Way too Early Predictions: Ranking the NFL Unbeaten

*All statistics in this Post are courtesy of ESPN.com, and are accurate as of 9/19/2017

The Unbeatens:

Following Monday Night’s showdown in New York there are currently eight unbeaten team still playing in the NFL. Of those eight teams, five call the AFC home, and three are stationed in the NFC.  The truth is, its honestly too early to crown any of the teams we’ll be covering as Superbowl favorites, or even contenders, as so much can change in an NFL season. That doesn’t mean September discussions can’t be fun and useful. The five AFC contenders are the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Oakland (for now) Raiders. While the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and Detroit Lions represent the NFC. To better understand the shaping of the NFL landscape to this point, the eight contenders will be separated into groups, based on their similarities and likelihood of playing in Minneapolis in February. After the groupings a list of the squads will be ranked in accordance with their Superbowl aspirations.

Defensive Dreamers

Panthers
Via Cat Crave

As previously stated, these predictions are coming after two weeks of football. So there are teams on this list with the potential to not make the playoffs, and teams who are 1-1 or even 0-2 who will. This is what makes the NFL such an exciting league, and why we watch. So with that being said, the two teams in this category face the steepest challenge of the unbeatens. In comparing the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers, the similarities jump off the page. For starters both are 2-0, rely on solid defensive play, and are in a division with another 2-0 team that are probably going to go farther than them. As a Panther’s fan it hurts me to say this, but until Cam Newton can show some sign of rhythm in the Carolina offense, and remain healthy, the Panthers remain a long shot in my eyes. The Ravens benefit from a weaker division, as the Browns are still the Browns and the Bengals are playing bad enough to finally get Marvin Lewis fired. However despite the dismal showing of these Division rivals, in games against the two opponents the Raven’s offense has looked less than stellar. Averaging 22 points per game, and not being even in the middle of the pack in Passing offense is disheartening for their playoff hopes. What these two teams do boast are strong defenses, with both still waiting to give up their first touchdowns of the 2017 campaign in Week 3. The level of competition of both teams raises some flags, but the positive is that both teams have time to get their offense up to the task of complimenting their defense.

Wait and See

Falcons
Via Bleacher Report

This division hosts probably the two most different teams which I have grouped. The Detroit Lions are the wildcards in this discussion in that we really don’t know what we can expect from them this year. The Lions looked dominant at times in their Monday night showdown against the Giants, and looked good against the Cardinals in Week 1. The problem is no one is really sure who those teams will be in 2017, so its hard to use them as measuring sticks. Statistics don’t exactly help the Lions case as their offense ranks just outside the top fifteen in total yards. The defense is top ten in yards allowed, but playing the dismal Giants offense certainly boosts that standing. Stafford’s pedigree and the success of the defense make this team scary moving forward, potentially. The reason my faith in the Lions is so tested probably centers more around their division than the Lions themselves. The Packers have shown us that we should never count out Aaron Rodgers, and the Vikings looked like an entirely squad not against the historically futile New Orleans defense, but could look better if they return Bradford or Bridgewater this season. On the other side of this group are the Falcons, who I am much more optimistic about but still uncertain. The Falcons looked every bit of a Superbowl contender in their clash with the Packers in Week 2. However Week 1’s near collapse against the bumbling Bears and the curse of 28-3 linger in my mind too heavily for me to suddenly consider them the cream of the NFC either. With that being said, the Falcons are probably the best time in the NFC to this point in the NFL season. Matt Ryan doesn’t seem to have stopped spreading around the rock, and the defense has the potential to be much improved in 2017.

