A Tale of Two Series: The NBA and NHL Finals Are Strikingly Different

After two marathon playoff seasons, the NBA and NHL playoffs are both down to the final series. On one side of the coin the Golden State Warriors face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth consecutive NBA Finals. On the other side, the Washington Capitals are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1998, and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are the first NHL expansion team to make the Finals since 1968. The matchups in the NBA and NHL final series couldn’t get much different.

It’s hard not to appreciate the greatness of LeBron James. This is his eight consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. It’s an amazing accomplishment. And no one can downplay how dominant the Warriors have been the past four seasons. But here we are, two impressive teams about to face off for the fourth straight year, and it is hard to get excited about it. Maybe because it is a forgone conclusion that the Warriors will send the Cavs packing in a short series. The Cavaliers are one of the biggest underdogs in NBA Finals’ history. Regardless, the fourth successive matchup between these two teams just feels anticlimactic. LeBron2.jpg

Skating on to the Stanley Cup Finals, there are all kinds of story lines. First, how about the fact that there is an expansion team in the final series? It may seem unfair to long suffering fanbases, and maybe the NHL expansion draft rules need changing, but this is an incredible story. This is a collection of rookies and guys not protected by their former teams, the fact that they have made it this far is amazing. Meanwhile, the Capitals are back in the chase for the championship after their last appearance 20 years ago. The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup. Alexander Ovechkin is one of the greatest players of all time, and the only multi-time MVP not to win the Stanley Cup. The list of intriguing topics in the Stanley Cup Finals goes on and on. knights

So here we are, two final series that could not be more different. The Cavaliers-Warriors IV is like Shrek Forever After: the first two series/films were great and then followed by a dud. Watching the fourth installment seems more like a chore than a pleasurable experience. On the other hand, Capitals-Knights is like Baby Driver: a new, exciting series/film that is bursting with energy. Even though my love for basketball is exponentially higher than my feelings toward hockey, the Stanley Cup Finals has me more excited than the NBA Finals for the first time ever.

Four Games to Watch In Week 11

A little bit of a format shift this week. I’m really excited about the Rams-Vikings game so I wrote a lot about that one, while the discussion for the other games are pretty short.

Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings – 12 CT

Two 7-2 teams going at it, this should be a good one. The Vikings are once again rolling with Case Keenum at QB, and who can blame them? Keenum is coming off of a game where he threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. Even the most loyal Teddy Bridgewater fans have to admit that switching from Keenum to Bridgewater would be a huge risk at this point in the season. Keenum’s success is owed in large part to receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen who have been great. The chemistry Keenum has with those guys, particularly Thielen, is surprisingly great.

Keenum

Making a switch at QB could really tank the playoff chances for the Vikings. Bridgewater has not played in a meaningful football game since January 10, 2016. Do we expect him to not be rusty coming back off of that horrific injury? Would he have the same connection with the receivers that Keenum has? And I hate to say it, but are we absolutely sure that Bridgewater is better than Keenum? Because I’m not. Bridgewater was fine when he played, and he did have moments where he looked really good, but overall I did not find him overly impressive during his first two years in the league. With Keenum playing well, there is no reason to make the switch. Stick with Keenum and keep this thing rolling.

Meanwhile, the Rams continue to put up a lot of points, crushing the Texans 33-7 last week. The Rams have the most points scored in NFL through the first 10 weeks, they are both running and passing at an elite level. Todd Gurley is one of the best running backs in the league, getting him going early could be huge for the Rams. The Vikings got burned by the Redskins last week on a few plays, making it appear like the Rams have a good chance to put up some points. However, Everson Griffen is going to play in this one, and if he can get pressure on Goff, the Rams offense will be hard pressed to put up a lot of points. The Vikings are favored by 2.5, and I’ll take them in a close one.

