Archive for September, 2016

Week Four Picks

September 29th, 2016 Comments off

I’m feeling OK with my 8-8 finish straight up in week three. And OK-ish about my 7-9 finish against the spread, too. Does either result actually point to an OK week? Not even close. But here’s the context: The favorites went 7-9 last week straight up. (Favorites were 4-11 against the spread. Just 15 games there because Baltimore-Jacksonville went off even.) And six of the favored teams that ended up losing outright were at home.

I’m not sure that counts as getting upset week out of the way. This early in the season, it’s more likely that many of us — fans, experts and oddsmakers alike — had overestimated a bunch of teams and underestimated a bunch more. So I’m still expecting a real upside-down week to hit somewhere around the middle of the season.

Just the same, I’m inclined to look at 8-8/7-9 in week three and figure things could have turned out a whole lot worse.

With that finish, I head into week four with my picks record for the season at 30-18 (.625) straight up, 24-24 (.500) against the spread. And that, of course, means it’s a fairly safe bet that I’m headed for disaster in week four. Fortunately for me byes start this week, which leaves me only 15 games to figure wrong.

Here’s what not to expect.

Miami (+7) at Cincinnati
Each of these teams is a win north of 0-3 by the narrowest margin imaginable. The Bengals got their sole victory back in week one when they managed to edge the Jets, another team with a talent for self-destruction. Then, last week, the Dolphins needed nearly half of an overtime period and an absolutely horrific day from Browns kicker Cody Parkey to stumble into their first win. That was in Miami. Against Cleveland, a team that had been outscored 54-30 in its first two games (both losses) and that was starting a rookie third-string quarterback. I expect each of these teams to do its damnedest to lose this game. But on a short week, I have to believe the visitors have the best chance of finding the losing formula. Cincinnati by a field goal.

Indianapolis (-2.5) vs. Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium, London
Sorry, England. Colts by four.

Cleveland (+8.5) at Washington
Sorry, America. Washington by a point.

Buffalo (+5.5) at New England
Sorry, Buffalo. Maybe your next coach and quarterback will be up to their respective jobs. (Though you may feel like you’ve heard that before.) Patriots by 14.

Seattle (-1) at NY Jets
The Seahawks ought to be able to win this game, regardless of the condition of Russell Wilson’s knee. Seattle’s defense has been plenty stout through the team’s first three games (though it seems worth noting that the Seahawks haven’t exactly faced the league’s stiffest competition — and that their only other road game ended in an embarrassing loss). And it’s not like the Jets bring a powerful offense to the field. Hell, the Jets may not even bring a functional offense to the field. Seems like Seattle’s D ought to be able to keep New Jersey off the board and clear a path to victory in a low-scoring game. But I’m not so sure. The Jets D did a pretty good job of getting to the quarterback in the team’s only other home game so far this young season. If they can do that again, they’ll give their offense extra chances to wear down the Hawks. And traveling from west coast to east coast to play a one o’clock game is never easy (just ask the Cardinals). The Jets also have to feel like they’ve got their backs against the wall following last weekend’s fiasco in Kansas City. I’ve got a feeling New Jersey finds a way to win this one. Probably with a final score that looks something like 13-12.

Carolina (-3) at Atlanta
I have no idea what to make of the NFC South right now. What I do know is that the Panthers should be a better team than the Falcons. And, although the teams’ records don’t reflect it, I feel pretty confident that the Panthers actually are a better team than the Falcons. If the team is going to succeed over the long term, Carolina’s going to need to do a much better job of protecting Cam Newton than they did last weekend. But against a defense like Atlanta’s, which has shown no ability to get to the quarterback thus far this season, that shouldn’t be a huge challenge. I like the Panthers to come out on top by a touchdown.

