The 2018 NBA Draft Lottery was held on May 15th and as a Knicks fan you could only pray that the NYK garnered some luck and would move up from the #9 position in the lottery. Well, as most things go for the Knicks, luck was not it, as the Knicks remained at #9. Staying put at #9 isn’t the worst either because they just so easily could’ve slipped to later than 9. So while the night was hopefully going to go a lot better, it could’ve been a lot worse for the Knicks.
Now that the stage is set and the Knicks are officially picking ninth, lets take a look at a few prospects who many people believe could be available when the Knicks pick and how they’d fit in with the future. The Knicks’ most pressing need is a small forward, who can not only score, but within time be able to lock down the other teams best offensive player. They have a plethora of young guards on the roster. Frank Ntilikina was the #7 overall pick in the 2017 draft out of France. Emmanuel Mudiay , the former #7 overall pick out of China, was picked up at the trade deadline from Denver in a three team deal also involving Dallas. Trey Burke was called up from the Knicks G-League team in January and provided a real spark off the bench on a rather lackluster team with his scoring and passing numbers. Amongst all three of those young guys, Burke looked the best to me, although his defense lacked, his offensive output surely outweighs Ntilikina’s lack of offense/stingy defense. Ntilikina was drafted as a point guard but towards the end of the season you might think that Ntilikina is better off at the 2 spot with his top notch defense and developing offensive game. Time will surely tell what happens with these guys but I’m not opposed to bringing back all three, or at the least, Burke and Ntilikina.
The Knicks could use another big man to develop and maneuver around in the initial 3-4 month absence that Kristaps Porzingis will face this upcoming season and for KP to have another young bruiser down low with him. Enes Kanter has been a nice scoring threat and locker room presence but he has not panned out as a former #3 overall pick for Utah. Kanter plays nonexistent defense and has a hefty $18.6 million player option for next season, which reports are saying he may turn down in hopes of signing a long term deal. If that’s the case, a long term deal isn’t happening in New York. The Knicks have to begin suiting up to pay Porzingis as he enters year 4 of his rookie deal and they’re already paying Joakim Noah an absurd amount to stay home and watch the games. So there’s no need to sink more big money in an underachieving player, especially another big man. Luckily this draft has a solid handful of big men at the top of the draft.
Knicks GM Scott Perry has come out and said that the Knicks will go BPA (best player available) on draft night, which isn’t a bad decision anyway. Most people will be looking for a 3-AND-D wing player but no one should hold their breath when it comes to the Knicks. The Knicks could somewhat shock us all and take another point guard for all we know. As of know there’s only two big time point guards expected to go high in the draft and they’re Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. Sexton is more a traditional PG, while Young is very similar in style to (gulp!) Steph Curry, in that he can score from all over, isn’t afraid to throw up 25-40 shots (most of them 3’s just like Curry), and he can pass the ball really well for someone who is a primary scorer/shooter. Am I saying that Young will be the next Curry? No I’m not but this kid has a lot of potential and after seeing the type of player that Steph Curry has become, some teams will be hesitant to pass on Young if the opportunity arises.
Let’s take a look at a few players that may be available when the Knicks pick 9th and that make sense for the roster:
Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova:
Bridges is a little different compared to most NBA draft prospects as he actually completed three seasons of college ball. He also did so at one of the most prestigious schools in the country and won two titles there. The kid is already a winner and leader. He’s the consensus best 3-and-D guy in this draft. He’s the exact type of player the Knicks need and are looking for. The Knicks have a few young guards (Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, and Emmanuel Mudiay) that will get further tested to see if they can hold the reigns down in NY as the lead guard next to Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks didn’t and don’t have a concrete small forward waiting in the wings to take over once Carmelo Anthony was traded. Taking Bridges would allow for the defense to get even better as it showed improvements as last season ended. Defense is Bridges’ top calling card right now in my opinion but the offense should come around as well and Bridges should at least be able to knock down spot up 3’s off passes to start his career. Bridges is a starter from day one prospect who should make an impact from day one and get even better as he grows.
Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma:
Trae Young reminds a lot of people, myself included, of Steph Curry. The reason being is that Young can pull up from anywhere on the court and make shots with his great range. He lit the college basketball world on fire in the first half of the season, bombing away 3’s and showing off incredible court vision with incredible passes and finding open teammates. Young led NCAA in scoring with 27 ppg and assists with 8.7 apg. He hit a rough patch as he faced conference opponents a second time and they figured out how to defend him but there is room for improvement. You can never have too many guards, as the Knicks have shown, and the Knicks missed out on Steph Curry by one pick in 2009 when Golden State selected him at #7 as the Knicks sat with the #8 pick that year. It’ll be tough to pass up on someone like Young when you see what Steph Curry has done in the NBA and the similarities in his and Young’s games. Young isn’t nearly as polished as Curry coming out of college but he did make a huge statement anyway with his play this season. The Knicks could very much use a scoring guard like Young as Ntilikina seems to be more of a defensive minded guard who will drive to the basket. Trey Burke can shoot it but he’s more effective as a sixth man off the bench. Mudiay isn’t much of a scorer either but he isn’t a shooter when he does score, so Young would definitely bring a different element to the offense in the backcourt. Defense is where Young would be a liability and he has to bulk up more to deal with the rigors of the NBA game. If Young continues to play/shoot the way he did at Oklahoma, he is sure to light the NBA world on fire.
Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri:
Michael Porter Jr., (MPG), is a wildcard in this draft. His only collegiate season was wiped away after back surgery in November. He returned in time for March Madness but wasn’t his old self and could be seen trying to get back into his old rhythm on the court. MPG was a top recruit out of high school and was a McDonald’s All American. Before this past season began, MPG was a heavy favorite to be the #1 pick in this draft but with the back injury and MPG postponing workouts because of back spasms, teams are weary about spending a high pick on him. Before the back injury, Porter displayed a nice shot and court vision. He’s the type who can play as a point forward with his scoring ability and vision. Teams are going to dive deep into his medical records and have to be comfortable with spending a high pick on him. I believe MPG’s ceiling is going #2 to Sacramento (apparently the Kings love MPG) and his floor is Philadelphia at #10. The Knicks’ biggest need is a small forward so it’ll be interesting to see what they do if Porter Jr., slips to #9.
Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas: Bamba made a huge impact in college basketball in 2017-2018. He stands at 7’1 and has a 7’10 wingspan (NBA record at the combine). His defense was great at Texas as he blocked 3.7 shots per game. He’s a menace on defense and near the rim. His offensive game is developing as he has the potential to be a consistent perimeter shooter and elite finisher around the rim. If you draft Bamba, you’re getting all defense at first but over time you hope he develops his offensive game and he becomes a complete player. Having Bamba at the 5 and Kristaps Porzingis (when he returns from his torn ACL) at the 4 is a scary young front court rim protecting duo. That’ll open up the game for the guards to slash and dash as well. Unfortunately though, I don’t think Bamba drops past the Chicago Bulls at pick #7. Also, have you seen this kid in interviews? He’s a very humble and intelligent person, so I’m confident in him and hopefully he has a positive career wherever he winds up.
Hopeful but don’t expect to slip to #9:
Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia
It’s only May 9th, we’re almost at the 1/4 mark of the 2018 MLB season, and boy have the New York Mets brought their fans on a roller coaster ride already.
The Mets came into the season with some legitimate hope but not the lofty expectations that was bestowed upon them in 2016 (the year following their World Series appearance) and 2017 (the year after they missed out on the postseason when they ran into a buzzsaw named Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wild Card game). With an injury riddled 2017 to many key players and a slight step back in 2016, the expectations were brought down for 2018, especially with a new coaching regime coming in. Something about this team and expectations that just don’t mix well together. Just look at 2015 when they went to the World Series, nobody saw that coming. The Mets got really lucky with a monster second half from newly acquired Yoenis Cèspedes, great health and fine pitching from their starters, and a magical postseason barrage by Daniel Murphy. That was 3 years ago (shockingly) and this is a totally different Mets team stepping in the dugout every night.
The expectations for the Mets jumped a bit at the end of Spring Training thanks to Cèspedes showing he’s back healthy and hitting bombs again and the fact that the vaunted “Fab 5” starters all came out of spring training healthy for the first time. One minor hiccup was that Zack Wheeler started the year in AAA and Seth Lugo had what is now Wheeler’s rotation spot. A snow out early vs Philly pushed Lugo back and allowed him to make a couple of bullpen appearances where he looked fantastic, so the Mets decided to keep Lugo there and ultimately called up Wheeler to take that #5 spot when it was time for that starter to pitch. So when Wheeler came up and made his 2018 debut, it signaled the very first time EVER that the “Fab 5” of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Wheeler all took a rotation turn together and came away unscathed at that.
When Wheeler made that start on April 11th in Miami, he pitched brilliantly for 7 innings, allowing just one run on two hits and one walk, striking out seven. The Mets won that game 4-1 and were in the midst of an 8 game winning streak that eventually made it to 10 games and brought the Mets to 11-1 to start the season. It was an unbelievable start that no one saw coming and started making believers out of not just the fans but big time reporters, journalists, and executives alike. Were these the Mets that a lot of people thought that with some luck could absolutely wreck havoc on the NL? Were these what the Mets should’ve been in 2016, fresh off their first sampling of postseason baseball and playing World Series games at Citi Field?
