2018 Australian Open: Women’s Preview + Predictions

With defending champion Serena Williams out, the field is wide open.

In other words, someone has to win this thing.

No. 1 Seed Simona Halep’s Quarter of the Draw


No. 1 seed Simona Halep has what it takes to win majors, but over the past few years, the Romanian had struggled mightily at closing tight matches. Despite not winning a match at this tournament since 2015, she enters as the top seed overall and is coming off a title win in Shenzhen last week. The good form, combined with a relatively easy draw, should see Halep through to the Round of 16 and beyond. Depending on their third round matchup, either No. 16 seed Elina Vesnina or No. 18 seed Ashleigh Barty could make it tough for Halep in the Round of 16, but I don’t see it.


Just six months ago, No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova was the No. 1 player in the world and some experts’ favorite to win Wimbledon. But since her shocking second round exit at the hands of Magdalena Rybarikova at that tournament, the 25-year-old Czech has yet to reach a final of any tournament and fallen outside of the top three as a result. Now with new coach Tomas Krupa and a favorable draw to the Round of 16, Pliskova has a great chance of re-claiming her spot at the top of the mountain. Again, depending on a third round matchup, either No. 9 seed Johanna Konta or No. 16 seed Barbara Strycova could pose a threat to Pliskova in the Round of 16. We shall see.

No. 3 Seed Garbiñe Muguruza’s Quarter of the Draw


No. 4 seed Garbiñe Muguruza withdrew from each of her last two tournaments due to cramps and a hip injury, respectively. A lack of tennis coming into this tournament could prove costly, especially in a potential second round matchup against Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh. The 32-year-old is coming off a semifinals appearance in Auckland, where she defeated Strycova in the quarterfinals.

Ultimately, this could open the door for former World No. 1 and current No. 21 seed Angelique Kerber. After winning two majors, including the Australian Open, in 2016, the German struggled mightily in 2017, failing to get past the Round of 16 in all four majors. So she decided to part ways with former coach Torben Beltz in November and hire Wim Fissette. So far, it appears Kerber made the right move, as she went on to win her first title since the 2016 U.S. Open in Sydney this past week. If Kerber can keep this up, there’s very little chance that No. 14 seed Anastasija Sevastova will be able to stop her in a potential third round matchup.


Remember the name: Yulia Puntintseva.

She’s beaten the No. 11 seeded Mladenovic, her potential second round opponent, before on hard court (’16 Indian Wells). In addition, Mladenovic has never advanced past the third round in Melbourne and lost in the first round last year. Putintseva also beat No. 17 seed Madison Keys, her potential third round opponent, on hard court in 2016 (Tokyo). The 22-year-old American has lost both matches she’s participated in since her impressive run to the U.S. Open final last year. But perhaps the most impressive feat of Putintseva’s draw, however, is her 3-0 record against No. 8 seed Caroline Garcia, who retired in her first match in Brisbane last week due to a back injury. With favorable records against all three ranked players, who have question marks of their own, Putintseva has a great chance of causing a major shakeup in this quarter of the draw.

No. 4 Seed Elina Sviotlina’s Quarter of the Draw


Twenty years after making her Australian Open début, 37-year-old American Venus Williams will look to get back to the finals. However, the No. 5 seed may run into some trouble in the third round against former semifinalist and No. 31 seed Ekaterina Makarova. The experienced Russian knocked Venus out of this tournament in the first round back in 2014 and has notched some nice wins over some top players in recent months.

Look out for No. 12 seed Julia Goerges, who is playing the best tennis of her career at the moment. Dating back to last season, the 29-year-old German has won her last three tournaments she has participated in: Moscow, WTA Elite, and the first tournament of 2018 in Auckland, where she defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the final. But like Venus, Goerges’ blazing hot play could cool down in the Round of 16 against Makarova, who beat Goerges in the Round of 16 at the 2015 Australian Open.


No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina has won 10 WTA titles in her career, including the Brisbane title just last week. However, she has only reached the quarterfinals of a major twice, and has never made it past the third round in Melbourne. The 23-year-old from the Ukraine has a pretty easy path to the Round of 16, though, so we’ll see if she can finally break through.

As for reigning U.S. Open champion and No. 13 seed Sloane Stephens, the American also has a straightforward path to the Round of 16. The key for Stephens, however, will be staying healthy and getting back on track after five straight losses following her U.S. Open victory. If Stephens can get just string together a few wins, she has the potential to get back to the Australian Open semifinals for the first time since 2013, when she beat Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.

No. 2 Seed Caroline Wozniacki’s Quarter of the Draw


The No. 7 seed, Jelena Ostapenko, should overcome former French Open Francesca Schiavone without much of a problem. Her biggest test could come in the third round against Romania’s Monica Niculescu. The 30-year-old veteran has beaten the defending French Open champion on hard court before (’16 Canadian Masters) and has a very favorable path to the third round. The one big concern with Niculescu, however, is whether she is fully healthy after a neck injury forced to withdraw in Hobart last week. It’s worth noting, though, that up until that point, Niculescu had not dropped a set.

As for No. 10 seed Coco Vandeweghe, she hasn’t played a tournament since losing in the final of the WTA Elite back in November. Combine that with her first Australian Open appearance with coach Pat Cash, and I’m just not sure if the American can continue her stellar play at majors. Not to mention, she may have a tough second round match against former top ten player Carla Suarez Navarro. Keep an eye on 33-year-old Australian Sam Stosur as well. If she can get by Monica Puig in the first round and receives help from her opponents below her in the draw, things could get very interesting in the top half of this quarter. Plus, Stosur will surely have the home crowd behind her, for whatever that’s worth.


This half of the quarter, however, won’t be all that interesting. No. 15 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 19 seed Magdalena Rybarikova are solid players, but neither are a threat to win major titles. With that being said, No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki should coast all the way to the semifinals despite her tendency to turn passive in big matches. If she can continue playing the way she has over the past 18 months and keep her confidence up, Wozniacki can win the entire tournament.

Simona Halep [1] DEF. Karolina Pliskova [6]
Angelique Kerber [21] DEF. Yulia Puntintseva
Sloane Stephens [13] DEF. Ekaterina Makarova [31]
Caroline Wozniacki [2] DEF. Sam Stosur

Simona Halep [1] DEF. Angelique Kerber [21]
Caroline Wozniacki [2] DEF. Sloane Stephens [13]

Simona Halep [1] DEF. Caroline Wozniacki [2]


2018 Australian Open: Men’s Preview and Predictions

Out of the four major tournaments, the Australian Open has always been my least favorite to predict. After all, it’s the first major of the season and it’s tough to know how players are going to do with such a small sample size coming into the tournament. That particularly applies to players who are coming off various injuries.

Nonetheless, I will try my best to channel my inner-psychic abilities and predict who will win this year’s Australian Open.

No. 1 Seed Rafael Nadal’s Quarter of the Draw


On paper, it sure looks like Nadal will coast to the Round of 16.

But not if No. 28 seed Damir Dzumhur has anything to say about it.

The 25-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina saw an increase in form during the second half of 2017, advancing to three ATP World Tour finals and winning two titles (St. Petersburg and Moscow). Along the way, Dzumhur defeated the likes of Pablo Cuevas, Fabio Fognini and Alexander Zverev. Technically, he owns a win over Nadal from back in 2016, but the Spaniard withdrew in the third set of that match.

Dzumhur is coming into Melbourne after a withdrawal of his own this past week in Sydney due to a hamstring injury. On the other hand, Nadal has yet to play a match since the ATP World Tour Finals back in November, so it could take some time to re-gain last year’s form. If healthy, I think Dzumhur has a great chance to catch Nadal, and the rest of the world, off guard in a potential third round matchup.

As for No. 16 seed John Isner, the American had a solid summer in 2017, capturing two ATP titles in Newport and Atlanta. The 32-year-old did play a lot of matches in the second half of 2017, which could be why he lost to Hyeon Chung in the Round of 16 in Auckland, his lone match of 2018. Isner could have a difficult time in a potential second round matchup with Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, an experienced and unorthodox player who hits a lot of winners. One would think that would open the door for No. 24 seed Diego Schwartzman, but Dologopolov beat the 5’8″ Argentinian just last week in Brisbane. Add in his win over Dzumhur a few months ago in Shenzhen, and – dare I say – Dolgopolov could make the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.


Coming off a semifinal run at the U.S. Open, No. 10 seed Pablo Carreño Busta is one of the more athletic and fun players in men’s tennis. That being said, the Spaniard could run into some trouble in the third round against No. 23 seed Gilles Muller, who actually knocked him out in the first round of this tournament back in 2015.

Ryan Harrison could give either No. 31 seed Pablo Cuevas or Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny some trouble in the second round. But even if Harrison does advance to the third round, the No. 6 seed Marin Cilic will be waiting. With Carreño Busta potentially on upset alert in the third round, Cilic should easily reach the quarterfinals and redeem himself after last year’s second round loss to Dan Evans.

No. 3 Seed Grigor Dimitrov’s Quarter of the Draw


When I saw that Dimitrov and Kyrgios were in the same quarter, I immediately returned to this tweet from ESPN’s Howard Bryant:


Unfortunately, Kyrgios has yet to reach his full potential and is coming off an up-and-down 2017 season, by his standards. At one point, he was knocking off Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Nadal, all in the same tournament. Then, he was losing first round matches in major tournaments to the likes of Pierre-Hughes Herbert and John Millman. On the bright side, Kyrgios is still just 22-years-old, so there’s still plenty of time for him to reach his ceiling.

More importantly, though, this is a very favorable draw for him. Questions still remain about No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov’s performance at major tournaments after title wins. For instance, he followed up his title in Cincinnati last year with a second round loss at the U.S. Open against potential third round opponent at this tournament, Andrey Rublev. After winning the ATP World Tour Finals in November, we’ll see if Dimitrov can follow-up the biggest win of his career with a long-awaited breakthrough performance at a major. As for No. 15 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, he’s certainly capable of a big upset, but at age 32, his days as a top player are dwindling.

In short, there are certainly cracks in this draw that Kyrgios can break through. It all depends on which version of the Aussie shows up to this tournament.


No. 8 seed Jack Sock has never made it past the third round at this tournament, but I’m not even sure it’s a given that the American will make it out of the first round. His opponent, Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, defeated Sock in straight sets last year in Cincinnati. In addition, Sock is not coming into Melbourne in good form after losing his first match in Auckland to Peter Gojowczyk.

With Sock potentially out of the picture, it could open the door for either No. 11 seed Kevin Anderson or No. 18 seed Lucas Pouille, both of whom could face off in the third round. Believe it or not, Pouille has never won a match at the Australian Open. Anderson, however, is coming off his first Grand Slam finals appearance at the U.S. Open and a finals appearance in Chennai last week.

No. 4 Seed Alexander Zverev’s Quarter of the Draw


Sticking with the upset theme, I don’t think No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem gets out of the first round either. His opponent, Argentina’s Guido Pella, has defeated him in straight sets in both of their matchups, including last season in Chengdu. In addition, Thiem withdrew from his semifinal match in Doha last week due to illness. An early loss sure would not be a good start to his partnership with new coach Galo Blanco.

So with Thiem potentially out of the picture, 24-year-old Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic should advance to the Round of 16, which also means No. 9 seed Stan Wawrinka can once again make a deep run at this tournament. The 32-year-old has been out of action since Wimbledon due to a knee injury, but it says a lot that he’s still ranked in the top ten after six months without a win. Unfortunately, Wawrinka’s path back to the final could be spoiled in a potential third round matchup with Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco. If he can win that match, Wawrinka will assert himself as a threat to win the entire tournament.


