NFC East Preview: Off-season Recap and Predictions

NFC East preview

The NFC East is the most successful division in NFL history, and all four teams are looking to add to that success. One team has a new regime in charge, one has a new name, another added major talent, and the last lost some talent. This sets up for an interesting race for the title of NFC East champion. Let’s take a look at all the changes, and how that impacts their seasons in this NFC East preview.

NFC East Preview

4. New York Giants

Key losses – CB James Bradberry, S Logan Ryan, TE Kyle Rudolph, S Jabrill Peppers, RB Davontae Booker, OG Will Hernandez, TE Evan Engram, OLB Lorenzo Carter

Key additions – HC Brian Daboll, OL Jon Feliciano, QB Tyrod Taylor, OG Mark Glowinski, TE Jordan Akins, RB Matt Brieda, P Jamie Gillan, OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux, RT Evan Neal, WR Wan’Dale Robinson, OG Joshua Ezeudu

It was an abysmal season for the New York Giants last season, as they finished 4-13, last in the NFC East. It was Joe Judge’s last season in the Big Apple, as the Giants decided to move on from him. Brian Daboll was brought in to help change the culture and bring a winning team back to New York. However, it’s going to be another rebuild year — but hopefully with some bright spots.

Last year’s Giants offense was a train wreck. They finished 31st in total offense, as they couldn’t do anything right. This means this is most likely Daniel Jones’ last chance as the Giants long-term option at quarterback. His supporting cast won’t help much either. The Kenny Golladay signing is proving to be a mistake and Saquon is still trying to get back to form.  

However, there are two weapons that will be interesting to watch: Kadarius Toney and Wan’Dale Robinson. The two young wideouts are looking to prove their worth in Daboll’s new offense. With two young tackles, the offensive line will look to improve, but the rest of the offensive line is weak. It’ll be another tough year for Giants fans watching this offense. They will look to see if Daboll can bring a spark to this offense.

As bad as the offense was, the defense was a little better. However, it still ranked 21st in total defense. They added rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux to create an up-and-coming pass rush. The interior of the defensive line will be looking for the young edge rushers to make the unit a major threat.

After recently releasing linebacker Blake Martinez, the linebacker corps is one of the worst in the league. Once you get past the defensive line, teams could have a field day running the ball. In the secondary, they have Adoree’ Jackson to lead. Even though the secondary had a solid season last year, losing James Bradberry will hurt. The youth in this secondary will be tested a lot this season. I expect this defense to have another year towards the bottom of the league.

Prediction

After a season with only four wins, I expect the Giants to have another rough season. I have them going 3-14 and 2-4 against the NFC East. Rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight, so Giants fans will need to be patient.

3. Washington Commanders

Key loses – DL Matt Ioannidis, DT Tim Settle, S Landon Collins, OG Brandon Scherff, OG Ereck Flowers, WR Deandre Carter

Key additions – QB Carson Wentz, OG Andrew Norwell, OG Trai Turner, DE Efe Obada

Re-signed – WR Cam Sims (1-year), K Joey Slye (1-year), RB J.D. McKissic (2-years), S Bobby McCain (2-years), S Troy Apke (1-year)

Extensions – WR Terry McLaurin (3-years, $71 million)

The 2021-22 Washington Football Team didn’t get a lot of attention last year around the NFL, but it wasn’t a horrible season. They went 7-10, finishing 3rd in the NFC East. With five one-score losses, this team could’ve had a chance at the playoffs. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin had another fantastic season, and now he has an upgrade at quarterback. This will be a big year for head coach Ron Rivera, as he tries to lead them back to the playoffs.

Last season’s offense ranked 21st in total offense with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, creating higher expectations now with Carson Wentz. They have a great duo at receiver with Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel. This should open the field up for tight end Logan Thomas as he looks to show his worth again coming off of a season, where he played just six games.

The running back room looks solid as well, with Antonio Gibson leading the way. Horrible news broke that rookie running back Brian Robinson had been shot in an armed robbery. We’ll have to wait and see if he plays this season at all. The group protecting Wentz is borderline top ten line with two new acquisitions, Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell, as the guards. This offense will look to improve, and I believe it will finish in the middle of the league this season.

The defense ranked one spot worse than the offense, which ended up being 22nd. They lost some key defensive linemen in Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis, but this defensive line is still a threat. Chase Young and Montez Sweat on the edge will bring the pressure with Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen plugging up the middle. It is easily a top five defensive line.

Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis need to improve, or it could be a long year for the linebacker group. The secondary should improve this year with William Jackson III in his second year with the Commanders, as well as Kendall Fuller being an underrated cornerback in this league. I am looking to see this defense get back to being a top 10 force, but the lack of offense could keep them on the field a lot this season.

Prediction

While I believe this team has some good talent, I am not a huge fan of Ron Rivera. That causes them to lose more games than they should and go 5-12, and 2-4 against the division.

2. Philadelphia Eagles

Key loses – WR Jalen Reagor, CB Steven Nelson, DT Hassan Ridgeway, LB Alex Singleton, FS Rodney McLeod

Key additions – WR A.J. Brown, DE Hassan Reddick, CB James Bradberry, DT Jordan Davis, FS C.J. Gardner-Johnson, LB Nakobe Dean, C Cam Jurgens, LB Kyzir White, WR Zach Pascal

Re-signed – DT Fletcher Cox (1-year), RB Boston Scott (1-year), DE Derek Barnett (3-years)

Extensions – WR AJ Brown (4-years, $100 million)

The Eagles snuck into the playoffs last season at 9-8, before losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are looking to do better this year, as they might’ve added the most talent out of any team this offseason. They finished last season winning four out of their last five games, so they’re hoping to keep that momentum going into this season. It should be a new look for the Eagles in 2022-23.

