Predicting The 2020 NFL Season

We’re back! If you’d asked me a few weeks ago to simply predict whether or not we’d have a football season, I probably would’ve said, “Sure,” but there’s no way I could’ve been 100% unequivocal. Anyway, I say it every year and it still holds true, this is my favorite sports blog post to write, and this time we’re getting a jump on things! But first, a look back at my prior predictions:

Last year, I nailed the Eagles and Saints as division winners and whiffed on the Seahawks and Vikings (though, both made the playoffs as Wild Card teams). I had the Rams and Cowboys as Wild Card teams, but neither made the playoffs (though, they were 9-7 and 8-8 respectively). My worst calls in the NFC were the 49ers and Packers being third in their respective divisions (when they obviously won them and were the top two playoff seeds).

In the AFC, I nailed New England, Houston, and Kansas City as division winners; whiffing on the Steelers (who failed to make the playoffs) over the Ravens (who I pegged as a third place finisher, calling them a 7-win team; I was half-right, since they ended up 14-2). I had the Browns and Chargers as Wild Card teams, who won a combined 11 games (the Bills and Titans ended up making it).

As far as the playoffs go, I was WAY too high on the Eagles, who I had as a 1-seed making the Super Bowl. However, I did have Kansas City winning it all, so bully for me!

Okay, without further ado … here’s some more ado. I should point out I’ve never been so underprepared for an NFL season. So, I’m going to take a few minutes here to reacquaint myself as to what happened last year, see where some key free agents ended up, and I’ll come right back with my predictions. It’ll be so quick, you won’t even know I was gone!

And I’m back! Honestly, I don’t know how much insight I’ll have, but let’s get to it.

NFC East

  • Dallas
  • Philadelphia
  • New York
  • Washington

I think I like the Cowboys and Eagles pretty equally. Mostly, I went with Dallas over Philly to change things up. It’s hard to repeat as divisional champions, and I didn’t see anything out of the Eagles last year that impressed me to the point that they’d be drastically improved. With Dak Prescott playing for a bigtime contract extension, he’s motivated as all get-out to play well, and that could be the ultimate decider. I think the Giants have enough to improve from Bad to Mediocre, which I figure accounts for a ceiling of 7 wins. The Washington Football Team is a trainwreck in all aspects of football and life; I can’t see them winning more than 4 games.

NFC North

  • Minnesota
  • Green Bay
  • Chicago
  • Detroit

The Vikings are strong on both sides of the football, with a good coaching staff and a lot of stars. I see a big step-back out of the Packers – who did nothing last year to overwhelmingly impress me, other than taking care of business during an incredibly easy schedule – with the Vikings maybe even contending for the top seed if everything breaks right. The Packers, of course, will be in line for a Wild Card if their quarterback stays healthy. The Bears and Lions both strike me as bad teams heading in the wrong direction.

NFC South

  • Atlanta
  • Tampa Bay
  • New Orleans
  • Carolina

I’m taking a HUGE swing here! I don’t have a good reason to like the Falcons, but I just do. The sensible pick is to repeat with the Saints, but they (and by “they” I mean Drew Brees) are getting old and I could see a few injuries really derailing things for them. If you were wondering who 2020’s All Overhyped Team is going to be (recall last year, that title went to the Cleveland Browns), it’s Tampa! I think they could get off to a hot start offensively, but I think their defense is a year or two away (famous last words, every time I write them), and I’m not buying Tom Brady’s noodle arm. There’s a lot of turnover on offense, and that can be a lot to square away in one offseason during a pandemic with no pre-season games. Carolina will not be much better with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm; he seems like he’s earning A LOT of money for someone who hasn’t accomplished much in his career.

NFC West

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Arizona

I’m getting a whiff of a Super Bowl Hangover season out of the 49ers. That should open the door for a Rams team that was snakebitten a little bit last year. It’s not often that a 9-7 team fails to make the playoffs; of course, had they made that last-second field goal against the Seahawks, it would’ve been them advancing instead of us. Color me as drinking the Seahawks Regression Kool Aid, because I have a BAD feeling about this season. It’s a lot to ask to put everything on one man’s shoulders, even if he’s as great as Russell Wilson; ultimately I just can’t see this team being so good in one-score games as they were last year. Arizona should be a lot of fun to watch, but I don’t know if they have anything even remotely resembling a defense.

AFC East

  • Buffalo
  • New England
  • Miami
  • New York

The Bills have steadily built up that team to be rock solid in most aspects. I think they’ll win a lot of games in spite of their quarterback play; if he can just avoid a lot of turnovers, they’ll probably win around 12 games with relative ease. The Patriots won’t totally fall off the map with Cam Newton in for Brady, but I don’t think he’s winning a division in his first year there. Miami looked to be on the upswing late last year; they’re still young, but I think they too can improve from Bad to Mediocre. The Jets were going the opposite direction, and they could be one of the worst teams in the league as well.

AFC North

  • Baltimore
  • Pittsburgh
  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati

The Ravens and Chiefs look to be the class of the AFC, so they should continue to dominate as long as they can stay relatively healthy. The Steelers were snakebitten by injuries last year, but otherwise were pretty strong across the board. I think the Browns might be a little underrated and could jump to 9 wins this year. The Bungles are who we thought they were.

AFC South

  • Indianapolis
  • Houston
  • Tennessee
  • Jacksonville

The Colts were a healthy, quality quarterback away from being a playoff team last year. They have Philip Rivers now, and I think he’ll make all the difference for a team that’s pretty good everywhere else. The Texans are slowly being eaten alive by their so-so head coach who is also the league’s dumbest general manager; I think this year was one inept move too many. They won’t win a division without DeAndre Hopkins, and likely won’t even return to the playoffs. I think the Titans were a flash in the pan and I’m not buying Ryan Tannehill. The Jags will be terrible and will contend for a #1 draft pick.

AFC West

  • Kansas City
  • Las Vegas
  • Denver
  • Los Angeles

The Chiefs are the best team in football, period. The Raiders and Broncos are just okay; they could flip-flop spots here and it wouldn’t shock me (but I don’t think either are playoff-calibre). The Chargers are bad. I don’t think Tyrod Taylor will be starting games long, and I don’t think Justin Herbert will be their Quarterback of the Future.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Minnesota
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Dallas
  4. Atlanta
  5. San Francisco
  6. Green Bay
  7. Seattle

AFC Playoffs

  1. Kansas City
  2. Baltimore
  3. Buffalo
  4. Indianapolis
  5. New England
  6. Pittsburgh
  7. Cleveland

Sign the Seahawks up as one of the first teams to take advantage of the seventh playoff spot! If that isn’t the Seahawkiest thing that’s ever happened, I don’t know what is.

Wild Card Round

  • Seahawks over Rams
  • Cowboys over Packers
  • 49ers over Falcons
  • Ravens over Browns
  • Steelers over Bills
  • Colts over Patriots

Divisional Round

  • Vikings over Seahawks
  • Cowboys over 49ers
  • Chiefs over Steelers
  • Ravens over Colts

Championship Round

  • Vikings over Cowboys
  • Ravens over Chiefs

Super Bowl

  • Vikings over Ravens

My backup guess is Vikings over Chiefs, but I guess I’m pretty committed to the Vikings winning it all here. Boy won’t they be partying in Minnesota if I’m right!

