5 Biggest Takeaways from the NBA so far

By: Evan

1.) New York basketball is the abyss of the NBA

Both New York teams came into the season with high hopes but have disappointed tremendously. Courtesy of BKMagazine
Both New York teams came into the season with high hopes, but have disappointed tremendously.
Courtesy of BKMagazine

This summer was exciting for both New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets fans as they both thought they had a serious chance to challenge the Miami Heat and potentially win an NBA title. Well, welcome to reality New Yorkers, both of your teams are below .500 and don’t have much hope for the future.

Let’s first start off with Brooklyn, the Nets made some supposedly huge offseason moves acquiring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry for Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph and first round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018. Pundits deemed Garnett and Pierce, “the experience” that the Nets needed to defeat the Heat. Now people are seeing that “experience” really means “old-age” and the scoring numbers for Pierce and Garnett have drastically decreased from 12.3 ppt to 6.7 ppg.  Deron Williams has constant ankle injuries, and now with Brook Lopez gone to a season-ending surgery on his broken foot, the Nets are going to have to rely on bench players for the majority of their scoring. The other huge problem for the Brooklyn Nets is Jason Kidd and his inexperience as a head coach.  GM Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov took a chance on Kidd, and now the gamble has failed.  The soda-spilling scandal and the swift removal of Lawrence Frank as an assistant coach has shown that Kidd is not ready to coach any NBA team.

Now on to the Knicks, who face a huge decision on whether to trade Carmelo Anthony before the February deadline because of Melo’s impending free agency. Melo has already been quoted as saying he is planning to test his free agency, so why wouldn’t the Knicks shop around their lone star?  It is clear that the Knicks have a long way to go before becoming remotely relevant in the championship picture, and trading Melo might aid that process. If the Knicks can land a high first round pick or a young talent under contract for Melo, it would enable the franchise to make more strategic offseason moves. On the court the Knicks struggles are laughable, they rank 25th in points per game and 22nd in adjusted field goal percentage. J.R. Smith is shooting 34% from the field and is only getting to the free throw line 1.7 times per game, showing how inefficient a scorer he is.  Mike Woodson might be the first coach fired this year,  the Knicks 9-19 record is a harbinger of needed changes — and lots of them.

2.) The Portland Trailblazers are for real

LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard deserve respect as one of the best point-forward duos in the league. Courtesy of AP
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard deserve respect as one of the best point-forward duos in the league.
Courtesy of AP

From the disappointing NYC teams to the emerging Portland Trailblazers, who I didn’t pick to make the playoffs this year. To quote the famous rapper The Notorious B.I.G “If you don’t know, now you know” — and this applies perfectly to the Blazers as they have started the season off at a league best 24-5, all while hiding amongst the elite teams in the Western Conference throughout preseason predictions. The Blazers are led by their two should-be all stars, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, who together average 44 points per game. These two provide a lethal pick and roll game with LaMarcus’ ability to knock down 15-20 footers and Lillard’s ability to  driving and score or step out and hit threes. Playing in Portland, most East coast basketball fans don’t see the Blazers play, but I urge you to try. They are fun and exciting and have players who will compete with anyone in the league. There have been discussions about LaMarcus Aldridge as a possible MVP candidate, and we all saw Damian Lillard preform last year by winning ROY. The only question for the Blazers is their bench as the starters average 85 points per game while the team averages 108 points per game. Rookie CJ McCollum is expected to come back soon and he might provide a spark off the bench, but if he doesn’t, the Blazers might need to trade for a sixth man who can score the rock. The Blazers are coming folks, whether you know it or not.