The offense was majorly run heavy, as they led the league in rushing yards per game. The passing side was not ideal, as they ranked 25th in the league. With Jalen Hurts having a new weapon in AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith going into his sophomore season, the passing game will come down to the decision making of Hurts. Tight end Dallas Goedert will also be key, coming off of a season where he took over for former Eagle Zach Ertz.

The run game looks to be amazing again, as they paired Hurts’ legs with running backs Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell. Pair them with arguably the best offensive line in football, and they should be on their way to leading the league in rushing again. After finishing 14th in total yards last season, the Eagles could be a top ten offense.

The Eagles defense last season finished 10th in total defense and got a lot stronger. The front four added rookie Jordan Davis in the first round of the NFL draft, and Hassan Reddick as they look to be dominant up front.

The linebacker corps is going to come down to the impact rookie Nakobe Dean will have, alongside Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards. Their lives will be made easier with improvements in the secondary. Adding James Bradberry creates one of the best cornerback duos in the league. Add in Avonte Maddox in the slot and this could be the best cornerback trio in the league. They didn’t stop there, as they added safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, a huge pick-up that helps the Eagles become one of the scariest defenses in the league.

Prediction

While the Eagles improved a lot, I need to see more from Jalen Hurts this season. He’s the x-factor that will make or break the Eagles success. I have the Eagles finishing 9-8 and going 4-2 against the NFC East.

1. Dallas Cowboys

Key loses – OT La’el Collins, OLB Randy Gregory, WR Cedrick Wilson, C Connor Williams, K Greg Zuerlein, SS Keanu Neal, WR Amari Cooper

Key additions – DE Dante Fowler Jr., OLB Anthony Barr, WR James Washington, OT Tyler Smith, Edge Sam Williams, WR Jalen Tolbert

Re-signed –  DE Dorance Armstrong (2-years), S Jayron Kearse (2-years), P Bryan Anger (3-years), LB Leighton Vander Esch (1-year), TE Dalton Schultz (Franchise Tag)

Extensions – WR Michael Gallup (5-years, $62.5 million)

The winners of the NFC East last season, the Cowboys are coming off a 12-5 record. After losing in the first round to the 49ers, quarterback Dak Prescott is now 1-3 in the playoffs. He is looking to improve that postseason record as well as make a case for a contract extension this season. Head coach Mike McCarthy is also trying to stay off the hot seat with a strong season in 2022-23.

Dallas ranked #1 in the NFL in total yards last season behind almost a 4,500-yard season from Dak Prescott. Now without wide receiver Amari Cooper (traded to Cleveland), and two of their top offensive linemen, this offense has a new challenge.

Prescott still has wideout Ceedee Lamb and will eventually get back Michael Gallup for a solid receiving duo. They have one of the top eight tight ends in the league in Dalton Schultz, so the passing attack should be just as dangerous. The running game could take a small dip from being ranked 9th in the NFL. The duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard has proven to be reliable, and should still be ranked in the top half of the league in yards.

The defense had a tough season last year, ranking 19th in total defense. Losing Randy Gregory will hurt, especially when they didn’t add a great replacement. The defensive line is below average, but has help from Micah Parsons, who is an elite pass rusher as a linebacker. Parsons leads the Cowboys on defense and creates a top ten linebacker corps in the league.

While the Cowboys led the league in interceptions last year, they still have an average secondary. Corner Trevon Diggs is back, and while he looks to replicate his interceptions, he needs to cut down on yards given up. It is unlikely that we see the same turnover efficiency this season, so I expect a just below average defense from Dallas this season.

Prediction

While Dallas got worse this offseason, they have a favorable schedule. I predict they will go 11-6 and 4-2 against the NFC East. It will come down to coaching, as Mike McCarthy could see his last season as a head coach if he doesn’t get the job done.

NFC West Preview: Off-season Recap and Predictions

NFC West preview

The NFC West is one of the toughest divisions in football. The Super Bowl Champion LA Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks all made big moves this off-season. With three of the four teams believing they can win the division this year, there’s a lot to break down. Let’s see who each team lost and added, as well as predict their 2022-23 season in this NFC West preview.

NFC West Preview

4. Seattle Seahawks

Key loses – QB Russell Wilson, LB Bobby Wagner, CB DJ Reed Jr., DE Carlos Dunlap, OT Duane Brown, TE Gerald Everett, C Ethan Pocic

Key additions – LB/DE Uchenna Nwosu, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DE Shelby Harris, CB Artie Burns, DEN 2022 first (OT Charles Cross) and second (LB Boye Mafe), DEN 2023 first and second round picks

Re-signed – QB Geno Smith (1-year), FS Quandre Diggs (3-years), DT Al Woods (2-years), TE Will Dissly (3-years), C/G Kyle Fuller (1-year)

Extensions – WR DK Metcalf (3-years, $72 million)

The Seahawks finished with a losing record of 7-10 for the first time in the Russell Wilson era. That was good for last in the NFC West. So, they decided to start their rebuild. They shipped Wilson to Denver for a plethora of picks and players, and released longtime linebacker Bobby Wagner.

