practice, missing plenty and the team is still heavily reliant on Julio Jones to win matches. In fact, last season, in the Falcons’ first game and loss against the Philadelphia Eagles, Joel Deering pointed out that there were plenty of times QB Matt Ryan could’ve passed the ball to Mohamad Sanu but only focused on Jones. Therefore, can the Falcons utilize their other offensive options to win games?

Prediction: 8-8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record: 5-11

Post-season result: Hmm…

Offseason acquisitions: 

Signed:

  • LB Deone Bucannon (Arizona Cardinals)
  • Shaquil Barrett (Denver Broncos)
  • G Earl Watford (Cincinnati Bengals)
  • S Kentrell Brice (Green Bay Packers)

Drafted:

  • LB Devin White
  • CB Sean Bunting
  • CB Jamel Dean
  • S Mike Edwards
  • DE Anthony Nelson
  • K Matt Gay
  • WR Scotty Miller
  • DE Terry Beckner,

Signed undrafted free agents:

RB Bruce Anderson, G Zack Bailey, S Lukas Denis, WR Anthony Johnson and DaMarkus Lodge.

Claimed off waivers:

Emanuel Hall (Chicago Bears)

Offseason departures: Released DE Vinny Curry, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick P Bryan Anger and OL Evan Smith and waived QB Joe Callahan, LB Riley Bullough, WR Sergio Bailey, RB Shaun Wilson, TE Donnie Ernsberger, T Riley Mayfield, QB Vincent Testaverde, OLB Dare Odeyingbo, S Micah Abernathy and DL Shane Bowman.

Preview: To be honest, even those five wins last season were miracles. The problem is, there’s only one magician on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ team: Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he doesn’t even play for them anymore. The Buccaneers have done a load of transfers, signing plenty of rookies, rebuilding, hoping for the best, but the competition they have in this division is far too established. The Buccaneers can’t really even focus on a playoff spot this season, but should just try to build a solid and promising team from the mass of youngsters they have. Can the Buccaneers put their draft picks and signings to use and put on some promising performances?

Prediction: 4-12

Predicted division standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (13-1-2)
  2. Carolina Panthers (9-7)
  3. Atlanta Falcons (8-8)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)

How the Lakers signing Dwight Howard will be different this time around

Dwight Howard’s first stop with the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t go as planned, but his second stop with the team will be much different.

Back in 2012, Dwight Howard became a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The then 27 year old Howard joined a 34 year old Kobe Bryant and 38 year old Steve Nash. At the time, Howard was a star in the league. Prior to joining the Lakers, Howard had been a six time All-Star after leading the Orlando Magic to the playoffs six straight times, including one NBA Finals appearance.

Coming off a season in which he averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, Howard was expected to be a star for his new team. It was at this same time that Howard’s career would never be the same. From there on out, Howard has bounced around the league, spending time with the Rockets, Hawks, Hornets and Wizards.

Howard with the Lakers in February 2013” by scott mecum is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2012 to 2016

In his first season with the Lakers, Howard’s stats didn’t look as bad as things actually were. Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the league) and 2.4 blocks. The Lakers finished that season with a record of 45-37, making the playoffs, but went on to lose in the first round.

The very next season, Howard moved on to the Houston Rockets, where he spent the next three seasons of his career. Why did Howard move on so quickly? There were several factors that likely went into Howard moving on, but to put it simply, Howard wasn’t the star he was with the Orlando Magic any longer. Howard wasn’t able to take a team of aging stars deep into the playoffs, as he hoped to do when he joined the team. Sure, his stats were still good, but individual stats and team wins are two very different things.

Howard’s short time as the star player for the Lakers seemed to take a toll on him. That’s why he split to join James Harden in Houston. Unfortunately for Howard, he was still expected to perform at a superstar level. Again, his stats looked good, but the team had another early out in the playoffs. The longer Howard played in Houston, the worse he got. Clearly, he still couldn’t handle having to perform at such a high level.

I’ll just go ahead and skip over the next few years of his career, as the story is the same.

Lakers Round Two

Howard’s first stop with the Lakers didn’t work out, but now he has a second chance. This time around, Howard will be a much more effective player for the Lakers than he was back in 2012. His stats won’t be as high, but his impact on the team will be much greater.

How so?

Well, this time around, Howard isn’t expected to be a star. This time the Lakers are bringing him in to protect the rim and grab rebounds in the absence of Boogie Cousins.

Instead of having to be a star with a rapidly declining Kobe Byrant and a Steve Nash who was about to walk away from the game, Howard will now be asked to play a specific role next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LeBron may be getting up there in age, but he can still perform at a very high level. We all know Anthony Davis is a star.

With LeBron and Davis, Howard will not be required to carry the team. He won’t be expected to be a star like he was the first time around. Instead of averaging 17+ points per game, we should look for Howard to average 10 points per game or less.

While Howard’s points will be way down, he still has the talent to be a good rebounder and shot blocker for this Lakers team. That’s what the Lakers expect from Howard, and that’s exactly what they’re going to get. He won’t have the ball in his hands nearly as often, just when LeBron or Davis pass it to him down low or he grabs a board.

I believe the Lakers made the right move by giving Howard a second chance with them, but they’re making an even better move by making the expectations for him very clear before he even steps foot in the building.