Don’t be so quick to write in that third round matchup between brothers Alexander and Mischa Zverev. Sure, Mischa knocked Andy Murray out of last year’s tournament and Alexander is one major victory away from solidifying himself as a tennis superstar. But South Korea’s rising superstar, Hyeon Chung, defeated both Zverev brothers last season. The 21-year-old has already beaten the likes of Isner and Muller in 2018, and is more than capable of disposing of both Alexander and Mischa once again.

With another top five seed on upset alert, it opens the door for another superstar returning from injury – No. 14 seed Novak Djokovic. His resumé at Melbourne speaks for itself. If his elbow injury doesn’t nag him, Djokovic more than capable of winning his seventh career Australian Open title and 13th career Grand Slam tournament.

No. 2 Seed Roger Federer’s Quarter of the Draw


Besides Thiem in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, No. 19 seed Tomas Berdych simply beat inferior players last season. In other words, the 32-year-old just could get over the hump against top quality players. On top of that, Berdych started off 2018 on the wrong foot, losing his first match in Doha in three sets to Jan-Lennard Struff. Things won’t get better for Berdych when he takes on Australian teenager Alex De Minaur, who is reeling after a semi-final appearance in Brisbane and a finals appearance in Sydney.

With all that being said, No. 7 seed David Goffin and No. 12 seed Juan Martin del Potro should advance to the Round of 16 without much of a problem. Due to relatively recent wins over Federer and Nadal, I give the slight edge to Goffin, but it could go either way.


The No. 13 seed, Sam Querrey, enjoyed a nice run to the Wimbledon semi-finals last year. Unfortunately, the American will be on upset alert against 36-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who is more than capable of a big upset at a major tournament. An early exit from Querrey could open the door for the No. 22 seed Milos Raonic, a former semifinalist back in 2014 but has since fallen out of the top 20 due to early exits and various injuries.

Unfortunately for the big-serving Canadian, he’s in the same quarter as Roger Federer. Need I say more?

Marin Cilic [6] DEF. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Kevin Anderson [11] DEF. Nick Kyrgios [17]
Novak Djokovic [14] DEF. Stan Wawrinka [9]
Roger Federer [2] DEF. David Goffin [7]

Marin Cilic [6] DEF. Kevin Anderson [11]
Novak Djokovic [14] DEF. Roger Federer [2]

Novak Djokovic [14] DEF. Marin Cilic [6]

The Minnesota Vikings… Powered By Stupidity

Remember when the Minnesota Vikings possessed one of the greatest home-field advantages in all of sports?

For nearly all the 1960s and 1970s, the Vikings played their home games at the frozen tundra known as Metropolitan Stadium, or “the Met.” From 1969 to 1976, head coach Bud Grant led Minnesota to a 7-3 home playoff record and four Super Bowls appearances. To this day, it is the most dominant stretch of football in the franchise’s history.

The average wind chill of those ten playoff games at the Met? 8.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grant banned heaters from the sideline and even prohibited his players from wearing gloves. He thought that not only would his team acclimate to the cold weather, but that they would sit down on the heated benches, making them less engaged in the game.

As a result, the Vikings thrived in the freezing conditions, especially in the trenches on defense. Carl Eller and Alan Page were Hall-of-Famers, Jim Marshall held the NFL record for consecutive starts until future Vikings quarterback Brett Favre broke it in 2009, and Gary Larsen was the best run stopper of the entire group. These four men were commonly called the “Purple People Eaters.”

Again, limiting this to the Vikings’ glory years (1969-1976), here are some of their basic defensive statistics:

*NOTES: The regular season consisted of 14 games and the NFL consisted of 16 teams in 1969, 26 teams from ’70 to ’75, and 28 teams in ’76 (NFL rank listed in parentheses).*

While the “Purple People Eaters” were the focal point of those great Vikings teams, the offense also flourished in the cold conditions. From quarterbacks Joe Kapp and Hall-of-Famer Fran Tarkenton, to running backs Chuck Foreman and Dave Osborn, the Vikings were consistently a threat to win the Super Bowl for the better part of a decade.

However, when the Vikings moved into the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome at the beginning of the 1982 season, they started to emphasize flashy, speedy skill players to take advantage of the artificial turf. First round draft picks like Robert Smith, Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin thrived on the indoor playing surface, but there were others that flamed out such as Mardye McDole, David Palmer, Michael Bennett, and Troy Williamson.

Now, it wouldn’t be fair to point out the flaws of playing in an indoor stadium in Minneapolis without pointing out its benefits. Thanks to an extensive speaker system, crowd noise can make it tough for opponents to communicate on the field. In 32 years at the Metrodome, Minnesota’s .644 home winning percentage ranked sixth in the NFL during that span.

But it’s also fair to point out that the Vikings have never been able to rekindle the success of the “Purple People Eater”-led teams of the ’60s and ’70s. They have not reached a Super Bowl since 1976 and have lost all four conference championship games they have participated in since 1987.

This Sunday, the Vikings will host their first-ever playoff game at the new U.S. Bank Stadium against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, a high-powered offensive team that also plays their home games in an indoor stadium. In the regular season, the Saints’ offense ranked fourth in points scored per game and second in total yards per game.

This game is also a rematch from Week 1 of this season, when the Vikings came out on top thanks to the now-injured Sam Bradford going 27-for-32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns, one of the best performances of his career. Unfortunately, that Vikings’ win means little to nothing now that Case Keenum is under center for the Vikings. Not to mention, the game did take place in Week 1, almost four months ago.

Now, consider this – in those ten playoff games at the Met from 1969 to 1976, opposing teams averaged 15.8 points and 299 total yards against the Vikings defense. In Minnesota’s next ten home playoff games, spanning from 1982 to 2009, opposing teams averaged almost five more points (20.6) points and 35 more total yards (332.8) in the Metrodome. What’s even more interesting, however, is when one compares the rushing and passing numbers of opponents who played outdoors to those who played indoors:

Indoor opponents average about five more pass attempts per game, which should come as no surprise. What’s interesting, though, is that despite about eight less rushing attempts per game, the indoor opponents actually gain more yards per rushing attempt than the outdoor opponents.

A more recent example that backs up this data is the Vikings’ 2015 Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks, which took place outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium. At a warm and toasty -6 degrees and the wind chill at -25 degrees, it was the third-coldest game in NFL history.

Not only were the Seahawks held to 10 points, but they were held to 3.46 yards per rushing attempt and 5.46 yards per passing attempt, all of which sides with the previous outdoor data. The only touchdown of the game came a few plays after a bad snap by the Seahawks, which Russell Wilson turned into the largest play of the game. Despite the touchdown, Minnesota still had a great chance to win the game with a field goal in the last seconds.

But Blair Walsh happened, and it was 1998 all over again.

But would the Vikings have even been competitive if they faced the Seahawks in a dome? Seattle was clearly the better and more experienced team, as shown by their Super Bowl victory in the previous season. It took a bad snap and a miraculous throw by Wilson for the Seahawks to even get into scoring range. Up until that point, not only were the Vikings in control of the game, but the weather was taking its toll on the visitors.

This Sunday’s forecast in Minneapolis? A high of 15 degrees, a low of -6 degrees, and an 80 percent chance of snow showers.

Had the Vikings played their regular season home games outdoors this season, they would have a huge advantage against the Saints, who have played over half of their games in a dome. Based on the data and recent history, it’s safe to assume that the weather would have had a debilitating effect on Brees, rookie running back Alvin Kamara, and the rest of the Saints offense.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know if that assumption is fact. Perhaps the Vikings already have the clear advantage due to crowd noise at U.S. Bank Stadium, but Brees has overcome crowd noise in a playoff game on multiple occasions. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, however, has never started a playoff game in his career.

What makes this all the more frustrating is that the Vikings defense has been arguably the best in the NFL this season. They gave up the least amount of points, total yards and passing touchdowns, in addition to the second-least passing yards and rushing yards. Combine that with three current All-Pros, and one can only wonder what damage this Vikings defense would do if they played the Saints outdoors in Minneapolis.

Perhaps it’s the allure of hosting major concerts and sporting events such as this season’s Super Bowl and future NCAA basketball Final Fours. If that’s the case, it’s just more evidence that, despite the 13-3 regular season record, winning is not the Minnesota Vikings’ top priority. Instead, the team and their fans would rather laugh at their legendary coach and turn him into an internet meme.

It would truly be poetic if the Saints defeat the Vikings inside of a comfortable indoor stadium on a freezing cold, snowy afternoon in Minneapolis this Sunday. It would confirm the Vikings’ stupidity over the past 36 years.

TSR’s Top 20 Albums of 2017

When compiling a year-end albums list, it’s always interesting to see which albums I returned to the most, which albums from earlier in the year held up with repeated listens, and which albums fell off of my radar.

A couple of notes, though:

– I waited until now to post this after Run the Jewels dropped arguable best rap album of the year during the last days of 2016. I just wanted to play it safe.

– Narrowing down a list like this really is like pulling teeth. Albums will need to get left off. That’s why you won’t find any Calvin Harris, Migos or Vince Staples on my list.

– However, there’s also a good chance that I just simply did not listen to certain albums this year. Either I did not have the time to listen to an album (Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage, Paramore’s After Laughter, The National’s Sleep Well Beast, St. Vincent’s Masseducation, Brockhampton’s Saturation trilogy, etc.)…

– …or just didn’t find the album worth my time… (most country albums, Joey Bada$$’s All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, etc.)

– …or thought they were really, really bad. Where do I even begin on that one?

– It’s MY list. After all, you shouldn’t need validation, especially from me, if you think an album was great.

– I listen to mostly hip-hop/rap, so that’s why most of this list features those albums. However, as you will soon find out, I’m open to almost all genres and I definitely enjoyed my fair share of non-rap albums this year.

Speaking of which… let’s start the list with one of those albums, shall we?

20. Flicker – Niall Horan

The former One Direction member took about 18 months to craft his debut album, which has influences from soft rock bands like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. The most fascinating thing about this album, however, is how different it is from anything Niall Horan has ever done with One Direction. Flicker isn’t an album one can picture being played in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, as shown by Horan playing at smaller venues in his Flicker Sessions tour a couple of months ago. The latter setting fits the sound of the album, which reveals a more personal and vulnerable side of Horan.

Favorite Tracks: “Slow Hands” + “Too Much To Ask” + “You And Me”

19. Acoustic Levitation – Devin the Dude

After more than three years, Houston rapper Devin the Dude elevated his listeners with his ninth studio album. Compared to many younger hip-hop contemporaries on this list, Devin the Dude is very different sonically, incorporating aspects of Bootsy Collins and James Taylor into some of his songs. This is an album where one can separate themselves from all responsibilities and feel uplifted for close to an hour. Whether one does that smoking weed in the Southeast Side of Houston, though, is entirely up to them.

Favorite Tracks: “Are You Goin My Way” + “Acoustic Levitation” + “Do You Love Gettin’ High”

18. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music – 2 Chainz

This is, by far, the best project that Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz has released to date. Sure, it may not contain the comedic value of his breakout album, Based On A T.R.U. Story, but it makes sense that he would dial that persona down. His laid-back delivery and on-point lyrics mesh well with some of the moody trap melodies. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music has depth, as opposed to all three of 2 Chainz’s past projects, and if anything, shows his growth as an artist even at age 40. For all of this success, I hope he does get that song with JAY-Z.