While fans hate to see their leaders of the past ten years go, the franchise is excited for the rebuild. However, with quarterbacks Geno Smith and Drew Lock on the roster, they know this year will be tough.

While they did bring in Charles Cross to hopefully be their left tackle for the future, the rest of the offensive line is still a question. Gabe Jackson had a good rookie season, but during his sophomore season he took a step back.

Drew Lock and Geno Smith will have help in the skill positions. With DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, both QBs have reliable and exciting targets. The backfield looks to be between Rashaad Penny and rookie Kenneth Walker III. Penny finished last season with a 92-617-6 line in the last five games. Seattle finished with the 26th most rushes per game last season, but we should expect that to increase this season.

The defense is a mess for Seattle. The linebacker corps of Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, and Cody Barton is expected to take a big step back with the loss of Bobby Wagner. The defensive line could improve the addition of Harris and Nwosu. However, I wouldn’t expect it to.

The secondary is where they will get hurt the most. They ranked second-to-last in the NFL last season in passing defense, while also being in the bottom 11 in interceptions. The trade for Jamal Adams hasn’t panned out so far, and while they do have Quandre Diggs across from him, the tandem has shown struggles in coverage.

Prediction

I have the Seahawks finishing the year tied for last in the league with a record of 3-14. With a tough NFC West, they will go 1-5 with their only win divisional coming Week 9 at the Arizona Cardinals. It’s a rebuild year for Seattle, as they look to gain a top 3 pick and hopefully get their quarterback of the future in the 2023 NFL draft.

3. Arizona Cardinals

Key loses – DE Chandler Jones, ILB Jordan Hicks, DE Jordan Phillips, WR Christian Kirk, RB Chase Edmonds

Key additions – WR Marquise Brown, OG Will Hernandez, TE Trey McBride, DE Cameron Thomas, CB Trayvon Mullen Jr.

Re-signed – TE Zach Ertz (3-years), RB James Connor (3-years)

Extensions – QB Kyler Murray (5-year, $230.5 million), LT D.J. Humphries (3-year, $66.6 million)

Last season Arizona started off hot, as they went 7-0 before losing to the Packers in week 8. The second half of the season didn’t treat them as well, as they went 4-5. They finished the season with a record of 11-6, which was good enough for the fifth seed in the NFC and second in the NFC West.

They would go on to lose their playoff game 34-11 versus the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Kyler Murray struggled in that game going 19/34 for 137 yards with two interceptions.

The offense for the Cardinals lost an important piece for the first few weeks as wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games. They did bring back running back James Connor and tight end Zach Ertz to help carry the load again. The addition of Marquise Brown should open the field up more for Murray as well.

The offensive line is a mixed bag. DJ Humphries and Rodney Hudson are both very solid starters. They do, however, have one of the worst guard combos in the league with Will Hernandez and Justin Pugh. With their division having guys like Aaron Donald and Nick Bosa, the offensive line could struggle keeping the pocket clean for Murray. After ranking eighth in total offense last season, the Cardinals are looking for more of the same.

The Cardinals lost some key players on the defensive side of the ball with Jones and Hicks. They didn’t do a lot to fill those holes by bringing in defensive end Cameron Thomas and cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. For a defense that finished 11th in total defense last season, they look to take a small step back.

Their major issue on the defensive side of the ball was against the run, and that isn’t expected to change. With aging JJ Watt being the focal point, they will be looking for the rookie Cameron Thomas and defensive tackle Zach Allen to step up.

Their secondary should still be a force with Byron Murphy Jr and Budda Baker headlining. Their linebacker corps is interesting, as they have Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, who haven’t lived up to the expectations yet. The defense should be solid this season, but nothing spectacular.

Prediction

I have the Cardinals finishing 7-10 in the NFC West, going 2-4 in the division. Kliff Kingsbury could be on the hot seat after this season if the team doesn’t make the playoffs. Arizona is looking to prove the doubters wrong and make it back to the playoffs in a weak NFC.

2. San Francisco 49ers

Key loses – OG Laken Tomlinson, DL DJ Jones, CB K’Wuan Williams, OL Tom Compton, RB Raheem Mostert, DE Arden Key, C Alex Mack             

Key additions – CB Charvarius Ward, DL Hassan Ridgeway, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, DE Kerry Hyder Jr., DL Drake Jackson, RB Tyrion Davis-Price, WR Danny Gray

Re-signed – RB Jeff Wilson Jr. (1-year), OL Jake Brendel (1-year), CB Jason Verrett (1-year)

Extended – WR Deebo Samuel (3-year, $73.5 million)

After finishing last season 10-7, good for the 6th seed in the NFC, the 49ers went on a run in the playoffs, losing in the NFC Championship game to the Los Angeles Rams. It was a successful season for the 49ers, but wasn’t good enough for them. They are looking to make some noise again this season, but with a different leader on offense. The change of their quarterback could make improve their stance in the NFC West.

The 49ers announced that Trey Lance will be their starting quarterback this upcoming season. They restructured Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract, making him the highest paid backup in the league. It will be interesting to see how the offense changes with Lance at the helm. They finished with the seventh best total offense last season behind a fantastic breakout year from Deebo Samuel.

They lost two pieces of their offensive line in Tomlinson and Mack. Those will not be easy pieces to fill, either. But, with Kyle Shanahan as their coach they should be just fine in that department.

