Category Archives: Playoffs

NBA: 2018 Playoff preview and prediction

It’s that time of year again: playoff time. That means it’s time to take a look at each series match-up and preview/predict what I expect to see from each teams.


Image result for eastern conference


Eastern Conference:
After an exciting finish to the regular season, the 76ers came out of no where and clinched the 3-seed after finishing the regular season on an impressive 16-game win streak. The Raptors and Celtics clinched the top two seeds last week, but the rest of the field wasn’t confirmed until the last few games this week.

  1. Raptors vs. 8. WizardsImage result for raptors vs wizards
    –It happened in college hoops, and it could happen in the NBA. The biggest possible upset in the Eastern Conference playoffs could be the Wizards coming out and beating the Raptors. As sneaky good as the Wizards are, they’ll have to win 4 out of 7 to beat the top-seeded Raptors and move on to the second round.

    –The Raptors, who’ve proven themselves as the best in the East all season, finished the regular season with a record of 59-23, compared to the 43-39 of the Wizards. With no serious late-season injuries for either squad, the series will come down to who can make the most game-changing plays.

    –Will it be DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry? Or will John Wall and Co. come away with the series win and upset?

  2. Celtics vs. 7. BucksImage result for Celtics vs Bucks
    –The Celtics clinched the 2-seed last week, but that was before all-star point guard Kyrie Irving had season-ending knee surgery. Now, after playing (and winning) a few games without their star, the big question will be whether or not the young Celtics team has what it takes to put away the 7-seed Bucks, led by the “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    –Winning 55 games this season, the Celtics were in strong position to make a deep playoff run this year. Coming off last season, when they were the 1-seed in the East and lost to the Cavaliers in the ECF 4-1, acqusitions looked to help the C’s this year. Injuries hurt the team all year, starting on opening day when new SF Gordon Hayward fractured his ankle and hasn’t seen the floor since.

    –For the Bucks, 44-38, seeing the playoffs again shows progress for the franchise. With the development of Antetokounmpo, the young Bucks team hopes to advance past the first-round, where their season ended last season.

  3. 76ers vs. 6. HeatImage result for 76ers vs heat
    –Winners of their last 16 games, the 76ers took the league by storm in the last month of the regular season. Yet to lose in April, and haven’t dropped a game since March 13 when they fell 101-98 to the Pacers. As the hottest team in the league, the 76ers have a target on their backs. Before this win streak, they were going to be content clinching a spot, but as the 3-seed, facing the Heat, the 76ers will have to continue to impress on the court to compete with D. Wade and company.

    –The Heat on the other hand, have had their share of struggles all season. Before trading for D. Wade back in February, the Heat sat at just 29-26. Although they finished just 44-38, the Heat have a strong backcourt, led by Goran Dragic, D. Wade and Tyler Johnson, and a decent frontcourt: Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson.

    –It’s been a good year for Philadelphia, and I think the NBA Playoffs will treat the 76ers well. Once they get past the Heat, I expect Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz to carry their team into a deep playoff run.

  4. Cavaliers vs. 5. PacersImage result for cavs vs pacers
    –It’t no surprise that the Cavs are back in the playoffs. In his 15th season, LeBron is putting up career highs. He played all 82 games, and has more total (not average) stats than every other MVP candidate (Harden included). Sitting at 50-32, LeBron and the Cavs are in a strong position to run through the Eastern Conference.

    –After getting the 3-seed sniped from them by the streaking 76ers, the 4-seed Cavs will face the 5-seed Pacers, and easier matchup than I’d expect to see from the 6-seed Heat. Although a Heat-Cavs, LeBron-D. Wade matchup would be a great series to see, the Cavs are too good to end their season in the first-round.

    –Finishing the season 48-34, just 2 games back from Cleveland, the Pacers are looking to utilize Victor Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic to spread out the Cavs and make them defend them inside and out.

Image result for western conference

Western Conference: With the seeding for seeds 3-8 up in the air until Wednesday night (regular season finale), every team in the running was playing well. The Timberwolves squeaked by the Nuggets for the 8-seed, and Russell Westbrook made history, again, by averaging a triple-double over the season.

  1. Rockets vs. 8. TimberwolvesImage result for rockets vs timberwolves
    –The Rockets have led the league all season. With the best record in either conference, they sit at 65-17. After acquiring Chris Paul during the offseason, the Rockets are more than equipped to beat any team in the NBA. James Harden, with the dirtiest crossover in the league, is the top candidate for MVP, and that has helped propel him down the stretch.