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2020: Corona-Draft Prep

  • Pre-Season Week 1 HERE

Well, the keepers are set in place, and now I get to look forward to our draft this Friday. There were some minor surprises – and a couple big ones – so without further ado, let’s take a quick glance at how wrong I was about my projected keepers for the rest of the league:

  1. Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Godwin, Matt Ryan (all correct)
  2. Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, James Conner, Travis Kelce (Odell Beckham Jr., Mark Ingram, and Keenan Allen all available to draft)
  3. Deshaun Watson, George Kittle, Derrick Henry, Cam Newton (Aaron Jones)
  4. Jared Goff, Drew Lock, DeAndre Hopkins, JuJu Smith-Schuster (A.J. Brown and Raheem Mostert)
  5. Kyler Murray, Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, Joe Mixon (Mike Evans)
  6. Aaron Rodgers, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen (Amari Cooper)
  7. Patrick Mahomes, Alvin Kamara, Davante Adams, Tyler Lockett (all correct)
  8. Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyreek Hill, Gardner Minshew, Todd Gurley (Matthew Stafford)
  9. Lamar Jackson, Julio Jones, Austin Ekeler, Kenyan Drake (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold)

I remember being MUCH more successful in predicting my league’s keepers before last season, so I don’t know what that says about me or the state of the NFL right now, but it makes the upcoming draft more interesting!

Until I saw the actual keepers, I wasn’t too thrilled about my prospects as the guy with the #2 overall draft pick. It just seemed like there wouldn’t be anyone really dominating for me to select. BUT, I see two guys among the leftovers who are VERY exciting! Not just for 2020, but for many years to come potentially!

Of this group, Mike Evans and Aaron Jones are both VERY enticing to me. Either one of them could fall to me and I’d be ecstatic with whoever I get. I know I bemoaned Tom Brady’s noodle arm last week, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be interested in the weapons he has to throw to. For starters, Brady isn’t totally inept; he hasn’t fallen completely off the cliff just yet. While Mike Evans has been mostly a deep threat thus far in his career, he still has a ton of value as a red zone target, and should thrive with someone like Brady throwing jump balls his way. If, by the grace of all that is holy, both Evans and Jones were to fall to me, I’d have to go with Evans simply because the drop-off at receiver is so steep among him and the rest of the leftovers.

Odell Beckham Jr. is, of course, one of those leftovers. I can’t say that I agree with exposing him to the rest of the league while keeping someone like Josh Allen, but you know, there’s a reason why I haven’t won a league championship in the fantasy trophy era (2010-Present). I think the Cleveland Browns – and by extension, their players – are pretty underrated in 2020, after being so very OVER-rated heading into 2019, so there could be some good value in guys like ODB and Baker Mayfield. If I picked lower in the first round, I’d be over the moon if someone like ODB fell to me; someone is going to get an absolute steal.

Aaron Jones was one of the best running backs in all of football last year, at least from a fantasy perspective. So, it’s shocking to see him available. But, it’s telling that he is, because the owner who exposed him is also a lifelong Packers fan. If HE’S not keeping Aaron Jones, there must be a reason (he’s also the reigning league champion, but that’s in spite of him auto-drafting last year, as well as never checking his e-mail, so we’re all in agreement that this was a fluke, and if his wife weren’t cc’d on all league e-mails, we’d probably never hear from him again). I have to believe Aaron Jones still has a lot of value, though, so if Mike Evans goes to the guy drafting #1 overall, I’m okay with nabbing Jones, even though I’ve already kept two running backs. There’s still the FLEX spot, and there are only so many bona fide, workhorse running backs in the league, so you really can’t have too many.

That would, of course, necessitate my drafting wide receivers in both the second and third rounds (which might see me needing to reach for some lesser players, but that’s the price you pay, I guess).

As I stated before, I still haven’t done a ton of research heading into the draft, as my objective at this point is still to mostly go by what Yahoo tells me. But, to pique my curiosity, I checked the season projections and found some surprising guys among the leftovers.

Miles Sanders, running back for the Eagles, is rated VERY high. Even higher than Aaron Jones! I can’t remember the last time an Eagles running back was worth more than an in-season free agent pickup (probably Shady McCoy), because they so often are in a time-share with multiple backs. But, he’s been definitively named the starter by the head coach, which is saying a lot but also not saying anything at all. Why would the head coach be motivated to give away such news for free to the rest of the league? Also, there’s no saying he has to stick with that, if Sanders under-produces or gets hurt. Sanders was really good towards the end of last year though, so I think that’s where the hope lies.

Not ODB nor Mike Evans is the highest-ranked wide receiver remaining; that falls to Allen Robinson of the Bears. I don’t totally get that, but ESPN also has him ranked pretty high, so I guess I have to believe it. With Chicago’s quarterback situation being what it is, I don’t have ANY faith in any of their players, but if he somehow falls to the second round, I might have to take him anyway.

Kenny Golladay is also rated above ODB and Evans, and he seems like a safer pick. He has elite talent, and Matthew Stafford is healthy again. It’s looking highly likely that MANY wide receivers are going to fly off the board in the first three rounds of our draft, so I’ll be interested to see who I’m able to grab.

Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, and Darren Waller are the three tight ends I’m looking at right now. Andrews is probably the only guy worth reaching for (maybe in the second or third round, if he’s still there), but if the draft doesn’t fall the way I want it to, I have no problem waiting until the end of the draft to pick up a tight end. There will be someone on waivers worth claiming in the first week or two of the regular season.

I need to resist the urge to get a third quarterback too early, but there are LOTS of veteran options out there (who I would anticipate get snapped up before I have a chance), including Drew Brees, Brady, Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill, and Tyrod Taylor. There’s also Baker Mayfield, who still has a lot of potential to be great, as well as Darnold and Dwayne Haskins (who stunk last year, but is still young enough to turn it around). And then, of course, there are the rookies. The more I think about it, the less inclined I am to want to reach too early for any of them. I also wonder if Joe Burrow won’t be the first overall player taken in the draft, considering the guy picking there and how badly he’s been looking to shore up his QB spots. Having Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow for the next generation might be too tantalizing to pass up.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 1

See my Intro to understand what this is all about.

See my Draft Recap to see where we are heading into the first week of the season.

I’ll be the first to admit I obsess WAY TOO MUCH about fantasy football.  Thinking about my roster, listening to podcasts, reading articles, pouring over the rankings of other people, scouring the waiver wire for potential pick-ups, conjuring trades to try and swindle my friends out of their elite players.  My productivity in general takes a HUGE hit during the football season for those reasons and many others, but I’m no more insane than I am in the lead-up to Week 1.

It’s no more or less important than any other regular season week, but it FEELS like the most important game of the season.  At the same time, I’ve been trying my best in recent years not to tinker too much with my roster before I’ve actually had a chance to see these guys play.  I mean, if I liked these guys enough to draft them a week ago, why am I sitting here second-guessing myself before they’ve done anything to convince me they’re no good?

Last year, I think I managed to go all the way through the first week before making a roster change; this year I wasn’t as strong.  But, I feel I had a good reason:  the Bears made a huge trade for Khalil Mack over the weekend – the day AFTER I drafted Baltimore’s defense – so I used my relatively high waiver priority (3rd in the league) to swap defenses.

