By Cullen Jekel, RahimAli Merchant and Mickayeen Farner
Welcome to the second week of Fourth Quarter Sports’ Buy or Sell. Here, we’ll go through three NFL questions regarding the explosive Kansas City Chiefs, the struggling New England Patriots, and the depleted Atlanta Falcons defense.
Mixed in there we’ll tackle whether the Minnesota Timberwolves can survive the Jimmy Butler Situation, how that may end; whether Major League Baseball’s best team record-wise can make it through the playoffs; and whether the biggest surprise in sports in the past fifty years can repeat its 2017-2018 achievements.
Cullen: The New England Patriots Will Miss the Playoffs
Mickayeen: I’m going to sell that only because of the competition within their division. The Bills beating the Vikings was one that we have to chalk up to “any given Sunday” until they can put a string of games like this together. The Dolphins have had wins against teams that look like they won’t be good this year. The Jets are trending in the right direction, but are still starting a rookie QB and will continue to have growing pains. I predicted the Pats to go 10-6 in my AFC East preview before the season. I’m sticking to that, but I also predicted Tom Brady to begin his decline by comparing what I think is going to happen to Peyton Manning’s second-to-last season. I’m sticking with that as well, and I predict them to be eliminated before the AFC championship game for the first time in the last decade.
RahimAli: I also sell the Patriots. I mean yeah they are struggling to get things going, but Brady doesn’t have all his weapons out there. He lost Dion Lewis, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola from last year, which played a huge part in the team’s success in the run to the Super Bowl. They drafted Sony Michel, traded for Josh Gordon, and still waiting for Julian Edelman to come back from suspension. Once they all come back into the fold of things, we will see the Patriots team that we are all use to seeing. Like Mickayeen [stated], the division is a weak one and though Miami is 3-0, they haven’t really faced any of the top teams in the AFC. Miami has wins over the Titans, Jets, and Raiders [teams that] will probably all finish last in the division with so many questions to answer. Let’s not forget Brady is the “G.O.A.T.” and he always finds a way to win games.
I think the Patriots will once again lean on the running backs to help open the game, and then Brady throws it down the field to Edelman, Gordon, or [Rob] Gronkowski. Patriots should still win their division, but they will likely finish 10-6 like Mickayeen has said. Their key losses from here will be once to the Dolphins (later in the season), Packers, Steelers, and Vikings. But that could also change if their defense can get it together and stop the opponent from throwing the deep ball.
Mickayeen: The Kansas City Chiefs will represent the AFC in Super Bowl LII
Cullen: Sell the Kansas City Chiefs winning the AFC.
The defense, while it should improve with the return of Eric Berry, needs more additions and internal improvements to help this high-potent offense. But if that doesn’t happen, if the defensive unit remains stagnant, then the Chiefs will fall before the Super Bowl.
Patrick Mahomes II looks great, yet he’s only 23 years old. A hiccup game is sure to come, and hopefully he’ll learn from that. (I expect he will.) Another thing harming this team’s Super Bowl chances is the head coach, Andy Reid. Reid is frightfully bad when it comes to the post-season, where his play-calling becomes ultra-conservative and his mismanagement of the time clock rears its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. He’s blown huge leads in the playoffs at times, and at other times he gets his teams down in such huge holes that they can’t dig themselves out in the remaining time.
I feel very confident in this statement: the Kansas City Chiefs will win a Super Bowl with Mahomes as their quarterback.
I feel just as confident in this statement: when that happens, Andy Reid will not be their head coach.
RahimAli: Sell the Chiefs winning the AFC. Although the Chiefs have started out hot with QB Patrick Mahomes throwing 13 touchdowns in three weeks, I don’t believe that this will continue. The Chiefs have played games against teams who are still trying to find themselves. The Chargers in week one were caught off guard by what Mahomes could actually do. The Steelers are lost without Le’Veon Bell on the field and that affects them defensively as well. And well, the 49ers had an identity, that was lost when Richard Sherman left and Jimmy Garoppolo went out with an injury. I wait for the game where the Chiefs offense is quiet and have to rely on the defense that isn’t what it used to be. That should be coming soon with the schedule getting tougher and games against tough defenses like the Broncos, Jaguars, Seahawks, and Rams. I think they may finally be able to make the playoffs while winning the division again, but they will not have enough left to get to the Super Bowl.
RahimAli: The Atlanta Falcons’ Depleted Defense Will Hold Up
Cullen: Selling on the defense–yet the Falcons will still sneak into the playoffs. I can see them winning another nine games this year to put them at 10-6, which will make it close in the NFC, but I believe it will be enough to get in.
This defense got shredded by the Saints, but lest we forget, the Saints are led by one of the top quarterbacks of all-time in Drew Brees. And despite Brees’ advanced age, he’s still got enough weapons to put up 30+ points every Sunday during regulation. While the Falcons should be concerned about their injured star defenders, it shouldn’t look to yesterday’s game as a projection for the year to come. Head coach Dan Quinn is a defensive-minded head coach (he was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks before coming to Atlanta), so he’ll be able to make adjustments as the season progresses. While the NFC South is suddenly–and once again–looking like possibly the toughest division in football, with Quinn’s adjustments on defense and QB Matt Ryan running the offense, the Falcons should be fine.
Mickayeen: And I sell on the Falcons defense being able to hold up. That’s not to say anything bad about the talent they have. I don’t know of any team in the NFL who can hold up while losing over a quarter of their starting defense, especially when those three players are as good as Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Deion Jones have been for the Falcons.
