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2018 NFL Season Preview: Game Pass Rankings (Part I)

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Matt Weston and Luke Beggs rank each team by their NFL Game Pass enjoyment. These are the bottom half of the rankings.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns
I hate this man.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Before you continue, check your bank account. Do you have $99? If you don’t, close the browser. Go mow some lawns, babysit some twenty-somethings’ children, donate plasma, and head to the Coinstar. Cool. You’re back? You do have $99? Onwards now.

Purchase NFL Game Pass and gear up for the best way to watch football. Watch the games LIVE that you care about, ignore the rest, go for a walk instead, and then come back. Examine the recent past with coach’s film and condensed games to see as much of what you want as quickly as you could want it.

Despite the convenience and the amount of information available, it’s daunting. There’s too many games, too many players, too many teams. There are too many ways you can waste your finite time on boring, bland, and uninteresting football.

To help you, and ourselves out for the upcoming season, we ranked every NFL team’s by their Game Pass entertainment value, just like we did last year. The categories are:

Relevance/Importance: How much of an impact will they have on the Super Bowl.

Transcendence: How many great players do they have that you have to watch individually.

Scheme: How interesting their play designs are and how it meshes with their personnel.

Aesthetics: How pretty their uniforms, scoreboards, and camera angles are. In other words, the overall appearance of their Game Pass broadcasts.

The final rankings are both of our combined scores. Here are teams 32-17. The teams you don’t need to watch, and the teams you kind of sort of need to.

32.) Cleveland Browns (Last Year’s Ranking: 11)

Matt Weston:

Nope. [Expletive] this team.

Nu-Uh. We are not doing this again. I repeat: We are not doing this again. Last year we both were amazed when Sashi Brown asked us to pick a card; it was an 8, he had an 8, and we were super excited to watch the Browns play. Sordid hispters. The Browns instead became the most talented team to go 0-16. DeShone Kizer threw red zone interceptions and was flip-flopped with Kevin Hogan, NAME REDACTED didn’t even making it to Week One. Jabrill Peppers played 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage. Kenny Britt didn’t give an [expletive]. Joe Thomas got hurt and retired to become a podcaster. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson took turns running and catching passes not nearly as effectively as their talent level was. These were all calamities that happened last year.

I know I’m missing hundreds of other human travesties because I tuned out after Week Four. I’m sure there are more. I know there are more. As long as Hue Jackson is the head coach, I won’t watch a Browns game. I don’t care that Tygod Taylor is there, that Baker Mayfield went first overall, that David Njoku could catch ten touchdown passes, that Nick Chubb could become the best running back selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, or that Myles Garrett is freakier than Jadeveon Clowney.

Nope. I’m not putting up with it. As long as Jackson is here, I’m not watching. Once Gregg WIlliams takes over in Week Seven, I may change my mind. Until then. Nope. [Expletive] this team.

Favorite Player: Myles Garrett

Luke Beggs:

It’s weird the guy who once got fined for telling his defense to go out and injur the other team’s players is only a Hue Jackson firing away from being a NFL head coach. If we just followed the NFL’s way of recycling, I promise excess garbage would become a thing of the past.

All the worthy analysis that I could possibly muster will be trumped by this team screwing it up. From injuries to Trent Richardson suddenly losing the ability to recognize wide open running lanes, it doesn’t matter. These guys just find a way to blow it.

Yet that’s what makes it so interesting. It’s not the destination but the journey, maaaaaaan. It’s watching Baker Mayfield ignore Hue Jackson play calls and keep it on a zone read three times in a row. It’s watching Myles Garrett have a five sack game and still see Cleveland’s defense concede 40 points. It’s having all these young, talented, and interesting high draft picks get traded out of Cleveland for barely any return. I’ll never stop watching the Browns until they actually get good.

Favorite Player: Nick Chubb

31.) Miami Dolphins (12)

Matt Weston:

It says a lot about the league that there are only four teams I would refuse to watch at a deeper level, or at all really: Cleveland, Miami, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay once they (spoiler!) go 0-5 to start the year.

