2019 NFL Predictions: AFC South

We continue our NFL kickoff  countdown with the AFC South. Over the past five days, we’ve given you a preview of what to expect from some of the top divisions in football. We’ll continue that here and see who has what it takes to win the AFC South.


It’s going to be an interesting season in the AFC South because of all the moves made via injuries, retirement, etc. I’ll break it all down as it leads to each team. How will they all benefit with the changes? Can the Texans and Colts make playoffs again? Can the Jaguars and Titans get back in? Let’s find out!

1. Houston Texans

 Last season’s record: 11-5

Postseason Result: Lost to Indianapolis Colts (21-7) in the Wild Card round

Offseason Acquisitions:

Signed:

  • RB Duke Johnson (Traded from Cleveland)
  • LT Laremy Tunlis and WR Kenny Stills (Traded from Miami)
  • RB Carlos Hyde (Traded from Kansas City)
  • DE’s Jake Martin and Barkevious Mingo (Traded from Seattle)
  • CB Keion Crossen (Traded from New England)
  • TE Darren Fells (Cleveland)
  • LT Matt Kalil (Carolina)
  • SS Jahleel Addae (L.A. Chargers)
  • P Bryan Anger (Tampa Bay)
  • CB Bradley Roby (Denver)
  • S Tashaun Gipson and CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (Jacksonville)
  • QB AJ McCarron and RB Taiwan Jones (Buffalo)

Drafted: 

  • OT Tytus Howard (23rd)
  • CB Lonnie Johnson (54th)
  • OT Max Scharping (55th)
  • TE Kahale Warring (86th)
  • RB Cullen Gillaspia (220th)
  • CB Xavier Crawford (195th)
  • DE Charles Omenihu (161th)

Offseason Departures:

  • RB Lamar Miller (Injured ACL)
  • DE  Jadeveon Clowney (Traded to Seattle)
  • C Martinas Rankin (Traded to Kansas City)
  • LT Julie’n Davenport and CB Johnson Bademosi (Traded to Miami)
  • S Tyrann Mathieu (Kansas City)
  • CB Kareem Jackson (Denver)
  • CB Kevin Johnson (Buffalo)
  • TE Ryan Griffin (N.Y. Jets)
  • OT Kendall Lamm (Browns)
  • RB D’Onta Foreman (Indianapolis)
  • WR Demaryius Thomas (Free Agent)
  • Retired P Shane Lecher

The Big Question:

Despite all the news of DE Jadeveon Clowney being traded to Seattle, the Texans have other concerns to worry about.

How will the defense perform with the loss of Clowney? How about the offense? Can WRs Will Fuller, Keke Coutee and newly acquired Kenny Stills stay healthy enough for QB Deshaun Watson to have more weapons? Stills could be a secret weapon alongside DeAndre Hopkins.

What about the running game? With the injury to RB Lamar Miller, can Duke Johnson become a star? Will they look to add another RB in the mix via trade or free agency? I think the Texans defense might be good either way. They’ve continuously been a top tier defensive team.

If the receiving core can stay healthy, there’s a lot more opportunities to be successful on the offensive side, and the running game wouldn’t matter as much. Although, I think they’ll find a way to add more RB depth, whether it’s part of a trade or free agency.  Let’s see how well their season goes.

Prediction: 11-5

 

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season’s record: 5-11

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

Signed:

  • ILB Myles Jack (Extended)
  • TE James O’Shaughnessy
  • OL Tyler Shatley
  • RB Alfred Blue (Houston)
  • WR Terrelle Pryor (N.Y. Jets)
  • QB Nick Foles (Philadelphia)
  • ILB Jake Ryan (Green Bay) 
  • TE Geoff Swaim (Dallas)
  • WR Chris Conley (Kansas City)
  • OT Cedric Ogbuehi (Cincinnati)

Draft: 

  • DE Josh Allen (7th)
  • RT Jawaan Taylor (35th)
  • TE Josh Oliver (69th)
  • LB Quincy Williams (98th) 
  • QB Gardner Minshew (178th)
  •  DT Dontavius Russell (235th)

Offseason Departures:

  • DT Malik Jackson (Philadelphia)
  • RB T.J. Yeldon (Buffalo)
  • RB Carlos Hyde (Kansas City to Houston)
  • QB Blake Bortles (L. A. Rams)
  • WR Donte Moncrief (Pittsburgh) 
  • OT Ereck Flowers (Washington) 
  • RT Jeremy Parnell (New Orleans) 
  • TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Free Agent)

The Big Question: 

The Jaguars made one big change to their roster this offseason, and it was to the most important position on the team. That position is the QB spot. The Jaguars signed Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles, while getting rid of Blake Bortles.

There are several questions that could be asked here, like the impact RB Leonard Fournette will have this season after spending most of last season banged up with injuries.

There’s also the health of the Jaguars WRs too. Last year was another injury prone season for the Jaguars receiving core. It honestly made Bortles look worse then he was at times. 

I don’t think Bortles is a bad QB, it just wasn’t the right system for him. However, this will be a good season for the Jaguars with Nick Foles. They finish with a 9-7 record behind a tough schedule.

Prediction: 9-7

 

3. Tennessee Titans

Last season’s record: 9-7

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions: 

Signed:

  • QB Ryan Tannehill (Traded from Miami)
  • DE Reggie Gilbert (Green Bay)
  • G Rodger Saffold (Oakland)
  • WR Adam Humphries and OG Kevin Pamphile (Tampa Bay)
  • DE Cameron Wake (Miami)
  • DT Brent Urban (Baltimore)
  •  

Draft:

  • DT Jeff Simmons (19th)
  • WR A.J. Brown (51st)
  • G Nate Davis (82nd)
  • S Amani Hooker (116th)
  • OLB D’Andre Walker (168th)
  • LB David Long (188th)

Offseason Departures: 

  • Retired RB Chris Johnson and OLB Derrick Morgan 
  • WR Taywan Taylor (Traded to Cleveland)
  • G Josh Kline (Minnesota)
  • S Johnathan Cyprien (Philadelphia) 
  • TE Luke Stocker (Atlanta)
  • QB Blaine Gabbert (Tampa Bay)

The Big Question: 

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Titans has to do with their receiving group. Can Corey Davis actually be the top receiver in the Titans offense? How long will it take A.J. Brown to adjust to the NFL game?

I’m not too worried about the Titans defense, because I think they will continue to be a good force. For the Titans to find success and be able to compete this season, they will need to be able to find a way. 

For the sake of the Titans, I hope their receiving core can find a way to come up big this season. It’ll take a lot pressure off of both Henry and TE Delaine Walker as two guys who look to be a huge part of the Titans offense. 