One Side Dominant

Steelers
Via Bleacher Report

The two teams in this category boast dominance on one side of the ball, and a pedigree for success in the Regular and Post Season. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos are two of the most revered franchises in professional sports with a combined 9 Lombardi Trophies between the two. Either of these teams posts the potential to add to that count in 2017; however, if they are to compete this year it will be behind dominance on one particular side of the ball. The Steelers Big 4 of “Killer Bs”, Ben, Bell, Brown, and Bryant, have the Steelers in position to be scary good on offense in 2017. They’re currently a top 5 offense in the NFL, and have the potential to ascend to possibly the number one spot. The Pittsburgh defense is actually ranked higher than the defensive oriented Broncos, but that will happen when you play a Vikings team on its third quarterback and the Browns who are still the Browns. The Broncos Superbowl aspirations rest on the shoulders of their Orange Crush 2.0 defense, and they seem to be playing up to par. Their defense showed Sunday against Dallas that it has the potential to be scary, shutting down Dallas and their daunted offensive line. Combine that with the ball hawking skills of their secondary, and the Broncos may have a recipe for another Lombardi run. Both of these teams will have to rely on their less than spectacular other sides of the ball to make noise in a crowded AFC.

The Front Runners

Beast mode.png
Via Mercury News

In a season of possible AFC dominance, the AFC West posts three unbeaten teams, with two who have serious Superbowl aspirations. The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs have looked excellent thus far in the NFL season, with potential to maintain it. Kansas City sent a strong message in their opening week win against Tom Brady and the Patriots, and looked spectacular on both sides of the ball. An early season loss of All Pro person and safety Eric Berry put a damper on their hopes, but against the Eagles the Chiefs showed they are capable of still performing without their emotional leader. Kareem Hunt has looked every bit of a legit dual threat running back, and with stars like Kelce and Hill complimenting him the Chiefs look poised to continue last years late season run this year. Meanwhile the Raiders are Beast Mode dancing their own way into 2-0 status. Derek Carr looks the part of an MVP on offense, and Khalil Mack has the pedigree and game wrecking ability to be a Defensive Player of the Year as well. The biggest threat to these two teams dominance in the AFC are the dreaded idea of injuries, and the strength of their division.

Rankings

These rankings don’t necessarily rank the teams in order of skill, but rather in my confidence in them to compete for a Lombardi trophy.

 

8. Baltimore Ravens

7. Detroit Lions

6. Carolina Panthers

5. Atlanta Falcons

4. Denver Broncos

3. Steelers

2. Raiders

1.Cheifs

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Does the Kyrie Trade Mean a Shake Up in the East?

By: Zachary Singletary

How’d We End Up Here?

When news of a trade request by Kyrie Irving became public knowledge, many basketball fans began to wonder about a potential break up of Akron’s title bringing duo. In case you’re somewhat late to the party, let’s recap how we got to Irving as a Celtic in this massive summer shake up. Brian Windhorst, an ESPN contributor most known for his following of LeBron James, first reported the news of a friction between the two Cavalier stars. Most of that friction seemed to  be appearing because of Irving’s desire to “not play with LeBron”, and to be a focal point of his own team (Windhorst). In terms of Kyrie’s wishes, this change of scenery could be very positive to his career and his happiness with his own legacy.

Kyrie’s Dream Comes True….Sort of

download (1)
via SneakerNews.com

The above image depicts Kyrie next to a list of four different teams. The four teams are teams that various sources, from Brian Windhort, to the Woj himself Adrian Wojnarowski. With very little digging we can see that the Boston Celtics were not one of the teams he originally preferred. The Cavs decision to make the trade in spite of this will be covered a little later. In terms of how this deal fits Kyrie. In terms of being a true offensive focal point, Irving has a good chance of leading this Celtics team. A Horford-Irving pick and roll offense seems to maximize the duos shooting. A backcourt of Marcus Smart and Kyrie has potential, as Smart’s defensive abilities compliment Irving’s offensive oriented game. Gordon Hayword is projected by many to play the 3 in his college coach’s current system. And his catch and shot game mixed with defensive potential mixes well again with Irving’s strengths as a point guard. The biggest knock on this deal from the Celtics perspective is losing a defensively skilled wing in Jae Crowder to the trade. The Celtics seem to be relying on the young duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to feel the void. Despite some questions about depth and defensive ability, this partnership between Irving and the Boston Celtics seems to work well.

