Football is in a weird spot. Without a bubble for players and coaches to quarantine, there are expected to be a lot of bumps in this upcoming season. Teams have to be trusted by the NFL to follow the health and safety guidelines to avoid COVID related setbacks.
Given these unprecedented times, the playoffs will be more difficult to predict than ever. Especially with one of the notable changes during the offseason being the addition of one more playoff team to each conference. This not only leaves the door open for teams that have playoff ambitions, but only one team from each conference will get a first round bye among other ripple effects. Here are my playoff predictions, which will hopefully be more accurate than last year.
#2 Ravens over #7 Texans
#3 Titans over #6 Colts
#5 Steelers over #4 Bills
#1 Chiefs over #4 Steelers
#2 Ravens over #3 Titans
#1 Chiefs over #2 Ravens
#2 49ers over #7 Falcons
#3 Eagles over #6 Seahawks
#4 Packers over #5 Buccaneers
#1 Saints over #4 Packers
#2 49ers over #3 Eagles
#1 Saints over #2 49ers
Super Bowl: Saints over Chiefs
As a Jets fan, it's hard to see another likable player leave. I was disappointed in Jamal Adams for wanting out just so he could get paid, despite two years remaining on his contract. However, I can't pretend that the Jets front office doesn't deserve some blame for not communicating with him. During his time in green and white, Adams gave the Jets an impressive three seasons, and general manager Joe Douglas wanted to keep him as a long term piece. That was until the Seattle Seahawks gave them an offer that was too good to pass up. Let's go over what each team is getting.
From day one, it was clear Adams was going to be a star. After a strong rookie season, Adams broke out in his second year recording 115 tackles, one pick, and three forced fumbles. He was awarded a pro bowl selection, where he won defensive MVP, and second team all pro. Last season was his best, as he recorded 75 tackles, two touchdowns, and an amazing 6.5 sacks. He was a big reason why the Jets went 6-2 in the second half of the season, which granted him another pro bowl selection and a first team all pro nod. He went into the offseason confident he'd get a contract extension, but when that wasn't gonna happen immediately, he started to criticize the front office for lying to him. Eventually he wanted out in June, but the Jets wanted to keep him unless they received a big offer. That came from the Seahawks, who offered them two first round picks in 2021 and 2022, a third round pick in 2021, and a fourth round pick in 2022. Safety Bradley McDougald was also included in the trade. While the Jets did give up their best player, this trade gives them the chance to fill in other position needs.
As for the Seahawks, they have been one of the best teams since drafting Russell Wilson, and trading for Adams gives them a chance to make another Super Bowl run. Adams could be the missing piece to a secondary that's slowly re-emerging as one of the Seahawk's best units. In addition, he can also help their pass rush production, as the closest player on the Seahawks behind his 6.5 sacks is Quinton Jefferson with 3.5. Seattle also invested a lot for guy who doesn't play a valuable position, so they must have a plan to give him a long term extension, especially with a possible salary cap drop looming in 2021.
Personally, I think that the Seahawks are in a good position to win now, but they are under pressure to make a deep playoff run having given up a lot for Adams. For the Jets to get two first round picks and Bradley McDougald, for a guy who doesn't play a valued position, is a win for the Jets. There have been three other recent trades involving two first round picks for a player. Those guys were edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Bears, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Texans, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Rams, all guys that play important positions. It is true that even with a possible change in the salary cap, the Seahawks will still be able to sign Adams. But as I mentioned before, the Jets will be able to use their draft picks to fill in position needs. The picks will probably be late in the first round, but lots of good players in today's game such as MVP Lamar Jackson, have been selected late in the first round. For Joe Douglas to prove himself to this franchise, it will be by making the right drafting decisions with those picks, which previous general managers haven't done well in the past.
This was definitely late timing for a trade to happen. Whether it was to get paid or not, Adams definitely tried to force Douglas to extend or trade him. While Douglas traded him, he did it on his own terms, which isn't easy for a general manager who is not even through his first full offseason. Both teams invested a lot, and while it's not the kind of trade you typically see for a strong safety, time will tell who won.
Events of the past several weeks have shown that there is profound social unrest in our country. Over centuries, African Americans have been discriminated against in many different ways, recently escalating with incidents of police brutality and violence. At least three African Americans - Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd - were killed by either the police or white civilians earlier this year. Thousands of protests are happening all over America as a way of responding to the injustice. As a result, many athletes have been using their social platform to create change, take a stand, and call for action.
Notable athletes have been vocal for change, using their platform to speak out. One of those players has been none other than LeBron James. He has made many social media posts expressing the difficulties of being an African American, letting people know the reasons for his activism, and stating that white people always command African Americans what to do. He made an emotional video with the sound of a basketball hitting the floor and as the ball hit the floor, a new white command would pop up. The captions went from "Shut up and dribble", which Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham told him back in 2018, to "Shut up and lay still." James concluded the video saying, "This is why we can't just stick to sports. Do you understand now?" Colin Kaepernick has probably earned the most praise from other athletes and coaches since he kneeled for the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season. His purpose was to draw attention to all of the racism and police brutality against African-Americans. He's now became a symbol of resistance to the unfair treatment of African Americans. Recently, he created a legal defense initiative called Know Your Rights Camp "for victims of excessive force by police terrorism and civil rights violations."
