2023 American League Preview

By : Mike Rifkin

2023 MLB season is upon us. Here is a preview for the American League. 


 Orioles : If they’re young players play as well as they did last season the Orioles can hang around in the beast of a division.

Red Sox : They signed Rafael Devers to a long term extension. A lot of their season is about banking on health of some older players like Justin Turner and Corey Kluber. If Chris Sale is healthy for the whole year that would be a major boost. 

Yankees :  The team hasn’t won a World Series since 2009, but at least they res-signed Aaron Judge and didn’t have to settle for his brother Arson. Health is already a factor for them. Early on they may have to out slug people, but if Gerrit Cole goes down then the season is over. 

Blue Jays : I already loved their roster, but adding Chris Bassitt to their rotation which should get Hyun Jin Ryu back is a great addition. They also added Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier which will help their outfield defense. Brandon Belt will provide leadership to a team with a very young core. I have high expectations for the Jays.

Rays: One thing we’ve learned over the years is to not count the Rays out despite their payroll. If Tyler Glasnow can return and be the ace he was prior to Tommy John Surgery the Rays rotation will line up accordingly. If Randy Arozarena can carry over what he did at the World Baseball Classic, he along with Wander Franco will lead the charge offensively. 


White Sox : Hands down the White Sox were the biggest disappointment in baseball last year. They really need a bounce back season from Lucas Giolito. If Giolito returns to form along with Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease the White Sox would have one of the best pitching trios in baseball. Offensively they won’t have Jose Abreu, but if they stay healthy expect Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez to bounce back.

Guardians : While the White Sox were the biggest disappointment in baseball the Guardians were the best. They came from nowhere to win the division ( reminded me of Major League). Jose Ramirez remains one of the best players in the game. The Josh Bell signing was one of my favorites of the offseason. A rotation led by Shane Bieber and Triston Mckenzie and a dominant bullpen, Terry Francona’s team could win the Central again.

Tigers : It was announced that this will be Miguel Cabrera’s final season, so baseball fans will get to watch the legend one more time. Young players Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson will have to take the next step in their development for this to be a successful season in the Motor City. 

Royals : Bobby Witt and MJ Melendez are coming off of solid seasons and will only get better. Sal Perez is aging like a fine wine with another 23 homers last season. My biggest question is who steps up behind Brady Singer in the rotation? 

Twins : Carlos Correa is back after failing physicals with the Giants and Mets. They added Pablo Lopez to the rotation, but traded batting champ Luis Arraez to do it. Byron Buxton hit 28 home runs in 92 games, imagine what he can do if he stays healthy.


Astros : The reigning World Series Champs lost the reigning AL CY Young Award winner to free agency, and lost Jose Altuve for a couple of months with injury. They did add former AL MVP Jose Abreu. But expect whoever plays in Altuve’s place to step up. Jeremy Pena had to fill the shoes of Carlos Correa and all he did was win ALCS and World Series MVP. 

Angels : How is it possible to be a bad team when two of the best players in the world are on your team? Asking for the Angels, I know what Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout will give them if they’re healthy. They signed Tyler Anderson, who is coming off a career year with the Dodgers, The guy this team needs to step up is Anthony Rendon, who hasn’t made much impact since signing with the Angels. Can the Angels be a playoff team? Sure but they have to show me before I believe in them. ( Or they need Joesph Gordon – Levitt back for Angels in the Outfield 2)

Athletics : Are they going to be so boring that more people will have sex in the crowd? Set your expectations low, we’re still waiting to see if a new ballpark is in the future of the A’s or if they will relocate. But in player talks Seth Brown had a solid season last year. 

Mariners : Ok remember when I said I loved the Blue Jays rotation, well I love the Mariners rotation as well. Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby is a great top four. As for the lineup they added some thump with Teoscar Hernandez and Kolten Wong. Julio Rodriguez who is coming off a Rookie Of The Year campaign, is ready to become one of the faces of Baseball. 

Rangers : No team changed their identity in the offseason more than the Rangers. Bringing in future Hall Of Fame Manager Bruce Bochy. They also brought in Jacob DeGrom and Nathan Eovaldi to the rotation. The Rangers will be one of the more fascinating teams to watch this season. 


