2021 NFL Division Predictions

2021 NFL Division Predictions

It’s hard to believe, but the NFL is almost here. Thursday Night Football returns this week with the opening match of the season as the Houston Texans face the World Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

With everything going on in America, this is going to be a very different season to what we are used to, as we have already seen a preseason heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with no games played. One tradition that has remained, however, is my annual post where I make a complete fool of myself by trying to predict the winners of each Division. This year, I have also gone a little further by also throwing in my predictions for the Wildcard spots, of which there are 3 per conference as of this season with the playoffs expanding from 12 to 14 teams.

Now, obviously there is a risk this year that the pandemic could completely ruin a team’s season by having a key player or a number of players get infected. But just like a season-ending injury, this is something that you can’t plan for, so these picks are all under the assumption that the league season plays out with no significant disruption.

And with that giant caveat out of the way, let’s see the predictions:

AFC

AFC East

It’s been a long time since the AFC East prediction wasn’t a simple tick in the box next to the Patriots, but things are different this season, with Tom Brady now plying his trade elsewhere and a number of key players opting out of the season due to health fears. Of course the Pats have shown their ability to make serviceable QBs look great – Matt Cassel, Jacoby Brissett – so it will be interesting to see if Cam Newton can revitalise his career in Massachusetts. Unfortunately for Cam Newton, the receiver corps is not what it once was, with Julian Edelman the only player of note, and I can’t help feel that this maybe the first time since 2008 that the playoffs do not involve Bill Belichick’s team.

The one big thing in New England’s favour when going for a Wildcard spot is that 4 of their 16 matches will be against the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, neither of whom have shown anything to suggest that they will be a danger this year. However, my clear favourite for the AFC East title is the Buffalo Bills. Last year’s Wildcard team has added star receiver Stefon Diggs, who will be a great weapon for Josh Allen, who should only be getting better in his 3ʳᵈ season.

AFC North

The Joe Burrow era is kicking off in Cincinnati, but (A. J. Green aside) does he have the support around him to immediately turn this team around, especially given his first taste of NFL football will come in Week 1 rather than preseason?

Pittsburgh will be hoping that James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster step up and that Ben Roethlisberger can stay fit all season, which he’s only done 4 times in his 15 seasons where he was a starter on Day 1 of the regular season.

The Browns will hopefully be better now that Freddie Kitchens is gone, but Baker Mayfield needs to prove that last season was a sophomore slump and not the start of a downward trend. He certainly has the weapons around him, assuming they all decide to put in the effort.

While I’m still not sold on Lamar Jackson as a long-term elite QB, he is an incredible athlete and the Ravens’ roster seems relatively settled and together following the dismissal of Earl Thomas, so I have them coming out top.

AFC South

The Jacksonville Jaguars are all aboard the Minshew train. Next stop: the #1 Draft pick.

The Colts looked good last year and a better QB could have been huge for them, but is 38-year-old Philip Rivers really the answer? He will certainly benefit from his home games being inside a dome, but he will face tough opposition from within the division.

To me, this will be a fight between the Texans and Titans for the top spot. The Titans will be hoping that “King” Derrick Henry can have another stellar season, but can probably pick up some slack in the passing game with A. J. Brown, Adam Humphries, Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith giving some great receiving options. On defense, they may have lost Logan Ryan and Jurrell Casey, but have brought in quality replacements in Jonathan Joseph and Jadeveon Clowney. In conrast, the Texans may have lost DeAndre Hopkins, but their WR corps still looks stacked, with Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills, while David Johnson will be a great pick-up if he can get back to his best.

I may be picking with heart more than head here, but right now I give the Titans the slightest of advantages.

AFC West

Let’s be honest, there’s only one team to trust here and that’s the defending champions. Having signed Pat Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid to long-term contracts, the Chiefs look set to become the next NFL dynasty and would be my early pick for back-to-back Super Bowl victories. But can anyone cause an upset here?

Denver look the best of a bad bunch in the league – good enough to beat the worst teams but not strong enough to challenge against playoff hopefuls. Will a fight for the starting QB spot bring out the best in Marcus Mariota or David Carr? With the lack of offensive weapons (Josh Jacobs aside), it probably won’t make much difference. The Chargers are probably in the best position to challenge, but that may be asking too much of Tyrod Taylor, while Justin Herbert will benefit from a season holding a clipboard rather than being thrown to the wolves.

Divisional Champions: Bills, Ravens, Titans, Chiefs

Wildcards: Texans, Steelers, Patriots

NFC

NFC East

While it is incredible to see Alex Smith making the Washington Football Team’s 53-man roster, if he plays a snap then something has gone seriously wrong with Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen. This is a team in the middle of a historic change of name, and it feels like the team is also in the middle of a rebuild under Ron Rivera. I can see this team pulling off some upsets, but not being consistent enough to earn a winning record.

The New York Giants will find out this year if Daniel Jones is the man under centre, but with Nate Solder missing, will he have the protection he needs? He certainly has some decent targets to aim for and a stud running back in Saquon Barkley, who can carry a load but may be forced to carry the hopes of a city.

Expect this to come down to a fight between the Eagles and the Cowboys. Both have franchise QBs in place, but if Wentz goes down injured, that’s Philly’s season over, whereas the Cowboys have a safety net of Andy Dalton as backup to Dak Prescott, and also the ability to turn to the running game of Ezekiel Elliott. Furthermore the additions of Everson Griffen and Aldon Smith make the Cowboys defense look dangerous even with Sean Lee on IR. Advantage: Dallas.

NFC North

The Bears have named Mitchell Trubisky ahead of Nick Foles, which says everything you need to know about their season… It won’t matter if the defense shuts down every team or how good Allen Robinson and Jimmy Graham are, they aren’t winning more than a handful of games with those QBs.

The Lions need to hope that Matt Stafford is back to his best after his injury issues last season. Theoretically, they have decent weapons on offense, but enough to challenge for the title? I don’t think so.

The Packers are far from the team they used to be with many of the big name receivers long gone, but Davante Adams is still there and with Aaron Rodgers under center, you never rule them out of games.

While you may not rule them out, the smarter bet is still a more consistent team and that would be the Vikings. Kirk Cousins may be a moron when it comes to COVID-19 and he may not be the man to win them the Super Bowl, but he is good enough to utilise receivers like Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph, while the defense can also contribute with players like Harrison Smith.

NFC South

It’s a fresh new start for the Panthers and it’s great to see Teddy Bridgewater starting somewhere again, but he has limited experience in recent years so can still be considered a risk. If teams can limit the touches by Christian McCaffrey, Carolina are in trouble. The Falcons have some quality receivers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to help Matt Ryan, but they need Todd Gurley to shine in order to keep the offense balanced. A winning record for either team probably constitutes a good season.

The Saints have elite players in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, while Taysom Hill remains one of those great offensive weapons. They also have a future Hall of Fame QB in Drew Brees who will utilise these weapons to the fullest, but there is a worry after last season that he may be on the decline. Luckily if that happens, they can put in Jameis Winston and replace the receiving corps with the Saints secondary, as he’s an expert at throwing passes to them.

Tampa Bay is truly the most fascinating team to watch going into this season. The Bucs finished 7-9 last season despite Jameis Winston throwing 30 interceptions. Now they have the GOAT Tom Brady under center and have brought in some other pieces to help him, including his fellow former Patriot Rob Gronkowski. Brady struggled last season with limited weapons, but now has a legit superstar to throw to in Mike Evans, and while Gronk surely won’t be the player he used to be, he could make a great partnership in a “12” package with O. J. Howard. If the Bucs can overcome the issues gelling as a team that the pandemic-hit preseason will have caused, they have a legit chance to challenge the Saints, but I will pick the safer option in New Orleans.

NFC West

This season of Hard Knocks hasn’t left me finding the Rams very likeable , or given me any reason to think that they will have much success this year, despite having Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on defense. The Cardinals need to ensure Kyler Murray doesn’t go through a sophomore slump, but witht he ever-reliable Larry Fitzgerald and superstar WR DeAndre Hopkins on the roster, he has some great weapons to throw to.

The Seahawks can never be ruled out with the talent they have on their roster, provided they can keep Russell Wilson healthy. What will be interesting though is the absence of fans at their early home games, as the “12ᵗʰ man” really goes a long way towards the team’s success at home.

Right now, I have to give the advantage to the San Francisco 49ers. The cliché is that defense wins championships and the Niners have a fantastic defense. This is where Jimmy Garoppolo needs to prove himself as a top tier QB, and having an elite TE like George Kittle will certainly help that, while they have an impressive stable of running backs to set the platform and keep the rushers fresh.

Divisional Champions: Cowboys, Vikings, Saints, 49ers

Wildcards: Seahawks, Buccaneers, Packers


So those are my picks. Let me know what you think of them and who you would pick!

Before I go, I want to invite you all to join my Superbru league for the NFL. For those who have never heard of Superbru, it’s an online prediction game where you attempt to predict the winners and winning margins for each round of matches and get awarded points for how close you were. There is no cost to enter, it’s just for fun and open to everyone. You can join by clicking on this link or by downloading the Superbru app and searching for the pool with the code: ludojump

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Bracket Breakdown: Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament 2020 (Part 2)

Bracket Breakdown: Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament 2020 (Part 2)

I’m a sucker for a Schmoedown tournament bracket, so welcome back to my attempt at predicting the 2020 Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament. As it is a bumper 36-competitor tournament this year, I know you don’t want to read a mini novel so I’ve split my bracket into 2 articles. This will be covering from the quarterfinals onwards, so make sure you have checked out my predictions for the Play Ins, Round 1 and Round 2 here.

feat MTS Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament 2020 bracket

Quarterfinals

mts brendan meyerJohn Rocha v Brendan Meyer: “The Outlaw” is never shy to take a jab at old rival William Bibbiani, but in order to face him, he will have to go through Bibbiani’s teammate Brendan Meyer. This will be Rocha’s biggest test so far in the tournament and I have it being one challenge too many, as “The Kid” will look to build on his narrow loss to Dan Murrell in February and 2 hugely challenging matches in the earlier rounds to make the semis.