I agree with Cullen, though, in that I don’t think this spells doom for the team as a whole. Let’s not forget that Matt Ryan was the NFL MVP just two seasons ago. I don’t think there is any reason to doubt that he can put on an MVP-type performance for the remainder of the season, especially if Calvin Ridley continues to make strides in the offense like he did in week three. I think they still have enough talent to go 9-4 the rest of the way and sneak in as a Wild Card team.
Cullen: The Minnesota Timberwolves Will Make the Playoffs Despite the Jimmy Butler Situation
RahimAli: Buy Timberwolves in the playoffs [despite the] Butler situation. The Western Conference is definitely the better of the two conferences and we all expect to see the Warriors and Rockets at the top again, but the Wolves made the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season and they could make it back there. I believe that they will get one of the last two playoffs spots available. They will hold off the Nuggets and Clippers and be led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Let’s not forget the Timberwolves will have other players who were part of the Butler deal to help them win more games and fill the void left by Butler
Mickayeen: I sell the T-Wolves making it to the playoffs without Butler in the West. They barely managed to make the eighth seed with him [in 2017-2018].
Let’s assume the Lakers make it in now that they have LeBron, and the Nuggets are definitely a better team than the Wolves without Butler, as it took the Wolves overtime to beat them with Butler in Minnesota in the last game of the season to make it in. So assuming the Lakers and Nuggets move into the playoffs, that means two teams are going to have to be out. It’s definitely not going to be the Warriors or Rockets. Most likely won’t be the Jazz, Thunder, or Spurs (They are basically last year’s team adding DeRozan). That leaves the Blazers, Pelicans, and T-Wolves as most likely to fall out of the playoffs the way I see it. The Pelicans might actually be better with the additions they made (Julian Randle, Elfrid Payton, Jahlil Okafor), and people need to remember how great Anthony Davis is. Those are the reasons I think the Pelicans will make it back and the Lakers and Nuggets will replace the Blazers and T-Wolves in the playoffs.
RahimAli: The Red Sox Will Continue Their Regular Season Domination Through the Playoffs and Win the World Series
Cullen: Nope. Sell on the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series. I think they’ll beat either the New York Yankees or Oakland Athletics in the ALDS, but then fall to the Houston Astros in the ALCS. Before the season began, I predicted the Astros winning the World Series in 5 games over the Cubs. I still feel strongly about that prediction.
The Red Sox and Astros have squared off seven times this season with the Astros winning four. The total score of those games: 34-31 in favor of Houston. Houston versus Boston would be an exciting pennant, especially with these teams stacked up so well against one another. The key difference between these squads will be the man calling the shots from the dugout. While Boston has thrived under first year manager Alex Cora (previously Houston’s bench coach), the Astros will benefit from A.J. Hinch guiding this team to the Promised Land last year. Additionally, while Boston may have the better overall record, they’ve actually outperformed their Pythagorean Record by six games while Houston has underperformed theirs by seven games. In the playoffs, take the team with the better Pythagorean, and that team just so happens to not be the Boston Red Sox.
Mickayeen: Okay. I’ll sell the Red Sox winning the World Series, but not for the same reasons as Cullen. I think the Sox will make it to the American League Championship series, but I think it’ll be against the Indians, not the Astros.
The Indians have four pitchers who have amassed over 200 strikeouts, which is absolutely incredible. They also have an MVP candidate, Jose Ramierez, leading their hitting and I think they’ll come up with enough well-timed hits to get the job done against both the Astros and Red Sox in the playoffs while the pitchers continue to mow both other lineups down.
As for Pythagorean, I can’t buy that just based on recent history. Only three of the past ten leaders in regular-season Pythagorean have gone on to win the World Series (2016 Cubs, 2013 Red Sox, 2009 Yankees). Baseball is just one of those sports where you have to go with the hottest team, and I believe the Indians (who just took two of three from the Red Sox) will catch fire and represent the AL in the World Series.
Mickayeen: The Vegas Knights Will Return to the Stanley Cup Finals
RahimAli: I sell the Vegas Golden Knights making it back to the finals. It’s simple: the NHL is the toughest when it comes winning back-to-back. The Pittsburgh Penguins managed to do that, but it wasn’t easy. The Knights are arguably one of the best teams in the Pacific division and that’s saying something, seeing how this was their first season in the league. It was truly a remarkable season last year to see an expansion team make it all the way to the finals. Unfortunately, they won’t make it back to the Finals this year. Especially with their division being one of the more competitive ones. I mean they have the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks in their division that could possibly make up half the field in the Western Conference playoff picture, but I don’t think that the Knights could make it that far again this season.
Cullen: I’m selling Vegas making it back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Several teams in the West became stronger this off-season, notably the San Jose Sharks when they landed Erik Karlsson and the St. Louis Blues when they acquired Ryan O’Reilly. Plus, there remains Nashville and Winnipeg, both of whom finished the regular season with better records and more points than Vegas.
While it looks like a two-team race for the Pacific between the Golden Knights and Sharks, the West as a whole will be much tougher to conquer in Year Two. Last year this team took the league by surprise. That won’t happen again. While Vegas should make the playoffs, couple the lack-of-surprise element with losses like David Perron (Blues) and James Neal (Calgary Flames), and this team will fall short of representing the Western Conference in the Finals in 2019.
What does everyone else think? Hit us up in the comments!