Favorite Tracks: “It’s A Vibe” + “OG Kush Diet” + “Burglar Bars”

17. Boomiverse – Big Boi

One-half of the greatest hip-hop duo of all-time, Atlanta rapper Big Boi is partly responsible for hip-hop’s overall direction over the past two decades. Boomiverse not only took it back to the OutKast days of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, but also sprinkled in elements of electronic and indie music. Like all of his past records, Big Boi touches on a number of subjects, ranging from police brutality to relationships and even women’s rights. But of course, what’s a Big Boi project without Organized Noize as executive producers? Speaking of which, they came out with an excellent EP earlier in the year that I highly recommend checking out.

Favorite Tracks: “Kill Jill” + “All Night” + “Freakanomics”

16. No Dope on Sundays – CyHi the Prynce

Finally! After years of label confusion and industry politics, Georgia rapper CyHi the Prynce dropped his long-awaited debut album under G.O.O.D. Music and Sony Music. No Dope on Sundays is about encouraging men to stay true to themselves, speak for themselves, and live life with more integrity. Raised by strict Baptist parents in Stone Mountain, CyHi the Prynce sheds light on that experience with a lot of biblical references and gospel elements in his songs. He also touches on today’s current climate and offers some advice to those determined to overcome personal demons to become the greatest version of themselves. In short, No Dope on Sundays was well worth the wait.

Favorite Tracks: “No Dope on Sundays” + “Get Yo Money” + “Nu Africa”

15. More Life – Drake

I lied. I actually have one “playlist” on this list.

Canadian rapper and singer Drake created this project to fit the concept of OVO Sound Radio, his record label’s Saturday night Beats 1 radio program that mostly airs newer material. In other words, More Life is basically new songs put together in the format of a radio show. Drake may see it as “the evolution of the mixtape,” but it’s really just new music to keep the ball rolling after Views and keep listeners excited. Mission accomplished.

Favorite Tracks: “Passionfruit” + “Sacrifices” + “Glow”

14. Divide – Ed Sheeran

Unlike Flicker, Divide is an album made for a “Wembley Stadium crowd, 240 thou.” Perhaps English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, the first solo music act to ever headline at Wembley, kept this in mind when crafting this album. This album has beat-driven pop hits, perfect for his signature loop pedal, as well as acoustic stadium anthems that fans will be eager belt out along with him. There’s a strong case for Divide as the most impactful album of 2017. Literally days into the new year, Sheeran released two hit singles that flew to the top of the charts. Since then, he has sold over one million copies in the U.S. alone and even turned one song on the album into a chart-topping duet with Beyoncé. Even as we turn the page to 2018, one can still feel Divide‘s impact on mainstream music today.

Favorite Tracks: “Eraser” + “Shape of You” + “Supermarket Flowers”

13. Fin – Syd

California singer Syd has come a long way from her days in the Los Angeles-based rap crew Odd Future, headlined by artists such Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. Today, Syd is most known for her work as the lead singer of neo-soul side project The Internet. Since the band’s last album in 2015, Syd has ventured out into a solo career and released arguably the lushest and sexiest album of this year. After a few listens, I honestly had to lay down because I felt like I was floating in clouds. In addition, for a gay woman to sing a love song to another woman goes to show how far the music industry, let alone the genre of R&B, has come over the years.

Favorite Tracks: “Got Her Own” + “Dollar Bills” + “Over”

12. Rosecrans – DJ Quik and Problem

It does not get more West Coast then a Compton producer collaborating with a Compton rapper on a project featuring West Coast artists and named after a long California avenue that runs through Compton. DJ Quik honestly has nothing else to prove at this point, and if you don’t believe me, google his production credits. Initially, Rosecrans was an EP that DJ Quik and Problem released back in 2016, but the Compton duo decided to give listeners 58 minutes of West Coast hip-hop at its finest.

Favorite Tracks: “Rosecrans” + “This Is Your Moment” + “Straight to the City”

11. Science Fiction – Brand New

After nearly eight years, Long Island rock band Brand New finally dropped their fifth, and likely last, studio album that expunged all traces of their earlier pop punk and emo persona. The band opted for a more classic rock vibe on Science Fiction that features more apocalyptic string sections. Perhaps the best thing about this album is that it’s not just for Brand New fans – it’s for everyone. The moody guitar tones and convincing lead vocals on the choruses from frontman Jesse Lacey make Science Fiction the best rock album of 2017. Like No Dope on Sundays, this album was well worth the wait.

Favorite Tracks: “Could Never Be Heaven” + “Desert” + “451”

10. HNDRXX – Future

Atlanta rapper Future once said he had six albums and three mixtapes ready to drop at any moment. Even with that in mind, it was still a surprise to see him drop two No. 1 albums in the span of a week. I was not a huge fan of the first project, FUTURE, so I came into HNDRXX with much lower expectations. Not only was I blown away by this project, but at times, I had to ask myself, “Is this really Future?” The Future of the past few years was never this open and personal, and that includes his second studio album titled Honest. There’s a lot of references to his past relationships and children, particularly with R&B singer Ciara and their son. HNDRXX is about Future moving forward and recognizing that he hasn’t been as good of a father as he could have been. It may have taken him a while to come to this realization, but HNDRXX reveals that he’s just not perfect, something that everyone can relate to.

Favorite Tracks: “Lookin Exotic” + “Fresh Air” + “I Thank U”

9. 4:44 – JAY-Z

Like DJ Quik, Brooklyn rapper JAY-Z has nothing else to prove. At this point in his career, if he’s going keep releasing projects, he should make them for him and do it on his terms. That’s exactly what he did on 4:44, the most raw and vulnerable album of his career. Based on some of the lyrics, many believe 4:44 is a direct response to his wife, Beyoncé, and her album, Lemonade, which claimed that he was unfaithful. Though executive producer No I.D. confirmed this wasn’t JAY-Z’s intention, one could tell just by listening to this album that this was about a variety of topics beyond JAY-Z’s family life and relationship with Beyoncé. JAY-Z also touches on ongoing hip-hop culture, stereotypes and racism. These are subjects that JAY-Z has rarely ever talked about in his music, and considering the content on this album, 10 tracks is the perfect length.

Favorite Tracks: “The Story of O.J.” + “4:44” + “Marcy Me”

8. Flower Boy – Tyler, The Creator

Usually known for his witty rhymes, California rapper and Odd Future founder Tyler, the Creator not only abandoned his past humor, but he largely abandoned rapping. Flower Boy features a lot of singing from not just up-and-coming R&B singers, but from Tyler, the Creator himself. Like JAY-Z on 4:44, this is the most vulnerable we’ve ever heard Tyler, the Creator and I think the honesty, combined with the lack of humor, is what made the project such a great listen.

Favorite Tracks: “Who Dat Boy” + “Boredom” + “Glitter”

7. Laila’s Wisdom – Rapsody

After signing with JAY-Z’s Roc Nation last year, North Carolina rapper Rapsody wasted little time in making a name for herself on her second studio album, named after grandmother who would often use the phrase, “Give me my flowers while I can still smell them.” Laila’s Wisdom explores themes such as preserving knowledge, love, confidence and self-doubt. Of course, the greatest thing about Rapsody is that she can hold her own on the mic against anyone, male or female. In a genre dominated by male trap rappers and auto-tune, Laila’s Wisdom was so refreshing to hear.

Favorite Tracks: “Power” + “Black & Ugly” + “You Should Know”

6. 4Eva Is A Mighty Long Time – Big K.R.I.T.

After being on the outskirts of Def Jam for the better part of six years, Big K.R.I.T. opted to leave the label in search of success equal to that of his former counterparts. After a two-year hiatus, the Mississippi rapper dropped a double album that far surpasses anything Def Jam has released this year. The two sides of the album represent his duality, with one side being “Big K.R.I.T.” and the other “Justin Scott,” his birth name. Instead of opting for the clichéd inner tug-of-war between the two sides, Big K.R.I.T. outlines the good, bad and ugly of both characters. He addresses issues about his past depression as well as faith, love, and the value of self-worth. It really is a masterfully crafted southern hip-hop album.

Favorite Tracks: “Big K.R.I.T.” + “Get Up 2 Come Down” + “Keep The devil Off”

5. Rather You Than Me – Rick Ross

I think I speak for everyone when I say that everyone would like obtain riches and/or do big things in life. After all, what’s the point of even looking at yourself in the mirror every morning? I say that to explain why I’ve always been a huge fan and admirer of Florida rapper Rick Ross since he dropped Teflon Don in 2010. Sure, he’s dropped albums, mixtapes, created catchphrases and still possesses an impeccable ear for beats. But the admirable thing about Rozay, a former correctional officer, is that he even reached “Boss” status in the first place. In the context of Rather You Than Me, however, this “Ross the Boss” persona is largely swapped out for a more introspective and thoughtful Rick Ross. Most notably, Rozay pens an open letter to Cash Money founder Birdman, who’s since had falling-outs with close Rozay counterparts Lil Wayne and DJ Khaled. “Ross the Boss” shows up sporadically on this album, but make no mistake – this is truly a Rick Ross album.

Favorite Tracks: “Idols Become Rivals” + “I Think She Like Me” + “Maybach Music V”

4. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

Coming into this album, I kept thinking to myself, “There’s no way Kendrick can follow-up To Pimp A Butterfly, the greatest rap album of this decade.” In other words, I was expecting a slight step back on this next project, and I think was correct for the most part. I don’t think DAMN. is on par with To Pimp A Butterfly, but it was still the best hip-hop album of 2017, which speaks volumes about the Compton rapper. While his last album focused on the idea of changing the world, DAMN. makes it clear that to change the world, one must change who they are as a person. That’s clear by the number of tracks on this album named after human emotions. It’s almost like Kendrick Lamar is looking at himself in the mirror and coming to grips with the good and evil of these emotions. DAMN. is another brilliant addition to the already renowned discography of Kendrick Lamar.

Favorite Tracks: “DNA.” + “LOVE.” + “FEAR.”

3. Melodrama – Lorde

It’s easy to forget that New Zeland singer-songwriter Lorde was just 16-years-old when she dropped her debut single and smash hit “Royals.” Since then, she’s performed concerts all around the world, she’s befriended Taylor Swift, helped inducted Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and paid tribute to David Bowie, who proclaimed her as “the future of music.” Melodrama all but confirmed Bowie’s sentiment and saw Lorde transform from teenage songwriter into millennial icon. She recounts her relatively recent experiences with fame, particularly through her friends and their interactions. Much like a house party, Melodrama goes through intoxicating highs and sinking lows, perfectly encapsulating the intense and wild energy of her generation. What’s even more impressive, however, is a 20-year-old implementing songwriting elements of 70’s and 80’s singers such as Paul Simon, Phil Collins and Don Henley. In other words, Lorde didn’t entirely concede to that mainstream dance pop or rock sound, especially on some of the slower tracks. If Lorde can continue to write like this and mature as an artist, the sky is the limit.

Favorite Tracks: “Green Light” + “Liability” + “Supercut”

2. Ctrl – SZA

New Jersey singer SZA was stealing beats off the internet and recording music in her friend’s closet before signing with Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment label in 2013. After an EP in 2014 and many delays for the release of her debut album, she dropped one of the best albums of 2017, something that seemed impossible just a few years earlier. SZA had to watch three of her boyfriends die and also overcame suicidal depression, all of which led her to re-gain and build a form of self-acceptance that led to Ctrl. The chill and moody production is a stark contrast to its edgy lyrics and SZA’s charismatic, fierce tone. Even in songs about vaginas and being a side chick, SZA exemplifies swagger and finally finds a sense of “ctrl,” a concept that she has craved, yet lacked her entire life.