NFL and MLB players have created group videos for their own respective leagues condemning racism. The NFL video featured Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, Deshaun Watson, and others. All of the players pushed the NFL to make a statement condemning racism, saying "What will it take? For one of us to be brutally murdered by the police?" They named numerous African Americans who were killed, that could've been them. The video concludes with all of them stating, "On behalf of the National Football League this is what we, the players would like to hear you state: We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We the National Football League admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We the National Football League believe Black Lives Matter." www.instagram.com/p/CBN8b4Kn4S0/
As for baseball, Giancarlo Stanton tweeted a video which included him and other players such as Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts. They used #Players4BLM while vowing to make their voices louder toward creating change. Their message was, "We've been told that our peaceful pleas were not made at the right time, at the right place, in the right way. We've been told to 'wait.' But we remember when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned us that the word 'wait' has almost always meant never. We will wait no longer. We will make our voices louder for all of us who can and for all of those who could not." www.instagram.com/p/CBeefY6lNeu/
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson was a longtime friend of George Floyd. After hearing the news of his death, he flew to Minneapolis, where he's spoken at rallies about Floyd's story to bring attention to the police brutality that still occurs. Soon, he became an unforeseen spokesman for the family and the Black Lives Matter movement which has gained momentum around the world. He also gave a passionate speech on May 29 during a news conference at Minneapolis City Hall. At Floyd's funeral in Houston, he sat next to Floyd's daughter Gianna and later held her up on her shoulders at a rally. Jackson not only promises to take care of Gianna, but to bring justice for the family. His work earned lots of praise from many players, commissioner Adam Silver, former teammates, and coaches.
Despite the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, there is still controversy over some methods of protesting. Drew Brees said in an interview that he will never agree with anyone who kneels during the National Anthem. Many people such as James and even Brees's teammates spoke out against Brees. Even though Brees is well-liked within the football community, his comments show the lack of understanding he and many other Americans still have about racism. The responses from many fans and players who were upset by his comments shows the increase in their support toward protests against discrimination. Shortly after the interview, Brees issued an apology pledging to be an ally for the African-American community in fighting for racial equality and social justice.
This is the first time that athletes of all sports are using their social platform to create change. LeBron James recently created an initiative called More Than a Vote with the goal of standing up against racist voter suppression by educating, energizing, and protecting communities. Other athletes and entertainers have teamed up together to reach out to communities. Within one month, the organization has already identified major cities in key states in hopes of having an impact.
During this month, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace spoke out against the Confederate flag, saying it was a symbol of hate, not heritage. He successfully used his platform as the the only full-time African American driver at the top level to call for Confederate flags to be banned at NASCAR events. His viewpoints have caused him to give up sponsorships, but he has always put his beliefs over money. Shortly after he took this stand, a rope was found in his garage which was thought to be a noose. After investigations, it turned out not to be a hate crime, but the support he received was encouraging. This included an emotional procession of other drivers following Wallace who was driving his car to the front of the pit road.
This is a unique time for our country. It's important that athletes contribute to society in other ways besides just playing sports. Those ways may be varied, but recently many have come together with the purpose of working toward racial equality. It's time for the rest of the world to not just approve the work that athletes are doing, but rather make our own effort to make a difference in some way.
Here are some links to organizations founded by and supported by athletes:
Joe Douglas, the general manager of the New York Jets, was hired two months after last year's draft in June. Since it was at a late time in the offseason, Douglas didn't make a lot of big moves up until this year's draft. Douglas previously helped the Baltimore Ravens win 2 Super Bowl champions as a scout, and the Philadelphia Eagles win their first as Vice President of Player Personnel, but this was the first time he was actually making selections. By filling in position needs and gaining more picks, he had a strong class. Here's what to know about the Jets did in this year's draft.
The Jets entered the draft having offensive tackle and wide receiver as their biggest position needs. With the 11th pick, Douglas used his first draft pick on the 6' 7", 364 pound, mammoth tackle, Mekhi Becton. He did get into trouble by failing his drug test, but has stated that he's learned from it. On the field however, he's trouble for his opponents since he's a pancake machine. In addition, he recorded an impressive 5.10 seconds in the 40 yard dash at the scouting Combine. With these attributes, Sam Darnold has someone to protect his blindside for the future. In the next round, they filled in their need for receiver with the selection of Denzel Mims. It looked like the Jets were going to take him at no. 48, but then they traded down with the Seattle Seahawks for the 59th pick in the second and 101st pick in the fourth. Despite waiting 11 spots, Mims still fell into their lap when they were on the clock. He has the ability to stretch the field and make contested catches, two of Robby Anderson's best abilities when he was with the team. Letting Anderson walk was a questionable decision, but if Mims surpasses Anderson as Darnold's new reliable receiver, it could make up for that decision.
