Rudy Gobert vs. Nikola Jokic: Who’s a Better Player?

Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic are (or should be) household names and star centers in the basketball world. Jokic is known for his flashy passes and triple-double tendencies, while Gobert has been dubbed the “Stifle Tower” because of his shot-blocking prowess. These players are difficult to compare, but let’s take a stab at it. 

Gobert and Jokic will be compared based on the following criteria, with stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference:

  • Scoring
  • Passing
  • Rebounding
  • Defense
  • Overall

Scoring

Looking at the basic box score numbers does not do justice to this comparison. In 2017, Jokic averaged 16.7 points per game on 27.9 minutes per contest. Gobert’s figures were 14.0 and 33.9, respectively. With just a few games left in the 2018 regular season, Jokic’s PPG total has increased to 18.2 in 32.2 MPG. Although he’s missed 26 of Utah’s contests this year, 53 games played is plenty large enough of a sample size for Gobert. In those games, the 25-year-old is averaging 13.7 PPG in 32.6 MPG. Raw numbers give the PPG advantage to Jokic. But where do the points come from?

Gobert’s field goal percentage (62.7%) catches the eye and looks great, which it is. The downside to this number is that Gobert does not have much of a post-up game and has attempted zero three-pointers in 2018. Let that sink in. In the modern NBA, full of centers attempting (and knocking down) large amounts of threes, Rudy Gobert has not shot a single one in 53 games. At this point in his (still young) career, the majority of Gobert’s points will come from plays like this which, if you ask me, is more than fine:

Jokic, on the other hand, can do pretty much everything in terms of scoring the ball. Shooting an efficient 49.8% from the field and an even more impressive 39.3% mark from deep, Jokic’s bread and butter is … well, putting the ball in the basket. Need him to post up? No problem:

Need a three? Not a problem:

Create his own shot by driving to the rim? You got it:

You get the drift. Yes, Rudy Gobert has the potential to develop a post/face-up game and become a 16-18 PPG player, but that’s about it. Jokic is just scratching the surface scoring-wise.

Advantage: Jokic

Passing

This is going to be brief. Rudy Gobert averages 1.2 assists per game for his career. That figure isn’t much improved in 2018 at 1.4 APG. He simply doesn’t have the ball in his hands enough (16.6% usage rate, 64th among NBA centers) nor the skillset necessary to be a good passer. Passing likely won’t ever be a major part of Gobert’s game.

On the flip side, Jokic’s game is highly dependent upon his strong passing skills. Watch the video below if you need proof.

Jokic leads all centers with 6.0 APG. He can run the fastbreak, pass from the post, drop no-look dimes and everything in between. If you watched the video, you’ll see that this category is not even close to a contest.

Advantage: Jokic

Rebounding

Close call here. The box score says point: Gobert. The French center averaged 11.0 rebounds per game in 2015, 12.8 RPG last season and is bringing down 10.9 boards per contest in 2018. Jokic has seen his RPG averages increase from 7.0 to 9.8, then to 10.6 in that three-year span.

In 2016-17, Gobert and Jokic finished 7th and 11th, respectively in rebound percentage. The race is even tighter this season, with Gobert currently ranked 20th and Jokic not far behind him at 22nd. With all of this in mind, we’ve got a winner (although it’s becoming a tight race).

Advantage: Gobert

Defense

Box score says huge advantage: Gobert. Averaging over two blocks per game in each of the past four seasons, Gobert is one of the best defenders in the entire league. Jokic has yet to average a full block per game at any point in his career. Jokic narrowly edges Gobert in the steals department (1.2 SPG vs. 0.8 SPG), but the difference in blocks is way too large to ignore. What about the advanced stats – the good stuff?

Let’s start with last season’s numbers. Among centers who averaged at least 20 MPG and played in at least 20 games in 2016-17, Gobert finished 4th in the league in defensive rating and first in defensive win shares. Jokic? 56th and 53rd. That discrepancy between those figures is insane. Did things get better this year? If you squint and turn your head sideways, you could see it.

Despite having played just 53 games this year, Gobert currently leads all centers in defensive rating and defensive win shares (using the parameters listed above). Jokic still remains very far behind at 49th and 37th, respectively. The numbers speak for themselves, and Gobert completely blows Jokic out of the water when it comes to defense.

Advantage: Gobert

Overall

Rudy Gobert’s strengths are overall defense, shot-blocking, rebounding and efficiently scoring in the paint. His weaknesses are scoring outside of the paint and passing, which are legitimate concerns. However, it appears that he fits perfectly into the defense-heavy culture Quin Snyder has instilled in Utah. Over time, Gobert’s offensive repertoire could expand a bit and he could become a good contributor on that end.

Nikola Jokic has no weaknesses on offense. He is at or near the top among all centers in passing, running the fastbreak and shooting the three ball. His inside game is also a huge threat. On defense, though, he’s still atrocious. This glaring weakness doesn’t appear to be a huge obstacle in Denver but until he can improve on that end of the ball, Jokic’s ceiling is somewhat limited. In all, he’s still a great player and at the age of 23, there is plenty of time left for him to turn it around on defense.

The Verdict

As mentioned earlier in the article, it’s very hard to compare these polar opposites. Nikola Jokic is a great player to have in an offense that needs a scorer and distributor. His defensive shortcomings would have to be masked by his teammates, though. Rudy Gobert fits perfectly into a defense-heavy system, much like the one he’s in right now. Other offenses with scorers already in place would welcome one of the best defenders in the NBA with open arms.

Ultimately if I had to pick one of these players to put on my team, I’d pick Gobert. It’s a closer call than I thought it’d be before doing research, but a player who can dominate on the boards, force the opposition to completely alter its offensive gameplan and still manage to chip in ~14 PPG is a guy I want on my team. At his peak, Gobert could be a 16+ PPG, 13 RPG, 3 BPG monster.

With that said, the sky is the limit for Nikola Jokic if he can improve on the defensive end. He’s shown a tiny glimpse of hope in that regard and when considering he won’t turn 24 until February of next year, the best is undoubtedly ahead for the Serbian big. He could very well end up making me look silly for giving Gobert the slight edge overall. For now:

Final Pick: Gobert

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NBA Bold Predictions: Last Quarter of the Regular Season

With ~20 games left in the NBA regular season for each team, the season seems to be going by faster by the day. Let’s take a break from the present- at least until the end of this article – and predict the future of the league.

What a ride it’s been. From the Boston Celtics’ amazing start to the Los Angeles Lakers’ recent surge, there has been plenty to talk about this season. For every occurrence that has been predictable (Boston leveling out, GS getting complacent, Suns struggling to win games), there has been an unexpected turn to match it. With all of this in mind, I have a few bold predictions for the remainder of the regular season. Enough premise – let’s take a look!

