Thursday, September 9, 2021

2021 NFL Season Predictions

The 2020 NFL season was a football season in the most literal sense, but it didn't feel like much of one. Every game felt more like an obligation than a celebration; a box checked off rather than what a NFL game should be. For me, that might have everything to do with the Jaguars openly tanking by the middle of October, but for everyone else, the pandemic really did take its toll, and that was before a game was played on a Wednesday afternoon because of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony.

COVID-19 hasn't gone away by any means, but this season will look and feel more like what we knew before March 2020, even if there are now 17 regular season games and the seven team playoff format won't feel so out of place, particularly when the Nickelodeon feed makes a return. On the field, for as much as things are changing, Tom Brady is still a defending Super Bowl champion and very few teams seem poised to break into the elite cadre than the past. But, as this particular slice of an outdated Blogspot blog will remind us all, I can say that in September and not look foolish, but that changes quick. Without further ado, the 2021 sure to be wrong by Week 5 NFL season predictions...

AFC East:

1. Buffalo 13-4

2. New England 10-7

3. Miami 8-9

4. NY Jets 5-12

Josh Allen spent all of 2020 proving every doubter wrong, and as he elevated his game, the Bills went from a team with potential to a Super Bowl contender. They very much are again, and they can definitely challenge the Chiefs for home field advantage. New England entered a new era awkwardly last season, but with Mac Jones and particularly their whole host of 2020 opt outs back, the Patriots will get back to something close to what we knew them as before, if a lesser version of it. Tua Tagovailoa has to get on the Josh Allen improvement plan before a promising program in Miami takes the next step towards the postseason, especially without the Fitzmagic crutch around. Zach Wilson might finally be the QB that takes the Jets out of purgatory, and Robert Saleh absolutely has the goods to take this team above mediocrity, but with some key injuries and bad luck already, that's likely not happening this year.

NFC East:

1. Dallas 9-8

2. Washington 8-9

3. Philadelphia 5-12

4. NY Giants 5-12

Whenever you need a laugh in these difficult times of ours, remember that the NFC East exists. It may well exist now so we have something to consistently laugh at that always ends up overexposed and underdelivers, particularly as we remember how the team with no name won the division last year. Dallas would have won it if Dak Prescott didn't get hurt, and with him back and healthy, that should be enough to lift the Cowboys over a Washington team that is Ron Rivera to its core: scrappy, stout but lacking a certain offensive finesse. They may have the defensive player of the year but the offense even with a rising Antonio Gibson just doesn't seem to have the tools yet. Both the Eagles and Giants are a mess, one about to commence a house cleaning and the other that feels on the verge of it but never actually wants to pull the trigger. Both have lopsided, poorly constructed rosters and QB questions that are not going to be answered any time soon.

AFC North:

1. Cleveland 12-5

2. Pittsburgh 10-7

3. Baltimore 9-8

4. Cincinnati 5-12

Procrastinating right until a few hours before the first game of the season to write this piece does have unusual benefits: the Ravens had even more potentially debilitating injuries between planning out this piece and then writing it. The Browns should have beaten the Chiefs in the playoffs last year but fell short, however these obviously are not the same old Browns. This is a well constructed and well coached team in every facet, which hasn't been said about the Browns since the late 1980's. In a league with parity like the NFL, it's more appropriate to see what team has fewer flaws compared to bigger strengths and in this competitive division, the Browns have the fewest flaws. In what is likely to be Ben Roethlisberger's swan song, the Steelers might actually attempt to run a modern offense, which should get what was a horrific unit last season out of the muck, at least somewhat. The Ravens injuries at the running back position are devastating and likely put even more pressure on Lamar Jackson, who could win the MVP race by simply being himself in these circumstances, but perhaps he may be asked to do too much now especially as that offense needs quality running backs in the worst way. The Bengals need to show signs of life where there haven't been any in this current iteration, and none seem forthcoming.

