Week 3 Was All Kinds Of Fun

Week 3 was incredibly entertaining.  Multiple early games went down to the wire, a couple upsets were pulled, and some teams have been left searching for answers.

Let’s recap.

Patriots-36 Texans-33

See, I told you the Patriots’ issues weren’t going away.

They escaped with the win as they usually do, but New England’s holes were once again exposed, this time on both ends of the field.

Houston’s front seven showed its dominance once again Sunday, sacking Tom Brady five times.  They forced two fumbles, one by Whitney Mercillius, who strip-sacked Brady for a touchdown, which was scooped up and taken in by Jadaveon Clowney.  They reeked havoc against the Patriots offensive line; Nate Solder was consistently getting pushed back.

New England’s defense looked like its Week 1 self, allowing DeShaun Watson to escape any pressure and extend plays.  Watson was incredibly sound, besides his two interceptions, one which was a typical, no-good rookie mistake.  He’ll have those, and it could be the only determent to this Texans’ team.  But overall, it was a job well done by Watson.  That touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington in the 1st quarter was a laser.  He looked like a pro.

The problem with the Texans on Sunday was that, whatever they did, the Patriots countered.  After the Clowney touchdown, Tom Brady found Chris Hogan wide open downfield for a 42 yard touchdown.  At the end of the game, after the Texans kicked a field goal to up five points, New England when right down the field, so methodically that Houston’s defense just couldn’t catch up.  The game-winning touchdown pass Brady at his finest, and was just as good of a catch by Brandin Cooks, who just got his feet in bounds.

Yeah, Cooks was inexcusably open, but how do you even attempt to make a play on that ball?

Houston lost because Tom Brady is… well… Tom Brady.

Bills-26  Broncos-16

Man, that Broncos bandwagon fell off a cliff this week, didn’t it?

In reality, this was a defensive grudge-match.

Sure, Trevor Siemian has looked like a capable starter this year, but last week’s matchup against Dallas has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Anyone can throw on the Cowboys defense.  Look what Carson Palmer did last night!  The Bills defense is sneakily underrated, and it gave Siemian all sorts of problems Sunday.  The interceptions were no excuse though; those were two of the worst passes of the weekend.  Bad quarterbacks make those throws.  Siemian made them, and they cost his team dearly.

The Broncos defense played surprisingly well considering the score.  The Bills kicked four field goals, accounting for almost half their points.  Denver got it together on 3rd downs, but gave up crucial yardage on prior downs.  That’s usually good defense, but when you have an offense that preformed at the level Denver’s did Sunday, the defense had to do more.

It didn’t.  Tyrod Taylor made a couple awesome throws, including a flukey touchdown pass that bobbled off Zay Jones’ hands into Andre Holmes.  Charles Clay caught a touchdown pass, essentially sealing the game for Buffalo.

I think we all need to chill on Denver.  Siemian isn’t the quarterback he played like against Buffalo, but the Broncos also aren’t the team that dominated Dallas.  They lie somewhere in the middle, and look more like the team I projected them to be before the season.

Bears-23 Steelers-17 (OT)

There’s two more teams I’m seriously concerned about after Week 3 (You can add them to this list.): Seattle and Pittsburgh.

I can’t figure out what’s wrong with Pittsburgh.  They started slow against Cleveland in Week 1, but then beat up on a tired Vikings defense in Week 2.  Sunday was weird.  Bears cornerbacks were routinely breaking up passes.  Ben Rothlisberger wasn’t exactly fantastic.  Chicago ran all over the Steelers front, one that’s been sub-par this season, ranking 22nd in rushing yards allowed.

Pittsburgh over the years has had their funky stretches; last season they lost four in a row in, and they had a bye week in the middle of that.  But this year there’s no excuses; everyone is healthy and not suspended.  Losing to the Bears is not acceptable.

Pittsburgh’s two lost fumbles cost them dearly; losing possessions in a close game can be the turning point.  Chances are it was a bad day for the Steelers, and we shouldn’t overreact until the schedule gets harder later in the year.

As for the Bears, this team is fun!  They aren’t good, but Chicago is frisky.  The potential for Mike Glennon to throw a terrible interception is there at all times, bailing out a good team that gets stuck in a close game with them.  But Chicago can do things not all defenses can defend.  Tarik Cohen is a lightning bolt, and a healthy Jordan Howard produces a dominant running game.  They’re never gonna win close games, but can at least be a pain in the butt for contenders who take them too lightly.

Falcons-30 Lions-26

Are the Lions for real?  Should the ten second run-off rule be changed?  What happened to Atlanta’s passing game?  There were a lot of questions after this game.

Matt Ryan threw three picks, two of which weren’t his fault as they bounced off receiver’s hands.  One went all the way for a touchdown, which was the only thing keeping Detroit in the game for awhile.  The turnovers might not have been the result of good plays by the Lions’ defense, but that end of the field seems much better than last year.  Detroit was 22nd in total defense last season.  That stat is a little wonky right now due to small sample size, but Football Reference’s Expected Points stat has the Lions ranked 4th so far this year.  They’ve played like it.

It wasn’t enough Sunday though.  They gave up 106 yards to Devonta Freeman on the ground.  Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel torched them.  The offense was the only thing that kept them in the game, and even in the end, it still wasn’t enough.

You saw what happened by now.  Detroit ran a beautiful pick play at the one yard line with 12 seconds to score a game-winning touchdown.  The problem? Golden Tate’s knee was down.  The bigger problem?  Due to the review, there was a ten second run-off, and the game was over.

It was a brutal way to end the game, and it’s one of those events that I know will be reviewed in the offseason.

If the clock stops as a result of something, it shouldn’t start until the next snap.  Simple as that.  Detroit didn’t get hosed, the rulebook says that a runoff occurs after that situation.  But the rule isn’t a great one, and really presents no positives.

Atlanta won a tight game, but that might have more to do with Detroit than it being Falcons’ fault.  The first Lions-Vikings matchup shall be interesting.  That could be for a wild-card spot.

Eagles-27 Giants-24

The whole Giants offense is built around Odell catching crazy passes, guys breaking slant routes, and Eli Manning not screwing up.

Practically all of those things happened Sunday and New York still lost, dropping to 0-3 on the season.

The slow start was what really plagued New York.  The offense just could not get going against a stout Eagles front, with Philly taking a 14-0 lead at halftime.  The game flipped in the fourth quarter.  Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks left with injuries, taking away two of Philly’s best defensive players.  That helped out New York greatly.  Odell Beckham Jr. caught a touchdown pass, the first of the day for him, and celebrated in a very, very Odell way.  Say what you want, but I thought it was hilarious.

The next Giants possession, Odell made his presence felt again, and this time in a ridiculous way.

There’s just nothing you can do there if you’re a defender.  I don’t know how Odell manages to control the ball like that with one hand.  It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.

The Eagles collapse felt inevitable.  Then it actually happened.

This could have been preventable.  First of all, four Eagles defenders could have easily tackled Sterling Shepard right after he caught the ball.  Secondly, if the Eagles  hadn’t almost been coached out of the game, that touchdown is much less important.

This was the ultimate “Can you coach worse than me?” bowl.  Doug Pederson went for it on 4th & 8 with 2:36 left in the first half on the 43 yard line, a situation where you either send it deep or TRUST YOUR KICKER, WHO HIT A 61 (!!!!) YARD FIELD GOAL TO WIN YOU THE GAME.  MAYBE THAT WAS THE SMART CHOICE.

The Giants have been just as bad on the sidelines.  As I mentioned above, the Giants offense is based solely on slants, Odell, and pure luck.  Ben McAdoo has had no creativity, which is odd considering his absolutely massive play-call sheet.  The front office has failed to put solid secondary options around Eli, develop a running game, or put together a competent offensive line.  Oh, and all of this has happened as Eli turned 36 years old.

As good as the Giants moved the ball in the 4th quarter, they couldn’t come up in the clutch.  It wasn’t a choke, it was just regressing to normal at an unfortunate time.

Quick hits on the rest of the games:

