Here is Part I in case you missed it.
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 16-1. These are the teams you have to watch this season.
T-16.) BALTIMORE RAVENS (27 Points)
Joe Flacco wasn’t particularly terrible last season. It was the best season he’s had since that fox Gary Kubiak was coaching the offense four years ago. Then they fell to 4-5 and failed to score more than 24 points in 5 straight games, and headed into the bye on a 1-4 skid. Then came Lamar Jackson. The Ravens went 6-1 down the stretch. Their only loss was in overtime to the Chiefs, and their season ended with the Chargers playing three safety sets and stacked boxes to contain Lamar Jackson and their insane offense.
Last year their offense was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the professional game. I’m sure there are some geezers out there who saw various forms of this offense back in 1967, but my millenial eyes have never witnessed an offense that attempted 45 runs a game before. With Jackson at quarterback the Ravens had a rushing DVOA of 2.6%, not great at first glance, but it’s remarkable to keep even that skant level of efficiency when you run the ball 45 times a game. The biggest problem was Jackson’s inability to throw the ball down the sideline and shift defenses away from the center of the field. Jackson’s longest completion in the air last season was 18 yards, he threw 46 passes marked as left or right, and averaged only 4.1 yards an attempt on these throws.
That was last season. This season Jackson is being coached by Greg Roman. If you forgot, Roman is the same offensive coordinator who got the most out of Colin Kaepernick and reinvented the run game with a charcuterie board of zone reads, powers,and counters, instead of meats and cheeses, all coming at you from heavy sets that had fullbacks, multiple offensive linemen, a potential variety of runners on every play that had to be accounted for, and pullers coming from every direction. It’s one of the best marriages of coordinator and quarterback you’ll ever see, and they have the power blocking offensive line, and running back talent needed to pull it off.
The Ravens have a subterranean lair underneath Owens Mill so deep and dank that not even Troglodytes can stomach the atmosphere. Deep down there, in space suits, their scientists manipulate DNA and cross breed to create their own super humans. They use deep fakes to create banal game tape, and pay for Missouri Southern State’s new library and NC AT&T to add a new wing to their business school, so they can transport their genetically engineered defensive super humans onto the Lithosphere, give them a fake identity, and select them with a sixth round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Even though they lost Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosely, Za’Darrius Smith, and Terrell Suggs, there is a new batch of monsters already brewed to replace them. They went outside their laboratory to sign Earl Thomas, who will be spectacular at scurrying around the center of the field and suffocating quarterbacks to the sideline where they’ll have to throw right at their great cornerback group composed of Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, and Jimmy Smith.
The Ravens are purple and brutal and they should be at least a wildcard team.
Favorite Player: Brandon Williams
The Ravens finally decided that Joe Flacco’s corpse would no longer stink up their backfield, and decided now is the time for Lamar Jackson to take over the reigns. Jackson’s legs will steal the show, but it’s his passing that will need to manifest itself this season. Last season his QB passing charts were dotted with marks within the 5-10 yard region, and very few chucks beyond that marker. The Greg Roman offenses of the past have not been one’s which pushed the ball downfield so it’ll be interesting to watch how Jackson progresses as a passer in this system. He’s still going to be a phenomenal runner, he has talent like rookie Marquise Brown outside of him, and a slew of running backs to be his play action muses. These muses will also be another interesting point. The Baltimore backfield was a weird mess last year with Kennth Dixon, Alex Collins and Gus Edwards all having periods where they were getting the majority of the carries on the team. Edwards is still here as a change of pace back, but he is closely followed by new signee Mark Ingram, and rookie Justice Hill, who all look to split the carries.
Matt Judon kicks almighty ass.
Favorite Player: Lamar Jackson
T-16.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (27 Points)
The Steelers started off 2018 going 7-2-1 then they blew it in a phantasmagoria of losses to Denver, Los Angeles (C), Oakland, and New Orleans, but somehow finally beat the Patriots in a low scoring game, and ended with a crappy must win over Cincinnati that Antonio Brown didn’t suit up for. It didn’t matter anyways. It was like smearing feces over a painting before the shading could be completed.