Chance Ellison v William Bibbiani: William Bibbiani has the chance to set up an all-Shazam! semifinal, but finds a Cobra in his way. While Bibbiani is a great competitor, Chance took him close in his debit season and is now in the form of his life, so I have Chance continuing on in the tournament.

mts paul preston blenderPaul Preston v Tim Franco: Tim Franco is the lowest draft pick to make it into the quarterfinals but after taking out TOM in Round 1, he now faces the other half of TOM and Paul in Paul Preston. I can see this being a close match but Franco’s fairy tale run coming to an end here against a resurgent Paul Preston, bringing and end to the Quirky Mercs’ hopes of replicating the Innergeekdom tournament’s all-KOrruption final.

Mike Kalinowski v Paul Oyama: Were it not for KO’s “Flash” blunder against Jeff Sneider, he would have faced Oyama in New York and believes that he would have won on the day, giving the world “Mikey Three-Belts”, the first triple-belted Champion. Unfortnately for him though, he now faces a resurgent Paul Oyama and barring a favourable pair of wheel spins, I see Kalinowski’s run coming to an end, along with the chances of another KOrruption v KOrruption final.

Semifinals

mts chance ellison throwdownBrendan Meyer v Chance Ellison: And so we reach the semis. When I started planning my bracket, I had “The Kid” winning here, but having watched Chance’s run through the Innergeekdom tournament, it is clear that the IG slice can now be a dangerous weapon for him and I see him using that to make his second tournament final of the season.

mts paul oyama winston marshallPaul Preston v Paul Oyama: Paul will win. There you go. Oh, I have to be more specific? Fine. This is going to be a close match, but Oyama has shown his age to not be a weakness when it comes to older movies but potentially a weapons for genres like YA movies, so I have him making it to the final.

Final

 

Chance Ellison v Paul Oyama: Maybe I’m too much of a sucker for storylines, but what a final this would be. The first 2 Schmoedown Pros to come from the fan leagues, there has always been that rivalry in the Schmoedown between Chance and Paul. Paul got the win on the way to the Singles Title, but Chance got revenge in the opening round of the Innergeekdom tournament on the way to the final. This could easily go either way but Chance is in the form of his life right now and I can’t go against him winning his tournament of the season and all-but securing Player of the Year.

 

So there you have it, from an incredibly deep field of 36, Chance Ellison will emerge victorious to earn a shot at the Singles Title at Spectacular. what do think of my bracket? How does it compare to yours?

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Bracket Breakdown: Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament 2020 (Part 1)

Bracket Breakdown: Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament 2020 (Part 1)

The Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament is coming back! Following the success of the online tournaments in the Star Wars and Innergeekdom Divisions, the Singles Division will be getting a supersized tournament with a whopping 36 players!

My attempts to correctly predict the brackets for the Star Wars and Innergeekdom tournaments failed miserably, but that has not put me off trying again for this tournament. Of course, this tournament is so big, I don’t want to leave you with a novel to read, so I will be breaking this prediction down into 2 articles: this one covering the Play Ins, Round 1 and Round 2, while the second will cover from the Quarterfinals through to the end of the tournament.

feat MTS Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament 2020 bracket

Now before I start, I need to address a couple of assumptions that I have made for this prediction. Some of the players taking part in this tournament are currently unconfirmed as we await the outcome of the #1 Contender Match between John Rocha and Ethan Erwin, and the winner’s subsequent Championship Match against Dan Murrell. The Champion following these 2 matches will understandably not feature in the tournament, while all 3 have been confirmed as entering if they are not the champion. Should Ethan Erwin become Singles Champion, Jen Kempe will instead represent the Usual Suspects, while Sabrina Ramirez will take the final spot for the Finstock Exchange if either Rocha or Murrell holds the title.

I see Erwin defeating Rocha but losing to Murrell, meaning that John Rocha will be the Round 1 opponent for the winner of Gallegos v Collins in the top-left corner of the bracket, while in the top-right corner of the bracket Sabrina Ramirez will face Vinnie Mancuso in the Play In, with the winner facing Ethan Erwin in Round 1.

Play In Games

Andres Gallegos v Adam Collins: 2 untested rookies here so there is very little for me to go on. Gallegos has received some hype from legendary editor Nerd Chronic, and while Collins impressed in the fan leagues, he is seen as a 4-division threat, so I will give the advantage to the specialist Gallegos.

Frank Moran v James White: The Free Agent signing for SWAG takes on the man the Burning Droogs traded to the Den to bring in Brandon Hanna. Moran has had good showings in the league with his appearance for B.O.B and in Free 4 All II, however James White will feel at home playing online having been promoted from the fan leagues. Expect the 2ⁿᵈ round draft pick to show why he was picked so high.

Sabrina Ramirez v Vinnie Mancuso: The Free Agent that everyone wanted, Sabrina Ramirez shows the strength in depth of the Finstock Exchange. While she has done well t impress the Horsemen and earn a place in the faction, she has no gametape, while the Dungeon’s Vinnie Mancuso looked strong on his debut for The Butcher Boys and has been talked up by Kaiser as a great talent withing the division. I have Mancuso making it into the tournament.

Marisol McKee v Bonnie Somerville: A look at Bonnie’s Twitter recently suggests that she is up for the chance to go against her former faction, but how will she do in the match? Bonnie has put in decent performances but finds herself up against someone who comes with a strong reputation from the fan leagues and will be keen to make her mark in the pros. I’ve got Marisol McKee advancing.

Round 1

Andres Gallegos v John Rocha: Gallegos may come into this match with momentum, but he will be facing an Outlaw who will be keen to put a loss to Ethan Erwin (or maybe Dan Murrel) behind him and consider losing to an untried rookie the ultimate insult. Rocha will be fired up and as long as he doesn’t burn too hot, he’ll advance to the next round.

mts the delinquent lon harris wiston marshallLon Harris v Sabina Graves: I am so excited to see more of “The Delinquent”! Harris has looked a great talent and the pressure seems off him compared to his tenure as “The Professor”. Sabina is a strong competitor, especially with Samm Levine in her corner, but I think that Harris’ run for Comeback Player of the Year will continue with a win here.

Brendan Meyer v Alonso Duralde: There is going to be a lot of movie trivia know-how on show in this match. “The Kid” looks destined to win a belt in the next couple of seasons but will face a dangerous adversary in Duralde. Duralde’s knowledge covers even some of the more generally avoided categories, but he is not used to playing on his own and I think that Meyer will have the advantage strategically, which will see him through to Round 2.

Marc Andreyko v Matt Atchity: Another incredible Round 1 match-up, when it comes to movie trivia I don’t think there is much between them. However Atchity is notorious for never remembering the rules, while Andreyko has watched a lot of past matches during the lockdown, so I have Andreyko’s better gameplay seeing him advance.

mts chance ellisonChance Ellison v David Del Rio: Chance Ellison will have been so happy to see a larger Singles tournament as it made it more likely that he wold have a chance of advancing, having been eliminated from the last couple of Singles tournaments in the opening round by William Bibbiani and Ethan Erwin. This time he faces David Del Rio, who looked good in his appearances last season, but I think that Chance is a future legend of the league and will come away with the victory here.

Liz Shannon Miller v Rachel Silvestrini: This will be a very interesting match and I’m struggling to call it. Miller has the knowledge but will she be hampered by not having her manager in the room with her? Meanwhile, can Silvestrini improve on a couple of questionable round 1 performances? If Silvestrini can hit Kevin Smith or Disney at the right times then she has a good chance, but I’m giving this one to Liz Shannon Miller.

The Barbarian v Witney Seibold: With Ben Goddard not in the tournament, The Barbarian has a great chance of cementing himself as the Rookie of the Year. Witney Seibold has a great knowledge, but the Barbarian has thrown himself into the sport and has the benefit of learning from 4 former Singles Champions, so not only does he have the knowledge, but he also has the strategy, and will also benefit from a familiarity with the online matches from his time in the recent Innergeekdom tournament. I’ll be shocked if The Barbarian loses this.

William Bibbani v James White: James White could be the next Schmoedown superstar, but William Bibbiani is called “The Beast” for a reason and will be looking to get back to winning ways after his loss in New York at the start of the season.

mts ethan erwinVinnie Mancuso v Ethan Erwin: Mancuso’s prize for winning the Play In is taking on Ethan Erwin, who will be coming in fresh off a title loss to Dan Murrell. Now Mancuso could be one of the next stars of the league, but Erwin knows a lot about a lot and has even been checking out Disney+, so don’t expect him to lose here.

Paul Preston v Eric Zipper: Paul Preston is a fun character, so much so that you forget just how good his movie trivia knowledge is. With just a loss in Teams to his name this season, he will be keep to get back to winning ways against Eric Zipper. Zipper’s improvements have been clear to see, but I think that Preston has the potential to fight for a Singles Title and I think Zipper still has a little may to go before that, so I have Preston the win.

Jader Paramo v Jim Vejvoda: This will be an interesting match. Vejvoda has great movie knowledge but really lacks the understanding of the game and strategy. Jader meanwhile has a good level of knowledge but probably not quite as high, but as a long-time fan he understands the game better and will be benefiting from the strategic advice of Samm Levine and Andrew Ghai (unless the Schmoeminati have got him). I’m picking Vejvoda, but a Paramo win wouldn’t surprise me.

Tim Franco v TOM: This was anything but easy to pick. TOM became an instant fan favourite and hasn’t missed many questions in his Schmoedown career, while Tim Franco’s impact on the league has been limited due to being based in Arizona. Right now, I’m looking at experience of the game and competing without a teammate, and as a long-time fan who TKO’d Matt Atchity on debut, I’m going for Tim Franco.

mts mike kalinowskiMike Kalinowski v Perri Nemiroff: “The Killer” turned down a winnable match with Andrew Ghai and the potential of a #1 Contender match to enter the tournament and earn as many pints as he can for KOrruption. First up is Perri Nemiroff who certainly has some areas of strength, but hasn’t played outside of exhibitions for years. Expect to see KO going on to the next round.

Mark Reilly v VIDEODREW: “Yodi” will be hoping to go further in this tournament that last year, where Stacy Howard knocked him out in the opening round. He goes up against VIDEODREW who certainly has the potential to be a banana skin for him. I was struggling to call this one but eventually let my heart take over and selected Mark Reilly to advance.

