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)

What you may have missed this weekend: 7/5 – 7/7

If you didn’t think much happened in the last few days around the world in sports, trust me, a lot more happened then you think. Along with the NBA Free Agency headlines, there were three soccer finals yesterday and a special 15-year old is causing an earthquake in London’s Wimbledon. So without further ado, let’s start by seeing what the Los Angeles Lakers are up to during the NBA Free Agency.

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Coco Gauff by Kate Tann is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

NBA

Lakers on the hunt:

After a dismal NBA season, the Lakers are being quick to patch their team by signing some big names. Right after Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard announced his decision, Danny Green announced he would be signing with the Lakers for a two year, $30 million deal. The other big name to come to Los Angeles is DeMarcus Cousins from Golden State Warriors and Rojan Rondo is set to rejoin his former team. The Lakers completed three more signings in JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Quinn Cook.

Clippers, Thunder secure big trade:

After the Los Angeles Clippers signed NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard, they were quick to move for Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George. However, the Clippers have had to give up a lot for George. First, they traded away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, but also four future first-round picks, another protected first-round pick in 2023 and an extra potential two more picks of the Clippers.

 

UFC 239 (By RahimAli Merchant)

Jones beats Santos, Nunes wrecks Helms:

It was a busy week in Las Vegas for the world of sports, we not only saw the start of the NBA’s Summer league where Zion Williamson showed off, but we got to feel an earthquake or two that might have changed the whole atmosphere. The fight between Jon Jones and Tiago Santos was not affected by the earthquake, but they definitely hit the road running with a five-round contest that ended in a decision by the judges that gave Jones (25-1) the controversial victory.

Let’s not forget about the women. Though the men were the highlight of the night, Amanda Nunes did some quick work to Holly Helms with a head kick knockout in the first round to claim the victory. Both Helms and Nunes have proven that MMA is not just for the boys.

 

Wimbledon:

Coco Gauff advances to Round of 16:

After a shocking victory against 15-year old Coco Gauff’s idol, Venus Williams, Gauff sealed her place in the Round of 16 by beating Pelona Hercog on Friday. After losing the first round unfortunately by six sets to three, Gauff won a 7-9 tiebreaker in the second set, before nearly avoiding another tiebreaker in the third set, winning 5-7. Gauff is currently playing possibly her hardest opponent yet, Simona Halep. What’s most impressive about Gauff’s playing style is her youthful athletic ability on the court.

 

Soccer:

USA wins fourth World Cup title:

After beating France earlier in the tournament, the US proved they were favorites to retain the FIFA World Cup title and had one last game to play before lifting the trophy: the Netherlands. After a tight, scoreless first half, VAR played a role once again in giving the US a penalty in the 61st minute, which Megan Rapinoe scored. Just eight minutes later, Rose Lavelle netted a second for the US and the US won 2-0, adding a fourth star.

Mexico wins another Gold Cup:

The US Men’s National Team were involved in another soccer final on the same day as the Women’s, and just like the earlier, the favorites won, but in this game, the US wasn’t the favorites to win. The US had an excellent Gold Cup, without a doubt, but Mexico was far too strong. Despite Mexico only scoring once through Jonathan Dos Santos, the US wasted plenty of opportunities to score under pressure, and Mexico lifted the trophy at the end of the night.

Brazil beats Peru in Copa América Finals:

Peru made a Cinderella run to the Copa América Finals, but they were unable to compete with the hosts as Brazil routed Peru 3-1 to win their first Copa América since 2007. Everton continued his excellent tournament and international career by opening the scoring in the 15th minute before Gabriel Jesus typically added a second right before the half. Peru got one back through their hero Paulo Guererro, who scored a penalty in the 44th minute, but Richarlison put the nail in the coffin by scoring Brazil’s third in the 90th minute.

