It’s September, so that can only mean that it’s time for me to resume my guilty pleasure of watching NFL football, and my therapeutic pleasure of writing and occasionally complaining about it. So, welcome (or welcome back) to another season of Hate-Watching the NFL.
As always, I’ll be starting things off with my season preview. Since these always tend to run a bit long, I’ve decided to spread it out over two days, with the AFC Preview today, and the NFC Preview tomorrow.
As a reminder (or an introduction to the uninitiated), I do things a bit differently than other football pickers. The most important thing to remember is that I love watching NFL football, but I hate the NFL. The league is full of money-grubbing owners, shitty coaches, players who should probably be in jail, and some of the most egregious fan behaviour this side of soccer hooligans (or Trump rallies, take your pick). As such, I try my best not to promote the league. I use city names, but not team names (and as an aside, in seven years of doing picks columns, the name of the Washington team has NEVER appeared in any of my writing). I call the big game at the end of the season “The Big Game” or “Superb Owl.” I regularly call out shitty behaviour. I despise bigotry in any and all forms. There are teams, players, and coaches that I like quite a bit, but I have no team loyalties. I WILL SHIT ON YOUR TEAM.
Enough with the preliminaries. Let’s get to it.
Here’s the AFC:
(Note: The numbers you see in parentheses after each team name represent my prediction for that team’s maximum/minimum win total; so, New England should win at most 13 and at least 10 games, based on my review of their schedule.)
New England (13/10)
New York (Green) (8/6)
In recent seasons, New England has become associated with such slogans as “Do Your Job,” “Not Done,” and the grammatically perfect “Everything We Got.” Owing to Bob Kraft’s recently-discovered penchant for receiving professional handjobs, I was going to suggest “Rub and Tug” as an appropriate slogan for this season. However, thanks to Patrick Chung, I’ve amended this to “Hookers and Blow.”
Say what you want about New England, though, and they’ll just shrug it off and keep winning, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t be in the thick of things once again come playoff time. Sure, they’ve lost Gronk. And C David Andrews, he of the recently discovered lung blood clots, is unlikely to play this season (or perhaps ever again, according to my medical source). Still, the team immediately acquired three veteran O-Linemen, including a C with extensive starting experience for Dante Scarnecchia to coach up. As well, they’re deep at RB, and Tom Brady will have the likes of Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, and Phillip Dorsett catching his passes. Oh, and the defence looks to be solid again. And Belichick. Train keeps-a-rollin’.
Perhaps surprisingly, Buffalo looks, at least to me, to be the best of the rest in this division. Their defence was solid last season, despite the extra challenges foisted upon it by an offence that fizzled. That offence has the potential to be a lot better this season. Josh Allen has a year under his belt; he’s talented and mobile. If he’s matured, and the rest of the offence comes together around him, we should see him being less reckless. The team is deep at RB; “Forever” Frank Gore shows no signs of slowing down, and the team is high on rookie Devin Singletary. At WR, Buffalo acquired speedy John Brown to stretch the field, and Cole “Hillbilly Edelman” Beasley to move the chains. There’s potential here. Now let’s watch Sean McDermott screw it all up.
Many have touted New York (Green) as a team on the rise, but I’m skeptical. I have no faith in Adam Gase, who after washing out in Miami, immediately moved on to the top spot here. Sam Darnold might have the potential to be really good, but not in this offence. The team is thin at wideout, plus they hired Hines Ward, which will automatically make everyone slower (that was for you, Vince). LeVeon Bell’s running style needs strong blocking in order to thrive. On defence, New York acquired CJ Mosely to form a tandem with standout LB Avery Williamson, only to have Williamson tear his ACL in a meaningless preseason game. Not this year, New York. New uniforms look nice, though.
The once-proud Miami franchise has been in steady decline since shithead owner/Trump fundraiser Stephen Ross bought the team. Their big offseason acquisitions have been Ryan Fitzpatrick, continuing his quest to play for every team in the league, Josh Rosen, whom gawdawful Arizona gave up on after one season, and new Head Coach Brian Flores, who never even rose to the level of DC in New England. Pathetic. They traded their best player, LT Laremy Tunsil, for draft picks, which is like trading a million bucks for a lottery ticket where the prize is a million bucks. Also dumped LB Kiko Alonso. Hopeless. Utterly hopeless.
Cleveland seems to be the trendy, sexy pick this season. I abhor trends, but I have to admit there’s a lot to like. The defence was solid last season, and there’s loads of talent there. Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, and Bradley Chubb came together well last season, and to that mix, the team has added the explosive playmaking ability of Odell Beckham Jr., as well as getting shithead RB Kareem Hunt for nothing due to his extracurricular idiocy while in KC. They haven’t won anything yet, but Cleveland looks like it has the biggest upside of any team in this division.
Pittsburgh consistently manages to dominate the league in absolute assholery. Ben Roethlisberger is a whiny, dumb, hypocritical, (alleged) rapist, whom management has declared deserves special treatment, and is an adult among children on the team. LeVeon Bell held out in an attempt to get paid what he was worth, and his teammates (including union reps) turned on him. They ran Antonio Brown out of town, and praised the players who toed the line and acted subservient to Big (shithead) Ben. The Rooneys are a bunch of assholes. The only person I feel sorry for in all of this is Mike Tomlin, who has to manage all of this bullshit.
Baltimore brought in RB Mark Ingram to be the lead back, and will continue to try to win games with QB Lamar Jackson and a gimmicky option offence. Defence lost CJ Mosely and Terrell Suggs, and swapped out Eric Weddle for Earl Thomas. Whiny shit John Harbaugh won’t sneak into the playoffs this year.
