This is the Rise Up Reader NFL Preview. It is long. What kind of intro do you need for this thing, anyway? Sheesh Louise, you people are needy.
AFC NORTH: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers
The AFC North will not stop being endlessly boring. Like, seriously, who cares about any of these teams?
The Baltimore Ravens agreed to a secret contract with the people that fix football that dictates they must endlessly disappoint for about 10-to-12 years after winning a Super Bowl – think about it. They won in 2001. Then, they didn’t win again until 2013. In that time frame, the Ravens were kind of a “meh” franchise. And, since that random 2013 Super Bowl season, they have been kind of a “meh” franchise. Joe Flacco stopped being fun after that Super Bowl (Playoff Joe Flacco is dead, long live Playoff Joe Flacco). They could have a scary defense again, but c’mon, they probably won’t. They could be decent on offense, and they probably will. In about, say, eight to nine years, they will be amazing and win a Super Bowl. And then they’ll go back to being mediocre again. I don’t know why that’s the deal they made with the arbiters of football, but c’est la vie. We’ll always have the Steve Smith revenge tour. 8-8, no playoffs.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the 2014 Atlanta Falcons. 6-10
The Cleveland Browns will hopefully start DeShone Kizer, and be the most enjoyable 3-13 team to ever be fielded in the history of the National Football League. If they start Brock Osweiler, they will be the most boring 4-12 team in the history of the National Football league. I want my Myles Garrett Defensive Rookie of the Year highlight reel, ASAP.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a Le’Veon Bell contract away from being as scary as they were, oh my gracious, that’s their cornerback situation? Oh, wow. Y’all sure you don’t want Revis? As long as Big Ben doesn’t die, they’ll go 11-5 and win the division.
WHO EMERGES: Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC EAST: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
The AFC East is dumb. It’s the insult of football. You know the Patriots are going to win. Why do they play games? What is the abject purpose? Yes, Miami could be good one day with Adam Gase. And Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are finite humans who do not possess the ability to be immortal. As far as I’m aware.
The New England Patriots are going to go 12-4, because they’re too hyped up for a team with a 40-year-old quarterback. I’m sorry, but Father Time is undefeated, and Brady can’t do this forever. The vanquisher of my dreams will have a good year, but the old enemy of age cut poor Peyton out with a torn planter fascia. What even is that? You know he’s coming for Tom. The Pats are also not facing any form of adversity this year. Their last two Super Bowls (post the time they cheated) came when Brady was called to be benched after a rocky start and when Brady’s flat football experience (trying to mix things up) made him angry. They need a reason to win after doing it for so long. This year, they don’t have one.
The Miami Dolphins are starting Jay Cutler at quarterback. His name was Colin Kaepernick. 7-9.
The Buffalo Bills are storing nuts for 2018’s winter. 5-11.
The New York Jets, uhm. 1-15.
WHO EMERGES: New England Patriots
AFC SOUTH: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans
The AFC South is weird. We’re supposed to be in the middle of the Andrew Luck Thrashing Decade, but because the Colts have been so ineptly run since Peyton left town, we’re not. The Titans might be really good. The Texans might postpone them being a Super Bowl contender. At least the Jags still suck.
The Houston Texans need to start QB Deshaun Watson. He is going to be a very good quarterback. But for some reason, everyone wants Bryan Hoyer 2.0, erm, Tom Savage to start. Why? You have the league’s best defense, tons of weapons on offense, and you still want mediocre quarterback play. You will not win the division this year because you waited until October to start Watson. Shame on you. 9-7.
The Indianapolis Colts are quietly rebuilding their defense, and their offense has no run game, C Ryan Kelly is hurt and Luck is no guarantee to start week one. GM Chris Ballard’s a good one, though. 7-9.
Somehow, the Tennessee Titans are a good football team. Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smash-mouth” style of football, which sounds like the literal definition of “this probably shouldn’t work,” works. Marcus Mariota is a stud if he can stay healthy, and old man Dick LeBeau should field a feisty defense. The state of Tennessee is a factory of sadness still riding on the 1998 Volunteers championship, and had to watch its native son go play for the division rival and bring them home a championship (and then flirt with the idea of signing with them, but went to Denver instead, and brought them a championship). And Nashville is cool now (I should know, I suffer in the traffic of all you morons moving here). The Titans deserve happiness. 11-5.
The Jacksonville Jaguars need to sign Colin Kaepernick. If they do, 7-9, with brighter days ahead and a Kaepernick extension. If they don’t, 3-13.
