Making Sense of the Wild, Wild, West

With 17 games left in their regular season, the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves in third place in the brutal Western Conference. The Wolves are just three games ahead of the Nuggets who currently hold the eighth seed, and a whopping 11.5 game behind the Warriors for the second seed. Positions three through 10 are incredibly close. Right now, the Utah Jazz who find themselves in 10th are only five games back from the three seed. The end of the regular season is in sight, so who will claim playoff spots three-eight?

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Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder haven’t been very impressive this year. With Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, you’d expect this team to be better. Still, I can’t imagine the Thunder falling out of the player, Westbrook and George are just too good. The Thunder just signed Corey Brewer, who should fill some of the injured Andre Roberson’s role. The Thunder are very thin, but because of their star players, they make the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers: In the last ten games, Damian Lillard has averaged just under 32 points per game. The Blazers have won five straight, and are clicking at the right time. The Blazers don’t have the easiest schedule left, they play 14 games against teams solidly in the playoff race. It won’t be easy, but I expect Damian Lillard, the most underrated player in the NBA, to carry the Blazers to the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs: Things haven’t going well for the Spurs recently. The team went 2-7 in February, and there have been reports that Kwahi Leonard is frustrated with the organization. The good news for the Spurs is that it seems like Leonard might be nearing a return. The fact that the Spurs have played as well as they have (minus the month of February), without Leonard playing is pretty impressive. The Spurs need to start winning games now, and I have faith that the most reliable team in all of sports will make the playoffs once again.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler might miss the rest of the regular season, but the Wolves still find a way to make the playoffs. The Wolves have played the most games in the NBA, and own the tiebreaker over several teams in the playoff race. On top of that, they have a three game cushion on the number eight seed. They have a brutal stretch in front of them, their next six games are against playoff teams, and the game after that they play the Clippers who are just outside the playoffs. After that though, the schedule lightens up and the Wolves will play a lot of tanking teams. Wolves end their playoff drought despite Butler’s injury.

New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis is playing out of his mind, he’s averaging 34 points over the last 10 games. A month ago, I would have predicted the Pelicans to miss the playoffs, but how can you pick against them right now? Davis is putting up MVP-like numbers, and willing the Pelicans to victory on a nightly basis. The Pelicans are probably the least talented team of the teams in the Western Conference playoff race, but they still make the playoffs.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz have some ground to make up, but have won 12 of 14. Rookie Donovan Mitchell is making his case for Rookie of the Year, and Joe Ingels, Ricky Rubio, and Rudy Gobert are all playing great basketball. The Jazz only play three playoff teams in the next 11 games, and if they can go 10-1 or 9-2, they’ll be looking really good. Coach Quin Snyder has a serious case for Coach of the Year with how the team is playing after losing their best player in Gordon Hayward in the offseason.

With the Thunder, Blazers, Spurs, Wolves, Pelicans, and Jazz making the playoffs, that means the Clippers and Nuggets miss the cut. The Western Conference is as wild as ever, and as the season winds down, there should be meaningful basketball being played every night. Let’s enjoy the wild and unpredictable ride.

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Five Predictions for Super Bowl 52

Super Bowl 52 is upon us, which means Sunday will be jam packed with celebrities, million dollar commercials, prop bets, and Justin Timberlake performance. Oh yeah, and the Philadelphia Eagles are taking on the defending champs, the New England Patriots. There’s a lot going on as the NFL season concludes, so here are some predictions on what will surely be a busy Super Bowl Sunday.

  1. People will finally get sick of the “Dilly Dilly” slogan: Somehow, Bud Light’s catchphrase became somewhat of a phenomenon in 2017. Heck, Ben Roethlisberger even used the phrase as an audible in a game against the Titans. Bud Light has gotten a lot of run out the phrase, and I predict that they will continue to push it during the Super Bowl with a commercial or two (or three). After seeing these very expensive advertisements during the game, the fall of dilly dilly will begin. Finally. Dilly-Dilly.jpg
  2. Nick Foles does not throw an interception: Two weeks ago, Nick Foles looked like he was Peyton Manning the way he carved apart the Minnesota Vikings’ defense that many considered best in the league. Foles has thrown two interceptions since filling in for Carson Wentz, and those were both in the regular season. Foles has been much better than expected these playoffs, and he’ll need to continue to play well and take care of the ball for the Eagles to have a chance to win. Meanwhile, the Patriots haven’t gotten an interception in the playoffs against mediocre (mediocre might be generous) QBs Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles. Don’t be surprised when Nick Foles completes his playoff run without an interception. NFoles.jpg
  3. Justin Timberlake disappoints at halftime show: Look, I’m a pretty big fan of Justin Timberlake, but I think this is going to be a tough sell. Timberlake is undoubtedly one of the music world’s biggest stars, but there’s some issues leading up to his performance. First, Timberlake is already facing some backlash over his last Super Bowl appearance, where Janet Jackson suffered a wardrobe malfunction after Timberlake pulled on her outfit. Timberlake has never apologized for the incident, and while Janet Jackson never recovered from the malfunction, Timberlake thrived. On top of that, Timberlake just released his new album titled Man of the Woods. The album has not gotten a lot of love from critics, and his lead single peaked at number nine and is now down to 33 on the Billboard Top 100. I fear that Timberlake will preform too many new songs, which are not the reason that people want to see him preform. Unfortunately, I think many will walk away from the halftime show disappointed.Justin-Timberlake
  4. The Patriots Win Super Bowl 52: Not a shocker by any means. Vegas originally favored the Patriots by 6 points, but that line has shifted to 4.5 as the big game has gotten closer. Philly has the tools to pull the upset here, that defensive line is ferocious and if they can get to Brady, they have a real chance. But when it comes down to it, how can anyone feel good trusting Nick Foles to win the Super Bowl against Tom Brady? There’s a lot more to this game than Brady vs. Foles, but Brady’s (and Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots) experience gives them the benefit of the doubt. The Patriots win 28-20. Super-Bowl.jpg
  5. Tom Brady Wins Super Bowl MVP: This will be Brady’s sixth Super Bowl ring and his fifth Super Bowl MVP. Which is absolutely insane. Brady-MVP