    — After JUST sneaking into the playoffs with their 8-seed, the Timberwolves are just happy they made it. Sitting at 47-35, the Twolves were right on the verge of missing the postseason, but they beat the Nuggets in their regular season finale to secure their spot. KAT, Wiggins and Butler have what it takes to win big games in big moments, but they’ll need to prove it against the best team in the NBA this series.

    –Making their first playoff appearance since 2004, when Kevin Garnett was playing in MN, the Timberwolves are above .500 for the first time in 14 seasons. With Butler, Rose, Wiggins and KAT, the Twolves have the skills and ability to play up to their competition, but they have little playoff experience (D. Rose).

  2. Warriors vs. 7. SpursImage result for warriors vs spurs
    –After the best few seasons in NBA history, the Warriors are back down to Earth. Sitting at 58-24, they are still in a drivers seat in the West. Facing a tough Popovich coached Spurs team, the Warriors will have to survive until Steph Curry can get back on the court. Shouldn’t be an issue, since they still have 3-4 all-stars (Durant, Thompsen, Iggy, Green), but it’s worth noting that since Curry has been out with injury, the Warriors have gone just 7-9.

    –The Spurs, without Kawhi Leonard all season, have again managed to see the post season. Gregg Popovich is a legend, and the Spurs have gotten new faces, with less experience but strong potential, to ‘rebuild’ their franchise. Tony Parker saw a steep dropoff this season, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Genobli (along with Patty Mills), have provided enough to get them back into the playoffs.

    –A few years ago, this was a dream matchup for the Western Conference Finals. Both teams were playing at such a high level, and both coaches were going great work on the sidelines. Now, without Leonard and Curry for at least a few games, there is much less star power.

  3. Trailblazers vs. 6. PelicansImage result for trail blazers vs pelicans
    –At 49-33, the Trailblazers have cemented their position as a 3-seed in the West. Taking on a big Pelicans team, they’ll have to spread the ball around and get past Anthony Davis on the inside to get through this series.

    –The Pelicans, sitting at a 48-34, just one game back from the Blazers, will have to get the ball inside to big AD, spread the ball with Rondo, and make the Blazers defend them in the half-court. This 3-6 matchup has the potential to go to 7 games if the Pelicans can stay in each game and keep it close down the stretch.

    –With Harkless ruled out for game 1, the Blazers will likely play Evan Turner and Aminu a healthy amount and hope for strong production from their bench.

  4. Thunder vs. 5. JazzImage result for thunder vs jazz
    –With three all-stars, a league MVP and at least 1 future HoF inductee, the Thunder didn’t play as well as they should’ve this season. Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the second straight season, but was alongside Carmello Anthony and Paul George this season. With the added star power, the Thunder should’ve won more than the 48 games they did (48-34).

    –The Jazz, who’re making the playoffs for the second consecutive year are relying heavily on Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to force Westbrook and company into bad passes and make mistakes. To win, the Jazz will have to win the rebounding battle and find a way to limit scoring opportunities from Melo, PG13 and Russ.

    –This will be the closest first-round series of the playoffs. I expect it to go to 6 games, but I think at least 2 of the first 4 will go down to the wire or OT.


PREDICTION:

Eastern Conference

(1) Raptors–>5 games                                                                              
(8) Wizards

(2) Celtics–>6 games

(3) 76ers–>5 games  
(6) Heat

(4) Cavs–4 games
(5) Pacers

Western Conference:
(1) Rockets–>4 games
(8) Timberwolves

(2) Warriors–>5 games
(7) Spurs

(3) Trailblazers
(6) Pelicans–>6 games

(4) Thunder–>6 games
(5) Jazz

A full schedule of all the games in the first-round can be found HERE.

NBA: Playoff Preview Final Countdown

As the end of the regular season nears in the NBA, there are a lot of different things to consider moving forward. Here are a few.

Tiebreakers:
(From CBS Sports Online)

Eastern Conference: The spots are filled, now we’ll have to see who ends up at which seed.

