Football is good and beautiful, and there is more to football than just what the Houston Texans do. Myopicism is a sin. Take a claw hammer to your skull. Let your brains expand past those preordained physical confines. Saw open your chest, dismantle your sternum, and play vivisection. Let your heart pound without any bounds. Watch something other than Deshaun Watson scamper to create something from nothing, and take in the beauty of everything, everything from Josh Jacob’s cutbacks, to Philadelphia Eagles run-pass-options, to stinky-stinky Minshew-Minshew deep throws downfield, to Kyle Shanahan’s two back offense.
We are consumers, not citizens of this nation, and so to help you and myself consume NFL’s Gamepass Product (now only one low price of $99!), I ranked every NFL team by their Game Pass entertainment value by myself, since Luke Beggs is a professional video game writer now. The categories are scored from a scale of 1-10, 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. Novelty and originality is a bonus.
Aesthetics: How pretty their uniforms, scoreboards, and camera angles are. In other words, the overall appearance of their broadcast.
The final figure is the total derived from combining each category. Here are teams 32-17. The teams you don’t need to watch, and the teams you kind of sort of need to.
32.) NEW YORK JETS (15 Points)
The Jets made two enormous free agency decisions in 2019. They handed over checks to Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley. Bell averaged 3.2 yards a carry, and finished 44th in DVOA and DYAR. Over the course of 245 carries he failed to break 1,000 rushing yards. It was an Alfred Blue sort of season. That being said, he still broke 55 tackles and caught 66 passes—just don’t check the Jamison Crowder esque efficiency numbers. Bell went through hell in 2019. At the mesh point he was stuck swimming through hordes of bodies to find something, anything, and usually he drowned.
In the span of an offseason the Jets replaced four-fifths of their offensive line. Left guard Alex Lewis is the only incumbent starter. First round pick Mehki Becton is starting at left tackle, and free agent acquisitions Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant, are set to fill out the rest of the offensive line. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but Van Roten leading the way on power run plays instead of Brian Winters is a substantial difference. Bell getting glints of space to rejuvenate some semblance of the past will make the Jets stomachable, not watchable, but stomachable.
Mosley has opted out from the 2020 season after missing most of 2019 with a hurt groin. The Jets’ 2019 defense was better than you thought it was. They finished 10th in DVOA and 16th in points allowed. Gregg Williams created a pass rush from calluses and nails. The depth chart is empty though. Defense varies more than offense year to year. A defensive drop seem imminent. And as much fun as five man fire-zone blitzes are, there isn’t a star on this defense.
Plus, Adam Gase is my bet on the first coach fired. The constant drag routes are reprehensible. The only things he’s accomplished is ‘coordinate’ Peyton Manning’s Denver offense, and win a bunch of one-score games in Miami. Despite the great draft, and Sam Darnold’s potential, it’s going to be a tumultuous 2020.
Favorite Player: Pierre Desir
T-31.) MIAMI DOLPHINS (17 Points)
Miami turned three first round picks into Tu’A Tagovalia, Austin Jackson, and Noah Igbinoghene, and a goblin’s vault of cap space into Kyle Van Noy, Ereck Flowers, Shaq Lawson, Byron Jones, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jordan Howard, Matt Brieda, and Ted Karras. Aside from Van Noy and Jones, they didn’t bring in many true difference makers after making a substantial investment. The draft picks are projects. But there is something to be said to go from abhorrent to commendable, and the Dolphins did exactly this at a wide variety of positions.
With the defensive talent improvement, and Brian Flores looking like the rare Bill Belichick acolyte who can be a successful head coach, the defense is worth checking out. Press-man with Xavien Howard, Jones, and rookie Igbinoghene will give AFC East receivers fits. The rush won’t be the worst in the league anymore. And Van Noy is knight on the chessboard who can be utilized in atypical ways.
