Tuesday, June 25, 2024

HOME OF THE BIG 4 SPORTS NO AUTOPSY, NO FOUL PODCAST w/Mark Elliott

Welcome to the New Big 4 Sports Page!
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The new Big 4 Sports No Autopsy, No Foul podcast with Mark Elliott is now available with new episodes every Monday and Thursday. 
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MEMO
When I launched Big 4 Sports a few months ago, I wanted to not only cover the major stories happening in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA when it comes to football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. I also wanted to focus on the pro teams I've followed for decades to add some perspective for the fans of these teams because my history goes back as far as 55 years with each one. Over the next few weeks, I'll be adding special sections to cover the Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Lakers, Cincinnati Reds, and Pittsburgh Penguins to go along with all the other top stories from each Big 4 Sport. I sincerely hope you'll enjoy it. - Mark Elliott, OG @ Big 4 Sports USA. 

Smack: Clark Versus Reese III
Football: Philadelphia Eagles 2024 Team Preview 
Raiders Roundtable: O'Connell Vs Minshew 
Basketball:  Bright Lights, Big City No More   
Lakers Locker Room: JJ Redick It Is 
NBA Free Agents 
Baseball: Baseball Greats Behind The Mic 
Reds Club House: Trade Time In Cincinnati 
All Star Game Selections
MLB Power Rankings (Best/Worst)  
Hockey: Those Dirty Rats! 
Pens On Ice: What's Next For Crosby, Malkin, And LeTang?
Fantasy Football: NFL Player Rankings  
(Scroll down for Big 4 Sports Action) 


WHO IS THE WNBA'S ALL TIME LEADING SCORER? 
(See The Answer Below)
CLARK VERSUS REESE III 

Since the WNBA tipped off in May, I have written and talked about women's basketball more than I have since the league was formed 28 years ago and all because of two people. Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese. 

The two met again for the 4th time since April. Once in the NCAA women's college championship and three times as WNBA opponents. Their record against each other in 2024 is 2-2. Sunday Chicago won their first WNBA game against Indiana in Chicago 88-87 in what was Angel Reese's best game of the year scoring 25 points, 16 rebounds and 1 assist. Clark on the other hand finished with her season average of 17 points, 6 rebounds and 13 assists. Both ended with a double double but what matters most is the final score, so advantage in Clark versus Reese III, goes to Angel Reese. 

Surprisingly this game turned out to be about the final few seconds of the game instead of about racial overtones. The Fever had a chance to put up the final shot but Indiana coach Christie Sides opted to have Caitlin Clark to take the ball out as opposed to taking the last shot which created the game ending controversy. Sides felt Clark who had 13 assists gave the Fever the best chance at getting a tipped ball with 0.2 seconds left than someone else trying to get Clark the ball to launch a prayer. Indiana has a clear look at the basket with 7.0 seconds left but Aliyah Boston on a pass from Clark missed a shot that could have given the Fever their 5th win in a row. 

The big plus from this hard fought and competitive game was the lack of racial overtones. The game was talked about like it was another game that didn't feature two rookies, one White and one Black. My question to the sports media is "that wasn't so hard now was it?"
  
Comments & Questions are Welcome
Email: sports@big4sportsusa.com  

2024 
TEAM PREVIEWS 

2023 was a tell of two seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles. They won 10 of their first 11 games and then went on to lose 5 of their last 6 to finish 11-5. In the playoffs they lost in the first round to the 9-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers helping journeyman QB Baker Mayfield land a contract extension and a lucrative payday. The question on everyone's mind heading into the 2024 season is which Eagles team will we see? 

Philadelphia had 9 picks at the NFL Draft and they selected 5 offensive and 4 defensive players, opting to focus on defense in the early rounds. The Eagles picked CB Quinyon Mitchell from Toledo in the first round followed by CB Cooper DeJean from Iowa, DE Jaylyx Hunt from Houston Christian and LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr. from Clemson. On offense, the Eagles picked up a decent RB in Will Shipley from Clemson, WR Ainias Smith from Texas A&M and WR Johnny Wilson out of Florida State. Overall the Eagles get a grade of C in this years draft. 

The Offense, which averages 25 PPG in 2023 are sticking with QB Jalen Hurts, who came under fire towards the end of last season. The good news is the Eagles signed ex Giants RB Saquon Barkley, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder this season. Returning at WR are A.J. Brown, WR DeVonta Smith and TE Dallas Goedert to give the Eagles a potent offense if Hurts returns to his 2023 form. 

The Eagles defense gave up 25 PPG in 2023, and this is what led to their downfall last season. The key to 2024 will be how the Eagles defense rebounds. In order to compete for a playoff spot, Philadelphia will have to knock off at least 6 points from their 25 PPG average from last season. This means the defensive line led by Bryce Huff will have to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback to get more three and outs to allow the offense more time to operate. 

 The NFC East is a two team race between Dallas and Philadelphia. Dallas was forced to downsize their offense which opens the door for the Eagles. The Giants and Commanders are both in rebuild mode so it's conceivable the Eagles could win 5 out of 6 divisional games leaving them only having to win 5 of their 11 non divisional games. The path to the playoffs for the Eagles won't be as stiff as other teams in the National Conference. 
 
2024 Schedule 
9.6 Green Bay Packers
9.16 Atlanta Falcons
9.22 @ New Orleans Saints
9.29 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
10.13 Cleveland Browns 
10.20 @ New York Giants
10.27 @ Cincinnati Bengals 
11.2 Jacksonville Jaguars
11.10 @ Dallas Cowboys 
11.14 Washington Commanders
11.24 @ Los Angeles Rams 
12.1 @ Baltimore Ravens
12.8 Carolina Panthers
12.15 Pittsburgh Steelers
12.22 @ Washington Commanders
12.29 Dallas Cowboys
1.5 New York Giants 

Projection-  11-6

Comments & Questions Are Welcome

NEXT: Pittsburgh Steelers 

Upcoming Schedule
6.27- San Francisco 49ers
6.28- Seattle Seahawks 

7.1- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
7.2- Tennessee Titans 
7.3- Washington Commanders 

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE PREVIOUS NFL TEAM PREVIEWS

RAIDERS ROUNDTABLE
 
O'CONNELL VS MINSHEW 

My personal history with the Raiders dates back to 1968 when I first started paying attention to pro sports as a kid (8). John Rauch was the head coach, not John Madden. Daryle Lamonica (The Mad Bomber) was their starting quarterback, and he had weapons like the great Fred Biletnikoff, Warren Wells, Billy Cannon, Pete Banaszak and an offensive line featuring Gene Upshaw, and Jim Otto. The defense was lead by Ben Davidson, and Willie Brown. That season the Raiders went 12-2 and beat Kansas City 41-6 in the AFL Divisional playoffs but lost to Joe Namath's New York Jets in the AFL Championship 27-23. The Jets went on to beat Baltimore in the Super Bowl in the famous Namath guarantee game. The loss to the Jets is what solidified my love of the Raiders because I wanted to see them get revenge the following season. 

In 1969, John Madden arrived and he coached the Raiders to a 12-1-1 record but again, the season ended with a loss to Kansas City in the AFL Championship. There were a lot of years where the Raiders were close but didn't win the cigar until they finally broke through with Ken Stabler in Super Bowl XI to beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14.  

I recall being drawn to the AFL over the NFL because the AFL was more of a pass first run second league compared to the NFL which was a run first pass second league. The AFL was more exciting to watch and no one threw a bomb like Daryle Lamonica. His precision passes to the sidelines to Biletnikoff who's hands and arms were lined with stick'um frustrated opposing defenses. Lamonica would lull the opposing defenses to sleep with dink an dunk passes, or keep handing the ball off to Banaszak and the BOOM, he would throw a 50 yard touchdown pass to speedster Warren Wells and Lamonica threw a beautiful spiral. The Raiders were putting up 30-45 points almost every week. Add the logo and the Silver n' Black colors and I've been a Raider for life through all the good times and the bad. The moves from Oakland to Los Angeles, back to Oakland and now to Las Vegas where they finally have their shrine to play. I've celebrated three Super Bowl wins and survived the shock of the immaculate reception in Pittsburgh by Franco Harris. I lived through Al Davis's nasty fights with the NFL. It's been pure hell at times over the past 40 years but I've maintained the Raiders Ride or Die attitude and lived the Commitment to Excellence leading to the idea of it doesn't matter how you win, as long as you Just Win Baby. 

The 2024 season will be my 56th as a Raiders fan and once again I am filled with anticipation and hope that this season, the Raiders will make the playoffs and by the grace of God make it to the Super Bowl. To be honest, I'd be happy with just making the playoffs and winning one game because it would be a sign of mass improvement. 

In the 70's, John Madden's Raiders always had colorful players like Kenny Stabler, and John Matuszak. If you want to read one of the greatest sports biography's ever written, check out "Snake" and you'll get an idea as to why Stabler is loved by Raiders fans. Any quarterback who can stay out all night before a Super Bowl bird dogging chicks and banging beaver is my kind of quarterback. The stories about Stabler and Matuszak are legendary. Both truly tested John Madden's patience. Madden had three rules for players. Be one time, pay attention, and play like hell on Sunday and his Raiders were wild men but they lived up to his three rules and won a lot of football games. 

When head coach Antonio Pierce talks about "The Raiders Way", this is what he's talking about. He knows he's coaching men, not college kids and this is why the players want to play for him. If these Raiders follow those three rules, they will be successful because once again, the Raiders are gathering a few colorful players to keep the locker room loose. On defense, Maxx Crosby is not only a character, he's dedicated. On offense, both Raiders Quarterbacks have some flake, especially Gardner Minshew, who was born to be a Raider from an attitude standpoint. If he can harness attitude and performance under Antonio Pierce, he could pan out to be just what the Raiders have needed for years under center. 

Last season, rookie Aiden O'Connell, was thrown into a snake pit and led the Raiders to a 5-5 record in what felt like he walked off the street, put on the Silver n' Black and played pick up football for ten games. You talk about a baptism by fire, O'Connell lived it and he'll be better for it. This will be his first full training camp where he gets to take snaps and not just observe. He'll have a better understanding of the playbook and Gardner Minshew will mentor and push him. Whoever wins the starting QB position will have earned it and the Raiders will be better than the pundits predict.   

As Raiders fans, we have endured a lot and have also invested a lot of time, money, blood, sweat, and tears in to following the Silver n' Black with the loyalty no other fanbase offers. After getting through the Josh McDaniel's debacle, I feel like Mark Davis, has finally gotten it right. We've got the right head coach, a defense that's going to be nasty, an offense that is going to attack by throwing the ball down the field and the best kicking duo in the NFL with Carlson and Cole. The only question mark I have is the running game that now sets on the shoulders of Zamir White, who was a stud at Georgia, but needs to bring the same A game to the NFL. There is also an outside chance the Raiders will pick up a proven RB after teams do their final cuts to add some backfield depth. 

The first preseason game is just a few weeks away on August 10th, when the Raiders take on the Minnesota Vikings. I don't know about you but I'm ready to pad up to play some Raiders football and hit somebody! 

Comments & Questions are Welcome
Email: sports@big4sportsusa.com  
 
2024 D1 PRESEASON TOP 20 
1. Texas 
2. Georgia 
3. Florida State
4. Georgia
5. Alabama 
6. Ohio State
7. Oregon 
8. LSU
9. Notre Dame
10. Oklahoma 
11. Michigan
12. Washington
13. Missouri 
14. Ole Miss
15. Arizona 
16. Penn State
17. Oklahoma State
18. Tennessee
19. Clemson 
20. West Virginia 


BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY NO MORE! 

It used to be the goal of every NBA player to play in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston and San Francisco with Golden State. This doesn't appear to be the case any longer. Now that the NBA season is over, free agents will be deciding where they want to play next season and beyond. 

