Welcome to a brand-new NFL season. Just think, in two months we’ll all be saying, “Geez! It’s already Week 10!” So, let’s really saver this Week 1. Watch old games […]
Welcome to a brand-new NFL season. Just think, in two months we’ll all be saying, “Geez! It’s already Week 10!” So, let’s really saver this Week 1. Watch old games on YouTube. Take another look at your favorite team’s schedule and their counterparts’ as well. Know what you got. You only have one week out of the year to really do this with a positive outlook. Take this chance.
Don’t do it now, though. My goodness, first, you must read through my “2019 Unreasonable Predictions!” Every year I try and spend a little time figuring out the NFL only to be proven wrong in almost every way possible. That’s why I call my picks “unreasonable” these days. I used to call them that just because I thought the Eagles were going to finally win a Super Bowl. They did that, by the way. Two years ago. Now that I’m not as hungry for a World Championship, I feel I may have become a bit more reasonable. That’s only a feeling. As these predictions will prove, me making “reasonable” predictions never becomes fact.
For example: last year, I picked the Philadelphia Eagles to repeat as Super Bowl Champions with a win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl LIII. It felt right, but I was way too excited for the 2018 season. It was my first experience coming off a World Championship win in football. Of course, I thought the Birds were going to get Carson his “real” championship. I wasn’t the only one. It’s cool though, that’s coming this season. (KIDDING.)
There are always variables with each new NFL season: injuries, holdouts, suspensions, etc. This season is no different. A ton of drama has already gone down. I feel like re-addressing all the goings-on is pointless. Anyone reading this is pretty much in-tune with what’s coming down the pike this week. Let’s start with five things I have no problem “hot-taking” for this upcoming NFL season.
Patriots won’t make it to Super Bowl LIV.
What are the odds these jerks can make it to four Super Bowls in a row? I saw a team do this as a kid. For my friends that are Buffalo Bills fans, whether they lived it or not, they know about it. It’s not that the AFC East has something for the Patriots—they don’t. Do you know how hard this would be, though? Not to mention it would be Brady and Belichick’s TENTH Super Bowl appearance. I don’t see this happening but I’m not saying I’ll be shocked if it does. It’s the Pats.
Browns probably won’t make the Playoffs.
Note: “probably won’t.” Sure, Baker Mayfield has some real weapons to work with in Cleveland. The one thing no one talks about is the Browns defense. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are two of the league’s brightest new talents but can they lead the D to keep points off the board? I consider the Browns outliers but I can see where experts are coming from in their predictions of a Browns postseason appearance in 2019. The Steelers and Ravens are also coming to play this season and will likely end up with better records.
One NFL team will lose two games.
Feels like it’s been a while since a NFL team kicked the crap out of everyone they played. The Pats were the last to go 14-2 back in 2016 eventually winning Super Bowl LI. The Panthers went 15-1 in 2015 but they skated by, far from dominant despite losing only one game all year (then the big one in Feb.). In fact, since 1998, there have been 14 teams to win 14 or more games in the regular season. Out of those teams, only four won the Super Bowl that year (Packers ’98, Patriots 2003-04, ’16). As schedules show, there are two teams this year with a decent shot: Patriots and Rams. My money is on New England just because they’ll go 6-0 in their division and mitigate surprises from lesser AFC teams.
2019’s Surprise Team: Indianapolis Colts Indianapolis Colts
I usually make an outline of my predictions a month before I finalize them. To begin the preseason, I had the Colts as my sleeper agent. They were the team I thought may have something for the Pats and the Chiefs come January. Why? Andrew Luck, duh. Dude had a stellar year last season and I was totally on board with the Colts and Frank Reich making another solid run in 2019. Stuff happens, though. Luck was sick of not being healthy. Life’s too short, etc. So, he’s going to help his family out with their farm. I have so much respect for that. That said, despite wavering on whether or not I still think the Colts are this year’s surprise team, I’m sticking with my gut. The Colts can win the AFC South. Any team in the AFC South can take that division this season. If the Colts post seven wins it’s a successful season. Should be interesting.
