College Football Playoff Contenders 2017

 Written By: Conner Pack

 With the 2017 college football season just weeks away, I figured it’s about time to give my thoughts on who I think this years contenders for the College Football Playoff, as well as who is in my final four. Now, when I say contender I believe there’s a handful of teams that are capable of getting into the College Football Playoff, that is however if the chips fall in their favor. I’m not saying those teams could win it, but if they manage to win their conference championship, as well as finish with a great record there’s a realistic chance they could find themselves playing in the Playoff. Outside of my final four I believe there are seven teams capable of getting in. Those teams are: Clemson, Miami, Auburn, Penn State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Washington.

 

– Clemson: After back-to-back National Championship appearances, losing in 2015 then winning in 2016, the Clemson Tigers have established themselves as one of the elite programs in the country. However, they lost a ton of talent to the NFL this past off-season guys like Mike Williams, Ben Boulware, Wayne Gallman, and of course quarterback Deshaun Watson. Replacing a guy like Watson is very difficult, but Head Coach Dabo Swinney has become one of college footballs great recruiters, so I’m pretty confident they won’t be lacking in the talent department. But figuring out who will start a quarterback is a must if this team wants to make another run at the playoff.

 

However, it won’t be an easy road, the Tigers have a very tough schedule, in the month of September alone they face three high-caliber teams starting with Auburn in week 2 (Sept. 9), then at Louisville in week 3 (Sept. 16), then at Virginia Tech in week 5 (Sept. 30). And you can’t forget the Florida State game on November 11th. Luckily for them that game will be played in Clemson. But if the Tigers can make it through the ACC knocking off Florida State in the process, the Tigers could potentially be back in the college football playoff for a third consecutive year.

 

– Miami: Since the early 2000’s the Miami Hurricanes have been a shell of what they used to be. However, it looks like the Hurricanes may have found their next great coach in, Mark Richt. The Hurricanes in Richts first season finished with a 9-4 record, ending the 2016 season ranked 20th overall. Coming into the 2017 season there are high hopes for Miami. Losing quarterback Brad Kaaya to the NFL but luckily for the Hurricanes, they are the beneficiaries of a pretty easy schedule in my opinion. There toughest games are at Florida State September 16th, Virginia Tech November 4th, and potentially Notre Dame November 11th. I say potentially because year in and year out Notre Dame can be a question mark. Other than those three games, the Hurricanes could run the table in the ACC Costal division giving them a chance to possibly win the ACC and sneak into the College Football Playoff.

 

– Auburn: For a couple of seasons now, what has kept the Tigers from winning big games has been a lack of talent at the quarterback position. After the 2010 season when Cam Newton and Auburn won the BCS national championship, the Tigers have really fallen back into being an average to middle of the pack team. With the exception of 2013 when they had quarterback Nick Marshall and went 12-2 losing the National Championship to Florida State. However, this season Auburn potentially might have the quarterback that can get them over the top once again. He is Baylor Transfer Jarrett Stidham.

 

Besides possibly having a good quarterback, Auburn may be the only team able to knock off Alabama in the SEC. If Auburn can get through a tough but not overly difficult SEC schedule without any blemishes, and beat Alabama in the iron bowl to end the season. They could just like Miami potentially find themselves College Football Playoff.

 

– Penn State: I think it’s safe to say that the Nittany Lions are back. Head Coach James Franklin is entering his fourth season at the helm, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. After back-to-back mediocre 7-6 seasons, the Nittany Lions took a major step forward last season, finishing 11-3 and winning the Big Ten championship. Returning highly talented quarterback Trace McSorley and elite running back Saquon Barkley, Penn State should be poised to make another run at the Big Ten championship. They’ll have to be able to knock off Ohio State again if they want to have a chance. If they can do that the Nittany Lions will have a great chance of getting into the playoff.

 

– Oklahoma/Oklahoma State: In the Big 12, I think theirs really only two teams with any shot of being considered for the College Football Playoff. Now that the Big 12 has added a championship game I think that will bode well for the conference and the playoff committee. However, I still think as a whole the Big 12 is a very weak conference. With “Big Game Bob” retiring from Oklahoma over the summer, I believe that opened the door up for Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State to make a run at getting into the playoff.