The Utah Jazz will make the playoffs

Seeds 3-10 in the Western Conference are currently separated by four games. That’s it, four. Whether you take it as nerve-wracking or amazing, it’s entertaining nonetheless. Your favorite team could be the 3-seed this week and by the end of the season could be completely out of the playoff picture. With that said, I believe the Utah Jazz will continue their recent hot stretch and dethrone either the New Orleans Pelicans or Denver Nuggets for a playoff spot.

In the 19 games since Rudy Gobert‘s return on January 19, Utah is 15-4. Although the Pelicans and Nuggets are 13-5 and 12-6, respectively over the same stretch, there are a few factors that come into play. First and foremost, having Gobert back and playing with rookie Donovan Mitchell is huge for the Jazz. Inserting one of the best defensive players in the league back into your lineup never hurts a playoff push.

Secondly, remaining strength of schedule plays a large role in this prediction. While Utah has the 22nd-hardest remaining schedule, Denver has the 16th-hardest and New Orleans’ remaining SOS is the 8th-hardest in the league. Utah is the hottest team of these three and has the easiest schedule moving forward. This prediction was a no-brainer.

The Eastern Conference playoff teams are set

If the season ended today, your Eastern Conference playoff picture would be as follows:

  1. Toronto Raptors (45-17) –
  2. Boston Celtics (44-20) 2.0 GB
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers (36-26) 9.0 GB
  4. Indiana Pacers (36-27) 9.5 GB
  5. Washington Wizards (36-28) 10.0 GB
  6. Philadelphia 76ers (34-28) 11.0 GB
  7. Milwaukee Bucks (34-29) 11.5 GB
  8. Miami Heat (33-30) 12.5 GB

Less than 5 games out: Detroit Pistons (29-34)

The order will likely change (Indiana should drop and Washington, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee should rise), but the eight teams currently in the playoff picture will still be there once the season ends. Despite the Charlotte Hornets’ recent five-game winning streak, they’ve followed it up with what is currently a three-game losing streak. Close to .500 isn’t completely out of the question, but the playoffs just aren’t in the cards for the Hornets.

Detroit is the only non-playoff team that could make a late-season push in the Eastern Conference. Including Blake Griffin‘s debut on February 1, the Pistons are 9-5 in their last 14 games. On the surface that looks good, right? When factoring in a 2-8 stretch in the last 10 games, it’s not that promising. Detroit simply isn’t talented enough outside of Griffin and his frontcourt partner Andre Drummond in order to make a run down the stretch. What exists now will still be there when the regular season ends for the East.

Lonzo Ball’s recent stretch is not a fluke

Here is Lonzo Ball‘s season stat line:

  • 10.4 PPG
  • 7.1 RPG
  • 7.1 APG
  • 36.9% FG
  • 33.6% 3P

Pedestrian at best, right? Especially when you look at those field goal and three-point percentages. Let’s compare those stats to Ball’s last 15 games:

  • 13.3 PPG
  • 7.5 RPG
  • 7.1 APG
  • 44.8% FG
  • 44.4% 3P

Those numbers look a lot better. Not only has ball averaged three more points and nearly half a rebound more per game, but his efficiency both from the field and from deep have drastically improved. Is he a beneficiary of luck, health or finally adjusting to the NBA? I’m going to take the latter two.

Lonzo Ball is legit. His rebounding, passing ability, and basketball IQ have never been questions. His length has always set him up to collect blocks and steals. The only problem has been his ability to put the ball in the basket. Now that he’s finally doing that (at a very efficient rate), the game is beginning to slow down for Ball. Think of it as a reverse rookie wall. Ball’s adjustment period came right when the season began, now he’s acclimated to the league. Not only is Ball improving, but so is the rest of his team.

Final Thoughts

It’s been one heck of an NBA season. There have been tons of surprises, both good and bad. The landscape of the league could change completely come April, but I predict three things will be certain: the Utah Jazz will be in the playoffs, no new Eastern Conference teams will sneak into a playoff spot, and Lonzo Ball’s improvement is legitimate. Here’s to a great final month-or-so of the regular season!

Want to talk NFL, NBA, MLB or anything of the sort? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @TheBestFooteFWD!

Victor Oladipo and Kyrie Irving Aren’t That Different

Both Kyrie Irving and Victor Oladipo are experiencing fantastic seasons, setting their respective teams up for playoff runs in a few months. The common consensus among NBA fans is that Irving is at least one tier above Oladipo (perhaps two). Are the players really that far apart, though? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Kyrie Irving is a phenomenal talent. The same goes for Victor Oladipo. If the NBA season ended today, Irving’s Celtics would be the two seed in the Eastern Conference and Oladipo’s Pacers would be the five seed. Both players are crucial to the success of their teams. In their first year away from the shadows of superior players, Irving and Oladipo have emerged as leaders. What a difference a year makes. Or, does it? Let’s compare Irving and Oladipo a year ago.

By the numbers:

2016-17 Oladipo Irving Advantage Difference
PPG 15.9 25.2 Irving 9.3
RPG 4.3 3.2 Oladipo 1.1
APG 2.6 5.8 Irving 3.2
STL 1.2 1.2 Even 0
BLK 0.3 0.3 Even 0
FG% 44.2% 47.3% Irving 3.1%
3P% 36.1% 40.1% Irving 4.0%
Defensive WS 11th NBA 168th NBA Oladipo 157 spots

Kyrie Irving’s offensive game was just head and shoulders above that of Victor Oladipo last season. Whether or not we can attribute some (or most) of Oladipo’s shortcomings to playing with Russell Westbrook remains to be seen. Nonetheless, Irving was the superior offensive player in 2016-17. He averaged 9.3 more points per game than Oladipo and recorded just over three more assists per contest than Oladpio as well. Irving also gets a decent edge in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage. His offensive game was amazing.

Defense is where Oladipo was better than Irving a year ago. Long known as a promising and willing defender finishing 11th in the league, in defensive win shares was no surprise. For Irving, who was known as a decent defender when he tried, 168th was a bit of a surprise. Not a pleasant one, but still a surprise nonetheless.

It’s not difficult to see Irving was still a much better player than Oladipo in 2016-17. Although it’s odd their steal and block averages were identical, that’s about it. All of that changed when Irving was traded to Boston and Oladipo was shipped to Indiana.

2017-18 Oladipo Irving Advantage Difference
PPG 24.4 24.7 Irving 0.3
RPG 5.3 3.6 Oladipo 1.7
APG 4.1 5.0 Irving 0.9
STL 2.1 1.1 Oladipo 1.0
BLK 0.8 0.3 Oladipo 0.5
FG% 48.4% 48.6% Irving 0.2%
3P% 38.1% 39.7% Irving 1.6%
Defensive WS 17th NBA 33rd NBA Oladipo 16 spots

These numbers are much closer. Not only did Oladipo close the gap in points and assists to less than one per game, but he also widened his rebound lead over Irving. He left Irving in the dust in steals and blocks. Even the field goal percentages are nearly identical. This isn’t due to Irving regressing, because he hasn’t (perhaps ever so slightly). These numbers are on the chart because of the breakout of Victor Oladipo. Being the leader of a team has helped him tap into the immense potential he flashed when he was drafted second overall in the 2013 NBA draft.