In this draft Douglas wasn't afraid to select players who's draft stock might've fell because of injuries. He used the pick he acquired from trading defensive lineman Leonard Williams to select safety Ashtyn Davis in the third round. Although he went through surgical procedure after injuring his groin in November, he was an athletic player who could also return kicks. Eleven picks later they picked edge rusher Jabari Zuniga. While he did deal with ankle injuries toward the end of his tenure at Florida, he recorded 18.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss when healthy. In the fifth round, Douglas selected Bryce Hall. He's one of the draft's most intriguing players because he was emerging as one of the top cornerback prospects before a dislocated ankle caused his status to fall. If he can recover from the injury, the Jets will have a huge steal.
When Joe Douglas was hired, the Jets only had seven picks. By the time the draft concluded, he had turned those seven picks into 13 players. Toward the end of last offseason up to the trade deadline, Douglas traded conditional draft picks for contributors such as Demaryius Thomas, Alex Lewis, and Nate Hairston. When he traded Williams to the New York Giants at the deadline, he received a third round pick for this year's draft and a fifth in 2021. In the draft, he traded down with the Seattle Seahawks in the second round to get the 58th pick, which became Mims, and a fourth round pick. He traded that fourth round pick to the New England Patriots for two fourth round picks later in the round and got back the sixth round pick that they traded to get Thomas. With little money spent in free agency, this year's draft will be essential for how this roster performs.
Having gone through three general managers in their nine year playoff drought, the Jets are hoping that Douglas can finally be the answer to their problems. His desire to fill in the roster's flaws through the draft over free agency is evident. If this draft can not only meet expectations, but overachieve, it could be a turning point for the franchise.
During the first week of no sporting events, the NFL offseason provided something that sports fans could focus on during this quarantine period. With lots of stunning trades and free agents signings, fans weren't let down. With that being said, let's go over the biggest moves.
1. DeAndre Hopkins
In the most stunning move, DeAndre Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals. Throughout his seven seasons in the league, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has established himself as one of the most valuable non-QBs in the NFL. His tenure with the Houston Texans included four pro bowl appearances, three straight first-team all pro selections, and one second team all pro. He is one of the youngest receivers to record 600 receptions and 8000 receiving yards. Though his route running, size, and speed are amazing, his hands are a different story. He's always guaranteed to make tough catches in crucial situations that not a lot of other receivers could make. With franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, Hopkins' production finally resulted in more wins with the two winning their first playoff game together. But on the first day of the legal tampering period, rumors started to pile up about Houston shopping Hopkins for draft picks. Those rumors became true shortly after when they sent him to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a second and fourth round pick this year, and a fourth round pick next year. It's a big win for the Cardinals, as they didn't give up much to get quarterback and Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray, a reliable long term weapon. He and the Cardinals' offense will be heading into next season with a lot of momentum.
2. Tom Brady
After 20 years, Tom Brady announced that he would be leaving the New England Patriots before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers later that day. In his 20 seasons playing football's most important position, Brady's reign with the Patriots may be one of the best tenures an athlete has had. He won MVP three times, holds the record for career touchdown passes in the regular season and postseason with 614, and made both the 2000s and 2010s all decade team. His best ability is winning: something he's often done a record 249 times. Six of those wins came in the Super Bowl where he won MVP in four of those. However, things started to change when longtime coach Bill Belichick made him available at the 2017 trade deadline causing their friendship to take a hit. Although their success in the regular and postseason continued, Brady was plotting his exit, which became more of a reality when their season ended. On the second day of the legal tampering period, he announced his farewell to New England before signing with the Buccaneers hours after the announcement. Brady's age and decline in the second half of last season do bring some concerns to the signing. But with an offense featuring the best wide receiver duo in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Brady has the chance to change the culture by making one last playoff run.
3. Darius Slay Jr.
In what was an expected move to eventually happen, the Philadelphia Eagles traded for cornerback Darius Slay Jr. of the Detroit Lions. Though he didn't make an immediate impact as a rookie, Slay has since emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL despite the losses piling up for the Lions in recent years. His ball skills are probably his best quality which is seen from his 19 career interceptions. Eight of those came in 2017: his breakout season that earned him an all pro appearance and the first of three straight pro bowl appearances. But that's not his only attribute. He has the ability to not only travel with the best receivers in the league, but hold them in check. This is demonstrated by the opponent's passer rating he's allowed in the last three years, which has never been higher than 81.6. Slay was happy for the his first five seasons as a Lion, but things changed when coach Matt Patricia was hired in 2018. He told Slay that he "wasn't elite" and later insulted him for previously applauding a teammate during a team meeting. Slay didn't fight back, but eventually requested a fresh start which he was granted in a trade to the Eagles for a third and fifth round pick. This is a major boast for an Eagles' secondary that hasn't been the same unit since winning the Super Bowl three years ago. Philly should be able to rely on Slay's cover skills to fill in their defense's biggest need.
4. Stefon Diggs
After tweeting that he wanted out of Minnesota, wide receiver Stefon Diggs got his wish in a trade to the Buffalo Bills. Despite being drafted in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings, wide receiver Diggs has had a productive five seasons. Since leading the team in receiving yards as a rookie, his role on the offense has increased. In his last three seasons, he never caught less than 94 passes and his receiving yards total has gone up. In addition, he helped the Vikings make the playoffs twice in that span with one play sticking out. Facing elimination with 10 seconds left in the divisional round against the New Orleans Saints, Diggs caught a pass and stayed inbounds en route to a time expiring touchdown dubbed the Minneapolis Miracle. But despite the fact that Diggs' role with the team has increased, he felt like he should treated as the man. Rumors came out about Diggs' frustration in which he expressed at various times of the season. Although the team ended up advancing to the divisional round, Diggs still felt unhappy about his situation and demanded a trade. Later that day, he was sent to the Bills for a first and sixth round pick this year, and a fourth next year. Out of all the trades I mentioned, his was probably the most even trade. Minnesota got a strong return from Buffalo, and Diggs will be relied upon to provide young quarterback Josh Allen with another weapon after making the playoffs.