What you missed this weekend: 6/21-6/23

Another week in this summer has flown by really quickly and with that, another weekend! Although domestically, there wasn’t much action on the field, the NBA and NHL leagues had their drafts for the next season. The MLB, a summer tradition, of course still continues and the US is currently involved in the Women’s FIFA World Cup and the Gold Cup. Speaking of the Americas, the group stages of the Copa America have nearly been concluded and some teams are either making their exits or pushing for a Semi-final spot in the Cricket World Cup as well. Let’s start off with some historic draft picks, first with the NBA.

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IMG_4921 by Dinur is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

NBA Draft

Bol drafted surprisingly low:

Oregon player Bol Bol was expected to be one of the top picks but didn’t get drafted until Miami Heat picked him up as the 44th overall. Concerns about his injuries were likely the key reason. He did miss the rest of the last season after November following an ankle injury, but Bol himself says, “My foot is 100 percent healed.” Following the pick, Bol was traded to the Denver Nuggets, who have a different approach, a more positive one, to the Bol situation. Tim Connelly, the President of Basketball Operations at the Denver Nuggets said, “It’s hard not to be excited,” when referring to Bol.

Timberwolves exchange Saric for number six pick:

The Minnesota Timberwolves exchanged their no. 11 pick and Dario Saric for a number six pick from the Phoenix Suns. The Minnesota President Gersson Rosas was working for some time to move the Timberwolves’ pick up higher and settled for sixth. If the Suns chose to keep Saric, he would be a good pick after he averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds last season.

Hachimura becomes the first Japanese player drafted in the first round:

Only two Japanese players have ever been drafted before in NBA history, and Rui Hachimura became the first one to be drafted in the first round. The Washington Wizards drafted Hachimura as their ninth overall pick, citing his flexibility to play multiple positions and his key role in the Japanese national team, heading into the Olympics. Being a junior at Gonzaga, he averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

NHL Draft

Record eight US players picked in the first round:

Starting with Jack Hughes to the New Jersey Devils, eight players in total from the US under-18 national team were selected in the first round. The previous record was four in 2000, 19 years ago. Typically, the draft is dominated by European players. Here is a list of the American players drafted and by which team:

  • Jack Hughes to New Jersey Devils, no. 1
  • Alex Turcotte to Los Angeles Kings, no. 5
  • Trevor Zegras to Anaheim Ducks, no. 9
  • Matthew Boldy to Minnesota Wild, no. 12
  • Spencer Knight to Florida Panthers, no. 13
  • Cam York to Philadelphia Flyers, no. 14
  • Caul Caufield to Montreal Canadiens, no. 15
  • John Beecher to Boston Bruins, no. 30

MLB

A warm welcome home for Pujols:

Although Albert Pujols’ current team, the Los Angeles Angels lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 2-4 on Saturday, the moment of the match came for the Angels when Pujols homered in the seventh innings in front of his former home crowd. The sold-out St. Louis crowd greeted Pujols with loud cheers and salutes, to which Pujols responded by returning from the dugout and tipping his hat.

FIFA Women’s World Cup

Germany crushes Nigeria 3-0 in Round of 16:

Both Germany and the US are currently undefeated and both Germany and the US are yet to concede a goal in the entire tournament! Alexandra Popp scored the opener in her 100th appearance for the country with a header in the 20th minute. Seven minutes later, Sara Daebritz netted in a penalty for the Germans. Both goals were given with the assistance of VAR, to the dismay of Nigeria. The third goal didn’t come until the 86th minute after Lea Schüller scored.

Norway sends Australia home after penalties:

After the game ended 1-1 at the end of the two-hour mark, Norway beat Australia on penalties 4-1. Before penalties, Australia fell a player short after Alanna Kennedy was sent off. Both sides did have plenty of chances missed though as Norway had 11 shots off target out of their 24, and Australia, despite having six percent more possession, registered only 8 shots, four on target.

England too good for Cameroon:

Just like Germany, England beat their Round of 16 opponents, Cameroon, 3-0. England’s first goal, which came in the 14th minute, was a rarity, coming from an indirect free kick (a free kick inside the keeper’s box in which defenders can defend the goal) after the Cameroon goalkeeper, Annette Ngo Ndom, picked up the ball after it hit her own teammate last. The Cameroon players ran into some trouble with VAR after Ajara Nchout’s goal was deemed offside and the players clearly objected in the dying minutes of the first half. Alex Greenwood got the third goal in for England at the 57th minute after receiving a pass from a corner kick and netting it in the low right corner.

