NCAAF: Arizona at Hawai’i

PAC-12 Logo     The Arizona Wildcats travel to Honolulu to face the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors in a season opening matchup.  This game will be played on opening night and has a time slot all to itself, sure to draw a national crowd.  Will one of these teams prove to be championship caliber or both fall into the sands of time?

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors expect improvement to last year’s 8-6 record.  This is likely to occur with the return of 17 starters, 8 on offense, 9 on defense.  The quarterback, Cole McDonald, returns with his top receiving threat on an offense that finished last season 9th in the country in passing yards per game.  The biggest weakness of this offense has been the running game (109.6 ypg) but returns four offensive lineman which should open up holes for the backs and relieve some of the pressure from the passing game.  The defense will need a big turnaround as they finished last season ranked lower than 100 in 3 of the 4 major statistical defensive categories.  Luckily, the Rainbow Warriors have some senior leadership and return almost every starter from last season.  The experience on that side of the ball will help and these Warriors will be too proud to just lay down.

The Arizona Wildcats come in hoping for a turnaround in year 2 under Coach Kevin Sumlin.   With star quarterback Khalil Tate, the offense looks to be primed for a breakout year.  Not only do most teams make the biggest jump from year 1 to year 2 in a new system but the Wildcats also return 8 starters on offense.  The offense wasn’t terrible last year (31.3 ppg) and has the potential to be much better this year.  Regardless of how strong the offense is, it can only carry you so far if the defense struggles as much as it did last season.  Arizona finished last place in pass defense for the PAC-12 last season and was one of the worst teams defending the pass in the nation!  This team is too talented to struggle this much defensively on an annual basis so, expect them to play better this year.

The game should provide plenty of fireworks and be a nice encore to the defensive slugfest that the Florida-Miami game looks to be shaping up as.  Expect the Arizona Wildcats from the PAC-12 to be far superior to the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors from the Mountain West.  The talent level that each of these schools recruit at are not close and it will show on the field.  With both teams fielding struggling defenses, expect plenty of points.  The Elldee Sports Formula is calling for a 45-26 Arizona Wildcat victory.  Until next time, good luck.

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AFC East: Beast of the Least

New England Patriots Logo     Things are not bright in the AFC East.  This division has the unenviable position of being the worst group in all of the NFL.  The lone bright spot in New England still shines but there’s not much after them.  The Miami Dolphins, NY Jets, and (to a lesser extent) Buffalo Bills are pitiful.  There isn’t a whole lot of mystery when it comes to who will win this division.  The biggest question is just how bad will the rest of the AFC East be!

In this preview we will start with the, projected divisional winner, New England Patriots.  There just isn’t that much suspense to build up to when looking for the winner of the division.  Bill Belichick has built a system that can beat you with offense, ask the Kansas City Chiefs.  Additionally, with time to game-plan, the defense can stymie anybody, ask the LA Rams.  This organization has been built where almost any part is replaceable and interchangeable which makes the Patriots a team to be reckoned with year in and year out.  This season is no different as the Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 14-2 finish, good enough for a #3 seed in the AFC Playoffs.

Next up, the Buffalo Bills are finally rounding the corner.  Let’s just say that it’s a LONG corner.  While this team is on the rise, they have a long way to go before they are competitive on a weekly basis.  Josh Allen is showing promise at quarterback and LeSean McCoy provides veteran leadership but if this team wants to continue to improve, they will have to increase passing yards per game.  The Bills are one of only eight teams in the NFL who pass for less than 200 yards per game in a league that is built for passing.  The defense has buoyed this team but the offense has ensured that Buffalo will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  A -5 turnover margin hurt last season and will need to improve as well.  The formula is projecting a paltry four-win season.  Better luck next year, Buffalo.

The Miami Dolphins are trying their luck with a new head coach in Brian Flores.  Flores is a defensive coach who has spent his entire career under Bill Belichick, learning the defensive nuances of the legendary coach.  When he wasn’t coaching, he was a scout for New England.  That means he knows defense and he knows how to find diamonds in the rough when it comes to players.  That is great news because he has taken over a team that needs a complete overhaul.  Miami ownership has already started making moves, going out and trading for Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals.  They needed to do something as the Dolphins finished last season ranked 29th on Offense and 31st on Defense.  It shows in the predictions as well, as Miami is only projected to win 2 games this year and finish 3rd in the East.

If you think that the Miami Dolphins are lousy, you haven’t met the New York Jets.  Led by 2nd year QB, Sam Darnold, the Jets are another team that hopes to improve this year.  You may think that should be easy given that they only won four last season.  You would be wrong.  New York has added LeVeon Bell, one of the best all-around backs, to help take the pressure of opposing defenses off of Darnold.  The development will continue and the Jets will eventually get better but this isn’t the year to expect that.  Elldee Sports is predicting a 2-win season and a last place finish in the division.