There’s just limitations with a Ryan Fitzpatrick team. Too good to tank. Not good enough to compete. The aquamarine toothpaste jerseys make my eyes bleed, and all endzone seats that sit right behind the goal posts need to be confiscated. Someone is going to choke and die on their nachos and 32 oz. $15 90 calorie low carb 6.5% ABV seltzer water one day, after a receiver flips over the seats mid bite, and their last words, with yellow slime and slobber sliding down their neck will be, some garbled phrase, that can barely be understood under the bedlam sputtering from a clogged wind pipe. Dilly, what’s that?, Dilly.
Favorite Player: Julien Davenport
T-31.) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (17 Points)
Jacksonville could have been a feel good hit this season. But the High Gravities are back in the garage, after trading Yannick Ngakoue, Ronnie Harrison, and failing to get anything for Leonard Fournette. It already looks like they are punting on 2020, and playing for next year, when they’ll have two first round picks, and dead cap space scalped from their books.
This season should have at least been a Gardner Minshew starting quarterback audition. Turn your jeans into shorts and your dreams into reality, Everybody Wants Some mustache, pocket dangling, a propensity to binge drink, and wonderful downfield throws. Last season he completed 50% of his deep passes for 1,068 yards and 6 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, all for less than $1 million a year, is worth earnestly exploring.
At a minimum, Minshew looks like someone who can at least be a Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterback. An aggressive backup who derails the beauty with bright moments of insanity. Turn the beard into a mustache and you get Minshew. Even if this year doesn’t work out, we’ll probably see Minshew hitchhiking in the back of pickup trucks to some quarterback starved team near you for the next dozen years.
There are plenty of individual players worth the watch though. Josh Allen is one of the rare young pass rushers with both an inside and outside move. Jawaan Taylor has the strength to match edge rushers like J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan, and is some technique refinement from being a great right tackle. Myles Jack won’t be out of place any longer, and is relocating back to weakside/outside linebacker after a failed experiment at inside linebacker. Brandon Linder is one of the best zone blocking centers. K’Lavon Chaisson’s edge rush moves will translate to the NFL right away. C.J. Henderson or Kristian Fulton is a FUN AFC South subplot only I care about. Andrew Norwell moves like a walrus, and wishes he was. And D.J. Chark’s slot fades is one of the prettiest routes, from both a success, and aesthetic stand point.
They should be lower, but the algorithm doesn’t take in account cowardice.
Favorite Player: D.J. Chark
29.) CHICAGO BEARS (19 Points)
The defense is going to be better after dropping from all-time great to top fourth. Last season their turnovers forced went from 36 (1st) to 19 (22nd) and they caught 11 less interceptions. The talent on this side of the ball is still special. Everyone knows the names and what they’re capable of: Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Robert Quinn, Kyle Fuller, and Eddie Jackson. The one disappointment is how little Chuck Pagano blitzed last year. His Baltimore calling card only brought five 20.8% (15th) of the time, and six plus 3.2% (23rd) of the time. This probably won’t change next season. It will probably be a lot of front four rushes with Mack as a tight ‘5’ and Quinn as a jet rusher on the outside.
There are only so many things anyone care about, and caring about this offense is impossible. Mitch Trubisky plummeted after improving in 2019, which was mostly due to his ability to scramble for positive plays creme de la Blake Bortles, and taking advantage of the short fields his defense gave him. Going with him over Nick Foles was the right decision though. Over the course of sixteen games, the computers project each to have a similar season, but at least Trubisky wears the charlatan’s mask of potential improvement.
The Bears will always be down in these rankings. The side view camera from under the bleachers is the worst view in the house. The All-22 is unbearable. Absolutely disgusting.
But I guess, in a way, it saves us all from clearly seeing how badly Trubisky missed Allen Robinson for the seventh time.