 

I still believe Oklahoma will be solid with Lincoln Riley as head coach, mainly because the Sooners still have quarterback Baker Mayfield. He knows the offense and there’s chemistry between the two. However, anytime a coordinator steps in to a head coaching position there’s always transition period. We’ll see how things play out.

 

– Washington: The Huskies last season for the most part ran through the Pac 12 with no problems, landing themselves a spot in the College Football Playoff. They gave Alabama a good run in the first half but the Crimson Tide defense was too much for Washington. The Huskies lost a handful of guys to the NFL draft this past spring, but they do however still have quarterback Jake Browning. Browning had a fantastic season in 2016 passing for 3,430 yards 43 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Even though USC is the heavy favorite in the Pac 12 this season, you still can’t count out the Huskies who in my opinion have the better coach.

 

Now that I’ve given you my contenders, here’s my four teams I believe will be in the College Football Playoff: Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, and USC. I know my picks might be cliché, but at the end of last season and into spring ball I felt as though these four teams will be the best four we see all season. Three out of the four have great coaches, all four have solid quarterbacks, and all four have very talented rosters.

 

– Alabama: Since Nick Saban has been the head coach at Alabama they have played in five National Championship games, winning four of them dating back to the old BCS system. So it’s hard for me and I’m sure the rest of the country to ever count out the Crimson Tide. Add on top of that the fact Alabama has dominated the SEC for years now, nobody prepares the Alabama does. With Jalen Hurts returning at quarterback, Calvin Ridley at wide receiver, and the duo at running back with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. I believe the offense will be just as dangerous as their defenses have been for years.

 

– Florida State: The Seminoles may have one of the most talented rosters in the country starting with defensive back Derwin James. The anchor for the Florida State defense has been quite the talk of the off-season. Week one, football fans will find out if this Seminoles team is for real or not when they take on Alabama in Atlanta. That first game will be a great test for the Seminoles. Red shirt sophmore quarterback Deondre Francois had a very solid first year as a starter. Him and head coach Jimbo Fisher seem to have really clicked and are on the same page. The only negative when it comes to Florida State getting into the playoff is their rather tough schedule. On top of playing Alabama, they also play Louisville, Miami, at Florida, and most notable at Clemson. Now, I do believe Clemson will take a step back, but playing there is always a challenge.

 

– Ohio State: The Buckeyes last season got humiliated by Clemson in their 31-0 loss in the College Football Playoff. But Urban Meyer just like Nick Saban is another one of those coaches you can’t count out. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is back as a fifth year senior, now his arm has been questionable but he’s proven he’s a leader as well as a winner.

 

– USC: Could this be the year USC finally gets back over the hump and are National Championship contenders once again? I believe so. Two words, Sam Darnold! Darnold had himself a great freshman year and coming into this season he is the front-runner to win the Heisman. Just by having Darnold gives the Trojans a great chance to win the Pac 12.

Eagles Trade Jordan Matthews

 

Written By: Conner Pack

Just one preseason game in, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided to make a major move by trading wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third round pick to the Buffalo Bills for cornerback Ronald Darby. This is not a surprising trade if you ask me; the Eagles right now are very deep at the wide receiver position. In large part because of the free agent acquisitions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, add-on top of that drafting wide receivers Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson. Acquiring all these players in my opinion meant that Matthews place on the team could be in question.

With all that being said, adding another defensive back has been a major need for this Eagles team. The Past several seasons the Eagles secondary hasn’t been all that good. Adding a guy like Darby gives the Eagles some much-needed speed in the secondary. With questions surrounding second round pick Sydney Jones, as far whether or not he’ll play this year, Darby is the perfect guy to step in and take the job.

– Final Thoughts

Overall, I think this was a solid trade for the Eagles, giving up Mathews isn’t ideal but adding a solid defensive back gives the Eagles a much better chance of contending for the playoffs this season.

 

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Left: Ronald Darby, Right: Jordan Matthews

Florida State Seminoles Heading Into the 2017 Season

Written by: Conner Pack

During the 2016 season, the Florida State Seminoles finished with a 10-3 record. However, they had their share of ups and downs. After getting a big win opening night against Ole Miss, to losing star defensive back Derwin James for the season the next week, to getting a good ole fashion beat down from Louisville, to eventually ending the season with an Orange Bowl win against Michigan. If you followed the Seminoles last season it sure was an emotional roller coaster. But all of that is in the past, this season the Seminoles have a ton of hype and are expected to make the College Football Playoff. It’s very well possible they could make a run and get in, with only a couple of weeks away we’re just going to have to wait and see. Until then, here are five points of interest as the season approuches.