Coming off this disaster is a team with the Bell and Brown sagas finalized, and a team that could be even better in 2019. They are projected to win 9.4 games, have a projected offensive DVOA of 8.5% (7th), and defensive DVOA of -5.0% (5th). They’ll need JuJu Smith-Schuster to prove his fantastic 2018 wasn’t mainly because of the attention Brown pulled away from him and gifted him his opponent’s second toughest matchups, and either James Washington, Donte Moncrief, or rookie Diontae Johnson to be a substantial presence as a second wide receiver. We know what Ben Roethlisberger is at this point. He’s around 7 yards per pass, 30 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He’ll need a bump from another receiver to maintain this same level of production.
This defense smashes, it goes, it rips, it slaps, when you ignore the secondary. Their are seven players on the front seven who all are worth watching the behind view of. Devin Bush is supposed to correct the problems they had covering tight ends and running backs with Ryan Shazier’s heart breaking injury. Pittsburgh will still have problems giving up deep passes, and the safety play is among the worst in the league, but when you have a front seven like they have, those problems matter less.
Plus, all of their games matter. The AFC North is the most interesting division race entering the 2019 season. Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh will be pummeling one another in brutal black and orange and purple battles. From the preseason perspective, they look like a team who can compete with Kansas City and New England in the AFC.
Favorite Player: JuJu Smith-Schuster
T-16.) CAROLINA PANTHERS (27 Points)
The old dog is trying to learn a new trick. After years of running a 4-3 defense based around front four pressure, two linebackers who can cover the entirety of the center of the field and sop up the run without needing a third, and minimizing the space a below average secondary needed to patrol, the Panthers are yowling to a 3-4 defense. It’s Mario Addison, Bruce Irvin, and Brian Burns--who has been absurd this preseason--on the outside. It’s Luke Kuechly, and Shaq Thompson on the inside. It’s a defensive line composed of Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Kawann Short, and Veron Butler’s last stand. This is intriguing, but what is more enticing is if they stick to this base defense after being one of the last defenses that plays more base than Nickle. Ahhh, esotericism at its finest.
The offense is just as interesting as the defense. Norv Turner spent last summer microdosing with his shaman and created an eclectic offense filled with screens, reverses, power runs, options, options off of jet sweeps, skill player passes, and even Christian McCaffery added a touchdown throw to his 13 total touchdowns, 8.1 yards a catch, 5.0 yards a carry, and 1,965 yards of total offense. Then Cam Newton mangled his shoulder. His passing DVOA dropped from 13.2% to -18.7% and their 6-2 season became fetid and rotten. He was slinging plates of pasta in a 1990s foodfight instead dead-eying throws across the field. Hopefully, he’s healthy again this season, and this wild ass offense is back and at it again. If so, the Panthers are a legitimate Superbowl contender, enacting their revenge in an even year, and could steal this division back from New Orleans.
Favorite Player: Cam Newton
Brian Burns is the absolute truth. If anything is going to make that 4-3 to 3-4 transition easier for Carolina it’s Burns tearing off the edge every snap.
The real interesting aspect of this team is what they are doing on offense. Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, and D.J Moore are all great short yardage receivers. This offense understands Cam Newton can’t sit in the pocket for 3 seconds anymore without getting his rib cage pummeled. Due to this, they’ve surrounded Cam with pieces who win in short yardage space and can create YAC YAC YAC. No more lofting wistful balls towards Devin Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin, this offense is all about the short game and making tacklers miss.
T-16.) ATLANTA FALCONS (27 Points)
This is absurd, and grotesque, but the thing I’m most excited to watch this year isn’t DeAndre Hopkins one handed catches, or Jalen Ramsey squabbles, or JuJu Smith-Schuster carrying an offense all on his own, or the Packers new edge rush, no, not at all. I’m most excited to watch the right side of the Falcons’ offensive line. Chris Lindstrom is cool and all, but have you ever spent your March giving your sword and shield to defend Kaleb McGary as a professional right tackle?
After explaining in detail about why McGary could be a great professional right tackle because of his hands, his quick outside zone steps, strength, leverage, and that his pass protection issues weren’t a quickness issue, but a technique issue, I’m dying for this to be reconfirmed. The Falcons kind of did this already by selecting him and keeping him at tackle while other players like Dalton Risner, Max Scharping, and Tytus Howard have already been moved to guard. McGary is a tackle dammit. And I can’t wait for everyone else to see why.
He may not start week one. He missed training camp because of a heart issue. It’s hard pushing all that blood through a 6’8” frame. Until he does, I’ll have to settle for the usual Falcons stuff, Alex Mack second level blocks, Julio Jones equine speed, DeVontae Foreman trying to revitalize his career, Calvin Ridley’s sticky hand route running, and the typical fast defense that is always hurt and can’t rush the passer.
