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2017 MLB Awards Picks

The 2017 MLB season has come to a close and it was honestly one of the best seasons to watch from a fans standpoint as we saw so many milestones and records broken. We saw a huge influx of young talent yet again break into the league and take it by storm. For starters, we saw Yankees rookie right fielder Aaron Judge hit 52 home runs and break the old MLB home run record for the most homers hit by a rookie in a single season, the old record was 49 by Mark McGwire, who did it for Oakland in 1987. Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger didn’t come up to the big leagues until the end of April, yet he broke the old NL record (38) by Frank Robinson (1956) and Wally Berger (1930) for most home runs in a single season by a rookie, finishing with 39. Judge is also a very strong favorite in the AL MVP race as well, as the Yankees are also headed back to the playoffs.

We saw quite a few pitchers, who aren’t considered aces put on ACE performances all season long, like Arizona’s Robbie Ray & Zack Godley, LAD’s Alex Wood, Milwaukee’s Zach Davies, NYY’s Luis Severino, Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco, and Houston’s Lance McCullers (although he had a hard time staying healthy). A couple of those guys are in CY Young conversations, others are just falling short. We’ve seen usual pitching mastery from the likes of Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Clayton Kershaw, to name a few. The NL CY Young race is a lot more competitive and open than the AL race is, which is a two man race in my eyes.

The NL MVP race has quite a crowded field and should be one of the more hard to decide races this year. Off the top of my head, there are at least FIVE (5) strong candidates for the award and it’s hard to choose even one. You have the likes of Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Miami RF Giancarlo Stanton AND LF Marcell Ozuna, Cincinnati 1B Joey Votto, Washington 1B Ryan Zimmerman AND 3B Anthony Rendon, Colorado 3B Nolan Arenado and CF Charlie Blackmon to name some of them. The AL MVP race appears to be a three headed monster to me, with New York RF Aaron Judge, Houston 2B Josè Altuve, and Cleveland IF Josè Ramirez leading the charge. The one thing that hurts Altuve’s case is that a few of his teammates (George Springer, Carlos Correa, Marwin Gonzalez, & Yuli Gurriel) are also having great seasons. You could say the same for Judge and Ramirez too I guess, but they don’t have the type of teammates who’re having the exact type of seasons that Altuve’s teammates are having. It really will be fascinating to see how it shakes out because if Altuve doesn’t have the teammates that he does have, he’s the run away favorite for AL MVP. Alas, we got ourselves a race…

Let’s get to the picks…

NL MVP:

1.Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks:

“Goldy” dominated all season and led his team to the first NL wild card spot in a year where a lot of people thought it’d be a down year for the D-Backs. Goldschmidt finished the year with .297 AVG, 36 homers, 120 RBI’s, .404 OBP, .966 OPS, 117 R’s, 18 SB’s, and played in 155 games. He also displayed his usual gold glove caliber defense at a key position where strong defense is preferred. The man has finished as the runner up twice for NL MVP and I believe the third time will be the charm and he finally wins it. I thought heavily about picking Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado for MVP but although Arenado had an incredible season even without the Coors Field effect, I couldn’t help but notice that Goldschmidt didn’t have last years NL batting champion (D.J. LeMahieu) and this years batting champion (Charlie Blackmon) both hitting in front of him. Arenado topped Goldschmidt in RBI’s by a tally of 130-120, that’s only a +10 margin with way better hitters in front of Nolan and his OBP was .31 lower than Goldschmidt’s. That’s why I give Goldschmidt the edge over Arenado for NL MVP.

2.Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

3.Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins

4.Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

5.Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals

AL MVP:

1.José Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros:

Altuve just continues to get better and better every year. Not only did Altuvé prove to be the one constant all season in that daunting Astros offense but he also did many things he hasn’t done before. On top of his usual gold glove defense, Altuve posted career highs in home runs (24, tied with 2016), runs (112), average (.346), OBP (.410), slugging % (.547), OPS (.957), OPS+ (165), WAR (8.4), while playing in 153 games. Altuve also knocked in 81 RBI’s, 39 doubles, 4 triples, 204 hits, and stole 32 bases. Altuve also struck out only 84 times all season, almost 0.5 strikeouts per game. Incredible numbers by the shortest player in baseball at 5’6. Aaron Judge was a heavy favorite as well up until a very weak month of August and second half of July hurt him badly. His strong September vaults him back up into the very top of the race but Altuve has been doing everything all season and hasn’t slowed down. In fact, Altuve’s first half OPS is almost identical to his second half OPS (.968 to .967) so you can see the consistency at the plate with this guy, especially after teammates Carlos Correa and George Springer missed time this season with injuries. Judge became the first player in history to lead his league in the “three true outcomes” category as he led the AL in homers (52), walks (127), and strikeouts (208). As awesome as Judge’s season was, especially for a rookie, I just believe his dip in late July and all of August hurts his chances and plus his defense isn’t nearly as good as Altuve’s, although that’s not a knock on Judge because he proved to be more than average defensively in right field, Altuve is just a wizard at second. Now while the big debate is all around Altuve vs Judge, I believe it should be centered more around Altuve vs José Ramirez of the Indians. Like Altuve, Ramirez was consistent all season and put up extremely good numbers for someone who I don’t think anyone expected to be this good and someone who isn’t all that well known on the Indians compared to some of his teammates. Ramirez finished with a .318/.374/.583/.957 slash line, 29 HR’s, 83 RBI’s, 107 Runs, 56 doubles (led the league), 6 triples, 145 OPS+, 18 stolen bases, 6.8 WAR, and more than adequate defense at both second base and third base. Ramirez also struck out only 69 times, good for only 0.43 K’s per game. The reason why I’m not going with Ramirez is because he batted a lot out of the #3 spot in the lineup with two good hitters in front of him and some big time thumpers behind him and because of the insane numbers and career highs that Altuve posted on a team that saw their fare share of injuries this season around him.