To the credit of Irving, though, his defensive metrics have vastly improved. He’s not just a respectable defender now, but a good one. Oladipo remains among the top defensive guards in the NBA but due to his offensive numbers skyrocketing, he deserves this comparison. What does this mean, though?

Why does it matter?

The latest edition of NBA.com’s KIA MVP Ladder features Kyrie Irving occupying the sixth spot on the list. Is it fair to rank Irving ahead of the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler? Most likely. Giannis Antetokounmpo? Debatable. The only issue with the list is: where is Victor Oladipo? Averaging nearly the same exact stats as Irving and leading a subpar supporting cast to a 33-25 start should be deserving of at least a spot on the list’s “and five more” section.

I’m not here to tell you Victor Oladipo is better than Kyrie Irving. I’m not here to tell you they’re the same player. I just wanted to point out that last year, Oladipo vs. Irving wasn’t remotely close to being a debate. If both players finish this season on their respective trajectories, though, it’s time to entertain the idea of a conversation. The league’s most-improved player has improved more than enough to gain top-15 MVP consideration – it’s time he receives the recognition he deserves.

 

Cavaliers vs. Celtics Reaction: Are the New-Look Cavs Legit?

On Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Isaiah Thomas and their own 2018 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. They then completed a three-team trade with the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings – acquiring Rodney Hood and George Hill in the process. How did the moves pan out on Sunday?

It appears as if LeBron James finally received the help he needs, at least for one game. I’ll let Nick Wright summarize it:

Many of you are thinking “Why would a LeBron homer not say this?” Well, you’d be right. On the other hand, though, the Cavaliers looked very good against the Celtics. James, who posted a stat line of 24 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, had this to say following the game:

“The attention to detail tonight was at an all-time high for the first time this season… We got some players that can go out and get their own, that’s pretty smart, and they picked it up like they’ve been here all year.”

This is a pleasant sight if you’re a Cleveland fan. Not only did the new-look Cavaliers manage to drop 121 points on the Celtics, but they did so while holding Kyrie Irving’s squad to 99 points. Any time you win by 22 in an NBA game, you’re making a statement. LeBron wasn’t the only player who played well Sunday, though.

George Hill, acquired from the Sacramento Kings, pitched in 12 points and three rebounds in 21 minutes of work. He appears to be a LeBron-friendly point guard: someone who spaces the floor, can shoot and is a very solid defender.

Jordan Clarkson scored 17 points in 23 minutes on 7/11 shooting, including going 3/4 from behind the arc. He demands the ball a bit more than is ideal but off the bench, he’ll be a great scoring option for the team moving forward. He won’t need LeBron on the floor at all times as he’s great at creating his own shot.

Rodney Hood scored 15 points in 19 minutes on Sunday. Shooting 39% from deep on the season, Hood has developed into a sharpshooter. Much like Clarkson, he can handle the ball and create his own shot with little issue.

Larry Nance Jr. did a little bit of everything, adding five points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal to the box score off the bench. Nance isn’t a very talented player and isn’t going to see as much playing time as his counterparts but he’s a long athletic big that can get to the rim with little problem. His potential should be maximized any time he’s on the court at the same time as LeBron.

Overall, this team just looked better than the prior version. The youth movement in Cleveland worked (for a game). Surrounding LeBron with players who can shoot and want to defend makes for a lethal squad.

What does this mean for Boston?

The Celtics just had a rough game in general. Kyrie Irving was only able to contribute 18 points. Terry Rozier was the team’s leading scorer. The odds likely aren’t in your favor if that’s the case. Is the season over for the Celtics? Absolutely not. One contest during an 82-game season does not define the entire year. Boston was the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference before Thursday’s trade deadline. With that said, it appears as if that’s no longer the case.

Had Cleveland not made any moves at the trade deadline, the team would likely still have figured things out in time to make a run in the postseason. With the addition-by-subtraction and injected youth/three-point shooting, this team is dangerous. LeBron James looked happy for the first time in weeks. George Hill seemed interested in basketball for the first time all season. Young players such as Clarkson, Hood and Nance will benefit from having a veteran like James at their access 24/7. Things are looking up for the Cavs.

Like I previously mentioned, the season isn’t over yet and this is just one of many games left on the schedule. Is it possible the Celtics just had an off game? Absolutely. Could the Cavaliers fall apart again? Absolutely. These are just some observations from the game I saw yesterday. I saw a team that looked genuinely interested in playing for the first time in 2018 and I saw another team that couldn’t do anything to stop the momentum from swinging the other way. It’s bound to be an interesting finish in what is now (again) a crazy Eastern Conference.

An Open Letter to Alex Smith + What’s Next for KC and WAS

Kendall Fuller had an interesting evening. He went from denying him being traded, to potentially accepting it, to fully accepting it in a matter of a few hours. This series of tweets likely described everyone’s emotions surrounding all of the NFL drama on Tuesday. It started with this:

Then it progressed to this:

Then, this:

Finally, this:

All in the span of a few hours. The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to trade QB Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins in exchange for a third-round pick and slot CB Kendall Fuller. None of this is official until the new league year begins on March 14, but it has been agreed to. One more tweet to give some background information about Fuller:

It seems as if Washington gave up a lot for Alex Smith, including money. Smith and the Redskins have agreed to a four-year, $94 million contract extension (with $71 million of it guaranteed). Smith’s new average annual value of his contract is sixth in the entire NFL. To say he got a healthy payday would be an understatement. The Redskins thought paying a 33-year-old quarterback for this season, then extending his contract for four more and adding plenty of money was a good idea, which we won’t be certain of until the next few seasons unfold.

What does it mean for Washington?

  • The Redskins have officially moved on from Kirk Cousins, whose ~$30 million per year asking price was too much for the front office to agree to.
  • Barring injury/a trade, Alex Smith will be the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins until he’s 38 years old. He will likely end his career a Redskin.
  • Washington will be without its stud young corner, Kendall Fuller. His film looked very good and he graded out as one of the best corners in the league last season, so the team will definitely miss him.
  • The third-round pick is not a huge loss but then again, Fuller was drafted in that same round.

What does it mean for Kansas City?