So there it is.  The AFC East in all of it’s glory.  One great team and three others with 2nd year quarterbacks and boat loads of potential.  The New England Patriots, AFC champions for 4 of the past 5 years, are once again on top.  A familiar spot as they have won 10 straight and 16 of the past 18 divisional championships.  The Buffalo Bills trying to right the ship, the Miami Dolphins and their new coach, and the NY Jets forming the core of a future champion.  Until next time, good luck!

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NFC North: Lions, Vikings, and Bears, “Oh, My”

Chicago Bears Logo     The NFC North has traditionally been a rough and tumble division.  In the old “Black-and-Blue” division, defense and running games used to rule.  It seems as though the Chicago Bears are the only one that have kept that formula and it seems to be working.  The Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings have gone further and further towards a pass-first, high scoring type of football.  For the most part, this new style has worked for these teams.  Will it continue this season?

The Detroit Lions are riding their veteran quarterback, Matt Stafford, to the bitter end.  Stafford has done well in his career, becoming the Lions all-time leading passer with over 38,000 yards!  The difference in young Stafford and experienced Stafford is that the young Stafford had one of the best receivers in NFL history, Calvin Johnson.  Well, Johnson is gone and the passing attack is not what it once was.  Compounding the issues is the fact that Detroit has only had a rusher gain over 100 yards twice since 2013!  The only saving grace is that new Head Coach Matt Patricia is defensive-minded and improved the Lions defense to a top-10 unit.  Even still, the offensive struggles will handicap this team as the Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 5-11 season and last place finish for Detroit.

2nd and 3rd place in the NFC North is a virtual tie.  The Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers are both expected to finish with a 9-7 records.  Both teams are predicted to win three divisional matchups, splitting the head-to-head games, each defeating the other on their home turf.  These teams are built very differently with Green Bay having a powerful passing attack, led by perennial pro-bowler Aaron Rodgers, but a middling defense that is void of any big-names.  The Minnesota Vikings have one of the top NFL defenses but the offense is a well-balanced, yet, middle-of-the-road unit.  Minnesota is younger and appears to be on the rise while Green Bay looks more towards rebuilding as their nucleus seems to have seen their best days pass by.  Either way, both teams are still solid but must find a way to force turnovers as each team finished with a 0 +/- margin.  To be a winning team in the professional ranks, you have to have a positive turnover margin.

The cream of the crop in the North are the Chicago Bears, who have embraced their roots of a smash-mouth, defense first team!  Young quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a game-manager at this point in his career but only continues to improve.  The running game is solid, as well, but the real strength of the Bears is the defense.  Chicago has the league’s best rush defense, giving up only 80 yards on the ground.  Couple that with a +12 turnover margin, the Bears become very difficult to beat.  In fact the Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 15-1 record!  The only loss is a 50/50 toss-up game against the New Orleans Saints.  That record will earn this team home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the #1 seed.

The NFC North looks to send the Chicago Bears to the playoffs as the #1 seed, the only divisional representative.  The Vikings and Packers are both quality teams but will just miss the playoffs this season.  The Lions will finish last, at 5-11, and need to do some serious rebuilding and player development to return to the post season.  Until next time, good luck!

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NFC West: We’re Going Back To Cali, Cali, Cali

LA Rams Logo     The Los Angeles Rams have revenge on their mind after the way that last season ended but the rest of the NFC West has something to say about that!  Last season the division was able to send two teams to the playoffs and they hope to meet or exceed that number this year.  There is a lot of excitement in store with many new faces hoping to turn this division upside down.

Starting in Arizona, the Cardinals have a ton of fresh faces.  Following a whirlwind of coaching changes from the long time head coach Bruce Arians to the first-time head coach Steve Wilks, eventually settling this year on young hot shot coach Kliff Kingsbury from Texas Tech.  In his first major move after becoming head coach, Kingsbury selected Heisman Trophy Winner Kyler Murray with the #1 pick in the NFL Draft.  The Cardinals hope that the young coach with fresh ideas and the dynamic playmaker out of Oklahoma can revive a floundering team and create a winner.  Until Arizona can shore up the NFL’s worst rush defense, though, they will remain in the basement of the West.  The Elldee Sports Formula has them winless this season, although this is a difficult call with so many new cogs in the machine.

The San Francisco 49ers lay claim to five Super Bowl titles but those are all from yester-year.  The last title was earned back in 1995 but the ownership in San Francisco are level headed and are slowly building a competitive team.  They look to improve upon a 4-win 2018 season and think they have the team to pull that off.  Even though they only managed four victories, this team ranked in the top half of the NFL in offensive and defensive statistical categories.  If they cut down on their league worst -25 turnover margin, they should easily improve on last year’s record.  Don’t count on a big turnaround though, as Jimmy Garoppolo tries to return from a nasty injury and we expect him to be pretty rusty.  The 49ers will win five this year, improving but only slightly.