Outside of Lance taking over, the skill positions on offense stayed almost the exact same. Elijah Mitchell comes back to lead the backfield, while Brandon Aiyuk looks to break out next to Deebo Samuel this season. The offense should still be a force with the Shanahan playbook.

Deebo took over the spotlight for this team, but the defense was still the best side of the ball. Finishing third in total defense last season, they are looking to be even better this season. Nick Bosa is leading the defensive line again this year. With defensive tackles Arik Armstead and  Javon Kinlaw, who is coming back off of an ACL sprain a season ago, they should be a great front again.

While having one of the best linebackers in the league in Fred Warner, the 49ers are looking to wreak havoc against opposing offenses for another year. Ambry Thomas had a good rookie season, but the corners are still a question for the 49ers. Charvarius Ward came over from KC and, while he is a solid corner, having Emmanuel Moseley across from him is still a major concern.

Prediction

The 49ers are looking to improve upon their 10-7 record. I have them doing that by one game. I see them going 11-6, finishing with a record of 4-2 against the NFC West. They will be hoping to get past the NFC Championship game and return to the Super Bowl to avenge their 2020 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

1. Los Angeles Rams

Key losses – OLB Von Miller, CB Darious Williams, NT Sebastian Joseph-Day, OG Austin Corbett, P Johnny Hekker, WR Robert Woods, LT Andrew Whitworth

Key Additions – WR Allen Robinson, LB Bobby Wagner

Re-signed – K Matt Gay (1-year), LT Joseph Noteboom (3-years), C Brian Allen (3-years), OL Coleman Shelton (2-years)

Extended –QB Matt Stafford (4-years, $160 million), WR Cooper Kupp (3-years, $80 million)

The winners of Super Bowl 56, the Los Angeles Rams are looking to repeat after their glorious run. They went all-in getting Matthew Stafford and it paid off. After finishing the regular season 12-5, Stafford finally got his ring in his first season out of Detroit, and he got rewarded with a major extension.

They also gave an extension to Super Bowl MVP and superstar wideout Cooper Kupp. While they lost superstar Von Miller to Buffalo, this team still has plenty of talent from their 2022 championship team.

The Rams 2021-22 offense was phenomenal. While they only finished ninth in total offense, they finished third in passing offense. The passing attack is expected to be just as good, if not better, with the substitution of Allen Robinson over Robert Woods next to Kupp — who just put up the second-best statistical season by a wide receiver in NFL history.

The run game is still a question, as Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. look to each take a jump in 2022-23. The offensive line took a hit with Whitworth retiring and Corbett leaving. Though, they brought back Brian Allen, Joseph Noteboom, and Coleman Shelton to help protect Stafford. 2022-23 should be fun for Rams fans watching this offense as they look to finish in the top 10 again.

There is no question who the leader of this defense is: Aaron Donald. Arguably the best defensive player ever, he helped lead the Rams to the sixth-best rushing defense in the league. While they did finish 17th in total defense, they made a few changes.

They replaced a future Hall of Famer in Von Miller with another future Hall of Famer in Bobby Wagner. This gives a big boost to an interior linebacker corps that had Ernest Jones and Christian Rozeboom set to take the reins.

The secondary is still solid highlighted by All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey with Troy Hill opposite of him. The Rams should expect the defense to finish in the top 20 again, and maybe top 10.

Prediction

I have the Rams repeating as NFC West champs going 12-5 again, 5-1 in the division. The Rams are looking to go back-to-back and become the first team since the 2004-05 New England Patriots to do so. Will this team full of Hall of Famers be able to do it? We’ll have to wait and see.

AFC West Preview: Off-season Recap and Predictions

AFC West Preview

The AFC West made some major changes this off-season making it the toughest division in football. Every team believes they are super bowl contenders, and rightfully so. This division has superstar quarterbacks, dynamic play-makers, elite pass rushers, and just about anything else you can think of. So who will come out on top? Will every AFC West team make the playoffs? Let’s take a look at what each team lost and gained, and how their season will unfold in this AFC West preview.

AFC West Preview

4. Denver Broncos

Key loses – WR DaesSean Hamilton, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DE Shelby Harris, P Sam Martin

Key additions – HC Nathaniel Hackett, QB Russell Wilson, NT DJ Jones, OLB Randy Gregory, CB K’Waun Williams, OLB Nik Bonitto, P Corliss Waitman, TE Greg Dulcich

Re-signed – LB Jonas Griffith (1-year), OLB Malik Reed (1-year), RT Calvin Anderson (1-year), ILB Josey Jewell (2-years), DE DeShawn Williams (1-year), RB Melvin Gordon (1-year), SS Kareem Jackson (1-year)

Extensions – QB Russell Wilson (5-year, $245 million)

The 2021-22 season for the Denver Broncos saw the departure of longtime pass rusher Von Miller. While Miller went to LA and won another ring, the Broncos struggled. They went 7-10 after starting the year 3-0.

It was the last year quarterback Drew Lock had to impress Broncos fans and the organization, as they made a major trade for Russell Wilson. Adding Wilson wasn’t enough, as they brought in outside linebacker Randy Gregory to replace Miller as primary pass rusher. However, in this division, Denver could still miss the playoffs.

The offense struggled last year, finishing 19th in total offense. That should change drastically this year with Wilson under center. Going from Lock to Wilson is the biggest QB upgrade by any team this off-season.

