2018-2019 NFL Regular Season

I’ll try to place teams in various tiers at some point, but for now I just want to give a few general thoughts about the upcoming season.

1. Nothing else matters if the OL sucks. That applies to Seattle, but, no, I’m not only talking about them. When I read about the excitement of the upcoming season, primarily the impact that new players and coaches can have for teams, lurking under that is the hard reality that none of this matters if the team’s OL stinks. For the league, overall, too many teams have mediocre or even terrible OLs, will lead to a bad season–at least from my vantage point.

2. Will there be any great defenses? There really hasn’t been a defense at the same level as the 2013 Seahawks or the 2015 Broncos. That’s not a fair standard, but feel like the defenses haven’t been as good as 2013 Panthers or Harbaugh’s best Niner defenses, either. The Vikings have been a very good defense, but not quite dominant. Same with the 2017 Jaguars. (In my view, the latter gives up way too many explosive plays, particularly in crucial moments.) Both are close to being dominant, so it could definitely happen in 2018. I love great defense, so I hope so.

One point about this. The presence or absence of this type of defense will say a lot about which teams can and will win it all. Once you have a 2-3 good teams with dominant defenses, that will significantly reduce the chances of a number of good teams from winning it all. That’s how important this question is.

34 thoughts on “2018-2019 NFL Regular Season

  1. This is a list of odds for players (or should I just say QBs) to win the MVP in the upcoming season:
    Rodgers 13/2
    Brady 7/1
    Wentz 19/2
    Brees 15/1
    Wilson 15/1
    And then fours QBs at 20/1 – Garoppolo, Newton, Ryan, and Watson.

    The top non-QBs are Gurley and Bell at 40/1.

    Note there is big fall off from Wentz to Brees and Wilson.

  2. Those odds for Garoppolo and Watson aren’t good enough for my money. I would need Gurley odds. The bookmakers are taking advantage of silly fans with too-high expectations. As that Deadspin piece reminds us, the Texans were 3-4 with Watson starting.

  3. Mitchell,

    My first thought was like you, how can those two guys be so high? But the MVP award has more to do with how the team does than how the player does. In most cases they go hand-in-hand, but not always. I know you had Seattle’s win total pretty high, but I will be surprised if they are a playoff team, especially if Earl leaves. That means I would rather put my money on Watson and Garoppolo over Wilson, despite my having doubts over the first two. Yes I have slightly more confidence that the Niners (who won like 5? games with Garoppolo as QB) will make the playoffs over the Hawks.

    But overall I agree with you those odds are too low for me as well. I would rather put my money on Cousins and Goff who both were both at 22/1 (or somewhere around there).

  4. I pretty much agree with everything Don said in his last post (and things I disagree with would be too slight to argue over). Basically, a QB that puts up good numbers and plays on a team that wins a lot will be in the best position to win the MVP. You could argue Wilson was an MVP last year, but because of what I described (which is the standard that is used), Wilson didn’t have much of a chance. If Watson can come close to repeating his performance, and the Texan defense is really good, you can see them winning a lot of games. In that scenario, Watson would be a serious contender.

  5. I retract everything I said if Reid is going to agree with it. No, but I may have to retract that I would take Goff over Watson and Garappolo. If a Ram would have won the MVP last year it would have been Gurley not Goff, so I probably would pick Watson and Garappolo over Goff.

  6. No, but I may have to retract that I would take Goff over Watson and Garappolo. If a Ram would have won the MVP last year it would have been Gurley not Goff, so I probably would pick Watson and Garappolo over Goff.

    I actually agree with this, too. If the Rams have a great season, Goff could win the MVP, but having Gurley also lessens the chances a bit.

    I wish I could argue more vigorously against Don’s comment about the Seahawks, but I really can’t. I think Seahawks getting into the playoffs depends heavily on the Rams and NIners not living up to expectations. Their chances likely depend quite a bit on other NFC teams not living up to expectations as well. (Baldwin is out several weeks. They’re hoping he’ll be ready by regular season. If they don’t have him, they’re screwed.)

  7. This is really a reply to Reid’s original post. I’m guessing you can only reply to comments and not original posts?

    I was listening to The Ringer NFL podcasts, and one of their points was that teams are even more cognizant of getting a franchise QB than ever before. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but if it is, should a team’s strategy now be to concentrate on building a good o-line and defense and win that way? Would that be a way to try and win by “going against the flow” and make moves against what most (if not all) of the other teams are doing?

    1. This is really a reply to Reid’s original post. I’m guessing you can only reply to comments and not original posts?

      I think you can respond to original posts, too.

