I know this a Texans website to talk all things Houston Texans, but there’s a lot of really good football out there. Enjoy it. Seize it. Step outside the box. Savor it like it’s 6 p.m. on a Friday and you are at some Applebee’s happy hour. There are only 21 weeks of this.
Sure, the Houston Texans are your favorite team, but there are so many other things to enjoy out there, like Vic Fangio’s coverage schemes, Le’Veon Bell running behind Kelechi Osemele, Kliff Kingsbury’s hot guy offense, and the afternoon shadows at Minnesota’s bird killing glass windmill.
That being said, as much FUN football there is, there is an underworld of bland, banal, impossible-to-watch football going on. It’s daunting how much football is out there. There’s almost too much of it, and so much of it is awful and a waste of one’s life and time.
To help you and ourselves out for the upcoming season, we ranked every NFL team by their Game Pass entertainment value. The categories are scored from a scale of 1-5, and 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 broadcast.
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.) MIAMI DOLPHINS (12 Points)
Last season the Dolphins went 7-9. They went 7-1 in one score games. They did the right thing by firing Adam Gase, pulling the plug on Ryan Tannehill and their will they or won’t they romantic comedy story line, guess what, somethings just aren’t meant to happen, trading for Josh Rosen, trading Laremy Tunsil for two first round picks and a second round pick, and bottoming out this season. While other former New England coaches like Bill O’Brien and Matt Patricia try to copy what Bill Belichick does, the Dolphins and Brian Flores are the first to actually take his team building lessons along with them.
There’s just not a lot of talent on this roster. Michael Deiter, Jesse Davis, Charles Harris, Davon Godchaux, Jerome Baker, and Raekwon McMillan are actual starters on this roster. DeVante Parker is still their best receiver, even though he’s never been good. He’s the Tannehill of wide receivers. Ryan Fitzpatrick can still scramble and do enough to stay in games before his stupid Harvard decision making at inopportune times derails things. There isn’t anything this team is going to be good at doing aside from covering a team’s number one receiver with Xavien Howard.
I’m legitimately excited to see Rosen get another chance after being terrible in one of the most miserable quarterback situations you’ll ever see, and my guy Davenport to play for a different offensive line coach and team, where they won’t flip him from left to right to left tackle, and hurt the development of an offensive lineman who had a really intriguing rookie season. It’s hard to find guys of his size who can move like he can.
None of this is appointment NFL Game Pass viewing though. It’s, hey Rosen finally started, let’s see how he looked, that deserves occasional check-ins only when the Dolphins bust out the beautiful 1980s jerseys with the orange and green and the Dolphin jumping over a rainbow and standing there like a YES song. GTFO with that postmodern squirt of Aquacrest toothpaste. Somethings are perfect and don’t need rebranding or changing, no matter how desperate the pleas are to bump up merchandise sales. The team with the worst uniforms are also going to be the worst team in the league.
Favorite Player: Julien Davenport
Play Josh Rosen you cowards. There’s no point playing Ryan Fitzpatrick. You might as well figure out if that pick you traded for Rosen was worth it, especially if you are tanking.
If there’s something to watch on this awful Dolphins team this season it’s going to be Kenyan Drake. Weirdly stifled by Adam Gase due to Adam Gase being a dummy, Drake is a fabulous runner who can work between the tackles, but is really at his best in the receiving game where he’s as comfortable catching passes 30 yards down field as he is catching them 3 yards off the line of scrimmage.
Favorite Player: Kenyan Drake
31.) CINCINNATI BENGALS (14 Points)
How much do you love great individual defensive pass rushes by men in tiger stripes? The answer to this question tells you how often you should watch the Bengals play. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap combined for 18 sacks, 26 quarterback hits, and 65 pass pressures. Carl Lawson will be back from injury and his presence changes the entire complexity of this defensive line. Aside from that, there’s nothing here, nothing left.
Andy Dalton accidentally turned 32 years old while you were wasting your life scrolling through social media and allowing the billionaire elites to control and distract you. The offensive line is atrocious, and it’s devastating that Jonah Williams will miss the 2019 season because of a shoulder injury. A.J. Green, not Julio Jones, is now the injury prone player, and they’ll require Tyler Boyd to carry the passing offense in the meantime since Jon Ross can run a 40 in 4.3 seconds, but has only 220 receiving yards, a catch rate of 35%, and a long reception of 39 yards.
It’s such a sad and miserable state of affairs up there. There’s always humor in misery though. A group of grown men running around like furries in kitty-cat print will never not be funny to me.
Favorite Player: Geno Atkins
Go outside. Enjoy the last dregs of sunlight before they drain away for the remainder of the year and a grey and pallid sky becomes all that we see. Don’t watch this Bengals team. Marvin Lewis may be gone, but he clogged up the toilet before he left. A.J Green is constantly busted, the offensive line is ruined, Geno Atkins will be playing a Gerald McCoy simulator over the next two to three seasons. The Bengals color scheme is gaudy and looking at their end zone hurts my eyes. Tyler Eifert should have retired. Life is pain.