  • The 49ers defense is gonna be good at some point, but they got throttled last Thursday night by Jared Goff, displaying a lot of shows and exposing their inexperience.
  • I went to bed with nine minutes left in that game.  The Rams were up two possessions, and anyone with a decent football mind didn’t expect San Francisco to come back.  I guess anything can really happen on Thursday night.
  • San Francisco has some fun running backs.  Those dudes can make plays.
  • Kareem Hunt is for real man.
  • I mean, the Chargers have a great defensive front.  He gashed them.
  • They should be 2-1.  It seems like the bad luck has just carried over.
  • I don’t think the Ravens suck and don’t think the Jaguars are good.  First of all, that was a London game.  Like Thursday nights, anything can happen.  The travel + weird stadium + the Jags in London can turn into a complete anomaly.
  • What that game proved: The Jags defense is incredibly good.  It’s not super hard to stop the Ravens offense, but Jacksonville’s D was off the field in blazing amount of time.  This made the Ravens stout front tired, leading to 44 points by the Jags.
  • I hope the Jags don’t steal Tony Romo from the announcing booth.
  • I didn’t watch much of Browns-Colts, mostly for my general welfare.
  • DeShone Kizer’s had low lows and high highs.  That’s whats expected for a rookie.
  • I wanna know how Minnesota’s offense got worse, or better, with Case Keenum at quarterback.  There’s literally no difference!
  • Minnesota might have the best defense in the league.  They shut down the high flying attack of Tampa Bay, as Jameis Winston threw three picks.
  • It was against a good defense, but Jameis has to get better at limiting those.
  • I wouldn’t freak out about Tampa.  Like Baltimore, their defense was on the field way too much since the offense couldn’t get anything going.  Plus, they had six guys injured during the game, including Kwon Alexander, Chris Baker, and Lavonte David.
  • Congrats to the Jets on their win.
  • I told you before the season: The Jets defensive line is good enough to keep them in certain games.  Jay Ajayi rushed for 16 yards on 11 carries Sunday. Miami’s offense was stagnant.
  • I can’t figure out what’s wrong with Cam Newton and the Panthers.  I haven’t watched them closely yet, but two things have stuck out from my limited observations.  1) The offensive line can’t only not protect Cam, but it’s also a complete disaster run blocking too.  Christian McCaffrey has been a non-factor running the ball, and Jonathan Stewart’s been average.  2) Cam just looks… off.  I don’t know if he’s secretly hurt, or if his receivers suck again, or if it’s play-calling.  It needs closer inspection, but a big part of their struggles have been tied to him.
  • I wrote last week that their 2-0 record was unimpressive.  Understand why now?
  • Seattle’s another team that’s had those type of issues.  The offensive line has killed them so far this year.  It wasn’t the reason they lost Sunday, but a competent group might have helped them against Green Bay Week 1.
  • 11 penalties is not winning games, and it’s perhaps the biggest reason Seattle fell to Tennessee Sunday.  The Seahawks led in practically every stat category, yet couldn’t stay disciplined.
  • Richard Sherman should have been thrown out of that game.  That was a clear late hit, and even if the penalty offset, it didn’t change his actions.
  • You can’t be feeling too good if you’re a Packers fan right now, but you can also hinge your hopes on injury luck.  In Sunday’s overtime win against Cincy, the Packers were without Davon House, their best corner, David Bakhtiari, one of the best tackles in football, and Mike Daniels, their chaos-creating defensive tackle.
  • Geno Atkins and the Bengals front reeked havoc, causing discourse for the Packers offensively (What else is new?).  Green Bay just needs to get healthy and they’ll be alright.  Aaron Rodgers never lets anything get too out of hand.
  • I thought Oakland just had a rough night on Sunday Night Football.  We know Derek Carr isn’t that bad.  Their offensive line was consistently beat, and Washington’s secondary did a really job on Raiders’ receivers.  That was impressive from the Redskins.
  • The defense is a reason for concern, though.  It’s a group that prides itself on being pass rushers, and there was not a whole lot of that against Washington.  The secondary was a mess too.
  • Usually the offense will be there to bail them out.  Sunday night just wasn’t that night.
  • I didn’t have high hopes for the Cardinals against Dallas, but once we started dominating the ball in the first half, my hopes got way too high.  It turned into ones of those where you were pissed you lost, even though you never really had a chance.
  • Phil Dawson’s missed field goal really was the difference.  If he makes that, the final possession is us trying to score a touchdown to tie with a two-point conversion.  Instead, it turned into a controversy when Bruce Arians’ decided to not kick the field goal right away.
  • I don’t care about whether Arians was right or wrong.  It was improbable that we’d score a touchdown with such little time left, and it’s not like you trust Phil Dawson anywhere outside of extra point range after the miss earlier.
  • It was disappointing.  Arizona’s defense played extremely well for most of the game, though it got a little too good as Ezekiel Elliot broke away and Justin Bethel blew coverages.  It was prone to happen at some point.
  • Also, Fitzgerald’s catch was completely insane.  I love that man.

Who Should We Be Freaking Out About In The NFL?

With the season two weeks old, some teams are looking up and some teams are looking down.  But there’s also the teams that could be a complete dumpster fire by the season’s end.  I picked out three teams that are already on that track, plus a list of random concerns I have about other teams in the league, good or not.

Arizona Cardinals

Though the Cardinals sit at 1-1, it’s been a pretty brutal opening two games.

In Week 1, Carson Palmer looked like someone who should have retired over the offseason, throwing three interceptions and missing what felt like every throw.  Palmer has always been someone capable of meltdowns, which has you holding your breath every time he throws.  These first two weeks, there’s been a lot of that.

Week 2 was a little better.  Arizona barely won against Indianapolis, a team that has one of the worst rosters talent-wise in the league.  Palmer wasn’t as bad, throwing only one interception, but that pick was an ugly one.

I mean, this is basic coverage-reading.  The Colts had one safety back, in this case rookie stud Malik Hooker.  When you drop one safety, it’s his job to help on the side the ball is coming to.  Hooker read where the ball was going and made the play.  Palmer, however, didn’t.

That’s where we’re at with Palmer.  Without David Johnson, the offense is relying on Kerwynn Williams and Palmer’s decision making, neither of which were able to get anything positive done against Detroit and Indy, two defenses that aren’t anywhere near the top of the league.  Chris Johnson had some nice rushes this past Sunday, but he’s been way too injury prone since his on/off stints with Arizona began.

I don’t know what happens when we play a team with a good defense.  Benching Palmer probably isn’t the answer, but him throwing you out of the game is always a possibility.

Just don’t let us become Jacksonville.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina might be 2-0, but it surely hasn’t been a convincing undefeated start.

They’ve only given up six points all year, which is why the defense is not where my concern lies.  I do think the six points are a little misleading; they have one of the best defenses in the league and they’ve played Buffalo and San Francisco.  When you’re defending those offenses, you probably should only be giving up three points each to them.

My concern with the Panthers lies on the offensive end, where slow starts have led to underwhelming performances.

First of all, Cam Newton has looked off.  He was fine in Week 1, throwing for 171 yards on 14/25 passing.  Most of his completions were chunk yardage after the catch, but one ball travelled an air distance of 33 yards per NFL.com.

In Week 2, Newton threw for a little more yards, but was sacked six times.  Carolina’s line struggled immensely with the Buffalo front; Buffalo the same with Carolina’s, another reason why the three points allowed really wasn’t all that impressive.  Cam was roughed up by the big boys among the Bills line, perhaps leading to a couple off-throws.

Not helping Newton either is the lack of a running game.  Jonathan Stewart got nowhere Sunday, rushing for only 40 yards on 15 carries.  First round pick Christian McCaffrey has struggled against NFL defensive lines, gaining only 57 yards in the first two games.  Buffalo and San Francisco have two of the stoutest D-lines in football, but McCaffrey and Stewart have to step up if they want to help out their QB.

This is probably an overreaction given that the Panthers are 2-0, but Carolina won’t be able to pull out wins against contenders with their offense in its current shape.

Cincinnati Bengals

This is where we definitely freak out.

The makings for a crappy Bengals season were there in August, but even I have been surprised by their brutalizing start.  Their offensive line is one of the worst in the league.  Andy Dalton has looked like Carson Palmer.  The defense is letting average offenses take advantage of them.  It’s been so bad that Colin Kaepernick’s name is being brought up by players.

The firing of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese felt like a scapegoat for Dalton, who’s clearly peaked.  The Bengals aren’t ready to admit it yet, which is weird since they have a decent Plan B.  There were some AJ McCarron trade rumors in the offseason, which were never confirmed to be true.  No matter what, the Bengals held onto their backup because they have confidence in him.  I mean, you have to think that they’ve had the “What if Dalton implodes?” conversation before.

Dalton’s been the main issue, an incredible turnaround from where I was before the season.  I published a piece that said I trusted Dalton more than Joe Flacco.  That looks great now.

Even if Dalton improves, it may not help Cincy out.  Their defense might keep them out of every game, and even though the Bengals have AJ Green, Dalton has a pretty weak cast of weapons, plus a brutal offensive line.

Dalton is gonna have to be great for the Bengals to turn this around.  If he’s not, a change should be imminent, but are you really getting better putting McCarron behind that O-line?

I should have seen it before the season.  This Cincy roster was extremely flawed and poorly put together.  When you have bad roster construction, there’s almost nothing you can do.

Other concerns:

  • The Saints have the worst defense in the NFL, and it’s tough to win when that’s the case.
  • The Patriots killed New Orleans in Week 2, but that shouldn’t overshadow Week 1’s loss to Kansas City.  The Patriots won Sunday because they’re infinitely better than New Orleans.  The loss to KC exposed some holes on defense though.  They have no linebackers, especially with captain Donta Hightower hurt.  They got killed by passes to Travis Kelce in Week 1, and he’s usually a linebacker’s assignment.  Secondly, the pass rush was non-existent.  Alex Smith had so much time that he actually threw deep!  And third, the secondary might be an emerging problem.  Stephon Gilmore blew multiple coverages in Week 1, and Malcolm Butler’s role has steadily decreased.  Chances are it was mostly a communication thing with Gilmore, but he must improve.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade Butler for a pass rusher and/or another receiver here soon.
  • The Chargers once again can’t win close games.  Poor Phillip Rivers.
  • The Cowboys defense also ranks as one of the worst in the league.  They were fine against the Giants in Week 1, but let’s be honest: It’s not hard to shutdown that offense.  They let Trevor Siemian do whatever he wanted Sunday, and CJ Anderson looked like Le’Veon Bell.  Monday night vs. Arizona will be a big reality check for them.  If they can’t hold that offense, then whose can they?
  • I tweeted this Sunday, but Carolina and Seattle are definitely the top two slow start teams so far this season.  The Seahawks were shut down by Green Bay in Week 1, and barely got by San Francisco Sunday.  You can blame the offensive line for the most part; those are two good front sevens.  But Seattle has to get creative about how they’re gonna score points.  They might miss Jermaine Kearse more than they expected to.
  • I’m just as close as you can be to freaking out about the Giants.  I didn’t include them up top because I trust their defense, and I didn’t expect them to be that good anyways.
  • I wrote in the NFC Preview how I thought this team was overrated.  The whole offense revolves around Odell Beckham Jr. breaking a slant route or something.  Brandon Marshall is over the hill (which was very evident last night), and Sterling Shepard is just kinda there.  Add in a crappy offensive line and Eli Manning missing throws, and you have an offense going nowhere.  We’re at that point.
  • Odell has to get healthy ASAP, or else this talented defense will end up like Minnesota’s last year: Broken down.

