BEFORE YOU GET TOO FAR, TAKE A MOMENT AND CONSIDER A CHARITABLE DONATION: PUTTING THE FUN IN FUNDRAISING
Eight days from now the NFL will kick off the 100th season of pro football as the Green Bay Packers will be traveling to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears. The league opted to forgo the usual practice of the reigning champs opening the league year in favor of bringing us one of the league’s premier rivalries.
So when the league kicks off next Thursday night, what can we expect from its 32 members? A little bit from every team:
- The Seahawks will be a ground and pound team. Sure Russell Wilson will occasionally look for Tyler Lockett, but the Seagulls bread and butter will be handing it off to Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. As a result the Seagulls will finish 3rd in the division
- The 49ers will be one of the surprise teams of the year. They’ve certainly struggled this pre-season as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has looked like Uncle Rico playing quarterback (in terms of results, in terms of appearance that honor falls to Aaron Rodgers and his porn star mustache). But once the season gets going Tevin Coleman will get going, and Garoppolo will plenty of interesting weapons to play with as rookie receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd can do some things with the ball in their hands.
- The Cardinals will be riding the struggle bus. They’ve added some interesting components to run Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid offense, but their secondary still has more holes than a nice piece of swiss cheese. If the Houston Oilers couldn’t win with the run & shoot offense with Warren Moon under center, I don’t have a whole lot of faith in Kyler Murray pulling it off. On the plus side, I’d expect a big year from David Johnson.
- Can the Rams avoid the pittfalls that make it so difficult to make it back to the big game? The pittfalls that have blocked everyone from returning, except of course the Patriots who have made the game 4 out of the last 5 seasons, including the last 3. The return of Cooper Kupp will bolster the offense. The defense again looks good on paper, and Wade Phillips is one of, if not the best in the business when it comes to running a defense. Ultimately though the Rams ability to make another playoff run will come down to the health and effectiveness of Todd Gurley.
- Its now been a couple full seasons since the collapse in the Super Bowl. You remember the one, where they coughed up a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots when James White morphed into Super TecmoBowl Bo Jackson. Its tough to remember that the Falcons were even there as they just feel like a pretty good, but never great team. Capable of ending a year from anywhere between 7-9 and 11-5. Dan Quinn enters his fifth year. He’s made a superbowl, but it wouldn’t shock if missing the playoffs costs him his job. Playing in this tough division won’t help his cause.
- Its tough to say that a former #1 overall pick is on his last chance, but the 25 year old entering his 5th season has not been inked to an extension. If the Buccaneers organization considered him a franchise QB this would be unheard of. He does have a golden opportunity in front of him though as Bruce Arians has been brought in. He’s got some nice targets with Mike Evans being Mike Evans and both Chris Godwin and OJ Howard looking poised to have breakout seasons. The thought here is that Bruce Arians does what Bruce Arians does, only to see Winston walk in the off-season (bonus prediction, Andrew Luck takes the 2019 season off, and comes back in 2020 joining Arians in Tampa Bay) for big bucks elsewhere.
- We’re not even to the regular season and Cam Newton is already banged up. With Luke Keuchly returning to man the middle of the defense the team will be able to compete on any given Sunday. Ultimately though there just isn’t enough on the roster to be a legit championship contender. In spite of Riverboat Ron Rivera being in the upper echelon of NFL coaches. Expect results in the 8-8 to 10-6 range.
- Drew Brees just keeps chugging along. WIth Michael Thomas all sunshine and rainbows following his big extension it all feels like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. With a defense that can support a championship, a hall of fame quarterback, and an electric running back in Alvin Kamara, the Saints are poised to make a Super Bowl run as long as there isn’t any ….. interference.
- Matt Stafford, the Dominique Wilkins of the NFL. Lots of nice big numbers. But little in the way of actual results. Actually, that just makes him a Lion. The shiny new tow in Mo-Town is second year running back Kerryon Johnson. Between Johnson looking like a perennial 1000 yard threat, Kenny Golladay emerging, along with the additions of future stud tight end TJ Hockenson, and slot receiver extrodinaire Danny Amendola, the Lions will put up points. The defensive line looks solid, and Slay with Diggs can handle one side of the defensive backfield, but overall its still a work in progress. With the Vikings, Bears, and Packers in the division, there isn’t a whole lot of hope the Lions make a big move in the standings.