      I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but if it is, should a team’s strategy now be to concentrate on building a good o-line and defense and win that way? Would that be a way to try and win by “going against the flow” and make moves against what most (if not all) of the other teams are doing?

      The problem with this approach, in my view, is that OL and defenses are not easy to build and sustain. The other thing is that your defense if going to have to be close to great to give your team a chance to win the Super Bowl. Sustaining that type of defense seems really difficult. By the way, I think the Steelers have been a team that has employed this strategy–and they were wandering the desert for most of the 80s and 90s because of this.

      The one idea I’ve mentioned before is to try to install a college style offense, utilizing a running QB. You’d need at least two QBs to do this, and you could probably get both for relatively cheap. But I still think you need a really good defense.

      What I said earlier about a great defense bums me out a little. It’s not really a sustainable path. On the other hand, if you have a good ball control offense, the defense doesn’t need to be great.

      Having a really good QB gives your team a chance to be competitive for a very long time. One problem with this, if you decided to have a more pass-oriented offense, is that winning a Super Bowl will be difficult if there are opponents that have a great defense and ball control offense.

      1. But the hit a QB makes on a team’s salary cap, you literally could get three to four great (pro bowl type) o-linemen and defensive players.

        I agree with one thing though, getting a great QB is easier to sustain greatness barring injury over having like 6-7 great players.

        1. But the hit a QB makes on a team’s salary cap, you literally could get three to four great (pro bowl type) o-linemen and defensive players.

          Are you sure? That doesn’t sound right? Maybe two great O-linemen and one great defensive player (especially not on the DL). I guess it depends on how great these players are. What’s the optimal situation in this scenario–in terms of position? Maybe one great O-lineman, a great edge rusher, and maybe a great DT? Let’s say you get Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and Travis Frederick, or you could Aaron Rodgers.

  8. AFC East

    Patriots: Key players need to stay healthy and they can’t lose too many players to injuries, but assuming this occurs, it’s all about Belichick in my view. How far they go, whether they win it all also depends on whether there is really a great team(s) out there–particularly one with a great defense, and run game. If there isn’t a team like that, I would say Patriots are in the hunt for another Super Bowl.

    Jets: I’m rooting for Todd Bowles, but I’m really interested in this team because of their new OC, Jeremy Bates, a Mike Shanahan disciple. (The Bills former OC, Rick Dennison, was also a long time assistant of Gary Kubiak, and I believe he’s not with the Jets.) If Bates can get the Jets to execute the ZBS like Shanahan, this might be one of my favorite teams.

    Bills: I don’t think I have much to say about the Bills. Based on the comments about Josh Allen, I think the chances of him having success are low, but he seems to be doing well so far, so we’ll see.

    Dolphins: My sense is that Adam Gase is a solid offensive coordinator, but the Dolphins have been a mess for a long time. I’ll believe they’re good when I see it.

    1. AFC North

      Steelers: My feeling: They may have a good record, but who cares because they lose in the playoffs if they face the Patriots.

      Ravens: Flacco has had a bad supporting cast for the past several years (especially pass catchers), but that doesn’t seem to be the case, and the running game should be better. He has less excuse. (I’m not a fan of Mornhinweg, though.) As for their defense, their defense hasn’t bee as good in recent years; I’ve heard they were statistically good last year, but not by my eye-test.

      Bengals: I don’t have a good sense about this team.

      Browns: I’m rooting for Baker, but Mike Lombardi’s observations about Hard Knocks are correct, I think they might be a mess.

      AFC South

      Jaguars: I still think Bortles has the yips. If that’s accurate, I think that can be really hard to overcome. Also, their defense really needs to cut down on explosive plays. If that happens they could be a dominant defense.

      Texans: If Watson performs as well as last season, and the defense is good, they could win the division and be formidable in the playoffs. I tend to think Watson will regress, partly because defenses will be better prepared to defend their misdirection offense.

      Titans: They look bad in the preseason. Mariota looks like he’s gotten worse. Still, I don’t trust what I see in the preseason. I hope I’m wrong.

      Colts: Defensively, they look horrid, and I think on paper they’re not good, either. Luck’s supporting cast doesn’t look good. If they have a good season, a lot of this is going to be Luck (no pun intended).

      AFC West

      Chargers: They’ve got the talent. If the defense takes another step and the run game is solid, they should be contenders. But that’s been said about this team quite often in the past.

      Chiefs: My guess is that if Mahomes can limit turnovers, they can be really competitive. I have no idea about their defense, though.

      Broncos: I don’t have a good sense about this team, but I would assume the addition of Chubb gives them a chance to approach the 2015 level.