2.Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, Cleveland Indians

3.Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees

4.Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels

5.Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox

NL Cy Young:

1.Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals:

Scherzer gets the edge over Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and teammate Stephen Strasburg thanks to better consistency/health, and of course because of the great numbers he put up. Scherzer finished the 2017 season 16-6, 2.51 ERA (career best), 268 K’s (led the NL), 2 complete games (led the NL), 175 ERA+ (career high), 0.90 WHIP (career best), and 12 K’s/9 (career best). Scherzer is the reigning NL Cy Young winner and a two time winner at that, also doing so in the American League in 2013 as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Kershaw led the leagues in wins (18) and ERA (2.31), but was short of Scherzer by 25 innings pitched and 66 strikeouts. Missing a month+ of the season cost Kershaw a possible runaway win. It also doesn’t help that the Dodgers were just so unbelievably good this season that even without Kershaw, the Dodgers would’ve been fine and still won the NL West. I believe the gap would be tighter in the Nationals’ case because if Scherzer missed an extended period of time, the margin for error was a bit closer for Washington than it was Los Angeles even though both teams won their divisions in runaway fashion. And here’s another stat that definitely favors Scherzer, he allowed only a .168 BAA to batters during the third and fourth time through the order, whereas Kershaw had a .237 BAA, even higher than Strasburg’s .194. Very big difference there and that’s where I draw the line for Kershaw’s chances. Strasburg missed time this season too sporadically even though he put up almost similar numbers to his teammate, but Scherzer was just that much better. Scherzer wins his third Cy Young award and gets even closer to punching that Hall of Fame ticket.

2.Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

3.Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals

4.Robbie Ray, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

5.Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers

AL Cy Young:

1.Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians: Kluber had an incredible season and pitched even better down the stretch during Cleveland’s huge winning streak and as they chased down Houston for the best record in the AL. Kluber finished the season with a 18-4 record, 2.25 ERA (led league), 265 K’s, 0.86 WHIP (led league), 5 complete games (led league), 3 shutouts (led league), 202 ERA+ (led league), 11.7 K/9, 7.36 K/BB (led league), 8.1 WAR. He also led with 18 wins as well. The flavor of the season and heavy favorite for this award was Boston’s Chris Sale until Kluber shot himself to the top of the conversation with his great pitching down the stretch and Sale’s slight decline as the year ended. Sale became the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999 to strike out over 300 batters in a season, so that was remarkable. Unfortunately I feel like Sale’s drop off in August and September (five games he allowed 4+ earned runs in 10 starts & four times he couldn’t make it past the 5th inning). His ERA “ballooned” to 2.90 to end the season, a .65 higher mark than Kluber. He also had a .1 higher WHIP and only 1 complete game and 0 shutouts compared to Kluber’s four more complete games and three more shutouts. Kluber also had better and even more respectable home/road splits than Sale also. As tremendous as Sale was this season, I think Kluber was just more durable and consistent with his great numbers.

2.Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox

3.Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees

4.Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros/Detroit Tigers

5.Craig Kimbrel, RP, Boston Red Sox

NL Rookie Of The Year:

1.Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers:

Bellinger took the league by storm after his promotion in late April, setting the new NL record for homers by a rookie in a season. This years R.O.Y awards (both NL AND AL) are runaways and really don’t even need much explaining for the picks because in reality the two winners will be unanimous. Let’s just see how the other rookies are positioned behind these no doubt winners…

2.Paul DeJong, SS, St.Louis Cardinals

3.Ian Happ, OF, Chicago Cubs

AL Rookie Of The Year:

1.Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees:

Judge is also the unanimous choice here. The guy hit 52 homers (most ever by a rookie, AL or NL) and led his league in walks, AS A ROOKIE. That’s enough in its own right. Let’s see how the others fared behind him…

2.Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox

3.Yuli Gurriel, 3B/1B, Houston Astros

NL Manager Of The Year:

1.Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers:

Counsell took a Brewers team that had zero expectations to do anything this season and possibly be one of the worse teams in the league to nearly the second NL wild card spot. The Brewers came into the last game of the season needing a victory in St.Louis and a Colorado loss at home to the Dodgers to nab the last wild card spot but both opposite outcomes happened and Milwaukee was eliminated. The Brewers took a makeshift team that saw one frontline starter emerge in Chase Anderson and an offense that was way better than expected led by guys like Eric Sogard, Eric Thames, and Travis Shaw, to name a few. The fact that Milwaukee nearly made the wild card game in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season is a testament to the leadership of the team, led my by manager Craig Counsell.