The Dolphins wasted their talent. They kept saying tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, and as a result, all they got from Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Jarvis Landry, Jay Ajayi, Mike Pouncey and others was a Matt Moore guillotine first-round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Look around Miami’s depth chart. There’s not a single player I want to watch. Robert Quinn was cool five years ago. Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson are quick YAC receivers who are catching passes from a quarterback with accuracy issues. Speaking of the QB, Ryan Tannehill is best known for throwing downfield, he will definitely get injured, and he’s a favorite among the nerd, hipster, I watched the tape loser who fails to realize that a couple of screamers and insane plays doesn’t make a consistent quarterback. Wake is an alien not from this planet and the only person who I gasped at seeing up close and in person at Super Bowl media day. But still, it’s a lot of stone flipping without the millipedes zigging underneath.

The only way I could watch this team play is if [NAME REDACTED] gets to start games for them this year. He probably will. Even then, I’m done with irony. I listened to The Hotelier’s Goodness the other day. I’m all about being earnest, loving, and caring. What you hate doesn’t make you special. Plus, what was fun two years ago is already started to fade like a blonde flea-market wig. He’s a waste of time.

I’d rather watch Tony Soprano’s chain jiggle in his chest hair for 30 minutes instead.

T-30.) Buffalo Bills (14)

Matt Weston:

I’m rooting so hard for Josh Allen to succeed. The constant pinky finger raised online hatred of Allen is brain-numbing. I’m sure there’s reasoning behind it. I’m sure Allen wasn’t very good at Wyoming. I don’t watch college football. I have, however, seen highlights of his insane arm put to use. And out there, in the howling winds, just south of Canada, it’s the perfect arm to beat this burden. Even if Allen is a bust, there’s going to be some incredible moments, and seeing those spots of the universe falling into place perfection are worth it.

The problem is that Allen isn’t going to start the season, and everything else on this team is strange. They are in two different places at once. I think that’s what quantum physics is. I’m a dumb man. I don’t know.

The Bills are quickly moving from an exciting power run scheme filled with options, pullers, heavy offensive formations, and a dual threat quarterback to something that nobody understands yet. Eric Wood retired, Richie Incognito retired. Cordy Glenn was traded to the Bengals. The offensive line won’t be able to do what it has done in years past. Nathan Peterman is granite in the pocket and offers nothing as a runner. Nobody knows what’s going to happen to LeSean McCoy, and he’s the only good part of this offense.

Defensively, just watch Carolina play instead. It’s the same thing, just a lot better. Until Allen gets a couple of starts, there’s not much to do here. The uniforms are cool. Cold weather football is some of the best football. But a lot of that can wait until next year, once this team has another year to figure out what it wants to be and sits on Allen like a giant funky chicken for a year.

Favorite Player: Jerry Hughes

T-30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14)

Matt Weston:

This year they can, and probably will, start 0-5. The Bucs play at New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (Ryan Fitzpatrick on Monday Night Football and you wonder why primetime ratings are down), at Chicago, bye, and then at Atlanta before getting Cleveland at home. At that point, even with Jameis Winston back, there’s not a reason why anyone will watch this team. No one is going to. Unless you are some swamp creature who spends his Sundays guzzling Parrot Bay down at the local Chili’s. Even then, go to church. Do something, anything, else.

Winston is better than you think. He’s erratic and crazy. But he hasn’t had an offensive line or a running game during his time in Tampa. He’s a great downfield passer, makes some wild throws, and does it all while being constantly pressured. If you want to write a mid-year All-22 review on him, sure, go for it; it’s the only thing that really matters for this team this year.

Even though they have the worst jerseys in football, there’s still that past 13 year old fat, rosy cheeked child who loves Simeon Rice and that stupid pirate ship, and oh, there’s no perfect player-team name combination than Jason Pierre-Paul playing for the Buccaneers. ARRRRRGGGGGG. Please put a hook on JPP’s hand and a parrot on his shoulder during the pre-game, fire it up introductions. Give our shriveled lives a little bit of happiness.

Favorite Player: Lavonte David

Luke Beggs:

Is JPP’s club move made better due to the fact that he has an actual club now? DON’T PLAY WITH FIREWORKS, KIDS.