      Raiders: My thought: Gruden could return the franchise to the last chapter of Al Davis’s career. Nauseating.

      ***

      Off the top of my head, here the first tier AFC teams, ranked in order:

      1. Patriots
      2. Chargers
      3. Jaguars
      4. Steelers
      5. Chiefs

      This might be one of the weakest Patriot teams in the Brady era; that’s my vibe anyway. If Chargers defense gets close to be dominating, and run game solid, I’d move them to the top. If Jaguars have a great run game and dominant defense, they would move to the top. This might be the best year Steelers can beat Patriots in the playoffs. I don’t have a good sense on the Chiefs, but it seems like Mahomes will make plays that Smith couldn’t. The key will be their defense and protecting the football.

  9. Prediction time:
    In the NFC, I have to put the Eagles in there, but I think they will take a step back. The Eagles weren’t a great team on 1st and 2nd down and they won with big plays. They still might get these plays, but teams are going to look to make the Eagles earn it a little bit more. Plus they lost their OC? Everyone is high on the Saints and Packers. You have to like both because of their QBs, but I’m not super high on the Packers and I have the Saints fourth in the NFC. The Packers just don’t have a great receiver, and I wonder how prolific an offense they will have without one. Not to mention their RBs are bound to get injured.

    I like the Vikings number one in the NFC because of their defense. Cousins scare me for them a little bit, but he is an upgrade from Keenum. I think Keenum may be a better guy for that team though. He has swag and he loves to take chances and Diggs and Thielen can really win 50-50 balls. I would put the Eagles two, just because and just because their defensive front seven can ball out. I got my Cowboys three in the NFC. Not too many pundits are high on the Cowboys, but their defense could be good and their offense with a healthy o-line might just be good enough. This is in contrast of recent history where the offense was carrying the defense. And like I said before I have the Saints fourth. The other teams that have great chances are the Packers (not as high as others have them, but Rodgers, hello), Giants (Coaching change should help.), and the Panthers (I like that they run the ball and play decent defense.). Many pundits are high on Atlanta but I’m not with them, but I see the possibilities.

    Edit: For some reason I totally forgot about the Rams. Their defense under Phillips can be better than the Vikes. I will put the Rams right up there with the Vikes and over the Eagles, Cowboys, and Saints. I’m not sold on the Ram’s QB, though, but neither am I sold on Cousins. I just like both teams overall talent.

    In the AFC, the Patriots are there again, ho-hum, and of course the Steelers have crazy talent on both sides of the ball. And like many others who have the Chargers high, I’m with them. Of course the Jags will be in the mix, but man I’m not sold on them. So for me it’s the Pats, Steelers, and Chargers. As in years past, the fact that the Steelers struggle with the Patriots make the Patriots number one, but I think the Steelers are better overall. The Chargers choke all the time so who knows with them. Overall I like the NFC teams better, but that makes it easier for the Pats, Steelers, and even Chargers to win it all.

    It’s going to be a great year, especially if I’m right and the Cowboys are in the mix of things…

    1. The Eagles weren’t a great team on 1st and 2nd down and they won with big plays. They still might get these plays, but teams are going to look to make the Eagles earn it a little bit more.

      In my view, the Eagles got big plays from Wentz’s improvisation, a la Russell Wilson. As long as Wentz can still do this (which I tend to think he can), then I think these big plays will continue. (Yes, they lost their OC, Frank Reich, who is now the Colts HC.)

      Everyone is high on the Saints and Packers. You have to like both because of their QBs, but I’m not super high on the Packers and I have the Saints fourth in the NFC. The Packers just don’t have a great receiver, and I wonder how prolific an offense they will have without one. Not to mention their RBs are bound to get injured.

      I feel like the Saints might be the most balanced team, and the best team in the league. (Have you heard anything about the rookie pass rusher that they took? If that guy pans out, and the defense takes another step, I think they will be the best team.)

      I sort of agree about the Packers receiver situation, but I’ve heard one person say Davante Adams has improved a lot. If Graham explodes in this offense, he could open things up, as well. I’m not sure that will occur, though. With the Packers, I don’t have a good sense of how good their defense will be as well, so it’s hard to judge the team overall. I tend to think the defense will be good (not terrible), though.

      I like the Vikings number one in the NFC because of their defense. Cousins scare me for them a little bit, but he is an upgrade from Keenum.

      Cousins worries me as well. Bucky Brooks has talked about QBs that are either trucks or trailers. Trucks can pull a team, whereas trailers need to be pulled by the team. Cousins is the latter. Everything around him has to go right, but if that’s the case, he has potential to take them all the way. How good the running game and the OL are is of particular importance to me.

