The Coronavirus Diaries Part 4

It has been about 5.5 months since the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, infected the human race and subsequently wreaked havoc around the globe. As of June 17th, there are 8,320,288 confirmed cases world wide and 447.628 deaths. In the United States there are 2,162,785 confirmed cases and 117,694 deaths. In my home state of Massachusetts there are 106,151 confirmed cases and 7734 deaths. Today marks the 98th day of quarantine.

The United States is slowly flattening the curve and daily cases are dropping, but several states are now seeing cases on the rise after opening up again. This is the tradeoff that’s going to happen throughout the remainder of the pandemic: Lockdown your state and see cases drop or reopen and see them rise. Interestingly enough, the stock market doesn’t seem too concerned about what lies ahead. Despite an almost certain recession, the market has been on the rise and has now exceeded pre-COVID levels. This may simply be optimism as numbers have been improving and businesses reopen again. However, I think it’s going to be tough for a lot businesses to continually reopen and close for periods of time. Many businesses are never going to recover despite attempts from the government to keep them afloat with loans. Massachusetts entered phase 2 of it’s reopening plan this week, which included beaches, parks, and outdoor dining for restaurants. It will be interesting to see if this leads to an uptick in cases later in the month.

The return of sports appears to be on the horizon with the NBA and NHL announcing plans for a return while the MLB looks like it follow suit any day now. 22 teams from the NBA will head down to the Disney World Complex in Orlando and play 8 regular season games and the playoffs. This will take place from July 30th through October 12th if the NBA Finals goes seven games. The NBA sent out a 100 page guide to teams outlining all of the safety precautions required in the “Bubble.” The NHL also announced their return with a 24 team playoff field that will likely begin in early August. The MLB has caused a lot of drama while trying to agree to a plan for the 2020 seasons. Since owners would lose substantial amounts of revenue from no ticket income, they tried to convince the players to take pay cuts. After weeks of both sides being downright nasty to each other to the point where the season was on the verge of being canceled all together, both sides sat down today and the MLB finally proposed a plan that would not involve cuts to players’ salaries. The proposal is not official but would include 60 games in the regular season along with expanded playoffs for 2020 and 2021. It is still too early to know what the NFL is going to do since the regular season is 3 months away, but all eyes will certainly be on them as we get closer and closer.

For the last couple of weeks, COVID-19 was not actually the top story in the news somehow. The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer sparked uproar in not only several states but several countries as well. Riots and protests were everywhere and most appeared to be peaceful but some did turn violent. Many people all over the world joined together to denounce racism and call for police reform. The response was so strong that Minneapolis announced it was disbanding the police department and the NFL took a compete 180 on protesting during the national anthem. It does very much feel like this is a long overdue turning point. We’ve had events in the past such as Ferguson and Charlottesville, but with the most recent murder that was so blatantly racist it appears that there is a real opportunity for change. It’s interesting to wonder if, in a weird way, this is one of the positives of coronavirus. The virus was already disproportionately impacting minorities and with the whole country grinding to a stop, many people had nothing but time on their hands. Another interesting ramification will be the impact of the social protests on the 2020 election. However, we still have a long ways to go until that point.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

-Jeff

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The Last Dance: MJ is the GOAT

I’m not going to say anything new in this blog that hasn’t already been said about Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, but after watching the 10 part documentary it really reinforced for me that Michael Jordan truly is the greatest basketball player of all time and we’ll never see anyone like him again. On the court, all he did was win and dominate every opponent, while off the court he was global icon that drew crowds everywhere he went.

Here is a quick season by season breakdown of Jordan that puts things into perspective just how dominant he really was:

1984-1985: Averages 28 PPG, plays all 82 games, wins Rookie of the Year, All Star, All NBA Second Team

1985-1986: Injured most of the season but returns to lead Bulls to playoffs and scores 63 points in a playoff game against the Celtics, All Star

1986-1987: Plays all 82 games averaging 37.1 PPG, the highest in NBA history after Wilt Chamberlain, All Star, All NBA First Team

1987-1988: Plays all 82 games, leads league in scoring (35 PPG), steals (3.2), wins MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, All Star, All Star game MVP, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team

1988-1989: Plays 81 games, wins scoring title (32.5 PPG), All Star, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team

1989-1990: Plays all 82 games, wins scoring title (33.6) and steals title (2.8), All Star, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team

1990-1991: Plays all 82 games, wins scoring title (31.5), All-Star, MVP, Finals MVP, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team