3.) Rivalries are Real

Anyone who says there are no rivalries in the NBA are clearly delusional. Courtesy of Washington Post
Anyone who says there are no rivalries in the NBA is clearly living in the past. 
Courtesy of The Washington Post

Ok, the NBA has had storied rivalries like Bulls-Knicks, Celtics-Lakers, Pacers-Knicks/Bulls, Lakers-Kings and the Detroit Bad Boys against almost everyone, so you might think that era is over.  But look again.  There are simmering rivalries in today’s NBA, and the animosity is clear among certain teams and players.   For instance, the Clippers-Warriors have featured skirmishes involving Blake Griffin with Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green as well as DeAndre Jordan’s near fight with Bogut. The coaches, Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson, aren’t the best of friends and the two teams won’t even go to chapel together. In their last two games alone, there have been seven technical fouls called with two ejections. It would be difficult to make a case that these two teams don’t play a little bit rougher when the face each other.  Another rivalry resides in South Beach and Indiana as these two teams clearly see themselves as the Eastern Conference’s top teams.  Paul George was even quoted as saying that his preparation in the offseason was for the Miami Heat. Indiana believes that they can defeat the Heat and are trying to send messages through regular season victories. Miami has consistently downplayed the Pacers’ talk, citing the fact that championships aren’t won during the winter months. And while the Pacers-Heat rivalry hasn’t been as physically bruising as the Clippers-Warriors sparring, the potential for hard fouling is huge.  The Pacers may be the strongest team in the league, and LeBron is the NBA’s best.  Let’s just hope we see a playoff series between both the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers and a Eastern Conference Final between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat.

4.) Top Teams Tanking

More ping pong balls, more chances to win the lottery. Courtesy of NBA.com
More ping pong balls, more chances to win the lottery.
Courtesy of NBA.com

With the upcoming loaded NBA draft class there has been discussion about whether tanking is fair and strategic or embarrassing for the league. My opinion is simple — bad teams especially in smaller markets such as Utah, Charlotte, Orlando and Milwaukee, don’t necessary attract the huge free agents like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or Miami.  These smaller market teams try to build through the draft just like the Thunder did.  Listen to the Supersonics/Thunder’s draft picks since 2007, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden (the trade was dumb but they did net Jeremy Lamb), Eric Bledsoe (traded to LAC now with PHX), Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III and Steven Adams. They found two franchise changers and some tremendously talented role players all through the draft and even traded some pieces to fit the Thunder’s system. So when teams tank and perform poorly, it is usually not a reflection of the team’s desire, but a plan devised by the front office to find young players who can contribute in the future.  Rebuilding by tearing down is a viable strategic option for smaller markets who don’t have the resources to attract top free agents.  Who knows, with some luck of ping-pong balls and the development of the right players, Utah or Milwaukee could be the next OKC.

5.) The Pacers are the best team in the NBA

Paul George has the Pacers flexing their muscles as the NBA's best team. Courtesy of Indystar
Paul George has the Pacers flexing their muscles as the NBA’s best team.
Courtesy of Indystar.com

While the Portland Trail Blazers have the NBA’s best record, the Pacers are the NBA’s best team.  The Pacers get my vote for best team because of their overall depth and intense defensive mentality. Paul George is no longer a star on the rise, he is firmly entrenched as one of the league’s best players. He plays hard on both ends, a rarity in today’s NBA and his offensive game has elevated every year he has been in the league. The Pacers also improved their bench this year, trading for Luis Scola and adding CJ Watson and Chris Copeland to help alleviate the scoring stress on the starters. Lance Stephenson has also emerged posting three triple doubles this season, most in the NBA. As “Born Ready” continues to mature with age, the Pacers become more and more dangerous in terms of team potential. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Pacers’ bigs Roy Hibbert and David West who are two stout defensive players who also can score in the low post, making opposing defenses worry about the inside-out game. This Pacers team is maturing and is not afraid of anybody, including the defending champs the Miami Heat. Don’t be surprised if this Pacers team knocks off the Heat as they have both the offense and defense to do so.

Stats from ESPN.com

What happened to Robert Griffin III?

By: Prad

On January 6, 2013, RGIII hoped to lead his resurgent Washington Redskins over Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks in a clash between two rookie quarterbacks who had taken the NFL by storm. The Redskins finished the season by winning every game after their bye week for a total of seven straight wins. This wild card game was also in front of the 80,000 plus fans in FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Washington or I should say RGIII turned the season around after a start that saw them three games under.500 9 games into the season.