1. Toronto Raptors (56-22) 

  • Split series: Celtics (2-2)
  • Note: 12-4 division record, 37-11 conference record

 

2. Boston Celtics (53-25)

  • Split series: Raptors (2-2)
  • Note: 11-4 division record, 31-17 conference record

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (49-30)

  • Win tiebreakers over: 76ers (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to:  Pacers (3-1)
  • Note: They visit Philadelphia on Friday

4. Philadelphia 76ers (48-30)

  • Lose tiebreakers to: Pacers (2-1), Cavaliers (2-1)
  • Note: They host Cavaliers on Friday

5. Indiana Pacers (47-32)

  •   Win tiebreakers over: Cavaliers (3-1), 76ers (2-1)

 

6. Miami Heat (43-36)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Bucks (3-0)
  • Split series: Wizards (2-2)
  • Note: 11-5 division record

7. Washington Wizards (42-37)

  • Split series: Heat (2-2), Bucks (2-2)
  • Note: 8-6 division record

 

8. Milwaukee Bucks (42-37)

  • Lose tiebreakers to: Heat (3-0)
  • Split series: Wizards (2-2)
  • Note: 6-10 division record

Western Conference:  There are still two spots that need filled. As of now, two more teams could make the cut and bump out two teams currently in the top-8.

1. Houston Rockets (64-15)

  • Locked, second seed

 

3. Portland Trail Blazers (48-31)

  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (2-1)
  • Split series: Spurs (1-1)
  • Note: Their remaining four games are against Houston, San Antonio, Denver and Utah

    4. Utah Jazz (46-33)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Spurs (3-1), Pelicans (3-1), Clippers (3-1), Jazz (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to:Thunder (3-1)
  • Split series: Timberwolves (2-2), Nuggets (2-2)
  • Note: They visit Portland next Wednesday; 7-8 division record

5. San Antonio Spurs (45-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Timberwolves (2-1), Clippers (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (3-1), Pelicans (2-1)
  • Split series: Blazers (1-1), Thunder (2-2), Nuggets (2-2)
  • Note: They host Portland on Saturday and visit New Orleans next Wednesday; 9-6 division record

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Jazz (3-1), Clippers (3-0)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Timberwolves (3-1), Pelicans (2-1), Nuggets (3-1)
  • Split series: Spurs (2-2)
  • Note: 5-11 division record

7. New Orleans Pelicans (44-34)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Spurs (2-1), Thunder (2-1), Clippers (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (3-1), Timberwolves (4-0), Nuggets (2-1)
  • Note: They visit the Clippers next Monday and host San Antonio next Wednesday; 7-7 division record

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (44-35)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Thunder (3-1), Pelicans (4-0), Nuggets (2-1), Clippers (4-0)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Spurs (2-1)
  • Split series: Jazz (2-2)
  • Note: They host Denver next Wednesday; 9-6 division record

9. Denver Nuggets (44-35)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Thunder (3-1), Pelicans (2-1)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Timberwolves (2-0), Clippers (2-0)
  • Split series: Jazz (2-2), Spurs (2-2)
  • Note: Their three remaining games are against the Clippers, Portland and Minnesota; 8-6 division record

10. Los Angeles Clippers (42-37)

  • Win tiebreakers over: Nuggets (2-0)
  • Lose tiebreakers to: Jazz (3-1), Spurs (2-1), Thunder (3-0), Timberwolves (4-0), Pelicans (2-1)
  • Note: They host Denver on Saturday and host New Orleans next Monday; 12-3 division record

NOTE: I took all of these tiebreaker scenarios directly from CBS Sports. If you’d like to see it there, CLICK HERE.


Home-Court Advantage:

In each series, one team gets home-court advantage as well. Meaning the games are played 2-2-1-1-1…which means 2 at home, 2 away, then alternating through the seven game series if needed.

There are a number of different stats that go into deciding home-court, but generally the team with the better overall record, better head-to-head record, and/or point differential earns home-court for the series. That team is usually the higher seed, but not automatically.

Eastern Conference:

With only the top-seed in each conference earning home-court advantage for the duration of the playoffs, the Raptors or Celtics are looking to secure that honor. As of now, the Raptors are in the drivers seat in the East, sitting three games ahead of the Celtics. But there is still a chance that the seeding could switch before the playoffs start and Boston could lock down the top-seed and home-court that comes with it.

Western Conference:

Again, the Western Conference playoff seeding is still up in the air, but the top-2 seeds are locked in. The Houston Rockets have secured the top-seed, and home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, and the Golden State Warriors have landed the 2-seed.


Injuries:
(Updated Injury Report)

Eastern Conference:

Raptors: With no serious injuries, the Raptors are in good shape heading into the playoffs.

Celtics: All-star point guard Kyrie Irving had season-ending knee surgery, Gordon Hayward still in rehab from his gruesome ankle injury on opening day, and David Theis, a fill-in PF, out injured, the Celtics will need to keep up with their tough Eastern Conference competition in the playoffs.