It's unfortunate that we have to wait until the NFL draft for some sporting events to occur, but this period of trades and free agent signings has kept us in tabs with sports. With all of the player transactions I mentioned, it'll be intriguing to see which move will make the biggest impact next season.
The 100th NFL season concluded with a Super Bowl matchup of 2 of the league's best teams in the Kansas City Chiefs and San Fransisco 49ers. The Chiefs won in a game that we can draw a lot of observations from. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes didn't have one of his vintage performances where he is unstoppable, but was still crowned the game's MVP, the defense after getting carved up in the 3rd quarter finally buckled down, and the 49ers slowly unraveled down the stretch.
Through he's recognized as one of the best players in the game, Patrick Mahomes wasn't the unstoppable player he is throughout the first 3 and a half quarters, but still won MVP thanks to a great finish. But during those 3 quarters, he actually wasn't even close to himself. He was constantly being hurried and sacked by the 49ers' front 7. When he was able to get off a pass, he was ineffective throwing 2 picks in the second half. But in sports, finishing always matters in the end and that's what Mahomes did. Facing a 3rd&15 in the 4th, he unleashed a bomb to wide receiver Tyreek Hill that set up a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce inside the 5. After a stop by the defense, Mahomes unleashed another big time throw. This time to Sammy Watkins who beat Richard Sherman to put the Chiefs in scoring position. Another short touchdown pass to Damien Williams this time, and the Chiefs took the lead and never looked back.
But we can also not ignore the performance of the Chiefs' defense down the stretch. After a rough start to the season, they became one of the best defenses in the league as they entered the Super Bowl. But by the 4th quarter, it was hard to see them having any effect. The 49ers' offense had been carving them up by balancing the run and the pass. But after a Mahomes' interception, the defense decided to wake up and they picked the best time possible. The last 4 possessions saw them make the most meaningful stops of the season. Last year, their defense was a big reason why they lsst in heartbreaking fashion to the Patriots in the championship game and in the offseason, they restocked bringing in defensive leaders such as Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark. Though these investments weren't cheap, they was worth every penny.
Another contribution to the Chiefs' comeback wasn't the team's play, but rather the collapse of the 49ers. Though they had a potent passing game, San Fransisco was a run-first team and though running back Raheem Mostert scored yet another touchdown in the playoffs, they stopped running the ball. When they were throwing it, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was either getting hurried or missing receivers when he had time. None of his missed throws were worse than when he missed what would've been a touchdown to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, which led to a turnover on downs. Three plays later a Williams touchdown was the dagger to what was a great turnaround.
If there was any way that the final football season of the 2010s as well as the NFL's 100th season to end, this was it. Both teams showed their potential for football's new decade in what was a hard fought Super Bowl. In the end, the Chiefs with Mahomes were too much for the 49ers. Hopefully, both teams won't disappoint in the future.
This 100th NFL season has been nothing but eventful. From the beginning of the season all the way to the end, so much predictions have changed. From thinking that the Browns and Chargers being a contender, to Rams and Bears being possible Super Bowl teams, to the Patriots looking like they could be undefeated after getting Antonio Brown, and to the Colts potentially winning the AFC South, those opinions have changed quickly. There are other teams that have unexpectedly earned their reputation as a possible Super Bowl team. Some of those teams are the 49ers who started the season 8-0, the Ravens who are riding a 12 game winning streak, and the Packers who now have a potent running game and defense that can benefit Aaron Rodgers, are now carrying humongous Super Bowl ambitions going into the new decade. So how about we go into information about every team and my predictions.
1. Baltimore Ravens: This team has every reason to be excited about a Super Bowl title. Though they were 2-2 by the end of the first quarter, they reeled off 3 straight wins before a statement win against the Patriots really put the NFL on notice. Since that, they've stretched their winning steak to 12 games, finishing with the best record in football. Their coach John Harbaugh has really established a great culture with this team. One of their strengths comes in the secondary featuring safety Earl Thomas and cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. In particular, their offense has a strong set of skill players with running back Mark Ingram II, wide receiver Marquise Brown, and tight end Mark Andrews have complemented each other very well this season. The heart of the team however is Lamar Jackson. His evolution as a passer while maintaining his skills at running the football has been an amazing sight. What isn't closely analyzed, is his leadership. Though he's just in his second year, he has set a great example of unselfishness and responsibility, two things that can really make a team jell. While this core hasn't had this season under their belt, they are a legitimate threat.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: Coming into the season, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and co. were expected to build off last season's campaign that saw Mahomes win MVP leading one of the most explosive offenses. Throughout the first 4 games, it looked to be the case as they scored 28 or more points en route to a 4-0 start. Then all of a sudden, inconsistent play by the offense and defense, as well as an injury to Mahomes in the first quarter of their week 7 matchup against the Denver Broncos, put them in a position in which they were only leading the AFC West by half a game at 6-4. But just in the blink of an eye, their defense which went through major changes in the offseason finally was able to complement the offense starting in a win against the Chargers in Mexico where field conditions were atrocious. Since then, 21 points is the highest they've allowed in this 6 game winning streak. With safety Tyrann Mathieu and pass rusher Frank Clark taking over games along with Mahomes regaining his form, this team still has a legit shot at competing for a Super Bowl title just like most people predicted at the beginning of the season.