Griffin's injury has impacted his career in an unforeseeable way Courtesy of Huffington Post
Griffin’s injury has impacted his career in an unforeseeable way
Courtesy of Huffington Post

Entering the fourth quarter of this Wild Card game, the score was 14 – 13 Redskins. Up to this point, both of Washington’s scores came off of two TDs thrown by RG3 and Seattle had scored off one TD through the air from Wilson and two field goals from Steven Hauschka. The score stood still for the first five minutes of the 4th until a thrilling 27 yard run from Marshawn Lynch had given Seattle the lead. What made it thrilling was not only Beast Mode acting like Beast Mode, but fans witnessing a block from Russell Wilson that helped Lynch tumble into the endzone. And then two minutes later, Hauschka chipped in another field goal for 22 yards, which iced the game. Redskins fans still believed in RG3 because of his late game heroics throughout the season. However, those hopes were soon dashed a minute later when Griffin’s knee buckled after a bad snap on a late drive in their own territory. At that moment, not only did RG3’s season end, but Washington’s did too. Griffin had an entire offseason to recover from his torn ACL and LCL though and Washington would recover from the reeling loss as well, right?

Wrong. We have one week left in the 2013 NFL season and the Redskins sit dead last in the NFC East, a division they won a season ago. Even more remarkable is the fact that they have the worst record in the NFC. Their nine games under .500 serves as an indication of a team that has witnessed much controversy surrounding their star quarterback, head coach, and owner. Their losses have not even been close with five of them coming with deficits greater than 15. This might be signaling a restoration back to the times when Washington was the perpetual cellar of the NFC. The Redskins have won one playoff game since the turn of the 21st century. Meanwhile, all three of their NFC East foes have been fixtures in the playoffs in the past decade. Washington fans who were ecstatic for RG3 and the future of their team last season are now worried about the franchise and hoping for a high pick in this upcoming draft. 

RG3's recent benching has properly  Courtesy of Yahoo Sports
RG3’s recent benching has been the result of a failure in confidence
Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

More recently, coach Mike Shanahan decided to bench RG3 for the remainder of the season, a move that seems to be very divided within the sports community. Shanahan claimed that Griffin shouldn’t risk his health for the last three games of the season in a dismal season that has seen the Redskins win a total of three times. In the two weeks that RG3 has been benched, backup QB Kirk Cousins has led the ‘skins to zero wins. Yet, it’s not entirely his fault. There exist a multitude of problems on defense and with the receiving corps, but more importantly, issues with confidence and demeanor. The mental aspect of “winning” has not been at the forefront of the franchise, something that persisted throughout the last three months of last season. Redskins’ fans are hoping that last season wasn’t an anomaly and the team can return to that winning mentality soon. This fan base has not seen a Super Bowl since 1991 and a Divisional Round appearance since 2005.

After last season, Giants, Cowboys, and Eagles fans were scared about the thought of their teams facing Griffin twice a year for at least the next decade. As a Giants fan, it is one less problem to worry about each season. But, the question remains: what happened to the RGIII that was supposed to lead the Redskins back to postseason relevance? His injuries have not deterred his abilities to the point where he is best suited as a backup. Rather, he has the same problem that the rest of the Redskins’ organization has. His mental confidence after the injury is virtually nonexistent. He is less likely to put his body on the line because of the fear that the injury has instilled within him. Throughout his rookie campaign, we saw him sacrifice his body in any way to gain extra yards. That same “fight” has not been evident this year. Instead of running head first, he’s deciding to step out of bounds to avoid the vicious hits. If I were in his position I’d probably do the same to lengthen my career and stay healthy. Unfortunately, compromise is necessary to win in the NFL. Griffin needs to find that confidence again and find a healthy balance between the motives of his team and himself individually in order to be more successful in this league.