My draft strategy this year was simple:  wait until the very last minute to draft a defense.  There are a few you have to feel good about – the Rams, the Jags, the Vikings, maybe the Eagles – but a lot of the time, defense is about matchups.  Likewise, there are countless stories of defenses that came out of nowhere to lead the fantasy league in points, just as there are countless stories of supposedly-elite defenses succumbing to age or injury or simple over-rating.  Why get caught up in the fervor of taking one of the top pre-season defenses early in the draft when you can get one pretty close to just as good at the end of the draft or on waivers after the first week.  So, in this league, I picked up the Ravens’ defense, because they’re going up against Buffalo in Week 1, and that felt like a good one to stream against until some other team popped out as one to go with from Week 2 onward (or, if I got lucky, and the Ravens’ defense was really good in general – and not just against the Bills – then I just got them in the next-to-last round while the suckers in my league wasted precious earlier draft picks on the same quality).

The thing is, even heading into the draft, I liked Chicago’s defense as a possible sleeper.  I think Vic Fangio is an excellent defensive coordinator – on a tier just below Wade Phillips – and I seemed to remember them really going hard after young talent in the draft on this side of the ball.  They seemed poised like a breakout candidate BEFORE trading for Mack; now that they have him, and his sack potential, I like the Bears enough to make them my ONLY defense.

Also, not for nothing, but I like my bench players an awful lot (heading into Week 1, my bench includes:  Greg Olsen, Carson Wentz, Robert Woods, Adrian Peterson, and Kenny Stills).  I don’t want to drop ANY of those guys at the moment, as I feel like they could all play important roles on my team this year.  If I did have to drop someone, it would likely be one of those two receivers, so seeing how they both look in the first week is going to be critical in my line of thinking going forward (gun to my head:  I’d probably choose Woods over Stills, as I like the Rams’ offense more than Miami’s; but Stills could end up as the Dolphins’ best receiver this year, while the Rams have a lot of guys who will divide Goff’s attention).

Anyway, how I plan to do this is I’m going to write up my thought process heading into the week ahead of time, that way my rationale won’t be tainted by events that already happened.  You’re going to know exactly what I’m thinking heading into this week, because I’m writing it before the games start.  Then, I’m going to write a section after the fact, letting you know how my week went.  So, without further ado:

My Rationale Beforehand

Here’s my roster for Week 1:

  • QB1 – Derek Carr vs. LAR
  • QB2 – Andy Dalton @ IND
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill @ LAC
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen vs. SF
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott @ CAR
  • RB2 – Leonard Fournette @ NYG
  • TE – Jordan Reed @ AZ
  • FLEX – Demaryius Thomas vs. SEA
  • K – Robbie Gould @ MIN
  • DEF – Chicago @ GB

Obviously, if Wentz was healthy, he’d be my QB1 and I’d probably end up sitting Carr this week.  On waivers, the available QBs (at the time of this writing) are Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and both Bills quarterbacks.  Of those guys, I might marginally prefer Taylor to Carr based on matchups (I could see Carr getting in trouble against that Rams defense, while Taylor is always careful with the football and the Steelers don’t really pose much of a threat to make his life miserable), but not enough to make a roster change.  I have a lot riding on Carr this year, based on the fact that I drafted him so high and because I believe the Raiders will be throwing a lot, so I kinda need him to work out for me early in the season.

I don’t have a lot to say about my starting WRs and RBs; they seem pretty self-explanatory.  I will say that I’m pretty confident about my FLEX guy as well, as I think Thomas could have a field day against this Seahawks defense.  For what it’s worth, I like Emmanuel Sanders a lot this year, but not particularly in this game.  The Broncos tend to move Thomas around quite a bit, and honestly I don’t see him going to Griffin’s side as much as Sanders.  I don’t think they play Thomas in the slot very much, so that negates Justin Coleman’s impact.  If I’m right, and Thomas is lining up opposite of Griffin’s side on the other end, I think 150 yards and a TD or two is well within his capabilities.  If I wasn’t playing Thomas, I would’ve gone with AP, but I’d like to take a wait-and-see approach with the veteran running back before I commit to giving him regular time in my fantasy lineup.

My biggest sticking point is in my TE spot, where I’ve already waffled once and it wouldn’t shock me if I waffled again.

Here’s the deal:  I drafted Olsen in the 8th round.  As I noted previously, I didn’t intend to use that high of a pick on a tight end this year, seemingly content with taking the leftover scraps.  But, Olsen was sitting there, and I would’ve felt like a fool if I’d let him drop any further.  He’s obviously a tremendous talent, both in fantasy and in real life, and in a usual circumstance, I’d be happy to start him against the Cowboys.  But, then in the 12th round, Jordan Reed was sitting there.  He’s got Alex Smith throwing to him.  He’s in an offense that utilizes the tight end to a great extent even before Alex Smith got there.  And, it’s week 1.  He’s healthy!  He’s probably as healthy as he’s ever going to be.  Indeed, I wouldn’t be shocked if this was the last chance I got to start him, that’s how fragile he is!  He’s going up against the Cardinals, which feels like a juicy matchup, and they’re on the road, so I expect the Redskins will need to throw the ball more than they would if they were at home and more likely to be sitting on a lead in the 4th quarter.  Ultimately, I feel like there’s better touchdown potential for someone like Reed over someone like Olsen, factoring in everything around both players.  The Panthers just have more weapons on offense, and I don’t believe Cam will be as inclined to look for his TE in the red zone as Smith will be.  We’ll see; I have a feeling I’m going to regret whatever I do here.

Also, thinking long term, I fucked up when I took Reed, because both players have Week 4 byes, which means if they both stay healthy between now and then, I either have to drop a really productive guy, or I’ll have to roster a third tight end for a week (or I guess I could take a 0 at that spot for one game, but that seems idiotic that early in the season).

Anyway, that’s that.  Below, read about how my fantasy week went.

***

Week 1 Results

Well, I didn’t want to believe it, but Derek Carr fucked me ALREADY!

I had a 20-point lead heading into Monday Night.  I had Carr left to go; usually, when you’re winning and you have a quarterback still to play, you’re in pretty excellent shape.  I want to say I was an 80% favorite heading into the night.  My opponent, Crazy N8’s Prostates, had Marvin Jones and the Rams’ kicker.  It was a lock, right?

Not so fucking fast.

If Carr had just thrown a single TD, I would’ve won.  If he’d just thrown TWO interceptions – instead of three – I would’ve won.  If Legatron had just missed one of those field goals (he ended up with 17 points in total), I would’ve won.  Instead, I’m a 3-point loser and everything is meaningless.

For a while there, I was looking like a genius with the Bears defense.  I also looked like a fucking boner, because remember how I had to drop Baltimore’s defense to pick up the Bears?  Well, not only did they go off (to the tune of 31 points in our league, way over their expected 17.12), but they went off FOR MY OPPONENT (who picked them up and played them against me!).  At one time, with Aaron Rodgers out of the game, the Bears had 35 points, but then the Packers started scoring, so that total fell to 20 (still well above the expected 9.06 Yahoo projected).

My big decision of Jordan Reed over Greg Olsen ended up panning out somewhat, with Olsen being the one to leave his game with an injury.  Reed beat Olsen by 9.5 points, so bully for me.

That Fournette injury is obviously a concern.  He was on his way to a monster day, but I guess his injury woes aren’t behind him.  Now, every time I have him in my lineup, I have to wonder if he’s going to get me 30 points or 3 points.  As long as Adrian Peterson is healthy – and in a plus matchup – I really have to consider putting him in there more often.

Demaryius Thomas acquitted himself well as my FLEX guy.  Predictably, the Seahawks’ defense posed little threat.  The bigger threat is Keenum’s rapport with Emmanuel Sanders, who went OFF in that game.  Still, my value pick is looking solid so far.