Favorite Player: Akhiem Hicks
T-28.) CINCINNATI BENGALS (20 Points)
From an aesthetic and talent standpoint, the Bengals are perfect. Feline stripes. Every Sunday is Halloween. A dominant front of Carlos Dunlap, D.J. Reader, Geno Atkins, Sam Hubbard, and Carl Lawson. A young linebacker core. Joey Buckets dropping it to Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Auden Tate, and whatever is left of A.J. Green’s mangled bear trapped ankle. My personal favorite offensive tackle from the 2019 draft class, Jonah Williams, is playing his Ben Simmons ‘rookie’ season after missing the entirety of 2019 with a summer shoulder injury.
The one thing holding it back is head coach Zach Taylor. Last year the offense was bland and putrid, and even under more disastrous offensive line combinations, other coaches scavenged at least below average from Andy Dalton, and Joe Mixon needed eight games to get moving. If Taylor is somewhat creative, and an average head coach, the Bengals should be everyone’s favorite bad team. If he isn’t, no one will even come for the popcorn.
Favorite Player: D.J. Reader
T-28.) WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (20 Points)
The WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM has the most intriguing defensive front in the league. I can’t wait!!! Last season Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ionnadis, and Ryan Andersen combined for 33 sacks, 35 hits, and 114 hurries. The WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM finished 4th in adjusted sack rate at 8.3%, but only 29th in pressure rate at 26.1%. In this year’s online draft, Washington added the predator Chase Young, to an already debilitating front.
For this reason alone, Washington is worth the watch. Ron Rivera knows how to develop a defense around a four man rush like this, but he just needs to acquire the cornerback or linebacker talent to accentuate it, and then place spare parts at the other position group. In Carolina, he did this by having an elite linebacker group. Thomas Davis Sr., Jon Bostic, and Rueben Foster aren’t this.
The offense’s intrigue level moved from 2-4 after releasing Adrian Peterson. Cool. The 35 year old man is running from the I-formation once again. With his absence, Antonio Gibson gets to play running back number one, devour every carry, and starve the other backs in the nest.
Even though Terry McLaurin is a one-hand catching highlight reel Cyclops, Dwayne Haskins is coming off a Blaine Gabbertish all-time awful rookie season. Quarterbacks tend to have their biggest improvement from year one to year two. For Haskins, even a -15% DVOA and 5.5 net yards per pass is a substantial improvement. The WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM maybe making a name change (please be Warthogs) and a quarterback change next season.
Hit the All-22. Watch the defense behind view. Ignore the rest. Rumbustious McLaurin catches are ubiquitous in the highlight age we’re so blessed to live through.
Favorite Player: Ryan Kerrigan’s biceps
26.) DETROIT LIONS (21 Points)
The NFC North is a mess. You don’t have to pull your brains out your ears to see either of the four teams win the division, the Lions included, even after a 3-12-1 season, where they had a turnover differential of -5, a 3-8 one possession record, and a last place ranking in actual wins compared to their Pythagorean record of -2.9.
The Lions were better than last season’s record indicated, mainly because when Matthew Stafford was on the field, they were competent, and Stafford was one of the best quarterbacks in the league before breaking his back. He completed 64.3% of his passes for 2,449 yards, and threw 19 touchdowns to 5 interceptions, and ranked 4th in DVOA despite leading the league with an average depth of target of 11.3 yards. Outrageous.
Darrell Bevell, the architect to Seattle’s Super Bowl offense, was much maligned during his time there, for the same thing Seattle is still doing, running the ball too much. Him, of all people, was the architect to Stafford’s new groove. An aggressive vertical passing attack allowed Stafford to use his arm strength, and needle point accuracy, to put the ball in slivers of space. This turned Kenny Golladay (172 DYAR, 23.5% DVOA), and Marvin Jones (157 DYAR, 12.17% DVOA) into one of the best receiving tandems in the league. Sadly, all this disappeared once David Blough went in the game, and the Lions fell apart. If Bevell utilizes the same offense structure again, the Lions have an offense capable of winning the division, and providing electric feeling.
The problem here, is the same problem. Despite investing in the defense the previous three offseasons, Matt Patricia has been unable to get Detroit out of the defensive basement. These are his guys. These were his picks so he could rush three, play six defensive back press-man divider leverage coverage, and it hasn’t worked. He’s doing what he did in New England, without the same players, and without the same success.