NFC North:

1. Green Bay 13-4

2. Chicago 7-10

3. Minnesota 7-10

4. Detroit 4-13

Whatever you think of the offseason drama surrounding Aaron Rodgers, and whatever you think of his Jeopardy hosting prowess, this season very much has a "Last Dance" type feeling about it. That could serve this immensely talented team rather well, particularly come January. Bears fans will spend the season wondering when Matt Nagy will do the right thing and put in Justin Fields, Vikings fans will spend the season wondering when Kirk Cousins will stop putting his entire team at risk of a deadly virus in addition to putting them at risk for losing even more than usual, and Lions fans will wonder if the 15th new direction since they last won a playoff game three decades ago will be the one that sticks. 

AFC South:

1. Tennessee 10-7

2. Indianapolis 8-9

3. Jacksonville 6-11

4. Houston 3-14

The AFC South has been fairly straightforward for the last few years and that should continue here. Tennessee is the most talented team particularly because of their offense, though their defense is a shell of what it once was, and because the division is filled with varying levels of teams in crisis or transition, they will be the favorites by default but likely nothing more than that. The Colts are relying on Carson Wentz to find the potential from his past with his old offensive coordinator, but bizarre injuries and reluctance to take a perfectly safe vaccine are bad signs. With any other QB, including Philip Rivers, they might be favorites over the Titans. Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence are going to lose a lot more than they are used to this season with the Jaguars, but nobody can deny that there is potential with this franchise that hasn't existed in years, it just might not fully actualize until the future. And for the Texans, the less said about their mess, the better.

NFC South:

1. Tampa Bay 13-4

2. New Orleans 10-7

3. Carolina 7-10

4. Atlanta 6-11

Tom Brady is voodoo, isn't he? Is Tom Brady's magic running off on Tampa Bay or is the Tampa Bay sports magic running off on him? It's probably a bit of both. It helps that his team is supremely talented, supremely coached and now faces a much weaker division than it had if Brady had joined just a few years earlier. Ring eight could easily be coming, but at some point the ravages of time do have to affect him, right? Everyone hopes Jameis Winston can finally fulfill his potential with the Saints and not be hamstrung by the ludicrous Taysom Hill experiment, and there's reason to think that he can, though it won't be easy by any stretch. Both the Panthers and Falcons aren't much more than cannon fodder, but both are in the midst of interesting transitional phases that are worth looking more into. Sam Darnold could tap into his potential with Joe Brady, Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore, and the Falcons are the subject of an amazing documentary series by Secret Base which you should watch immediately

AFC West:

1. Kansas City 13-4

2. LA Chargers 10-7

3. Las Vegas 8-9

4. Denver 7-10

The Chiefs offensive line got exposed badly in Super Bowl 55, and they worked extremely hard this offseason to fix it. They seem to have done a very good job of that, and so long as Patrick Mahomes is as good as he is and Andy Reid is as good as he is, the Chiefs will be Super Bowl contenders. The Chargers, no matter the city they play in, have always been talented but have always found ways to have inexplicably bad luck and bad timing that ruin any positive momentum. With a new coaching staff and a second year of Justin Herbert, who spent all of last year also proving doubters wrong, the Chargers should overcome at least some of that. After the last few seasons for the Raiders, it certainly feels like they might be at the limit of what they are capable of. Denver seems content to try to win with as little QB play as possible, which is quite bold in this era of the NFL, and probably not all that wise.

NFC West:

1. LA Rams 12-5

2. San Francisco 11-6

3. Seattle 10-7

4. Arizona 8-9

The NFC West is once again the best division in football by far with incredible teams, incredible storylines and incredible competitiveness. There is a path by which the entire division makes the playoffs, though unlikely. If Sean McVay could take Jared Goff to a Super Bowl, surely a hungry and motivated Matthew Stafford could be even better for McVay's system, and they still have that defense. The 49ers, when healthy, are as talented and schematically sound as any team in the league, and trying the two QB system will be another extra wrinkle that Kyle Shanahan throws at unsuspecting defenses. The Seahawks still have Russell Wilson and for all of their other flaws that should be enough to carry them to the postseason again. The Cardinals have brought in stars in the twilight of their careers to help build around Kyler Murray, but it feels like something is still missing in Arizona compared to everyone else in the West.

