Category Archives: Kyle Miller

2016 NFL Division Predictions: AFC West

I was having a discussion in one of the sports groups I’m a part of on Facebook about which divisions have the best chance to send three teams to the postseason. There were two that I think have the potential to do that. The first division was the subject of my first “Division Prediction” article, the NFC North. The second division is the subject of this article, the AFC West.

Headed by the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, the AFC West has two other teams that I believe could be participant in this year’s playoffs: the Kansas City Chiefs and, this isn’t a typo, the Oakland Raiders. I believe the Chargers could make that jump and be in the discussion next year and I’ll explain why later in the article. So, let’s get into it!

1. Oakland Raiders 11-5

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Rejoice, Raider fans! After 13 years without any postseason appearances, if this noob sports fan is correct, that drought will end this season. The Raiders took a step in the right direction last season, and after a very active and productive off-season, I think they take an even bigger step this season. Offensively, the Raiders are headlined by 3rd year quarterback Derek Carr, 2nd year WR Amare Cooper and a now elite offensive line that was beefed up in the off-season by GM Reggie McKenzie. Carr took a huge step forward in his 2nd season. He threw for 32 TDs to only 11 INTs and over 3,900 yards. Some of the credit for Carr’s step forward has to go to 2015 rookie WR Amare Cooper. The two reportedly built a bond quickly during training camp and it translated onto the field during the season. Cooper displayed a very polished skill set for a rookie as he went on to catch 72 passes for 1,070 yards and 6 TDs in his rookie year. The big surprise for the Raiders was the resurgence of WR Michael Crabtree, who led the team with 9 TD receptions. Latavius Murray proved to be a reliable runner in the backfield, rushing for over 1,000 yards. And the reason I believe this offense will take the next step will be the upgraded offensive line. The Raiders added the top offensive lineman in last year’s FA class, G Kelechi Osemele. Adding him to a line that already has Rodney Hudson, Donald Penn and Austin Howard gives the Raiders a line that may be the best of any team not named the Dallas Cowboys.

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Defensive is where the Raiders made their biggest splash in free agency. They added LB Bruce Irvin, CB Sean Smith and S Reggie Nelson. Irvin and my pick for 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, Khalil Mack, should give the Raiders a dynamic rush that will wreak havoc on offensive lines. A much improved secondary should help this defense take the next step and help the Raiders return to the postseason.

2. Denver Broncos 10-6

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Defense. A really, really good defense. That was the calling card of the Denver Broncos during their run to the franchise’s 3rd Super Bowl. Peyton Manning was a shell of his former self. He was so bad that the Broncos started QB Brock Osweiler for 4 games last season. Manning eventually got the starting job back and did enough to help the Broncos win it all. Now Manning is retired and Brock Osweiler signed a big deal with the Houston Texans. John Elway traded for Mark “Butt Fumble” Sanchez and drafted QB Paxton Lynch in the 1st round of the 2016 Draft. So going into the 2016 season, Denver has a QB situation that rivals that of the Cleveland Browns. But wait, are the Broncos still fine? With the way their QB’s performed last season and they still ended up winning it all, I say yes. After all, Mark Sanchez was in a similar situation with the Jets and played in 2 AFC Championship games. And I believe he is in a better situation now. DeMaryious Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are a formidable 1-2 punch at receiver. The offensive line is going to need to come together and improve quickly, seeing as Denver will most likely be a run-first team with the Sanchize at the helm.

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Defensively, Denver will still be among the best in the league, despite losing Danny Trevethan and Malik Jackson in free agency. The depth is there, and they have arguably the best defensive coordinator in the NFL, Wade Philips, calling the shots. The best secondary in the NFL will be intact for the upcoming season as well. With the question marks that Denver has on offense, their defense is without question still going to be good enough to get them back into the playoffs this season.