- Da Bears… are ready for another big season. Some expect a regression with a tougher schedule and Vic Fangio now roaming the sidelines for the Broncos. Don’t count me among them. There was a bit of lateral movement in the secondary as Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos left for gr$$ner pastures. In their place Ha Ha Clinton Dix came back to the mid-west and Buster Skrine slides over into the slot from the Jets. The biggest improvement will come from the linebacking core. The initial assumption is that it’ll be because Khalil Mack was around for an entire off-season. Really though it’ll be because former Georgia Bull Dog Roquan Smith is entering his second year and poised to be an absolute beast. On offense you can expect a bump in the run game production as Jordan Howard was sent to the Eagles and replaced with rookie David Montgomery and veteran Mike Davis. Between them I would expect a more potent run game. Overall you can expect another playoff appearance.
- Nipping at the Bears heels all year will be the Green Bay Packers. One of the “surprise” developments this season will be the drastically improved Packers defense. In the modern NFL it appears the key to a solid defense is the ability to put pressure on the quarterback, and to have a talented secondary. Well, this off-season saw the Packers re-vamp their safety group with the signing of Adrian Amos from the division rival Bears, as well as the drafting of Darnell Savage late in the first, and the safety from Maryland is well, savage. Along with the new bodies will be the natural sophomore leap from last year’s first and second round picks, a pair of ball hawking corners, Jaire Alexander, and Josh Jackson. Combined with veteran Tramon Williams and 2017 second rounder Kevin King the Packers quietly have one of the best secondaries in the NFC. To make the guys in the back look better the Packers acquired 3 very good pass rushers. I wouldn’t call any of the three premier, but as a group the additions of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary should provide a healthy boost to the pass rush.
- And where one teams goes up, another must come down. The Vikings made one terrific move by drafting center Garrett Bradbury in the first, the line is still probably a year away from being decent. By that time fellow draftee Dru Samia will be ready to line up next to Bradbury to own guys inside. The big news was the return of outside backer Anthony Barr after initially agreeing to join the Jets. At the end of the day the Vikings will still be pretty good, but will end up right around 8-8, and good enough for 3rd place in the division.
- Speaking of third place in the division, it’ll be a real dog fight in the NFC Least to see who can finish third, the Redskins or Giants. Its the belief here that the Giants actually had a good draft. It may not pay the immediate dividends that New Yorkers want, but in a couple years I expect there will be as many as 8 contributors drafted for the Giants this spring. With expected increased contributions from second year players Will Hernandez, Sam Beal, and Lorenzo Carter, and an outstanding running back in Saquon Barkley the Giants are not bereft of talent. It’ll be a year of taking their lumps for sure, but they’ll look back on 2019 as a year their future success was built upon.
- All you need to know about the Redskins upcoming season is that Trent Williams will not be playing on their offensive line, but Ereck Flowers will. Jay Gruden, in what will be his last season in Washington, did the smart thing in handing the keys to Case Keenum, because to toss Dwayne Haskins, the future of their franchise to the wolves this early could damage him for the rest of his career. The Redskins will limp through the 2019 season before unveiling their new dynamic duo of Dwayne Haskins and Bryce Love in 2020 following what hopefully amounts to their red-shirt years. IF they were smart they’d start sending out any veterans with any sort of value to acquire future draft capital. Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Josh Norman, even Ryan Kerrigan should be gone. Keep Haskins, Love, Brandon Scherff, and their 3 young stud defensive linemen (Montez Sweat, DaRon Payne, and Jonathan Allen). They are the only ones who should be on this roster come 2022. This season should see them extensively watching Ohio State’s Chase Young (DE) and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas (OT)
- All the talk has been about the current version of the Cowgirl’s Big 3 (Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper) but truly this is a team loaded with talent. Michael Gallup is poised to break out as Prescott’s #2 option. The offensive line is obviously loaded with talent, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zach Martin are all amongst the best at their position, and expect 2nd year former Longhorn Conor Williams to make a name for himself this year. This will likely be the last year of La’el Collins as they’ve already drafted former Penn State guard Connor McGovern to replace him. On the defensive side of the ball you have Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence bookending a pass rush. A pass rush that would be even more potent if Randy Gregory could avoid suspensions, and if Taco Charlton could live up to his first round draft status. The linebacking duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch is second only to the Bears’ Mack and Smith. The Cowboys have spent the last quarter century failing to meet expectations. With all these contracts coming due at the same time, 2019 is the year they need to make their move, and making a move to Super Bowl Sunday is absolutely within their grasp.
