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Let The Games Begin

We made it yall! After 6 grueling months of being forced to do things like watch baseball or pretend that anyone had a shot at beating the Warriors, football is byke.  There are endless possibilities for how this season can go, and with the powder keg that is the current on-field and political climate in the league, we’re all but guaranteed some fireworks.  With live football being back, lets take an in-depth look at how I thought every team was looking coming into the season and how week 1 may have changed things.

I’d made some predictions prior to week 1 and some seem to already be manifesting.  Mainly my prediction that the Browns will win the AFC North and the Steelers will miss the playoffs.  Their first game ending in a tie shows just how close these teams really are.  I also picked the Los Angeles Rams to win the superbowl and they looked absolutely dominant in their first game.

Before we get into this I know a lot of you are going to disagree with what’s written below and that’s fine.  If you feel like I’m talking crazy about your team just remember that I have a column for a reason and you’re most likely wrong.  If you still feel some type of way feel free to comment below what you think.  If you BIG mad then come find me on twitter @sumblaqguy/@MeWhenImWrong or instagram @sumblaqguy or stop by the stream on twitch at twitch.tv/sumblaqstreamer.   I’ll let you know exactly why you’re wrong.

It’s Quiet for These Teams

Self explanatory.  These teams have zero chance of making a deep playoff run, let alone winning a super bowl.  I have 9 teams rated at this level so I predict that every one of them will have have a top 10 pick in next year’s draft.  If your squad is in this group just skip this season and pay extra attention to the college football season because those are the players you’re going to have to count on in years to come.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphin’s offseason really confused me. One could make the argument that they got rid of their two best players in Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh. The offense should still be fine as running back Kenyan Drake seems poised to pick up right where he left off last year and DeVante Parker has shown flashes of being a #1 receiver.  Outside of those two guys, they lack consistent playmakers.  The offensive line has been bolstered as well with the addition of Josh Sitton.  This offense has the talent to move the ball but their success will largely depend on Ryan Tannehill’s ability to return from his injury.  Before he got hurt, Ryan was coming around in Adam Gase’s offense so if he can pick up where he left off they should be ok.

Where the Dolphins worry me this year is on defense.  The loss of Suh changes the entire dynamic of this defensive line.  I’m not sure Cameron Wake or Robert Quinn, who are both getting up there in age, will be able to apply the usual amount of pressure when rushing the passer without Suh eating up blocks.  Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMimillian, and Jerome Baker are a nice set of linebackers, but if this defensive line can’t hold up they won’t be able to stop the run either.  The secondary is the best position group on this defense as safeties Reshad Jones, TJ McDonald, and Minkah FitzPatrick are all extremely smart players that will take pressure off of these young corners.  Speaking of corners, the Dolphins have a star in the making in Xavien Howard.  Watch out for him coming off his four interception campaign last year.

After Week 1: The Dolphins aren’t THAT bad of a team to be honest. The problem is their schedule is absolutely brutal.  Over half of their games are against teams I have rated good enough to pull off super a bowl victory.  They got a win Sunday largely because the Titans lost some really important players to injury.  I still have the Dolphins winning around 4 games this year though so it’s still quiet for them.

New York Jets

Offensively the Jets find themselves in a really good spot.  I don’t see them making any noise this year, but they are a few good draft picks away from getting back into the playoffs.  They have three competent quarterbacks but the loss of Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is a huge blow that hasn’t been addressed.  Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Jermaine Kearse will be the main targets and Terrelle Pryor and Charles Johnson are capable of stepping up barring any injuries.  These guys are largely all specialist type players so I’m not convinced that they can step up after losing the teams leading receiver.  The backfield is a mixture of mediocre has-beens so I’m not expecting much from the rushing attack either.  This is why I was against drafting Sam Darnold.  The Jets had quarterbacks, it was the rest of this roster that needed help. Teddy Bridgewater is still a franchise quarterback prospect so I would have rolled the dice on him.  Since they did make that pick though, they can move forward knowing their quarterback situation is solved and really begin plugging the holes in this offense.

The Jets took some big blows on defense as well over the summer.  The loss of Muhammed Wilkerson is going to hurt.  The D-line isn’t nearly as intimidating as it’s been the last few years and neither is the defense as a whole for that matter.  Rookie Nathan Shepard is looking like the early favorite to replace Wilkerson so it will be interesting to see if he’s capable of filling those large shoes.  They have blue chip talent in Jamal Adams and Leanord Williams but it’s going to take a breakout season from multiple young guys for this defense to be effective.  Especially guys like Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins.  Trumaine Johnson is a solid pickup at corner but having Morris Claiborne playing opposite of him is straight up scary.

After Week 1:  The Jets should get a few wins this year but will end up picking in the top 10 again.  A common theme in week 1 was bad teams playing each other making some of these teams look better than they are.  The Jets and Lions game was a prime example of that and nothing happened that made me excited for the Jets this year.