      I got my Cowboys three in the NFC. Not too many pundits are high on the Cowboys, but their defense could be good and their offense with a healthy o-line might just be good enough.

      There’s too much uncertainty, especially on the OL, the heart of the team, to put them here. I also don’t have a good idea of how good the defense will be. If the D takes a big leap, then this might be a decent ranking.

      I also tend to think Atlanta and Rams deserves consideration in the top tier. I don’t have a clear idea about how good the former’s offense and defense will be. With the Rams, I’m worried about the effect of the new additions. If they’re as good as they are on paper, and the offense doesn’t slip, they’re contenders for sure.

      In the AFC, the Patriots are there again, ho-hum, and of course the Steelers have crazy talent on both sides of the ball.

      I don’t know how much talent the Steelers have on defense, but they don’t look like a great defense to me.

  10. I’m going to guess that most “big plays” by the Eagles were not the result of Wentz, but just from their play calling working. This happen with Foles as well, when Foles was doing well. I agree Wentz has the ability, though not Wilson’s ability, to make big plays, but not enough to make them as dominate as they were last year, imo.

    I forgot about Graham for the Packers, and he could be a difference maker. I don’t think TEs do well in Green Bay with Rodgers, but maybe they just didn’t have a TE in Graham’s “league”. But if Graham emerges that changes my thoughts on the Packers.

    I have the Saints pretty high, but my concern and why I don’t have them with the Vikes and Rams and below the Cowboys is what kind of offensive balance they will have this year. I’m guessing they will have more passing than they did last year, but much more running than they had in previous years. I think Kamara took the league by storm early on, and as teams keyed on him he cooled just a bit. But the Saints was basically a running team. I think if the Saints can figure out the balance between running and passing, they will be great. I’m just not confident that they will figure it all out.

    1. I’m going to guess that most “big plays” by the Eagles were not the result of Wentz, but just from their play calling working.

      No, I’m thinking of broken plays, where Wentz improvises. I could be wrong, but I remember thinking that if you took away these plays, the Eagles would be a much different team, winning less games. This was a key reason I thought Wentz was a strong MVP candidate, and one reason I thought they had almost no chance of going far in the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl. (After watching Foles against the Raiders, I thought the chances were even lower.)

      I forgot about Graham for the Packers, and he could be a difference maker. I don’t think TEs do well in Green Bay with Rodgers, but maybe they just didn’t have a TE in Graham’s “league”.

      What about Jermichael Finley? When he was playing, the Packers offense might have been at their most potent.

      I think if the Saints can figure out the balance between running and passing, they will be great. I’m just not confident that they will figure it all out.

      I don’t get why you think this. Are you saying they will be too pass-oriented, and that’s why you’re downgrading them? Even though I wouldn’t like this, as long as their running game is solid (i.e., defenses can’t ignore it without paying), I would still put them high on my list.

      Three things would downgrade them:

      1. If their defense slips. (And if they become too pass happy and empashize scoring over ball control, that could hurt their defense.)

      2. If they don’t have home field advantage. I think the team (Brees especially) could suffer in outdoor winter games. Conversely, their chances go up a lot if have home field advantage through the playoffs (or even if they play indoors).

      3. If there are a few teams with a great defense and strong run game. Vikings could fit the bill. I’d say the Cowboys could if I were more certain about their OL and defense. (By the way, if the Seahawks OL and run game is really good, they could be approach that 2014 Cowboys team, and I could pick them as a sleeper.) In the AFC, the Jaguars have the potential to be that team.

  11. Jermichael Finley never lived up to his hype. I doubt he ever put up top five TE numbers with the Packers. He’s probably the prime example of TEs not faring as well as people think they should with Rodgers.

    Here’s my take on the Saints. They were strictly a passing team and found something last year with their RBs. Basically they became a running team last year, with Brees production going way down in terms of yards and TDs (I know, he was on my fantasy team.). Most pundits feel the Saints will not have the rushing success of last year (but how could they) and will have to throw a bit more. My question with the Saints is if they cannot rush the ball as effectively, will Peyton stick with it. Or in other words, will the Saints have a better balance of running and passing. If Peyton can, going almost against his own will, and stick with the run (and not look to just be a big play offense) and control the clock like you stated, they could be the team many project. I’m just not sold on that happening nor is their defense good enough without a ball control offense, imo. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m high on the Saints, just higher on other teams including the Cowboys.