Detroit (-3) at Chicago
Say what you want about Brian Hoyer‘s performance Sunday night in Dallas. But I’ll tell you this much: In his seven quarters of service this season, Jay Cutler dropped back to pass 54 times and took eight sacks for a league-worst sack percentage of 14.8; Hoyer, over five quarters, has dropped back 61 times, many of them against defenses protecting three-score leads, and has taken zero sacks (for a league best sack percentage of 0.0). I’m not saying that makes Hoyer a better quarterback than Cutler, but it certainly suggest to me that Hoyer is a smarter quarterback than Cutler. And that, I think, makes Hoyer ther better choice for the Bears at the moment. It’s uncertain who’ll start behind center for Chicago this week, but even assuming it’s Hoyer, I don’t expect him to lead the Bears to a win. I do, however, think Hoyer gives Chicago a chance to keep it close. And then, you know, anything can happen, particularly in a divisional matchup. Lions by a point.

Tennessee (+5.5) at Houston
Pat Kirwan likes to talk about a long-term trend of teams that have been shut out winning big the next time they take the field. There’s a competing trend at play here, too, though. It’s the one where overrated teams tend to struggle for a game or two after being exposed by the Patriots. I suspect the Texans will find a middle ground. The Titans will move the ball effectively on the ground and give the home team a good scare, but the Texans will find a way to come out just ahead. Houston by a field goal.

Oakland (+3.5) at Baltimore
It’s tempting to say that this game comes down to whether the unbalanced Raiders find a defense or the unbalanced Ravens find an offense. But I don’t think that’s where this one turns. In this battle between teams that have looked slightly better than average thus far this season, I favor the one that’s shown an ability to hold onto the ball. That’s the Raiders. Oakland by two.

Denver (-3) at Tampa Bay
Three? Three? Are you kidding? I don’t care where they’re playing, Denver wins this one by something closer to 23.

Dallas (-3) at San Francisco
Neither am I sure that three points is anywhere close to adequate in this game, though the difference might not be quite as pronounced as in Broncos-Bucs. Let’s say Dallas by 10.

New Orleans (+3.5) at San Diego
If the Saints fall to 0-4, they’re sunk. I’m pretty sure they’re sunk. Chargers by four.

Los Angeles (+8) at Arizona
Once again, the Cardinals make the most of a matchup with a weak opponent to work out their frustrations from a loss to an AFC East team. Arizona by 17.

Kansas City (+5.5) at Pittsburgh
I still haven’t quite got my head around what happened to the Steelers last weekend. I can’t imagine Pittsburgh drops a second straight, particularly given that they’re home for this one. But neither do I think the Chiefs are likely to go down without a serious fight. Steelers by three.

NY Giants (+4.5) at Minnesota
Let’s set everything else aside and just look at this. Through three games (so not an ideal sample size, but not nothing), the Giants rank 30th in the league in turnover differential, -6 (one takeaway, seven giveaways); the Vikings rank first, +8 (nine takes, one give). That’s some bad news for the visitors right there. Minnesota by a touchdown.

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Week Three Picks

September 22nd, 2016 Comments off

Well, I’m consistent if nothing else. Another week, another 11-5 finish straight up. I did improve slightly against the spread in week two, but was hardly a meaningful improvement. I landed at 9-7, exactly one game better than my week one performance. So here I sit (broken hearted? maybe not so much), 22-10 (.688) straight up, 17-15 (.531) against the spread. And who knows? Maybe in a few weeks I’ll look at those results and wonder how I managed to do so well.

Here’s what not to expect in week three.

Houston (-1) at New England
The Patriots have already accomplished everything they really needed to accomplish during Tom Brady‘s suspension. Arguably more. With the greatest quarterback of all time spending the first quarter of the season in his living room, it would have been ridiculous for the team or its fans to expect anything better than a 2-2 start. With the best tight end in football sitting out with a hamstring injury, the defensive front missing key players (including the leader of the unit), and the backup quarterback leaving with an injury less than halfway through game two, even a 2-2 open should have been out of reach. But 2-2 is the worst New England can do before Brady’s return. And 3-1 seems like a solid bet. But 4-0 doesn’t, mainly because you simply can’t expect the Patriots to come up with a win this week. You just can’t. Not with rookie third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett making his first NFL start on just four days rest and preparation. Not with Gronk still uncertain to play. Not with the well balanced Houston Texans bringing what has so far been one of the best pass defenses in the league into Foxborough. There has to be a tipping point for every team — even if it’s just a temporary tipping point — and you have to believe the Patriots have hit it. That’s simply the pragmatic point of view on this game. And yet, I remain mindful of what I wrote a week ago: “There’s no value in picking against New England. No matter whom the Patriots are playing. No matter where they’re playing. No matter what the circumstances. As long as Bill Belichick is on the sideline, the Pats more often than not are going to find a way to win.” I can’t imagine what that way might be this week. But if anyone can devise a path to victory under these circumstances, it’s Belichick. So I’m closing my eyes, holding my breath, crossing everything I can comfortably cross and taking New England. I’ll be truly awestruck if the Patriots win by more than a point.