Also bring back the old decrepit falcon. That enormous hanging wing epitomises evil and the dark forces that swirl around our fabricated reality based entirely on deception and distraction. I want Matt Ryan to look his best when he screams into the void, and is stuck in this body, glued to this team, and shackled by death.
Favorite Player: Kaleb McGary
The Falcons were gut punched a couple of years ago. 28-3. They lost the Super Bowl after being up big at one point, and things haven’t quite looked as green as they once did. They lost Baby Shans beautiful two back offense. They replaced him with Steve Sarkisian, who just never found the mojo the 2016 offense had.
It hasn’t been helped by the long long list of injuries, which have plagued Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones for periods of the past few seasons. They lost their detonator safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones for the majority of last season and it showed. This is a team in flux, still gifted with incredible talent like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Matt Ryan, but it’s strengths are nowhere near as pronounced as they once were. It doesn’t mean that they can still be fun. Tak McKinley and Vic Beasley live on the wide 9 and you know Mohamed Sanu is gonna throw a deep TD pass to someone. Watch the Falcons for their speedy defense, and Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones catching everything thrown towards them. After that you just gotta pray they all stay healthy.
Favorite Player: Julio Jones
T-12.) MINNESOTA VIKINGS (28 Points)
Gary Kubiak is one of our friends that we could confine in and drink with on random neighbor’s porch steps all the way into those until glossy eyed mornings when the red sun squabbling turns inebriation into a murky haze. For years we watched his outside zone offense that pulled the rug out to create easy play action throws. Nowadays, this gospel has been pushed to its outer limits. Play action is the staple of offenses, teams use the same personnel on every play to make every snap look the same, and the outside zone is run in some form or another by just about every team. Kubiak is kind of sort of back in Minnesota. He’s an advisor to the team. With his help, Kevin Stefanski is going to bring back the same old offense you know and love, the same one that developed your brain and made your bones big and strong.
The idea here is to get the most out of Kirk Cousins, and turn him into a $31 million version of Matt Schaub. He was supposed to be the missing piece to a Vikings Superbowl team. Instead Minnesota went 8-7-1, losing a week 17 game against the Bears who were playing for nothing, and skipped out on the playoffs entirely. Hmmmmm. I wonder where I’ve seen a Cousins season end like that before.
The funny thing is Cousins wasn’t that much different than he had been in Washington. He was less efficient, seeing his passing offense DVOA drop from 12% to -1.3%, but he averaged only .3 yards less per pass attempt, and was a slightly better downfield passer. The biggest difference came without pressure. On these snaps Cousins had a DVOA of only 39.2% and averaged 7.1 yards a play. He was under pressure 34.1% of the time (7th), and finished 6th in offensive DVOA under pressure. It was the best season he’s had under pressure, but he wasn’t accustomed to playing under duress, and it bled into the offense when things were comfy and clean.
To fix the offensive line Minnesota drafted Garrett Bradburry in the first round, and signed Josh Kline. They’ll try to learn how to love the outside zone in a year, and Dalvin Cook is the most important component to the offense. Last season he broke 42 tackles and averaged 4.6 yards a carry after coming back from an ACL tear. If he can one cut and go, and get Cousins passing against heavy boxes that can be manipulated under play action, things should be better for Minnesota. If not, the Vikings will be the same as any Kirk Cousins team. Mediocre with a chance to make the postseason at the end of the year, and every attempt so far has ended with a week 17 failure.
Favorite Player: Linval Joseph
T-12.) DALLAS COWBOYS (28 Points)
The Cowboys should regress to the mean this season. They went 9-3 in one score games, their turnover differential was +3, and they won 1.6 more games than expected. I think they fight off the regression orcs however. They’re passing offense was constipated by a lack of receiving talent until they traded for Amari Cooper. With Cooper they had a passing offense DVOA of 9.1%, which would rank 17th, and without Cooper they had a passing offense DVOA of -13.5%, which would rank 28th. Cooper won games single handedly for Dallas, and he transmogrified the Cowboys’ passing attack.