First year head coach Nathaniel Hackett will have some fun working with this offense. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon are back to be the double-headed monster in the backfield. They rank in the middle of the league with offensive line, but if center Lloyd Cushenberry III can improve again, they can be a borderline top-10.

Wideout Jerry Juedy will look to make a jump with Wilson running the offense. We will have to wait and see if he can stay healthy. Overall, this offense should be ranked in the top 10 with Wilson, at worst top 15.

The defense ranked eighth last year in total defense, and I believe it got better. With pass rushers Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb, they should have no issue getting to the quarterback. Safeties Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons lead the secondary with sophomore CB Pat Surtain III looking to make a leap in 2022.

The linebacker corps is the concerning part of this defense. Josey Jewell showed signs of being a run-stuffer, but coming back from an injury is never easy. Jonas Griffith and Alex Singleton have not proven to be reliable linebackers. This makes it interesting to see if Hackett can maximize the corps talents. This defense should finish around the top 10 again.

Prediction

I have the Broncos going 10-7, tied for last in the division with the Raiders. They will go 3-3 in the division, splitting with each team. If this team was in any other division, they would probably be the favorite, but with the stacked AFC West, finishing at the top will be a tough mission.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

Key loses – 2022 first and second round picks, DE Yannick Ngakoue, WR Bryan Edwards, OG Richie Incognito, WR Zay Jones, CB Casey Hayward, QB Marcus Mariota, CB Trayvon Mullen Jr.

Key additions – HC Josh McDaniels, WR Davante Adams, CB Rock Ya-Sin, OLB Chandler Jones, DT Bilal Nichols, LB Jayon Brown, RB Zamir White, OG Dylan Parham

Re-signed – DT Johnathan Hankins (1-year)

Extensions – QB Derek Carr (3-years, $121 million), DE Maxx Crosby (4-years, $98 million), WR Hunter Renfrow (2-years, $31.7 million), Devante Adams (5-years, $141 million)

Raiders fans had an interesting year last year. Even with Henry Ruggs and Jon Gruden leaving the team for off-the-field issues, they still made the playoffs. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia was able to get the team to rally and win their last four games to finish 10-7.

As the fifth seed, they lost in the first round to the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-19. With a new head coach and plenty of new talent, the Raiders are looking to make a bigger splash and finish first in the AFC West.

Derek Carr loved this offseason. He signed an extension, and they brought in superstar wideout and former college teammate Davante Adams. Adams may be the best receiver in the league, and he is now next to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller.

The NFL’s 11th ranked offense last season got even better, so I would expect Derek Carr to have his best season yet. The only question on offense is the run game. They finished 28th in rushing last season, and the new regime doesn’t seem confident in Josh Jacobs. Combine that with one of the worst offensive lines in the league, it’ll make Raiders fans yell at their TV anytime they see a hand-off.

The defense of the Raiders is an interesting one. They finished 14th in total defense last season, but didn’t excel against either the pass or run. Adding Chandler Jones across from Maxx Crosby makes for a ferocious pass rush.

A major concern is the linebacker corps. Bringing in Jayon Brown to work next to Denzel Perryman is an upgrade, but I would still put this group of linebackers in the bottom 10 of the league.

The linebackers are bad, but the secondary might be even worse. Losing Hayward and Mullen leaves the Raiders with Ya-Sin and Nate Hobbs as their best corners. Their safety duo is above average, but with weak corners, they could get exposed a lot. This should be a middle of the road defense, with the chance of being one of the worst in the league.

Prediction

I believe the Raiders will go 10-7, 3-3 in the AFC West. This team has the offense to contend, but the defense will hold them back. They are a dark-horse team to make a run, but I do believe they will make the playoffs.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

Key loses – 2022 second round pick, OG Oday Aboushi, OT Bryan Bulaga, TE Jared Cook, CB Chris Harris, RB Justin Jackson, DT Linval Joseph, OLB Uchenna Nwosu

Key additionsOLB Khalil Mack, CB J.C. Jackson, DL Sebastian Joseph-Day, DL Austin Johnson, TE Gerald Everett, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Bryce Callahan, P J.K. Scott, OG Zion Johnson, S J.T. Woods, RB Isaiah Spiller, LB Troy Reeder

Re-signed – WR Mike Williams (3-years), K Dustin Hopkins (4-years)

Extended – SS Derwin James (4-years, $76.5 million)

The 2021-22 season did not go as anticipated for the Chargers, as they finished 9-8, good for third in the AFC West. A crushing loss in OT against the Raiders in Week 18 ended their season while simultaneously sending Las Vegas to Cincy for the playoffs.

Justin Herbert is back though, and the expectations for this Chargers team are through the roof. Adding studs on the defensive side is giving them hope that maybe this is their year. However, in a tough AFC West, it will be easier said than done.

The offense finished fourth in total yards last year, and it is expected to be just as good. Wide receiver Mike Williams is back to help out Herbert, but I don’t see him as the x-factor on this offense. The major concern for the Chargers last season on offense was the run game. They were 21st in the league even with superstar Austin Ekeler.

While Ekeler is dual-threat back in a pass heavy offense, they may need more production on the ground. They have a borderline top 10 offensive line, and head coach Brandon Staley will need to scheme up how to utilize the ground game better. It should be another big year for Herbert and company as they look to be elite again.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers struggled last year. The pass rush will be elite with Mack and Joey Bosa, but that is not the worry. They finished 30th against the run last year and they are hoping Sebastian Joseph-Day can help plug up the middle.