Prediction: 9-7

 

4. Indianapolis Colts:

Last season’s record: 10-6

Postseason Result: Beat Houston Texans (21-7) in Wild Card round, Lost to Kansas City Chiefs (31-13) in the Divisional round

Offseason Acquisitions:

Signed: 

  • G Evan Boehm (Traded from Miami)
  • CB Nate Hairston (Traded from N.Y. Jets)
  • C Jake Eldrenkamp and QB Hoyer (New England)
  • DE Justin Houston (Kansas City)
  • WR Devin Funchess (Carolina)
  • DB Pierre Desir
  • LB Luke Rhodes 
  • DB Clayton Geathers
  • WR Chester Rogers

Draft:

  • CB Rock Ya-Sin (34th) 
  • DE Ben Banogu (49th)
  • WR Parris Campbell (59th) 
  • LB Bobby Okereke (89th)
  • S Khari Willis (109th)
  • LB E.J. Speed (164th)

Offseason Departures:

  • Retired QB Andrew Luck
  • DT Hassan Ridgeway (Traded to Philadelphia)
  • WR Ryan Grant and TE Erik Swoope (Oakland)
  • WR Dontrelle Inman (L.A. Chargers) 

The Big Question:

The Colts were hit by the surprise announcement of QB Andrew Luck’s retirement. Now they’re faced with a lot of important questions.

Was it really a surprise? As banged as Luck was,  he Colts should’ve seen this coming.  Now we worry about how QB Jacoby Brissett will play as the starter again. Can he have the “Luck” for the Colts?

I’m expecting the defense to be fine, but can Brissett and WR T.Y. Hilton build chemistry together? Hilton’s production was at a career-low with Brissett at QB in 2017, and we hope it’s not the same this year. 

The Colts added a lot of offensive pieces over the years, and they should be able to find some success this year with RB’s Marlon Mack and Nyhiem Hines to join Hilton, Devin Funchess and TE’s Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron as they look to make the playoffs again.

Prediction: 6-10

 

Predicted Division Standings:

  1. Houston Texans (11-5)

  2. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7)

  3. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

  4. Indianapolis Colts (6-10)

 

Best fits for NFL’s top remaining free agents

We’re officially in the second week of NFL free agency, and there are still many big names to be had. Most of the big name players are in their older years, but they can still make an impact for teams looking to contend. Below is a short list of the top remaining free agents this offseason and which teams are their best fits. 

top remaining free agents
0 Kansas City Chiefs Justin Houston – San Diego Chargers Philip Rivers” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

LB Justin Houston

Best fit: Indianapolis Colts

Justin Houston is an older player, but he’s an older player who can still provide a lot to a defense, specifically as a pass rusher. That’s why he’s one of the top remaining free agents. Over the past two seasons, Houston has tallied 9.0 and 9.5 sacks. That number of sacks is tied for the lead with any player on the Colts’ defense last season.

Indianapolis doesn’t have an elite pass rusher, but they do have a lot of guys who can contribute to their pass rush. Justin Houston could be a very valuable part to this defense by being another contributor. You may have heard the saying, “you can never have too many pass rushers.” The Colts adding Justin Houston would only validate that saying even more.

 

DT Ndamukong Suh

Best fit: Dallas Cowboys

Despite being relatively quiet in free agency so far, the Cowboys have added some nice pieces. The biggest name they’ve added is Randall Cobb, but their other signings have been depth guys. Despite their signings, there remains a big need in the middle of their defensive line. Dallas got decent play from their interior lineman last season, but they need someone who can take that play to the next level.

Ndamukong Suh isn’t the player he once was, but he still has enough left in the tank to be an effective DT for whoever he plays for. He did a nice job for the Rams last season. Suh could be the perfect fit for the Cowboys for the right price, and not just because of need. He’d get to play on a great defense, and the Cowboys could sign him to a short term deal. His presence in Dallas could help this defense get even better.

 

DE Ziggy Ansah

Best fit: Oakland Raiders

When Ziggy Ansah is healthy, he can be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. His health has been a problem as of late, as he was limited to seven games last season. Ansah was able to record 4.0 sacks in his seven games. Those numbers aren’t great, but Ansah’s pass rush potential is something a team like the Raiders should want. He recorded 14.5 sacks in 2015 and 12.0 in 2017.

Ansah is only getting older, so it’s likely his body won’t be able to hold up for a 16 game season, but he can still provide a nice pass rush. The Oakland Raiders need to find every way possible to get better at rushing the passer. They ranked dead last in sacks last season, recording just 13.0 all season long. Ziggy Ansah may not be the pass rusher he once was, but he’s better than most guys the Raiders currently have on their roster.

 

TE Jared Cook

Best fit: Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks’ leader in receiving at the TE position last season was Nick Vannett. He totaled 29 receptions for 269 yards and three TDs. In other words, the Seahawks need to get better at that position. Jared Cook is the not only one of the top remaining free agents, but he’s the top TE available this offseason, so Seattle should go after him.

Cook had the best season of his career last year with the Raiders. He was one of the bright spots for a lowly Raiders team. I think his skill set would be great for what Russell Wilson is able to do. He’s one of the best passers in the game, and he could use a big TE like Cook, especially down in the red zone. I can see a Wilson to Cook connection being one of the best in the league. He would greatly improve this offense.

Breaking down the best landing spot for Le’Veon Bell.

Le’Veon Bell will finally become a free agent! After watching their star RB sit out last season because of his contract, the Pittsburgh Steelers are moving on. Reports are that Bell will become a free agent after the Steelers say they won’t use any tags on him. Le’Veon Bell will soon be able to choose where he’d like to next play football.

Best landing spot for Le'Veon Bell
-Pittsburgh Steelers Le’Veon Bell” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

As an RB who’s obviously demanding a lot of money, Bell’s options are somewhat limited on where he can go. Because of his high salary demand, many have cited the following list in reference to Bell’s name. Why? This list holds the names of the top 10 teams with the most cap space this offseason. Chances are, Le’Veon Bell’s next destination is somewhere on this list.

Just because these 10 teams have the most cap space, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best landing spot for Le’Veon Bell. Not only is Bell wanting a high salary, he’s likely looking for a place where he can dominate carries, and more importantly, win football games. That limits the options on the above list. We’re going to break down this top 10 list, ultimately coming up with the best landing spot for Le’Veon Bell.

 

Round 1: Winning (Potential)

Of the list of top 10 teams with the most cap space, how many teams can really offer Le’Veon Bell a winning situation? The Colts, Texans, Seahawks and Cowboys were all in the playoffs this past season, so they automatically make it on to the next round.

Just because a team wasn’t in the playoffs last season, it doesn’t mean they can’t offer a winning situation. The Cleveland Browns were much improved this past season, and will likely continue their upward trend after a string a great moves last offseason. They’re an intriguing option, so we’ll move them on to round 2. The Jets only won four games a season ago, but Sam Darnold showed why he’s the next franchise QB for the Jets. They should be much improved next season, and Bell could help them get there, so we’ll include them too.

If I’m including the Jets, I have to include the 49ers. They were also 4-12 last season, but that was without their starting QB for most of the year. With Garoppolo back and some good moves this offseason, they should be much more competitive next season.

