2018 NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Preview and Predictions

eastern conf

The Eastern Conference playoffs should be very interesting this year. Raptors are the top seed but have historically choked in the playoffs. Celtics are the second seed but without Kyrie Irving. Philly is the third seed but is young and inexperienced. Cavs are the fourth seed as Lebron looks to bring them to their fourth straight Finals. Below is my preview and predictions for the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

 

#8 Washington Wizards @ #1 Toronto Raptors (-650)

raptors vs wizards

Toronto enters the playoffs as the number one seed in the conference for the first time in franchise history, while the Wizards squeaked into the playoffs after a disappointing regular season. However, now that John Wall is healthy the Wizards will look to give the Raptors all they can handle in this first round. Demar Derozan has been outstanding for Toronto, but their bench led, by Fred VanVleet, has been one of Toronto’s biggest strengths. This will be a big mismatch against a mediocre Wizards bench in this series. In order to have a chance in this series, John Wall and Bradley Beal will have to step up bigtime. While I think Washington can steal a few games, the Raptors will advance to the next round in 6 games.

 

#7 Milwaukee Bucks @ #2 Boston Celtics

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The Celtics season began with title aspirations, but they will enter the playoffs without their two biggest stars as Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving have been ruled out for the remainder of the season. However, the Celtics depth and the emergence of young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has been the reason that Boston was still able to grab the two seed despite all of the injuries. Al Horford has been a defensive player of the year candidate and Brad Stevens has made a strong case for coach of the year. On the other end, the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo will to finally get out of the first round. If Milwaukee is going to have any chance, it will have to be a monster series from Giannis, who has played well against the Celtics this season. However, the Bucks don’t have enough surrounding him to take down Boston. Celtics win the series in 6 games.

 

#6 Miami Heat @ #3 Philadelphia 76ers (-465)

sixers heat

The 76ers are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 after years of tanking and rebuilding. Rookie of the year candidate Ben Simmons has been outstanding and All Star center Joel Embiid has been a huge key to their success as well. #1 overall pick this year Markelle Fultz is healthy, and Philly also added veterans JJ Redick and Amir Johnson in the offseason as well. The Sixers ride a 16 game winning streak into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat are led by Goran Dragic, Dwayne Wade, and Hassan Whiteside. Most importantly, they have one of the better coaches in the league with Eric Spoelstra. I think the Heat’s playoff experience and veteran talent will wear down a young inexperienced Philly team in this series. Miami wins in 7.

 

#5 Indiana Pacers @ #4 Cleveland Cavaliers (-650)

cavs pacers

Led by likely most improved player Victor Oladipo, the Pacers far exceeded expectations this year en route to making the playoffs, while the Cavaliers season was a huge disappointment. Despite this, Lebron never loses in the first round and always takes his team to another level in the playoffs. Indiana had success against Cleveland in the regular season, but the Cavs are the far superior team and will have no problem putting this series away early. Cavs in 5.

 

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

-Jeff

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2018 NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals Preview and Predictions

western-conference

The NBA Playoffs get off underway in the Western Conference beginning Saturday, April 15th, so here is my preview and prediction for each of the four first  round series.

 

#8 Minnesota Timberwolves @ #1 Houston Rockets (-3000)

rockets wolves

The Rockets have no doubt been the best team in the team in the regular season this year, and now it’s time for them to prove it in the playoffs. James Harden, likely NBA MVP, and backcourt teammate Chris Paul will look to overcome their past playoff struggles when take on Jimmy Butler, Karl Anthony-Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves are making their first playoff appearance in 14 years, and barely squeaked into the playoffs after beating Denver in overtime in the last game of the regular season. While Minnesota has a good coach in Tom Thibodeau and some talent with Butler, Towns, and Wiggins, I don’t think they will be any match for Houston. Rockets sweep the series 4-0.