The 2017 NFL Preview, Part Two

Here is part two of the NFL Preview, looking at every team in the NFC individually and projecting their record.

NFC East


Dallas Cowboys

Strengths: Offense

Weaknesses: Defense

It’s pretty straightforward with Dallas.

I loved Philadelphia this year, and still do as you’ll read soon, but the overturning of Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension is obviously massive to the Cowboys.  In a scenario of him being out six weeks, you were looking at a Cowboys team that had no defense and had Dak Prescott, due for a regression season, slinging it all over the field to dudes like Terrance Williams.

Now, the Cowboys have their offense back.  Zeke not only gives them 100 yards a game on the ground, but opens up that deadly play-action.  With Darren McFadden, you weren’t gonna be able to do that.

The Cowboys defense is still atrocious.  Taco Charlton has to step up on the defensive line or else they will be getting no pressure whatsoever (The David Irving suspension was the one that hurt them the most.  That dude is a beast.).  You know Sean Lee is gonna get hurt at some point, leaving them with a barrage of unknowns, including rookie Jaylon Smith, who I am rooting for so hard but can’t dump a ton of trust into after what he’s coming off of.  The secondary is the linebacking core 2.0, though rookie Jourdan Lewis could be a nice surprise.

Dallas will probably be fine, but if they slip, don’t be surprised.

Projected record: 12-4

New York Giants

Strengths: Linebacker

Weaknesses: Offense

I don’t get the Giants hype.

Do people realize they’re putting their faith in New York into Eli Manning, a non-existent running game, and Odell Beckham Jr.’s hamstring?

Their defense is good, but it’s not Denver’s, Baltimore’s or Jacksonville’s.  Their linebacking core has to step up.  We’ve seen flashes from B.J. Goodson, but they’ve been limited.  Aside from that, Jason Pierre-Paul and Oliveir Vernon on the same defensive line is terrifying, and they have one of the best secondaries in the league after Landon Collins showed the NFL what he could do; those skills of his were on full display in college.

The defense will have to carry them.  Eli Manning is three touchdowns or three picks every game.  They have a cluster of running backs who are much better used as complementary backs or out of the backfield.  They lack depth, which will be troubling if OBJ is hurt again or if Brandon Marshall’s age catches up to him.  I think Evan Engram might be awesome, but you can’t rely on him as your No.2 option in his rookie year.

The offensive line is still in poor shape; when you’ve signed D.J. Fluker to come in and compete you’re basically admitting defeat at that spot.  Their play certainly won’t help Manning.

I’m much lower on the Giants than most people, but their offense really didn’t get that much better, and their division is tougher than most (The NFC East is always a mess.  We have the conversation every year.  Every team is capable of going 11-5 and also capable of going 7-9.  But never above or below those win totals.  It’s gonna be just as mediocre as always).

Projected record: 8-8

Philadelphia Eagles

Strengths: Practically everything

Weaknesses: Lead running back

I’ve been high on this team for awhile now, but holy crap, upon closer examination, this team is really really good.

Most people’s concern is with Carson Wentz, and it’s understandable.  After coming out of the gate strong last season, his performance fell off later in the year.  There could have been two reasons for this.

One: All rookies struggle at some point.  Whether it’s one game or a long stretch, guys hit that spot.  He was so good early on that the inevitable rookie regression was due.  When it hit, it and the pressure clobbered him.

Two: He lacked a lead running back to rely on, which is an issue this season too.  But the Eagles minimized the concern over the offseason in two moves: 1) Alshon Jeffrey and a huge upgrade to their weapons in general.  2) They have running backs who are all extremely talented and all have multiple functions.

LeGarrette Blount could be a lead running back, but he’s got a lot of miles on him.  You can go to him in goal-line and 3rd down situations.  Darren Sproles is more of a receiver out of the backfield at this point.  Same with Wendall Smallwood.  Donnell Pumphrey was a beast in college and could turn into that guy, but you can’t totally depend on a rookie for that role.

These guys all contributing in smaller roles could help Wentz out greatly, but an injury or underperformance hurts that assessment quite a bit.

I believe Wentz will take a step forward.  The sophomore slump is a concern, but Wentz wasn’t that good last year anyways.  He certainly wasn’t Dak Prescott.  Wentz has plenty of weapons: Jeffrey is that No.1 option they needed.  Torrey Smith was a cheap flyer who can be a target downfield.  Nelson Agholor is still a TBD; I’m not sure what to expect, but he’s speedy and can be available in the slot.  Zach Ertz and  Brent Celek can be nice targets too.

If Wentz falters a bit, this defense has his back.  With Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox on the same defensive line, it’ll be hard for opposing teams to surpass 100 yards rushing in games.  The rest is just as good.  It’s hard to find a group better than Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham at linebacker.  The Ronald Darby trade was a heist.  Jalen Mills will turn out to be one of the biggest draft steals in awhile.  He was awesome last year as a rookie and will only get better.

Like every team in this division, 8-8 is the floor.  But the Eagles have more going for them than most.  That will drive their record up substantially.

Projected record: 11-5

Washington Redskins

Strengths: Weapons, Linebacking core

Weaknesses: Quarterback, occasional holes here and there

Washington has the potential to be really good.  But they’re only going as far as Kirk Cousins takes them.

Last year, it had the potential to be the playoffs.  But then this happened.

Cousins is fine.  He’s above average, but that doesn’t mean he should be paid like it. Cousins is the one guy who can have a great game or great year and then throw it away when it matters.  It’s incredibly frustrating to evaluate and has to be even more frustrating to Washington fans.

The Redskins are pretty talented.  They have a ton of weapons.  Jamison Crowder has become one of the NFL’s top big play guys.  Jordan Reed is a beast when healthy.  Terrelle Pryor is an interesting piece to have around; they’ll figure out multiple ways to use him, whether it’s downfield or in option-plays and wildcat formations.  Josh Doctson is not a lost cause whatsoever; he just needs to stay healthy.

Running back’s an interesting position.  I’m not sure how reliable and durable Rob Kelley is, but he’s at least good in short yardage situations.  I need to see it from Chris Thompson once more, but he seems promising.  And then there’s Samaje Perine, who probably goes in the 2nd or even first round in any other draft besides 2017.  He could turn into a lead back at some point.

They’ve got an underrated defense too.  There’s holes in spots, especially in the secondary, where Su’a Cravens’ possible retirement leaves them with Brashaud Breeland and Deshazor Everrett in starting roles.  However, Josh Norman and offseason addition D.J. Swearinger can help cover up those potential mistakes.  Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Brown and Ryan Anderson is a pretty nice linebacking core.  And don’t sleep on the defensive line; Jonathan Allen should’ve been a top five pick had he been healthy, and Ziggy Hood is fine in the trenches.

I’m gonna be really generous with this Washington team, because I think the rest of their talent can make up for whatever pickle Cousins puts them in.

Projected record: 10-6

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Strengths:  Ground and pound, Linebacking core, Competence 

Weaknesses: Weapons, Quarterback

I was genuinely surprised when looking over this team’s roster.  It’s in much better shape than I thought!

The big thing with the Bears:  While they may not be good, they’re at least competent.  The defense has some dudes: Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman are fine up front.  Leonard Floyd, Danny Trevathan and Pernell McPhee (Who’s turned more into a 4-3 DE) is a pretty nice trio in the middle.  The Bears will struggle with coverage, and need guys like Prince Anukamara to make a real impact, but they could be in worse shape back there.

The offense has more questions but also more potential.  Chicago can rely on the ground and pound game with Jordan Howard and an offensive line that’s not being talked about enough.  Cody Whitehair is a young stud at center.  The Josh Sitton signing from a year ago will continue to have a huge impact, and Kyle Long can still be good in pass protection.  I would though like to wish the Bears good luck with Bobby Massie.  I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea (Oh wait, I am sure who it was!  It was Ryan Pace!  Who else?).

The decision to take Mitchell Trubisky when Mike Glennon had just signed for $15 million a year still bewilders me, but at least the Bears have options and some hope at that position.  I’m not high on either, and honestly think this could be a train wreck two years from now, but at the moment the Bears have something to work with, and that’s what matters.

It will have them looking better than we expected at the end of the season.

Projected record: 6-10

Detroit Lions

Strengths: Quarterback, competence 

Weaknesses: Receiver depth, Linebacking core

The Lions aren’t bad, they just aren’t super good.

