In previous years, I spent the football season completely sucked in. Watching every condensed game, and diving in the coach’s film to drop in deeper, following my heart wherever it wanted to take me. Aaron Donald knife parties, Baltimore simulated pressures, Josh Allen’s meteoric rise from leaping over Anthony Barr to leaping to the top of the MVP race, Jason Kelce scoop blocks, Pittsburgh front seven decimation, Indianapolis cover seven, and Bake Mayfield pulling his buns from the oven too early.
Those days are going to be difficult to replicate. Time is no longer expansive and free flowing. It’s been sequestered into more important boxes. This past year I did the things most people spend a decade accomplishing in the span of the year. Two more people share the same name as me, along with an Obese dog, I have fields to till, and square feet to maintain. I’ve gone from only caring about myself, to people relying on me.
This isn’t to mean that football has disappeared. My time has to be concise. No longer will I get to watch every game. Arizona v. Cincinatti, or New York (J) v. Jacksonville, those games are gone. They don’t exist. Instead, it will be all about Houston, Houston, Houston, and the most interesting teams worthy of the limited time I have.
This year’s Game Pass rankings are not just for you, but they are for me as well, as a map to navigate how to spend one’s time. Time, the only finite resource. We are consumers, not citizens of this nation, and so to help you and myself get the most out of NFL’s Gamepass Product (now without coach’s film, for a low price of $99), I ranked every NFL team by their Game Pass entertainment value utilizing a algorithm I created with in a joint venture with Stanford University. 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 16-1. The teams worth watching every week, and the teams who’ll you be bombarded by throughout the 2021 season.
T-16.) MINNESOTA VIKINGS (30 Points)
Some teams just have it rough. Last season Minnesota started off 1-5, losing two one score games to Seattle, Mike Zimmer made the right call going for it, and Tennessee, someone finally decided to make a 50+ yard field goal. Michael Pierce opted out. Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter missed most, and the entirety of the season, and losing Eric Kendricks to end the season crushed their team. The third most injured defense by adjusted games lost. Their entirely new secondary needed seven weeks or so to figure things out a little bit. Still, after all that, it took a late loss to Tampa to effectively end their playoff hopes.
If anything happens to Aaron Rodgers, or if Green Bay loses two defensive starters, the door would go from cracked to wide open for them to steal the NFC North. Minnesota gets two star defensive players back in Hunter and Barr, which will dramatically improve their league worst pressure rate, the return of Pierce, and the signings of Dalvin Tomilson and Sheldon Richardson will give their 30th ranked run defense by DVOA a bump. Minnesota has the fat guys they are missing.
Mike Zimmer’s cover seven defense is one of the most fun things to try and figure out. Read about cut calls, divider leverage, palms, when linebackers run the seam, and rewind and rewind until you have a vague understanding of it. Last season their corners had problems staying on top of vertical routes—the main requirement to play corner here. This offseason they added success rate stars in Bashaud Breeland, and Xavier Woods, along with Patrick Peterson. I’m not expecting much from Peterson, but playing in a zone coverage scheme could rejuvenate him if, and once again, he can stay on top of vertical throws.
Minnesota, like Atlanta, has a young and interesting offensive line. First round pick Christian Darrisaw has returned to practice but isn’t expected to start week one. In his place will be Rashod Hill. Along the line it’s tackle turned guard Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, who hasn’t played like a first round center yet, Oli Udoh, and Brian O’Neil, of the Mike McGlinchey horrifying when you get off the bus mold. The Vikings have gone back to plunge resources into their offensive line. With the Adam Theilen-Justin Jefferson combination, if they get Kirk Cousins away from pressure, and give Dalvin Cook brief splotches of space, this offense could match its sixth ranked projection.
Zimmer getting another year with the kids, Klint Kubiak nepotism, and all these factors combined make the Vikings a darkhorse North winner. They’ll be relevant. As boring as Cousins can be, the star power is here, purple is cool, and Theilen’s yellow hamburger helper gloves make them worth it.
Favorite Player: Eric Kendricks
T-16.) CAROLINA PANTHERS (30 Points)
If you listen to the podcast listen to the podcast you know I don’t think Carolina will be good this year. We already know what Sam Darnold looks like behind a terrible offensive line. He’s gotten worse every year since his rookie season, and last year he completed less than 60% of his passes despite ranking 16th in average depth of target, threw 9 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, had a pass DVOA of -32.2% and a DYAR of -540, both marks were only better than Carson Wentz.