 

The Case for the Underdog One Seed

It’s been over a month since Eagles’ QB and then MVP front runner Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL. The injury took him out for the season, and drastically changed the landscape of the NFL. At the time, the Eagles were 11-2, and favorites to win the NFC. Since Wentz went down, the Eagles have struggled to go 2-1 against the Giants, Raiders, and Cowboys. With Nick Foles under center, expectations for the Eagles plummeted. Heading into the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, the Eagles are the first one seed to ever be underdogs playing against the sixth seed. Vegas favors the Atlanta Falcons by three points, and it seems like no one believes in the Eagles.

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Despite the unprecedented nature of the number one seed being underdogs against the sixth seed, the Eagles still have some things working in their favor. The Eagles went 7-1 at home this season, tied for the best home record in the NFL this season. Eagles fans are legendarily crazy, there’s no doubt that they will be wild for this game. The Eagles outscored their opponents at home by a whopping 150 points this season. The Eagles are definitely comfortable at home, and some may be writing off their home field advantage.

The weather on Saturday also seems to favor the Eagles. Around kickoff, it is projected that the temperature will be around 32 degrees. For a team that is a dome team and doesn’t play outside in the cold often, that could impact the Falcons.

But aside from the weather and home field advantage, the Eagles have one more huge advantage over the Falcons: their defense. The Eagles defense has been good all season, they’re fourth best in terms of points allowed, fourth in yards allowed, sixth in offensive plays against, and fourth in takeaways. This defense should not be underestimated. The defensive line is especially good, led by the mighty Fletcher Cox.

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The Falcons have a lot of offensive weapons, but they finished 15th in the NFL in points per game. Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in the league, but he only has one touchdown catch on the road all year. Matt Ryan is the reigning MVP, but he hasn’t lived up to that award this season.

Saturday is going to be a tough game for the Eagles to win. Nick Foles and the rest of the offense is going to have to move the ball some, and Foles hasn’t exactly inspired confidence with his play so far. That said, the Eagles still have a fierce defense, and the home field advantage could make a big difference. The Eagles are the first one seed to ever be underdogs against the sixth seed, but don’t write them off yet.

Quick Predictions for the 2017 NBA Season

The NBA season is upon us. After a whirlwind of an offseason that featured a lot of all-stars moving teams, it will be interesting to see how the season shakes out. Here are some quick predictions.

1. East Playoff Teams: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers

Boston wins the East again, mostly because Cleveland is without Isaiah Thomas for a few months. Despite trading Paul George, the Pacers manage to make the playoffs.

2. West Playoff Teams:  Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz

The Northwest division manages to get four of five teams into the playoffs. The Warriors run away with first place while the Rockets, Thunder, and Spurs all fight for spots 2-4.

     3. Kevin Durant wins MVP.

The Warriors are the best team in the NBA, and after a full year to mesh with Kevin Durant, they should be firing on all cylinders. I expect the Warriors to win around 70 games, and if they hit that mark it is hard to imagine Adam Silver not handing a Warriors player the MVP trophy.

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    4. Avery Bradley makes the all-star game.

Avery Bradley has long been one of the best defenders in the NBA. Bradley will help the Pistons make the playoffs, and he will get the recognition he deserves. Oh, and he’s going to get paid a lot of money this offseason.

    5. The Pelicans trade DeMarcus Cousins.

The Pelicans are aiming for a playoff spot, but in the ridiculously tough Western Conference, it seems like a bit of a long shot. Instead of potentially letting Cousins walk for nothing in the offseason, the Pelicans trade him away for pieces that better fit their team.

     6. The Warriors play the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Again.

This match up will occur for the fourth consecutive year. Some might be fatigued from the past three Finals with these two teams, but at least the Cavaliers have shaken things up.