    FWIW, Yahoo’s power rankings or Frank Schwab’s power rankings to be exact, had Vikes one and the Rams two. Just to show I wasn’t trying to be a contrarian in picking those two. He had Eagles fourth behind the Pats. He doesn’t have the confidence of the Cowboys as I do however, picking them right towards the middle of the whole league.

    1. Jermichael Finley never lived up to his hype. I doubt he ever put up top five TE numbers with the Packers. He’s probably the prime example of TEs not faring as well as people think they should with Rodgers.

      Maybe I’m remembering this wrong, but I feel like he had one or two really good seasons before he got hurt. Also, you don’t think the Packers offense was their best when he was doing well?

      Re: Saints. Were they really a run-first team? I never got that sense (but I stopped watching a lot of games at some point). For some reason, I don’t think the type of balance they had will be that difficult. One issue that will determine this is the quality of offensive weapons they have. If they really good weapons (and I guess if Payton finds a scheme that leads to explosive scoring), then I think they could get away from the balance. But barring that, I suspect they’ll get balance. To me, the Saints haven’t been an explosive scoring team for a while, and I tend to think it has to do with limitations of their personnel. I could be wrong, though.

      Don’t get me wrong though, I’m high on the Saints, just higher on other teams including the Cowboys.

      I think for me it comes down to the level of uncertainty for each team. I feel less uncertain about the Saints, versus some of the other teams (like the Cowboys).

  12. As always, I rank teams based on whether they fit a particular style of play. Teams with a really good defense, running game, and a QB that can make a handful of crucial throws, while protecting the football, generally have the best chance to win the Super Bowl. Almost equally good are teams that are balanced–they’re good in all phases, but not necessarily the best in any one. Finally, the third type of team is one that is offensive-oriented. These are teams generally have pass-heavy and high-scoring offenses, with a decent defense. This type of team can win it all when there aren’t really good teams that fit the first two descriptions. In 2018, are there any good teams that fit the first and second descriptions.

    Let’s start with candidates for the defense-run-based team–the Vikings and Jaguars top my list. I think both defenses are just shy of being dominant. If they make that next step, they would be contenders for me. For the Vikings this assumes the OL is decent–I’ve heard they’re not that good, and that makes me worry. With the Jaguars, I think Bortles is the biggest question mark. His confidence still seems shaky to me, and that’s really worrisome. I’d also mention the Cowboys. If there OL can still be good, then they could make it into this group, especially if their defense gets a lot better. (If Seahawks OL and run game can be good, they are dark horse candidates for this group, although I doubt their defense will be really good.)

    As for the balanced teams, the Saints and Chargers top my list. It’s possible that I’m overestimating the quality of the Saints defense. If they’re sort of good at best, they would drop for me. The Falcons could get in here as well. Texans are a dark horse.

    In the third category, I have the Rams and Eagles–with the caveat that they could be in the first or second group if their defenses are dominant. If not, then I would put them here. Ditto the Packers, and Patriots. I would guess the Steelers would be here as well. If there aren’t any teams with dominant defenses/good running games, then many in this group would shoot up to the first tier.

    Placing all of these teams in order of their chances to win the Super Bowl is really difficult because I don’t have a good sense if any dominant defenses will emerge this season. If there aren’t any dominant defenses/great rushing offense, then teams like the Packers, Saints, Eagles, Rams and Patriots will shoot up the list. With that said, here’s my list, off the top of my head:

    Saints
    Chargers
    Vikings
    Jaguars

    I’m assuming Saints defense will be good and Jaguars and Vikings defense to get even better. I’m also assuming the Bortles and the Vikings OL aren’t awful (and Dalvin Cook becomes one of most productive RBs in the league). Despite the Chargers’ failure to live up to expectations in the past, I’m going to put them here. I’m expecting defense to be better with second year under Gus Bradley,

    Packers
    Eagles
    Rams
    Cowboys

    I’m expecting the Packers defense to be a little more than good. If not, they slide a bit. Eagles would rise if their defense is really good–probably to the first tier. Ditto the Rams. Cowboys would move up to the first tier if their offense is the same as it was in Prescott’s first year.

    Falcons
    Patriots
    Steelers

    If Falcons defense is really good, I’d put them in the second tier. I tend to think that the Patriots chances depend more on other teams just being OK. If we have dominant defenses/run teams or really well-balanced teams, I don’t really like the Patriots all that much. Given their roster, I think the Steelers are one of the more disappointing. I would be frustrated if I were fan. If Steelers more of a run-based offense they’d be a lot better. (They have the OL and RB for this.) Additionally, the Steelers have struggled to adapt to the post-blitz era of the NFL. The look lost, as they try to move to a defense that doesn’t heavily rely on blitzing. (Most of the 3-4 DCs, especially from the LeBeau school, have looked that way in my opinion.)

