Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. The NBA Playoffs are upon us, and it's time for my first round picks. Today I'll be picking who I think takes home all of the first round series, and as the first round progresses I'll be making picks for the winners of some of the key games. Today I'll also let you know who I expect to see in each of the Conference Finals, as well as the NBA Finals. On top of that, I'll be letting you know who I see winning it all this year. If there are any questions or topic requests leave them below in the comments and I'll respond either directly or with an in depth article as soon as I see them. Also, make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Houston Rockets:
This series is one that I did not see coming. Until Jimmy Butler went down for seventeen games with a knee injury, the Wolves were the third seed in the Western Conference, and they could have easily advanced two rounds in the Playoffs. Now, though, they are facing the best team in basketball. The Houston Rockets are almost unbeatable when fully healthy, and barring any injuries, I don't see this series going any farther than five games. The Timberwolves don't match up exceptionally well with Houston, since Andrew Wiggins will have to guard either James Harden, Chris Paul, or Eric Gordon. Jimmy Butler, one of the games best defenders, will try to take one of those three out of the game (most likely Harden), but then Wiggins lack of defensive effort could be exploited by the other two. In general, the Timberwolves are not a good defensive team, and that is not good since they'll be facing the games best offense. I give Minnesota one game since Karl Anthony Towns is an unguardable freak, and Jimmy Butler is a top ten player in the league. Other than that, though, if everyone stays healthy this series is definitely not going seven games, six games is a stretch, and I think five is most likely. Houston moves on.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz:
This should be a really good series. The Jazz were expected by many to go nowhere this year after losing Gordon Hayward to the Celtics in free agency, but the emergence of Donovan Mitchell and great defensive play of Rudy Gobert have gotten the team this far. The Thunder are a disappointment so far, as they've been inconsistent and complicit in the stat padding of Russell Westbrook. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George have been overrated this year, and OKC's big three have not worked very well together. It's Playoff time now, and this big three has much more experience than the Utah Jazz. They also have home court advantage. I think that this series goes seven games, ultimately ending in a Thunder advancement. My personal distaste for OKC can't out way their experience advantage over the Jazz, and now that Westbrook has his triple double season locked in, there's less reason for him to blow games for the team with selfish play down the stretch. Thunder in seven, in a very, very, very close series.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans:
I love Anthony Davis, and what he has done in the absence of Boogie Cousins is really impressive. That isn't going to change how I see this series though, and honestly I'm having trouble not predicting sweep. The Trail Blazers are entering this series not far removed from a thirteen game winning streak, and the combo of C.J. McCollum and the most underrated player in the NBA (a.k.a. Damien Lillard, a.k.a. Dame D.O.L.L.A., a.k.a. the most clutch player behind only Kyrie Irving in the game right now) is a bad mismatch for the Pelicans. I'll call this a five game series since Anthony Davis can take over on any given night, but really Portland shouldn't be losing more than one game in this series. I like Portland and I think if they weren't stuck in the Western Conference, they would be in the NBA Finals.
Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs:
Just to start this off, I'm predicting this series with the assumption that Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard will both be out with injuries for the entire series. With that being said, the Warriors should make short work of the Spurs. This is the least amount of firepower Greg Popovich has had to work with in a very long time, and against a super team comprised of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, Pop doesn't have much of a chance. I think that this series goes five games, six games maximum and that's only if one of the Warriors big three is bothered by an injury. The Warriors should easily move on from this round and then have Curry ready for their second series.
Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards:
Grab your brooms everybody because we have a sweep. The Raptors will make short work of this Wizards team, who have basically been without a 100% healthy John Wall all season. Bradley Beal can only do so much against the duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and the Wizards really don't have much help after that. Toronto's one seed this season should give them a great advantage as this should be easy work for them, and then give them a nice period of rest before what will be a difficult next series against most likely the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers:
This series has me really excited. Victor Oladipo is always fun to watch, but he isn't the only reason I'm excited about this one. LeBron James always plays close games against Indiana, and although Paul George has always been part of the reason why those games have been close, there has always been someone else that's provided entertainment in this mini rivalry. That's right, Lance Stephenson is back with the Pacers, and his antics always reach their highest level when he's playing LeBron James. I cannot wait to see how the Cavs react to what will be a chippy series, and if their bench and other role players will hold their own. The Cavs really are not talented enough to have huge expectations this year, but this series in particular will help underline this teams Playoff capabilities. If the Cavs play well, expectations for a run to the Finals will rise, while if the role players struggle, Cleveland could be a popular pick to lose in the next round. I have Cleveland winning this series in six games because I think some of the Playoff inexperience on the Cavs could cost them a game, and also I just really want to see as much LeBron vs. Lance as I can.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat:
The Miami Heat are being way overlooked in this series. The main talking point of the last week or so has been how the Sixers are poised to make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, and possibly the NBA Finals, but I'm saying everyone needs to slow down. The Sixers may be on a sixteen game winning streak currently, but they've really only beaten two or three teams that aren't actively tanking. Their win streak is a smoke screen for how good this team actually is. The Miami Heat are not nearly as talented as the Sixers, but head coach Eric Spoelstra is really good at exploiting mismatches. While Joel Embiid is out with an orbital fracture expect Miami to use Hassan Whiteside to his full extent, and even when Joel comes back Miami will try and take advantage of Philly's middle of the pack defense. Also, having a guy like Dwayne Wade on your team for clutch moments never hurts. Overall I expect Philadelphia to take this series, but I don't see them dominating the way that everyone else does. There could definitely be some blowouts, but I like this series going six games. If the Sixers do destroy Miami though, then I'll reevaluate them as the rest of the Playoffs move along.
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks:
This series is going to be really interesting since it'll be a healthy squad lead by the Greek Freak taking on the crippled, but surviving, Celtics. Brad Stevens is working wonders in Boston right now, as his team is still winning games despite having lost another huge player on their roster, Kyrie Irving. The Celtics are not going to be easy to beat, but Milwaukee's struggles of late do not inspire confidence. I think that the Bucks need to play better as a team and not wholly rely on Giannis to carry the team throughout the Playoffs. Personally, I don't see the Bucks not having to rely on Giannis a great deal though, and since the Celtics are an incredible defensive team, I see Boston taking this series in seven. It'll be close, but Brad Stevens should find ways to contain Antetokounmpo, giving Boston the series.
