Early Predictions for the 2018 NBA Playoffs

We are not yet at the All-Star Break in the NBA, so it might not be the most opportune time to start talking about the playoffs. There are some teams that are definitely going to be part of the postseason, and we can probably guess at the top 3 in each of the two conferences. Things get a little tougher after that, as the battle for playoff spots in the lower half of each conference tends to get seriously heated, especially in the second half of the season. Injuries and streaky runs can have a major impact on how things might end up playing out, and there are still an awful lot of games ahead of us. Despite all of that, we are still going to take an early look at the playoffs and how things might go.

Eastern Conference Prediction:

The Boston Celtics have a 1.5 game lead over the Toronto Raptors at the top. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in third and appear to be in a bit of a freefall, which would suggest that the current top 2 will be the ones gunning it out for the Eastern Conference crown. The Celtics have done enough to keep Toronto at bay all season long, and we like them to continue doing so. Cleveland will right the ship in the second half, but whether or not they can catch Toronto remains to be seen. We like Washington to leapfrog Miami into 4th.
Miami will drop, but only to 5th, with the remaining three playoff spots filled by Milwaukee, Indiana, and Philadelphia, in that order. Getting to the playoffs would be big for the 76ers, but they would be on to a beating in round one. Toronto would have their hands full with Indiana, but will win, while the Cavaliers will get past the Bucks. The Washington/Miami series would be a coin flip, with the edge going to the Wizards.
Boston move on, and then we think we get the real surprise of the playoffs with the Raptors taking out the Cavaliers. Let’s go with the Celtics to represent the East in the NBA Finals.

Western Conference Prediction:

As usual, no-one is touching the Golden State Warriors on top, and it’s tough to imagine anyone getting past the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs in second and third. Oklahoma City appear to be getting hot, which is why we think they move on up into the #4 seed, pipping out the Minnesota Timberwolves in the process and dropping them to #5.
We don’t see much in the way of change as the standings are now, which means the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers in #6 and #7, respectively. We worry about the Denver Nuggets being able to hold on to the final spot, especially given how brutal they are on the road, so let’s take the LA Clippers in the #8 spot.
We don’t see any of the top 3 teams going down in the opening round, and we also like OKC to move on. The Spurs have lost a step as we see it, which is why we think we are destined for a Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors Western Conference Final. The Warriors move on after an epic battle and win the NBA Finals in 5 over the Celtics.

Article sponsored by YouWager.eu.

Playoffs!? Wtf? Playoffs!? Rating the New NFL Head Coaches

rp_25bdcbeebb73384f948db8081b0f358d.jpg

While almost everyone remembers that the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50, few people realize that they did so with a head coach that was brand new to the team heading into that season in Gary Kubiak. In 2016, of the 12 teams that qualified for the playoffs at the end of the 2016-2017 season, two of them were led by first year head coaches: Ben McAdoo of the New York Giants, and Adam Gase of the Miami Dolphins. So, it would stand to reason that the teams who made head coaching changes during this offseason are looking for their new head coaches to immediately replicate the type of success the aforementioned guys had. But who are the coaches in the best positions to lead their teams to the postseason? Here’s our list from least likely to most likely:

Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers — Shanahan and new General Manager John Lynch will start the process of rebuilding the great San Francisco 49ers franchise with the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The problem is, they got the second overall pick in the draft because the team was so bad last year in general. The 49ers could basically use a major infusion of talent at the vast majority of positions on the team, most notably at quarterback. Blaine Gabbert and/or Colin Kaepernick are clearly not the answer, and the new braintrust will likely move quickly in trying to figure out who is the guy that’s going to lead their team for the near and long-term future. But outside of running back, where they have Carlos Hyde, and defensive lineman, where they drafted Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in recent years, there isn’t really a single position on the team that you could point to as a strength moving forward. Shanahan and Lynch will need a few years to restock the proverbial cupboard.

Sean McVay, Los Angels Rams — The Rams went in the total opposite direction of their previous head coach, when hiring their most recent one. They went from a grizzled NFL-stalwart in Jeff Fisher, to hiring the youngest head coach in NFL history in Sean McVay. McVay was considered somewhat of a “wunderkind” after guiding the Washington Redskins’ offense to the third-best ranking in the NFL last season. His job will largely be tied to the development of Jared Goff, the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Even though it’s still way too early to make any type of judgment on Goff, we saw much he struggled last season. The Rams offensive line remains awful for yet another year. They’ve had one wide receiver top 1,000 yards receiving in the past decade. After a superstar-caliber rookie season, running back Todd Gurley looked painfully mortal last year. McVay might be responsible for helping Goff develop, but he’s got his work cut out for him with the rest of this offense. The saving grace for the Rams is that the defense still has talent, including defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who’s one of the five best defensive players in the NFL.

Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills — Halfway through October, the Buffalo Bills looked like they might end up being one of the surprise teams in the NFL. They had a 4-2 record, including a shutout victory over the New England Patriots. But, from there on out, the bottom fell out for the Bills, as they finished with a 3-7 record down the stretch. That led to Rex Ryan’s dismissal, and the hiring of new head coach Sean McDermott. The first order of business for McDermott and Doug Whaley will be to find a starting quarterback, as it looks like Tyrod Taylor’s tenure in Buffalo is all but over. Many people think they’ll use the 10th overall pick in the draft to address the position, but let’s not forget they still have Cardale Jones as a developmental player, and perhaps the long-term answer. Still, the Bills don’t have much in the way of building block pieces around whoever fills the quarterback position. Running back LeSean McCoy looked great last season, but he’ll be 29 years old next season, and hasn’t played in all 16 games as a member of the Bills. Star wide receiver Sammy Watkins has missed 11 of his last 32 games. The offensive line has been inconsistent. The defense was ravaged by injuries and inconsistency last year. Buffalo proved they can be a good team if things break well for them, but they still have more questions than answers.

Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars — In reality, the Jacksonville Jaguars could end up being one of the most interesting and dangerous teams in the AFC, if not the NFL. It all depends on whether Marrone’s staff can resurrect the career of quarterback Blake Bortles. Bortles appeared to be on an upward trajectory in his second year, leading a young and talented offense. But last year, Bortles badly regressed, and the offense — as well as the whole team — struggled as a result. But this is still one of the youngest and most talented rosters in the NFL. It’s not out of the question for young stars like Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns to bounce back, edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. to take another step forward. Their group of linebackers is one of the more underrated units in the NFL, and they have talent at both Safety positions. If Jacksonville can make a few upgrades on their still-porous offensive line, and perhaps add a little more consistency from the running game, they could help fix what ails Bortles. But this team will only go as Bortles does.

Anthony Lynn, San Diego Chargers — As snakebitten as this team was with injuries and plain old bad luck last season, San Diego sits near the top of this list for one simple reason: they still have quarterback Philip Rivers, who made the Pro Bowl last season (as an alternate). Even with an offense that continued to lose players seemingly on a weekly basis, Rivers still finished the year ranked among the top five quarterbacks in passing yards, yards per attempt, and touchdown passes. While he’s not exactly getting any younger, he’s still in the prime of his career. The Chargers will also have some balance on offense, thanks to the second year breakout of running back Melvin Gordon. On defense, they have two of the best young talents in the NFL in defensive end Joey Bosa, who was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, and cornerback Jason Verrett, who admittedly missed much of last year after suffering a season-ending ACL injury. Still, with the offensive and defensive pedigrees that new head coach Anthony Lynn and new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, this team is not that far away from contending for a playoff spot.

Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos — Vance Joseph, the highly-regarded former defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins, is probably the one coach in the best position to guide his team to the playoffs in his first year as head coach, mostly on the basis of the defense he’ll be inheriting. That group still has Von Miller, who is still perhaps the best edge rusher in the NFL, as well as the best pair of cornerbacks in the league in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Even with all the injuries and defections via free agency this team had after winning the Super Bowl, those guys represented the foundation of what was still probably the league’s best defense. Obviously, then, the biggest questions for the Broncos will be on the offensive side of the football, namely at the quarterback position. While most people believe that incumbents Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will battle for the starting job, it’s hard to rule out the possibility of the team acquiring a veteran quarterback — say, Tony Romo? — who could step in and lead this team immediately. If they can get even an average-level of play from the quarterback position, they can rely on their skill position players like Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, C.J. Anderson, and second-year running back Devontae Booker to help spark an offense that sputtered down the stretch of last season.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

Look for Wild Times in The NFC Wildcard Playoffs!

With the regular season coming to an end a few of the top tier teams can lock in on bringing home the Lombardi Trophy. The NFC teams are going to clash to power their way to Super Bowl LI. Filled with power houses such as Detroit, Green Bay, Seattle, and New York playing in Wild Card matchups the outcomes are unpredictable.

Detroit was snubbed having no players on their roster elected to the Pro Bowl this year, but that didn’t slow them from finishing with a 9-6 record. An offense led by MVP candidate Matthew Stafford it doesn’t seem as if any other offensive weapons are needed. Aside from a QB there is really no great on the Lion’s offense just a lot of good that contributes to filling their schedule with wins. A sub par defense seems to be one of their only weaknesses led by cornerback Darius Slay. If Detroit’s defense can play as a team they will make a case to be true title contenders.

Division rival to Detroit, Green Bay is pretty straightforward. Plain and simple, when Aaron Rodgers is your QB you are gonna win football games. Especially when he is being protected by three of the best pass blocking linemen. Overcoming numerous injuries on their roster to win six straight to finish the season. Receiver turned running back Ty Montgomery has shown flashes that he can play at an explosive level in the NFL. The only thing holding them back is a beat up defense. With arguably the weakest secondary in the NFL it will something Green Bay’s offensive firepower will have to make up for. Green Bay’s front seven unlike its secondary is always bringing the heat. Despite the age of many key players their run stop and pass rush continues to improve.

A team that seemed to be the kryptonite to the Green Bay Packers is the Seattle Seahawks. On the other hand having arguably the best secondary in the NFL with the notorious Richard Sherman. Their defense also known as the “Legion of Boom” causes every opponent’s offense to throw a fit. Questions in the running back spot may hold the offense back, but Quarterback Russell Wilson’s mentality fuels that offense. To progress through the playoffs Seattle will nee complete play by their receivers after suffering a huge loss in Tyler Lockett. Seattle comes with a winning mentality considering their past which will play as a key advantage this time around.

One of the most talked about players around the league seems to be Odell Beckham Jr. His sure hands and quickness can make any quarterback shine. Although recently New York’s defense has been carrying the team. With a loaded young secondary and some bruisers in the front seven New York has been the reason teams are losing sleep at night. An aging and inconsistent Eli Manning has seemed to be the only question mark on the team. If Eli can get hot and use his numerous weapons to his advantage it will make New York a tough team to beat.