Sure, he’ll have an incredible group of skill players, a better head coach, and a playcaller who just needs to get away from the all the screen passes to really find himself. The offensive line is atrocious. It’s Cameron Erving, who was never good, and is three years removed from when he was playable, Pat Elflein, who already floundered blocking for Darnold in New York, Matt Paradis, who has been average and hasn’t played up to his contract, John Miller, needs to refine his technique, and Taylor Moton, the only plus player on this unit. If Darnold has any success it’s going to be because the ball is out and quick and his skill players break a ton of tackles. They’ll be like the 2020 Steelers without the top ranked defense.
The defense should be at least respectable. They have the best young defensive talent in the NFL. Brian Burns is as close to as prime Von Miller we have in the league, and is due for a ten plus sack season. Derrick Brown is the next Fletcher Cox. Yetur Gros-Matos is long and lanky, and traps running backs in his enormous arms like a web. Shaq Thompson is a speed demon and a great all around linebacker. Jaycee Horn is the NFL’s next great cornerback. And Jeremy Chinn can play safety and buffalo linebacker—all he does is make plays.
They have depth to this defense too. They added run stopping DaQuan Jones, interior pass rusher Morgan Fox, one-year bargain Hasson Reddick who finally broke out last season, and old friend A.J. Bouye to be a fourth cornerback. The only hole on this defense was linebacker. Tahir Whitehead and his replacements killed them last season. They’re counting on Jermaine Carter after trading Denzel Perryman already. Being the meat in a Thompson-Reddick sandwhich will drop the bar for him.
Despite how I feel about Darnold, how he performs this season will be one of the more interesting things to watch this season. The Adam Gase stink is off him. He’s in a real offense finally. If he’s even average the Panthers could make the playoffs. If he sucks again, they’ll still be a great hang.
Favorite Player: Derrick Brown
14.) DENVER BRONCOS (31 Points)
Garish orange and navy. Puffy jackets covering up IPA bloat. I’m all in on the Denver Broncos making the postseason this year.
This is going to be a top five pass defense. They have the league’s deepest secondary, stealing Kyle Fuller to get him back in a Vic Fangio defense, who will play along side Bryce Callahan, Ronald Darby, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, and first round pick Pat Surtain II. Learning about Vic Fangio’s pass defense is something that’s been on my football to do list for years now. I finally got around to it this summer. 51 alignments, man match, two high looks. Allow Cody Alexander to open your third eye.
The question is how much they get out of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Miller was knocked out from the season early last year. He 2019 he put together 37 pressures, 20 hits, and 8 sacks. Bradley Chubb hasn’t reached Miller’s low water mark and hasn’t played up to his draft pedigree yet. They have a third wheel in Malik Reed though. Reed had 20 pressures, 9 hits, and 8 sacks. The edge rush is one of the league’s best if Miller has another Miller type of season in him.
Denver opted not to take Justin Fields, or Mac Jones, and drafted a cornerback. They created a quarterback competition by trading a sixth round pick for Teddy Bridgewater. Drew Lock lost the fourth grade talent show, and was relegated to the back up role after losing this battle. This was expected. Say what you want about Bridgewater, but he’s at least average. He can be too risk averse, opting for the check down instead of making the big throw, and his short accuracy can be spotty, but he’s better than Lock, who was a bottom five quarterback last season. All Denver needs at this position is average.
He’s in a similar situation that he was in last season. Surrounded by great skill players, but this time he has a mauling run blocking offensive line in front of him. Denver’s run game took off when they switched from blocking mid zone, to more power run plays. Watching Dalton Risner pull is sublime. The right side of the offensive line is scary in September, and Lloyd Cushenberry II had a rough rookie season. If they are even competent, this will be a plus run game.
This is year three for Noah Fant. It’s Fant’s breakout season. Pretty good quarterback play will go a long way for him, Jerry Juedy, woops, dropsies, and Courtland Sutton who is coming back from injury, has shown himself to be quarterback proof.
Favorite Player: Teddy Bridgewater
T-13.) BALTIMORE RAVENS (32 Points)
Can Lamar Jackson throw the ball to the sideline? This is the biggest question facing any player and any team entering this season. The Ravens power read scheme is stuck. The box is loaded. The crossing routes have been picked on. They’re trapped in an electrical closet. Until Jackson can make the leap and start attacking the sidelines, forcing defenses to defend the whole field, the Ravens can’t compete with Kansas City, or Buffalo, who can overhang them to death.