Favorite Tracks: “Love Galore” + “Doves in the Wind” + “20 Something”

1. Tuxedo II – Tuxedo

I mentioned in my last post about my love for this album, so allow me to now explain why this album is so brilliant. First off, funk and R&B are my favorite genres, despite the heavy hip-hop slant of this entire list. Unfortunately, the number of funk/R&B acts has dwindled tremendously over the years. As a result, I’ve often found myself returning to 70’s and 80’s funk acts like the Gap Band and Zapp, in addition to g-funk legends like Dr. Dre, the previously aforementioned DJ Quik, and Nate Dogg. Tuxedo, composed of soul singer Mayer Hawthorne and hip-hop producer Jake One, do a tremendous job of melding these two eras of funk together on Tuxedo II. Not only did they get former Zapp drummer Lester Troutman to help produce the album, but they also got g-funk legend Snoop Dogg to appear on the album’s opener. It’s almost like Tuxedo were sent to the future to remind everyone about the importance of getting down and the impact of funk music. Tuxedo II is just brilliant.

Favorite Tracks: “Rotational” + “Shine” + “July”

TSR’s Analysis of the 60th Annual Grammy Award Nominations

I don’t care who or what wins a Grammy Award. You should not either, at least in my opinion.

Since its start in 1957, the Grammy Awards have ignored countless artists and records. Not to mention, there’s also a bunch of industry politics that go into why the Academy votes the way they do.

Personally, I don’t understand why people get so angry when their favorite artist or record does not win an award. The Academy has made ridiculous decisions year after year. Why should we expect anything different from them in 2018?

Of course, the most recent example of pointless Grammy outrage came last year when Beyoncé’s Lemonade lost to Adele’s 25 in the Album of the Year category. Everyone should have seen that coming, but really… who cares?

Tuxedo’s Tuxedo II, released back in April, is one of my favorite albums of all-time. It did not come anywhere close to getting nominated for a Grammy Award. Will that ruin my love for the album? HELL NO!

And I would imagine last year’s “snub” has not sullied anyone’s admiration or love for Lemonade. If you think it’s a “classic” album and you know the Academy has a history of ridiculous decisions, then what’s the point of getting worked up?

Regardless, I still find it interesting what the Academy thinks of the music that has come out over the course of a year. Remember, this year’s Grammy calendar runs from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017, so that’s why you’ll see some albums and songs from 2016 in the field of nominees.

So I will go through the categories that interest me and offer some random thoughts on the records or tracks nominated. Again, I really don’t care who wins, but it’s still interesting to see what the Academy thinks is some of the best music of the past year. So let’s get started, shall we?



Redbone – Childish Gambino
Despacito – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
The Story of O.J. – JAY-Z
HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
24K Magic – Bruno Mars

The only track I was not a huge fan of was “Redbone,” and I’ll explain why in the next category. “Despacito” and “24K Magic” are the mainstream choices, so I would think those two are the front-runners. That being said, “HUMBLE.” and “The Story of O.J.” are fantastic songs as well.


Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino
4:44 – JAY–Z
DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Melodrama – Lorde
24K Magic – Bruno Mars

Again, the only album I was not a fan of was Awaken, My Love!, but some proper context to explain why this album has received so much acclaim:

Awaken, My Love! is straight mimicry of Parliament-Funkadelic (specifically Funkadelic), a funk/soul/rock collective from the 70s. As a fan of their music, I can’t help but think of them every time I hear “Redbone” or any other song off the album. Now, of course it’s unfair to compare Childish Gambino to Funkadelic, but that just goes to show how similar in sound Awaken, My Love! is to any one of Funkadelic’s records. On top of that, how many people under the age of 30 have even listened to a Funkadelic record? My guess is very few, which is why you’ll likely find so many people enamored with this album, even though it’s nothing really creative or original.

As for the other four albums, I thought 24K Magic was decent, though it lacks substance. 4:44 and DAMN. are great, but neither album is JAY-Z nor Kendrick’s best work. So that leaves Melodrama, which is… wait for it… my favorite album of the nominees.

I think Melodrama is dynamic and brilliantly written, especially considering that Lorde began writing this when she was 17-years-old! Having just turned 21 last month, the sky is the limit for the young New Zealand singer. And again… I don’t care who wins, but I also love pointless anger, and there will be lots of it if Lorde wins Album of the Year. Book it.


Despacito – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
4:44 – JAY–Z
Issues – Julia Michaels
1-800-273-8255 – Logic Featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid
That’s What I Like – Bruno Mars

Unlike Record of the Year, which recognizes performers and producers, Song of the Year only recognizes the composer(s) of a song. That same criteria applies for all the “Best (blank) Song” categories below.

I’ve never heard of “Issues” or Julia Michaels, so I’ll pass…

I was not a huge fan of “1-800-273-8255,” but I see the appeal of the song. Like Record of the Year, “Despacito” and Bruno Mars are the mainstream choices. “4:44” is a solid song as well.


Alessia Cara
Lil Uzi Vert
Julia Michaels

Again, never heard of Julia Michaels…

The Alessia Cara nomination confused me for two reasons: 1) her biggest song, “Here,” and debut album, Know-It-All, were both released in 2015, so she’s not exactly “new” to the “public consciousness”; and 2) she was not active over the past year.

The only three songs she has done over the past year are “How Far I’ll Go” on the Moana Soundtrack, a feature on Logic’s “1-800-273-8255,” and a collaboration on Zedd’s “Stay.” According to the criteria for this award, I guess these three songs “notably impacted the musical landscape.” Whatever that means..

However, I can perfectly understand the other three nominations. Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert and SZA all not only had high-profile features and singles, but debut albums to go with their mainstream success. I did not listen to Khalid’s American Teen and did not enjoy Lil Uzi Vert’s Luv is Rage 2, but I really enjoyed SZA’s Ctrl. NJ represent!



Love So Soft – Kelly Clarkson
Praying – Kesha
Million Reasons – Lady Gaga
What About Us – P!nk
Shape of You – Ed Sheeran

The only song that has had any replay value for me is “Shape of You.”


Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
Despacito – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
Thunder – Imagine Dragons
Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man
Stay – Zedd & Alessia Cara

I do enjoy “Stay” as well as “Feel It Still,” though I’m still shocked that the song has done has well as it has.

I yawn at the thought of “The Chainsmokers & Coldplay” and Imagine Dragons…


Kaleidoscope EP – Coldplay
Lust For Life – Lana Del Rey
Evolve – Imagine Dragons
Rainbow – Kesha
Joanne – Lady Gaga
Divide – Ed Sheeran

Yes, that’s right. One of the nominees here is a five-song EP. Great job, Recording Academy!

I did not listen to Evolve, so withdrawing from that conversation…

I never really got on board with Lust for Life, Rainbow or Joanne, though there were a few good tracks among the three records. Again, the only album I found myself re-visiting was Divide, which I believe is Ed Sheeran’s best album to date.



Everything Now – Arcade Fire
Humanz – Gorillaz
American Dream – LCD Soundsystem
Pure Comedy – Father John Misty
Sleep Well Beast – The National

I was only able to listen to three of the five records nominated here – Everything Now, Humanz and American Dream. Much to my disappointment, all three albums were underwhelming. However, I have heard great reviews about Pure Comedy and Sleep Well Beast, so I will be adding those records to my list.



First Began – PJ Morton
Location – Khalid
Redbone – Childish Gambino
Supermodel – SZA
That’s What I Like – Bruno Mars

Your fun fact for the day? PJ Morton is a keyboardist for Maroon 5. The more you know…

“That’s What I Like” was one of my favorite songs off 24K Magic and, much to my surprise, became a bigger song than “24K Magic.” As for the other two tracks, “Supermodel” was not one of my favorites off Ctrl, but I really enjoyed “Location,” the lead single off American Teen.


Free 6LACK – 6LACK
Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino
American Teen – Khalid
Ctrl – SZA
Starboy – The Weeknd

Did not listen to Free 6LACK

The only album here I haven’t discussed yet is Starboy. Outside of the main singles and the one song featuring Kendrick Lamar, I was very underwhelmed by this project, as I often find myself feeling when I listen to an album by The Weeknd.



Bounce Back – Big Sean
Bodak Yellow – Cardi B
4:44 – JAY-Z
HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
Bad and Boujee – Migos Featuring Lil Uzi Vert

This is a loaded field, featuring three huge No. 1 singles (“Bodak Yellow”, “HUMBLE.”, “Bad and Boujee”). It did take me a while to come around on “Bad and Boujee,” mostly because I saw it as a “meme” song thanks to the “rain drop, drop top” intro. But honestly, I enjoy all five of these songs. How awesome would it be to see artists like Cardi B or Migos walk away with a Grammy Award?


Crew – Goldlink Featuring Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy
Family Feud – JAY-Z Featuring Beyoncé
LOYALTY. – Kendrick Lamar Featuring Rihanna
Love Galore – SZA Featuring Travis Scott

*skips 6LACK*

Interestingly enough, I did not enjoy the JAY-Z or Kendrick Lamar tracks as much as I did the Goldlink and SZA songs. I think “Crew” is the best radio-friendly rap song of 2017, and “Love Galore” is not only one of my favorite songs off Ctrl, but it’s one of Travis Scott’s best features.


Bodak Yellow – Cardi B
Chase Me – Danger Mouse Featuring Run the Jewels & Big Boi
HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
Sassy – Rapsody
The Story of O.J. – JAY-Z

I was very happy that Run the Jewels, the best rap duo in the world at the moment, and Big Boi, one-half of the greatest rap duo of all-time, received Grammy nominations. Though I wasn’t a fan of “Sassy,” I’m also very happy that Rapsody received a nomination. Speaking of which…


4:44 – JAY-Z
DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Culture – Migos
Laila’s Wisdom – Rapsody
Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator

…I think Rapsody has the second-best album of the five nominated. Seriously, I cannot recommend Laila’s Wisdom enough.

Like “Bad and Boujee,” it did take me a while to come around to Culture, but in no way does it measure up to its counterparts. As for the Tyler, the Creator, I’m happy to see him get some recognition, though it’s worth noting that Flower Boy is probably his most relatable and listener-friendly record.


Again, even if you disagree with my opinions on some of these records and songs, it’s pointless to get worked up. After all, it is just my opinion.

Anyway, the 60th Annual Grammy Awards will be held on January 28 and broadcasted by CBS live from Madison Square Garden in New York City from 7:30 to 11:30 PM ET. So make sure to mark you calendars for the big event!

The PERFECT Holiday Music Playlist

Creating the perfect holiday music playlist sounds a lot harder than you think.

One must find a way to entertain everyone at their family’s holiday gathering, from adults to children. In 2017, it isn’t as simple as dusting off an old holiday CD or turning on your local radio station or even making a mix CD of your favorite holiday classics.

Thank goodness for platforms for Spotify, which offers an enormous catalog of songs to choose from, but in a way, it kind of puts more pressure on one to create the “perfect holiday music playlist.”

Sure, Spotify and other platforms attempt to help us out by creating their own playlists based on different generations and genres. But relying solely on one of those playlists would be very tacky, and being that family knows you better than anyone, they’ll be able to tell that the playlist is pre-packaged.

So make your own playlist, and more importantly, make it from the heart.

But thankfully, I already did it for you! Think of it as my Christmas gift to all of you.

Using the magical platform of Spotify, I created “the prefect holiday playlist,” containing 126 DIFFERENT holiday tunes from wide range of artists, generations and genres. Below are some of the songs featured on the playlist, with YouTube links to go with them. Think of it as a little preview of what to expect on this playlist.