Jeff Sneider v Robert Montano: “The Insneider” believes himself to be the best in the game and running through such a large tournament wold be a great way to do it. First up is Robert Montano, formerly of Late to the Party. Montano has shown that he has good knowledge, but Sneider is a great player and as long as he feels driven to win, I have him advancing.

Paul Oyama v Marisol McKee: Another case of a currently untested rookie who has made a good name for themselves in the fan leagues versus a high level veteran. McKee is meant to be be a dangerous adversary, but Paul Oyama showed his quality last year and I have him bouncing back from Singles losses to Bateman and Rocha to advance to the next round.

Round 2

feat mts Movie-Trivia-Schmoedown-John-Rocha-The-Outlaw-LiveJohn Rocha v Lon Harris: Let’s be honest, we all want Lon Harris to g all the way in this tournament, just to see as much of “The Delinquent” as possible. Unfortunately, he’ll find himself up against a John Rocha who is driven after coming so close to fighting for the belt again. Expect an Outlaw near the top of his game to make it to the next round.

Brendan Meyer v Marc Andreyko: These maybe 2 of the best Schmoedown Pros in the game to have never won the Singles title, such is the strength of this season’s bracket. Andreyko can go up against anyone on his day and thanks to this season being so heavily disrupted, he will find that he is not burned out like usual by this stage of the season. However, “The Kid” has looked the real deal and I have him pulling out the victory.

Chance Ellison v Liz Shannon Miller: Speaking of players who look the real deal, Chance Ellison will look to follow up a fantastic Innergeekdom run with an equally strong run in Singles. In his way stands Liz Shannon Miller, who has shown a good level of knowledge but has never faced someone in the form Ellison is in, while Chance’s fan league and Innergeekdom experience also means that he is used to the online setup. The Cobra is continuing on.

mts free 4 all ii william bibbiani
Growl Growl!

The Barbarian v William Bibbiani: This match feels like it could have been a semi-final! Though the Barbarian has a limited number of matches, neither he nor Bibbiani have any glaring weaknesses, and I think that this will come down to who gets a more favourable spin of the wheel. Though I’m loath to write off the Barbarian, I’m going with the more experienced Bibbiani.

Ethan Erwin v Paul Preston: What happens when a hotshot Hollywood producer faces off against a middle-aged frat boy? We get a great match in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown! I can see this being a great match and while I’d never count against Ethan Erwin’s trivia know-how, I think that Paul Preston will have spent the break working on strategy, which will see him through to the next round.

Jim Vejvoda v Tim Franco: After a greater knowledge saw him sneak past the more strategic Jader Paramo, this will be a much harder fight for Jim Vejvoda. Franco has a wide and deep knowledge of movies and the strategy to go with it, so I have him advancing to the quarters.

Mike Kalinowski v Mark Reilly: Having made it past VIDEODREW, things don’t get any easier for Mark Reilly as he takes on Kalinowski. I think that this match could easily go either way so will probably come to the wheel, where I can see either Bond or the Innergeekdom slice giving KO the advantage he needs to progress to the next round.

MTS Paul Oyama Singles BeltJeff Sneider v Paul Oyama: Jeff Sneider will never get as close to winning the Singles Title as he did against Oyama in New York, where manager Roxy Striar convinced him to bet (and lose) a point in the betting round, leading to a loss in Sudden Death. He’ll have his chance for revenge here, but that was Oyama on a bad day, and I think the change in character and familiarity of playing online will see Oyama play better and get the win again.

 

We started with 36, now we’re down to 8. I’ll have my predictions for the quarterfinals, semifinals and the final up early next week. In the meantime, let me know what you think of my bracket so far. How does it compare to yours?

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Lions Tour 2021: Predicting the Squad

Lions Tour 2021: Predicting the Squad

It’s hard to believe, today sees us reach the one year mark before the British & Irish Lions’ first match of their 2021 South Africa tour. This time next year (barring any delays given the current state of the world) the Lions will be taking on the Stormers in Cape Town as the first of 8 matches on their tour, culminating in a 3-Test series against the World Champions South Africa.

In honour of this day, I have decided to try predicting the players who will make up the Lions touring party. The last 2 touring parties have been just either side of the 40-man mark, but I have gone a little larger due to Warren Gatland’s decision in 2017 to add 6 extra players midway through the tour to help keep the Test team fresh. The “Geography 6” did not get a great reception when they were announced, which led to Gatland largely backtracking and keeping them as unused substitutes. With player welfare having become even more important over the last 4 years and the 5 games before the Tests being spread over just 15 days, I can see Gatland picking a larger squad this time around, so I have gone on the idea of a 46-man touring party, which would allow Gatland to put out 2 completely different matchday 23s without any overlap of players.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has not made selection easy for Warren Gatland, as it has left the Six Nations unfinished and also ruled out the Summer and Autumn Test windows, so 2021’s Six Nations will be huge, but players may also find that their form in club matches is given more consideration this time due to the lack of international rugby. So, who do I think will be travelling to South Africa?

Hooker

With 46 players going, I would expect 40 of them to be specialist hookers. Ken Owens is probably in prime position to start the Tests and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him captain some of the early matches. Owens is such a reliable player and was an ever-present for Wales under Gatland. With such limited time together, that familiarity will be key for the Lions. Next up is Jamie George, who has had control of the England number 2 shirt for a couple of years now. While he doesn’t seem as flashy as in his earlier years, he is super reliable at the set piece and will tackle all day long. For the other 2 spots, things get very interesting. Rory Best’s retirement has left Ireland lacking experience at the position and the lack of matches between now and the squad announcement is likely to count against them. Scotland have seen the number 2 jersey split between Stuart McInally and Fraser Brown, so it is highly possible that they could take both remaining spots, but I think that the strong carrying of Luke Cowan-Dickie will earn him a spot in the party,leaving space for just one of the Scots. While McInally brings a more open attacking game, I’m not sure that’s what Gatland will be looking for on this tour, so I can see him picking Fraser Brown, who can also cover as a back row in an emergency.

Prop

When I started looking at props, I must admit that I was surprised just how many players immediately clicked into place, leaving me only a few slots to fill.

At tighthead, Kyle Sinckler has become one of the best in the world, with good hands t go with his incredible strength and refusal to take a backwards step. It’s fair to say that his early removal in the World Cup final was a huge loss for England. I expect Sinckler’s biggest rival for the 3 shirt in the Tests will be Tadhg Furlong, who is another that can make a positive impact in both the set piece and the loose. 3 years ago, Tomas Francis was one of the infamous “Geography 6” but this time around I expect him to be a part of the initial squad as he has become a force in the scrums and is arguably another 3 whose removal benefited the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup. And for the final spot, I can see Zander Fagerson getting the nod, as he has become a regular for Scotland and impressed in a scrum that was improving during the Six Nations.

Moving over to the other side of the front row, I think that the current lack of a nailed down starter for Wales will leave them without representation at this position. Joe Marler had such a positive impact off the bench during the Rugby World Cup final, that I expect him to get a call-up alongside England teammate Mako Vunipola, who is arguably one of the best all-round looseheads when on top form. Cian Healy is another of the top looseheads and will provide plenty of experience. By the time the tournament comes around he will be 33, so I can see the tour being his international swansong. As for the final spot, strong performances over the net year could see Ellis Genge squeeze in as a physical carrier against the Super Rugby and Invitational teams, but right now I think the more likely player is Rory Sutherland, who was having a strong Six Nations before the pandemic brought it to an early end.

Lock

When initially starting my selections, I set aside 6 spots for the second row, but by the end I increased that to 7, as I noticed that a number of the locks I was picking were also experienced at playing in the back row, and with the strength of the Springbok pack I can imagine Warren Gatland going for a large pack. First off is the likely pick for the captaincy: Alun Wyn Jones, who brings so much experience and leadership to the team, as well as very rarely having a bad game. Next up were the youngsters that have quickly become key members of their teams, Maro Itoje and James Ryan. It wouldn’t surprise me to see these 3 making up the lock contingent for the first Test, but if anyone was to put themselves in contention, I can see it being Iain Henderson, especially as he could also provide a super physical option at 6. At this point I should probably make clear that I have excluded Geroge Kruis due to his upcoming move to Japan that will bring an end to his England career. Completing the group of specialist locks, I have Jake Ball getting in due to his larger size helping to bring some balance in the scrums. And then we come to Courtney Lawes, who in recent years has spent almost as much time at 6 as lock (though I personally think he is somewhat wasted at 6 internationally) and bolter Tadhg Beirne, who as well as being a large unit capable of covering lock/back row, has great ability in the loose and will be a big threat at the breakdown.

Back row

It’s probably no surprise that taking an extra lock came at the expense of a back row spot due to the players able to cover both, leaving me with 7 spots to fill here.

Personally, I feel that Taulupe Faletau could find that the pandemic leaves him with too little time to prove himself back to top form, so I can see him missing out here in favour of Billy Vunipola and CJ Stander, who can also cover openside flanker and will be keen to shine in the Test squad to show the Springboks just what they missed out on. They are the only specialist 8s I have going, with Ross Moriarty finding himself too far down the list with so many options at back row, however Josh Navidi has experience playing the position at international level and has the strength to hold his own against larger players. Navidi can be used at 8 due to the inclusion of fellow opensides Justin Tipuric and Hamish Watson, who both bring a lot to the attacking game in open play as well, while Sam Underhill can come in to fill the role of reliable tackler that Gatland used to see filled by Dan Lydiate, while he can also pick his moments to attack the breakdown. With so many other similar options, Jamie Ritchie and Tom Curry both see them missing out this time around in favour of Aaron Shingler, who provides a lineout option and more ballast at 6 to nullify the size of the South African packs.

Scrum half

Moving into the backs and scrum half was probably the hardest position for me to fill, just because I think that a lot of the current starters have serious questions about them. Wales are in the early days of trying to figure out their depth chart at 9 under Wayne Pivac, but Gareth Davies was so successful under Gatland that I’m confident he will go, while Rhys Webb was another Gatland favourite until his move to France made him ineligible.