The first two free agents to announce intent are Pascal Siakam, who intends to resign with Indiana and Malik Monk announced he intends on resigning with Sacramento. Both Indianapolis and Sacramento are far from the bright lights, big city atmosphere players used to crave because it meant they were among the best players in the league. Now it seems as if players are willing to hang in lesser exciting cities as long as the money is right. 

What does this mean for the major market teams who are usually flush with cash to write big checks? They'll most likely get their share of players seeking the spotlight but the way the NBA is structured, gone are the days where the major market clubs will dominate year after year. We'll see even more parity in the NBA regardless of market size. 

Next we'll see players with team options making up their minds over the next couple of weeks and the NBA Draft is coming up on June 26th. Get ready for a very interesting NBA offseason. 

Comments & Questions Are Welcome

LAKERS LOCKER ROOM 
JJ REDICK IT IS! 
 

On the Big 4 Sports No Autopsy, No Foul podcast on Thursday, I screwed the pooch and owe the outsiders pretending to be insiders an apology. They have been adamant since the Lakers fired Darvin Ham, that JJ Redick would be the Lakers next coach. After they were blind sided by the Dan Hurley interview, I concluded they didn't really know what was going on behind the scenes. I said the Lakers would most likely wait to see what LeBron James did before they hired a coach. It turns out the outsiders pretending to be insiders were correct and this outsider trying to become an insider was absolutely wrong. 

On Thursday, the Lakers signed JJ Redick to a 4 year deal to become their next head coach. What does this mean for LeBron James? The outsiders pretending to be insiders are reporting James will opt out of his contract. This doesn't mean he'll leave the Lakers, but it gives him more options and leverage which LeBron has been effective at his entire career. It's been my contention the only team worth leaving the Lakers for is the New York Knicks. If New York brings back OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein plus the return of Julius Randle, the Knicks with LeBron James would challenge the Boston Celtics in the East. Helping the Knicks win their first NBA Championship since 1970 would be a huge exclamation point to his career. 

The hiring of Redick could mean LeBron plans on returning to the Lakers, and is willing to restructure his deal that will allow the Lakers to go out and get the third star they'll need to compete in the West. What if the Lakers add free agent Isiah Hartenstein to free up Antony Davis? Would a line up of James, Davis, Hartenstein, Reaves and Russell (if he picks up his option) be better than Minnesota, Dallas, Denver and the rest of the West? The free agent market isn't filled with a lot of options and the Lakers simply don't have enough to trade for a third star unless some other players opt out of their deals. What if the Lakers were able to sign Anunoby and Hartenstein for example? 

If James and Russell return to the Lakers, my feeling has always been their starting five of James, Davis, Hachimura, Reaves and Russell is solid and all the Lakers need to do is solidify their bench and there are enough free agents and other plays who might opt out to help Los Angeles to do this. 

There are mixed reviews about JJ Redick getting the job but if not Redick, who? Monte Williams? Williams is set with payouts of nearly $85 million from Phoenix and Detroit. Where is his motivation to excel? When Dan Hurley, turned down the job, you can honestly see why the Lakers had to settle for Redick because no one else wanted the Lakers job and why would they? The Lakers will be in full rebuild mode starting this year if James and Russell leave. If James and Russell stay and James retires after this season, the Lakers will be in rebuild mode then and they'll need every draft pick they can get so it doesn't really make sense for the Lakers to trade them all away now unless they can get players who will keep the franchise competitive while they add players along the way. 

 Redick is a done deal. I sincerely hope Lakers fans give him an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them because his basketball IQ is off the charts. The Lakers will surround him with an experienced coaching staff which will allow him to not feel like he has to do it all. 

The one thing we can count on is the next three months will be more interesting than the regular season and we'll have lots to talk about. 

Comments & Questions Are Welcome
2024 Free Agents 

Unrestricted 
Taurean Prince
Spencer Dinwiddie 
Miles Bridges 
DeMar DeRozan
Klay Thompson
Pascal Siakam (resigned with Indiana) 
James Harden 
Jonas Valanciunas 
Malik Beasley 
Isaiah Hartenstein 
Malik Monk (resigned with Sacramento)
Talen Horton-Tucker 
Lonnie Walker IV
Andre Drummond 
Tobias Harris 
Kelly Oubre Jr. 
Kyle Lowrey 
Buddy Hield 
Gary Trent Jr. 
Tyrus Jones 
Nic Claxton 

Player Options 
LeBron James
D'Angelo Russell
Christian Wood 
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Paul George 
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Love 
OG Anunoby 
Reggie Jackson 
Gary Payton Jr. 
Josh Richardson 
Eric Gordan 

Restricted
Cam Reddish 
Jaxson Hayes
Max Christie 
Colin Castleton 
Skylar Mays 
Amari Bailey 
Tyrese Maxey 
Immanuel Quickly 
Saddiq Bey


 BASEBALL GREATS BEHIND THE MIC

When you consider all the great players who've laced up their spikes to play Major League Baseball, it's real easy to forget the greats who sat behind the microphone and delivered the play-by-play, but they were as much a part of baseball's success as the players. During the games greatest growth period from the time Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees into the late 1900's, it was the characters behind the mic who carried baseball by telling the story of the game between pitches. 

Men like Vin Scully/Dodgers, Harry Caray/Cubs, Bob Prince/Pirates, Bob Uecker/Brewers, Marty Brenneman/Reds, and Dizzy Dean/Cardinals just to name a few. Who can forget the Saturday Game of the Week with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek? Today, it's Joe Miller/Giants who brings the gift of telling sensational stories between pitches which is a lost art for most play-by-play announcers today. This is due to the fact they have to share the booth with a color commentary announcer who is typically an ex player. Now the play-by-play announcer focuses on what's happening on the field and it's the color commentaries announcers job to tell the story between pitches. You might get some interesting back and forth between the two but the greats of the game worked alone. 

Today's color commentators are mostly stat junkies who can tell you if a pitch was a fastball, a curve, or a changeup and if a player is trying to do too much or not enough. Most couldn't tell a story about the game outside of who they had dinner with once. I sincerely feel bad for fans who never listened to one of the greats behind the mic because they'll never understand what it was like to to lay in bed an night on the east coast listening to your team play on the west coast. The greats behind the mic made you feel like you were sitting in the stands. When is the last time you've seen a fan with a radio in the stands of a game listening to the play-by-play as they watched? It's a rare occurrence but back in the day, just about every true baseball fan went to the game with their glove and a radio. 

The greats behind the mic were an extension of the teams marketing. They were the face of the franchise along with the all stars from a team. They would go to greet fans during the off season in bus caravans and fans were as excited to meet the play-by-play stars as they were the players and coaches. These broadcasters were so unbelievable, they would attract fans and hold them during a losing season, keeping hope alive that next year would be better. They kept you listening even when their team was getting blown out because we wanted to hear the stories almost like the game was secondary. 

Starting in the 80's, when ESPN and later FOX went 24 hours, we've had great baseball commentators who added compelling stories before and after the game like Peter Gammons, Roy Firestone, Bob Costas, Bryant Gumbel, Al Michaels, Chris Berman, Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan. Some have left us but they all left us with lasting memories and great stories we'll never hear again when baseball was truly America's past time.  

Comments & Questions Are Welcome

REDS CLUB HOUSE

TRADE TIME IN CINCINNATI 
It all started in spring training when Matt McLain went down with a shoulder injury and Noelvi Marte got suspended for using an illegal substance and TJ Friel started the season on the IL. We should have known then that the Cincinnati Reds were going to have another one of their snake bit seasons. The loss of Joey Votto's veteran leadership didn't help either and now it can be said, the Reds should have retained Votto for at least one more season. Even at 40, Joey Votto is capable of hitting .200 like most of the other players on the team. The Reds simply felt they had paid Votto enough over the past five years, and were ready to part ways with him. 

Then you have Manager David Bell, who for some reason has the trust of ownership, even though he's been a disaster. Bell cannot manage a bullpen or fill out a lineup card. It feels like he makes decision that go against the odds as if he's trying to outsmart them and he fails 9 time out of 10. Why he continues to bring in Lucas Sims in key situations is mind boggling after he's proven time and time again this season, he pitches best with no one on base and never after the 8th inning. Bell's lineup cards lack consistency and he has been notorious for sitting a hot bat to rest the player when he should ride a hot bat until it cools off. 

As of June 21st, the Reds are in last place in the National League Central at 35-39. The team went through a major losing streak in May but made up for it with an 8 game winning streak this month but over the past 10 games, the Reds are 4-6 and worse is they can't seem to beat the teams in their division. Most recently losing series against Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. 

At this point the Reds have two options. Stand pat and let the season playout knowing McLain will return for the last month of the season and Noelvi Marte is just a few games away from returning or start making trades. If the Reds stand pat, the chances of another 90 loss season looms large. A trade could be a much needed shot in the arm but part of me feels as long as David Bell is the manager, no matter what moves the Reds make will result in failure. 

Baseball is a long season and teams will go through peaks and valleys. The majority of teams, are going to  win 55 games and lose 55 games making the season a 52 game schedule of games that matter. It's who gets the hottest over that 52 game stretch is who makes the playoffs. The Reds are 8.5 games behind Milwaukee who appears primed to win the division. This leaves the Reds competing with St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. All teams the Reds when healthy are on par with. So what needs to happen to put the team over the top. 

The Reds can make a move now or at the trade deadline to shake things up. Sometimes a trade is necessary to wake the other players up. This is a tight Reds team, maybe too tight. Maybe it's time to make some players nervous so they feel like they're playing as if their life depends on it. 

An easy trade the Reds can make would be to send Will Benson and Lucas Sims to the New York Mets for JD Martinez. Would the Mets make this deal? They should but they will probably ask for another prized minor league prospect to make it happen. Martinez (36) is on the downside of his career but he's still a guy who can hit for average and put the ball in the seats. As much as I like Will Benson, the Mets have to get some value back. 

Trading for Martinez give the Reds a veteran player who can solidify the DH position and he can also play right field which sets up a DH/RF option with Jake Fraley. By trading Sims, he gets a fresh start and the Reds can move Carson Spiers to the bullpen and bring back Graham Ashcraft as a fifth starter where he'll be going up against other teams fifth starters giving him a better chance of getting his groove back. 

Consider this Reds Lineup. 
CF- TJ Friedl 
DH- JD Martinez 
LF- Spencer Steer 
1B- Jeimer Candelario 
3B- Noelvi Marte 
SS- Elly De La Cruz
RF- Jake Fraley 
C- Tyler Stephenson 
2B- Jonathan India 

Is this a better line up with Martinez than Benson? By adding Martinez, you add a solid number two hitter allowing De La Cruz to hit 6th where he has hit better and had a bigger effect on the outcomes of games this season. 

Should the Reds make this move if the Mets would agree to it? 

Comments & Questions Are Welcome
 

2024 All Star Selections

C- Adley Rutschman- Baltimore Orioles 
1B- Vladimir Guerrero Jr.- Toronto Blue Jays 
2B- Jose Altuve- Huston Astros 
3B- Jose Ramirez- Cleveland Indians 
SS- Gunner Henderson- Baltimore Orioles 
OF- Aaron Judge- New York Yankees
OF- Juan Soto- New York Yankees
OF- Julio Rodriguez- Seattle Mariners 
DH- Giancarlo Stanton- New York Yankees
 
C- William Contreras- Milwaukee Brewers
1B- Freddie Freeman- Los Angeles Dodgers 
2B- Ketel Marte- Arizona Diamondbacks
3B- Alec Bohm- Philadelphia Phillies 
SS- Elly De La Cruz- Cincinnati Reds
OF- Jurickson Profar- San Diego Padres 
OF- Christian Yelich- Milwaukee Brewers
OF- Fernando Titas Jr.- San Diego Padres 
DH- Shohei Ohtani- Los Angeles Dodgers 

Vote @ MLB.com/vote MLB.com/vote 
 
Comments & Questions Are Welcome


MLB POWER RANKINGS
Week of June 24, 2024

10 BEST
1.Philadelphia Phillies 
2 New York Yankees
3 Cleveland Guardians
4 Baltimore Orioles
5 Los Angeles Dodgers 
6 Milwaukee Brewers
7 Atlanta Braves
8. Seattle Mariners 
9 Minnesota Twins
10 Boston Red Sox 

10 WORST
1 Chicago White Sox
2 Colorado Rockies
3 Miami Marlines 
4 Oakland Athletics 
5 Los Angeles Angels 
6 Toronto Blue Jays 
7 San Francisco Giants
8 Detroit Tigers
9 Cincinnati Reds
10 Chicago Cubs 

 
THOSE DIRTY RATS! 
The Florida Panthers won their first Stanley Cup on Monday night by finishing off the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in what was one of the most intense final ten minutes of hockey I've seen in recent years. The Oilers were relentless on offense down the stretch and how Sergei Bobrovsky survived the onslaught of shots was beyond spectacular. 