Cavaliers Reloading, not Rebuilding

IT4
via NBA.com

LeBron James’ stretch of dominance over the Eastern conference is historic, and the reign doesn’t seem to be slowing down. With an eye on 2018’s free agency, the Cavaliers made the right move for now and for the future of the franchise. Adding a play maker, and noted fourth quarter magician Isaiah Thomas to a Cavs roster built with pick and pop marksmen, as well as the King himself, bodes will for continued offensive dominance. Jae Crowder realistically could start for this team, depending on their infatuation with Kevin Love. If Love is slated to remain in the starting line up, Crowder offers value off the bench as a wing who can play both the 3 and the 4. While Thomas may hurt the Cavs defensively, something the Warriors and other super powered teams in the league can certainly take advantage of. The addition of Crowder lessens the blow, as does remembering that despite Kyrie’s offensive excellence, he’s never particularly been the best defender. Ultimately this trade seems to have been won by Cleveland, as it addressed both team culture needs, and personnel needs. It actually may be Crowder who ends up being the crown jewel of this return for Kyrie.

So is There a Shake Up?

As a personal fan of Kyrie, and trades like these meant to shake the landscape of the NBA, the simple answer is no there isn’t. The Celtics have certainly made strides in the right direction. Adding a two young stars to create a nucleus of Irving-Hayward-Horford was a positive step to long term success in the East. The simple fact being that Kyrie alone, on top of players they’ve lost, the gap between the Celtics and Cavs does not seem to have moved that much. Let’s also remember that last years Celtic’s team did win the East, but were outmatched heavily in the playoffs. This decision may prove fruitful though, as LeBron’s second departure from Ohio seems much more imminent. But until the King leaves, the East is pretty much his. Until proven otherwise the Cavaliers, with LeBron James, have earned the benefit of the doubt on their dominance of the East. While the loss of a beloved Kyrie Irving may hurt Cavs fans early on, the addition of crowd favorite Isaiah Thomas should lessen that blow. Isaiah plays hard and should become a fan favorite in the city of Akron. Crowder’s importance was nearly beaten to death in previous sections, so for the wrap up I’ll just say this is the piece that helps with their ultimate goal of Cavs-Warriors part four.

NBA “Weapons Race”: Chasing the Super Team out West

As the Golden State Warriors lifted the Larry O’Brien the Bay Area, and band wagon fans around the world, exploded with excitement. For many fans watching, regardless of team affiliation, and almost depressing feeling of inevitability was finally realized. Around this time last year the hushed rumors of a Kevin Durant-fueled steroid boost to a Warriors team coming off a 73-9 season, seemed almost to far-fetched to be real life. One year, one ring, and one Finals MVP later, Kevin Durant accomplished his goal of turning the NBA upside and changing the balance of power for what seems to be years to come. Teams this summer are well aware of the strength of the two Juggernauts who just completed their third straight head-to-head final’s match up. The goal of the other 28 teams in the Association, is to reduce the gap between themselves and ensure that there is not a Warriors-Cavs Part 4 in June 2018.

NBA Free Agency officially begins this weekend, and to this point there are several Superstar talents rumored to be on the move, who could very well shift the balance of power in the NBA for a second straight summer. While there are numerous teams, with various trade rumors, swirling around league news sources this time of year, for the purpose of this blog we’ll be dealing with rumors surrounding a three contenders and one superstar in Indiana.

Houston Rockets

CP3 J Harden
via NBA.com

Chris Paul leaves LA, to run Houston with James Harden.

In a Western Conference that has been dominating by the “Splash Brothers” in Oracle, Houston seems to be combating that dynamic duo, with a pretty elite back court pairing of their own. James Harden led the Houston Rockets to a 50 win season and a Western Conference Finals birth during the 2016-17 season, and very well might have added an MVP to that hall without the Triple Double heroics of one Russell Westbrook. Adding Chris Paul, almost universally considered one of the top Point Guards and play makers in the league today, and maybe ever, would seem to help those Rockets shrink the gap between themselves and the defending champions. There are legitimate fit concerns, giving the ball dominance of each member of this new play making back court, but the Rockets seem to be ignoring those doubters and counting on the duos chemistry to guide the franchise for at least the next season. Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets had this to say on the aggressiveness of Houston, and the state of the modern NBA. “… It’s a weapons race in the NBA, and you’re either in the weapons race or on the sidelines. We felt with Harden in his prime, Chris Paul in his prime, this gives us a real shot to chase the juggernaut teams that are out there and puts us right there with them” (ESPN).