1991-1992: Plays 80 games, wins scoring title (30.1), All-Star, MVP, Finals MVP, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team

1992-1993: Plays 78 games, wins scoring title (32.6), wins steals title (2.8), All-Star, Finals MVP, All Defensive First Team

1993-1994: Retires from NBA, plays baseball for AA Birmingham Barons and hits .202

1994-1995: Returns at the end of the season but loses to Orlando in the playoffs

1995-1996: Plays all 82 games, wins scoring title (30.4), All Star, All Star game MVP, MVP, Finals MVP, NBA record 72-10 regular season, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team

1996-1997: Plays all 82 games, wins scoring title (29.6), All Star, Finals MVP, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team

1997-1998: Plays all 82 games, wins scoring title (28.7), All Star, All Star game MVP, MVP, Finals MVP, All NBA First Team, All Defensive First Team

It wasn’t just all the stats that Jordan compiled during his 13 years in Chicago, it’s the fact that he hit clutch shot after clutch shot and always found a way to win. He won the title for North Carolina in college, won 6 championships with the Bulls, and was the leader of the 1992 Dream Team that won every game by 30+ points en route to the gold medal. There is no question that Lebron will never match Michael Jordan. Jordan’s success came in an era with much harder competition: The 80’s Celtics, Bad Boy Pistons, Patrick Ewing-led Knicks, Shaq and Penny Magic, and Reggie Miller’s Pacers. The East during Lebron’s run was as weak a conference as ever. Lebron switched teams 3 times and never won a title in his first stint in Cleveland, in fact he gave up in his final playoff series. Lebron then choked against Dallas in the Finals, got obliterated by San Antonio in 2014, and then lost 3 out of 4 to Steph Curry’s Warriors. Even the championships he won he needed a lucky bounce and bail out by Ray Allen in addition to absurd suspension of Draymond Green. Jordan is a better offensive player, defensive player, clutch player, and overall winner. He is the GOAT and will be forever.

-Jeff

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Contagion vs Coronavirus

This past weekend I watched the 2011 movie Contagion, which has recently become popular again due to the current state of the pandemic. I found it very interesting the number of similarities between the movie and real life in 2020. In the movie Contagion, the virus comes from Hong Kong and was thought to be spread from bat to animal to human. This is not too far off from a popular theory that the coronavirus also transferred from bat to pig to human in the city of Wuhan, China. In the movie, once enough people become aware of the virus and subsequent sickness that is spreading, major cities begin to go on lockdown and quarantine. The term social distancing is even used. All of this is very similar to the approaches many countries and cities had to take due to coronavirus. In Contagion, the R0 value, which is a metric that measures how contagious the virus is, is 2.0 while the coronavirus is estimated at 2-2.5. The virus also mutates to become more contagious in the movie, but while there is evidence the coronavirus has mutated it does not appear to have become more contagious in its mutated form.

While there are many similarities between the movie and real life, there are also some pretty significant differences. The mortality rate of the virus in Contagion is estimated at 25-30%, while coronavirus is estimated at 1-2%. The symptoms and severity of the Contagion virus are more extreme and happen much quicker than coronavirus. When cities begin to go into lockdown in Contagion, there instantly becomes mass looting and a dramatic increase in violence as society starts to crumble. We have not gotten that point quite yet, although there has been an increase in crime. In Contagion, one person develops a drug that he claims cures the disease, despite not having FDA approval. People rush to the stores to buy this drug in hopes of a cure. There are some similarities with this drug and hydroxychloroquine, but the latter is an existing drug already being used to treat patients with other conditions. The biggest difference, which is also the most unrealistic part of the movie, is that a vaccine was developed within weeks rather than years. However, I understand the need to take some liberties when trying to condense this story into less than two hours.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and found it fascinating how similar it was to what is unfolding today with coronavirus. I can only hope that the outcome in real life is the same as the movie and we get a vaccine as quick as possible.

-Jeff

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The Coronavirus Diaries Part 3

It has been almost 5 months since the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, infected the human race and subsequently wreaked havoc around the globe. As of May 23rd, there are 5,267,452 confirmed cases world wide and 339,949 deaths. In the United States there are 1,611,691 confirmed cases and 96,479 deaths. In my home state of Massachusetts there are 90,889 confirmed cases and 6228 deaths. Today marks the 73rd day of quarantine.