My biggest shining star was Tyreek Hill, who blew up to the tune of 46.10 points this week (he led all non-Fitzmagic players in my league).  He almost pulled my ass out of the fire, but you just can’t overcome a 3-point week out of your top available QB.

Crazy N8’s Prostates’ lineup looked like this:

  • QB1 – Kirk Cousins vs. SF
  • QB2 – Alex Smith @ AZ
  • WR1 – ODB vs. JAX
  • WR2 – Keenan Allen vs. KC
  • RB1 – Shady McCoy @ BAL
  • RB2 – David Johnson vs. WAS
  • TE – Travis Kelce @ LAC
  • FLEX – Marvin Jones vs. NYJ
  • K – Greg Zuerlein @ OAK
  • DEF – Baltimore vs. BUF

I ended up being the highest scorer of all the losers and had the third-highest points in the league this week.  Pretty sad state of affairs, all things considered.  Carson Wentz can’t come back soon enough.  Starting to think about picking up Fitzpatrick.  Things are looking bleak already!

The Thanksgiving (No More BYEs) Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

Everyone has officially played 10 games.  I think we all know where everyone stands, so let’s get to this.

  • Philadelphia (9-1)
  • New England (8-2)
  • New Orleans (8-2)
  • Minnesota (8-2)
  • Pittsburgh (8-2)
  • L.A. Rams (7-3)
  • Carolina (7-3)
  • Jacksonville (7-3)

I know a lot of people want to put New England right back to the top of the heap, but they’re playing well in a terrible conference.  I still legitimately think Philly is better than them right now, on both sides of the ball.  They might not lose another game the rest of the year!  I like New Orleans over the Vikings and Steelers, because I think they’ve got the full package of offense and defense, and they have a real identity.  The Steelers play down to the level of their opponents too often, and the Vikings are a quarterback controversy just waiting to happen.  Give me the Saints and that world-destroying running game.  Also, I can’t keep the Panthers or Jags out of the Top 8 anymore.  Yeah, the Jags are running The Bort out there, but that defense is legit.

  • Atlanta (6-4)
  • Detroit (6-4)
  • Seattle (6-4)
  • Kansas City (6-4)
  • Washington (4-6)
  • Tennessee (6-4)
  • Dallas (5-5)
  • L.A. Chargers (4-6)

For what it’s worth, I don’t like any of those 6-4 teams, and honestly I think both of the teams that are 4-6 could make more of a run down the stretch.  Watch out for the Chargers; I see them leapfrogging the Cowboys tomorrow afternoon.  Also, I wonder about Detroit and Atlanta; are they ready to make a run?  Or will they step right back down to Earth this week?

  • Baltimore (5-5)
  • Tampa Bay (4-6)
  • N.Y. Jets (4-6)
  • Oakland (4-6)
  • Cincinnati (4-6)
  • Buffalo (5-5)
  • Miami (4-6)
  • Houston (4-6)

I was going to put the Bills about three spots higher, but that franchise is a joke.  I honestly wonder about all of these AFC teams; I feel like they should all be better, but they keep stumbling when you least expect it.  This is going to be a HUGE week for the Bucs; they have to win in Atlanta or their season is effectively over.

  • Denver (3-7)
  • Arizona (4-6)
  • Green Bay (5-5)
  • Indianapolis (3-7)
  • Chicago (3-7)
  • N.Y. Giants (2-8)
  • San Francisco (1-9)
  • Cleveland (0-10)

Oh how the mighty Broncos have fallen.  Also, boy did the Giants pick a stupid game to win; gonna lose a Top 2 draft pick over some bullshit?  This week, we see the start of the Jimmy Garoppolo Era in San Francisco against the Seahawks.  Between the 49ers (whose coaching staff I really like, and whose 2017 draft class looked pretty impressive) and the Rams (whose coaching staff I like even more, and whose team looks like it’s going to be a contender for years to come), it looks like it could be really tough sledding in the NFC West.  Thank God for the lowly Arizona Cardinals.  Who’s going to be the next aging veteran QB they bring in to run Bruce Arians’ system?  My money is on either Alex Smith or Eli Manning, though they’ll be fools if they don’t make a run at Tyrod Taylor this offseason.

The Approximately-Midseason Seattle Sports Hell Power Rankings

Slowly but surely, we’re narrowing in on something approaching a consensus of who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s in the middle (spoiler alert:  a lot of teams are in the middle).  Let’s get going:

  • Philadelphia (7-1)
  • Kansas City (6-2)
  • Seattle (5-2)
  • New England (6-2)
  • Pittsburgh (6-2)
  • Minnesota (6-2)
  • L.A. Rams (5-2)
  • New Orleans (5-2)

The only change to my Elite Eight was swapping out Houston for New Orleans.  I hate to admit it, but the Saints look pretty okay!  All they’ve ever needed is quasi-competence on defense, and it appears they have it.  In an underwhelming NFC South, that should be all that’s required to run away with it.  Also, an impressive Monday Night win to get the Chiefs back on track.  Of course, I’m higher on the Seahawks than most, and they just got a living, breathing left tackle, so WATCH OUT AMERICA!  Like the rest of you, I can’t wait for the Philly/Seattle game on Sunday Night in December.  NBC is SO lucky they got that one.

  • Dallas (4-3)
  • Houston (3-4)
  • Buffalo (5-2)
  • Atlanta (4-3)
  • Detroit (3-4)
  • Washington (3-4)
  • Carolina (5-3)
  • L.A. Chargers (3-5)

I’ll be curious to see how the Cowboys handle not having Ezekiel Elliott (assuming his suspension sticks).  I still like the Texans an awful lot and think they’re poised to rip off a bunch of wins in a row.  Can’t deny Buffalo’s grit and determination; too bad it’ll all be for naught.  A rebuilding program CLEARLY in the market for a new quarterback (even though they already have a good one in Tyrod Taylor) doesn’t need a meaningless playoff appearance.  I’ve hated the hiring of Sark in Atlanta from day 1, and from the looks of things the rest of the fanbase is right there with me.  I also sort of think the Panthers are frauds and will finish right around .500.  Finally, I think the Chargers have been ridiculously unlucky with a pretty difficult schedule, and are better than their record indicates.

  • Oakland (3-5)
  • Denver (3-4)
  • Tennessee (4-3)
  • Jacksonville (4-3)
  • Baltimore (4-4)
  • N.Y. Jets (3-5)
  • Tampa Bay (2-5)
  • Green Bay (4-3)

The eight most disappointing teams in the NFL?  I know I was pretty high on Oakland and Tennessee.  A lot of other people were pretty high on Denver and Baltimore.  We all got suckered in by Hard Knocks with the Bucs.  You’re a fool if you didn’t like Green Bay heading into the season; who could’ve seen A-Rod suffering another collarbone injury?  And the Jets are disappointing for the wrong reasons:  winning ANY games when they should be tanking for the draft.  The Jags are in a similar boat, but their defense looks like it’ll be legit for years to come.

  • Cincinnati (3-4)
  • N.Y. Giants (1-6)
  • Miami (4-3)
  • Arizona (3-4)
  • Chicago (3-5)
  • Indianapolis (2-6)
  • San Francisco (0-8)
  • Cleveland (0-8)

I’ve never been a huge Dalton fan, but how did the rest of the Bengals get so mediocre?  I could see, with the pressure totally off, the Giants at least playing better football, even if their schedule dictates they’ll likely be drafting in the Top 5 next year.  The Dolphins are a bunch of total frauds.  The Cards are fucked without Palmer and better hope their defense carries them in a big way.  The Bears have a dominant defense, but are getting nothing from their rookie QB.  The Colts are a huge mess.  As are the 49ers and Browns, but why do I get the feeling the 49ers are more capable of bouncing back next year (particularly with newcomer Jimmy Garoppolo)?