Eastern Conference Finals Prediction:
The way that the bracket is structured makes one half of this prediction easy--the Philadelphia 76ers will be in the Eastern Conference Finals. They play Miami in the first round, and then either Boston (who is crippled) or the Bucks (who they just smacked by almost 40 points) in the second, so although I don't think Philly is as good as everyone is making them out to be, the weak Eastern Conference will aid their advancement. On the other side of things I have the Cavaliers taking on the Raptors in the second round, and the winner of that series takes on Philly. Toronto against Cleveland is a really hard series to pick since Toronto owns the season series, but it is yet to be seen how Cleveland's young lineup will fair in Playoff basketball. As of right now, I cannot pick against LeBron James, so I have the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers playing each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. At that point LeBron and his squad would have proven that they are good enough to come out of the East, so I'd take them over Philly. If the Cavs are good enough to beat the Raptors, which I think they are, then I can't see them losing to the Sixers. LeBron would not be held back from his eighth straight Finals appearance if he had already made it that far. If this Sixers vs. Cavs matchup does end up taking place, then expect Cleveland to win.
Western Conference Finals Prediction:
I, along with the majority of basketball fans, can see no other matchup than what was seen as the inevitable at the beginning of the season--Rockets vs. Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. If I'm right and the Warriors have to take on the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round, I expect Curry to be back and handle business. If he isn't back though, or is available to play but isn't himself, than Portland does have a shot at an upset. As of right now I cannot see that happening though, so the question, Warriors or Rockets, remains. There are two scenarios I'll go over in this series, and they result in two different picks. One, Stephen Curry is back and fully healthy from his injury. In that case, I can't pick against the most dominant team this league has seen in the last decade. I would take the Warriors to win in a seven game series. The other possibility is the opposite of this, which is that Steph Curry is not healthy, and not able to play like himself. When Curry isn't himself, the Warriors aren't the team that we all think of. Their three point percentage drops drastically, and as a team they look disconnected. This then leads me to easily pick the Rockets to win the Western Conference Finals. Also, if Curry isn't healthy, I'd take Houston to win in six games, ending the series on the Warriors home court. If I had to predict one of these scenarios, based on recent history I'd think that the second is more likely to occur. Coming back from injury, Curry usually isn't himself, especially in a much more physical climate which is Playoff basketball. Since I think that Curry won't be 100%, I'm taking the Houston Rockets to move on to the NBA Finals.
NBA Finals Prediction:
Houston in five. That's all that really needs to be said. This Rockets team is worlds better than Cleveland, and my prediction that Cleveland even makes the Finals is suspect since it is entirely possible that the Cavs new, young, inexperienced roster looks like garbage in these Playoffs. The smartest Eastern Conference Finals prediction would be the Toronto Raptors playing the 76ers, and then one of those two teams moving on to the Finals. If either of those cases came to futurition though, I'd still take Houston to win in five games. The Western Conference is worlds better than the East, and I think that it'll really show this year in the Finals. Even if it isn't the Rockets, and the Warriors make the Finals, I'd say it's a four or five game series. For the purpose of wrapping up my way to early Finals prediction though, I'm taking the Houston Rockets to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games, becoming the 2018 NBA Champions.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. Tonight is the Men's March Madness Finals, featuring three seed Michigan taking on one seed Villanova, who will be in their second Finals in the last three years. This should be a great game, and a close outcome. I'll be breaking down what I think will be the biggest factors in tonight's game, and I'll be giving my pick to win the National Championship. Make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
Michigan vs. Villanova:
I would first like to acknowledge that I picked Kansas to win against Villanova in the Final Four, and I was dead wrong. What I said in that article, though, does not change my view of Villanova and their vulnerability. Everything I said their, I'm about to say now.
If you've watched Villanova this year, you know that this team is the definition of living and dying by the three. In their last game versus Kansas, they didn't just live, they elevated themselves to God status. They had been shooting at a historic rate all tournament long, but making 18 threes is on another level. They had 13 in the first half, shooting over 50%, and that is what basically put the game out of reach. Nova had seven different players hit a three point shot, which also shows their depth of shooters. What I've said before though, is that teams have bad nights, and they usually come at inopportune times. Michigan is a team that lives on defense and great coaching, which is exactly what counteracts great three point shooting. If Michigan can hold Villanova to a more pedestrian three point shooting night, then this game could be right down to the wire.
I expect this game to be right down to the wire.
On Michigan's end of things, I think what stands out the most is the Moe Wagner mismatch. Villanova's best big man is Omari Spellman, and he's a great modern big man. He can shoot the three, and he has shown the ability to make plays close to the rim. Moe Wagner is another animal though. Wagner single handedly kept Michigan afloat through thirty minutes of bad basketball to start their Final Four game against Loyola Chicago. Wagner is also a modern big man who can shoot, but I like his post game a lot more than I do Spellman's. Wagner's points production is a lot less reliant on his three point shot, and he showed last game that he can get rebounds on the offensive end. Those kind of second chance points are huge against a team as good as Villanova. Wagner could start to take over this game though, and I think if he makes a couple big threes while also playing his game in the post, Michigan will have a chance to win this game down the stretch.
The last thing I say before I tell you my pick is something that Colin Cowherd brought up on his show today on FS1. I've always taken this into account when picking big games, and although I didn't vocalize it in my last post about Villanova and Kansas, I feel like after seeing Vegas setting Nova as 6.5 point favorites I should bring this up. Villanova is one of these scrappy, no name, consistent teams. They play as a well coached unit, and they aren't dominated by big name freshman recruits every year the way other major programs are. Their system is developing players into their later seasons, and then churning out wins with those players. Jalen Brunson is a great example of that system and mentality, and as we've all seen this year he is pivotal to their success. What I'm getting at here is that Villanova is at their best when they're this no name, underdog lineup. They've always had to fight for their wins, and it's usually a surprise when they beat marquee players and programs. This game, that isn't the case. Villanova is huge favorites, and are expected to win with authority. They've proven all year long that they're the best team in the country, and tonight everyone expects them to put the period on that sentence. This is not the Villanova way though. I really wonder how this team is going to play with the expectations and pressure on them, while Michigan comes in with nothing to lose and a scrappy will to win themselves.
This all takes me to my pick. I took Kansas over Villanova because I had second thoughts about Nova's matchups against that team. Tonight, I fear, even more, those same issues. I know that Nova shut me up last time, and I acknowledge that this is the best team in the country, but in a tournament that's been riddled with out of left field upsets, I'm calling for another one. I'm taking Michigan tonight, in what is not the smart or safe pick to win the game. I've just had a gut feeling about Nova these last couple of days, and I think that they could fall apart in an instant. My final score is 72-71, Michigan in a stunner. I'm praying to the basketball gods that I'm right with this one, because picking against Villanova two games in a row is risky, but I've watched a lot of film and I like the mismatches. Michigan is your 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Champions.