Predictions and Preview from Week 16 in the NFL

By: Jon

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

It was only a few weeks ago that the Dolphins locker room was in complete turmoil because of the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. However, the Dolphins are currently in the heart of the playoff picture and have a good chance of making the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. The Dolphins three game win streak can be attributed to their quality defense, timely offense, and a little bit of luck. Over the past two weeks, the offense has 29 points per game while the defense has allowed only 24 points per game against Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, two quarterbacks that have won multiple Super Bowls. While the Dolphins were lucky in the Steelers’ game because Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds on a would be winning play, Ryan Tannehill was able to score at the end of each game which gave them the lead and the win. The Dolphins need to win this game in order to stay in the playoff picture, especially since the Ravens have been winning as well and have the tie breaker over the Dolphins. While the Dolphins’ young quarterback has been streaking, EJ Manuel has tapered of late and will not even play in the game because of a sprained knee. Instead of Manuel, Thad Lewis will be starting at quarterback for the desperate Buffalo Bills. The Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999 and the streak will continue this season because the Bills have been extremely inconsistent and ineffective all year. On October 20, Thad Lewis was able to lead the Bills to a win against the Dolphins, although he played one of the his worst games of the season. In the game, the Dolphins defense was able to force an interception and sacked Lewis four times. The Bills’ offensive line needs to play well against the strong Dolphins’ pass rush so they can run the ball consistently. If the Bills are going to achieve a win or score points, the running game must be successful and keep Lewis away from third down and long. However, it is unlikely that the Bills will be able to muster enough offense against the scorching Dolphins to keep the game close. Lately, the Dolphins’ receiving core and Ryan has improved their performances because the offensive line is giving Tannehill more time to pass and check his options. The Dolphins should be able to outscore the Bills early and make it difficult for them to run the ball.

Prediction: Dolphins win 27-20

Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

After stunning football fans and experts around the nation by scoring 48 points and upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles at home, the Vikings will be heading into Cincinnati to play another playoff team. While the Vikings have been horrible all season, they continue to play with energy and vigor for head coach Leslie Frazier. Over the past four games, the Vikings have gone won two games, tied against the Packers, and lost to the Ravens by three in a heart breaking defeat. The Vikings have been scoring points lately, 28 points per game, which has relinquished some of the pressure off of the defense. Matt Cassel has played consistent on offense and has not thrown many interceptions, which has kept the Vikings in the last few games. While Matt has been a game manager, Peterson, Gerhart, and Asiata have produced yards on the ground and the wide receivers have been able to create separation from the corners. Similar to the Vikings, the Bengals have been solid football over the past month, besides for the first half of last week’s game against the Steelers. Similar to the Dolphins, the Bengals have been successful this season because of the improvements by Andy Dalton. Andy has transformed the Bengals from a running dominated offense to a high flying passing attack. Along with Dalton, AJ Green has cemented himself as one of the top five wide receivers in the league. Along with Green, Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham have become great safety blankets for Dalton. Along with the Bengals improvements on offense, their defense has remained dominant, although they lost their best player, Geno Atkins, half way through the season. Although the Bengals do not have the pass rush without Geno, which could effect them against a quality quarterback, the Vikings should be unable to exploit this weakness with Matt Cassel. The Bengals should be able to win this game because they desperately need a win after last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, if they want to win the division. The Bengals have a significant advantage in terms of talent, which should prove to be the difference this weekend.