Favorite Player: Geno Atkins
T-30.) NEW YORK JETS (15 Points)
Since this spring I could close my eyes and see it. I envisioned Kelechi Osemele pulling, Le’Veon Bell slide stepping, stepping, stepping, patiently waiting, holding the run play in like a fart, waiting for Osemele to obliterate the second level, and then Bell taking off behind him, slowing down around a safety, and blasting off once again into the open field. My eyes will light up when I actually see it, if seeing something on television is considered actually seeing something.
This is the funnest Jets teams since Rex Ryan slugged it out with the Patriots at the beginning of the decade. Sam Darnold can make sublime throws, especially on the run, has the arm and pocket awareness of a plus quarterback, and could make the jump to like the 18th best quarterback this season. This is an enormous leap for someone in their second year. With Bell, an improved offensive line, and a secretly fun skill position group, the chance is here.
Defensively, I love Quinnen Williams, who should be a premier interior defender right away, and Leonard Williams, who is in the Jadeveon Clowney group of players underrated because of sack numbers. The only thing I hate more than PFF player grades are sack numbers. The Williams duo alone makes up for the crappy secondary, Trumaine Johnson’s albatross contract, and those mean things Adam Gase said about C.J. Mosely.
The Jets, like the Bills, play an easy schedule, and if you are mirthful enough you could talk yourself into either one maybe, just maybe, sneaking into the playoffs. At a minimum, one of these teams will finish at or slightly above .500. I can’t do it with the Jets though. I don’t get the Adam Gase thing. He’s lived off Peyton Manning’s 2013 and 2014 seasons for five years now. His allegiance to quick passing, and pre-snap reading, will end up holding back a prime opportunity for the Jets to make a big jump.
Favorite Player: Quinnen Williams
T-30.) DETROIT LIONS (15 Points)
Smashing your head against the wall until your brains come squish, squish, squishing out out is the only way to commit suicide in a maximum security prison. I came close to doing exactly this trying to drum up some Detroit enthusiasm. They, ugh, are going to have a really good run defense, even though stopping the run isn’t very important under postmodernism. They create a lot of pressure from their linebackers, which is interesting, and are expecting Trey Flowers to continually create pressure of his own along the line of scrimmage. They’ve invested a lot into their offensive line for mediocre results. I will hear Kansas hollering and electronic keyboards banging whenever Kerryon Johnson has 25 carries by the third quarter.
The problem with the Lions is they have the worst quarterback contract in football now that Joe Flacco has been traded to Denver. Congratulations, Matthew Stafford! He’s owed $29.5 million this year and $31.5 million next year. They would save $5.5 million if they cut or trade him next season while still paying $26 million in dead money. They are paying this much for a quarterback who averaged only 5.9 net yards per pass last season, and was 32nd in the league in average depth of target. He lives to throw short of the line of scrimmage now. The arrow of time only flows in one direction. Remember when Stafford was lauded for wearing neon all summer and smashing Ultras with his hat on backwards. All of that is gone. Stafford is 32 now.
With him at quarterback Detroit is stuck. Matt Patricia is a boob and will continue to try and replicate what can’t be emulated, and the gray crusty sweatsuit uniforms, the worst in the league, are a perfect representation of Patricia, his transient beard, and the organization he’s running. Hell, they may even miss Jim Caldwell’s dead eyed Get Out stare after this season.
Favorite Player: Kenny Golladay
*Loud fart noises*
Favorite Player: Kenny Golladay
28.) WASHINGTON REDSKINS (16 Points)
There’s some black magic that should never be conjured up. The Washington quarterback carousel has a spiked dog collar on and is crawling for misery. Last season Alex Smith had his leg snapped like some post-menopausal osteoporosis ridden woman by J.J. Watt. In came Colt McCoy, who fractured his fibula, and then saw his leg turned necrophilic after Leo Spaceman completed the surgery. This season it’s Case Keenum, who flirts with disaster by holding onto the ball until the last second and taking monster hits, that will of course cripple him in Washington, and Dwayne Haskins, who is taunting the fates by insisting on wearing the same Joe Theisman #7. Washington is a quarterback burial ground, and this group of quarterbacks are watching an exorcism and screaming at the spirits to do their worst.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Aside from the impending quarterback disaster, there is the worst offense in football lurking here. Jordan Reed is always hurt. Josh Doctson can’t be their best wide receiver, and he probably is, even after being released. The left side of their offensive line is a mess. If you love inefficient passes to running backs then you’ll love this team. Chris Thompson and Darius Guice are going to have a hundred receptions each while Washington scores 16.4 points a game. It’s an awful skill group. It’s an old offense.
