It feels strange to write this, but the NFL season actually starts tonight. Like, real games in a real season that supposedly will run like a normal football season. Except, you know, Tom Brady plays for the Buccaneers.
If one was cynical and into conspiracy theories, you might argue that the NFL is behind the coronavirus pandemic. After all, news of the virus only really started to gain traction in the United States shortly after the Super Bowl was played, wrecking the NBA, NHL, and MLB seasons. Those leagues were the guinea pigs for trying to figure out how to actually play sports – how much testing do we need to do, what was cause a game to be postponed, who decides whether to quarantine, how do we have fans at games. Now that those leagues have had varying degrees of success, with the MLB “season” being the most educational, the NFL kicks off and knows most of the pitfalls and can prepare for them. And if the NFL had any concerns about other sports taking over its spot as the king of professional sports in America, having the playoffs of the NBA and the entire MLB season disrupted is a great way to accomplish that goal.
Conspiracy theories aside, there was a lot of interesting news in the offseason. The Washington Football Team decided not to have a racist nickname, Tom Brady decided he was tired of cold weather and the Jaguars decided they didn’t want to win any games. Oh, and Patrick Mahomes has to decide how to spend $450 million. If you need some help Patty, give us a call.
As you’ve come to expect, those are just about the only pieces of news that we’re aware of from this offseason, so take the following predictions with the proper number of grains of salt. In other words, feel free to bet all of Patrick Mahomes money, but none of your own.
Not even getting rid of a racist nickname can change the fortunes of our beloved Washington Football Team. That wasn’t the only change in DC, with a new coach (Ron Rivera), new front office and new starting quarterback (DeWayne Haskins). Oh, and a new set of allegations of sexual harassment against Dan Snyder, who continues to lead the league in being the worst possible owner. The only good thing about reduced fan capacity is that will reduce the number of visiting fans who attend games at FedEx Field. We take no joy in writing any of this, as our first memory of watching sports was seeing Doug Williams, Timmy Smith, the Hogs, and the Posse leading Washington to a Super Bowl win. Maybe by the time our child can remember things, Washington will have a chance to win a Super Bowl again, but I doubt it. As far as the rest of the division, the Eagles and Cowboys are clearly a cut above the Giants and Washington, and we picked the Eagles because Mrs. Hangover is an Eagles fan.
In this exceedingly mediocre division, we were very prepared to crown this the beginning of the Bears and Mitch Trubisky’s dominance over the NFC North, but then we looked at Trubisky’s actual stats. Similar to Washington, we’ll pulling hard for the former Tar Heel, but picking them to win would be disingenuous, and we know you read for our journalistic integrity that is void of all bias. Meanwhile, we’re picking the Vikings because of Kirk Cousins’ thoughtful approach to COVID, and to thank them for paying him so much money that he left Washington. YOU LIKE THAT!?
Aside from the Panthers, this stands to be the most interesting division in the NFL, with the arrival of Brady in Tampa Bay, which also brought several other big names like Gronkowski and Fournette. We’re going with the Saints though, as we believe their stability and experience as a team will be more impactful than a collection of somewhat old talent. Tampa Bay would have the most lethal offense ever if this was 2015. Unfortunately, its 2020 and Brady, who is the greatest QB of all-time wasn’t particularly impressive last year with the greatest coach of all time. Not sure it will improve with Bruce Arians, whose career postseason coaching record is 1-2.
Arguably, the best division in the league, the big surprise this year will be the 49ers drop off from reaching the Super Bowl to missing the playoffs. One thing that the NFL does better than anyone (other than punishing ball deflators more heavily than domestic abusers) is parity. Each year there are new teams in the postseason, and typically, the hangover from losing the Super Bowl leads to a drop off. Look no further than the Rams, who played in the 2018 Super Bowl and missed the 2019 playoffs. Meanwhile, the second greatest athlete The Collegiate School has ever produced will lead the Seahawks to another division title.
It has been debated in the past if Belichick made Brady great, or if Brady made Belichick great. Frankly, that’s a stupid debate and diminishes the brilliance of both. However, we will say that Belichick’s ability to be great will last for much longer than Brady’s. As a coach, theoretically, the longer your career the better you will be as you learn more each year. Until you turn into Lou Holtz and just slobber all over everyone. As a player, Father Time is undefeated. Brady has beaten the odds when it comes to career longevity – a credit to him – but he’s going to diminish. So, Belichick with a rejuvenated Cam Newton looks like a pretty good bet. Plus, you know, he’s the best cheater in league history.
As long as Roethlisberger doesn’t fly through any car windshields, we like the Steelers. Is that joke still relevant? (checks the internet…the motorcycle incident happened in 2006?!? So, definitely not still relevant. Good to know.) Regardless, it feels like this is the last hoorah for the Big Ben Era in Pittsburgh, if he can stay healthy. Only problem is Lamar Jackson won the MVP last year and appears to be a menace to the league that’s here to stay. Not to poop on franchises while they are down, but the Browns and Bengals will not be good. If we had to pick one of those two to have a future, it would be the Bengals and Joe Burrow. Wikipedia informs us that since 1999, the Browns have enjoyed two winning seasons, one playoff appearance, 12 head coaches and 30 different starting quarterbacks. We checked the internet on that one too, and we were correct. That’s bad.
In the offseason, all four of these teams had notable decisions around the quarterback position, and since the NFL is a quarterback’s league, we’re making our picks based on the quality of their decisions. The Texans (who most alleged experts think will be terrible) locked up Deshaun Watson with a cool $40 million per year, and he’s the best QB in the league. The Titans looked around but opted to give Ryan Tannehill $118 million. While we’re not sold on Tannehill as a QB that can win you a Super Bowl, he did take the Titans to the AFC Championship Game last season. The Colts brought in Philip Rivers, who spent a career in San Diego not winning anything of consequence. We don’t see that changing this season. And, while we appreciate Gardner Minshew’s continued efforts to earn a role on the Napoleon Dynamite sequel, we don’t think he’s actually any good at football. And, you know, the rest of the team stinks too.
Let’s not overcomplicate things, ok? The Chiefs won the Super Bowl, locked up Mahomes for the rest of his and his unborn children’s lives and gave Andy Reid a fresh set of Hawaiian shirts. That combination means only one thing – the Chiefs will be atop this division for years to come. The Raiders get a bump because they are playing in a shiny new stadium in Las Vegas. Which realistically means they’ll be terrible but have a GREAT time. No COVID concerns in Vegas. Not with Friend of the Hangover Carolyn Goodman running the show.
Seahawks over Patriots
Look…everyone making a prediction about who will win the Super Bowl is just guessing. We don’t care how much time Adam Schefter spends studying the NFL – the one thing we do actually love about this league is the parity. Naturally, we pick one team to get to the Super Bowl that always plays in the Super Bowl, but the point remains. Anything CAN happen.
Frankly, we don’t even know if there will be a Super Bowl. But, let’s not think about that. Let’s just think about Russell Wilson and the Hawks get revenge over the Patriots with a delightful play action pass on 1st and Goal. With a second Super Bowl title, Wilson finally creeps to the top of the greatest athlete to ever come out of The Collegiate School. That title certainly means more to him than any fancy Lombardi Trophy.