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NFL Playoff Picture: Playoff Races and Storylines

As we wrap up week 14 on the NFL calendar, the NFL playoff picture is really beginning to take shape. This has been a wild season in many aspects, and the playoff picture in both conferences prove that. Without further ado, let’s get into a breakdown of the NFL playoff picture, and what to watch for over the final stretch of the season.


Divisional Leaders

1) Dolphins 9-3

2) Ravens 9-3

3) Chiefs 8-4

4) Jaguars 8-4

As you can probably tell, the race for the #1 seed and a first-round bye is very intense. All of these teams have the same amount of losses, and are separated by just one win. After the Ravens had their bye during this past week, every team now has five games remaining. Five weeks left, and all four division leaders are separated by one game. This will be a very exciting race to watch as the season comes to an end.

Wild-Card Race

5) Steelers 7-5

6) Colts 7-5

7) Browns 7-5

Two AFC North rivals, the Steelers and Browns occupy the first two wild-card spots. Both of these teams have been surprisingly good despite their situations. The Steelers have been awful on offense, yet they’ve managed to squeak out seven wins. The Browns have had subpar quarterback play, but have also managed to put themselves right in the thick of things anyways.

Still, the Colts have been the most surprising team here. Indianapolis had no expectations coming into the season, and have been without their rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson for most of it. Still, they’ve got a winning record, and with their easy schedule to round out the year, they’re a legitimate playoff threat.

In the Hunt

8) Texans 7-5

9) Broncos 6-6

10) Bills 6-6

11) Bengals 6-6

12) Chargers 5-7

13) Raiders 5-7

The Texans are each tied in record with Indianapolis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, yet are out via tiebreaker. Denver is just a game behind at 6-6. Both of these teams have been surprisingly good this year, and both seem like a very scary first-round matchup. If these teams take care of business to end the year, they shouldn’t need much help.

The Bills and Bengals meanwhile, have each had very disappointing seasons. Both of these teams were considered Super Bowl contenders before the year started. The Bills can only afford to maybe lose one game, so their back is up against the wall. The Bengals have already lost Joe Burrow for the rest of the year, so their season is essentially over.

Finally, the Raiders and Chargers. At 5-7, they’ll need to win every game to end the year, which includes matchups against Kansas City and Denver. Los Angeles is essentially in the same boat. They’ll both need most of the teams above them to lose a game or two or three as well.


Divisional Leaders

1) Eagles 10-2

2) 49ers 9-3

3) Lions 9-3

4) Falcons 6-6

In the NFC, it seems like there are two top dogs, as there was last year as well. The Eagles and 49ers seem to be a level above the rest of the conference, and the 49ers just destroyed the Eagles in Philadelphia this weekend. After them, we have the Lions at 9-3. They’re a very formidable threat as well, but they have had some bad losses as well. Still, they’re a team you don’t want to see in the postseason.

Finally, there’s a team on here that isn’t quite like the rest. The Falcons lead their division, but at an unimpressive record of 6-6. The NFC South as a whole is a dumpster fire, with every team in a rebuilding phase. The Falcons are the most competitive at the moment though, and they would host one of the teams below.

Wild Card Race

5) Cowboys 9-3

6) Vikings 6-6

7) Packers 6-6

8) Seahawks 6-6

9) Rams 6-6

10) Saints 5-7

11) Buccaneers 5-7

The NFC has a Wild Card race, but it’s a bit more mediocre than the one in the AFC. The Cowboys lead it, and they’re actually looking like a threat in the NFC this year. If it wasn’t for the Eagles dominance, they wouldn’t even have to be in the Wild Card race at all.

Then, we have six teams separated by one game. The Vikings and Seahawks are still at .500, but in this race, that’s enough to be in the mix. Both of these teams had a several game lead on the three below them, but both have now lost consecutive games and this race has become far more close because of it. The Vikings have held onto their spot, but with the Packers win this week, the Seahawks lost their spot to Green Bay.