Central : White Sox

WEST : Astros

WILD CARDS : Mariners, Yankees, Rangers


MVP : Shhoei Ohtani: I know this is the easy answer because there is nobody in baseball who does what he does. But if asked outside of him I would say Julio Rodriguez. But expect Ohtani to put on a Sho prior to his free agency. 

CY YOUNG : Alek Manoah : Last season Manoah was 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA. He pitched to a 2.24 ERA in the AL East, if he can replicate that or even pitch better. 

Rookie Of The Year : Gunnar Henderson : In 34 games last year Henderson hit .259 with four home runs and 18 RBIS. If the Orioles are as scrappy as they were last season, Henderson will be a big reason why. 

Manager Of The Year ; Bruce Bochy: The future Hall of Famer doesn’t need any more accolades, but I think he will turn the Rangers around. 
ALCS :  Blue Jays DEF Astros in seven games.


2023 National League Preview

By: Mike Rifkin

The 2023 MLB season is upon us. Here is a National League preview.

The National League is loaded with talent. The reigning National League Champion Phillies bolstered their lineup by adding Trea Turner and tried to solidify their pitching with the additions of Taijuan Walker and Craig Kimbrel. The Padres signed ace Yu Darvish and third baseman Manny Machado to extensions, bringing in shortstop Xander Bogaerts and DH Nelson Cruz. They will also get back star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. in April after he was suspended for PEDS. The Cardinals have two-thirds of the NL MVP finalists in Nolan Arenado and the reigning MVP, Paul Goldschmidt. They also added Willson Contreras from the Cubs. The New York Mets added reigning AL CY Young Award Winner Justin Verlander to pair with former teammate Max Scherzer. Then there are the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been the class of the National League over the years. 

One team that I’m genuinely curious about is the Milwaukee Brewers. They led the NL Central most of last season until they faltered late in the second half. The Cubs and Giants were active in the free-agent market. The Marlins and Diamondbacks have a chance to surprise some people this season with their talent. It is about looking to the future for the Pirates, Reds, and Nationals. Then there’s the curious case of the Rockies. Their owner said they were shooting for .500, but if Kris Bryant is healthy for the whole year and their pitching takes the next step, they could be better, but the top half of the NL is powerful. 


EAST – BRAVES – The Braves have won the East for five consecutive years. They will get battles from the Mets and Phillies, but until proven otherwise, they will repeat. 

CENTRAL – CARDINALS – I don’t think the Cardinals get enough credit as most of the top teams of the National League. But I think they can win the Central going away. 

WEST – PADRES –  If there was a year for the Padres to overtake the Dodgers, it’s this year. The Padres are too talented not to win the West. 



MOST IMPROVED TEAM: CHICAGO CUBS – I know many people could be high on the Giants and Diamondbacks, but I loved the offseason the Cubs had. If Cody Bellinger can recapture his MVP form, the Cubs could challenge the Cardinals in the National League. 






Why We Love March

By: Mike Rifkin

This Saturday, the Final Four will be played in Houston. Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, Miami, and UCONN will play for the right to be the National Champions. UCONN is playing in their sixth Final Four, and they have won the National Championship in four appearances, last time in 2014. As for the other three teams, this is their first appearance ever in the Final Four. 

Fans love March Madness because there is always an underdog story, but having three teams who have never won a National Title yet played in the Final Four is something that fans will get behind. There is a chance that we could get two teams who have never won a National Title could compete for it, but we do know at least one team will go to the National Championship when Florida Atlantic plays San Diego State. 

Either way, this tournament has been incredible in so many ways. If the Final Four plays out like the rest of the tournament, expect the unexpected. That’s why everyone loves March.