  • Looking at the trade on the surface, it’s not hard to tell Kansas City won this trade. The team traded up for Patrick Mahomes II in the 2017 draft for a reason. Alex Smith enjoyed a tremendous season (the best of his career), but it’s hard to carry a QB with a cap hit of ~$17 million and the guy you traded up in the draft for as a future replacement. The Mahomes era in Kansas City is officially here.
  • The Chiefs’ secondary made a huge upgrade. Kendall Fuller is better than any corner on the roster not named Marcus Peters. Whether Fuller plays in the slot or the Chiefs try to move him to the CB2 spot, he’s going to make his presence felt.
  • Kansas City has cap flexibility. Getting rid of Smith’s contract and considering Fuller is on his rookie deal, the Chiefs gained about $16 million in cap room. That’s huge.
  • A third-round pick is a bonus. Not huge, but there will be talented players for the Chiefs to take in the third round of the draft.

With all of this said, as a life-long Chiefs fan, I owe Alexander Douglas Smith the most sincere “thank you.” You brought the Chiefs back from QB purgatory and being a laughing stock of a franchise and made them a playoff team in your first season with the team. To make the playoffs in four out five years is extremely difficult, but you did it. You were the best quarterback in football this season. Thank you for everything you’ve done. The NFL has never appreciated you enough. I wish you nothing but the best in Washington.

For every play you kept alive:

For every time you took off and used your (criminally) underrated athleticism to break off a huge run:

For all the times you proved your “deep ball myth” wrong:

https://twitter.com/HerbMcDerb/status/905986652262293504

For every time you made a play to win the game. For every time you proved anyone wrong. For every single day you were a professional and a class act. Thank you.

For every playoff mishap, you’re forgiven. For every mishap in general, you’re forgiven. You gave Kansas City something they hadn’t had in years and for that, you’re respected and appreciated. Thank you.

 

Aftermath: AFC + NFC Championship Reaction and Analysis

Another Sunday is in the books and we now know exactly what two teams will be participating in the Super Bowl. The AFC Championship game was one for the ages while the NFC Championship’s outcome seemed to be determined halfway through the game. Nonetheless, these two games summed up the entire NFL season thus far: fun and completely unpredictable.

New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Final Score: 24-20, Patriots.

What went right: Lots went right in this game for both teams. Before the game, if you were to tell me Blake Bortles would complete 23 of 36 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown, I wouldn’t believe you. Yes, Bortles played a very solid divisional round, but let’s be honest: lots of his stats came in the fourth quarter and he struggled the majority of the Tennessee game. The Jaguars had a winning formula in place (run the ball and don’t ask Bortles to do too much), but it ended up biting them in the grand scheme. More on that later. Holding the Patriots to 10 points through three quarters is a testament to this Jacksonville defense. Amazing play by AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.

New England didn’t play that great of a game through three quarters. Jacksonville had the majority of the momentum and it looked like Tom Brady wasn’t going to be able to bring his team back. We all know how that one ended. Saving his best football for the last quarter of the game (two TD passes), Brady showed everyone that his hand is in no way a hindrance to his play. Tom Terrific is still Tom Terrific. Also, Danny Amendola and Stephon Gilmore both stepped up in the fourth quarter after failing to make any plays earlier in the game. Championship teams have championship players that step up in big moments, and this game was the epitome of that.

What went wrong: Instead of keeping the pressure on New England by trying to score some points before the half, the Jaguars elected to take their 14-10 lead into halftime. Jacksonville completely shut down in the fourth quarter. There were downs where the ball could have been snapped later. Play calls were way too predictable. Blake Bortles’ weaknesses were exposed. The defense gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. What I said earlier about championship-caliber players making big plays when they matter, Jacksonville was the opposite. Penalties also killed the team.

For New England, the offense just wasn’t clicking in the first half. Tom Brady was practically on his own once Rob Gronkowski went down due to a concussion. Dion Lewis (34 yards) was the Patriots’ leading rusher. That’s pathetic. That’s about it for what went wrong with the Pats. Everything that went wrong was fixed in the fourth quarter, so there’s not too much to complain about.

Final Thoughts: What a game. Jacksonville will be back here. I’m not sure if it will be with Blake Bortles at quarterback, but they’ll be back. Perhaps with Eli Manning or Alex Smith? New England should also be back, assuming Tom Brady/Bill Belichick return next season. Overall, New England’s championship pedigree came through when the team needed it most. Jacksonville is still developing that trait.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Final Score: 38-7, Eagles.

What went right: Almost everything went right for the Eagles. Nick Foles had one of the best performances of his career (352 yards, 3 TD) on the biggest stage he’s been on so far. The team rushed for over 100 yards. The defense picked off Case Keenum twice. Overall, it was a dominant performance by the Eagles and many things went in their favor.

For the Vikings, about the only thing that went right was the team going up early 7-0 on a Case Keenum touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph. That’s that.

What went wrong: Nothing significant to note for the Eagles. Moving on.

Minnesota shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions. Case Keenum was under constant pressure and threw two ugly interceptions, one of which that was returned for a touchdown. A top-two defense in the league gave up 38 points to… Nick Foles. It can’t get much worse than that for a team many picked to get to the Super Bowl when the playoffs began. Props to the Vikings for a great season, but everything collapsed at once in this game. Would the outcome have been any different with someone other than Keenum at QB? I don’t think so.

Final ThoughtsI haven’t been giving the Eagles enough credit this season. I waited for them to lose during the regular season and I’ve been waiting for them to lose this postseason. Nothing can stop this team (although the Patriots will likely be able to come Super Bowl time). I also haven’t given Nick Foles enough credit. After a shaky start in last week’s Divisional Round, he ended the game on fire and took home the W. This week, he was on point the entire game and made throws I had no clue he was capable of making. Minnesota has a lot to figure out QB-wise this offseason and the Eagles should be in the same position next year: competing for the NFC title.

That’s all I’ve got. If you guys have any thoughts, let me know! I’d love to chat with you. Reach out to me on Facebook (The Best Foote Forward) or on Twitter (@TheBestFooteFWD). Thanks for reading!

 

Jordan’s Conference Championship Picks and Analysis

Conference Championship week is here! Jacksonville travels to Foxborough and will face the Patriots on Sunday afternoon in what should be a thrilling matchup. Following the conclusion of that game, we’ll see Philadelphia host Minnesota as the underdogs (underdogs!) in a battle between two backup QB’s that are now NFC Championship competitors. It’s bound to be a fantastic Sunday of football; let’s see who I have slated to win!