Dallas is the youngest team in football with a snap weighted age of 25.3. Young teams typically get better. It’s year two of the Jaylon Smith-Leighton Vander-Esch combo--every woman looks better with a nose ring and every linebacker looks better with a neck roll. Ezekiel Elliot and Dallas’s rushing offense DVOA went from 2nd to 18th without Travis Frederick, and their grizzled Skoal stained center is back this year. Dak and Cooper get another year together after Cooper’s addition bumped Dak’s yards an attempt by 0.8 yards, and his completion percentage by ten points.
From a schematic perspective, Dallas mixes its zone coverages well, and it’s always hilarious to see what no named defensive lineman Rod Marinelli can toss into the cauldron and indoctrinate his wizardry; I’m guessing Christian Covington has like seven sacks this year. Former backup quarterback Kellen Moore is the new offensive coordinator and has talked at length how he wants to use a wider variety of personnel packages, mask his plays, use Ezekiel Elliot as a receiver more often, and utilize the deep passing game. America is such a sad and vain society. If looks didn’t matter Moore would be on the cover of the ‘zines the kids are reading instead of Kingsbury.
Every summer the Cowboys are a Superbowl contender. It doesn’t matter what the roster looks like, or if Chad Hutchinson is the quarterback, because they are America’s team or whatever thanks to prehistoric television. This year it’s actually warranted. This may finally be the season Dallas turns all those steers into buildings made of mirrors.
Favorite Player: Tyron Smith
Listening to Kellen Moore this offseason has been interesting. A spread offensive attack in Dallas should have happened sooner considering Prescott’s ability to scramble and spread offenses ability to create shorter passing options. Getting Amari Cooper was an absolute boom, and now that Jerry Jones has stopped making bizarre metaphors for a second and paid Zeke Elliot, this offense should be really fun to watch. Jaylon Smith and Mr. Neckroll himself, Leighton Vander Esch, make a wonderful linebacker corps and Demarcus Lawrence is one of the best pass rushers in football. If Kellen Moore can be to this offense, what Ron Marinelli has been to this defense, then as much as it pains me to state it, this Dallas Cowboys team could be one of the best teams in the NFC this season. It all comes down to whether or not the rookie play caller really has figured this offense out.
Favorite Player: Demarcus Lawrence
T-12.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (28 Points)
The main trend in this exercise is novelty. Teams trying different things, and playing in a specific style is worth paying attention to. The ones that don’t are quickly forgotten until we are glued to armchairs like rats in a trap scouting for the upcoming NFL Draft. The Seahawks are the worst version of this. They ran the ball 534 times (2nd) and threw 427 passes (32nd). They run the ball and run the ball and run the ball. Then, finally, after all the slogging, Russell Wilson takes to the skies and unleashes the best deep ball in the game. Last season he attempted 94 deep passes, averaged 16.6 yards per throw, threw 16 touchdowns to 1 interception, and had a DVOA of 225.2% on these passes. Together, he and Tyler Lockett, created the most efficient passing tandem of all time.
The problem of course is they run the ball too much! Way too often. Their running backs had 445 carries last season. That’s too many! This season they’ll probably run the same sort of offensive scheme and do something similar. It’s fun because nobody else is doing something this absurd with splits this far out, but at the same time, it’s crappy, because it clips Wilson’s wings and prevents him from having the MVP level production he could possibly have.
They also just added Jadeveon Clowney. DAMMIT. I’ll miss him so much. The dreaded tornado, a reckless blur ordained with a necklace made from the ears of his enemies, was a flash bang tossed into the meth lab before the rest of his teammates came in and cleared up the rest. I’ve never seen a defender with such a sinister style. He’s one of the best run defenders in football, and a great pass rusher, something you’d overlook if you are one of those simpletons who only care about sack totals. I’m devastated that I can’t watch him play every Sunday. Watching him play is an experience. It’s not something that just glosses over you. The Texans are not only a worse team without him, but they are less enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, a batch of losers who call themselves 12s and copied the lamest university in the country, are going to have their Sundays enriched by Clowney as he rummages along the Seahawks 4-3 under front.
Favorite Player: Jadeveon Clowney
Zeke Ansah+Clowney+Jarran Reed is a terrifying rush. Clowney is a destroyer of worlds, and if Ansah and Reed can even somewhat match his impact, then the Seahawks might have their best defensive line since the Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett days.
As always, the question with Seattle is how much the offensive line will end up screwing with Russell Wilson, or will he just scamper away like he’s always done and say magic water prevents concussions. Seriously though, Wilson is a magician on the field and while his need to escape from a crumbling pocket is always going to be a knock on the Seahawks front office, Wilson does it better than anyone else.