Buffalo Bills

I’m going to get to previewing the Bills in a second man I just have to stop laughing.  This is the worst team in the NFL.  They moved up in the draft to pick Josh Allen, who I’ve been said was terrible, and he couldn’t even beat out Nathan Peterman in camp.  We can safely label this organization as incompetent.

So peep this. Imma let ya’ll in on a little secret. The Buffalo Bills are not winning a single game this year. Call your bookie and place that bet now. There isn’t a single redeeming quality about this team besides LeSean McCoy. Matter fact, for the rest of the year I’m referring to them as LeSean McCoy and the Temptations.

LeSean McCoy and the Temptations have the worst quarterback situation I’ve ever seen. The starting quarterback every week is either going to be Nathan Peterman, who threw 6 interceptions in a game last year, AJ McCarron, who could never wrestle the starting job away from Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, or Josh Allen, a rookie who lost 5 games in his final year at Wyoming. Bet against this team every single game this year and you will end the season a rich man.  Charles Clay and Nick O’Leary are solid tight ends but they could probably weld a motor onto a wheelbarrow and it’ll be the best wide receiver on the roster.  This passing game is going to be horrid and it’s Buffalo’s own fault for shipping every talented receiver they had away.

The Bills will be stout on defense but it won’t mean much if they can’t put up points on the other side.  There aren’t many teams that have a better defensive line than the Bills.  With first round pick Tremain Edmunds at inside linebacker they will be able to keep most rushing attacks in check.  Vontae Davis gives them a lockdown corner on the outside but they could use more talent at safety.

After Week 1: Pretty soon LeSean McCoy is going to get so fustrated by the Temptations that he’ll get hooked on cocaine, miss multiple games, and return in week 13 to inform the team he’s now playing Quarterback and Running Back because “Ain’t nobody come to see you NATHAN!”

Cincinnati Bengals

Another year, another season of throwing Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton out there to stink the stadium up.  The Bengals have a problem, similar to the Jaguars, where the rest of the roster is ready to make a super bowl run but is held back by the quarterback play.  The Bengals are sitting here in the trash section because their coach is holding them back as well.  They really could have benefited from bringing in some competition for Andy besides AJ McCarron.  Now that AJ is in Buffalo, Dalton has nothing driving him to improve besides Matt “Oh that’s right!  He DID play for USC?” Barkley.  If they wish to win a super bowl they need to cut ties with both him and Marvin after this year.  It’s unlikely that we’ll see that however since that should have been the move 4-5 years ago and it doesn’t seem like they’re even considering it.

Besides the human nerf gun they have at quarterback, the rest of the offense is stacked with weapons.  Joe Mixon is a star and will take on a great deal of the backfield duties now that Jeremy Hill is in New England.  AJ Green still has hands stickier than flypaper 😉 and Tyler Boyd and John Ross should begin to showcase more of their athletic ability as they hone their craft.  Tyler Eifert is just as good as the Gronks and Kelces of the world and just needs to stay healthy.  Every team in the league would love to have this collection of weapons.

One certainty in every Bengals game is that the defense will always be trying to bully the offense.  I use the word bully because, while they are talented, their tactics aren’t always within the rules.  I’ve always appreciated that edge they play with.  The way they show up ready for war reminds me of the way defenses played in past eras.  The front seven is intimidating to both rushers and quarterbacks alike.   Preston Brown and Vontaze Burfict will make a better tag team than Batman and Robin once Burfict returns from suspension.  The secondary boasts a top 5 safety tandem in the league.  Both Shawn Williams and George Iloka are two of my favorite players to watch because they both can run, cover and tackle with the best of them. {Update}  I thought about removing the previous sentence after the Bengals released George Iloka but I decided to leave it in just to show how dumb of a decision that was.  If you’re keeping score at home, this team decided to cut one of the best safeties in the game for financial reasons but continue to employ perennial losers like Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton.  The Browns are no longer the most dysfunctional team in Ohio. Pathetic.

After Week 1:  They looked good on Sunday against the Colts but who doesn’t look good against the Colts?  Andy Dalton looking average against that wack ass defense tells me exactly what to expect from the Bengals this year.

New York Giants

This year will certainly produce better results than last year for the Giants. The talent peppered into this team will single-handedly prevent them having another two win season. Whether the rest of the team can support the stars enough to push into the playoffs is a different story entirely. I think the Giants are a few years away and won’t make the playoffs again as long as Eli Manning is the quarterback. In this offense he’s like the bun on a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Of course everyone with good taste loves those chicken sandwiches but the bun is not why we’re here. Odell Beckham Jr. is that perfectly seasoned spicy chicken breast, Evan Ingram and Sterling Shepard are the cool and refreshing sliced pickles, and Saquon Barkley is that tangy Chick-Fil-A sauce bringing it all togeth- wait, what were we talking about again?