Then we’ve got the Rams, Bucs and Saints. Los Angeles has put an impressive couple of weeks together, and have climbed their way back into a tie for the final Wild Card spot. The Saints on the other hand, are fading out of the NFL playoff picture fast. Tampa Bay doesn’t seem like the biggest threat, but their division and a Wild Card spot are both still very much in play.


Same Top Dawgs

Even before the playoff race, it looks like the same couple teams that dominated the NFL and playoffs last year, will be back in the mix this year.

The Eagles and 49ers look like the far-and-away two best teams in the NFC, as they have all season. They’ll be on a collision course once playoff time comes, and one of those two will likely be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

In the AFC, last year’s runner-up Bengals seem to be out of the race with a sub-par record and a backup quarterback. The Bills remain alive in the NFL playoff picture, but they don’t seem to be as big of a threat as they were last year. Currently, out of the teams who have dominated in the past couple of years, the Chiefs look like the only team to keep that form this year.

New Kids on the Block

This year has been one that’s revived many franchises across the league.

In the NFC, the Lions and Falcons have crept into the playoff picture after each franchise had missed the playoffs for at least the past couple of seasons. One of these teams is a bit better than the other, but both are currently set to host a playoff game for the first time in what feels like ages.

In the AFC, however, the playoffs look a bit different than they did last year. Baltimore made the playoffs last year, but they already look like a much better team in 2023. Their 10-7 record was good, but they’ve almost matched their win total already with 9 this year. Sticking with division leaders, the Dolphins also deserve some recognition. Miami looks poised to win the AFC East for the first time since 2008.

The Wild-Card Race is almost completely comprised of new teams as well. All three current wild-card teams; the Steelers, Browns and Colts, missed the playoffs last season. The first-two team’s out of the race, Houston and Denver, also missed the playoffs last year. If 2023 has taught us anything, it’s that parity is very much alive in the AFC. The biggest question here remains: Are any of these teams good enough to beat Kansas City in the Playoffs?

Do We Know Any Potential Playoff Matchups Yet?

While there’s still about a quarter of the season left to play, some likely matchups in this NFL playoff picture are beginning to take shape.

In the NFC, there is a very likely Wild-Card matchup. Dallas is currently the first Wild-Card team, and if they don’t win their division, they’ll almost certainly earn that slot. This will pit them against either The Falcons, Saints, or Buccaneers, whichever one wins the lowly NFC South.

It’s looking like Detroit will end up as the third-place division winner, which means they’d host either Minnesota, Green Bay, Los Angeles or Seattle. Between the 49ers and Eagles, whichever team doesn’t earn the first seed will host one of these teams as well.

As for the AFC, well, it’s a bit more unclear. All four division winners are within a game of each other in the standings, so it’s tough to get a good sense of who will finish where. As for the Wild Card race, there are 9 teams that own between 5 and 7 wins, so that’s wide open as well. Seeding and Wild Card spots may be up for grabs as late as the very last Sunday of the year.

NBA In-Season Tournament: How Does it Work, and Why Does it Matter?

The NBA In-Season Tournament has been a controversial idea among the NBA community since day one. While in other parts of the world it is common for a team to be competing in more than one league or tournament at a time, it’s a bit different in the United States.

With that in mind, many were critical of the idea of an in-season tournament in the NBA. To them, it seemed like too much, having torunament games count in teams’ regular season record, and some teams playing an extra game meant the tournment wasn’t worth it.

I’m here to tell you why this tournament could be very good for the league, and add some excitement to the NBA calendar.

What if the Players Don’t Care About it?

Before the season began, many people thought the tournament wouldn’t matter much at all in the long run, and that the players wouldn’t care either. Even though each NBA team has only played a couple of tournament games so far this season, we already have a perfect example of players being educated on the tournament, and caring about it as a whole.

In this clip, we see a perfect example of Sabonis understanding the severity of the rules regarding the tournament. We can’t blame Kevin Heurter for not shooting the three, since this is literally the first NBA game he’s played in which point-differential matters as a tiebreaker.