That leaves us with the Bills, Raiders and Bengals. Does anyone want to play for the Bills? No. Raiders? Definitely no. Bengals? I don’t think so. These three get eliminated, while seven teams move on in their quest to be the best landing spot for Le’Veon Bell.

 

Round 2: Bulk of the carries 

We’ve got the Colts, Texans, Seahawks, Cowboys, Browns, Jets and 49ers left. Let’s get rid of some easy eliminations in this round. Which teams already have a featured RB?

  • Cowboys: Dallas has Ezekiel Elliott. I think Le’Veon Bell could fit in with this offense if used correctly, but he’s not going to want to share time with Zeke.
  • Browns: They’ve got a young RB in Nick Chubb. They also just signed RB Kareem Hunt. Not enough room for Bell in this backfield.
  • Texans: Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue make a pretty good combination. I don’t see room for Bell here.
  • Seahawks: Seattle has a 1,000 yard rusher in Chris Carson. They also have Mike Davis and Rashad Penny, who both ran for over 400 yards last season. Russell Wilson with Le’Veon Bell would be dangerous, but I don’t see it happening.

One could argue the Colts could be eliminated, but I’m not sure Marlon Mack is a true starting RB. I think he’s more of a really good backup. Four more teams have been eliminated, leaving us with the Colts, Jets and 49ers as the potential teams to be named the best landing spot for Le’Veon Bell.

 

Round 3: Best QB

The third and final round is too easy. The Colts have Andrew Luck, the Jets have Sam Darnold and the 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo. Going back to round 1, I gave the Jets and 49ers a pass because of their potential to win, but that heavily depends on how well Darnold processes and how well Garoppolo comes back from his injury.

If Le’Veon Bell wants to play with the best QB available, picking the Colts is the easy choice. An Andrew Luck and Le’Veon Bell combination would be lethal. Throw in T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron. Don’t forget about Marlon Mack being the backup RB. That’s quite the combination.

The Indianapolis Colts are the best landing spot for Le’Veon Bell. They can give him everything he wants. They’ve got the most money to spend, a place where he can dominate carries, one of the best QBs in the league, and a place where he can win football games and have a real chance at competing for a Super Bowl title.

It’s not my decision to make, but if I’m Le’Veon Bell, the Indianapolis Colts are the team I’m pushing to play for.

Top 10 greatest QBs of all-time

Today is the big day! The day where we find out who the winner of Super Bowl LIII will be. The match up is the five time champion New England Patriots versus the one time champion Los Angeles Rams.

All week long we here at Fourth Quarter Sports have been helping you refresh your memory on some of the biggest moments of both the teams and all the Super Bowls. By this time, I’m sure you have read them all, but don’t forget about the top 10 coach-QB duo that was postED Saturday afternoon for you to enjoy.

Source: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=230320&picture=posterization-of-joe-montana

Now it’s time for us to find out who the top 10 greatest QBs of all-time are. Keep in mind that several of these QBs are still playing and could climb higher, while others see their stats and accomplishments fall. We also have to pay close attention to the decade in which these QBs have played. So let’s take a look at who is in the top 10.

 

10. Fran Tarkenton – Minnesota Vikings/New York Giants (1961-1978)

Tarkenton could’ve very well made the top 10 list with his head coach because of the success they had together. If Tarkenton had stayed with Minnesota his entire career instead of spending six years with Giants, that probably would have been the case.

Tarkenton was a nine time Pro Bowl QB who threw for 47,003, 342 touchdowns and 266 interceptions. Tarkenton also won one MVP and made three appearances to the Super Bowl, although  he lost all three.

 

9. Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts (1955-1973)

Unitas was a part of two different eras in the NFL. Those eras are before and during the Super Bowl years. The first was in 1966 when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. But Unitas was able to get himself one as well in Super Bowl V. He also won three NFL Champions during his career. That is what made me decide to put him on the top 10 list.

During his time with the Baltimore Colts, he also earned 10 Pro Bowls and three MVPs while throwing for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns.

 

Source: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=230325&picture=posterization-of-john-elway

8. John Elway, Denver Broncos (1983-1998)

Elway could be another one of those guys who you think might not be top 10, but he does have a pretty decent resume. In 15 years, he was a Pro Bowl selection nine times. He also played in five Super Bowls, in which he won two, along with an MVP honor.

As he ended his career, he finished with 51,475 yards passing and 300 touchdowns. He also ran for another 33 touchdowns while throwing 226 interceptions. He certainly put the Denver Broncos on the map and has continued to do so as a team executive in the current days.

 

7. Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins (1983-1999)

Marino had a nice career for a QB from the ’80s. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help when you compare him to the top six QBs. Marino’s failure to win a Super Bowl is what hurt him from being in the top five.

He was Rookie of the Year in 1983 and also won one MVP, as he was selected to nine Pro Bowls. His 61,361 passing yards is the most by any QB in that era. He also finished with 420 touchdowns and 252 interceptions.

 

Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, playing against the Carolina Panthers on October 19, 2014.” by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

6. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (2005-present)

I can’t help but put Aaron Rodgers up this high. Many people think he should be higher. Although I may agree, he’s still playing and is well into the top category. By the time he’s finished, he could be placed higher. With his impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio, I don’t see why not.

Rodgers has a career passer rating of 103.1, which is an NFL record. His highest passer rating in a season was in 2011 when he averaged 122.5. That was the same year he won his very first Super Bowl title.

He has also earned seven Pro Bowls and two MVPs while throwing for 42,944 yards, 338 touchdowns and 80 interceptions. That is a 4.23:1 ratio, which is a another NFL record. Rodgers has been one of the best QBs over the last decade.

 

5. Drew Brees, San Diego Chargers/New Orleans Saints (2001-present)

Brees is another current QB who may be able to move up on the list. But without an MVP and only one Super Bowl, it might be tough. Despite his unsuccessful attempts to win MVP, he has still managed to to break a lot of the passing records.

As a 12-time Pro Bowl QB, Brees has thrown for 74,437 yards, 520 touchdowns and 233 interceptions. Those yards are the most by in QB in NFL history. He also has the highest career completion percentage and single-season completion records. He also has the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass, including the most touchdowns in a game (7). He has already passed so many greats ahead of him and will likely continue to do so.

 

Source: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=230606&picture=posterization-of-brett-favre

4. Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers (1991-2010)

Favre played longer than he should’ve, but didn’t really gain much from it. He got one Super Bowl early in his career and added a few MVPs along the way.

The 11-time Pro Bowl QB also had 71,838 passing yards and 508 touchdowns, both of which were NFL records until Peyton Manning and then Drew Brees broke them. The record that Favre still owns and probably will for a very very very very long time, is the most interceptions in NFL history with 336. That’s not a great record to have as a QB, but Favre will be holding onto that one for a while.

 

3. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos (1998-2014)

Manning is the best QB to ever use the word “Omaha” on the field to confuse the defense. It helped him make a great career out of it. In fact, he won five NFL MVPs and two Super Bowls in his 16 year career.