2019’s Biggest Disappointment: Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys
What a bunch of idiots. (Go Birds.) First: they’ve cost me precious time composing my predictions. For example, I’ve thought to myself, “Do I just go ahead and predict that the Cowboys are going to hit a wall even though their first three opponents are cupcakes that should easily result in a 3-0 record and a big step toward postseason contention?” I’m not going to rehash the offseason crap with Ezekiel Elliott trying to get a new contract with two more seasons left on his deal. (Thanks, LeVeon.) Despite his recent return to practice, he won’t be game-ready until Week 6 or 7. It’s the NFL. “Training in Cobo” sounds a lot like, “In no way am I partying every night, baby.” What’ll be the beauty of it all will be when the ‘Boys open up 4-1/5-1 only to then hit reality once they start playing real teams. Can the Cowboys make the playoffs? Yes, but that’s not saying a lot considering what they could’ve been heading into this season: dangerous. Today, they’re simply a danger to themselves.
Now the hot takes are off the table, I want to share with you one outlook I go to every year when I’m figuring out the possible outcome of a new NFL season. Scheduling is one of the most important factors to a team having a successful year. Sure, you need to have the personnel but a team also needs the peace of mind knowing they don’t have to travel very far when playing on the road. Here’s who the “experts” believe to have the easiest road to success based on the previous season record of opponents.
Redskins – .469 – Interesting. They play at Buffalo and home for Detroit late in the season. They also play the Vikings, Jets, Panthers, Packers, and—oh, yeah—the final three weeks vs. the NFC East. These are the Redskins’ final nine opponents. Unless they’re not showing us what they have to bring to the table, good luck this season.
Patriots, Rams, Jets, Giants, Bengals (TIE) – .473 – The Jets, Giants, and Bengals make sense based on their placement to end last season. However, the Pats and Rams. Outside of their opener Sunday night versus Pittsburgh, the Patriots should breeze through the first half of their schedule, face a bit of adversity in the third quarter, and then finish strong. The Rams play in the NFC West with the real challenges spread out throughout the course of the season as opposed to clumps.
Eagles – .477 – They’ve got the third easiest schedule but in October they play three straight road games in as many weeks (@ MIN, DAL, then BUF). They turn around and five out of the next six weeks are spent in Philadelphia starting out with the Bears, a bye, the Patriots, and the Seahawks in town. The Eagles have a weird schedule.
Seahawks – .479 – Another NFC West team. Take that into account. Arizona and San Fran travel to CenturyLink for the final two games. The NFC West also plays the NFC South this season. Failed to mention that earlier. So, that helps.
Bills – .480 – This is the one team on the list who can crush opponents’ dreams at the end of the year. Their first nine weeks are quite manageable for any mediocre NFL team. As I stated, the Bills play @ DAL, home vs. BAL then PIT, @NE, and then finishing at home vs. the Jets. Four of the Bills final five oppositions are potential playoff contenders. They could ruin everything for a Sam Darnold or a Lamar Jackson.
Raiders – .539 – Ah, the poor Raiders. (Helluva Hard Knocks, tho.) Their first six games are bru-tal. Their last six: brutal. It blows my mind that the worst teams from the previous year seem to draw the toughest schedules the next season. It’s just how it works out. You know that at least one of the other three last place AFC teams from 2018 the Raiders face won’t be as bad this year. Even with the addition of Antonio Brown—as we can all see watching their show—the Raiders have nothing else that is a threat to their opponents. Derek Carr earned a contract in 2016 and hasn’t come close to that form since. Will AB improve that? Possibly.
Broncos – .537 – The AFC West plays the NFC North. The Broncs have to go on the road four out of five late @ MIN, BUF, HOU, and KC with a home game again the Chargers sandwiched in the middle. They also have the Bears next week followed by a trip to Lambeau. Not an easy start or finish for Flac.