1. Deondre Francois

Last season Deondre Francois surprised many people, first by showing his toughness and secondly by always staying poised. He finished the 2016 season passing for 3350 yards and 20 touchdowns. Not to mention the kid took quite a bit of big hits last season and continued to get back up and play. And no, he didn’t take the hits while scrambling or running. His poise was second to none, throughout the season Francois rarely ever seemed rattled or lost in the moment. What really helped him out was the fact he had Dalvin Cook, all time leading rusher at Florida State, in the backfield. By having him the Seminoles didn’t have to rely solely on the passing attack last season. As for this season I’m looking for Francois to take the next step and continue maturing as a passer and as a leader.  He’s shown he has the ability to become an elite player not just in the ACC but all of college football.

2. Can the Offensive Line Be Better?

The Seminoles offensive line last season was questionable to say the least. From week to week there was no telling which offensive line was going to show up. In Florida States first eight games they gave up 27 sacks. That’s not including the number of knock downs and hurries quarterback Deondre Francois took. On the bright side however, over the course of the last five games the offensive line began to gel. During that five game period they managed to only give up nine sacks. Coming into the 2017 season, the Seminoles return four of their five starters, so there should be some continuity as the season begins. If this Seminoles team wants to make that championship run the offensive line has got to be good from the start.

3. Who Will Step Up At Receiver?

The Seminoles lost wide receivers Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield, and Bobo Wilson all to the NFL draft. All three of these guys were major contributors last season. They proved upper class leadership as well as game changing play making ability, the loss of all three is big. However, the second half of last season the Seminoles saw the emergence of two talented sophomore wide receivers, Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate. Nyqwan Murray had his coming out party during the Clemson game, he finished the game with 6 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. From that game on Murray would go on to have 22 receptions for 395 yards and score 5 touchdowns, after only having 4 receptions for 46 yards in the first seven games. As for Tate, his big frame gave him the ability to make big late game catches that got him some recognition. I’m looking for both Murray and Tate to step up and have break out seasons. Being the two most experienced receivers these guys will have to lead the way for the younger less experienced guys. As well as tight end Ryan Izzo, the always reliable tight end will play a major role in the success of this offense.

4. Derwin James and The Defense

Missing all but a game and a half last season, Derwin James has become the talk of the off-season. After a very good freshman season many scouts and fans were ready to see how he would follow-up on his standout freshman year. Unfortunately, due to his injury in week two he had to miss the rest of the season. With that in mind this is the season for James to redeem himself. But it’s not just James on this defense, the Noles have Derrick Nnadi, DeMarcus Christmas, Josh Sweat, Trey Marshall, and Tarvarus McFadden just to name a few. Derwin James might be the leader and face of the Noles defense but he’s not alone, there’s a lot of talent around him.

5. Running Backs

Replacing a guy like Dalvin Cook is never easy. However, the Seminoles have a ton of talent at the running back position. Starting with newly named Starter Jacques Patrick. Jimbo Fisher has already named the 6’3, 231 pound junior the starter for week ones showdown with Alabama. Through his first two seasons Patrick has had 124 attempts for 664 yards and 9 touchdowns. His career average is 5.4 yards per attempt. Then there’s the freshman Cam Akers who was the number one high school running back. All we’ve seen is his spring game performance which was pretty impressive. I’m excited to see how Fisher will utilize these two very talented running backs.

– Final Thoughts

The 2017 Seminoles have the pieces in place to make a run at the national championship, but they’re going to have to take it one game at a time. It’s a tough road ahead but lead by coach Fisher this team should be able to go far.

Colin Kaepernick or Jay Cutler?