Denver (+3) at Cincinnati
I’m not sure I understand the line on this game. I mean, I know the Bengals are at home. And I know we haven’t yet seen whether Trevor Siemian can be effective in a hostile stadium. But we know the Broncos defense can perform on the road. It appears that Denver has a balanced offense. And it appears that Cincinnati does not — and that the Bengals’ inability to move the ball on the ground thus far this season poses a particular problem given that they face a defense that doesn’t let you move the ball through the air. Young Mr. Siemian may find a way to cause me to regret it, but I’m going to take my chances with the visitors here. Broncos by a touchdown.

Oakland (+1.5) at Tennessee
The Raiders can’t seem to stop opponents from scoring. Maybe it will help to face a team that stops itself. Oakland by six.

Arizona (-4) at Buffalo
I’m sure getting three extra days to prepare and a new offensive play caller will make all the difference for Buffalo in this game. I expect to see an absolute magic show as the Bills transform from a struggling 0-2 team to a hopeless 0-3 team before our very eyes. Arizona by 10.

Baltimore (even) at Jacksonville
I don’t think the first two weeks of the season have told us anything useful about either of these teams. I’m not sure this game will get the job done either. All I can say is that if I’d seen any indication whatsoever that the Ravens were capable of running the football, I’d take them to win this one. Jaguars by a field goal.

Cleveland (+9.5) at Miami
One difference (and, yes, it’s one of very, very many) between Cleveland and New England is that the Browns weren’t able to win behind either the first or second quarterback on their depth chart. It’s possible that Cody Kessler has some special mojo, but considering that Cleveland quarterbacks have been sacked once every 10 dropbacks so far this season, I’m not sure he’s going to get much chance to put it to use. Dolphins by 14.

Washington (+4.5) at NY Giants
The Racists are just not a good team. Giants by six.

Detroit (+7.5) at Green Bay
If the Packers are going to have any kind of sustained success this season, they’re going to have to do a much better job of protecting Aaron Rodgers. But that shouldn’t be much of a worry this week. Green Bay by a field goal.

Minnesota (+7) at Carolina
I know everyone thinks losing Adrian Peterson to injury is a huge deal for the Vikings. I’m not so sure I agree.


Not having any kind of a run game to begin with might be a somewhat bigger deal. But maybe that’s just me. Panthers by ten.

San Francisco (+9.5) at Seattle
You have to believe the Seahawks are going to right the ship at some point, right? Or maybe not. But you’ve still got to like them to overcome the 49ers at home. Seattle by a touchdown.

Los Angeles (+5) at Tampa Bay
I know they beat the Seahawks last week and everything, but the Rams still look like a pretty bad football team to me. Hard to see them traveling across the country and beating a solidly mediocre squad like the Buccaneers. Tampa by three.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Philadelphia
One of these teams is for real. The other one is the Eagles. Pittsburgh by nine.

NY Jets (+3) at Kansas City
Here’s another game featuring two teams I don’t quite know what to make of. I know the Chiefs are at home, though, so I guess I’ll take them. Kansas City by a field goal.

San Diego (+3) at Indianapolis
One gets the feeling it’s going to be a long, difficult season for the Colts. Uneven though they may be, the Chargers win this one by four.

Chicago (+7) at Dallas
There’s nothing impressive about the Cowboys. But there’s nothing that isn’t downright awful about the Bears. Dallas by 13.

Atlanta (+3) at New Orleans
There’s an outside chance someone on one of these teams will make a defensive play at some point during this game. That players’ team wins. New Orleans by a point.