All I Want for Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

Of course, what’s a holiday playlist without the biggest holiday song?

Last Christmas – Wham!

I miss George Michael.

Hallelujah – Pentatonix

The best rendition of “Hallelujah” in the history of music. Then again, that’s probably the “millennial” in me talking. Plenty more Pentatonix to come…

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo – Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The little girl in the video is me every time I listen to this song.

Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix

But DID YOU KNOW beatboxers can sing?

Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra

This is beautiful in every single way imaginable.

Underneath the Tree – Kelly Clarkson

Just to make you feel old… it’s been 15 years since Kelly Clarkson won American Idol.

Mistletoe – Justin Bieber

For the kiddies… and because we definitely say “shawty” before kissing someone under the mistletoe, right?

Baby It’s Cold Outside – Idina Menzel, Michael Bublé

Gods, I love this music video.

Santa’s Coming For Us – Sia

Whatever that means..

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays – *NSYNC

Yes, that’s Gary Coleman.

Step Into Christmas – Elton John

Young Elton John!

That’s Christmas to Me – Pentatonix


Amazing Grace – Peter Hollens, Home Free

A capella territory…

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Home Free

Gods, I love this music video too.

Angels We Have Heard On High – Home Free

7.7 million views, if you were curious…

Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday – William Bell

One of many R&B/soul holiday songs on the playlist

Player’s Ball – OutKast

[WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS] Depending on your family gathering, you may want to skip over this song. Then again… why would you skip over OutKast?

A Saints Christmas – Kermit Ruffins

I’m sure the Superdome will be blasting this song on Christmas Eve when the Saints play the Falcons.

What Christmas Means To Me – Stevie Wonder

God bless Stevie Wonder.

Little Drummer Boy – Pentatonix

They’re back… and get used to them.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Pentatonix

Reminder: no musical instruments.

The First Noel – Pentatonix

Starting to run out of words…

O Come, All Ye Faithful – Pentatonix

… really, I am.

Coldest Winter – Kanye West

Whether intentional or not, Kanye West made a song for the holidays… I think?

How Great Thou Art – Pentatonix, Jennifer Hudson

Even Jennifer Hudson is on board…

Away In A Manger – Pentatonix

Once again… superstars.

Cold December Night – Michael Bublé

Our modern-day Frank Sinatra.

Below is the link to the full six-hour, fifty-six-minute playlist. If you’d like, you can find me on Spotify (dshin131) and check out my other playlists as well. Let me know if I left out/missed any songs or accidentally repeated any songs.

Oh, and most importantly: HIT SHUFFLE!

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!

TSR’s 2017-2018 NHL Predictions

I never really followed hockey that closely until last season.

That being said, my “team” since 2007 has been the Chicago Blackhawks because of Patrick Kane. I cheered during those Stanley Cup victories in 2010, 2013 and 2015, but I never really had a close connection with the team for the simple reason that I never really connected with the sport of hockey.

Well, after spending a year on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia, I soon realized that in a town riddled with St. Louis Blues and fellow Blackhawks fans (Columbia, MO is about a six-hour drive to CHI), it would be wise to have some knowledge of my team as well as the rest of the league. So I started tracking the NHL last season, and through daily highlights, Twitter, and a bunch of written pieces, I can now say that I can talk about hockey with a lot more confidence.

So with that being said, I thought it would be a good idea to have a crack at predicting the upcoming 2017-2018 NHL season. I mean, why not? I’d like to think as a relatively new NHL “fan,” I offer a fresh perspective on some of these teams. Either that, or I’m just way off and should probably just stick to sports that are not hockey.

Anyway, let’s do it!

The Buffalo Sabres will be better than you think.

The Sabres intrigued me right away, though I’m willing to admit it was mostly because of the greatness of Rick Jeanneret.

It’s not like the Sabres lacked quality talent last season. In just 61 games, Jack Eichel led the team in points (57), Evander Kane upped his point total for a third straight season, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo remained reliable, Rasmus Ristolainen took another step forward and was arguably the Sabres’ best player over the course of the entire season, and Robin Lehner was a top-five goaltender.

There were rumors and whispers that Eichel and former head Dan Bylsma did not see eye-to-eye on things. Eichel clarified the comments, but the Sabres still fired Bylsma and general manger Tim Murray. With former Nashville Predators assistant Phil Housley now behind the bench, I expect both Eichel and Ristolainen to take another step forward and possibly enter the upper level of players within their respective positions. Combine that with the addition of Nathan Beaulieu and the return of former captain Jason Pominville, and the Sabres should make a run at a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

If Steven Stamkos stays healthy, the Tampa Bay Lightning will make the playoffs.

The last time Stamkos played 82 games in a season was the 2014-2015 season. The Lightning reached the Stanley Cup Finals. He played 77 games the following season. The Lightning returned to the Eastern Conference Finals.

So one can probably guess what happened when Stamkos played in just 17 games last season due to a torn meniscus in his right knee. The Lightning missed the playoffs.

By just one point, though.

The injury history of Stamkos is well-documented, so of course there’s cause for concern going forward. But it’s worth noting that in the 17 games he did play in last season, he put up 20 points. If Stamkos continued that pace for the rest of the season, he would have put up 96 points, which would have been one point off his career-high.

Stamkos still possesses the talent. It’s all a matter of whether he can stay healthy over the course of an entire season. If so, the Lightning are a lock for the playoffs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will miss the playoffs…

If you haven’t done so already, now you’re certainly questioning my hockey knowledge, or lack thereof. As outrageous as that statement is to you, I ask you to please hear me out.

The Penguins are have won the Stanley Cup title the past two seasons. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz were fantastic last season. Ian Cole, Patric Hornqvist and Phil Kessel are great role players.

But beyond those six players, who else provides any sort of confidence? Jake Guentzel, Carl Hagelin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Greg McKegg, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary all missed time last season due to injury. Not to mention, goaltender Matt Murray is still young and has never been a clear-cut number one goaltender in his career.

Combine that with the losses of Marc-Andre Fleury, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Ron Hainsey, Matt Cullen and Mark Streit, and the Penguins lack quality depth should some of those injured players from last season go down again. The pickups of Matt Hunwick and Ryan Reaves were decent, but I don’t think it was enough.

I am willing to admit that if everyone stay healthy, the Penguins are probably the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. However, I cannot place any sort of confidence in a team that not only has injury history, but a lack of proven depth and goaltending. Even if that team does have Crosby and Malkin.

…and so will the Ottawa Senators.

Hopefully, this one isn’t too outrageous.

As opposed to their opponents in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals (the Penguins), the Senators do not lack depth up front. However, they do lack a Crosby/Malkin-like player in addition to a consistent goaltender. To make matters worse, the Senators could start the season without star defenseman Erik Karlsson after the captain underwent foot surgery in the offseason.

First off, should the Senators even miss Karlsson for an extended amount of time during the season, they can kiss their playoff chances goodbye. But even assuming he does stay healthy, it’s worth asking if they have another player, particularly on offense, who can step up to Karlsson’s level and put up 70-80 points. In other words, can Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Kyle Turris take another step forward, or have they peaked? Also, if Karlsson does miss time, can a defenseman such as Dion Phaneuf step up and replace Karlsson’s production?

Despite those question marks, the biggest question mark for the Senators is in net, specifically with 36-year-old goaltender Craig Anderson. Does he have another quality season left in the tank? Remember, he got yanked from net multiple times last season before big performances in Games 6 and 7 of the Conference Finals. If those struggles with “Father Time” carry over into this season, the Senators can (again) kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.

Overall, there’s just too many question marks in Ottawa and, as opposed to the Penguins, not enough top-of-the-line talent to shrug off those concerns. In other words, the Senators can’t say, “Despite our weaknesses in some areas, at least we have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin!”

The New York Islanders will make the playoffs…

Like the Lightning, the Islanders also missed the playoffs by just one point. What hampered this team last season was its slow start to the season, and in the Metropolitan division, that can prove very costly. They did go on a run in January and went undefeated in the month of April under interim head coach Doug Weight, but it was not enough.

The Islanders certainly have the offensive talent to compete for a playoff spot. Josh Bailey, new addition Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee and star captain John Tavares all eclipsed the 50-point mark last season.

Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Tavares, as he enters the last year of his contract. One would think a team would have signed a player like Tavares to a long-term extension at this point, but to no avail. Again, we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, as for the defense, the Islanders will be fine with players like Johnny Boychuk, Calvin De Haan, Nick Leddy and Dennis Seidenberg manning the backline. As for the net, goaltenders Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak struggled at times last season, so that could be the one big weakness of this team.

But I just think this team is too good offensively to miss out for a second straight season. I think Tavares will get his contract extension done early in the season, and the Islanders will grab one of the two Wild Card Spots in the East.

…and so will the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes now own the longest playoff drought in the NHL at eight seasons. However, they did finish with 87 points last season, which was within eight points of the last Wild Card spot. Watching this team last season, one could sense that they are close to ending that drought, so what they do in the offseason? Bring in a bunch of former champions.

I think the signing of three-time champion Justin Williams (Happy 36th Birthday TODAY!), a member of the 2006 Hurricanes team that won the Stanley Cup, was absolutely brilliant. He showed that he can still produce last season, putting up 48 points with the Washington Capitals. Williams will offer leadership for an attack that features young rising stars such as Sebastian Aho, Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner and Teuvo Teravainen.

Like the Islanders, Carolina’s biggest question mark will be in net, specifically with new goaltender Scott Darling. For the past three seasons, he was Corey Crawford’s backup with the Chicago Blackhawks, but after the Hurricanes traded for him in the offseason, they clearly think he has what it takes to become a starting goaltender. He certainly showed flashes of potential in Chicago, but we’ll see if he can become a consistent starter. If not, the Hurricanes have a more-than-serviceable backup in Cam Ward, who was the Hurricanes No. 1 netminder last season.

The Hurricanes will be fine on defense with Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin leading the way. With former champions and rising stars, the Hurricanes have everything in place to end their dreaded playoff drought.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Eastern Conference.

The Maple Leafs are so stacked that Nazem Kadri, who put up 61 points last season, may start on the third line. Not only that, but he will likely be playing with new signing Patrick Marleau, a veteran who tallied 46 points at age 37 for the San Jose Sharks last season. That speaks volumes to the talent and youth on the first two lines. I mean, where do I even begin?

Tyler Bozak, Kadri and James Van Riemsdyk set career-highs in points last season, but the heart of the Maple Leafs is the trio of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander. All three surpassed the 60-point mark last season and will only get better with time. If “MNM” stick together, the Maple Leafs will have multiple Stanley Cups within the next five years. Book it.

Now, the one weakness of this team is on defense, specifically in front of Frederik Anderson, who was one of the best goaltenders in the league last season. Except for Jake Gardiner and new signing Ron Hainsey, a member of last season’s Pittsburgh Penguins championship squad, the defensemen do not inspire much confidence. Young players such as Connor Barrick, Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev will need to step up for the Maple Leafs to fulfill their sky-high expectations this season.

Those sky-high expectations are well-earned. That’s why Marleau’s presence will be so important to “MNM’s” development this season, especially come the playoffs. The Maple Leafs have what it takes to go all the way, and I believe they will.

The Colorado Avalanche are (still) the worst team in the NHL.

Gods, this team is awful.

On top of their lack of talent, there are still trade rumors surrounding Matt Duchene. A bunch of contending teams would love to add another player of that caliber, so we’ll see what happens.

Nathan MacKinnon may very well be a star in the making, but I don’t know if he can be the best player on an aspiring playoff team, let alone the Colorado Avalanche. Speaking of which…

The St. Louis Blues will throw away this season.

