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A 2019 NBA Preview by Ben Galli

They just announced the most hyped rookie in 16 years, Zion Williamson is going to miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season due to injury. (cue the Greg Oden groans) We might as well wait til Christmas too. The NBA debuts its season really in the thickest of things. The World Series reminds people baseball is finally almost over. The NFL is approaching midseason, an intense time for many fans with playoff aspirations and Bills fans regardless. In college football, Wisconsin has once again choked in another promising season. Oh yeah and hockey’s started but do you even skate, bro?

The NBA season really doesn’t start until the Christmas Day games when the narratives for the regular season really gain steam and we have a sense of teams’ true identities. That being said, here, to satisfy my lust for being right are some predictions for this upcoming season.

Eastern Conference

The Cavs aren’t gonna be contending this year. They’re gonna play the small market strategy and develop their youths and hope to hit stardom in the lottery again. The Cavs tv ratings dropped 58% last season but it still ranked 6th in the NBA. A testament to the loyalty of Northeast Ohio and also there’s not that much better stuff to do really. I’m going to avoid making the obviously terrible pun but not be able to resist making you think about it. Where once there were Witnesses, there will now be Winston….Garland fans. Garland’s only played 5 games since high school (part of the Kyrie comparisons) but how he play acts with last year’s first rounder Collin Sexton will determine if the Cavs have the next Lillard-McCollum or Marbury-Francis.

There’s a lot of interesting teams vying for the 2nd tier in the East (see: Hawks, Heat, Nets, Pacers) but the East boils down to the Bucks and the 76ers. The 76ers have a chance to build on chemistry and with the most talented team in the East, make that final leap. But it’s hard to go against a determined Giannis and Mike Budenholzer’s proven system trying to make their own. The Bucks will need to replace Malcolm Brogdon however while Philly might replace Brett Brown mid-season if anything smells rotten.

Playoffs: 1. Bucks 2. 76ers 3. Celtics 4. Nets 5. Pacers 6. Heat 7. Hawks 8. Magic

Bucks over Magic, 76ers over Hawks, Celtics over Heat, Pacers over Nets

Bucks over Pacers, 76ers over Celtics

76ers over Bucks

Western Conference

In the West it’s the Battle of Los Angeles that looms largest but there’s no shortage of big time story lines here. Harden and Westbrook in Hot Shots Part Deux, Harden’s second stint with another ball dominant superstar, the Warriors getting into “They Doubt Us!” mode, and everyone who hates superstar teams wildly rooting for the Jazz, Nuggets, and Blazers. But let me tell you folks. I’ve watched about 2 and a half preseason games and there’s no doubt in my mind, the Lakers have the potential to go 82-0. They might make all their opponents look like the Washington Generals, or frankly, the Wizards.

But all kidding aside, the battle for the playoffs and seeding in the West will be fantastic. And the playoffs should be out of control. And with up and coming teams like the Mavs, Kings, and yes, the Timberwolves still, the race for the playoffs will be a battle between the old guard and the new. But I learned my lesson to never go against the Spurs.

Playoffs: 1. Clippers 2. Lakers 3. Jazz 4. Nuggets 5. Blazers 6. Rockets 7. Warriors 8. Spurs

Clippers over Spurs, Lakers over Warriors, Rockets over Jazz, Nuggets over Blazers

Clippers over Nuggets, Lakers over Rockets

Lakers over Clippers

MVP: Anthony Davis: He should have a career high in assists and LeBron might lead the league in them. We’ll see how sincere James was when he said he would pass the torch or how much his ego will want the personal glory. It’s really his choice who wins MVP this year.

Defensive Player of the Year: Lawrence Taylor: Best I ever seen. But to pick a current NBA player, let’s go Joel Embiid in an upset.

Most Improved: Lonzo Ball: I think Lonzo will flourish with his old teammates, some proper veteran leadership from Jrue Holliday, and the obviously lesser pressure of signing with No Limit versus Death Row. Okay, maybe I dated myself.

6th Man of the Year: Spencer Dinwiddie: I don’t see Lou Williams three-peating and Spencer Dinwiddie is good. Kyle Kuzma should also get votes but I don’t want people to think I’m a Lakers fan or anything. Plus, peep Dinwiddie’s contract proposal where he’s selling shares of it to high end investors.