He was also honored to 14 Pro Bowls during that time and went 2-2 in his four Super Bowl appearances. He had a total of 71,940 passing yards and 539 touchdowns, which were both NFL records until Brees took the yards away. Brees will also be looking to take the touchdowns record away from Manning and leave them with a tie for most touchdowns in a game at seven. But Manning’s 55 touchdowns in a season record may last longer than we think.

 

2. Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers/Kansas City Chiefs (1979-1994)

The best QB in the ’80s was probably Montana, though he only won four Super Bowls in his 15 seasons, he helped make the Niners into one of the biggest names of their time.

With two MVPs and eight Pro Bowls, Montana was out to prove he was the best. Until the emergence of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, you might have agreed. But we are talking about two different eras of football. Montana’s stats may not look great in the NFL today. He finished his career with 40,551 yards and 273 touchdowns. By the time Tom Brady is done, he would have doubled Montana in both categories.

 

Source: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=230915&picture=posterization-of-tom-brady

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2000-present)

Brady has already added more MVPs and Super Bowls than what Montana had. Brady has five Super wins and he is not looking to be done yet, as he’ll be leading his team for another chance at six.

The 14-time Pro Bowl selection has had a season best touchdown to Interception ratio of 28:2. He also has the most games won by any QB, with 232 and a current count of 517 touchdowns with 70,514 passing yards. Brady will also likely pass Manning in total yards and touchdowns next season.

And to think, Brady was the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL draft. That’s just amazing.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Of course, you can’t make a top 10 list like this without all the debate of one player being better than another. It’s never easy thinking of the top 10 greatest QBs without having a debate.

 

Source: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=230611&picture=posterization-of-bart-starr

  • Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills (1986-1996)
  • Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams/Arizona Cardinals (1994-2009)
  • Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers (1956-1971)
  • Otto Graham, Cleveland Browns (1946-1955)
  • Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys (1989-2000)
  • Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers (1984-1999)

I hope you enjoyed this list as much as you will enjoy the Super Bowl. Don’t forget to remind yourselves of some of those memories we spoke earlier.

For Rams fans: click here

Patriots fans: here

Want a recap of their first Super Bowl game? Click here

And then of course, the most memorable moments and mistakes that happened in all of the Super Bowls thus far.

You can also comment and give us your feedback on who you think should be on this list. Let’s hear it!

The Canton Worthy: Offensive Playmakers & recap

The final three players up for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year are offensive stars, each one from a different position. There’s a running back, a wide receiver and a tight end. With my previous selections, which I’ll recap in a bit, I’ve only two maximum spots left on my ballot. So let’s get to it, starting with a wide receiver who helped the City of St. Louis to its only Super Bowl victory.

-Atlanta Falcons Tony Gonzalez” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

Isaac Bruce, Wide Receiver: Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 1994-2007 & San Francisco 49ers, 2008-2009

Bruce joined the Rams in their final year in Los Angeles (this, of course, before they moved back to Los Angeles from St. Louis a couple of years ago) as the 33rd overall pick out of Memphis. He, like the team as a whole, didn’t do much in 1994, but he exploded in 1995, catching 119 passes for 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns. While he’d never again have 100 or more receptions, he would collect over 1,000 yards receiving another seven times in his career.

In 1999, Bruce was coming off an injury-plagued season in which he played just five games. With the ascension of quarterback Kurt Warner and the arrivals of running back Marshall Faulk (by trade with the Colts) and wide receiver Torry Holt (the No. 6 pick out of North Carolina State), Bruce regained his form as part of The Greatest Show on Turf, the Rams’ high-flying offense that enamored the league, captured two NFC titles in three seasons, and won Super Bowl XXXIV.

Today, Bruce’s 1,024 career receptions rank 13th all-time, while his 91 receiving touchdowns rank 12th and his 15,208 receiving yards rank fifth. He made four Pro-Bowls and was never elected All-Pro.

There are 17 wide receivers in the Hall of Fame, but only seven of them from the same era as Isaac Bruce–guys who played the bulk of their careers around the same time Bruce played: Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Andre Reed, Tim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss.

Among them, Bruce ranks sixth in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and seventh in touchdown receptions. His four Pro-Bowl appearances rank dead last. He joins Brown and Reed with zero All-Pro selections.

Here’s what hurts Bruce, though: from the time Holt showed up in St. Louis until the time Bruce left for San Francisco (where he did little), Holt was the Rams’ primary wide receiver. Of those nine seasons together, Holt was the team’s leading receiver eight times. For the bulk of his career, Bruce wasn’t even the best receiver on his team, let alone the league.

And because of that, he doesn’t get in.

 

Tony Gonzalez, Tight End: Kansas City Chiefs, 1997-2008 & Atlanta Falcons, 2009-2013

I’ll be blunt: of the 15 finalists, Gonzalez is the only lock to make the Hall of Fame this season. He is arguably the greatest tight end to have ever taken the field. In his 17 years, he made the Pro-Bowl 14 times while being named All-Pro six times.

His 1,325 receptions rank second all-time. His 15,127 receiving yards rank sixth all-time. His 111 touchdown receptions rank eighth all-time. And his 254 games started rank 10th all-time.

Among tight ends, only Antonio Gates has more receiving touchdowns (116 and counting), and none–none!–have more receptions or receiving yards.

If this group of candidates only has one player get elected, it will be Gonzalez. He’s bound for Canton this year.

 

Edgerrin James, Running Back: Indianapolis Colts, 1999-2005; Arizona Cardinals, 2006-2008; Seattle Seahawks, 2009

If Edgerrin James’ career had gone like his first two seasons, he’d join Gonzalez as a lock for Canton. But while he still had a stellar career, he couldn’t match his 1999 and 2000 seasons, and will not make it into the Hall of Fame.

The Colts took James out of Miami (Fla.) with the No. 4 pick in the 1999 draft, enabling them to deal Marshall Faulk and pair James with a young quarterback named Peyton Manning. In his rookie season, James made the Pro-Bowl and was elected All-Pro, as he finished with league-leading 1,553 rushing yards, another 586 receiving yards, and a league-leading 17 total touchdowns. Deservedly, he won Offensive Rookie of the Year.

In 2000, he again paced the league in rushing, this time with 1,709 yards, to go with 594 receiving yards. He led all players in yards from scrimmage with 2,303, and racked up 18 total touchdowns. While he made the Pro-Bowl, he was not named All-Pro, nor would he ever be named such again.

In fact, he would make only two more Pro-Bowls, in 2004 and 2005, years in which he ran for at least 1,500 yards. Yet, his receiving skills had diminished, and the Colts let him leave for Arizona after the 2007 season.

Even in the desert, James had two seasons of over 1,000 yards rushing. In 2008 with the Cardinals, he made his one and only Super Bowl appearance, a game in which Arizona fell to Pittsburgh. In his final season, as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, James touched the ball only a total of 49 times, rushing for a mere 125 yards and receiving only 19 yards.