I’m nowhere near as sold on Winston. The offensive line has been league average in sacks allowed (literally ranked 16th, 16th,and 14th in Football Outsiders Adjusted Sack Rate), but it hasn’t been woeful to the point of cleansing Winston of all blame. I do think he’s talented. It’s just nothing really seems to go Tampa’s way. They are blessed with weapons all around Jameis. Mike Evans is a tall tree who blocks out the sun and catches footballs. DeSean Jackson is still really fast and really good at making Chip Kelly angry. O.J. Howard had some really interesting flashes last season and probably won’t get as many touches or looks as he should because Cameron Brate is one of Jameis’ favorite targets.

Watch the Bucs for Gerald McCoy. McCoy has suffered so much while Tampa has been attempting to rebuild (and they’ve been at it for who knows how long now). He still has been one of the best defensive linemen around. His hands and get-off are like thunder and lightning. Much like his fellow NFC South defensive lineman Cameron Jordan, McCoy’s career is going to be over and we’re all going to forget how damn good he was. So this season, get a nice beer and savor Gerald McCoy.

Favorite Player: Gerald McCoy

28.) Arizona Cardinals (17)

Matt Weston:

As a lover of deep passes and hater of short ones, no matter how efficient they are, I’m bummed already. We need more downfield-throwing hellacious offenses, not less. With Bruce Arians retiring to try on more Kangol hats and Mike McCoy taking over the offense, we have lost one of our brethren. This offense is going to be a lot of quick crossing routes and slants. A lot of 70% Sam Bradford completion games as long as he’s alive, nd a ton of David Johnson targets.

Speaking of, the Cardinals’ offense was terrible without David Johnson. He deserves the Peyton Manning MVP Award for Team to Fall Apart Fastest because of an injury to one person. I’m sure someone with a better grasp on this language can condense that into a thing. Let me e-mail Bill Simmons real quick; he made an entire career off this shtick.

Without Johnson, the Cardinals’ offensive DVOA dropped from -6.0% (bad) to -18.0% (horrendous). They finished 29th in broken tackle rate. They finished last in second field and open field adjusted line yards. Arizona’s offense was a Leaving Las Vegas drunken werewolf broken without Johnson.

Johnson will be back after dislocating his entire arm in Week One last year. He’ll catch a lot of passes and run it a lot, but I don’t expect the same amount of efficiency and production as 2016 when he was like Alvin Kamara if Kamara ran the football more than once a game. Arizona’s offensive line was old and injured, and they replaced the chunks with more old players who will probably get injured.

For all the griping about this short pass offense, the Cardinals’ defense will continue to rock. They were the best run defense in football last season. They have a bunch of great run defenders nobody knows about. Quarterbacks are still afraid to throw at Patrick Peterson. And young Budda Baker, Haason Reddick, and Robert Nkemdiche should play more than 600 snaps this year. The highlight is Chandler Jones, of course. He had 17 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and 36.5 pressures. Most importantly, the totally dude guitar playing celebration is the best post-sack savoring there is in football. Rock on, BRO.

Favorite Player: David Johnson

Luke Beggs:

Totally radical. I’ll get to Chandler Jones in a second, but I second the whole David Johnson spiel wholeheartedly. Alongside Ezekiel Elliott, no other backs hold the fate of their teams’ offense in their hands as much as Johnson. He is the Alpha and Omega of what Arizona does on offense, and I hope above all hopes he’s healthy and good to go come Week 5 when Josh Rosen takes over for the inevitably injured Sam Bradford. If you like your throwers of football, your chuckers of pigskin, hurlers of oblong objects, Rosen is your wet dream.

You also forgot about Larry Fitzgerald! One of the single best receivers is still out there. At a sprightly 34, Fitzgerald matched his career-high in single season receptions with 109 last year, all while playing a full 16 game season, his 10th over the course of a 14 year career. That’s insane to consider in the NFL.