Their weapons are fine: Marvin Jones and Golden Tate are good receivers.  Jared Abberdaris might have a small role given their lackluster depth.  This is a make-or-break year for Eric Ebron, but Matthew Stafford can make him and all their weapons better.

Ameer Abdullah could be in for a big season rushing the ball behind an offensive line that looks its best in years, but he has to stay healthy for him to be more than a combo-back.

Detroit’s defensive front is pretty good.  Ziggy Ansah is a beast, and Haloti Ngata is still kicking it.  A’Shawn Robinson, a 2nd round pick in 2016, should improve and become a tough block.  Their linebacking core concerns me: The only guy they have that I am remotely excited/not worried about is Jarrad Davis, and he’s gonna go through the rookie struggle at some point.  Darius Slay has turned into a No.1 cornerback… he’ll have to be one to make this secondary relevant.

Matthew Stafford will have to have a MVP year for the Lions to make the playoffs, but his numbers alone can get the Lions to be somewhat average.

Projected record: 7-9

Green Bay Packers

Strengths: Practically everything

Weaknesses: Running back, Interior offensive line

The Packers don’t have many major concerns.  They’re extremely talented in practically every area.  Having Aaron Rodgers makes those guys even better.

The only concern on offense would be at the running back position.  I’m not really a Ty Montgomery believer, and their inability to run the ball last season really hampered them when the offense struggled.  It’s hard to forsee those issues happening again, but Montgomery isn’t the back I think people are hyping him up to be.  They do have some depth there though, with rookie Jammal Williams slated as RB2 on the depth chart.  He kicked butt in college, and went much lower in the draft than he should have.  He could see a surprising amount of carries.

Their offensive line is kinda weak up the middle, but Rodgers is one of the best scrambles in the league.  He’ll be fine.  Green Bay revamped their tight end spot in the offseason, bringing in Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks to give Rodgers some more targets.  Both are great pass-catchers, while Bennett can help pass protection schemes too.

Their defense filled holes pretty nicely over the offseason.  Ricky Jean Francois is still alright, and Kenny Clark, still 21 years old, is getting his chance to shine.  The secondary lost Micah Hyde, but the Packers have depth back there.  Last season was much more about injuries than lack of skill.  They’re counting on snaps from rookie Kevin King, one of the many Washington defensive backs that came out of the draft.  That dude is a baller.  He’ll step up.

The Packers division isn’t very good; matchups against Minnesota’s defense will be the only real issue.  Their schedule is very manageable, and there’s no way they’ll have the injury bug they did a year ago.

Projected record: 12-4

Minnesota Vikings

Strengths: Defense, Running back depth

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Interior offensive line, Validity 

Can you imagine how good this team would be with Teddy Bridgewater?

The Vikings have been on silent on his front, so it’s unreasonable to speculate about a return.  For now, the Vikings are still stuck with Sam Bradford.

They’ve done a good job of building an offense around him though.  The running game was nonexistent last season, so they went out and signed Latavius Murray and drafted Dalvin Cook.  We know what Cook can do: He’s a bullish rusher and can preform at the same quality as a receiver.  The Seminoles had sets where he was the outside receiver last season!  Murray can be more of a workhorse/heavy carry guy, though don’t be surprised if Cook ends up with more carries by the end of the year.

Their offensive line also got much better, which was part of their disasterous offense last season.  Mike Remmers was a steal for the price, and Riley Reiff is a solid left tackle.  Pat Eiflen is a rookie who you hope can make an immediate impact at center, but Joe Berger could be slid back if needed.

Minnesota has one of the best defenses in the NFL.  It’s terrifying.  A Danille Hunter, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph led-line is a matchup nightmare for anyone.  They have stalkers at linebacker with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, and their secondary might be top two (They’ve got ridiculous depth, too).

Bradford is the x-factor.  The defense will keep them in every game, but Bradford has to make plays for them to be really good.  They’ve added weapons, but we’ve seen only small flashes from Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen.  These aren’t top 32 NFL receivers.  Laquon Tredwell needs to emerge this year, though I’m not sure Sam Bradford will be throwing to him if he’s more than 10 yards downfield.  Kyle Rudolph is the one consistent weapon he has, which is great for short gains.

The running backs really have to step up.  Chunk yards on runs are a necessity this season, because with Bradford, 3rd and longs result in punts every time.

Projected record: 9-7

NFC South


Atlanta Falcons

Strengths: Offense, Defense

Weaknesses: Mental state

You never know when it comes to hangovers.

(I have no experience)

On paper, Atlanta is the NFC favorite for the Super Bowl.  They’ve returned the same team with a defense that’s only getting better.

That same team could also be a problem.

It’s hard to underestimate what effect blowing one of the largest leads ever in the Super Bowl will have on a team.  The Championship/dream season hangover is something we see in sports all the time.  When things go right, the odds of it happening again drops.  When traumatic things occur, the thought never leaves your mind.

Thats the problem with this Atlanta team.

Look at title winners or title runner-ups in sports the past few years.  The Cubs haven’t been able to put it together this season after winning the 2016 World Series.  The Panthers went 6-10 last season after losing to Denver in the Super Bowl.  The San Francisco Giants were shells of themselves in practically every season after their World Series wins earlier in the decade.

The roster is one of a 12-13 win team.  But the NFC South is good, and the Falcons could lose a lot of games they shouldn’t.  I really think there’s something behind how that loss will affect them this year.  We can’t totally predict it now, but we have to consider it.

Projected record: 10-6

Carolina Panthers

Strengths: Defense, Running back

Weaknesses: Proven guys

Carolina has two things going for an offense that struggled immensely last year:

  1. An improved offensive line
  2. Plenty of weapons who can do multiple things

Cam Newton struggled last year for two reasons:  1) His offensive line couldn’t keep him protected, leading to injuries which were partly unluckiness.  2)  He didn’t have enough weapons.  Kelvin Benjamin was intermittent, and Ted Ginn, yes that Ted Ginn, was their 3rd leading receiver.  It wasn’t great.

Now Benjamin should be fully recovered from that ACL injury, Devin Funchess should improve, and Curtis Samuel is here.  Watch out for that dude.  He could have 60 receptions and seven touchdowns and I would not be surprised.

But relying on Funchess, Samuel, and a quartet of running backs who all have questions attached to them has risks.

I understood what the Christian McCaffrey pick was about:  Getting a young back who can grow into an every down role who’s just as gifted as a receiver.  Jonathan Stewart is always hurt, and Fozzy Whitaker and Cameron Artis Panye are more specialty-like guys.

I have my concerns about McCaffrey though… Whether he’s a NFL runner.  Whether he’s durable enough.  He’s no sure thing, and that’s a common trait on offense for the Panthers this season.

They have the defense to rely on.  It’s a ridiculously talented group.

Kawaan Short and Star Lotulelei on the same defensive line is a menace, but you can’t forget about the still effective Charles Johnson, oh, and Julius Peppers.  You best not forget about him.

Luke Kuechley and Thomas Davis are beasts at linebacker, and Shaq Thompson adds some versatility to the spot.  Thompson’s even more interesting this year; the Panthers have struggled to fill Josh Norman’s spot after his release last Summer.  Thompson can certainly help out in coverage.

Carolina will be good, but they have some serious issues that leave me resistant to project them above 10 wins.

Projected record: 9-7

New Orleans Saints

Strengths: Offensive line, Quarterback, Secondary

Weaknesses: Weapons, Validity

Like every team in this division, the Saints have the chance to be really good.  Drew Brees is still rocking it.  Mark Ingram is a force in the backfield.  Their secondary should be much better with rookie Marshon Lattimore being an instant upgrade.

But at the same time, the Saints have continuously let us down the past three seasons.  Either the defense fails, or their special teams has been a mess.  There’s been times where even Drew Brees can’t do anything.

That’s why I listed validity as a weaknesses.  What’s been proven about this team besides Brees?  Think of teams that we label as chokers…  the Saints are like the 4th team that pops into your head.   It’s killed them for awhile now.

This season could be different.  The defense is not atrocious.  Their defensive line is talented: Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins and Alex Okafor is a nice group.  I’m not sure I like Manti Teo at middle linebacker, but Craig Robertson is good, and 2nd year guy Stephone Anthony gives them some versatility.

It’s not a defense you can totally trust, but it’s also not a defense you have to plan around… Plan around them giving up points every possession.

On offense, their talent is more limited than before.  Brandin Cooks is gone and was replaced with Ted Ginn, but when you have Drew Brees it may not matter.  Brees makes his receivers better; it’s why Michael Thomas broke out last year and why he’s in the top 15 on fantasy draft boards.  It also helps that he’s the No.1 target with Willie Snead suspended.  Coby Fleener is average, but Brees will get him the ball.  He just has to catch it.

The Saints have a beastly trio at running back.  As I mentioned above, Mark Ingram is a workhorse back.  The Adrian Peterson signing was a little weird, but if Ingram is taking beatings on 1st and 2nd down, you probably don’t want him out on 3rds either.  As long as AP stays healthy, he can be a nice 3rd down back who can occasionally be used in red zone passing plays out of the backfield.  Oh, and keep an eye on Alvin Kamara.  He could be someone two years from now and have us saying, “Who allowed Drew Brees to have that guy on his team?”

Again, New Orleans can be good.  The defense has to step up and not be bottom five in the league.  The Saints can score, and having that to lean on in two games against Atlanta, two games against Tampa Bay and meetings with the Packers and Patriots will be helpful.  But the 7-9 stink cannot be flushed out yet.