Overall, James ended his career with 91 total touchdowns (which is, oddly the same number Isaac Bruce had), which ranks 31st all-time. The only top-ten categories in which James finished were touches (ninth) and rushing attempts (eighth). His 12,246 rushing yards rank 13th and his 80 career rushing touchdowns come in at 20th all-time. He ranks 27th all-time in all-purpose yards with 15,610.

There really aren’t that many running backs in the Hall of Fame to whom I can compare James. There is only one who began his career in the same year or later than James: LaDainian Tomlinson, who played from 2001-2011. Including Tomlinson, there are only six running backs in Canto who played in 2000 or later: LT, Thurman Thomas (who retired after 2000), Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Emmitt Smith and Jerome Bettis. Of those six, again, only LT played anywhere near the bulk of his career in James’ era.

So, let’s compare James to Tomlinson. And really, it’s not even close: Tomlinson was far superior. Both played 11 seasons, and yet LT ranks ahead of James in every important category: Pro-Bowls, All-Pro selections, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns (145 to 80), total touchdowns (162 to 91), receiving yards and total yards (by nearly 3,000). To boot, LT won an MVP and Offensive Player of the Year Award.

Perhaps Tomlinson is the Gold Standard for today’s running backs. Perhaps no one will be able to match his numbers and accolades, therefore making him an unfair bar for comparison. But right now, he’s all we’ve got. And using him as a reference, there is no way that Edgerrin James belongs in the Hall of Fame.

 

The Canton Worthy Series Recap

In the first article, I looked at head coaches Don Coryell and Tom Flores.

In the second article, I looked at linemen on both sides of the ball.

In the third article, I looked at defensive backs, both safeties and corners.

And, of course, today I looked at offensive skill players.

Overall, I looked at the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 15 finalists and made sense of where they stand. A maximum of five of these players will get the call this year.

Of them all, I’m most confident that Tony Gonzalez will get elected.

One player I strongly considered, but ultimately passed on was Champ Bailey. If he gets in, he would deserve it. However, I felt like his career wasn’t quite there.

If I were to vote, I’d also stump for center Kevin Mawae, guard Alan Faneca and safety Ed Reed. Together, Gonzalez and those three would make tremendous additions to the Hall of Fame.

 

 

 

 

NFL Awards

Fourth Quarter Sports’ NFL Awards Ceremony

With the regular season of the NFL officially over, it’s time to take a look at all the NFL awards that will be given to those players who deserve it. We will have to wait until Saturday, Feb. 2nd to find out the official result of these NFL awards, but we at Fourth Quarter Sports would like to give you a sneak peek of who we think will win each of the major NFL awards.

NFL Awards
Saquon Barkley” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

But first, congratulations are to the 2019 National Champion Clemson Tigers. You have proven to the world once again why you are the best team in the country. They became the first team ever in the College Football Playoff to finish a season with a perfect 15-0 record.

We also have to congratulate Cullen Jekel for winning the weekly predictions award! We can also congratulate Jon Geib for having the highest percentage (78) of games right. Cullen finished third in percentage with 67 behind Jon and Dennis Olmsted (72). Aman Huda finished just four games behind Cullen in the overall predictions, which is outstanding for a guy who thought he didn’t know much about football.

If you’re wondering where the rest of us finished, well… Regarding both percentage and overall record, I finished last. I had a few weeks of upset picks that never got upset, but I am hoping to have better results in the playoff version of these predictions, which you can see here.

Here are the final results for the regular season:

Cullen: 158-81-1 (67%)

Aman: 154-85-1 (64%)

Joel: 150-89-1 (63%)

Adam: 150-89-1 (63%)

Mickayeen: 149-90-1 (62%)

Rahim: 139-100-1 (58%)

Kevin: 101-62 (62%)

Josh: 90-45 (67%)

Dan: 83-52 (61%)

Christan: 68-40 (63%)

Dennis: 35-13 (72%)

Jon: 25-7 (78%)

Now it’s on to the big awards, the awards that we have been waiting for! Those NFL awards are: Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year and Coach of the Year. So let’s find out who we all think will win! We’ll start with one of the most prestigious NFL awards.

 

NFL Awards

Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

NFL Awards

Most Valuable Player

Rahim’s: QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Jon’s: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Dan’s: QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Aman’s: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Joel’s: QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Adam’s: QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

When we started this season, and everyone gave their own predictions for all the awards which can be seen here, no one thought it was going to be Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Especially not after he only played one game all season the year prior as a rookie. He has definitely surprised us all with the numbers he put up this season. Is 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns not enough for you to give him the award? It really only came down to him and New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees. Mahomes has over 1,000 yards and 18 passing touchdowns more than Brees. He’s pretty much a lock to win MVP since he was already named First Team All-Pro at QB. In other words, the NFL has already named him the MVP winner.

 

Offensive Player of the Year

Rahim’s: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Jon’s: QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Dan’s: RB Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Aman’s: QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City

Joel’s: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Adam’s: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

With Mahomes winning the MVP, the next award belongs to Drew Brees. Just look at what he has done with the Saints’ offense. He led them to the best record in the NFL! This was one of the best seasons of his career. He actually has fewer interceptions than Mahomes and set a record for completion percentage with 74.4 percent. Brees will be the MVP runner-up, so it’s only fitting he be the one to win this award. The only other player we see winning this award is RB Todd Gurley, but he missed two games and didn’t even lead the league in rushing. If Drew Brees really is in close contention with Mahomes for MVP, this award has to go to him.

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Rahim’s: LB Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Jon’s: DT Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

Dan’s: LB Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Aman’s: LB Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Joel’s: DT Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

Adam’s: DT Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack? Who do you pick? We’re split 50-50. We’ll break it down and see where each of them are in the statistics. Donald got paid this offseason and still put up great numbers! His best number is 20.5 sacks, and he has obviously made an impact on the defensive front this year for the Rams. His sacks were the most ever by a defensive tackle, and he was only two short of the season sack record. He recorded 9.5 sacks more than last year. For Mack, it’s simple! Get traded, then be the biggest thing on your team! Mack helped change the Bears’ defense around. He took the Bears from 5-11 and being last to the NFC North, to going 12-4 and winning the division. Let’s not forget he has done everything possible for the Bears this season, including sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles and touchdowns!

 

NFL Awards
Baker Mayfield” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Rahim’s: QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Jon’s: RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Dan’s: QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Aman’s: QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Joel’s: QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Adam’s: RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

This was close between Barkley and Mayfield. Some might give it to Barkley based off his numbers on a bad team. He had 91 receptions as a rookie running back, and he is the real deal! If this award were to come down to player stats, it’d be Barkley. Barkley had 2,000 plus yards from scrimmage this season. Unfortunately, his team finished 5-11.