Cavaliers: As long as LeBron can stay healthy and well-rested, the Cavaliers will be a strong force in the playoffs.

76ers: Joel Embiid is currently out with an eye injury, but is expected to be good to go by the time the first-round of the playoffs rolls around.

Pacers: Assuming all the Pacers can stay rested and uninjured, they should be in good shape for a run in the playoffs.

Heat: Dion Waiters is out for the season, but the Heat have been okay without him. Look for them to make a push during the last week of the regular season to improve their seed.

Wizards: The Wizards are healthy and finishing the season strong. With John Wall resting, they should be ready to go in the playoffs.

Bucks: With non-serious injuries to Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon, they are all game-day decisions. Landing a low-seed in the playoffs would be serious progress for the franchise.

Western Conference:

Rockets: With no significant injuries, the Rockets will earn home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. I expect James Harden and Chris Paul to play some, but will earn rest to be fresh for the first-round.

Warriors: Stephen Curry is out until the playoffs with a knee injury, but is expected to be ready when the first-round starts. Andre Iguodala is a game-time decision with a non-serious knee injury.

Trailblazers: With a tweaked ankle, Damian Lillard is still a game-time decision, and the Trailblazers will want to keep the 3-seed locked down, so I expect to see Dame play more before the regular season ends. Other injuries include back-ups Ed Davis (PF) and Maurice Harkless (SF).

Jazz: Ricky Rubio (PG), Jae Crowder (PF) and Raul Neto (PG) are all game-time decisions, but should be playing most of the remaining games. Currently the 4-seed, the Jazz can still finish as high as 3rd, but will likely remain at 4.

Spurs: Kawhi Leonard has been out most of the season, but the Spurs and Coach Pop have kept them right in the middle of the playoff conversation. If Leonard is able to play in the playoffs, the Spurs could come out of no where and run the table through the first and second rounds in the West.

Thunder: This season was all about a new “Big-3” era for the Thunder. With Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook all healthy going into the playoffs, they could be the team to beat. There record and seeding doesn’t reflect the talent on the court.

Pelicans: The injury bug has hurt the Pelicans all season. After the loss of DeMarcus Cousins, many thought their playoff hopes were gone. But now, even with injuries to Frank Jackson and Alexis Ajinca, the Pelicans are clinging to the 7-seed, but can finish as high as 4th if they win out and other teams lose.

Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler has been limited since the All-Star break, but looks to get back on the court for a deep run in the playoffs. Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague are also listed on the official injury report as game-time decisions, but I expect the Timberwolves to play everyone available to end the season strong and earn a higher seed in the West.

Nuggets: Currently the 9-seed, the Nuggets are on the verge of missing the playoffs. Luckily, the injury bug hasn’t hurt them too much. With non-serious injuries to starting SG Gary Harris, expected to be playing by the playoffs, and PF Tyler Lydon out through May, the Nuggets have stayed right with the pack in search of the last seed in the West.

Clippers: Injuries have challenged the Clippers all season. Hunting for the 8-seed in the West, SG Avery Bradley is likely to miss the first-round of the playoffs (if they make the cut). Additionally, SF Danilo Gallinari and PG Milos Teodosic are expected to be active by the time the first-round comes around.

NFL: 2018 Eagles rain supreme in instant classic shootout over Patriots in #SuperBowlLII

If you’re a Patriots fan, be aware.

I’m not going to blast the Pats for their performance in Super Bowl LII. They played a game that would’ve beaten literally any other team in the NFL. I give all the credit to Nick Foles and the Eagles for beating the best dynasty currently in football.

That being said:

“Suck it, Patriots.”

                                             –A happy Colts fan

In an MVP performance, Nick Foles played the game of his life against the defending champs. From the beginning, Foles and his receivers were feeling it and it showed.

Although they only got three points on the opening drive, they opened up a 9-3 lead through the first quarter following Jake Elliot missed XP (not the only blunder of the night on special teams).

After another Eagles TD and a Goskowski FG, the Pats found the endzone for the first time on a 26-yard James White run. Surprisingly, Goskowski missed the XP (the second blunder) to make it a 15-12 game just before the two minute warning of the first half.

In an incredible 7-play, 70-yard drive that covered 90 seconds, Nick Foles drove the Eagles to the 1 yardline, but faced 4th & goal. The biggest play of the half.

Here it is. Gutsiest call for the Eagles to end the half with 10-point lead.

Tom Brady did what he does, finding tight end Rob Gronkowski four times on the opening drive of the third quarter on a 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Gronk Spike. His first of two.