Welcome to the Truda Report everyone. Today the last four teams in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament face off and decide who moves on the Monday's Finals. It has been a crazy year in the tournament, especially in the West and South brackets. I'll be taking a look at both the West and South match up of Michigan vs. Loyola Chicago, and the two one seeds facing off, Kansas vs. Villanova. Make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow, and hopefully I've helped you up to this point with your brackets.
Loyola Chicago vs. Michigan:
This game could be one of two things, a thriller with an outcome that changes the history books, or a wash. I've liked Michigan all season long and had them making the Final Four, but then losing to Virginia (that obviously didn't work out). Because of that, I'm inclined to continue picking Michigan to win games. Loyola Chicago has been a true Cinderella story though, and they've continued to win close games against good teams. That's why I say, this could either be a Michigan dominated game, or one that goes down to the wire, and so far those down to the wire games have gone Loyola's way.
Currently, though, I'm leaning Michigan in this one. Once you get down to the Final Four, teams have had a solid couple of days of rest and time to prepare. I like John Beilein as Michigan's coach, and I think he'll have prepared his team well. The Wolverines have been great defensively all season long and the rest and preparation will definitely help continue that trend. Also, Michigan's best offensive player, Moritz Wagner, was in foul trouble pretty early on last game and yet the team was still able to put points on the board. This offensive success should continue against Loyola, and if the Wolverines continue to play lockdown defense this game should be a wash. I'm taking Michigan to win this game, and it is just because I think that the two best teams in the country usually end up playing in the Finals every year, and despite Loyola's historic run, they aren't better than Michigan. Trust me, I would love to see Sister Jean's squad in the Finals against a one seed, and I'll definitely be rooting for them tonight, but I think realistically this is where the road ends.
Kansas vs. Villanova:
I think that a lot of people, including myself, had this matchup in their Final Four. This is a battle of blue bloods, and of two coaches who could each one day end up in the Hall of Fame. Both of these programs are consistent and dynastic, so this should be a really, REALLY, good game. I had Villanova making it to the finals over Kansas because I think heading into the tournament they were head over heels the best team. Right now though, after witnessing Kansas come back to beat Duke in a really close game, I'm having second thoughts about taking Nova. Kansas showed they can be clutch, and I think that they've actually been really slept on this year. Usually there is a star player on the team that draws headlines, but I haven't seen too much of that this year. They've just been an all around solid team and I think that could actually be to their benefit in this game. Nova had been shooting the three point shot at a historic rate, and they are very reliant on the production of Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson. Kansas has the ability to limit the production of at least one of those two, and if they can continue to play balanced team basketball they could win this game. I'd also like to point out that all it takes is one bad game from three and the Wildcats are goners. Kansas, by the way, has also been good from three, shooting at about 41% while not being so hot that I'm concerned about a drop off in their percentage causing a huge decrease in quality of play. Nova is so reliant on the three that if they stop hitting their shots at this high of a rate, the offense could really struggle.
In the end though, I can't ignore Villanova's body of work so far this season. They've been great from three. They've been able to drive to the basket and get to the free throw line. Their defense has been solid enough to limit opponents best players from going for huge scoring totals against them. Villanova is good, really good, and I think deserves to win the championship. That being said, I'm taking Kansas in an upset victory over the Wildcats. The Jayhawks have been slept on too much this season, and they are going to come into this game with a chip on their shoulder. Nobody is picking them to win this game, and I think that based on what I've seen from them so far this tournament, they should win this game. Kansas has played much tougher competition than Nova has had to face, and I think that does a lot for the Jayhawks confidence coming into tonight, as well as their preparedness for their match up with Villanova. Don't be mad at me if Nova wins this game and you picked Kansas; I told you that I think the Wildcats are the best team and deserve to win the Championship. I just think that this matchup favors Kansas more than it does Nova, and I can't keep on sleeping on the Jayhawks this season.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. After an insane first two rounds of March Madness, the Sweet Sixteen is finally set. With the Southern bracket having lost all four of the top seeds, this is going to be an incredibly hard round to predict. I want to give my opinion though, and hopefully help some of you out with your "second chance" brackets. Make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
Loyola Chicago vs. Nevada:
Like I said earlier, the Southern quarter of the bracket has been totally demolished by upsets. It was widely considered the strongest section, especially defensively, and yet all four of the top seeds are eliminated. That degree of inconsistency makes this game incredibly hard to pick. I'm inclined to look at statistics from earlier this year to influence my decision, but clearly that hasn't mattered so far in March. Due to that I can only look at who these two teams have played so far, and in my opinion Loyola has easily had the harder path to this spot. What I think needs to be recognized though, is that Nevada has been the better team in its two games than Loyola has. That is causing me to say that the smart pick in this game is Nevada. BUT--if you're caught up in the Cinderella story of Sister Jean and her Ramblers, and you believe this team can continue their impossible run, than just say screw it, and take Loyola to win this game. I know that that's what I'm doing, because as a Butler fan, I know how fun these uncalled for runs really are.
Texas A&M vs. Michigan:
I think that it's safe to say that not many people saw A&M manhandling UNC in the round of 32. I know that I didn't, and because of that Texas A&M deserves serious consideration to win this game. In my bracket, though, I had Michigan upsetting UNC in this round, in what would have been an incredible upset. Now that Michigan is playing a team that I don't see as nearly the threat UNC was, I'm still going to pick Michigan. This team's defensive effort is one of my favorites in all of the NCAA, and they've made a lot of big threes in big moments. I do have to say, though, that I like Texas A&M defensively more than I did UNC, and to me that has a big affect on my picking process. I would not be surprised to see a lower scoring game because of this, but to me it's not enough to change the outcome. Michigan wins.
Kansas St. vs. Kentucky:
Kentucky is a five seed, and also the best remaining team in the Southern section of the bracket. To me this game is a no brainer. Kentucky pulls off a close(ish) victory to advance to the Elite Eight. This team should have been one and done this year in my opinion, but since they were fortunate enough to see all of the teams ahead of them be upset, John Calipari will have this team ready for this moment and ready to take advantage of this situation.