Rookie of the Year: Zion Williamson: *If Zion doesn’t miss more than half the season, otherwise after seeing 3 highlights of Tyler Herro (UK player on the Heat) on Twitter, he’s my second choice.

Coach of the Year: Frank Vogel: I think everyone just feels sad for him cause he was their 3rd choice and Ty Lue was ahead of him and Jason Kidd is sneaky.

Oh and the Finals Pick: 40 years to the day, Alex Caruso steps into the center role for an injured Anthony Davis and leads the Lakers to a shocking Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Enjoy the season! Follow @bengalli33

NCP Preview: Browns vs Seahawks

All Browns fans must follow the NCP on Twitter @northcoastposse

Ravens win very good. Niners loss very bad. Which game is closer to the truth for the Browns?

The Ice Cube: Sadly, they are both the truth. This team can look as good as they did in the rout of Baltimore and as putrid as they did in that disaster on Monday night. I do think the mean is closer to the performance against the Ravens though. Keep in mind that the Browns had two new starting linebackers against the 49ers, and they got WORKED by Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Plus, the 49ers got an interception at the goal line when fresh-off-suspension Antonio Callaway set the ball in the air like a volleyball player when the game was still 14-3. A TD there would have put the game on a different trajectory. Few other teams have a pass-rush as dominating as Nick Bosa and crew, too. Last week may have been an anomaly, hopefully, but it showed how the Browns are still capable of appearing Not Ready for Prime Time. The good news is that the schedule will get easier in the second half, but they still have to get through Seattle and New England first.

Big $- I believe the Baltimore game told us more about the Ravens and the AFC North, then it did about the Browns as a whole. The division is trash this year, which means that even if the Browns are closer to the team that travelled across the country for that whuppin’ last week, they may still have a chance to fly an AFC north banner in 2019.

Should fans be more concerned with the performance of Baker Mayfield or Freddie Kitchens?

The Ice Cube: Another great debate, but Freddie’s performance raises more concerns for me. Baker is still really young and is making some normal rookie-type mistakes. That is understandable. Freddie, though, still hasn’t reigned in the penalties and players often appear out of position or confused as to where to line up pre-snap. Part of that problem can be attributed to second-teamers filling in for injured starters, but the margin of error is very small and leadership needs to get this team running more smoothly.

Big $: Hello everybody, My name is Big $ and I am a Baker Mayfield apologist. Sophomore slumps are very common in a league in which film study and strategy are razor sharp. Adjustments come and go. Baker has still proven that he can put balls in spots reserved the elite signal callers in the NFL. That coupled with his tenacity will lead to him bouncing back. Freddie, on the other hand, is a different story. Its clear that opposing coaches are scheming circles around him and he appears lost. The most glaring concern I have arose when he threw OBJ back to return a punt late against SF. He had already pulled his starting QB, so I’m not real sure why exposing a top 3 team asset was even on the table at that point. Most grade school coaches would of steered clear of a stunt like that. As of now, I’m not sure Freddie finishes the season. His used car salesman bravado probably had more to do with his meteoric rise from RB coach on a Hue Jackson led 1-31 team to HC of a “perceived” Super Bowl contender. If things continue to head south, a mid season ouster may be necessary to send a message, specifically to Baker, who seems to see Freddie as more of a pal then authority figure. A coach with (winning) NFL experience (I’m looking at you Mike McCarthy) may right the ship.

What needs to go right this Sunday for the Browns to beat the Seahawks and is this a must win game?

The Ice Cube: The Seahawks D is not as good as it has been in recent years. It rates in the middle of the pack in terms of points and yards surrendered per game. But they are strong against the run. The Browns are going to have to move the ball through the air. One of Baker’s favorite targets, Hollywood Higgins, should be back on the field this week, which will help, but Baker has got to take what is available to him and stop trying to force the ball into tight coverage, or hold the ball too long when waiting for other options to open up. On defense, the Browns might get Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams back from injury, too, but there has to be better play from linebackers Mack Wilson and Adarius Taylor. The biggest disappoint this year had been the lack of production from Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon on the defensive line, who have combined for just 24 tackles and 1 sack. It is hard to believe they will turn things around against the extremely elusive Russell Wilson. But if the Browns can control the clock and keep the ball out of Wilson’s hands, the game should be at least fun to watch. Anything will be better than last week’s performance, which was like having a 4 hour dental appointment.