WHO EMERGES: Tennessee Titans
AFC WEST: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland Raiders
The best division in the AFC, because none of these teams outright suck.
So, Broncos. The ghost of Peyton Manning and a Wade Phillips defense with the best pass rusher in the league won the whole she-bang in 2015. They will be irrelevant until John Elway realizes he needs a bad season to get a good quarterback again. Von Miller is about to have to carry you to 7-9. I hope Paxton Lynch works out for you. Otherwise, you’d better get that big draft package to send to the Jets or Bills to get that top pick so you can go back to winning again.
Kansas City should go ahead and get Patrick Mahomes II going, because Alex Smith is a great guy to get you a wild card loss every year. It’s nothing against Smith, but unless he’s on a monstrous team (see: 2011 San Francisco 49ers), he can’t will you a Super Bowl. The Chiefs cut their best offensive player, too. That offense is a bit of a question mark, but the defense is always a world-beater. Mahomes is the wild card. Smith loses in the wild card round. So, pick your poison, I guess. Smith feels like the outcome. 10-6.
The Chargers are going to have to suffer for taking joy away from San Diego. Los Angeles doesn’t deserve two football teams. They really don’t deserve one. Philip Rivers is old. He’s got a great offensive cast around him, but they keep getting hurt. That defense has a lot of talent, and Gus Bradley is calling the shots. Can they stay healthy? But, I also feel really wary to let the universe give Los Angeles a great football team right away. 6-10.
The Raiders have a window. Once they hit Vegas, they’ll have to atone for changing cities and going to a city that’s not going to give a rat’s behind about them. It’ll be a tourist attraction, and “everyone” will be a Raiders fan, for about a weekend. That’s not fair to one of the budding teams in the NFL. But everyone will get paid, so who cares. The city of Oakland deserves…oh wait yeah they have the Warriors they’re ok never mind. Derek Carr is a good quarterback/dude, even if he’s pursuing a music career for some odd reason, and they’ve got obvious talent on both sides of the ball. 13-3.
WHO EMERGES: Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs
6 – Houston Texans v. 3 – Tennessee Titans
5 – Kansas City Chiefs v. 4 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Deshaun Watson takes the Titans to their limit, but Marcus Mariota has one of those Madden-y runs that sets up the Ryan Succop game-winning field goal. Nissan Stadium is at its most jubilant since the Music City Miracle. That is not an understatement.
The Steelers and Chiefs turn in a highly-defensive matchup, but obviously Pittsburgh wins on home turf. Credit a gnarly Steelers front seven for making that Artie Burns pick-six possible.
3 – Titans v. 2 – New England Patriots
4 – Steelers v. 1 – Oakland Raiders
The Titans head up to Foxboro for a thankless loss to the Patriots. It won’t be as bad as that one time the Titans lost to the Patriots like 59-0 or something like that, but they’re just a little too green to make it in the playoff against the two Bs.
The Raiders and Steelers go in on a classic in Cali, with Carr torching the Steelers secondary behind his tough-as-nails offensive line. Big Ben and company give it all they’ve got, but the Super Bowl goes through Oakland.
2 – Patriots v. 1 – Raiders
The Raiders get sweet revenge on the Patriots after years of stewing over the Tuck Rule Game. The greater irony will be Khalil Mack playing the Von Miller role of terrorizing Tom Brady all game to keep him from his sixth Lombardi chance. Who mentored Mack? Justin TUCK. Life is funny like that. The Raidahs go to the Super Bowl for the first time since Gruden.
THE NFC NORTH: Chicago Bears Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings
Aaron Rodgers’ division (c’mon, it’s the truth), which used to be Brett Farve’s division, which I all-but-assume will be [INSERT NAME OF 2023 GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK HERE]’s division one day.
The Bears have a guy that is named Mitch Trubisky, and he is a quarterback. Apparently he will be good. But Mike Glennon, who looks like one of the guys the girl from Brave didn’t want to marry, will start for them unless the team decides it wants to go ahead and get Trubisky ready. But NFL teams don’t like doing that for some reason, so 5-11. John Fox deserves a great retirement, man. Beach, golf, the works.
The Lions make me sad. They were super good during the period where no one who is alive can remember it, and now they are bad forever. Matthew Stafford has his best offense in a while, but that defense is mainly steaming poo-poo (the great Haloti Ngata, who deserves better than this). They’re gunning for 8-8.