This maroon and yellow horrific goulash on offense will remove all fuzzy feelings the defense may offer. The Alabama combination of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne is fun as hell as a run stopping combination, and Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat are the pass rushing antithesis playing off each other on the outside. Matt Ionnadis is underrated and this may finally be the season when his play is rejoiced outside the confines of football nerd spirals. Landon Collins is a Roomba cleaning up the run game, but the rest of the secondary is shoddy.
Washington never fully bottoms out and implodes. Since 2015 they’ve gone 9-7, 8-7-1, 7-9, and 7-9. This may finally be the year it all falls apart, like all things eventually do.
Favorite Player: Case KEEEEEENUUUUM
Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne are all I want to watch on this horrible team with their horrible color scheme, and their field, which can best be described as slurry.
Favorite Player: Jonathan Allen
T-27.) TENNESSEE TITANS (17 Points)
No matter how badly you want something to happen doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. This is such a sad truth that Titans’ fans know better than anyone else. For four seasons they have clutched their pillows in August thinking this is the year, this is finally the year, Marcus Mariota becomes a Pro Bowl level quarterback and plays up to the potential he showed at Oregon and his draft position indicated. For years they’ve gone to sleep with these thoughts, and for years they’ve woken up to 125 yard passing games, busted elbows, twisted necks, and Zach Mettenberger, Matt Cassel, and Blaine Gabbert playing instead.
Is this finally going to be the year? Is year five going to be the one when it finally happens? Probably not. Mariota will probably be mediocre, ruining precise throws with silly decisions he should have grown out of, and entire games where he’s completely lost. The Titans have also invested entire offseasons into their offensive line, and in spite of this, Mariota constantly finds himself crinkled and missing time. This time he may not see the starting lineup again with Ryan Tannehill next in line. And next season could see the team reset once again by finding another quarterback made of potential and hope to attempt to do what Mariota couldn’t.
This is the narrative that will dominate Tennessee’s football team, but the most important aspect of their season is if they can be great at something. The last two seasons they have fielded teams that are as average a football team can be. Solid. Talent smeared all across the roster. Nothing great or terrible about them, well except for last season’s malodorous Brian Orakpo-Derrick Morgan two step.
The most likely source of greatness is the run game. Henry averaged 6.72 yards a carry and scored 7 touchdowns over the last month of the 2018 season. Henry almost carried the Titans to an illogical playoff berth entirely on his own. Last season he finally figured out the perfect balance between vertically running between the tackles, and jumping wide and outside like a bouncy house and stiff arming his way through open field defenders. If last season’s play is the new normal, the Titans will have an aspect of their team they can lean on, and carry them through choppy quarterback play, inconsistent coverage, and a questionable pass rush. If not, this team should be average once again, unless something illogical and unheard of happens, like Adoree Jackson becoming a lockdown cornerback. Even then, average maybe all it takes to win a wide open division.
Favorite Player: Harold Landry
T-27.) OAKLAND RAIDERS (17 Points)
Super fandom is a mental illness. Creating a personal brand to draw attention to oneself, playing Halloween every Sunday, and fist fighting your fellow fans by the urinal trough is something I’ve never been able to understand. I don’t get it. There isn’t enough to drink, enough head injuries to withstand, to get it. I especially didn’t get the Raiders’ thing. The violence and vitriol, cosplay, skulls plastered to everything, haze of marijuana smoke, and most importantly, the violence and vitriol, while the football team lost in embarrassing blowouts wasn’t a use of time, and a form of entertainment I could get.
That all changed last season. The Raiders beat the Steelers after Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t find the X-Ray machine, because X-Rays are for sissies and forbidden in Oakland, and the kicker stepped on a banana peel on a game tying field goal attempt. The crowd was bonkers. It was raucous and absurd and bled out of the speakers like elevators opening at the Overlook Hotel. After that game, for an instant, I finally got it, and understood the whole grotesque enterprise that is Oakland Raiders.
This is the last year they’re playing in Oakland, and that’s a sad thing. This team should forever reside in Oakland and play in front of this murderous batch of vagabonds whose thirst for blood only rivals the Romans. Forever they should be stuck playing in the Coliseum with sewage rolling similar to those glacial summer waters rummaging through canyons and into lakes and a baseball diamond on the forty yardline until October rolls around. This is the last year of all that. The eternal flame will be placed on a flatbed truck.
After this season the gorilla man will have nowhere to go, predators will return to their jungles only to find them leveled and paved, the wolf man’s moon is horned and elsewhere, and the black hole will be vacated and replaced by plumes of vape smoke, a citation of wealth, turning passion and loyalty into a weekend getaway, a spectacle, something former that used to mean so much that now means nothing.