Japan Wins WBC 

By: Lawrence Lang

This past Tuesday was the World Baseball Classic Championship between Team Japan and Team USA in Miami, Florida, at LoanDepot Park. To much surprise, this had to be the final to WBC that everyone wanted to see that two very best teaming going at for probably the top prize in baseball behind the World Series and a Gold Medal to the Olympics. Tuesday’s Championship game was a game that will be remembered for a very long time. This game had all the emotions from the start. The excitement when Trea Turner gave the US the early 1-0 lead with a Homerun 406 ft shot to left field was also Turner’s fifth WBC Homerun in the Classic this year. Then you got the clear mind of Munetaka Murakami, and the first pitch he saw tied the game  1-1 in the bottom of the 2nd with a 432 ft home run to right field. 

Japan would take the lead later in the inning, going up 1-2. Then this was just pure baseball for the next five innings. Japan would add a run in the bottom of the 4th with a home run by Kazuma Okamoto, making it 1-3. The US would make it 2-3 with a Kyle Schwarber home run. What makes the game so perfect is the final out of the game. It was between two teammates that are not only playing for glory for their country but also getting ready for the Major League Baseball Season. Los Angeles Angels teammates Shohei Ohtani ( Pitching for Japan) and Mike Trout (Batting for the USA) squared off. With two outs in the game, the US was down to their final out and down by a run. Could Trout get the job done against his teammate and try and get a rally or tie for the US? 

Trout at bat against Ohtani went as followed.

First Pitch: Ball was called in the bottom left of the strike zone (could have been called a Strike)

Second Pitch: Strike ( Trout Swung and missed)

Third Pitch: Ball was called in the middle of the zone to the left (The pitch could have gone either way for a ball or strike) 

Fourth Pitch: Strike ( Trout swung and missed again) 

Fifth Pitch: The ball is called in the bottom left outside the zone. 

Sixth Pitch Strike three (Trout strikeout swinging  

You could feel the energy during this moment because you know that Trout wanted to homer off of Ohtani to tie the game. You know that Ohtani wanted to strike out Trout to win the WBC for Japan, and for this round, Ohtani won the battle, and Japan won the WBC 3-2 and their third title since the tournament started in 2006. Ohtani would win MVP for the tournament. 

It was not going to be him Trea Turner would have been runner-up for MVP because of the performance; he had nine hits, five of which were home runs, and had 11 RBI’S.  

With the WBC now over, The MLB season is upon us. However, with a moment of reflection with the expectation of a few MLB players getting hurt, this was fun and exciting to watch because baseball brought the world together for a few weeks. There was no drama with the teams. You had memorable moments throughout the whole WBC. We had a fantastic championship game, and who would have thought it would come down to Ohtani vs. Trout to end the 2023 WBC? If that’s not a Hollywood story ending, then you are crazy. WBC will return in 2026, and I can’t wait because unless a trade happens with Trout or Ohtani in the next two years, I want to see them square off again. After all, their face-off in the final of the WBC was a moment I think fans won’t forget, and Trout wants redemption.      

Scheffler Wins At TPC

Scottie Scheffler and the Players Championship By Ross Mazin

The Players Championship is an annual golf tournament on the PGA Tour. Originally known as the Tournament Players Championship, it began in 1974.[2] The field usually includes the top 50 players in the world rankings, but unlike the major championships and World Golf Championships events, it is owned by the PGA Tour and not an official event on other tours.

Last weeks players championship was quite something. Each golfer was out to prove himself. The first round had its shares of ah ha moments. This is one of the more challenging courses on the tour. The 17th hole is the most famous hole in all of golf. The tournament had 51 eagles last weekend.  Scheffler lead most of the weekend and was -14 heading into the weekend. He is quietly establishing himself as an elite golfer this year. He really went out and proved himself last week 

Go For It

By: Mike Rifkin

NFL free agency is in full force, and one of the major questions is what is going on with Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson? The Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on the former MVP, meaning a team can offer Lamar a contract, and the Ravens would get the right to match the offer, and if they don’t, they will get two first-round picks. We saw teams say they weren’t interested in Jackson when this occurred, and they went to other places on the market. But there is one team that makes sense to offer sheet, Jackson.

That team is the Indianapolis Colts. Look, I know the Colts were one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL last season, but I still like a lot of their roster. Since Andrew Luck retired, the Colts have gone with many stop-gap guys, including Phillip Rivers and Matt Ryan last season. You must take that risk if you can sign Lamar Jackson and pair him with Jonathan Taylor. Jackson is only 26 and can be the next Colts franchise quarterback. 