Aaron Rodgers will be 34 in December. The Packers will always be somewhat good with him around. He’s the best player in the NFL. Period. No one is better at what they do than Rodgers is at QB. But Ted Thompson is not helping him. Their defense is not good. Their offensive line lost a Pro Bowl guard. Somehow, they always overcome whatever because of Rodgers. But they only have one trip to the Big Game to show for his Hall of Fame career. That really shouldn’t be the case. But, after the shellacking they got in Atlanta in the NFC Championship game, it was clear that Rodgers is not enough. After that incredible run last year, 2017 will be a bit of a more even regular season, but they won’t be as scary. 11-5.
The Vikings are dependent on Sam Bradford to make the playoffs. Yeah, I’ll say it, Sam Bradford will take the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs. Sam freaking Bradford (and Mike Zimmer’s vision for the defense finally coming full circle, but Sam freaking Bradford, man). 10-6.
WHO EMERGES: Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings
THE NFC EAST: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington
People talk too much about the NFC East, so I’m going to do each evaluation as a haiku.
Zeke is out for some
Dak will be fine but I think
The defense is kind of bad
Eli throws a pick
The D will force 20 picks
They will be decent
Wentz has sophomore slump
Schwartz fields scary men on D
Somewhere in middle
Lol wow eh
Cousins calls Shanahan lots
Top ten pick likely
WHO EMERGES: New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys
NFC SOUTH: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You around these parts much, mister?
The Atlanta Falcons…do I really need to tell you how I feel about the Atlanta Falcons? 12-4.
The Carolina Panthers are depending their season on Matt Khalil keeping Cam Newton from dying. 9-7,
The New Orleans Saints 7-9.
The Tampa Bay 8-8uccaneers.
WHO EMERGES: Atlanta Falcons
NFC WEST: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks
Ugh these guys again.
Arizona is old. The defense is not as good. But Larry, man. Larry Fitzgerald deserves a happy ending. I’m excited for when the team decides to trade him to Oakland at the deadline. So, so excited. Oh crap he’s a legacy guy. He won’t want to be traded. Oh no. Oh dear. Larry. Larry come back! Please, Larry! Don’t leave us! We didn’t deserve you! Larry Fitzgerald 2020. 8-8
Wade Phillips will win the Rams 5 games in 2017. 5-11
The 49ers will be good again one day. But, that offense, woof. 4-12.
Ugh welcome back to the playoffs, Seattle Seahawks. 12-4.
WHO EMERGES: Seattle Seahawks
6 – Dallas Cowboys v. 3 – Green Bay Packers
5 – Minnesota Vikings v. 4 – New York Giants
The Cowboys will have to endure another loss to Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs, indicating some kid who was also a Dallas fan must’ve bullied Rodgers as a child, and this is the universe evening itself out.
Yes, folks, yes indeed. The Sam freaking Bradford-led Minnesota Vikings SHOCK the Giants at home and win Mike Zimmer’s first playoffs game. Sha-blam.
5 – Vikings v. 1 – Seattle Seahawks
3 – Packers v. 2 – Atlanta Falcons
Sam freaking Bradford gets all the way to the NFC Divisional Round to Seattle. And, sadly, he’s not enough. The Super Bowl goes through Seattle *gags.*
The Packers will have to endure another loss to Matt Ryan in the playoffs, indicating some kid who was also a Packers fan must’ve bullied Ryan as a child, and this is the universe evening itself out. Wait, no, it was actually Rodgers who bullied Ryan. And it was, like, just a few years ago. My bad.
2 – Falcons v. 1 – Seahawks
The NFC Championship of 2014 was formerly the best game of the decade. This tops it. The Falcons are the better team, but the Seahawks have the scariest home-field advantage in years. This one goes to the literal wire, but a stray Seahawks fan yells a 28-3 joke into the ear of Vic Beasley Jr., who sack-fumbles Russell Wilson and stops the Seahawks on their potentially game-winning drive.
SUPER BOWL 52
Falcons v. Raiders
Neither the Falcons nor the Raiders have any glaring weaknesses, but it will be Oakland’s inability to get consistent pressure inside on Ryan/the Raiders’ inability to figure out the puzzle of Julio Jones that will decide this tightly-contested championship. Like the Warriors, the Falcons overcome their own collapse meme in Minnesota, the magic city where all the best Falcons moments happen, and win their first Super Bowl. The Raiders will be back, though.
NFL AWARD PREDICTIONS
MVP: QB Derek Carr
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Tom Brady
Defensive Player of the Year: OLB Von Miller
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Christian McCaffrey
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE Myles Garrett
Comeback Player of the Year: QB Sam Bradford
Coach of the Year: Jack del Rio
Now, go outside, man, gracious.
Photo from Sporting News