Predicting The 2017 NFL Season

It’s that time again!  Check out some predictions from past seasons:

Since I don’t do a good-enough job of noting this ahead of time, let’s take a brief look back at my 2016 predictions and see where I went wrong.

In the NFC, I had the NFC seeded in the following order (top 4 teams are division winners):

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. New York

In reality, they were seeded as follows:

  1. Dallas
  2. Atlanta
  3. Seattle
  4. Green Bay
  5. New York
  6. Detroit

So, I had two division winners correct, and three playoff teams out of six.  Not bad.  My best call was nailing the Giants for a Wild Card berth; my worst call was predicting the Falcons would finish fourth in the NFC South (not far behind:  predicting the Cowboys would finish third in the East).

In the AFC, I was considerably better, nailing the division winners (although, not quite in the correct order) and 5/6 playoff teams:

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I wanted so desperately for the Bills to make it back to the playoffs, I was blinded by how terrible they are as a franchise!  In reality, the playoffs looked like this:

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Houston
  5. Oakland
  6. Miami

Best call here was nailing the top two seeds in order, and the top 5 (just flip-flopping the Texans and Steelers).  Worst call:  Dolphins finishing fourth in the East (behind the Jets???  Come on, man!), followed by the Jags finishing second in the South (I was drinking the Bort Kool Aid, for sure).

I ended up with a Seattle over Kansas City Super Bowl, because I’m a homer.  I also had a Seattle over Indianapolis Super Bowl the year before, and a Seattle over Denver rematch in 2014.  I will give myself some credit for correctly predicting the Seattle over Denver Super Bowl in 2013, as well as (I shit you not) a Baltimore over San Francisco Super Bowl in 2012.

So, it’s time to get back on the horse!  Without further ado, here are my divisional predictions:

NFC East

New York
Dallas
Washington
Philadelphia

There’s got to be some regression with the Cowboys.  Not a lot, but I think just enough.  Of course, I’m saying that knowing full well I’ve staked my fantasy football future on the arm of Dak Prescott, but I’ve got some real issues with that defense, and I just don’t think their offense can be as perfect as they were last year (particularly the running game, since I’m rolling with Ezekiel Elliott in two different leagues.  I like Washington, but I don’t care for their defense, and I question whether their passing game can be as potent as it’s been.  Obviously, I expect Kirk Cousins to play well, but he’s got a lot of new pieces around him.  The Eagles strike me as a few more years away.  The Giants just feel like the most complete team on both sides of the ball, so I’m rolling with them.

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

Is there really any point in picking against the Packers?  They’re like the Patriots of the NFC; they’re always good, and they’re always surrounded by crappy division-mates.  I think the Vikings and Lions could go either way; I think they’re both about .500 teams.  I like the Vikings’ defense just a little bit more than I like Detroit’s offense.  I also think a second season with Sam Bradford should help them move the ball a little more.  I think the Bears will be a mess and, more importantly, I think that’s the best thing for them, as they’ll need to surround their new rookie QB with a lot of talent going forward.

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
Atlanta
New Orleans

I almost picked the Bucs, but I dunno.  I just don’t see it.  I think they’re a year away still; they strike me as fairly immature.  Honestly, I don’t feel strongly about ANY of these teams, but having Carolina bounce back is the least-ridiculous thing I can imagine right now.  I do still think the Bucs will make a Wild Card spot though, I’m just not so sure they’ll have enough to overtake the Panthers.  I think the Falcons will be about a .500 team as they remain hungover from that devastating Super Bowl loss.  And, I just don’t think the Saints are very good, and they probably need to think about blowing that situation up at some point.

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

The last couple years, I’ve been seduced by blind homerism when it comes to the Seahawks.  Nevertheless, they’ve still managed to win at least 10 games and make the playoffs both years.  So, I’m not TOTALLY crazy.  This year, however, I believe to be the year we get back our #1 seed and our home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  I still like Arizona to kick up a little fuss, but they’re about a .500 team too.  I think the 49ers will be better than people expect, though they’re probably still a 6-7 win team.  I think the Rams will be much WORSE than people expect, and I’m pretty sure people are already expecting them to be pretty bad.

Here’s a prediction for free:  I think the Seahawks will go 2-0 against the Rams; WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT???

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
New York

Tank-a-palooza is in full effect with the Jets, as I fully expect them to win no more than 1-2 games.  I like Buffalo only a little bit more, to be honest, as they’ve gotten rid of a lot of talent, and still don’t seem too keen on Tyrod Taylor being the guy going forward (I hope they let him loose at some point, so he can go to a team that deserves him).  I still like Miami to come up second in the division with Jay Cutler at the helm, but I still only see them as around a .500 team.  New England should run away with this thing with 13-14 wins.

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

This could be an interesting little division.  I think the Ravens are a year or two away from returning to the playoffs.  I like a lot of the moves Cleveland is making (though, surely, they’ll face growing pains with their rookie QB).  I like a lot of the moves the Bengals have made this past offseason as well, though I think they’ll fall JUST short of the playoffs (likely on a tiebreaker).  I think the Steelers take this one with 11 wins.

AFC South

Tennessee
Houston
Indianapolis
Jacksonville

I think now, FINALLY, the Titans will have their year.  I also think they have the highest variance of any of the teams in this conference.  They could go 13-3, or 9-7, or anywhere in between, and I wouldn’t be shocked.  I went ahead and pencilled them in at 10-6, tied with the Texans, and both teams cracking the playoffs.  I think both the Colts and Jags will be terrible, netting between 2-4 wins each.

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

I really wanted to put Oakland here, and this might be my biggest regret, as I’ve kind of been hyping them all off-season.  But, the Chiefs are just more of a complete team.  I think their defense is certainly better than the Raiders’, which could be their ultimate downfall.  I still like the Raiders to make the playoffs, but they might be a year away from grabbing one of the top two seeds.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. New York
  4. Carolina
  5. Tampa Bay
  6. Dallas

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Tennessee
  5. Oakland
  6. Houston

I’d absolutely love to see a playoffs with these teams involved.  Let’s look at the playoff predictions:

Wild Card Round

Dallas over New York
Carolina over Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh over Houston
Oakland over Tennessee

Divisional Round

Seattle over Dallas
Carolina over Green Bay
New England over Pittsburgh
Oakland over Kansas City

Championship Round

Seattle over Carolina
Oakland over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Oakland

OH SNAP!  Are you ready for this???  The Seahawks can only win Super Bowls against their old AFC West foes!  The storylines are pretty amazing, though, starting with Beastmode vs. his old team.  Michael Crabtree vs. Richard Sherman.  Ken Norton Jr. & Bruce Irvin vs. their old team.  Then, there was all that crap from Derek Carr about running it on the 1 yard line.  And, of course, there’s the 1983 season and how the Raiders prevented the Seahawks from making their first Super Bowl during that miracle playoff run.

You’re going to see a lot of people predicting the Seahawks vs. Patriots Part II, including Peter King in his MMQB column; but how many people will predict the Seahawks/Raiders?  Maybe just me.

Is it because I’m stupid?  Probably.  But, wouldn’t that be fun?