It’s been almost exactly one month since that Wheeler start in Miami that helped catapult the Mets to that incredible 11-1 start. So where does the Mets’ record currently stand?
18-16, a measly 7-15 record since the hot start.
The fantastic bullpen we saw has come back down to Earth. The offense has become and looked completely inept at times after showing so much fight and clawing back from deficits quickly during the great start. The rotation is also in shambles. Let’s start with the #1 ACE of this staff, Jacob deGrom. Jake has without question been the best and most consistent rotation piece this season as he’s pitching to a 3-0 record, 1.87 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 54 K’s in 43.1 innings. Unfortunately in deGrom’s last start, he hurt his elbow while batting and was recently put on the 10 day DL and is only expected to miss one start. Then you have Noah Syndergaard, who is another ACE but hasn’t been doing it as dominant or consistently like deGrom, pitching to a 2-1 record, 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 54 K’s in 46.2 innings. Walks have been a problem and Noah always seems to find himself with a high pitch count by the time the 5th inning comes around.
Those have been the only two somewhat success stories with the rotation, which features a lot of bad behind Jake and Noah. For starters, there’s Matt Harvey, who many people, myself included, picked to win comeback player of the year and perhaps regain his form and get back to being the pitcher he was in just 2015 (post TJ surgery) and not necessarily 2013 (one of the most dominant pitching seasons in franchise history & pre TJ surgery). Harvey pitched 5 shutout innings, allowing only 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 5 in his season debut, a victory over the Phillies in April 3rd. Many people thought the “Dark Knight” was back. Wrong.
After that start Harvey was a complete dumpster fire when he took the mound and showed no signs of life after that gem vs Philadelphia. Harvey allowed 14 runs on 25 hits in his next 3 starts. Along with his poor performance, he showed a very bad attitude with management and the media which didn’t help his case. Finally the Mets decided to move Harvey to the bullpen, which I was a fan of and thought maybe he could rediscover himself with less stress and innings to pitch. Boy was I wrong as Harvey made four relief appearances, totaling 6 innings, and allowed 8 runs. During his last relief appearance, a 2 inning, 5 run drubbing by Atlanta to cap a sweep for them, the Mets asked Harvey to accept a minor league assignment. Harvey quickly declined that request and was subsequently designated for assignment, which means the Harvey/Mets marriage is officially over and done with. Harvey was officially traded to the Cincinnati Reds about 17 hours ago for catcher Devin Mesoraco. Very bittersweet and as a Mets fan, I’m gonna take the optimistic approach and thank Harvey for basically leaving his arm on the Citi Field mound on that chilly night of November 1st, 2015 trying to win this team a championship. Mr.Harvey, I thank you and salute you. Good luck.
Now the next two guys, Matz and Wheeler, two guys loaded with potential, especially Matz IMO, who just can’t get or keep it together. Wheeler has been mediocre at best since that brilliant start in Miami. Matz has been about the same but recently turned in his best start of the season with a 6 inning, one run allowed on three hits performance against Colorado. Unfortunately the Mets lost 2-0 and didn’t support Matz anyway. Could it be a sign of things turning around? We’ll see.
I saw a stat the other day before Harvey was DFA’d that said the Mets starters not named Syndergaard/deGrom, have a 6+ ERA. That’s putrid, disgusting, and not gonna cut it whatsoever. What’s even worse is that Jason Vargas, the “prized” starter we bought in free agency is finally healthy and has turned in 3 straight garbage starts to start his Mets tenure. When it rains it pours as they say.
Cèspedes is exhibiting great power but is striking out a ton too. Michael Conforto shattered timetables by coming back very early from shoulder surgery but has looked dreadful at the plate. Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez, two of the better vets, have come as expected, striking out a ton, hitting homers, but also being clutch and coming through when needed for the most part. Todd Frazier has been a welcome addition with his solid defense at the hot corner and grinding at bats and being amongst the league leaders in walks. The catcher position has been a disaster, thanks to Travis d’Arnaud being knocked out until 2019 with Tommy John surgery and Kevin Plawecki fracturing his hand in Miami a month ago. So because of those injuries and before the Harvey/Mesoraco trade, the Mets have been trotting out Tomas Nidó and José Lobaton behind the plate and it’s basically like forfeiting a spot in the lineup when they come up. Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares have looked real good in limited action but aren’t seeing any sort of increase in playing time although Conforto is doing nothing, Bruce is doing nothing, and Cèspedes is battling some minor nagging injuries. It’s kind of mind boggling really.