3. New England Patriots: Doesn't time go by fast in the season? The Patriots looked like they hit a major jackpot with the signing of wide receiver Antonio Brown to complement quarterback Tom Brady. Even with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, they looked like they had the best receiving core in the AFC with Brown, Josh Gordon, and Julian Edelman. They breezed out the gate winning their first 2 games, but the Brown experiment was a major failure as he was released after sexual assault allegations. Even with the failed experiment, they still reeled off 6 more wins to be at 8-0 thanks to a dominating defense led by cornerback Stephon Gilmore. After that, they've been okay at best. But they have lots of reasons to be concerned with the biggest being that they don't have a first round bye. They've always had a first round bye in the playoffs, but after getting upset in the last game to the Dolphins at home, they will have to settle for a wild card spot. The last time they were in a wild card spot, they lost to the Ravens at home. That was a long time ago however, and considering how many times they've prevailed through adversity, it's hard to write them off.
4. Houston Texans: Like Baltimore, there were questions about whether the Texans could repeat last year's campaign, which they won their division but lost to the Colts. Those questions intensified when they lost some reliable assets via free agency, and gave a lot of draft picks to get good but not great players on offense. This all-in approach which was done to support their quarterback and receiver duo of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins was looking shaky at first, but the Texans were able to jell together pretty well. Besides some surprising losses at home to the Panthers and Broncos, they had some important victories. Some of those victories included an upset of the Chiefs on the road, a Sunday Night victory against the Patriots, and securing the division against the Titans. There's a lot of reasons to be excited about a deep run. Watson is having a magnificent season, Hopkins is posting his usual numbers, but they also have huge x-factors in receiver Will Fuller and cornerback Bradley Roby. Finally, they have all pro defensive end J.J. Watt coming back from a torn pec. With a healthy roster, this all-in approach could very much work out in January.
5. Buffalo Bills: Despite having one of the easiest schedules in football, no one really gave the Bills a chance to make the playoffs. But with a very stingy defense, this team started out fast at 3-0. It only got better as after the first quarter of the season, sophomore quarterback Josh Allen finally showed drastic improvement on cutting down his turnovers. Their four come from behind victories shows a lot of growth in a young team and that'll be essential for the playoffs. However, the main strength of this team is the defense. With cornerback Tre'Davious White tying the league lead for interceptions with 6 along with a solid front 7 to complement his play, this defense has allowed 24 points or fewer in 15 of their 16 games. While there's not much concern for the defense, the factor that will determine this game is the offense. They need their 2 best offensive players not named Allen in running back Devin Singletary and wide receiver John Brown to take pressure off of Allen. If the defense plays like they've played all season and Singletary and Brown can prevail, a deep playoff run is definitely possible.
6. Tennessee Titans: Sometimes, a desperate move can provide more than just a spark. That's what happened when backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill was promoted to starter in week 7. Since then, he's in the top 5 in passer rating and QBR. Perhaps more important, is the fact that they went 7-3 since the change occurred. Tannehill isn't the only one doing all of the work. Running back Derrick Henry has been one of the best running backs in football, winning the rushing title with a ridiculous 1,540 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, and 16 touchdowns. He's also been a better player than than the last time he played in a playoff game, which he also dominated. However, both of those players also have a lot of help at the receiving end in A.J. Brown. With 52 receptions, 1,051 yards, and 8 touchdowns, he's basically a lock for offensive rookie of the year and will probably be essential for this team in the years to come. On defense, they have a strong secondary led by one of the best ballhawks in Kevin Byard and one of the top slot cornerbacks in Logan Ryan. This year may not be their year, but they will have all of the tools to contend in the future.
1. San Fransisco 49ers: This team had a roster that was capable enough to make a playoff appearance, but most people viewed it as unlikely as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was coming back from injury and the defense with high profile additions may need some time to jell together. However, this team instead chose to finish the season with a 13-3 record with all of their losses coming in the final minute. Without question, there's a lot to be excited about. On offense, Garoppolo has regained his form, tight end George Kittle has proved that his breakout campaign last year wasn't a fluke, and they have one of the best rushing attacks in all of football with the trio of Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, and Matt Breida. What has been spectacular, is the defense. Their front 7 which I previously mentioned in my article about teams to keep an eye on, overachieved to the point where even I didn't expect it. The defensive line of Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, and Nick Bosa has been one of the best in the league, while Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander formed a solid linebacking duo. Even with Alexander's season ending injury, that didn't stop them from still dominating. The secondary lead by cornerback Richard Sherman has also been a strong unit. With some of their wins in the second half coming against potential playoff opponents, this team has a lot of reasons to make a Super Bowl appearance.