In 2019 Jackson completed 17/52 (32.7%) sideline passes for 511 yards, 9.8 yards an attempt, and threw 5 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. In 2020 he completed 18/45 (40%) for 501 yards, 11.1 yards an attempt, and threw 7 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. It takes a wide open throw for Jackson to even attempt these passes, and most of these throws came while on the move. Only 25.4% of these sideline attempts came from the pocket, and Jackson only completed 59.3% of his passes from the pocket to the sideline, ranking 35th in the NFL.
To help Jackson, the Ravens drafted Rashod Bateman, and added Sammy Watkins. Both players are outside wide receivers who can beat man coverage, and Bateman, can run the entirety of the route tree. Watkins is a more of a fifteen yards or less runner who you feasts on third and fourth cornerbacks. They’ll offer stability for the jackpot game that is Marqise Brown. It’s the best wide receiver group Jackson will have in his career.
I think Jackson can do it. The deep ball comes later for most mortal young quarterbacks. He’s already shown the ability to throw the seam, the deep middle, and he’s one of the best quick throwers in the league. If he pulls it off, the Ravens go from stuck, to a Super Bowl contender.
The rest of this team is going to be great as always. It’s a top ten defense, and a top ten run game. Running backs don’t matter here. The best part of their defense is finding out which mid to late round drafted lab experiment breaks out. My bet is on Justin Madubuike, who was a terror towards the end of the season. I’m also hoping that Jaylon Ferguson finally puts it together, after being a draft nerd wet dream years ago.
Favorite Player: Mark Andrews
T-13.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (32 Points)
Russell Wilson, tired of playing without a rigid offensive structure, in an offense that relies on his slippery sketch show pocket antics to create big plays, finally called the manager, and said he had enough. After an offseason of whining, the Seahawks tried to acquiesce. They fired Brian Schottenheimer, and added Shane Waldron as their offensive coordinator. They traded for Gabe Jackson. They drafted another vertical threat wide receiver in D’Wayne Eskridge to complete their four man 100 meter relay team.
This should be a top five pass offense once again. Wilson moonshots are the best throw in the game. Impossible shots downfield while slathered in another’s colors.
Wilson, and his receiver group of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain, and Eskridge, is the most complimentary matchup between quarterback and pass catchers in the league. Wilson’s throws it deep, and they can outrun anyone in the league.
The goal is to limit the number of shots he takes when he goes long. These are usually bomb defusing detonations. They found a middle ground with Duane Brown’s contract demands. Joining him is Damien Lewis on the left side, with Ethan Pocic at center, Gabe Jackson at right guard, and Brandon Shell at right tackle. This is the best line he’s had for a while. Lewis is the biggest problem they have. He was a terrible pass protector last season, even though he gouged out torsos in the run game.
It isn’t all on the offensive line though. Wilson’s plays himself into big hits. The holding and slipping and waiting until the last instant leads itself to it. Getting him into more of a true offensive structure, instead of playing in the backyard should go a long way too. At age 32, it’s vital for Seattle to take better care of their MVP caliber quarterback.
The defense was miserable for the first half of the season, but they picked it up over their last six games. The Seahawks are deeeeeep at edge rusher. They have L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa, Darrell Taylor, Kerry Hyder, Alton Robinson, and Bruce Irvin. All nine of these players could have four sacks this season.
None of those players is their best pass rusher though. That’s Jamal Adams. The Seahawks sent two firsts and a third along with Bradley McDougald for a 6’1 215 lbs pass rusher, and then extended him to a four-year $70 million extension with $38 million guaranteed. Last season Adams had 9.5 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss, and 14 quarterback hits. In coverage he allowed 10.4 yards per pass, and has a success rate of 42%. His groin was hurt or something. He’s playing the Kam Chancellor role in Seattle, and is their biggest playmaker.
Quandre Diggs is the perfect player to pair with him as he roams the deep middle. Their linebacker play is great too, and Jordyn Brooks’s second season will be fun to watch. The cornerback play is kind of crappy, even though it doesn’t matter that much in this defense. I’m buying the defensive improvement sticks.