It Took A Near-Perfect Russell Wilson Performance To Beat The Bills

Russell Wilson had 282 yards passing on 20/26, with 2 TDs, and anywhere from 50-100 yards in pass interference penalties for good measure.  All told, it added up to a 31-25 victory where the Seahawks couldn’t run the ball, couldn’t really stop the run on defense, and couldn’t contain Tyrod Taylor, who himself had a fine day in almost leading his team to the huge upset victory.

I don’t really know where to start, except yes I do and it’s the running game.  For the last month or more, I’ve been harping on this team to keep its dedication to the run and stop abandoning it so quickly.  But, if anyone saw the game last night, it was pretty clear that there was no opening whatsoever for our guys.  Christine Michael had a particularly mediocre day.  Even with the goalline touchdown, he still finished the day with 1 yard rushing on 5 attempts.  I remember one play in particular where he ran behind a Will Tukuafu block, put his head down, and ran straight into the pile for no gain/a loss on the play.  Like he wasn’t even trying to find a cut-back lane!  Like he was admonished for not following the intended direction of a running play, and so he wanted to show up the coaches by following a busted play to the letter instead of improvising.

But, you know, I can’t put the blame all at his feet!  I don’t know how much of this is on the O-Line; I would wager probably a considerable amount of the blame belongs to this unit!  After all, it’s not like any of the other running backs were able to move the ball on the ground!  We’d all hoped that the floor with this year’s offensive line would at least be higher than last year’s, but I’m not so sure.  They need to find a way to come together and gel, or we’re fucked!

I think the bigger shock coming out of this game was how the defense played.  I saw more missed tackles last night than I have in the last year and a half combined!  We had guys slow to react, we had guys out of position, we had guys playing poor assignment football, and the Bills moved the ball on us with regularity.  Now, I will say that the announcers had a valid point with all the different formations and personnel units the Bills use; there’s no way to properly prepare for that kind of crazy offense.  And, with Shady McCoy back and healthy, he’s a top 5 running back talent.  Put those two things together, and mix in a very mobile quarterback in Taylor, you’re going to see what we had here last night.

Once it was clear the Seahawks couldn’t stop the ground attack, that just opened up so much in the passing game.  It was a miracle we stopped them at all!

Bobby Wagner had a fantastic game.  K.J. Wright was rock solid as usual.  Kelcie McCray was going to draw my ire, but he ended up making some big tackles when it counted.  Cliff Avril could only be stopped by their O-Line when they were illegally holding him and the refs weren’t calling shit.  Frank Clark also chipped in with a fine game in Michael Bennett’s absence.  Damontre Moore was just signed to the team this week and made his presence felt with two interior tackles for loss; that could be a big boost for this line, particularly on passing downs.  And, of course, Richard Sherman had the interception, and was involved in one of the strangest end-of-half plays I’ve ever seen.

Should probably mention the Buffalo field goal attempts going into halftime, since that’s all anyone is going to talk about today.  Sherman was WAY offsides jumping off the side of the line.  He made his way to the football, tapped it with his hand, and collided with the kicker as he attempted the kick.  It certainly looked like a sketchy play live, but Sherm’s right, when you’re offsides, you can’t just give them a free shot at the field goal; you’ve got to commit to stopping the whole thing and playing to the whistle.  There have been various reports about what the refs SHOULD have called (aside from the offsides penalty), but most people agree it should’ve been something along the lines of unnecessary roughness.  But, is it unnecessary roughness when he taps the football en route to hitting the kicker?  Is it unnecessary roughness when you don’t even hear the whistles until AFTER he hits the kicker?  I mean, if that’s the case, why isn’t every blocked punt and blocked kick an unnecessary roughness penalty?

I’m with Sherm on this one, and quite frankly, I’m with the referee, who after the game said he didn’t think the contact that was made necessitated an unnecessary roughness penalty.  The kicker did a good job flopping on the play, which meant he had to miss the next play, which meant the Buffalo offense had to quickly spike the ball, so I’d say part of that is on him.  And THEN, they had a delay of game, where the ref was standing over the football – letting both teams substitute – until the 5-second mark on the play clock.  What I’ll say in response to that is:  what took Buffalo so long to get their kicking unit onto the field?  You don’t get all fucking day to get this shit done!  Don’t you remember the spike play from right before?  Don’t you realize that there’s a 25-second play clock that follows an incomplete pass?  IS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME WATCHING AMERICAN FOOTBALL???

To me, it looked like Buffalo was dragging its feet, still bitching about the plays before, and took their sweet-ass time getting their kicking unit onto the field.  At which point, you have to let us substitute for our special teams unit, and we don’t have to hurry up for your sake!  You should’ve been hurrying up all along, or done a better job of saving your time outs!

So, no, I don’t feel one bit bad for the fact that Buffalo missed out on 3 points at the end of the half (their kicker would go on to miss the kick after the delay of game penalty, FYI).  And yes, I’m sure that MIGHT have made the end of game situation a lot different!  Assuming they would’ve been down 3 instead of 6, we might be talking about an overtime situation.  But, by the same token, what would you rather have if you’re Buffalo?  First and goal at the end of the game to grab the win, or a tie game in overtime and take your chances?  For as well as Buffalo was able to move the ball on our defense, we were pretty damn good at moving the ball against their wet paper bag secondary.  This was the best game we’ve gotten out of Baldwin in many weeks, and Jimmy Graham had some of the finest catches and runs I’ve ever seen out of a tight end (finishing with 8 catches, 103 yards, and 2 one-handed TDs).  I’d put an overtime scenario at 50/50 (with heavy emphasis on whoever won the coin toss), but I think if I’m the Bills, I’d rather be down 6 with two minutes to go, deep in Seattle territory!  Get that win!  A win which would’ve been a tie had they made the field goal going into halftime.

Fortunately for Seattle, when it mattered most, our defense was able to keep from breaking (as they spent all day bending).

Final little bit of kudos to Tyler Lockett, who had some great returns, and forced the Bills into pooch kicking.  We had great field position all day, which is not nothing.

I Guess The Seahawks Will Beat The Bills, But I Dunno

The Seahawks have looked anywhere from mediocre to pathetic the last couple weeks, particularly on offense, particularly in losing on the road to a Saints team you should absolutely beat 100 times out of 100.  I know this is a home game, but you’re still talking about a Bills team that’s a clear cut above the Saints, with more talent than the Saints on both sides of the ball (albeit, not necessarily at quarterback), and oh yeah, this is a team that leads the league in sacks and likes to blitz on the majority of their defensive snaps.  The Seahawks, with their turnstile offensive line, should be crushed in this game.  They’ve proven they can’t protect Russell Wilson without incurring a ton of flags, they’ve proven they can’t run the ball with any semblance of regularity, and quite frankly, I think it’s time to really start second-guessing my faith in Russell Wilson’s abilities.

All along, I’ve been railing against the national media who likes to do nothing more than pick out the flaws in Wilson’s game.  He’s a system guy.  He has that tremendous defense.  He has Marshawn Lynch to lean on.  He’s not asked to do too much.  On and on and on.  And, through it all, I’ve just been waiting for him to prove them wrong.  One day, Wilson will be called upon to be The Man, and he’s going to rise to the challenge, and he’s going to be one of those guys you talk about when you talk about the cream of the crop at quarterback!

Well, that time is now, and I know he’s got all the injuries and everything, but he ain’t rising up for shit!  Maybe it’s all a result of him not being able to run around like he used to, but while he looked like a guy taking the next step in the second half of last year (particularly with his pocket passing, as he had one of the quicker releases in football in that span), now it just looks like he’s rushing throws and making poor decisions to boot.  I know it’s not all on him; his offensive line is a joke.  But, when you talk about the greats, you talk about how they make everyone else around them better.  And, that’s just not happening right now for this man and this team.