For the other 2 spots at the position, I considered the Scottish pair of Ali Price and George Horne but don’t think Price has done enough to stand out from the crowd, while I see Horne being considered too small and not enough of a game manager to make the party this time around. Tomos Williams has been largely impressive for Wales, but I also see him missing out as I can’t see Gatland picking 75% of the scrum halves from the same nation. So that brings us on to England and Ireland, who wee both going through the Six Nations with players who were in the 9 shirts through the strength of their name and history rather than their recent performances. If we’re looking at the form performer before the pandemic, that was clearly John Cooney, and I think that he will get the recognition from Warren Gatland if he can continue the performances once rugby returns, especially as he also provides an option off the tee. This leaves a race between Conor Murray and Ben Youngs, and I think that based on current form, Ben Youngs has the slight edge, while he also has the running game to complement his tactical kicking that Murray lacks.

Fly half

So at fly half, I felt comfortable that Gatland would look to go for 3 specialists, with the potential for a couple of selections elsewhere in the back line also being able to cover the position in an emergency.

So immediately this throws up the question of where to class someone who will clearly make the squad: Owen Farrell. Farrell is perfectly capable of playing both fly half or centre, so could very easily be classed as a centre, allowing for another specialist fly half to be called up to the squad. However, for reasons that I will discuss shortly, I see him being looked at more as a fly half. Dan Biggar also makes the list as he continues to put in great performances that may not lead to super flashy attacking play, but effective, pragmatic play. Both Farrell and Biggar were picked alongside Jonathan Sexton in New Zealand, but I can see the trio being broken this time as Sexton’s poor form will see him left out in favour of Finn Russell, who probably won’t make the Test 23 but will prove a great attacking talent for the midweek games.

Now, on the off-chance that Farrell does make the squad but is considered more as a centre, I still don’t see Sexton getting picked barring a massive upturn in form, which leaves that final spot to be fought between Gareth Anscombe, Adam Hastings and George Ford. For me, Hastings loses out due to his lack of experience leading a team at this point, so it then comes down to the fitness of Gareth Anscombe. It’s worth remembering that he was set to be the starter for Wales at the Rugby World Cup before his injury against England, so if he can prove himself fully fit and back to top form, then I think his ability to also cover 15 will earn him the spot over George Ford, while any questions over Anscombe’s readiness will see Ford get the nod.

Centre

Owen Farrell being classed as a centre means that there are 5 spots to fill at the position in this squad. Now, when picking his centres, I think that Warren Gatland will take a moment to consider the opposition they are likely to face and choose to go for a highly physical set of midfielders to combat the Springboks.

As arguably one of the best 13s in the world, Jonathan Davies seems certain to make the squad provided he is fit, while I also think that Manu Tuilagi will be guaranteed a spot if fit. Hadleigh Parkes’ move to Japan has made it unlikely that he will be selected. The Scottish midfield seems somewhat unsettled at the moment, which I think will hinder them getting any representation at the position. For Ireland, I think that the physicality of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw, combined with their experience playing together, will see the pair selected.

Now, these 4 players will do a good job bringing physical parity to the match, but there’s not much in the way of playmaking ability. This could be answered by utilising Farrell alongside one of them, but I can instead be the form of Henry Slade being rewarded with a spot in the touring party, as he has the extra playmaking ability from his time as a fly half earlier in his career, while he has also demonstrated surprisingly impressive physicality over recent years to make the England 13 shirt his own.

Back 3

And so we come to the back 3 and if you were counting, you’ll know that I’ve left 8 spots free to cover this area.

Stuart Hogg is the first person named here as an obvious selection at fullback and will be hoping to get his shot in the Tests after being forced to leave the tour of New Zealand early. Also joining him will be fullbacks Liam Williams and Anthony Watson, who will also be able to play on the wing if Gatland desires. Jonny May and Josh Adams have been 2 of the form wingers in the Six Nations in recent years so will be hoping to secure the wing spots for the Tests. And that leaves 3 spots for players who I think can have hugely positive impacts on the tour but will need some incredible fortune to make the Test squad as things stand. Darcy Graham has looked highly impressive for Scotland and will benefit from the experience of being on this tour with a view to competing for a Test spot on the next tour. Andrew Conway has taken over from Jacob Stockdale as the top Irish winger at the moment, while Stockdale will actually miss out on the final spot to bolter James Lowe, who becomes eligible through residency later this year and has averaged a try every 1.7 games though his time with the Chiefs and Leinster.


So, that’s my prediction. Who do you think Gatland will take with him?

Bracket Breakdown: Schmoedown Innergeekdom Tournament 2020

Bracket Breakdown: Schmoedown Innergeekdom Tournament 2020

The Star Wars tournament is underway on Twitch and in just a week’s time, the Innergeekdom tournament will also be underway. 18 players preparing to go on a (hopefully) long run to victory… all starting Monday 1ˢᵗ June (or Thursday 4ᵗʰ for the general public.

mts kevin smets innergeekdom beltAt the moment, it is not confirmed whether the winner of the tournament will earn a title shot (though with current Champion Kevin Smets and #1 Contenders Mara Knopic & Chandru Dhanadapani not involved, it would make sense), but with things tight at the top of the faction standings, this could be the moment for a faction to take control of the league, while someone struggling like KOrruption could suddenly find themselves back in contention.

I recently tried to predict how the Star Wars tournament would play out and was proved wrong straight away with Andres Cabrera’s play in match victory over Josh Quevedo, so now I’m hoping that I can go a little better.

MTS innergeekdom tournament bracket

Play in games

mts kate mulligan ben goddard grace hancockJim Vejvoda v Ben Goddard: Kate Mulligan’s call to give Saul the guaranteed place in the tournament may have backfired as Ben Goddard now finds himself in one of the play in matches, against Jim Vejvoda. This is an interesting call from Roxy Striar as Vejvoda’s IG knowledge has never really been seen in the Division, so he could be a dark horse, but this will be his first match competing on his own, going up against a student of the game who knows Middle Earth back to front and has frequently shown to have a good all-round knowledge. Right now, I see Goddard qualifying for the main tournament and furthering his campaign for Rookie of the Year.

Greg Alba v Warfather: With Mara Knopic currently deactivated, I was shocked that Coy Jandreau did not look to add at least one Innergeekdom specialist. This has led to him entering the Reel Rejects as his representatives for the tournament. Now Greg Elba Alba looks like he knows his stuff when it comes to IG categories, but there will be questions about his ability to get the deeper cuts that you expect in the division, while this will also be his first match outside the Teams Division. The Warfather, by comparison, comes with 2 matches to his name, both competing alone and one in the IG Division. As far as debuts go, the Warfather looked good, so I think that experience could give him a strategic advantage. As much as I hate to see Robert Meyer Burnett celebrating a victory, I have Warfather earning the final spot in the 16-man bracket.

Round 1

The Barbarian v Adam Hlavac: The Barbarian has been one of the most impressive rookies so far this season and is already looking an absolute steal as a 6ᵗʰ Round pick, with superb performances in his Singles debut and the Jurassic Park Exhibition leading to talk that he wants to be the first person to hold all 4 belts. He faces a tough opponent in the experienced Adam Hlavac, his confidence makes me feel that he is able to hang with even the best. Is Hlavac one of the best though? He may be one of the more seasoned Schmoedown Pros in the division and will make some categories look easy, but he has some gaps in his knowledge that he has so far failed to cover and I can see these leading to an early exit. I have The Barbarian advancing to the next round.

Jeannine “The Machine” v John Humphrey: This is an interesting match-up between 2 veterans of the league who are both going to be making their IG debut. I get the feeling that John Humphrey has good knowledge of the IG categories, but I do question his competitiveness, especially going up against Jeannine, who will be looking to get her career back on track after losing her last 3 Singles matches against tough opposition (Mike Kalinowski x2, Mark Reilly). I have The Machine pulling out an important win here.

mts paul oyama chance ellisonChance Ellison v Paul Oyama: The first 2 Schmoedown Pros promoted from the fan leagues will meet for the second time in the Schmoedown in what I predict could be one the closest matches in the round. Oyama got the win in Singles on the way to winning the title, and will now be making his Innergeekdom debut. Chance Ellison may be 0-1 in the division, but he put in a super-impressive performance in that loss and has the benefit of having 2-time Innergeekdom Champion Mike Kalinowski as his study partner. I’d have picked Oyama over a handful of other winners that I will be picking in this round, but in this match-up, I have to give Ellison the advantage.

Robert Parker v Ben Goddard: “The Bandit”‘s prize for winning his play-in match is to be thrown into “The Spider”‘s web. I like the look of Goddard and his performance in the Middle Earth Exhibition against Parker, Alex Damon and Kevin Smets left me confident that he has a good career ahead of him in the division. However, Parker showed in his debut that he is just on another level, not missing a single question, which will put Goddard under heavy pressure to keep up. I think Goddard can force his opponent to answer in Round 3, but I have Parker winning this one.

Brandon Hanna v Saul: The match that most of us are currently looking forward to, it was clear this would happen the moment Kate Mulligan included Saul in the tournament over Hanna. Fresh off a trade to The Burning Droogs, Hanna has been on a quest to become the most hated person in the league, taking shots at Mulligan, Call To Action and even the darling of the league Brett Sheridan. What do we know about Saul? Saul can cut a good promo, but he is untested at this level and is against an opponent keen to prove that he is “nothing more than a Collider Live phone call that got through the line one too many times.” I have Hanna making it clear to Kate that she made a big mistake leaving him out.

mts alex damon star wars beltAlex Damon v Jen Kempe: Jen Kempe finally gets the chance to make her official debut after a cameo at last year’s Free 4 All and it will be interesting to see how she gets on. I have heard those in the know hold her in high esteem from the fan leagues, but I always got the impression that she was more of a Singles threat than IG. Meanwhile, Alex Damon comes in 1-0 in the division and will have been training since Atlanta in preparation for his next match. We know he knows Star Wars, but he is also a big fan of Indiana Jones and showed in the recent exhibition that he can do well in Middle Earth. Expect the Force to be with Damon in this one.

Emily Rose Jacobson v Eric Zipper: I must admit that I was surprised to see Zipper picked up as The Dungeon’s 3ʳᵈ pick at the Draft (after 2 IG specialists) but his recent loss in Singles impressed me as I could see that he is putting in the effort to succeed and was clearly improving. Now moving back to IG but knowing the fans’ focus will be on other matches, this is a great chance for him to pull off an important victory for The Dungeon. Jacobson showed a big improvement between her first 2 IG matches but looked out of her depth in Atlanta. The virtual format may help her here, but she needs to be more accurate and play a more strategic game. I see Zipper making it to the next round.