They are the perfect condensed team. It’s big defensive plays, insane Wilson throws, and most importantly, every game is insane. They can never play a normal football game. They played eleven one score games last year, winning eight, I’m sure they’ll play at least seven more this year. If you want to watch a close game, they’re always the right team to watch.
Favorite Player: Duane Brown
T-11.) CLEVELAND BROWNS (33 Points)
Thank God for the Browns. In an offensive mono-culture, where everything is based around the quick short passing game, we have the Browns. It’s outside zone, and more outside zone, with the occasional power run play to catch defenses running horizontally to break big gains. The latter are their best plays. Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller pulls are perfect examples showcasing the beautiful art of violence.
Cleveland has the best one-two running back punch in the NFL with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Hunt for Chubb combined for almost 2,000 rushing yards, and Hunt fit in seamlessly whenever Chubb was out for a bit with a knee injury. Hunt is the better pass catcher, but Chubb is the better pure runner. When healthy, he’s second only to Cook, as the best pure runner in the game. Last season he had a DVOA of 25.5%, averaged 5.6 yards a carry, and had 12 touchdowns.
Kevin Stefaniski is a fun playcaller too. In a league with fast athletes to stop the pass, the Browns are the pendulum hurling in the other direction. They used 2+ tight ends or six offensive linemen on 52.2% of their snaps, the most in the league. Austin Hooper didn’t do much as a receiver last year, but he’s one of the better blockers at the tight end position. They rarely used three wide receivers last year too. This should change with Odell Beckham Jr. back out there, after tearing his ACL chasing down a defender following a Baker Mayfield interception.
Baker is the hindrance here. So far he’s been fine. He excels in the offensive structure, but when Cleveland falls behind, and he has to play from the shotgun in more spread formations, he’s had problems. It’s the same problem with Baker. He jolts from the pocket early whenever there’s a semblance of pressure. Sometimes it’s all in his head. His best game came in their win over Baltimore, where he finally played tough against their high blitz defense. This next layer in development needs to stick for Cleveland to get into that Buffalo-Kansas City tier.
Jadeveon Clowney watch is set to begin again. The Browns pursued him last year. He said no. Hung around until signing late in the summer with Tennessee. This killed his 2020 season. He was light and airy and out of shape. Huffing and puffing after the first quarter. Clowney said yes to Cleveland this time around, and he’ll be paired with Myles Garrett. Get ready for more drunken Clowney interior rushes.
Garrett is behind only Aaron Donald in the preseason Defensive Player of the Year watch. Fully healthy, with a 17 game schedule, he should pick up 15 sacks. He can pull off every pass rush move from any technique. Long arms, rips, ghost rips, speed rushes, inside out moves, he can do it all.
Cleveland is going to test how important tackling is in the secondary. Greedy Fly Williams is back from injury (again), along with Grant Delpit. They added former Rams John Johnson and Troy Hill to the secondary too, and drafted Greg Newsome in the first round. They finally have talent at linebacker with Anthony Walker and second round rookie demon Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with the surprsingly spice Sione Taki-Taki. There isn’t a weak spot in this defense.
The Browns should have been a regression candidate. They knew this. Instead of stand pat, they upgraded their roster, and should be able to fight off the inevitable. How well they are able to play from behind is the only question this team has.
Favorite Player: Myles Garrett
T-11.) WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (33 Points)
When I was a child, my Father had an Apple computer with strategy games on it. One of which was Warcraft II, before the nerds spent their lives ignoring their regular life to grind gold and fight giant purple dragons, this was a real time strategy game. I’d sit and watch him play, and read through the instruction booklet, back when those were a thing. The artwork showed fat and slobbering two headed behemoths, hooded undead horse riders with white eyes casting spells, goblins and their antics. One always stood out. It was an orc, holding a decapitated human head by the ponytail like a reeking diaper, dripping blood, pointing out in the distance. Whenever I think of the Washington Football Team, OUR FOOTBALL TEAM, I see this image.
Chase Young, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Montez Sweat, combined for 21.5 sacks, 37 hits, and 89 pressures last season. Allen is the only one no longer on his rookie contract after signing a four year extension, and is the oldest at 26 years old. They’re going to be even better, and even more gruesome than they already are.
Young. The NFL’s next generational pass rush defender, more predator than alien, isn’t from this world.
Payne. Bendy interior rusher, who is the weakest of the bunch.