Projected record: 8-8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Strengths: Weapons, Defense

Weaknesses: Running back

This division is so freaking good.

Tampa Bay has everything going for them:  A great defense, a ton of weapons, a QB entering his 3rd year (Which is a historically good year for most), and no defining weaknesses.

Though limited at running back as Doug Martin is serving a suspension, the Bucs have crafted a dangerous offense around Jameis Winston.  Getting DeSean Jackson was genius.  His speed and big play potential fits in perfectly with what Tampa is doing.  Mike Evans is a big downfield target, and rookie Chris Godwin from Penn State is a kinda a mix between the two.  They’re loaded at tight end, with Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard, who’s gonna mow over dudes in the middle of the field.

The defense is just as scary.  Gerald McCoy is a bad man.  Chris Baker and Robert Ayers can still be very effective, and William Gholston has some nice moves on the outside.  Their linebackers are some of the best in the NFL.  The T.J. Ward signing was a blessing; their secondary wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t on the level that the rest of the defense was.

Tampa Bay is good, but if they want to be really good, a lot of that potential success hinges on Winston.  As good as he’s been, there’s still the interceptions to worry about, which is tied to his maturity.  The loaded receiving core will help, but Winston has to step up.  He’s been a winner before.  He knows what it takes.  This is the year he shows it.

Projected record: 11-5

NFC West


Arizona Cardinals

Strengths: Back seven, Running back

Weaknesses: Defensive line, Weapons

(Homerism possible)

We are not as good as I thought we were.

That’s the probably the case with most NFL fans and their teams, but this is Larry’s last year and

I should stop.  I’m whining now.

I’ve realized how worried I should be about Carson Palmer.  Our defense is still really good and can win us 7-8 games by itself, but Palmer was not great last season.  He’s now a year older, and probably and secretly seriously considered retirement this offseason, and has an uninspiring group of weapons.  Larry Fitzgerald is catching at least 70 balls; thats a given.  But John Brown is coming off of a tough year.  I’m not really sure what Jaron Brown is.  J.J. Nelson is extremely raw.  It’s a pretty sketchy group.  It’s not the group you need around a 37 year old quarterback who’s already a questionable decision maker.

That being said, the Cardinals have a running back who could still produce at 25 carries a game.  David Johnson is an alien.  An offense built solely around him and having Palmer throw only when he needs to combined with a defense that’s still extremely talented might work.  But 10 wins?  Not.

Projected record: 9-7

Los Angeles Rams

Strengths: Linebacking core, Um…

Weaknesses: Secondary, Reliable weapons, Quarterback

I don’t get the buzz/hope for the Rams.  This defense is good, but not great.  The offense is a total wildcard, with Jared Goff playing putrid football last year, Todd Gurley being non-existent, and a slew of unproven and/or injury prone guys.  Somehow, LA failed to get better.

They won’t have the defense to lean on either.  The Aaron Donald contract scenario was sorted out last night, but he’s still not playing Week 1, and might be out a couple more weeks as they get him into football mode.  That’s a huge blow to a group thats not as talented as some think.  Michael Brockers is a good pass rusher, but is much more scary when a double team is focused on Donald.  Their secondary is essentially Trumaine Johnson’s insane contract demand and Lamarcus Joyner in a new position.  However, Mark Barron can use his versatility to slide back and help out.  He’s a bit of a wildcard, but might be their 3rd or 4th best player on that end.

The linebackers are in good shape.  Robert Quinn adds some fury to the defensive line, but can also drop back and cover tight ends.  Alec Olgetree and Connor Barwin are quality players (Barwin was a steal from the Eagles…  I still don’t get that one.).

The positive news for LA is that Sean McVay is here to turn things around, the same guy who made Kirk Cousins elite average.  At this point, getting to Goff to average is a step in the right direction.  His receivers are a concerning group:  The overpay for always injured Sammy Watkins.  The other overpaid former Bills receiver Robert Woods.  Tavon Austin, who’s highs are high and lows are very low.  Whoever Tyler Higbee is.  Yeah, you see the problem.  They aren’t helping Goff.

I don’t think this is a defense can make up for Goff’s mistakes and poor receivers.  It’s probably in the 9-12 range in the league, which is good, but not automatic eight wins good.

Projected record: 6-10

San Francisco 49ers

Strengths: Front seven

Weaknesses: Offense, secondary 

It’s gonna take some real magic from Kyle Shanahan for the 49ers to be competent this year.

This offense is probably the 2nd worst in the league, depending on how you compare it to the Jets’.  You’re going nowhere with Brian Hoyer; he teeters on the bad/terrible scale.  Carlos Hyde is a talented running back, but he struggles with injuries, disappeared in games last year, and has no offensive line in front of him.  Pierre Garcon is your No.1 receiver, which is an issue for multiple reasons (1. Overpaid  2. No quarterback 3. He’s not good enough to be a No.1 anyway).  You’re counting on 50 receptions from Marquise Goodwin, who’s never even been a No.3 option in his career.  I’ve never heard of any of their tight ends, so that takes away a short range option.  It’s a mess on this side of the ball, and it’s a shame that with a defense so talented and promising, they can’t put something together.

This defensive line could easily be the best in football in two years.  With young big guys DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and rookie Solomon Thomas, the 49ers have a dominant front in their hands.  They’re also deep, with Earl Mitchell, Elvis Dumervil and Aaron Lynch serving as subs.

The linebackers add another dynamic.  NaVarro Bowman is a stud and Rueben Foster should have gone 15 picks higher than he did.

Cornerback is a big issue for San Fran, but safeties Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid are reliable for now.

Kyle Shanahan is an offensive wizard.  That being said, he’s probably not turning around Brian Hoyer.  But the 49ers have a plan, and for now, they’re just coasting until it fulfills (It may or may not be the QB who’s been mentioned way too much in this piece).  Hyde should see a large amount of carries this season, but beware when Hoyer drops back to throw.  It could be ugly.

Projected record: 5-11

Seattle Seahawks

Strengths: Quarterback, Defense

Weaknesses: Offensive line, Weapons (?)

Seattle’s biggest issue last season was health and offensive line play.  Neither got better.

The offensive line is just full of dudes who they brought in and said “Well, what about him here?”  It’s the ultimate makeshift offensive line.  It’s really incredible.

That, coupled with whatever is going on at running back, is the only real problem for the Seahawks.  But as we saw last year, they lost a lot of games they shouldn’t have due to it.

Part of that may have been due to Russell Wilson just never really being healthy.  You can’t expect the same injury luck (un-luck, really).  When Wilson’s 100%, he makes everyone around him better.  That’s why I have a question mark next to their weapons.  On paper, it’s not great.  Doug Baldwin is awesome, but Paul Richardson hasn’t been in a big role yet, and Tyler Lockett is a very one dimensional receiver who just streaks down the field every time.

But, if anyone’s gonna make the best of it, it’s Russell Wilson.  A running game that’s hopefully not as banged up will help, though I don’t know how they plan to differeinate carries.  Eddie Lacy is probably the 3rd down back, while Thomas Rawls gets most of the work and C.J. Prosise is used in short yardage situations and out of the backfield.

The defense doesn’t need a paragraph.  It’s freaking loaded, and now they have Sheldon Richardson, who they gave up a lot for, but will most likely pay off in that scheme.

Seattle’s season really hinges on health.  Wilson might take a beating, but at least he’s gonna be healthy this time around.

Projected record: 12-4


NFC Playoff Standings

  1. Green Bay Packers, 12-4
  2. Seattle Seahawks, 12-4
  3. Dallas Cowboys, 12-4
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 11-5
  5. Philadelphia Eagles, 11-5
  6. Atlanta Falcons, 10-6

Like I did in the NFC, the seeds and tiebreakers were sorted out by record first, then who I thought was the better team record aside second.  So essentially Green Bay > Seattle > Dallas.  The 6th seed came down to Atlanta and Washington, two teams who on paper are 10-6 but both have serious issues that I can’t get over.  Atlanta has the experience and the better quarterback, so I went with them.

NFC Division Standings


  1. Dallas Cowboys, 12-4
  2. Philadelphia Eagles, 11-5
  3. Washington Redskins, 10-6
  4. New York Giants, 8-8


  1. Green Bay Packers, 12-4
  2. Minnesota Vikings, 9-7
  3. Detroit Lions, 7-9
  4. Chicago Bears, 6-10


  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 11-5
  2. Atlanta Falcons, 10-6
  3. Carolina Panthers, 9-7
  4. New Orleans Saints, 8-8


  1. Seattle Seahawks, 12-4
  2. Arizona Cardinals, 9-7
  3. Los Angeles Rams, 6-10
  4. San Francisco 49ers, 5-11

The 2017 NFL Preview, Part One

Welcome back NFL!  Instead of doing little corny pieces about this year’s biggest stories, I just decided to write a massive piece that individually looked at each team.    It would have been 10,000+ words, so I split it into AFC and NFC.

This year has a couple themes and trends:  1) Teams with good-to-great defenses and crappy-to-average quarterbacks.  What’s the balance?  2)  The contenders… there’s gonna be a lot of teams with good records!  Who’s the top dog?  3) How bad are the teams in QB hell gonna be?

Those will be answered here and in the NFC preview.