Mike Kalinowski v Warfather: Warfather will be coming in with some momentum following a win over Greg Alba, but he will be facing a much harder test in Kalinowski. The former champion had a match to forget when he lost the title to Smets at Spectacular and was taking a break from the division, but the faction’s place in the standings has seen him return to his strongest division to pull KOrruption up the standings. Honestly, I can’t see anything but a Kalinowski win here.

Quarterfinals

mts tale of the tape craig gaynier the barbarian singlesThe Barbarian v Jeannine “The Machine”: This is not an easy pick right now with so little IG-related gametape on the pair, but I have to make a pick here. Jeannine will surely have been benefiting from The Usual Suspects’ close links to former Innergeekdom Champion Rachel Cushing, but The Barbarian‘s knowledge looks insane at this point and right now, I can’t look beyond him for a place in the semis.

Chance Ellison v Robert Parker: Chance Ellison continues to get screwed in brackets. He has lost the opening round of the last 2 Singles tournaments to Ethan Erwin and William Bibbiani, and now after one of the harder opening rounds in this tournament, comes up against Robert Parker. The pair come in with the backing of the best sparring partners in Mike Kalinowski and Kevin Smets to extend the Dungeon v KOrruption IG rivalry even further. Kalinowski has been impressed by Ellison’s knowledge and I think he can push Parker close, but I expect Parker to reach the final 4.

mts brandon hannaBrandon Hanna v Alex Damon: This is where we will see the level Alex Damon can reach in the Innergeekdom Division. Brandon Hanna enters the tournament the 6ᵗʰ most accurate all-time in the division (4ᵗʰ among active Schmoedown Pros), despite having a 2-2 record and I would say that he can beat anyone in the division on his day. Damon looks good but I’m not sure if he has quite the breadth of knowledge as Hanna right now, but if he can hit Star Wars in Round 2 and on his 5-pointer, it will give him a good shot. I think Damon will show that he can hang at this level and be competitive, but I have Hanna progressing.

Eric Zipper v Mike Kalinowski: The second match-up between The Dungeon and KOrruption in this round is one with a bit more history, following KOrruption humiliating him ahead of Kaiser picking him up last season. Zipper will be going into this match with no pressure on him as everyone will expect “The Killer” to win, which could play into his favour, but I think that Kalinowski will have enough to continue on in the tournament.

Semifinals

The Barbarian v Robert Parker: And so the left side of the bracket comes down to a battle between 2 likely contenders for Rookie of the Year. It’s always hard to call this so fa in advance with so little game-tape but I can see this going down to the 5-pointers and right now I need to give the benefit to the Schmoedown Pro I’ve seen more game-tape on: Robert Parker.

Brandon Hanna v Mike Kalinowski: Another match that could easily go either way, both Kalinowski and Hanna have the potential to go near-perfect but also have a bad day and struggle with their accuracy. Hanna will be keen to prove his quality with a win against a big name in the division, but I think he will have to wait for this as I see Kalinowski‘s experience earning him the win here.

Final

Robert Parker v Mike Kalinowski: And so my bracket comes down to the 2 faourites in the final. Mike Kalinowski played a key part in making the Innergeekdom Division what it is, while Parker is part of the new breed looking to take things to a new level. Now if this was a 3-round match, I think I would give Parker the advantage, but with this being a 5-rounder I think that Kalinowski could benefit from his experience of playing the format within the Schmoedown. Add to that, I recently heard Kalinowski talking about how he had changed his study techniques to bring them closer to when he was cutting a swathe through the division. When planning my bracket, I had Parker to win… but in the heat of the moment I’m switching to Kalinowski.

 

So that’s what my bracket looks like, what about yours?

Bracket Breakdown: Schmoedown 2020 Star Wars Tournament

Bracket Breakdown: Schmoedown 2020 Star Wars Tournament

With Free Agency now in the rear-view mirror and the final taped studio match (The Pride v the Reel Rejects) dropping tot he public on Friday, the thoughts of many Schmoedown fans are turning towards the upcoming tournaments, which will see the league continue online as we work through the current COVID-19 pandemic.

mts star wars 2020 tournament entrants napzok dimalanta sullivan cabrera damon witt quevedo kelly scrimshawNext week will see the beginning of the Star Wars tournament with the play in match on May 20ᵗʰ, with the tournament proper starting May 25ᵗʰ. The entire tournament will be broadcast exclusively on the Schmoedown’s Twitch channel, a first for the league. The prize for the winner of the tournament: a Championship Match against Alex “The Demon” Damon, with the current intention that this match will be played once the league can return to studio/live events.

And now, with the official bracket released, there is just one thing left to do… predicting the outcome of the matches!

mts star wars twitch tournament bracket 2020

Play in game

mts trade jte josh quevedoJosh Quevedo v Andres Cabrera: With Alex Damon ineligible due to his status as the Champion, it was a smart move from Roxy Striar to pick up a second Star Wars specialist to give her a chance to earn some much-needed points in the tournament. However, she first needs Josh Quevedo to make it into the tournament proper, and to do that, he will have to take out the former host of Collider Jedi Council, Andres Cabrera. With the pair being the only ones to have never played in the Star Wars Division previously, they were the obvious picks for the play in game. As an untested rookie, Quevedo is something of an unknown quantity, whereas Cabrera has some experience of playing the game and will be looking to prove himself after a disappointing loss to Robert Parker in Innergeekdom. However, Quevedo is a Star Wars specialist and given how previous matches have shown that one wrong answer could be enough to lose a match, I have to feel that Quevedo‘s focus on the division will see him advance to the tournament.

Quarterfinals

Mollie Damon v Adam Witt: Both Witt and Damon come in with 0-1 records and very little game tape, so this is a hard one to call. As one half of the YouTube channel Star Wars Explained and wife (and study-partner) of current champion Alex Damon, Mollie clearly knows her stuff and I personally think that she will benefit from this not being in front of a live crowd. Witt’s 5-point pull against Sean Sullivan showed he has the knowledge, but he made some tactical errors, which you would expect he will have moved beyond by the time of this match. What this could come down to is the state of preparedness for each of these Schmoedown Pros, and for that reason, I give a slight advantage to Witt due to his extra match experience.

mts andrew dimalantaJoseph Scrimshaw v Andrew Dimalanta: Don’t count out Dimalanta because of his 0-2 record, this guy is a legit competitor and a fan of the league, which means that he understands the strategy behind the game as well as knowing the difference between an Ewok and a Wookiee. That said, if you can answer every question correctly then not much strategy is needed, and I would consider Joseph Scrimshaw the most knowledgeable in the tournament. Dimalanta will have a big fight on his hands and I expect him to fall short against Scrimshaw.

Laura Kelly v Sean Sullivan: Sullivan enters the tournament off the back of a debut win against Adam Witt but will face a stern test against KOrruption’s Laura Kelly. Sullivan clearly showed that he knew his stuff, but Laura Kelly has been highly impressive over her first 3 matches and is another I think will benefit from the comfort of playing fro home rather than in front of a crowd. Sullivan’s time will come, but I’ve got this as a much-needed win for KOrruption and Kelly.

Ken Napzok v Josh Quevedo: Josh Quevedo’s prize for winning into the tournament is a match against the inaugural Star Wars Champion. Now Quevedo could be the next Alex Damon, but right now we just don’t know, whereas Ken Napzok has played more matches in the league than anyone else in the tournament, so his experience will be key here (as long as he can stay away from quotes). I have Napzok bringing an end to a losing streak that started at Spectacular II.

Semifinals

Adam Witt v Joseph Scrimshaw: Not gonna lie, it was pretty much a coin flip between Adam Witt and Mollie Damon, both of whom I think could have lost to Dimalanta had the draw gone differently. So considering I have already predicted Scrimshaw beating Dimalanta, there’s only one way I can go here. I get the feeling this could be one of the most entertaining matches in the tournament, ending in a win for Scrimshaw.

mts Movie-Trivia-Schmoedown-Grace-Hancock-Ken-Napzok-KOrruption-1024x576Laura Kelly v Ken Napzok: The old guard takes on the new generation in the second semifinal. Ken Napzok knows more about Star Wars than many people will forget in their lives, but I am 99% certain that he is just going into this tournament with his base knowledge rather than studying, which could prove especially costly if he is forced to deal with quotes – a weakness that has cost him in multiple matches. Laura Kelly, however, is a studier and after coming so close to the title last season, I think she will want to earn another shot at Alex Damon. I have Kelly winning and with more potential rookies entering the Division, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last time we see “The Pitboss” competing in the league.

Final

Joseph Scrimshaw v Laura Kelly: And so we reach the final, to be fought between the 2 active Schmoedown Pros who have come closest to taking down Alex Damon. This is going to be an incredible match and I legitimately feel that whoever drops a point first could prove costly. While Laura Kelly looks a fantastic player judging by last year’s performances, Joseph Scrimshaw has the extra experience of the game and I would consider him one of the 5 best Schmoedown Pros to have never (to date) won a belt. This could be his chance though, as I see Scrimshaw winning the tournament to set up a rematch with Alex Damon.

mts alex damon star wars belt

So that’s what my bracket looks like, what about yours?

2019 Ultimate Schmoedown Teams Tournament: My Bracket Prediction

2019 Ultimate Schmoedown Teams Tournament: My Bracket Prediction

It’s hard to believe, but “The Magic Season” of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown will soon be drawing to a close. The Singles Tournament is reaching a climax and Spectacular is just around the corner. But before all that, there’s the little matter of the Teams Tournament. Starting on 4ᵗʰ November, 16 teams will be fighting it out for the chance to face off against the defending Champions – either KOrruption or the Founding Fathers, depending on the result in Orlando.

Who will be the challengers? Well the joy of the tournament is that we know the bracket in advance, allowing us to trace each team’s potential route to the final and try to predict who will be challenging for the title. And that’s what I’ll be trying to do today: working through the bracket to predict the tournament winners.

Let me know your brackets in the comments!

Teams USD2019 Bracket

First Round

The Odd Couple v Only Stupid Answers

As deep as the Teams Division has become this season, with 16 teams involved there will always be some matches in the first round that seem a foregone conclusion. Sam Bashor and DJ Wooldridge are 2 great personalities and do know their stuff, but are relatively inexperienced in the league and have a 2-1 record as a pair – that win coming against the Wildberries. Compared to The Odd Couple, who have defeated the Shirewolves and held the Team Title this season and it’s hard to see this ending any other way than a win for The Odd Couple.