Allen. One of the best bull rushes in the league.
Sweat. An R&B singing rim defending stretchy arm freak who never takes a play off.
Washington has the best four man pass rush, and it’s even more fearsome when combined with the occasional blitz they bring. Cole Holcomb is a dependable linebacker, who along with Jon Bostic, are plus blitzers. Overkill isn’t possible when it comes to building a front seven. Just for fun they added first round pick Jamin Davis to the group.
The entire defense is stacked. Love and savor Kamren Curl, until he no longer is a coffee shop treat, the former seventh round pick filled in perfectly for Landon Collins, who is back by the way. They switched out Ronald Darby for William Jackson, and on the opposite sideline it’s the pretty good Kendall Fuller. Something bizarre has happened if this isn’t a top five defense.
No one repeats in the NFC East, but Washington should. The offense is similar to Carolina, or Denver. Great skill players, but with other questions. For Washington its quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick has expectations, and is the guy for the first time since he was in Houston. Even average, and this is a Super Bowl caliber team. He was great under pressure, and isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield. When paired with a despicable midzone rushing attack, Fitzpatrick can have tragic games and Washington can still pull it off.
I can smell death on my fingers already. I love this team.
Favorite Player: Montez Sweat
T-9.) LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (34 Points)
Don’t overthink it. Appreciate transcendence and the sublime once it worms its way to the surface. Justin Herbert is the NFL’s next great quarterback. Despite taking over five minutes before kick off after an inerrant jab, playing behind a shoddy offensive line, with zero run game to speak of, Herbert completed 66.6% of his passes for 4,336 yards, 31 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and had a DVOA of 10.2%. He broke Peyton Manning’s rookie touchdown record in 15 games. Incredible deep ball, arm to make any throw, the CHADness to not buckle under pressure, the ability to feel the pressure and use his feet to navigate under duress, understanding of blitz schemes, and precision to put it where only his guy can do it. He’s the complete package. A 6’6” God.
Play the highlights.
The Chargers are a case study on how to build an offensive line around a quarterback on a rookie contract. They drafted Rashawn Slater at left tackle, and signed Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, and Oday Aboushi. Bryan Bulaga is back at right tackle after being injured most of last season. Gone are Trent Scott, Sam Tevi, and Forrest Lamp. It will be even easier for him next year.
The new head coach is Brandon Staley, the Rams defensive coordinator last season. It’s a cover four-cover seven defense built around two high safety shells to defend the pass. Wow. A great idea. Focus on defending the pass first, and then chasing to defend the run after the fact. Nearly all defenses are built to defend the run first.
His defense doesn’t fit well with what the Chargers currently have though. Aside from Jerry Tillery and Joey Bosa, they don’t have a great front four rush. Derwin James is better in a multi-dimensional defense where he’s closer to the ball. The linebacker play is iffy. They also don’t have the depth the Rams had either. This run defense is going to be unbearable. Eventually he’ll get the pieces he needs for this defense, but this isn’t the year.
Favorite Player: Justin Herbert
T-9.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (34 Points)
New Orleans had the most complete roster in the NFL from 2-53 the last three seasons. It got them a loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game, an upset loss to Minnesota in the Wildcard Round, and a Divisional Round loss to Tampa Bay. The full gauntlet. They went 38-7 in the regular season the last three seasons.
The problem was the quarterback. Drew Brees couldn’t handle interior pressure. Both the Rams and Vikings, who moved their edge rushers to the interior to decimate him, created havoc on the inside to kill drives and force turnovers. They fixed this by drafting Eric McCoy and Cesar Ruiz. The other problem was his arm strength. Brees couldn’t push the ball downfield anymore. That strange long vein in his arm was the noodle. The Saints were stuck playing in a box. Sean Payton was forced to bring in Taysom Hill to complete deep passes in the postseason, the NFL equivalent of getting cucked.
This past offseason they lost some of the depth they had thanks to the salary cap. Janoris Jenkins, Sheldon Richardson, Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Trey Hendrickson, Emmanuel Saunders, Alex Anzalone, are all gone. Although the Saints lost depth, they find talent later in the draft, develop young talent well, and are always able to find gems in the delta. And, most importantly, they have an actual quarterback who can make every throw.