This offseason they turned Darius Slay into Jeff Okudah, brought in Desmond Trufant and Danny Shelton, and added Duron Harmon to stop the run in six defensive back defenses. Everything else is similar to last year. These three players weren’t the limiting factor in last year’s defense, and it’s probably going to be horrendous again this season.
Detroit has the worst jersey set in sports. The gray sweat pant setup, is grotesque, and the perfect symbol of the Patricia error. Their indoor stadium lighting is dim and depressing, something Stafford’s sublime passes can’t brighten up. This franchise is in a perpetual state of stale dourness.
Favorite Player: Matthew Stafford
T-25.) CLEVELAND BROWNS (23 Points)
Typically teams who go all in one offseason, see a substantial improvement the following season. The hype doesn’t meet the current reality, but usually meets the following one. If you took the same set of players, the same ideas being brought in by the new coaching staff, and the improvement that goes along with going from Freddie Kitchens to competence, it would be easy to see this team making the postseason. The simple formula of (coach improvement + quarterback improvement = N+1 improvement) is here in place, but it’s still the Browns, and they’ll end up floundering behind the final wildcard spot.
The plan is simple. Give Baker Mayfield easy reads and throws to make, and rather than pull your hair out because of his aimless meandering outside the pocket when throws aren’t open quickly, or erratic jolts away from pressure that runs him into sacks. Cleveland is stitching it into the offense by getting him outside the pocket as much as possible. These throws will be built from Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt hitting the outside zone slopes, planting their foot, and chopping up defenses. It’s the best backfield in football setting up easy passes for a quarterback you’d expect more from. From the wide receiver talent, to the two tight end sets they’ll utilize, the Browns are the Vikings last year without the same level of defensive talent.
On defense, they forgot linebackers exist, and they’ll push this idea that linebacker is an easy position, and not a vital position, in the post-modern world we live in. The Ravens are going to score 49 on them. The secondary is interesting with Karl Joseph, Greedy Fly Williams, and Denzel Ward. It’s devastating Grant Delpit became Andrew Sendejo after an Achilles injury.
The defense is worth spending entire days with because of Myles Garrett alone. He lost six games of the 2019 season after trying to dome Mason Rudolph with his own helmet, which was something Mason started because he didn’t like getting hit at the end of the game, and still managed to pick up 10 sacks, 10 hits, and 22 hurries. He’s the best bet to win the sack title this year. The time warping speed sets up the best bullrush in the league.
If they get anything from Olivier Vernon this year Cleveland could have a top ten pass rush. Sheldon Richardson was once again one of the better interior rushers, and Larry Ogunjobi flashes, without consistent production. Garrett is an entire pass rush by himself though. Anything from anyone else would go a long way for the defense to morph to average. This paired with a sensible offense, could turn Cleveland to something more than a talking point, a focal point of misery, a perpetual smog that weighs everything down with self induced sadness and an uroboros of negative thoughts.
Favorite Player: Myles Garrett
T-25.) CAROLINA PANTHERS (23 Points)
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER 5-0
With Drew Brees injured last season, Bridgewater kept the boat rowing, leading the Saints to a 5-0 record with him at quarterback. He played the role of backup perfectly for a team that didn’t need heroic quarterback play. Intelligent dumpoffs where his leadership willed his skill players to first downs. Ball placement creating yards after the catch. Giving the ball to Michael Thomas a lot. Mobility that staved off sacks. A smile that lights up the world.
As the guy in Carolina, it’s going to be riveting to see if Bridgewater’s safety first, yellow gloved passing, was the result of the context he played in, or a representation of who he is as a quarterback. In an offense with Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey, the opportunity is here to continue his career resurrection, and bring more goodness and light to the world.