AFC Playoff Order:

1. Kansas City

2. Buffalo

3. Cleveland

4. Tennessee

5. New England

6. LA Chargers

7. Pittsburgh

NFC Playoff Order:

1. Green Bay

2. Tampa Bay

3. LA Rams

4. Dallas

5. San Francisco

6. Seattle

7. New Orleans

AFC Playoff Predictions:

Wild Card Round:

2. Buffalo over 7. Pittsburgh

3. Cleveland over 6. LA Chargers

5. New England over 4. Tennessee

Divisional Round:

1. Kansas City over 5. New England

2. Buffalo over 3. Cleveland

AFC Championship:

1. Kansas City over 2. Buffalo

NFC Playoff Predictions:

Wild Card Round:

2. Tampa Bay over 7. New Orleans

3. LA Rams over 6. Seattle

5. San Francisco over 4. Dallas

Divisional Round:

5. San Francisco over 1. Green Bay

3. LA Rams over 2. Tampa Bay

NFC Championship:

3. LA Rams over 5. San Francisco

Super Bowl 56:

Kansas City over LA Rams 31-23

Award Predictions:

MVP: Josh Allen (BUF)

OPOY: Aaron Rodgers (GB)

DPOY: T.J Watt (PIT)

OROY: Trey Lance (SF)

DROY: Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah (CLE)

Coach: Kyle Shanahan (SF)

Apologies to everyone that I jinxed here, and the list is long. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

2021 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions (and season in review)

 That was a weird NHL season, wasn't it? The combination of games with few or no fans, division only play, a myriad of COVID-19 postponements and a regular season that is still somehow going on solely for contractual obligations while the postseason begins has been something to watch. But after last year's postseason finished up in a sterile bubble in the middle of September, at least these playoffs will approach something near normal. That means the predictions you're about to see will inevitably be quite bad.

But first, here's another annual tradition revived now that the pandemic is abating: seeing how bad my preseason predictions were!

Playoff teams:

My Predictions: PHI/BOS/WSH/NYI, TOR/CGY/MTL/VAN, TB/CAR/DAL/CBJ, COL/VGK/STL/MIN

Actual Teams: PIT/WSH/BOS/NYI, TOR/EDM/WPG/MTL, CAR/FLA/TB/NSH, COL/VGK/MIN/STL

Thankfully the West was predictable. 11 out of 16 is not a terrible hit rate and none of these predictions were that bad outside the North, where underestimating Connor McDavid and Connor Hellebuyck was probably a bad idea.

Awards:

Hart: Nathan MacKinnon

He'll be third in voting behind the obvious winner Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.

Art Ross: Connor McDavid

At least I can get this right.

Calder: Tim Stueztle

My first instinct was Kirill Kaprizov. I should have stuck with that.

Norris: Cale Makar

If he stayed healthy this year, he may have won it. The race for the Norris is incredibly deep this year, but the favorite might well be Adam Fox.

Rocket Richard: Auston Matthews

Another one too obvious for even me to screw up.

Selke: Mark Stone

Another year where a winger won't win this award, but Sasha Barkov is plenty worthy of winning it this year.

Vezina: Carter Hart

I'm so sorry Carter, I'm so sorry.

Jack Adams: Jared Bednar

His team won the President's Trophy with their litany of injuries! And yet because the voting public likes underdog stories, he won't win this though his coaching was exceptional. Joel Quenneville is the favorite.