Florida jumped out to a 3-0 series lead before Edmonton stormed back to tie the series at 3-3 and even though Florida had home ice advantage for game 7, I went in thinking the Oilers momentum might carry over one more game but it was not to be. 

To give you an idea of how tremendous Edmonton played in this series, the Conn Smythe winner was the Oilers Conner McDavid which says a lot when a player from the losing team wins the MVP. I picked Florida to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the playoffs and I'm relieved they pulled it out since I screwed the pooch by picking Dallas over Boston in the NBA finals.

Congratulations to Florida Panthers fans, ownership, players and coaches on hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup and to head coach Paul Maurice, who was once the last player selected in the NHL Draft, we salute him on never having lost a game 7 in the playoffs and is now 5-0. 

NHL Playoff Match Ups
Eastern Conference
Florida Vs Tampa Bay- W
Boston Vs Toronto- W 
New York Rangers Vs Washington- W
Carolina Vs New York Islanders- W

Western Conference 
Dallas Vs. Vegas- W
Winnipeg Vs Colorado- L
Vancouver Vs Nashville- W
Edmonton Vs Kings- W

Round 2 
Carolina Vs New York Rangers- W
Florida Vs Boston- W
Vancouver Vs Edmonton-L 
Colorado Vs Dallas- W 

Round 3
New York Rangers Vs Florida = L
Dallas Vs Edmonton - L

Stanley Cup Finals 
Florida Vs Edmonton - W
* Big 4 Sports Predicted Winners in Bold. (10-4)

RESULTS
Eastern Conference 
Carolina 4 New York Islanders 1
Boston 4 Toronto 3 
Florida 4 Tampa Bay 1
NY Rangers 4 Washington 0 

Round 2 
Eastern Conference 
New York 4 Carolina 2
Florida 4 Boston 2

EC Final 
Florida 4 New York 2 

Western Conference 
Colorado 4 Winnipeg 1
Vancouver 4 Nashville 2 
Edmonton 4 Los Angeles 1
Dallas 4 Vegas 3 

Round 2
Western Conference 
Dallas 4 Colorado 2  
Edmonton 4 Vancouver 3 

WC Final 
Edmonton 4 Dallas 2 

Stanley Cup Finals 
Florida 4 Edmonton 3 

Comments & Questions Are Welcome

PEN1S ON ICE 
 WHAT'S NEXT FOR CROSBY, MALKIN AND LETANG?

One of the most difficult challenges for a General Manager faces is when to move off from key players in the organization. Fans have grown to love them dearly and want just one more year with their favorite players and they still sell tickets but they don't win games for the team anymore. The Pens who've missed the playoffs the previous two seasons are faced with this dilemma in regards to their core three players Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris LeTang who are all creeping up on 40. When the season starts Crosby will be 37, Malkin 38, and LeTang just turned 37. 

Based on the number of Stanley Cups won and playoffs appearances made, you would think it would be up to each of them to determine their own fate. However, with the amount of money being floated these days, players tend to stick around way past their expiration date forcing the team to either keep, trade or release them.  

If we are being objective, Sidney Crosby still looks like he has 2-3 more years under ahead of him. Evgeni Malkin had a down year in 2023-24 compared to previous season and led the team in penalty minutes. Kris LeTang had a respectable season but still not a comparable as previous years. One can also argue Malkin and LeTang, while getting up in years, are still just as effective as the other players on the team, even with diminished skills. 

If the Pens keep all three this season, they owe it to them to surround them with teammates who can reduce their minutes so when they are on the ice, they'll be more effective. The Pens can also help themselves by improving their goal tending which has been a mess since Mark Andre Fleury left and Matt Murray didn't pan out. The Pens re-signed Alex Nedeljkovic to a 2 year deal. Nedeljkovic was 18-7-7 with a 2.97 GA/G compared to Tristin Jarry, who was 19-25-5 with a 2.97 GA/G. Both will give the Pens a chance to win, but only if they get support from the defense which has been an issues the past two seasons.  

Should the Pens decide to break up Crosby, Malkin, and LeTang. There is no way Crosby is getting traded unless the deal is too outrageous to pass up. Doubtful Malkin and LeTang have much trade value left so most likely they'll remain on the team and take on a lesser role or potentially released and it may take reworking their contracts for this to happen. 

As soon as the Stanley Cup is awarded on Monday night, you'll see moves start to happen and we'll get a good idea where the Penguins are heading in 2024-25.

Comments & Questions are Welcome
Email: sports@big4sportsusa.com  

The first Big 4 Sports USA Ten Team Fantasy Football League is set for 2024 and we recently held a Zoom conference meeting to discuss how we want to execute our league. 

Our draft will be held on Monday, September 2nd, three days before the start of the season to insure we have an accurate team by team roster to draft from. One of the major rules we established that will differentiate us from other leagues moving forward is we agreed to allow players who continue from year to year to keep 1 quarterback, 1 running back, and 1 wide receiver or tightened from the previous season with the option to redraft an entirely new team. If someone drops out of the league, all of their players become available for that years draft and their replacement will have to draft from the players available. Trades are encouraged to keep the season competitive. We also agreed to holding a mandatory weekly Zoom meeting every Tuesday night to recap the week and discuss trade options. If someone fails to field a complete team in any week, they will be allowed to finish out the season but they will not be allowed to participate in the future. 

Big 4 Sports USA will provide free pizza from Pizza Hut, delivered to each participants office or home every Tuesday night during the season. The idea is to create the most active and fun Fantasy Football League possible. 

All ten players have preselected team names and Big 4 Sports USA will be known as the Demons. This season was free to join, but starting next year we agreed to a $250.00 entry fee creating a $2500.00 winner take all prize. You can follow our league here on the Big 4 Sports Page/Blog. 

2024 Pre NFL Draft Top Rated Players By Position 

Quarterbacks
1- Lamar Jackson- Baltimore 
2- CJ Stroud- Houston 
3- Jordan Love- Green Bay
4- Josh Allen- Buffalo
5- Joe Burrow- Cincinnati 
6- Pat Mahomes- Kansas City 
7- Jalen Hurts- Philadelphia 
8- Dak Prescott- Dallas 
9- Jared- Goff- Detroit 
10- Brock Purdy- San Francisco 

Running Backs
1- Christian McCaffery- San Francisco
2- Kyren Williams- Los Angeles Rams
3- Jahmyr Gibbs- Detroit 
4- Bijan Robinson- Atlanta 
5- Derrick Henry- Baltimore 
6- Breece Hall- New York Jets
7- Travis Etienne- Jacksonville
8- Rachaad White- Tampa Bay 
9- Josh Jacobs- Green Bay 
10- Kenneth Walker- Seattle 

Wide Receivers
1- Tyreek Hill- Miami 
2- Amon-Ra St. Brown- Detroit 
3- Stefon Diggs- Houston 
4- Puka Nacua- Los Angeles Rams 
5- Ja'Marr Chase- Cincinnati 
6- DK Metcalf- Seattle
7- CeeDee Lamb- Dallas
8- Justin Jefferson- Minnesota 
9- DJ Moore- Chicago
10- Michael Pittman- Indianapolis 

Tight Ends 
1- Sam LaPorta- Detroit 
2- Travis Kelce- Kansas City 
3- George Kittle- San Francisco
4- David Njoku- Cleveland 
5- Evan Engram- Jacksonville 
6- T.J. Hockenson- Minnesota 
7- Dalton Schultz- Houston 
8- Trey McBride- Arizona 
9- Cole Kmet- Chicago
10- Dalton Kincaid- Buffalo 

Kickers 
1- Brandon Aubrey- Dallas 
2- Justin Tucker- Baltimore
3- Harrison Butker- Kansas City 
4- Jake Elliott- Philadelphia
5- Jason Myers- Seattle
6- Jake Moody- San Francisco
7- Jason Sanders- Miami 
8- Blake Grupe- New Orleans 
9- Daniel Carlson- Las Vegas
10- Cameron Dicker- Los Angeles Chargers 

Defenses 
1- Baltimore Ravens
2- Dallas Cowboys
3- Cleveland Browns 
4- Buffalo Bills 
5- Las Vegas Raiders
6- San Francisco 49ers
7- Pittsburgh Steelers 
8- Miami Dolphins 
9- Houston Texans 
10- Kansas City Chiefs 

Top 20 Fantasy Football Prospects for 2024
QB Caleb Williams- Chicago Bears
QB Jaden Daniels- Washington Commanders 
QB Drake Maye- New England Patriots 
WR Marvin Harrison Jr- Arizona Cardinals 
WR Malik Nabers- New York Giants 
WR Rome Odunze- Chicago Bears 
TE Brock Bowers- Las Vegas Raiders
WR Xavier Worthy- Kanas City Chiefs 
WR Keon Coleman- Buffalo Bills 
WR Ladd McConkey- Los Angeles Chargers 
WR Ja'Lynn Polk- New England Patriots 
RB Jonathan Brooks- Carolina Panthers 
RB Trey Benson- Arizona Cardinals 
RB Blake Corum- Los Angeles Chargers 
RB MarShawn Lloyd- Green Bay Packers 
WR Jalen McMillan- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
WR Troy Franklin- Denver Broncos 
TE Theo Johnson- New York Giants
WR Javon Baker- New England Patriots 
WR Bub Means- New Orleans Saints 

The Big 4 Sports 10 Team Fantasy Football League is set for 2024.
 If you missed out this season, we'll have another opportunity next season by establishing multiple leagues. 

Comments & Questions Are Welcome

 A: Dana Taurasi 

2024 TEAM PREVIEWS 

The Arizona Cardinals won 4 games in 2023, and play in a tough division with the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, and Seattle Seahawks. After last years coaching change to Jonathan Gannon, and the mid season return of Kyler Murray from a serious leg injury in 2022, the Cardinals looked like a team in rebuild mode winning only one of their first 9 games. Arizona only won one of their final four and at no time during the season did the Cardinals show any improvement. In short, the Arizona Cardinals were a terrible team. 

Coming into 2024, the Cardinals will have a healthy Kyler Murray who threw for 1,799 yards and 10 touchdowns in 8 games. Murray ran for 224 years or 28 yards per game, falling short of how he performed before his injury. The question is, how motivated will Murray be this season to regain being one of the NFL's top Quarterbacks. He's still learning Gannon's system.

The Cardinals drafted Wide Receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., which should give Murray an excellent target if they can get on the same page. Arizona also improved their running game by drafting Trey Benson out of Florida State in case an aging James Conner struggles. The one bright spot on offense for Arizona was the development of tight end Trey McBride, who 81 catches for 825 yards but will need to grab more than 3 touchdowns this season if Arizona is going to put up more than 4 wins. 