France survives Brazil scare:

France played an intense game at home against Brazil where the game had ended 1-1 at the end of the 90th minute. Valérie Gauvin opened the scoring for the French in the 52nd minute before Thaisa scored an absolute beauty in the 63rd minute for Brazil. Thaisa’s goal was originally called offside but was overturned after a VAR review. The moment of the game came in the 106th minute when Amandine Henry scored in the bottom left corner after receiving a long free kick and France beat Brazil 2-1.

Copa América

Machís, Martínez send Venezuela through to Quarter-finals:

After struggling to find some goals in their opening two matches, Venezuela beat Bolivia 3-1 to advance to the Quarter-finals and finish second in their group. In the first few minutes, one could tell it was all over for Bolivia as Machís ran easily through the defense to meet a cross with his head in the second minute, which found the back of the net due to poor goalkeeping. Atlanta United’s Josef Martínez ended up scoring a header too in the 86th minute, right after Leonel Justiniano was able to pull one back for the Bolivians four minutes earlier.

Peru qualifies for knockout rounds despite Brazil thrashing:

In the final game of Group A, Brazil beat Peru 5-0, but Peru’s four points were enough to get them past the group stage. All five goalscorers for Brazil were different with Casemiro, Roberto Firmino with a no-look goal and Everton scoring in the first half, before Dani Alves netted and Willian scored in the last minute. Brazil finished first in the group with seven points.

Argentina beats Qatar to qualify for Quarter-finals:

Argentina needed to win to survive in this Copa América and they did just that. Lautaro Martínez scored in the fourth minute and Sergio Aguero made it 2-0 in the 86th. Argentina finished second in their group, leaving Paraguay in third at Qatar packing their bags at fourth.

Cricket World Cup:

England no longer favorites:

It seems that England has lost their title of favorites once Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunuratne handed the ball to veteran Lasith Malinga. On a slow Leeds pitch, Sri Lanka scored 232-9 after Angelo Matthews stepped up with his 85(115)*, and was hoping that would be enough to bowl England out. Surely enough, it was. Not only did Malinga pick up four wickets, but he also picked up the most crucial of them, getting both of the English openers along with Joe Root and Jos Buttler out. Spinner Dhananjaya de Silva helped clean up the lower order, grabbing the wickets of Moeen Ali, who miscued a shot to Isuru Udana at long mid-on, and having both Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid caught behind. Ben Stokes played a heroic effort, scoring 82*, but the game ended when Mark Wood edged Nuwan Pradeep behind on duck at the end of the 47th over. England is still in the top four, but they play Australia, India and New Zealand next while Sri Lanka’s semi-final hopes are still alive.

Afghanistan nearly causes World Cup’s greatest upset:

Six days after India beat Pakistan by 89 runs, one wouldn’t think Afghanistan would be too big of a problem for Virat Kohli’s India either. But Afghanistan’s spinners Mujeeb Ur-Rehman and Rashid Khan attacked the Indian batting extremely well, leaving them desperate at 224-8. Rohit Sharma, six days prior, scored 140 but was dismissed for just one after being bowled by Ur-Rehman. Kedhar Jadhav also played a handy 52 off 68, but India would’ve thought they fell short on runs. Man of the Match Mohammad Shami got the crucial wicket of Afghanistan opener Hazratullah Zazai, but Rahmat Shah and Mohammad Nabi held their ground, frustrating the Indian bowlers. After an over of six yorkers by Jasprit Bumrah, Afghanistan needed 12 from the last over but Shami completed a World Cup hattrick, taking the wickets of Nabi, who was caught by Pandya at long mid-on, and bowling both Aftab Alam and Ur-Rehman.