And without further ado, the playoff predictions:

East:

Pittsburgh over New York Islanders in 6

Boston over Washington in 6

Boston over Pittsburgh in 6

Central:

Carolina over Nashville in 5

Tampa Bay over Florida in 7

Carolina over Tampa Bay in 7

West:

Colorado over St. Louis in 6

Vegas over Minnesota in 7

Colorado over Vegas in 7

North:

Toronto over Montreal in 5

Edmonton over Winnipeg in 6

Toronto over Edmonton in 7

Stanley Cup Semifinals:

1) Colorado over 4) Boston in 7

2) Carolina over 3) Toronto in 6

2021 Stanley Cup Final:

Colorado over Carolina in 6

Conn Smythe: Nathan MacKinnon

I'm sorry to all I have jinxed once again.

Friday, April 23, 2021

In Sports, it turns out greed can cross the Rubicon

In the universe, the biggest and brightest stars live fast, die young and when they go out, they go out with a bang. Such was the story of the European Super League; 48 hours where 12 of the biggest clubs joined together to break away from the structures that had molded European club soccer since the 19th century. But like the biggest and brightest stars throughout the known universe, this lived fast, died young and when it went out, it went out with a big bang. 

No matter the might, influence and power of the men who put this plan in motion, they didn't see the outward force of gravity from the game's other great stakeholders pushing down on their fusion trying to push out. Under this pressure, the ESL collapsed under its own weight. 

We could continue the star metaphors, including how supernovas are great forces of creation, but what's been undersold in the spectacular collapse of the Super League is how the unchecked greed of 21st century sports now suddenly has a limit. A red line has actually been crossed, and the punishment for crossing that red line turned out to be extremely severe. 

Many of the people who spearheaded the Super League are extremely envious of the NFL's ability to continue to print money without fail. Some of the forces behind the Super League are part of that NFL money printing enterprise. But the NFL's magic touch isn't even finding ways to balloon their business to the tune of billions of dollars each year, it's how they do it without alienating the paying customer. Roger Goodell added a playoff team, a regular season game, turned the Draft into a traveling roadshow, expanded Thursday Night Football and put it behind a streaming paywall, and yet most fans have barely batted an eye. Expanding revenues this much while staying in the bounds of what's acceptable to the unwashed masses is an impressive tightrope to walk.

The European Super League's massive failure was falling off that tightrope spectacularly. It's not as if the current structure is truly competitive beyond the Super League founders anyway, but it's the illusion that competitive sporting merit still drives the bus that keeps the status quo in tact while the big clubs grab and grab. There have been more Champions League format changes in the last three decades than government changes in Italy; all slanted towards the big clubs getting a bigger slice of the pie and many of them approved under the threat of a Super League. A deft slight of hand and kissing the right rear ends kept this gravy train rolling, but it had rolled so far down the track, pandemic assisted too, that the Super League suddenly became much more than an empty threat.

A Super League in which clubs didn't earn their place at the big kids table by their own merit instead of just their brand was a bridge too far, particularly in England. No one, particularly the six owners of the Sky Six had any foresight to see it coming, whether they joined because they wanted their American sports model imported to Europe like the Marshall Plan or because they had to go along for the ride fearing they might be left out, had any ability to see the backlash coming. They couldn't realize that a Super League meant the Emperor had no clothes, the Wizard of Oz wasn't actually what he appeared to be and that would be what titled the field against them. In a world where there is still unchecked greed, particularly in sports, these Super League owners inadvertently found out that there is such a thing as too much greed, and that it can take you over the Rubicon. 

What comes next in response to the Super League's failure is an open question. Will England impose a 50+1 rule for club ownership such as is law in Germany? Will UEFA pass a new Financial Fair Play law that more resembles an American style luxury tax or even a salary cap? Will the "dirty dozen" owners get forced out? Can the uneasy truces that kept the system humming along, broken as it is, be repaired? All are questions that will not have answers for quite some time.