I love Chandler Jones. Every day he sacks another quarterback and rocks out, he proves Bill Belichick wrong for trading him and neutering New England’s pass rush for some odd reason. If Jones can get some support from Nkemdiche on the interior and Patrick Peterson stays his usual superb self on the outside, this Cardinals’ defense can still be super strong.

Favorite Player: Larry Fitzgerald

Matt Weston:

Fitzgerald got too old for me to care about. I can’t believe he’s still playing. I would care more about him only if Arizona fulfilled its destiny and became a retirement home for the oldest players in the league. Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, Shane Lechler, Andrew Whitworth, Terrance Newman, and Derrick Johnson should all be playing here. Carson Palmer retiring killed these hopes and dreams. At least this version of the Raiders exists.

Of all the teams, this one finished way too low. It’s a shame their uniforms are that bland 2000s refresh; it’s the future and we need to rebrand sort of nonsense. Also, a Cardinal is the lamest mascot you can have in sports. Cool, it’s a red bird that catches your eye at your backyard bird feeder.

It’s the desert! Rattlesnakes, canyons, chameleons, condors, catamounts, jackrabbits, javelinas, hell, even mule deer, all exist out there and are all better. Burn the history books. The past is dead. Start anew and rise from the ashes, football franchise based outside of Phoenix.

T-27.) Indianapolis Colts (18)

Matt Weston:

If Andrew Luck is healthy (and I think he’s going to be healthy), general manager Chris Ballard made a giant mistake. When you have a quarterback of Luck’s talent, you got to go for it. Especially in a league where teams can flip from terrible to the postseason in one offseason, thanks to a short schedule and the importance of quarterback play and head coaching (something Indy had none of, but now may have). Instead, Ballard waited again, saving his cap space for another spring. I understand the long game, but the Colts shouldn’t be in a position to waste Luck anymore than they already have.

There are some nice pieces here for Luck, though. This will be the best offensive line he’s had in his career, even though he’ll make it seem worse than it actually is by holding onto the ball and releasing death-defying passes right before detonation. T.Y. Hilton running downfield super fast is always fun. Jack Doyle can slip out. Eric Ebron has been an idea, not a player, and maybe he’s learned some things by now. And in case you forgot, Luck is really damn good. In his last healthy season, Luck completed 63.5% of his passes, threw 31 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, averaged 8.9 yards per target, and was an excellent runner.

This team is like the The Truman Show. You’re here to watch Truman live his little life. The girl with the buttons is a glory boy, not an outside the cave tour guide. You’re here to watch Luck, not John Simon attempt to play 4-3 outside linebacker.

Favorite Player: Andrew Luck

T-27.) New York Jets (18)

Matt Weston:

How do you feel about a young, blitz heavy defense? Last season the Jets blitzed six or more 7.2% of the time (9th), five 27.8% of the time (3rd), but four rushers only 53.7% of the time (32nd). They also ranked eighth in defensive back blitzes. If you love watching zany, bouncy house blitzes, this is the defense for you to watch. Todd Bowles <3s blitzes, especially from the secondary, and this defense doesn’t have a defensive back over 30 playing substantive time for it.

They also have Sam Darnold. That’s really about it here. A blitz heavy defense, a young secondary, a rookie quarterback, and a team that will probably finish second in the AFC East yet win only six games.

25.) Cincinnati Bengals (19)

Matt Weston:

Andy Dalton should be playing in Buffalo instead of here. Hopefully he gets traded up there if Allen gets bucked off his bronco in two years. For now, it’s another season for Dalton and the big kitties. The big change is Cedric Ogbuehi has been replaced for Cordy Glenn. Dalton should get enough time to push the ball downfield incessantly. With Arians gone, we need it. A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross screeching downfield is what sideline All-22 is made for.

Defensively, it’s the same, which isn’t a bad thing on the line. Defensive line play is a spectacular goulash of leverage, hands, power, explosion, and flexibility, all twisted up in the arms of 350 pound men. Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson, and Michael Johnson are all worth your time. If you want it, they got it. The linebackers are the same. The secondary is still old. Those parts aren’t.

Although the tiger print is a design for underwear and not helmets made for warlords in battle, I can never not love it. It must have been hilarious to reside in a time when I didn’t exist, when throwing a tennis ball against a garage door was all there was to do, when people didn’t know that drugs were actually bad for you.