For Mayfield, it was all about making an impact and helping this team win games. That’s precisely what Mayfield did. He led the previously 0-16 Cleveland Browns team to a seven-win season. Not only did he help the Browns win, but he looked great doing. Mayfield and the Browns weren’t that far from having a playoff spot. They finished 7-8-1 and 9th in the AFC standings. Let’s also not forget that his head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley both got fired. I’ll admit, I doubted Mayfield’s ability, but anytime you take a team with a 4-44 record over the past three seasons and make them somewhat relevant, that’s an automatic lock!

 

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Rahim’s: LB Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Jon’s: S Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

Dan’s: LB Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Aman’s: LB Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Joel’s: LB Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Adam’s: S Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

James was just named a first-team All-Pro safety as a rookie. He played all over the field and finished with 105 tackles, three-and-a-half sacks and three interceptions. James is the best rookie on the best team, and he has easily stepped in to the starting lineup affecting the game in sacks, picks and 70 tackles.

Leonard had the greater impact on this team. The Chargers had a pretty good defense last season, but the Colts had one of the worst. This season the Colts have drastically improved defensively, in large part to the play of Darius Leonard. He totaled 163 tackles, seven sacks and two interceptions for the Colts this season. Those 163 tackles led the entire NFL.

So will it be James or Leonard?

 

NFL Awards
Andrew Luck” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Comeback Player of the Year

Rahim’s: QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Jon’s: QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Dan’s: QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Aman’s: QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Joel’s: QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Adam’s: QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck is the clear cut Comeback Player of the Year. He played all 16 games after not playing a single game last year. In the 16 games he played this season, Luck had the highest passer rating of his career. In addition to that, Luck had the second most passing yards and second most TD passes of his career. Then there’s the fact that Luck led his team to a 10-6 record and a playoff spot. It’s been an incredible year for Luck, as he returned from injury and helped turn a 4-12 Colts team in 2017 to a 10-6 playoff team in 2018. There’s no doubting this one! This is one of the more obvious picks among the NFL awards.

 

Coach of the Year:

Rahim’s: Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Jon’s: Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Dan’s: Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Aman’s: Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Joel’s: Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Adam’s: Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Last season the Bears were 5-11 and last in the NFC North. In their first season under Matt Nagy, the Bears went 12-4, won the NFC North and almost got themselves a first-round bye in the NFC. If that’s not enough, Nagy helped second year QB Mitch Trubisky make huge strides this season. Trubisky’s passer rating went from 77.5 to 95.4.

Then there’s the defense. Nagy was able to put together, one of, if not the best defense in the NFL. He changed this team in all phases. The addition of Khalil Mack helped the Bears’ turnaround, but the addition of Nagy has turned Mitchell Trubisky into the franchise quarterback the Bears certainly hoped he would be.

 

Let us know your opinions on who wins the NFL awards, as we have plenty of time left before they are announced. Comment your winner for each of the these NFL awards!

NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round picks

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs gets under way this weekend! Last week’s Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs was full of excitement, with the Colts, Cowboys, Chargers and Eagles keeping their Super Bowl hopes alive. This week they’ll have their toughest test yet, having to go up against the top two seeds in their conference. Can any of these Wild Card teams upset their Divisional Round opponents and move on to the Conference Championship game? Let’s find out who our team is picking to win every game in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, as well as break down the key matchups of the games.

 

Divisional Round NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoffs
Andrew Luck, Eric Ebron” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday)

Aman: Chiefs

Cullen: Chiefs

Mickayeen: Colts

Rahim: Colts

Joel: Colts

Adam: Colts

Dan: Chiefs

Kevin: Colts

Dennis: Colts

Jon: Chiefs

Ty: Colts  

If any of the games in the NFL playoffs has shootout potential, it’s this game. Why? For starters, we get to see two of the elite QBs in the NFL go at each other. Patrick Mahomes threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 TDs during the regular season. He set multiple NFL records on his way to a 12-4 record, number one overall seed in the AFC and what is likely an MVP season. On the other side, we get to see Andrew Luck, who had arguably the best season of his NFL career after making his return from injury. 

The Colts feature the number 10 defense in points allowed per game. Being led by rookie LB Darius Leonard, the Colts’ defense has been one of the main reasons why this team was able to turn their 1-5 start into a 10-6 record. However, this week the Colts face a new challenge they may not have faced all season long. How are they going to cover WR Tyreek Hill? Last week the defense held WR DeAndre Hopkins to five catches for 37 yards, but Hill has a different game than Hopkins. I’m not sure the Colts have faced a guy with Hill’s speed all season long. Hopkins averaged 13.7 yards per catch this season. Tyreek Hill averaged 17.0 yards per catch. If the Colts leave one guy on Hill, he could easily run past them for a long TD at any moment. If they double cover him, it’ll leave other guys like TE Travis Kelce with more room to work.

How the Chiefs’ defense plays against Andrew Luck will play a large part in the success the Chiefs have in Mahomes’ first playoff game as a starter. The Chiefs ranked 24th in points allowed per game, giving up an average of 26.3 points. Patrick Mahomes and the offense have been heavily relied upon to overcome the poor defensive play this season, but that type of play can get you in trouble in the NFL playoffs. For the Chiefs to win this game, both the offense and defense will have to start hot. It’s likely the offense will play well, but will the defense help them out? 

Another key factor in this game, as it is in any game, is turnovers. While Mahomes threw 50 TDs this season, he also threw 12 INTs. Luck threw 39 TDs, but also threw 15 INTs. Giving the ball back to either of these QBs could quickly change the game. In addition to turnovers, protecting these QBs will come into play. Both the Chiefs and Colts were top five in protecting their QBs this season. Luck was sacked just 18 times, while Mahomes was sacked just 26 times. Which defense will get more pressure on the opposing QB and force them into the turnovers they can’t afford to have?

Surprisingly, the majority of us are going with the Colts over the Chiefs. Maybe that has to do with the fact that young QBs in their first playoff start haven’t done well. If there’s any young QB who can overcome that though, it’s Patrick Mahomes.

NFL Playoffs
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (Saturday)

Aman: Rams

Cullen: Rams

Mickayeen: Rams

Rahim: Rams

Joel: Rams

Adam: Rams

Dan: Rams

Kevin: Rams

Dennis: Rams

Jon: Rams

Ty: Rams  

Not really surprised to see all of us picking the Los Angeles Rams to win this game. The Dallas Cowboys are 3-5 on the road this season. Now they play a road game in the NFL playoffs. However, you can put an asterisk next to that road record. While the Cowboys were 3-5 on the season, they went 3-1 on the road after acquiring WR Amari Cooper. Before his addition, they were 0-4. We know they’ve been a different team since Cooper came to town. If you want to add another asterisk to their road record, you could do so because of where this game is being played. Yes, it’s a home game for the Rams, but the Cowboys hold their training camp in Oxnard, CA, which is about an hour away from Los Angeles. That means there will be a lot of Cowboys fans at this game. It’s anticipated there could even be up to 40-50% Cowboys fans. 

You know what? Forget the records! This is playoff football! This game will come down to which stars step up when the bright lights are on. Let’s start with the two most exciting players in this game, RBs Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. For the Rams to consistently move the ball against the defense of the Cowboys, they’ll have to find a way to get Todd Gurley going. It’s easy to see Gurley having a great game on the ground, but there are a few things standing in his way.