But what the 48 hours of the European Super League and its fallout have shown is that unchecked greed in sports is suddenly not so unchecked anymore. There is such a thing as "too far", and the fans, always left out in the battles of millionaires vs. billionaires, actually have some sway, at least enough to tip the balance in a situation like this. Authorities in soccer need to be mindful of this, and everyone in professional sports across the globe should now understand that even if something like this episode on their shores is unlikely, it's still possible. With the knowledge that a red line is out there somewhere, will that mean that some of the more out there ideas to increase revenue now get shelved, or is a simple change of tactics on the horizon?

A star is fundamentally a delicate balance of nuclear fusion pushing out and gravity pushing in. In the end, gravity always wins. With the European Super League, gravity won, and in so doing, proved that there is such a thing as too much when it comes to greed in sports. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

2021 MLB Season Predictions

 Major League Baseball begins its 2021 season on time this year, and will attempt to play as close to 162 as they possibly can. A full season, or something close to it, will be welcome with the impending labor doom on the horizon. Half of the Majors are intent to do as little as possible in fielding a team this year, about one third are legitimately going for it, and the others are stuck in the malaise of a CBA that is clearly outdated and is in desperate need of an overhaul. What does that mean for the season to come? It feels fairly easy to predict, even though we know that doesn't mean the eventual outcomes will be predictable.

NL East:

1. Atlanta

2. NY Mets

3. Washington

4. Philadelphia

5. Miami

The NL East is the only division where all five teams are conceivably going for it, or at least attempting to. Any of these teams could win the division or win a Wild Card spot, though some are more likely than others. The Braves have annual playoff heartbreak, but that means they get there, and they should have enough to win the division this year. The Mets are now spending like a New York team, but they still have the traditional Mets front office dysfunction and bullpen woes which will likely keep them from winning the pennant, but the playoffs are more than possible. Washington is not the team that won the 2019 World Series, but with the high end talent in Soto/Scherzer et al, they will be competitive all year. Philly's bullpen last year was so bad that it legitimately cost them a playoff spot, and while it'll be better this year, will it be good enough to not cost them a chance? It was fun to watch the Marlins take advantage of the shortened season last year, but that seems like a fluke of the pandemic more than anything else.

AL East:

1. NY Yankees

2. Toronto

3. Tampa Bay

4. Boston

5. Baltimore

Last year's shortened season cost the Yankees a chance at the division because their recent injury woes never relented. This year's team is deeper, and therefore should outlast the somewhat lesser opposition behind them to win the AL East again. It's nice to see the Blue Jays, who still can't play in Canada, spending on players like George Springer as they build back up to contending status again after their relatively surprising playoff appearance last year. They're young and fun and growing all the time. Tampa once again traded away its best player for prospects as only they can do after throwing away a World Series that was very winnable, but they have their system and process down to a tee. It will keep them competitive. The Red Sox are at the very least not tearing everything down to the studs anymore, and the O's... well that 0% playoff prediction on Fangraphs doesn't lie.

NL Central:

1. St. Louis

2. Milwaukee

3. Chicago Cubs

4. Cincinnati

5. Pittsburgh

Nolan Arenado is now a Cardinal because his old team is cheap and doesn't know how to rebuild (or build) properly. His presence buoys an already solid team to the top of a division in transition. Milwaukee struggled in the shortened season, but if Christian Yelich finds his 2018 form again, the Brewers should challenge for this division. The Cubs are also in the process of going cheaper now minus Yu Darvish among other 2016 heroes, and so their 2020 short season division win feels relatively hollow. The Reds no longer have their former ace Trevor Bauer, and a team that tried to go for it doesn't feel like it wants to do that anymore, as there's a drive into deep left field from Castellanos. As for the Pirates... PNC Park is nice!