Brathwaite can make history but not re-create it:

Three years after Carlos Brathwaite hit four sixes against Stokes in the final over in Kolkata, Brathwaite was bound to do something similar against New Zealand in Manchester. The match started off West Indies’ way when Sheldon Cottrell found two wickets in the first over, trapping Martin Guptill LBW first ball and bowling Colin Munro. A 160-run partnership between New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor made things right before Taylor departed for 69 off of Chris Gayle’s bowling and Cottrell added a third wicket in Williamson being caught behind.

Gayle was brilliant in the next innings, scoring 87(84), but the Kiwis did pick two early wickets in Shai Hope and Nicholas Pooran. Trent Boult was brilliant for New Zealand, registering four wickets and three runs per over and securing a very important catch later on. After Gayle was dismissed in the 24th over, a middle-order collapse left West Indies’ fans worrying as West Indies were at 245-9 at the 45th over, Brathwaite on 60* at the time. With just one wicket left, Brathwaite hit five sixes to get him to his maiden One-Day International century and with just six runs needed to win from seven deliveries, Brathwaite went for six again, but Boult was sitting at the mid-wicket boundary, waiting for the catch. Brathwaite was left crying on his knees as New Zealand ended up winning by five runs.

Pakistan comes to light; South Africa in disarray:

Both sides needed a win in order to stay alive in the World Cup, but it looks like South Africa will be the one going home. Pakistan had a perfect start at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London with openers Imam Ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman involved in an 81-run partnership, before both batsmen were dismissed for 44. Babar Azam scored yet another half-century, but the most impressive batsman was Haris Sohail, who came in for Shoaib Malik, scoring 85 off just 59 to take Pakistan to 308-7.

South Africa, who have never chased a target above 300 in a World Cup before, was off to a bad start when Mohammad Amir got Hashim Amla out LBW with his very first delivery. Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis worked to recover with their 87-run partnership before Shadab Khan found the wicket of de Kock, who was caught at fine leg by Ul-Haq. From there, Pakistan continued to take regular wickets as Amir had a total of two and Khan and Wahab Riaz both had three wickets to their name. Andile Phelukwayo’s 46(32)* prevented Pakistan from bowling South Africa out, but Pakistan still won by 49 runs.

 

Five Heated Matches to Look Forward to During the International Break

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Mexico vs Iceland Panorama” by James Willamor is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The majority of the domestic leagues around the world, to some of the fans’ dismay, have been put on hold for the International Break. Although international matches may not hold as much importance as domestic matches, many of the matches can be interesting to follow and some even electrical.

Around the world, matches of large interest to millions of people will take place, and since there are no Premier League matches to preview, here are my five matches from around the world to pay attention to. Making this list was very difficult because of the sheer number of exciting matches being played, but five of them hold important value to the teams playing, starting with 2014 World Cup winners Germany vs World Cup Quarter Finalists Russia in New Jersey.

 

Germany vs Russia

Normally, one would expect Germany to easily win this, but this time around, it’s really hard to back the Germans. Germany has lost their last two of three matches, including a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands, who did not even qualify for the World Cup in the summer. In eleven matches, the Germans have only managed one clean sheet, making their defense very vulnerable to Russia’s fiery attacking football.

To make things worse for Germany, they will be without defender Jerome Boateng, goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen, and midfielder Julian Draxler for this clash. Despite this, Germany must win in order to avoid relegation from the top division of the UEFA Nations League. Russia will use Germany’s instability as a chance to break through and gain promotion to the first division from the second, at the cost of Germany’s place.

Russia will be without their captain Artem Dzyuba, but they will still likely follow their attacking plan and place faith in the likes of Denis Cheryshev and Aleksandr Samedov to power Russia to victory.

Prediction: Germany 2-3 Russia

 

England vs the United States of America

Despite the result of this match, this match will have eyes for another reason: Wayne Rooney’s farewell. The English and Manchester United legend will return to the Three Lions’ shirt for one last time before international retirement against the United States at Wembley Stadium in London.