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Week Two Picks

September 18th, 2016 Comments off

Hey, so far, so not entirely terrible. Adding Thursday night’s result into the mix, I’m now at 12-5 straight up, 9-8 against the spread so far this season. As usual, one would hardly be wise to go around wagering actual money based on anything I have to say. But one would hardly be wise to gamble under any circumstances. So I’m calling the whole thing a win. Sort of. Let’s see how short-lived this relatively good feeling proves.

Here’s what not to expect in the rest of the week two games.

Tennessee (+5.5) at Detroit
This looks to me like the kind of game where the punters might end up wondering why they bothered to suit up. The Lions won one of those by four points last week. I’ll look for them to do the same here.

Kansas City (+2.5) at Houston
Whichever team figures out how to mount a ground offense comes out on top. I’m gonna guess it’s the home team. Texans by a field goal.

Miami (+6.5) at New England
I learned a valuable lesson last Sunday night. Sadly for me, it was a lesson I’d already learned years ago and simply found a way to forget. It’s this: There’s no value in picking against New England. No matter whom the Patriots are playing. No matter where they’re playing. No matter what the circumstances. As long as Bill Belichick is on the sideline, the Pats more often than not are going to find a way to win. That formula presents itself at a fairly simple level this week, with New England hosting a Miami squad that’s playing its second straight road game and coming off what has to be a demoralizing late-game collapse in Seattle. Games against division rivals have a way of being more competitive than they ought, but I think the Patriots defense (the pass rush in particular) takes control of this one and New England comes away with win by a margin of six.

Baltimore (-6.5) at Cleveland
Don’t pay attention to those who claim Cleveland’s season is already over. The Browns have to play 15 more games just like everybody else. It’s just that their next 15 games are going to much, much worse than most other teams’. Ravens by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
Somebody, somewhere can probably provide some great, prescient insight into how this game is going to play out. Me, I’ve got what most everybody else has. Don’t look for much in the running game. Expect a high score. And look for the home team to come out on top. Pittsburgh by three.

Dallas (+3) at Washington
Neither of these teams got this season off to an impressive start. But the Cowboys at least hung tight against a Giants squad that I believe is better than most observers realize. I’ll take Dallas to win this one straight up. Let’s say it’s by a point.

New Orleans (+5) at NY Giants
I don’t anticipate quite the shootout I’ve seen and heard predicted elsewhere. But I do expect both teams to get into the high twenties. Giants by a field goal.

San Francisco (+13.5) at Carolina
The Panthers, who come into this game on 10 days rest, are not the Rams. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot more to say. Carolina by 17.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Arizona
One could make an argument that no team should be taken by surprise by the Patriots at this point in NFL history. But it happens just the same. Taken by surprise by the Buccaneers? Not so much. The Bucs appear to have a pretty good team. We’ll get an idea of just how good by whether — and perhaps for how long — they’re able to stay competitive against a very good Cardinals teams that needs a win to right the ship. It may be close right down to the final minutes, but in the end, even if it’s by way of a late touchdown that extends the margin, I think Arizona comes out on top by about nine.

Seattle (-6.5) at Los Angeles
I’ll admit I went to be fairly early Monday night, but I was still up later than the Rams. One suspects this first season back in L.A. is going to be longer than anyone realized. Seahawks by 10.

Indianapolis (+6) at Denver
The Broncos appear to be a balanced team. The Colts are not. Denver by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+4.5) at Oakland
I don’t think there’s anything the Falcons can do to slow down the Raiders offense. Oakland by 14.

Jacksonville (+3) at San Diego
One of these teams has to win. Let’s go with the hosts. Chargers win it straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Green Bay (-2) at Minnesota
Both of these teams will be facing much stiffer opposition than they faced in week one. But I suspect the Vikings are facing a slightly tougher bump. Packers by a point.

Philadelphia (+3) at Chicago
Another gem of a Monday night matchup. Ugh. Bears by six.

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Week Two Thursday Night Pick

September 15th, 2016 Comments off

I’m not going to get to all of this week’s games before the big AFC East showdown on Thursday night. So let’s start with that one and I’ll get to the rest later.