3. Kansas City Chiefs 10-6

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To call the Chiefs’ 2015 season a roller coaster would be a massive understatement.  They started out 1-5 and lost star RB Jamaal Charles for the season due to a torn ACL in a Week 5 loss vs. the Bears. Those first 6 weeks of the season couldn’t have gone any worse. Most teams would have packed it in and started planning for the off-season. What do the Chiefs do? They win their last 10 regular season games, beat the Texans in the Wild Card round, giving them their first playoff win in 22 years, and gave New England all they could handle in the Divisional Round. They finished the season with a franchise record 11-game win streak.Ending the season as strongly as they did should give this team plenty of confidence going into the 2016 season. Kansas City had a fairly quiet off-season. They resigned TE Travis Kelce, RBs Chandarick West/Spencer Ware and OT Eric Fisher. The team also designated S Eric Berry as their franchise player and signed QB Nick Foles. The strength of this team on offense will clearly be their RBs. With the return of Jamaal Charles along with the way West and Ware filled in for him last season gives the impression that Kansas City has quite possibly the deepest backfield in the NFL. WR Jeremy Maclin had a very solid 1st season with the Chiefs to the tune of 87 receptions, 1,088 yards and 8 touchdowns. He provided Kansas City with a much needed threat on the perimeter after the team’s WR’s failed to catch a TD in over a season before his arrival. One of the major deficiencies of the Chiefs’ offense is the severe drop off in WR talent after Maclin. Albert Wilson and De’Anthony Thomas are the projected 2nd and 3rd wide-outs on the team and neither will make any defensive coordinators lose any sleep. TE Travis Kelce put together a nice season himself, which didn’t come as a surprise given that Alex Smith targets his TE’s almost more than any QB in the league.

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Most of the Chiefs core defensive players will be back (S Eric Berry is currently holding out). Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston will all be back along with 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year Marcus Peters. I expect Berry and the Chiefs will come to a resolution on the holdout before the season so the Chiefs defense should be stout again this season. Kansas City is one of the more talented teams in the AFC and I expect the team be in the thick of the playoff hunt at season’s end.

4. San Diego Chargers 6-10

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The 2015 season for the Chargers left their fans wishing Agents Kay and Jay would arrive to their homes and deneuralyze them. The injury bug hit the Chargers harder than any team in the league, especially on offense. The offensive line and receiving corp was unrecognizable late in the season. Despite that, QB Philip Rivers still finished 2nd in the NFL in passing yards. As for the off-season, the Chargers just getting healthy was the biggest thing for them. They used the #3 pick in the draft on Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who is currently holding out from the team. Yes, a rookie, who isn’t a QB, who hasn’t played a down of NFL football, who has zero leverage, is holding out. Quite possibly the biggest joke of the offseason. Anyhow, as we were. The Chargers weren’t very active at all in free agency.  They signed two ex-Packers:  CB Casey Heyward to a 3-year contract and WR James Jones to a 1-year contract. They also added speedy WR Travis Benjamin. So, going into 2016, the Chargers have a fresh slate health-wise and improve upon a dismal 2015 campaign. Their offense is headed by Rivers, who I feel continues to be very underappreciated by fans around the league. In addition to Rivers, future hall of famer Antonio Gates continues to produce at a high level. Wide-outs Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin should give opposing secondaries plenty of problems with their blazing speed. On the offensive line, C Matt Slauson is one of the best at his position in the league. It’s the other 4 lawn chairs that are one of the reasons why I don’t think San Diego will be much better next season. While I expect San Diego’s offense to be good, they don’t have overall quality on the offensive line that could make them a great/elite offense.

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Defensively, the Charger’s strength are their CBs led by Jason Verrett. Heyward left a crowded secondary in GB and will have a much more important role on the Chargers D. OLB Melvin Ingram turned in a solid season with 10.5 sacks. Outside of the three players I named, there isn’t much to write home about. They have by far the worst defense in the division and could very well have one of the worst in the league. Even if healthy and if they get another great season from Philip Rivers, the Chargers just have too many holes on both sides of the ball to be a threat this season.

kyle

Kyle Miller

Huge Bucks, Packer, Brewer, Predator and Badger fan. But above all, just a lover of sports in general. Can’t wait to bring you some sports articles from a serious, yet humorous, perspective.

 

 

 

 

2016 Division Predictions: NFC North

It’s almost that time of year. The time friends and family become enemies and foes. Where Sunday’s full of get togethers consisting of grilling, drinking beer and watching football with those you cherish becomes a weekly tradition until February. For most people, football season starts Week 1 of the regular season, but for the die-hards like myself, it starts with the Hall of Fame game. And since the NFL season starts Sunday (for me at least), I feel that it’s time to start predicting how each division will potentially play out this season. And to kick off my “Division Predictions” series, I’ll begin with the division in which my beloved Green Bay Packers reside; the NFC North.

Last year, the division came down to the final weeks of the season. The Vikings marched into Lambeau in Week 16 and beat Green Bay in their house for the first time since Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau in 2009 (the two teams did tie in 2013).

For the Detroit Lions, it was a tail of two seasons. They started the season 1-7 then finished the season strong with a 6-2 record in the 2nd half, to ultimately finish 7-9 overall. The offseason was a heartbreaker for Detroit fans, but I’ll get into that more later.