Jaguars – .531 – Their back end isn’t as formidable now Andrew Luck is working on the farm. Their proving ground comes right away: Sunday, they host the early-favorite, Kansas City Chiefs. Next week, Foles and the Jags go out to Houston (their London opponent this season). Then, back home for the boring Titans. If Nick Foles can get the Jags to escape 3-0, then this tough schedule be damned.
Texans – .527 – The same goes for these guys. No Luck means better luck versus the Colts. I’ll say this: even if the Texans go 6-6, the last four weeks (home vs. DEN, @ TEN and TB, then home vs. TEN) dictate four straight wins while wearing my “future-goggles.” It’s not as winnable as the Jags’ schedule but the Texans play New England, JAX does not.
Bears & Chiefs – .520 – Sometimes a tough schedule matters. Sometimes it doesn’t. More so than any other teams in the league, key injuries for either of these teams spells major trouble. For KC, they have to keep the offense healthy. Namely, the reigning NFL MVP, Patrick Mahomes. For CHI, it’s the other side of the ball. Khalil Mack has to play every game in order to give the Bears their best chance of winning a lot of games in 2019.
Here are a few more little Vegas tidbits I thought I would share:
EARLY FAVORITES TO WIN SUPER BOWL LIV: Chiefs (5/1), Patriots (6/1), Saints, Bears, and Eagles (12/1)
LAYING IN WAIT: Rams, Chargers, Steelers, Browns(?!)
OUTLIERS: Vikings, Packers, Cowboys, Seahawks, Jags
Then, you have everyone else.
What does this tell us? If you’re a gambler, throw $100 on any team that I didn’t list above if you want to get lucky and earn a big pay out. If you’re simply a fan (like me) you see the top five or six teams and should expect to see them all in the mix come winter. The current futures odds also tell me that the NFC is going to be a demolition derby this season—especially the NFC Central, I mean, North.
Speaking of divisions, instead of breaking down my thoughts about each team, I’ll take a broader approach this year. Here’s what I think…
AFC EAST – The Patriots are far and way the best team in this division. The Jets will be fun to watch early on before that dumpster fire erupts. The Bills’ QB Josh Allen has potential, as does their defense but the rest of the team is filled with no-names. Finally, the Dolphins. Oh boy, right now, if you asked an expert on their thoughts on MIA potentially going 0-16, some may agree. Talk about potentially tarnishing an almost 50-year legacy.
AFC NORTH – This seems like an early focus for a lot of NFL fans. I think the Steelers win the division. They have the AFC North’s best roster all-around. JuJu Smith-Schuster has an opportunity to become one of the top-three wide outs in the league. Look, the Browns are obviously the story of the division but due to their experience, I think they will struggle to gel early. Let’s hope some of the key elements to success have matured or this team will disappoint. The Ravens are a potential threat if Lamar Jackson isn’t contained. The Bengals suck—I don’t think there’s anything left to say about them. We have to see what their new head coach does with the little he was given.
AFC SOUTH – What a difference the closing days of the NFL Preseason can make on so many teams. With Andrew Luck’s retirement, the Colts went from top-five playoff sure-shot to mediocre-bordering on unlikely. Which team takes advantage of this? You have to start with the Texans, right? Deshaun Watson had offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil added to his offensive line. Their defense is stout. I like them to start hot. The Jaguars now have a Super Bowl MVP at quarterback to help their offense. The JAX defense is arguably the best in the league. Why not Jacksonville? I’ll tell you why: the Tennessee Titans. The Texans play the Titans twice in the last three weeks of the season. Do you expect anything out of the Titans? I don’t. These games will tell the tale for the Texans’ playoff positioning.
AFC WEST – Remember back when I would hammer the AFC West for being so boring? The late 2000’s weren’t kind to this division. Ten years later, these teams are pretty interesting. I like the Chiefs, obviously. Now that they added LeSean McCoy, their offense look even more threatening. The Chargers made a sweet run last season. I look for them to end up in the postseason again in 2019. This is the first season of Hard Knocks I’ve watched since the show premiered years ago. I like what the Raiders bring, but they are clearly not that good. That team, like the Jets, are a smoldering cauldron of potential full-season drama.