AL Central:

1. Chicago White Sox

2. Minnesota

3. Cleveland

4. Kansas City 

5. Detroit

Hiring Tony La Russa in 2021 baseball was and still is extremely weird. He doesn't mesh well with a young and fun group of players like the sadly injured Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson among others. But there is a school of thought that suggests talent can overcome coaching deficiencies in some circumstances, and in spite of the Jimenez injury, it seems like the White Sox should have enough to win this division. The Twins will continue to bash home runs for fun and try to outslug everyone else to make the postseason, which if they get there, will crash down to earth as it always does for the Twins in the postseason. It's a shame the Indians had to trade Francisco Lindor because it's impossible to spend money in baseball now, but they still have the pitching to stay competitive. That World Series winning Royals team is firmly a distant memory now, but Whit Merrifield is fun and could be a major piece at the trade deadline. The Tigers rebuild is ongoing, and some of those players will play for AJ Hinch this year, but that's about all there is in Detroit.

NL West:

1. LA Dodgers

2. San Diego

3. San Francisco 

4. Arizona

5. Colorado

There's a real chance the Dodgers just steamroll everyone this year after finally winning the World Series. They're even deeper than they were with Trevor Bauer, and have multiple legit starters coming out of the bullpen. But this year, unlike recent years, will have actual competition in the division in the form of the amazingly fun and amazingly going for it San Diego Padres. There will be a real and fascinating rivalry between these two teams this season. Adding Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to a group with Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and a number of exciting prospects is legitimately rare in today's baseball, and it's so much fun to see. The Giants rebuild is humming along smoothly, and while they won't be competitive this year, there's a chance they flex their muscle soon with prospects maturing and money to spend. Arizona's attempt to go for it last year with Madison Bumgarner failed spectacularly, and so they're now stuck in neutral, and the Rockies can't even put on a proper fire sale.

AL West:

1. Houston

2. Oakland

3. Anaheim

4. Seattle

5. Texas

Somehow, the Astros after their cheating scandals and poor form from stars made it to Game 7 of the ALCS after being down 3-0 in that series. Most of that group returns, sans George Springer, and it feels like this may be a last chance for this group to push at the top of the American League. At some point, will the A's run out of the magic they always have as they compete at a decently high level while spending little to no money on players? Don't count them out. Until the Angels prove they can be what they should be with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon, most should be inclined to not buy it from them. Outside of Jarred Kelenic, the most entertaining 2021 Seattle Mariners thing is this extended look at their history courtesy of Secret Base, and it's amazing. As for the Rangers, even though the pandemic is still ongoing, their new ballpark will be allowed to open at full capacity to watch a team tearing it down to the studs.

NL Playoff Teams:

1. LA Dodgers

2. Atlanta

3. St. Louis

4. San Diego

5. NY Mets

AL Playoff Teams:

1. NY Yankees

2. Houston

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Minnesota

5. Toronto

NL Postseason:

NL Wild Card: Padres over Mets

NLDS: Dodgers over Padres in 5 & Braves over Cardinals in 4

NLCS: Dodgers over Braves in 6

AL Postseason:

AL Wild Card: Blue Jays over Twins

ALDS: Yankees over Blue Jays in 4 & Astros over White Sox in 5

ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 5

2021 World Series:

Dodgers over Yankees in 7 (it's boring but it seems most likely).

Awards:

NL MVP: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD)

AL MVP: Mike Trout (ANA)

NL Cy Young: Jacob DeGrom (NYM)

AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole (NYY)

NL ROY: Ke'Bryan Hayes (PIT)

AL ROY: Randy Arozarena (TB)

NL Manager: Jayce Tingeler (SD)

AL Manager: Charlie Montoyo (TOR)

Apologies to everyone in advance for the jinxes they have all received. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

2020-21 NHL Season Predictions

 After the Stanley Cup was awarded in a hermetically sealed bubble in Edmonton in September, all eyes turned immediately to what the 2020-21 season for the NHL would look like. For a not insignificant period of time, it looked like there may be no season at all, and if some owners had their way, there wouldn't be one. But the league will trudge through their billion dollar losses (and the still raging global pandemic that caused them) to play a 56 game season with teams only playing inside their own division. It's unlike any NHL season before, and for a league that's always a bit unpredictable, this season may be a new level of unpredictable. That means, these predictions may be uniquely bad. 

