Predicting Week 4 of the NFL season

By Sam Cowan

Welcome back for another week of NFL prognostication at the Cowan Corner.

Week 3 of the NFL season was my most successful yet this year with a 12-4 record and I’m back to see if I can repeat that performance this week.

Without further ado, let’s get to Week 4 starting with an interesting Thursday night encounter.

Ravens over Steelers

Prior to the Roethlisberger injury, I would have taken the Steelers without question. Now, I think the Ravens run defense is too good and Michael Vick is not the type of passer who can take advantage of a bad Baltimore pass defense.

The Ravens will take a very physical division game here.

Jets over Dolphins

No home-field advantage in this game as both teams travel to London.

The Dolphins just got stomped by the Bills and are the clear weak link in the AFC East this season. The Jets will win here on the back of their stellar defense.

Bengals over Chiefs

This has potential to be a trap game for the Bengals with the Seahawks coming to town next week. However, I don’t see a loss here because the Bengals are better on both ends of the ball.

Colts over Jaguars

What is wrong with the Colts this season?

The Colts needed a late rally to beat the lowly Titans on Sunday and Andrew Luck has turned into a turnover machine.

Despite that, the Colts will continue to benefit from playing in the worst division in football with a win against the struggling Jaguars on Sunday.

Bills over Giants

I predict Eli Manning to throw his first pick of the season in front of the raucous Buffalo crowd and the Bills defense to smother the Giants all day.

Panthers over Buccaneers

The Panthers will continue their undefeated season as Cam Newton continues to carry this team on his back.

On the other side, the Buccaneers will lose their 11th straight home game stretching back to 2013. The Buccaneers have not won a home game since Dec 8, 2013

Falcons over Texans

Meanwhile, the Falcons will keep pace with the Panthers with a win here against a Texans team without an identity.

JJ Watt may be the best player in the NFL, but not even he can help this team right now.

Eagles over Redskins

The NFC East is anyone’s to win right now with the injury to Tony Romo. I think the Eagles take this one only because they are much less of a mess then the Redskins right now.

Raiders over Bears

Maybe getting blown out by the Bengals in Week 1 was exactly what the Raiders needed. The Raiders have followed that loss with wins against the Ravens and Browns and now get the chance to play arguably the worst team in football.

Look on the bright side, Bears fan. You’ve got a great shot at the No. 1 overall pick and the NFL Draft is coming back to Chicago next year.

Chargers over Browns

I don’t know what to think of the Chargers this season. They looked like a team on a mission against the Lions, played very competitively against the Bengals two weeks ago and then got blown out by the Vikings on Sunday.

I still feel confident picking the Chargers because they are back at home and the Browns are going nowhere this season.

Packers over 49ers

Vegas has the Packers as 9.5-point favorites and I think that might be a little generous. This game will probably be over by the third quarter as the massive mismatch at quarterback will allow the Packers to dominate.

Cardinals over Rams

The NFC West is a two-team race this year and the Cardinals hold the early edge. I think they maintain that edge with a convincing win at home against the Rams.

Broncos over Vikings

Even after blowing out the Chargers, I can’t pick the Vikings over the Broncos here. The Broncos defense is way too solid and Peyton Manning is still among the top-tier quarterbacks in the league.

Saints over Cowboys

Even if Drew Brees doesn’t play, I still think the Saints take this game. The Cowboys are a one-dimensional team without Romo and Dez Bryant and Luke McCown actually looked pretty competent against the Panthers on Sunday.

Seahawk over Lions

The Lions will continue their winless ways on Monday night against a game Seahawks team. The one solace they can take is that they might score unlike the Bears.

With that, another picks column comes to an end. Join me next week for more thoughts and analysis of the week that was and the week that will be in the NFL

Week 3: 12-4

Overall: 30-18

Predicting Week 3 of the NFL season

By Sam Cowan

Welcome back to the Cowan Corner for my Week 3 NFL picks.

For the second week in a row I finished with a 9-7 record last week and I remained winless on Monday nights. This week I hope to change that with an easy pick for Monday, but more on that later.

Let’s get down to the picks starting with our Thursday night game.

Giants over Redskins

The injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant combined with the poor play of the Eagles has opened the door for either of these teams to win the NFC East.

I think the Giants will take care of business at home after two straight weeks of late-game collapses.