Favorite Player: Geno Atkins

T-24.) Oakland Raiders (20)

Matt Weston:

This team is perfect for Game Pass. You get the quick cuts of condensed versions splitting close games into play after play of action that lets you zoom past and not think about the defense. For the All-22, you get to laugh and wonder at what the hell Jon Gruden is doing and watch some spectacular offensive line play. This is what it’s all about.

What this team isn’t about is being good at football. Their defense is going to be the worst in football. It already finished 29th in defensive DVOA last year, and that was before trading Khalil Mack to Chicago for two first round picks, whatever else, and nothing that helps them this season. Mack ranked first in all edge defenders in percentage of defensive plays at 9.8%. He had 10.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and 52 hurries. Bruce Irvin was second with 20.5 and is entering his age-32 season. It’s going to be a disaster.

But as long as you skip all that, the Raiders could be fun to watch. The interior rips people’s limbs off and beats them to death with what used to be theirs. Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson all are incarnate what the nerds in costumes dress up as. As long as Derrick Carr gets time to throw, like he did last year, he’s fun to watch as a pure sideline thrower. He will be even more so with Jordy Nelson here and an expected better season from Amari Cooper.

Favorite Player: Kelechi Osemele

T-24.) New York Giants (20)

Matt Weston:

If only Eli Manning wasn’t 37 years old and matched up with a vertical pass offense head coach. Everything else here is fun. It fits. It makes sense. Except for that part. That part where the old dog who couldn’t even throw short will be expected to hang on and go deep. His tackle play is going to be horrendous this year. Nate Solder was just good enough when hidden by Tom Brady and scheme. Under more pressure, he will wilt like flower beds in August. Ereck Flowers is still here; he’s just on the opposite side. A different window to look through won’t do much.

It’s a calamity because the rest of the individual talent is absurd. Odell Beckham Jr, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins, and Damon Harrison are supreme talents. The quarterback, offensive line, and scheme just don’t mesh well. It won’t be a pestilent three win season, but it will be a lot of underachieving, a lot of questioning if 2016 actually really happened, and it will lead to the ultimate conclusion—the end of Eli Manning’s career.

Favorite Player: Landon Collins

T-24.) Baltimore Ravens (20)

Matt Weston:

Until Joe Flacco is gone and the least valuable player in football is out of here, I can’t enjoy the Baltimore Ravens like I want to. Marshal Yanda may be transcendent. Michael Crabtree may look perfect in black and purple. Terrell Suggs may be the turtle who created the universe. C.J. Mosley may patrol the middle like a highway man. Their secondary may continue to suffocate receivers without having elite talent thanks to the factor violence plays in this game. But until Flacco is no longer a Raven, it doesn’t matter.

Their games are going to be brutal, boring, and in the end, a bummer. Long, dragged out fights ruined by the defense’s back finally breaking and Flacco doing almost nothing to help his team win. Incomplete downfield passes out of bounds, an inability to give his receivers a shot, inaccurate checkdowns...I’m going to barf. If Lamar Jackson was QB1, with this defense and this ruthless purple and black color scheme, they’d be a top ten watch. Until then, you’re wasting your time.

T-21.) Detroit Lions (22)

Matt Weston:

The Lions are a great Redzone team, but not a great condensed version or All-22 team. Every game is close, and if they win enough of these close games against bad teams, they make the playoffs. It’s fun to see the last four minutes out of nowhere, but not when plays are snipped together into a stream of consciousness memory right before you see the white light . Their defense doesn’t have the great players you want to watch film on, and the offense is a bunch of quick passes and YAC, things that are kind of interesting to see the genesis of, but not anything to spend all day taking notes on.

The only time to really watch this team is at the end of the fourth quarter, after the comeback has been completed, and the impossible is attempted to be pulled off. I do, however, want to write something on their offensive line that nobody will even read, not even Lions fans.

Favorite Player: Golden Tate

Luke Beggs:

I’ll read it, Matt. Just to see how MA MAIN MAN RAGNOW is doing.