The one saving grace is they are a year into their rebuild while Seattle is entering the season with a new coach and players having to learn a new system and this could give Arizona an opportunity to jump up to 3rd place in the NFC West behind San Francisco and Los Angeles 

2024 Schedule 
8.8 @ Buffalo Bills  
8.15 Los Angeles Rams 
9.22 Detroit Lions 
9.29 Washington Commanders 
10.6 @ San Francisco 49ers 
10.13 @ Green Bay Packers
10.21 Los Angeles Chargers 
10.27 @ Miami Dolphins 
11.3 Chicago Bears
11.10 New York Jets 
11.24 @ Seattle Seahawks
12.1 @ Minnesota Vikings 
12.8 Seattle Seahawks
12.15 New England Patriots 
12.22 @ Carolina Panthers 
12.29 @ Los Angeles Rams 
1.5 San Francisco 49ers

Projection: 5-12

In 2023, the Atlanta Falcons won 7 games. They were 5-3 at home and 2-7 on the road which means in 2024, the Falcons will be attempting to improve at home but mainly on the road. Atlanta plays in a very winnable NFC South against Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Carolina. Tampa Bay won the division in 2023 with only 9 wins so the hill Atlanta needs to climb in 2024 isn't that steep. 

The Falcons created a quarterback controversy during the offseason by signing free agent Kirk Cousins and then drafting Michael Penix Jr. out of Washington University to go along with Taylor Heinicke and John Paddock. Coming into training camp, the  depth chart looks to be Cousins, Heinicke, Penix Jr. and Paddock. Cousins is coming off an Achilles injury that could hamper him early in the season while he learns a new system. 

Atlanta's strength  on offense is going to be their running game led by Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier. They also added Alabama RB Jase McClellan who will compete with Allgeier for playing time. Where the Falcons need improve is with their receiving core. Drake London, Darnell Mooney, and Rondale Moore look capable but none of them gained over a thousand yards last season. Maybe this will improve with Cousins who has put up close to 40,000 yards passing during his career.

On Defense, Atlanta has a lot of work to do. In 2023, the Falcons were 17th in scoring, 29th in takeaways, 27th in interceptions, and 21st in sacks. The Falcons addressed their defensive issues bring the NFL Draft by picking up five defensive players. Led by Clemson's Ruke Orhorhoro, Bralen Trice out of Washington, Zion Logue from Georgia and Brandon Dorius out of Oregon to sure up their defensive line and rushing attack. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Pittsburgh Steelers
9.16 @ Philadelphia Eagles
9.22 Kansas City Chiefs 
9.29 New Orleans Saints 
10.3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
10.13 @ Carolina Panthers 
10;20 Seattle Seahawks
10.27 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
11.3 Dallas Cowboys 
11.10 @ New Orleans Saints 
11.17 @ Denver Broncos
12.1 Los Angeles Chargers 
12.8 @ Minnesota Vikings 
12.16 @ Las Vegas Raiders
12.22 New York Giants
12.29 @ Washington Commanders 
1.5 Carolina Panthers 

Projection: 8-9

The Baltimore Ravens won 13 games in 2023 to win the AFC Central Division where every team played above .500 football. This is the toughest conference in the NFL and it's going to be tougher in 2024. The key move for the Ravens was the off season signing of battle tested and durable free agent Running Back Derrick Henry. Putting him together with Lamar Jackson at QB, and the Ravens will have the ability to control the tempo of every game which is why they are favored to repeat as division champions. However, Baltimore has their sights on the Super Bowl which runs through Kansas City and who the Ravens play opening night on September 5th. 

Baltimore will face the return of Joe Burrow in Cincinnati,  a refreshed Deshaun Watson in Cleveland on top of Running Back Nick Chubb returning from injury to go with Jerome Ford. In Pittsburgh, a rejuvenated Steelers Quarterback core with Justin Fields and Russell Wilson. It won't be a cake walk for the Ravens, but the NFL is a Quarterback league and Jackson is the best of the four starters in the AFC Central. 

The Ravens solidified their defense during the NFL draft by taking Clemson CB Nate Wiggins with their first round pick and selecting LB Adisa Isaac from Penn State. Baltimore also improved their offensive line by selecting Roger Rosengarten out of Penn State. 

If Baltimore has a weakness, it is with their receiving core. Picking North Carolina's Devontez Walker in the draft should help. He'll be teamed with Zay Jones, Nelson Agholor and Rashod Bateman. The Ravens are counting on Zay Jones learning from his showboating mistakes of 2023, and maturing into the Pro Bowl receiver he has the potential to be. Baltimore also has one of the most difficult schedules to navigate this season.  

2024 Schedule 
9.5 @ Kanas City Chiefs 
9.15 Las Vegas Raiders
9.22 @ Dallas Cowboys
9.29 Buffalo Bills
10.6 @ Cincinnati Bengals 
10.13 Washington Commanders
10.21 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
10.27 @ Cleveland Browns 
11.3 Denver Broncos 
11.7 Cincinnati Bengals 
11.17 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 
11.25 @ Los Angeles Chargers 
12.1 Philadelphia Eagles
12.15 @ New York Giants
12.21 Pittsburgh Steelers
12.25 @ Houston Texans
1.5 Cleveland Browns 

Projection: 12-5

The Buffalo Bills won 11 games in 2023 to win the NFC Eastern Conference even though they tied with Miami with 11 wins due to beathing Miami in both of their regular season matchups. In 2024, the Bills will have to overcome the loss of star WR Stefon Diggs who they traded to Houston and  QB Josh Allen will be working with new Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady. 

The Bills drafted highly touted Florida State WR Keon Coleman who will have big shoes to fill thanks to Diggs departure and how far the Bills go will depend on how quickly Allen and Coleman can get on the same page. Buffalo also picked up RB Ray Davis out of Kentucky to sure up their backfield but used most of their draft picks to revamp their defense. 

James Cook will once again lead the Bills rushing game. Cook gained 1,122 yards on the ground and picked up 445 in the air for a combined output of 1,567 yards and Buffalo will need the same production from Cook at a minimum. Also joining Coleman at WR will be new additions Chase Claypool and Curtis Samuel who will benefit from having a QB like Josh Allen throwing to them. 

Buffalo finished 2023 with a top ten ranked defense and should expect the same output in 2024. The Bills were able to re-sign DT DaQuan Jones and DE A.J. Espenesa and extend LT Dion Dawkins and CB Taron Johnson. Adding draft picks S Cole Bishop out of Utah, DT DeWayne Carter from Duke and LB Edefuan Ulofoshio from Washington should give the Bills more defensive depth. The Bills will be challenged early playing 5 out of their first 8 games on the road including a matchup with Houston where they'll see former WR Sefon Diggs in week five. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Arizona Cardinals 
9.12 @ Miami Dolphins 
9.23 Jacksonville Jaguars 
9.29 @ Baltimore Ravens 
10.6 @ Houston Texans 
10.14 @ New York Jets 
10.20 Tennessee Titans 
10.27 @ Seattle Seahawks 
 11.3 Miami Dolphins 
11.10 @ Baltimore Colts 
11.17 Kansas City Chiefs
12.1 San Francisco 49ers
12.8 @ Los Angeles Rams 
12.15 @ Detroit Lions 
12.22 New England Patriots 
12.29 New York Jets
1.5 @ New England Patriots

Projection: 10-7

The Carolina Panthers had the worst record in the NFL in 2023, going 2-15 overall. The good news is the Panthers have a better chance of going forward than going backwards but they still have a lot of work and a long road ahead before they're competitive again. Fortunately, Carolina plays in the NFC South, with Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta. The division can be won potentially with a 9 win season but don't look for Carolina to improve by 7 games in 2024. 

This season the Panthers will be implementing an entirely new offense behind first year head coach Dave Canales. It also means second year QB Bryce Young will have to learn a new offense. Early reports say Young is picking up the offense quickly and now comes down to execution on the field. Young also has a good veteran backup in Andy Dalton, to help him improve. Hind sight being 20/20, I can't help but wonder if Carolina, wishes they took C.J. Stroud over Young in the 2023 draft. 

During the offseason, Carolina made several player moves but failed to make a splash in the free agent market with any big name signings. During the NFL Draft, WR Xavier Legette out of South Carolina was their first pick, followed by Texas RB Jonathan Brooks, LB Trevin Wallace from Kentucky and TE Ja'Tavion Sanders also from Texas. All four are solid picks that will help Carolina sure up a few key positions. 

Another area Carolina will need to improve is on Defense where they ranked last in pressuring their opponents QB. The Panthers gave up 24.4 points per game while average only 13.8 points on offense. Carolina's goal will be to flip these numbers this season. Returning from 2023 are RB Chuba Hubbard who had a combined total of 1,135 all purpose yards. Young wiill also have WR Adam Thielen and Dionatae Johnson to throw to so there will be some familiarity between this core. What Carolina lacks in star power will have to be made up with a group of players who are fundamentally sound and can limit turnovers and penalties to give the Panthers a chance to win close games. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ New Orleans
9.15 Los Angeles Chargers
9.22 @ Las Vegas Raiders
9.29 Cincinnati Bengals 
10.6 @ Chicago Bears
10.13 Atlanta Falcons
10.20 @ Washington Commanders
10.27 @ Denver Broncos 
11.3 New Orleans Saints 
11.10 New York Giants 
11.24 Kansas City Chiefs 
12.1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12.8 @ Philadelphia Eagles 
12.14 Dallas Cowboys 
12.22 Arizona Cardinals 
12.29 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1.5 @ Atlanta Falcons 

Projection: 3-14

The Chicago Bears were 7-10 in 2023 and were given the gift of a number one draft pick in 2024 courtesy of the Carolina Panthers. The Bears proceeded to select coveted USC QB Caleb Williams with the hope he would change the Bears future fortune. Williams is considered to be a can't miss NFL superstar but where have we heard this before? Over the past 25 years, only 38% of quarterbacks taken in the first round wound up being the face of the franchise. 

To improve Williams chances, the Bears also drafted Washington University WR Rome Odunze, catch Caleb's passes and Yale OT Kiran Amegadjie, to help protect him. Then Chicago picked up RB D'Andre Swift, and WR Keenan Allen, to go with WR DJ Moore and TE Cole Kmet, creating an offense loaded for Bear. Chicago average 21 points a game in 2023 and based on the improvements the Bears should add an additional 78-10 points per game to their average. 

Defensively, the Bears gave up 22 points per game but made several free agent and late draft picks to sure up the defensive line and secondary. The Bears picked up free agent DT Byron Cowert and DT Jake Martin, and picked up DE Austin Booker in the 5th round out of Kansas. Chicago hopes to improve the defense by knocking 4 to 6 points from last seasons 22 PPG average.  

Chicago was hard to beat at home in 2023 but they couldn't duplicate the same on the road. The key for Chicago this season will continue to be hard to beat in Chicago but play .500 football on the road and this should put the Bears in line to either win the division or qualify for a wild card playoff position. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Tennessee Titans
9.15 @ Houston Texans 
9.22 @ Indianapolis Colts
9.29 Los Angeles Rams
10.6 Carolina Panthers 
10.13 Jacksonville Jaguars
10.27 @ Washington Commanders
11.3 @ Arizona Cardinals 
11.10 New England Patriots 
11.17 Green Bay Packers 
11.24 Minnesota Vikings 
11.28 @ Detroit Lions 
12.8 @ San Francisco 49ers
12.16 @ Minnesota Vikings 
12.22 Detroit Lions
12.26 Seattle Seahawks
1.5 @ Green Bay Packers 

Projection:8-9 

The Cincinnati Bengals won 9 games in 2023 and finished last in the AFC North. This season even with a healthy Joe Burrow, the Bengals are going to be challenged to match their results from 2023. Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh all made moves to improve while the Bengals still have a Tee Higgins disruption to solve. They also have an uncertain backfield to contend with after releasing RB Joe Mixon. 

The good news for Cincinnati is QB Joe Burrow is healthy and they still have WR Ja'Marr Cjase, one of the best connections in the NFL to build on. Replacing Mixon in the Bengals backfield is Zack Moss who had 886 all purpose yards and 7 touchdowns for Indianapolis last season which is a reduction in production from Mixon's 1.410 all purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. This signals Cincinnati is going to rely more on the passing game this season which means Joe Burrow better stay healthy. 