Written By: Conner Pack

Thursday afternoon Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a non contact knee injury. From what we know, surgery is optional and the Dolphins and Tannehill will decide in a couple of days whether or not he’ll have surgery. In the mean time, Tannehill is expected to miss some significant time, which could mean bad news for the Dolphins. After finishing 10-6 and making the playoffs last season, without Tannehill the Dolphins will be more of a 4-12 or 5-11 team this season. With that being said, names are beginning to be thrown out in regards to who can step in and fill the void while Tannehill is out. The first name out of everyone’s mouth is obviously Colin Kaepernick. Until someone signs this man his name will continue to come up in every conversation. The other name is Jay Cutler. Say what you want about the man but, when Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was Cutlers offensive coordinator in Chicago.

Once news broke Thursday of the injury the sports media once again got on their Colin Kaepernick high horse. Why they did? I don’t Know. As far as I can see Kaepernick is more worried about being an activist/social justice warrior than playing football. As far as football goes, could he step in and be successful in Miami? I think he could. Now would the Dolphins be in wild card contention with him? That I highly doubt. Kaepernick isn’t a strong enough quarterback nor do they have enough offensive  weapons around him to make up for what Kaepernick lacks. After leading the 49ers on their Super Bowl run back in 2012, Kaepernick never progressed as a player. He slowly began to digress and then hit rock bottom last season. Entering the 2016 season Kaepernick started the season as the backup, however by week six he was promoted to starter. While a starter he went 1-10, not very good if you ask me. Now you can throw stats and numbers out there all you want but, the guy is done. Not to mention the majority of his stats last season came in garbage time. He peeked early and never bettered his game. Plain and simple.

On the other hand, another big name that has began to be thrown out is, Jay Cutler former Broncos and Bears quarterback. Back in the spring Cutler was released by the Bears and has since decided to join FOX Sports as a sports commentator. However, with the latest news of Tannehill possibly being out for a while could open the door for Cutler to get back in the game. You can say what you want about Cutler and his attitude but the guy can throw a football. Yes, he’s had a hand full of not so good moments during his career but, overall the guys not a distraction. He also has a past with Dolphins head coach Adam Gase who was Cutlers offensive coordinator with the Bears during the 2015 season. Cutler in 2015 passed for 3659 yards, threw 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 92.3. From what I’ve seen and read it appears as though Cutler is the front-runner and his people have reached out to the Dolphins.

– Final Thoughts

Losing Tannehill sucks for the Dolphins. Each year he has shown steady improvement from bettering his completion percentage to dropping the number of interceptions he throws. Now the guys no pro bowl quarterback but he’s a guy you can count on. Back up Matt Moore stepped in last season and did ok going 2-1 as a starter to end the regular season. Then when the Dolphins played the Steelers in the playoffs he got destroyed. For a guy like Moore he could step in and play two or three games for a team thats about it. With the way things are looking Tannehill will probably be out for the majority of the season if not the whole season. That’s why if I’m the Dolphin I do everything in my power to bring Jay Cutler in.

Why Is The NFL Media In Love With The Titans?

Written By: Conner Pack

Last Monday, USA Today released their team win predictions for the 2017 NFL season, I wrote a quick piece last week giving my thoughts on what I saw. I touched on several teams one being the Titans, but in that piece I talked about whether or not the Titans could go 12-4. Since the win predictions came out, local radio here in Nashville has talked quite a bit about if it is possible or not. They’ve also been talking about why the Titans have been getting so much love from the media. So in this piece I want to give my thoughts on why the media is on board with the Titans.

As many people saw, USA Today had the Tennessee Titans going 12-4 and winning the AFC South. Now the Titans are just one season removed from being the worst team in the NFL, but since about early spring the Tennessee Titans have become the new darlings of the sports/NFL media. After finishing last season with a surprising 9-7 record and putting together another solid off-season, the sports/NFL media have began to take note.

– How The Titans Got To Where They Are

Over the course of last season, the Titans showed improvements each week. Starting with the offensive line, lead by Taylor Lewan, Ben Jones, and Jack Conklin. Week in a week out the offensive line provided great protection for Mariota and created running lanes for Murray and Henry. It was the first time in a very long time that the Titans have had a strong offensive line. Having a good offensive line then led to a great running game. Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry both had tremendous success running the ball last season. Demarco Murray finished the season with 4.4 yards per attempt and Derrick Henry finished with 4.5 yards per attempt. Finally, by having both a good offensive line and a solid rushing attack, quarterback Marcus Mariota went on to have a very successful season. Mariota, finished the season passing for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 95.6. All of these factors helped the Titans offense finish eleventh in the league last season. However, the defense was another story.