All that having been said, watch the Seahawks go out there and put up 400 yards of offense.  Like I said, I dunno!  Who can predict how this team will look from week to week?  I’m sure it doesn’t help in games against the Cards and Saints that they’re so familiar with the way we play ball.  Buffalo doesn’t face us all that often, so maybe they won’t be ready for us?

On the flipside, you’d think our defense would be able to shut them down.  The thing they like to do best – run the ball – is the thing we tend to shut down the best.  That having been said, the Cards and Saints were both hyper-dedicated to running the ball against us, and while their yards per carry average wasn’t all that impressive, they still put their quarterbacks in manageable situations on second and third downs (something I’ve been SCREAMING for the Seahawks to do these past two weeks).  Tyrod Taylor isn’t nearly as effective as Brees or Palmer, but he’s good enough, and he’s mobile.  Remember Colin Kaepernick when he was good?  Taylor is like a better version of that.  And while his weapons might not be all there, what with injuries and whatnot, I fully expect him to move the ball just enough to keep them in the game.  I would, in no way shape or form, expect a Seahawks blowout.

So, shit, why not?  I guess we’ll see a Seahawks blowout!  Because, again, I have no fucking idea what’s going on, with this team, this season, or anything else in the NFL.  Having me predict NFL games is a fool’s errand; I’ve been obnoxiously terrible at it this year.

I don’t even care about this game, to tell you the truth.  The Seahawks are so decimated by injuries that it’s not even fun to watch this team anymore.  No Kam Chancellor, no Michael Bennett, no Thomas Rawls, a gimpy Tyler Lockett, a gimpier Russell Wilson … I mean, you’re talking about all of my favorite players on this team either out or playing significantly less than 100%.  Who wants to watch THIS team?  This team stinks!  Can we fast forward to December when these guys are all back to full health?

If you want to watch exciting, fun football, watch the Washington Huskies.  They play Cal on Saturday night at 7:30pm and that game is going to be a million times more exciting than whatever garbage we’re stuck with on Monday night.

Predicting The 2016 NFL Season

Still my favorite post of the year!  Still don’t care how wrong I am!  Still got love for the streets, repping 253!  Still not loving police!  And so on and so forth …

Last year, I had the Seahawks over the Colts in the Super Bowl.  I got something like 2 division winners right, and maybe only half of the playoff participants.  And I had some MIND-BOGGLING picks, like the Rams & Lions & Dolphins in the Wild Card, and the Chiefs over the Broncos and Ravens over the Bengals as division winners.  In short, it was all bad; so let’s try to do better.  As usual, I’ll refrain from predicting actual records, and just list the teams in order of where they’ll finish in the standings in their respective divisions.

NFC East

Washington
NY Giants
Dallas
Philadelphia

I got the Redskins on a big ol’ come-up!  Mostly because I think Scot McCloughan is a roster genius and has turned around every franchise he’s put his hands on.  Their offense improved greatly over the course of the 2015 season and should play well going forward as long as Cousins stays healthy.  I think they’ll find just enough on defense to stay in games.  And, I think the Cowboys and ESPECIALLY the Eagles will be pretty bad this year.  Gods and clods in this division, as I have the Giants taking the next step and returning to the playoffs as a wild card.  I figure 9-7 should be good enough in this NFC to nab a 6th seed.

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

You hate to put all your hopes on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, but that’s essentially what I’m doing with the Vikings this year.  Granted, I don’t think he’s great, but I think he is good at limiting mistakes and playing within the flow of the offense.  With the team around him, I think he’s worth an extra 1-2 wins over his counterparts (in this case, Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford).  I just think Hill is doomed to get hurt at some point, and Bradford has the misfortune of not having practiced with the team all offseason.  Both guys are clear steps down compared to Bridgewater, which I think relegates this team to 7 or 8 wins at most.  That puts Green Bay in the driver’s seat by default, and a real contender for the top two spots in the NFC.  I like Detroit to play good offense and poor defense, and I like Chicago to play good defense and poor offense.

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
New Orleans
Atlanta

This feels remarkably easy, but Carolina is simply the most complete team in the division, period.  I think the Bucs take a big step forward this year – especially on offense – and I think they contend for that 6th seed, but I think they ultimately fall short on tie-breakers.  I don’t expect much out of Atlanta’s offense again this year, and I think their defense is considerably worse.  I think the Saints do enough on offense to win some games they should lose, but ultimately they need to do too much on defense to be competitive this year.  Maybe 2017.

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

This is the homer coming out in me.  By all rights, the Cardinals should repeat as division champs – they’re just as good as they were last year, if not better in certain areas, AND they have the easier schedule, by dodging Tom Brady and playing the Vikings instead of the Packers – but I just think the Seahawks are hungrier.  I also think the Seahawks are going to get off to a really hot start this year.  Combine that with the fact that Palmer is due for another devastating injury (with the outside chance that his psyche never recovers from that playoff dismantling by the Panthers last year), and let’s just say I’m hedging my bets by having the Cards make the wild card at something like 10-6.

Not for nothing, but I also think the Rams take a HUGE step back this year.  I think the 49ers shock some people – as they have the most negative hype I’ve seen in recent memory – and I think the Rams do so poorly that they have no choice but to fire Jeff Fisher and company (in spite of his recent contract extension).  I just think they can’t afford to waste Goff’s prime on a nothing coaching staff and will look to shake things up by bringing in the hottest offensive coordinator on the market this upcoming offseason (whoever that may be).

AFC East

New England
Buffalo
NY Jets
Miami

Keep picking the Pats until the end of time!  You want a shocker (and the clubhouse leader for the pick I’m likeliest to get wrong)?  I got Buffalo FINALLY breaking their streak as the team with the longest playoff drought!  I like Tyrod Taylor a lot, I like a desperate Rex Ryan, and I like how nobody’s giving this team a shot.  I think 9-7 (with tiebreakers) does it.  I don’t think Fitzpatrick has another year like 2015 in him, and he proves why paying guys like him $12 million per year is a fool’s errand.  I think Tannehill improves with Adam Gase as his head coach, but I don’t think it’s enough, as this team is pretty weak and unimpressive in most areas outside of the D-Line.

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

I like Roethlisberger to stay mostly healthy and put up huge numbers again.  I like the defense to do just enough, but the offense to ultimately carry them.  I think Andy Dalton takes a step back without Hue Jackson holding his hand.  I think Baltimore improves, but only to the 7 or 8-win range.  And, I think Cleveland gets another Top 5 draft pick to throw onto the pile.  Ultimately, I think the Bengals fall short of making the playoffs, with potential coaching casualties following.

AFC South

Houston
Jacksonville
Indianapolis
Tennessee

I think Brock Osweiler is a VAST improvement over all the QBs Houston had on their roster last year, and with the talent around him (particularly Lamar Miller’s breakout year), and that defense behind him, is enough to get them to 10 or 11 wins.  The key for Osweiler is to limit turnovers.  If he can do that (the way Hoyer & Co. could not), the sky is the limit for this team.  I like Jacksonville to take a big step forward and really contend for a wild card spot, but I think they’re probably another year away.  I’m also concerned about Bortles regressing, but I’ll avoid that conversation for now, as I’m counting on him in Fantasy to lead me to glory this year and beyond.  I think Indy is a trainwreck, and no amount of Andrew Luck will be able to carry this team to the playoffs, in what is a vastly improved division.  I think the Titans give the Colts a run for their money, but ultimately fall just short (because the Titans have garbage coaching, and no weapons on offense outside of TE).