East:

1. Philadelphia

2. Boston

3. Washington

4. NY Islanders

5. Pittsburgh

6. NY Rangers

7. Buffalo

8. New Jersey

This division is very reminiscent of recent Big Ten basketball seasons: many good teams that will beat each other up, but no great team to separate themselves from the pack. For that reason, the team with the fewest obvious problems and the best goaltender will win the division, and that's Philly. Most notably, I have the Penguins missing out on the playoffs this year, largely because someone has to, but also because they feel the shakiest of the good batch of teams in their division, and doubting the Islanders has not been profitable for me recently.

North:

1. Toronto

2. Calgary

3. Montreal

4. Vancouver

5. Edmonton

6. Winnipeg

7. Ottawa

Toronto will finally win a playoff series this year because their division is so lopsided in favor of them. Every other team has a marked flaw that makes it difficult for them to compete on the Leafs' level. Calgary underachieved relative to their talent last year, and made a much necessary upgrade in net which should see them just ahead of Montreal, who now may have the talent to back up their wonderful style of play and underlying numbers. Vancouver gets in over Edmonton because of better goaltending and more depth outweighing McDavid and Draisaitl's brilliance.

Central:

1. Tampa Bay

2. Carolina

3. Dallas

4. Columbus

5. Florida

6. Nashville

7. Chicago

8. Detroit

Even without Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning will coast to a division title this season. Their biggest challenge will be Carolina, who are beloved by the analytics community and rightly so, since their style of play now has the great talent to back it up, but their weak links in net and in some depth areas keep them from winning the division. Dallas will be inconsistent to start the season thanks to their COVID and injury issues, but they're too talented to miss the postseason. Columbus gets in to the final playoff spot over Florida and Nashville thanks to the Islanders principle, but any one of those three could have a reasonable argument to get in. 

West:

1. Colorado

2. Vegas

3. St. Louis

4. Minnesota

5. Anaheim

6. San Jose

7. Arizona

8. Los Angeles

The gap between the three best teams in the division is wider than any gap in any division this year. All three are legitimate Cup contenders, the rest will scrap for fourth and none would have any chance in any other division to get into the playoffs. Minnesota is the least flawed out of all of them, therefore they sneak in ahead of Anaheim, who with their young talent and underappreciated goalie could be the surprise team of the season. San Jose could also have one last gallant ride at success after their annus horribilis last year.

Playoffs:

East:

1. PHI over NYI in 7

2. BOS over WSH in 6

1. PHI over 2. BOS in 7

North:

1. TOR over 4. VAN in 5

3. MTL over 2. CGY in 7

1. TOR over 3. MTL in 6

Central:

1. TB over 4. CBJ in 6

2. CAR over 3. DAL in 7

1. TB over 2. CAR in 6

West:

1. COL over 4. MIN in 5

2. VGK over 3. STL in 6

1. COL over 2. VGK in 7

Final 4:

Colorado over Philadelphia in 6 (1 vs. 4)

Tampa Bay over Toronto in 6 (2 vs. 3)

Colorado over Tampa Bay in 6

Awards:

Hart: Nathan MacKinnon (COL)

Art Ross: Connor McDavid (EDM)

Calder: Tim Stueztle (OTT)

Norris: Cale Makar (COL)

Rocket Richard: Auston Matthews (TOR)

Selke: Mark Stone (VGK)

Vezina: Carter Hart (PHI)

Jack Adams: Jared Bednar (COL)

Apologies in advance for the jinxes I have caused. Happy hockey season!