Sure, Derek Carr fighting to keep his quarterback spot because the Raiders would save $16.5 million if they release or trade him this spring, if the offensive line can give him time to throw without pressure often enough, the impact Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams will have on his downfield pass attempts, if they will have more sacks than Khalil Mack this year, and what their trio of first round picks do are fun to think about, but really, none of that has any importance, what is important is tuning in occasionally and witnessing one of the last obscene vestiges of football before it disappears completely, all because the heir to this crumbled empire wants to maximize his only source of income to impress his fellow PF Changs patrons.
Favorite Player: Gabe Jackson
The world’s finest Corona’s salesman continues his reign of managing his very own franchise alongside his good TV bud. The Gruden/Mayock tandem are endlessly funny for just how unprepared they are for this. They weren’t ready for Antonio Brown. They weren’t ready for a league that would deride them for taking a running back in the first round. They are just men out of time and all they are good for now is making Derek Carr cry. Gruden’s going to do something bonkers at some point during the season but you don’t have to tune in every week to see what happens. This isn’t 1972. This is what the internet is for.
Favorite Player: Josh Jacobs
25.) NEW YORK GIANTS (18 Points)
The Giants burnt the house down by trading Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon. They added Jabril Peppers, DeAndre Baker, Dexter Lawrence, Kevin Zeitler and Daniel Jones this past offseason. Peppers played too far off the line of scrimmage to have a feel for, I never saw much from Baker at Georgia, Lawrence is a 340 pound turkey stuffer, Zeitler is fine, and I want for Jones to be good more than anything in the world after wasting my life scrolling through JONES LOL GIANTS WTF all summer long.
All of this is just extraneous baggy skin that Saquon Barkley pulls around. Saquon is a generational talent, he averaged 5 yards a carry, 1.5 more than backup running back Wayne Gallman, he caught 91 passes, and broke 94 tackles. You really don’t need to watch a Giants game this year. It’s going to be Eli Manning crushed and confused, crimson and crinkled. They have one of the worst pass rushes in football. And even though they should have a better record by default, they’re still going to be bad, but worst of all, they’re going to be boring.
Just watch Saquon Barkley highlights instead. They’ll be ubiquitous online carbon dioxide.
Favorite Player: Daniel Jones
YE THINK DAVE GETTLEMAN GOT ENOUGH HOG MOLLIES?
There are only two reasons to watch this team this season. One is how bad Eli Manning will be before they pull him for Daniel Jones. The second is just how good a season Saquon Barkley is going to have on this 4-12 team.
T-24.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (22 Points)
The 49ers are one of those miserable teams from last season that should improve. They went 3-6 in one score games, they played the tenth toughest schedule, they were fourth in adjusted games lost, and they were last in the league with a turnover differential of -25.
Jimmy Garoppolo lasted three games before shredding his knee after the 49ers were the hot sleeping playoff team in 2018. Like McVay, and so many other great offensive coaches, Kyle Shannahan creates easy throws for this quarterback. It’s outside zone and play action, and surprisingly, a lot of two running back sets. Hell, this offense is worth watching just for all the two back sets. Everyone is 1-1-3. The 49ers are 2-1-2 and they are pretty good at it. This is what happens when you don’t have a great receiver and pay your fullback franchise quarterback money. The best part is they chose to play like this. It wasn’t accidental stumbling.
The defense has been putrid and abhorrent the last two seasons. DeForrest Buckner had been their only pass rusher, and he’s one of the premier interior defenders in the league. Now they have Joey, brother of Nick, Bosa, Dee Ford, who finally had a great season last year, and the disappointing Arik Armstead-Solomon Thomas combination. Together these two had just 4 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, and 40 pressures over 1200 snaps. If one of these two can make the jump, then the 49ers should have a pass rush to make up for a secondary that had only two interceptions last season. Two! The Bears had 27 last season.
Things should be better. They could be a playoff team. Their jerseys are very pretty.
Favorite Player: DeForrest Buckner
T-24.) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (22 Points)
My favorite play in football, and in the entirety of professional sports, is the deep pass. Man that darn thing go way up high in the air wooo boy and i tell you what when that dang ball gets caught there ain’t nothing better than that. And even when it doesn’t, it’s hilarious to watch middling quarterbacks overthrow their intended target by 15 yards and see the despondent receiver soul searching, looking for meaning in a meaningless life, or chasing back to tackle the safety, who picks off an underthrown ball, and ends with the quarterback unbuckling his helmet, screaming an off mic F-CK, fading into a commercial break, and reappearing above an onscreen graphic stating 4/12 37 yards 0 TD 2 INT.
The Buccaneers have Jameis Winston who is at a dead end. It’s him and Marcus Mariota in year five raging against the light. Throughout his career he’s shown talent, and has made prestigious throws, especially downfield and on the run, and he’s been good under pressure. If he could just keep the interceptions down; it’s the same old phrase muttered time after time, again and again. Even nine would be an unbelievable figure for him. His stable of wide receivers is a professional volleyball team: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Breshan Perriman can all play the net. I’m so glad little Adam Humphries slant running schtick is out of here. Bruce Arians is in town. The ball travels deep and far. The receivers go up and get it.