2.Torey LuVollo, Arizona Diamondbacks

3.Bud Black, Colorado Rockies

AL Manager Of The Year:

1.Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins:

Molitor took the Twins from 103 losses in 2016 to the AL Wild Card game against the Yankees this year. The Twins became the first team in history to go from 100+ losses one season and to the playoffs in the next. The Twins were led by veteran pitcher Ervin Santana and young guns Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Eddie Rosario. The Twins even sold off pieces at the trade deadline and wound up doing even better and claiming the second wild card spot. The turnaround during a rebuilding season was remarkable and Molitor has got to be a unanimous choice for this award. Job well done with this Twins team.

2.Joe Girardi, New York Yankees

3.A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros

Comeback Player Of The Year: Zack Greinke, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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2017-2018 NBA Season Predictions

2017-18 Minnesota Timberwolves Media Day

The 2017-2018 NBA season has officially tipped off and that means it’s time for the yearly predictions from yours truly. The season tipped off in a major way as the Cleveland Cavaliers (reigning Eastern Conference champs) defeated the Boston Celtics 102-99 before a sold out crowd. The game also featured the additions of Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder in Cleveland, the return of Kyrie Irving to Cleveland in a Celtics uniform, and the addition of former Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, who signed a four-year, $128 million free agent contract to come to Boston in the summer. The game was overshadowed in the first five minutes after Hayward took a nasty fall and wound up breaking his ankle on the court in one of the more gruesome injuries we’ve seen as you could see players on the bench turning away and looks of disgust on their faces. Hayward is assuredly done for the season and this hurts Boston’s chances big time in the East. What was supposed to be a huge exciting memorable night was brought down within five minutes. What a shame.

In the nightcap the new look Houston Rockets came into Oakland, California and dethroned the defending champion Golden State Warriors, 122-121, after what looked like a Kevin Durant buzzer beater was called off after video review showed the ball was still in KD’s hands when the buzzer went off. A heartbreaking loss for Golden State but a huge statement win for Houston. This was most notably Chris Paul’s debut with the Rockets, who had a tough time in his debut but got bailed out by the great games by superstar teammate James Harden and role players Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and P.J. Tucker. Houston looks legit yet again this season and are poised to finally take over the West from Golden State.

I know I have an unfair advantage with these picks since I already know about that Gordon Hayward injury but this isn’t a full-time gig for me and I couldn’t get my picks out in time. The full slate of predictions looks like this though…

Atlantic Division:
1.Boston Celtics
2.Toronto Raptors*
3.Philadelphia 76ers*
4.New York Knicks
5.Brooklyn Nets

Central Division:
1.Cleveland Cavaliers
2.Milwaukee Bucks*
3.Indiana Pacers
4.Detroit Pistons
5.Chicago Bulls

Southeast Division:
1.Washington Wizards
2.Atlanta Hawks*
3.Miami Heat*
4.Charlotte Hornets
5.Orlando Magic

Northwest Division:
1.Oklahoma City Thunder
2.Minnesota Timberwolves*
3.Portland Trailblazers*
4.Denver Nuggets*
5.Utah Jazz

Southwest Division:
1.Houston Rockets
2.San Antonio Spurs*
3.New Orleans Pelicans*
4.Dallas Mavericks
5.Memphis Grizzlies

Pacific Division:
1.Golden State Warriors
2.Los Angeles Lakers
3.Los Angeles Clippers
4.Phoenix Suns
5.Sacramento Kings

* indicates playoff team who didn’t win their division

East Playoff Seeds:
1.Cleveland Cavaliers
2.Washington Wizards
3.Boston Celtics
4.Milwaukee Bucks
5.Toronto Raptors
6.Atlanta Hawks
7.Philadelphia 76ers
8.Miami Heat

West Playoff Seeds:
1.Golden State Warriors
2.Oklahoma City Thunder
3.Houston Rockets
4.Minnesota Timberwolves
5.San Antonio Spurs
6.Portland Trailblazers
7.New Orleans Pelicans
8.Denver Nuggets

Eastern Conference Finals:
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers over #2 Washington Wizards in 6 games

Western Conference Finals:
#1 Golden State Warriors over #2 Oklahoma City Thunder in 7 games

2018 NBA Finals:
Golden State Warriors over Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games

NBA MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
NBA Defensive POY: Rudy Robert, C, Utah Jazz
NBA Rookie of the Year: Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics
NBA Most Improved Player: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves
NBA Coach Of The Year: Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves
NBA 6th Man Of The Year: Jamal Crawford, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
NBA Most Improved Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
NBA Most Disappointing Team: Los Angeles Clippers

East Sleeper Team To Make Finals: Milwaukee Bucks
West Sleeper Team To Make Finals: Minnesota Timberwolves (I don’t see any team outside my West top five making any serious noise)

The top five worst records will belong to (in no order):
Chicago Bulls
Sacramento Kings
Brooklyn Nets
Phoenix Suns
New York Knicks

If you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and engage in conversation.

Carmelo-Anthony-Paul-george-Russell-Westbrook-Thunder

 

2017 Four Man NFL Mock Draft

2017 NFL Draft top prospectsThe 2017 NFL Draft is tomorrow night and that means it’s time for the annual mock draft from Scoreboardsteve.com. Usually I put out a few of them before the draft but because of work and other obligations I unfortunately haven’t been able to keep up with the site as much as I’d like to. Now hopefully this can be the kick start to me getting back in the writing grind.