The Chicago Bears had a very intriguing season. They finished 6-10 under first year head coach John Fox, but 7 of their 10 losses were by a touchdown or less. Fox definitely made them much more competitive last year, and that should give Bears’ fans optimism for the upcoming season.

And, without further ado, here are my predictions for the NFC North in the 2016 season.

1. Minnesota Vikings 13-3

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It is in my DNA to hate the Vikings, but I can’t help but admire and applaud the team that they have built. Since hiring head coach Mike Zimmer in 2014, the Vikings have improved every year, specifically on defense. The Vikings have gone from 30th in points allowed to 5th during Zimmer’s tenure. With the talented, young pieces they have (especially on defense) and quite possibly the most complete coaching staff in the NFL, I expect them to improve yet again this season. There may not be a more complete, talented defense in the league, and with one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, head coach Mike Zimmer, running the show, it could very well be the best in the entire NFL next season. The Vikings only had 4 defensive starters that weren’t drafted or signed as an undrafted FA (NT Ninvel Joseph, CB Terrence Newman, DT Tom Johnson, S Andrew Sendejo). Anthony Barr, Everson Griffin, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith are the headliners on this talented defense and should make a huge impact again next season.

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Offensively, the Vikings look to be improved as well. They drafted the best WR prospect in the Draft in Laquan Treadwell to give QB Teddy Bridgewater another weapon on the outside to pair and create a solid tandem with 2nd year WR Stephon Diggs. And then there’s that cyborg in the backfield named Adrian Peterson, who doesn’t seem to age and is still running at an elite level. I do think we will be seeing a transition from Adrian Peterson being the focal point of the offense to Teddy Bridgewater being the man withing the next few season.

2. Green Bay Packers 12-4

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The Packers had a very, ummmmm, inconspicuous season last year. They lost their No. 1 WR Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL in the 1st quarter of the first preseason game. Despite that, they came out of the gate hot, starting the year 6-0 before sputtering in the 2nd half of the season and finishing 10-6. Even during the hot start, the offense never seemed right without Jordy. Opposing teams didn’t have to worry about anyone taking the top off of the defense, and the Packers’ offense wasn’t as explosive as we’ve become accustomed to. The Packers brought back a familiar face in James Jones, who started the season off hot but became essentially a non-factor later in the year. Randall Cobb never took over as a go-to receiver. Davante Adams was a disaster for the most part. Ty Montgomery showed some promise, but his season was cut short due to injury as well. Eddie Lacy was the Rosie O’Donnell of RB’s. A lot of this lead to some trust issues between QB Aaron Rodgers and this WR corp.

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Defensively, Green Bay showed some much needed improvement, especially in the secondary. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix took another step forward, while two rookies, Demarious Randall and Quentin Rollins, both put together impressive rookie campaigns. Veterans Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett were solid as well. DE Mike Daniels earned himself a $40 million contract extension for his solid play. The big question for the Packers entering this season will be the LB corp. Julius Peppers is going be used in more of a limited role due to his age, which means someone will have to step up at the OLB position. Rookie Blake Martinez will reportedly be the starter at ILB, and Clay Matthews will be back outside. With Nelson back and Lacy 150 lbs lighter, the Packers’ offense should be back to normal. On defense, it’ll be up to the front 7 to bring the heat and give this talented secondary chances to get turnovers.

3. Chicago Bears 9-7

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As I stated before, the Bears were competitive last season for the most part. And if you look at John Fox’s two previous coaching tenures, the Panthers and Broncos, his teams made significant leaps in the 2nd year with him at the helm. With the moves the Bears made this offseason, especially on defense, I see that happening again. The Bears addressed their LB corp in free agency. Chicago signed tackling machine Danny Trevethan (for a bargain) from the Super Bowl champion Broncos, reuniting him with Fox. In addition to Trevethan, the Bears signed Colt LB Jerrell Freeman to a team friendly deal. The Bears front 7 looks like it will be very good going into the season, which will help the not-so-good secondary. Outside of CB Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos, the Bears’ secondary doesn’t have much to write home about.

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Offensively, the Bears retained TE Zach Miller, who impressed last season, even with now New England Patriot Martellus Bennett playing as the No. 1 TE. WR Kevin White will be looking to see his first snap as a pro this year after his rookie season ended before it started last year due to injury. Alshon Jeffery also caught the injury bug last year, only appearing in 9 games. But in those 9 games, he showed that he is a legitimate No. 1 option for QB Jay Cutler. Despite all of the criticism Jay gets, he put together a fairly solid season by Jay Cutler standards throwing for 3,600 yards, 21 TDs and 11 INTs. With both of his top receivers healthy and Zach Miller proving to be a solid pass catching TE, Cutler has the weapons to put together an even better campaign this year. RB Jeremy Langford showed flashes in place of Matt Forte last year but didn’t show enough to be a premier back. However, he should get a majority of the touches at RB given the lack of other options at the position. The Bears definitely improved this offseason, and given John Fox’s track record and defensive smarts, I see the Bears being in the hunt for a WC spot at the end of the season.