    Comments about dark horses:

    Texans: Great defense catapults then into contention. If defense good and offense similar to last year (before Watson got hurt), they will also be a strong dark horse pick.

    Lions: They had a solid roster. If they added a few pieces, I think they could be contenders, but I have no idea if they did that. I think it was a mistake to fire Caldwell. He and his OC and DC formed a really solid trio in my opinion.

    Chiefs: If Chiefs defense is really good and Mahomes can make the type of plays Smith couldn’t, while also protecting the football (not really likely in my opinion), then they could be darkhorse.

    Seahawks: If Seahawks OL and run game really good, and defense bends but doesn’t break often, then I think they could be like 2014 Cowboys. (I doubt the offense will be as good, but it may not have to be.)

    Edit

    A side note, and potentially interesting tidbit about the upcoming season. In the offseason thread, I mentioned that coaches may be shifting to a more scheme-reliant approach. This is where the schemes/plays used are a bit more important than the players and execution. If you can use a scheme/style that the opponent is not prepared for, it almost doesn’t matter if your players or their execution isn’t great. The unfamiliarity of the scheme is enough to make it effective. This might be why the Eagles had so much success when Wentz went down. Rams, Chiefs, and Texans are also examples of this. Think of when the read-option or wildcat first came into the league. I really think DCs not knowing how to defend those plays was the primary reason for their effectiveness.

    One bit of evidence that may support this hypothesis is the way teams have been approaching preseason games–namely, they’re not playing their starters. One reason for this might be to hide the schemes, making it impossible to opponents to construct a gameplan to defend it.

    If many teams start using unusual schemes or make dramatic changes to their schemes during the year or a game–and they’re getting great success, that would support this theory. It’s something I’ll be paying close attention to.

    One last note. I predict this approach can work–if there aren’t a few great teams in the league–especially the defense-run oriented type or the balanced type. If there are a few teams like this, I don’t think the scheme shifting style will be as effective.

    1. I may not have written about my prognosis about the 2018 Seahawks, but I wanted to add some things about the upcoming season. Once Carroll hired Schottenheimer, I thought the prospects for a good season were fairly limited. The primary reason for this is my belief that Carroll is a type of coach that needs a really good OC–or he needs exceptional talent on offense (plus a competent OC). He had the latter with players like Wilson and Lynch (as well as a functioning OL). He also had a great defense and very good ST. So he could have success with a competent OC like Darrell Bevell.

      But without a really talented offensive roster or great defense, the need for a really good OC becomes paramount. (Even if Carroll had a great offensive roster and great defense, I still think his priority top priority should be to secure a great OC, just as Mike Shanahan would need a really good DC. To be fair, I imagine that’s not always possible–maybe especially for a good run-based coordinator.) I’d be shocked if Brian Schottenheimer turns out to be that guy. Because of this, I would expect the offense to struggle and languish. It won’t be Schottenheimer’s fault entirely–the roster isn’t exceptional (and already Doug Baldwin is banged up and will miss games).

      There’s one scenario where they Schottenheimer could work out–if he can get the run game going. If can do that, and you add Wilson’s wizardry, that could lead to wins (assuming the defense isn’t horrid). I suspect that’s Carroll’s thinking. If I were Carroll, I would not be happy with this plan, though. There’s more chances that it won’t pan out than it will in my opinion.

    2. Jamal Adams: Jets Didn’t Have a Game Plan for Baker Mayfield

      I didn’t read the article, but Mayfield looked good. Adams’s comment suggests that not having a game plan specifically for Mayfield is a significant reason for this. I put this here, because it seems like another bit of evidence that schemes/game plans are more important than ever, in terms of leading to wins.

      Rams seem to be tweeking use of no huddle and varying tempo, within a pro style set, and teams may not have a good plan of attack for this. Mahomes and the Chiefs may be in a similar situation as well.

      Meanwhile, in Houston, the offense doesn’t seem as explosive as last year. They don’t seem to be running the option/misdirection stuff as much and/or not getting as much success when they do.

  13. I don’t think the Pats have a great team as well, but to be behind all those teams, including my Cowboys seems crazy.

    I’m not high on the Jags either. Bortles did okay in the end of the regular season and playoffs last year, but man can that guy put up terrible numbers in some games.

    I heard a couple guys say that the Seahawks will be better than people think. So maybe you are right about them being a dark horse. It’s not like you are the only one that is saying that.