Shazam! v The Movie Guys

2 rookie teams will face off in this match that could play a role in the race for Rookie of the Year. Brendan “The Kid” Meyer and Paul “The Powder Keg” Preston have both had fantastic seasons in the league and I think will be closely matched, so this will likely come down to their partners. Adam Witt’s Schmoedown experience so far contains 1 round at the Free 4 All and a loss to Inky and The Brain, whereas The Kid is paired with former Singles Champion William “The Beast” Bibbiani, arguably one of the best in the game in terms of pure knowledge. Advantage: The Kid and Shazam!

Time Machine v Scream Queens

A team that was announced at the season-opening live event in New York, Time Machine have been hotly anticipated but limited to just one match together so far: a Sudden Death Win against the Paddington Two. The Scream Queens come in with a 4-4 record, but beyond that have limited experience in the league. Taking on a team made up of the former Singles Champion and someone far better than their 3-5 Singles record suggests looks to be a step too far for Haleigh Foutch and Kalyn Corrigan. I’ll be shocked if Time Machine don’t progress to the next round.

The Loony Bin v Self-Righteous Brothers

One of the hardest matches to predict in this round as each team only has one previous appearance to their name, while Witney Seibold is the only one to have a substantial Schmoedown history outside of these teams. “VIDEODREW” and “Tom” are very much an unknown quantity and it will be interesting to see if they are able to build on a strong first outing against the Loose Cannons. As for the Self-Righteous Brothers, they looked very impressive in the first round exit during last year’s Anarchy tournament and I expect more of the same from the pair here. An upset wouldn’t shock me, but I’m going for the Self-Righteous Brothers.

Who’s The Boss v Inky and the Brain

So let me start by making it clear, my allegiances lie with the Horsemen, so I’m hoping that Ben and Reilly win the tournament and face off against the Founding Fathers for the title. I am however going to do my best to remain objective throughout this bracket. The pair looked like one of the favourites to take the title off the Shirewolves, but the pair haven’t played together since losing to The Odd Couple in Chicago. Inky and the Brain have showed they are not to be underestimated (especially Rachel Silvestrini) and they will be dangerous if they can hit Disney/Will Smith in Round 2, but Who’s The Boss will be a tough task. Bateman is tactically one of the best in the game and his recent back injury has given him time to catch up on a number of movies he hasn’t seen, while his partnership with Mark Reilly makes for a great combination. I fully expect to be celebrating a victory for Who’s The Boss.

Loose Cannons v Crimson Fury

Another difficult match to predict due to both teams having only played once together. “Primetime” Paul Oyama’s weak matches are still strong enough to beat many of his opponents and he currently looks nailed on for Rookie of the Year and a strong run with Eric Zipper could confirm it. Crimson Fury on their day have the potential to beat anyone and Stacy Howard has made a habit of busting brackets, but her results are inconsistent. Tim “The Tank” Franco has looked strong but is somewhat of an unknown quantity with just 2 matches to his name. It’s so hard picking against Crimson Fury here and I can see Stacy Howard busting my bracket, but right now I can’t look past Paul Oyama and the Loose Cannons.

The Family v Wildberries

Wildberries! I’m so glad to see them in the tournament as I always enjoy watching them and can’t wait to see how they interact with The Family. Eliot Dewberry gave a timely reminder of his potential in their victory over Late to the Party, while Josh Macuga is the original master of pulling answers out of his ass. By contrast, Drew McWeeny is one of the most knowledgeable in the game and Drew Ghai is no slouch, and I think their combined knowledge will give them a wide and deep enough base to earn a win for The Family.

Evil Geniuses v The Paddington Two

This is an interesting one. At first, I was picking the Evil Geniuses straight away due to JTE’s experience in the league. Then I remembered that he was no longer a member of the team, having been replaced by Simon Thompson. Thompson comes in as an unknown and “The Professor” has had an average season up to now. Matt Atchity and Alonso Duralde may not compete regularly but they have shown in the past that they have a base of knowledge. I usually go against Atchity due to his issues remembering the rules, but this time is a case of “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” and I’ll give the win to The Paddington Two.

Quarterfinals

The Odd Couple v Shazam!

Such is the quality in the league, there will be no such thing as an easy match in the quarterfinals, certainly not in this match! Both Shazam! and The Odd Couple look to have formed great partnerships and it could be argued that either team is capable of winning the entire tournament. While both teams are strong, I feel that The Odd Couple are more likely to struggle if things don’t go their way, whereas Shazam! can fall back on “The Beast’s” impressive knowledge and strong runs of form for both Bibbiani and Meyer (both made the semifinals of the Singles Tournament). It’s hard going against a former Team Champion, but I give Shazam! the slightest of advantages.

Time Machine v Self-Righteous Brothers

What an incredible match this could be! Ethan Erwin and Jeannine “The Machine” both have incredible knowledge and complement each other very well, so I’m confident in saying they have the potential to be a Top 5 team at least. Witney and Marc Edward Heuck have shown themselves to have a high level of knowledge, but I think that Jeannine & Ethan have a greater tactical knowledge that will likely give the victory to Time Machine.

Who’s The Boss v Loose Cannons

This will be by far the biggest challenge for the Loose Cannons so far. Ben and Reilly cover most categories pretty well between them and while Oyama will be a threat, Zipper has limited experience in big matches. If Reilly and Bateman can both play to the best of their abilities (a distinct possibility as Bateman is in fine form), it’s going to be very hard to stick with them, especially if they can hit Movie Release Dates or Oscar Movies in Round 2. I won’t rule out Oyama and Zipper, but I still see Who’s The Boss as one of the best teams in the league and see them progressing to the semis.

The Family v The Paddington Two

This match comes down to tactics. Drew Ghai is one of the best in the league when it come to tactics, which is a massive benefit to Drew McWeeny, who can then focus on the trivia. Meanwhile neither Alonso Duralde nor Matt Atchity are regular competitors and Atchity never seems able to remember the rules. Add in Ghai causing disruption with his antics and I see The Family getting the upper hand in this match.

Semifinals

Shazam! v Time Machine

What a match this would be! Matches between Ethan Erwin and William Bibbiani are a thrill to watch, then add in the talents of Jeannine and “The Kid” and you have a potential Match of the Year contender right here! Bibbiani has had the upper hand in his Singles matches with Erwin, but they have been close affairs. I really think this match could come down to whatever the wheel lands on in Round 2. Right now, my heart says Shazam!

Who’s The Boss v The Family

The Action Civil War makes a return in the semifinals as Ben Bateman faces off against Drew Ghai for the first time since Houston. Again, I can see this coming down to the spin of the Wheel in Round 2 as we know McWeeny can smash through 80s just like Bateman can Movie Release Dates. While it’s harsh to say, I think this could come down to how Drew Ghai performs. If he’s struggling with his questions, the it could allow Who’s The Boss to pull away, while I think they’ll be able to ignore any heel-ish attempts to put them off. In the Action Civil War, I’ve gotta go #TeamBateman and pick Who’s The Boss for back-to-back tournament finals.

The Final

Who’s The Boss v Shazam!

And so we reach the final, which I feel will be the teams version of the final of the Singles Tournament. William Bibbiani and Brendan Meyer versus Ben Bateman and Mark Reilly. This will be an incredible match to watch and it’s so hard to predict a winner, so what I will look at here is the format. The finals are played in the 5-round format, with the betting round and speed round joining the usual 3 rounds. Now “The Kid” has not played in the 5-round format under the lights, whereas all the other competitors have, and I can’t help feel that this little bit of extra experience could prove vital and set up Who’s The Boss for the victory and a shot at the title.

MTS Teams USD2019 Bracket Prediction

NFL Pick’Em: Divisional Winners

NFL Pick’Em: Divisional Winners

Football is back! It feels like forever since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won yet another Super Bowl and while we have had the Draft, Hard Knocks and preseason to keep up going for a bit, this is where the fun really begins.

Last year, 3 friends and I decided to challenge ourselves to predict the 8 Divisional winners in the 2018 NFL season and the teams that would compete in Super Bowl LIII. This year, Ed (the Baker Mayfield-obsessed Patriots fan) and I are returning to see if we can do any better. However, this time we will be looking at just the Divisions – we were gonna pick the Super Bowl too, but neither of us could narrow down the field enough in the AFC!


AFC North

Pittsburgh missed out on the playoffs last season as Le’Veon Bell sat out the entire season. With both him and star receiver Antonio Brown gone (putting more attention on JuJu Smith-Schuster), it’s going to take a lot for them to be at the top. Baltimore finished the regular season well with Lamar Jackson under centre, but did not look comfortable as they lost to the Chargers in the Wild Card Round and do not have great options behind him in RGIII and rookie Trace McSorley. As for the Bengals, it is hard to imagine them even reaching 8-8, especially with star receiver A.J. Green injured. Though they have been a joke for so long, I can actually envision the Cleveland Browns topping the division as the WR pairing of OBJ and Jarvis Landry and the RB pairing of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (once he returns from suspension) will give Baker Mayfield every chance of avoiding a sophomore slump, while they also have a high level defence to keep games close.

Ed’s pick – Cleveland Browns

America’s new favourite team, the young and talented Cleveland Browns look to provide us with a lot of excitement this year. Mayfield has shown his class, and with receiving options Landry/OBJ with breakout Nick Chubb and soon to be Kareem Hunt, this side can go places with the strong Defence they already boast. That being said this is the Browns, and the wary Ohio fanbase may not be riding the hype the rest of the country (and I) am. Pittsburgh almost look a different side this year with 2 of the big 3 departing in unceremonious style, however with emerging talent in Juju and Conner that loss won’t be as big as it sounds. This side knows what it takes to win and will push the relatively inexperienced Browns right to the finish line. We shouldn’t count out the Ravens who will continue to be competitive fronting a fresher, younger side than we have seen in previous seasons. The success or failure will be defined by how Lamar Jackson can handle the starting position with no room for excuses following Flacco’s exile. Unfortunately I can’t see the Bengals keeping up with the other three in what is one of the NFLs increasingly numerous competitive divisions, one feels that until they finally part ways with Dalton they are never going to be above average.