Now that we are almost into June, more and more places throughout the country are preparing to reopen their economies. The big debate is timing the reopening of economies in such a way that they don’t experience a second, more severe outbreak of coronavirus and forced to subsequently shut down again. On May 18, Massachusetts announced a four phase plan for slowly reopening the economy over the next couple of months. These phases are based on specific health metrics with the possibility of reversing to earlier phases if health trends go the wrong way. My employer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, announced this week that the earliest they would reopen is September 8th, the day after Labor Day. This is consistent with the city of Boston banning all large gathering until at least Labor Day.

We still have no definitive plans from any of the major sports leagues regarding how they will return/begin their seasons. The NBA may be the closest after it was reported that players want to finish the season and may do so within the confines of Disney World beginning in late July. Of course, this would require hundreds and hundreds of tests in a country where there is still a massive shortage of testing. Does the NBA want to deal with the perception that they are taking masks away from those who may need them more just so millionaires and billionaires don’t lose money? We’ll see how things play out. Meanwhile, the NHL has discussed a potential 24 team playoff scenario as it looks to figure out a return to play as well. Baseball in all likelihood could only play a half season or so if it figures out a way to return. Having the season in Arizona has been brought up as one possibility but much remains to be worked out. The NFL has the biggest advantage of still being months away from the start of their season, but will have to start thinking about a plan soon as minicamps and training camps start up this summer. In any scenario for any sport, we are not going to see fans at games for the remainder of 2020.

In my opinion, the next month or so is going to be critical in terms of the direction the pandemic takes. Without any proven treatment and a significant shortage of testing, reopening the country involves significant risks. People are tired of quarantine, and as the summer approaches people will want to go outside more and socialize more. There is a very real threat of a worse second wave, but at the same time we can’t be locked down forever. There going to be sacrifices both in terms of the economy and human lives that will have to occur as we try to balance things the best we can. Unemployment is at record breaking numbers and another multi-trillion dollar stimulus package is being discussed. Decision making regarding the pandemic has become as politicized as ever and more and more people are shaping opinions based on politics and not science, which is a scary thought. I personally think the worst is yet to come and we are going to have to endure a long and painful year before we can finally start the recovery process. All I can say is, no matter what decisions are being made by the government, wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and most important of all stay in touch with friends, family, and loved ones.

Stay safe and healthy.

-Jeff

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TV Review: Westworld Season 3 (2020)

WW S3

*NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Westworld Season III actually takes place outside of Westworld this time. The hosts have escaped from Westworld and Dolores, in particular, seeks revenge in the real world. This season takes place in the future around the year 2060, and we are introduced to a new character named Caleb (Aaron Paul). Caleb is an ex-soldier who spends his time doing petty crimes to earn some extra cash before he eventually meets up with Dolores. We are also introduced to a new villain in Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel). Serac is a trillionaire who’s goal is to build an artificial god that can save the human race from extinction. This god-like creation, named Rehoboam, uses a massive amount of personal data of millions of people in order to identify and predict likely scenarios that will occur. It also uses this data to identify “outliers”, or those who don’t follow a rational path, as threats to the stability of society. Serac wants to eliminate outliers so that there is order and stability in society, while Dolores and Caleb are determined are determined to destroy this machine. The main theme is explored throughout this season is the concept of free will vs determinism.

 

reheboam

I find the topic of free will vs determinism fascinating. I was initially exposed to this idea in terms of religion, where there is debate amongst some believers whether humans have the freedom to choose their actions or whether there is some type of fate or destiny that God determines. In Westworld, Reheboam is an AI god that uses millions of data points to map out the course of every individual’s life. The most interesting part of this process is the concept of outliers, or human beings that are too unpredictable to determine what their path in life will be. Serac sees these outliers as threats to society because their decisions can cause chaos and alter the path of humanity, and therefore need to be eliminated. Dolores, along with help from Caleb, believes in free will and that no one should have control over a person’s fate, even if they are a potential threat to society.

 

Serac

This is a very interesting debate because I can see both sides of it. On one hand, everyone deserves freedom to create their own destiny. On the other hand, what if I told you there could be a perfect version of society by using data to predict who the outliers were and subsequently eliminating them? Do groups of people such as serial killers and psychopaths deserve the same freedom as everyone else if there is a way to know that these people will become serial killers and psychopaths? What if we do get to the point where we have so much data that we do have the power to accurately predict human behavior? How accurate would this have to be to take action on a person before they actually commit a crime? 95%? 99.9%? 100%? One of the reasons I enjoyed this season so much is because I do think it’s a good look into the future. There is already concerns about how people’s personal data is being used to predict how likely they are to go to a certain restaurant or shop at a certain store or travel to a certain location. Society will need to establish standards on data privacy in order to prevent misuse of personal information, but at the same time if a company like Google could build the equivalent of a Reheboam would this be more valuable to society than the downside of loss of data rights? It will be fascinating how this plays out over the next few decades as the amount of data we have will continue growing at an exponential rate.