Cleveland Cavaliers 

cle
via Bleacher Report

Power shift brewing in the East?

While the sting of coming up second to the Golden State Warriors for the second time in three years will certainly linger, by all accounts the Cavs should come into this off-season feeling optimistic. They’ve consistently showed they’re a cut about the rest of the Eastern Conference, and in the last three years are the only team to actually beat the dreaded Warriors in a playoff series. But that victory was before Durant took his talents to the Bay, and while they flipped the switch against the East this post season, there were times when they looked like they didn’t belong on the same floor as the Warriors. The Cavs were in need of a roster shakeup this off season if they hoped to seriously contend with these same Warriors and make their trilogy of finals a four-part special. Things have not gone the way the Cavs, or their fans, would have hoped since that loss in the finals. Dan Gilbert, team owner, fired GM David Griffin days before the draft whilst the team was in the midst of trade talks with the Chicago Bulls about Jimmy Butler. The next GM will have a steep road ahead of them, with little cap flexibility, and rumored displeasure from Akron’s favorite son and franchise corner-stone Lebron James. Combined with pressure from Lebron to maximize his prime and win now, the Cavs future does not look as bright as it did a mere week or two ago. Despite the lack of a GM, the Cavs have been in constant trade talks with the Indiana Pacers about their all-star forward Paul George. Without adding a significant piece this free agency period, the Cavs could be in for a disappointing end to the 2017-18 season, and another possible Lebron departure.

Boston Celtics

hayward
via The Salt Lake Tribune

Boston makes a move, to set up another move? 

There aren’t many seasons in which a number one-seeded team, with 50+ wins, would need to cut the distance between themselves and the previous year’s number two seed. However, the Cavaliers made short work of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, and Bean Town has the resources to perhaps surpass Lebron and his dominance over the East during this near-decade long run to the finals he’s been on. Enter the Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward, pictured above. To the casual NBA follower, Hayward and his abilities may be unknown or unappreciated. To this Celtics team, Hayward could be a building block to an Eastern Conference beast for years to come. Hayward is a quality wing player, able to slot at the 2 or 3 depending  on need, with shooting touch and two playing capability. On top of all of this Hayward actually played, and thrived, under current Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during his college career at Butler. Hayward seems to be taking the idea of playing in Boston very seriously, as Lachlan Marr reported on the Celtics SBNation blog, that the sides would be meeting Sunday after the start of free agency. This is of course assuming Hayward’s first visit to the Miami Heat on Saturday does not lead to a deal. Adding an all-star caliber player improves a team that was already good enough to be the top seed in the East one year ago. Boston’s plan may also hinge upon being able to trade for Paul George, after their attempts to pry Jimmy Butler from Chicago were not enough, sound familiar Cleveland fans? George’s predicament is quite unique, and could be a power shift depending on where he lands or if he is even traded at all.

Paul George 

final george
via SportingNews.com

 

The trade that could change it all

With Jimmy Butler being traded from the Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves, teams looking to participate in the “weapons race” and compete with the Warriors were left with one superstar talent to inquire about. All of the three teams on this list and blog post have expressed serious interest in the all star, despite the rental status George has set for himself. It was reported by several NBA league sources that George had grown tired of the Pacers muddling in middle of the pack status, and would most likely leave when he is set to become a free agent at the end of the upcoming season. George was also rumored to have a preference to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. While this reports swirled around for several months, George himself informed the Pacers of his intentions rather recently, and speculation of the Pacers dealing George sky rocketed. Given that he is set to become a free agent after this year, teams are taking a gamble that George will be nothing more than a glorified rental for their franchise. Despite thee very real concerns, George’s talent has kept the phone ringing for the Pacers. George is long, athletic wing with an ability to play off the ball, and a defensive presence important in a modern NBA where Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant all wear the same blue and gold. Where George ends up playing this season, and even next season, will continue to be a major talking point in NBA circles.