Florida St. vs. Gonzaga:
Gonzaga went to the championship game last year and just barely lost. They lost a couple of major pieces in the draft after that, but I actually like their roster better this year. They're much less reliant on their starting five, and sport one of the better benches in this tournament. I have Gonzaga winning this game in my bracket, and I'm going to stick with that. I think that Florida State's wins have been really impressive and a lot of people slept on them at the beginning of the tournament, but their run ends here.
Clemson vs. Kansas:
I hate to be so brief, and sort of cold, in my assessment of this game, but Kansas is going to win. I don't think I'll physically be able to exist anymore if another one seed loses to a team that has no business beating them. Sure, Clemson looked like the Warriors playing a high school team in their last match up against Auburn, but come on. Kansas has always been one of the more consistent one seeds, and there can only be so many upsets every year. I'm playing the odds here, and saying that Kansas wins this game. When you really break things down, if Clemson is firing on all cylinders offensively like they did versus Auburn things could get interesting, but I can't remember a time when I've seen them do that two straight games. So Kansas wins. End of story.
West Virginia vs. Villanova:
Villanova, in my opinion, is the best team left in the tournament. I don't think that there is any question about that. Despite that, this game scares me. When making my bracket this game really made me think long and hard. I really like West Virginia this year...and every year...but this more than others. There is something about how they pressure teams defensively that causes good teams to make bad mistakes. I'm going to say that Villanova ends up winning this game, but I think that if West Virginia wins the turnover margin by enough (say 6 or more turnovers fewer than Nova), they could come away with another upset. Like I said about Kansas though, I just have trouble seeing another one seed go down his early in the tournament.
Syracuse vs. Duke:
I think that Syracuse is magical...no, literally. One day, somebody must have cast a spell that said "whenever people think you're having a poor season, just barely make the tournament and then shock the world by beating a ton of good teams." Cuse has now had success against TCU, who was widely picked to beat the Orange, and against MSU, who many thought were a sleeper to win the whole tournament. I had MSU in the Final Four until Syracuse won in their First Four game. I then quickly changed my bracket around, and predicted Cuse would be right here, facing Duke in the Sweet Sixteen. I love the run that they've had, but sadly, I think that it'll come to an end on Friday. Duke is just a better team, and while a lot of great programs struggle against Syracuse's incredible zone defense, a coach like Mike Krzyewski will not have his team unprepared for this match up. I think Duke will be ready, and although there will be moments where they struggle, the Blue Devils will eventually come away with a win. It hurts me to come to that conclusion since I hate Duke, but it's the smart choice.
Texas Tech vs. Purdue:
I love Texas Tech this year. I hate Purdue this year. I can't deny, though, that Purdue has earned their two seed and won a lot of big games. I think that this is the best game of the entire Sweet Sixteen and it should be incredibly close. Honestly, I've swapped back and forth daily between who I think is going to win this game, and today I'm just in a Purdue mood. I'm going to say to take the Boilermakers in this one, but really, go with your gut. Mine seems to be really indecisive with this game so I'm not going to be a huge help. Also, when looking back at my two brackets, I have Purdue winning in one and Tech in the other, so that isn't helping me at all. Go with your gut...wait...wait a second, now my gut says go with Texas Tech. So yeah, trust yourself because clearly I'm not able to make a decisive decision with this one. Sorry. (If you really want to pick based on my decision take Purdue because they've won more big games, but its March so really, how much does that matter right now?)
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. There are always a lot of stories floating around in the NBA, especially this close to the Playoffs. I'm here to tell you which of those stories actually mean something this year, and which you can stop worrying about, since it'll probably have no effect on what happens as the season continues. Make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
Jimmy Butler Tears His Meniscus:
I think that this whole season the Minnesota Timberwolves have been the most underrated team in the NBA. They are currently third in the Western Conference, and as we all know, the West is no joke. The Wolves big three of Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins has been great, but, overshadowed by the super teams above them in the standings. Saying this, I need to point out that although KAT and Wiggins have had good seasons, Butler has really been the force driving this team to where it is right now. Butler was ranked by Bleacher Report (based on metrics) as the sixth best player in the NBA so far this year, and even though he's been under the radar like the rest of his team, Butler is worthy of MVP consideration.
Butler's great performing this year is why this injury is so catastrophic. When watching the injury occur it immediately looks like Butler blew out his ACL or MCL, so a meniscus injury in nowhere near as bad. The first reports to come out after his surgery claimed that he could be out for only four to six weeks. Knee injuries are complicated though, and Tom Thibodeau is a really taxing coach to play for, so I wouldn't be surprised if Butler is out for longer. That being said, the Wolves are clearly in a though position. They could drop a lot in the standings in the coming weeks, or even months. This leaves a big opening for other teams in the West to make a push for home court advantages during the Playoffs. The Wolves could really be in trouble if this happens.
The last thing that makes this story important is that, even when Jimmy G. Buckets does return to the floor, his game could be lacking in aggressiveness which is what got Butler to where he is today. Butler is arguably the best two way player in the game, and coming off of a knee injury means his defense could be lacking, as well as his explosiveness when try to get to the rim on offense.
No Need For Two Towers In NOLA:
Ever since Demarcus Cousins, one of the "twin towers" in the New Orleans Pelicans lineup, has gone down for the season with a torn Achilles, Anthony Davis has shown why he is arguably a top five player in the NBA. The man is averaging 28.2 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, and 2.2 bpg. Ever since Cousins has gone down Davis has stepped up even more, averaging 35.9 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg, and 2.5 spg. His offensive and defensive game has improved, and the Pelicans have made their way to the fifth spot in the West.
The previous story that I said to watch was important because of it opening up the third spot in the West to other teams, and with the Pelicans sitting only two games behind the Wolves I would be surprised if Davis doesn't lead this team up the rankings. Also, with the Spurs in a little bit of a skid (4-6 in their last 10 games) and no Kawhi Leonard for the rest of the season, the Pelicans have a big chance here to capitalize despite the loss of their second best player.
I quickly want to mention that Rajon Rondo is a great player to think about when you think about the Pelicans right now, because despite Anthony Davis pretty much being a one man wrecking crew, NOLA is averaging the second most assists per game in the NBA right now, and that kind of offensive play is what wins games. Rondo, by the way, is consistently leading the team in assists every night, and he looks like a great under the radar move by the Pelicans front office which usually is criticized.