Favorite Player: Jadeveon Clowney
9.) GREEN BAY PACKERS (29 Points)
Narratives are fun aren’t there? Coming into last season Matt LaFleur had Tennessee buzzing with excitement now that he would bring a super cool offense to the Titans. This didn’t happen. Marcus Mariota was hurt all season again, the same wall he hides behind after he throws for 122 yards in a game, and had his worst season in three years. The offense was worse than it ever was under Mike Mularkey’s exotic methmouth offense. They ran the ball all the time, in every situation, and turned their ground game into an ineffective slog until Derrick Henry evolved into a monstar the last month of the season. Despite not deserving a head coaching position based on previous results, LaFleur gets the chance to resurrect Aaron Rodgers from a really good fringe top ten quarterback into an elite one again.
Hopefully this happens. Football is better when Rodgers is great. LaFleur will try to do this by running a lot of play action and outside zone. He should concede to Rodgers, make this a partnership, and allow him to continue to throw the ball deep, making this passing offense a little more interesting and effective than the typical fifteen yard isolation outside breaking routes this offense survives upon. The biggest hurdle the passing offense has is their skill positions. They have one receiver in Davante Adams and are counting on Marquez Valdez-Scantling or Geronimo Allison providing competent wide receiver two play, which is also dependent on getting on the same moon cycle as Rodgers when he gets out of the pocket and improvises to create deep passing attempts.
That being said, I’m more excited to watch this defense. They added Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, and drafted Rashan Gary to improve the exterior and spice up a great interior rush consisting of Blake Martinez blitzing and Kenny Clark embarrassing guards. Last season, without an edge rush, they had 44 sacks. They should have a top five pass rush this season with Darnel Savage and Adrian Amos patrolling the middle of the field jumping on routes.
Favorite Player: Kenny Clark
Yeah who knows how the Matt LeFleur vs Aaron Rodgers battle is going to play out. LeFleur’s image for the Titans didn’t really manifest into anything beyond Derrick Henry being given the ball 30 times a game. Rodgers famously had a falling out with his previous coach over play calling so how those two mesh is going to be really interesting to watch. The Packers have a sneaky fun secondary with rookie Darnell Savage and second year corners Josh Jackson and Jaire Alexander, both should all be worth watching to see how they develop this year.
Favorite Player: Devante Adams
8.) CLEVELAND BROWNS (30 Points)
The Browns have done everything right. They allowed Sashi Brown to die for their sins to give them the draft capital and a canvas to paint once they finally lost enough games again to be granted the number one pick and find their franchise quarterback. This past offseason they added Kareem Hunt, Kevin Zeitler, Sheldon Richardson, Odell Beckham Jr. Jr., Adarius Taylor, Greedy Williams, and Olivier Vernon. They have the potential to have both a top ten offense and defense.
Most importantly, the Browns finally fired Hue Jackson. He went 3-36-1 in Cleveland. His trip to the guillotine allowed those with very smart and beautiful minds like mine, to end their Browns embargo, and make this franchise worth watching again. Under Jackson, Mayfield had a completion percentage of 58.1%, picked up 6.5 yards an attempt, took 20 sacks, and threw 8 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. Without him around, Mayfield completed 68.4% of his passes, picked up 8.5 yards an attempt, took 5 sacks, and threw 19 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. He also started relishing the deep ball and took to the deeper parts of the field more often.
The Browns should be a playoff team. But...it’s...still...the...Browns. Nothing good ever happens to them! Goblins and ghouls. Tired and cold. Depression is always lurking around the corner. Typically, the offseason winner doesn’t reap the expected awards from their investment the following regular season. It’s difficult to get all this movement working in unison right away, and Freddie Kitchens is a first year head coach, dealing with a stable of complicated and loud personalities who can afflict the team with their feelings. What about me dammit? Nobody ever asks me about how I feel!
I still like the Browns to make the playoffs along with Pittsburgh and Batlimore, but I’m wary. And even if all the attention heading into the season is going to Baker, Odell, and this offense, I’m most excited to see Myles Garrett’s Defensive Player Of The Year campaign. Last season he had 13.5 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, and 33 pressures when he was just about the entirety of the rush. Now he has Vernon and Richardson on the same line of scrimmage to create even more one v. one rushing opportunities. An 18+ sack season could be underway.