The Major League Baseball Post Season: Wild Card Round - by Brian Phillips

6pm EST October 2: AL Wild Card Line ups/Rosters out. Thoughts below.

After a year of record setting dingers, another high water mark in strikeouts, and embarrassing futility at the bottom of the American League we’ve reached baseball’s post season. Now the game changes. (For instance the Yankees don’t get to play the Orioles any more.)

One thing we’ll recognize is the creative deployment of pitching staffs. Openers aren’t just for the Rays any more. With all their injuries the Yankees were even doing it fairly often as the season wore on. It’s no accident that the A’s, Rays, and Brewers all made it to October. They’ve been leaders in how bullpen arms can be dispatched at any time and more efficiently. They’ve also been brutally honest in accepting what their starters can and cannot do. When Milwaukee got red hot (after losing Christian Yelich no less!) their starters were lucky get two trips through an opponents order.

We’ll be adding to our coverage here as we move through the playoffs. We’ll start with Tuesday and Wednesday’s Wild Card match ups. Remember! It’s one game. Win or go home.

Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals

Tuesday October 1

Brandon Woodruff (11-3 3.62) vs Max Scherzer (11-7 2.92)

Woodruff was just returning from injury in September so don’t expect him to go any longer than the first three. The Brewers would be happy to let him wind it out 100% one time through the order. After that we’ll likely see an improving Jordan Lyles for a couple of frames followed by blow away closer Josh Hader at most any time. Without Yelich the Brewers have to keep this close. I don’t like them against a power righty like Scherzer. They can strike out at a high clip. Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain are dinged up already, and not good against righties.

The key to beating Scherzer is hunting for home runs. He will give them up. If you can grab a walk or a cheap hit, a bomb or two can be lingering behind those. Yasmani Grandal, Eric Thames, Mike Moustakas, and impressive rookie Keston Hiura will be looking to jump a Scherzer heater. The X-factor is young lead off hitter Trent Grisham. He’s had his moments this season.

As for the Nationals, this is an impressive line up. Keep an eye on two hole hitter Adam Eaton. He’s quietly pumped up his power profile the last couple of months. With Trea Turner in front of him, and mashers Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and the always reliable Howie Kendrick 3, 4, and 5 this is a club that can jump out to an early lead and sit on it.

Washington’s biggest weakness is it’s bullpen, but with an all or nothing Wild Card game it’s all hands. If Scherzer runs into trouble (and he has had back trouble this season) we could see Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin both appearing.

I like the Nats at home, but this is baseball. These Wild Card games can be strange.

Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland A’s

Wednesday October 2

Charlie Morton (16-6 3.05) vs Sean Manaea (4-0 1.21)

With all the above about bull penning we might just have to forget all that when we look at this pitching match up. Morton has been great all year, and on paper any way he should be able to navigate an A’s team that sees most of their thump come from the right side of the plate. That said, when Morton has struggled (and that’s not very often) it’s been on the road. Oakland will put the ball in play so I don’t expect Morton to just mow them down.

As for Manaea he returned from injury late in the season and looked very good. His underlying numbers don’t quite add up to a sterling 1.21 ERA, but the A’s have to be pleased with what that they’ve seen. Given a choice you’d rather start a good lefty against Tampa if only to mitigate stud outfielder Austin Meadows a bit. (Why the Pirates traded him I have no idea.)

6pm EST: Rosters And Line Ups Now Out

The biggest surprises come on the Tampa side. Former Indian Yandy Diaz is leading off and playing first. He was out for weeks with a bum foot and only returned at the end of the year to DH. The Rays must feel he’s ready to go, and Diaz is certainly a plus glove if he’s healthy. One time Columbus Clipper Jesus Aguilar is also on the roster if Diaz doesn’t hold up. Rookie Michael Brosseau starts at second and bats 9th over Daniel Robertson. He’s shown some pop against lefties this year. If need be Joey Wendle is a good choice to pinch hit and play second or third should the A’s go to a righty. I can’t wait to see left handed hitter Matthews face Manaea. Should be fun to watch.