Friday, January 8, 2021

2020 NFL Season Predictions in Review + Postseason Predictions

 Well that was a mess. Games on Wednesday afternoons because of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony, a game featuring a team with no rostered QB's and an overall sense of uneasiness defined the 2020 NFL season. Somehow, thanks to COVID-19 taking Sunday off like only God could have asked for, the NFL completed a 256 game regular season and moves onto a postseason in which already, a team won't have its head coach thanks to him testing positive for COVID-19. But nothing will stop the Shield, and nothing will stop me from filling this husk of a blog with the dying embers of content known as: looking back on terrible preseason predictions!

AFC Playoff teams (correct order):

1. KC 12-4 (KC 14-2)

2. BAL 12-4 (BUF 13-3)

3. IND 11-5 (PIT 12-4)

4. NE10-6 (TEN 11-5)

5. PIT 10-6 (BAL 11-5)

6. BUF 9-7 (CLE 11-5)

7. TEN 9-7 (IND 11-5)

Getting six out of seven AFC teams right in the postseason is not a bad return, though I didn't get them in the right order. Thinking the Patriots had one last kick at the can was a mistake many made, and not buying the Browns was another. Personal held skepticism of the Bills and Titans are most certainly gone now.

NFC Playoff teams (correct order);

1. NO 12-4 (GB 13-3)

2. DAL 11-5 (NO 12-4)

3. SF 11-5 (SEA 12-4)

4. MIN 10-6 (WSH 7-9)

5. TB 10-6 (TB 11-5)

6. GB 9-7 (LAR 10-6)

7. SEA 9-7 (CHI 8-8)

Now the NFC on the other hand was a bit of a disaster. San Francisco, Dallas and Minnesota all completely fell apart due to injuries, incompetence or a combination of both, and I wasn't buying into the Packers and Seahawks in the preseason but I probably should have, since they may be the two favorites to make the NFC Title game once again. 

Awards:

MVP: Patrick Mahomes

He could be MVP every year, but Aaron Rodgers will win it this year, seemingly turning back time once again.

OPOY: Lamar Jackson

He took some unfair criticism at times this year, though he wasn't quite what he was a year ago. This will end up being the MVP runner up award, and this year, that likely goes to Derrick Henry for being the bulldozer he always is. Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams are other worthy contenders.

DPOY: Aaron Donald

Picking him for this award is pretty easy as he is one of the best players in the league year in and year out. He has stiff competition from TJ Watt, and if the Rams missed the playoffs, it might be easy to slide in Watt for this award. Either could win, but this prediction wasn't off base.

OROY: Joe Burrow

If he stayed healthy all season, he probably would have won, but even then he would have had major competition. Justin Herbert was way better than anyone could have ever imagined and will be the favorite for this award as he is a QB, but Justin Jefferson should also get the love he deserves. One man who deserves way more credit it than he got: James Robinson, the UDFA for Jacksonville who was the entire offense for the worst team in the league and was a revelation. 

DROY: Chase Young

Dominant beyond dominant. There's almost no other contender for this award.

Coach: Mike McCarthy

Whoops. Kevin Stefanski probably gets it for ending the longest active playoff drought in the NFL, but Sean McDermott should get love for turning the Bills into a juggernaut. I also think Matt LaFleur should get credit for reviving what seemed to be a flagging Packers team before he arrived and giving a jolt to that team.

Comeback: Cam Newton

Nope. Alex Smith wins this without any debate.

Here are my 2020 NFL Playoff Predictions:

AFC:

Wild Card Round:

Bills over Colts

Titans over Ravens

Steelers over Browns

Divisional Round:

Chiefs over Titans

Bills over Steelers

AFC Title Game:

Chiefs over Bills

NFC:

Wild Card Round:

Saints over Bears

Seahawks over Rams

Bucs over Washington

Divisional Round:

Packers over Bucs

Seahawks over Saints

NFC Title Game:

Packers over Seahawks

Super Bowl 55:

Chiefs over Packers

Yes, I changed from my preseason prediction of KC/NO. That prediction was made seven years ago, or so it feels like. Enjoy the playoffs.