Being in Missouri for two years, I certainly have learned a lot about Blues hockey.

At full strength, the Blues are a Stanley Cup contender. The problem? They’re not at full strength.

Patrik Berglund is out until December after offseason shoulder surgery, Jay Bouwmeester is out for the first few weeks with a fractured ankle and Alexander Steen is out for the month of October due to a broken hand. Those three players are not just instrumental to the Blues’ success going forward, but they played huge roles in the Blues’ past playoff success. With those health questions up in the air combined with a lack of quality depth, #itsawrap for the Blues.

The Dallas Stars will rebound and make the playoffs.

The Stars had the best record in the Western Conference in 2015-2016, and were some experts’ pick to win the Stanley Cup before last season. Fast forward six months, and the Stars were sixth in the Central Division with just 79 points, a 30-point decrease from the previous season.

Sure, a lot of the players from that successful season took a step back, but I think most of the blame fell on the defense, specifically the disastrous goalie tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. The Stars let in the second-most goals in the NHL last season, so what they do to fix the defense?

Well, first they hired an experienced, defensive-minded head coach in Ken Hitchcock. Next, they went out and acquired a true No. 1 goaltender with Stanley Cup Finals experience in the 6-foot-7 Ben Bishop, as well as veteran defenseman Marc Methot from the Montreal Canadiens. Those three moves, along with John Klingberg, should improve a Stars backline that honestly can’t get any worse after last season.

Combine that with the front line of captain Jamie Benn, new addition Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin, and the Stars should return to their winning ways this season.

The Chicago Blackhawks could run into some trouble.

It pains me to say this as a fellow Blackhawks fan.

Chicago’s top line of Richard Panik, Brandon Saad, a former Stanley Cup champion who returns to Chicago after two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and captain Jonathan Toews will be as good as ever.

The questions come with Patrick Kane’s second line, specifically someone who can fill the shoes left by Artemi Panarin, who was part of the deal that sent Saad back to Chicago. Patrick Sharp, another former champion who returns after two seasons in Dallas, is 36-years-old and coming off a hip injury that cut his season short. In addition, Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat are still young and relatively unproven as second-line players. I think the Blackhawks will have trouble replacing Panarin’s 74 points last season.

As for the defense, Duncan Keith is still an elite defenseman and Brent Seabrook is still capable of a key role. Once again, it’s the second-line that raises some concerns. The newly acquired Connor Murphy showed some flashes during his time with the Arizona Coyotes, but is still just 24-years-old and lacks big-game experience. Outside of those three players, it’s up in the air as to who will step up into the top four.

The Blackhawks will still make the playoffs. I mean, come on now… let’s not get too crazy. That being said, I would not be surprised if it comes in the form of a wild card spot.

The Pacific Division will not change much.

I won’t spend much time on this one.

The top four teams in the Pacific last season, in order, were the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames. I still believe those are the four teams that will make the playoffs from this division. The order will differ, however. I think it will go Edmonton, Calgary, Anaheim and then San Jose.

In other words, don’t expect those Vegas Golden Knights to pull off the miracle and make the playoffs in their first NHL season.

So now that I’ve gone through the entire league, what team have I yet to touch on that could hoist the Stanley Cup?

Washington? Columbus? Nashville?


The Minnesota Wild will win the Stanley Cup!

I actually feel pretty confident about this pick because I truly believe the Wild have the best roster, top to bottom, in the NHL. Let’s break it down:


Charlie Coyle is 25 and coming off a 50-point season.
24-year-old Mikael Granlund emerged as a rising star last season, tallying 69 points.
Captain Mikko Koivu is also coming off a 50-point season.
Nino Niederreiter, another 24-year-old, is coming of his most productive season (57 points).
Eric Stall put up the second-most points (65) on the team in his first season in Minnesota.
25-year-old Jason Zucker took a huge step forward and is entering his prime.


Goaltender Devan Dubnyk was arguably the best goaltender in hockey last season.
23-year-old Mathew Dumba took another step forward last season.
Jared Spurgeon is coming off the best season of his career and looking to enter the upper level of NHL defenseman.
Ryan Suter, the best player on the Wild last season, is already an elite defenseman.
Jonas Brodin and Kyle Quincey are more-than-serviceable defenseman and had decent seasons last year.

Not including Zach Parise, who will miss the start of the season due to a back injury, right there are 12 players who figure to play a key role for the Wild this season. I think the Wild’s Stanley Cup chances will ultimately come down to whether Dubnyk can repeat his elite season last year. If so, #itsawrap in the Western Conference.

Obviously, there are others that will have key roles, but the point is that barring multiple injuries to key players, this team has the depth and talent to win the 2017-2018 Stanley Cup.

2017-2018 STANLEY CUP FINALS PREDICTION: Wild over Maple Leafs in seven games

The World Needs a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl

January 26, 1997. Superdome. New Orleans. Super Bowl XXXI.

Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21.

Most people remember Super Bowl XXXI as Brett Favre’s only Super Bowl win of his Hall-of-Fame career, but this was also the closest Drew Bledsoe would come to leading his team to a Super Bowl win.

Over the next twenty years, events occurred that led to the downfall of both quarterbacks. Bledsoe went down with a life-threatning injury in the second game of the 2001 season, and never started another game for the Patriots. As for Favre, he led the Packers to another Super Bowl appearance in 1998, but fell to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. He never made it back to the big stage over his last eight seasons as a member of the Packers.

But the downfall of two great quarterbacks led to the rise of two legendary quarterbacks.

Tom Brady, a 23-year-old sixth-round pick out of the University of Michigan, took over for the injured Bledsoe and just a few months later, led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title in franchise history. Over the next fifteen years, Brady would go on to win four more Super Bowls, as well as three more Super Bowl MVPs and two League MVPs. Some have already dubbed him as the “greatest of all-time.”

Aaron Rodgers, a 21-year-old first-round pick out of the University of California-Berkley, had to wait three seasons before becoming the starting quarterback of the Packers. But like Brady, once Rodgers took over, he never looked back. In his third season as the starter, Rodgers led the Packers to their first Super Bowl title since Super Bowl XXXI. Like his predecessor, Rodgers was also named Super Bowl MVP. Since then Rodgers has won two League MVPs and a number of NFL records, including the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history. Today, at age 33, he is the best quarterback in the NFL.

Many forget that a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl could have happened in two of the last three seasons. Had it not been for the Seahawks in 2015 or Atlanta Falcons last season, we would have already seen this matchup on the biggest stage. So to teams like the Seahawks, the Falcons, the Dallas Cowboys, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and many other contending teams… please do not get in the way of football poetry.

The world needs a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl, and they need it now.

Brady is 40-years-old, and while he has said that he wants to play another three to five more seasons, father time ultimately catches up to everyone. Who knows, it may catch up to him this season. Not to mention, Rodgers will be 34 in December. The point is that the clock is ticking.

Rodgers is 1-1 against the Patriots in his career, but it’s worth noting that the one loss came in 2006, when he stepped in for an injured Favre. He went 4-of-12 passing for just 33 yards, and the Patriots won the game 35-0.

The first “real” matchup between Brady and Rodgers took place in 2014. Both quarterbacks had similar stats: Brady went 22-of-35 passing for 245 yards and two touchdowns, while Rodgers went 24-of-38 passing for 368 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers won the game, 26-21. So one can look at a potential Packers-Patriots Super Bowl matchup as a rubber match or “Brady’s revenge game.”

Either way, everybody wins.

The NFL wins. They get to market this Super Bowl around two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Not to mention, viewership records will surely shatter once again.

The media wins. Can you imagine the field day they will have with this matchup?

The players win, for obvious reasons.

But most important, the fans win. Any fan who would not want to see Brady vs. Rodgers in the Super Bowl is not a true football fan.

Two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Two No. 12s. Two historic, successful franchises. Two deep-rooted, passionate fan bases.

So go ahead, and cheer on your respective teams this season. Just be aware that they will likely be interfering with poetry in the making.

2017/2018 English Premier League Preview

The 2017/2018 English Premier League season kicks off today! From the south coast, to Wales, to Merseyside, to the Northwest, to the Northeast, to the Midlands, to the capital of England, and even to Yorkshire, 20 clubs will compete for one of football’s greatest prizes.

Who will come out on top? Here is a breakdown of all twenty clubs.


Arsenal supporters believe that their team should contend for the Premier League title every season. However, the Gunners have not won the title since 2003/2004 and finished outside of the top four last season for the first time under manager Arsene Wenger. Provided he can get a strong enough squad to work with, Wenger can definitely get Arsenal back into the title race.

The potential title hopes would all but evaporate if the transfer rumors surrounding Alexis Sánchez are true. The Chilean forward has been, by far, the club’s best player since arriving in 2014/2015. The Gunners must do everything they can to keep Sánchez and avoid taking a tremendous step in the wrong direction.

They did bring in striker Alexandre Lacazette to become the main goal scorer. Every Premier League title contender needs a player who can put up 20 or more goals in a season, and Lacazette has the potential to do that right away.

But even if Arsenal were to keep Sánchez and get 20 goals from Lacazette, it will still be tough to contend for the title considering the improvements made by both Manchester clubs and Liverpool as well. If Arsenal miss out on the top four again, Wenger will likely be shown the door.


After a top-half finish in just their second Premier League season, Bournemouth have proved that they truly belong in the top flight.

Instead of quantity, manager Eddie Howe opted for quality in the transfer window. The Cherries made permanent moves for Chelsea’s Nathan Ake, who enjoyed a successful loan spell with the club last season, and Asmir Begovic. Bournemouth also brought back Jermaine Defoe, who led Sunderland in scoring in the last two seasons. The 34-year-old striker also scored 10 goals in 10 games for the Cherries back in 2000/2001. One of his teammates from that team? Eddie Howe.

Bournemouth forged a successful attack last season, but struggled at times on defense. With Manchester City and Arsenal looming in their first four matches, the Cherries will find out how much help they still need at the back.


Brighton are back in England’s top flight for the first time in 34 years after knocking on the door of the Premier League in four of the last five seasons, and what a journey it has been for the Seagulls.

In 1996/1997, Brighton needed one point against Hereford to stay in the Football League. They did get the draw, but unfortunately, the sale of the Goldstone Ground in Hove meant that the Seagulls would be forced to play their home matches 70 miles away at the grounds of Gillingham. After two seasons, Brighton returned home to play at Withdean Stadium, an old athletic complex with a 8,850-seat capacity. In October 2005, the supporters and board of directors received planning permission to build the now-30,750 seat Falmer Stadium, a.k.a the Amex, which opened in December 2011.

As for squad, manager Chris Hughton has done a fantastic job of building a team that plays together. However, they will likely be underdogs in almost every match simply because of the talent gap and lack of Premier League experience. While avoiding relegation is the goal, both players and supporters should take everything in and just enjoy this season.

The battle has just begun, but Brighton have already won the war.


Burnley, led by manager Sean Dyche, defied expectations and avoided relegation for the first time in club history. They picked up 33 of their 40 points at their home venue of Turf Moor, a foundation the Clarets will need to build on to stay in the Premier League.

With defender Michael Keane sold to Everton in the summer, Burnley have brought in Phil Bardsley, Charlie Taylor, and Jack Cork as defensive reinforcements. Striker Jonathan Walters should also offer firepower to an attack that scored just 39 goals last season. But even with those additions, Dyche’s squad is only at 25 players, so more additions are likely.