The secondary has some elite play-makers in Derwin James and JC Jackson. Funny enough, Jackson might not be the biggest piece they added in the secondary. Bryce Callahan is the new slot corner and is elite in that spot. With Asante Samuel Jr. now being a sophomore, this secondary is looking like it could be top 5.

The linebacker group is one of the worst in the league. Kenneth Murray can’t cover, and Drue Tranquill hasn’t shown to be reliable. That will hurt them a little bit, but I still expect them to finish around the top 10.

Prediction

The Chargers are looking to make the playoffs for the first time with Herbert, and I have them doing that. I have them at 11-6 overall, 3-3 against the AFC West. The toughest division in the NFL could hold them out of the playoffs, but I believe they have too much talent to not get there.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Key losses – WR Tyreek Hill, SS Tyrann Mathieu, DE Melvin Ingram, CB Charvarius Ward, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB Mike Hughes, WR Demarcus Robinson, DT Jarran Reed

Key Additions – WR Juju Smith-Schuster, WR Sky Moore, SS/FS Justin Reid, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, RB Ronald Jones, CB Trent McDuffie, DE George Karlaftis, DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Lonnie Johnson

Re-signed – LT Orlando Brown (franchise tag)

The Chiefs lost in the AFC Championship game last season after beating the Buffalo Bills in one of the best playoff games ever. They went 12-5, finishing first in the AFC West and second in the conference. There’s not much that needs to be said about how good they are and can be, but it will be interesting to see their offense without Tyreek Hill.

They traded Hill to the Dolphins this off-season and replaced him with Juju Smith-Schuster. They still have Patrick Mahomes so it shouldn’t matter too much, and Chiefs fans should be ready for another fantastic season.

We all know what Patrick Mahomes is capable of, and he showed it again last year. He led the Chiefs to the third-ranked offense in the league. Although, as mentioned, they lost Tyreek Hill. The speedster was replaced in the draft by Skyy Moore and Smith-Schuster. While Hill is seen as a generational player, the Chiefs should be just fine.

The rushing attack looks to be a little bit better with Ronald Jones in the mix with Clyde Edwards-Helaire this season. After finishing 16th in rushing, if the run game can improve, we could see Kansas City finish atop the offensive leaders. A great offensive line will help that, and I’m eager to see the Hill-less KC offense.

The defense last year for the Chiefs was embarrassing. Finishing 27th in total defense and having one of the worst passing defenses in the league. Carlos Dunlap and rookie George Karlaftis should see some snaps rotating in to give guys a break. After finishing towards the bottom of the league in sacks, they will need those guys to step up.

While the young linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay struggled early last season, they ended with some promising performances. I expect this group to take another step and become one of the better corps in the league.

The secondary is interesting, as Trent McDuffie comes in now. Adding Reid to take Mathieu’s spot is a great move, but I’m not sold on the secondary as a whole. There are a lot of questions about this defense, but I expect them to finish better than last year as a mid-tier defense.

Prediction

The AFC West champs are looking to win it again, and I believe they will. I have them finishing 12-5 again, with a record of 3-3 against the AFC West. This is the closest this division has been since Mahomes has taken over, but they’ll be perfectly fine — barring an injury.

Wyoming vs Illinois: Game Recap

Photo Credit: fightingillini.com

Week 0 of the college football season finally came to us this weekend. With only a handful of teams playing, we got a chance to see some teams that normally don’t get the spotlight on college gameday. One of those games involved the Wyoming Cowboys heading to Illinois to take on Bret Bielema and the Fighting Illini. Wyoming vs Illinois ended up being a surprisingly entertaining game.

In Bielema’s first season as head coach of the Illini, they just missed being bowl eligible going 5-7. The season included another week 0 game, where they got the win against Nebraska before going on a 4-game losing streak. They finished the season with wins every other week, including a nine-overtime win against, at the time, #7 ranked Penn State 20-18.

On the other side, Wyoming started off hot, winning their first four games of the season before losing four straight. They finished the regular season 6-6, earning themselves a bid in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against the Kent State Golden Flashes. They would go on to beat Kent State 52-38, making it their 9th bowl win in school history.

The week 0 matchup between the two schools featured two quarterbacks who are brand new to their schools. Tommy DeVito made his first start for the Illini after spending the last four seasons in Syracuse with the Orange, while Andrew Peasley joins the Cowboys after coming over from Utah State. Both quarterbacks join run heavy offenses, and it was shown in this week 0 matchup.

Wyoming vs Illinois: First Half

Wyoming vs Illinois started off with a bang, as Peyton Vining took the opening kickoff 43 yards. The next two plays completed the quick opening drive as Chase Brown picked up 38 yards on the ground, and Illinois finished off the drive with a 14 yard touchdown score off of a perfect touch pass from Tommy DeVito.

After Wyoming’s first two drives and Illinois second drive went no where, the Illini put together a 12-play, 47 yard drive that ended in a missed 41-yard field goal by Caleb Griffin. Late in the first quarter, Wyoming cut into the 7-0 lead with a 22-yard field goal by John Hoyland.

The second quarter started to take a turn for Wyoming, as the Illini extended their lead with another touchdown from Chase Brown, this time on an 11-yard rushing touchdown run. The next drive, Andrew Peasley was intercepted by junior cornerback Devon Witherspoon, giving the Illini great field position.

