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.