The Seattle Seahawks had a strong run last year, finishing 10-6 and earning a Wild Card spot against the Dallas Cowboys.  Even though the “12th Man” in Seattle led the Seahawks to a victory over the Cowboys in the regular season, they were not able to steal a playoff victory in Dallas.  Russell Wilson is still one of the top quarterbacks in the league, a very cerebral passer, and an all-around nice guy.  He will have another great season, especially with Carson and Penny in the backfield as serious threats.  Pete Carrol is a player’s coach and will have this team back in the playoffs, going 10-6 for a second straight season.  This will be good enough for the final Wild Card slot and a date with the New Orleans Saints!

Finally, The Los Angeles Rams are young and will be back with a chip on their shoulder after a run to the Super Bowl last season.  Young players are hungry and nothing makes them hungrier than a seat at the table, only to have the food stolen from their plate.  The defense will only get better as the Rams focused on defense in this year’s draft.  Statistically, the defense was in the bottom half of the league but that is expected when you have one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL.  The formula is predicting a 14-2 season record but in the top heavy NFC, that is only good enough for a #2 seed.

Count on the NFC West putting the same two teams in the playoffs again this season.  The LA Rams will finish with 14 wins and the #2 seed.   The Seahawks will match last season and finish with a 10-6 record, earning a Wild Card Seat.  San Francisco will improve by a game but still finish 5-11, well short of where they want to be.  The Arizona Cardinals will be exciting to watch but will sputter and finish at the bottom of the division.  Until next time, good luck!

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NFC South: Will The Saints Need Prayer to Win the South?

NO Saints Logo     The New Orleans Saints have as strong an argument as anyone to feel like they belong in the Super Bowl this year after the Pass Interference debacle of last year’s playoffs.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers struggled last year but hope to right the ship this year and move out of the divisional cellar.  The Carolina Panthers feel good about their chances in the division and are ready to prove it this season.  The Falcons have the experience and veteran players to compete with anyone, especially in a shootout!  Which one of these teams from the Southeast will represent the division in the playoffs and possibly further?

The Atlanta Falcons are looking to get over the hump and back into the playoffs.  They have veteran quarterback and former pro-bowler in Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan to lead them.  Their biggest concern has been that the coldest thing about Matt Ryan last year was his QB Rating!  Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in the NFL and is a natural leader.  The Falcons need to shore up a shaky defense that was decimated by injuries last season.  The talent is there but this team has not seemed to recover from the colossal Super Bowl choke of 3 years ago.  The Elldee Sports Formula is calling for a poor showing and a 4-win season.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not projected to do any better than their counterparts in Atlanta.  Similar to the Falcons, the Buccaneers have a defensive problem.  In fact, TB gave up an NFC worst 30 points per game last season.  Where this team differs from the rest of their division, is they have a new coaching staff and zero team leaders rally the team.  The quarterback has more off-field problems than you would expect from a potential franchise player and all of the real talent on the team is extremely young.  They are only projected to win 2.5 games this year.  We at Elldee Sports understand you cannot win half of a game but the formula is predicting a match-up that ends up with the teams being less than a half-point from each other, making it a virtual toss-up.

The real firepower in the NFC South resides in Louisiana as the New Orleans Saints have a very realistic shot at making the Super Bowl this year.  Drew Brees leads the Saints into battle this year, once again.  It doesn’t seem to matter who the  receivers are, Brees makes them look great.  What does matter is the running game and Alvin Kamara has been absolutely brilliant as a RB who runs hard, catches well, and can score at any time.  The defense is serviceable, right at average and will help carry the Saints to a 13-3 record per the Elldee Sports Formula.  That record will be good enough to win the division and net a #3 seed in the NFC Playoffs!

Not to be forgotten, the Carolina Panthers will be lurking.  This team is a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as they have alternated between impressive campaigns and duds over the last decade.  After finishing 7-9 last season, if things continue the same, expect the Panthers to have a stellar season.  The Elldee Sports Formula feels the same as they have predicted Carolina to post an 11-5 record.  Cam Newton is getting healthy, Christian McCaffrey is an exciting young running back and the always solid defense, led by Luke Kuechly, is the best in the division.  The defense should only get better after adding pro-bowler Gerald McCoy from divisional rival Tampa Bay.  The 11 wins will be good enough to earn the Panthers a #5 seed and Wild Card playoff match vs the Dallas Cowboys!