After their 3-0 loss at Arsenal in late September, no one expected Chelsea to then rip off 13 straight wins. After that loss, the Blues did not drop points in consecutive matches for the rest of the season and clinched the Premier League title with two matches remaining.

The squad is still loaded with talent at every position and made some great signings in summer, such as striker Alvaro Morata. In 26 league appearances for Real Madrid, the 24-year-old scored 15 goals, the second-most of any player on the club. It will be interesting to see how he copes to the Premier League. The quicker he can adapt, the better it will be for the entire team.

With that being said, losing Diego Costa, who is spending time in Brazil at the moment, will be a huge blow for Chelsea. On top of Eden Hazard’s ankle injury that will keep him out for a few weeks, Chelsea have some big holes to fill in their starting XI right away. In the meantime, players like Michy Batshuayi, Pedro and Willian will need to step up.

Chelsea are the defending champions. The pressure will be on to show that they can do it again.


Crystal Palace secured Premier League safety last season thanks to Sam Allardyce, but his resignation just two days after the season threw the club into turmoil. To replace him, chairman Steve Parish opted for Frank de Boer, who won the Dutch League title four years in a row at Ajax. However, his most recent spell at Inter Milan lasted just 85 days.

As just the second foreigner ever to manage Crystal Palace, de Boer has looked to bring a more international flair to the pitch. However, attempts to play a more attractive style last season ultimately ended in a relegation battle and Alan Pardew’s sacking in December. Expect de Boer to carry out a more pragmatic approach to gradual improvement, as opposed to constantly switching the styles of football and going from zero to one hundred in a short time span.

de Boer’s early transfer activity was especially revealing. Chelsea’s 21-year-old loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek and 20-year-old star Dutch defender Jairo Riedewald are both young players that de Boer can shape to fit his style of football.


Everton’s seventh-place finished under manager Ronald Koeman suggests that the club on the rise. There is no denying that the loss of prolific striker Romelu Lukaku was a huge blow, but that void was filled by seven new signings, headlined by the return of Wayne Rooney.

Last season’s reliance on Lukaku was obvious. Behind his 25 goals, the next-highest scorer was Ross Barkley with just five goals. Koeman’s mission will be to build a squad which provides a threat from all angles.

The Toffees spent big money on goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, Dutch attacking midfielder Davy Klaasen, and defender Michael Keane. With spending already at unprecedented levels, Everton have made it clear that they want to crack the top six this season. If they can overtake Liverpool and prove themselves as the top dog on Merseyside, then it could be a huge first step towards a very bright future.


Last season, Huddersfield jumped up 14 spots in the Championship table to fifth place and went on to defeat Reading in the Playoff final to seal promotion to the top flight for the first time in 45 years.

Manager David Wagner deserves a ton of credit for transforming the Terriers from top to bottom. Expect a lot of passion on the sideline, similar to fellow German manager and good friend Jurgen Klopp. As the former manager of Borussia Dortmund II, Wagner worked with Klopp for four seasons before taking over Huddersfield in 2015/2016. In those two seasons, Wagner has emphasized a high-intensity, counterattacking style of football that should transition well into the Premier League.

The signings that Huddersfield have made show that they intend to stay in the Premier League. The Terriers signed Montpellier striker Steven Mounie, who scored one less goal in Ligue 1 than Monaco superstar Kylian Mpabbe last season, as well as FC Copenhagen captain Mathias Jorgensen. Add them to Aaron Mooy and Christopher Schindler, and Huddersfield may give some top teams a scare this season.

Of course, survival is the mission for Huddersfield this season.


Now freed from the pressure of being champions and no European football to drain their resources, Leicester City enter this season with optimism. Manager Craig Shakespeare saved the club from relegation, winning seven of their last 13 matches after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. Shakespeare will aim to make his own mark on the squad, but he will likely have to do it without star midfielder Riyad Mahrez.

Shakespeare’s first signing as permanent manager was Hull City’s promising defender Harry Maguire. The 24-year-old will offer fresh blood for an aging backline, providing competition for the likes of Robert Huth and captain Wes Morgan. Up front, the arrival of striker Kelechi Iheanacho adds firepower to the first-team squad. Deprived of first-team starts last season, the 20-year-old should relish the prospect of regular football.


Compared to where Liverpool were 18 months ago, the club is way ahead of schedule. Last season, manager Jurgen Klopp got the Reds back in the Champions League for the first time since 2009.

Now, the focus will be on maintaining their top four status and solidifying the squad, especially at the back. Expect Liverpool to only bring in players that will improve the first team, as opposed to signing players in bulk for the sake of expanding the squad. For instance, new signing Mohamad Salah should go straight into the starting XI and compete with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane every week.

Another concern with this Liverpool squad is their lack of a twenty-goal striker similar to the likes of Aguero, Kane, Lukaku, and Sánchez. It will be interesting to see if a player like Firmino can step up and have that type of impact for Liverpool.

The Reds played well in the preseason, winning the Asia Trophy and defeating Bayern Munich, 3-0, at the Allianz Arena. With the improvements of the other top clubs combined with the grind of Champions League football this season, keeping hold of their place in the top four will be a tough task for Liverpool.


Expectations were high among Manchester City supporters when manager Pep Guardiola arrived last summer. However, problems with the fullbacks and goalkeepers ultimately led to a disappointing third-place finish.

This summer, the club has brought in players that will not only help their defense, but also play the style of football that Guardiola wants to play. Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy will stretch the field and offer speed down the flanks. If Vincent Kompany can stay healthy, City will be better defensively in terms of organization and experience.

One of the most exciting players to watch out for this season will be forward Gabriel Jesus. The 20-year-old Brazilian hit the ground running in limited action last season, scoring seven goals in ten league matches. Now entering his first full season, Jesus has the potential to become one of the best players in the Premier League.

Based on the money Guardiola has spent since his arrival, City should win the title. Not only is the squad extremely talented, but manager is arguably the best in the world. For Guardiola to keep that reputation, he must win the Premier League within the next two seasons.


Considering that he has coached Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, manager Jose Mourinho is running out of clubs to prove himself. Unlike last season, the Portuguese will have less excuses because he now has a side that better fits his style of play as opposed to the mish mash of players from last season.

Goal-scoring was a problem at times for United last season, but striker Romelu Lukaku could be the solution. Mourinho’s better teams often feature a big, powerful target man to lead the attack such as Didier Drogba. Lukaku can hold the ball up and occupy two to three opposing defenders. He’s young, hungry, and most importantly, a proven goal scorer in the Premier League.

But perhaps United’s most important signing this summer was midfielder Nemanja Matic. The 29-year-old Serbian midfielder has played under Mourinho at Chelsea and gives United strength, stature and protection in front of the backline. Over the last three to four seasons, there have been few defensive midfielders in the Premier League as good as Matic.

Mourinho will need to unleash his tactical genius this season and propel United back into the title hunt. If he does not win the Premier League or Champions League at United, his run will ultimately go down as a failure.


The famous black and white of Newcastle is back in England’s top flight. The passion and pride of the club was restored last season under manager Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard brought a stringent level of professionalism into the dressing room and made sure to let the supporters know that both the manager and players care about playing for Newcastle United.

The relationship between Benitez and owner Mike Ashley seemed strong last season, but Benitez has not been shy about his frustration of not sealing players early in the transfer window. Ashley must give Benitez the control and the money he promised at the end of last season to prevent another trip back down to the Championship.

One of the main areas of concern for Newcastle is the attacking midfield. During Jonjo Shelvey’s five-game suspension last season, the Magpies struggled mightily, losing to the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers. The 25-year-old is so important to the squad that without him, the team have trouble creating scoring chances. Benitez could use another creative midfielder to create chances should Shelvey suffer an injury or suspension.

But when Newcastle did create chances, they had some trouble scoring goals. Dwight Gayle did score 23 goals in 32 appearances last season, but the Magpies struggled finishing in the box when he was out. Adding another striker, specifically a physical target man who can finish in the box, would go a long way to preventing another relegation fight this season.

Realistically, Newcastle should expect to finished around the 13-15 range for the next year or two, with an eye on the top ten. If last season was any indication, the top ten is not that difficult to break into as long as the club can be consistent. Looking at the big picture, if Benitez does stay on board and Ashley gives him the money he promised, Newcastle should return to their glory days within the next five years.


It’s a shame that Swansea City will likely have to move on from star midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who appears likely to join Everton in the near future. While the sale could go upwards of 50 million pounds, it’s still a huge loss for the Swans.

Manager Paul Clement unloaded sixteen players over the summer, including Borja Baston and Jack Cork, possibly to keep Sigurdsson. Among the new additions are midfielder Roque Mesa and Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham, who knows Clement from his time in the youth ranks at Stamford Bridge. The Swans would be wise to add some more attacking options if Sigurdsson does leave.


For months, the big story surrounding Southampton has been the situation surrounding Virgil Van Dijk. The defender wants out, but the club seem unwilling to sell him.

New manager Mauricio Pelligrino replaces Claude Puel, who led the Saints to an eighth-place finish and EFL Cup Final last season. The only notable signing for Southampton was Poland U-21 defender Jan Bednarek from Lech Poznan. Time will tell whether he will replace or play with Van Dijk.

The Saints scored just 41 goals in 38 league matches, so it will be nice to have Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabiaddini full healthy this season. Pelligrino has played both players together in preseason to carry out a more attack-minded style of football.


Last season was a disappointment for manager Mark Hughes and Stoke City. After three consecutive top half finishes, the Potters finished in 13th place last season, picking up just two wins in their last 11 matches.

Only the bottom five teams scored fewer goals than Stoke last season, so Hughes will need to address their goalscoring woes. In the meantime, Stoke added experience in the form of midfielder Darren Fletcher and defensive energy in Chelsea loanee Kurt Zouma.

Stoke took eight games to record their first league win last season, so Stoke will look to hit the ground running this season.


Tottenham were the most exciting team to watch in the Premier League last season. After a sixteen-point improvement, which would have won them the title in 2015/2016, Spurs are more hungry than ever to achieve Premier League glory.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino has done a fantastic job in his two years at the helm of bringing young players such as Harry Kane and Danny Rose through the system and turning them into valuable players. While Spurs have yet to make any signings, chairman Daniel Levy tends to wait until the last few weeks of the transfer window to conduct his business. They could certainly use a quality striker behind Harry Kane if he goes down with an injury.

Spurs also sold Kyle Walker, which is not that big of a loss compared to past Tottenham players such as Gareth Bale and Luca Modric. That’s no slight to Walker, but with Kieran Trippier ready to step in, Tottenham should not lose much at right back, if anything at all.

The biggest concern for Spurs will be adapting to playing their home matches at Wembley Stadium. Every player has dreamed about playing at Wembley, so visiting teams will definitely raise their level of play against Spurs over the next two seasons. It will be interesting to see whether Spurs can do the same.

If Tottenham do not start winning major trophies in the near future, the supporters will begin to question the club’s direction, similar to what fans are doing now at Arsenal.


Another season, another new manager for Watford. Marco Silva is the eighth appointed manager since the Pozzo family bought the team in 2012. The Portuguese impressed last season at Hull City, but their heroic turnaround was not enough to save them from relegation. This year, Silva will have another challenging season ahead of him.

Striker Troy Deeney will miss the first one or two games due to a groin injury. so don’t be surprised if Brazilian wonderkid Richarlison sees time during Deeney’s absence. As for other signings, Kiko Femenia, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah are all expected to get playing time this season.