Ravens over Bengals

The Ravens are better than their 0-2 start implies. This is also the first home game for the Ravens and I expect them to play well in front of their fans.

The Bengals will put up a fight and the game will be close, but Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh should take this one.

Falcons over Cowboys

Whether Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden starts for the Cowboys, it doesn’t affect my pick. The Falcons find themselves as potential contenders early in the year and the Cowboys have no offensive weapons for a few weeks.

Colts over Titans

Andrew Luck has looked average at best in his first two starts, but that may have been a factor of the defenses that he played rather than a reflection of his skill.

The Colts will pick up their first win of the season against a mediocre Titans team.

Raiders over Browns

I still don’t trust Johnny Manziel as an NFL quarterback and the Raiders are coming off a big upset of the Ravens.

Even in Cleveland, I have to take the Raiders.

Update: Josh McCown has returned as the starter for the Browns this week and Johnny Manziel has been benched. My pick remains the same

Patriots over Jaguars

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are going to carve up another defense. This one will probably be over by the third quarter.

Panthers over Saints

It’s looking like a two-horse race for the NFC South title this year with the Panthers and Falcons. Saints struggle on the road even when they’re good and that will not change in this game.

Jets over Eagles

The Jets might make the playoffs based on their defense alone. Meanwhile, if you listen closely, you can hear the angry ranting of Philadelphia fans echoing in the distance.

It’s going to be a long season for the Eagles and their fans if the first two games are any indication.

Texans over Buccaneers

If I keep picking the Texans, they’ll eventually win, right?

All joking aside, Jameis Winston still has a lot to prove and he is going up against the best defensive player in the NFL on Sunday.

Chargers over Vikings

Chargers barely lost against the Bengals in Cincinnati and the Vikings have not been the most impressive over the past two weeks. I would expect Philip Rivers to have a solid bounce-back game here.

Rams over Steelers

This was my toughest pick of the week. I expect both of these teams to be contending for playoff spots at the end of the season.

I decided to go with the Rams here because they are very hard to beat at home as the Seahawks found out in Week 1.

Cardinals over 49ers

The Cardinals season lives and dies on Carson Palmer’s body not falling apart. To this point, Palmer has played well and stayed healthy.

I expect that to continue against a 49ers team that got blown out by the Steelers last week.

Bills over Dolphins

The Bills were unable to beat the Patriots on Sunday, but the game was very close and the Bills have catapulted into the spotlight as a trendy playoff pick.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are in danger of finishing in last place in the AFC East for the first time since 2011.

Seahawks over Bears

Of the nine teams that currently sit at 0-2, the Seahawks are arguably the most surprising. I expect the Seahawks to pick up their first win of the year against a bad Bears team.

The Bears have given up the most points of any team since 2013.

Broncos over Lions

You never bet against Peyton Manning in night games.

Packers over Chiefs

The Packers are dominant at home and look to be an offensive juggernaut even without Jordy Nelson. The Chiefs are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Broncos and struggle outside of Kansas City.

That’s it for this week. Join me next week for more predictions and thoughts on the week that was in the NFL.

Week 2: 9-7

Overall: 18-14

Predicting Week 2 of the NFL season

By Sam Cowan

Welcome back for the next set of picks for the upcoming week in the NFL.

The inaugural picks column started off strong through Sunday last week. Then, I completely whiffed on the Monday night games and had to settle for a 9-7 record.

Still, we’re starting off the year above .500 and that’s always a good thing.

Without further ado, let’s get to the action.

Broncos over Chiefs

Peyton Manning isn’t going to go two straight weeks without a touchdown pass and the Broncos defense mauled the Ravens last week. The same should happen here on the Thursday night game.

Bengals over Chargers

The Bengals picked up a win on the road last week in the first victory in Oakland in franchise history. Now, they return to Cincinnati for their first home game.

It will be a close game, but the Bengals come up on top.

Texans over Panthers

Cam Newton has no one to throw too and JJ Watt is the master of everything.

Steelers over 49ers

I underestimated the 49ers last week. However, now they are on the road and facing a much better offensive unit in the Steelers.

If they prove me wrong again, I’ll start looking at them more seriously.

Saints over Buccaneers

Winston looked generally unimpressive against the Titans in his NFL debut.

While Drew Brees is on his last legs, he’s still better than Winston at the moment.

Vikings over Lions

The Viking were the only team that didn’t score a touchdown last week. At the same time, the Lions are bad on the road and coming off a loss in which they blew an 18-point lead.