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots (Sunday, 1:05 PM ET)

Many of you are going to pick New England rolling over Jacksonville, but not so fast. If Blake Bortles avoids turnovers and makes a couple plays down the stretch like he did last week, Jacksonville can keep this game close. If Bortles makes more than a couple plays and Leonard Fournette gets going, this game will be entertaining. If the aforementioned occur and the defense finds a way to slow down Tom Brady, Jacksonville will emerge victorious. That’s what I’m banking on, especially if the recent news of Tom Brady’s hand injury is legitimate. The drama surrounding the Patriots is going to be amplified immediately following this game, along with questions beginning to come to the surface about Tom Brady’s status for next year. Will the Patriots dynasty over? I’m not sure, but I think it’s going to be put on hold until next season, starting Sunday. I’m going out on a limb and picking the upset.
The Pick: Jaguars 28, Patriots 23
 

Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, 4:40 PM ET)

Minnesota is simply the better team out of the two playing in this game. Case Keenum is better than Nick Foles. Keenum has equal, if not better weapons at his disposal and has a top-two defense to alleviate some of the pressure when things get intense. Philadelphia’s defense won the game last week. If Foles can’t throw a touchdown against the Falcons, he’s in for a rude awakening against Minnesota. Whether Foles throws 50 times or hands it off 35 times, it’s not going to make a difference. It’ll be close, but the better team will win and advance to Super Bowl 52. Case Keenum vs. Blake Bortles. Who would have predicted that heading into the season? Nobody.
The Pick: Vikings 24, Eagles 24
 
This concludes the Conference Championship edition of Jordan‘s NFL Picks. Have anything different? Reach out to me below and let me know!
 
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This is your reminder to put your Best Foot(e) Forward in everything you do today! Always do the right thing and be the best possible version of yourself every day.
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Jordan’s Divisional Round Playoff Picks

Who else is astonished that we’re almost at the end of the season? 2018 got off to a thumping start last week when four NFL playoff games took the world by storm and this week, four more are on the slate. The Falcons and Eagles kick off the weekend Saturday afternoon in a battle between two teams with the odds stacked against them. Later in the evening, Tennessee goes on the road as huge underdogs to square off against the Patriots. Sunday’s games start early in the afternoon in Pittsburgh as the Steelers will host the Jaguars in a week 5 rematch. The Divisional Round closes when the Saints march into Minnesota Sunday night in search of a win. It should be a great weekend of football. Let’s jump right into the picks!

Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles (Saturday, 4:35 PM ET)

Nick Foles vs. Matt Ryan. The Eagles and the Falcons. Both of these teams have plenty of talent outside of the quarterback position and boast very intimidating rosters. There’s only one problem: Carson Wentz is not running out of the locker room and onto the field for the Eagles. Nick Foles is not a bad quarterback, but he’s no Matt Ryan. Atlanta played a very good game against a great Rams team last week and should carry that momentum into this contest. Expect another turnover or two to be the difference in the end and considering Matt Ryan is the better QB, Atlanta should emerge victorious in a close one.

The Pick: Falcons 28, Eagles 24

Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots (Saturday, 8:15 PM ET)

Tom Brady’s TD:INT ratio in his past five contests is… 6:5. That’s not very good and certainly not what you’d expect from a player many call the greatest in the history of the sport. I anticipate a big game from Brady, who’s just leaps and bounds better than Marcus Mariota. Tennessee had a resurgent second half last week against Kansas City but in reality, it was Andy Reid’s conservative play calling that lost the Chiefs that game – it didn’t have too much to do with the Titans going out and winning it. New England is a better team than Tennessee. It’s that simple. This won’t be close.

The Pick: Patriots 34, Titans 20

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 1:05 PM ET)

This is an intriguing game. The Jaguars picked off Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger a whopping five times back in week five (the last time these teams met). Big Ben has thrown just seven interceptions in his last 10 games. It’s safe to say that early-season disappointment was an aberration. Jacksonville has the defense to compete with Pittsburgh, but it’s going to be so difficult to shut down Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster and the returning Antonio Brown for the second time in the same season. Blake Bortles is no Ben Roethlisberger, and I’m rolling with the Steelers in this one.

The Pick: Steelers 27, Jaguars 17

New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 4:40 PM ET)

The second-best offensive attack in the NFL travels to Minnesota to face the best defense in the league. It’s a lot easier to pick the better quarterback to win in the postseason, which is what I’m doing again here. Minnesota has enjoyed a great season with Case Keenum under center, but all good things must come to an end. Yes, I know Drew Brees isn’t a cold weather QB. Yes, I know Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were shut down last week. I also know that Brees and Sean Payton have been here before and know exactly what it takes to get to the next round. I like Minnesota, but the Saints have too many weapons and a decent defense in their own right. New Orleans will come marching in and grab the W on Sunday.

The Pick: Saints 31, Vikings 24

That’s it for this week’s edition of picks! Let me know if you guys have anything different by contacting me at the information posted below!

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This is your reminder to put your Best Foot(e) Forward in everything you do today! Always do the right thing and be the best possible version of yourself every day.

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Jordan’s Week 17 NFL Picks

It’s already here, can you believe it? The regular season will conclude on Sunday when all 16 games are played. Sorry, fans of Thursday night, Sunday night or Monday night games. Every team will decide its fate by the end of the night, whether it’s draft position in the case of a bad team or playoff seeding in the case of good teams. We’re in for another treat this week. Last week wasn’t horrible in terms of record, but 11-5 for picks isn’t where we should be. Let’s shoot for 16-0 in the final week of the year!
 
Green Bay Packers (7-8) @ Detroit Lions (8-7) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)
Neither of these teams has anything to play for this Sunday after Detroit was eliminated from playoff contention last week. In a matchup of Brett Hundley vs. Matthew Stafford, I’m going with Stafford 99 out of 100 times. Hundley is nowhere near the QB the Packers hoped he was, and we already know what we’re going to get out of Stafford. It’ll be a bitter end to a rough season for the Pack.
The Pick: Lions 31, Packers 10
 
Chicago Bears (5-10) @ Minnesota Vikings (12-3) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)
Minnesota over Chicago in this one, and it won’t be close. The Vikings have been playing some very good football the past few weeks, but Case Keenum hasn’t looked like the world-beater he did to start the season. He’ll need a big game to get some confidence back (if any left) before the postseason. Heck, this team still has a first-round bye to play for. Mitchell Trubisky: you’ll head into the offseason a little down, but everything will be okay.
The Pick: Vikings 30, Bears 17
 
Houston Texans (4-11) @ Indianapolis Colts (3-12) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)
Don’t watch this game if you have a reason not to. Go scrape snow (if you have any), get gas, go grocery shopping or anything of the like. Jacoby Brissett vs. TJ Yates: who thought they’d be seeing that this year? Indianapolis isn’t the better team, but I’m going to pick them in this one. Houston is down in the dumps right now and it would be a fitting end to their season if the Colts finished with the same record as them. Closely contested battle, but I’ll take Brissett over Yates any day.
The Pick: Colts 23, Texans 21
 
Cleveland Browns (0-15) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)
Oh, how I want to pick Cleveland. I don’t want to sign myself up for an automatic incorrect pick, though. Pittsburgh is too good to lose to a horrible team like the Browns, especially with potential home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line. It’s not going to be close and Cleveland will become the second team to ever finish the regular season 0-16.
The Pick: Steelers 34, Browns 16
 