The Eagles followed the score with an answer, driving 85-yards to stay up by 10 midway through the third.  Tom “Playoff” Brady came back strong and led yet ANOTHER long drive to keep the Patriots in the game.

Going 75-yards in just under four minutes narrowed their deficit back to three points, 29-26.

Enter fourth quarter antics.

In one of their least productive drives of the night, the Eagles only mustered a field goal to open the fourth quarter. It seemed like they were running out of steam from keeping up with the Patriots all game.

They weren’t.

Tom Brady led a 10-play drive that lasted nearly five minutes.

The result? A second Gronk Spike that gave the Patriots their first lead of the game with just over nine minutes left in regulation.

If you thought the 4th & goal play to end the first half was gutsy, it gets better.

Foles orchestrated the drive of a lifetime, going 75-yards on FOURTEEN (14) plays and killed over seven minutes off the clock. Just before the two minute warning, Foles found Zach Ertz for a controversial 11-yard TD to take the lead back, 38-33.

After the failed 2PT to go up by seven, the Eagles had one thing to do–stop Tom Brady.

Tom Brady is one of the, if not THE, best clutch quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. His numbers in games don’t lie.

This wasn’t going to be one of those games. On the second play of his final drive, Brady was under pressure and got strip-sacked by Brandon Graham, the Eagles leading sack earner.

The Eagles took over on the NE 28 and stayed in FG range for the Elliot kick to make it 41-33.

One last ditch effort to score points (and possibly a 2PT to even the score) fell short for Brady and the Patriots.



Underdogs throughout the entire postseason. Overlooked once Carson Wentz got injured. Overlooked and underdogs no more.

For the first time since 1960, the Philadelphia Eagles are Champions, winning Super Bowl LII, over the Patriots, 41-33 in offensive shootout

APTOPIX_Eagles_Patriots_Super_Bowl_Football_22965.jpg
Photo from: macon.com


Notable Stats:

Eagles   41
QB: N. Foles (SB MVP)         28/43, 373 yds, 3 TD, 1 TD rec, 1 INT
RB: J. Ajayi                               9 car. 57 yds.
RB: L. Blount                           14 car. 90 yds, TD
RB: C. Clement                         3 car, 8 yds, 4 rec, 100 yds, TD
WR: A. Jeffery                         3 rec, 73 yds, TD
WR: N. Agholor                       9 rec, 84 yds.
TE: Z. Ertz                                7 rec, 67 yds, TD (GW)

Patriots     33

QB: T. Brady                            28/48, 505 yds, 3 TD
RB: J. White                             7 car, 45 yds, TD, 2 rec, 21 yds.
RB: R. Burkhead                     3 car, 18 yds, 1 rec, 46 yds.
WR: D. Amendola                   8 rec, 152 yds.
WR: C. Hogan                          6 rec, 128 yds, TD
TE: R. Gronkowski                 9 rec, 116 yds, 2 TD



If this game wasn’t enough to get you to love the game of football, it was certainly one that’ll go down in history as one of the best ever. Breaking 17 records and tying 12 more, this game was the best offensive shootout in the history of the Super Bowl.

In the middle of many of these records is Tom Brady. Now the only quarterback in NFL history with 10,000+ postseason passing yards, Brady also has the most pass attempts (357), completions (235), passing yards (2,576) and passing touchdowns (18) than any other player in Super Bowl history.

This game, Brady broke the single game passing yards record in a SB with 505, breaking his record from last year against the Falcons (467).

The two teams combined for a NFL record 1,151 total yards (874 of which were passing), which is the most in ANY NFL GAME (regular and postseason games).

I’m not going to list all 29 records that were broken/tied in the game, but CBS Sports did, so here’s a link.

 

NFL: 2018 Super Bowl LII (Patriots vs. Eagles) Preview

USA TODAY Sports

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I’m a die hard Indianapolis Colts fan, so I have a hard time cheering for the Patriots in any circumstance. I recognize the legacy Belichick and Brady have built and every team in the NFL aspires to have that kind of success.

There are rumors circulating about the end of this legacy. Tom Brady, who is now 40 years old, and Bill Belichick, 65 years young, would be the oldest in league history to win a Super Bowl in their respective roles.

One of the biggest things to know going into Super Bowl Sunday is the experience difference between the Patriots and Eagles.

If the playoff and Super Bowl experience differential isn’t enough to influence your prediction, consider this season.