NFC EAST – As I compose my predictions, Ezekiel Elliott still hasn’t shown up to Jerryworld to work out an extension. Why am I leading with this? It’s because the Cowboys are the only team in this division who will pose a threat to the Philadelphia Eagles not winning 11+ games in 2019. Even if Zeke hits the field at some point this year, the damage is done. NFL players need the preseason to prepare with the team—as a team. Elliott’s teammates are ready to go with or without him. When/If he shows up, Elliott’s not only got to work with his teammates, he’s going to have to deal with what comes when the Cowboys aren’t performing well/winning games. The Eagles win this division with the Cowboys either one or two games underneath (with or without #21). The Giants and the Redskins are a part of 2019’s afterthoughts—but could potentially ruin the seasons for their divisional counterparts all the same. It happens.
NFC NORTH – I mentioned how this division is going to be a demolition derby. Let’s be real, it is always. The old NFC Central (+TB) used to be referred to as “The Black & Blue Division” for a reason. This season’s no different, really. Last year, the Bears were surprisingly good. One “double doink” later and the Chicago Bears didn’t get a chance to break the Rams’ hearts in the 2019 playoffs. CHI addressed their kicking situation, so problem solved there. The defense speaks volumes: they’re really-really good. However, something tells me that Matt Lafleur and Aaron Rodgers are cooking something up in Green Bay. I like the Packers to respond in 2019. Their defense is “meh” at best but two disappointing seasons, I think they’ll step it up. The Vikings still start Kirk Cousins at quarterback, so, they’re out. The Lions join the Redskins and Giants as a part of the NFL teams that no one talks about.
NFC SOUTH – The worst division in the NFL. Unlike the Packers in the North, I feel the Saints may take a step back in the South this year. Their season ended on a sour, league-changing note last season. Sean Peyton is going wish he never cried like a baby. Sure, I think the Saints win the division but they won’t be a #2 seed heading into this year’s postseason (but could still make it to MIA in Feb). What are the Panthers? What are the Falcons? You tell me. I have no idea anymore. Either team could win 9+ games or not. The Buccaneers have a great head coach in Bruce Arians. I hope he can turn it around but not with their current QB.
NFC WEST – This division looked like it was going to be a lot of fun last season. Didn’t turn out to be as competitive as I thought. I won’t make that mistake this year. The Rams are the class of the West. The defending NFC Champions should walk away with another division title and a bye in the playoffs. That said, one of the scariest teams in the NFL rests in the NFC West: the Seattle Seahawks. This sleeping giant has laid dormant for the past few seasons. A mix of age, injuries, and bad luck changed this team’s personnel to a group that can now make a serious push. They got into the playoffs last year (much like Philadelphia) because a few other teams decided to stop playing decent football. They’ve added good players and keep an eye on Russell Wilson possibly calling his own plays for the SEA offense this year. The Cardinals have 2019’s #1 pick playing for them, so there’s that and nothing else. I think the 49ers are not as good as advertised in 2019 preseason.
Now, let us review my playoff teams. The trend says that there should be at least five new playoff teams this postseason. I think there will be only four.
AFC EAST: Patriots
AFC NORTH: Steelers
AFC SOUTH: Texans, Jaguars (Wild Card)
AFC WEST: Chiefs, Chargers (Wild Card)
NFC EAST: Eagles, Cowboys (Wild Card)
NFC NORTH: Packers
NFC SOUTH: Saints
NFC WEST: Rams, Seahawks (Wild Card)
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Chiefs over Patriots
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Saints over Eagles
Chiefs over Saints in 31:24 after reversing a backslide for the pin.
Go, “Big Red.” Get it done this year. Enjoy the season, folks. Fly, Eagles, fly—or whatever your favorite team’s less-cool war cry may be.