We also can applaud Sabonis for being aware of the situation. His emotional reaction also proves that he cares. Sabonis, in this play, demonstrates what many players have already done in the young life of the tournament: they understand it, and they care.

Will the fans care?

Well, at first, likely not much. As much as one can hope for the tournament to be a successful part of the NBA, it’s important to realize that it will likely take at least a year or two, or possibly even more for this to happen.

A good comparison here would be the NBA’s Play-In Tournament. The play-in tournament confused many at first, and in the first year or two it didn’t get much recognition. Finally, after Jimmy Butler started his incredible postseason run in the Play-In Tournament last year, it finally got some recognition.

The In-Season Tournament will likely take a little while to warm up to some fans. It may just take an iconic moment like Butler’s for that to happen. Those are the two biggest concerns regarding the tournament’s rise to relevancy. Now, let’s actually try and understand how it works.

How Does the In-Season Tournament Work?

The tournament takes place strictly in the first portion of the season. It began within the first two weeks of the year, and will wrap up with the championship taking place on December 9th in Las Vegas.

Each conference is divided into three groups of five teams. All of the groups were randomly drawn. Each team ends up playing a total of four games in this group play, just one against each team in their group, two games both home and away. These game days are called “tournament nights”, and on these nights, every game on the league’s slate that night becomes part of the tournament.

After each team plays four games, the field narrows all the way down from 30, to eight. The team with the best record in each group will automatically move on, with the best second-place team from each conference moving on as well. Tiebreakers are decided by point differential, so don’t be surprised if you see teams playing until the final buzzer instead of running the clock out.

All of the knockout games will be single-elimination matches. The quarterfinal and semi-finals matchups will count towards those teams’ 82-game total, but the teams that advance to the championship game will end up playing an extra regular-season game. Finally, all of these regular season games will take place in Las Vegas.

So, What’s the Point?

One of the biggest criticisms that faces the NBA today is the lack of importance of regular season games. This is evident on many levels. The average regular season game isn’t very important. This is especially true when it’s the beginning of the season and players know they have 60-70 games remaining. The NBA has also been trying to combat load management issues, with players taking off extra games for rest. Finally, The NBA also has a lot of casual fans, who only watch during the playoffs.

All of these reasons are the cause of the NBA implementing this tournament. With this, the dullest part of the regular season will get some added meaning. This tournament forces excitement into the dog days of the NBA season. Now, these games have meaning, and by the time the tournament is over, fans can focus their attention on the trade deadline. Then the year starts to kick towards the playoffs.

The NBA In-Season Tournament is a work in progress. Give it some time, and it might turn out to be great for the league.

Rory McIlroy: When Will the Drought End?

For most of the past few decades, golf has struggled to maintain popularity among the likes of the other major sports in America. When LIV emerged as a threat to the PGA Tour, many of golf’s biggest stars bolted. As golf has slowly begun to build a larger, more youthful fanbase, there are only a couple of big names still on the PGA Tour. One of those names is Rory McIlroy.

Photo Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

McIlroy has had a long, successful career in golf. When he retires, he’ll end his career as one of the better golfers in the history of the sport. He’s won four majors, including the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Opens, the 2014 Open Championship and the 2014 PGA Championship. Those four majors in three years catapulted him to superstardom. Unfortunately, since his last major victory nine years ago, he hasn’t repeated the feat.

This is not a knock against his talent as a golfer. During that timespan, Mcllroy has been nothing short of incredible. On Sunday in Liverpool, Rory finished sixth, which is somehow one of his worst finishes in any major over the past two years.

In the eight majors he’s competed in from 2022-23, Mcilroy has finished second twice, third one time, and has at least been in the top-eight positions in the other five.