Prediction: Bengals win 31-20

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In one of the few games between playoff teams this weekend, the Chiefs are attempting to become the number one seed in the conference, while the Colts want to gain momentum, before entering the playoffs. Since their bye week in week 8, the Colts have not won back to back games and have played extremely inconsistent football. The Colts achilles heal the past seven weeks have been their first half defense. In the three games they have lost in the past seven games, they have allowed 38, 40, and 42, respectively, while being outscored by a combined 73 points. The Colts have been able secure their division title because of the excellence of Andrew Luck. Luck has single handily led the Colts to their nine wins because they do not have a good running game and the wide receivers have been inconsistent since the loss of Reggie Wayne to an ACL injury. Without Wayne, Andrew Luck does not have a reliable third down receiver that can reset the chains or create separation during important and obvious passing downs. While the Cots have been inconsistent on offense, the Chiefs offense has been great over the last few games. Over their past two games, the Chiefs have averaged 50 points per game, albeit against the Raiders and the Redskins. The reason for the Chiefs influx in points has been the improvement of Alex Smith. Although Smith does not consistently throw the deep ball with success, he is great at short passes because he has great accuracy. Along with Smith, Jamaal Charles has been an MVP candidate because he catches the ball out of the backfield and rushes the ball with success. In the game against the Raiders, Charles showed his versatility and skill by scoring five total touchdowns and accumulating 250 yards of offense. Although the offense has been hot of late, the defense has taken a step back because they are unable to create a consistent pass rush. The Chiefs lost three straight games to the Broncos, Chargers, and Broncos because they were unable to disrupt Rivers or Manning. If the Chiefs are unable to rattle Luck in the pocket, they will need to score a lot of points to win the game. However, it is likely that the Chiefs will be able to score early and often because they have develop a rhythm on offense. The Chiefs’ defense should be able to hold the Colts under 30 points and win the game.

Prediction: Chiefs win 31-27

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

After starting the season 0-8, the Bucs have won four of their last six games and have turned around their season. The difference for the Bucs has been the play of Mark Glennon and Bobby Rainey. On offense, Mark Glennon has become more comfortable in the pocket and has constructed a relationship with wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Although Glennon has thrown more interceptions lately, he has also thrown more touchdowns and has thrown for a higher completion percentage. Along with Glennon, the pass defense has taken a major step forward. During the entire season, the Bucs have had a lot talent, but the group is finally learning how to mesh and play dominating defense. The secondary has been great and has forced multiple turnovers over the past month. In the last four games, the group has forced 10 interceptions while allowing only 7 touchdowns. Along with forcing more interceptions than allowing touchdowns, the quarterbacks have been unable to throw for big yardage against the menacing group. Along with the streaking Bucs, the Rams have been playing better football, including a win over the Saints last week. The Rams are a team that plays much better at home because they play off their home crowd and enjoy the fast turf. The Rams’ pass rushers and wide receivers are able to take advantage of the turf because they play with a lot of speed. Although Kellen Clemens has been inconsistent since taking over for Sam Bradford, he has been better of late and has limited the amount of turnovers. Clemens has been helped by a successful running game. Over the past few weeks, Zac Stacy has been given 25+ carries a game and has produced over 100 yards or a touchdown in three of the last four games. During their last two home games, the Rams defense has allowed a total of 37 points against the Saints and Bears, two of the best offenses in the league. The defense has been able to force six turnovers during the last two home games. The Rams should be play off of the home crowd for the second straight week and get consecutive wins. The Rams have been dedicated to the run, which should exploit the Bucs average rush defense. The Bucs on offense may have trouble communicating because of the loud and raucous crowd in St. Louis. The team that will win the turnover battle should win the game.