This mock draft will feature myself and three good friends (Joe, Kevin, and Brandon) with vast knowledge of the draft class and team needs for the NFL teams. We will alternate picks with the team drafting #1 going again every 4 picks as with all other picks. This is also going to feature the first mock draft ever on this site that will include trades. So with the addition of trades, it’ll make this even more unpredictable than it already is. We will also be including short write ups explaining each pick as well which is also something new for this site as well. Joe will pick #1, Brandon will pick #2, I will pick #3, and Kevin will pick #4. So lets get to it…

1.Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M – No explanation necessary for this pick actually… – Joe

2.San Francisco 49ers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU – A bit early normally for a safety but I’m not entirely enamored by Soloman Thomas, who seems to be the consensus #2 choice in most mock drafts lately. 49ers will go with a best player available approach and Adams get the edge over Ohio State safety Malik Hooker due to injury history – Brandon

3.Chicago Bears: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State – Chicago needs work all over their secondary and I like Hooker more than any of the corners available in this draft and he can be the general for the rebuild of that secondary. – Steve

4.Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU – Blake Bortles is under a lot of pressure and with no offensive lineman worth taking this high in this class Jacksonville will take the best offensive player available in the freak of nature, Fournette, who can take some pressure off of Bortles in his own right – Kevin

5.Cleveland Browns (TRADE!!! from Tennessee Titans via St.Louis Rams): Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina – Cleveland trades #12, this years second round pick, and next years second round pick to Tennessee for the #5 pick. Cleveland has been all over Trubisky and are actually debating taking him #1 over Garrett but in this mock they stick with Garrett at #1 and trade up to get their man at QB before the Jets pick at #6 (who also love Trubisky) – Joe

6.New York Jets: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson – The Jets miss out on Trubisky but get the next best QB available in Watson. I wish his arm came back a bit better but he possesses just about everything else the Jets are looking for and GM Mike MacCagnan finally has a QB to build around. – Brandon

7.San Diego Chargers: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State – The Chargers miss out on both Hooker and Adams but they still grab the top guy available at another position of need. – Steve

8.Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama – Most people think the Panthers will go with McCaffrey here but GM Dave Gettleman loves defensive linemen and I can’t see him passing up on someone who dominated the SEC. – Kevin

9.Cincinnati Bengals: Soloman Thomas, DE, Stanford – A guy many are picking to go #2 overall to the Niners falls to 9 and the Bengals scoop him up and let him develop behind their depth. – Joe

10.Buffalo Bills: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama – The corner market is shrinking and the two best QB options are off the board, so the Bills take Foster with the #10 pick despite his failed drug test. Also, Rex Ryan cries in the corner. – Brandon

11.New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee – The Saints need help on defense (what else is new) and they get the all time sack leader in Tennessee history to help their anemic pass rush. – Steve

12.Tennessee Titans (from Cleveland Browns via Philadelphia Eagles): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan – They need some weapons bad and I think he’s the top receiver available. John Ross could also be in play here. – Kevin

13.Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech – I think the Cardinals grab their eventual replacement for Carson Palmer but let Mahomes sit first and learn from Palmer. – Joe

14.Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings): Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State – Now I just want to preface this by saying that I’m sure Christian McCaffrey is a swell young man and I’d probably let him marry my daughter, but the Eagles are taking an absolute monster in Dalvin Cook at #14. John Ross and Mike Williams are enticing but Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles won’t be around much longer and Cook will take a lot of pressure off of Carson Wentz. – Brandon

15.Indianapolis Colts: Garett Boles, OT, Utah – Age is a bit of a concern but Boles may very well be the best tackle available in this class and the Colts need to do everything they can to keep Andrew Luck upright and in more games than days in a hospital bed. – Steve

16.Baltimore Ravens: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson – Steve Smith has retired and Brashad Perriman has done squat since being taken in round 1 two years ago, so Joe Flacco gets himself a legit new #1 wideout. – Kevin

17.Washington Redskins: Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri – The Redskins value pass rushers and Harris shouldn’t still be available in my opinion – Joe

18.Tennessee Titans: Adoree Jackson, CB, USC – Gareon Conley would’ve been the no brainer pick here 48 hours ago but a rape allegation is going to hurt his draft stock. Jackson is an elite athlete who did it all for USC but can he be a shutdown corner in the NFL? I wouldn’t blame Tennessee for taking a chance with all their draft capital. Should Jackson not work out in the secondary, there are other ways to make him useful – Brandon

19.Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OJ Howard, TE, Alabama – Tampa Bay seems committed to giving Jameis Winston a scary supporting cast and adding Howard only proves that. Howard takes over and will become what many thought Austin Sefarian-Jenkins would become and gives Winston yet another dangerous weapon. – Steve

20.Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin – The Broncos need offensive line help badly and take the best tackle still available on the board – Kevin

21.Detroit Lions: John Ross, WR, Washington – The Lions take John Ross to pair up with Golden Tate and make Matthew Stafford a very happy man – Joe