The Bengals addressed their offensive line during the draft to protect Burrow by selecting OT Amarius Mims from Georgia with their first pick. They also selected WR Jermain Burton of Alabama and Tight Ends Erick All from Iowa and Tanner McLachlan out of Arizona to give Burrow more options should the Higgins situation not work out. The Bengals averaged 21.5 PPG in 2023 and they'll need to add another 7-10 PPG to have a chance at making the playoffs in 2024. 

Defensively, the Bengals gave up 22.6 PPG, and they'll have to reduce that number by at least 5 PPG. To address the defense, Cincinnati drafted Defensive Tackles Kris Jenkins from Michigan and McKinnley Jackson of Texas A&M, and ER Cedric Johnson out of Ole Miss. The question with rookies is all about how quickly they can transition from college to pro. The bottom line is the Bengals have more questions to answer in 2024 than 2023 and combine this with a schedule where Cincinnati has to play Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh 6 times plus face Kanas City, and Dallas on the road projects to a dismal outcome for the Bengals this season.  

2024 Schedule 
9.8 New England Patriots 
9.15 @ Kansas City Chiefs 
9.23 Washington Commanders
9.29 @ Carolina Panthers 
10.6 Baltimore Ravens 
10.13 @ New York Giants 
10.20 @ Cleveland Browns 
10.27 Philadelphia Eagles 
11.3 Las Vegas Raiders
11.7 @ Baltimore Ravens 
11.17 @ Los Angeles Chargers 
12.1 Pittsburgh Steelers
12.9 @ Dallas Cowboys
12.15 @ Tennessee Titans 
12.19 Cleveland Browns 
12.29 Denver Broncos
1.5 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 

Projection: 8-9 

The Cleveland Browns are one of only four NFL teams to have never played in the Super Bowl. After Putting up 11 wins in 2023, the Browns have their sights on changing their luck in 2024. Playing in the rough and rugged AFC North, the Browns will have their hands full with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. If the Browns can get a full season out of QB DeShaun Watson and RB Nick Chubb returns to form after suffering a season ending injury in 2023,Cleveland could potentially break through to play in Super Bowl LIX. 

On offense, the Browns average 23 PPG in 2023, but will need to add to it this season if they expect to contend. To accomplish this, the Browns hope to have a healthy DeShaun Watson and Nick Chubb, available but by signing QB Jameis Winston to go with QB Tyler Huntley, the Browns have some insurance at the QB position. If Chubb doesn't return to form,, Jerome Ford will get the bulk of the carries. Ford gained 813 yards last season and proved he's capable of carrying the load. The Browns also picked up WR Jerry Jeudy from Denver to go with WR Amari Cooper and TE David Njoku. 

On defense, the Browns gave up 21 PPG in 2023 and will need to see an improvement in order to make the playoffs in 2024.  During the NFL draft, Cleveland focused on improving their defense by selecting DT Michael Hall Jr. from Ohio State. LB Nathan Watson out of Mississippi State, CB Miles Harden from South Dakota and DT Jowon Briggs from Cincinnati. 
Any defense anchored by DE Miles Garrett has a chance of being one of the NFL's top defenses. 

The NFL didn't do Cleveland any favors scheduling wise as the Browns not only have to play Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati twice, they'll also face Dallas, Kansas City, and Miami. Fortunately all three of those games will be played in Cleveland where the Browns were 8-1 in 2023. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Dallas Cowboys
9.15 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 
9.22 New York Giants 
9.29 @ Las Vegas Raiders 
10.6 @ Washington Commanders
10.13 @ Philadelphia Eagles
10.20 Cincinnati Bengals 
10.27 Baltimore Ravens 
11.3 Los Angeles Chargers
11.17 @ New Orleans Saints 
11.21 Pittsburgh Steelers
12.2 @ Denver Broncos
12.8 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
12.15 Kansas City Chiefs
12.19 @ Cincinnati Bengals 
12.29 Miami Dolphins 
1.5 @ Baltimore Ravens 

Projection:  10-7
The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East in 2023 with a 12-5 record going a perfect 8-0 at home. If Dallas is going to improve on their performance in 2024, they'll need to find an answer for the loss of RB Tony Pollard and WR Michael Gallup plus several loses to both the offensive and defensive line. It appears Dallas, who put up 509 points to lead the NFL in 2023 were willing to give up a few points to save a few bucks. 

During the NFL Draft, Dallas addressed their issues with both lines by using 5 of their 7 picks on linemen led by OT Tyler Guyton of Oklahoma. To address the loss of Gallup, the Cowboys selected WR Ryan Flournoy from Southeast Missouri State.

On offense, QB Dak Prescott will once again have a lot put on his shoulders to carry the team which he is capable of doing. Prescott takes a lot of criticism but he's still a top 10 QB in the NFL and at 30 years old, Prescott still has a lot of football in front of him. The Wide Receiver core isn't deep but they still have WR Ceedee Lamb, WR Brandin Cooks, and TE Jake Ferguson as Prescott's targets. However, Dallas will hand it's running game over to the returning Ezekiel Elliott, and until he proves he can handle the load there will be questions about the Cowboys running game.  

Defensively, Dallas still has their core in tact led by DeMarcus Lawrence, and Micha Parsons, but with all the new additions, look for the Cowboys to potentially give up more points than their 2023 average of 18.5 PPG. Dallas looks to be a team who will score less and give up more points leading to tighter games. 

Overall, the Cowboys will find it challenging to win 12 games again in 2024, but playing in the NFC East means they'll face Philadelphia, Washington, and the New York Giants six times and all three are coming into 2024 with more questions than answers. Dallas will also have a more formidable schedule this season compared to 20023 with playoff contenders San Francisco, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston and Cincinnati on tap. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ Cleveland Browns 
9.15 New Orleans Saints 
9.22 Baltimore Ravens 
9.26 @ New York Giants
10.6 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 
10.13 Detroit Lions 
10.27 @ San Francisco 49ers 
11.3 @ Atlanta Falcons 
11.10 Philadelphia Eagles 
11.18 Houston Texans 
11.24 @ Washington Commanders
11.28 New York Giants 
12.9 Cincinnati Bengals 
12.15 @ Carolina Panthers 
12.22 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12.29 @ Philadelphia Eagles
1.5 Washington Commanders 

Projection: 10-7 

It has been a rough few years for the Broncos, and don't look for 2024 to be much better in 2024. The Broncos won 8 games in 2023,with Russell Wilson at QB. However, that wasn't good enough for head coach Sean Payton, so the organization decided to move on from Wilson and draft Bo Nix from Oregon with their #1 pick in the NFL draft. 

Payton is entering his second year as head coach of the Broncos, and probably has more pressure on him to win than any other head coach in the NFL thanks to the $4.5 billion dollars the Walton-Penner Groups paid for the franchise in 2022. Payton, who has a career record of
160-97 bought himself a little more time by ditching Wilson and selecting Bo Nix as the new face of the franchise. As we know, a head coaches future is always tied to his starting QB and Bo Nix may or may not turn out to be Payton's next Drew Brees, but they're married now. 

After selecting Nix, Denver had a mixed bag of draft picks selecting DE Jonah Elliss from Utah. WR Troy Franklin out of Oregon who gives Nix a familiar set of hands to throw to, CB Kris Abrams-Draine from Missouri, RB Audric Estime from Notre Dame, WR Devaughn Vele from Utah and C Nick Gargulo out of South Carolina. A group of players who were sold college players but can they make the transition to the NFL?  

The Broncos offense averaged 21 PPG in 2023. They got off to a slow start going 1-5 over their first 6 games and then the Broncos reeled off 5 straight wins and Payton was starting to look like a miracle worker. Then Denver finished with a 2-4 record over their final 6 games and why the decision was made to move on from Russell Wilson. Nix is going to be challenged in his first season because not only is he learning a new offense, he doesn't have the best of the best weapons at his disposal. Denver's running game will be led by Javonte Williams, who ran for 774 yards and 3 TD's in 2024 while grabbing 47 passes for another 228 years and 2 TD's. Williams will need to almost double his production this season. At Wide Receiver, Nix will have rising star Courtland Sutton, Josh Reynolds and Marvin Mims Jr. who aren't necessarily household names. At TE is Adam Trautman, who isn't in the same class as the Chiefs Travis Kelce or even the Raiders rookie TE Brock Bowers. Denver is going to have a hard time matching their 21 PPG average in 2024. 

Defensively, the Broncos gave up 24 PPG, and didn't really do much to improve the defense during the off season. Essentially, Denver is counting on last years defense to improve beyond it's 29th ranked production. A new offense led by a rookie QB, coupled with a struggling defense left over from 2023 doesn't equate to a lot of wins in the AFC West this season for Denver. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ Seattle Seahawks 
9.15 Pittsburgh Steelers 
9.22 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
9.29 @ New York Jets
10.6 Las Vegas Raiders
10.13 Los Angeles Chargers
10.17 @ New Orleans Saints 
10.27 Carolina Panthers 
11.3 @ Baltimore Ravens 
11.10 @ Kanas City Chiefs 
11.17 Atlanta Falcons
11.24 @ Las Vegas Raiders
12.2 Cleveland Browns
12.15 Indianapolis Colts
12.22 @ Los Angeles Chargers
12.29 @ Cincinnati Bengals 
1.5 Kansas City Chiefs 

 Projection: 5-12

The Detroit Lions put up 12 wins in 2023 and almost made it to their first Super Bowl but lost to San Francisco in the NFC Championship game. Regardless the Lions had a tremendous season and hope to build on it in 2024 but there will be increased competition in the NFC North this season with Green Bay and Chicago reloading and Minnesota is always competitive. 

The Lions used the NFL Draft to address their defense and offensive line. Detroit took Alabama CB Terrion Arnold in the 1st round followed by CB Ennis Rakestraw from Missouri, OT Giovanni Manu out of British Columbia, S Stone Vaki from Utah, DT Mekhi Wingo from LSU, and OG Christian Mahogany from Boston College. By focusing mainly on Defense, this means the Lions will be running it back with mostly the same offense as 2023. 

Offensively, Detroit averaged 27 PPG, and they hope to match or improve in this number in 2024. The Lions signed QB Jared Goff to a long term contract and he'll be backeed up by ex Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker. The Lions will bring back a potent rushing game with David Montgomery and Jahmyr GIbbs. Both can put up the yards running or catching passes. Also returning is All Pro WR Amon-Ra St. John, WR Donavan Peoples-Jones, WR Jameson Williams, and WR Kalif Raymond. All Pro TE Sam LaPorta is also looking to improve on his 899 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. 

Defensively, The Lions gave up 23 PPG, thus the reason why they focused on Defense in the NFL Draft. Detroit's defense is led by All Pro Aidan Hutchinson who had 11.5 sacks last season. The Lions hope to trim at least 5 PPG from last years PPG average. 

Overall, Dan Quinn has developed a confident team for 2024 but judging by their schedule, the Lions will be challenged all season. Detroit will not only compete in an improve NFC North, but they'll also face 6 other teams who made the playoffs in 2023. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Los Angeles Rams 
9.15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9.22 @ Arizona Cardinals 
9.30 Seattle Seahawks
10.13 @ Dallas Cowboys 
10.20 @ Minnesota Vikings
10.27 Tennessee Titans 
11.3 @ Green Bay Packers
11.10 @ Houston Texans 
11.17 Jacksonville Jaguars
11.24 @ Baltimore Colts
11.28 Chicago Bears
12.5 Green Bay Packers
12.15 Buffalo Bills
12.22 @ Chicago Bears 
12.30 @ San Francisco 49ers 

 Projection: 10-7
In what was considered to be a rebuilding year for the Green Bay Packers in 2923, they managed to pick up 9 wins and just missed the playoffs. This has created bigger expectations this season for the Pack but they're still playing in the NFC North which  features NFC Champion runners up Detroit Lions and a reloaded Chicago Bears team plus the rebuilding Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay will have to play flawless football if they hope to make the playoffs in 2024. 