Tom Brady led the NFL in passing yards with 4,577. According to NFL Research, QB’s who led the league in passing yards are 0-5 in Super Bowls in that season. This isn’t a reason to bet against Brady and the Patriots, but it is something to consider against Nick Foles and the Eagles this season.

Throwing for a whopping 352 yards and 3 TDs against a defense that only gave up an average of 192 pass yards/game during the regular season. If Foles and Eagles Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich can dial up that same offensive performance, this game will be well in hand for the NFC Champions.

                      BleacherReport.com

I don’t expect that to happen. Crazier games have been played, in a Super Bowl, nonetheless. Need I remind you of SB XLVIII?

A big question mark looms over star tight end Rob Gronkowski and his readiness to return to the field following his injury early in the AFC Championship game two weeks ago. Currently in concussion protocol, Gronk knows what it’s like to miss a huge game, missing last seasons Super Bowl with a back injury.

I don’t expect scoring to be hard to come by. The current over/under is 48 points with the Patriots favored by just 3 points. Both teams boast high flying offenses and reliable defenses that will look to take every advantage at their disposal to gain an edge.


My prediction:

I fully expect the Patriots to continue their dominance and win another Super Bowl. As much as I’d like to see the Eagles,the biggest underdog since 2009, beat the Patriots, I don’t think it’ll happen. It’s going to come down to how well Nick Foles plays.

I expect the Tom Brady to have an average playoff TB12 game and lead a solid, well-rounded offensive effort. In order for the Eagles to even have a chance, Foles will have to play out of his mind. As good or better than he played against the Vikings.

The Patriots will keep the Eagles running game locked down and make Foles convert and make plays all game long. The Eagles will, and should, bring blitz more often than usual.

Sporting News Online

Patriots         28
Eagles            24

 

 

NFL: 2018 NFC Champion, Eagles roll to Super Bowl 52

Not only did the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship, they obliterated them. The Vikings started the game strong with a 9-play, 75 yard drive to get on the board first. Their only points of the game. After a quick four play drive that only amounted to 17 yards, the Eagle punted the ball back to the Vikings who were already nursing a 7-0 lead. That’s when momentum changed.



Full Recap Here:

After driving to the edge of Vikings territory, Case Keenum was pressured in the pocket and tried to heave a ball to one of his receivers. Needless to say they didn’t catch it–Patrick Robinson, an Eagles cornerback, caught it and took in 50 yards for a pick-6.

With the score even at 7-7, the Vikings and Keenum had the ball and a chance to stay in the game. They failed to pick up a single first down and punted the ball back to the Eagles just 90 seconds after they scored. The Eagles took their time, driving 75 yards in over six minutes and scored on a 11-yard run by LeGarrette Blount to give the Eagles their first lead. They never looked back.

Already down 14-7, the Vikes only gained 91 yards of offense in the remaining first half and their defense gave up 150. After a Vikings fumble late in the second quarter, the Eagles put together another 75 yard drive in just over two minutes to pull ahead, 21-7.

Nothing could go right for the Vikings as they managed to punt the ball back to Philly one more time before the half. Foles threw for three consecutive first downs and added 60 passing yards to his total, getting into field goal range with 0:04 left in the first half. Jake Elliott knocked it through from 38 yards out and the Eagles went to the locker room up 24-7 against the best defense in the league.

The Eagles got the ball to start the second half and again, took it 75 yards to pay-dirt to extend their lead to 31-7. Another long drive for the Vikings ended in a turnover as a Keenum to Thielen connection was ruled incomplete on 4th and goal from the seven.

At this point, the Eagles were winning handily and were draining the clock. On a crazy 12-play, 92 yard drive that killed 7:11 off the clock, the Nick Foles connected with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery for their second TD of the night, making Foles’ total three. The score was 38-7, the Vikings had the ball and a few more drives, but nothing came from them. That score is final.



Major Stats:

Ealges:  38                                                              Vikings:  7
QB: N. Foles 26/33, 352 yds, 3 TD                        QB: C. Keenum 28/48, 271 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
RB: J. Ajayi 18 car, 73 yds                                      RB: J. McKinnon 10 car, 40 yds, 11 rec, 86 yd
RB: L. Blount 6 car, 21 yds, 1 TD                          WR: S. Diggs 8 rec, 70 yds
WR: A. Jeffery 5 rec, 85 yds, 2 TD
TE: Z. Ertz 8 rec, 93 yds



Stacking up against my prediction:

This game is the only game so far that my prediction was WAY off. I predicted a close game, like most people. I predicted a 21-17 game with the Vikings winning. Obviously, that’s way off. It happens. I don’t think anyone predicted a blowout.