I’m ecstatic Jackie Brown cinephile Bruce Arians is back and bringing a vertical offense along with him. Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and all those old quarterbacks, and their old balls, gross, and their quick passing offenses have turned the passing game into a more effective running game. This style is lame. I want to see the gosh dang football go as far as it can go. Arians will provide this, and Winston will be jumping off the top of the cage, flying elbow first, into his final opportunity.
If the jerseys weren’t abhorrent, I would dive all in on this team. I’d gain the seventy extra pounds, take my wardrobe to Plato’s closet, the rest to Goodwill, buy five shirts, five pants, five shorts from Tommy Bahama, eat nothing but strip club steak, exchange oxygen for cigar smoke, move into a boat house, and never find the remote in time to actually watch this team play a game. Scrub off the pink. Remove the deafening alarm clock numbers. Go back to brown, red, and silver. And if the schedule wasn’t obscene, I would have picked them to be a playoff team. I hate myself for being such a coward.
Favorite Player: Mike Evans
I’m not sold on this being a Bruce Arians deep ball offense. Sure, Arians’s offenses in Arizona were just four guys running deep. but this is Byron Leftwich’s show, and while Arians might have a certain amount of influence over what happens, I’m excited to see what Leftwich can do with the armada of weaponry at his disposal. It’s a shame that it’s all reliant upon Jameis Winston being able to keep the ball.
Favorite Player: Lavonte David
T-22.) DENVER BRONCOS (23 Points)
New season. New me. New year. Before each season I prepare a list of things I want to see, and write, and understand, as I do my best to live my best life, and live-laugh-love as much as I can. The number one thing I want from this season is to understand Vic Fangio’s defense. I’ve read all about it, how he rolls with his coverages, combines man and zone coverages, forces his linebackers to cover, and the different roles he asks from his pass rushers. This defense is something I’ve just never gotten around to. It’s like that copy of Ulysses on my bookshelf. I’ve never felt intelligent enough or fully ready for it to intersect with my life, and I probably never will be, but this is the year I’ll give it a try.
Fangio takes all those years of defensive game planning and adds the big job title to his name. He’ll be doing the same in Denver, who already finished fifth in DVOA last season, and hasn’t finished outside the top ten in each of the last five seasons. I really can’t wait to see what he does with the Von Miller-Bradley Chubb combination, if Adam Gotsis or Derek Wolfe can reach another level, and what he has in store for Kareem Jackson as he rolls around the secondary to smear ball carriers across the field like that possum I see every evening on my big girl dog walks.
The offense is going to be pretty much identical to last season’s. They’ll run the ball a lot and be effective at it, and they won’t be able to throw the ball. Someone check Elway’s diaper. Giving up a fourth round pick for Joe Flacco was incontinent. Don’t listen to that Elway, listen to this Elway instead. Flacco’s prime has already come and gone. He’s consistently been one of the worst non-rookie quarterbacks in the league, and his contract is an albatross. He’ll clomp around the pocket while Garrett Bolles does his best Ereck Flowers impression. And most importantly, at this point of his career, Flacco isn’t even a good downfield thrower. He was 28th in DVOA on throws that traveled over fifteen yards. Not even the thin air and a cool guy ski hat can save him.
Denver will lean on the run game, and expect them to have a top ten defense. Usually, like last season, this will work out and allow them to compete for the playoffs until they do things like lose to San Francisco, Cleveland, and Oakland to end the season and fall from 6-6 to 6-9, and it should for this season. The monumental ordeal is you can’t control who you play. The Broncos are projected to play the toughest schedule in football, and one that can’t be expected to win 9+ games against without a competent passing attack.
The individual talent and defensive scheme is mesmerizing. The end record just won’t be. Everyone will forget about this team by week nine.
Favorite Player: Von Miller
T-22.) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (23 Points)
I’m glad it’s not gone forever. I missed the hatin’ ass Jaguars last season. Leonard Fournette wiggling his finger come hither and begging for contact in their first Steelers beat down, Jalen Ramsey bullying A.J. Green into a fistfight, and Calais Campbell home run derby sack celebrations were all dearly missed last season. They fell from 6-10 to 5-11.
The biggest problem was their offense led the NFL with 88.4 adjusted games lost. Marqise Lee never played a down, a vital component of their spread quick throwing offense; they played eight different offensive line combinations and 12 different offensive linemen played a snap, including Ereck Flowers, Chris Reed and Josh wells playing a substantial amount of snaps; Fournette dealt with ankle and foot injuries and their power run game was no longer the force that Blake Bortles could hide behind. Bortles instead had to do something he’s incapable of, leading an offense on his own, and making his teammates better. It led to a lot of bonked passes, dropped completions, and third and nine scrambles that picked up six yards.