New York Jets (5-10) @ New England Patriots (12-3) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)
New England is playing at home… in December… with home-field advantage throughout the entire playoffs on the line… and Tom Brady is still the QB? Yeah, I’m rolling with the Patriots in this one. With Josh McCown healthy, I’d be more inclined to give the Jets a few more points but with Bryce Petty under center, it’ll be a challenge for this squad to crack 10 points. Expect a solid, but not vintage Tom Brady performance and a big win for the Pats as they clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
The Pick: Patriots 28, Jets 10
 
Washington Redskins (7-8) @ New York Giants (2-13) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)
The NFL knows what they’re going to get in Kirk Cousins this offseason but for some reason, I have an inkling he’ll want to continue to play well. The truth about this game is, well, the Redskins are just a much better team than the Giants. Eli Manning has nothing to work with and his defense has underperformed, whereas Kirk Cousins’ team is trying to finish the season .500 and prepare for what will be an interesting offseason.
The Pick: Redskins 27, Giants 21
 
Dallas Cowboys (8-7) @ Philadelphia Eagles (13-2) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)
I’m going with the upset in this one. I will never know what it feels like to play a meaningless game, but I’m sure the Dallas Cowboys will find some desire to win the final game of the season and the last chance to upset the division-rival Eagles. I’m not sold on Nick Foles and the Eagles’ offense this week, but I am sold on Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot ending the season on a high note. It’ll be close, but Dallas will improve to 9-7 on the season while Philly has to settle for a *still* magnificent 13-3.
The Pick: Cowboys 24, Eagles 19
 
Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) @ Tennessee Titans (8-7) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
Tennessee isn’t legit. Marcus Mariota has taken a huge step back this year, injured or not. DeMarco Murray hasn’t been himself, either. This team was expected to make a leap into the highest tier of AFC contenders this season but instead, the Titans find themselves fighting for their playoff lives this week. I think Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette have enough tricks up their sleeves to pull out the win. Jacksonville’s defense should look nothing like the same unit that allowed 44 points to San Francisco last week and Tennessee will fall to a mediocre 8-8 on the season.
The Pick: Jaguars 27, Titans 23
 
Buffalo Bills (8-7) @ Miami Dolphins (6-9) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
Buffalo needs this win in Miami (and some help) in order to make the playoffs. The Dolphins are always an intriguing pick because, all jokes aside, Jay Cutler has randomly blown up and had big games this year. He usually follows them up with bad ones, but he hasn’t had a good game in a while and shouldn’t have one in the final week of the year. Buffalo needs this win too much.
The Pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 24
 
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-6) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
Baltimore is going to be a scary team to face come playoff time, assuming it picks up the win this week. Joe Flacco has been playing good football as of late and the defense is eerily similar to recent Ravens D’s (yes, you know what I’m talking about). If January Joe shows up, this team is going to be a tough out. Sorry for jumping ahead, let’s talk about this week’s game. Cincinnati looked solid last week against Detroit and Baltimore struggled with the Colts, I know. Something about the playoffs being near makes me think we’re going to see a very good version of the Ravens this week. Andy Dalton may have a couple turnovers that could be the difference in this one.
The Pick: Ravens 24, Bengals 17
 
Oakland Raiders (6-9) @ Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
The Chargers are another team that needs a win and some help in order to secure a playoff spot. Oakland has disappointed everyone this year on the offensive end. Everyone knew the defense was going to be bad but when Derek Carr and Marshawn Lynch struggle, you know there’s something going on. Philip Rivers should carve up the Raiders’ D en route to a 9-7 finish to the year.
The Pick: Chargers 34, Raiders 20
 
Arizona Cardinals (7-8) @ Seattle Seahawks (9-6) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
All Seattle has to do is win and hope for an Atlanta loss in order to make the playoffs. Even though this team is extremely banged up and likely wouldn’t be able to do too much damage in the playoffs, it’s dangerous to bet against Russell Wilson and company. He’s a magician, certainly capable of pulling out the W this week against an average-at-best Cardinals team.
The Pick: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 13
 
San Francisco 49ers (5-10) @ Los Angeles Rams (11-4) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
It’s tempting to pick Jimmy G getting to 5-0 as a starter with the 49ers but against the class of the NFC in LA, I have to go with the Rams. Jared Goff is playing at an elite level right now and Todd Gurley is among the frontrunners for MVP. Aaron Donald is a legitimate contender for Defensive Player of the Year. When you put all of that together, you get a team that is among the best in the NFL. San Francisco is a much better team than it was before Garoppolo, but not good enough to beat a hungry Rams team.
The Pick: Rams 34, 49ers 24
 
Carolina Panthers (11-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (9-6) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
Cam Newton is going to bring his A-game on Sunday. I’m not sold on the Falcons being a consistent performer in the regular season, let alone the playoffs. Matt Ryan has been so-so as of late and Cam Newton is finishing the season on a high note. The Panthers have the clear advantage on the defensive side of the ball and if Cam continues his good play, they’ll have the advantage on offense as well. The Falcons will put up a good fight but in the end, the better team will win.
The Pick: Panthers 31, Falcons 21
 
Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) @ Denver Broncos (5-10) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
Paxton Lynch vs. Patrick Mahomes, who would have thought that one up? It seemed like a real possibility before the season, but these teams have went in opposite directions. Denver is trying to get one last look at what it has in Lynch before the offseason while Kansas City is putting the much-awaited debut of Mahomes into existence. Denver is going to keep this close because Kansas City will rest its starters throughout the game but in end, I trust Mahomes in his debut more than Lynch (who doesn’t have much more experience than that). The Chiefs pull off the upset on the road in preparation for the wild card round of the playoffs.
The Pick: Chiefs 28, Broncos 24
 
New Orleans Saints (11-4) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)
Tampa Bay is no match for the Saints, who are still fighting for favorable position in the playoffs. Drew Brees, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara might be the best QB-RB-RB trio in the NFL (most teams don’t have two great RB’s, but that’s another talk for another day) and should hang quite a few points on the Bucs. Jameis Winston will have plenty to cry about after this one, but he’ll have to do so during the beginning of his offseason.
The Pick: Saints 40, Buccaneers 21
 
This concludes the regular season edition of TBFF’s NFL Picks! Stay tuned for playoff picks next week!

Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I’m a new addition to the team here at Pro Sports Fandom and I’m bringing my NFL Power Rankings with me. I’ll be doing them every week until the end of the season. I have each team listed, along with where they ranked last week, followed by the change in ranking. Comment down below if you have any questions or concerns!

There’s only one more chance for each NFL team to change its record, hopefully for the better. Last week was a mixed bag of action that changed the playoff picture in both the AFC and NFC. Some teams are hanging on for dear life in the playoff race and are going to need some help next week in order to get in while others have clinched spots in the big dance. Let’s find out where your favorite team ranks in the Week 17 Power Rankings!