The great field position ended in a 26-yard field goal by Griffin. After another punt by Wyoming, Illinois tried to add to the lead with 51-yard field goal, but Griffin ended up missing wide right. The first half ended with Illinois leading 17-3, after a big first half from Chase Brown.

Wyoming vs Illinois: Second Half

Wyoming came out of the halftime break with a 7-play, 47 yard drive bolstered by a couple of big runs from Titus Swen. It ended in a 46-yard field goal from Hoyland.

It seemed that the Cowboys could still come away with the win until Illinois put together an 11-play, 78 yard drive capped off by a 6-yard touchdown catch by Pat Bryant. The Cowboys final drive of the third quarter ended on a failed fourth down attempt.

The final quarter was not pretty for Wyoming as the Illini added to their lead. It started with another Chase Brown touchdown, this time a 5-yard rush to the left side. That finished off a 5-play, 44 yard drive. After a punt from both teams, the Illini struck again with a 7-play, 70 yard drive.

Reggie Love III kept with the play as he ran it in for a 33-yard touchdown. It was an interesting play, as Love looked like he got tackled at the 21-yard line. After taking a longer look, you can see Love lands on top of the defender and never hits the ground. This would make the game 38-6.

Wyoming couldn’t wait for this game to end, as they couldn’t get anything going on offense. An impressive defensive performance from Bret Bielema’s group topped with a fantastic ground attack gives the Illini their first win of the season.

Standout Players

Chase Brown

It’s not an understatement to say that Chase Brown was a man amongst boys in this game. He finished the game with 19 rushes for 151 yards, and two touchdowns on the ground, adding 16 yards on three receptions and another score.

Brown showed off his quickness and ability to cut on a dime, making defenders look silly multiple times. It seems that Brown saw Wyoming vs Illinois and circled it on the schedule. This performance puts Brown on the map to be a player to watch throughout the season.

The entire Illini defense

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about one defensive player after this performance. Bret Bielema had this defense on a mission. It’s almost a guarantee to win when your defense gives up only six points. It’s even easier when they don’t give up a 3rd or 4th down conversion until the 4th quarter.

Defensive backs Devon Witherspoon and Sydney Brown helped force Andrew Peasley to go 5/20 for 30 yards and an interception. They will have a tough time topping this performance next week against Indiana.

Titus Swen

One of the only bright spots for Wyoming in this game, Titus Swen ran well. He finished the game with 17 rushes for 97 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Swen showed he is willing to fight for every yard, as he broke many Illini tacklers. Even when they would get a hold of him, you could see the struggle to bring Swen to the ground. The junior from Texas will be a player to watch on the Cowboys this season.

Ranking the Top 10 NBA players under 25

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is one of the top 10 NBA players under 25
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rusty Costanza

This past season many young players have started to make their mark in the NBA. With players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden all getting older, many people are wondering who are the next players to take over the league. Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic are currently showing their skill in the conference finals, but there are plenty of players under 25 that are looking to get there soon. So, where do they all rank? Who deserves to be in the conversation of top 10 NBA players under 25? This is my list of the top 10 NBA players under 25.

Honorable Mentions: DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), Darius Garland (Cleveland Cavaliers), Tyler Herro (Miami Heat), Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)

10. Zion Williamson

The former first overall pick in 2019, Zion Williamson has had a rough start to his career. In his first three seasons in the NBA, he’s only played in 85 games. This includes missing all of this past season, and part of being great in the NBA is being able to stay on the floor. The nagging foot injury has made it tough for people to put him in the conversation as the next young player to take over the NBA. However, when Williamson has played, he’s looked outstanding.

Over the 85 games he has played, Zion averaged 25.7 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, and shot 60% from the field. In his second season, he took a nice jump, increasing his points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals per game. He is a big body that can cause havoc in the paint, but the inability to stay on the court lands him at ten on this list.

9. Bam Adebayo

The former All-Star and two-time All-Defensive big man, Bam Adebayo has improved his offensive game every year since entering the league in 2017. Now in his fifth season, Bam has high expectations, as shown in this current playoff run. He has proven that he is a key player on a Miami Heat team that is looking to make their second finals in three years.

Coming off a season averaging 19.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game, fans were excited to see what Adebayo would do this playoffs. However, many have been disappointed in his overall play this postseason as he is averaging a quiet 14.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. In the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals this year, he had a total of 16 points, 13 rebounds, and didn’t record a single steal.

After receiving a lot of criticism for his play, he erupted for 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals. It is uncertain which Bam we will see in the future, and that uncertainty lands him at 9 on this list.

8. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The 11th overall selection out of Kentucky, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander started his career with the Los Angeles Clippers. After being dealt to the Thunder in the Paul George trade, he took a huge jump increasing his points per game from 10.8 to 19.0 and over doubled his rebounds per game. Being on a struggling Thunder team, he has become the face of the franchise.

This past season, Shai averaged 24.8 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per game. He also had a career year defensively with 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. As he continues to get to the free throw line more and more, defenses are noticing his unique skill set on the floor as a 6’6″ point guard. The Thunder will be looking to get SGA some more help in this upcoming draft with the second overall pick. Will that selection help Shai take another jump? Only time will tell, but regardless the Thunder have their point guard for the future.