Green Bay used their 10 picks in the NFL Draft to take 6 defensive players and 4 offensive players led by 1st round pick OT Jordan Morgan from Arizona to provide added protection for QB Jordan Love. The Packers had 2 second round picks and selected LB Edgerrin Cooper from Texas A&M and Georgia S Javon Ballard to pick up the defense. 

Offensively, The Packers scored 22.5 PPG in 2023, and they're counting on Jordan Love to improve on his 4,159 yards passing and 32 TD's to get Green Bay closer to 30 PPG. To help Love, the Packers added ex Raiders RB Josh Jacobs to go with RB AJ Dillion and 3rd round RB pick MarShawn Lloyd from USC. Love will once again target WR Christian Watson and WR Romeo Doubs, both considered to be top tier Wide Receivers and TE Luke Musgrave. 

Defensively, Green Bay gave up almost as many points as they scored giving up 22.5 PPG. This must improve by 3-5 PPG if Green Bay is going to content for a playoff spot. The Packers are confident DC Jeff Hafley's system will get the Green Bay defense where it needs to be. The Green Bay defense doesn't feature any real superstar talent, so they're going to have to play together as a unit to succeed in 2024. 

Overall, Green Bay's 2024 schedule is probably the easiest of all the NFC North teams, but with the amount of parity in the NFL, most games will come down to penalties and turnovers determining who wins. If Green Bay can play flawless football and average more points on offense and give up fewer points on defense, they'll have a good chance of competing with Detroit for the division title. 

2024 Schedule 
9.6 Philadelphia Eagles 
9.15 Indianapolis Colts 
9.22 @ Tennessee Titans 
9.29 Minnesota Vikings
10.6 @ Los Angeles Rams 
10.13 Arizona Cardinals 
10.20 Houston Texans
10.27 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
11.3 Detroit Lions
11.17 @ Chicago Bears
11.24 San Francisco 49ers
11.28 Miami Dolphins 
12.5 @ Detroit Lions 
12.15 @ Seattle Seahawks 
12.23 New Orleans Saints
12.29 @ Minnesota Vikings
1.5 Chicago Bears 

 Projection: 11-6


The Houston Texans were the surprise team of the NFL in 2023. The Texans went 10-7, winning the AFC South behind rookie QB CJ Stroud. In 2024, the expectations for Houston are higher after making several key moves to sure up the offense to give Stroud more options. There is a difference between being a team no one sees you coming versus being a team who is expected to win. Opponents know Houston is coming for their soul and they better be ready. 

Houston didn't have a first round pick in the NFL Draft, but they managed to have a balanced draft by selecting 5 defensive players and 4 offensive players. They used the two second round picks to select Georgie CB Kamari Lassiter and OT Blake Fisher out of Notre Dame following a pattern we saw where teams focused more on replenishing their defensive secondaries and offensive and defensive lines which is why Houston took S Calen Bullock from USC in the 3rd round and USC DE Solomon Byrd from USC in the 7th round along with DT Marcus Harris from Auburn. Houston also picked up OT LaDarius Henderson from Michigan.  

On Offense, Houston averaged 22 PPG and by picking up WR Stefon Diggs from Buffalo and RB Joe Mixon from Cincinnati, the Texans expect to see their offense to put at least 28 points a game. CJ Stroud proved he could play in the NFL throwing for more than 4,100 years and 23 TD's with only 5 interceptions, establishing himself as one of the top 10 QB's in the league. Houston's offense should be one of the best in the NFL thanks to the addition of Diggs and Mixon to go with WR Nico Collins and TE Dalton Schultz. 

Defensively, Houston was much improved in 2023 only giving up 20 PPG, but they'll have to get that number down in the teens to become a dominant team. Houston doesn't have a lot of star power on defense, but they worked well as a unit in 2023. If Houston needs help on their defensive line, former all pro and ex Houston Texan JJ Watt has offered to come out of retirement because he sees the potential for the Texans to have a special season in 2024. 

Overall, the Houston Texans are favored to win the AFC South again, but they will be challenged by Jacksonville and potentially Indianapolis who they open the season with. Other notable opponents in 2024 include Kansas City, Miami, Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, Buffalo, and Green Bay. The difference is everyone on their schedule has circled Houston on their calendar as a key opponent and not an expected automatic W. 
 
2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ Indianapolis Colts 
9.15 Chicago Bears 
9.22 @ Minnesota Vikings
9.29 Jacksonville Jaguars 
10.6 Buffalo Bills 
10.13 @ New England Patriots 
10.20 @ Green Bay Packers 
10.27 Indianapolis Colts 
10.31 @ New York Jets 
11.10 Detroit Lions 
11.18 @ Dallas Cowboys 
11.24 Tennessee Titans 
12.1 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
12.15 Miami Dolphins 
12.21 @ Kansas City Chiefs
12.15 Baltimore Ravens 
1.5 @ Tennessee Titans 

Projection: 11-6 
The Indianapolis Colts managed to win 9 games in 2023 playing without starting rookie QB Anthony Richardson who only managed to play 4 games. In a sense, 2024 will be a continuation of Richardson's rookie season. Backup QB Gardner Minshew who played well in Richardson's absence has moved on to Las Vegas. If Richardson can live up to expectations, the Colts have a chance to be a playoff team this season. 

The Colts 2024 Draft saw the team select 9 players. 5 on defense and 4 on offense led by #1 pick LB Laiatu Latu from UCLA. To protect Richardson, the Colts picked up Pitt OT Matt Goncalves. Other key picks include WR Adonai Mitchell from Texas and WR Anthony Gould out of Oregon State. 

On offense, the Colts averaged 23ppg but Richardson will need to produce more points if Indianapolis is going to compete for the playoffs. Fortunately, the Colts sill have RB Jonathan Taylor. WR Michael Pittman Jr. and TE Jelani Woods to help propel the offense. No doubt the Colts will be looking to round out the team with other teams castoffs before the season starts. 

Defense is where Indianapolis has to see the most improvement. The Colts gave up 24 PPG and they need to knock up to 7 points from their 2023 average to compete or it won't matter how the offense performs. The Colts aren't blessed with a lineup of All Pro defensive players so they will need to play together as a unit to have success. 

Overall, the Colts look to be formidable if Anthony Richardson pans out. If not, veteran QB Joe Flacco was signed to back him up. The challenge will be getting the defense on track and winning games against their divisional opponents. The Colts schedule offers several games they should win but they're going to have to do it on the road.   
 
2024 Schedule 
9.8 Houston Texans 
9.15 @ Green Bay Packers 
9.22 Chicago Bears 
9.29 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 
10.6 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 
10.13 @ Tennessee Titans 
10.20 Miami Dolphins 
10.27 @ Houston Texans 
11.3 @ Minnesota Vikings
11.10 Buffalo Bills 
11.17 @ New York Jets
11.24 Detroit Lions 
12.1 @ New England Patriots 
12.15 @ Denver Broncos 
12.22 Tennessee Titans
12.29 @ New York Giants
1.5 Jacksonville Jaguars 

 Projection: 5-12 
2023 was the year Jacksonville was supposed to put it together to win the AFC South and be a force to contend with in the playoffs. The results was a disappointing 9-8 season and no playoff appearance. The Jaguars looked good on paper to start the year, but unfortunately you still have to play the games and that's where Jacksonville came up short. 

During the NFL Draft, Jacksonville had a balanced draft selecting 4 offensive and 4 defensive players and 1 special teams player. The Jaguars selected WR Brian Thomas Jr out LSU to give Trevor Lawrence a new target. Thomas Jr. was followed by DT Maason Smith from LSU, CB Jarrian Jones of Florida State, OT Javon Foster from Missouri, and OT Jordan Jefferson from LSU in the first 4 rounds. 

On offense, QB Trevor Lawrence has yet to live up to the hype he had coming out of Clemson throwing for just over 4,000 years in 2023 with 21 TD's and 14 INT's. Lawrences inconsistent play in one of the reasons Jacksonville went 9-8 last season prompting some to believe this could be his last season in Jacksonville unless he finally lives up to the hype he had coming out of college. Jacksonville has a solid running game led by Travis Etienne Jr. but Jacksonville could use some upgrades at WR and TE to give Lawrence some added help. WR Christian Kirk is Lawrences main target but teams can focus on shutting him down because Jacksonville doesn't have an equal threat in Gabe Davis. Evan Ingram is a quality TE but he's not a threat in the Red Zone. The Jaguars only averaged 22 PPG in 2023, and you're not going to win many games in the NFL scoring under 24 PPG. 

Defensively, the Jaguars gave up 22 points per game which means Jacksonville found themselves in a close game situation most of the season. The Jaguars believe they've addressed key defensive issues during the draft and will look to fill out there roster when other teams trim there's after training camp. The bottom line is Jacksonville's defense needs to trim 4-5 points off their PPG total from 2023 to compete with Houston. 

Overall, it looks like Jacksonville missed a big window in 2023 and it's highly unlikely they'll improve on the output they had in 2024. Look for Jacksonville to take a step back before they step forward again because they have a brutal schedule to open the season and they could find themselves playing catch up all season. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ Miami Dolphins 
9.15 Cleveland Browns 
9.23 @ Buffalo Bills 
9.29 @ Houston Texans 
10.6 Indianapolis Colts 
10.13 Chicago Bears *London
10.20 New England Patriots * London
10.27 Green Bay Packers
11.3 @ Philadelphia Eagles
11.10 Minnesota Vikings
11.17 @ Detroit Lions
12.1 Houston Texans
12.8 @ Tennessee Titans
12.15 New York Jets
12.22 @ Las Vegas Raiders
12.29 Tennessee Titans
1.5 @ Indianapolis Colts 

Projection: 6-11
The Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs will be going for a threepeat in 2024. That means more Taylor Swift sightings and more teams gearing up to take down the circus that has become the Kansas City Chiefs led by Dandy Andy Reid, Pat Mahomes, and Travis Kelce. During the off season, the Chiefs had to deal with all that comes with celebrity status and player distractions in the form of arrests to deviant behavior to divisive commencement speech's . All things that can create challenges for a defending champion. 

During the NFL Draft, Kansas City focused on upgrading their offense taking 4 offensive players and 3 defensive players but their first three picks were offensive selections. First, the Chiefs addressed their weak Wide Receiver core by drafting Xavier Worthy out of Texas, followed by OT Kingsley Sumataia from BYU to help protect Mahomes and TE Jared Wiley from TCU in anticipation of this being Travis Kelce's last season. 

Offensively, Kansas City only won 11 games in 2023 and averaged 21 PPG. Thanks to Pat Mahomes, the Chiefs were able to overcome a weak group of Wide Receivers and depend on the running game more thanks to the efforts of Isiah Pacheco who had 1,179 all purpose yards. Adding Worthy helps, but depending on Rashee Rice, Marquise Brown, and Kadarius Toney on top of an aging Travis Kelce makes Kansas Cities quest for a threepeat more challenging. 

Defensively, the Chiefs were one of the top defenses in the league giving up only 17 PPG and if the Chiefs are going to be successful in 2024, they'll have to depend on the defense playing lights out again. As long as Chris Jones stays healthy and the defensive secondary plays like it did in 2023, the Chiefs will be in every game to allow Pat Mahomes to work his mojo late in games. 

Overall, Kansas City comes into 2024 the most vulnerable it's been since Pat Mahomes entered the league. This season could be the last run for Andy Reid's boys as Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Denver are all franchises on the come. Fortunately, their NFL Schedule is one of the most lax in the league so they should be able to put together a decent season. 