22.Miami Dolphins: Forrest Lamp, OG, Wake Forest – The ‘Phins have an opening on their line and quite frankly, I like his name. – Brandon

23.New York Giants: Christian McCaffrey, RB/WR/Hybrid, Stanford – The Giants continue to get next to nothing out of their backs and get someone who can play all over the field and be productive and even put him in on kick/punt returns. – Steve

24.Oakland Raiders: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida – Oakland has to go defense and Jarrad Davis is the best defender left on the board. – Kevin

25.Houston Texans: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama – Houston was a hard one with the way the board has shaped up but they could use some corner help so I’ll go with Humphrey from ‘Bama. – Joe

26.Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama – Russell Wilson needs help. He’s going to die behind that current ‘Hawks o-line, so the pick is Robinson, the best tackle left on the board. – Brandon

27.Kansas City Chiefs: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple – Reddick can do a lot and KC will love that about him. Reddick will also be given time to figure out where/what his exact role will be long term. – Steve

28.Dallas Cowboys: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt – Cowboys don’t have many holes on offense so why not draft a great defensive player? – Kevin

29.Green Bay Packers: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State – How is this guy still available? The Packers get a steal at 29. – Joe

30.Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin King, CB, Washington – A 6’3 corner who comes from a good program in Washington and with the Steelers needing help badly in their secondary, King will give them just that. – Brandon

31.Atlanta Falcons: Taco Charlton, DE/OLB, Michigan – Dan Quinn loves to draft defensively and also loves to continuously rotate his players. I can’t believe Charlton is still available at 31, so Atlanta grabs a big defensive force to pair with Vic Beasley to terrorize QB’s for the next 10 years. – Steve

32.New Orleans Saints (via New England Patriots): Budda Baker, S, Washington – The Saints go defense again in round one because they need all the help they can get. I can see teams trying to get a Tyrann Mathieu kind of player out of Baker. – Kevin

And that closes out our annual mock draft. Three quarterbacks in round one, one trade, and three running backs. 18 of the players selected were on the defensive side of the ball. Nine of the 14 offensive players selected were skill position players (coincidentally enough, three quarterbacks, three running backs, and three wide receivers). Hope you guys enjoyed the mock and if you have any feedback you can leave comments or even contact me or Joe on twitter (Brandon and Kevin don’t have Twitter).
Steve: @ScoreboardSteve
Joe: @JosephReg14

2016-2017 NFL Wild Card Weekend Picks

The 2016 NFL season has culminated and it’s finally playoff time. The 2016 NFL season saw quite a bit of interesting games and stories unfold. It all started with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady serving a four game suspension in the “deflate gate” scandal to start the season, which allowed us to see his backup Jimmy Garoppolo lead the Pats to a 3-1 record in Brady’s absence. The Cleveland Browns started the season 0-14 and were poised to become just the second team in NFL history to have a winless season at 0-16 (2008 Detroit Lions) before they beat the San Diego Chargers 20-17 in week 16 and eventually finished the season 1-15 and in position with the #1 overall pick in the 2017 draft.Three out of the four teams that were in last years conference title games didn’t even qualify for the playoffs this year (Broncos, Panthers, Cardinals) with the Patriots, the loser of last years AFC Title game, being the lone exception. And speaking of those Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady did come come back in their fifth game and what he did in the 12 games he played was nothing short of phenomenal (3,554 yards passing, 28 TD’s, 2 INT’s, 67.4% completion %, 296.2 average yards passing per game, and set the single season record for TD:INT ratio (with a minimum of 300 attempts) with a 14:1 ratio). The Patriots are also the #1 seed in the AFC and enjoying a first round bye this week as they await to see who they will be playing in the divisional weekend at home. The NFL saw quite a few surprise teams make their returns to the playoffs this year, with the Oakland Raiders returning to the playoffs for the first time since their Super Bowl run in 2002. The Miami Dolphins are making their return to the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Giants, in their first year under new head coach Ben McAdoo, ended their five year playoff drought and handed the #1 seed Cowboys two of their three losses this year. 

That’s just some of the highlights of the 2016 NFL season and I’m sure there will be plenty of more highlights in these upcoming playoff games this weekend and beyond. For any reader that has read my work before, I’m going to spare you the long introduction and get right to what you clicked on the link to see and that is my wildcard weekend picks. And for the record, I don’t see any of these games being very exciting or juicy this weekend outside of Giants-Packers on Sunday afternoon at frozen Lambeau Field. Here are my picks…