Favorite Player: Myles Garrett
Is it finally time? Is it finally time for the Cleveland Browns to cash in on all that good will and potential to finally make something of themselves. Baker Mayfield is the real deal, Myles Garrett is the real deal. They traded for Odell Beckham Jr! Everything is lined up to go right for the Browns. We’ve probably said that before in one of these previews, but for the first time it’s probably justified! Every part of this team looks stacked in some way. Their D-Line boasts Myles Garrett, Oliver Vernon, and Larry Ogunjobi. They are all absolute beasts. I could spend spend a few hours writing about Garrett alone. I HAVE IN THE PAST. He’s got that wondrous ability to just say ‘’F--you i’m going to sack the quarterback and there’s nothing you can do”. Jadeveon Clowney, Aaron Donald, and Khalil Mack all have that ability. Watching Garrett is going to be so fun this season. Opposite of that, Nick Chubb is still one of my favourite running backs in the world, and this offense, with all of its pieces healthy, should render the AFC North asunder.
This is the Browns though. As fun and cool as it would be to watch all of these dope players do dope things, it might be just as fun to watch the Browns screw this up so the Browns can stay the Browns.
Favorite Player: Nick Chubb
7.) CHICAGO BEARS (31 Points)
The Chicago Bears’ defense won’t be as good this year as it was last season. In 2018 the Bears had the eighth best defense in the history of DVOA at -26%, they forced 36 turnovers (1st) and 27 interceptions; 27!, allowed 5.4 net yards an attempt (1st), had a top ten pass rush in adjusted sack rate and pressure rate, and allowed 17.7 points a game (1st). They won’t force turnovers at this same absurd rate. Vic Fangio has been replaced by Chuck Pagano, who will exchange mind shearing coverages for a more blitz heavy defensive approach. The defense will still be extraordinary, and suffocating to watch: Khalil Mack, Eddie Godlman, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Roquan Smith, Akiem Hicks, and Leonard Floyd (who should finally drop the top this year) are all still here. They just won’t be as successful as they were last season.
The Bears are going to depend on the quarterback they selected ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to make up the difference they’ll lose on defense. I think he can do it. Mitchell Trubisky has made an enormous jump every season since he took over at North Carolina. Last season was no different. Under Matt Nagy his completion rate jumped by 7.2%, his net yards per pass by 1.2 yards, his DVOA by 20.4%, his DYAR by 567, his QBR by 43.6, and he threw 17 more touchdowns. He’s made enough great throws under pressure. He has wheels. It’s just going to be consistency for Trubisky.
Making Allen Robinson a vital part of this offense will be crucial for this offense. Last season he had a DVOA of -4.8%, he caught only 55 passes, and 4 touchdowns. The team’s best receiver was the human laser pointer Tarik Cohen. It’s unheard of for a running back to be a more efficient than a team’s best receiver, but here we are.
The only downside to watching the Bears on game pass are the hideous camera angles. There’s an episode of Hey Arnold! where Arnold and Gerald skip school and go to a baseball game among other things. They end up getting seats right behind the foul pole. These are the same seats the Bears’ film their All-22 from.
Favorite Player: Akiem Hicks
What I’m really interested in the Bears for this season is how Mitchell Trubisky develops. Trubisky was down in the DYAR dungeons last season with the likes of Joe Flacco, Matt Stafford and Eli Manning. His progression from year one to two has been steady. Matt Nagy is a good play caller. He can create space and separation for Trubisky to utilize, (this is also one of the main reasons why you should watch the Bears) however, Trubisky hasn’t really shown the big steps that you would expect of a quarterback who required a large number of assets to get. This might just be the time for Trubisky to take the next big leap.
Vic Fangio’s departure and just plain ole regression to the mean might not allow for this defense to be as dominant as it was last season, and if that’s the case, then the offense has got to pick up the slack. David Montgomery is a really nice replacement for Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen is still dope, and Allen Robinson is still waiting in the shadows to be the deep ball monster he was that one year in Jacksonville when Blake Bortles threw it deep on every snap. This is all good. The Bears just need Trubisky to tie it all together.
Maybe it’s the Irish in me, and being around lush verdant my entire life, but those first few weeks of the season before Chicago freezes and turns the field into a weird mix of green and brown, Soldier Field is one of the most aesthetically pleasing pitches to look at. Sure it’s been drawn upon to the point of vandalism, but it looks so gorgeous and inviting. If only they could get their cameras corrected. The All-22 angles are bad and the NFL should feel bad for how woeful they are.