2024 Schedule 
9.5 Baltimore Ravens
9.15 Cincinnati Bengals 
9.22 @ Atlanta Falcons 
9.29 @ Los Angeles Chargers
10.7 New Orleans Saints 
10.20 @ San Francisco 49ers
10.27 @ Las Vegas Raiders
11.4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
11.10 Denver Broncos 
11.17 @ Buffalo Bills
11.24 @ Carolina Panthers
11.29 Las Vegas Raiders
12.8 Los Angeles Chargers
12.15 @ Cleveland Browns 
12.21 Houston Texans 
12.25 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
1.5 @ Denver Broncos 

Projection: 11-6
After the Raiders fired coach Josh McDaniels in 2023, the team did a complete about face under interim coach Antonio Pierce and started winning, proving atmosphere and culture makes a big difference in how a team performs. Pierce immediately re-established what it meant to be a Raider. The take no prisoners Raiders and Just Win Baby. Las Vegas finished with an 8-9 record but it felt like the team won more than they did. In 2024, much is expected from Pierce and his band of renegades. This season, win or lose, teams are going to know they played the Las Vegas Raiders. 

Las Vegas had a balanced NFL Draft selecting 4 offensive and 4 defensive players. The Raiders had hoped to  pick up one of the highly touted Quarterbacks in what as a deep draft for QB's but selecting 13th was too late and no team was willing partner with the Raiders allowing them to trade up. The offense was the main focus in the early rounds led by first round pick TE Brock Bowers from Georgia. The Raiders also addressed their offensive line by taking C Jackson Powers-Johnson from Oregon and OT Delmare Glaze from Maryland. Defensively, the Raiders used their 4th, and 5th picks to up defensive players. CB Decamerion Richardson of Mississippi State, LB Tommy Eichenherg of Ohio State. 

On offense, the Raiders pushed injured QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the side in favor of an unheard of Rookie Aidan O'Connell who proceeded to lead the Raiders to a 5-5 record passing for over 2,200 yards with 12 TD's and 7 INT's. Projected over a 17 game season, he would have thrown for 3,770 yards, 20 TD's and 12 INT's, which would have ranked him 15th overall just behind Jalen Hurts of Philadelphia. and just ahead of Baltimore's Lamar Jackson. O'Connell did all this after getting very little playing time during the preseason, and getting very few snaps in practice during the first 7 games. He literally walked off the street and played pick up football for 10 games. This is why the Raiders feel confident with a full offseason, training camp and preseason to prepare, O'Connell has a chance to be a Top 10 NFL Quarterback. If he fails, backup QB Gardner Minshew is capable of leading the team. The Raiders average 19 PPG in 2023 and this must improve considerably in 2024 to challenge for the AFC West title and make the playoffs. After losing Josh Jacobs to Green Bay in free agency, the Raiders will depend on RB Zamir White, who average more YPC at 4.5 than Josh Jacobs but when you go from a proven RB to an unproven RB, White will have a lot of pressure on him to perform. At WR, the Raiders have one of the most potent squads in the league with Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker and Michael Gallup who averaged 12 YPC with Dallas last season. Adding TE Brock Bowers to bookend with TE Michael Mayer and Aidan O'Connell has plenty of weapons to go to from the air. 

Defensively, the Raiders gave up 19 PPG, but under Pierce, the Raiders only gave up 17 PPG which if they can improve on in 2024 just by a couple of points will put in the top 5 defensively in the NFL. Led by DE Maxx Crosby and DE Malcom Koonce, the Raiders pass rush will be intense. LB Robert Spillane FS Marcus Epps and CB Nate Hobbs anchor the defense. Adding depth before the start of the season will be a priority for the Raiders. 

Overall, the Raiders look to improve on their 8-9 record in 2024 and challenge Kansas City for the AFC West title. Las Vegas was 6-6 in conference in 2023, and need to improve by at least 2 games in 2024. The NFL wasn't too kind to the Raiders scheduling wise as they'll have to play 6 teams out of conference who made the playoffs in 2023 and 3 of them are on the road. Then there is the  December 29th matchup in New Orleans to take on Ex Raider QB Derek Carr and the Saints. Will Derek show up? 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ Los Angeles Chargers
9.15 @ Baltimore Ravens 
9.22 Carolina Panthers
9.29 Cleveland Browns 
10.6 @ Denver Broncos 
10.13 Pittsburgh Steelers 
10.20 @ Los Angeles Rams 
10.27 Kansas City Chiefs
11.3 @ Cincinnati Bengals 
11.17 @ Miami Dolphins 
11.24 Denver Broncos
11.29 @ Kansas City Chiefs
12.8 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. 16 Atlanta Falcons 
12.22 Jacksonville Jaguars
12.29 @ New Orleans Saints
1.5 Los Angeles Chargers 

Projection: 10-7
The Los Angeles Chargers were 5-12 in 2023, leading to a coaching change. Enter or should I say welcome back to the NFL Jim Harbaugh, who led his Michigan Wolverines to the NCAA Championship last season. As they say, when much is given, much is expected but Harbaugh doesn't seem to be bothered by being in the hot seat. The first thing Harbaugh needs to establish is putting a team on the field that will cause fans to finally notice these are no longer the San Diego Chargers. When the Las Vegas Raiders return to Los Angeles, SoFi stadium looks like a Raiders home game. The good news for Chargers fans is Jim Harbaugh has a stellar track record as an NFL head coach in a division with Andy Reid, Sean Payton, and Antonio Peirce, who also has a lot to prove so the AFC West is going to be a challenge. 

At the NFL Draft, the Chargers took 5 offensive and 4 defensive players with their 9 picks led by their first round selection of Notre Dame OT Joe Alt to help protect QB Justin Herbert. They also picked up WR Ladd McConkey from George in round 2. The next 4 picks addressed the Chargers weak spot in 2023 which was their defense. Harbaugh selected LB Junior Colson from Michigan. Los Angeles found a couple of hidden gems in the 7th round by picking up WR Brenden Rice from USC and WR Cornelius Johnson of Michigan. 

In 2023, the Chargers offense struggled to put up 20 PPG and in the AFC West, they're going to have to add 8 to 10 PPG to compete. Gone from the 2023 team is WR Keenan Allen, WR Mike Williams, and RB Austin Ekeler. That's a little over 3,000 yards in offense and 14 Touchdowns that need to be exceeded this season. Los Angeles will be counting on RB Gus Edwards, and WR's Joshua Palmer, Quentin Johnson, Ladd McConkey and DJ Chark Jr to replace the offense they lost. The Chargers are going to experience major growing pains in Harbaugh's first season offensively. 

The Chargers defense wasn't much better in 2023, giving up an average of 23 PPG. Needless to say if the offense needs to add 8-10 PPG, the defense is going to have to chop off at least 5 PPG to compete. The defense remains anchored by Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, and Denzel Perryman so Harbaugh has a few pieces to work with on Defense and based on Harbaugh's track record, you'll see the Defense performing better before the offense. 

Overall, look for the Chargers to improve over 2024 in a lot of key areas but it won't necessarily translate to wins. Expect a lot of close games that will come down to turnovers and penalties deciding games. As long as Justin Herbert finds his stroke again, the Los Angeles Chargers will be a competitive team this season. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Las Vegas Raiders 
9.15 @ Carolina Panthers 
9.22 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 
9,29 Kansas City Chiefs
10.13 @ Denver Broncos 
10.21 @ Arizona Cardinals 
10;27 New Orleans Saints 
11.3 @ Cleveland Browns 
11.10 Tennessee Titans 
11.17 Cincinnati Bengals 
11.25 Baltimore Ravens 
12.1 @ Atlanta Falcons
12.8 @ Kanas City Chiefs
12.15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12.22 Denver Broncos 
12.29 @ New England Patriots 
1.5 @ Las Vegas Raiders 

Projection: 6-11 
The Los Angeles Rams got off to a slow start in 2023 but turned it up towards the end of the season to win 10 games and make the playoffs where they lost to  Detroit and former QB Jared Goff. In 2024, the NFC West looks to be a two team battle between the Rams and San Francisco 49ers. Seattle is in rebuild mode and until the Arizona Cardinals can prove otherwise, they're typically a team their opponents circle on their calendar as a win. 

The Rams had a 10 player NFL Draft, selecting 5 Defensive players, 4 Offensive Players and 1 Special Teams Player. The Rams took DT Jared Verse from Florida State hoping he can help replace the retired Aaron Donald. They also picked up DT Braden Fiske also from Florida State to pick up the slack left behind by Donald's departure. They also added DE Brennan Jackson from Washington State and DT Tyler Davis out of Clemson to help rebuild their defensive line. In the 3rd round, the Rams selected RB Blake Corum from Michigan to add some depth to their backfield. 

The Rams offense averaged 23 PPG in 2023 in a year that saw them play without key pieces to the offense due to injuries to WR Cooper Kupp and RB Kyren Williams. When the Rams were completely healthy, they looked unbeatable behind QB Matthew Stafford. If Los Angeles can start the season picking up where they left off in 2023, we're going to see an exciting Rams team featuring wide receivers Kupp, Puka Nacua, and Demarcus Robinson. A stelar running game behind Williams and Blake Corum, and TE Tyler Hignee. This offensive squad should put up close to 30 PPG. 

Defense will be the Rams challenge after losing Donaldson. The Rams gave up 22 PPG and lowering that number by 3-5 points will be a challenge for a newly revamped defensive line. Thanks to the Rams linebackers and defensive secondary's experience, the Rams should be alright thanks to a potent offense that will take pressure off the defense while the defensive line gels. 

Overall, the Los Angeles Rams will need to stay healthy to compete with San Francisco who is loaded once again. The Rams open the season playing 3 of their first 6 games against playoff teams starting with their opener in Detroit and 3 of their first 4 on the road. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ Detroit Lions 
9.15 @ Arizona Cardinals
9.22 San Francisco 49ers 
9.29 @ Chicago Bears 
10.6 Green Bay Packers
10.20 Las Vegas Raiders
10.24 Minnesota Vikings
11.3 @ Seattle Seahawks 
11.11 Miami Dolphins
11.17 @ New England Patriots 
11.24 Philadelphia Eagles 
12.1 @ New Orleans Saints 
12.8 Buffalo Bills
12.12 @ San Francisco 49ers
12.22 @ New York Jets
12.29 Arizona Cardinals 
1.5 Seattle Seahawks 

Projection: 12-5
The Miami Dolphins considered 2023 season a disappointment with an 11-6 record despite having the second highest scoring offense in the league but defensively, the Dolphins were anemic causing them to lose their final 3 games including a Wild Card loss to Kanas City. 

The Dolphins had 7 picks at the NFL Draft and used 4 on Offense and 3 on Defense, which was a head scratcher since the Dolphins needed more Defensive help. Miami took Chop Robinson a DE out of Penn State with their first round pick and opting to pick up OT Patrick Paul out of Houston to help protect QB Tua Tagovailoa. Miami also picked up RB Jaylen Wright from Tennessee in the 4th round to add some backfield depth. 

On offense, the Dolphins averaged 29 PPG and with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. at Wide Receiver to go with Tyreek Hill, Jason Waddle, and TE Jonnu Smith, the passing game with Tagovailoa will be hard to stop. RB Raheem Mostert will look to add to his 1,012 yards rushing and 21 TD's overall. 

Defensively, Miami gave up 23 PPG and will need to trim 4-5 points off that average to compete in the AFC East against Buffalo and the New York Jets with Aaron Rodgers coming back. The Dolphins defense isn't loaded with star power so they will have to play together as a unit to have success. 

Overall, Miami should have a high flying offense again in 2024 barring injury and if they can improve on defense and play better on the road, there is no reason to believe Miami won't make the playoffs and contend for a Super Bowl appearance. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Jacksonville Jaguars 
9.12 Buffalo Bills 
9.22 @ Seattle Seahawks
9.30 Tennessee Titans
10.6 @ New England Patriots 
10.20 @ Indianapolis Colts 
10.27 Arizona Cardinals 
11.3 @ Buffalo Bills
11.11 @ Los Angeles Rams 
11.17 Las Vegas Raiders
11.24 New England Patriots 
11.28 @ Green Bay Packers 
12.8 New York Jets
12.16 @ Houston Texans 
12.22 San Francisco 49ers
12.29 @ Cleveland Browns
1.5 @ New York Jets

Projection- 11-6

2023 was a down year for the Minnesota Vikings, who went 7-10 leading the team to start the rebuilding process for 2024. The Vikings challenge this season will be facing the NFC North division now ruled by the Detroit Lions. Then when you add an improved Green Bay Packers squad and the Chicago Bears revamped offense, 2024 looks to be one of the Vikings toughest challenges in a decade.  