#5 Oakland Raiders defeat #4 Houston Texans: This game will be fought and won by stout defenses. The Texans and Raiders both possess two of the same things, strong defenses and starting quarterbacks who are bringing the quite a bit of uncertainty to the field. The Texans have always brought a strong defense to their playoff matchups the last several years and that’s what’s carried them and won them a few playoff games, with the dangerous JJ Watt terrorizing the opposing quarterback every game, although Watt will be missing this postseason after undergoing season-ending back surgery after week 3 this season. The Raiders have quietly built one of the more fearsome defenses over the last few years, led by another dangerous pass rushing threat and another top 3 defensive player in the league in Khalil Mack. Houston will be starting quarterback Brock Osweiler in the game, who in week 15 was benched at halftime for throwing two first half interceptions on top of having a terrible first year in Houston. Osweiler was the backup in week 16 to Tom Savage and came in for the second half in week 17 only because Savage was injured. Savage is still injured and that excuse is probably the only reason Osweiler is being given the chance to start this playoff game, as Savage was as serviceable as can be and the fact that Osweiler has just been that bad in Houston this year. The Raiders will be starting rookie Connor Cook as usual starter Derek Carr, who was playing like an MVP candidate, broke his leg in the week 16 win against the Indianapolis Colts, and usual backup Matt McGloin injured his shoulder in their week 17 loss to the Denver Broncos. Cook did take over in week 17 late in the second quarter when McGloin was injured, as he was 14 of 21 with 150 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception. Cook did show some positive signs in the brief showing and was named the starter for this playoff game this week. I’m going with the Raiders because I like their defense a bit more, believe that their defense is going to eat up Osweiler as they’re familiar with him and the fact that he is just straight up awful. The final reason why I’m picking Oakland is because I actually believe in Connor Cook as I’m familiar with his collegiate work at Michigan State and the fact that Houston has no idea what to expect and have nothing to prepare them for him. Cook was a projected high first round pick before the 2015 season at MSU before having a down year his final season there and seeing himself slip to the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft before the Raiders took him at pick #100. This will be a low scoring affair and I believe in the Raiders to take this game and head to divisional weekend. (Oakland 17 Houston 13, OAK +4)

#3 Seattle Seahawks defeat #6 Detroit Lions: The Seahawks will take this contest thanks to being at home, having a stout defense, and having been to the playoffs for what is now five years in a row which has allowed them to have an experienced playoff team while also bringing a championship pedigree. The Lions did a lot by shocking many of us in making the playoffs and nearly winning the NFC North championship before Aaron Rodgers showed them he’s still boss in a week 17 division title game beat down. The Lions came out of nowhere to finish 9-7 and make the playoffs. Unfortunately I believe this will finish as a season in which a team shocks us by making the playoffs when we didn’t expect them to but falls flat in their first playoff matchup. The Lions have a capable offense as their led by MVP candidate Matthew Stafford at QB, who has thrown for the fewest interceptions in his career in a full single season (10). I  believe the Seattle defense is just that much better than Detroits offense and will show their experienced ability trumps all. And not for nothing but it’s hard to go against Russell Wilson in the postseason when he’s never missed the postseason in his career, has been to two Super Bowls, and has won a ring, while being the oil that keeps this machine going. Give me the experience. (Seattle 26 Detroit 14, SEA -8)

#3 Pittsburgh Steelers defeat #6 Miami Dolphins: Just like the Lions, but even more surprising in my opinion, the Miami Dolphins snuck into the playoffs as the #6 and final seed in the AFC. The Dolphins started off the 2016 season 1-4 before winning their next six games and feverishly making a playoff push and ultimately finishing the season at 10-6. What’s even more impressive about the Dolphins season is that they lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill in week 14 vs Arizona after suffering a sprained ACL and MCL in his left knee on a hit. The Dolphins didn’t play Tannehill the rest of the season but still have some hopes that he can return at some point this postseason. Awhile that’s been going on and continues to go on, the Dolphins are starting Matt Moore in Tannehill’s place and although they only have one loss with him, look noticably different. Moore is a serviceable backup but when having to start in stretches of consecutive games he really proves that he’s just another mediocre quarterback. The Steelers have one of the most high flying offenses in football and one of the best offensive trios in the game in QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, and WR Antonio Brown. This game will also be taking place from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. Although I’m impressed with the way the Dolphins played after starting the season 1-4, I can’t see them marching into Pittsburgh and beating the Steelers with Matt Moore at starter. If Tannehill was starting than I’d give this game more thought because of the defensive inconsistencies of the Steelers and Tannehill’s solid play this year. Alas, it’s Matt Moore starting in Steel City and I think that is just recipe for disaster for the Dolphins, who are finally back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season. The Dolphins defense has been very solid all year but I don’t think it’s enough to hold Ben-Bell-Brown in check and allow Moore to lead the Dolphins to more points. The Dolphins did beat the Steelers 30-15 in week 6 but that game was in Miami, in hot conditions that Pittsburgh had a hard time handling, and Roethlisberger was injured in the second quarter of that game and wasn’t 100% the rest of the way. That’s a nice win, but now Roethlisberger is out for revenge and the game will be in blustery cold Pittsburgh, where I think Dolphins players will have a harder time handling those conditions than the Steelers were in those hot Miami conditions back in week 6. The Steelers are a playoff steady in the NFL, Ben has two rings (three trips to the Super Bowl), is a Hall of Fame bound quarterback, and this Miami team is young and inexperienced, which why I like Pitt’ to take this game. (Pittsburgh 27 Miami 20, MIA +10.5)