    1. I don’t think the Pats have a great team as well, but to be behind all those teams, including my Cowboys seems crazy.

      Actually, I feel the same way. There are are so many uncertainties that I could make several lists. What I tried to do was take a definite stance on what the teams would be like. For example, I’m saying that the teams ahead of the Patriots will be either be defensive/run team or good well-balanced team. But I don’t have a lot of confidence in this. For example…

      I’m not high on the Jags either. Bortles did okay in the end of the regular season and playoffs last year, but man can that guy put up terrible numbers in some games.

      It’s not just the numbers, but how he looks. He’s often doesn’t look confident in this throws (and he didn’t look like that in the early part of his career; I think he has the yips.). My picking the Jags is predicated on their defense taking a next step, getting very close to the 2013 Seahawks and 2015 Broncos. I’m also predicating this on the run game being really good, and Bortles serviceable. Think of the 2000 Ravens or 2000 Giants.

      I heard a couple guys say that the Seahawks will be better than people think. So maybe you are right about them being a dark horse. It’s not like you are the only one that is saying that.

      It’s all on the OL and running game to me. I think many people don’t realize the impact a good ball control offense can have on the defense. That’s why I’m not too worried about the loss of defensive talent (and it may have been addition by subtraction).

  14. I’m sort of surprised that you think the Jags and Vikes defenses have what seems like a significantly greater chance of being great over the Rams. I think the Rams have similar talent with a proven DC. This Ram defense doesn’t seem that much different in talent than those Bronco teams. It’s just a matter if they can stay healthy. I’m not confident in the Rams offense, but I feel pretty good about them being good defensively.

    1. You know I’m big on team culture. I also ascribe to the theory that you can have one or two difficult players. These players pose a threat to a winning team culture. The Rams have added at least one player like this, and possibly two more. They also lost Alec Ogletree, who I understand was a team leader. Even if these players didn’t have baggage, I think adding several new, high-priced free agents can be really challenging, and I tend to think failure is the result more than success. Wade Phillips did it before with the Broncos (although I believe on Talib was a potential problem), and I think he could do it again with the Rams. But the Vikings and Jaguars, as far as I know, are not in that situation. I think they have a better chance of becoming really dominant than the Rams. If this were only about talent, then I would say the Rams would be dominant.

  15. In my opinion, Matt Ryan is better than Andy Dalton, significantly. I just don’t see Dalton showing the willingness or skill to throw from a crowded pocket like Ryan. I also think that in the big games Ryan has proven to play better, especially in terms of ball security (at least for the past two or three seasons). My biggest knock on Ryan was his ball security, particularly under pressure. My sense is that he’s improved significantly in that area.

    But if you take away those elements (which are significant), the differences between him and Dalton go away.

  16. I have intentionally not read anything here for the past week or so because I want to make my picks untainted by your thoughts. So here goes.

    AFC West
    Chargers
    Raiders
    Chiefs
    Broncos

    AFC North
    Ravens
    Steelers
    Bengals
    Browns

    AFC South
    Texans
    Colts
    Jaguars
    Titans

    AFC East
    Patriots
    Dolphins
    Jets
    Bills

    NFC West
    Rams
    Seahawks
    49ers
    Cardinals

    NFC North
    Packers
    Vikings
    Lions
    Bears

    NFC South
    Buccaneers
    Saints
    Panthers
    Falcons

    NFC East
    Eagles
    Cowboys
    Redskins
    Giants

    AFC Wildcards: Colts, Jaguars
    NFC Wildcards: Saints, Vikings

    SuperBowl: Patriots over Packers

    Thoughts
    The AFC West is going to be horrible. I pick the Raiders to finish second, but they may do it at 7-9. All the Chargers have to do to win this division is not be too much worse than they were last season. I don’t think the Chargers are going to win more than 10 games.

    The AFC North is going to be almost as bad as the AFC West. Geez. Honestly, I think any team except the Browns could win this thing, and not because the other three teams are equally good.

    Suddenly, the AFC South is the most interesting division in the AFC. Obviously, I’m predicting Andrew Luck will play all season at something close to his full physical ability.

    I don’t think any teams in the NFC West are above average either, and I have a feeling the Rams are in for a huge let-down, but I’m picking them to win because it would be fun to root for them. If I were from another country and had no NFL fan experience at all, I think I would pick the Rams or Packers as my favorite team.

    That’s right: I’m picking the Buccaneers as my out-of-nowhere team this year. I feel like they have seven or eight guys about whom I’ve been saying “If only…” for the past four years, beginning with their QB. I have a feeling all those if-onlys click at the same time this year.

    The NFC South is also going to be a fun division to watch, if I’m right about the Buccaneers being competitive.