During the NFL Draft, Minnesota hopes they got their QB of the future when they selected Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy in the first round. McCarthy led the Wolverines to the NCAA Championship last season. They also picked up DE Dallas Turner from Alabama in the first round but they had no picks in rounds two and three. In round 4, the Vikings selected CB Khyree Jackson from Oregon followed by 2 offensive linemen, 1 defensive lineman, and 1 special teams player. 

On offense, the Vikings picked up QB Sam Darnold, who has already been named the starting QB heading into training camp. Darnold has played 6 seasons with the Jets, Panthers, and 49ers. He has a lot of talent but has yet to put it together. It believed, he'll mentor McCarthy who will eventually take over at QB1 when the Vikings feel he's ready. Minnesota only averaged 20 PPG in 2023, and they'll have to improve that number by 8-10 points per game in order to compete in the NFC North. They'll count on RB Aaron Jones who the Vikings picked up from Green Bay, All Pro WR Justin Jefferson, and TE T.J. Hockenson who will be returning from injury to lead the Vikings offense. 

Defensively, Minnesota gave up 21 PPG, and improving that total by as much as 3 PPG will keep the Vikings in most games. The defensive line is led by DE Jerry Tillery but getting pressure on the opposing teams QB was an issue for the Vikings in 2023,and must also improve tremendously in 2024 if the Vikings are going to compete. 

Overall, look for the Minnesota Vikings to have another down year and they'll most likely perform at a lesser level  in 2024 than last season due to a demanding schedule out of the gate. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ New York Giants 
9.15 San Francisco 49ers 
9.22 Houston Texans
9.29 @ Green Bay Packers
10.6 New York Jets
10.20 Detroit Lions 
10.24 @ Los Angeles Rams
11.3 Indianapolis Colts 
11.10 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
11.17 @ Tennessee Titans
11.24 @ Chicago Bears
12.1 Arizona Cardinals 
12.8 Atlanta Falcons
12.16 Chicago Bears
12.22 @ Seattle Seahawks 
12.29 Green Bay Packers
1.5 @ Detroit Lions 

Projection- 4-12
The New England Patriots are back to square one after a dismal 2023 season that saw the Pats go 4-13. After firing legendary coach Bill Belichick and handing the reins to Jerod Mayo, New England also gave up on the Mac Jones quarterback project after three seasons. It's a new day in New England but the Patriots have a lot of work to do if they're going to compete in 2024.  

During the NFL Draft, the Patriots spent 7 of their 8 picks on offensive players starting with #1 pick and 3rd pick overall QB Drake Maye from North Carolina. They also picked up WR Ja'Lynn Polk from Washington. OT Caedan Wallace out of Penn State and OG Layden Robinson from Texas A&M to help improve their pass protection. 

Offensively, The Patriots averaged a weak 13 PPG leading to the end of Mac Jones days. In the offseason, the Pats added journeyman QB Jacoby Brissett just in case Maye has issues adapting to the NFL and a new offense. New England failed to upgrade at Running Back or Wide Receiver during the offseason and their best offensive weapons are TE Hunter Henry backed by TE Austin Hooper. RB Rhamondre Stevenson will be expected to carry the load from the backfield and WR K.J. Osborne who the Pats got from Minnesota will be counted on heavily to improve upon his 540 receiving yards in 2023. 

Defensively, the Patriots are a lot better off than their offense. In 2023, the defense gave up 21 PPG which is respectable when you consider how lackadaisical the offense was. Defense should be New England's strength again in 2024 but they will need to add some depth before the season starts. 

Overall, if the offense can improve considerably, and the defense stand pat from 2023, New England has a chance to improve on their 4-13 record from last season. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 @ Cincinnati Bengals
9.15 Seattle Seahawks 
9.19 @ New York Jets
9.29 @ San Francisco 49ers
10.6 Miami Dolphins 
10.13 Houston Texans
10.20 Jacksonville Jaguars 
10.27 New York Jets
11.3 @ Tennessee Titans
11.10 @ Chicago Bears
11.17 Los Angeles Rams 
11.24 @ Miami Dolphins 
12.1 Indianapolis Colts 
12.16 @ Arizona Cardinals 
12.22 @ Buffalo Bills 
12.29 Los Angeles Chargers
1.4 Buffalo Bills  

Projection- 3-14

The New Orleans Saints put together a decent season going 9-8, just missing the playoffs. They finished the season with two wins to set up what could be a promising season in 2024. The NFC South is a very winnable division against Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Carolina. Tampa Bay made the playoffs at 9-8 last season, and it could have as easily been New Orleans. Atlanta has improved during the off season but neither the Falcons and Carolina will be competitive in 2024. 

During the NFL Draft, the Saints had 7 picks and took 4 offensive players and 3 defensive players. In the 1st round, the New Orleans selected OT Tallese Fugaga from Oregon State and CB Kool-Aid McKinistry from Alabama in the 2nd. The Saints then had to wait to take 3 players in the 5th round lead by South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler who is expected to push Derek Carr for the QB1 position this year. 

On Offense, the Saints put up 23 PPG, and Derek Carr proved he was capable of leading another team besides the Raiders throwing for almost 4,000 yards, 25 TD's and only 8 INT's. RB Alvin Kamara returns and while he's lost a few steps, he's still one of the NFL's most talented backs. WR Chris Olave will move up to being Carr's main target after moving on from longtime star receiver Michael Thomas. The Saints could bring him back but it comes down to money. New Orleans will depend more on Taysom Hill this season due to the loss of Thomas. 

Defensively, New Orleans had a respectable one in 2023, giving up 19 points per game and they;'ll look to knock off a couple of points on that total this season. The defense will once again be led by Cameron Jordan,  Willie Gay, Tyrann Matheau, and Marshon Lattimore. If the Saints defense can stay healthy, they could end up winning the NFC South. 

This season, the Saints biggest asset will be the element of surprise because no one ever expects New Orleans to field a contender. No one expects Derek Carr to be a better QB than he has been. Most of the Saints players on offense and defense have played together long enough to win the division if they can avoid losing to teams they should beat. It starts with winning every game in their division this season.  

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Carolina Panthers 
9.15 @ Dallas Cowboys
9.22 Philadelphia Eagles
9.29 @ Atlanta Falcons 
10.7 @ Kansas City Chiefs 
10.13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10.17 Denver Broncos
10.27 @ Los Angeles Chargers
11.3 @ Carolina Panthers
11.10 Atlanta Falcons 
11.17 Cleveland Browns
12.1 Los Angeles Rams 
12.8 @ New York Giants
12.14 Washington Commanders
12.23 @ Green Bay Packers
12.29 Las Vegas Raiders 
1.5 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Projection- 10-7

Forget about the fact the New York Giants have the worst logo in the NFL, they are also the most unimaginative and boring franchises too. The New York Giants are as uptight as the elites who live in New York state. This said, the Giants were a disappointing 6-11 in 2023, after a respectable 2022 campaign which had the Giants organization feeling good coming into 2023 but New York turned out to be who we thought they were finishing third in the NFC East behind Dallas and Philadelphia. 

At the NFL Draft, the Giants only had 6 picks and they selected 3 offensive players and 3 defensive players. In the first round they took WR Malik Nabers from LSU at number 6 and in doing so, they picked up potential game changing player. The Giants then selected S Tyler Nubin from Minnesota in the second round and CB Andru Phillips from Kentucky to address their secondary issues. 

Offensively in 2023, the Giants averaged just over 15 PPG, after losing Daniel Jones to injury and while backup QB Tommy DeVito played okay, the Giants signed ex Seattle/Denver QB Drew Lock just incase Daniel Jones isn't up to par. The Giants also gave up on RB Saquon Barkley in favor of Devin Singletary. The WR core should be improved with the addition of Nabers to go with Darius Slayton and Wan'Dale Robinson and TE Daniel Bellinger but adding 13 points to make New York competitive in 2024 is a big ask. 

Defensively, the Giants fielded one of the worst defenses in the league giving up 24 PPG. If the Giants are going to compete in the NFC East against Dallas, Philadelphia and an on the come Washington team, the Giants must trim at least 6 to 7 points from last season. Once again a big ask considering the team has failed to make any significant offseason moves to improve. 

Overall, it looks like the Giants will be one of those teams their opponent circle on the calendar as a W. The Giants have too may questions that need answered and too much improvement needed on offense and defense to solve them in one season. Head Coach Brian DaBoll, will be on the hot seat out of the gate and he'll be lucky to survive the entire season. Fortunately, the Giants have one of the least challenging schedules in the NFL outside of their division. 

2024 Schedule 
9.8 Minnesota Vikings
9.15 @ Washington Commanders
9.22 @ Cleveland Browns
9.26 Dallas Cowboys
10.6 @ Seattle Seahawks
10;13 Cincinnati Bengals 
10.20 Philadelphia Eagles
10.28 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
11.3 Washington Commanders
11.10 Carolina Panthers
11.24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
11.28 @ Dallas Cowboys
12.8 New Orleans Saints 
12.15 Baltimore Ravens
12.22 @ Atlanta Falcons
12.29 Indianapolis Colts
1.5 @ Philadelphia Eagles 

Projection- 4-13

The New York Jets 2023 season went south before the season started when QB Aaron Rodgers went down with a season ending  left Achilles tendon injury resulting in a 7-10 record. This season the Jets are counting on Rodgers making a comeback but how effective will he be, especially early in the season? 

The Jets made 7 picks at the NFL Draft, picking up 5 offensive and 2 defensive players. New York spent their first pick on QB protection by selecting Penn State OT Olu Fashanu at 11. Then followed him up with WR Malachi Corley of Western Kentucky, RB Braelon Allen from Wisconsin, QB Jordan Davis from Florida State, and RB Isaiah Davis from South Dakota State. Overall, not exactly the kind of draft that excited the Jets faithful. 

On offense, New York averaged about 16 PPG, which usually doesn't translate to 7 wins in the NFL, but if Aaron Rodgers can remain healthy and is his old self, added 10 points a game shouldn't be an issue. Zack Wilson and Trevor Seimian who filled in for Rodgers in 2023 are gone and the Jets picked up veteran Tyrod Taylor to be ready incase Rodgers falters. Also returning on offense is RB Breece Hall, WR Garrett Wilson, WR Allen Lazard, ex Chargers WR Mike Williams, and TE Tyler Conklin, so the Jets have options for Rodgers to work with. 

Defensively, the Jets gave up 21 PPG, but this was due more to an anemic offense putting them in bad field position most of the season. An improved offense will remedy this and the Jets should have one of the better defenses in the NFL this season led by CB Sauce Gardner and offensive linemen Haason Reddick, Quinnen Williams, Jermaine Johnson and LB Quincy Williams.

The Jets will face stiff competition in the AFC East against Miami and Buffalo, but with New England still in rebuild mode, it's conceivable the Jets can go 4-2 in their division. If they can win 6 or 7 games out of the remaining 11 on their schedule, the Jets should be in playoff contention all season but it all hinges once again on QB Aaron Rodgers performance. 

2024 Schedule 
9.9 @ San Francisco 49ers
9.15 @ Tennessee Titans 
9.19 New England Patriots 
9..29 Denver Broncos 
10.6 Minnesota Vikings
10.14 Buffalo Bills 
10.20 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
10.27 @ New England Patriots 
10.31 Houston Texans 
11.10 @ Arizona Cardinals 
11.17 Indianapolis Colts
12.1 Seattle Seahawks 
12.8 @ Miami Dolphins 
12.15 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
12.22 Los Angeles Rams 
12.29 @ Buffalo Bills 
1.5 @ Miami Dolphins 

Projection- 10-7
 Projection: 11-6  
Los Angeles, CA
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Email: sports@big4sportsusa.com 
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