Last season, West Brom finished in the top half for just the second time in club history, but that highlight was matches by lowlights. The Baggies ended last season on a nine-match winless streak, and to make matters worse, the club has brought in little reinforcements to make sure that the streak will not continue into this season. Outside of forward Jay Rodriguez and Egyptian international Ahmed Hegazi, West Brom have not spent the money to further improve the squad under manager Tony Pulis.

Despite the disappointing finish to last season, the Baggies proved that they are one of the more dogged, driven teams in the Premier League. They will have to operate under that state of mind once again they hope to finish in the top half.


In their first season at the London Stadium, the bright future of West Ham seemed to have dissipated, with the team winning just seven home matches. Manager Slaven Bilic will hope new signings such as Marko Arnautovic, Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta will help the Hammers improve not just their home form, but last season’s tenth-place finish as well.

Last season, West Ham forwards scored just 15 goals between them, which means all eyes will be on striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to rectify that problem. The “Little Pea” averaged about one goal every three matches during his time at Manchester United from 2010 to 2014. If he can buck West Ham’s trend of underperforming strikers, West Ham have the talent to return to the top seven for the second time in three seasons.

Of course, as fate has it, Chicharito’s first game back in the Premier League will be at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

2017/2018 English Premier Table

1. Chelsea
2. Tottenham Hotspur
3. Manchester City
4. Manchester United
5. Liverpool
6. Arsenal
7. Everton
8. West Ham United
9. Bournemouth
10. West Bromwich Albion
11. Leicester City
12. Southampton
13. Crystal Palace
14. Swansea City
15. Newcastle United
16. Stoke City
17. Burnley
18. Brighton and Hove Albion
19. Watford
20. Huddersfield Town

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 4 Recap



Although this episode was the shortest of the season so far, there were so many big reveals. Of course, I will get to the battle, but before I begin, I must address…

…the leak. So if you didn’t hear, two separate groups hacked HBO over the past week. The first group attacked HBO in the United States and claimed to have acquired 1.5 terabytes of information, ranging from scripts to other Game of Thrones content. The second group hacked HBO’s India affiliate and released an episode that had been given to them before the premiere date. In other words, the big HBO hack in the U.S. had nothing to do with the real leak of episode 4. When it comes to leaks on the Internet, I always heed the words of Ser Bronn of the Blackwater…

…back away…and back away some more. Just don’t look at any articles or spoilers. Don’t ruin the show for yourself. Otherwise, one may feel tempted to harm an innocent squire. Speaking of which…

1. …Bronn is back! Queen of Thorns give you one last prick in the balls before saying goodbye? Jerome Flynn-Bronn is arguably the best actor-character match of the entire show. Anyway, Bronn wants a castle, but Jaime says he’ll have his choice when the war is over. After all…

2. the Lannisters always pay- Alright fine, I won’t say it. Tycho Nestoris, a.k.a. Rihanna, is very impressed that Cersei will be paying off her debt so quickly. It’s only fair that the Iron Bank then extend a helping hand in Cersei’s current ventures. However, the Queen is already one step ahead, as she had Qyburn contact…

3. …the Golden Company! A Song of Ice and Fire readers should be very familiar with this army of sellswords. It seems unlikely that the show will introduce some of the book’s main characters from the Golden Company, but that doesn’t mean the group won’t play a big role in at least one of the next three episodes. Rihanna does mention that the Golden Company has helped the Iron Bank “recover significant sums from parties who had fallen into deep arrears.” Cersei would love for them to…

4. recover some things that belong to me. As Cersei and Rihanna were talking, the camera did overlook the North, which makes me think Cersei could use the Golden Company to not only attack Winterfell, but to bring back “that murdering whore Sansa” as well. Meanwhile…

5. …Littlefinger stay bein’ Littlefinger. He presents Bran with the dagger used in the attempt to take his life back in Season 1. Why did he do this? I have no idea. Anyway, Littlefinger brings up the current chaos of the world, to which Bran says…

6. CHAOS IS A LADDER. One of the best lines of the episode. Unlike his father, Bran is not a Stark with a “quick temper and slow mind.” He knows what Littlefinger has done in the past, but before he can go any further…

7. …Meera walks in. Although she doesn’t want to leave Bran, she feels that she needs to return to her family. Bran agrees he no longer needs her, but all he can muster up is, “Thank you.” Meera becomes pissed because many died to protect him and she risked her life as well. She realizes that the old Bran died in the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave. In other words…

8. …he isn’t really Bran Stark anymore. He is the Three-Eyed Raven now. As a result, it’s difficult for him to express emotions and feel like his former self. It’s almost as if he’s a human computer or a robot, especially considering how he has talked this season. Meanwhile, outside of Winterfell…

9. …Arya is home! The scene with the two young guards was very similar to the scene back in Season 1 when Arya was trying to get back into King’s Landing. The whole point was to show how much her home has changed since she left. She eventually gets away from the guards, who report back to Sansa. Once she hears that she asked for Ser Rodrik and Maester Luwin, Sansa knows exactly where to look…

10. …the crypts! This Stark reunion was much happier than I thought it would be. Maybe I looked too much into the tension between the sisters back in Season 1. Anyway, Sansa tells Arya that Bran is also home, but also gives her look as if to say, “Something is wrong.” You know what’s wrong?

11. The pacing of this show. Once again, I recommend reading last week’s recap for my complete thoughts on this topic, but this Stark reunion seems so rushed. Isn’t it convenient that all three Stark children are back in Winterfell within an episode of each other? I believe that if the show was given more time, this reunion, as well as many other events, could have been so much better. Hopefully, this was not George R.R. Martin’s plan for a Stark reunion in the books, if there would be one at all. I get the feeling that this was all David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, though. Anyway, back to the episode…

12. Bran gives Arya the dagger. This would explain why Arya had the dagger in all the Season 7 preview pictures. This also raises two questions: a) does Bran know that Arya will use the dagger to kill someone, a.k.a. Littlefinger? and b) why didn’t Bran tell Arya and Sansa about Littlefinger betraying Ned? There is not a lot of clarity with this situation, so hopefully next week’s episode answers the questions about the dagger. Meanwhile…

13. …Dany and Missandei discuss “many things.” Notice how the camera cut to Jon right after Dany said that? *wink wink*

14. Jon shows them the dragonglass cave. Not only did the cave have mountains of dragonglass, but it also contained carvings and drawings of the Children of the Forest and the First Men uniting “against their common enemy.” Dany seems convinced, and agrees to fight for the North…

15. …if Jon bends the knee. If you read last week’s recap, you know that I was not a fan of Dany wanting Jon to bend the knee. However, I’m starting to come around to Dany’s way of thinking because this is an opportunity for Jon to learn from the mistakes of others. This is reminiscent of Jon trying to convince Mance Rayder to bend the knee to Stannis in Season 5, but the leader of the Wildlings refused and died as a result. Isn’t their survival more important than your pride? Not only was that the line Jon used on Mance, but that was the exact line Dany used on Jon in this episode.

16. Tyrion keeps screwing up. While Tyrion is very smart politically, history has shown that he is not good at military strategy. Dany rightfully snaps at her hand and tells him, “Perhaps you don’t want to hurt [your family] after all.” Dany once again considers flying her dragons straight to the Red Keep, but instead asks Jon’s advice. Like Tyrion, Jon believe that melting cities and burning castles would make her no different from those that came before. At the same time, Dany does need to unleash her dragons on something, which I’ll get to in a moment. Back in Winterfell…

17. …Arya and Brienne face off! This was so awesome to watch. I got flashbacks to one of my favorite characters, Syrio Forel, in Season 1. Remember, child, this is not the dance of the Westeros we are learning… The knight’s dance, hacking and hammering. This is the Braavo’s dance… the water dance. It is swift and sudden. Overhead on a balcony, Littlefinger and Sansa watch Arya and Brienne fight to a stalemate. Sansa seems a bit uneasy about Arya’s ability to fight, which makes me think she knows that the list Arya made was not a joke. As for Littlefinger, he always has that stupid look on his face, so I have no idea what he was thinking. Meanwhile…

18. …Jon thinks Dany has a “good heart.” According to David Benioff, they are “starting to be attracted to each other.” I would be shocked if those feelings did not continue to blossom for the rest of the season. Anyway, Jon and Ser Davos talk with Missandei about Jon’s parentage, until…

19. …Theon returns and comes face-to-face with Jon. He has tried to avoid this confrontation since Season 2. It’s why Theon chose to stay in Winterfell and fight against the Boltons as opposed to taking the Black for his crimes. Theon knew Jon would kill him, but he did save Sansa’s life. What you did for her is the only reason I’m not killing you. Theon wants Dany’s help saving Yara from his uncle Euron. However, the queen is away at the moment. We’re almost there, don’t worry.

20. Rickon! By far, the best moment of the episode. I have watched Bronn laugh at his name too many times. Bronn’s smile is quickly wiped off his face because…

21. …HERE COME THE DOTHRAKI! In Season 1, Robert Baratheon said, “Only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field.” Well, it seems that Jaime is a fool. The Lannisters were already going to get crushed, but just to seal the deal…

22. …HERE COMES DROGON! At that point, Jaime should have taken Bronn’s advice and booked it back to King’s Landing. But for some reason, he didn’t want to abandon his army. Jaime gets saved by Rickon(?) at the last second, while Bronn reaches Qyburn’s scorpion and shoots the first spear into the Dothraki opponent following him.

23. I’ll be honest… I was rooting for Bronn. I just could not help myself. Bronn is such an amazing character that I was cheering for him to take down not just a dragon, but Dany as well. He does indeed hit Drogon, but it doesn’t do much damage and Bronn barely avoids the dragon’s flames. I really thought Bronn was going to die in that moment. Speaking of which, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

24. …Jaime charges at Dany and Drogon. It is worth noting that Jaime was trying to kill Dany, not Drogon. It does not make what he did any less stupid, but I think I understand what was going through his mind. Watching all of those men burn around him is the exact thing Jaime prevented by killing the Mad King. He wanted to save lives, which is what he thought he would do by charging at Dany, who was standing inches away from a dragon. I thought Jaime was dead meat, until…

25. BRONN WITH THE CHASEDOWN BLOCK! What a moment! Jaime is then shown floating towards the bottom of the river as the episode fades to black. I would expect someone to pull Jaime out, but I’m not sure who that person could be.

Here’s what to expect for next week’s episode, titled “Eastwatch”:

1. The Lannister army will bend the knee. This is how the “Field of Fire” ended back during Aegon’s Conquest. It will be interesting to see whether Jaime, Bronn, and the Tarlys are part of this surrender. If that is the case, I imagine Tyrion will want Bronn and Jaime spared…

2. …which could cause some tension between Dany and Tyrion. Varys says, “You need to find a way to make her listen.” Whatever they are talking about, Tyrion will have to convince Dany to do something that she does not want to do. Once again, I think Dany will question Tyrion’s loyalties.

3. Jon comes face-to-face with Drogon! I think Jon will get preferential treatment from the dragons. I’ll leave it at that.

4. Dany will decide her next move. I assume Jon must have received a raven about Bran’s return to Winterfell, because he is talking about Bran seeing the Night King marching towards Eastwatch. But will that same raven also include information about his true parentage? What about Arya’s return?

5. Where are… the Brotherhood Without Banners? Gendry? Ser Jorah? Grey Worm? Euron? With three episodes left in the season, we’re going to have to get updates about these characters at some point. Will the Brotherhood go straight to Eastwatch or stop at Winterfell? Is Gendry still rowing? Will Jorah make it back to Dany? Did Grey Worm make it out of Casterly Rock, or did Euron capture him?

Let me know what you think about the episode in the comment section or send me a tweet @danny_shin131! As always, thanks for reading!