After what was a successful season in 2016, the Titans and general manager Jon Robinson got right back to work by putting together a solid draft and making a couple big time free agent signings. During free agency the Titans addressed the secondary by signing corner back Logan Ryan and safety Johnathan Cyprien. Last season the Titans secondary was atrocious, I’ll leave it at that. By adding those two guys the secondary should be somewhat improved. During the draft the Titans addressed their other major need… wide receiver. The Titans would draft two wide receivers in the first three rounds, first by taking Corey Davis (Western Michigan) fifth overall. Then in round three, they took Taywan Taylor (Western Kentucky).

Oh, and lets not forget about the Eric Decker signing back in June. Adding Decker, Davis, and Taylor gives some experience and hopefully gives the offense some big play capability.

– Why The NFL Media Is So High On The Titans

All of that leads me to this, the Titans have the intangibles to win. They have the quarterback, they have two dynamic running backs, they have an elite offensive line, they have capable wide receivers, and they have a defense that has the potential to be very good this season. By having all these intangibles in place, by playing in a weak division, and by having a semi friendly schedule is why the Titans are getting so much love. Now they still have to go out and prove it on the field but, because of what the Titans did last year as far as winning nine games and their off-season acquisitions why shouldn’t the media be all in on them?

– Final Thoughts

Overall, the Titans in my opinion are in the best position in the AFC South heading into the 2017 season. If they can take care of business in the division I think it’s quite possible for this team to be as good as the media is hyping them up to be. In Indianapolis we don’t know the health of Andrew Luck, in Houston they named Tom Savage the starter but it’s only a matter of time before rookie Deshaun Watson steps in, and we never know what team will show up in Jacksonville. Now you could question whether or not Marcus Mariota will be able to stay healthy all sixteen games. But that’s really about it.

Finally, growing up a Titans fan it’s hard to buy into the hype. Because for years the Titans have found ways to lose games or put together a great season just to fall apart in the playoffs. For me, I believe in this Titans team. Do I believe they’re a 12-4 team? At the moment I do not. I believe they’re a 9-7 to 11-5 team. Could they make the jump to 12-4? I absolutely believe they could. But realistically I just don’t think they will.

Preds Lock Down Johansen

Written By: Conner Pack

– Agreement Has Been Reached

An agreement has been reached between the Nashville Predators and first line center Ryan Johansen, Johansen’s new contract is an 8-year $64 million deal. This is great news for both the Predators and Johansen. For the Predators, they will have a number one center for years to come and they didn’t have to spend a fortune to resign him. As for Johansen, he got a solid pay-day and he’s on a team that is a Stanley Cup contender.

– Why Locking Down Johansen Is Key

The Predators have a solid core group of guys in P.K. Subban, Fillip Forsberg, Victor Arvidson, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mike Fisher and Mattis Ekholm. Now, you could make an argument that any of these guys is the leader/driving force of the team. However, in my opinion it’s Johansen. Night in and night out this guy lead the team and made everyone around him better, especially during the playoffs. I’m not here to say the other guys aren’t a factor in leading this team, I just think there’s something special about Johansen, his play and attitude is what helped get this team to that next level.

Up until when he got injured and had to miss the rest of the playoffs, it was evident that this Predators team went as Johansen went. Throughout the Predators incredible playoff run Johansen was the driving force; he scored, he created opportunities for his teammates, and his puck handling and passing were off the charts. Locking down Johansen and bringing him back was the best thing the Predators could’ve done.

– Final Thoughts

Whether he came back or not the Predators were still going to be in the playoff mix. But now that he will be back, the Predators won’t just be a playoff contender but they should be favored to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final.

 

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Ryan Johansen

Latest Saga With the Cavaliers

Written By: Conner Pack

Since losing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals it has been complete dysfunction in Cleveland. Week after week it seems to be one thing after another. It started when former general manager David Griffin and the Cavaliers decided to part ways, just a couple of days before the NBA Draft. From that point on all we’ve heard out of Cleveland is negativity. Then last Friday the dysfunction in my opinion reached its peak when news broke that Kyrie Irving had asked to be traded.