    1. That’s right: I’m picking the Buccaneers as my out-of-nowhere team this year. I feel like they have seven or eight guys about whom I’ve been saying “If only…” for the past four years, beginning with their QB. I have a feeling all those if-onlys click at the same time this year.

      This is the most surprising thing you’ve said. Seems kinda crazy, too, although I don’t know a lot about them.

      The AFC West is going to be horrible.

      You’re so sure that the Chiefs will be horrible? Why? The Broncos could be horrible, but their defense could be really good, and if that happens, I don’t think their offense will drag them down too far.

      Suddenly, the AFC South is the most interesting division in the AFC. Obviously, I’m predicting Andrew Luck will play all season at something close to his full physical ability.

      If the Texans defense is really good and Watson plays at the same level, they could be one of the best teams in the league. Given my impression of the Colts (which is that their roster is weak), if they win 10 more games, Andrew Luck should be an MVP. (I don’t see them winning 10 games without Luck playing great.) For Jaguars to sink that low, their defense and run game would have to slip. Or Bortles will have to be a disaster. I think this is unlikely. (Bortles could be bad, but I don’t think the coaches will let him play if he can bring the whole team down.) I have a negative impression of the Titans, picking them last doesn’t seem off to me. (If Luck is just so-so, though, I think they’ll be in last place, and maybe one of the worst teams in the league.)

    2. The out-of-nowhere picks are always crazy though, right? Maybe not in retrospect, but in advance. Yet just about every season, there’s one in the playoffs.

      This is what I think of the Chiefs: even if they’re exactly the same team as last year (and they weren’t that good last year), they now have Patrick Mahomes at QB. I know you think highly of Andy Reid, but I don’t think there’s any reason to beliee Mahomes is going to be an improvement. The Chiefs have taken a step back in hopes of taking a few steps up. Next season.

      The Broncos seem to be getting worse each season. There’s little chance the D is as good as it was even last year. In fact, one reason to be optimistic about the Rams is the reason to be pessimistic about the Broncos.

      How low do you think I’m predicting the Jaguars will sink? I have them in the playoffs.

      1. The out-of-nowhere picks are always crazy though, right? Maybe not in retrospect, but in advance. Yet just about every season, there’s one in the playoffs.

        The logic you seem to be using makes sense. I guess the Bucs wouldn’t be the team I’d choose. In the past five years or so, they seemed to have a solid roster, so one could expect them to do well, even though they never did. But my sense is that the roster isn’t as good as it was in previous years. Additionally, I don’t have much faith in Dirk Koetter.

        I know you think highly of Andy Reid, but I don’t think there’s any reason to beliee Mahomes is going to be an improvement.

        Mahomes has a better arm and more playmaking ability than Alex Smith. That would be the reason. But will he protect the ball in the way that Smith did? If you tell me that’s the case, then I tend to think they will be a good team, one that could get into the playoffs and win a game.

        If I had to choose a surprise team, I think I’d choose the Bears. The defense has a chance to be really good, especially with Vic Fangio as the DC. Their new head coach may be abel to scheme the offense to success, a la Sean McVay. They also have more weapons now. The division is tough, though. If the Bears were to get to the playoffs and go far, I would guess the Packers and Vikings would have sustained some key injuries.

        There’s little chance the D is as good as it was even last year.

        I think the chances are good if Bradley Chubb is as good as many people think.

        How low do you think I’m predicting the Jaguars will sink? I have them in the playoffs.

        I was thinking more about where you ranked them in the AFC South. I notice that you also have the Colts. In that scenario, the teams in the other divisions that don’t win the division must be really, really bad. Or the Colts and Jaguars will have good records. Are you thinking they will be 10-6 or better? If so that’s not totally unreasonable, I guess–except I would be surprised if the Colts have that record.

  17. I wanted to write about my changing attitude regarding the impact coaching and personnel have on on field performance, but before I do that, I noticed my original post above, regarding the quality of OL and defensive play, and I wanted to briefly comment on both:

    1. While there are shaky OLs this year, I feel like there are a lot less truly awful OLs, although maybe the fact that the Seahawk OL is much improved is really coloring my perception.

    2. I don’t think there have been any truly great, dominant defenses. Some defenses have dominated in a few games–e.g., Jaguars vs. the Steelers and Colts; Cowboys against the Saints. The Ravens and Bears have looked really good at times as well.

    I think the Jaguars have been the most disappointing. Their performances against the Steelers and Colts were dominant, and if they played that way all year, I think they might have moved themselves into the all-time great conversation. Keep in mind that they performed this way with a terrible offense. With a better ball control offense, the Jaguars would have had a good chance of being a great defense.

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