This year the offensive line is healthy. Cam Robinson-Andrew Norwell-Brandon Linder-A.J. Cann/Will Richardson-Jawaan Taylor should be a great offensive line that can create open field rush attempts for Fournette, pass protect long enough for Nick Foles to complete short passes, and could control games on their own. Superbowl MVP Foles isn’t worth $50 million guaranteed, but he’s better than Bortles, and is an enormous improvement over him, especially in the short passing game.
The offense is the complement to their defense. Last season they dropped from first to sixth in defensive DVOA. Their pass defense was no longer an all-time great one and they were picked on at times with A.J. Bouye dealing with injuries. The run defense did improve from below average to a top ten unit. The secondary is healthy. They have replacements for those who left the team this offseason. And they added Josh Allen, a cerebral edge rusher, to an already great pass rush and front seven.
The defense has transcendent talent, and will be ruthless and violent. The offense will be better and should be good enough. 2017 and 2019 should be the outliers until Foles’s insane contract really kicks in after this season.
Favorite Player: A.J. Bouye
This defense is wonderful. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are still the best corner tandem in the league by a comfortable margin. Myles Jack is honestly the most fun linebacker in the league to watch because of how athletic he is. Josh Allen being added to a front four is also extremely unfair. Watch this defense more so that anything else, but if you do, take some time to check on the Nick Foles lead other side of the ball then enjoy watching Leonard Fournette truck through fools like they are toddlers.
Favorite Player: Myles Jack
T-20.) HOUSTON TEXANS (24 Points)
One of my first memories is my father telling me I was going to die one day. I cried. He consoled me by saying everyone I loved and cared about was going to die, and that this was ok, this was how life worked, and even the sun would burn out one day, and the Earth would die along with it, and the entire human race and all the plants and animals would die too, unless they finally figured out how to exist outside the solar system.
I spent my days after that in constant fear of dying. I was afraid of riding in cars, the ticking of clocks made me think a bomb was going to go off, I imagined snipers sitting in tree tops with fingers on triggers. Eventually it left my mind, like when your body finally takes over and controls its breathing on its own, and as an adult, I’ve been able to love and accept the fact that one day this will all come to an end and I won’t have to check my phone ever again. I’m healthy. I drink beet juice every day. I’ll never die. It’s so far away. Yet, when the day arrives, I’ll be shaking in my desert shack, unable to comprehend, finding it unbelievable that it’s actually happening.
I felt the same way about the Clowney trade. I was horrified it was going to happen. I would check the internet in fear. Nothing made me feel any better. I stopped thinking about it for awhile until the rumors became insurmountable, and the truth inescapable. Once the rumors of him returning were entirely replaced by boiling trade rumors, I accepted it, but it still didn’t seem like it would actually happen.
He’d come back. He’d be happy. The defense would be spectacular to watch. Clowney and Watt being best friends, ending drives on their own, doing rad things together. Yes. This is what would happen. The rumors were the result of the media garnering attention without repercussions. When it finally did, and the results were announced, the truth was resoundingly more horrifying than the fear ever was.
The Jadeveon Clowney trade is one of the most vile, ridiculous, asinine, and despicable things you’ll ever see, and the only thing worse than it is the revisionist history that has accompanied it. The Texans had a dominant edge defender, who is one of the best run defenders in football and a really good pass rusher, who should get better at this component of his game, since he’s 26 years old, is an athletic marvel, and his entering the prime of his career. The Texans turned this dreaded witch doctor into a third round pick, Barkevious Mingo, and Jacob Martin. I hate it so much, so so so so so much.
They also traded two first round picks, a second round pick, Johnson Bademosi, and Julien Davenport for Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, a fourth round pick in 2020, and a 2021 sixth round pick. Houston is better on offense this season, yet this offensive line still isn’t good, and they mortgaged their future for the limited now, and lost the opportunity to add cost effective talent once Deshaun Watson makes $35 million a year. Wasting J.J. Watt’s prime and Watson’s rookie contract are two new things Bill O’Brien can add to his resume.
Both trades are the dumb climax to a historically dumb offseason. All the moves they made this summer led to a realization right before this season started, that this team is probably going to be bad, and led to the Articles of Confederation trying to cram before a last minute test. It’s devastating. It’s crucial to remember where the team was entering this offseason. They had top end talent, a quarterback who solidified himself among the league’s best, $76 million in cap space, and 4 top 100 draft picks, and they turned that opportunity into a team that is going to win like six games this offseason.