The Wrap Up

The Golden State Warriors are, talent wise, still the cream of the crop in today’s NBA. This fact is a key reason so many teams are looking to be very aggressive this free agency period, and why each of these teams mentioned here will be measuring themselves comparatively to the Bay Area team. The saga of Paul George, the future of Lebron James, and the balance of power in the NBA will be determined by the events that ensue in the coming weeks of NBA free agency. Free Agency officially begins July 1, with the time period for teams to sign free agents beginning July 6.

 

Spotlight on Young Entrepreneurs: Visionaire

Self made entrepreneurs are taking this nation by storm. The Suites sat down with the creative director for Visionaire,  Tomavelli, shout out to Chris and Zac for the collaboration.

To shine a spot light on an up and coming brand growing in our own back yards of Eastern North Carolina. Tomaveli is the mastermind behind VISIONAIRE MIND, a homegrown apparel company with an Urban-Skater kind of vibe attached to it. To this point the brand has cult following, with an interesting “pop-up” style marketing and selling method. This spotlight here on The Suites is not only to benefit Tomaveli and show love to his hard work and dedication, but also to continue the mission of The Suites blog, which is to provide our audience with quality articles about what they find interesting. Tomaveli provided us with some insightful and in-depth answers about his brand and how he reached this point in his own life and in the life of his brand VISONAIRE.

FullSizeRender
Tomavelli

WARNING THE LANGUAGE IN THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW IS NOT PG

1. How and when did Visionaire get started?

There’s chapters in my life where I go through ups and downs.

I want VISIONAIRES to be more than just a brand. I wanted it to be a story. But a story told through animals, an animals mind.

Chapter 1 was The Tiger: The Begin of the End

I came in with the mindset of a tiger. I was fearless. I didn’t care what people had to say. I just went in for the kill. I was so selfish I lost so many good people in my life because of it. At one point, I lost hope and faith. I lost motivation. I lost my girlfriend, she was the biggest motivation ever, and she guided me through this part in life

It took me 8 months to come up with just the name VISIONAIRE. I kept changing the name over and over until I finally settle down on the name when I was lying in bed talking to myself. I’ve always had that mindset where I wanted to create and inspire people or being ahead of what the kids (our generation) called now “The Wave”.

Originally I started this brand when I was a senior in high school but I was never serious about it, it was just something I had in the back of my mind for a long time. I just wanted to make t shirts and sell it.

A lot of people don’t know this but VISIONAIRE took off BECAUSE of my depression and anxiety. I was living in Vietnam at the time and that shit was just eating me alive. I’ve made decisions I wish I can take back, I wasn’t in school, I was barely working, my dad had a stroke and I wasn’t even there to be with him, I couldn’t handle the all the hectic that was going on so I decided to  move back to the states.

That’s when I was like “I need to stop bullshitting, high school is over. This is reality now.” Like every other kid in my town I always dreamed of the bigger picture. Everybody would talk about how they want money, fame, foreign cars, and all this other rich fancy shit but they’re not making no moves. They expect everything to be handed to them for free. No matter what I did at the time I was constantly just trying to find money. I busted my ass for every penny and dime I could get. Nothing satisfied me more than knowing I worked hard for that money. So why not make money doing something I love? Fashion. But then it’s still not even about the money.

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Tomavelli

Now that I’m in chapter 2 of my works

The Bird: Time Flies When You Do.

I learned from my mistakes, I learned how to crawl before I walked again and now I feel like I can’t be stopped. I came to realized that there was so much more. I had so much support and supporters. I could not see myself disappointing none of them. I had a clear vision ahead of me. Success was calling my name and I cannot wait to fly high until I reach my peak.

 

2. What first interested you about the field of fashion and design?

See there’s a difference between an interested and a love, you can lose interest so fast and so quick. But love builds up over time, Interest is just the path to love.