The Colts have the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft and could select a quarterback. But they might not get the guy they have the most interest in because the Carolina Panthers moved up to the number one overall pick to take a quarterback, presumably, and the Houston Texans, who pick second, also are presumed to take a quarterback. Now the top two picks in either order are most likely to be Bryce Young of Alabama and CJ Stroud of Ohio State. So if the Colts only like those two guys, they are in a challenging position. Lamar is a known commodity, while a rookie is not. Also, by bringing in Lamar, the Colts could entice other free agents in the future to go to Indy. I’m not saying the Ravens will not match the offer on Jackson, but if the Colts at least make him an offer, it will show the fanbase and the rest of the league they are going for it. 

Not Again

By: Mike Rifkin

Last Wednesday started the NFL’S league year. While most people focus on the free agency period of the league year, another thing that occurs is teams can file potential rule changes that the owners and the competition committee can discuss. The Los Angeles Rams proposed the rule change and want to make roughing the passer penalties reviewable.

Roughing the passer was one of the most discussed penalties during last season. There are multiple you can look at throughout the season, and I still don’t understand why the penalty was called. But here’s my thing I don’t know if the referees know how to officiate it and throw the flag out of caution. We’ve been down this road before with making penalties challengeable when the NFL made pass interference reviewable. The problem with that was that the calls would often side with whatever the refs had called on the field. I do have a solution to the roughing the passer rule, and it doesn’t involve making it reviewable, but it will make the NFL do some work. 

Instead of making the penalty reviewable, the league should change the rule. The league should keep shots to the head and below the knee as part of the penalty, but I think we need to say a graze of the helmet shouldn’t be called. With what we know about concussions, they can if they want to keep it. But the other parts are where I think fans get confused. The other rules are that a defender can’t land their bodyweight on top of the quarterback and cannot drive the quarterback to the ground. In essence, what the league has done has protected the quarterback so much that every time they go down, a flag will be thrown. So, what would the replay show on bodyweight landing or driving the quarterback to the ground? We will run in circles as they did with the pass interference challenge. I wouldn’t say I like harping on the refs, but when these networks air the games, and their rules analyst is as confused as the fans, that’s not a good thing, so the league should tear up the rule and rewrite it.

If I was in charge and left to change the roughing of the passer penalty, here’s how I would go about it. First, we will leave shots to the head ( I would change for non-forceful blows but understand why the head should be kept) and below the knee. I would throw out the bodyweight rule because it’s hard enough for defenders to get them down. Now they have to focus on where they land. Driving them to the ground should only be enforced if the hit is late or if the whistle has been blown, but that is on the refs to make the in-the-grass ruling more if needed. If roughing the passer continues to be a problem in the NFL, there is one last solution that nobody wants to see: to put flags on the quarterbacks. 

Let The Madness Begin

By Lawrence Lang

It may only be the opening day of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, but an upset city has already begun in the tournament, and who doesn’t love a good upset? That’s what makes the NCAA tournament so unique: one game super sudden-death type tournament where you win, you go on, you lose, and you go home. For this year’s tournament, some teams that were thought to be heavily favored containers for a national title have had those dreams busted by the lower seeds, so let’s break it down with Thursday’s upsets in the tournament. 

We will start with the big upset so far: The 15-seed Princeton Tigers take down the 2nd-seed Arizona Wildcats in a nail-biter of a game 59-55. The Wildcats were up eight in the first half (14-6), which was also the biggest lead of the half for the Wildcats. The Tigers would hang in there, slowly decreasing Arizona’s lead to get to half-time. They would shut out Arizona from scoring in the last four minutes of the half and score six points to end the half and make the score 30-31, only being down one. This was a thrilling game to watch if you were watching.  