Washington Redskins @ New Orleans Saints – 12 CT

The Saints might be the best team in the NFL. Seven straight victories is nothing to sneeze at. The Redskins have had a brutal schedule so far, and it doesn’t get any easier this week. I believe the 4-5 Redskins are a good team, but in a really good NFC they are going to need to start winning games soon. The Saints are favored by 7.5. I think the Saints win, but fail to cover.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys – 7:30 CT (Sunday Night Football)

The Cowboys struggled with Ezekiel Elliott out last week, and Dak Prescott got sacked eight times! The Cowboys are shuffling around their offensive line, but even if Prescott can stay upright, I don’t believe they can put up the points necessary to beat the Eagles. The Eagles are favored by 4.5, and I think they easily cover.

Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks – 7:30 CT (Monday Night Football)

Losing Richard Sherman for the year is a big blow to the Seahawks, and rumor has it that hard hitting safety Kam Chancellor might miss the regular season. The Falcons easily handled the Cowboys last week, and another win this week would be huge for their playoff hopes. The Seahawks are favored by 3, but with the injuries they have, I’ll take the Falcons.

Four Games to Watch In Week 10

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins – 12 CT

Good news for Vikings fans: Teddy Bridgewater is back on the active roster after a horrific knee injury over a year ago. Good news for Case Keenum fans: Keenum will be starting at least one more game. It’s a tough situation, who knows how Bridgewater will look coming back from injury? Keenum hasn’t played great, but he’s played well enough for the Vikings to be leading the NFC North. Beyond the QB controversy, it should be fun to watch Everson Griffen and the rest of the Vikings front seven get after the banged up Redskins line. The Redskins beat the Seahawks last week, and are a tough team. Though they’ve been banged up, it appears like they should be getting some of their starting players back from injury. The Vikings are favored in Vegas by 1.5. I’ll take the Vikes to cover, even in Washington.

Cardinals Rams Football

Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 12 CT

This isn’t a matchup I expected to be talking about in week 10, but here we are. After starting the season 0-4, the Chargers have clawed their way to a 3-5 record. Not great, but I’m not ready to write them off yet. The Jaguars are one of the surprise stories of the year so far, with a 5-3 record. The Jags have a serious shot at winning the AFC South, which would snap a nine season playoff drought. The Jaguars are an old school style team; defense and running the ball are their keys to success. Leonard Fournette is having a fantastic rookie season, but he was suspended last week for violating team rules. Hopefully he will get it figured out because he is a very exciting player to watch. The Jaguars are favored by 3.5, expect them to win by a touchdown.

New Orleans Saints @ Buffalo Bills – 12 CT

Another surprisingly good matchup. Think that the Jaguars have it bad that nine season playoff-less streak? The poor Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999! The Bills were 5-2 entering last week, and they managed to lose to the Jets on Thursday night. Thursday night games are tough for any team and weird things happen, but that must have been a heart breaker for Bills fans. On the other hand, the Saints have won six straight, and are doing it in some surprising ways: with a balanced offensive attack and solid defense. Drew Brees isn’t having one of his insane seasons statistically, but RBs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have stepped up in a major way and have been great. The Saints are favored by 3, and with the way they have been playing, how can you pick against them?

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons – 4:25 CT

Last week, I said it looked like the Ezekiel Elliott suspension saga had finally ended and that he was suspended for good. I was wrong. A judge allowed Zeke to play, and he helped propel the Cowboys over the Chiefs. Now, Zeke is suspended. For what seems to be the hundredth time this season. I’m so sick and tired of this, it’s pretty ridiculous. It looks like Zeke is finally suspended for the full six and that he’ll miss this, but who knows at this point? The Falcons are struggling in a major way and are at 4-4. There’s something about them that makes me what to believe in them as a playoff team though. But if that’s the case, a win this week would be huge. Atlanta is favored by 3 at home, and I think this is the toughest line yet. How will the Cowboys play without Ezekiel Elliott? Can the Falcons turn their season around? I’m going with all of the favorites this week, I’ll take the Falcons to cover.