The Rays have 10 pitchers on the roster tonight and in case Morton falters I like them to look at Ryan Yarbrough before Blake Snell. Snell’s injury marred 2019 had him coming back displaying some of his old wildness. Tyler Glasnow could certainly give them three solid innings as well.

Over on the Oakland side Bob Melvin is opting for experience over interesting rookies. Robbie Grossman bats 8th in left over Seth Brown. Jurickson Profar hits 6th at second over Sheldon Neuse. Four of the first five hitters hit from the right, but all are dangerous. If I had a vote for AL MVP it may well have gone to Short stop Marcus Semien, who has had an amazing all around year. Matt Olson is the biggest power danger for Morton in the four hole. DH Khris Davis has had hand problems all year, and just hasn’t been himself. Still, he’s got that lightning strike power.

Oakland has tapped 11 pitchers for this game. Perhaps this is an acknowledgement that Manaea is not that far removed from a long IL stint. Jesus Luzardo recently returned from suspension. If a long man is needed they could well turn to him.

I like Oakland at home 5-4.

Big $ is Going For Two: Browns v Ravens

Follow the NCP on Twitter @northcoastposse.

1) Should Browns fans feel encouraged or discouraged following the week 3 loss to the Rams?

Big $ - Life is about expectations. If you expected "Chinese Democracy' to rub elbows with "Appetite" you were crushed with disgust. However, if like myself, you were ready for a record showcasing Axl's varied musical tastes and interests while creating with a new cast, you got yourself a nice little surprise (Better is one of GNR's all time songs fyi). In the Browns case, if you were expecting a super bowl contender or even a team that could make noise in the playoffs, the only way to feel is discouraged. You have a first time HC and a QB that has yet to play a full season who are showing brutal growing pains. Opposing teams are better prepared and better equipped to make adjustments. I fully expect this bumpy ride to continue through the 1st half of the season, which will make it tough for a playoff run to exist, If you're one of the few Browns fans who entered the season level headed with a clear memory that this team was a combined 8-39-1 over the last 3 years, the narrow loss to the reigning NFC champs is encouraging. Think about the 1986 Browns loss to the reigning Super Bowl Champ Chicago Bears which was a jump-start to the Bernie/Marty era.

2) Though it’s only week four, this game against the Ravens feels very big. Does that sound crazy?

Big $ - Once again, its about perspective. This game is an absolute must win if the Browns are going to start a playoff trajectory. We 100% have to see offensive changes specifically related to route trees and pre-snap communication between Baker and Freddie. I'm aware that the internet unearthed that Baker made the 4th and 9 audible call, but things were a mess prior to the snap, Monken has no choice but to compromise his "air raid' sensibilities to better fit this roster's strengths. If we do not start to see these changes/improvements this week, things are only going to get worse (like 1-6 bad). After the distressing last 4 plays from last Sunday night, i am firmly in the wait and see camp as there has yet to be concrete proof that this offense and its parts can mesh

NCP Browns v Jets Preview - by Big $ and The Ice Cube

What the hell happened against the Titans and who/what is to blame?


Big $ - A catastrophe such as the week 1 debacle usually has several components that contribute to the disaster. This particular S- Show can be boiled to two specific issues: Building outside in, and inexperience at the HC spot. The NCP warned you that focusing on the glitz and glam outside of the hash marks and dismissing the importance of the OL could be the downfall of this team. Then Sunday comes and we see Teller and Corbett inactive. It’s hard to disagree that trotting out practice squad players on the offensive edges ended up killing the offensive scheme (and almost led to a Baker injury). I do not foresee Greg Robinson acting a total fool again, but I still think the lack of depth/quality on the Offensive Line will be an on-going theme in 2019.