 

#7 San Antonio Spurs @ #2 Golden State Warriors (-1100)

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At the beginning of the season, this rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals would have been a highly anticipated playoff series. However, both teams will be without arguably their most important players – Stephen Curry for Golden State and Kawhi Leonard for San Antonio. The Warriors will be looking for their fourth straight Western Conference title this year as they begin the playoffs, but will not overlook a Spurs team that still has plenty of talent and arguably the game’s best coach in Gregg Popovich. Lamarcus Aldridge has stepped up in Kawhi’s absence, but I think the Spurs won’t have enough to slow down Durant, Thompson, and Green in this series. Golden State wins in 6 games.

 

#6 New Orleans Pelicans @ #3 Portland Trail Blazers (-210)

blazers pelicans

Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis have both been outstanding this season while leading their teams to the playoffs. After losing Aldridge to the Spurs two season ago, Lillard has really stepped up and shown that he should be in the conversation for the elite point guards in the NBA. Add in fellow sharpshooter CJ McCollum in the backcourt and recently acquired Jusuf Nurkic in the front court, and you have a Blazer team that closed the season on fire en route to the 3 seed in the West. Meanwhile, many people wrote off the Pelicans after losing Demarcus Cousins to an achilles injury for the year. However, Anthony Davis stepped up big time and single handedly willed the Pelicans to the playoffs this year. Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt will provide a valuable veteran presence for this team as well. I think it will be a very close and hard fought series, but Portland wins it in 7 games.

 

#5 Utah Jazz @ #4 Oklahoma City Thunder (-135)

jazz thunder

Expectations were high for the Thunder after acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in the offseason, but it was certainly a roller coaster season. In the end, Westbrook again averaged a triple double and the Thunder were able to grab home court in the first round. Meanwhile, there were no expectations for the Utah Jazz after losing Gordon Hayward to the Celtics in free agency. However, rookie Donovan Mitchell stepped up big time, especially in the second half of the season, and defensive player of the year candidate Rudy Gobert played a key role in helping the Jazz get back to the playoffs. Quinn Snyder emerged as a coach of the year candidate during the season as well. I think this will also be a close series, but the Thunder have a significant edge in playoff experience and home court is key for them. Oklahoma City wins in 7 games.

 

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

-Jeff

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2018 Final Four Preview and Prediction

FinalFour2018

The 2018 NCAA tournament is down to four teams and a national championship will be at stake when they clash in San Antonio. 11 seed Loyola Chicago from the South Region. 3 seed Michigan from the West Region. 1 seed Villanova from the East. 1 seed Kansas from the Midwest. The finale of the NCAA tournament begins Saturday night.

 

Sat, March 31 at 6:09 PM: 11 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers vs 3 Michigan Wolverines (-5)

michigan loyola

The Ramblers have been the story of the tournament, becoming just the fourth 11 seed all time to reach the Final Four. The previous three did not make it to the national championship game. Loyola took out 6 seed Miami, 3 seed Tennessee, 7 seed Nevada, and 9 seed Kansas State to win the South Region. The Ramblers success has come off their hot shooting (51% overall in the tournament and 40% from three) and of course the support of team chaplain Sister Jean. Meanwhile, Michigan defeated 14 seed Montana, 6 seed Houston, 7 seed Texas A&M, and 9 seed Florida State to reach San Antonio. Versatile big man Moe Wagner and 6th man Duncan Robinson lead a Michigan squad that ended the season on fire by winning the Big 10 tournament and haven’t looked back since. Both teams rank in the top 20 in defensive efficiency so I expect this to be a hard fought low scoring game. Michigan wins 69-67.

 

Sat, March 31 at 8:49 PM: 1 Kansas Jayhawks vs 1 Villanova Wildcats (-5)

kansas nova

While the first matchup of the Final Four would have surprised most people before the tournament, this one is more along the lines of what people expected. Villanova has been arguably the best team all season with one of the best coaches in the game in Jay Wright. Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, and Mikal Bridges are all key players that were part of the 2016 National Championship team. The Wildcats certainly have the talent and experience to win two championships in three years. However, the team in their way in the National Semifinals in no stranger to spotlight either. Bill Self’s Kansas squad will be seeking their first national championship since 2008. Between senior guards Devonte Graham and Sviatoslav Mykailiuk, Kansas has the ability to get hot behind the three point line. While the Jayhawks have traditionally bowed out in the early rounds of the tournament in recent years, they have thrived by being under the radar this year. I think Kansas will pull the upset and win 77-68.