Favorite Player: Tarik Cohen
6.) LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (32 Points)
The Chargers are cowards. I’ll never get over last season’s 41-28 loss to New England where they were down 41-14 for most of the game.. They can’t distract me from the truth by wearing powder blues every week. I don’t think I can ever care about this team again, and I think they end up missing the playoffs anyways.
Favorite Player: NOPE
Yeah the Chargers are going to be heading into the season without quite a few of their most interesting players. Melvin Gordon is holding out. Derwin James is on IR. There is still great talent left. Joey Bosa is still a whirling dervish of hands and feet. Mike Williams is an absolute boss of a contested catch receiver. The Chargers are sure as hell gonna find some random pass catching RB to ruin some poor linebacker’s ankles at some point during this season.
Favorite Player: Mike Williams
5.) LOS ANGELES RAMS (32 Points)
We know how the Rams work. 92% of their plays last year were in 1-1-3 personnel. Every play looked the same. Pre-snap motion, jetsweeps, and play action confused defenses into hurting themselves like a Saffron City vacation. They stretched the field horizontally, until it spread far enough to attack vertically. At the backbone of their game was an all-time great rushing attack that had a rush offense DVOA of 21.3% (1), averaged 4.9 yards an attempt (3), scored 23 touchdowns (2nd), picked 2,231 yards (2nd), and led the league in adjusted line yards with 5.49.
The Rams’ offense is no longer new. We get it. That being said, it will be interesting to see how Sean McVay’s expands upon it after scoring three points in the Super Bowl last year, and whether or not Bill Belichick cracked the skull. Additionally, they lost Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan and are replacing them with midround draft picks Joe Notebloom and Brian Allen. No one really knows just how healthy Todd Gurley is, and if he is, will they will caress him and ride him gently to the postseason, or have him lead the barrage? If the interior replacements don’t work out, and Gurley is more hurt than what has been let on, then we get to finally have the question, ‘Is Jared Goff good or not?’, answered.
As of now, I would say yes. However, this offense is driven by the run game, most of his throws are easy ones, and his head coach is whispering in his ear before every snap. If the run game trembles than Goff will have to make this offense go and make the rest around him better. This is one of the most intriguing questions for this season as the Rams try to add another level to last season’s success.
Favorite Player: Aaron Donald
4.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (32 Points)
Think of all those lost weekday daytime television watching souls at home, watching broadcast television through bunny ears crimped with aluminium, lost, alone, indecisive, looking for something, anything, to point them in the right direction, to show them the truth. Then she appeared during a Jerry Springer commercial break, head wrapped in bright pastels, her heart wide open, deciphering the future over the telephone to break the rules of time and bend reality, and break the chains that constrain us to living in the present, remembering the past, and not knowing what lies ahead. I called her yesterday, sadly, there was no answer. We are all stuck on our own; living in uncertainty forever.
The question I need answered is if Drew Brees’s end of season swoon was a slight drop in an illustrious 2018, or clues to the end of a career. From the Dallas game on Brees’s completion percentage was 68.7%, he threw 3 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, and averaged 6.4 yards an attempt. In weeks 1-12 he had a completion percentage of 76.5%, threw 29 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, and averaged 8.8 yards an attempt. In the NFC title game he completed one pass over fifteen yards, an eyes shut heave deep to Tedd Ginn Jr. that he had to come back and snag. This happened after Brees’ attempted 483 passes in the regular season, his lowest total since 2004.
Personally, I think Brees is done. The arm was floppy. He lacked a general zip. This all came after a low workload too. This is the typical 40. I don’t need a tarot reading. I don’t need to drink from four cups.
Even if Brees is purple and cold, the offense will still be fun to watch. New Orleans does a great job creating open throws. It’s fun and murderous watching the same play over and over again to figure out how they squirted out another 17 yard gain on 2nd and 6. Alvin Kamara v. Christian McCaffery is a fun would you rather. The offensive line is one of the best in the league. And Michael Thomas is the league’s best slot receiver even if he’s paid like an outside one. Hidden among it all is my cowardly heart, still holding out <3 for Teddy Bridgewater.
Lastly, I’ve always wondered why in the damn world their run defense is so good. This is finally the year I watch the film and do the math and figure it all out. I never let down the corroded sticky notes withering on my desk.