Cavaliers Once Again The Favorites:
I personally hate the Cleveland Cavaliers front office and their owner Dan Gilbert, because they would be nothing if it weren't for LeBron James having been born in Akron, Ohio. LeBron would have left as soon as he could have and would have never looked back. Instead, he felt obligated to return, and now the Cavs have a championship. My distaste for this front office and owner cannot deny the incredible job they did at the trade deadline this year, though. They traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and their own 2018 first-round pick for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. of the Los Angeles Lakers, and then they moved Dwyane Wade to Miami for a protected second-round pick. The Cavs also took part in a three team trade, where George Hill and Rodney Hood went to the Cavaliers, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder went to the Jazz, and Joe Johnson, Iman Shumpert, and a 2020 second-round pick went to Sacramento. These moves blew up almost half of the Cavs roster, but so far it has looked like more than the right move.
The Cavaliers since the trade deadline have played with fluidity and more like a team. There roster was old and focused more on isolation basketball before the trades, while now the three point shot has been falling and the team decided to play defense. Lastly, the viewers of the games can't feel tension through the TV screen, which is what was happening before. LeBron and the rest of the team visibly didn't care, and they spent half of the time glaring at one another without finding any solutions to their problems. It seems that after these trades, the Cleveland front office found the solutions, and the Cavs are once again the best team in the East. They may not finish with the one seed, but I can't see picking anyone else over this team right now. Although the Raptors and Celtics have looked good this year, if the Cavaliers revamped roster keeps their pace we could end up with a fourth straight Cavalier team headed to the NBA Finals.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. I'm here to talk about the Super Bowl today (sorry that it's taken so long for me to get this out), and I'm excited to analyze the biggest takeaways from the game. Also, make sure that you share this article as it helps TTR grow.
Okay, so first of all, I'd like to quickly note that I almost didn't include the first four paragraphs of my Super Bowl preview because I didn't know if many of you would care very much about the coaches on both teams. I am incredibly glad that I did write those sections, because now I can say that I beat everyone else to the chase. All that I've seen this week is how Doug Pederson had the coaching performance of a lifetime, and that it was his aggressive style that led Philadelphia to victory. It's Pederson's coaching style and decisions that made me pick the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, and I feel like I covered almost everything that he did right during the game in my preview (you can go check that out to see what I mean).
Anyways, this Super Bowl was one for the offensive junkies. This game had the most yards from scrimmage in a game in NFL Playoff history, and a game many said would be decided by defense ended up being a dominated by both offenses. The Eagles had a lot of success running the football, with LeGarrette Blount finding the endzone against his former team. Passing the football...lets just say Philly had more than just success. Nick Foles was absolutely incredible, throwing passes fearlessly into tight coverage time and time again, only achieving success due to his perfect ball placement. The man easily deserved Super Bowl MVP. Foles also caught a touchdown pass, although I don't want to dwell on that since everyone else has already beaten that trick play to death with praise (that play by the way is a great example of Pederson's coaching style).
Foles couldn't have had all of that success though without absolutely spectacular play from Alshon Jeffery, who I think deserves more credit than he's receiving. Jeffery came to play, making multiple spectacular catches. He deserves more praise than he's getting.
Zach Ertz also had a great game, catching seven balls for 67 yards and the games final touchdown. I said that New England would either game plan him or the run game out in my prediction, but obviously neither happened in what was the worst showing by the Patriots defense all year.
I feel like the Eagles defense doesn't deserve any of my time since they were disgusting, so I'm going to get straight into Tom Brady. Brady passed for 505 yards and 3 touchdowns, which on paper is by far the best quarterback performance in a Super Bowl. That's why on First Take, my favorite show on ESPN, Stephen A. Smith and Damien Woody both said that Max Kellerman was crazy for saying Tom Brady's performance starting next season is going to "fall off a cliff." I love both Smith and Woody, but they, along with the rest of the majority media, are really stupid sometimes. Honestly, how can football analysts go from saying "the tape doesn't lie" to completely ignoring the tape and looking only at statistics. What I'm getting at is that Tom Brady's tape was gross. He missed a lot of open throws, and the first half was apparently hunting season since he was heaving ducks all over the place. What Brady did have success with was the first two drives of the second half where he basically exclusively threw the ball to Rob Gronkowski (who is always open), throwing his same old dump offs and screen plays, and hitting receivers who had defenders not even within 15 yards of them downfield. Brady's stats are skewed from the number of wide open throws he had downfield, some of which by the way could have gone for touchdowns had he not been throwing so inaccurately.
So here is what I don't understand: How is it that analysis who watch football and report on it for a living can see the same game that I do, watch the same poor throws that I do, and then come back the next day and tell the nation that Tom Brady was, flawless, spectacular, and great out on the field when he clearly wasn't. I'm not trying to take away anything from his impressive performance, because it was impressive, but the lack of time and recognition that these broadcasters give to Brady's issues is astounding to me. By saying that Brady solidified himself as the greatest of all time by LOSING a Super Bowl, and on top of that ignoring the clear flaws in his performance is lying to the viewers. If any other quarterback had lost that Super Bowl despite having the greatest coach of all time on their side (with the exact same performance as Brady), their legacy would have been hurt rather than solidified. By the way, if Aaron Rodgers had missed those throws everybody would be talking about age catching up to him, since they weren't throws he'd missed in the past.
Now that I'm done with Brady, I want to talk about the Patriots dynasty moving forward. There was big news yesterday when Josh McDaniels backed out of the Colts head coaching job to remain with the Patriots, because Matt Patricia is also leaving for a head coaching job with the Lions. This gives the Pats way more stability with the coaching staff moving into next year, and that'll help a lot because of what I'm about to bring up:
The Patriots, multiple years in a row now, have looked old and slow compared to the top teams in the NFL. The best teams these days usually have a young, fast, big play offense with a solid pass rush, or they'll have an elite defense. That Patriots offense struggles when there is pressure on Brady because he collapses and makes poor decision due to his lack of mobility. The Patriots defense, although always in the top half of the league, usually the top ten, has looked slow against newer high paced and speedy offenses. All of this leads me to my point, which is that Brady and Belichick could only have a year left. With Patricia gone for good and McDaniels willing to leave (although he may now stay to take over when Belichick leaves), the Pats are going to lack continuity in the coaching staff, and that leads to worse performance on the field. On top of that, the majority of the Patriots top players are old and close to retirement. New England doesn't have a lot of time left, and although I'd be a fool to rule them out, the Patriots may have just seen their last Super Bowl appearance of this era.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. Today is the day of the Super Bowl, so I'm here to give a quick preview of what I think will be the most important things to watch in this game, and of course, to give my pick. Make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
When you look back at the Patriots last two Super Bowls, the game was not won or lost on the field. I'd argue that both of those games were decided by those on the sidelines--the coaches. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time, and I can't remember once in my life where he has made a mistake. Belichick thrives on opposing coaches making mistakes, and then finding ways to capitalize on that. In Super Bowl XLIX, Pete Carroll made the infamous mistake of calling to pass the football on second and goal from the one yard line, despite having the best power back in the NFL, Marshawn Lynch, on his team. In last years Super Bowl (LI), the Falcons came out in the second half playing aggressive, which is a great coaching decision, but when the game could have been sealed with a dagger field goal, on third down inside of field goal range Kyle Shanahan called a pass play. It resulted in a sack, and a punt on fourth down. Running the football would have taken at least forty seconds of the clock, and basically put the game out of reach for the New England Patriots. Instead, a coaching error lost Atlanta the game.