4. Detroit Lions 5-11

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Like I said before, it was a tale of two seasons for the Lions last year. They finished the year hot, and that’s the last good thing that happened to them. Lions’ fans experienced de ja vu of Barry Sanders’ early retirement when WR Calvin Johnson hung up the cleats this offseason. Now, quarterback Matthew Stafford will have to adjust to life without the guy who’s been his No. 1 target for his whole career. The Lions signed Marvin Jones to pair with Golden Tate, but outside those two, there isn’t anything that will make defensive coordinators cringe. The Lions’ offensive line isn’t formidable at all. Detroit was extremely high on RB Ameer Abdullah going into last season, but he didn’t live up to the hype.

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With the return of LB DeAndre Levy, Detroit’s strength appears to be their front 7. Fellow linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Bynes both put together very impressive 2015 seasons. Ezekiel Ansah, who will be the cornerstone on the defensive line for years, and Haloi Ngata will provide some solid pressure up front. Much like the Bears, the Lions are fortunate to have a good front 7 because their secondary, outside of Darius Slay, isn’t very good. While Detroit has some very good playmakers on defense, they don’t have the depth on that side of the ball. Their offense without Megatron is going to be their Achilles heal this season. I don’t trust Stafford at all without Megatron, and there isn’t enough quality caliber playmakers to make his life any easier.

 

Next up, the AFC North.

kyle

    Kyle Miller

Huge Bucks, Packer, Brewer, Predator and Badger fan. But above all, just a lover of sports in general. Can’t wait to bring you some sports articles from a serious, yet humorous, perspective.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder Agree To A 3-year/$85 Million Contract Extension

It has been a tumultuous past couple of months for the Oklahoma City Thunder, to say the least. They lost a heartbreaking series against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, a series which they dominated the first 4 games only to see Golden State come back and crush their championship hopes.

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On draft night, OKC traded big man Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for guard Victor Oladipo and the No. 12 pick, which they used to draft Domantis Sobonis. Then, in the beginning of July, superstar Kevin Durant hit free agency and joined the very team that ended the Thunder’s playoff dreams weeks earlier. As if that didn’t cut deep into the die hard, blue-blooded veins of the OKC faithful, reports surfaced in the following days that Russell Westbrook wouldn’t sign a contract extension “under any circumstances.”

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Fast forward a few weeks later, and now Thunder fans can breathe a lot easier. Despite all of these earlier reports that Westbrook was all but gone, Russell and the Thunder agreed on a 3-year, $85 million contract extension, with a player option for the 2018-2019 season. Given the short length of the contract, it appears that Westbrook will be looking to cash in after the next salary cap jump next summer, while giving GM Sam Presti a couple of years to lure another star to OKC to play alongside Westbrook.

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While losing a player of Kevin Durant’s caliber is a huge blow, the Thunder will still be a very good team next season. While they most likely won’t score as much as they did, they will be a very physical, defensive team. This, I believe, will be their calling card next season.  With Westbrook and backcourt mate Victor Oladipo, they may very well be the best defensive backcourt in the NBA. They will be able to give fits to any backcourt that opposes them. And in today’s guard-heavy league, this will be greatly beneficial to OKC. Andre Roberson is a solid defender in his own right. Down low, OKC has two brick houses that will bring toughness inside in Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. Adams is the better defender/rebounder, while Kanter will be able provide some reliable low-post scoring. With the departure of Ibaka, 3rd-year man Mitch McGary projects to see a solid increase in minutes at the 4, with Ersan Ilyasova and the always reliable Nick Collison to relieve him.

With two guards that love to drive the lane, having guys that can hit shots from the outside is a plus, and OKC has them. Anthony Morrow, Ersan Ilyasova, Kyle Singler, Cameron Payne, and Alex Abrines are all guys who could thrive off of getting open looks from OKC’s backcourt driving the lane and causing the defense to collapse.

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Given the pieces that they have, and an extra motivated Westbrook that will be on a mission to destroy everything in his path next season, I expect the Thunder to be in the thick of the playoff race in the West. My projection is a 6 seed.

kyle

    Kyle Miller

Huge Bucks, Packer, Brewer, Predator and Badger fan. But above all, just a lover of sports in general. Can’t wait to bring you some sports articles from a serious, yet humorous, perspective.