AFC East

The Jets were one of the worst teams in the league last season and while the RB corps (now featuring Le’Veon Bell) may take some pressure off Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson, it is hard to imagine them reaching .500, likewise for the Miami Dolphins who have traded half their stars away and are looking at Fitzmagic to lead the team and likely make way for Arizona reject Josh Rosen once his performances go downhill. The Bills roster screams mediocrity and I think that a winning season will be a success for them. All this goes to suggest that it will be another easy season for the Patriots, despite Gronk no longer being on the roster. Let’s be honest, while Brady and Belichick are there, it is brave – if not stupid – to bet against them!

Ed’s pick – New England Patriots

Unfortunately a year on this is still the weakest division in the NFL, it will be interesting to see how the QB class of ’18 all progress this year, facing the ageless Brady. The Jets have made some solid improvements bringing in a stud RB in Bell who will be fresh following his infamous holdout last year and Sam Darnold seems the pick of the QBs and the type who could really blossom in his 2nd year. The Bills meanwhile have spent the offseason crowding Josh Allen with experienced wideouts and backs, and have a fairly reasonable schedule to begin the season. That being said I cannot see a universe where either of these sides even challenge the Brady/Belichick Pats who although without Gronk will have no problem winning here. Small shout out goes to the Miami Dolphins who are actually still an NFL franchise and my favourite for Pick no. 1 next April.

AFC South

The Jaguars have finally moved on from Blake Bortles at QB and now need to hope that Nick Foles can replicate his Eagles form rather than his Rams form. I had the Colts winning the division when I initially wrote this, but following Andrew Luck’s retirement, I see them struggling. Tennessee have a good roster but need to hope Marcus Mariota can stay fit (though Ryan Tannehill is a good backup) and need to hope Derrick Henry produces throughout the season rather than just towards the end; Taylor Lewan’s suspension is not gonna help this at all. The Texans may have lost Lamar Miller to injury but Duke Johnson is a great pickup from the Browns and I think they have enough stars on either side of the ball to take the top spot in the AFC South.

Ed’s Pick – Houston Texans

The AFC South has been turned on it’s head with Andrew Luck announcing his retirement – a sad day for the sport that has made the division very level indeed. Indy have dropped from my no.1 seed here down to a lowly 3rd place as a result. It just looked like this was their year with a roster that looked like it had no holes… but now has a gaping one in the most important position in sport. This does however open the door to the challengers. The Texans seem the most likely to take advantage. They underwhelmed last year when you look at the strength they posess on their roster with annual MVP candidates Watt, Hopkins and Watson. It never came together truly came together last season but if Watson can be protected these guys can fly. I will admit I have no idea what the Jaguars will throw up, their Defense is filled with confidence but if that overflows things can go wrong, and whilst they moved on from Bortles’ inconsistent and short arm I’m not easily convinced Foles is the guy who will bring the party… but we’ve heard that before… Unlike the previous divisions I don’t see the Titans being a bad side like with the Fins or Bungles, but here is another division that will be tough to shine in. Mariota’s health continues to concern me and entering a contract year has a lot to prove not only me but his own front office. Is this year going to be Corey Davis’ year, backed up by Humphries and rookie AJ Brown the Titans may finally have something to shout about at the position.

AFC West

The Antonio Brown show is more likely to derail the Raiders’ season than save it. With Mike Mayock brought in as GM, this looks to be a franchise building towards the future, but Hard Knocks has not shown me anything to make me confident in their success this year. Emmanuel Sanders and Von Miller look wasted in a franchise that looks like it may be starting Joe Flacco at QB. I expect this season to be another fight between the Chiefs and Chargers for the top spot with the other likely to earn a Wild Card spot, however with Hunt no longer in Kansas City and defences now having a season of footage on Patrick Mahomes, I give the advantage to the Chargers, as long as Melvin Gordon ends his holdout soon and then stays fit.

Ed’s Pick – L.A. Chargers

I don’t know why I have a slight obsession with the Chargers, but I am sticking with these guys as my pick for the AFC West once more. They boast an impressive depth chart in almost every position, with and without the ball and showed that when they play, they can beat anyone. The question is can Rivers be consistently good, because I believe Mahomes will continue to be. With Hill looking like he won’t miss any time (a decision I cannot understand) there will be TDs flowing at Arrowhead once more, but with the 31st ranked Defense in 2018 Mahomes will have to be slinging at MVP pace just to keep the points difference positive and this could ultimately cost them another Superbowl chance.
Whilst he boosts any roster AB continues to be AB and if he manages to start the season it’s only a matter of time before he misses games for one reason or another. Without him the side looks starved of high level talent and Hard Knocks isn’t doing anything to prove me these guys will mount any sort of challenge. Similarly Denver have lost their reputation of being one of the toughest outfits to play and now seem welcome relief after big games. Can gritty defensive coach Vic Fangio bring back the No Fly Zone of old – with a pass rushing duo of Miller and Chubb it’s possible, but it’ll have to work hard if Flacco can’t find a good start, I wonder whether we will be seeing Drew Lock sooner rather than later…

NFC North

Detroit finished bottom of their division in 2018 and such is the strength of the NFC North, I can’t see them doing much better this year. Aaron Rodgers will keep any team competitive but this is not the strongest of Packers rosters by any stretch and it will be interesting to see how Matt LaFleur does in his first head coach role. The Chicago defense is incredible, but there are still questions over Mitchell Trubisky, whereas I think that the Vikings will do better this year with a season now that Kirk Cousins has had a year to get used to playing in Minneapolis. It will be close, but I give the Vikings a slight edge over the Bears.

Ed’s pick – Green Bay Packers

The first game of the 100th season of the NFL could prove to be the decider in the NFC North, which looks to be a close scrap between the Packers and Bears. Matt Nagy’s second year defensive juggernaut has drafted wisely and rookie RB David Montgomery is making a name for himself in the preseason. They’ll likely go head to head with the new duo of LaFleur and A-Rod who whilst fit is a proven winner assuming his Defense can limit points against. I wasn’t far from adding the Vikings to a three way battle, they have strength in every position and the return of Dalvin Cook is huge – but can Kirk Cousins be the player he was paid to be… I have never really believed the hype and I think he is more of an anchor preventing progress than he is given credit for. Detroit can be safely removed from the others and look to be comfortably propping up the division. Patricia needs to put his stamp on this team, and get the ball moving but that 10,000 day playoff drought doesn’t look like its ending this season…

NFC East

Alex Smith’s injury is a huge hit to the Redskins, so their hopes rely on Case Keenum… gulp! Daniel Jones was a shock selection 6th overall in the draft so the battle between him and Eli Manning seems underwhelming and not something Giants fans will be looking forward to. Philadelphia has a strong roster but needs to hope Carson Wentz can get to his pre-injury form, whereas the Cowboys can overcome the lack of an elite QB (though he is still above average) with one of the best RBs in the league, a receiving corps that was boosted by the addition of Amari Cooper and a strong defense.

Ed’s pick – Philadelphia Eagles

The NFC East starts the season with big question marks over each team, will the Zeke holdout continue in a fashion similar to Bell’s last year? Can Carson Wentz stay healthy now postseason extraordinaire Big D*** Nick has moved on? Who will start under centre for the Redskins and the Giants?
Assuming all goes to plan the Cowboys look to be one of the best sides they have had in a long time with genuine playoff credentials, if they can keep last seasons momentum rolling they would be a franchise no one should take lightly. Philly also look a very strong beast with very few holes who will be going head to head with the Boys, a lot rides on Wentz and whether he can win over the locker room and fans to take the Eagles into January where their fans believe they belong.
I can’t say the same for the other two sides, losing OBJ, Vernon and Collins won’t help the already lacklustre chances for Big Blue who continue to maintain Eli will take the reigns to start the season. It might not be long before we see shock 6th overall pick Daniel Jones on the hot seat and whether the gamble paid off… We have another rookie QB in Washington in Dwayne Haskins who will be competing with Keenum for the starters spot following an up and down pre season. But in an aging team devoid of playing and coaching talent it’s hard to see those empty seats being filled anytime soon.

NFC South

I can’t imagine Buccaneers WR Mike Evans is too thrilled that he will be catching passes from Blaine Gabbert, Jameis Winston or Ryan Griffin… he deserves better! Carolina need to find some wideouts to complement RB Christian McCaffrey and the ageing Greg Olsen… and hope that Cam focuses more on the football than his outfits. The Falcons have some great players on offense but need to improve defensively if tey are to live up to their full potential. If the Saints can replicate last season’s form, they should be able to push for a #1 or #2 seed.

Ed’s pick – New Orleans Saints

This division has sent a team to the NFC Championship game for 3 of the last 4 years, and is rightly regarded as arguably the most competitive in football. The Bucs have stagnated in recent years and have moved on from Doug Marone to Bruce Arians in an attempt to stop the rot, can he bring the best out of Jameis Winston and turn the ship around? It will undoubtedly be hard within the division but there are some favourable fixtures outside of it. The other three sides all remain with huge playoff plus potential, New Orleans have a Super Bowl ready team with superstars on offence (Thomas & Kamara), an experienced elite QB in Brees and a better defence than they are credited for. It looks to me like they will just pip the Falcons, devastated by injuries last year they bring a whole new crew of co-ordinators to a talent filled roster who barring a shock should perform to a wildcard round level. I’ve only heard promising reports about Cam Newton this offseason and if he can be the “stud” he really should be with his build and his arm, with McCaffrey fulfilling his potential at his side we could see even more competition in this division. Unfortunately Superbowl Cam haunts me and his injury record and dress sense could quickly turn him into the flop potential he certainly possesses.

NFC West

With a 3-13 record, the Cardinals were the worst team in the league last season and Kyler Murray will need to grow quickly into his role as an NFL starting QB, so will need plenty of help from David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. San Francisco’s 2018 season was ruined by injuries to Jerick McKinnon and Jimmy Garoppolo; if they can keep their roster fit then an 8-8 finish is possible. The Rams will surely be pushing for the playoffs again, but there are questions over Todd Gurley’s health and I think that they will find things harder now teams have a season of game footage – just look at how the Patriots nullified them in the Super Bowl! My Divisional Champions are the Seahawks, who always find a way to remain not just competitive but extremely strong in the division and recently added yet another defensive star in the form of Jadeveon Clowney.