Along with Rooney’s addition to the England squad, Jadon Sancho, Callum Wilson and Lewis Dunk could get their first caps against the Americans. Defender Kevin Trippier has pulled out of the squad due to injury which could mean a start for Dunk.

As far as the US team goes, Borrusia Dortmund forward Christian Pulisic has returned to the team after missing six international matches. Romain Gall could also be in line for a start, while Antonee Robinson is out due to injury. Jonathan Klinsmann, son of former US coach Jurgen Klinsmann, has also been included in the squad.

Although the US team is stronger than before the World Cup, England are is brilliant form. England’s form, combined with a stronger squad and home playing conditions, should make England favorites to win.

Prediction: England 3-1 United States of America

 

Argentina vs Mexico

Although one would expect the outcome of this to be a no-brainer, Argentina for the win, this match might be more difficult to predict. Both teams did have a dismal World Cup. Although Argentina has won most of their matches after their World Cup defeat to France, this will be their toughest challenge yet.

Argentina announced their squad on November 1st, which comprised of a strong defensive side led by Manchester City player Nicolás Otamendi, with the offensive line likely to be led by Inter Milan star Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala. Notably, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria are not included for the friendly fixtures against Mexico.

Mexico announced their team eight days later, opting for a relatively stronger team, which included the likes of Miguel Layún, Diego Reyes and Raúl Jiménez. World Cup hero Hirving “Chucky” Lozano will miss out due to injury along with other big names such as Carlos Vela, Jonathan & Giovanni Dos Santos and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, but star goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will likely start.

Although both sides are weaker than expected, Argentina will be heading into this match with more confidence based on their recent form, that too in a home fixture in Córdoba, Argentina. The likes of Dybala and Icardi might be too much trouble for the Mexican defense despite the lack of Aguero, Higuain, Messi, or Di Maria. Argentina will likely win this first encounter, but Mexico could comeback in the rematch in a few days’ time.

Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Mexico

 

Croatia vs Spain

World Cup finalists Croatia should be favorites to win against a red-hot Spain, but this match may be trickier to predict than the rest. Last time the two played each other, back in September, Spain refound their form and won 6-0! However, this time around, the two will play each other in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, where Croatia has been undefeated since 2013.

Croatia will also boast a strong squad, with the only dent being Mario Mandzukic’s absence following his retirement. Although Spain brings back full-back Jordi Alba, they have a few injury issues, missing the likes of Dani Carvajal, Koke, Diego Costa and Thiago.

Spain has scored fourteen times in their last four matches and more goals will almost definitely come in Croatia. However, they have also let in quite a bit, having only one clean sheet in those last four matches. Croatia can see this as an opportunity to get goals, but will they outscore los rojos fuertos (the fiery reds)?

Prediction: Croatia 1-3 Spain

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Brazil vs Uruguay

Nothing in international football gets more emotional, fiery and exciting than a South American battle. Although this match will be in London, it will still be found exciting to the world’s football fans.

Both sides will use this as an opportunity to experiment and prepare younger players for next year’s Copa America in Brazil. Uruguay, especially, will need to prepare well, as they have already lost to both South Korea and Japan, teams far weaker than Uruguay. Although Uruguay will have a fine attacking line, including Luis Suarez, they will have to play without goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, Cristhian Stuani, Diego Godin and Sebastian Coates. The absence of the Godin and Coates could pave the way for a fearsome Brazilian attack, who will look to hand Uruguay their third loss.

Brazil’s attack, although strong, will not be to full strength, as they did not Phillipe Coutinho, Casemiro, or Marcelo in the team. Despite this, the likes of Neymar Jr., Gabriel Jesus, and Roberto Firmino will cause problems in plentiful for Uruguay’s unconfident defense.

Prediction: Brazil 3-1 Uruguay

 

Other International Match Predictions:

Belgium 3-0 Iceland

Austria 0-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Palestine 3-2 Pakistan

Iran 2-0 Trinidad and Tobago

Poland 4-0 Czechia

Republic of Ireland 2-1 Northern Ireland

Wales 1-3 Denmark