The defense should benefit greatly from the return of Landon Collins. He’s the heart and soul of this defense and his absence last year prevented this defense from being able to stop the bleeding once the season started getting away from them. The D-line is still solid even with the loss of Jason Peirre-Paul but these linebackers are still big trash. The Giants linebacker corps has been a problem for a very long time. Olivier Vernon is listed as a Will but I’m assuming he’s going to be rushing the quarterback close to 100% of the time. He’s naturally a defensive end so using him in coverage would be a mistake. Alec Ogletree is great in coverage but he’s entirely too undersized to be effective in the run game. There’s hope in BJ Goodson though. He exploded for 18 tackles in the first game of the season last year but multiple lower body injuries led to the rest of his season being less productive and eventually ended prematurely. If he can return to that form the Giants will have their first linebacker worth talking about since Antonio Pierce.  The secondary should look better this year because inside corners BW Webb and Donte Deayon have looked very good in the preseason.

After Week 1: The Giants have a lot of blue chip talent (OBJ, Landon, Engram) but the holes on this team are big fuckin holes. Zero dug the holes on this roster. They looked better than I expected them to but they aren’t talented enough to beat the real contenders.

Washington Redskins

Just when you thought the Redskins couldn’t get any more bland they grab Alex Smith.  Adrian Peterson brings some excitement to the offense on paper but he didn’t exactly light it up last year. After the injury to Guice, guys like Sameje Perine, Josh Doctson, and Paul Richardson need to reach their full potential immediately. Between those guys and Jamison Crowder they don’t have much else in terms of weapons.  Just one injury to any of these guys could spell disaster for the offense. I won’t even mention their tight ends because Jordan Reed is only a little more durable than press-on nails and Vernon Davis is older than the very first kernel of candy corn. They should fare better defensively with the strong front 7 they have. Josh Norman will hold his own as always but they need immediate help elsewhere in the secondary. These safeties couldn’t cover Kurt Warner in a broom closet.

After Week 1:  I didnt take anything away from their game other than you should try to get Chris Thompson on your fantasy team.  Another battle of the stinkers here.

Indianapolis Colts

Thank God the Colts drafted Quentin Nelson because if they hadn’t I was fully prepared to call Protective Services and report them for neglecting Andrew Luck.  They may have ruined the career of a potential all-time great.  Luck has looked good in the limited time we’ve seen him so far but we won’t be able to fully judge how this ordeal has affected him until far into the future.  This wasn’t your typical season ending injury that we’ve seen guys bounce back from, this man wasn’t able to throw a football for almost two years.  Is it wrong that that worries me?  I’m not convinced he’s just gonna walk back on the field and go back to playing at his normal standard.  They can’t simulate true game speed in practice or preseason games so no matter how good he does I won’t be convinced until I see some regular season action.  He has to build back that timing and chemistry with his receivers and I don’t see that happening from week 1. It’s gonna take some time.

Andrew Luck is the spur that kicks the Colts into gear, and this skepticism I have about his health is the reason I have to rate them this low heading into the year.  I’ll admit there is a chance they exceed expectations but am I going to bet on a team led by a quarterback who’s arm may not last the entire year?  I’m not even going to answer that question that’s how silly it is.  The loss of Deon Cain is a huge blow to this offense because he would have been a great compliment to TY Hilton.  Now that he’s gone the Colts don’t really have much receiving talent outside of Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle.  That’s not gonna cut it B, not at all.  Luck could make some of these younger guys look better but again, we aren’t even sure if he’s still capable of that anymore.  I like the decision to let Frank Gore go and hand the keys to the backfield over to Marlon Mack, whenever I watch him he just looks very comfortable running the ball.  Mack’s going to be leaned on a lot but as always, look out for Christine Michael to finally reach his full potential and regulate Mack to the bench. (sarcasm)

Reading the Colts defensive depth chart made me feel like a substitute teacher trying to read the attendance list.  Besides Malik Hooker and Jaball Sheard, the Colts have a lot of building to do.  They’ve invested a lot of draft capital into this front 7 but these guys won’t be ready just yet.  This is going to be a terrible defense this year, which isn’t that different from past seasons but at least they’re getting younger and gaining some direction.  In a few year they may prove me wrong but this will be a struggle year for sure.