The elite talent is here: J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, Benardrick McKinney, Will Fuller V, Watson, and Laremy Tunsil are all going to be sublime this season barring injuries. Yet, when it comes to a cohesive football team, for this season, with the upcoming schedule, there’s not much to be excited about after Houston ruined the best opportunity they’ve had since 2011 to do something more than lose in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
Favorite Player: Deshaun Watson
The Clowney trade made my day worse. I wanted nothing more than to play Madden with Clowney still on the Texans and act like the real world didn’t exist. Clowney, alongside J.J Watt, was the sole reason to watch this Texans’ defense. Clowney just does so many insane things that it honestly spoils you. You think everyone that size can move that fast, you think that chasing down a RB from the backside of a stretch play is a perfectly natural thing for 270lbs of man to do. It sucks this defense no longer has crazed monster tearing through offensive lines.
I can promise an offense which goes nuts for like 2-3 weeks when Will Fuller is the coolest player on the pitch and eats up 3-5 yard cushions like they are nothing. Aside from those 2-3 weeks, who the hell knows what the offense will look like with Bill O’Brien.
Favorite Player: Will Fuller
T-20.) ARIZONA CARDINALS (24 Points)
Too often NFL football is risk averse and the tasteless. Run-run-pass. Inside zone. Flat-slant. Slant-Wheel. Quick short passes. Blah, blah, blah. I’m just trying to feel something. So whenever something new and interesting grabs my eyes like the leaves of a cottonwood tree I get whipped up into a frenzy. Bring on the hot guy offense. Keep me hot and sweltering before autumn and diabolic lattes slows, and cools, down, my stammering heart.
Will running 0-0-5 personnel and throwing it on every play work? Will they be able to attack from sideline to sideline? Can the offensive line block well enough to keep Murray’s bones in his skin? Are defensive coordinators able to figure this offense out and funnel players to where they want them? Can Murray survive running read pass options and zone reads without dying? How will his deep passing translate to the next level? Is David Johnson going to be used in the slot as a receiver like he was two years ago and apparate around linebackers?
Regardless if it works or not, I really don’t care. I just enjoy seeing something new and different and beautiful, something that stretches the football imagination, and pushes the ball outside to the outer regions of space like some Carl Sagan hallucinogenic experience. It doesn’t matter that Chip Kelly failed in Philadelphia. Even if his skeleton will one day fuel spaceships, he still brought more tempo, and stretch zone to professional football, and made a game constipated by the serious wrinkled football men even more enjoyable. And really, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. This is still a game. It’s supposed to be fun. It should enrich lives. So let’s unbutton those top three buttons, let some chest hair out, show some cleavage, and have a little fun.
This is also my space once a year where I get to pour hatred onto the Cardinals jerseys. They are forever stuck in Madden 2003 polygons, plus they’re from the desert, a Cardinal is the worst bird, the worst animal in the world, and it doesn’t even allow them take part in desert appropriation. Give me a complete rebrand to pair along with the rebuild. Poison and slaughter the Cardinals and replace them with the canyons, or the solitaires, or the arches, or the rattlers, something, anything is better than the Cardinals.
Favorite Player: Chandler Jones
It sucked Josh Rosen’s career was probably ruined by his rookie season in Arizona, but the Cardinals have sort of fell upwards into the Hot Dad coach and Hot Dad’s favorite son. The Kyler Murray-Kliff Kingsbury combo is going to be the entirety of Arizona’s identity because the defense isn’t going to be good. They’re missing star cornerback Patrick Peterson for the opening part of the season. The majority of their pass rush is going to come from ass kicking Chandler Jones, and whatever is left of Terrell Suggs.
This avant garde ‘’New Wave’’ schtick that Kingsbury is supposedly bringing has been in the NFL for decades under various guises and in the past few years have seen more and more success and implementation. The only difference being that Kingsbury comes from Mike Leach’s Air Raid; the most heinous of offensive schemes. It’s the scheme NFL coaches have decried for the past two decades as gimmicky and unsustainable. If there’s no other reason to watch the Cardinals this season, then it’s whether or not there’s a difference between the NFL and ‘’college’’ style offenses anymore.
Favorite Player: David Johnson
T-18.) BUFFALO BILLS (25 Points)
Something doesn’t have to be good to love it. There’s an enormous difference between something being the best, and something being your favorite. For example, J.J. Watt is the best player in Texans’ history, but Andre Johnson is my favorite. Mrs. Dalloway is my favorite Virginia Woolf novel, but The Waves is her best. Blue Comet is the best episode of The Sopranos, but Kennedy and Heidi is my favorite. Only occasionally do the best and your favorite collide. Not everything is the Grand Canyon.
Josh Allen isn’t the best quarterback in the league, but he’s my favorite. When you get so wrapped up around what is good or not you miss out on the beautiful and sublime. Breaking out stats like DVOA, sacks taken, net yards per attempt, or completions percentage, is like watching a pretty sunset and talking shit because the purples, yellows, crimsons, and greens are the result of sunlight bouncing off pollutants in the air. Just shut up man. Love and savor the colors. Love and savor Allen doing ridiculous things like turning a quarterback sneak into a 27 yard gain, or hurdling Anthony Barr, or overthrowing a five yard slant by thirty yards, or hitting on the occasional deep throw once out of every fifteen tries.