The defense, well the defense is going to be atrocious, having to defend the best offensive division in the league. Atlanta, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay can all score 42 easy on them. That being said, the youth here is electric. Derrick Brown is having turkey arms away from being Fletcher Cox. Yetur Gross-Matos is an oak tree. Brian Burns is the edge rusher people dream of. And veterans Kawaan Short and Shaq Thompson are great defenders. Even if they’ll cough over dozens of points, the flashes will be hilarious.
Favorite Player: Teddy Bridgewater
T-25.) NEW YORK GIANTS (23 Points)
The old Saquon Barkley jump. Last year he dealt with injuries and wasn’t his rookie self. He only broke 1,000 yards on 217 carries, and broke 55 tackles. Even the most boring runs are neon. Legs the size of Jupiter. Bouncing cutbacks. Easy gliding across the formation. Gamepass needs a feature where you can pull up every snap from one player, and rather than binge yourself to sleep with CIA propaganda, you can let Barkley carry you to that cthonic realm.
The Giants are going to be a sub .500 team this year, but the win-loss record doesn’t matter. The only thing that does is the assurance that Danny Jones is an actual franchise quarterback. If he can hit the second year jump out of the park, New York is set up to turn his rookie contract into an actual football team. If he isn’t, and if he’s just a wild deep thrower, who doesn’t have a feel for the pocket, and tilts aggression to the point of incompetence, then David Gettleman is gone, and the Giants will be stuck trying to rebuild once again.
There is hope though. As hilarious as it is that Jason Garrett is the offensive coordinator, he likes to use a vertical passing offense, and with Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Golden Tate as skill players, and Jones’s ability to make unbelievable deep throws like some young blue blazered Ryan Tannehill. Garrett beating Dallas is going to devastating, and Houston fans will laugh and laugh, until dealing with the same thing when Bill O’Brien is the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville and leading the Jaguars to a win over Marvin Lewis.
Unlike previous seasons, the defensive line is worth sticking around for. Their front three is fat as hell. Dexter Lawrence is a 342 pound defensive end, Dalvin Tomilson is a 318 pound nose tackle with 75 of those pounds hanging above his neck, and Leonard Williams, is 302 pounds, and is only 26, despite being in the league for thirteen years. It’s a jolly group. Of them, Lawrence is my favorite, a man of that size, shouldn’t be able to rush the passer as quickly as he does.
I’m also a sucker for their jerseys when they use the old ‘GIANTS’ shooting diagonally off the helmet. That decal is sick. Get rid of the NY. Make ‘GIANTS’ a weekly staple.
Favorite Player: Dexter Lawrence
T-22.) LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (24 Points)
It’s the Joey Bosa bump. Unlike his brother Nick, who wins with brute strength and speed, Joey is an artist. He rushes the passer by taking in account the angle of his torso, the size of the canvas, the perfect placement of hands, the pallid color of skin indicating exhaustion and the ease of the bullrush, and sloshes the pallet with a horizon of colors: rips, swims, long arms, stabs, ghost-rips, swipes and chops, and easy inside moves against deep pass sets.
Paired with him is Melvin Ingram, who’s an interior rusher, not an exterior rusher. He has the strength to deal with guards, and the quickness to overwhelm them. Guards aren’t equipped, or accustomed to deal with rushes like this.
The novelty leading the Chargers’ defense is their use of six defensive backs, which has already has had a tentacle chopped off the hexagonal octopus. Derwin James is out for the year. They’ll try it again, but it won’t be as effective, and it’s looking clear that 2018 was a once in a lifetime season for the Chargers, a team constantly destroyed by injuries and bad luck, who finally rose above the ocean for just a glimpse of paradise.
The offense is incomprehensible though. Tyrod Taylor, a quarterback who can lead an offense by being a power runner, manages the game by not making mistakes, and stays in his shell instead of pushing the ball downfield, throwing to Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, doesn’t fit. He’s here because he played for head coach Anthony Lynn out in Buffalo, not because he fits this offense, and has any congruent points with rookie Justin Herbert. It’s going to mostly be a ton of checkdowns to Austin Ekeler, without the benefit of Philip Rivers pushing the coverage downfield with his eyes, and enough floating completions to keep them honest.