After Week 1: The Colts lost to the Bengals but surprisingly, Andrew Luck’s arm was not the problem.  He looked strong but the rest of this team, mainly the defense, is horrid.  After watching that game I’m positive the Colts won’t be a threat this year.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are going to be spending this year finding themselves. Carson Palmer has retired (finally) so they’ll be rolling out either Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen at quarterback this year. I expect Josh to get the job at some point. Even if Sam wins the battle during the preseason I don’t have any faith he’ll make it through the year healthy. David Johnson is back from the hand injury that ruined his (and countless fantasy owners) season last year. Johnson is a top 5 running back in the league capable of carrying this offense on his back if need be. He won’t need to however, because no matter who wins the quarterback job they will be better than Carson Palmer last year. Yea I said it, and I don’t even think it’s a reach to say that. Carson Palmer was a rusted out dumpster with arms last year. Speedster John Brown signed with the Ravens so they will have to find someone to replace him. He often missed time both for reasons in and out of his control so my guess is they’re a little used to playing without him already. Larry Fitzgerald once again spent the offseason up on Mt. Manaslu feeding on the purest blooded bats in the world so expect him to ball out as usual.

The loss of Tyrann Matheiu immediately lowers the ceiling on this defense. They have guys, like Budda Baker, who can fill in for him but there’s no replacing the type of playmaker the Honey Badger was.  He’’ll have some help in the secondary though as Patrick Peterson is still great and newly signed Jamar Taylor is a good corner as well.  Up front the Cardinals look strong on paper with guys like Chandler Jones, Robert Nkimdiche, Hassan Reddick, and Markus Golden.  All that talent will help the growing pains the Cardinals will experience in the secondary.

After Week 1: Arizona lost entirely too much talent for me to consider them a threat to anyone.  They look to be in rebuild mode and focusing on finding talent to surround Josh Rosen with.  They loss to a terrible Redskins team and seem to be heading for a largely irrelevant season.

Detroit Lions

The Lions just seem very… mid to me.  There’s nothing exciting about this team.  There’s nothing for me to point at and say “This is why the Lions will be better this year.”  The offense is about as average as possible but hopefully Matt Patricia comes in and has his guys change the philosophy.  They need to stop throwing the ball 9,000 times a game and let the new running backs LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson carry the offense.  If they can get the run game going they can take some pressure off Stafford and allow him to cut down on his mistakes.  That’s their only hope because they’ve reached their ceiling in this heavy passing offense and it’s not good enough.

The Lions defense is trash.  Everyone not named Ezekial, Darius, or Glover belong on the bench.  I still can’t believe they gave those two mediocre linebackers so much money over the offseason.  It’s going to get ugly in Detroit.  I know Matt is supposed to be some defensive wiz but he’s going to need more talent than this to execute his schemes.

After Week 1: The Lions have an over/under of 7.5 which is hilarious.  There’s no way they win that many games when their most likely going to lose every single division game.  Big bet on the under.  This offense only put up one touchdown on the Jets and offense is supposed to be this team’s strength.  If this continues  Matt Patricia will be out the door faster than you clock out at work.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are attempting to walk the BET awards red carpet wearing a MAGA hat and there is a 100% chance that this won’t work out. I actually had them slotted as a team that could make a run but now I have to pivot and say it’s quiet for them. They made multiple puzzling moves this offseason, like getting rid of Michael Crabtree which I tried to understand but the trading of Khalil Mack is ridiculous.  Jon Gruden is showcasing a terrible ego that he hasn’t even earned. He’s a mediocre coach that only won a super bowl because he was coaching his opponents the year before and knew a lot about them. This latest trades shows that the Raiders are not prioritizing winning right now so I see no reason to prioritize them in this write up. I’m not going to waste my time. They clearly only care about money and placating an average ass coach.

After Week 1: Who cares.

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLLLLLLLEE!!!!!

Okay, from here on out we’ll be discussing teams that actually matter. This section consist of teams that aren’t contenders per se, but could bring home a championship if everything goes right for them.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos are going to look loads better this year now that they actually have a competent quarterback. I wouldn’t bet on Case Keenum winning a super bowl but he’s not Paxton Lynch or Brock Osweiler so that’s a start. We saw that Case was able to move an offense with a good supporting cast around him and he has the same type of cast around him in Denver. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are comparable to Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen so he doesn’t have any excuse to not put up a similar performance. The Broncos don’t have the running game the Vikings do however so they will be limited. They haven’t found a rusher yet and the jury is still out on whether or not Royce Freeman can be the new lead back. It looks like he’s going to need some time to grow into the role.

If the Broncos make the super bowl it will be because of this defense. This is definitely one of the best defensive units in the league. Their pass rush consisting of Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Shane Ray is nightmare inducing. Let me spell this out if your not scared yet. The best pass rusher in the NFL is going to be hunting quarterbacks with the top pass rusher from this draft class and one of the quickest defensive linemen we’ve seen come out of college in the last few years. The loss of Aqib Talib hurts but Bradley Roby is ready to step up and Chris Harris Jr., who’s fully capable of keeping your favorite wide receiver in a headlock, is due to take over the #1 duties.