To blame in this case: Dorsey

The second issue was one the NCP did not see coming. All summer, I was more than happy to drink the Freddie Kool Aid. “If you don’t wear Brown and Orange, yada yada yada” was all it took for us starved fans to be ready to run through a wall for him. His southern shucks attitude had us forget that the guy was only a RB coach a short time ago. Then Sunday comes and CBS starts reminding us of his used car salesman background and things start coming into focus Keyser Soze style. A team that was disorganized, unprepared and lacked focus came out of the tunnel. The play calling was erratic at best and downright fire-able at its worst. The biggest indictment was that when the chips were down the team lacked heart and appeared to quit. This is a lot of BS to overcome in a week, but I am truly hoping that we witnessed an aberration. If not, there is a better chance Freddie hits the unemployment line than a playoff berth in 2019. 

To blame in this case: Freddie Kitchens

 

What should we expect Monday night vs the Jets? 

The Ice Cube – Honestly, who the hell knows after the performance in the opener.  Last week, the total yards and time of possession were nearly identical, and although the Browns were a poor 1 for 10 on third-down conversions, Tennessee only converted on 2 out of 10.  And … Cleveland lost by 30. Sure, Baker’s 3 interceptions didn’t help, but the biggest issue was the penalty yardage. The Browns were flagged 18 times for 182 yards, a large chunk of which was of the personal foul variety.  That is insane! The lack of discipline was truly stunning, and the penalties continually kept drives alive for the Titans and really prevented Cleveland from getting any rally going. The margin of error in the NFL is small, and the Browns simply can’t afford to lose their collective shit.  

The good news is that this week’s game presents the best possible opportunity to get back on track.  Although the Monday Night Game is on the road, the Jets are at a low point and primed for a kick in the ribs.  ICYMI, QB Sam Darnold is out with mono. Former Northwestern Wildcat Trevor Siemian will be under center. He hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2017, and his career TD to INT ratio is about even.  Siemian will also be standing behind an offensive line that has only ever played one game together—giving up 4 sacks in a loss to Buffalo. The Browns had 5 sacks last week and frequently pressured Marcus Mariotta, which should to continue against this Jets line.  Because of the opportunity to pressure a rusty backup, I also expect the Browns to get a turnover or 2, after getting zero last week. The defense will be without safety Damarius Randall, though, who is out with a concussion.  

Even better news is that New York’s star linebacker C.J. Mosley, who often tormented Cleveland as a member of the Ravens, is also out because of injury.  In addition to being a tackling machine, he is strong against the pass. His absence could allow the Browns to control the clock with the running game, and it could open up passing lanes in the middle of the field.  Look for tight end David Njoku to get some more targets this week.

Also, New York’s kicking game is just as bad as Cleveland’s.  They cut their kicker last week after he missed an extra point and a field goal in their one-point loss.  If Monday’s game turns into a battle of field goals, the Browns will not be at a disadvantage.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in this game, but other than a home game against the Dolphins, right now I cannot think of a better chance for Cleveland to rebound than Monday’s game versus New York.  If Cleveland puts on a showing like it did last week, this season will get really ugly, really quickly.  

follow on twitter @northcoastposse



The North Coast Posse Browns Preview


The North Coast Posse are considered a Top Five Browns follow. Big $ and The Ice Cube can be found on Twitter @northcoastposse

What a difference a year makes. The Browns suddenly have, gulp, expectations. What is a realistic win total for the 2019-20 season? 

 

The Ice Cube: That’s the key word this year: “expectations.”  Without playing a game, this offseason the Browns have ping-ponged from perennial also-ran to “the World’s Team,” and now they are getting some hate for being overrated.  As a long-suffering fan, despite all the hype, I am cautiously optimistic and not as bullish as the betting action in Vegas. I think 10 wins is a possibility, but the scheduled is rough, with 3 of the first 7 games against the Rams, Seahawks, and Patriots.  If the Browns have a slip up in games they are expected to win early, like the Jets or 49ers, we could be looking at a struggle to hit .500. I am projecting wins in the opener against Tennessee, and other non-division victories against the Jets, 49ers, Bills, Dolphins, and Cardinals.  Throw in a pair of W’s against the Bengals, and you are going to be fighting for a playoff spot at the end of the year, especially if you can get a win of the established NFL elite.