Personally, I’m not a big Herbert guy. There aren’t many tall old people, and there aren’t any 6’6” quarterbacks aside from Matt Schaub and Joe Flacco, dinosaurs from the previous decade still strolling the sidelines in baseball caps and deep lake trench coats. Most of his college production came from the screen game and easy manufactured throws, and his deep passes were usually wide open. He looks like the typical NFL scout’s wet dream, but most of his college performance was empty. Even whenever he finally gets the chance, the Chargers will still probably be a losing team.
Playing in a COVID world is nothing new for the Chargers. They’ll probably even have more fans of their own in the stadium at their ‘home games’. The uniforms rock though. Bury me in powder blue and resurrect me in electric yellow.
Favorite Player: Joey Bosa
T-22.) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (24 Points)
Can Philip Rivers bounce back playing behind a great offensive line (?), is one of the most intriguing questions of the 2020 season. I think so. Last year his DVOA without pressure was 55.5% and he averaged 8.4 yards an attempt. Without Sam Tevi and Trent Scott on the outside, and a waterfall of blockers constantly bouncing around on the interior, he’ll have the time needed to sit back, and toss plastic bags, Supercuts balloons, and dog hair, to his receivers.
Michael Pittman Jr. is the perfect Rivers receiver. T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell should be able to win with crossing routes. And he’s played for Frank Reich before, both as his quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, and it should be easy for him to slide into this offense in a socially distanced world. He doesn’t have the same vertical possession receiving talent or running back receiving talent, but it’s an easy fit.
The addition of DeForest Buckner gives the Colts a premier defensive linemen they’ve desperately needed. It slides the rest of the pass rushers down a notch, and will give Justin Houston easier matchups, something he needs as a sutured up 30something, and if they get consistent pressure from either Tyquan Lewis, Ben Banogu, or Al-Quadin Muhammad, the pass defense could break from average to above average.
Matt Eberfulus is one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, and he created a great defense with less talent in 2018. I can’t wait to see what wild things he comes up with to get the most out of this group. And with that is Darius Leonard being used in every possible way, as a blitzer, as a hook zone defender, as a quarterback spy, as a seam defender, and in man coverage.
The ranking is lower than it should be because of the vitriol in my heart towards this franchise. The colors are bland. The crowd shots are hideous and make me sick. The BOOOOOING of Andrew Luck. The years of Peyton Manning’s perfect dropbacks and decisions that eviscerated my stupid football team when I was fat child. It’s my own personal disdain, but no matter what, no matter who they have, no matter how fun they are, like they will be this year, the Colts will always be an above ground swimming pool filled with mayonnaise to me.
Favorite Player: Darius Leonard
20.) DENVER BRONCOS (25 Points)
Yesterday we received some distressing news. It turns out, with great sadness, confusion, and anger, Von Miller will miss the entirety of the 2020 season with a torn ankle ligament. Phew, come on 2020? Can it just be over already! Haven’t we had enough! Some kind sir please pass me some epic bacon to console my uncontrollable sadness. Am I right????
Miller is still one of the better exterior rushers, even if he wasn’t a dominant force last season. His quickness isn’t the same gamebreaker, and the inside moves were easy to sit on. This injury is crucial for Denver regardless. After losing Bradley Chubb early last season, Malik Reed and Jeremiah Attaochu combined for 4.5 sacks, 3 hits, and 19 pressures. This isn’t good enough, and Denver didn’t address this position this offseason, banking on a full season of Miller and Chubb. What should have been the strength of the defense, is now it’s weakest link.
It did seem after a few weeks not knowing what he was doing, Vic Fangio finally figured out how to morph his defense to Denver’s personnel. Miller was no longer dropping back in coverage. They brought five more often. The defense improved.