About the only aspect of my prediction that stood true was the defensive TD. Foles exceeded my prediction for yards and TDs. Keenum did break 200 yards, but only threw 1 TD. The run game was rough for both teams, so my prediction fell flat their.

The Eagles, home underdogs this weekend, move on and will travel to Minnesota to play against the AFC Champion Patriots in Super Bowl 52 in two weeks. Keep an eye out for a blog breaking down what each team will have to do to win SB52.

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NFL: 2018 AFC Champion, Patriots heading to Super Bowl 52

Yes, the Patriots did win the AFC Championship…again. In their seventh straight appearance in the game, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick did what they seemingly always do–walk away with a spot in the Super Bowl. The Jaguars did themselves proud, fighting until the last drive against the best team in football, but fell short as Blake Bortles and the offense got put in a tough 4th down spot.



Here’s a recap:

After falling behind 3-0 after the first drive, the Jacksonville Jaguars defense held the high-flying offense of the New England defense to just 10-points in the first half. Following the opening drive FG, the Jaguars put together two consecutive 75+ yard drives to lead 14-3 midway through the second quarter.

Leaving too much time on the clock before half, the stingy defense of the Jaguars did what they could to stall the Patriots, but Brady led a 6-play, 85 yard drive to score with less than a minute before halftime. Up 14-10 with a minute left in the first half, the Jaguars took a knee and rode their advantage into the locker room in Foxborough. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski was injured on the drive and wouldn’t return.

The second half was a completely different game for both teams. With the ball out of halftime, the Jaguars looked to push the ball downfield and drive into Patriots territory. A 9-play, 39 yard drive ended in only three points for the Jags as Josh Lambo hit a 54-yard FG, the only points for either team in the third quarter.

Leading 17-10 after three quarters, Bortles and the Jaguars were in position to hold their advantage and seal the game. Holding Tom Brady and the Patriots to zero points in the third, the Jags took their next possession 11-plays, 66 yards in nearly five minutes to get another Lambo FG, to make the score 20-10 with one quarter remaining.

Enter playoff Tom Brady.

To this point, Brady had thrown for 152 yards and no touchdowns. Brady is not new to playing from behind. Just last year, the Brady-led Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons in Super Bowl 51. If anyone can comeback and win big games, it’s Brady and Belichick.

The Jaguars scored their last points, the Lambo FG to take the 20-10 lead, with 14:52 left in the game. Aside from an early fumble, the Patriots owned the fourth quarter.

Tallying 138 more yards, Brady was on another level. With 10 stitches in his throwing hand all game, from an injury earlier this week, Brady finished the game with a solid stat line. Nothing new for him in the playoffs.

After surrendering two touchdowns in the last nine minutes, the Jaguars had the ball and a shot to earn their spot in Super Bowl 52. Down 24-20 just before the two minute warning, the Bortles got the ball on his own 25-yardline but had a long way to go. Needing 75 yards to win the game, Bortles threw for 41 yards but was sacked for seven yards on second down to the Patriots 45 yardline. On the sack, Bortles lost the ball, but luckily one of his linemen recovered for a loss of nine total yards on the play.

Coming out of the two-minute warning, the Jags faced a tough 3rd and 19 from the New England 47. Bortles dumped off a short pass and his receiver, James O’Shaughnessy, managed only four yards, leading to a 4th and 15.

On his last play of the season, Blake Bortles took a shot to receiver Dede Westbrook downfield. In an amazing effort, Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore got a hand above Westbrook to break up the play and sink the hopes of the Jaguars.

The exciting game finished with a score of 24-20 with the Patriots claiming the AFC spot in Super Bowl 52.



Major Statistical Impact:

                       Patriots:  24                                                                Jaguars: 20
QB: T. Brady 26/38, 290 yds, 2 TD                           QB: B. Bortles 23/36, 293 yds, 1 TD
RB: D. Lewis 9 car, 34 yds, 7 rec, 32 yds                 RB: L. Fournette 24 car, 76 yds, 1 TD
WR: B. Cooks 6 rec, 100 yds                                      RB: C. Grant 3 rec, 59 yds
WR: D. Amendola 7 rec, 84 yds, 2 TD                     WR: A. Hurns 6 rec, 80 yds



Comparing my prediction:

I’m still confident in my predictions throughout these playoffs. Here are my predictions for this game.