It’s honestly remarkable how close McIlroy has gotten without winning one. In the last eight majors, he has a combined score of -41 under par. He’s easily first in that statistic. Rounding out the top five is Scottie Scheffler at -36, Cameron Smith at -21, Viktor Hovland at -14, and Matt Fitzpatrick at -13. Aside from Scheffler, Rory has far outperformed the rest of his competition here.

Close, but no cigar.

So, What’s Going Wrong?

Aside from his miserable performance at the Masters this April, Rory McIlroy hasn’t had a bad outing in any major during the last two years. He just hasn’t been able to put a complete weekend together. McIlroy led the 2022 PGA Championship after round one. He led the 2022 Open Championship six holes into the final day. He even lost the 2023 U.S. Open by just one shot.

Even in the miserable weather that plagued the course in Liverpool last weekend, McIlroy hung around the top of the leaderboard. Yet, whether it was his putter failing him on the greens or his inability to keep the drives sharp, he just could not keep up with Scott Harman.

While the clouds covered the entire course throughout the weekend, it seemed McIlroy had a storm-cloud of his own following him around the course.

When Will Rory McIlroy Win Another Major?

Rory McIlroy has no doubt gotten the short end of the stick (or club) in recent years. Whether it’s been his own inability to put a full weekend together, or dominating performances like that of Brian Harman this past weekend, it just hasn’t worked out for him. However, at this point, the tide seems like it’s got to change soon.

Rory’s sustained success in these majors has been nothing short of impressive. In all of the majors combined, the case could be made that he’s been the most consistent golfer of them all.

Only time will tell. If he keeps playing this well, he’ll surely win another major soon.

Pre-season 2024 NFL Draft Rankings: Tight Ends

Now to the last of the offensive skill set guys, the tight ends for the 2024 NFL draft. This group is obviously not as strong as last year’s class. It is stronger at the top, with one player who, if he was able to come out, would have been the #1 tight end last draft. However, the overall depth of the 2024 class is not there. But that does not mean it’s a bad class by any means. So let’s get to it.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/AJ Mast
2024 NFL Draft Top Five Tight Ends
  1. Brock Bowers – Georgia: If Bowers were eligible to declare for the 2023 draft he would have been the #1 tight end, and might have gone top 10 — he’s that good. Despite his average size of 6’3 230, he has almost everything you look for in a tight end. He is even a decent blocker, despite his size. Bowers is expected to run in the 4.4 range and can line up anywhere on the field.
  2. Benjamin Yurosek – Stanford: Yurosek has the desired size and speed NFL teams look for at 6’4 242 with sub 4.6 40-yard dash speed. He had a breakout in 2021 with 42 catches for 655 yards and three touchdowns. The Stanford offense really struggled in 2022, so it hurt his numbers a lot. He can line up attached or in the slot, and is threat up the middle. His blocking needs some work.
  3. Ja’Tavion Sanders – Texas: Sanders is a former five-star recruit who was a defensive end convert and did not play much as a freshman. He came in and started in 2022 and had big flashes. At 6’4 249 and 4.6 40-yard dash speed, he has the upside to be one of the best tight ends in the league. He went off for 54 receptions, 613 yards, and five touchdowns in 2022. Sanders just needs more consistency.
  4. Brevyn Spann-Ford – Minnesota: Spann-Ford is a massive human being at 6’7 270, but he is surprisingly athletic. He’s not going to outrun many defenders, but can get some separation using his frame and his quick feet. He is already a very good blocker. The current Gopher had 42 catches for 497 yards and two touchdowns. His game has some similarities to Marcedes Lewis.
  5. Jaheim Bell – Florida State: Bell is a versatile chess piece for an offense to use. He is 6’3 232, so very much an H-back type frame. The thing with Bell, though, is he has been used all over the field: in the slot, as a tight end, as a fullback, and even was used as a running back by South Carolina in 2022, rushing for 257 yards and three touchdowns on 74 carries. His breakout year he had 30 catches for 488 yards and five touchdowns in 2021. Bell just needs a creative offensive coordinator.
2024 NFL Draft Tight Ends: The Best Of The Rest

6. Theo Johnson – Penn State: Johnson is a legit 6’6 255 with sub 4.7 40-yard dash speed. He’s played in a rotation with Brenton Strange the last couple of seasons, which cut into his playing time and receiving production. He had 20 catches for 328 yards and four touchdowns in 2022. He has also been a good blocker the last two seasons. You can see his receiving upside by his average per catch of 16.4 yards a catch. He is a breakout candidate in 2023.