#5 New York Giants defeat #4 Green Bay Packers: The most exciting game of wildcard weekend happens to be the final game that will go on. The Giants haven’t been to the playoffs since their Super Bowl XLVI win over the Pats in the 2011 season. The Giants also made the playoffs in the 2007 season where they also won the Super Bowl over a than undefeated Patriots team. Quarterback Eli Manning is as clutch as it gets come playoff time and gives opponents nightmares when he cashes his ticket to the postseason not because of how often they make it (because they really don’t) but because of how dangerous Eli becomes and how clutch he is. In the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl years, the Giants beat the Packers in both those years, first beating Green Bay 23-20 in overtime in the NFC Title game in ’07, and winning again 37-20 in the divisional round in ’11. The Packers have arguably the best quarterback on the planet and without question the hottest as Aaron Rodgers is playing insane lately in leading the Packers from 4-6 to 10-6 and the division title. This is going to come down to which QB can make fewer mistakes and although I’m a huge fan of Rodgers, I like the way Eli performs in the playoffs and how incredible the Giants defense has been. Take nothing away from Rodgers and the Pack’ but their defense is nowhere near the same level as the Giants’ and I believe that will lead to the Giants putting up points tomorrow while the Giants defense keeps Aaron Rodgers a little more in check. This was also the hardest game for me to pick as both teams are just so good and have such great playoff experienced quarterbacks but I gotta roll with the G-Men because of that top flight defense, Eli Manning’s playoff resume, and the fact that the Giants haven’t been to the playoffs at all in five years, which leads me to believe that the Giants are due to make some noise and perhaps even make a bit of a run towards a third Super Bowl title in 10 seasons. Hopefully this game brings the fireworks that I’m not totally expecting from the other three games. With my thinking of Seattle beating Detroit, the winner of this game would move on to #1 seeded Dallas on divisional weekend. And no matter who wins this game between New York and Green Bay, either matchup with the Cowboys would be extremely enticing and salivating for FOX to have on its network. Again, I expect this game to be back and forth, loaded with excitement, and a great duel between two future (arguable) Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The Giants will punch their ticket for a third meeting with the Cowboys and a trip to the NFC Title game on the line in Dallas. (New York 31 Green Bay 23, NYG +5)

So there we have it, the divisional round playoff matchups according to me are set: #5 Oakland @ #1 New England and #3 Pittsburgh @ #2 Kansas City on the AFC side with #3 Seattle @ #2 Atlanta and #5 New York @ #1 Dallas on the NFC side. Enjoy this weekends games and tune back in next week for my divisional round picks.

2014-2015 NBA Season Predictions

2014-2015 NBA SeasonThe 2014-2015 NBA season is underway and we got a nice trio of matchups on opening night the other night as the we saw Anthony Davis and the rising New Orleans Pelicans take care of the Orlando Magic. We also saw the defending champion San Antonio Spurs narrowly beat the retooled Dallas Mavericks in a fantastic game, 101-100. And last but not least, we saw the Houston Rockets defeat the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center 108-90. Unfortunately, we saw One of the most young promising players in the league get injured in that Rockets-Lakers game as Lakers PF Julius Randle fractured his right tibia in a collision with two Houston players. Randle was the Lakers’ seventh overall pick in this years draft out of Kentucky. Randle is expected to turn into a Lakers franchise cornerstone player and is only 19 years old. Sadly, Randle will miss the rest of this season.

The rest of the NBA action tipped off last night as we got some great games to open the season. We saw the Bulls take care of the Knicks at Madison Square Garden as Derrick Rose made his much-anticipated second return with the Bulls. We got to see the LeBron-less Miami Heat in South Beach narrowly beat the young, rising Washington Wizards in a great Southeast Division clash. And the late night, nationally televised game we saw the rising Portland Trailblazers knock off the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were without Kevin Durant who is expected to miss at least the first month of the season with a broken foot.

So what’s the start of the NBA season without my yearly predictions? Last year I had the Miami Heat over Golden State Warriors as my Finals pick and I ended up being dead wrong. Instead, we got the San Antonio Spurs laying the smack down on the Miami Heat in five games. I was also wrong on my pick of LeBron James winning the MVP award again as that award went to the Thunder’s Kevin Durant. So let’s see how I do this year with my picks.
* Indicates a playoff team who did not win their division. Division winners are noted in bold.

Atlantic Division:
1. Toronto Raptors (49-33)
2. New York Knicks (43-39)*
3. Brooklyn Nets (42-40)*
4. Boston Celtics (33-49)
5. Philadelphia 76ers (15-67)

Central Division:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25)
2. Chicago Bulls (55-27)*
3. Detroit Pistons (41-41)
4. Indiana Pacers (39-43)
5. Milwaukee Bucks (19-63)

Southeast Division:
1. Washington Wizards (53-29)
2. Miami Heat (48-34)*
3. Charlotte Hornets (45-37)*
4. Atlanta Hawks (37-45)
5. Orlando Magic (22-60)

Southwest Division:
1. San Antonio Spurs (59-23)
2. Dallas Mavericks (51-31)*
3. Houston Rockets (50-32)*
4. Memphis Grizzlies (44-38)*
5. New Orleans Pelicans (30-52)

Northwest division:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (52-30)
2. Portland Trailblazers (49-33)*
3. Denver Nuggets (36-46)
4. Minnesota Timberwolves (28-54)
5. Utah Jazz (17-65)

Pacific Division:
1. Los Angeles Clippers (55-27)
2. Golden State Warriors (54-28)*
3. Phoenix Suns (44-38)
4. Sacramento Kings (26-56)
5. Los Angeles Lakers (23-59)