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills 

Strengths:  Backfield, Defense

Weaknesses: Weapons, Kicker, Right side of O-Line

The good news about the Bills this season is that, no matter how bad they might be, they certainly won’t be the worst team in their division.

The front office still hasn’t bought into Tyrod Taylor, giving him a weird contract that essentially pays him like a franchise guy if he has a good season or leaves him without a team if he doesn’t play well.

The Bills certainly haven’t put him in a good position to succeed though.  While LeSean McCoy can ground and pound barring health and regression from last season, the Bills are still in a pretty bad spot with their receivers.  The Sammy Watkins trade got them great value, but also left them without their No.1 receiver.  Anquan Boldin was supposed to pick up some of the bulk, but later found out just a week after signing that the NFL had caught up with him (I still love you Anquan!).  That leaves the Bills with Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones, a speedy 2nd round pick from East Carolina. The Bills need big things out of him.  Matthews is a nice 2nd option on any other team, but I have my concerns about him being a primary receiver.  I’m probably underrating Charles Clay, but you can’t totally count on him being healthy either.

Buffalo needs Oakland supplants Andre Holmes and Rod Streater to catch some balls this year, or else Tyrod Taylor won’t surpass 3,000 yards.

The Bills do have their defense to bail them out, which is thankfully under a new scheme this season.  The Reggie Ragland trade was a little confusing, especially since some mix of Ramon Humber and Sam Barrington is occupying one of their linebacker spots right now.  But, the defensive line is still menacing; Marcell Dareus is a beast.  I expect big things from Shaq Lawson after being hurt last year.  Kyle Williams is super underrated, and Jerry Hughes is incredibly fun to watch.  Lorenzo Alexander and Preston Brown provide some thumping in the middle, and Buffalo’s secondary improved even though the Ronald Darby trade bewildered me.

So how do the Bills fall apart?  LeSean McCoy gets hurt, the receiving core is brutal and the Bills become one of many teams with an average-to-bad offense and a good defense that’s always on the field.  Buffalo’s probably not a playoff team, but their worst case scenario isn’t as bad as you may think.

Projected record: 8-8

Miami Dolphins

Strengths: Weapons, Running back, Offensive line, D-Line

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Secondary

I was ready to put the Dolphins in the playoffs this season.

Now Jay Cutler is the starting quarterback.

The Ryan Tannehill injury is by far the most impactful out of any injury we’ve seen this preseason.  The Patriots will be fine without Julian Edelman.  The Bears were gonna be terrible even if Cameron Meredith was healthy.  Spencer Ware is more of a loss to fantasy football owners (Though he is important to KC’s offense…More on that later).  Tannehill’s injury absolutely sucks.  This was Miami’s year.

They could have salvaged it.

Look, you can understand and get over what Colin Kaepernick is doing without agreeing with it.  The black-ball that is being put on by NFL owners is disgusting and simply stupid.  They’re literally sacrificing their team because of their “political” views.  And you can definitely understand and realize that there are starting QBs worse than Kaepernick.  He wasn’t terrible last year; I think a lot of his struggles had to do with how bad his team was.  That being said, he’s probably not getting you into the playoffs, but you have more of a chance than you would with Cutler.

I understand the Adam Gase-Cutler connection.  Gase is a wizard; he was gonna have Ryan Tannehill looking like one of the ten best quarterbacks in the league this year.  But there’s certain QBs you just can’t help, and Cutler’s one of them.  He literally hasn’t been good in five years.  As I mentioned above, the average quarterback/good defensive team is half the league this season.  With Kaepernick or Matt Moore, you’re pushing the average mark (Defense is a big question mark).  With Tony Romo, you’re definitely a playoff team (Oh yeah!  I went there!).  With Cutler, you’re just bad.

Maybe Gase can work some magic.  I mean, around Cutler is a pretty talented team.  Jarvis Landry is a great receiver.  DeVante Parker is a nice downfield threat; same with Kenny Stills!  Julius Thomas is solid, and the Dolphins can run the ball literally whenever they want; Jay Ajayi might have 25 carries a game this year!  And behind that offensive line?  Watch out.

Miami’s defense has always been incredibly inconsistent though.  They still have an extremely talented defensive line, but the rest is anyone’s guess.  I mean, I like their 2nd string secondary better than their first.  Alterraun Verner is fine.  T.J. McDonald will contribute after his suspension.  Cordrea Tankersley was a beast at Clemson.  Bryon Maxwell is incredibly overpaid and may not start.  Nate Allen can occasionally make plays.  Reshad Jones is the only guy we can trust back there.  Combine that with an offense that could be ruined by just one guy, and the Dolphins could be closer to the Jets rather than making a run at the postseason.

Projected record: 6-10

New England Patriots

Strengths: Literally everything

Weaknesses: Literally nothing

It just does not matter.  Bill Belichick should be president.

I mean look at this roster.  Every name just looks so much more valuable when you see “NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS DEPTH CHART” above it.  Put Matthew Slater on the Browns and see what happens!

The Patriots have another running back monster:  Dion Lewis, James White and Mike Gillislee are all multi-demenisonal and can all be envisioned scoring three touchdowns in a single game, though Gillislee is the perfect candidate to have way too much preseason hype (Which he does) and be cut by Week 5.  New England has Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Brandin Cooks, Gronk and Dwayne Allen all catching passes from Tom freaking Brady.  They still own a pretty good offensive line.  Yeah, nothing else to see here.

Their defense is just as good.  Trey Flowers is a young star.  I expect Malcolm Brown to breakout.  They have one of the best secondaries in the NFL, even though the Stephon Gilmore contract was a little too much for me.  Yeah, once again, nothing to see here.

So can the Patriots lose a game?  The three hardest games on their schedule are home vs. Atlanta, in Mexico City vs. Oakland, and @ Pittsburgh.  There’s also a Thursday night game vs. Tampa Bay in there too.  Take your pick.

Projected record: 15-1

New York Jets

Strengths: Defensive line, Um….

Weaknesses: Practically everything else

One of my July NFL hot takes was that the Browns actually weren’t as bad as everyone thought, and that New York was actually much worse.

Unfortunately thats not a secret now.

It seems clear that this the NFL’s first display of tanking.  The Jets have made no effort to upgrade their quarterback group, which right now is a putrid group of Josh McCown, the guy who let me down Bryce Petty, and never-really-was-an-NFL-quarterback Christian Hackenburg.  All three of them are bad enough to sabotage your team.  All three of them are on the roster.

It’s not like they have a running game to resort to.  Matt Forte is ancient.  Bilal Powell is not a lead back.

The receiver group isn’t worth mentioning when you have the quarterbacks New York does, but there are some interesting tid-bits.  Jermaine Kearse just became their best receiver.  ArDarius Stewart is lurking.  Jalin Marshall seemed likely to have a big role before his four game suspension.

The Jermaine Kearse-Sheldon Richardson-WTF is happening trade that occurred Friday was extremely intriguing.  I thought the Jets got excellent value: A 2nd round pick is huge for a troubled but talented defensive lineman.  Plus Kearse, who was very valuable to the Seahawks and is now New York’s best option at wide-out.  However, there’s a chance Richardson flourishes in Seattle with their scheme.  But the draft pick compensation is really all they care about.  Assets!

The other side of the ball is pretty weak as well.  Though, even with Richardson out the door, the Jets defensive line is still extremely scary.  Muhammed Wilkerson and Leonard Williams are beasts on the end.  Aside from that, I mean, Jamal Adams will be fun to watch in year one.  Yeah, it drops off pretty quickly.

We’re gonna ask the opposite question that we did above…  Can the Jets win a game?

New York has Miami, Cleveland and Jacksonville in three straight weeks.  I’d go as far to say that they have the least chance of beating the Browns.  I feel like they get a win in there, and maybe get lucky against the Bills later in the year?  New York’s wins are gonna have to come from major choke jobs by their opponents.

Projected record: 2-14

AFC North:


Baltimore Ravens

Strengths: Defense, Kicker

Weaknesses: Lead running back, Offensive line

The Ravens find themselves in the same spot as usual: Average.

When Joe Flacco is your quarterback, it’s kinda hard to escape that.

I’d be much higher on the Ravens if their running backs were in better shape.  That way, you’re relying less on Flacco to make things happen.  But with Lorenzo Taliefeiro seeing most of the carries as Danny Woodhead and Terrance West are used more out of the backfield, Flacco will have to throw a terrifying amount of times.  And throwing to these receivers makes that thought even more frightening if you’re a Ravens fan.  Jeremy Maclin is huge for them though.  If he’s not cut by the Chiefs Baltimore is in panic mode.  However, he’s not really a primary target.  Mike Wallace is average.  Breshad Perriman is always hurt.  Tight end could be a strong suit; Benjamin Watson is a health concern but is a great pass catcher when healthy, and Crockett Gillmore could be a nice find over the middle once in awhile.

The problem with all of this?  Their offensive line is terrible and you never know what kind of throw Flacco will make.

Maybe the defense can bail them out.

This defensive group could be dominant.  Terrell Suggs, Brandon Williams and C.J. Mosley are all really good football players.  Their secondary is loaded; I was so sad to see Tony Jefferson leave Arizona, but he’s part of a ball-hawking group now.  Eric Weddle is great in coverage, and Brandon Carr is a good one-on-one cornerback.

Flacco is not one of the quarterbacks whose so bad that he can throw you out of games, but his mistakes will cost them dearly at times this season.  Without a defense this good, Baltimore is looking at 5-11.  But talent can check out, and this defensive group is not getting enough attention.  They’ll be the backbone of this team.