This year they added veterans A.J. “The Texans should have franchise tagged me” Bouye, and Jurrell Casey, who was dumped off along with this salary for a seventh round pick so they could sign Jadeveon Clowney. They can still play at their age, and in combination with Fangio, who has crafted multiple league leading defenses, and Kareem Jackson (I miss watching him tackle once a week), Shelby Harris, Alexander Johnson, and Justin Simmons, looked like a top five defense this season. Now they’re soul searching right before the season without Miller.
I don’t know if Drew Lock is good. Nobody knows if Drew Lock is good. Even the man on the throne in the clouds doesn’t know if Drew Lock is good. Denver went 4-1 to end the season with him instead of Joe Flacco’s malodorous scarecrow carcass, and their average points scored bumped from 15.9 to 21.4. One of those games was a three point effort in the snow against Kansas City. And Denver only put up two positive DVOAs during this run, a 43% effort against Houston, and 30% against Detroit.
The mobility, accuracy, and arm is there. He was miserable throwing the ball downfield. Most young quarterbacks struggle pushing it deep when they first arrive. With WR1 Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler once his hamstring recovers, Noah Fant, pass catching backs Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay, and what should be a mauling run blocking and competent pass protecting offensive line, he should be the second best second year quarterback, behind Kyler Murray of course. They’re similar to New York (G), but they have a better team in place around their quarterback, and enough talent to carry him if he struggles.
The intradivisional incestuous rivalry between Denver and Los Angeles (C) should be a Molly Hatchet song, with Chris Harris joining the Chargers, and Melvin Gordon joining the Broncos, to spit it back at their old team.
The colors are cool. The team should be competent. If the offense is good, which remains to be seen, they could win a #7 seed.
Favorite Player: Kareem Jackson
T-19.) GREEN BAY PACKERS (26 Points)
I think we know what the Packers are and what they are going to. They’ll be similar to last season. They’ll run the ball a lot. They’ll throw out of 11 personnel, and run out of heavy personnel. Aaron Rodgers is no longer a dominant quarterback, and is just really good at this stage of his career. They have one great receiver in DeVante Adams, and as much fun as it is to call Allen Lazard, Bob Lazard, they don’t have anyone else that scares defenses. Aaron Jones’s touchdown totals will drop. The offensive line is great except for the right guard spot. And the defense was overrated by their ability to create interceptions, something that isn’t sustainable year to year, after they caught 17 last season, the third most in the league.
Not only that, this season the Packers are facing a tsunami of regression, after last year’s pyritic 13-3 season. They improved on their 2018 win total by seven wins, finished third in point differential at +12, went 8-1 in one score games (only Seattle won more), won 3.2 more games than their Pythagorean win total (the highest mark in the league), played on average difficulty, and only finished 10th in DVOA. To improve the team this offseason, they, uggghhhh, drafted a quarterback to usurp Rodgers in 2022 and a backup running back, they signed a wide receiver who opted out of this season, and replaced their injury prone right tackle Brian Baluga, with injury prone right tackle Ricky Wagner. Great stuff.
The Packers are going to miss the postseason this year. Watching Rodgers and Matt LaFleur wail at each other on the sideline is fun, and so are Z’Darius Smith interior rushes (I’m partial to their 5-1 fronts with him lined up over the center), Preston Smith heat seeking exterior rushes, Kenny Clark interior controlling defensive stops, and watching football in such a dark and dreary November landscape, illuminated only by the monsters ordained in their orange buck shooting attire.
Favorite Player: Z’Darius Smith
T-19.) ATLANTA FALCONS (26 Points)
I love, love, love, love, love Atlanta this year, and I don’t care who knows it. They have eight former first round picks on their offense after releasing Laquon Treadwell. Can you name all eight? The Calvin Ridley-Julio Jones punch is the league’s best outside receiver combination. Russell Gage is a dependable slot threat. They replaced Austin Hooper with Hayden Hurst, Baltimore’s do-it-all tight end. Most importantly, Eric Lindstrom (#63) and Kaleb McGary (#76), who stuck at right tackle, and strangled defenders when he got his hands on them, were great working together at the end of last season when they went to more of a power/inside zone scheme. I can’t wait to see sixteen games with these two. This world was made only for me.