In the 2nd half, Arizona would be up nine early, and they would take complete control of the game and go on to the next round. But that was not the case. Princeton would begin the comeback with a Blake Peters three-pointer to cut the lead to six, 35-41. Scoring would go back and forth threw the middle of the 2nd half, then in the back half of the 2nd quarter, Princeton took command and began to strike Arizona’s lead down. They are going on a 10-2 run, making it 48-51 Arizona. Arizona would score again 48-53. Arizona would score the last points by Azuolas Tubelis 50-55. After that, Princeton would go on a 9-0 run to end the game, winning 59-55. They become the 11th No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed in the tournament and mark the third year in a row a no. 15 seed has beaten a No. 2 seed last two years, Oral Roberts def Ohio state (2021), and saint peters beat Kentucky last year (2022). Maybe the crazy notion of a 15 seed never winning is over, and we are in a new era of the tournament where anyone could beat anyone now, and the theory isn’t a myth anymore. Forward  Tosan Evbuomwan leads Princeton in scoring with 15 points. 

The other major upset that happened yesterday involves the university of Virginia. If you don’t know, in the 2018 men’s NCAA basketball tournament, Virginia made history in the wrong way when they became the first no. 1 seed to lose to a No.16 seed (UMBC). Granted, the redemption year in 2019 was sweet when they won the national title. History has yet to repeat it since losing to a 16 seed this year, but they have had yet another early exit from the tournament. No. 4 Virginia has lost to the no. 13 seed Furman. Furman is a private liberal arts college out of Greenville, South Carolina. The men’s basketball team has made only a little history before yesterday’s win. They had six appearances in the tournament, where their only significant success came in 1974 when they made the sweet 16. That’s past, and this is today. In another nail bitter of a game, Furman would keep it close with Virgina and even take the lead at one point (61-58). Then Virigna got the lead back and seemed to hunker down for the game’s final moments. With the score 65-67, Virginia leading, they would have to find a way with 12 seconds left to keep the basketball, and they would move on. However, Furman Garett Hien got a steal off Virginia’s Kihei Clark.

The Furman moment was here, and three things could happen: you tie the game and have the chance to go over time. Two, you miss, and the season is over, or three, say, you know what, let’s go for the win. Option three was the choice for Furman, and in the words of Mike Breen, BANG. JP Peguess hit the go-ahead three 68-67 and with two seconds left. Virginia’s last shot was Reece Beekman, a three-pointer was no good, and Furman got upset and moved on. They are the 32nd 13 seed to beat a no four seed, and it was the first time since 2021 that a no 13 seed had beaten a no. 4 seed. North Texas and Ohio were the last 13 seeds to do the job. Forward Jalen Slawson led the team in scoring with 19 points.  

Overheating happened yesterday. These games could have gone either easy since they were close in seeding. 

No.10 Penn State beat no7. Texas AM 76-59

No.9 Auburn beat no. 8 Iowa 83-75 

Your one near upset was no. 13 Louisiana and no. 4 Tennessee. Tennessee just edged out Louisiana 58-55. Tennessee Julian Phillips made a free throw to seal the game for them. This shows that upsets can happen at any point, and it was right here. However, Tennessee made the baskets when needed to ensure their season was still alive. 

This was just day one of The Men’s Basketball Tournament, and will we see an upset in today’s action? 


By: Mike Rifkin



  1. ALABAMA – The overall number one seed is seventh in the nation in scoring, leading the nation in rebounding. They are led by Freshman Brandon Miller (we can talk about if he should be playing later), who averaged 19.6 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. 
  2. ARIZONA – The Pac-12 Tournament champions score fourth in the country, averaging 82.7 points per game. They are third in field goal percentage shooting 49.6 % from the field. Only a few teams can match up with their bigs, Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubellis.
  3. Baylor – The Bears lost four of their final six games to end the season. The Bears arguably have the best three-guard set in the country with Keyonte George, Adam Flagler, and LJ Cryer. The return of Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua could be a key factor for the Bears. 
  4. Virginia – The Cavaliers were ninth in the country in scoring defense. Armann Franklin and Jayden Gardener average 12 points per game. But you know what you’re getting with the Cavs: excellent defense and low-scoring affairs.
  5. San Diego ST. – Balance is the key for the Aztecs. They have a lot of balance, and they rarely beat themselves. Guard Matt Bradley is the only player that averages double figures in scoring.