I got off to about as good a start as I could have hoped for with my week one picks. Finished 11-5 straight up, 8-8 against the spread. I’ll take it. And let’s see how much worse I do once I start thinking I know something.

NY Jets (-1) at Buffalo
You wouldn’t think the Bills could fare any worse against the Jets than they did against the Ravens. But I’m not sure. I certainly don’t expect Buffalo to have much more success running the ball this week than they did last. And that leaves Tyrod Taylor, who was sacked once for every 11 times he dropped back last week, to try to overcome a pass rush that put Andy Dalton on his back seven times on 37 drop-backs (18.9 percent) last week. None of that figures to help the Bills. I suspect the advantage of hosting a division rival on a short week is the only thing that keeps Buffalo in this game. In a low-scoring game, New Jersey comes out on top by a field goal.

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Week One Picks

September 11th, 2016 Comments off

Hey, look at that, I’m off to a split start: 0-1 straight up, 1-0 against the spread. So far this randomly guessing approach is producing results that are similar to the pretending I know and them randomly guessing approach. What a revelation.

Here’s what not to expect over the rest of week one.

Tampa Bay (+2.5) at Atlanta
Common sense tells me to take the home team in this matchup. My belief that that Buccaneers are rising and the Falcons falling tells me the opposite. And since I have nothing on the line but pride — and since I have no pride left to lose — Tampa Bay by three.

Minnesota (-2.5) at Tennessee
The Vikings defense needs to play up to the level of its reputation at least long enough for the Minnesota offense to get its legs under it. This seems like a good place to start. In a low-scoring game, Minnesota comes out ahead by a point.

Cleveland (+3.5) at Philadelphia
Neither of these teams is very good. And both may already have given up on the season. But at least one of them has a quarterback who has both something to prove and decent chance to start proving it. Cleveland by a field goal.

Cincinnati (-2.5) at NY Jets
The consensus seems to be that the Bengals are a considerably better football team than the Jets, and that only home field is keeping New Jersey in this one. I’m not sure that’s true. I’ll take the favorites, I suppose, but I think it comes down to the final seconds. Cincinnati by four.

Oakland (+1.5) at New Orleans
The Raiders are the more complete team in this match. I think they outlast the Saints in a high-scoring game. Oakland by six.

San Diego (+6.5) at Kansas City
Kansas City’s a tough place to start a season for Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Chiefs by 10.

Buffalo (+3) at Baltimore
I don’t think either of these teams is going much of anywhere this season. But the Ravens should at least be good enough to handle a middling visitor like the Bills fairly handily. Baltimore by a touchdown.

Chicago (+6) at Houston
The Bears have a long way to go before they’ll be competitive in road games against good opponents. Houston by nine.

Green Bay (-5.5) at Jacksonville
Even those who have bought into the hype about the Jaguars rebound don’t think Jacksonville has the juice to compete with Green Bay. Packers by 14.

Miami (+10.5) at Seattle
I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that needs to be said about this matchup. Seahawks by 21.

NY Giants (even) at Dallas
In which the Giants begin the work of dominating a weak division. Eli Manning has a big day and New Jersey opens with an eight-point win.

Detroit (+3) at Indianapolis
Shrug. Home team by six.

New England (+7) at Arizona
If the Patriots ever had a real chance in this game, it went away on July 14. And if they had an outside chance, it probably disappeared when the team traveled to Arizona without Rob Gronkowski. But in reality, this game was likely going to end in a Cardinals victory no matter who New England put on the field. At full strength, these are two of the best teams in the league. And, sure, there’s still some possibility that what appears to be a very impressive Patriots defense finds a way to take advantage of Carson Palmer and carry New England to a victory. (If that happens, by the way, Patriots fans should go ahead and book their hotel rooms in Houston for the first weekend in February.) But when two good teams meet in week one, you take the home team unless there’s a very good reason not to. Cardinals by four.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Washington
The Steelers put on a show in prime time, announcing that they’re back. The Racists … well, in a way, I guess they’re back, too. Pittsburgh by 17.

Los Angeles (-2.5) at San Francisco
In a nationally televised game that will be watched by no one outside of California, the middle-of-the-road team overcomes the bad team. What an exciting way to wrap up week one. Rams by four.