- One time at band camp the Eagles actually won a Super Bowl, and omg, that makes them the greatest franchise ever! Their quarterback is the bestest ever in the whole wide world…. even though he’s never actually won a playoff game. Seriously though, the Eagles are capable of making another run if Carson Wentz can stay healthy. Something he thus far has not shown the propensity to do. A deep set of running backs (deep, though none are really outstanding), a talented receiving core, and the potential to run some nice 2 tight end sets all mean the Eagles can put some points on the board. Even with the losses of Chris Long and Michael Bennett the team still has a deep pass rushing group. The soft underbelly of this defense though is their secondary. Its not bad certainly, but is it championship quality? The group will be as good as 10 year vet Malcolm Jenkins will make them. As long as Wentz is healthy this is a playoff team.
- The Broncos play in the Mile High City… and they’ll be miles away from the playoffs and you’ve gotta be high if you think they have a shot at a successful season. They’ll have a ferocious pair of pass rushers wreaking havoc all season, but the secondary isn’t what it once was and the offense has been put into the incapable hands of Joe Flacco. Was 2018 a flash in the pan for undrafted running Philip Lindsay or the start of a brilliant career… best guess here is you may want to cover your eyes so that flash doesn’t hurt them. The lone bright spot this year on offense will likely be 2nd year receiver Courtland Sutton. Even first round tight end Noah Fant is expected to have some growing pains.
- The best hope for the Broncos not finishing in the AFC West division cellar is the fact that the Raiders are in the same division. They’ve made some nice off season moves; Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, LaMarcus Joyner, Brandon Marshall, Vontaze Burfict, and Trent Brown. But they were so devoid of talent that they’re really building from the ground up. The Raiders hopes hinge on the arm of Derek Carr. With a revamped receiving group this is a big year for the youngish QB. How he performs this year will dictate if he’s making the move to Las Vegas, or if Allegiant Stadium will be broken in by a 2020 draftee. Best guess here? Justin Herbert will be throwing the first pass on the strip.
- If a team wins its division, but no one is in the stands to see it happen, does it really happen? That’s a philosophical question that will be posed this year as the Los Angeles Chargers will surprise many to nose ahead of the Chiefs for the division crown. In spite of the Melvin Gordon holdout the Chargers will end up being the class of the AFC West. If Philip Rivers can restrain himself from procreating any further, he’ll have enough energy to wrestle the crown from the young, electric Patrick Mahomes. Expect big things out of the Keenen Allen/Mike Williams duo. A lot will be asked early on of rookie safety Nasir Adderly while Derwin James is out, but that load will only benefit the Chargers when it matters most in the playoffs.
- I’m so old that I remember when Patrick Mahomes’ dad was a top prospect coming up for the Twins. The Chiefs offense will once again be stellar, regardless of who bears the brunt of the rushing workload. The big question continues to be the defense. They made some changes, from scheme, to coordinator, to personnel. But did they improve, or just become different? My take, and I stand alone on this island, is that Andy Reid is brilliant when he has time to map out and plan. His summer spent coming up with game plans, schemes, and plays will be fantastic. But when its in the middle of the game, and the team takes a punch to the face, he isn’t that great and reading and reacting.
- With Big Dick Nick running the show in Jacksonville instead of Blake Bortles will that equal a turnaround season for the Jaguars? It wasn’t that long ago, roughly 18 months, that it was thought that the only thing standing between the North Florida Cats and a Superbowl appearance was even just mediocre quarterback play. Leonard Fournette has enjoyed an up and down career and is now flying well below the radar of most. The receivers are nothing great, but not devoid of talent. Its the defense where the Jaguar’s bread gets buttered. Could this be the last ride of Jalen Ramsey, or at least his last ride in Jacksonville? They got gifted Josh Allen, the pass rusher, in the first round. The belief here is that they’re looking to be in the mix for a wild card playoff spot.
- Speaking of in the mix for a wild card spot, let me introduce you to the Luck-less Colts. With Andrew Luck under center the Colts were expected to be competing for a spot in the big game. With Brissett it feels more likely that they’ll be more in that .500 range. The star of the show, even if he doesn’t get the headlines or fantasy football acclaim is second year guard Quenton Nelson. If the Colts get a few weeks into the season and realize this is a toss away season it wouldn’t shock if T.Y. Hilton is shipped out at the trade deadline to help their draft position.
- Its tough to say, because we’re fans of Mike Vrabel here at You’re Ducking Right. But he’s in a tough spot. The Titans have a solid secondary, good front seven, a nice offensive line, a better than average work horse running back in Derrick Henry, a nice change of pace back in Dion Lewis, some good receivers, but are absolutely mediocre at quarterback. All of that adds up to a mediocre season. Between Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill the Titans have one solid quarterback, split amongst two players. As a result they’re poised to be a decent team, but a decent team that’ll finish last in the division.