7. Erick All – Iowa: All had a nice season in 2021 after having two ho-hum seasons before that. He was looking like he was going to break out big in 2022, but injury ended his season in Week 3. All ended up transferring to Iowa, where he should be the #1 receiving option in 2023. He has solid size and athleticism; having yet to completely tap into his potential. Iowa has been known to develop tight ends.

8. CJ Dippre – Alabama: Dippre really showed some flashes last season at Maryland, but due to all the receivers on the roster he was mostly a safety valve on offense. The 30 catches he had for 311 yards and three touchdowns is pretty impressive given the circumstances. He is a bigger tight end at 6’4 and almost 260, but is a decent athlete and a good blocker with some upside.

9. Bryson Nesbit – North Carolina: Nesbit comes from an athletic family, his father played in the NFL for 10 years and mother was a soccer player in college. He is a bit undersized at 6’5 and just 235 pounds, and it shows in his blocking — although the potential is there for him to get better. He can play inline and out of the slot. Nesbit had a solid year last season with 35 catches for 507 yards and four touchdowns. He could be in for a bigger role in 2023.

10. Austin Stogner – Oklahoma: Stogner had a bit of a coming out party in 2020, but has not had near the production since. In 2021, the offense struggled as a whole. Stogner transferred to South Carolina with Spencer Rattler, but their offense had struggles, as well. So he transferred back to Oklahoma, where he is expected to be the starting tight end and one of the top receiving targets. The talent and upside is still there. He just needs to reach it.

Make sure to read my previous part on the wide receivers and of course my datatbase.

NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

Photo Credit: Rick Bowmer/AP

There’s no debate that the NBA trade deadline is the craziest in all of sports. This year was no different. Big names were moved as fans were scrambling to figure out what was happening. Trades were coming at an unforgettable rate, creating a memorable trade deadline for fans and players alike. As teams are trying to get their last key pieces for the playoff push, we take a look at some winners and losers of the NBA trade deadline.

NBA Trade Deadline Winners

Los Angeles Basketball

The Lakers were involved in just two trades Thursday, but came away a solid group of players. Headlining their additions are D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Mo Bamba. That’s a terrific haul considering the biggest pieces they gave up were Russell Westbrook, Thomas Bryant, Patrick Beverley, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and a 2027 1st-round pick (protected 1-4). It gives them better depth and fits for their play style. This puts them as a playoff contender in my eyes.

The Clippers may have had the best day at the NBA trade deadline. They snagged Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon, Mason Plumlee, and three future 2nd-round picks. Those are nice upgrades from what they gave up: three 2nd-round picks, John Wall, Luke Kennard, and Reggie Jackson. It gives them a nice pairing at center and solid back-up guards while simultaneously getting a little bit younger. I believe this puts them in the mix to contend for the West — if they can stay healthy.

Both the Clippers and Lakers knew they needed to make some moves if they wanted to contend, and that’s exactly what they did. Neither team forced a trade and made some amazing moves.

Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz were only involved in one trade on NBA trade deadline day, but the move they made was terrific. They ended up trading two 2nd-round picks, Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. They received Russel Westbrook, — who is expected to be bought out — Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and the Lakers 2027 1st-round pick (1-4 protected).

The players involved aren’t expected to make a big impact, but there are other factors I love about this trade. They cleared cap for next year with Conley and Vanderbilt. They were due about $16 million next year, but now they’re off the books for the Jazz. That’s huge for them as they’re projected to have around $50 million in cap now next season — possibly more. They also added another first round pick in 2027. This makes 15 first-round picks for them between now and 2029.