I’ll take the home team, but I will avoid watching this game at all costs.

Cardinals over Bears

The Bears put up a surprising fight last week against the Packers, but they are playing another playoff-caliber team here and I expect the same result.

Patriots over Bills

This was my toughest choice of the week. The Bills looked great against the Colts and might actually have something in Tyrod Taylor.

That doesn’t change the fact that Tom Brady dominates the AFC East and I don’t think that will change. However, don’t be surprised if this one comes down to the wire.

Titans over Browns

I firmly believe Marcus Mariota has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL and proved it with his four touchdowns and no interception on Sunday.  Johnny Manziel, on the other hand, has yet to prove he belongs on an NFL field.

Both of those trends should continue.

Falcons over Giants

The Giants should still be recovering from that incredible collapse Sunday night and the Falcons are still flying high after a win on Monday.

Rams over Redskins

Kirk Cousins is 2-8 as a starter for his career. The Rams just beat the defending NFC champions. My choice here was incredibly easy.

Dolphins over Jaguars

Neither of these teams is going anywhere this season, but the Dolphins are definitely the better team.

Ravens over Raiders

It was an incredibly tough break for the Raiders with Derek Carr’s hand injury. The fact that they are playing two straight playoff teams to start the year doesn’t help matters.

Ravens will pick up their first win of the season here.

Cowboys over Eagles

Even without Dez Bryant, the Cowboys have enough weapons to beat the Eagles.

Let the countdown begin until Philadelphia fans start calling for Chip Kelly’s head.

Packers over Seahawks

The road back to the Super Bowl will be a difficult one for the Seahawks as I now think they start 0-2. Ending the holdout of Kam Chancellor is a must for them to have any shot of making it back.

Colts over Jets

I’ll take Andrew Luck over Ryan Fitzpatrick in prime time, thank you very much.

With that, another column comes to a close. Come back next week for more analysis and predictions of what is to come in the NFL.

Week  1: 9-7

Overall: 9-7

Predicting Week 1 of the NFL season

Welcome to the first-ever Cowan Corner picks column, where I give the run-down of the NFL slate for the week and tell you who might come out on top.

The opening week of the 2015 NFL season brings us two contenders clashing on Thursday, two top rookie picks facing off and division rivals butting heads in several games. Without further ado, let’s get into the picks.

Patriots over Steelers

Prior to Friday, I had the Steelers taking this one home easily. Now, there is no way I can pick against the Patriots.

The crowd for the season opener in Foxborough is going to be ridiculous as they cheer on their conquering hero, Tom Brady. The game has the potential to turn ugly if the Steelers don’t come to play.

Packers over Bears

Rivalry or no, the Packers are clearly the better team and should win easily on the road. The Packers should be considered a favorite to win the NFC and will start their season strong here.

Texans over Chiefs

Vegas is showing an even score line this game and I agree with it. The game could go either way, but I can’t in the right mind pick Alex Smith on the road against JJ Watt.

Texans win a close game here.

Browns over Jets

Two mediocre quarterbacks go head-to-head to open the season! In the battle of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown, I have McKown doing just enough to lead the Browns to victory.

Colts over Bills

As much as I admire the Bills for giving career back-up quarterback Tyrod Taylor a starting position this season, there is no way I can pick the Bills over Andrew Luck.

Dolphins over Redskins

In my opinion, having Kirk Cousins as the starter gives the Redskins a better chance to win than Robert Griffin III.

It isn’t much of a chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless. Dolphins still pick up a road win to start the season.

Panthers over Jaguars

Expect Cam Newton to have a good game to start the season and the Jaguars to kick off another year of mediocrity.

Seahawks over Rams

The Seahawks begin what should be another successful campaign with a division win on the road.

The more important story is whether or not Kam Chancellor will rejoin the team. If his holdout keeps going for too long, it might cost the Seahawks games later in the season.

Cardinals over Saints

If Carson Palmer doesn’t blow out his knee again, the Cardinals have a chance to be top contenders this year.

Otherwise, expect another early playoff exit this year if they make the playoffs at all.

Chargers over Lions

Phillip Rivers should have no trouble picking apart the Lions defense. The Lions are a team that has consistently underachieved the last few years and I expect that trend to continue this year.

Bengals over Raiders

Teams from the Eastern time zone have a poor history on the west coast. However, the Bengals seem primed for another playoff run and I don’t see them losing to the Raiders here.