Overall I really loved this season and would give it a 9/10.

Let me know what you think in the comments down below.

Thanks,

Jeff

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The Coronavirus Diaries Part 2

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It has been about 4 months since the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, infected the human race and subsequently wreaked havoc around the globe. As of April 29th, there are 3,190,743 confirmed cases world wide and 227,368 deaths. In the United States there are 1,038,451 confirmed cases and 60,876 deaths. In my home state of Massachusetts there are 60,265 confirmed cases and 3405 deaths. Today marks the 49th day of quarantine.

April has gone by much quicker than the end of March, but as the weeks drag on I am really starting to feel the boredom. There’s not one single hobby that can replace sports so I need to think of several things I can do to kill free time. I thought about video games and blogging more and even about building some lego kits.

While I think Massachusetts has done a pretty good job in terms of social distancing, there are now several states trying to reopen their economies and all but guarantee another wave. People are fed up from quarantine and the weather will get nicer and eventually there will be some lifting of restrictions. However, I don’t plan on changing my ways for the foreseeable future until I can get tested or a treatment or vaccine becomes available.

There’s still no word on what’s going to happen with the NBA season, but today the MLB essentially guaranteed there would be baseball in some form. The NFL held its draft virtually and has also said the season could be delayed. I don’t think we’re going to see fans at any games for the remainder of 2020.

It’s crazy to think that it will be May on Friday. April 2020 is forever going to be the lost month. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens next month. We could potentially know a lot more in the coming weeks, but until then you can only take it one day at a time.

-Jeff

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The Coronavirus Diaries Part 1

covid

It has been about 3.5 months since the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, infected the human race and subsequently wreaked havoc around the globe. As of April 15th, there are 2,060,927 confirmed cases world wide and 134,354 deaths. In the United States there are 601,472 confirmed cases and 24,429 deaths. In my home state of Massachusetts there are 29,918 confirmed cases and 1108 deaths.¬†Everyone in the world has been impacted by the pandemic in different ways, so I’m going to share some thoughts and experiences from my perspective so far. Today marks Day 35 of quarantine, so my reflections will cover the previous 35 days since life was still normal for the most part prior to March 12th.

I am very fortunate to have a job where I can continue work remotely and keep earning a salary. Financially, the net effect of the pandemic will end up being positive due to the reduction in spending as a result from quarantine. Of course, my stocks and investments and 401K all look really bad right now, but as a young person I know that, not only will they rebound over time, I can buy low in the market and ending earning more on investments than I otherwise would have. Because of the fortunate financial position I am in, it would almost be cruel not to donate and help out those in need. I am fortunate to work for a company that is offering to match donations 100%, so this was a no brainer way for me to optimize my giving. For many around the world, the stimulus checks and various other economic rescue packages will not be enough, so I really feel like those who can afford to help out others need to do so.

I am currently in the middle of Week 5 of working remotely, and I have adjusted to things fairly well for the most part. There are times when I feel like I have been less productive, whether it’s getting a later start in the morning or various distractions throughout the day that I would not have to deal with otherwise. This has always been the case working from home, but it hasn’t been a major impact. Not being able to see my coworkers on a daily basis has definitely been the toughest part. A couple weeks into remote working, I started a “virtual happy hour” zoom call on Friday afternoons with some friends from work. This gives me something to look forward to at the end of each week. Leadership in the department has set up consistent check ins as well and encouraged using video so we can all interact face to face. Just this week there was a virtual coffee hour that was set up for a group of analysts as well. While there are certainly inconveniences working from home, I try to remind myself that a record number of people are unemployed and things could certainly be much worse.

The most substantial impact from the pandemic on my day to day life has been the loss of sports. I almost didn’t realize how much sports was ingrained into my routine. Every single night there is something watch. The podcasts that I listen to are mainly about sports. I go to about 15-20 Celtics games per year and 5-6 Red Sox games per year. The loss of March Madness was the most devastating of all. It seems increasingly likely that it may be as late as Fall 2021 before large crowds are allowed at sporting events again. This is a harrowing thought to wrap my mind around. There is a silver lining that this will save me a significant amount of money from not paying to go games and various fantasy and gambling related activities, but I wouldn’t trade that for sports for anything.