Once the news broke, rumors and best trade options began to swirl. Then Monday night, Stephen A. Smith put out a quote that he had gotten from someone in LeBron’s camp “if Kyrie Irving was in front of LeBron James right now, LeBron James would be tempted to beat his ass“. Whether you believe it or not, it’s out there now and all we can do is speculate. If you ask me it’s a bit harsh. I can understand LeBron being a little pissed, but beating someone’s ass… I don’t know about all that.

But I’m not here to harp on who’s going to beat whose ass, because in reality no one is going to beat anyone’s ass. LeBron and Kyrie aren’t stupid. All this does is solidify that the marriage between Kyrie and LeBron is over. And that they don’t care to play on the same team. That’s it.

Now that I’ve gotten that out-of-the-way let’s think about what the best case scenario would be for all parties involved.

– Best Case Scenario for Kyrie

The best thing for Kyrie is to be traded as soon as possible. That way he can get to know his new team and create some chemistry before the season starts. What team would be the best fit? In my opinion it would be the Boston Celtics. But for this article we’ll stick to the four teams he told the Cavaliers management. Those teams were the Spurs, Knicks, Heat, and Timberwolves.

Kyrie has made it known that he wants to be the star or focal point of what ever team he ends up playing on. Knowing that, I think it’s safe to say he won’t end up with the Spurs. Because Kawhi Leonard is the star down there and Popovich doesn’t deal with divas. As for the Knicks, Heat, and Timberwolves I think he would be a solid fit for any of those teams.

If the Timberwolves could find a way to make a trade and not lose much I think the Timberwolves would be the best destination. They just added Jimmy Butler and they’re loaded with a ton of young talent. They’ve also got a really good head coach. But it’s highly unlikely the Timberwolves would be able to make that trade without giving up a lot. So let’s mark the Timberwolves off the list.

The Heat or Knicks will probably be where he’ll end up if the Cavaliers decide to trade him. I’m not sure who the Heat would trade in order to get Kyrie. As for the Knicks, it’s pretty obvious the Knicks could send Carmelo to the Cavaliers in exchange for Kyrie. Porzingis and Kyrie? It might work.

– Best Case Scenario for LeBron

The best thing for LeBron is to just ride it out. I will say though the negative publicity that’s came from all this isn’t good but it’ll blow over like most incidents in the NBA. By next week there will be a new story and we’ll have something else to talk about.

Back to what’s best for LeBron, he’s got one year left on his contract in Cleveland and then he’ll be free to make his next move. Which I think will be leaving Cleveland and heading out west. So I think the best thing for him is to just lay low (which probably won’t happen) and play ball this season. If he and Kyrie can come to some sort of agreement than that would be great. But it doesn’t seem like that will happen anytime soon.

– Best Case Scenario for Cleveland

The Cavaliers are between a rock and a hard place. They have the rising super star in Kyrie Irving who is the future. Then on the other side they have the home town guy and king of Cleveland in LeBron James. On one hand, if you trade Kyrie you could be giving away the future if LeBron indeed does leave after next season. On the other hand, if you trade away LeBron James you risk major backlash from the city of Cleveland.

I say that because look at LeBron’s track record, he’s been known to up and leave leaving teams high and dry. First he did it to Cleveland back in 2010, but for good reason the Cavaliers did not help in building a team around him. Then he did it to Miami back in 2014 after losing to the Spurs in the finals 4-1. So what’s not to say he won’t do it again? The only offseason move the Cavaliers have made is signing Derrick Rose and that just happened this week. And we all know this isn’t the same Derrick Rose that won the MVP a couple of years ago.

– Final Thoughts

All I’m saying is the Cavaliers as a whole are in a sticky situation all around. I think it’s about time they blow it up and start over. The team they have right now is a team that LeBron constructed. Kyrie is pulling a LeBron on LeBron. He doesn’t want to be left with a team that LeBron constructed and that isn’t capable of contending for a championship. It’s just a dysfunctional mess that no one has the answer to.

USA Today 2017 NFL Predictions

Written By: Conner Pack

 

After taking a month off and taking a little vacation it’s time to get back to work. For some NFL teams training camps are already under way and for others they’re about to begin. With that being said, yesterday USA Today released their preseason NFL Predictions. Now I know this is just predictions, but it’s still dead season so this gives us sports people something to talk about.