Jameis Winston in New Orleans is the most interesting quarterback in 2021. He’s a daredevil, always looking to go deep, often at the detriment of his offense. He’ll see through linebackers, he’ll overthrow receivers who aren’t part of the route design, he’ll fight through sacks to the death instead of getting the ball away. The talent is undeniable. Last year was a redshirt season for him, sitting and learning this offense. It’s his now.
The Saints still have a top five offensive line, and should have a fringe top five defense. The top talent at both positions is there. The biggest question mark is at wide receiver. They have none. It’s Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith until Michael Thomas gets back from injury, meaning Alvin Kamara is going to carry the team in the meantime.
There are leaves on the tree. Those are blades of grass. Nothing is one great green mash. Jameis struggling in Tampa Bay because he couldn’t see would be the funniest thing of alltime. Hopefully it is, and Jameis can lower his interception total to 15, his sack total to 30, and the Saints can get to where they couldn’t the last three seasons.
Favorite Player: Jameis Winston
T-9.) LOS ANGELES RAMS (34 Points)
For years Sean McVay had done everything he could for Jared Goff, except for throw the ball for him, to carry him in a beautiful and pristine offense. After last season’s busted thumb blackout against Green Bay, they had enough. Goff turned into Matthew Stafford.
The biggest difference is that Stafford can push the ball downfield. Last season Stafford completed 49/104 passes deep for 1,393 yards, threw 8 touchdowns to 0 interceptions, and averaged 13.4 yards an attempt. Goff was 28/73 for 717 yards, threw 3 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, and averaged 9.8 yards an attempt. These are different planes of consciousness.
Stafford doesn’t have the wide receiver play to really stretch the field. DeSean Jackson is 35 and has two weeks in him. Tutu Atwell can play fetch too. The heart of it is Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. They are great receivers, but neither is a true vertical threat, instead sneaking downfield thanks to deception. Still, Stafford can hit the designed deep shots, unlike Goff though.
Additionally, Stafford provides a new layer to this offense. The Rams only played out of 11 personnel. Stafford can play behind center, but can also play in the shotgun in a spread offense too. There’s more than midzone, midzone, play action, screen, drag routes. The Rams can do it all now.
Staley is replaced by Raheem Morris. They run completely different defenses. Morris runs a blitz heavy, simulated pressure defense, unlike the two high shells Staly used, Morris had defenders line up everywhere and running all over the place. The Rams also don’t have the same level of defensive depth. They lost Michael Brockers, Morgan Fox, John Johnson, Troy Hill, and Samson Ebakum. Like New Orleans, they are able to turn unknowns into a knowns. The concerns about this defense now maybe non existent in October.
The defense is also based around Jalen Ramsey neutralizing a team’s best receiver, creating easy coverage tasks for the rest of the secondary, and Aaron Donald creating an entire pass rush on his own. Last season Donald had 13.5 sacks, 16 hits, and 44 hurries. The Rams finished with 53 sacks, an adjusted sack rate of 8.6% (2nd), and a pressure rate of 30.2% (2nd), all because of him. They paid for Leonard Floyd to stay after Donald spoon fed him last season. There’s no one better than him.
The jerseys are gross though. Bone white. Sure. The stadium creeps me out. It looks more like a video game than reality. If life is a simulation, the Rams are the one loading the bong.
Favorite Player: Aaron Donald
T-9.) GREEN BAY PACKERS (34 Points)
The Packers were able to beat regression last season because they looked within, and found the inefficiencies of their offense. Gone were all the first down and second and long runs. They used motion and play action more often. Despite not improving from 2019 to 2020, and winning a host of one score games in 2019, they improved on their 19’ NFC Championship Game run. Aaron Rodgers threw 48 touchdowns to 4 interceptions and took him another MVP trophy.
It ended sourly. Rather than go for it on fourth down after Rodgers tossed it through the back of the endzone instead of running to pick up three yards, the Packers kicked the field goal. They never got the ball back. A defensive pass interference penalty ended it.
This season the Packers are the exact same team once again, but this time there’s offseason drama. XOXO. Rodgers wanted a trade. He showed up to camp and spoke to the press, upset by the moves they made, and the lack of communication when they made decisions. Trade for Randall Cobb. That will shut him up.
Unlike last season, the Packers don’t have the same built in offensive improvement. There offense just kind of is what it is now. They’re a stars and scrubs roster on both offense and defense, and injuries could kill their season. The top talent is ridiculous though. Kenny Clark, Z’Darius Smith, David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, Jaire Alexander, Darnell Savage.