After Week 1: That pass rushed looked like all it was hyped up to be and we got a couple of nice flashes from Royce Freeman.  The Seahwaks are in decline but this was a solid victory for the Broncos.  They’re looking like a borderline playoff team to me.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs took a leap of faith this offseason when they shipped off Alex Smith and replaced him with Pat Mahomes Jr. I like the move. Alex Smith had a very low ceiling as a starter and there’s not many people I would trust when it comes to quarterbacks more than Andy Reid. Pat Mahomes is going to bring another dimension to this offense in that he plays with a lot less fear than Alex Smith. It’s going to lead to more mistakes at times yes, but it raises the potential of this offense. With speedsters like Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill at his disposal defenses better keep two safeties back or they’ll be getting burnt all day. Travis Kelce is a better tight end than Gronk (calm down, he is, @ me when I’m wrong). Kareem Hunt exploded onto the scene last year and if Pat’s arm can keep defenses honest oh boy does he have a big year in store for him.

While the offense is trending up the defense is trending down.  Losing Marcus Peters is a hurt piece no matter how much they pretend it’s not.  I’ve been watching these corners get steadily eaten up all preseason.  They won’t be able to hold up.

After Week 1:  A lot of my concerns about Pat Mahomes were washed away on Sunday.  This offense just has too many weapons to for him to fail.  Him and Tyreke Hill showed great chemistry.  It helps that there isn’t anyone in the league fast enough to cover him.  As expected, the secondary got ate up but the offense played so well it didn’t matter.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Whoever is evaluating wide receivers for the Steelers deserves a raise ASAP.  They’ve lost more talent at receiver than the Dolphins have had in a decade and they still have arguably the best group of wideouts in the league.  JuJu is a legitimate #1 receiver on nearly any other team and this preseason showed they have guys that should be playing but can’t even crack the depth chart.  We have to acknowledge the excellent scouting and decision making that goes into building a group like this.  Those receivers are going to be leaned on a lot until we figure out when Le’veon Bell is returning to the team.  I’ve heard anywhere from this week to week 10 and here’s how I feel about the Bell situation.  I believe Bell deserves his money and has every right to ask for what he wants, but he has to accept the consequences that come with that.  If you’re going to hold out for an unprecedented contract on a team that needs to pour money into that defense in order to win a super bowl then you can no longer claim to care about winning.  Again, he’s has every prerogative to fight for what he wants but people aren’t going to believe he’s here to win and that’s why his teammates are slandering him to the media.  I can see exactly why they are mad.  It’s not like he’s ever carried this team and when crunch time comes he’s been largely unavailable.  Go ahead and name your favorite playoff Le’veon moment, I’ll wait. … Exactly.

The defense for the Steelers is still terrible as usual.  A couple of weeks ago they gave up 51 points in a preseason game.  You may not read too much into that but to me it speaks volumes.  51 points is a ridiculous amount of points to allow, especially in a preseason game.  Teams aren’t even getting that exotic with the playcalling and you can’t even stop the basics?  Ever since Troy left this secondary hasn’t been able to cover waffles with syrup and I don’t see that changing this year.  The loss of Ryan Shazier also sets this defense back a few years.  Because of numerous bad draft picks, like Jarvis Jones, they did not have the depth to absorb that blow.  I believe that defense that gave up 51 points is very close to the Steelers true defensive identity.

After Week 1: Like I stated before I really see a bad year ahead for the Steelers.  Ben looks super washed and this should probably be his last year.  He needs to hang it up.  All we’ve heard coming from the Steelers is dysfunction and on Sunday they showed that they were barely as good as he Browns.  With 5 turnovers, they were lucky to get a tie.  They should’ve been blown out.

Cleveland Browns

After Week 1:  It was only a tie but it was a step in the right direction for the Browns on Sunday.  They have to learn out to take advantage of the opportunities given to them by this defense and when they do they will be a problem.

Baltimore Ravens

Lets make this known right now. Joe Flacco is losing his job this year. Whether Lamar Jackson starts week 1 or takes over the quarterbacking duties midway through the year is hard to tell at this point but my guess is that it will happen sooner rather than later.  John Brown is poised for a breakout year regardless of who the quarterback is. Lamar will bring another dynamic to this offense that Joe simply can’t.  The Ravens need a spark somewhere because their offense has been silent movie level boring the past few years.  I’m excited to see what Hayden Hurst can do once he gets back.  The Ravens haven’t solved that tight end spot ever since Todd Heap left but so far Hayden is looking the part of a franchise tight end.

The Ravens invented defense and this year is no different.  From top to bottom there are playmakers at every spot on the field.  Even though the offense is big trash right now, this defense is good enough to spark a super bowl run.  CJ Mosley is already a star but is young enough to reach a higher level of play.  Same goes for guys like Michael Peirce, Brandon Williams, and Marlon Humphrey.  The Ravens should be able to keep most of their games close and if the bounces go their way they could muddy up the playoff picture.