- The viability of the Texans’ championship aspirations will hinge upon how these two questions are answered; who replaced Lamar Miller at running back? And where is Ja’Deveon Clowney playing this season? If they can come up with a viable answer for the first question, and Houston is the answer for the second they could play deep into this post season. DeShaun Watson certainly has some toys to play with. Recently acquired Duke Johnson is a real weapon out of the backfield, toss him in with the three amigos, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller IV, and Keke Coutee and the Texans will have the most potent air attack in the state of Texas since Warren Moon was looking for Haywood Jeffries, Ernest Givens, Curtis Duncan, and crew with the Oilers. Worst case scenario, that ought to be good enough to get them to the playoffs and a division tittle.
- The AFC North will be a fun division to watch as the divisions’ past fights to hang onto their present. All but one team has a chance to take home the crown, and all but one team has a chance to claim a playoff berth. The Bengals are that one in the all but one scenario. A very average quarterback, a mediocre line, a beat up hall of fame receiver, and a running back with a checkered past all add up to an offense on the verge of collapse. When you consider the defense isn’t good enough to carry them and its safe to say that the Bengals will be spending some time this year scouting the top end collegiate quarterbacks as they anticipate a top ten selection next spring.
- The Browns have top end talent across the board, and a quarterback on a rookie contract meaning they have the salary cap ability to carry this load for a few years. That’s the good news. The cautionary tale is that they have a rookie head coach who’s rise has been somewhat meteoric. Also, as much as the team can trot out top end starters across the board, they’re about as deep as a conversation between Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. The concern is how long it’ll take the team to gell, and how they’ll handle adversity, which will come in some form or another. The team is displaying a lot of arrogance in how they’ve conducted themselves in the media, or at least their visible stars have. Which all leads to this conclusion, this is a boom or bust scenario. They’re either going to be really good, or the combustible situation will combust. The guess here is that 2019 is a good year for them.
- Now the Ravens are a team living off reputations. The defense’s glory days are well behind them. The last vestiges gone with the departure of Terrell Suggs. Earl Thomas lends instant credibility to the secondary, but the front seven is now unproven. On offense I expect 2019 to be a season of growing pains. Eventually this may be looked at as a good learning experience for the Ravens’ three headed monster of Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown, and Justice Hill. But this will be a season where the group takes its lumps. John Harbaugh will have this roster competing, but they don’t have a realistic shot at doing anything significant.
- The long running soap opera in Pittsburgh has been canceled. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, NFL football. The Steelers really have become a factory for wide receivers the last 20 years. Out goes Antonio Brown, but now playing the part of go to stud receiver will be former USC Trojan JuJu Smith Schuster. Sliding into the role of understudy is second year receiver James Washington. Big Ben is still the traffic cop, forcing balls into whatever tight window or bar bathroom he sees fit. James Conner will always give me pause, just because of his past medical history. The good news is that I expect Benny Snell Jr. to emerge as a viable alternative. Worst case Jaylen Samuels has already proven himself capable. In spite of what he was able to do in his cameo as an every down back, the belief here is still that Samuels’ long term future is in morphing into a Keith Byers or Charles Clay type player. The distance the Steelers can go this year depends largely upon how well rookie linebacker Devin Bush Jr. acclimates to the pro game. And based upon reports through the pre-season things are looking up in Western Pennsylvania.
- Ace Ventura may as well be lining up at linebacker for the Dolphins. Its not like they stand any reasonable chance of not finishing last in the division. First year head coach Brian Flores has his work cut out for him. The good news is that the commentary coming out of the owner’s box and front office all indicates that they know this will be a long term turn around and not a quick fix. Originally it felt like they were looking towards the 2020 draft for their savior. Recently though the feeling has been inkling out that they’ve got their eyes on Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in 2021. It feels like it should be time to sell on their viable veterans, but honestly that list begins and ends with left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Undrafted rookie Preston Williams has been the reported bright spot of camp. Between Roberto Luongo’s retirement, the Marlins being the Marlins, and the Heat continuing to wade in the bog of NBA mediocrity it’s been a long year in Miami. The good news is that they still have South Beach.