At age 35, it also feels like this maybe Matt Ryan’s last MVP type of season. He isn’t the reason why Atlanta lost Superbowl, or why they’ve failed since then. He was a top ten quarterback in 2017 and 2018, and dropped to upper half last year, when playing on an offense without a run game, constant interior blocking shuffling, a rookie right tackle who needed a year to soak, and coming on the field after an already porous defense disintegrated after Ricardo Allen suffered his injury. He should solidify himself as a top ten player this year.
If I drink enough I can talk myself into anything, and with a clean mouth, and sharp tongue, I kind of like this defense. It played better with Rahim Moore taking over the defense. Grady Jarrett is a lite beer version of Aaron Donald. I like Keanu Neal and Isaiah Oliver to finally provide good play this season. Deion Jones is a hedgehog sprinting through the line of scrimmage. And although Dante Fowler Jr.’s sack production is a little empty, he’s a dramatic improvement over Vic Beasley’s meaningless production.
The only downside is the new jerseys suck. I don’t understand why these teams don’t keep what works. Just stick with the old decrepit falcon, and the socks that match the leg piping. I don’t know why everything has to updated and refined until it’s some indiscernible bold goop.
Favorite Player: Kaleb McGary
17.) LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (27 Points)
The Raiders are the inverse of the Broncos. They should have a commendable offense, and terrible defense, but the offense is unique enough, with enough interesting parts, that they’re worth the watch, even if the defense is fairly listless.
OaklandVegas has one of the best run blocking schemes in the NFL. They are great outside zone team, but not only that, they pull their offensive linemen in an eclectic set of ways. Tackles will work pin and pull action with tight ends. Trap and wham blocks are used. Guard-tackle counter is tossed in there. They’ll run dart with Kolton Miller. Horn blocks where the guard pulls around the center and into the ‘A’ gap are a blast. Vegas has one of the rare offensive lines, like what the Colts have, that can run any run scheme Jon Gruden lathers up.
Running behind that is Josh Jacobs, who is my pick to win the rushing title this year. He turned 246 carries into 1,150 yards and 7 touchdowns, and he broke 68 tackles. They didn’t use him much as a receiver last year. This all came on an offense without any outside receiving talent. This season he should get lighter boxes to run against now that Derek Carr will have Henry Ruggs III, and Bryan Edwards to join the incumbents, and a three deep tight end group. Carr has shown he can lead a successful passing attack when he has an infinite amount of time to throw the ball. Vegas’s offensive line currently provides that, and now he has more outside receiving talent.
On defense, at least MaXXX Crosby is here. He was a great find by the hipsters that run the Raiders. There’s some beneficial context for his high sack totals last season, but that doesn’t take away from his refined pass rushing ability, and talent to shoot the gap and make plays in the backfield. Take the MaXXX Crosby pill.
On the other side is Clelin Ferrell, an enormous defender, who is more of a volleyball player than a defensive lineman right now. He’s best standing along the interior, treating offensive linemen like a net, and leaping to bat down passes. Vegas outsmarted themselves. They should have just taken Josh Allen.
At least they have linebackers this season. Cory Littleton is one of the best coverage linebackers in the game, and Nick Kwiatkowski is competent in this regard too. Last season they finished 25th and 30th in DVOA at covering running backs and tight ends. This will change this season.
Plus they have Jonathan Abram back, who may actually decapitate someone one day. He’s an enormous hitter, not meant for this world, but meant for one thirty years ago, back when the NFL was more about quenching national bloodlust than scoring points.
I’m also a sucker for the scoreboard shots you get when watching THE FILM. I’m imagining Vegas’s to be blood red, like a Tesla charging station, a symbol for the future, and a direct contrast to the sweltering ancient landscape surrounding this new alien spaceship they’ll be playing football in.
Favorite Player: Josh Jacobs
Check back tomorrow for Part II.