After Week 1: It’s tough to judge the Ravens after beating the worst team in the league.  I expect everyone to beat the Bills so this win doesn’t really tell us anything about Baltimore.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans offense is still basically all potential, albeit, with an extremely high ceiling.  It all starts with Marcus Mariota and prioritizing his health.  The Titans plan on doing this by playing smashmouth football and they have the perfect running back to accomplish that.  Derrick Henry is a giant of a man and I imagine tackling him is like trying to tackle a moose.  This is his first year as the primary back and I can’t wait to see how he plays because he’s been very productive in the limited opportunities he’s gotten so far in his career.  You’re going to have to put 8 in the box when you play the Titans and that will lead to targets for Corey Davis and Delanie Walker off of play action.  You couple that kind of gameplan with the solid defense they’ve built over the past few years and it wouldn’t surprise me if Tennessee secured a wild card spot.

After Week 1: The Titans season was looking up but they failed the primary objective of keeping Mariota healthy already.  They then lost two more important players in Taylor Lewan and Delanie Walker.  This offense didn’t have many weapons in the first place so I fear their dreams have already been dashed this season.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys need a new quarterback because Dak ain’t it.  I’ve never seen him consistently move the offense without Zeke on the field.  They don’t need a star at quarterback but someone who can make plays with less than eight in the box would be nice.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.  He has the weapons in Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup this year so if he doesn’t produce its time for the Cowboys to draft another QB.

After Week 1:  If Dak wasn’t it before this year started he’s super not it now.  The Panthers secondary is not good but he made them look like the Legion of Boom.  This is Dak’s third year in the league and he’s going to begin to wear out his welcome very soon.

Seattle Seahawks

It’s not looking good for the hawks this year.  The reign off the Legion of Boom is all but over as Richard Sherman is a 49’er, Kam Chancellor has retired, and Brandon Browner as taken the torch from Aaron Hernandez and ran with it.  Besides Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas there aren’t many players from that Superbowl winning team left on that defense.

Russel Wilson is still the spoon that stirs this offense but, seeing as the Seahawks still refuse to invest in their offensive line, prepare to taste some bland ass Kool-Aid as a result.  First-round pick Rashaad Penny is the favorite to win the starting running back job but we’ll see if that’s an affirmation of Rashaad’s talent or an indictment on the veteran backs on the roster.  Seattle’s receiving corps also took a hit with the loss of Paul Richardson.  That’s a position I’ll keep an eye on during preseason because besides Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, they have a lot of inexperienced receivers or washed up ones like Brandon Marshall.  I don’t even understand the Brandon Marshall signing because even if he stays healthy his hands just aren’t there anymore.

After Week 1:  This isn’t the Seahawk team we’ve come to know and sadly it seems the dynasty we all thought was being born has already died.  Russel Wilson is enough to carry this team to a few wins but I’m expecting the Seahawks to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.

San Francisco 49ers

Following multiple years of ineptitude after severely mishandling the Colin Kaepernick situation, the 49ers suddenly find themselves as arguably the second best team in the NFC West. I’m not sold on Jimmy Gorappolo being the franchise savior, but he doesn’t have to be in a Kyle Shanahan offense. From Brian Hoyer, to Kirk Cousins, and Matt Ryan we’ve seen all these quarterbacks have their best seasons playing under Kyle’s scheme. I’m not saying Jimmy is trash I just need to see a little more than the 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions he put up in five games last year. I believe they won all those games but a majority of them were against teams who’s season was already decided. My personal assessment of Jimmy aside, I expect the 49ers to have a good year.

After Week 1: The 49ers had a tough matchup on Sunday but put up a good fight.  That being said, a lot of my concerns about Jimmy showed up Sunday as well.  I’m still not buying any Gorappolo stock at the moment.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs will be without quarterback Jameis Winston for at least the first three games as he has been suspended for sexually assaulting an Uber driver.  If he was missing anymore games it would be quiet for them but week 4 is still early enough for Jameis to come back and make something happen.  Ryan FitzPatrick will be the starter in the meantime and he’s no slouch.  If he can take care of the ball and not put this defense in bad situations they should be able to stay afloat.  This defense will be good this year especially with the Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea playing next to each other.  They most likely won’t make the playoffs but they will be competitive in the division.

After Week 1: Ryan FitzPatrick played amazing and shredded a really good Saints defense.  He’s doing that thing he does every three years where he tricks us all into thinking he can be a franchise QB and I’m ready to fall for it.  In all seriousness though, if he keeps this up it’s not out of the question for the Bucs to move on from Jameis.  Especially with his off-field behavior.