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Opening Night Pick

September 8th, 2016 Comments off

I’m just going with this one for the nonce. Maybe I’ll get the rest up before kickoff tonight. Probably not.

Carolina (-3) at Denver
If your defense is good enough to carry you to victory over a good team at a neutral site in spite of horrific quarterback play to end one season, it ought to be good enough to carry you to a victory over that same team on your own field in spite of an inexperienced quarterback to begin the next. I mean, that’s sound reasoning, isn’t it? Carolina by a point.

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2016 NFL Season Predictions

September 8th, 2016 Comments off

I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s late (the Wednesday evening before the start of the season as I write). My anger with the NFL over its treatment of Tom Brady has (once again) eroded my ability (and willingness) to pay as much attention as I had until the 2015 off-season to goings-on around the league. And even setting that aside, making predictions in September about what will happen in football games to be played in December, January and February is always the very definition of pointlessness.

But here I go again just the same. Now I’ll have something to go to in five months when I’m looking for evidence of my own utter idiocy.

As in prior years, I’m not going to try to predict final win-loss records. Instead, I’ll offer range of how many games I think each team is likely to win. And then it’s on to predicting postseason seedings and outcomes. Because that’s always a good idea.

Less text than usual this time. Because it’s all bullshit anyhow.

AFC East

New England Patriots, 11-14
Patriots fans are convinced that the team is going to run the table once Tom Brady returns from his unjust, unwarranted suspension in week five. It’s a nice enough thought. But I’m inclined to think they drop one somewhere along the way. And if they don’t, they may well end up in position to take week 17 off. The Pats appear to have assembled a bruising defense. And their O, which should sing once Brady’s back on the field, ought to be able to operate well enough with Jimmy Garoppolo behind center. The opener at Arizona looks like a loss to me. Beyond that, I think it’s just a matter of how many of the next three games New England can win. I expect them to take at least two. But even if they drop all four, I think the team will be OK. (The fans, not so much. And don’t even get me started on the Boston sports media.)

New York Jets, 9-11
The Jets are a well coached team with a lot of the right pieces. As long as they can keep Ryan Fitzpatrick upright, I expect the Jets to pose a threat to the Patriots throughout much of the season, only to fall away in December. And even then, they may well catch a wild card berth.

Miami Dolphins, 5-8
Once again, it’s all about Ryan Tannehill in Miami. And once again, we see that a quarterback can only take a team so far.

Buffalo Bills, 5-7
I don’t see that the Bills used the offseason to solve the problems that dogged them in 2015. And in the NFL, if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-13
Conventional wisdom says that the Steelers success this season will depend on he maturation of their defense. I kind of think that’s about fans expecting Pittsburgh to be Pittsburgh, and I’m not so sure it holds up. I think we might see a team that’s carried by a high-scoring offense through most or all of the season. If the D comes together — especially if they do it down the stretch — all the better.

Cincinnati Bengals, 9-11
Will this be the year the Bengals finally win a game in the postseason? Probably not. But they may well get to lose another one.

Baltimore Ravens, 6-10
We should be in the up part of the up-down cycle for the Ravens (and their quarterback) this year. And maybe there’s something to that. But facing a tough schedule and playing in a tough division with a geriatric roster isn’t usually a very good formula for up. We’ll see.

Cleveland Browns, 3-5
It’s possible (because anything’s possible) that this latest rebuilding project is the one that will finally pay off for the Browns. But not this year.

AFC South

Houston Texans, 8-11
I’m not one of those folks who expect the Texans to be a great football team this season. (Which is your surest sign that they will be.) I’m not even confident that they’ll be much better than good. But that might still win them a second straight AFC South title. Or not.

Indianapolis Colts, 7-11
I think it’s the same, simple formula for the Colts: Keep Andrew Luck on his feet and you win the division. Expose him to constant punishment via shoddy O line play and you start your offseason January 2.