One of those things is the fact that the Cowboys boast the number five rushing defense in the NFL. They gave up an average of 94.6 rushing yards during the regular season. They’re coming off a game in which they held the number one rushing attack of the Seahawks to 73 yards. The Rams hold the number three rushing attack, but you know the Cowboys aren’t afraid of it. The Rams must find a way to get Gurley going on the ground early if they want to win this game. If they don’t, it’ll put the game in the hands of Jared Goff, who we’ll get more into soon. That’s exactly what the Cowboys want.

For the Cowboys, their road to victory goes through Ezekiel Elliott. He helped the Cowboys control the game against the Seahawks with his 137 rushing yards. He’ll likely have to have a similar amount of rushing yards for the Cowboys to win. This game seems perfect for Zeke to do so, as he’s going against the number 23 ranked rushing defense of the Rams. They gave up an average of 122.3 rush yards per game. Dallas controls games by feeding Zeke, so what do the Rams need to do? Find a way to shut down Zeke and make Dak Prescott beat them.

That brings us to the QBs. Jared Goff and Dak Prescott are both in their third NFL season. Dak Prescott just got his first playoff win last week, while Jared Goff doesn’t have a playoff win yet. In Goff’s lone playoff game to this point in his career, he was pretty bad. He completed just 53.3% of his passes for 259 yards, one TD and a passer rating of 77.9. Now let’s compare that to Dak Prescott’s playoff performances. He’s 1-1, but he barely lost one of those games in a shootout with Aaron Rodgers. In two playoff games, Dak has completed 64.8% of his passes for 528 yards, four TDs, two INTs and a passer rating of 94.1. Dak has shined in his two playoff moments in his early career, while Goff hasn’t. With both RBs expected to perform well, the game could come down to whichever young QB performs better.

Based on the stats above, I wanted to go with the Cowboys to win this game. The Cowboys fan inside me wants to pick them so bad, but I went against that because of the next fact I’m going to share. The Cowboys haven’t been to the Conference Championship game since they won the Super Bowl in 1995. The NFL playoffs haven’t been kind to them since then.

 

NFL Playoffs
Tom Brady” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (Sunday)

Aman: Chargers

Cullen: Patriots

Mickayeen: Chargers

Rahim: Chargers

Joel: Chargers

Adam: Chargers

Dan: Chargers

Kevin: Chargers

Dennis: Patriots

Jon: Chargers

Ty: Chargers  

This game features a shocking stat I recently came by. Philip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady. Not once. Rivers has gone against Brady seven times, but doesn’t have a single win against him. So what could be different about the eighth time? 

For starters, this could be the best team Philip Rivers has ever had. They were tied for the best record in the AFC with the Chiefs, which unfortunately meant they had to play an extra playoff game instead being in the spot the Patriots occupy. Rivers has everything he needs to make a Super Bowl run on this team. He’s got a running back who can consistently run the ball well. Not only can his RBs run the ball, but they’re weapons as receivers too. Rivers has the playmakers at WR to make plays down the field and in the red zone. He’s got an offensive line that can protect him. Perhaps most important of all, he’s got a playmaking defense who can create extra opportunities for the offense. That sounds like everything he needs to finally beat Tom Brady.

Tom Brady and his Patriots went 11-5 and still earned the number two seed in the AFC, but they looked like one of the worst Patriots teams we’ve seen in the Brady era. There’s just something about them that wasn’t the same. Regardless of how the Patriots played in the regular season, you know they’re going to take everything and throw it out the window. This is the playoffs. This is a different game. It’s a game the Patriots have dominated over the last forever amount of years. At least that’s what it feels like. 

This game could honestly go any which way you could imagine. Both the offense and defense for both teams are so closely ranked, it’s hard to pick a team based off their numbers. The Patriots scored an average of 27.2 points per game, while the Chargers scored an average of 26.8. That’s a 0.4 difference. Defensively, the Patriots gave up an average of 20.3 points per game, while the Chargers gave up an average of 20.6. That’s a 0.3 difference.

When it came down to it, my personal pick for this game wasn’t based on the numbers. Rather, it was based on my gut feeling. My gut feeling told me the Chargers are going to win, finally giving Rivers a win over the G.O.A.T. I’ve picked the Chargers, but it would not surprise me at all to see the Patriots win this game. How many times have we seen the Patriots make their way through the NFL playoffs? A lot. Nobody would be surprised if they do so again this season.

 

NFL Playoffs
Drew Brees” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (Sunday)

Aman: Saints

Cullen: Saints

Mickayeen: Saints

Rahim: Eagles

Joel: Saints

Adam: Eagles

Dan: Saints

Kevin: Saints

Dennis: Saints

Jon: Eagles

Ty: Eagles

Boy oh boy were the Eagles lucky to make it this far! A missed (blocked) kick off the upright to seal the victory over the Bears. Talk about coming down to the wire. Congrats to the Eagles for winning that game, but now they have to play the Saints, in the Superdome. This is one of the toughest places to not only play in, but win in. Can the defending Super Bowl champs pull off another upset and keep their chances of winning back-to-back titles alive?

Not if Drew Brees and the Saints have anything to say about it! In case you didn’t know for some odd reason, Drew Brees is one of the best QBs in the league. He led the NFL in completion percentage, setting a new record (74.4%), while also leading the NFL in passer rating this season (115.7). While Drew Brees has been one of, if not the best QB in the NFL this season, he’s going to have his hands full against a sneaky good Eagles secondary.

I say sneaky good because the Eagles ranked 30th in passing yards given up per game (269.2). That ranking looks terrible, but here’s where the sneaky good comes in. The Philadelphia secondary allowed an average passer rating of 93.4 to opposing QBs. That ranks 15th in the NFL, which is average, but a 93.4 passer rating is below the league average. If this secondary can find a way to hold Drew Brees to a passer rating of 93.4 or worse, they’ve got a legit chance to win this game and keep going in the NFL playoffs.

In addition to the Eagles holding Drew Brees to a below average passer rating, the Eagles will need QB Nick Foles to have a great game to continue their run in the NFL playoffs. They were able to squeeze out a win with Foles being average, but I’m not sure they can get away with it in this game. They were able to overcome a young Mitch Trubisky last week, but this is Drew Brees. Give him the ball two extra times like Foles did to Trubisky last week with his two INTs, and Brees will make them pay.

The majority of us have the Saints beating the Eagles to advance in the NFL playoffs, but don’t think the Eagles are going down easily. This Eagles team is hungry to not only defend their championship, but win another one. There’s a good chance this game comes down to the very end.

******************************

Now that you’ve seen who we’re picking to win every Divisional Round game, let us know who you think will move on in the NFL playoffs and why by leaving a comment in the comments section below!