 

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: KANSAS OVER MICHIGAN

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

Thanks,
Jeff

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2018 Boston Red Sox Preview

The Boston Red Sox are set to open up the 2018 MLB season in Tampa Bay on Thursday, so here is my preview and prediction for the Red Sox this year.

The Offseason

JDRedSox

It was a very quiet offseason for not only the Red Sox, but most teams in general. However, they did finally get their power bat with the signing of outfielder J.D. Martinez for five years $110 million. Marinez batted .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs and will be a huge boost to a Red Sox team that was last in the AL in home runs last year.

The other main offseason story for the Red Sox did not involve a player, but a manager. After winning the World Series as an assistant coach in Houston, Alex Cora was named the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. Cora hopes to bring a new energy to a clubhouse filled with a lot of young guys with potential breakout talent. I think he will do great as a manager in Boston given his understanding of the media and the culture.

The Lineup

Mookie-Betts-And-Andrew-Benintendi-With-Boston-Red-Sox

One projected version of the 2018 Boston Red Sox lineup is as follows:

  1. Mookie Betts (OF)
  2. Andrew Benintendi (OF)
  3. Hanley Ramirez (1B)
  4. J.D. Martinez (DH)
  5. Xander Boegarts (SS)
  6. Rafael Devers (3B)
  7. Eduardo Nunez (2B)
  8. Christian Vazquez (C)
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF)

The biggest addition to the lineup is of course JD Martinez, who will likely hit cleanup. However, the Red Sox hope to get bounce back seasons from several players. Mookie Betts had an MVP caliber season in 2016 but dropped off significantly last year. His performance in the leadoff spot will have a big impact on the success of the lineup. If he performs up to his potential, he could have a .300 season with 30+ HR, 100+ RBI, and 30+ stolen bases. Another player with high potential is second year left fielder Andrew Benintendi. His stellar rookie season was overshadowed by Aaron Judge, but Benintendi is another five tool player who can get it done on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. I expect good season from Xander and Hanley as well, and overall a significantly better offense than last year which will be key.

The Rotation

sale porcello price

One projected version of the 2018 Boston Red Sox starting rotation is as follows:

  1. Chris Sale
  2. David Price
  3. Rick Porcello
  4. Eduardo Rodriguez
  5. Brian Johnson

When Drew Pomeranz returns to the rotation, the Red Sox have one of the best starting pitching rotations in all of baseball. Chris Sale was dominant in his first season with the Red Sox last year, finishing second in Cy Young voting. David Price pitched well when healthy and their third starter won the Cy Young in 2016. Add one of the best closers in the game in Craig Kimbrel and you have one of the most dominant pitching staffs all around.

The Prediction

The Red Sox went 93-69 and won the AL East last year. I expect them to be a little bit better this year with a new manager and big bat in the middle of the lineup. My prediction is that the Red Sox will go 96-66 and win the AL East for the third straight year.

Let me know you predictions in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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Super Bowl LII Preview and Prediction + Bonus Prop Bet Picks

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Sunday, February 4th at 6:30: NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles vs. AFC Champion New England Patriots (-4.5)

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The Super Bowl matchup is set as Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles will face off against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on February 4th. The Patriots will try to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since they did so in 2004, which was also against the Eagles. Philadelphia will try to finish off an unlikely turnaround from the prior year, in which they went 7-9, with a championship under second year head coach Doug Pederson and backup quarterback Nick Foles. The Patriots are going for their sixth Super Bowl title in franchise history while the Eagles are looking for their first ever Super Bowl championship.

