Sunday, September 10, 2017

Kicking It 2017

Ok, here's a quick league to league run down for the upcoming 2017 NFL season.

AFC East

Starts and ends with the New England Patriots as the favorite team of any good fascist mostly got better since winning the Super Bowl after spotting the Falcons a 28-3 lead. Sure, they lost Julian Edelman and don't have an edge rusher but they added speedy wideout Brandin Cooks and another white guy, RB Rex Burkhead. Gronk is back. No, they won't go undefeated but you can pretty much guarantee 13 wins as they'll get almost half playing the rest of the crummy division. Smokin' Jay Cutler was on his way to the broadcast booth when he got a call from Adam Gase in Miami after Ryan Tannehill was knocked out for the year. He might guide the Dolphins to a .500 season so long as RB Jay Ajayi has more than 3 big games, WR DeVante Parker makes the expected leap and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can avoid stomping related suspension. If it were any other division, the Buffalo Bills would have a strong claim on the cellar but they were out-firesaled by the New York Jets. Is there an adjective for 'almost completely bereft of talent'? LeSean McCoy is still great but might struggle with the new outside zone blocking scheme while QB Tyrod Taylor now doesn't have any targets to go along with his lack of accuracy: Bills get 3 wins. And those JETS? Quick, name a Jets receiver? QB? Yeah, 0-16 baby.

AFC North

Ben Roethlisberger's 35 year-old body may be 93, but he'll lead the league's best offense backed up by an improving defense. Le'Veon Bell's running style be simply described as patient? Imperturbable? Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant. Too many weapons to not win at least 8, maybe 11-5, so they can lose to the Patriots in the playoffs. The buzz around Baltimore is the Ravens defense might reclaim the best in the league title but I don't think bringing in Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead will be enough to turn around the Joe Flacco led offense leaving them around 9-7. You know, maybe the Cleveland Browns finish above the Cincinnati Bengals provided rookie DeShone Kizer allows them to jump off the QB carousel of the past couple decades (by my count Kizer will be the 27th starting QB since the franchise was (re)awarded to Cleveland). Regardless, I like what they've been doing, creatively amassing high draft picks while the Bengals are even boring when they're good; well, AJ Green is a beast I suppose. Browns celebrate a 5-11 and the Bengals and their porous offensive line bemoan a 4-12.

AFC South

The Tennessee Titans quietly had a great 2016/17 and will take the next step this year, getting their first sniff of the playoffs in a decade. The offense that scored 30.8 points/game over an eight game stretch last year has added #5 overall pick WR Corey Davis and WR Eric Decker to catch passes with TE Delanie Walker from Marcus Mariota, who will by an MVP contender, and can also hand off to RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Did you know Dick LeBeau brought his defensive scheme to Dixie from Pittsburgh? 11-5. Meanwhile the Houston Texans have a defense featuring JJ Watt, Whitney Merciless and Jadeveon Clowney. That and the fact that Brock Lobster is not longer their QB gives them a shot at the playoffs at 9-7. Swapping in Scott Tolzien for Andrew Luck at QB wouldn't work for any team and I'm thinking Luck may be out a bit which will doom the Indianapolis Colts to a losing 6-10 season alongside the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars need to pray #4 pick RB Leonard Fournette can deliver a power running game to compensate for the erratic play of their QB, Blake Bortles, who visibly regressed last year. Heck, the Jags could wind up above the Colts if all their defensive talent gels (I say they'll feature the best cornerback duo in the NFL in A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey; about all I can see on the Colts D is rookie Malik Hooker.

AFC West

Beastmode is back, now in Oakland, where the Raiders (for a couple years) should take control of the division. Matching his power running (and TE Jared Cook, yeah, that Jared Cook) with the 2nd best offensive line in football could be fun to watch. Second half of last season (until the broken leg) MVP Derek Carr may get even better so if the defense is simply average they'll finish 11-5, even once again with the Kansas City Chiefs. WR Tyreek Hill electrifies the pedestrian Alex Smith-led offense with his world class speed, scoring from anywhere while the bend but don't break defense does enough to get them into the playoffs. I simply hate the sound of the Los Angeles Chargers, their new head coach, Anthony Lynn, even seemed to want to forget it when his hiring was announced to the press. Screw Dean Spanos cause otherwise I would've liked this team. 8-8. Yeah, the Denver Broncos' defense is still awesome, but Von Miller and Co. can't carry this team forever, they'll fall to 7-9.

