Jeff Harvey

While waiting for my shows to come on to ESPN last week, I watched a little bit of the qualifying games for the Little League World Series. The game I watched had one team up 12-2 after the official innings for a game, which is three-and-a-half, Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought there was a 10-run mercy rule where the game ended at any point after it became official if one team gained a 10-point lead. I know that’s the case in high school, because the teams I rode the bench for at Athens High School had games that were often ended by that rule.

Going back to my off-the-cuff reviews of the NFL, I see the New Orleans Saints, now that they have Michael Thomas settled, winning the NFC South. People have been saying this year that Drew Brees has been showing signs of age based on the playoff game with the Rams, but forget that Tom Brady looked vulnerable against the same defense weeks later. I think Brees has at least one more year in him and it is a contract year. Should more receivers take a step up to go with Thomas, Alvin Kamara repeat his good year and the defense stays at the same level, they could be Super Bowl favorites in the NFC.

I think the Atlanta Hawks could be in for a bounce-back season. They don’t have the consistency of the Saints, but they have probably more talent, although Matt Ryan isn’t as good as Brees. But they have more depth and comparable players to the Saints’ offensive stars.

The Carolina Panthers are carefully watching Cam Newton’s return from shoulder surgery as well as watching Luke Keichly’s progress from his injuries. The former is they key to the offense, the latter the key to the defense. Should they both be healthy and productive, the Panthers could pull off the division crown.

The only team which is dissatisfied with their quarterbacking this division is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They made a good coaching hire in Bruce Arians and, hopefully, he can turn Jameis Winston’s career around.

As for the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams should repeat as division champions, although I think they’ve slipped below the Saints and possibly the Eagles as conference favorites. Todd Gurley’s knee is cause for concern and the defense suffered several losses, but this division is the weakest of the eight.

Provided that Jimmy Garlafalo is ready to return, the San Francisco 49ers should make a move in the division. The team has been improving slowly and a return by him could be the spark for a wild-card run.

The Seattle Seahawks have been losing players on defense for years and still remain a playoff contender. Russell Wilson remains the least popular good quarterback among his former teammates, but he, along with Pete Carroll. have kept this team in contention. This year, the bottom could fall out.

The Arizona Cardinals are fully committed to Kylie Murray and he has a Hall of Fame-bound wide receiver. The trouble is that they have a rookie head coach with an unimpressive college record and a lot of holes on the roster..

I see the Saints. Eagles, Rams, Packers, Cowboy and Bears as playoff teams, with the Saints and Eagles meeting in the NFC Championship Game, which I see as a 27-21 Saints victory.

I see the Saints defeating the Chargers, 28-24, in the Super Bowl.

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