As we are nearing the peak of the pandemic, there are slowly becoming signs that we may be able to reopen parts of the economy soon. There is a possibility of sports without fans to come back, which would be better than nothing. However, the reality is that this pandemic will change the world forever even after a vaccine is available and the virus is under control. Nobody really knows what is going to happen so all we can do right now is take things one day at a time.

-Jeff

 

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Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)

kobe

There likely won’t be any information in this blog that hasn’t already been said, but as a passionate NBA fan who started watching basketball in the prime of Kobe’s career, I felt it necessary to weigh in. I began really following the NBA in 2007, which coincidentally was the year the Kobe won his first NBA MVP award. I wasn’t watching the NBA during the Kobe-Shaq years, during which the Lakers won three consecutive titles, but was very much watching during the Kobe-Pau Gasol years, when the Lakers made three consecutive Finals and faced off against the Boston Celtics in two of them. What always impressed me the most about Kobe was his killer instinct. He was, and in my opinion still is, the closest thing to Michael Jordan since Jordan retired. Kobe was the best player in the NBA when the social media era began. He became an international icon and the last great player before the super team era. Kobe won titles in an era where the Spurs, Celtics, Heat, and Warriors all won titles by putting together a Big 3. Kobe, much like Jordan, would never have considered teaming up with anyone else. He wanted to be THE guy, and wanted to single handedly destroy teams on his own. He was one of the more clutch players in the NBA and knew how to win, bringing the Lakers 5 titles in his 20 seasons in Los Angeles.

 

What happened on January 26th was certainly the most shocking tragedy of my lifetime, and perhaps the biggest tragedy in the history of professional sports. Kobe transcended more than just the NBA. He had much more to give in his post retirement career and was excited for the possibilities ahead. He had already won an Oscar for “Dear Basketball”, and that was just the beginning. He was an international icon, but the case could be made that no one player ever meant more to a city than Kobe Bryant. He is the greatest Laker of all time, and the Lakers are one of the most iconic franchises of all time. The reaction to the tragedy speaks for itself – Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Donald Trump, Barack Obama are just a few among many that mourned the news of his death. Making matters even worse was the death of his daughter Gianna, who likely would have gone on to be a superstar at UConn. Kobe’s life was not without controversy. In 2003 he settled a civil lawsuit pertaining to a sexual assault case in Colorado. While this incident needs to be a part of the telling of Kobe’s life story, I don’t think it should be the first thing mentioned when talking about his death. Kobe did far more good for the world than the majority of people on this planet, and he will be remembered forever for his impact.

The public memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant will be held at Staples Center on February 24th (2/24), representing Kobe’s (24) and Gianna’s (2) jersey numbers.

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Super Bowl LIV Preview and Prediction

super bowl LIV

 

Sunday, February 2nd at 6:30 PM: NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers vs AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)

garoppolo-mahomes-49ers-chiefs-super-bowl

All eyes are on Miami for Super Bowl LIV as Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs face off against Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers. Mahomes had another outstanding season after winning MVP last year, and is making his first Super Bowl start at just 24 years old. Garoppolo has won two Super Bowls as the backup behind Tom Brady when he was on the Patriots, but will be making his first start in the big game on Sunday. Veteran Kansas City coach Andy Reid will be coaching in his second Super Bowl, and first with Kansas City, after coaching the Eagles in a loss against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is coaching in his first Super Bowl as a head coach, and is hoping to erase memories of the collapse his team endured in Atlanta in Super Bowl LI. All things considered, this should be a great game between two pretty well-rounded teams and may come down to the very end.

 

kelce kittle

The quarterbacks are always the key focus, but there are weapons on both offenses that could play a major factor in the outcome of the game. George Kittle and Travis Kelce are two of the best tight ends in the league and game changers for their respective teams. George Kittle in particular will be a major factor in determining the success of the 49ers offensive game plan in this game. Garoppolo will be relying on him early and often, and this connection has a chance to do damage against a mediocre Chiefs defense. Rookie Deebo Samuel and veteran Emmanuel Sanders are the other options through the air for Garroppolo. The 49ers real strength on offense comes on the ground. Raheem Mostert has been a breakout star this year and has been dominant in the playoffs. The Chiefs will need to make slowing him down a #1 priority. In addition to Kelce, Kansas City’s other big play weapon is Tyreek Hill. Mahomes and Hill have big play capability every time they are on the field. The running game for Kansas City is not quite as strong, so the 49ers defense will have to be prepared for Mahomes to air it out at times and create big plays.