2. Green Bay Packers: When you surround a great quarterback with other assets that are apart of different units of the team, you deserve to be 13-3. That's the case with the Packers. Aaron Rodgers has still been the brilliant passer that he's always been and his chemistry with Davante Adams is still one of the best in the league. But then again, they have lots of overachieving players on both sides of the ball. Running back Aaron Jones put up brilliant numbers this year. All of them career highs and there's been some games where they won because of him instead of Rodgers. On defense, Their front 7 of Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, and Blake Martinez has been strong throughout the entire year while Jaire Alexander has been able to build off his rookie campaign from last year. By the midway point they started off 7-1 and eventually finished with 13 wins. The only reason why people may not be so sold on them is because of their blowout loss to the 49ers in November. But then again, that was back in November, and with a team that's been good on both sides of the ball, there is a lot of optimism for a 14th NFL championship.
3. New Orleans Saints: At first, their Super Bowl hopes appeared to have taken a big hit when quarterback Drew Brees injured his thumb in the second week of the season. However, Teddy Bridgewater came in relief and went undefeated as a starter, propelling the Saints to a 6-1 record. When Brees came back, he picked up from where he left off last season as one of the most prolific passers with 27 touchdowns while only throwing for 4 interceptions But Brees wasn't the only one dominating. Wide receiver Michael Thomas had one of the greatest seasons for a wide receiver in NFL history by setting an NFL record for receptions in a single season while leading the league with 1,725 receiving yards along with 9 touchdowns. Running back Alvin Kamara has appeared to regain his form as one of the best all purpose backs in the league, and the offensive line after committing a lot of penalties early in the season, has tremendously cut down on them. In addition, they have 2 playmakers in Taysom Hill and Deonte Harris. On defense, they have a ton of studs in defensive end Cameron Jordan, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Marcus Williams, and linebacker Demario Davis. Hopefully, this team won't have to deal with any one in a million plays such as Stefan Diggs' Minneapolis Miracle and a terrible no call on pass interference in the championship game last year against the Rams. If none of those kinds of plays happen, Super Bowl title is very likely.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Last year, everyone had the Eagles written off for good and this year was the same. At 5-7 fresh off a loss to the lowly Dolphins, things weren't looking good in any way. But then, quarterback Carson Wentz finally woke up and led the Eagles to 4 straight victories. Even with the division title however, there aren't a lot of high expectations. This team played in the worst division in all of football, but they are riding lots of momentum. With Wentz playing this well along with rookie running back Miles Sanders emerging as one of the top all purpose backs in the league, the offense has been playing very well, but if they want to play better, they need tight end Zach Ertz to return from injury. The defensive roster still has many players from their Super Bowl roster, but they have shown lots of weaknesses and that won't help come playoff time. However, they've been 4-1 in playoff games in the last 2 years and both they've entered every game as an underdog so maybe they'll make noise in the playoffs once again.
5. Seattle Seahawks: One minute they were in a golden position to have home field advantage in the NFC for the playoffs. The next minute, they are now a wild card team. That doesn't necessarily mean that a deep playoff run is impossible. Quarterback Russell Wilson has put together arguably the best season of his career thanks to his ability to create amazing plays even if it breaks down. He's also formed one of the best QB WR duos of him and Tyler Lockett, which has been effective throughout this season. In addition, rookie wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has turned into a reciever with effectiveOn defense, the front 7 led by league's leading tackler and all-pro linebacker Bobby Wagner is one of the best in the league. Shaquill Griffin has also emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFC as well. However, there is lots of concern and that is injuries to key players on both sides of the ball. On offense running back Chris Carson is on IR and while fan favorite Marshawn Lynch is back, it may not make a huge difference. While Wilson was able to overcome the injury of red zone favorite Will Dissly, it could very much affect them come postseason time. On defensive, their end Jadeveon Clowney who's best skill is always being around the ball, is nowhere to be found since his dominating performance against the 49ers. But Wilson and coach Pete Carroll know how to make the best even in heavy adversity. This January could be another example.
6. Minnesota Vikings: After the first quarter of the season. There seemed to be no flow with this team. Their $84 million quarterback Kirk Cousins wasn't forming any chemistry with his top 2 receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. As a result, rumors of a potential Diggs trade began to heat up intensely. Then just in the blink of a eye, Cousins finally began to play consistent football. They went 8-4 for the rest of the season en route to a 10-6 record. This roster is very balanced. Cousins, Thielen, and Diggs have formed one of the best passing attacks in the league and even when Thielen was hurt, the attack remained very potent. The running game is also very superb. Third year back Dalvin Cook has put up a career year putting up 1,135 yards along with 13 touchdowns while rookie Alexander Mattison has emerged as one of more reliable no. 2 running backs in the NFC. The strength of this team however, is the defense. At every area, they are loaded. At the line, ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter have been creating havoc on opposing quarterbacks, linebackers Erik Kendricks and Anthony are entering their primes, and the safety duo of ball hawk Anthony Harris and the hard hitting Harrison Smith is one of the best in the league. What will be important is the play of Cousins who still could be more consistent against good teams and the health of Cook and Thielen. Those factors will determine whether this team can make a playoff run.