Although Brady didn’t throw any picks, the Jaguars did force a turnover. Brady was held under 300 yards, just, and got the 2 TDs as I predicted. With the early injury to Gronkowski, he wasn’t able to play in the second half, tallying just one reception for 21 yards. I correctly predicted that the Jaguars would lead at halftime, led by Fournette. Though he didn’t eclipse 100 rush yards, he did get 76 and the TD, leading all players.

Keep an eye our for a NFC Championship Recap and Super Bowl 52 preview.

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NFL: 2018 NFC Championship Preview & Prediction

 The top-seeded Minnesota Vikings will take on the third-seeded Philadelphia Eagles at home in the NFC Championship. The game will start at 5:40 pm (central time) on Sunday, Jan. 21 and will air on FOX.

With a combined six Super Bowl appearances between them, the top-seeded Eagles and third-seeded Vikings will face off with the next appearance on the line. The Vikings, currently 4-5 in NFC Championship games and 0-4 in Super Bowls, will have to rely heavily on their league-best defense against the Eagles, led by backup QB Nick Foles. Foles and the Eagles will need to establish their offense early against the Vikings and will look to improve on their 5-5 record in NFC Championship games.

The Vikings are one win away from hosting a Super Bowl, something that has never happened in the history of the NFL. Case Keenum and Nick Foles are not who anyone expected to be playing in the NFC Championship game. Both players are filling in for a starter-Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz, who both suffered knee injuries earlier in the season. With minimal playoff experience, both quarterbacks have big shoes to fill, but will lean on their defenses to stay in the game this weekend.

Both teams have relied on their defenses all season. With a takeaway ratio of +11 and +5 respectively, the Eagles and Vikings will continue to put pressure on the inexperienced players they’re facing.



Case for the Vikings:

With the best defense in the league, the Minnesota Vikings are just one win from playing in the Super Bowl. That Super Bowl, the 52nd, will be played U.S Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN–home of the Vikings. To play at home for the Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history, the Vikings will have to get past the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles.

Riding the best finish in this season playoffs, the Vikings will need to get it done throughout the game against an Eagles team that ranked second, behind Minnesota, in NFC defense. The Vikings average 122 rushing yards per game, putting them seventh in the NFL. The Eagles defense allows an average of less than 80 rushing yards per game, the best in the league. For the Vikings to stay in this game, they will have to give Latavius Murray the ball and earn the yards on the ground.

In the air, Keenum proved himself over and over this season. Averaging 234 yards/game this season, Keenum and the Viking ranked 11th in the league. The Eagles defense gave up just less than that, averaging 227 pass yards allowed/game, ranking them 17th best. Not anything to brag about for the backfield of the Philly defense.

With three big targets in the passing game, Keenum will need to spread the ball out between Theilen, Diggs and Rudolph to disrupt the defensive play of the Eagles.

Case for the Eagles:

After rookie quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Eagles could’ve stopped fighting for their season. They had already clinched the NFC East and only had two regular season games left before their first-round bye and the playoffs. Enter Nick Foles.

With a third round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Eagles drafted Foles. Playing only seven games his rookie season, Foles had a TD-INT ratio of 6-5. The next season, Foles stepped up and played 13 games. His stats were astounding, including a 7-TD, 0-INT game, leading him to a TD-INT ratio of 27-2 for the 2013 season. After an average year with Eagles in 2014, Foles began bouncing around between a few NFL teams (Chiefs and Rams) before ending up back in Philadelphia.

Playing in his 51st career NFL game on Sunday, Foles will have to play above average to lead the Eagles to a spot in Super Bowl 52.

The Eagles rank third-best in the league in rushing yards/game, averaging 132. The Vikings defense ranks second in the NFL, behind the Eagles, in rushing defense, allowing just an average of 83 rushing yards/game. The Eagles will need to get LeGarrette Blount running downfield early to keep up with the run defense of the Vikings. If their run game can become a threat, the Eagles can use play-action to their advantage and take some shots downfield. Foles, though he’s been conservative to this point, will need to make plays while remaining smart. To prove himself as a legitimate starter, he’ll need to have a good game and lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance since 2004 when they lost to the Patriots.



My Prediction:

Both quarterbacks will throw at least an INT. Case Keenum will throw for 200 yards and 2 TDs, Nick Foles will throw for 200 and 1 TD. Murray will run for 100 yards and a TD. Blount and Ajayi will combine for 60 yards and 2 TDs. Theilen, Diggs and Rudolph will combine for 15 receptions and 150 yards. I expect at least one defensive TD in the game.

Vikings: 21
Eagles: 17

For a preview and prediction for the AFC Championship game, CLICK HERE.