Four Games to Watch In Week 8

Oakland Raiders @ Buffalo Bills – 12 CT

Just when I thought the Raiders were having a bad year, they give an impressive performance and beat my Super Bowl favorite, the Kansas City Chiefs. Derek Carr looked fully healthy, and Amari Cooper stepped up and made big plays. The win over the Chiefs may have saved the Raiders season, but now they travel to the other side of the country to face off against the 4-2 Buffalo Bills. The Bills four wins have come against the Jets, Broncos, Falcons, and Buccaneers, but those wins seem less impressive with each coming week. The Buffalo defense is going to need to come out strong to hold the Raiders explosive offense to a minimum. This past game against the Buccaneers was the first time the Bills allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points, and if the Bills can keep the Raiders around that number they will be in a good position to win the game. Vegas has the Bills favored by 2.5, and I’d put my money on the Bills. It’s tough for a California team to travel all the way to Buffalo and play at noon. I expect the Bills to win by a touchdown.

Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots – 12 CT

After starting the year 0-4, the Chargers have rebounded and won three straight. The Chargers should have been dead in the water at 0-4 in what many people thought was the toughest division in the NFL, but now they have a serious shot at making a run at the playoffs. Speaking of three straight victories, the Patriots have done the same. After a shaky start to the season, the Patriots are 5-2. Their defense looked atrocious in the beginning of the season, but on this three game win streak they’ve given up an average of less than 13 points per game. The Patriots are favored by 7, and that line seems pretty fair. I’ll take the Patriots to cover, but I would not be surprised to see the Chargers put up a good fight.

Houston Texans @ Seattle Seahawks – 3:05 CT

The Seahawks made news this week by signing Dwight Freeney, formerly one of the best pass rushers in the league. Freeney is unlikely to be a major contributor, but he might be able to give the Seahawks already tough defense a little boost. Last week, the Seahawks handled the Giants, and have a three game winning streak of their own. On the other sideline, Deshaun Watson is the Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. Watson and the Texans are third in the NFL in points per game, but can they score on a menacing Seattle defense? The Seahawks are favored by 5.5. While I really like what Watson and the Houston offense has been doing, I think playing in Seattle is just too much to overcome. Seahawks cover.

Watson

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins – 3:25 CT

The Eagles have a solid lead in the NFC East, but don’t sleep on the Cowboys and Redskins as playoff contenders. After a confounding number of appeals, it appears once again as if Ezekiel Elliott will play out the season with the Cowboys. The Cowboys crushed the lousy 49ers last week, but they get a good test this week against the Redskins. While the Redskins don’t have a very impressive record (4-3), I believe they are better than their record indicates. The Redskins have only lost to the Eagles (twice) and Chiefs so far this season, two of the very best teams in the league. Dallas is favored in Washington by 2, but I’ll happily take Washington to win outright.

Four Games to Watch In Week 7

New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers – 12 CT

The Aaron Rodgers injury looks like it will change the course of the NFC North, but I’m giving Brett Hundley one chance to surprise me. When Hundley filled in for Rodgers after he got hurt in the first quarter against the Vikings, his performance left a lot to be desired. That said, he was facing one of the best defenses in the league, and he did not have snaps with the first team. This week, Hundley should be prepared to play, and it helps he’s facing a less impressive defense (though the Saints defense scored three times last Sunday). For the Saints, they’ve won three straight in impressive fashion. Drew Brees and the rest of the offense have all the tools necessary to destroy the Packers depleted secondary. The Saints are favored in this one by 4.5. Green Bay is a tough place to play, and the last QB named Brett that the Packers started was a Hall of Famer, but I’ll take the Saints.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams – 12 CT

This is a London game, so not quite the typical home field advantage for the Rams. The Rams are perhaps the most surprising team in the league through six weeks with a 4-2 record. I keep waiting for the Rams to implode and go back to the bad team I was expecting them to be, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Rookie Head Coach Sean McVay should be an early front runner for Coach of the Year. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals were bolstered by the addition of Adrian Peterson, who ran for 134 yards and 2 TDs in his debut. Maybe the addition of Peterson will be the thing that turns the Cardinals offense around. The Rams are favored in this one by 3.5, but I’ll take the Cardinals and the points because the game is in London and weird things happen in London games.