NFC East

In bizzarro NFL parity world, the division went from NFC Least to Beast in a season led by the Dallas Cowboys and their rookie sensation duo, QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. Enough of the offense returns to cover the immense holes on defense to keep them in the playoffs at 10-6. The Giants have added weapons to run alongside Odell Beckam Jr., but Eli's arm is slowly turning into a noodle and the sorry offensive line won't open holes for a running game to grind out the wins their (perhaps) league best defense will serve to them. Still should finish around 10-6, too. You can just as easily flip a coin to determine who will finish 3-4, the Philadelphia Eagles or the Washington Redskins. Both teams revamped their receiving package and have the same QBs coming back (though the 'Skins opted to tag theirs again instead of committing), but the Eagles brought in Lagarrette Blount to upgrade their running game and have the better defense, give them 9-7 and the 'Skins 7-9.

NFC North

Yeah, yeah, the Packers ran the table last year when they needed to and then did this a year after the whole RELAX thing, but they managed to throw away another season of Rogers excellence in the end. This year, they'll need a wildcard to get to the big game as the Minnesota Vikings will win the division thanks to overpaying to upgrade their horrible offensive line to try to keep QB Sam Bradford alive (the team's QB of the future, not Teddy Bridgewater) and open holes for rookie RB Dalvin Cook and Raiders import Latavius Murray. The defense is amongst the best in the league. 11-5. That's about where the Green Bay Packers will finish with the same old back shoulder throw to Jordy Nelson, horrible run play calling and a defense forcing Rodgers into miraculous comebacks. Meanwhile, the Lions will slip a little, but if 3rd year RB Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy for once, it might not be too horrible in Detroit. Well, at least in comparison to Chicago, where he Bears decided to pay a 10-foot giraffe who hasn't started a game in 3 years a bazillion bucks and then give up a boatload to the 49ers on draft day to move a spot to take a QB the Niners weren't taking anyway. Oh, and then proceed to let their best WR walk without replacing him. At least they've got RB Jordan Howard but they'll compete with the Jets for next year's #1 draft pick. 2-14.

NFC South

28-3. It'll ring in their ears all year, but the Atlanta Falcons should stay buck the Super Bowl hangover despite seeing offensive guru Kyle Shanahan leave for California. Too much talent on both sides of the ball. Julio Jones is a beast, too bad no one will remember this catch in the SB. Just when you think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are gonna make the jump, they learn they'll have to play 16 games without a bye, guaranteed recipe for injury disaster. I dislike Desean Jackson but have to admit he's able to take the top off defenses meaning Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans are gonna have themselves a season. The defense went from giving up 29 points per game in the first half of the year to 17.1 in the second. 10-6. The division is stacked: the Panthers should have a wildcard shot as as well having added Christian McCaffery in the first round, Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly are still around, 9-7; and even the New Orleans Saints as Drew Brees is still throwing darts and they've added Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara to Mark Ingram to their running back stable. 7-9.

NFC West

Ughh, the Shithawks. Yes, the Seattle Seahawks should walk away with the division once again; Russell Wilson is healthy, he's got some targets, the offensive line should be better (well, at least it can't be worse, can it?) and one of the running backs should pan out while they still have a great defense. 12-4. In the desert, RB David Johnson will carry the Arizona Cardinals on his back on his way to an MVP and WR Larry Fitzgerald seems like he'll be good until he's 50, but the quietly dominant defense lost five starters and QB Carson Palmer ain't getting any younger. 8-8. There's lots of buzz that the bottom two teams from California will be better this year, and I suppose it's true, but let's pump the breaks. QB Jared Goff will be better for the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers made some great offseason moves, including fleecing the Bears on draft day where they also snagged a couple of potential defensive stars. It also looks like Aaron Donald has finally reported to the team, RB Todd Gurley will likely be somewhere between his rookie phenom and sophomore slump self and maybe new WR Sammy Watkins can be healthier than he was in Buffalo making the Rams a 6-10 team. You'll know things are bad in San Fran if C.J. Beathard becomes the starting QB, but having Kyle Shanahan instead of Chip Kelley coaching automatically doubles their win total. Unfortunately it was only two last year. 4-12.