The most recent example of this is the AFC Championship game, when Jacksonville completely abandoned their short passes, screen plays, and outside runs. Those style of plays are what got the Jags their lead, but then in the second half they turned conservative, running the football almost every first and second down, becoming predictable. Being too conservative and running too much then cost Jacksonville the game.
I know that this seems like it has no correlation to today's Super Bowl, but I think it does. Over the years only one coach has been prepared enough to not make vital mistakes against Bill Belichick, and that's Tom Coughlin. The Eagles head coach, Doug Pederson, reminds me of Coughlin. He's aggressive enough to not fall into the trap of being predictable, and he's smart enough to know when to run the football (last game despite having a lead against the Vikings, Pederson and the Eagles started aggressive in the second half until running the ball when inside of field goal range helped run out the clock). If he can come into this game mentally prepared to not make the same mistakes as the previous coaches have, the Eagles have a real shot to win this game.
I think that the biggest part of Pederson being prepared is that it takes away a large chunk of the "fluke factor." The Patriots have a tendency to get lucky breaks, and usually that comes back to bad coaching. The calls that play right into the Patriots hands and undisciplined playing that leads to bad penalties can be directly correlated to coaching, and those two things are usually what give the Patriots a break. Pete Carroll's call to pass gave the Pats a break; Kyle Shanahan's call to pass gave the Pats a break; the history of bad pass interference penalties (Jalen Ramsey's from the AFC Championship game is a good example) give the Pats a break. Pederson is a good coach though, and I think he's disciplined enough to not make those same mistakes.
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way I can talk about the actual players. For New England, this game is going to be won at the line of scrimmage. That can be said of basically every game, but it is especially important today. Tom Brady completely falls apart when a team consistently gets pressure on him, especially when defenses use the NASCAR package or when they overload the center (I'll talk about this in a moment). If Brady can't make good decisions, which is by the way what makes him such a great quarterback, then the Patriots offense will be in serious trouble. With the defensive line, they need to get pressure on Nick Foles. He's a backup for a reason, and on a big stage like this he could fall apart if he gets hit a lot. Also, the Eagles are going to want to rely on the run game, and the defensive line needs to be able to slow that down if New England is going to win.
This brings me to my last section about New England, which is what Belichick is known best for. When he game plans, he takes away what he sees as the other teams best player and makes you beat them "left handed" per say. For Philly, that means Belichick is either going to stack the box to take away the run game, or he's going to stop Zach Ertz. Ertz was one of the best tight ends in football this year, and he's been a security blanket for Wentz and Foles. In the red zone Ertz is a threat, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pats try and make him ineffective. If Belichick decides to take away the run game though, the game would be on Nick Foles shoulders, and as I said earlier, he's a backup for a reason.
For the Eagles, I think that this game is in the hands of their defensive line, and their three running backs. The defensive line will be working mostly to push the pocket straight up the middle near the center, since pressure up the middle bothers Brady due to his immobility. That style of pressure works well, and since Philly ins't overloaded with speed rushers, we won't see much of the NASCAR package (four defensive ends all lined up to get pressure purely with speed). In the run game, the Eagles need to have a lot of success. New England was 20th in rushing yards allowed per game this year, and the Eagles need to exploit that to keep the pressure off of Nick Foles. Ajayi is a good lead back, Blount should see a lot of work in the red zone, and Clement is a great receiving threat out of the backfield. I'd actually like to see Clement a lot today, because he can be a threat to pick up yards out of the backfield by catching the ball in the flats (basically what New England does all of the time). If these three backs can carry the offense, Foles won't have too much to worry about.
After everything that I've just said, I now need to get something off of my chest. I said before the NFC Championship game that the Eagles would win because Case Keenum had been playing really well lately, and he was bound to finally have a bad game on a big stage. He's been a backup for a reason. Nick Foles just played one of the best games of his career two weeks ago, and has been lights out these Playoffs. I've said it multiple times already in this article--He's a backup for a reason. With that said, I'm taking:
New England Patriots: 24
Philadelphia Eagles: 27
Just so you know, I'm currently laughing since you probably though I said all of that to lead up to me picking the Patriots. I'm taking the Eagles because the Patriots defense, although it definitely isn't a joke and they've been good since about Week 6, isn't an elite group. The Eagles defense, Vikings defense, and Jaguars defense were all elite and that's why they made it to the Championship round. The Pats are going to have some issues against the Eagles offensively, and if Doug Pederson doesn't make the mistakes of his predecessors, this defense can keep New England under 25. That opens things up for a solid Eagles offense against a solid defense, where the match up could go either way. Anyways, I think that some people are forgetting how hard it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions, although if anyone is going to do that again it would be the greatest coach of all time and his beloved quarterback.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. I've been gone for about a week due to a lot of work at school, but the past couple of days have been insane. I'm going to spend a little time today breaking down the trade of Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons, and the trade of Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. Make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
To Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin
To Los Angeles Clippers: Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, 1st Round Draft Pick
A lot of people overreact when big name players are traded for what looks to be a bag of potato chips, and although I spent three days this summer trashing the Jimmy Butler trade, this is not a situation to freak out about. Jimmy Butler is a top 10 player in the NBA; Blake Griffin was top 15 at his best, which was four years ago. That's why I was not on board with what the Bulls got in return for Butler, because none of what they got, in my eyes, has the potential of being that good. Blake Griffin right now is borderline top 20, and he can't even stay healthy. For a Clippers team that looks to have no future, blowing things up seems like the right idea. When you look at the pieces that the Clippers got in return, they gained Tobias Harris, a talented big man of the same position as Blake Griffin, and he's about 5 years younger. They also got Avery Bradley, who is a valuable trade asset if the Clippers try and move on from DeAndre Jordan before the trade deadline. The Clippers also got a first round draft pick, which is obviously important for a team that looks to be heading for a rebuild.