Jordan Love isn’t a real quarterback. He doesn’t exist.
Favorite Player: Kenny Clark
5.) TENNESSEE TITANS (35 Points)
Even though it happened, I’m still shocked it did. The Titans finished 29th in defensive DVOA last year with Mike Vrable acting as the defensive coordinator. There were a wide variety of problems. Clowney wasn’t ready for the season—they depended on him—and he ended up on injured reserve. Malcolm Butler was picked on. Rashaan Evans took a step back. No one could provide a consistent source of pass rush aside from Jeffery Simmons. Harold Landry still can’t convert all those pressures into sacks.
Although the Titans are projected to have the worst defense this year, I’m not buying what the computer says. Toss me that bat. Bud Dupree was pushed by T.J. Watt into becoming the player he should be, and he will be what they signed Clowney to be. Denico Autry is a good interior rusher, and the perfect pairing for Simmons. They signed Janoris Jenkins and drafted Caleb Farley to fix their cornerback group. Kristian Fulton’s college video is tremendous, and he will be a tangible cornerback this season. Adoree Jackson can’t ruin their season with the inevitable injury. Evans and Jayon Brown can’t possible be as bad as they were a year ago.
Offensively, the Titans keep pushing it. They turned Corey Davis into Julio Jones, and all it cost was a second round pick. Him and A.J. Brown is the best wide receiver duo in the NFL. They have Josh Reynolds when they decide to go 11 personnel too. Ryan Tannehill is almost elite, fringe elite, I don’t know, something like that. This is no hot streak. He’s a premier deep passer, and a premier play action passer. It’s only going to get better this season.
I still think Derrick Henry has another 300+ carry season in him. He’s one of the rare running backs who wasn’t over worked in high school, or college, and he split time with Demarco Murray when he was drafted by Tennessee. They’ll have Taylor Lewan back, whose injury was the primary reason why they couldn’t run the ball against Baltimore in last year’s playoff loss.
The biggest departure on their team is Arthur Smith going to Atlanta. He was the architect who took everything he learned from previous administrations to craft his own brand of insanity. Todd Downing is set to take over, who hasn’t been an offensive coordinator since he was in Oakland in 2017. This, plus Henry’s workload, Julio’s injury history, who’s calling the defense, are the biggest questions facing this team.
They aren’t flawless, they have plenty of concerns, but dammit they are fun as hell.
Favorite Player: Jeffery Simmons
4.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (36 Points)
The 49ers had the season from hell. They won seven less games than they did in 2019, they went 3-5 in one score games, they won 1.6 less games than expected, they were the most injured team in the NFL, with injuries to Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, Jimmy Garoppolo, Dee Ford, Deebo Samuel, and up and down the interior of their offensive line. Getting close to the peak and tumbling down destroys teams. The Super Bowl hangover is real. The 49ers were the latest team to drink 17 beers and wake up with something mysterious in the kitchen sink.
The 49ers are getting everyone back, they added depth, and most importantly, they found a new quarterback. John Lynch traded up with Miami to select Trey Lance. We know what Garoppolo is. He’s like Goff. He can play within the structure of the offense, can’t create on his own, has problems against pressure, and doesn’t make big time throws.
Lance opens the door for an entirely new San Francisco team. He’s a power running quarterback with a rocket launching arm. His ability to run the ball adds another dimension to the already exotic and colorful 49ers run game.
The last time was saw a Shanahan offense with a mobile quarterback, was in Washington when Robert Griffin III was a rookie. That season he completed 63.35 of his passes for 3,933 yards, threw 24 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, had a passing DVOA of -8.4%, but ran the ball 134 times for 764 yards and 9 touchdowns with a rushing DVOA of 12.6%. Washington took off in the second half of that season to make the postseason. Something similar is in store with Lance.
The difference is Shanahan is only better as a head coach, and only better at scheming his offense, especially in the run game. RGIII’s incredible season was nine years ago.
We still don’t know who the week one starter is going to be, or how many games he will start, but if it’s Garoppolo I’ll be devastated. The 49ers will still be a good team with him, it just won’t be the beautiful alternative future it could be with Lance out there.
Although they lost Robert Saleh this past offseason, the defense is going to be stacked, and could be better coached. New defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans should bring blitz designs, and be more aggressive than the front four rushing Saleh relied on. Ryans will have Bosa back, to join with Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, and Ford, along with the best linebacker in football, Fred Warner.