The key matchup to watch in this game will be the Eagles defense against the Patriots offense. Philadelphia has one of the better defensive fronts in the NFL and does an excellent job at applying pressure and forcing turnovers. The Jaguars defense did a great job against Brady for three quarters, and I think the Eagles defense is equally as good so they will have to play up to their potential to have a chance in this game. This will of course be hard to do with the weapons the Patriots have on offense. Tom Brady, Brandin Cooks, Dion Lewis, James White, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and Rob Gronkowski are all key parts of the offensive attack and really put the pressure on the defense to figure out how to slow down all of them. I think the X factor will be Gronk, because he creates a matchup nightmare for any defense. The Patriots have been using him carefully throughout the entire season, but now that it’s the Super Bowl, look for New England to unleash him in a variety of formations.

The other side of this battle is the Eagles offense against the Patriots defense. After a horrendous start to the season, the Patriots defense fought back to finish middle of the road in the regular season. Stephon Gilmore has been a lockdown corner for the Patriots in his first year after a tough stretch to start the season. However, the Patriots have continued to struggle to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the passing game. While Nick Foles is obviously not as good as Carson Wentz, he proved against Minnesota in the NFC Championship game that he can still pick apart great defenses under the right game plan. Matt Patricia will have to really dig deep to find a way to pressure Nick Foles when he drops back to pass. The Patriots have generally always had a good rush defense, but cannot overlook two powerful running backs in Jay Ajayi and former Patriot Legarrette Blount.

I think these two teams are very close in terms of talent and I can see this game going either way. I think it will be very close battle and ultimately decided by a key turnover late in the second half. I think the Patriots do ultimately have the edge because of coaching, super bowl experience, and special teams, so I’m going to pick New England to win 27-23.
BONUS PROP BETS:

  • EAGLES +4.5
  • UNDER 48 points scored
  • National Anthem OVER 2:00
  • Coin Flip HEADS
  • Tom Brady OVER 1.5 rushing yards
  • BLUE Gatorade
  • DION LEWIS MVP

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

Jeff

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2017 NFL Conference Championship Preview and Predictions

NFL-Conference-Championship-Predictions

The NFL’s final four is set with a group that includes the defending champions and three teams who missed the playoffs last year. Here are my previews and predictions for the AFC Championship and NFC Championship games.

Sun, Jan. 21st at 3:05 PM: #3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #1 New England Patriots (-7.5)

jags pats

After shocking the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Jacksonville Jaguars advanced to face Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions in Foxborough. The Jaguars will need everything out of their defense in order to slow the Patriots offense, which includes Dion Lewis, James White, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan. Calais Campbell leads the Jaguars front line and will look to bring pressure to get to Tom Brady, while Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye anchor the secondary. On the offensive end, the Patriots will have to contain Blake Bortles to the pocket and force him to throw the ball. Belichick will look to neutralize Leonard Fournette on the ground as well. In the end, I think the Patriots will be too much for the Jaguars to handle. New England wins 23-16.

Sun, Jan. 21st at 3:05 PM: #2 Minnesota Vikings at #1 Philadelphia Eagles (+3)

nick-foles-case-keenum

After pulling off the “upset'” last week against the Falcons, the #1 seed Eagles will stay at home to take on the Minnesota Vikings as underdogs once again. While the Carson Wentz injury cast doubt for many Eagles fans, the team knows that it still has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. The Eagles can attack on the ground with Jay Ajayi and Legarrette Blount, or air it out to Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Aghuolor. Their defense may even be better than their offense with a solid pass rush and strong run defense. It was a defensive stand at the end of the game against Atlanta that sent Philly to the next round. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how the Vikings respond after a miracle win last week against New Orleans. Case Keenum will have yet another opportunity to prove doubters wrong if he can get the ball to Diggs and Thielen and effectively move the chains against the Eagles defense. I think this will be a very close game but the Eagles will squeak one out on a last second field goal. Philadelphia wins 23-20.

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

Thanks,

Jeff

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2017 NFL Divisional Round Preview and Predictions

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Four more games kick off next weekend as we get to see each of the top 4 teams in action for the first time this postseason. Below is my preview and prediction for each game.