Tennessee Titans 17
New England Patriots 21
New England Patriots 13
Kansas City Chiefs 27
Kansas City Chiefs 31
Baltimore Ravens 34
Houston Texans 16
Baltimore Ravens 30
Buffalo Bills 20
Houston Texans 24
New Orleans Saints 34
Baltimore Ravens 24
Minnesota Vikings 21
New Orleans Saints 31
New Orleans Saints 28
Green Bay Packers 24
New Orleans Saints 20
San Fransisco 49ers 17
Seattle Seahawks 17
San Fransisco 49ers 34
Seattle Seahawks 26
Philadelphia Eagles 17
Every NFL season has had its major storylines. This year's 100th NFL season has certainly had its share. Throughout these 8 games, there's been some quarterbacks playing well, but not the ones that people are expecting, injuries, and surprising teams, have led the way towards a very interesting 100th season. So with all of that being said, let's go into the first aspect of this year's major storyline.
This year, there have been a lot of quarterbacks who have just started to catch the attention of football even though some fans didn't see it coming. Out of these up and coming quarterbacks, none has been more impressive than Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens. Last year, he took over a crumbling Ravens team and led them to the playoffs. However, he mainly did that thanks to his running skills and not his throwing. It inability to consistently make plays with his arm showed in their Wild Card loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. But this year, he has shown lots of strong progression as a passer. In the opening game of this season, he threw for a whopping 5 touchdowns while posting a perfect passer rating. While he hasn't been able to replicate that kind of performance, his improvements as a passer have clearly been evident, and his 11 TDs and 94 passer rating is a sign of good things to come. Jackson. Two unheralded backup QBs who were drafted as backup quarterbacks unlike Jackson, have also been in the spotlight this season. With their high-priced free agent signing Nick Foles out, rookie 6th round draft pick Gardner Minshew has surprisingly been playing really good for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Besides his unique look and personality which has made him a fan favorite, his 13 touchdowns and 4-3 record, is a big reason why the Jaguars are still in the race for a playoff spot. The other surprise, is Kyle Allen of the Carolina Panthers. With Cam Newton injured, he took over and won 4 straight games before getting trounced by the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. In those 4 wins, his 7 touchdowns and smart decision making, were huge factors during that streak. Every NFL season has a quarterback who plays great when no one is expecting it. This year, Jackson, Minshew, and Allen have been those quarterbacks as of now.
There have also been some surprising teams in the league this year. The first team that comes to mind, is the 49ers. With a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, a man child at tight end in George Kittle, a solid group of receivers, and a running game that's currently 2nd in the league, the 49ers are 7-0 for the first time since 1990. While Garoppolo returning from a torn ACL last year clearly makes a difference, their defense is also a huge reason why they are playing this good football. With a front 7 featuring Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and DeForest Buckner, they have been wrecking havoc in backfields. The secondary led by Richard Sherman has also been a potent unit for them. Overall this a team that is functioning in every way so far this season and it'll be interesting to see if they can continue their great football. Another team that is function in every way possible so far this season, is the Green Bay Packers. Even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, they weren't expected by many to make the playoffs with a coaching hire of Matt LaFleur that was deemed okay at best. But now, that is looking like a great hire. He has Rodgers playing like an M.V.P. once again, but he also has the running game clicking as well thanks to Aaron Jones who has been enjoying a breakout season. Their ability to successfully mix up the run and the pass, has left many opposing defenses confused. The defense led by Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Jaire Alexander, has been just as balanced as the offense has been this season. They've been the reason why the Packers have been able to control games and make big plays, is also a big reason why the Packers are 7-1, and looking poised to make a big playoff run. Though they had a solid offseason, not many people expected the Buffalo Bills to be playing 5-2 football so far. Their sophomore quarterback Josh Allen's decision making hasn't really improved that much than last year, but he's definitely doing enough to help them win. They also have appeared to find a gem in rookie running back Devin Singletary who along with veteran running back Frank Gore, have formed a potent rushing attack so far. The defense however, is the main reason why they're winning. Every unit of their defense from the defensive line to the secondary is well balanced, and as of now, they are one of the league's most stingiest defenses. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep up the good play since they do have a reputation of collapsing in the second half. The Packers and 49ers are already appointed with the task of potentially adding a new chapter to their already storied histories, while the Bills' task will be to keep up their first half success in order to become a legitimate postseason threat. Overall, it's going to be interesting to see what happens to these teams in the long run.