The Elldee Sports Formula has predicted 13.5 wins for the NO Saints and 11 wins for the Carolina Panthers, sending both of these squads to the playoffs this season.  The Falcons with 4 wins and the Buccaneers with 2.5 will both have to wait until next year to turn things around.  Until next time, good luck!

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NFC East: Dallas/Philadelphia Fight For Supremacy

Dallas Cowboys Logo     The NFC East is one of the most difficult divisions in all of Professional sports!  With the Eagles winning a Super Bowl Title in 2017, all four teams now lay claim to a championship.  In fact, the NFC East has 13 Super Bowl wins and 21 appearances since the 1970 AFL/NFL Merger, making it the most competitive Division in the NFL.  So who will win this season?

Expect this year to have the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles slugging it out for the top spot while the New York Giants and Washington Redskins continue to rebuild.  How the mighty have fallen as the once proud Giants and Redskins have failed to gain footing in recent seasons.  These two will not be down forever, though.

The New York Giants are struggling but are hoping that they can build around sensational newcomer Saquon Barkley.  He is a great building block and when paired with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, the potential is there for a solid nucleus.  Daniel Jones comes from Duke and a great QB developer in David Cutcliffe.  With the pedigree, size, and tutelage from future Hall of Famer Eli Manning, Jones may be the answer of the future.  I want to repeat FUTURE, not present, as the NY Giants will struggle again this year and finish third in the division with 7 wins.

The Washington Redskins are in even worse shape than the Giants!  The Elldee Sports Formula is only predicting the ‘Skins to steal 2 wins this season.  They were able to snag a potential game-changer in quarterback Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State, where he was able to put up incredible numbers.  One serious problem though, he is only a rookie and rookie quarterbacks usually take a year or two to adjust to the speed of the NFL.  That is already clear as veteran Colt McCoy is the projected starter currently.  Luckily, the Redskins have a solid stable of running backs with Petersen, Guice, and Thompson but in today’s NFL, the running game alone can only carry you so far.

Moving on to the contenders, the Philadelphia Eagles are only two years removed from a Championship season.  They return Carson Wentz from a second injury in as many seasons and that is the big question for this team.  Coach Doug Pedersen has developed solid play and chemistry from the Eagles.  With a few fortuitous bounces of the ball, Philly can make it back to the playoffs.  Don’t expect that to happen though, as the schedule is tough (including the Ravens, Seahawks, and Patriots) and Wentz must still prove he can stay healthy for an entire season.  The prediction is for the Eagles to finish 9-7, just short of the playoffs.

How ‘Bout Them Cowboys!  This could be the year that the Cowboys finally make it back to the Big Game.  It has been 23 years since “America’s Team” has competed for an NFL title.  With the young trio of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper coupled with one of the best offensive lines in football and an ever-improving defense, this could be their year.  Even though this is the closest that the team has looked to the glory years of the 90’s (Aikman, Smith, Irving), the game has changed and coaching is different.  Even the best laid plans don’t always work.  The Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 12-4 season in a top-heavy NFC, which will only land them a #4 spot and home game in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.

In summary, The NFC East looks to finish Dallas, Philly, NY, and Washington.  Out of the four teams, only the Cowboys will make the playoffs.  Until next time, good luck!

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Notre Dame: Is a Second Straight CFP Appearance in the Cards?

ND Logo     They say football is a game of inches.  That may be true but it is also a game of chance.  For a team to have a shot at glory many things must line-up, such as schedule strength, home v. away games, returning starters, and stability in coaching.  Does Notre Dame have what it takes to make a run at the College Football Playoffs for a second straight year?

Notre Dame went undefeated in the regular season last year and earned a shot at the Clemson Tigers last year.  The results were not pretty but they reached heights that few teams have managed to reach.  Of course, that is not a new feeling for the Fighting Irish as they are #6 in all-time wins and #2 in National Championships in the poll era.

The team returns seven starters on offense for Coach Brian Kelly.  This includes star quarterback Ian Book.  Once he was inserted in the offense last season, the Irish finally looked like they could be competitive on both sides of the ball.  The defense returns 6 starters and should be serviceable enough for a solid season.  The schedule is manageable but does include the regular cast of characters such as Stanford, Navy, USC, and the ACC matchups.  Where the problem lies for this squad is they have a monster matchup in Athens, Georgia against the highly-rated Bulldogs in the third game of the season.  They also must travel to Ann Arbor Michigan for the first time since renewing this rivalry against the hated Wolverines.

Despite their best efforts, the Elldee Sports Formula is predicting close road losses to both Georgia and Michigan.  This will send a top-tier Notre Dame team into the bowl season at 10-2.  Two losses this year will be too much to overcome and prevents the Irish from making the playoffs for a second year in a row.  Until next time, good luck!

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