- On the other hand, Buffalo does not have South Beach. Not even remotely close. Nothing about the western New York region screams beach, nor south, unless you’re reading this in Manitoba. There is some reason for optimism though. They’ve got a young quarterback with a cannon for an arm that they hope to harness. They’ve got 2 war horses at running back lining up in front of 2019 draftee Devin Singletary (I say 2 war horses, it would not be the least bit shocking to see LeSean McCoy shipped out to a running back needy team like say Houston before final cuts are made) and some real interesting pieces on defense. That defense is good enough to keep the Bills in an awful lot of games. If Allen can manage to minimize turnovers the Bills could push for a wild card spot. Entertainment wise I’m expecting at least 3 touchdowns of 60 yards or more this season from the Josh Allen-John Brown combo. They say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
- The Jets have a solid argument for why they’re improved. A couple of marquee free agent acquisitions in the form of C.J. Mosley, and Le’Veon Bell. An improved aerial assault with Jamison Crowder manning the slot position with Robby Anderson stretching the field, all led by an anticipated sophomore season leap from Sam Darnold. A potentially devastating defensive line duo as Quinnen Williams pairs with Leonard Williams. And an All Pro level safety in Jamal Adams. The pause comes when you remember every other NFL team that has won the off season since the free agency era began that flopped when the real games are played. The feeling here is that the Jets are improved. Improved enough to challenge for a play off spot, but not good enough to overtake the kings of the hill.
- As we’ve seen from the trailers for Rise of Skywalker, you can’t get rid of the Emperor. A feeling of menace that has lane over not just the AFC East, but the AFC in general for the last 2 decades. This year will be more of the same. The manner in which they achieve their success may be a bit different though. This offense is positioned to beat you through the air as Brady has what could be his deepest and most talented group of receivers ever (Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth would beg to digger). The could be comes from several question marks. Can Josh Gordon stay of the weeeeeeed? What does DeMaryius Thomas have left in the tank? And how quickly can first rounder N’Keal Harry find his groove in the NFL? The good news is that if all else fails, the team can line up and run the ball down your throat with Sony Michel and rookie Damien Harris. On defense is where the greatest improvement will come though. Maybe I shouldn’t say improvement as this team held the high scoring Rams to 3 points in the superbowl after holding the Chiefs scoreless for a half in the AFC championship game. Maybe the better way to put it is that the unit will receive the recognition they’ve earned. The team is deep and versatile at every level of the defense. They can put pressure on the quarterback from all angles, and lock guys down in the secondary, a winning formula. A 4th straight February appearance isn’t out of the question.
- Los Angeles Rams
- San Francisco 49ers
- Seattle Seahawks
- Arizona Cardinals
- New Orleans Saints
- Atlanta Falcons
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Carolina Panthers
- Chicago Bears
- Green Bay Packers (Wild Card)
- Minnesota Vikings
- Detroit Lions
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Dallas Cowboys (Wild Card)
- New York Giants
- Washington Redskins
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Kansas City Chiefs (Wild Card)
- Oakland Raiders
- Denver Broncos
- Houston Texans
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Indianapolis Colts
- Tennessee Titans
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Cleveland Browns (Wild Card)
- Baltimore Ravens
- Cincinnati Bengals
- New England Patriots
- Buffalo Bills
- New York Jets
- Miami Dolphins
SUPERBOWL PREDICTION: PATRIOTS OVER COWBOYS
Other things to look for:
NFL MVP: Deshaun Watson – Quarterback – Houston Texans
NFL DPOY: Aaron Donald – Defensive Tackle – Los Angeles Rams
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: David Montgomery – Running Back – Chicago Bears
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Devin Bush – Linebacker – Pittsburgh Steelers
COACH OF THE YEAR: Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers
RUNNING BACKS SELECTED ON THE DRAFT’S THIRD DAY TO KEEP AN EYE ON IN 2019:
Every year at least one late round running back emerges from the shadows to make his mark on the league. Who are some names to be on the look out for this year?
- #113 Justice Hill – Baltimore Ravens – Oklahoma State
- #122 Benny Snell Jr. – Pittsburgh Steelers – Kentucky
- #128 Tony Pollard – Dallas Cowboys – Memphis
- #211 Rodney Anderson – Cincinnati Bengals – Oklahoma
- #214 Darwin Thompson – Kansas City Chiefs – Utah State
BONUS PREDICTION THAT IS COMPLETELY UNJUSTIFIED BUT IS SIMPLY A GUTT FEELING THAT ISN’T NFL RELATED BUT WILL BE A STORY LINE DURING THIS FALL’S FOOTBALL SEASON:
Shea Patterson, quarterback at Michigan, will win the 2019 Heisman Trophy. The last two winners have been former transfer quarterbacks, so why not Patterson? (I know, by that logic I could say the last 2 winner have been quarterbacks who transferred to Oklahoma, making Jalen Hurts the front runner. But I didn’t have a random weird dream in the spring that Hurts wins the Heisman, so let someone else predict him the winner, I’m sticking with Shea)
- Written by Jason Sullivan
- Find us on Twitter at @TopDucker or on Facebook at You’re Ducking Right