 

coaches

I think this has the potential to be one of the more exciting Super Bowls in recent memory. I think the Chiefs have the advantage on offense with Mahomes, Hill, and Kittle, but the 49ers have the advantage on defense and have been one of the best defensive teams all year. I am not fully sold on the Chiefs defense, so overall I think San Francisco has a slight edge in this game. Garoppolo has been to the Super Bowl before, even though it was as a backup, and coach Shanahan was in the Super Bowl just three years ago. It may be a year early for Mahomes and the Chiefs this time around. I think San Francisco wins 27-25.

MVP: George Kittle

Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.

Jeff

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2019 NFL Divisional Round Preview and Predictions

nfl-divisional-playoffs-2020

Eight teams remain in the NFL playoffs and will battle it out in the divisional round this weekend. A pair of 6 seeds will take on the top teams from the conference, while Houston will look for its first ever conference championship appearance and the Seahawks will take on the Packers in Lambeau.

 

Saturday, January 11th 4:35 PM: #6 Minnesota Vikings @ #1 San Francisco 49ers (-7)

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Jimmy Garropolo will be making his first ever playoff start against Kirk Cousins and Vikings. Minnesota pulled off a huge upset against Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans last weekend and will try to knock off another 13 win team this weekend. Dalvin Cook played a huge part in the Vikings win and Kirk Cousins was solid while proving the haters wrong who said he could not win in prime time. Both Stephon Diggs and Adam Thielen are expected to be active for this game which gives the Vikings big play ability. However, the 49ers have a great defense and a balanced offense and have played great all year with the exception of a loss to the Falcons. Their other two losses came against Baltimore and Seattle and were very close. George Kittle has been a game changer this year and the best tight end in the league. I think the 49ers are a very well rounded team and it will be tough to slow them down. Minnesota already pulled off one upset in the playoffs but I don’t see them pulling off another won. San Francisco is simply the superior team. The 49ers win 27-16.

 

Saturday, January 11th 8:15 PM: #6 Tennessee Titans @ #1 Baltimore Ravens (-9.5)

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Lamar Jackson got his first playoff start in last year’s playoffs, and will now be looking for his first playoff win as a starter as the Ravens take on the Titans. Tennessee is coming off an upset win against the Patriots, and hope to keep the moment rolling in Baltimore. Ryan Tannehill was not very effective but a solid defense and a monster game by running back Derrick Henry helped the Titans to victory. They will once again need the defense and running game to step up against the Ravens. Baltimore’s offense has been tough to stop this year with the dual threat of Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram. However, I think Titans coach Mike Vrabel will put together a great game plan on defense to slow down Lamar Jackson. The Ravens haven’t played a meaningful game in a long time and could be vulnerable to rust. I think the Titans keep the momentum rolling and pull off a big upset in Baltimore. Tennessee wins 21-20.

 

Sunday, January 12th 3:05 PM: #4 Houston Texans @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)

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This game will be a battle of two young and exciting quarterbacks as Deshaun Watson and the Texans take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Texans went into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs earlier this year, so they will not be afraid in the rematch. Deshaun Watson was the hero last week to get the Texans to this point after pulling off a big comeback against the Bills in the wild card round. Houston also has J.J. Watt back on defense after missing most of the season and being limited in last week’s game. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes is no stranger to the spotlight after coming within an overtime period of the Super Bowl last year. The Chiefs have great weapons on offense with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and the defense has been playing better as well. I don’t see the Texans beating the Chiefs in Kansas City twice this season since the Chiefs are the more talented team. I think Kansas City has the clear coaching advantage as well. Chiefs win 31-19.

 

Sunday, January 12th 6:40 PM: #5 Seattle Seahawks @ #2 Green Bay Packers (-4)

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Unlike the first game of this day, the Seahawks and Packers have veteran quarterbacks who have each won a Super Bowl and have lots of playoff experience. The last time these teams matched up the playoffs was the 2014 NFC Championship, with the Seahawks pulling off a stunning victory in overtime. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have been up and down at times this year, but running back Aaron Jones had a great season and Rodgers has still been good enough to keep Green Bay competitive. The defense has improved from previous years as well. Seattle took down the Eagles in Philly last week to get to this point and Russell Wilson has been one of the better QBs this season. Seattle has lost both of its running backs to injury but brought back Marshawn Lynch to rekindle some of the old magic. I think this will be a close game since both of these teams are evenly matched, but Green Bay will win 26-23.

 

Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.

Thanks,
Jeff

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