– What Stood Out

Four things that caught my attention were: the Patriots going undefeated, the Titans going 12-4 and winning the AFC South, the Buccaneers going 10-6 and being an NFC wild card team, and the Cowboys going 11-5 and winning NFC East.

– Patriots 16-0?

Coming off their impressive comeback Super Bowl victory, USA Today is predicting the New England Patriots will go 16-0 in 2017. Looking at their schedule, it’s quite possible that could actually happen. Last season the Patriots only lost two games. One of the games was to the Bills and Jacoby Brissett started at quarterback. The second game was an overtime thriller to the Seahawks.

So it’s not all that far-fetched to believe 16-0 won’t happen, they did it before. Not to mention they have the best quarterback; Tom Brady and the best head coach; Bill Belichick. But me personally I don’t think they’ll end up 16-0. I think they’ll slip up and lose a close game maybe to Oakland or Pittsburgh. But come January 1st it wouldn’t be surprise if the Patriots are sitting at 16-0 heading into the playoffs.

– Titans Go 12-4?

Last season the Tennessee Titans took major steps forward finishing 9-7 and barely missing the playoffs. The running back tandem of Murray and Henry played a major role in the efficiency of their offense. By having a solid running game and an elite offensive line Mariota was able to show off his passing abilities. The Titans offense finished eleventh in total offense last season. However their defense was another story, particularly their horrendous secondary.

Now, 12-4 in my opinion is a bit of a stretch. Is it possible? Most definitely. But for the Titans to finish 12-4 and win the AFC South they’ve got to take care of business in their division. For years they’ve split with teams or have been swept by teams within the division, last season the Titans were 2-4 in the division. Losing to the Colts twice and splitting with Texans and Jaguars. To be a contender you’ve got to win in the division. Finally, the Titans have got to beat the Indianapolis Colts. They’re 1-15 over the last eight years. Beating the Colts will tell us if this team is for real or not.

– Buccaneers Making the Playoffs

It’s been quite awhile since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been a playoff team. With Jameis Winston entering his third season, the Buccaneers are in a great position to contend for a possible playoff position. Adding DeSean Jackson an experienced speedy receiver with rising star Mike Evans is huge. Two very dynamic play makers Winston has at his disposal. Not to mention they draft Alabama tight end OJ Howard. Another big target who can streak down the middle of the field.

 

My biggest concerns with this Buccaneers team is defense and running back. They’ve had their defensive struggles for a couple of years now. And with Doug Martin not all the way checked in they really don’t have a proven running back. But I do think they’ll have enough to be in the playoffs this season. Their division could be wide open depending on if the Falcons have a Super Bowl hangover.

– Dallas Cowboys 11-5 and Win NFC East

The rookie duo of running back Ezekiel Elliot and quarterback Dak Prescott took the league by storm last season. Elliot led the league in rushing as a rookie and Prescott was one of the top quarterbacks in the league last season. However, all of that was “last season”. I’m not taking anything away from their success because what they did was very impressive.

 

That leads me to this, I don’t think the Cowboys will have the same success they had last year. Yes, I do still think they should be the favorite to win the NFC East. But I think it’s going to be a dog fight amongst all of the NFC East teams, especially the Giants and Eagles. Something else to factor in is the sophomore slump. Dak and Zeke were awesome last year, it’s going to be hard to repeat the same success. Now that teams have seen them play and there’s film on them teams can game plan a lot better for them now.

Finally, this offseason has not been all that great for the Cowboys, there have been several incidence where players have been arrested or caught up in negative situations. With a lot of it surrounding Ezekiel Elliot. We still don’t know how many games he’ll be suspended if he even gets a suspension. That’s another factor to add to why the Cowboys won’t be as successful.

Paul George to the Celtics is the Best Option 

Written By: Conner Pack 

We’re only a couple weeks into the NBA offseason and we’ve already seen multiple trades. On draft night we saw a major trade between the Bulls and Timberwolves that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. Then there was the Chris Paul trade that sent him to the Rockets. Those are just a couple, I’m sure there will be more to come but those so far in my opinion have been the two most impactful. But the biggest name in this years offseason talks has been Indiana Pacers forward Paul George. 

Now, he’s still under contract for one more season but he’s made it very clear that he plans on leaving after next season, if he isn’t traded. He’s been open about wanting to play for the Lakers, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to make a trade to get him a year sooner, since he plans on going there after next season. Which makes since. 