The bullpen has definitely cooled off as expected and is down to being average, not terrible. Jeurys Familia has been rock solid at closer, with 10 saves and a 1.59 ERA. Seth Lugo has been pretty stable, pitching to a 1-0 record, 2.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 19 K’s. A.J Ramos and Robert Gsellman have been decent and free agent acquisition Anthony Swarzak has been M.I.A with an oblique injury after only appearing in two games. Jerry Blevins has been pretty awful and lefties are pounding him. I can definitely see a reliever acquisition at the deadline if the Mets stay in the race.
It’s pretty much the same song and dance like in years past. Hope the rotation stays healthy, hope the bullpen finally figures it out, and hope the offense keeps hitting homers all season long because that’s pretty much how the lineup is built every year, feast or famine with home runs and strikeouts. It’s just so hard seeing that formula work anymore.
The Nats are said to be the “class” of the NL East, the Phillies and Braves both boast young and exciting teams that are ready to start playing meaningful games down the stretch, and you got a pretty dang good NL Central and NL West crop that are all diverse and strong at all different facets of the game. The 11-1 start was nice but all it threw back was false hope. Yes, i know what you’re gonna say, it’s only May 9th and there’s plenty of baseball left, and yes, you’re right, but this song just sounds all too familiar with the Mets and the NL is just so loaded with talent right now. I hope and pray to be proven wrong on this team as it does certainly have potential but I’m just not all that confident in that actually happening right now. Sorry Mets fans. Throw this back at me come October if the Mets are so lucky to still be playing that month.
Right now it is 10:40 pm EST on January 12th and a lot free agents remain unsigned in MLB in what has to be the slowest moving market in this generation at least. Many major names are still available, including but not limited to, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Jonathan LuCroy, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrietta, etc. There really hasn’t been much noise all winter concerning Moustakas, Cain, LuCroy, and Arrietta. According to recent reports, Martinez is at a contract stalemate with Boston, Hosmer has received seven year offers worth $140+ million from San Diego and Kansas City, and the Darvish derby is down to six teams (Rangers, Astros, Yankees, Twins, Cubs, and a mystery sixth team, according to Darvish himself). The reliever market has seen its fair share of deals this winter but no other positions are getting much love. And by the way, the trend has continued, relievers continue to get paid big bucks.
This offseason the Mets have so far signed reliever Anthony Swarzak (2 years, $14 million) and just last night brought back right fielder Jay Bruce (3 years, $39 million). Coming into this offseason, the Mets did say that payroll would be cut from the $155 million point they opened the 2017 season at but never gave an actual number with most reports saying it’d be around $135-140 million. The fact that a team in the biggest market in the world can’t maintain a top 10 payroll and has to slash payroll two seasons removed from a World Series appearance while still fielding a playoff/championship caliber core is an ABSOLUTE JOKE and has angered fans this offseason. This team still has lots of promise left in it and with the right moves can be right back in the World Series. Yes, the Wilpon’s took a big hit in the infamous Bernie Madoff scheme but that is well in the past at this point and with the team performance the last few seasons and two straight playoff appearances, the Wilpon’s have been making more money as of late.
There is no excuses at all as to why the New York Mets have to or should slash payroll this offseason or any offseason really for that matter when they’re located in the New York market and you got the Yankees playing crosstown. Now I’m not saying that the Mets should spend like the Yankees and go over or hover around the luxury tax threshold, but to potentially be cutting payroll by $20 million and not supporting even a top 10 payroll is ridiculous. Let’s say the Mets payroll lands at $140 million to open this upcoming season, judging by last years opening day payrolls, that would lower them from 12th last year to 16th this year in payroll. Is that a serious possibility for, again, a team in the NYC market that is playoff caliber and is two seasons removed from being in the World Series?! It seems ludicrous and it is, but it’s also what I and all other Mets fans have had to unfortunately get used to under this current Mets ownership. Operating in a big market under mid tier market budgets and disrespecting the fans by not even being aggressive on the market is such a slap in the face and practically irresponsible. Although, there is one way the Wilpon’s can somewhat save face and at the same time make GM Sandy Alderson look better as well is to make a surprise splash in the market and see if you can get someone like a Hosmer or Moustakas at an even cheaper yearly rate and/or not as many years. I’m not saying that the Mets will or should, but you can definitely bet that with it being mid-January now that the big names free agents left standing are going to be taking less than what they originally envisioned and it might even be significantly less.