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

I like the Chiefs for 12 wins and one of the top 2 seeds.  I like Oakland to be the team to make the jump into the other Wild Card spot.  I like Denver for about 8 wins (never thought their defense alone would be enough to carry them back into the post-season).  And, I like the Chargers to be playing in a city outside of San Diego in 2017.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. NY Giants

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I like the Seahawks because I’m a homer, and I like the Packers over the other three teams because I think they have the most favorable schedule (AFC South & NFC East are the divisions they have to play, while catching Seattle, Houston, Indy, and the Giants at home, and playing garbage Atlanta thanks to their 2nd place divisional schedule).

I like New England because they’re New England.  I like the Chiefs because I think they’re balanced and poised to take that next step.

Wild Card Round

Washington over NY Giants
Carolina over Arizona
Houston over Buffalo
Oakland over Pittsburgh

Divisional Round

Seattle over Carolina
Green Bay over Washington
New England over Oakland
Kansas City over Houston

Championship Round

Seattle over Green Bay
Kansas City over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Kansas City

What can I say?  I like me some Seahawks, and I like me some Super Bowls against AFC West opponents!

The Seahawks’ Schedule Was Released, Everyone!

A sense of dread is the only appropriate feeling heading into the hours leading up to the NFL releasing its schedule.  “How will the NFL fuck us over THIS year?”  Early BYE week?  Too many 10am starts?  Too many road primetime games?  Get saddled with playing too many teams coming off of their own BYE weeks?  Long road trips?  Back-to-back trips to the East Coast?

The appropriate response to seeing your team’s schedule ranges from pure, unadulterated rage (on the bad side), to wincing, cautious relief (on the best side).  This year, I’m more or less happy to report that I feel closer to relief than rage.  And I want to believe it’s NOT just because everyone I follow on Twitter seemed to like it.

  • Week 1 – vs. Miami, 1:05pm
  • Week 2 – @ Los Angeles, 1:05pm
  • Week 3 – vs. San Francisco, 1:05pm
  • Week 4 – @ New York Jets, 10am
  • Week 5 – BYE
  • Week 6 – vs. Atlanta, 1:25pm
  • Week 7 – @ Arizona, 5:30pm
  • Week 8 – @ New Orleans, 10am
  • Week 9 – vs. Buffalo, Monday Night
  • Week 10 – @ New England, 5:30pm
  • Week 11 – vs. Philadelphia, 1:25pm
  • Week 12 – @ Tampa Bay, 1:05pm
  • Week 13 – vs. Carolina, 5:30pm
  • Week 14 – @ Green Bay, 1:25pm
  • Week 15 – vs. Los Angeles, 5:30pm
  • Week 16 – vs. Arizona, 1:25pm
  • Week 17 – @ San Francisco, 1:25pm

Immediate reaction:  I don’t hate it!  Only two 10am starts.  Only one set of back-to-back road games.  Doesn’t appear to be as front-loaded with difficult opponents like last year.  Yeah, the Week 5 BYE sucks, but I’m always going to hate where the BYE week falls.  There should be one designated BYE week for every football team, smack dab in the middle of the season, so it’s fair for everyone.  Since that’s literally NEVER going to happen, and they apparently have this aversion to lumping them all into a 4-week period in the middle of the season, we get what we get.

We knew the teams we were going to play long before this.  We also knew which teams we’d play at home and which we’d play on the road.  This just lines them up in the correct order.  So, you know, we always KNEW that the tougher opponents would be on the road (not counting divisional opponents, we’re talking about the Jets, the Patriots, the Packers, and MAYBE the Bucs).  The only good break for the Seahawks is getting Carolina at home; but the rest of the home slate looks pretty easy.

I mean, you tell me, would you rather play the Pats and Jets at home (with the Bills and Dolphins on the road), or vice versa?

Anyway, if you believe, like I do, that Miami will be pushovers, then we should get off to a good start to the season.  If you believe, like I do, that the Seahawks are fundamentally better than the Rams, then it should be no problem to beat them on the road, Jeff Fisher or no Jeff Fisher (also, not for nothing, LOVE having the Rams back in L.A., and having one less 10am start every season!).  If you believe, like I do, that the 49ers are a fucking trainwreck, then YAY, the Seahawks will start the season 3-0!  The only thing stopping us from a perfect run headed into the BYE week is a road trip to New Jersey to play the Jets.  Will they have Ryan Fitzpatrick back at quarterback?  Even if they do, are they any good?  Or was their winning record last year padded by a shit schedule?  If you believe, like I do, that the Seahawks are also fundamentally better than the Jets, then the Seahawks have no one to blame but themselves if they’re not 4-0 headed into the BYE.

Atlanta is like Miami, in that they’re a couple of those middle-of-the-road teams.  I like catching them both at home, if for nothing else than we avoid two INSANELY long flights to the southeast.  The Seahawks SHOULD beat Atlanta to go to 5-0 and get off to their best start, maybe ever.  That leads us to road games against Arizona and New Orleans.  To be on the safe side, let’s say the Seahawks go 1-1 in those games (odds are, we lose the Arizona one, even though we’ve handled them pretty well on the road in recent years).  That gets us to 6-1 with a Monday night showdown against the Bills, which is an interesting choice, I guess, but don’t you remember when Monday Night Football had marquee matchups?  Don’t you wish we’d get more divisional games on Monday Night, instead of these oddball pairings?  I dunno, maybe it’s inspired.  I like Tyrod Taylor a lot, and I suppose we’re going to get 50,000 comparisons to him and Russell Wilson, since they’re both from the same area growing up.  But, in the end, it’s probably a Seahawks walkover.

Which gets us to 7-1 and my Lock of the Year.  Following our Monday night game, we go on the road to play the Patriots the following Sunday night.  The Patriots, it just so happens, will be coming off of a BYE week the week before (the only such instance on the Seahawks’ schedule, so I guess that’s not too bad).  But, it’s in their stadium, and you know how they like to sabotage opponents with their headset communications and in their locker rooms and whatnot.  Don’t think for a minute that the Seahawks are going to overcome all of that – AND, ohbytheway, it’s also a rematch of Super Bowl XLIX, so get ready to see The Play over and over and over again in the days leading up to the game, as well as all throughout the game itself.  If the Seahawks don’t lose this game, I’ll eat my hat (with the caveat being that I assume Tom Brady will be healthy for this game, otherwise, all bets are off).  This game is just going to be the worst; I almost don’t even want to watch it.

Once we get over this hump, though, we’ll be 7-2 and headed into the home stretch of the season.  Host Philly the next week, they should be pushovers.  At Tampa Bay has the potential to be a struggle, but they still feel like a year or two away.  Hosting Carolina will be huge – as you have to expect both the Panthers and the Seahawks will be in the running for the top seed in the NFC – but I like our chances to finally get back at them after losing twice in the 2015 season.  At Green Bay will be tough.  It’s in December, so the weather could factor in.  The Packers are always tough at home.  Probably count that one as a loss, to put us at 10-3.  Then, we host L.A. and Arizona in back to back weeks, and you know I like us at home.  With the 49ers on the road being just a cakewalk, I’m looking at a 13-3 season!  We’ll see how my feelings change in the ensuing months, but if you promised me a 13-3 season right now, I’d gladly shake your hand and say, “You’ve got a deal!”