So, if the Lakers don’t make a trade offer, that then leaves the window open for other teams to possibly make a move and trade for him. The only problem with that is you might only be renting him for one season, if he’s that dead set on going to the Lakers. But what if the team that trades for him is already a quality team that is in the mix and is on the verge of being a championship contender? Could that team possibly trade for him and talk him into resigning? 

That leads me to why I think Paul George being traded to the Celtics makes the most sense, for both the Pacers and Celtics. 

Let’s start with why it makes sense for the Celtics, last season the Celtics finished first in the east but no one really considered them a “real” championship contender. However, the Celtics have a solid core group of guys, a great head coach, and they play in the east. If Paul George ended up being traded to the Celtics it would be a major game changer and give George a great opportunity to contend for an NBA Championship. 

One, the Celtics have a group of experienced guys lead by Isaiah Thomas. Adding George to the mix would give the Celtics another guy who can create his own shot and take over games if needed. Something the Celtics have lacked. 

Two, Brad Stevens might be the second best head coach in the NBA, behind Popovich. In four seasons he took the Celtics from out of the playoffs to the top seed in the east. Also, he hasn’t had the superstar names that other teams have had. Just imagine what he could do with a star like George. 

Three, the eastern conference for the past several years has been very weak. Since the LeBron James Miami Heat days, LeBron has dominated the eastern conference. Mainly because the other teams haven’t had enough talent. Paul George on the Celtics would put the Celtics right up there with the Cavaliers. 

Why would this be good for the Pacers, because the Celtics have a lot to offer. The Celtics have stock piled draft picks for years now, so they’d have several they could offer up. Also, the Celtics have a multitude of solid role players that can be impactful if traded away. I just feel that Indiana would get the best return from the Celtics if they decided to pull the trigger and trade him there. 

– Final Thoughts

If Paul George wants to play in the NBA Finals and win a championship his best chance of doing that is in Boston. In the west, the Warriors aren’t going anywhere. In the east, things looks be opening up depending on what LeBron decides to do after next season. Also, the Celtics are the front runners to sign Gordon Hayward, another all star caliber player. 

I just think the situation would be much better and he wouldn’t have as much pressure on him. Because the Celtics already have a great foundation, they just need one or two more pieces to get them to that next level. 

Finally, since the Celtics already have their foundation Paul George would just have come in and find his rhythm. He would already be surrounded be good talent with an identity. Unlike going to another team where he would have to carry the team on his shoulders. 

We’ll see what happens. 

Friday Hot Take 

Written By: Conner Pack 

The Minnesota Timberwolves will make the NBA playoffs next season. Here’s why, Thursday night the Chicago Bulls made a trade that nobody saw coming. This is what they did, the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and seventh pick Lauri Markkanen. Now, the Bulls received some solid young talent, but it’s evident that they’re dismantling their team and starting over. With that being said, the Timberwolves were the clear winner in this deal. 

The Timberwolves for years now have been a team full of potential, loaded with incredibly young and exciting talent, but unable to put it all together and establish an identity. Last year, hiring Tom Thibedou to be head coach was a step in the right direction, however they still lacked leadership and had yet again another mediocre season, finishing 31-51. But at times there where flashes of what the future could be.  

Adding Jimmy Butler to this Timberwolves team is the best thing that could’ve happened for them. Butler brings veteran experience to a team that needs some leadership, if they want to take the next step. Right now, the Timberwolves already have two big time players in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Two guys that have really came into their own over the past couple of seasons. 

– Final Thoughts 

I see the Timberwolves taking a major step forward this coming up season. As of right now, you could say they’re possibly the fourth or fifth best team in the west at the moment, behind the Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets. Thibedou’s always been a defense first coach, he’ll still hammer home his defensive philosophy but this team has the potential to be a great offensive team. Three guys Wiggins, Anthony-Towns, and now Butler who all can score 20 plus points each night. And if Rubio can stay health a point guard who loves to pass and create. They have the potential to be very explosive on offense. 

Overall, the Timberwolves in my opinion where the winners of draft night. They got an experienced player who can bring some guidance and leadership to a young exciting team. I’m very interested to see how this team will come together next season. 

Butler, Anthony-Towns, Wiggins (from sportscenter Facebook)