The Mets have had a very quiet offseason up until the re-signing of Jay Bruce last night. The additions of Swarzak and Bruce should definitely help solidify an improving bullpen and bring back an important power bat to the offense who can also fill in at first base sometimes, respectively. Are they solid additions? Absolutely. Is it enough to dethrone the Nats as the class of the NL East? Not even close. The Mets still need another bullpen arm, a middle of the rotation starter, and two complimentary starting bats or one major offensive piece. The Mets recently spoke to the Pirates about Andrew McCutchen but those talks are done and over with, now that Bruce is coming back to Queens. The Mets look like they’re going to go with a defensive setup of Yoenis Cespedes in left field, Michael Conforto in center field, and Bruce in right field, while also playing first base, which in turn would slide Conforto over to right field on those days and allow the Mets to start the more defensively sound Juan Lagares or even youngster Brandon Nimmo in centerfield. Bruce will split time with youngster Dominic Smith at first base, which is where I was a bit puzzled when I found out Bruce was coming back and that he would play some first base. While I do like the idea of the Bruce/Smith platoon at 1B and agree with the Mets’ assessment that Smith may not be ready for the everyday starting job at first base, I thought they’d bring in a righty platoon partner for Smith and not another lefty, like Bruce is. I thought righty Wilmer Flores would see most of the platoon work at 1B but that may not be as much of a case as originally thought. Flores could also ultimately be the starting second baseman come April but I believe the Mets like him in a super utility role, as do I honestly, although I wouldn’t mind even more starts for Flores considering how well he’s grasped right handed pitching the last two seasons. I guess time will tell how things go with Flores and the Bruce/Smith platoon.
Now how can the Mets inject some life into the fan base in a pinch? Sign Hosmer or Moustakas. Yes, I know, it’s easier said than done. There’s no doubt in my mind though that both of their price tags are dropping and both guys won’t come close to garnering the type of deals they thought they would coming into this winter. Could either one of these guys possibly take a one year deal to reestablish value and become a free agent again next winter in what’s being described as the best free agent market in a very long time? Hosmer is still only 28 years old, in the middle of his prime, and possesses one of the best all around games in baseball. That kind of player is going to strike it rich but with this market, could Hosmer take a one year deal and be a free agent again next year at the age of 29 (still a great age in free agency)? The worth of that kind of one year deal would need to be very high, probably between $20-25 million at least. Could or would the Mets swallow that, even for one year? I doubt it, which leads me to believe that acquiring Hosmer is exactly what it is, a pipe dream. Move the conversation over to Moustakas and it’s a different story.
You can ask anyone, I’ve never been a big fan of Moustakas and thought he’d be a free agent who gets massively overpaid after breaking the Royals’ franchise record for home runs in a single season (38) in his walk year. Now while his powerful run producing bat is a dangerous weapon, he doesn’t do much of anything else all that well. He doesn’t draw walks, doesn’t hit for a high average, and his defense is adequate at best. The fact that he’s probably received the least amount of buzz amongst the major free agents remaining is going to bring his price down, especially when San Francisco decided to trade for Evan Longoria instead and St.Louis is more interested in trading for Josh Donaldson. Here’s the difference between Moose and Hosmer though, while Hosmer is 28 years old, Moose has him by three years at 31. Definitely a tougher situation for Moose when contemplating shorter terms deals, if those are to be received. Again, would or could Moustakas take a one year, let’s say $15-20 million deal? What about maybe something along the lines of three years, $45-55 million? Very doubtful but the longer these guys continue to wait to sign deals, the uglier their contracts will be.
Now like I said, I’m not a big fan of Moustakas and would rather not allocate major dollars to him over the course of a multi year contract but you can’t tell me that if the Mets signed Moustakas out of the blue that it wouldn’t energize this fan base and even put a little bit of a scare into the Nationals. In this “dream” scenario though, I’d much rather sign Hosmer and if it somehow wound up being a multi year deal, I’d flip Dominic Smith as part of a package for a legit cost controlled third baseman or catcher, while letting Bruce handle right field all the time and cementing Conforto as the everyday starting center fielder. Again, like I’ve been saying, this is all a pipe dream but it’s also something that should at the very least be considered by management/ownership. And as fellow Mets fans can attest, all we can do is dream, right?
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…
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
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
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…
4.New York Knicks
1.Oklahoma City Thunder
2.San Antonio Spurs*
3.New Orleans Pelicans*
1.Golden State Warriors
2.Los Angeles Lakers
3.Los Angeles Clippers
* indicates playoff team who didn’t win their division
East Playoff Seeds:
West Playoff Seeds:
1.Golden State Warriors
2.Oklahoma City Thunder
5.San Antonio Spurs
7.New Orleans Pelicans
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):
New York Knicks
If you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and engage in conversation.
The 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).
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.