Projected record: 8-8

Cincinnati Bengals

Strengths: Multi-demensional running backs, Defense, Downfield receivers

Weaknesses: Offensive line, Receiver depth

The Bengals and Ravens are stunningly close and it’s making people lose their minds.  I’ve seen 8-8, 11-5, and 5-11 for the Bengals this season.  It’s a mess.

I can’t blame the projections though.  This team is really confusing.  Their offensive line is terrible.  Their defense could be top seven or bottom five.  They have a lot of really talented skill position players, but I’m not sure how they all totally fit together.

Let’s run through it.  Andy Dalton is smarter than Joe Flacco.  I trust him more, but that flips once the postseason hits.  Dalton has A.J. Green, John Ross and Brandon LaFell to throw to.  Tyler Eifert is a great target too.  Ross is already hurt, a devastating blow to an extremely limited group of receivers.  Reports have him out likely through Week 2.  I have no idea how Cincy is gonna make up for a guy like him, even though he hasn’t played a down yet.

The receiving core could be helped out by the running back trio of Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill and Joe Mixon, all guys who can carry the ball and catch it.  I see Mixon as the lead back: Bernard is always hurt and Hill isn’t great overall.  Mixon is a great receiver too; he could see 40 receptions this season.

Where does it go wrong on the offensive front?  The offensive line buys Dalton no time, leading to frequent bad throws.  Another one of their weapons goes down, forcing those bad throws to go to someone who’s not AJ Green, and the Bengals have to rely on banged up Bernard and lackluster Hill.  Joe Mixon is a huge x-factor for Cincy.

I think their defense is better than people are giving it credit for.  Their secondary isn’t terrible; Dre Kirkpatrick and George Iloka are good.  Adam Jones is suspended again, but will contribute when he returns in Week 2.  Their linebacking core is in bad shape expect for Kevin Minter, another Arizona guy who’s underrated.  I thought the Vontaze Burfict suspension was ridiculous.  It’s now three games, but even that seems unnecessary.  He led with his shoulder, not head.  Yes it was on a defenseless receiver in a preseason game, but it wasn’t a dangerous hit.  The defensive line is fine.  Carlos Dunlap can still be effective.

It’s a very average team, but they’re more talented on the offensive end when healthy than Baltimore, and I trust Dalton a little more.  The offensive line could completely derail them, but AJ Green and hopefully John Ross are good enough that they could provide the help needed to Dalton.

Projected record: 9-7

Cleveland Browns

Strengths: Offensive line, Running back, Defensive line

Weaknesses: Receivers, Secondary, Linebacking core

I’m still deciding whether the Browns are just bad or terrible.  If you piece together a best case scenario, there’s six wins and maybe even seven wins in there.

DeShone Kizer is the x-factor with the Browns, but there are some reliabilities.  Isaiah Crowell is secretly a really good running back, and the Browns made a heavy investment in their offensive line this offseason.  If they can ground and pound, that takes a ton of pressure of Kizer, who’s dealing with a limited supply of weapons anyways.  I think Corey Coleman will figure it out, and Kenny Britt, though overpaid, can make things happen downfield.  Sammie Coates is a rejuvenation project (A project I would be willing to work on, by the way).  That’s about it receiver wise.  Ricardo Louis was awesome in college and might turn into something, but you can’t count on that.  We’ll see what David Njoku is; I have my doubts.

The problem with the Browns is that they can’t rely on their defense.  It, like the rest of the team, is still being built.  They have a nice defensive line; Myles Garrett being the highest commodity.  Danny Shelton is too talented to be a bust, and Emmanuel Ogbah is still young.  Besides, the rest is shaky.  Jamie Collins provides some leadership and playmaking at linebacker.  Jabril Peppers is exciting but is a wait-and-see.  This group will be near the bottom of the league, but they do have some intriguing players.

The worst case is obvious: Kizer struggles in his rookie and the only thing they can do reasonably well is run the ball.

The best is complicated: I’m intrigued by Kizer but think he’s a little bit of a project. An immediate impact seems unlikely, but if Kenny Britt and Coleman can make plays after the catch and this defense can be average, the Browns could surprise some people.

Projected record: 5-11

Pittsburgh Steelers

Strengths: Offense, Defense

Weaknesses: Um…

This team is incredibly good.  They have an endless supply of weapons.  Martavis Bryant is back.  They added JuJu Smith-Schuster, who’s a human lightning rod.  The defense projects to be much better.  Pittsburgh isn’t New England, but man, somehow Pittsburgh has become underrated.

Their skills position players are the best by far in the league.  They have the best receiver, best running back and a top five quarterback.  They have Martavis Bryant, who yes hasn’t played football in awhile, but is also incredibly talented.  Eli Rogers came on last year as a target.  Darrius Heyward-Bey is a nice target in the right offense (FYI:  This is the right offense).  Even Justin Hunter might be able to get some action.  In this offense, anything is possible.

It helps that they have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL too. Maurkice Pouncey is awesome when healthy.  David DeCastro is criminally underrated.  If Le’Veon Bell wasn’t scary enough, him behind this offensive line is a reality that no defense will be able to stop.

Pittsburgh’s defense has been iffy the past few years, but their defensive roster looks much better than year’s past.  Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier is a dynamic duo lurking in the middle of the field.  The Joe Haden signing was absolutely huge and extremely cheap ($9 million a year?  I know he’s been hurt lately and has declined a bit, but give me a break.  Especially for how valuable he’s gonna be to them).  The Steelers are low-key deep in the secondary now, with William Gay and Coty Sensabaugh at the 3rd and 4th corner spots.  They’re actually not gonna blow coverages anymore!

I’m really looking forward to Steelers-Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

Projected record: 14-2

AFC South

Houston Texans

Strengths: Weapons, Defense

Weaknesses: Offensive line, Quarterback (For now)

I’ve said this before and I’m gonna say it again: If you take a quarterback in the first round, he should be your starter.

Especially when you have a guy as talented as DeShaun Watson, the rookie quarterback from Clemson who was my QB No.1 in the April’s draft.

With Tom Savage being named the starter, the Texans are essentially guaranteeing themselves a loss in every game he takes the majority of snaps in.  Savage may not be on the tier of Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer or Josh McCown, but he’s not taking you anywhere, even with a roster as talented as this one.  This division is good for once. 8-8 is not gonna cut it, and that’s Savage’s ceiling.  You’re wasting a really good roster with him.  With Watson, you’re maximizing it.

Their offensive line is concerning no matter who the quarterback is.  Watson at least has the athleticism to avoid pass rushers and scramble.  Lamar Miller is a decent back, but isn’t the most skilled runner and isn’t truck-sticking dudes.  Ground and pound won’t be an option.  Couple that with Savage, and this is a stagnant offense.

There is the defense to back it up though.  A terrifying group, the Texans have the best defensive line in football with J.J. Watt, Jadaveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus.  They’re gonna cause absolute chaos for opposing offensive lines.

Houston is deep in the secondary too.  Jonathan Joseph is a skilled cover corner.  Kevin Johnson is only gonna get better, and if Kareem Jackson is your 3rd corner, then you’re in good shape.

Houston’s record is completely dependent on who’s playing quarterback.  If Savage theoretically starts all 16 games (Which I can guarantee you will not happen), their ceiling is 8-8.  Their defense is too good to let that number drop.  Once Watson takes over, armed with an arsenal that includes Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller, the Texans will be a nice little 20-1 Super Bowl bet.

Projected record: 10-6

Indianapolis Colts

Strengths: Quarterback (Not at the moment), Um…

Weaknesses: Everything else

Similar to Houston, the Colts are losing every game if the current quarterback is starting.

Unlike Houston, it’s not their fault.  Andrew Luck’s shoulder is still screwed up from last year, and it’ll keep him out through at least Week 1.  They say it’s week-to-week, which sucks compared to having an actual timetable, because with a timetable, the Colts will know when they’ll stop losing.

Indianapolis is bad even with Luck (That pun was not intended and is a true statement whether you capitalize the “L” or not).  Frank Gore is still their running back.  The offensive line didn’t get any better; Ryan Kelly is the only competent dude up front.  Their defense added some talent (Jabaal Sheard is a talented linebacker who can help in coverage, and John Simon was another good signing), but it’s not good enough to keep them in games that Luck is out of.  Vontae Davis is solid, and I’m really excited to see Malik Hooker debut, but still, this defense is not taking them anywhere.

It’s hard to project the Colts due to the lack of knowledge about Luck’s return.  Luck is incredible, let’s not forget that.  I’ve heard some incredibly stupid takes this Summer about his ranking among QBs and whether he’s a franchise guy or not.  Luck is one of the seven best quarterbacks in the league.  Stop with the madness.  It’s not his fault Ryan Grigson was the architect of last year’s roster.  Luck’s in one of the few situations where the quarterback can do absolutely nothing.  Usually it’s the opposite, where no matter how good the roster/defense is, the quarterback throws the game away (Ahem, Jacksonville.  More on them next).  Luck can’t help it, and analysts have to stop throwing him under the bus.  Once he returns, watch out.  There will be a chip on his shoulder.

Projected record: 8-8

Jacksonville Jaguars

Strengths: Running back, Defense

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive line

Can you name four quarterbacks worse than Blake Bortles starting in Week 1?  Scott Tolzien, Josh McCown, Jay Cutler (?), Brian Hoyer?  Is Culter worse?  Is Hoyer worse?