But while there have been some surprising teams, there have also been disappointing teams. One of those teams, is the Los Angeles Chargers. Last year, they had not only one of the best all around rosters and coaching staffs in the league, but they had great chemistry and togetherness which was evident since every game is considered an away game for them because of the lack of their home fans. They were able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013 where they defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the wild card round. This year, they had expectations to possibly take the division from the Kansas CIty Chiefs but those speculations have died in a hurry so far. On offense, they've turned the ball over too many times when they were knocking on the door. None was more worse than their loss to the Tennessee Titans in which after two touchdowns getting overturned, they turned it over on the next play which lost them the game. But the defense also deserves a lot of blame. Their inability to come up in key situations has also been costley for them in many games this year. Fortunately, they're used to facing adversity before, but with Melvin Gordon likely to move on in free agency, there isn't much time left. The Chicago Bears have also been disappointing. Now there first 6 games have gone in the exact win-loss order as last year, but when you won 12 games last year thanks to a dominating defense and productive offense, that shouldn't be happening. They are actually 3-4 now, but they were going through lots of problems even before their loss to the Chargers. After showing improvement in his sophomore season, QB Mitchell Trubisky has struggled to find any kind of consistency this year which has hurt the Bears in many games. On defense, Khalil Mack is still the monster he is, but they have not been playing that great football consistently compared to last year. For a team that's already been through a lot of success in 1 year, there's still time, but with a deep N.F.C., they must figure out their troubles quick. The final disappointing team is the Cleveland Browns. After a very busy offseason, many picked them to win their division, let alone make the playoffs for the first time in what feels like an eternity. However, they just look like a team that looks great on paper, but can't fit the pieces together. QB Baker Mayfield hasn't been able to repeat his rookie success which is a big reason why their best player Odell Beckham Jr. hasn't been able to do much this year along with his fellow friend and pro bowler Jarvis Landry. Baker's not the only reason though, as head coach Freddie Kitchens has looked nothing short of a puzzled coach. The defense isn't entirely the problem, but it's also been a disappointment this year, their defensive line and sophomore CB Denzil Ward haven't lived up to expectations that was made after last season or the offseason. With the window closing on some of these teams, their own standards may decrease very soon.
Like any other NFL season, this year's centennial season has had many storylines. Some have caught a lot of media attention like these overachieving quarterbacks. Others have been surprises like certain teams that could be playoff threats. And then there are those who fit in the category of disappointment. But overall, this has definitely been a unique season.
This offseason, the Jets did a lot of work towards their quest back to glory. They fired head coach Todd Bowles and replaced him with Adam Gase. Another notable coaching hire came in Gregg Williams who has had a successful career at defensive coordinator. Before free agency even started, they traded for past pro bowl guard Kelechi Osemele. Once free agency did start, they signed wide receiver Jamaison Crowder and another pro bowler in linebacker C.J. Mosley. But the big move came days later when they signed all-pro running back Le'Veon Bell. Bell will provide a major boost in the running game and the passing game next season. In the draft, they selected defensive tackle Quinnen Williams out of Alabama. He has the potential to become a standout at his position. With all these moves, it looked like their offseason was complete. Then they pulled off one more surprising move the next month.
General manager Mike Maccagnan was fired which created a major shock around the league, given all of the offseason moves the he made. Most people assumed that it was from a power struggle between him and Gase in which Gase won. Adding to the confusion of Jets fans, there were rumors of Gase possibly trading Bell since he didn't want him for $52 million. Fortunately, the Bell rumors quickly died down and rather than keep Gase as interim G.M., they secured Joe Douglas. Douglas entered the N.F.L. as a scout for the Baltimore Ravens who won 2 Super Bowls while he was there. Two years later, he worked as an executive for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played a major role in building their Super Bowl winning team. He originally said no to the Jets initial offer, but they doubled the offer and Douglas accepted. Most other Jets teams of the past might've let this situation get worse over time, but this team immediately fixed the situation. A sign of growth.
One of the most important tasks for the Jets is to develop Sam Darnold. History is on Darnold's side as quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Mitchell Trubisky made big improvements in their sophomore seasons while leading their team to the playoffs. Jets fans also have reasons to be excited about Darnold's future based on his play towards the end of last season in which he led the NFL in total QBR over the final 4 games. There have been nothing, but great reports about Darnold's progression. If he could live up to these reports for the regular season, he could be the answer New York has been looking for at quarterback since Joe Namath.
As for the entire team, it's very possible that they can win their division. Last year, the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans went from worst to first in their divisions. Two years earlier the Philadelphia Eagles not only went from worst to first in their division, but also won the Super Bowl. In all, but one year (2014) of this decade, at leas1 one team has made the playoffs after finishing last the previous year.
]Throughout the years, Jets fans are now used to watching the New England Patriots win playoff games. But now, they have a reason for hope this year. The team has made lots of changes from players, to coaches, to executives. Now there are lots of positive vibes surrounding the organization. These last 8 years have been really tough for Jets fans, but all of that could end this season.
We have seen a lot of build up towards this N.F.L. season. This year's offseason saw lots of teams make moves that have us saying they've either progressed, regressed, or no impact will happen. So as football season gets closer as each day goes, here are my playoff predictions.
6. New England Patriots 24
3. New York Jets 27
3. New York Jets 28
2. Indianapolis Colts 31
2. Indianapolis Colts 21
1. Kansas City Chiefs 24
5. Los Angeles Chargers 24
1. Kansas City Chiefs 27
5. Los Angeles Chargers 30
4. Cleveland Browns 20
1. Kansas City Chiefs 24
1. New Orleans Saints 34
6. Minnesota Vikings 17
3. Chicago Bears 27
3. Philadelphia Eagles 20
2. Chicago Bears 27
2. Los Angeles Rams 23
1. New Orleans Saints 27
4. Philadelphia Eagles 10
1. New Orleans Saints 24
5. Atlanta Falcons 31
4. Philadelphia Eagles 34