You also forgot about the most important factor of the Lions’ offense. THE COORDINATOR’S NAME IS JIM BOB, LIKE A PROPER OL’ YOKEL.

In all seriousness, Cooter’s offense has just kicked the running back position to the curb and given Theo Riddick 100+ targets instead, which is really cool. Matthew Stafford can still kill you deep, but this offense and its pieces are so much better when trying to engineer space on shorter out routes and asking off-coverage defenses who have their DBs to wait for the three yard comeback route that Golden Tate always runs.

Detroit’s defense has some interesting pieces on its line. If they can generate pressure with just four, some of the questions I have about them on the back end will hopefully be alleviated. Zeke Ansah is a stud and I love Anthony Zettel, because back in college he just knocked over trees for fun.

Favorite Player: Ezekiel Ansah

T-20.) Denver Broncos (22)

Matt Weston:

If Vance Joseph didn’t ruin this defense last year, I would be more excited than I currently am. But that’s like adding an ice cube into a bubbling cauldron of previously frozen pizzas. Von Miller is an all-time player to watch. Anytime he’s around, you are going to see bend and off-snap acceleration you won’t see anywhere else. With Bradley Chubb drafted, Shaquil Barrett coming off a great year, and the fact that Derek Wolfe and Shane Rey probably can’t be any worse than they were last season, the attention will be spread around more. Leading to, you guessed it, more Miller one-on-one matchups.

Miller had 53 pressures, but only 10 sacks last year. I think he can reach the 18 sack mark this season, especially when you consider the lack of offensive tackle talent in this division. Six games of Eric Fisher, Kolton Miller, and Russell Okung? Yes, please.

I’m also all the way in on Case Keenum playing in Denver. Those high rising balloon passes flew forever indoors. He may hit the moon in that thin, smoky air in Denver. It’s a shame John Elway couldn’t get one speedy downfield receiver to pair with him. Things won’t be like they were last year for Keenum. He won’t lead the NFL in DVOA, his defense won’t give him as many nice starting opportunities, and his receiving talent isn’t in the same layer of crust. But still, Keenum’s thin, deep passes are exactly what makes football fun.

Favorite Player: Von Miller

19.) San Francisco 49ers (24)

Matt Weston:

I’m at the point where I just think every team in the NFC West goes 8-8. The Rams make me feel uneasy, like when you see yourself in the computer screen while you play “The Sims” and realize you’re wasting imaginary people’s lives while you’re wasting your own life. The Cardinals’ defense should remain excellent, but they are a Sam Bradford hit away from termination. The Seahawks don’t make a semblance of sense. The 49ers’ success last year came in an impossible to extrapolate short sample size. They still haven’t seen the expected pass rush success, and they have a shoddy secondary.

Although I’m confused, the 49ers are still fun to watch. They have some of the prettiest jerseys in football. These colors are the only good thing about that 60 degree hellscape. Jimmy Garappolo’s release is insane; when Phil SEEEMS closes his eyes and imagines a thrower of the football, this is what he thinks about. With a release that quick, there isn’t a need for a great offensive line. Seeing what Kyle Shanahan does to generate open receivers is always a fun whodunit when you got the coach’s film cranking. I love to wait. I love wide open receivers in the middle of the field.

Defensively, it will be fun to see if any of DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster, or Arik Armstead can add some more points to their skill tree. So far, Buckner is the only one to scrape really good, while the rest of been flashy, young, and cool, like a skateboarding, backwards hat wearing, bleach blonde dyed, nose-pierced California teenager. If you want excellence, this is where to look on defense. The secondary is Colts-level bad. The only joy will be watching Richard Sherman try to go from playing Cover Three with Earl Thomas to man without much around. Sherman was the perfect marriage of scheme and skillset. Without the scheme, but with a cataclysmic injury and age, this is going to be the time for sorry receivers to try him.