MOST INTERESTING MATCHUP : (8) MARYLAND VS (9) WEST VIRGINIA – All eight vs. nine matchups are fantastic. The most significant factor is Maryland has only won four games on the road/ neutral sites. Can they turn this around against the Mountaineers? 

Team to come out: Arizona 



  1. PURDUE – The Big Ten regular season and tournament champs have one massive advantage over everyone else in Zach Edey. The 7″ 4″ Canadian averaged 22.3 points per game, 12.8 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Edey is a matchup nightmare for opponents. Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer are outstanding backcourt as well.
  2. Marquette – The Big East Champs are led by point guard Tyler Kolek, the Big East Player of The Year, who averages 13.3 points per game and 7.7 assists per game. The Golden Eagles are dangerous from behind the arc, and they have six players who shoot over 30% from three. 
  3. Kansas St- Keyotae Johnson, the Florida transfer, led the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Johnson and backcourt mate Markquis Nowell were both First Team Big 12. 
  4. Tennessee – Rick Barnes’s team is third in the country in points allowed, giving up 58.0 points per game. They will be without point guard Zakai Zeigler, who tore his ACL two weeks ago. Ziegler led the team in assists and steals and was second in scoring. The biggest question is, can the Vols score enough?
  5. Duke – The Blue Devils found their footing down the stretch, including winning the ACC Tournament in the first season under Jon Scheyer. This team will go as far as Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach take them. Derek Lively on the inside can be a massive factor on the defensive side. 

MOST INTERESTING FIRST RD MATCHUP : (6) KENTUCKY VS (11) PROVIDENCE: Kentucky was up and down all season. Their main constant was big man Oscar Tshiebwe, who averaged 16.5 points per game and a nation high 13.1 rebounds per game—Bryce Hopkins, who led Providence in scoring and rebounding, transferred from Kentucky to Providence. 

Team to come out: Purdue



  1. HOUSTON – The Cougars were second in the country in points allowed, allowing 56.5 points per game. Guard Marcus Sasser, who was injured during the AAC Tournament, status is unknown. The Cougars must rely on their stellar defense if he can’t go.
  2. Texas – How about the job Rodney Terry has done since Chris Beard was let go. This team has a lot of experience and is playing well right now; they beat Kansas by double digits in their last two meetings. Marcus Carr leads the way averaging 15.5 points per game. 
  3. Xavier – The Musketeers average 81.4 points per game. They are led by Souley Bourn, who averages 16.5 points per game and 4.4 assists. Sean Miller’s team averages 19 assists per game. 
  4. Indiana – Trayce Jackson – Davis and Race Thompson are excellent in the front court. If Miller Kopp and Trey Galloway hit their threes, the Hoosiers can make some noise in the tournament.
  5. Miami – Don’t be surprised if the Hurricanes make a deep run in the tournament after going to the Elite Eight last season. Isaiah Wong leads the team in scoring and assists per game. 

MOST INTERESTING FIRST RD MATCHUP TEXAS A&M (7) VS PENN ST (10): I’m still trying to understand why A&M is a seven-seed after finishing second in the SEC and losing in the Championship game of the conference tournament Penn St also lost in the Big Ten championship. If Penn St hits their threes, they can win this game. Wade Taylor vs. Jalen Pickett should be a fun matchup. 

Team to come out: Texas 


Top Seeds

  1. Kansas – Jalen Wilson is a player-of-the-year candidate averaging 20 points and eight rebounds per game. Dajuan Harris is one of the best point guards in the country, and I still feel he’s underrated. Don’t be surprised if the reigning National Champs go on a long run.
  2. UCLA – Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell are great. They will need someone to step up in the absence of Jaylen Clark. 
  3. Gonzaga – The Zags will eventually win the National Title. The Bulldogs led the nation in scoring and field goal percentage. Drew Timme leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Malachi Smith, the UT Chattanooga transfer can be a significant x factor. 
  4. UCONN – Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan are forces in the paint. Defensively they allow 65.0 points per game. 
  5. St. Mary’s – The Gaels are fifth in the country in scoring defense, giving up 60.1 points per game. Logan Johnso and Aidan Mahaney both average over 14 points per game. They have three players who shoot over 70% from the free-throw line, which could be their downfall. 