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have spent the past two seasons trying to put as many weapons around Cam Newton as they could and we’re starting to see a complete offense come together.  Christian McCaffrey is now the lone feature back and pairing him with fellow first-round pick DJ Moore should allow them to open up the offense.  With returning vets Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess, Cam finally doesn’t have to carry the entire offense himself.  This is paramount to the Panther’s success because as Cam gets older there is no way they can continue to base their offense around quarterback power runs.  Eventually he will break running into those linebackers over and over again.

Defensively they are solid everywhere but in the secondary.  In a passing league, that’s a recipe for disaster.

After Week 1: This Panthers seem to enjoy these low-scoring games.  This defense did a tremendous job shutting down that Dallas offense.  The NFC South is going to be very intersting this year.

Chicago Bears

The Bears are going to sneak up on a lot of teams this year. Well, at least they were before they got Khalil Mack. Now they won’t be a surprise to anyone. They’re going to be the last team we cover in this section because I believe they are the closest of all these teams to being actual contenders. I wasn’t the biggest believer in Mitch Trubisky coming out of college but he proved me wrong last season. I saw a quarterback and a leader who was able to showcase his talent even though he head very little in terms of weapons outside of Cameron Meredith. This year he gets Allen Robinson and Trey Burton. The offensive line is already solid and the backfield duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen is just as good and dynamic as any other backfield. Mitch has all the tools to make this an offense that should be feared this year.

The defense is looking just as good as the top units in the league and I’m trying my hardest not to fall prey to recency bias and make them a contender.

After Week 1:  The Bears started the season just like I expected and got out to a huge lead on the Packers, though they ended up choking it away.  They, like the Browns, just need to learn how to close these games out.

Contenders

These are the Juggernauts.  The Cream of the Crop.  The budding dynasties.  The OG’s.  One of these teams is going to win the super bowl this year and I’ll let you know exactly who I think it will be.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are one of the most complete teams right now and both the offense and the defense will be must watch TV.  The injury bug has already bit their secondary hard but I still have faith they can make some noise this year.

After Week 1: Not a good showing from the Chargers.  Neither side of the ball came to play on Sunday.  This was a chance to set the tone for the season and announce themselves as a contender but instead it looks like more of the same.

Jacksonville Jaguars

As long as Blake Bortles continues to play at the level he does the Jaguars success will be capped at exactly where they finished last year. He has to be able to keep defenses honest or defenses will key in on Fournette and the offense will go stagnant.  Their receivers are dropping like flies so I’m worried about this offense now.  The defense will keep games close as usual but Fournette can’t do it all himself and Blake is incapable of helping.  They’re going to take a slight step back this year.

After Week 1:  I can’t confidently pick this team to win the super bowl but they will make a run.  I think they’ll win more than 9 games but that’s as far out on the ledge as I’m willing to go for them.

Philadelphia Eagles

After Week 1: Lightning normally doesn’t strike the same place twice.  There’s no way Nick Foles leads the Eagles to back-to-back super bowls. If Carson Wentz does not come back in a timely manner I am writing the Eagles off.  However, if the Eagles get desperate and bring him back early they immediately become one of the best teams.  I’m hearing the latter is very likely to happen so I’m picking the Eagles to win over 10 games.

Green Bay Packers

As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy the Packers are a threat.  All their other offensive weapons are irrelevant without him so we don’t even need to cover anyone but him.

After Week 1: The above sentence could not have played out any better than what happened Sunday night.  The Packers literally watched their season blow up when Rodgers was knocked out of the game but he rose from the dead and returned to lead them to a victory.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have arguably the best duo of receivers, the best duo of safeties, and the best defensive line and I still don’t trust them becasue they’re quarterback has never won a big game in his career.  When the playoffs get here is Kirk going to be able to withstand the pressure?  He hasn’t shown us that yet so I wouldn’t bet on it.

After Week 1:  Cousins looked very average against a defense that isn’t that good.  I’m warning you guys this Cousins deal is going to begin to look very bad very soon.

Atlanta Falcons

Calvin Ridley was a luxury pick that I’m expecting to immediately pay off for Atlanta. With the attention that’s going to be required for Julio, Sanu, and the running backs coming out the backfield Ridley should have 1 on 1 coverage wherever he goes. At least until defenses figure out that he is a legitimate threat. The offensive line still has a lot of room for improvement and at this point it may be time to give up on a few of these linemen. They’re mostly veterans so if they can’t get it right it may be time to spend some high draft capital on some offensive lineman in the upcoming draft. This year is going to go a long way towards shaping the narrative of Matt Ryan’s career. He bounced back from blowing that super bowl two years ago but that playoff lost last year was horrible. They had every opportunity to beat the Eagles but he simply didn’t play well enough.