Favorite Player: Richard Sherman

Luke Beggs:

If Sherman wants sorry receivers, all he has to do is look opposite him on the practice field. Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor are interesting, but yeesh. Pierre Garcon and Marqise Goodwin are the projected starting wide receivers. I trust Baby Shan’s offense to run as well as expected, but I think they’re a year out from being really good. They’ll need a proper back to build around like Shanahan has had in most of his past situations in Washington (Alfred Morris) and Atlanta (Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman). The run game is such a big part of his offense. It needs a back who can eat 15-20 carries a game and actually make defenses fear the run enough to generate those wonderful play action passes.

This is the year that their three first round pass rushers (Buckner, Armstead, and Thomas) need to come together under the banner of eternally chasing after Russell Wilson to start making this defense something that should generally be feared. This team needs a breakout player to jump to the next level, and one of those three are the best options. If any one of the three break out, this defense should be above average. If more than one does, it has the chance to be really special.

T-18.) Seattle Seahawks (25)

Matt Weston:

This was supposed to be the year the Seahawks passed the joint from the secondary over to Russell Wilson. The core of the Legion of Boom detonated, sending Earl Thomas into a contract holdout, Richard Sherman to San Francisco, and Kam Chancellor to that farm upstate. We also saw the end of Michael Bennett’s time in Seattle and Cliff Avril’s NFL career. This was the offseason to reset, and flip things around. But no. Instead of beefing up the offensive line to extend Russell Wilson’s career and build around the passing game, the Seahawks grabbed some blocking tight ends, drafted a running back in the first round, and hired Brian Schottenheimer.

The offensive line is going to be bad again. Aside from Duane Brown and Justin Britt, it’s a bunch of former first round failures. Maybe the run blocking will be better. Who cares? The pass protection is still going to be in the bottom of the league, like it has been for the past three seasons, like it has been since Wilson’s rookie year. The best pressure rate Seattle has had the last three seasons is 31.8%, which was 30th in the league.

Wilson was knocked down 139 times last year, the most in the league, even though he broke 23 tackles. He’s 30 years old. He can play from the pocket. Being a slippery little snake should be an exit strategy, not day to day life. Rather than protect the best player on their team, the Seahawks opted to try and run the ball more. I don’t care about Frank Clark becoming a top fifteen defensive lineman or Bobby Wagner tackles. I only care about this. This should be illegal. I’m calling Quarterback Protective Services.

Favorite Player: Russell Wilson

Luke Beggs:

It’s weird. I want Russell Wilson to be happy and not fearful for the blindside hit from 290 pounds of defensive linemen, but I also want him to forever be scampering around a broken pocket and throwing bullets to triple-covered receivers for completions. That’s what makes Wilson so damn fun to watch. He’s a freaking magician when he’s forced out of the pocket. I think the Seahawks have realized this also. Wilson plays his best football outside of the pocket; ergo, Seattle’s decision to continually ignore or failing entirely to develop a strategy that creates a environment of protection for him in the pocket. It’s actually genius when you think about it. The only downside is that it puts your best player and the only thing stopping your team in constant and perpetual danger. But hey, it’ll be all cool.

The one thing I’m excited about on Seattle’s defense is Shaquill Griffin, the brother of the one-armed linebacker the Seahawks drafted this year. Griffin is a big, lanky corner in the mold of many of the cornerbacks who came before him in Seattle. He has a really smooth backpedal and a fantastic ability to adapt on the fly. What beats him at the start of the game will not beat him by the end of the game. I can’t wait to watch him play against some of the better wide receivers in the league this year with Sherman south in San Francisco.

T-18.) Dallas Cowboys (25)

Matt Weston:

I’m way too sad to say much. As a lover of books by Gerald Murnane, simple Joyce Manor song lyrics that have turned from being so short to meaning so much, desert walks, and offensive line play, I’m heartbroken. Travis Frederick may not play this season. Tyron Smith is banged up, and I’m still wary of his health this season. Zack Martin twisted his knee and should play, but who knows how he’ll look?

And the fact that La’El Collins is playing right tackle instead of left guard...it’s all all left my heart blue and purple from a lack of oxygen. Hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully the offensive line is healthy and Ezekiel Elliott gets 300 touches. I just don’t think I’m going to be wrong in this instance.

Favorite Player: Zack Martin

Check back tomorrow for Part Two.