 

Big $: Let the person who has not downed 7-11 Hilltop Lagers, pulled up the ole schedule and wistfully talked themselves into a 12-4 season cast the first stone. However, upon clarity and sobriety, you see the murderer’s row (Rams, Seahawks, Patriots) mentioned above and are reminded that our divisional foes in Pittsburgh and Baltimore are both accustomed to winning and served us Ls last year. All things considered, the NFL is designed for each team to go 8-8, and the Browns may be good enough to finally bust that bell curve on the right slope and hit 10-6.

 

What three players need to stay healthy if the Browns are going to be playoff contenders? 

 

The Ice Cube: Outside of Baker, and hoping not to sound to obvious, but Odell Beckham, Jr., is already starting the year injured.  A nagging hip injury has kept him limited in practice, and he admittedly is not 100% going into the opener. If he can’t stay on the field, the wide receiver corps is going to be thin.  The Browns No. 3 receiver Antonio Calloway is already serving a 4-game suspension to start the year. If OBJ is out to start the year, Hollywood Higgins becomes your No. 2. I’m OK with that given his chemistry with Baker, but the depth behind him is lacking, as shown by the constant roster turnover at the 4th and 5th receiver slots to close out the preseason.

 

My second pick is Greg Robison, the left tackle.  John Dorsey pulled this former No. 2 overall pick off the scrapheap, and he was the anchor of the line in the second half of last season.  Don’t be surprised if he makes the Pro Bowl this year. The Browns have built more depth on the O-line this year, but not at left tackle. If Robinson goes down, Baker better buckle his chin strap tight.

 Staying on the offensive side of the ball, I am praying Nick Chubb stays off the IR.  Without him, I don’t think the Browns have a running back that can handle the full load of carries per game, and that includes Kareen Hunt when he comes back in Week 10.

 

 Big $: I’m concerned the Browns have focused too much attention building outside in with the additions of Jarvis and OBJ and have left the team with an OL that leaves much to be desired, Therefore, if Bitonio or Tretter miss significant time we could watch the season go south real quick.

 The other player that must stay healthy is Oliver Vernon. Having him occupy space in opposing team’s heads and game plans will allow Myles, Larry and Sheldon to wreak havoc.

 

Is Freddy Kitchens up for this job or would he be better suited replacing John Goodman coaching the team in Revenge of the Nerds? 

 

Big $: This has been an off season like no other here on the North Coast.  Browns fans and media alike have been heaping expectations upon the franchise that are usually felt in Foxboro and Pittsburgh etc. With that said, Freddie has stayed even keeled and dismissed the rat poison. I’m excited to watch him lead this next chapter of Browns football.

 

The Ice Cube: Freddie may be Goodmanesque in stature but I think that is where the comparison stops.  He has been an assistant in the league a long time and has finally got his shot to be the HC. He seems fully prepared when it comes to handling his team and the media. He is the underdog you want to cheer for, unlike that Coach Harris from Adams College.  I don’t doubt Freddie is the right man to lead the Browns right now, but with every young coach, it seems that clock management can be a challenge. If he can keep that from hampering the team early, I think he will quickly become beloved in Browns Nation.  

 

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of this team? 

The Ice Cube: Arguably the greatest strength is going to be the defensive line and pass rush.  With the additions of Vernon and Sheldon Richardson upfront, teaming with Garrett and Genard Avery to bear down on the quarterback, expect more sacks and interceptions this season.  No doubt there should be more explosiveness on offense with the addition of OBJ, especially when Hunt and Calloway get back in the lineup. There is better depth in the defensive secondary, as well.  The weakness I have my eye on is the kicking and punting game. The Browns have been killed in countless games by failures on special teams (second chance field goals because of Browns encroachment penalties, missed FGs, the “Kick Six,” etc.) and they need consistency from their rookie kicker in Austin Siebert, a draft pick out of Oklahoma.  They also cut the excellent Britton Colquitt in favor of their rookie punter Jamie “the Scottish Hammer” Gillan. The former rugby player has a howitzer for a leg, as shown by his 70-yard net punt in the preseason, and he is actually a tackling machine, but he has to learn the ball placement of his predecessor to keep the field tilted in Cleveland’s favor.

 

Give me a best case and worst case for the Browns this season. 


Big $: I’m going to be short and sweet here …

Best Case: 1 playoff win

Worst Case: Baker injury