The defense is gonna be the true spark plug for this team. Atlanta has an extremely underrated defense full of athletes that fly around the field. They don’t have the best stats when it comes to yardage but they force turnovers at a very high rate and that turns the tide in a lot of their close games. Deion Jones is going to put his name on the map this year. He has the speed to make plays all over the field and is also great in coverage. Desmond Trufant should return from injury this year so having one of the best corners in the game back will be a boon as well.

After Week 1: The Falcons should go deep in the playoffs and have the potential to win the Super Bowl.  The defense already looks better this year so it will be up to Matty Ice to STOP THROWING CRIPPLING PICKS, STALLING IN THE REDZONE, OR BLOWING 28-3 LEADS.

New England Patriots

What is there to say about the Patriots that hasn’t already been said? They’re the Hov of the NFL. I know we all watched them lose in last year’s super bowl, but would you be at all surprised if this last few months have been a dream and you wake up back on your couch with a plate full of wings and Tom Brady on the TV celebrating a game winning touchdown that you slept through? Part of me is expecting that to happen any day now.

This season they’re going to tear through this division with ease as this is the weakest the other three teams in the AFC East have been in a long time. I’m looking forward to see how this defense looks with new defensive play-caller Matt Flores. Them and the offensive line were the weak links of the team last year and this offense was still good enough to drag them within arm’s reach of a super bowl victory. I’m not picking them to win the Super Bowl but I don’t expect any drop off from they’re level of play from last year.

Offensively, the Patriots remain among the smartest in the league.  Most of the league has opted to have a backfield by committee with defined roles but the Patriots have taken this strategy one step further.  They boast a stable of backs that can both run and catch and they doubled down on this tactic by selecting Sony Michel in the first round.  The Patriots will have a fresh back on the field every down this season and defenses won’t be able to key run or pass of their personel.  At receiver, they return Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell.  They lost Brandin Cooks but I believe Cordarrelle Patterson and Eric Decker both have the potential to be a viable replacement.  You can always pencil Rob Gronkowski in for a big year, if healthy, and Dwayne Allen is the latest contestant on New England’s hit show “He’s Not Gronk so he’s Wide Open”  This is still a Superbowl caliber offense and with a little improvement from the offensive line they’ll continue to break down defenses.

On the defensive side of the ball I’m ready to see what this front 7 can do.  They have a lot of young guys like Trey Flowers, Malcolm Brown, Danny Shelton, and D’onta Hightower that will be able to disrupt opposing rushing attacks.  The secondary worries me as they are a little up there in age and they lost Malcolm Butler so that’s looking like the weak link in the defense so far.

After Week 1: The Patriots started the season looking very focused.  They will run away with this division but I have them losing before making the Super Bowl.

New Orleans Saints

After week 1:  The Saints have a lot to make up for.  They should not have gone home when they did last year and that kind of fire and motivation can power a team all season.  The defense failed them on Sunday.  They couldn’t cover anyone and Ryan Fitzpatrick put up 5 touchdowns on them.  History has shown us teams who end the year with tough losses in the playoffs or super bowl carry that juju over into the next season so I hope this isn’t a sign of them falling into a slump.

Houston Texans

After Week 1:  I expected Deshaun Watson and this offense to pick up right where they left off but the offesnive line looked weaker and Watson looked noticeably less athletic returning from that knee injury.  I still expect them to be good so I’m curious to see how they look in the upcoming weeks.  They were playing the Patriots and missing Will Fuller so a tough game is understandable.  On the defensive side Tyrann Matheiu is already making  a difference on the field.  His ability to force turnovers is going to be extremely valuable for them.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are that guy in your online Madden Franchise who ruins the league by finessing all of the CPU controlled teams for their best players.  You wake up in the morning and somehow he’s added Marcus Peters, Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, and Ndamokung Suh.  Sure he’s out of draft picks and cap room now but does any of that matter when he brings home a super bowl trophy at the end of the year.  Splurging in Free Agency rarely works in the NFL but I have feeling all these signings are going to work wonders for LA.  The guys they signed are all individually talented and aren’t players like Nnamdi Asumwa who can only play in one scheme.  Marcus Peters and Aqib Tlib are two of the best one on one defenders in the league and Ndamokung Suh and Aaron Donald are going to take four offensive lineman to slow them down every play.

After Week 1:  This is the best team on paper and my pick to win the super bowl this year.  There’s too much talent on this team now for me to pick against them.  They looked completely dominant against the Raiders and looked poised to make a run.

Week 1 is in the Books

The season is in full swing and when it’s all said and done I expect to see the Houston Texans and the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl with the Rams coming out on top.  Until someone can explain to me how Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh can both be contained at the same time I’m expecting them to roll over every offensive line they go up against this year.  This is all on record now so when the season comes to a close we can all look back on this and I can be recognized as the genius that I am.  We’ll check back on how everyone’s doing in the near future.

 

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