Prediction: Rams win 24-20

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

After ruining the game last week against the Packers and forcing Dez Bryant to cry, the Cowboys are attempting to head into the Nation’s capital and win against the dreadful Washington Redskins. Although the Cowboys have been inconsistent all season, the offense has been one of the best unit’s in the league. The Cowboys offense has skill and talent at every position. The biggest improvement and surprise has been the Cowboys’ offensive line. Led by Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, the offensive line has been great at giving protection to Tony Romo and giving holes for Demarco Murray. At the wide receiver position, Dez Bryant has catapulted himself as the second best wide receiver in the league behind the great Calvin Johnson. Bryant is a great physical specimen and can over power any  corner back in the league. At tight end, Jason Written continues to be a consistent target in the red zone and helps the Cowboys move the chains. While the Boys have been great on offense, fourth highest scoring team in the league, the defense has been one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Currently, the group cannot defend any offense and is on pace to break the record for most yards allowed in a season. Last week, the Packers scored on every position of the second half while the defense did not force a punt against the Bears two weeks ago. While the Cowboys’ defense has been an abomination, the whole Redskins’ team and ownership has been a disgrace this season. The Redskins have the second worst record in the league because they cannot stop an offense nor score on offense. Without Robert Griffin III, the Redskins do not have the talent on offense to score enough points to make up for their pitiful defense. Although Kirk Cousins may be a future starter in the league, he is not a developed starting quarterback because he has not been given enough snaps in live action. Although Cousins had a good statistical game against the Falcons, he left a lot of throws on the field and threw two interceptions. Although he will probably post quality numbers this week against the horrible Cowboys, he will probably be forced into a few turnovers, which will cost them the game against a hungry Cowboys team. Along with RGIII poor season, Alfred Morris has been unable to repeat his success from last season. Without Morris shouldering the load on offense, the Redskins will not score enough against Tony Romo and the boys. The game should be high scoring but Romo has historically been able to win these games, in order to set up the final week destruction against the Eagles.

Prediction: Cowboys win 35-28

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In one of the biggest games of the season, the Panthers and the Saints will be playing for the number two seed in the NFC. Although neither team made the playoffs last season, they are two of the best teams in football because of their improvements on defense. Last season, the Saints had the worst defense in NFL history because they allowed the most yards in NFL history. However, this season, Rob Ryan has transformed the defense and has made the group one of the top better units in the league. The defensive line has greatly improved this season, which has enabled them to put pressure on the quarterback and is currently ranked third against the pass. While the defense has improved, the offense has been consistent and one of the best in the league. New Orleans is ranked fifth in the league in terms of yards and top ten in terms of points. As long as the Saints have Drew Brees at quarterback, the group will be intimidating for any defense. Along with Brees, the Saints have one of the best receiving cores in the league with Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Lance Moore. The Saints have been able to be explosive and keep Brees healthy because the offensive line has been steady and effective all season. While the Saints have been use to the success and the big games, the Panthers are a young team without much experience. The Panthers have been successful this season because their defense is one of the best in the league. The Panthers have allowed the second least amount of points in the league because they are great at pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run. Although their secondary does not match the talent of their front 7, the pressure makes their job easier on defense. Along with the improved defense, the Panthers’ offense has improved because of the success of Cam Newton. Although the Panthers predominantly run a run first offense, Newton has the ability to pass for big yardage, especially to tight end Greg Olsen. Two weeks ago, the Panthers lost to the Saints on the road because they  could not score touchdowns in the red zone and did not stop Brees. Although the Panthers should have an easier time on defense since they are not playing in the Superdome, they must provide consistent pressure on Brees if they are going to win the game. However, it must be proven that the Panthers can play in December.

Prediction: Saints win 27-24

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In one of the few match ups that has no playoff implications, this game should be horrible because both teams are more interested in improving their draft status than winning meaningless games down the stretch. After a devastating loss in overtime, the Titans are assured to finish below .500 for another season. Since the loss of Jake Locker to injury, the Titans do not have the same offensive prowess. Although Ryan Fitzpatrick has the ability to post big yardage numbers, he does not have the ability to lead a team to multiple wins against quality teams. Fitzpatrick throws numerous interceptions, which compromises his ability on offense. Along with Fitzpatrick, Chris Johnson is not the same running back that rushed for 2000 yards and compiled 2500 total yards from scrimmage. Although he signed a big deal a few years ago, it is likely that they will release Johnson this offseason. At this point of his career, Johnson is a third down back or platoon back that can catch the ball out of the backfield. However, he cannot rush the ball 20+ times because he is too small and does not have the same explosion. While the Titans have been declining, the Jags are showing some promise with Chad Henne at their quarterback. After starting 0-8, the Jaguars have won 4 of their last 6 games. Although it is hurting their chances of selecting Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 draft, the Jags are playing hard for their coach, which is a positive. The Jags have been scoring more points lately because MJD and Henne are playing better. The Jaguars could have won last week against the Bills, but Chad Henne threw a late interception at the goal line. Along with the offense, the Jags have been playing better on defense. The secondary has been able to force turnovers in their last few games, 6 interceptions in the last four games. Although the game will be ugly, some one must win the game. Since the Jags are the hotter team and playing at home, they are more likely to come out of week 16 with a win.