Ed’s pick – Los Angeles Rams

The InstaRams and their fans will be fuming on social media after losing in the Superbowl last year, but with McVay’s brain filling the void in Goff’s head these guys aren’t going anywhere and remain odds on favourites to win the division. No one knows what is going on with Todd Gurley but with or without him we will see an exciting, high scoring side once again. The other three in this division for me are very much of an unknown entity, with each going through individual identity crises. The 49ers (Jimmy G’s) huge preseason hype was ended far too early last year for us to know just what we will get from him and he remains the key in answering this question, Shanahan and co. will be hoping Joey’s brother Nick at pick 2 will be a difference maker on the other side of the ball. The Seahawks’ unknowns lie all over the field, will we see running back by committee or a favourite emerge from the pack, can Lockett and rookie DK Metcalfe provide Wilson with enough power, and with only one member of the Legion of Boom returning in Bobby Wagner, albeit surrounded by a plethora of talented young players how will the once feared Defense fare? Similarly the Cardinals, last years laughing stock now have a fully fit David Johnson and #1 pick Kyler Murray back with old pal Kliff Kingsbury, have had an up and down preseason and who knows what we will see from this outfit. I suspect the Hawks have enough talent to push in this division, but I’m not so sure about the others…


Not gonna lie, I think Ed has put me to shame with the thought he has put into this – I’m going to blame a little something called the Rugby World Cup being on the horizon!

Who do you think will win the divisions?

RWC2019: Knockouts Predictions

RWC2019: Knockouts Predictions

We are just weeks away from the beginning of the World Cup. 20 teams vying to become Champions and lift the Webb Ellis Cup. To date, only 4 nations (New Zealand x3, Australia x2, South Africa x2 and England) have won the tournament… Will we be seeing a 5th nation added to the list this year?

Last week, I posted an article as part of my “Journey to RWC2019” series where I tried to predict how the pool stages would go, along with 2 of my close friends, Phil and Gez. Today, we are back looking at the knockouts and trying to ultimately pick who will lift the Webb Ellis Cup on 2nd November.


Journey to RWC2019 series:


As a reminder, to get this out when I have, Phil and Gez did have to make their picks before most nations had finalised their squads, which could have impacted their selections.

How do you see the knockouts going?

Quarterfinals

England’s reward for topping Pool C is a match against Australia. While both of these teams can be great or poor, I think that England are that bit more consistent, with Owen Farrell’s boot likely to be the difference. Meanwhile, South Africa’s victory over New Zealand in Pool B will see them take on Scotland. Coming in off the back of Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship, I think that the Springboks will be too strong for the Scots, who will see themselves knocked out by a South African for the second World Cup running (too soon?).

On the other side of the draw, Ireland’s topping of Pool A leaves them the hard task of taking on the All Blacks. A year ago, I would have had the Irish winning this, but they have dropped off since and I think that the All Blacks will be getting on a roll by now. Finally, Wales take on France in possibly the hardest match to predict in this round. If Les Bleus can get things together like they often do in World Cup knockouts, they will be a tough opponent, but I think that Wales have the defensive solidity and attacking quality to get the win.

My predictions: England beat Australia, South Africa beat Scotland, New Zealand beat Ireland, Wales beat France

Phil’s predictions: England beat Australia, New Zealand beat Scotland, South Africa beat Ireland, Wales beat France

Gez’s predictions: Wales beat England, South Africa beat Scotland, New Zealand beat Ireland, Australia beat Argentina

Semifinals

After beating Australia, England will face much more of a challenge in the semis against South Africa. This will be the point where England’s weaknesses will be fully exploited by a team on the up, while England fans will be left thinking what could have happened if Eddie Jones had selected the players on form.

Elsewhere, Wales will fight hard against New Zealand and while I think that their defence will make it hard for the All Blacks, I think that the New Zealand attack will still be able to cross the line a couple of times to put up a score the Welsh will be unable to match.

My predictions: South Africa beat England, New Zealand beat Wales

Phil’s predictions: New Zealand beat England, South Africa beat Wales

Gez’s predictions: South Africa beat Wales, New Zealand beat Australia

Bronze Final

One of the great rugby rivalries is renewed in the third place playoff, as Wales and England face off in an attempt to finish the tournament on a high. These teams will know each other so well, it will be a close affair, where I think Wales’ defence and discipline will see them take the bronze.

My prediction: Wales beat England

Phil’s prediction: Wales beat England

Gez’s prediction: Wales beat Australia

Final

The showpiece event sees the winners of the last 3 tournaments face off for the second time in this tournament. South Africa may have got the win in the pool stages, but I think that the All Blacks will have grown into the tournament by this point and their non-stop culture of success (they were ranked #1 in the world for over 500 consecutive weeks) will see the “three-peat” happen, bringing a successful end to Steve Hansen’s tenure.

My prediction: New Zealand beat South Africa

Phil’s prediction: New Zealand beat South Africa

Gez’s prediction: New Zealand beat South Africa


As we get close to RWC2019, I will be running a fantasy rugby league on the rugby magazine website, and you are all invited to join! Simply follow this link and use the Unique Token: b6c1e40d48e6

RWC2019: Pool Stage Predictions

RWC2019: Pool Stage Predictions

We are just weeks away from the beginning of the World Cup. 20 teams vying to become Champions and lift the Webb Ellis Cup. To date, only 4 nations (New Zealand x3, Australia x2, South Africa x2 and England) have won the tournament… Will we be seeing a 5th nation added to the list this year?

That is what I have set out to predict over the next 2 articles, as I continue my “Journey to RWC2019” series with a look at the tournament itself in an attempt to predict how the tournament will go. To make this more fun, I have also invited back 2 friends to also predict the tournament: Phil, who joined me for the England squad prediction, and Gez, who was involved in predicting the Wales squad.

Today we will be looking at the pool stages, and the knockout stages will follow in a few days. In the interests of fairness, I want to make clear that I asked Phil and Gez for their picks ahead of many nations finalising their squads, which could potentially have impacted some of their selections.


Journey to RWC2019 series:


How do you see the pool stages going?

rugby RWC2019 pools

Pool A

Ireland had a very disappointing Six Nations campaign as so many of their stars failed to hit form, but I think that they will be comfortable in qualifying for the knockouts even if they must grow into the tournament. Likewise, I think that Scotland have created a deep enough squad to comfortably qualify along with Ireland (despite a short turnaround before facing Japan), with their match deciding who tops the pool. Of the remaining 3, Samoa have been going through a bad period off the field, which is also impacting them on the field, while Russia do not get to play opposition of this quality often enough and have had some poor results in their warm-ups. As such, I think Japan will get third, while Russia and Samoa will be looking to avoid finishing bottom.

My prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia

Phil’s prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia

Gez’s prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia

Pool B

Let’s be honest… barring the mother off shocks, New Zealand and South Africa are guaranteed to qualify and their match (the opener for both of them) will decide who tops the group. South Africa have been one of the few teams to cause the All Blacks some real issues in recent seasons, and I think that they will start the tournament the stronger team and get the win here, especially with Brodie Retallick unlikely to feature in the pools. Beyond that, Canada are not as competitive as they used to be and Namibia again struggle to play regularly against other nations of this quality, so I see these 2 teams fighting for 4th while Italy take 3rd place and the final automatic qualifying spot for RWC2023.

My prediction: 1st South Africa, 2nd New Zealand, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia

Phil’s prediction: 1st New Zealand, 2nd South Africa, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia

Gez’s prediction: 1st South Africa, 2nd New Zealand, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia

Pool C

Boy do I feel sorry for the USA here. They are a team clearly on the up with the successes of the MLR and USA 7s team, while more players have been making themselves regulars in the top European leagues. Unfortunately, I can’t see how they are going to pull off a result against any of England, Argentina and France, while they have a short turnaround against Tonga in what will likely decide the bottom 2 positions. Moving to the top 3, Argentina have so much potential if they can get it together in the moment but are on a poor run of form and have left out some of their biggest stars due to a reluctance to pick players based outside of Argentina. France have a habit of getting things together in the World Cup despite being dismal ahead of time and England are in a place where one week they look like world beaters and the next look awful, you feel that they could (and should) be so much better if Eddie Jones picked the players that were on form. I think that England’s consistency (compared to the other 2) gives them the advantage over their rivals here, while some questionable omissions from Mario Ledesma and the time France have had together since their squad was announced gives France the advantage in the race for 2nd.

My prediction: 1st England, 2nd France, 3rd Argentina, 4th USA, 5th Tonga

Phil’s prediction: 1st England, 2nd France, 3rd Argentina, 4th USA, 5th Tonga

Gez’s prediction: 1st England, 2nd Argentina, 3rd France, 4th USA, 5th Tonga

Pool D

Wales’ Six Nations Grand Slam gives them the top spot here by a wide margin. Australia are well off their best and could be at risk in their opening match against Fiji, however I think their win over New Zealand showed enough to suggest they can come out on top in this fixture. Following on from that game, I think that a 3-day turnaround before facing Uruguay is doable for Fiji, who then have 7 days before taking on Georgia, giving them a good chance of putting 3 wins on the board before facing Wales in the final round. Assuming Australia beat Fiji, I see them having enough to make the top 2, but if they do lose to Fiji, I can’t see them beating Wales and the lack of momentum may see them struggle to put enough points on against Uruguay and Georgia (who will come in with an extra 2 days rest and less travelling) to take advantage if Fiji were to slip up against someone. As for Georgia, the short turnaround before playing Fiji probably kills their chances of finishing in the top 3 unless Australia completely fall apart, which leaves Uruguay likely to finish winless. Basically, the Wallabies could finish anywhere from 2nd to 4th!

My prediction: 1st Wales, 2nd Australia, 3rd Fiji, 4th Georgia, 5th Uruguay

Phil’s prediction: 1st Wales, 2nd Australia, 3rd Fiji, 4th Uruguay, 5th Georgia

Gez’s prediction: 1st Australia, 2nd Wales, 3rd Georgia, 4th Fiji, 5th Uruguay

 


As we get close to RWC2019, I will be running a fantasy rugby league on the rugby magazine website, and you are all invited to join! Simply follow this link and use the Unique Token: b6c1e40d48e6