32: Cleveland Browns (LW: 32) 0

Well, I have to admit I was incorrect on multiple occasions when I picked the Browns to win this season, and last week was one of them. It’s become a reality that this team is going to finish the season winless. DeShone Kizer has done nothing this season to give the front office/coaching staff any confidence in him heading into the offseason. The Browns have found themselves in the 32 spot for quite a while, and this week is no different.

31: New York Giants (LW: 30) -1

The Giants are moving down a spot after getting shut out by the Cardinals on Sunday. Any time you fail to score a single point in a game, you’re going to fall in the rankings. Fortunately for New York, it’s hard to fall too far when you’re already 30th out of 32 teams. Eli Manning put forth another disappointing effort and now looks like a league-average QB at best. Maybe he’ll benefit from a change of scenery this offseason? That’s a question the Giants’ brass needs to begin thinking about.

30: Indianapolis Colts (LW: 31) +1

The Colts played a somewhat-close game against the Ravens and the Giants got thoroughly dismantled, so Indy moves up a spot. The team is beginning to look at other options at head coach, indicating that Chuck Pagano may be on his way out at the conclusion of the season. There have been contradicting reports about Bruce Arians’ future in Arizona – maybe he can reunite with his old QB in Andrew Luck and turn the Colts back into a contender?

29: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 28) -1

Jameis Winston’s sideline tantrum itself is enough to keep the Bucs here, let alone the loss. Tampa Bay did play the Panthers close but at the end of the day, you’re not going to be a successful franchise is your QB is only good for a small fraction of it, injured for another part and then throwing fits for the rest. There needs to be some serious soul-searching done by the Bucs – a team many expected to contend for the NFC South title – this offseason.

28: Houston Texans (LW: 27) -1

Houston looked completely done with the season on Monday night against Pittsburgh. If it weren’t for one of the best catches of the season by DeAndre Hopkins, Houston wouldn’t have scored in the entire game. This team desperately misses DeShaun Watson and can only play the waiting game until next season, when he’ll be healthy and ready to go.

27: Denver Broncos (LW: 26) -1

Brock Osweiler followed up his great game in typical Brock Osweiler fashion with one of the lesser performances I’ve seen this season. Until Denver gets the QB position figured out, there’s no way this team is going to be competitive. Paxton Lynch is getting the start this Sunday against the Chiefs, giving the team one more look at what it has in the young signal caller before the offseason.

26: Chicago Bears (LW: 28) +2 

It’s not hard to beat the Browns, and that’s exactly what the Bears did on Sunday. Defeating a winless team shouldn’t warrant moving up two spots in the rankings, yet here the Bears are. 5-10 seems like a fitting record for this team, with 5-11 or 6-10 both seeming appropriate after next week’s action as well. This defense has some pieces to build around and although he hasn’t been good, Mitchell Trubisky has done enough for the front office to not want to draft a QB in next year’s draft.

25: New York Jets (LW: 25) 0

Bryce Petty. Enough said. The Jets are one of the worst teams in the NFL but out of sheer respect for how well the team has overachieved this season, I’m going to try my best to keep them out of the bottom 6 or 7 spots in these rankings. Sunday’s game against San Diego LOS ANGELES (it’s still hard to picture) was an inspiring performance on the defensive end and a brutal one to watch on the other side of the ball. It looks more and more likely that the Jets are going to take a long, hard look at a QB in the draft next April.

24: Miami Dolphins (LW: 24) 0

Those poor ‘Fins. With Ryan Tannehill at QB, this squad might be in the middle of the playoff picture. Jay Cutler has been, well, Jay Cutler this season – resulting in the Dolphins sitting at 6-9 heading into week 17. There are a lot of question marks for this team heading into the offseason, with not too many answers readily available.

23: Green Bay Packers (LW: 19) -4

Aaron Rodgers = Green Bay Packers. Easier math problem than 2+2. Instead of doing his best impression of a starting QB on Saturday, Brett Hundley did his best local-grocery-store-bagboy-attempting-to-play-QB impression. There is going to need to be a serious overhaul of the Packers’ defense if the team has any hopes of being a serious Super Bowl contender next season, barring Aaron Rodgers playing MVP-level football for 16 games, which is a possibility.

22: Oakland Raiders (LW: 20) -2

Oakland continued its trend of being the most disappointing team in the NFL on Monday night, losing to the Carson Wentz-less Eagles by a final score of 19-10. Derek Carr continued to look like he took a step back and the morale of the team continued to look dismal at best. Jack Del Rio’s seat may not be steaming hot, but it’s got to be warming up a bit.

21: Arizona Cardinals (LW: 23) +2

The Cardinals continue to find ways to win games behind stellar defense and somehow-not-horrible offense. With David Johnson and Carson Palmer, this team may be competing for a playoff spot. This late-season consistency leaves hope for Cardinals fans that there will be a decent squad on the field at the beginning of next season. The only downside to this winning is… draft position.

20: Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 22) +2

Cincinnati eliminated the Lions from playoff contention on Sunday and looked like a decent football team. With Marvin Lewis departing at the end of the season, perhaps this is the wake-up call the team needed: there needs to be change. Cincy is the typical “there’s always next year” team but now, there really might be next year. New year, new faces, new Bengals. Grabbing another win doesn’t hurt.

19: Tennessee Titans (LW: 18) -1

Tennessee is starting to scare me. I wasn’t a believer in this team at the beginning of the year and after dropping three straight, I’m definitely not changing my mind. The Jaguars have already locked up the AFC South, so it’ll be interesting to see if they field all starters on Sunday in an attempt to knock Tennessee out of the playoff picture. Marcus Mariota is going to need to snap out of his season-long slump this week and keep it going into the playoffs if this squad has any hopes of winning a playoff game – let alone a Super Bowl.

18: San Francisco 49ers (LW: 21) +3

Jimmy Garoppolo is 4-0 as a starter for the San Francisco 49ers. If you were to predict that before the season, I’d bet you $1000 it wouldn’t happen. During Sunday’s upset over Jacksonville, Garoppolo passed Kurt Warner for first all-time in passing yards in a player’s first four games with a team. Is Jimmy G the next Kurt Warner? Maybe not. Is he going to be good in this league? It sure looks like it. San Francisco got away with highway robbery when it acquired Garoppolo from New England earlier in the season.

17: Washington Redskins (LW: 17) 0

Everyone knows what they’re going to get this offseason with Kirk Cousins – a solid-to-good QB who isn’t going to be great, but can get you into the playoffs. What he can do outside of that is questionable. Denver may have got a firsthand audition out of Cousins on Sunday. Washington is going to try its best to keep Captain Kirk but if all else fails, it’ll be back to the drawing board for this bunch.