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:
1 Cleveland Cavaliers over 8 Brooklyn Nets 4-1
2 Chicago Bulls over 7 New York Knicks 4-2
3 Washington Wizards over 6 Charlotte Hornets 4-2
4 Toronto Raptors over 5 Miami Heat 4-3

Eastern Conference Semifinals:
1 Cleveland Cavaliers over 4 Toronto Raptors 4-2
2 Chicago Bulls over 3 Washington Wizards 4-3

Eastern Conference Finals:
1 Cleveland Cavaliers over 2 Chicago Bulls 4-3

Western Conference Quarterfinals:
1 San Antonio Spurs over 8 Memphis Grizzlies 4-3
2 Los Angeles Clippers over 7 Portland Trailblazers 4-2
3 Golden State Warriors over 6 Houston Rockets 4-3
4 Oklahoma City Thunder over 5 Dallas Mavericks 4-3

Western Conference Semifinals:
4 Oklahoma City Thunder over 1 San Antonio Spurs 4-3
3 Golden State Warriors over 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

Western Conference Finals:
4 Oklahoma City Thunder over 3 Golden State Warriors 4-3

NBA Finals Pick:
1 Cleveland Cavaliers over 4 Oklahoma City Thunder 4-3
Finals MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland.

NBA MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Top Five With LeBron: Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder – Chris Paul, PG, Clippers- Anthony Davis, PF, Pelicans – Steph Curry, PG, Warriors.

Defensive Player Of The Year: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans.
Top Five With Davis: LeBron James, SF, Cavaliers – Chris Paul, PG, Clippers – Dwight Howard, C, Rockets – Joakim Noah, C, Bulls.

Rookie Of The Year: Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves.
Top Five With Wiggins: Jabari Parker, F, Bucks – Marcus Smart, G, Celtics – Nerlens Noel, PF, 76ers – Elfrid Payton, PG, Magic.

Most Improved Player: Harrison Barnes, Warriors.
Top Five With Barnes: Reggie Jackson, PG, Thunder – Andre Drummond, C, Pistons – Steven Adams, C, Thunder – Eric Gordon, SG, Pelicans.

Sixth Man Of The Year: Jamal Crawford, Clippers.
Top Five With Crawford: Reggie Jackson, PG, Thunder – Draymond Green, F, Warriors – Amar’e Stoudemire, PF, Knicks – Isaiah Thomas, G, Suns.

Coach Of The Year: David Blatt, Cavaliers.

Executive Of The Year: Donnie Nelson, Mavericks.

2014 Week 5 NFL Picks

Andrew Luck Joe FlaccoWeek 5 of the 2014 NFL season is upon us and that means it’s time for my weekly picks. Last week I didn’t post my picks because I had a busy prior week and attended the final Mets game of the season on last Sunday. Last week I went 5-7 with my picks though, which is a horrible week. I went 1-3 against the spread, with my only win being the Colts -7, as they blew out the Titans. I went 12-3 in week 3, so my overall record is 32-25 and I’m 6-9-1 against the spread. Hopefully week 5 will be a better week, so lets see…

Detroit Lions over Buffalo Bills
Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens
Tennessee Titans over Cleveland Browns
Carolina Panthers over Chicago Bears
Dallas Cowboys over Houston Texans
Pittsburgh Steelers over Jacksonville Jaguars
New Orleans Saints over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New York Giants over Atlanta Falcons
Philadelphia Eagles over St.Louis Rams
Denver Broncos over Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers over Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers over New York Jets
Cincinnati Bengals over New England Patriots
Seattle Seahawks over Washington Redskins

Four Team Parlay:
Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) against St.Louis Rams
Cincinnati Bengals (-1) against New England Patriots
Tennessee Titans (-1.5) against Cleveland Browns
Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) against Baltimore Ravens

Week 3 NFL Picks

Peyton Manning Richard ShermanWeek three of the 2014 NFL season is ready to begin and that brings forth another edition of my weekly picks. In week one I went 8-7 and 1-3 against the spread. In week two I went 7-8 and 2-2 against the spread. That brings my overall record to 15-15 and 3-5 against the spread. Week three must be a big improvement. The big marquee games this week are the Packers @ Lions, 49ers @ Cardinals, Broncos @ Seahawks, and Bears @ Jets on Monday Night Football. The Super Bowl 48 rematch between Denver and Seattle at CenturyLink Field will be the most watched of course.

Lets get to the picks…

San Diego Chargers over Buffalo Bills
Dallas Cowboys over St.Louis Rams
Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins
Houston Texans over New York Giants
New Orleans Saints over Minnesota Vikings
Cincinnati Bengals over Tennessee Titans
Baltimore Ravens over Cleveland Browns
Green Bay Packers over Detroit Lions
Indianapolis Colts over Jacksonville Jaguars
New England Patriots over Oakland Raiders
Arizona Cardinals over San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks over Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs over Miami Dolphins
Carolina Panthers over Pittsburgh Steelers
Chicago Bears over New York Jets

Four Team Parlay:
San Diego Chargers (+1) against Buffalo Bills
Dallas Cowboys (-3) against St.Louis Rams
Cincinnati Bengals (-7) against Tennessee Titans
Green Bay Packers (+3) against Detroit Lions