Buccaneers over Titans

The professional careers of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota begin with this game. This game is very important for both franchises.

I have the Buccaneers winning here because they are playing at home and because I think their team is better overall.

Broncos over Ravens

It doesn’t matter how old he is or who he has playing around him, Peyton Manning is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Peyton gets to start his 18th pro season at home and I have him winning here to begin another playoff run.

Cowboys over Giants

The Cowboys have no running game to speak of, but they have one of the best offensive lines in football and a solid quarterback in Tony Romo.

They can ride those two factors to a win on Sunday night against a major rival in the Giants.

Eagles over Falcons

This season will go one of two ways for the Eagles. Either the team will go 12-4 and Chip Kelly will be lauded as a genius or they’ll go 4-12 and Kelly will be run out of town by the Philadelphia fans.

I’m thinking the former happens and that will start with a win on Monday night.

Vikings over 49ers

The final game of Week 1 pits a returning Adrian Peterson against the depleted 49ers defense.

I predict the game to be competitive, but the 49ers don’t have anyone left who can stop Peterson up the middle consistently.

Check back next Wednesday for more NFL picks and thoughts on the week that was in football.

Bold Predictions for the 2015 MLB season

By Sam Cowan

Welcome to a new recurring feature on my blog, Bold Predictions, where I will predict the future of the sports landscape based on what I know and what I can guess. Expect to see more of these types of columns as the weeks and months roll along.

Today, I will be covering my predictions for the second half of the 2015 MLB season and looking at why I think these things will happen.

The Giants will make the playoffs

Over the previous five seasons, the San Francisco Giants have built a dynasty that has seen championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014. However, the years in-between have seen the Giants fail to even make the playoffs.

I think that streak will end this season as the Giants edge out the Dodgers for the NL West division title with the Dodgers settling for a wild-card spot.

The Giants have a great mix of hitting, pitching and experience to make another run in October.

However, I don’t think the Giants will repeat as champions this year- more on that at the end.

Mike Trout will win his second straight MVP and Bryce Harper will win his first MVP

As of Sunday, Trout is sixth in the American League in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, first in home runs and tied for eighth in RBIs. Harper is third in the National League in batting average, first in OBP, tied for first in home runs, and fourth in RBIs.

Trout was a unanimous selection for AL MVP last year and I expect him to be a near-unanimous choice this year with Josh Donaldson or his teammate Albert Pujols stealing some votes.

Harper is the clear choice for MVP and I expect him to be the unanimous choice unless his numbers fall off dramatically in the second half. If so, Harper would be the fourth-youngest player ever to win the MVP award in either league.

At least one more no-hitter will be thrown this season

We’ve already seen two no-hitters this season, one by an established veteran and the other by a relatively-unknown rookie. It feels like every week a pitcher takes a no-no into the sixth or seventh inning.

I’m not brazen enough to declare when or where it will happen, but I do think it is bound to happen at least once before we head into the postseason.

Ichiro will retire after this season

Ichiro has had a remarkable career to this point. A career.316 hitter, Ichiro has recorded almost 3,000 hits in the majors and that doesn’t include the almost 1,300 hits that he got in Japan.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Ichiro is a Hall of Famer and it is simply a matter of when he wants to retire from the game.

While it is possible Ichiro may try to reach an even 3,000 hits for his MLB career, I think this season will be the last in his storied career.

Your new world champions are…

In the AL, I have the Angels, Blue Jays and Royals as division winners with the Twins and Astros as wild-card teams. In the NL, I have the Cardinals, Nationals and Giants as winning their divisions with the Pirates and Dodgers claiming the last two playoff spots.

From that group, there is one team that I think stands out based on their combination of hitting and pitching and that team is the Pittsburgh Pirates.

24-year old Gerrit Cole has been impressive as the team’s ace and A.J. Burnett is having a career year at the age of 38. Francisco Liriano has also done well the last couple years and is a viable third-man in their postseason pitching rotation. The Pirate’s team ERA of 2.92 is second in the majors.

On offense, Andrew McCutchen leads a core of solid bats that, while not overwhelming, does well enough to keep the team winning.

I predict the Pirates to ride their pitching staff and some key offensive plays to the World Series to play the Angels. My final prediction is that the Pirates beat the Angels in six games for the team’s first championship since 1979.