With the added players and bevy of draft picks, the Jazz are setting themselves up for a fantastic future. They already have a solid core to build around with Lauri Markkanen breaking out and Collin Sexton still improving. Look out for the Jazz in the upcoming years.

Russell Westbrook

Some may be confused why I have Russell Westbrook on this list after seeing he got traded to the Jazz. As mentioned above, Westbrook is expected to be bought out, changing everything. He’s able to choose where he plays — besides the Lakers — and is (presumably) out of Los Angeles, where the media was tearing him apart.

Westbrook hasn’t been great this season. Though he hasn’t been that bad, either. He still brings some energy to a team, and the fit in LA was bad. Now, he’s out of the pressure of being a Laker, and can choose where he thinks he fits best. He could be more comfortable and play his game. He is expected to choose between the Clippers and Heat. Those two teams could help him find his game more, and worry less about the outside pressure — such as being a Laker.

It’ll be interesting to see where Westbrook goes and if he can restore some of the old Russ magic. He was treated unfairly in many reports during his time in with the Lakers, so a change of scenery could be exactly what he needed.

NBA Trade Deadline Losers

Miami Heat

After losing in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Heat have been a little disappointing. They’re 6th in the East, but had higher aspirations. Many thought they would be aggressive and make some moves with Duncan Robinson’s bad contract and Kyle Lowry’s regression and age. They would’ve had to give up picks to get rid of them, but they are hurting the team this year, and will next year as well by standing pat.

Instead of making a move, the Heat sat back and did nothing. Not a single trade. There’s rumors that they’re in the market for potential buy-out candidates, but is that enough? I’m not so sure. They could’ve made a move to cement themselves as a better team, and put them in the conversation of possibly winning the Eastern Conference. The decision to do nothing could hurt them down the road.

Heat fans were angry, and have every right to be. It’s tough to see a team that was one series away from the Finals last year not make a single trade when they’re not living up to expectations. They have a rough offseason coming up, especially if they don’t go far in the playoffs.

Thomas Bryant

In a surprising move, it was reported that Bryant became unhappy with his role on the Lakers, and had requested a trade. That was a bit of a shocker, as Bryant was putting together a solid season in LA backing up Anthony Davis. He was averaging 21.3 minutes per night, putting up 12.1 PPG and 6.8 RPG, while shooting 65.4% from the field and 44% from three.

After Bryant made his request, the Lakers decided to move him to the Denver Nuggets for Davon Reed and two 2nd-round picks. This put Bryant in a very similar position, as he is now the back-up to Nikola Jokic. He does go to the #1 seed in the West, but his role remains almost the exact same. Now, he’ll be hoping to prove himself for his next contract in Denver.

It might be nice for Bryant to play for the #1 seed, but he loses this deadline for one reason: his role stays the same. If anything, he could lose more minutes considering the Nuggets have the best center in the league, Nikola Jokic. He got the trade, but not his wish.

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets were rumored to trade multiple players at the deadline, and they ended up making just two trades. They didn’t involve players rumored to be moved such as Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, and Kelly Oubre Jr. Their first trade was moving Mason Plumlee to the Clippers for Reggie Jackson — who was bought out — and a 2028 2nd-round pick. Their other trade was moving a 2024 2nd-round pick and Jalen McDaniels to Philadelphia for a 2023 (from Philadelphia) and 2027 (from Portland) 2nd-round pick, and Svi Mykhailiuk.

The main issue with these trades is that they don’t do anything for the Hornets. They essentially gained two 2nd-round picks and Svi Mykhailiuk for Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels. That is not a good return for those two players. It is apparent that Charlotte is in full tank mode to hopefully win the lottery for Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson.

The Hornets have been a mess for a while, and trades like these are why. They need to start making moves that will help, instead of hurting or not doing anything thing for them. It was another poor deadline for this Charlotte franchise.