16: Buffalo Bills (LW: 15) -1

For those of you who were/are mad about Kelvin Benjamin’s catch/no catch: the Bills were going to lose anyway. There’s no way that catch impacts anything more than the spread in this one. Tom Brady is Tom Brady. Glad we got that out of the way. On the bright side, Buffalo can still get into the postseason by winning Sunday, along with losses by the Titans and Chargers OR by picking up the win Sunday and Baltimore losing. It’s possible.

15: Detroit Lions (LW: 12) -3

Detroit is no longer a playoff team and as someone who supported the team throughout the season and wanted to see Matthew Stafford get another chance to win a playoff game, I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. The running game in Detroit is nonexistent and the defense is not where it should be among the NFL’s ranks. Stafford is not Aaron Rodgers, meaning he is going to need a bit more help in order to qualify for and win playoff games. Until the Lions recognize that, they’ll be stuck in the 7-9 win range year in and year out.

14: Dallas Cowboys (LW: 11) -4

What a rollercoaster this year for Dallas. From Dak Prescott’s struggles, to Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension and now to Jason Garrett’s job security being questioned by the media, it’s been a wild ride. A team many wrote of weeks ago wasn’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs until Sunday against the Seahawks. Don’t expect this team to go away next year. Ezekiel Elliot will be back for the entire season and Dak Prescott will have a full offseason to work out the kinks in his game, so this squad will be fine.

13: Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 16) +3

It wasn’t pretty, but the Chargers beat the Jets Sunday and remained alive in the playoff race. LA needs to win, Baltimore to win and Tennessee to lose in order to get into the playoffs. If this team can get into the playoffs, it’ll be dangerous. Philip Rivers has enjoyed a good season and his defense is no joke. All LA can do is win this week and hope everything else falls into place.

12: Seattle Seahawks (LW: 13) +1

Seattle eliminated Dallas from playoff contention on Sunday when it defeated the Cowboys 21-12. The Seahawks can make the playoffs if they win vs Arizona Sunday and the Falcons lose to the Panthers. The fun thing about Sunday is that those two games happen at the same time, so it’ll be interesting to see if there is any scoreboard watching taking place

11: Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 9) -2

This team can be as good or bad as Blake Bortles makes it. When Bortles is playing efficient football, this squad can compete with the best in the NFL. When he’s throwing interceptions left and right (see Sunday’s game vs. San Francisco), the Jags are going to have a difficult time winning ball games. In the playoffs, Doug Marrone is going to need his QB to play at his absolute best.

10: Atlanta Falcons (LW: 8) -2

Atlanta is in the playoffs unless it loses and Seattle wins on Sunday. Both of those outcomes are possible, so the Falcons need to take care of business against Carolina in order to ensure they secure the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. Matt Ryan has been playing some so-so football the past few weeks and needs to elevate his game in order to get this team past the wild card round, especially against such a stacked NFC.

9: Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 14) +5 *BIG RISER*

Kansas City seems to have found its swag and winning formula after losing it for a month. Alex Smith is back to playing great football, Kareem Hunt is back to his rookie of the year ways, Travis Kelce is getting involved and Tyreek Hill has emerged as one of the best young wideouts in the league. Not to mention, the defense has been playing a lot better as of late. Is this a product of the teams KC is facing? We’ll find out in the postseason.

8: Baltimore Ravens (LW: 10) +2

Joe Flacco in the playoffs is a scary thought. We’ve seen it before, and we might just see it again. The Ravens can get into the playoffs by winning or the Titans/Bills losing. If the season ended today, Baltimore would be facing the Chiefs in the wild card round of the playoffs. That’s a good matchup; here’s to hoping the Ravens can make it happen.

7: Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 7) 0

Last week, a certain someone (me), said the Eagles are going to be just fine with Nick Foles at QB. A certain someone (me) might have been wrong. Foles looked uncomfortable all night against the Raiders and the team mustered just 13 points on offense. If it weren’t for so many Oakland turnovers, Philly’s offense may have struggled even more. At the end of the day this team is still talented, but it’s getting harder to picture it beating the Vikings or Rams in a playoff scenario.

6: Carolina Panthers (LW: 4) -2

Bad Cam Newton showed up last week, and the team still won. That’s a testament to the talent and coaching of this squad. Perhaps the most frustrating thing in the NFL this season has been Cam Newton’s inconsistency. When he’s good, Carolina is great. When he’s average, Carolina is good and when he’s bad, the team is average. Average isn’t going to win playoff games, so Cam has to at least play somewhat well.

5: New Orleans Saints (LW: 6) +1

Everyone talking about Drew Brees’ falling off needs to relax for a minute. No, he’s not the 5000-yard force he once was, but he’s still one of the best QB’s in the NFL and one of the best to ever do it. Brees doesn’t have to pass for 5000 yards anymore because he now has one of the best running games in the NFL and a defense that has exceeded expectations. What began as another season down the drain has turned into one with legitimate Super Bowl hopes for the Saints, something not many of us expected.

4: Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 5) +1 

Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh. No one expected anything short of dominance against the Texans on Monday night. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the best QB, RB, WR trios in the NFL – and that’s forgetting the injured Antonio Brown (arguably the best WR in the league). The only thing to worry about for this team is James Harrison’s signing with the New England Patriots but other than that, expect the Steelers to be in a good position to compete in the playoffs.

3: Los Angeles Rams (LW: 3) 0

Another week, another win for the Rams. Todd Gurley has a legitimate shot at winning MVP and Jared Goff’s TD:INT ratio is now 4:1 on the season. If these two are playing great football, it doesn’t matter how the defense plays. When the entire team plays well at once, forget about it: this is one of the best teams in the NFL. Look out playoffs – Los Angeles is coming.

2: Minnesota Vikings (LW: 2) 0

It came against Brett Hundley and the Rodgers-less Packers, but a shutout is a shutout. Minnesota’s defense is one of the best in the league and it certainly showed up to play Saturday night. Case Keenum didn’t have to do much at all and the team ended up winning 16-0. As long as the defense remains intact, this team should be among the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

1: New England Patriots (LW: 1) 0

New England is going to be New England. Tom Brady hasn’t been single-handedly dominating games lately, but his squad is still one of the best in the NFL. Signing James Harrison is the icing on the cake for the Pats. Having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is going to be huge for this team, so there is still something to play for next week.

Thanks for reading this week’s power rankings. Here’s to your favorite team rising a spot or two in next week’s rankings!

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This is your reminder to put your Best Foot(e) Forward in everything you do today! Always do the right thing and be the best possible version of yourself every day.

As always, if you’d like to get in touch with me or follow my social media accounts, you can find them here:

Facebook: The Best Foote Forward

Twitter: @TheBestFooteFWD

Instagram: @thebestfooteforward

Email: bestfooteforward17@gmail.com