Allen in Buffalo’s racing stripe jerseys is one of my favorite things about football. He’s like Michael Vick without the accuracy, melanin, or dog fighting. He averaged 7.1 yards a carry, scored 8 touchdowns on the ground, had a rushing DVOA of 33.3%. Their total rushing DVOA, even including Allen, was -11.4% and their running backs averaged only 3.53 yards a carry. There was something to this madness too. In the games he quarterbacked the bIlls went 5-6, Nathan Peterman, Derek Anderson, and Matt Barkley combined to go 1-4 over the rest. Let’s just not bring up his passing stats.
The Bills should have a top ten defense. They play an easy schedule this season. They greatly improved their offensive line by signing Quinton Spain and Mitch Morse, and drafting Cody Ford. Buffalo could compete for the playoffs. Who cares? It doesn’t matter. Allen running wild and free like a gazelle and scattershooting passes all across the field is all that does.
JOSH ALLEN BABEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
This Bills team last year was a horrific mess made only better by unleashing ‘’THE PETERMAN’’ upon the league. That should have been reason alone to watch them. However, after “THE PETERMAN” weaved his terrible tale of interceptions and catastrophe, the team turned to their fresh faced rookie quarterback Josh Allen. Allen had spent that year’s draft cycle being told he was grotesque and couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with a banjo. Beauty is everywhere though, and Allen’s start against Minnesota’s vaunted defense in Week 6 was beautiful. His graceful hurdling of Anthony Barr. His willingness to channel his inner Grossman and unleash a 60 yard bomb whenever he felt like it. It was all gorgeous
Allen isn’t the reason to watch this team week to week though. He’s wonderful and he will surely pull out some batshit crazy antics throughout this season, but the real reason to watch the Bills is this defense. Buoyed by a defensive line that includes Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, Star Loutelei, and star rookie Ed Oliver, this defense is finally Sean McDermott’s Carolina dreams recreated in the harsh winters of Buffalo. This defense projects to be something really special. A front seven that combines four players who can get to the passer alongside hella speedy linebackers in Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds who can chase all day. And you can’t forget the excellent Tre’Davious White at cornerback who rounds out a truly scary looking defense. Come for the crazy Josh Allen antics, but stay for what might potentially be the best defense in the league.
T-18.) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (25 Points)
BOOOOOOOOOOOO. Don’t listen to the mayonnaise people. The booers are the worst type of Americans; self titled and awful. They should have applauded him and wept and cried and gave everything they have to that great swamp beast who has gone to live in the sky. There should be a mural with his slobbery face in the center of the city, next to one of their fountains, or whatever they have up there, and everyday they should place flowers in front of it, and sob, lamenting what should have been. The Colts beat the football out of a generational quarterback over the course of 452 hits. At age 29, on the best team he’s played on, he decided to incinerate his cleats instead of enjoy the prime of his career.
I’ll miss watching him play, but I can’t hate him for it. He’s every millennial’s dream. He’s retiring with $90 million, doesn’t have to live in Indianapolis, and gets to travel to South America, drink Ayahuasca, and listen to the toucans and spider monkeys howl until the mechanical space elves arrive and show him the secrets of the universe. Damn, I want to retire so bad. Only 27 more years!
Chris Ballard had a horrendous offseason when Luck was still around these parts. He had 100+ million to upgrade the roster with. He spent it by retaining his own and only added Justin Houston, Devin Funchess, and Spencer Ware to the roster. The Colts had a impotent pass rush last season, and their defense was overrated by playing the league’s easiest defensive schedule. I’m dubious they were actually a Super Bowl contender even with Luck. Championship windows are narrow and success is transient in the NFL. When you have the perfect wave you can’t worry what the shark had for breakfast. Ballard stuck to his three year plan, and the high mark of this team probably would have been getting knocked out in the Divisional Round once again.
Then it flipped. The offseason is actually pretty good now that all their happiness is gone. The last thing you want is to be tied to an expensive roster without an answer at quarterback. Jacoby Brisset gets to take over for Luck, and play within a much better situation than the one had when he took over for him two years ago. The offensive line is great, the passing options are more than quick seam Jack Doyle, and Marlon Mack can excel past the confines the tremendous run blocking will provide. If Brisset can throw the ball downfield well the Colts could compete for the division this season. If not, they can always package picks, or swing their $100+ million in cap space around to snag the best quarterback available this offseason.
For this season, their reservation with the Chiefs and Patriots and Steelers has been cancelled. I don’t think the roster has the top end talent required to consistently win games against a tough schedule without great quarterback play. In the meantime, the offensive line, the schemes they run, and the out of nowhere players that Ballard is always able to find will make this team worth watching.
Favorite Player: Braden Smith
Check back this afternoon for Part II.