This where we’re at with this Jacksonville team.  As I said above, the Jaguars are in the situation where the quarterback can just kill anything positive the defense has going for the team.  They are 8-8 with Sam Bradford or Colin Kaepernick, guys who aren’t great, but won’t murder you down the stretch.

Bortles is probably benched (And hopefully released) by Week 6, which leads to Chad Henne.  If Bortles is terrible, then Henne is bad.  It’s an upgrade without any value.

The Jaguars do have some bright spots.  Leonard Fournette is in store for a ton of carries, and even with a poor offensive line, he’ll make the most of them.  Defenses are not gonna be thrilled to tackle him.

The Jags defense is perhaps the greatest casualty of the quarterback situation.  A defensive line containing Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson and Dante Fowler Jr. is as terrifying as any in the league.  Their linebacking core is in good shape, with Myles Jack ready to make a big leap.  And that secondary…  have fun scoring points against this team.

I would love to pick Jacksonville as an 8+ win team, but the quarterback situation is too brutal.  You’re three Bortles picks away from losing every game, and you’re back-to-back-to-back Chad Henne-led three-and-outs away from scoring 10 points and still losing every game.  Without an upgrade, Jacksonville is going nowhere.

Projected record: 5-11

Tennessee Titans

Strengths: Quarterback, Weapons, Secondary

Weaknesses: Receiver depth

Tennessee is the team that really sets this division apart from the rest.  Though it probably doesn’t possess any real Super Bowl contenders, there’s a lot of fun stuff happening here.  I mean, the Titans might actually be relevant this year!

Tennessee has put the pieces around quarterback Marcus Mariota.  Eric Decker was a huge, cheap addition to a receiving core that was very lacking.  Corey Davis is a terrifying downfield threat.  Rishard Matthews is a nice slot guy.  Delanie Walker is a consistent tight end who’s good in the red zone.

The problem is that, with one injury, Tennessee could be in trouble on the offensive end.  They have no depth with only four receivers on the roster.  Mariota’s good, but he’s also young, and needs as much help around him as he can get to eliminate potential bad decisions.

The Titans defense figures to improve with offseason additions Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien; it’ll be hard for them to be worst that last year after finishing 24th in defensive DVOA.  Jurell Casey is a beast in the trenches, and they have decent linebacker depth with Derrick Morgan, Brian Orapko, Wesley Woodward and Erik Walden.

Tennessee can be really good.  They’re going as far as Mariota takes them, which, given the fan bases’ torture over the years, will be as high as ever before.  The defense won’t win them games, so Mariota must step up.  He will.

Projected record: 9-7

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Strengths: Defense, Receiver reliability 

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Running game, Impact

Denver fits the mediocre description perfectly.   One of many teams who’s defense will carry them, the Broncos would be much more interesting if they had an above average QB or a workhorse running back.  C.J. Anderson is hurt too often, and Devonate Booker has issues holding onto the football.  Trevor Siemian is a game-manager at best; someone who you can have make easy throws or check-down for yards, but won’t lead you down the field at the end of a game.  The weapons around him may help, but Denver can’t rely on their offense to win them games this season.  I think we need to see if Paxton Lynch is really that bad before Denver makes any defining decision at quarterback.

Their defense, however, is still just as good as it was in their Super Bowl winning year.  Von Miller is one of the best defensive players the NFL has ever seen.  Derek Wolfe is nobody I would want to guard.  Their secondary, even after the incredibly confusing release of T.J. Ward, is still in good shape with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.  If Denver sneaks into the playoffs, their defense will be the only reason why.

Projected record: 9-7

Kansas City Chiefs

Strengths: Defense, Offensive line

Weaknesses: Running game, Weapons

It’s literally the same thing every year with the Chiefs:  Great defense, average offense, average team due to stupid coaching, tough schedules and God knows whatever else makes the Chiefs lose.

This year is no different, and maybe even worse.

Spencer Ware’s season-ending ACL injury was a huge blow to their offense.  Kansas City likes to pound guys up the middle with their offensive line, slide guys out of the backfield via screens and flares, or get creative with Tyreek Hill.  With Ware out, it takes away their 2nd most valuable weapon.  Charcandrick West isn’t much of a downgrade, but he’s a worse runner and has trouble staying healthy.  Hill will always be making plays, but KC’s offense has to revolve around him breaking out of slant routes, because it’s not like Alex Smith is throwing a ball more than eight yards.  The Chiefs offense reminds of the Giants’ last season, where the whole offense is dependent on one dude making a play.  It’s not bad enough to keep them out of games, but will put immense pressure on their defense to hold the fort.

The Chiefs defense is still very good.  Justin Houston, Chris Jones, Dee Ford, Marcus Peters and Eric Berry are all studs.  Derrick Johnson is still kicking it at 34. Ron Parker is fine.  The Chiefs defense will be tough to run and pass on, but opposing teams can rely on not having to score many points to beat KC since the offense won’t be lighting up the scoreboard.

As we’ve seen quite a bit, a good defense can make you at least average.  A poor offense and/or tough schedule can make you worse.  The Chiefs are a perfect example of that.

Projected record: 8-8

Oakland Raiders

Strengths:  Offense

Weaknesses: Front seven

The AFC has three really freaking good teams.

Oakland’s high powered offense only got better in the offseason, adding Jared Cook and Marshawn Lynch.  Lynch is a wait-and-see.  He hasn’t played football in almost two years, so there could be some rust when you couple that with his age.  At the same time, Lynch could be right back into Beast Mode, which would be a devastating blow to any defense that thought they had this team stopped.

Cook is a great addition to an offense already loaded with receivers.  He’s solid pass catcher who’s always open along the sidelines or in the middle of the field.  The Raiders have Amari Cooper going deep and Michael Crabtree for speed, along with Cordarrelle Patterson, because, with this offense, why not.

Derek Carr also has Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington to throw to, two backup running backs who are excellent out of the backfield.  The Raiders’ supply of weapons is totally ridiculous.  Carr’s numbers will be off the charts.

Oakland’s defense has been the issue the past two seasons.  Kahlil Mack is incredible, but besides him they really only have one other good player (Bruce Irvin).  Sure, their secondary isn’t bad with Karl Joseph, David Amerson and Gareon Conley, but that’s putting a lot of trust into youth and guys taking steps forward.  Maybe Mack and those guys are enough, but it will be a tall task.

The defense may not even matter.  Oakland’s gonna be scoring so many points that the other team(s) just won’t be able to catch up.

Projected record: 13-3

Los Angeles Chargers

Strengths: Front seven, Secondary, Weapons

Weaknesses: Linebacking core, Offensive line

Not gonna lie, in the first draft of this column, the team name said “San Diego Chargers”.

Los Angeles is gonna have a good football team!  The Chargers are the team no one is talking about.  For them, it’s really a matter of staying healthy.

Last year was rough.  Everyone got hurt.  Philip Rivers had no receivers and no offensive line.  The defense blew games.  It was a mess.

Now, their stocked with receivers, the defense looks very scary, and there’s a fresh start for those who were hurt.  The offensive line is still kinda weak; Joe Barksdale and Matt Slauson are the only guys I can count on.  I’m not sure we should expect much from Russell Okung.

But Melvin Gordon is the type of running back who doesn’t really need a great offensive line.  The guy is a baller, and should be just as good this season.  That’d help out Rivers greatly, who’s most definitely capable of putting massive numbers with this supply of weapons, but just for age’s sake (He’s 35!) would be a nice benefit.

Their front seven is terrifying.  I’ll pass on blocking Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the same d-line.  Throw in Brandon Mebane who creates chaos up the middle, and the Chargers should have one of the best run defenses in the NFL.  Their linebackers are a little concerning, but a ball-hawking secondary makes up for it.  Jason Verrett really came on last season, and Casey Hayward is super underrated.

The Chargers and Raiders aren’t far apart.  I think Oakland is a touch more explosive on offense with their higher quality receivers, but the Chargers will shock some people this season.

Projected record: 11-5

AFC Playoff Standings

  1. New England Patriots, 15-1
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers, 14-2
  3. Oakland Raiders, 13-3
  4. Houston Texans, 10-6
  5. Los Angeles Chargers, 11-5
  6. Tennesse Titans, 9-7

Three teams finished with 9-7 record in the AFC.  I didn’t go schedule-by-schedule to check the head-to-heads (predicting a game in Week 10 right now is incredibly stupid, especially when that game would determine who gets the playoff spot).  I chose Tennessee because I think they’re the best team out of Denver, Cincinnati and themselves.

AFC Division Standings


  1. New England Patriots, 15-1
  2. Buffalo Bills, 8-8
  3. Miami Dolphins, 6-10
  4. New York Jets, 2-14


  1. Pittsburgh Steelers, 14-2
  2. Cincinnati Bengals, 9-7
  3. Baltimore Ravens, 8-8
  4. Cleveland Browns, 5-11


  1. Houston Texans, 10-6
  2. Tennessee Titans, 9-7
  3. Indianapolis Colts, 8-8
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars, 5-11


  1. Oakland Raiders, 13-3
  2. San Diego Chargers, 11-5
  3. Denver Broncos, 8-8
  4. Kansas City Chiefs, 8-8

NFC Preview coming soon…