For the Detroit Pistons, I think that this trade makes some sense. Teams need to take risks in order to become great, and acquiring Griffin is a risk. I already mentioned that Griffin is not as good as he used to be, and he struggles with injuries, but this move gives Detroit one of the best big man duos in the NBA. That could help them dominate, and puts them really only one or two pieces away from being a contender in the Eastern Conference. Also, the acquisition of Griffin makes Detroit more of a free agent destination, and with the possibility of LeBron James leaving the Cavs soon, Detroit could end up being one of the top in the East.
Overall I think that the L.A.C. won this trade because I'm not a huge fan of Blake Griffin right now, because I don't think he is consistent enough to be considered a top caliber star. Like I said earlier though, this move is a risk, and if it pays off this trade will end up looking like a major W for Detroit.
To Washington Redskins: Alex Smith
To Kansas City Chiefs: Kendall Fuller, 2nd Round Pick
This trade completely turns the quarterback market upside down this off season (I can write more on this later on if that' something you guys would like). The Washington Redskins basically said that after years of franchise tagging Kirk Cousins, they still didn't trust him and couldn't justify paying him a big contract. That led them to go get Alex Smith who just had one of the best years of his career. The Redskins were willing to pay Smith though, as they immediately signed him to a four year $94 million extension. Anyways, concerning just the two sides of this trade, I have to give Kansas City some props here. They already knew that they wanted to start Patrick Mahomes this upcoming season, and they were able to get a draft choice and an up and coming cornerback (who I really like) in return for their old QB. They get a thumbs up from me.
The Redskins side of things I'm a little more concerned about. They just traded for an older QB than what they had rights to in Kirk Cousins, and Smiths production was close to Cousins when he had way more weapons around him. The lack of talent on the Washington offense is a cause for concern for me, and I think that's going to cause regression for Smith, and make him not worth his enormous contract. He is still obviously a way better option that most quarterbacks that the NFL has to offer, so I'm not trashing their side of the deal. I'm just saying that they have some cause for concern.
Overall I was very surprised by this deal, and I think its affects on the rest of the QB market and QB draft stock is going to be interesting. I'll try and get an article on that out as soon as I can, since it is a really interesting topic. For now though, I want to leave you with something that'll make you smile: The Browns tried to trade for Alex Smith but couldn't finalize a deal before the Redskins swooped in and completed one with Kansas City instead. I know...Cleveland is a mess.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. I have almost no time today because I’m in the middle of midterms at school and I have a basketball game, so I can’t elaborate on my picks. I just wanted to put them out there though so I can explain why tomorrow, as well as react to the games. Also, make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
New England Patriots: 24
Jacksonville Jaguars: 20
Quick Reasoning: I think the Jaguars will have success against the Patriots early, especially running the football, but when you’re facing Bill Belicheck, there are going to be a lot of halftime adjustments. That should slow the Jacksonville offense, and give the Pats enough to go to their second straight Super Bowl.
Philadelphia Eagles: 23
Minnesota Vikings: 17
Quick Reasoning: Home field advantage does a lot for a team, and Philly’s defense will make use of the crowd noise. Also, Case Keenum has been playing really well lately, and he’s bound to make a big mistake sooner rather than later. On the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles this will be a tough game but I think the run game will be okay, and Nick Foles will play better than Keenum.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. Today I'm going to be analyzing the four games from this weekend in the NFL Playoffs, and giving what I think are the biggest takeaways. It was a crazy week of action, so there are a lot of things I want to go over. Also, just quickly before I start, I wanted to let everyone know I'll be posting more often and on my normal schedule from now on, and that I had to take an absence due to my holiday break, and then a very busy couple of weeks in school (exams are this week but I'll have time to write). Thanks for sticking with me, and make sure to share this article since it helps TTR grow.
Philadelphia Eagles (15) - Atlanta Falcons (10):
I feel like the story of this game was quite simple--the Falcons offense didn't show up. To be honest, I think that has been the story of their season. Ever since Kyle Shanahan left to become the 49ers head coach, this offense has fallen apart. Steve Sarkisian, the current coordinator, has relied on the run game all season, which I think is a smart move. They have two great backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. What I found to be ridiculous, though, is that heading into this game the Falcons knew they were facing the number five rushing defense in the NFL, but they made little to no adjustments. They came out running straight at Fletcher Cox, the second best defensive tackle in football this year, and the anchor of the Philly defense. Instead of attacking the flats in the passing game with wheel routes and screen plays, or running stretch and pitch plays to run away from Cox, they played right into his hands, as he ended with 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 7 total tackles. This inability to rush the football (Devonta Freeman, their number one back, had 10 carries for 7 yards) led to the Falcons ball control style (they ended the year with more time of possession then their opponents) to fail, and Philly's defense won this game.
On the Eagles side of things, this game was the defense proving to everybody that they can carry this team. Ever since Carson Wentz went down for the year with an ACL tear and Nick Foles replaced him, nobody believed the Eagles would win a Playoff game. This weekend their third ranked defense proved to everybody they can shut down some of the better offenses in the NFL. On the offensive side of things, there are some concerns though. Nick Foles looked shaky pretty much all game long, and he missed a sizable amount of open throws. Rushing the football, the team only averaged 3.0 yards per carry, although watching the game both Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount had punishing runs in which they picked up huge yards after contact. If the Eagles can rush the ball more effectively, and the defense continues to get to opposing quarterbacks (they had 3 sacks and 11 QB hits this week) they can continue their Playoff run.
New England Patriots (35) - Tennessee Titans (14):
I can't say that I'm surprised by the outcome of this game. I also can't say I'm surprised that the game would have been much closer if it weren't for bad officiating in favor of New England. The Titans had a 7-0 lead to end the first quarter, and they were pretty much executing how they had to in order to win--run the football, chew clock, don't let the Patriots get huge yards after the catch on their short throws. Then, after New England tied the ball game up, on a 3rd and 4 for the Titans, who were moving the ball with ease on the Pats defense, a pass to Eric Decker that picked up another first down was called back for offensive pass interference. Tony Romo, who was calling the game, spent the rest of the game highlighting how poor of a call it was, and the ramifications it had. Tennessee then had to punt the ball, giving New England great field position (they got the ball at the 47 yard line). New England went on to score, giving them a 14-7 lead. The next possession the Titans moved the ball well, but had to punt around mid field, pinning New England back at their own 9. The Pats then went on to go 3 and out, but when they punted the ball, the play was blown dead, due to a false start on the New England center. The refs then huddled, and changed the call to encroachment of Tennessee giving the Patriots an automatic first down. The replay showed that the Titans never crossed the line of scrimmage, and the Pats were guilty of a false start. New England went on to score a touchdown on that drive, pretty much ending the game for the Titans, as they were in a 21-7 hole. The refs basically spotted the Pats 14 points, and it completely changed the course of the game.
