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The year of 2018 was another crazy time for sports, causing a range of emotions. Manchester City destroyed everyone in their quest for the EPL Championship, Jamaica shocked the rugby league world to qualify for the 2021 World Cup, and ‘Philly Philly’ went into Super Bowl folklore.
Last year, The Athletes Hub had a crack at predicting 10 events that may occur within the sports world in 2018. In result, 5 were correct, and a few others were close to taking place. Without further ado, here are the 10 predictions for the 2019 calendar year:
1. Max Verstappen wins the F1 World Championship
The 2018 Formula 1 season was another two horse battle, with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel fighting it out for the championship. Every now and then, Valterri Bottas and Max Verstappen mounted a challenge, as did Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Come 2019, Verstappen will be the outright #1 at Red Bull Racing, as Ricciardo moves to Renault. That will allow Christian Horner and Helmut Marko to focus on their main driver while developing Pierre Gasly, instead of focusing on 2 drivers who can win a race on any given day. That being said, they can tailor the needs of the team to the Dutchman. That will allow Red Bull to give Verstappen a championship winning car, and that is what he will do in 2019.
2. McGregor vs Diaz III becomes a reality
The next time that we see Conor McGregor in the octagon, it will involve a major payday, as well as a major opponent. At UFC 202, McGregor got the best of Diaz via decision, after Diaz overcame McGregor in their first encounter at UFC 196. The finale to this trilogy will be one of the major draws, if not the major draw for the UFC in 2019.
The talk has been on and off over the last 2 years, with both Diaz and McGregor open to the idea. It is all about finding the right event, and the right arena to put the final match on. It won’t happen until closer to the end of 2019, but it should happen.
3. Atlanta Hawks draft Zion Williamson
The Atlanta Hawks have been struggling within the NBA for the last few years, as have a few other teams. Unfortunately, teams like Brooklyn and Phoenix seem to be finding a few hints of forms, while Atlanta has fallen behind with New York. The positive, if there is one here, is that the Hawks will have a high draft pick, and there is one person that should be earmarked.
Zion Williamson has been a revelation for Duke, not that it has been much of a surprise. It is widely expected that he will be a one-and-done player, with the 6’7″, 285 lb freshman predicted to go with the #1 pick next year. I expect Atlanta to trade up if they don’t get the #1 pick initially. The Hawks just need to convince Williamson to want to play for them, and not the Knicks.
4. Phoenix Suns finish the 2018-19 season with 30+ wins
The Phoenix Suns haven’t been able to find themselves over the last few seasons, however, they have shown fans there is hope. A few upset wins on the trot gave the Suns faithful some hope, while a few heartbreakers against Washington (triple overtime, mind you) and Brooklyn shows fight.
There is no reason as to why Phoenix should not be able to rack up a few winning runs, as well as causing a few more upsets along the way. Teams still take Phoenix lighter than most, and for that, I see the Suns running into a 30-win season.
5. San Francisco 49ers goes .500 in 2019-20
This past season hasn’t been one to remember for the San Francisco 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3, and the running back position has thinned out over time. In saying that, there are some shining lights in a dim season for the 49ers.
Nick Mullens is more than capable of being a solid backup for the franchise, performing soundly against tough opposition in the last few weeks. The emergence of George Kittle at tight end has been huge. He is one of the top tight ends as far as receiving, and challenges Zach Ertz for the best tight end this year. Matt Breida has been huge in the backfield, as only injuries and limited snap counts are hurting his season.
Once Garoppolo returns, things will only go up for San Francisco. The postseason is not out of question, but finishing .500 seems reasonable.
6. Bryce Harper goes to Philadelphia
Bryce Harper will go where Bryce Harper wants to. How do you know? He turned down a $300M+ deal to return to Washington. There have been rumors about where he will end up, but there is only one choice: The Philadelphia Phillies.
Philadelphia has the cap space for him, and they need the impact that Harper provides. Harper gets out of Washington, receives his deserved payday, and goes somewhere that will build around him.
7. Will Grier and David Sills V go to the same NFL team
David Sills V and Will Grier go together like a college student and ramen noodles. Grier has often looked to Sills and Gary Jennings during clutch moments throughout this season, with Sills fulfilling his role more often than not.
With both players likely to get drafted, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Mountaineers wind up on the same NFL franchise. While it would make it easy for opposing teams to scout them, there is no denying how well the quarterback and receiver work together. Are you listening, Washington?
8. Liverpool wins the EPL
Liverpool is in for it this year, with the Reds in the running to win their first EPL and division title since 1990. Jurgen Klopp has the Reds firing on all cylinders in the Premier League, and the recent failures of Manchester City doing nothing but help the cause. Chelsea falling against Leicester helps, while Tottenham remain two games back.
Mo Salah is producing alongside Roberto Firmino, and Allison is having a fantastic year in between the sticks. I wasn’t sold on Liverpool having a real shot this year, but Klopp and the Reds have a huge chance. The Athletes Hub analyst Martin Lee has believed from the start, and I am starting to as well. As long as there is not another Steven Gerrard moment, Liverpool won’t let the title slip away this year.
9. USA Rugby League qualifies for the 2021 World Cup
The USA Hawks were rather unlucky during the American qualifiers in November of 2018. After demolishing Chile to get to the finals, it took a fantastic first 30 minutes from Jamaica, mixed with some huge goal line defense, to hold out the Hawks. We predicted Jamaica would make a splash in 2018, and it will be no different in 2019 throughout North America.
The United States have one more chance to qualify for the 2021 World Cup in England, with Niue and South Africa the two likely standing in their way. Two of those teams make it, and they have a winning record over the South African side. It is a longshot, but the odds are on their side.
10. Colin Kaepernick signs with an NFL team
This spot last year was reserved for Donald Trump getting involved with sports, and that was proven right. This time, the final spot is reserved for Colin Kaepernick. The fact that Mark Sanchez, Tom Savage and Nathan Peterman have had jobs shows the state of the quarterback position.
There are some solid quarterbacks coming through this draft year. Will Grier and Dwayne Haskins have both declared, with Drew Lock going into the draft as well. The rest aren’t worth writing home about in terms of eye-popping talent. Kaepernick could be used, and someone will bite the bullet to bring in the former member of the 49ers.
Featured Image: ABC News