Tennessee Titans, 6-10
I think the Titans could be a much better team than anyone expects. I like their quarterback. I think their plan to emphasize the run will allow Mariota to continue to grow into the role. And I suspect their D may be better than advertised, especially if a ball-control offense allows them to play rested and defend leads. Of course, I’m usually wrong about these things.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-8
It’s easy and popular to blame the problems the Jaguars have faced in recent seasons on the defense. And if it’s also accurate, this team should be poised to make a huge leap this season. But I’ve got this weird notion that the Jags’ failure to protect Blake Bortles has been significant factor. And I don’t see where they’ve fixed that.

AFC West

Oakland Raiders, 9-12
That’s right. I’m looking for the Raiders not only to be relevant for the first time in 14 years, but to actually win a division title. Why? Maybe because they’ve built a talented team. And, you know, maybe because I’m a dolt.

Kansas City Chiefs, 9-12
Or maybe it’ll be the Chiefs’ year. They looked pretty OK at the end of last season, right? And they appear to have got a bit better in the offseason. Or they have on offense, anyhow.

Denver Broncos, 7-9
The Broncos’ defense was good enough to win them a Super Bowl last year in spite of shoddy quarterback play. And they kept enough of that unit around that they should be able to carry Trevor Siemian and the offense. Right?  I’ll believe it when I see it.

San Diego Chargers, 5-8
The biggest thing the Chargers needed to do in the offseason was figure out how to keep Philip Rivers on his feet. They didn’t.

NFC East

New York Giants, 9-11
The Giants probably won’t be a truly great football team this season. But I suspect they’ll be a very good football team. And that’s all it should take in the NFC East.

Washington Racists, 6-9
The defending division champs got away with being the best team in a bad division a year ago. That kind of luck almost never repeats itself.

Philadelphia Eagles, 5-8
Say what you want. This is a rebuilding year.

Dallas Cowboys, 4-6
We’ve all seen this movie before. We know how it ends. Tony Romo‘s career is effectively over. And the Cowboys aren’t built to win without him.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers, 11-14
It’s all about Aaron Rodgers. It always is for Green Bay. And that’s not a bad thing.

Minnesota Vikings, 8-10
Ask yourself how quickly you think the Vikings can get Sam Bradford up to speed. Answer that and you’ll know how far the team can go.

Chicago Bears, 5-7
It’s just hard to believe the Bears can get much done given how little they have to work with.

Detroit Lions, 4-6
The Lions are just plain old headed in the wrong direction.

NFC South

Carolina Panthers, 13-14
Barring a Super Bowl hangover of epic proportions, it’s hard to imagine the Panthers falling far below their level of regular season success of a year ago.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7-9
The Buccaneers are on the ascent. The question isn’t whether they’ll be better than they were last year. It’s by how much?

New Orleans Saints, 6-9
The Saints don’t have enough offense to overcome their shortcomings on D.

Atlanta Falcons, 5-8
Neither do the Falcons.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals, 12-15
It’s the Cardinals and the Seahawks this year — not just in the NFC West, but in the conference as a whole (arguably in the NFL, though don’t look for me to make that argument) — and everyone knows it. Barring a disastrous injury for one team, one is going to take the one seed and the other is going to settle in as an insanely dangerous five (cue the calls for reseeding in the playoffs). Which will be which? I don’t know. I’m defaulting to last year’s division winner mostly because I know everyone else is doing the opposite.

Seattle Seahawks, 12-15
See above. (But keep an eye on the Seattle O line and their ability to keep Russell Wilson healthy.)

Los Angeles Rams, 5-8
The Rams have the misfortune of trying to find their way in a division dominated by two of the best teams in football.

San Francisco 49ers, 3-5
The 49ers have the misfortune of trying to rebuild in that same division.


OK, now it’s time to get truly stupid.

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

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

Wild Card Playoffs

Oakland defeats Cincinnati
Kansas City defeats Houston

Green Bay defeats Minnesota
Seattle defeats NY Giants

Divisional Playoffs

Pittsburgh defeats Oakland
New England defeats Kansas City

Seattle defeats Arizona
Green Bay defeats Carolina

Conference Championships

New England defeats Pittsburgh

Seattle defeats Green Bay

Super Bowl LI
New England defeats Seattle

There you go. Wrong from top to bottom, no doubt.

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