Atlanta Falcons @ New England Patriots – 7:30 CT

A rematch of last year’s Super Bowl brings a lot of intrigue, but maybe not quite as much as when the schedule was first released. The Falcons have dropped two straight (both to AFC East teams). Can the Patriots make it three straight? The Patriots are amazingly 4-2 despite some absolutely horrendous defense. The Patriots certainly don’t look like a very good team right now, but they’ve been finding a way to win games. Vegas has the Patriots favored by 3.5. This should be a shootout, and I’ll take the Falcons because the Patriots defense looks so weak.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles – Monday, 7:30 CT

The Eagles have the best record in the league at the moment, and Carson Wentz is ascending to impressive heights. If the season ended today, Wentz might be the MVP. Not only are Wentz and the offense clicking, the Eagles defense looks really strong, particularly their front seven. Fletcher Cox is a force to reckoned with in the middle, and a handful for even the best offensive linemen in the league. The Eagles won the matchup with the Redskins in Washington the first week of the season, and at home they are 6 point favorites. Not so fast. Since that week one game, the Redskins have only lost the the Chiefs (my current pick for Super Bowl favorites), and even that game was competitive. In a wacky NFL season, I am fully expecting the Redskins to go into Philly and somehow pull off a victory. It’s only fitting with this bizarre NFL season.

Four Games to Watch In Week 4

Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings – 12 CT

The Lions suffered their first loss of the season last week against the Falcons after a controversial 10 second runoff after a booth review. The Lions came up just inches shy of being 3-0. This week, they’re taking on a Vikings team that looked shockingly awesome with Case Keenum at quarterback last week. With Sam Bradford ruled out for Sunday, Keenum will be getting the start again. Keenum and the Vikings benefited from playing an injured Buccaneers defense last week, but Detroit should be a bigger test. If the offensive line can give Keenum time to throw, I like their chances at home. The Vikings are favored by 2. I’m picking the Vikings to win. Don’t forget, Keenum beat the Lions in Detroit last year, throwing for 321 yards and three TDs.

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans – 12 CT

Deshaun Watson looked promising for the Texans last week, going into New England and almost pulling out a victory. The Texans may only be 1-2, but I still believe the Texans have the potential to win the AFC South. Most expect the Titans and Texans to finish at the top of the South, so this is a big game. On the other hand, the Titans look like one of the best teams in the league. Last week, the Titans beat the Seattle Seahawks, leaving many to question if the Seahawks are going to have a disappointing season. The Seahawks may end up having a disappointing year, but the Titans look like the real deal. DeMarco Murray is one of the best running backs in the league, and if gets going early the Texans will be in trouble. The Titans are favored by 2, but I’ll take the Texans at home.

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos – 3:25 CT

Both the Raiders and the Broncos laid duds last week. The Raiders looked awful on Sunday night against the Redskins, Derek Carr was under constant pressure and was sacked four times. The Broncos went to Buffalo and lost to a Bills team that might be better than we thought. Trevor Siemian had his worst game of the season, throwing two interceptions. Despite the awful performances last week, expect both the Raiders and Broncos to rebound. These are two teams that have definite playoff potential, I expect at least one of them to make it in. The Broncos are favored by 3 points. Denver is a tough place to play and their defense is good at forcing pressure on quarterbacks, so I can’t pick against them here.

Washington Redskins @ Kansas City Chiefs – Monday, 7:30 CT

The Chiefs looks like the best team in football, and the Redskins just put a thumping on the Raiders. We got a good one for Monday night. Just an aside, I think its a shame Mike Tirico left ESPN, he was great on Monday Night Football. Sean McDonough is fine, but no where near as good as Tirico was. Oh well. Back to the actual game. Kirk Cousins and his receivers haven’t really been on the same page this season, but to get the win in KC they’re going to have to get going. It isn’t like the Redskins have a bad group of receivers, Jamison Crowder is good, and Terrelle Pryor was a monster for the Browns last year. The Washington defense is going to have to slow down Kareem Hunt, who is leading the league in rushing yards (by over 100 yards). The Chiefs are favored by 7, and while I think that is a bit high, I’ll still take them.