7. Jarrett Allen

The former Brooklyn Net only had one season where he was the full-time starter at center, struggling to prove himself as a long-term big man for the team. Early in the 2020-21 season, Allen was a part of the three-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn. This landed him in Cleveland. Through the rest of that season, we saw almost the same Jarrett Allen as we did in Brooklyn. The next season, we saw Allen show why Cleveland may have won that trade.

The 2021-22 NBA season started off great for Allen having a career best in points (16.1) and rebounds per game (10.8). His improvement earned him his first all-star game honors. After fracturing his finger in March, Allen missed the rest of the regular season. This proved to be vital for the Cavs as they went 9-17 without Allen falling to 8th in the Eastern Conference.

He did return for the play-in games, but it did not matter. The Cavaliers lost back-to-back games against the Hawks and Nets to miss the playoffs. Allen will be looking to prove his worth again next season as one of the best young big men in the league.

6. Brandon Ingram

The second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Brandon Ingram has had an interesting start to his career. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers and struggled to please the Laker faithful. Prior to the 2019-20 season, Ingram was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a three-team trade. Over the next three seasons, Ingram found his home becoming a crucial part of the Pelicans future.

The 2021-22 season has been a big one for Ingram as he helped the Pelicans make the playoffs. In the first round against the Phoenix Suns, he showed he can be a star in this league. In the six game series, he averaged an impressive 27.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game. Those numbers were all improvements from his regular season numbers. The sixth-year forward is only 24 years old and will be looking to make another jump next season.

5. LaMelo Ball

The 2020-21 rookie of the year entered his second NBA season this year with high expectations. While his team did not perform to the standards many would have liked, LaMelo was the player leading them all season. They finished 10th in the East and lost in their only play-in game to the Hawks, 132-103. LaMelo struggled in that game shooting 28% from the field with five fouls in the game. Even though he struggled in that game, it was still a successful season for LaMelo.

He improved in almost every aspect of his game averaging 20.1 points, 7.6 assists, and 6.7 rebounds per game. While his field goal percentage took a slight dip, he improved his 3-point percentage. He went from shooting 35% from deep to 39% this past season.

His flashy passing and ability to do it all led to his first All-Star appearance. It will be interesting to see if Ball can take another jump going into his third season. Fans will be watching closely to see if he can cement himself as a superstar in this league.

4. Trae Young

After losing in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Trae Young became a villain of the NBA. Many expected another playoff run from Young and the Hawks, but this team did not look the same. After finishing as the 9th seed in the East, they beat the Hornets and Cavaliers in the play-in games to make the playoffs. Their season did not last much longer as they lost 4-1 in the first round to the Miami Heat.

While the team struggled, Young actually had an even better year than his 2020-21 season. He improved his shooting percentage in every way, while averaging more points, assists, and steals as the year prior. He averaged 28.4 points, 9.7 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. This earned him his second all-star appearance. This impressive play went away quickly in the playoffs. Trae struggled against the Heat averaging an abysmal 15.4 points, 6.0 assists, and 6.2 turnovers per game.

While he struggled in the playoffs, the league knows how dangerous Young can be and I fully expect him to bounce back next season with another terrific year.

3. Ja Morant

Ja Morant garnered the spotlight this year with his monstrous dunks and improvement in scoring. He led the Grizzlies to the second seed in the West with a record of 56-26. With the jump Morant made, expectations were high for the Grizzlies heading into the playoffs. After beating Minnesota in the first round in six games, they faced the challenge of the Golden State Warriors.

They ended up losing the series 4-2 after Morant did not play in the last three games due to an injury. During the three games he played that series, Morant played great, scoring 34, 47, and 34 points.

In the regular season, he averaged 27.4 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game. Those numbers earned Morant his first All-Star appearance and Most Improved Player Award honors. This improvement put Morant in the conversation to be the next player to take over the league.

With a disappointing end to the season, fans will be looking at Morant to see if he can continue that growth into the next great NBA superstar and become a top 10 player in the NBA.

2. Jayson Tatum

The former Duke Blue Devil fell into the Celtics lap at third overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. A pick that would soon be looked as a steal. In his rookie season, Tatum helped lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing 4-1 to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Since then, Tatum has led the Celtics to two more Eastern Conference Finals. One of those appearances is this season, as he looks to make his first NBA Finals.

Tatum earned his third straight All-Star game honor as he averaged 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game, all career highs. After a slow start to the season, he helped the Celtics dominate the second half of the season going 28-7. This made the Celtics finish 2nd in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the Miami Heat.

Tatum is looking to prove he is a top 10 player in the league and capture his first championship this season.

1. Luka Doncic

This shouldn’t be a surprise that Luka Doncic is #1 on this “NBA top 10 under 25” list. It is an understatement to say that Luka is on a different level than almost every one of these players. The 23-year old superstar has taken over this playoffs leading his team to the Western Conference Finals with one of the worst supporting casts in recent memory. The fourth-year pro has earned three All-Star appearances and two All-NBA honors already in his career. The craziest part of Doncic’s career is that he has never averaged below 21.2 points per game. He continues to get better every year, and even though the Mavericks will most likely lose the Western Conference Finals, Luka is still shining.

This past season he averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.7 assists. That ranked first among all guards in points and rebounds, while ranking fifth in assists. During this postseason run, Doncic has stepped up even more averaging 32.1 points per game. His ability to find open teammates, rebound the ball, and score from anywhere on the floor has put him in the conversation of top 10 basketball players in the world. Doncic is just starting his dominance in the NBA, and he will soon be the face of the league.