 

Sat. January 13th at 4:35 PM: #6 Atlanta Falcons @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5)

Falcons Eagles Football

In a rare occurrence for the NFL Playoffs, the sixth seeded team will enter as favorites against the #1 seed. The Eagles looked dominant all year long but lost MVP candidate Carson Wentz to an injury late in the season. On the bright side, their backup QB is Nick Foles who has had prior success as a starter with the Eagles. However, Foles looked horrible at the end of the season, casting serious doubt on how far the Eagles can make it in the playoffs. Despite the injury, Philadelphia still has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Legarrette Bount and Jay Ajayi lead the ground game, while tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery provide threats through the air. On defense, Brandon Graham led the team with 9.5 sacks while cornerback Patrick Robinson had 4 interceptions. The Falcons enter this matchup coming off an impressive win in Los Angeles on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. I think Atlanta is hungry to return to the NFC title game again and will ride their playoff momentum through an undermanned Philly team and come out with the win. Falcons beat Eagles 26-17.

 

Sat. January 13th at 8:15 PM: #5 Tennessee Titans @ #1 New England Patriots (-13.5)

pats titans

After overcoming an 18 point deficit at Kansas City in the Wild Card round, the Tennessee Titans will travel to Foxborough to take on the top seeded New England Patriots. With running back Demarco Murray sidelined, Derrick Henry had a monster game for Tennessee with nearly 200 total yards. However, the Titans will need to get more out of Marcus Mariota in the passing game if they want to have a chance to keep up with Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. One thing that may help slow that vaunted Patriots offensive attack is defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau’s defensive scheme. The main reason the Titans earned a playoff spot, and came back in KC, is thanks to their defensive pressure which has slowed down the other team’s offensive attack. For New England, it’s business as usual as they play their NFL record 8th consecutive home divisional playoff game. While the Patriots are clearly the more talented team, they will still have to focus on avoiding big hits to Tom Brady and keeping Marcus Mariota in the pocket. While the Titans may keep it close early with defense, the Patriots will pull away and win 24-9.

 

Sun. January 14th at 1:05 PM: #3 Jacksonville Jaguars @ #2 Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)

NFL: Preseason-Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars

After squeaking out a win against the Bills in the Wild Card round, the Jacksonville Jaguars will head to Pittsburgh where they intercepted Roethlisberger five times on their way to a 30-9 win in Week 5. However, the Steelers have played much better since that Week 5 loss. The question for the Steelers will be the availability and effectiveness of wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown had a monster season, and along with Leveon Bell, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers have one of the most formidable offenses in the league. However, the Jaguars counter with an elite defense led by Jalen Ramsey and Calais Campbell. I think the key to this game is the effectiveness of Blake Bortles. If the Steelers offense and Jaguars defense offset, the x factor in this game will be the play of Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense. While they can rely on Fournette in the running game, it will be critical to have success in the air to keep a balanced attack, especially if they fall into an early deficit. I don’t think Bortles can repeat what he did on the ground against Buffalo and don’t trust him as a passer, so I think Pittsburgh wins this one 19-10.

 

Sun. January 14th at 4:40 PM: #4 New Orleans Saints @ #2 Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)

vikings-saints

The final game of the weekend may be the best one, with Saints traveling to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in a rematch of the 2009 NFC Championship. The Saints are coming off a thrilling win over division rival Carolina, while the Vikings are rested and ready to go. Minnesota has surprised everyone this season after losing their starting quarterback and starting running back. However, Case Keenum has stepped up and played at an MVP level for most of the season. The emergence of wide receiver Adam Thielen to go alongside Stefon Diggs has been a big reason why. On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings are as solid as ever both with the pass rush and the secondary coverage. They will be tested with Drew Brees and the Saints dynamic offense – which includes a duo of running backs in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram that have been deadly on the ground all year long. Add Michael Thomas and Tedd Ginn as deep threat wide receivers and this offense is hard to beat. I think this will be a very close game but the Saints pull the upset and move on 28-27.

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

-Jeff

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