What you may have missed this weekend in sports: 1/4-1/6

As promised, we have brought back the “What you missed this weekend” articles. You can see last week’s here! This week is much of the same in terms of the NFL news, as it’s real playoff heavy. But there is news from other sports you might be interested in. So let’s find out what you may have missed!

0 Philadelphia Eagles Nick Foles” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

NFL Playoffs

By RahimAli Merchant and Aman Huda

Colts beat Texans 21-7

Were you surprised in what the Colts defense did to the Texans? To be honest, I’m not! The Colts had the Texans’ number all season. They should’ve beaten them all three times instead of letting the Texans come back and win in overtime during their first meeting. The Colts took care of Texans, with both the offense and defense looking great! QB Andrew Luck had two touchdowns in the first half. Then they melted the clock, continuing to pressure Texans QB Deshaun Watson and the run game. Their next opponent will be the Kansas City Chiefs, and it’ll interesting to see how well the Colts’ secondary can play against MVP candidate QB Patrick Mahomes.

Cowboys beat Seahawks 24-22

Dallas won their fourth playoff game in the last 24 years. In 1995, the Cowboys won their last Super Bowl. They are looking to add another one this season. It was a nice win for the Cowboys, as they continue to prove they are worthy of being in the playoffs. The defense looks like it could be a championship defense. QB Dak Prescott didn’t look all that bad either, but can he continue to be great for the Cowboys? Their next opponent will be the Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas defense will be out to prove they can once again take down one of the best offensive teams in the league. They’ve already done it once to the Saints this season. Can they do it again?

Baltimore’s offensive errors cost them dearly

Within the first five minutes of play, the Ravens made mistakes which even high school teams wouldn’t. They fumbled three times, two of them from not receiving the snap. Their offensive line was also quite poor, with the QB having being sacked seven times. Melvin Ingram’s fourth-quarter touchdown seemed to be the gravestone for Baltimore, as that gave the Los Angeles Chargers a 20-3 lead. Afterward, despite scoring two touchdowns, Baltimore couldn’t do enough to repair the damage.

The Chargers’ next opponent is the New England Patriots. They have the ability on defense to slow down a Patriots team that’s been slow already. This is the playoff Patriots, and they are a totally different team in the playoffs. Do the Chargers have what it takes to knock them off?

A drama in which the hero dies

When everything seemed perfect for the Bears, everything fell into the Eagles’ claws, as QB Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles win as underdogs again. Both sides on defense showed strength, as at half-time, the score read Chicago 6, Philadelphia 3, all points from field goals. Philadelphia ended up getting the better end of it, as Cody Parkey, the Chicago kicker, hit the post twice when Chicago needed one point to win. The game ended Chicago 15, Philadelphia 16.

The Eagles’ next opponent is the Saints. They will be looking to avoid another embarrassing loss to them. The last time these two teams played, the Eagles looked like a team that just came into the league. Their QB at the time was also Carson Wentz, so hopefully, Nick Foles and the Eagles’ defense can find a way to win.

 

MLB

By RahimAli Merchant

The New York Yankees-Zach Britton agreement

The Yankees reached an agreement with relief pitcher Zach Britton, which was a three-year, $39 million deal, league sources told ESPN. Britton was one of the most dominant closers in baseball with the Baltimore Orioles until he was traded to the Yankees for three prospects. With the Yankees, he went 1-0 with a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings and finished the season with seven saves and 34 strikeouts over 40⅔ innings in 41 appearances. He will continue to be a part of the devastating late-inning complement to closer Aroldis Chapman, setup man Dellin Betances and fireman Chad Green, as they look to pursue their 28th World Series title.

 

NBA

By Aman Huda

Warriors, Kings set three-point record

For the first time in NBA history, both sides scored 20+ three-pointers. There was a total of 41 three-pointers scored Saturday night. Starman Stephen Curry for the Golden State Warriors scored 42 of Golden State’s 127 points, but the margin between both California teams was very fine, as Sacramento ended up losing by just four points. This match did not go without referring controversy, however, which you can check out in Kevin Dannaher’s article. 

 

College Football

By Aman Huda and RahimAli Merchant

Cal CB Bryce Turner dies at 20

After being hospitalized on December 30th for an undisclosed medical emergency, Bryce Turner has passed away. After transferring from Long Beach City College, the 20-year old had just played one game before his passing.

Cal Coach Joe Wilcox said, “We are so deeply saddened by Bryce’s passing. This is an extremely difficult day for everyone. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Bryce’s family, friends, teammates and so many others who have been a part of his life. No words can accurately describe the pain we feel in our hearts right now. We’ll always remember Bryce and how he impacted all of us with Cal football.”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bryce’s friends and family.

North Dakota State wins FCS Title

We will all find out who the CFB National champ is on Monday between Alabama and Clemson, but this past weekend we got to see North Dakota State win their second straight FCS National Championship title. This is their seventh title in eight years. All congrats are given to them for being able to dominate the FCS world for so many years. They are the only college football program to ever win five consecutive NCAA national championships, and the only football program to win seven FCS titles.

 

College Basketball

By RahimAli Merchant

St. John’s wins against Georgetown for the first time since 03′

St. John’s been looking like a team who could make a big impact in the tournament when it comes time in March. After losing their first game to Seton Hall last week, they rebounded by beating Marquette and Georgetown this week. They will likely get a spot in the top 25 rankings, but even if they don’t, a win over rival Georgetown after 16 years is the best feeling. That should help them carry over their momentum to the next few games, which will definitely put them in the top 25 if they manage to win them.

Losses by top 25 teams

14 Ohio State to 8 Michigan State (86-77)
5 Kansas to Iowa State (77-60)
6 Nevada to New Mexico (85-58)
13 Kentucky to Alabama (77-75)
9 Florida State to 4 Virginia (65-52)
2 Michigan- 21 Indiana (74-63)
24 Nebraska-25 Iowa (93-84)

 

Cricket

Pakistani batsmen not good enough

Despite efforts by Shan Masood 44(71) & 61(110), Captain/Wicket-Keeper Sarfraz Ahmed 56(81), Asad Shafiq 88(118) and Babar Azam 72(87), Pakistan could only put up a lead of 40, giving South Africa an entire two days to simply chase 41. It wasn’t necessarily the most easy thing for South Africa, as Pakistan’s Mohammad Abbas managed to dismiss Theunis de Bruyn and Hashim Amla was retired hurt, but the loss by 9 wickets is still dismal in Pakistan’s point-of-view.

Unfortunately, due to slow over rate, South African Captain Faf du Plessis has been suspended for the third test, a dead rubber, as South Africa has already won the series 2-0.

Too-good India forced to settle for a draw

Man of the match for Australia in the fourth test vs India? Rain. With just a little over 25 overs played in the last two days, India couldn’t see victory despite putting up 622-7d and bowling Australia out for 300. Despite a five-wicket haul from young leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav and 193 by Cheteshwar Pujara and 153* by Risabh Pant, India was unable to bowl out Australia a second time, after Australia were forced to follow on at home, for the first time in 37 years.