Most Interesting first round matchup (8) Arkansas vs. (9) Illinois: Last year, Arkansas went to the Elite Eight, and this year at times, struggled, including losing four of their last five games. Illinois has lost three of their last four games. Matthew Mayer, the Baylor transfer, could be huge for Illinois because of his extensive big-game experience. 

Team to come out: Gonzaga – Everybody loves Kansas and UCLA but don’t sleep on the Zags. They put themselves in a good position and schedule the right way for moments like this, so don’t be surprised if the Zags wind up in Houston. 




BY: Mike Rifkin

The 2022 AFC North division had three teams finish over .500 and two teams that wound up playing each other in the playoffs. 



RAVENS: 10-7


BROWNS – 7-10 

Ravens: The Ravens’ most important question is, what is going on with Lamar Jackson? They put the non-exclusive franchise tag on him, which means if another team signs Lamar, the Ravens will be able to match the offer, OR they can let him go and be awarded two first-round picks. The Ravens and Jackson will likely agree. If it’s Lamar or someone else, the most significant thing the Ravens need is a wide receiver. GM Eric Decosta said so himself because the team needs to draft better at the position. Guys like Allen Lazard, JuJu Smith-Schuster, DJ Chark, and Odell Beckham are free agents, while the Ravens can trade for DeAndre Hopkins from the Cardinals. The Ravens might also have to look at corners, with Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller, both free agents. 


RD 1 (22) – Zay Flowers – WR – BOSTON COLLEGE – Ravens need a receiver who can make plays. Flowers will make plays in the open field. 

RD 3 (87) – Will Mcdonald – EDGE – IOWA ST. – Justin Houston led the team with 9.5 sacks, but he is a free agent, and at 34 years old, how much more is expected of him? Mcdonald and Odafe Oweh could be dynamic on the edges in Baltimore. 

Bengals: The quarterback will also be in the headlines this off-season. Most people around the league expect Joe Burrow and the Bengals to agree on a long-term extension. And why wouldn’t they? All the Bengals have done over the last two seasons is gone to back-to-back AFC Championship Games and made a Super Bowl appearance. The Bengals possess one of the best-receiving trios in the NFL with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. One position they will look at is safety because both Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell are free agents. Running back Samaje Perine is a free agent, and Joe Mixon could be a cap casualty. 


RD 1 (29) – Anton Harrison – OT – Oklahoma – The Bengals gave up 44 sacks last season, which was 20th in the league. But there are other routes the Bengals could go, but keeping their franchise QB up should be the highest priority. 

RD 2 (61) – Antonio Johnson- Safety – Texas A&M – As mentioned above, Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates are both free agents. Johnson and last year’s first-round pick Dax Hill could be versatile in the secondary. 

Browns: Cleveland also has their quarterback in Deshaun Watson, who played late last season and, after essentially two seasons off, Watson looked rusty. They will have to look at receivers and on the defensive side of the ball. Nick Chubb put up another fantastic season with 1,525 yards and 12 touchdowns. 


RD 2 (43) – Calijah Kancey – DT- Pittsburgh – Kancey was sensational at the combine, meaning the Browns should take him if he is here. They need a presence in the middle of the defense. 

RD 3 (99) Adetomiwa Adebawore – EDGE – Northwestern – Jadeveon Clowney won’t return, which means who will play opposite Myles Garrett. The Northwestern product ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and is used to playing in conditions that Cleveland will face.

Steelers: Once again, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. The Steelers were one win away from another playoff appearance. The defense and the offensive line must be the focus for the offseason. Kenny Pickett showed flashes last season, but I want to see what he does for an entire season of starting. 


RD 1 (17) – Kelee Ringo – CB – Georgia – Fans will want Penn St. Joey Porter Jr, but he needs to be the pick if Ringo is there. Ringo has the ideal size and strength for a corner. 

RD 2 (32) – Dawand Jones – OT – Ohio ST. – Jones is a massive individual. Yes, the Steelers have Dan Moore Jr. at Left Tackle, but his upside is too high to pass up if Jones is there.