I'd like to say that I still expected the Patriots to win that game, because being down 7-0 isn't a death sentence. What I can say, though, is that the Eric Decker pass interference penalty was a death sentence to the Titans momentum, as they were poised to score at least 3 on that drive. Also, the encroachment penalty giving the Pats the ball back and another 7 points was a death sentence to the Titans entire game plan of playing ball control offense with a lead.
I hate the officials when the Patriots are playing.
Jacksonville Jaguars (45) - Pittsburgh Steelers (42):
Wow. Just...wow. I want to start by talking about the Steelers quickly, and then I'll get into the Jaguars. First off, this team needs some credit for not quitting. They fell into a 21-0 hole, and kept clawing their way back into the game. Two insane fourth down touchdown plays (36 yard pass to Martavis Bryant and a 43 yard pass to Antonio Brown) highlight the high powered fight from the Steelers offense. What needs to be said about the offense, though, is that they didn't show up at the beginning of the game. Their first three drives were a 3 and out, 3 plays and an interception, and then a turnover on downs. That did not help their defense which struggled all day. Speaking of the defense, people need to understand the impact of Ryan Shazier. Everything that the Jaguars had success with--mostly short passes to the flats and running the ball--was what Ryan Shazier was great at taking away. Without him this defense was pathetic and unable to stop the Jags. Finally, I need to mention Mike Tomlin. His "players coach" style backfired this weekend. He clearly wasn't strict enough with his players, as Pittsburgh was clearly already looking ahead to New England and not focused on their match up with Jacksonville. Also, his play calling decisions on their two fourth down and inches plays were horrendous. The first they ran a pitch to the right side, basically trying to outrun the fastest defense in the NFL. It went for a loss of four yards. The next try they ran a play action pass play to hit Juju Smith-Schuster deep. The play was perfectly covered, and it was incomplete. When you have a 6' 5'' 241 pound quarterback I would suggest running a quarterback sneak. Tom Brady has a tenth of the toughness Big Ben does, and he runs a QB sneak every time the Pats only need a yard. Lastly for Tomlin, with over two minutes left in the game, down 7, he elected to go for an onside kick rather than kick off, use timeouts (they had all three left) and the two minute warning to stop the clock and try and force a punt. I understand that the defense had not been playing well, but they would have been putting the Jaguars in a must run situation, so the defense could have just stacked the box. The choice to go on sides gave the Jags the ball in great field position, and they kicked a field goal to ice the game. Tomlin is to blame for the awful late game management.
Now that I'm done bashing the Steelers, which is where most people have been ending their evaluations, I want to give the Jaguars credit. Their offense was spectacular. Leonard Fournette had 109 yards and 3 TDs, giving the team the lift they needed on the ground, and Blake Bortles made throws to win the game when he had to. At the end of the game he hit rookie receiver Keenan Cole with a strike 45 yards down the field to set them up at the Pittsburgh 3 yard line. He played well yesterday, and if he can keep that up, the Jaguars have a really good chance to win again. For the defense, I don't know what to say. They played incredibly well except for a couple huge plays made by some of the best talent in the NFL in Antonio Brown, Leveon Bell, and Ben Roethlisberger. Those plays are what made the score so high, but when you watch the tape the Steelers were uncomfortable all game long, and they were forced to turn the ball over. This team deserves a pat on the back.
Minnesota Vikings (29) - New Orleans Saints (24):
This was the best game of the entire postseason. I just don't see how anything can top the ending. It was the first ever walk off in NFL Playoff history. I'm just speechless. I'll ignore the ending for awhile though, and start by talking about the Saints. They looked average in the first half of this game, letting the Vikings defense shut out the offense. The Saints defense, due to the offensive struggles, was on the field too long and let up 17 points. That wasn't the interesting part of the game though. In the second half the Saints stormed back, scoring 14 straight points (both were touchdown passes to Michael Thomas). Then, the Vikings offense got back on track, putting up a field goal on the next possession, making it a 20-14 game. New Orleans would go on to score another touchdown, see Minnesota score a field goal, and then the Saints would kick a field goal of their own, making it 24-23. Then the last play happened. Ignoring the insanity that was a walk off touchdown to Stefon Diggs as time expired, I'd like to say that this Saints offense may have seemed like itself in the second half, but it wasn't. This team was built around the run all season, with two running backs in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara who had over 1500 yards from scrimmage each. It was not a team carried by Drew Brees. Yesterday (and in their previous Playoff game) Drew Brees carried them. The team only had 80 rushing yards on 3.3 yards per carry, which is almost awful. Brees on the other hand, threw for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns (he had two picks but one wasn't his fault). Brees single handedly brought this team back into the game after a horrendous first half, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. That style of play isn't how the Saints have found success this year though, and I think people are overlooking that aspect of the game.
On the Vikings end of things, they played a great game on both sides of the ball in the first half, and then sort of fell off in the third quarter. The defense was solid though, especially in stopping the run. They had the third ranked run defense in the league, and they showed it against the best running back tandem in the NFL. The pass defense was good as well, with 8 passes defensed and 2 interceptions. This defense has been and should be able to carry the Vikings further in the Playoffs. Offensively, Case Keenum played a solid game with 318 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. The biggest play of the game was obviously that final play, which I'll talk about briefly now. Keenum deserves a lot of credit for that throw although he hasn't been receiving much. He placed it perfectly along the sideline, allowing Stefon Diggs to make the catch and have the option to step out of bounds and set up a game winning field goal try. If it weren't for Marcus Williams missed tackle on Diggs which allowed him to walk untouched into the endzone to end the game, that is what would have happened--Kai Forbath would have had to try and win the game on a field goal attempt with about 4 seconds left.
I want to quickly say something about the notion that the Vikings got lucky and would have definitely lost the game. Like I said earlier, Keenum placed the ball perfectly so that even if a tackle had been made on Diggs, there's an 80% chance he would have gone out of bounds. That would have set up about a 50 yard field goal try, which is most definitely makeable. Either way, the game came down to the wire if the Saints had won they would have earned it just as much as the Vikings did.
High School Senior from Connecticut obsessed with sports stats, facts, and management.