I fell in love with this fashion stuff when I was young kid. My brother and sister would always dress me up and take hella pictures of me pretending like I was a model. They would sign me up for fashion shows and photography studios and made me wear these gay ass clothes. When I was 4 years old. I almost won my first ever fashion show. The grand prize was $10,000.00….. But I lost because I was picking my nose on stage… so I just won a little trophy instead.

3. Describe your design process? How hands-on are you in the process?

My whole design process is literally on a laptop. I am on my laptop 24/7. My laptop is like my creative buddy but also my resource buddy. I’m always on the search of what I can find and turn into a “visionaire”.

I’m only hands-on on certain products if I wanted to tweak it up a little bit. I taught myself how to use a sewing machine and from that point on it was hands on from there. Everything else I literally was self-taught. I taught myself how to cut and sew, how to distressed, how to hem, etc. If it wasn’t for YouTube I’d be lost.

4. Who else is involved with this group? And in what capacity?

At first it was just me. I did everything myself, from branding to marketing. I didn’t wanna work with anyone. I had so many people come up to me and asked me if they can work with me but I turned them all down. I didn’t wanna clash my creativity with someone else’s creativity. No disrespect to anybody but I feel like if you have your own ideas, move forward from there. Go out and build yourself, show your talents to the world. There’s so many hidden talents and people so scared to show it but you CAN’T be scared, You have to have confidence in what you do.

There is this one dude. He lives in Raleigh. Shout out J.Ho!!!!! Never met him face to face but I thought he was unique and thought he could bring some heat to the table. So he’s the 1st member of team visionaries I guess you can say that.

 

5. Are you open to collaborations? Have you done any so far? Who are some companies, local or well-known with whom you’d like to collaborate?

I’m not just going to collab with anyone. I don’t want to work with someone if I feel like it’s just a waste of my time or if they just wanna work with me because it’ll give them clout.

We have to have a certain partnership but most important…. friendship.

But I am currently working with a couple of local talented people here in Elizabeth City. There’s this dude name Jaylen Brown or JB for short. He’s the CEO of Opposite Society. It’s a dope ass movement he got going on too. Everywhere I go I see people reppin’ his t shirts. He kinda reminds me of a young Tyler the Creator. He does more than just make t shirts though that’s the thing. It’s more of a culture thing. If you wanna know more go check them out!! Twitter @osxsquad I’m also collabing with this music group called Graffiti Mobb. Go check out their soundcloud too! https://soundcloud.com/graffiti-mobb

In the future I’m hoping to collab with more groups and artists

6. There are many other local clothing brands, what would you say separates your brand from the rest?

Passion

I love all these local brands ya know? It spices things up. There’s more competition being put to the test. But you gotta love what you do. I see too many local brands out here just making t shirts for money. I respect the hustle but it’s not fair to the people who are actually putting alot of time and effort and detail into each one of their craft.

On top of that, I don’t give out no information on when Visionaire merch is gonna drop. You just gotta be on top of it. If not that’s your lost.  I don’t post pictures of my products either until the day of releasing. I keep my quantities really low too. So not everybody is gonna walk around with the same product on.

7. Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?

Honestly I don’t care where my brand takes me in the next 5 years.

I’m not thinking of the future right now. I’m thinking of what has to be done right then and now.

Cause if I’m thinking about the future, I’m just wasting all this time that’ll help me get me to that point in life. I want what’s best for me, my team. And my brand, and that’s long term goals. NOT no shortcuts.

My goal is to get better and better every year.

Now if I’ll have an opportunity for me lined up at the door within that time period. That’s just a blessing.

8. Where can people go to buy your product?

People can go buy my product at www.visionaires.bigcartel.com

Instagram @shopvisionaires

Twitter @VISIONAIREMINDS

We here at the Suite Blog appreciate the time Tomaveli gave us in order to spread his movement to a wider audience. If your brand, or a brand you know of, is interested in a possible Suite Spotlight in the future, feel free to contact Chris Liverman, Zac Singletary, or any member of the Suites Blog family and we’ll be happy to discuss a future partnership. We accept gifts and swag of all varieties.

Zachary Singletary Contact Info:

Email- zactsingletary@gmail.com

IG- bigzacts