Favorite Player: Cameron Jordan
3.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (32 Points)
The Eagles are one of the rare complete teams in football. Scurry the depth chart, run along its baseboards, scramble to find hiding once the lights flick on, and try to find a weak spot. Because I sure as hell can’t. The only spot you can question is the cornerback group, but Ronald Darby is back, and the kids Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc eventually figured it out by the postseason after they took over for Darby and Jalen Mills.
The one concern isn’t a talent issue. It’s a durability issue. Carson Wentz had a back injury that led to Jesus taking the wheel for them again. Things got a little too spooky with Nick Foles in. It looked like he was going to do the damn thing again until he threw a golf ball brain interception against the Saints in the Divisional Round. If Wentz stays healthy, and stops throwing it to Zach Ertz every play, the Eagles are going to be a Superbowl Contender. If he doesn’t, get ready for some hot Nate Sudfeld action. YEHAW.
The component of the team I’m most excited to watch is the defensive line. Brandon Graham, Malik Jackson, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, and Derek Barnett running stunts off one another, and the occasional big blitz that Jim Schwartz learned to love last season, are diabolical demons for offensive lines.
Favorite Player: Brandon Brooks
2.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (33 Points)
Is it blasphemous for greatness to become predictable and boring? There’s nothing left to discover with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. We get it. They’re the best of all time. They are going to win the AFC East, win 12 games, capitalize on the easiest schedule in football, lockdown a first round bye, and probably play Kansas City in the AFC Championship game. They’ll do this by playing above average defense led by an interesting and creative pass rush, and a great secondary, that has seen Stephon Gilmore morph from really good to the best cornerback in the league under Belichick’s tutelage. New England is also going to lean on their power run game and play action passes until the last month of the season.
Then, once things really matter in December, Brady’s arm will bust out of its sarcophagus, and go back to heaving fireballs. Last season Brady had the best quarterback DVOA in the postseason, completed 69% of his passes, threw 6 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, took 2 sacks, and averaged 7.6 yards a pass over the last month of the season. It was absurd seeing his arm slowly come to life like some turd or tiny shriveled dinosaur you soak in water.
They’ll play meaningful games against Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Dallas, but the rest don’t matter. The answer has already been prewritten. Tune in only if you really love watching Shaq Mason pull and Mike Devlin lead the way on blocks that turn skulls into shrapnel.
Favorite Player: James Develin
1.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (36 Points)
It’s reasonable to expect the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense to regress in 2019. They scored 565 points. Patrick Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns (1st) and had a touchdown rate of 8.6% (a rate above 8% is rarely duplicated in a quarterbacks entire career), he gained 8.1 net yards an attempt (1st), had a passing DVOA of 62.9%, had a +2000 DYAR season, and led an offense with a DVOA of 34.2%. Typically I assume the numbers will be correct and right, but in this case, I don’t see a substantial drop off with this offense. The only weak spot is at the left guard and center position, but those positions don’t matter much on this team, and the Chiefs have been able to plug and play at these positions without a problem. Kansas City should once again have the league’s best offense this season.
My fingers should be chopped off for typing this, but the defense is even more interesting than the offense this season. We know they’re great. We know Mahomes is surreal. But the defense has killed their last two seasons. They finished last in run defense DVOA in each of the last two seasons. In 2017 it led to Derrick Henry going off and charging a Titans’ comeback playoff win in the Wildcard Round after Travis Kelce was knocked out by a concussion. In 2018 it led to the Patriots’ run offense stomping down the field with their power run attack, picking up 176 yards on 48 carries and scoring 4 touchdowns--including the game winning one in overtime--and limiting the time Mahomes had the ball.
To try and fix a defense that allowed 5 yards a carry they changed from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense to put another body along the line of scrimmage. They then traded for Frank Clark, signed Alex Okafor and Darron Lee, and moved on from their 3-4 edge rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford. Their pass rush may not be as good this season, but it should still be obtrusive with this front four. Jones, Clark, Okafor, and Derrick Nnadi had a total of 35.5 sacks, 40 quarterback hits, and 122 quarterback pressures last season. But most importantly, they shouldn’t field the worst run defense in football next season and allow those hidden problems to come seeping out in the most important games of the season.
The Chiefs are fast and fun and should play the Patriots in the AFC Championship game once again, and this time, things may actually be different.
Favorite Player: Chris Jones