MARVIN LEWIS IS FINALLY GONE!!! Too late, unfortunately. Cincy wasted Dalton and Green’s best years under a dolt of a Head Coach. The hiring of new HC Zac Taylor, Sean McVay’s QB Coach, smacks of desperation. Cincy drafted a bland, blonde QB, so watch your back, Andy. AJ Green got hurt playing on a shitty field in the preseason. Rookie RB Rodney Anderson’s knee exploded. Welcome to last place.
I vote for a four-way tie for last place, with none of these teams making the playoffs, but since my vote doesn’t count…
One of the ongoing themes in my columns over the years is how dumb Bill O’Brien is. How he has been able to remain employed is one of the great mysteries of the universe. Now that O’Brien is the de facto GM as well as HC, there’s just no hope. O’Brien just gave up Jadeveon Clowney for nothing that can help right now, and JJ Watt has a lot of miles on him. As long as the offence can trot out DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson, the team has a fighting chance, but with no running game to speak of, how long will it be before one or both gets broken into a thousand pieces? Sure, O’Brien swung a late trade for T Laremy Tunsil, but he gave up a lot of draft capital, and one player won’t fix this terrible OL.
Jacksonville should easily win this division based on talent. Two seasons ago, they were only a competent QB away from Superb Owl contention. Then last season, they arrogantly stuck with Blake Bortles, dumb-as-dirt HC Doug Marrone (pronounce mo-ron) lost the team, and they clowned their way to the bottom of the league. Defence is still loaded with talent. Nick Foles is a definite upgrade at QB. Leonard Fournette is a force of nature when he is healthy/cares. Marrone is still the coach.
I had Indy down as a potential Superb Owl contender. Strong, young, talented defence. Good O-Line. Running game. Team looked loaded. Then Andrew Luck retired. I’m happy for him. He gave his heart, soul, and body to the team and the city, and management mistreated and mismanaged him at every turn. Then, when he just couldn’t take it any more, after yet another injury, he did the smart thing and walked away. And the “fans” booed him for it. Fuck those assholes. They don’t deserve Andrew Luck, and they never did. Jacoby Brissett is a competent QB, and the team is still talented enough to win this division or make the playoffs as a Wild Card, but I hope they don’t. To Hell with Jim Irsay and the whole damn city.
I like Tennessee. I like Mike Vrabel. I love the fact that a bunch of Tennessee’s players went vegan last year. That being said, they’re a team with a bunch of problems, most of which are self-inflicted. They dicked-around with Marcus Mariota for his first few seasons, with a bunch of coaching changes, so that the kid never knew which way was up, and he kept getting himself hurt. Now he’s in the last year of his rookie deal, and they have to decide what to do with him. They have a good thunder/lightning combo at RB with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, but their best O-Lineman, Taylor Lewan, will be missing the first four games due to a PED suspension. WR corps looks pretty thin to me. Defence is solid, but not of much use if the team can’t score any points.
Kansas City (13/11)
Los Angeles (Bolt) (12/10)
Last season, I was effusive in my praise of Patrick Mahomes. He was the best story of the season. The fact that he plays for Kansas City epitomizes my experience with this league. I hate the Kansas City franchise and its fans so much that it makes it almost impossible to enjoy the most exciting player in the whole stinking league. The team has proven that it will stand by any shithead in the name of winning games (except for Kareem Hunt, but we all know that RB is mostly considered an expendable position). I’m at my wits’ end to explain how this cesspool of a franchise continues to employ scumbag Tyreek Hill. In the offseason, KC jettisoned Dee Ford and Justin Houston, and replaced him with another guy with a history of being shitty to women, Frank Clark. Travis Kelce is a knob. They signed LeSean McCoy, who has a history of alleged problematic incidents with women, and at least one confirmed incident of felony movie plot spoiling. Their fans are a bunch of racist idiots who think that it’s good fun to imitate and mock indigenous peoples’ traditions and iconography. The best thing I can say about this team is that their awful defence might be even worse this year. I hope they never win anything and, by some miracle, Mahomes ends up playing somewhere else.
I picked the Bolts to win this division last season, and was ready to pick them again. Then All-World Safety Derwin James got injured, Melvin Gordon’s holdout didn’t get resolved, Keenan Allen got nicked-up, and Russell Okung is expected to miss at least six games (and my medical source says maybe the whole season), with a pulmonary embolism. A full season of Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry might make things go a lot more smoothly. I still like this team a lot, but that’s a lot to deal with. Fortunately, they’re still deep and talented enough to make the playoffs.
Denver is a team that could surprise a lot of people this season. The defence will terrorize opposing QBs with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, and the team added experienced DBs to shore up the defensive backfield. With the hiring of former Chicago DC Vic Fangio as Head Coach, Denver’s defence could be poised to be one of the league’s best. With RB Phillip Lindsay leading the rushing attack, Joe Flacco shouldn’t have to do much more than play competently for this team to do well. I definitely wouldn’t rule out the playoffs for Denver.
Oakland made some high-profile moves in the offseason, acquiring T Malcom Brown, literal head-case (helmet) and literal foot-case (FROSTBITE?!?) Antonio Brown, total whack-job Richie Incognito, and unrepentant shithead Vontaze Burfict. I still don’t see much in the way of depth here. And in this division, I can’t see Oakland finishing anywhere but last.
Wild Cards: Los Angeles (Bolt), Pittsburgh
Check back in tomorrow for my NFC Preview.