Favorite Player: Fred Warner
3.) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (37 Points)
We just watched them win a Super Bowl. It’s the exact same team plus Giovani Bernard. They have the greatest quarterback of all-time, they blitz a lot, they throw downfield, they’re absolutely stacked. We know what they are.
Favorite Player: Jason Pierre-Paul
2.) BUFFALO BILLS (38 Points)
How good is God? Last season Josh Allen made the leap from freak athlete, rocket armed, frontal lobeless, pinnacle of beauty, to MVP caliber quarterback. He finished 3rd in DVOA, 4th in DYAR, can I gett a HELL YEAH (?), and was the entirety of the team’s run game. Allen made every throw, finally turning that insane arm into a precise deep completions. This paired with better footwork, the ability to quickly process his reads, and playing in Brian Daboll’s offense that attacked the entirety of the field, took Allen from incredible, to football incredible.
The offense is pretty much the same as last year. They turned John Brown into Emmanuel Saunders, and added Matt Breida as a third running back. Luckily for them, Brian Daboll didn’t receive a head coaching offer.
They dealt with interior offensive line injuries. Hopefully health along the interior will bump up their run game that was dreadful last season. Zach Moss is healthy again, and although Devin Singletary struggled as the first back, he looked more like himself at the end of the season.
They needed Allen to be what he was last year to win 13 games. The run game dropped off along with the defense. Buffalo had problems creating a pass rush with their front four. Ed Oliver has never become the Ed Oliver he should be. Jerry Hughes at the age of like 42 was still their best pass rusher. They drafted pass rushers back to back in Greg Rousseau and Carlos Basham, and will A.J. Epenesa will have a greater role.
This is the key to their 2021 season. If they get the front four pass rush they need, they’ll have the offense to play with the Chiefs—who saw their pass defense talent seep from their roster even more. If four men can make things even somewhat difficult with Mahomes, Allen could play shootout with Kansas City.
The jerseys are beautiful. The mafia is allowed to return. The book of John was written for gentiles, and the book of Allen was written for football fans.
Favorite Player: Josh Allen
1.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (39 Points)
The consensus is the Chiefs lost the Super Bowl because of their offensive line. They did. Kind of. The bigger problem is their skill players dropped touchdown passes and first downs in the first half, missing catches they usually make. This put Kansas City in a hole. Then down by three plus scores in the second half the gates of hell were open. Mahomes constantly left the pocket right when the ball was snapped, left the structure of the offense, and the Chiefs were a one dimensional wreck. Mahomes said the same thing himself:
He was looking for something to learn from, because that’s sorta just what he does, and he found it. “Sometimes,” Patrick Mahomes told me, “when I get hit early, I don’t trust staying in the pocket and going through my reads.”
“I kind of get back to that backyard-style football a little bit too much. And you could definitely see that in the Super Bowl. I mean, there were times that pockets were clean and I was still scrambling,” Mahomes continued.
Mahomes can scorch defenses on All-Madden mode. The Chiefs turned the difficulty down to Pro for him this offseason by turning a first round pick into left tackle Orlando Brown, and signed Joe Thuney and Austin Blythe to play left guard and center. Trey Smith won the right guard battle and Lucas Niang won the right tackle battle. The Chiefs week one offensive line will be entirely different than the one in last year’s Super Bowl.
The Chiefs have a quarterback that doesn’t require a great offensive line though. The marginal benefit for this investment is small. Kansas City can score 35 without a great one. A great one can only do so much.
The bigger benefit will come in the run game instead of the pass game. They’ll switch to a power run game that will mash defenses, then they’ll run RPOs, and throw play action with pullers off it, to make what’s easy for them even easier.
The defense has been the same for years now. It’s a bottom run defense paired with a top ten pass defense. The pass defense may no longer be a top ten one anymore though. Frank Clark is in a weird spot. They lost pass rushing depth, and it’s been on the decline the last two seasons. It will be up to Chris Jones, and Jarran Reed, who has had one good season to carry it.
None of that really matters when Mahome is making no look touchdown passes, Travis Kelce has ten catches against a linebacker, and Tyreek Hill has evaporated 75 yards downfield. When it’s going great, there’s nothing better.
Favorite Player: Travis Kelce