Prediction: Jags win 24-17

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

After losing a terrible game at home last week against the Chargers, the Broncos will be heading to Houston in an attempt to seal the number one seed in the conference. If the Broncos win and the Chiefs lose against the Colts, the Broncos will claim the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Broncos’ success can be attributed to their offense. The Broncos score approximately 38 points per game, which is nine more than any other team in the league. The Broncos are complete on offense because they can run, pass, and protect. Although Moreno and Ball have been effective all season, Peyton Manning is the key to the offense because he is having one of the greatest statistical season in NFL history for a quarterback. Currently, Manning is only 5 touchdowns away from setting the record for touchdowns in a season. Manning is only 600 yards behind Drew Brees for most passing yards in a season. Although Manning will not have Wes Welker because he has a concussion, Manning has numerous options on the outside like Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Eric Decker. While the Broncos defense is not as dominating, the Texans should not be able to exploit the Broncos’ problems. The Texans have experienced a nightmare of a season because they have had horrible quarterback play. The season has been so bad that they had a realistic chance of losing every game this season. Neither Case Keanum nor Matt Schaub has been able to play consistently without turning over the football. The Texans were unable to rely on their quality running game like previous seasons because Arian Foster has been injured for all of the season. Along with the poultry offense, the defense has folded and given up on the season. Although they will not admit defeat, the team is looking toward the draft and improving their team in the offseason. Like multiple times this season, the Broncos will probably score early and often. Without the motivation, the Texans will have no chance of stopping Manning and his high powered offense.

Prediction: Broncos win 31-20

Cleveland Browns at New York Jets:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In another match up between teams that have no playoff aspirations, the Jets and Browns are hoping to end the season on a positive note. The Browns have lost five straight. However, the last losses have been by a combined 12 points. The Browns offense has significantly improved over the past few weeks because they have put an emphasis on throwing the football. This season, Josh Gordon has exploded onto the scene and is leading the league in receiving yardage, although he missed the first two games of the season. Although Browns do not have a running game, after losing running back Trent Richardson to a mid season trade, Jason Campbell has been leading the Browns on offense. Over the past two games, Campbell has thrown for 4 touchdowns while only allowing two interceptions. This week, it is unlikely that Campbell will be picked because the Jets do not strike fear in opponents and force turnovers. Along with the Browns, the Jets are hoping that they do not end the season on another losing streak. Over the past two seasons, the Jets have lost the last three games of each season. If the Jets do not win this game, it is likely that they will lose next week and Rex Ryan will probably lose his job. However, the Jets’ players want to keep Rex as coach and are still playing hard for him, although they will not make the playoffs. The Jets will need to defend Josh Gordon if they are going to win the game. Although the Jets, specifically Antonio Cromatie and Dee Millner, have been burned multiple times this season, Rex should be able to design a defense to stop Josh Gordon, the only legitimate threat on offense. Although Geno has been inconsistent all season, he has played better at home. The Jets will be frequently run the ball on offense because the Browns are good at forcing turnovers through the air. The Jets will make the game plan simple for Geno and hope that he makes the right decisions to win the game. The game should be close and low scoring, and it seems that the Jets usually win these low scoring close games.

Prediction: Jets win 20-17

Other Predictions from Week 16:

New York Giants at Detroit Lions:

Prediction: Lions win 27-17

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks:

Prediction: Seahawks win 31-21

Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers:

Prediction: Steelers win 34-31

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers:

Prediction: Chargers win 31-17

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens:

Prediction Ravens win 24-20

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles:

Prediction: Bears win 27-24

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers:

Prediction: 49ers win 31-16


Pictures and Stats from ESPN.com