What you missed this weekend: 8/16-8/18

It’s only a matter of a few weeks before the NFL and NBA get underway as Europe’s La Liga and English Premier League have already started. We still have some pre-season domestic news though along with some UFC and MLB action and the Ashes between England and Australia witnessed a thrilling second test of cricket. 

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215-365 Today at the Ashes Test Match by John Garghan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

GOLF: BMW Championship

Tiger Woods’ season has come to a disappointing end. After 18 holes, Woods shot even-par 72, which was seven-under overall, and unfortunately, he doesn’t qualify for the next round.

UFC-241: Stipe Miocic

After just a little over four minutes into round four, Stipe Miocic won back his heavyweight title against Daniel Cormier. Although Cormier had 73 more strikes than his counterpart, all it took was just one knockout for Miocic to win his beloved prize. This is the fourth time a champion ended up losing in Anaheim.

NFL: 

Injury news

Los Angles Chargers have lost Derwin James for three to four months due to foot surgery. New Jersey Jets LB Avery Williams tore his ACL in a practice game against the Atlanta Falcons and will probably miss the whole season. The Arizona Cardinals starting cornerback, Robert Alford, broke his tibia bone and will have to sit out for half of the season. The Baltimore Ravens will have to do without Taven Young, who will miss the season due to a neck injury.

Josh McCown

The former Jets quarterback has done a U-turn on his decision to retire and has signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. He has signed just a one-year deal with the Eagles.

LA Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys had the edge against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday night in Hawaii, winning 14-10. Devin Smith and Tony Pollard both reached the endzone for Dallas while only JoJo Natson Jr. was able to convert for the Rams.

MLB: 

Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres makes his name with the New York Yankees by becoming the second-highest Home Run scorer in a season with the Yankees. He scored his 29th Home Run right before turning 23 years of age.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols brought light to his name by becoming the player born outside of the United States with the most hits. The Dominican-born player went to 3,168 hits on Saturday night for the Los Angeles Angels against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Soccer: 

Barcelona

Barcelona was welcomed to a shocking start in La Liga by losing 1-0 to Atletic Bilbao. The hero was Aritz Adruiz who scored in the 89th minute.

Cricket: 

The Ashes

Despite Steve Smith scoring 92(161), Australia ended up trailing England by 8 runs at the end of the first innings, being bowled out for 250. To Australia’s dismay, Smith was retired out first due to a concussion after being hit in the neck by a Jofra Archer bouncer. When he returned to bat, Chris Woakes caught him LBW after Smith mistakably left the ball. The second innings didn’t start well for England, especially when skipper Joe Root was caught behind the first ball but England found a hero at Lord’s once again in Ben Stokes, who scored his seventh test match century.

Australia needed 267 runs to win in just a few hours, so a draw was the most likely outcome, but for a good amount of time, the England bowlers excellently created doubt in the Australian batting ability. David Warner and Usman Khawaja were both dismissed caught off of Archer’s bowling, but substitute Marcus Labuschagne bravely got to 59 before being controversially being caught out by Joe Root at square leg. In the final hour, England needed four wickets to win and Australia wasn’t in reach of victory, but the likes of Archer, Joe Denly and Jack Leach were unable to find the wickets and the match was declared a draw.

Australia currently leads the five-match series 0-1 after two tests.

To: The Ashes

Edgebaston Cricket Ground,

Birmingham, England, U.K.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

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Howzat – The Ashes Trent Bridge 2015 by Airwolfhound is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Dear cricket,

What reason do I have to constantly have faith in the beauty of this game? What is it about a leather ball being hit by a wooden bat which I love so much? Or is there more to this game of cricket?

Do you know how strong my love for this game is? And not just me, but for nearly every fan who fills his or her leisure time by involving themselves in this sport? Be it from playing to watching to talking about it, is it possible to ever stop loving cricket?

Love for cricket is universal with people from all walks of life able to find a passion for it, be it an old taxi driver in the Carribean, an English father or a poor child in Pakistan. It was this passion which also started a war in cricket, a war which has lasted since the 1880s.

From this war came ashes. Not the ashes of soldiers or gunfire. The ashes of passion. The Ashes. When the stumps at The Oval Cricket Ground in London were burned after Australia beat England on English soil for the first time, ashes were burnt, a newspaper reported “The Death of English Cricket” and war was born.

But after winter comes spring and spirits are reborn. Since “The Death of English Cricket”, every two years The Ashes take place, marking the summit of the cricketing calendar. I’m a Pakistani teenager who has nothing to do with either England or Australia, but what can I do? The Ashes is like a gem to behold, whom anyone would give anything to see at least once in their life. When England take on Australia, it’s as if the rest of the cricketing world disappears from the face of the Earth.

Despite not being English or Aussie, The Ashes have provided moments throughout history which just simply can’t be replicated. And the excitement never dies or ages. Be it in the early 20th century when Sir Donald Bradman walked out to bat for the last time at The Oval and was dismissed LBW for duck or in 2009 when Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson batted 11 overs to force a draw.

The Ashes is why I love cricket. Five test matches, five battles, one everlasting war. Will Australia recover and retain the Ashes or will England find success on their home soil and send the Aussie soldiers back home with their heads bowed? I’ve asked a lot of questions in this letter, but you know what? Ignore them. All of them. Just allow us cricket fans to enjoy and love cricket at it’s best. Allow this flame to burn forever, turning our hearts to ashes.

Love, no one special.