Personally, today is incredibly bittersweet. Bitter because I return to long-term subbing in one of the worst school districts in America; feeling guilty for being part of a problem that is sooooo much bigger than me, but sweet because the NFL is back! Hopefully, this is my last NFL preview while faking it as a teacher!! :) #HireDozo
As we embark on the 102nd season of the National Football League, there are plenty of significant changes to recap:
-This is the BIGGEST season ever as the regular season is now 17 games (with 18 around the corner).
-The NFL drastically altered its jersey number policy. You could theoretically see six single digits on offense and up to nine on defense depending on the personal package.
-As of 9/8/2021 at 7:37 PM, future HOF vets like Frank Gore (NFL's third all-time leading rusher) and Larry Fitzgerald (NFL 100 All-Time Team Member) remain unsigned. Gore debuted in 2005, Larry in 2004.
-The new taunting rules fucking SUCK and are the most anti-football BS I've ever seen. I hated taking violence out of the game, but at least I understand it...we gotta be safer, but it's a fucking game played by grown men....let them talk their shit, flex, all of it...IT'S ENTERTAINMENT. John Mara is a cuck.
Even though football is about moving forward, it's important to remember the past. Here are my predictions from nearly every season since I started DOL in 2016.
2016: I still can't believe the Cardinals were such a disappointment.
2017---I guess I didn't do an NFL preview blog this year. Must've been too busy getting verbally abused by 8th graders in Nashville.
2018: I had the Chargers beating the Pats in the AFC Championship lololol.
2019: I called Christian McCaffrey going 1000-1000 NBD.
2020: I was right about Russell being MVP for like 7 weeks.
For the sake of time and math I'm not going to go over all the standings and records and instead give my playoff teams, award winners and Super Bowl champ. That being said there's 18 teams that aren't going to make the playoffs so here's a few quick takes about them with a few predictions about the good teams peppered in.
-Urban Meyer will fail in Jacksonville. He makes it through year one, but there will be no year three.
-Mac Jones throws 30 touchdowns.
-The Texans will be lucky to win multiple games.
-Dan Campbell doesn't make it to 2022.
-Daniel Jones loses his starting job; Joe Judge gets fired.
-Derek Carr has a great fantasy season, but the Raiders miss the playoffs again.
-Dolphins take a step back.
-Steelers miss the playoffs and Big Ben retires after the season.
-Falcons go 4-13.
-Taysom Hill ends up making at least two starts at QB.
-Carson Wentz is a disaster in Indy.
-Cliff Kingsbury doesn't make it to week 12.
-Rob Gronkowski scores double-digit touchdowns for the first time since 2015.
-Joe Burrow looks great in Cincy, making all 17 starts.
Now let's look at who I think will make the playoffs.
AFC Playoff Teams:
#1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3): Chalk as it gets, but as long as Patrick Mahomes and his two favorite scummy targets (Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce) are healthy, you can pencil in the Chiefs as AFC West champs. The Super Bowl showed the importance of a stable offensive line, something the Chiefs addressed this offseason by signing former All-Pro Guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long.
#2. Buffalo Bills (12-5): This may be the final year of me low key liking the Bills as the Patriots look to contend again in 2021, but it's tough to not love this roster. I think Sean McDermott is a top 5-7 coach in the NFL. Don't forget this team has Manny Sanders! As long as Cole Beasley doesn't give the entire roster COVID, the Bills will be a first-class AFC team.
#3. Cleveland Browns (11-6): Expectations are sky-high in Cleveland, which makes me think they're in for a major letdown, but after destroying the Steelers in the playoffs last year and nearly beating the Chiefs, I believe the Browns take the next step and win the AFC North for the first time. Perhaps they already exercised their demons by embarrassing the Steelers at the Ketchup Bottle. I drafted Nick Chubb 10th overall in fantasy, so I wouldn't hate seeing Kareem Hunt getting in trouble again. Oh, and Cody Parkey isn't their kicker anymore, which has to be great for Browns fans. I still can't believe they kicked an XP to make it a 9-point game against the Chiefs in the playoffs.
#4. Tennessee Titans (10-7): Lost Corey Davis but replaced him with arguably one of the greatest WRs of all time in Julio Jones. I do get worried about the number of carries Derrick Henry has had the last two seasons, but if he stayed healthy, this is the Titans division to lose. Tannehill has been one of the best QBs in the NFL since taking the job midway through the 2019 season. The defense looks to be improved with guys like Bud Dupree and Denico Autry to help out one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL. I obviously love Vrabs and have a soft spot in my heart for the Titans, even though they technically ended Tom Brady's Patriot career.
#5. New England Patriots (11-6): Semi-biased, but the Patriots will be #good this season. 7-9 with arguably one of the worst rosters in the NFL last season. Between the guys returning from Covid opt-outs (I'm pretty sure at this point it's just Dont'a), the free-agent signings, and what looks like a great rookie draft class, the Patriots will win double-digit games. Mac Jones is my OROY. I cannot wait for Week 4 when Brady and Gronk return to Foxboro—still debating spending 30% of my net worth on tickets. P.S. it's FUCKED up that the Pats gave Tre Nixon #87.
#6. Los Angeles Chargers (10-7): Anthony Lynn is gone. Justin Herbert is the real deal and starts winning meaningful games. Chargers are back in the playoffs for the first time post-Bolo Rivers. I love the addition of Jared Cook to replace Hunter Henry, and Corey Linsley (FA signing from the Packers) is one of the best Centers in the NFL.
#7. Baltimore Ravens (10-7): Much like Stephen A., I don't think Lamar Jackson is an elite QB. He's a freak athlete who can win you games, but I still don't "truss" his arm. Gross weapons around him outside of Mark Andrews, but I must tip my hat to John Harbaugh. He's a great coach, and the Ravens are always in the mix; it's a tough division, but they sneak into the 7 seed. Look out for Justin Tucker to score 141 points for the 5th time in 6 years after a minor dip last season.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the season hasn't officially started and the Ravens just lost two key players (Gus Edwards and Marcus Peters) to torn ACLs I am updating my AFC 7th seed.
#7. Denver Broncos (10-7): Despite an appearance on the OG Fraud List (IYKYK), I'm a Teddy Bridgewater guy and think he can win games in this league (especially on a team that compliments him like this). Despite a 4-11 campaign in 2020, he's still three games over .500 as a starter. Denver has some weapons on offense; Courtland Sutton is back to pair up with Jerry Jeudy. In my eyes, Noah Fant is a top 10ish TE, and I fw their RB combo too; Melvin Gordon ain't dead yet! On defense, the Broncos have two Top 100 players in Bradley Chubb and Justin Simmons, not to mention the return of future HOFer, Von Miller. It's put up or shut up time for Vic Fangio, and with zero playoff appearances since sinning Super Bowl 50, I believe this Denver roster can capitalize on one of the easiest schedules in the NFL (even though the AFC West is a solid division).
NFC Playoff Teams:
#1. Los Angeles Rams (13-4): One of the best defenses in the NFL, just made a massive upgrade at QB. This could end up being a 2018 Vikings-like disaster prediction for Ole Dozo (had them going 14-2 with Kirk Cousins as MVP), but if Sean McVay could trick Jared Goff into an NFC Championship, I think Matt Stafford will be a borderline MVP candidate. I hope Sony does well in L.A. Hopefully, there isn't too much tension from his slicing of the 2018 Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
#2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5): The Bucs 2020 season was straight out of what Brady's been doing for the last twenty years. Slow start, bounce back, struggle, get hot and win the Super Bowl. Okay, so that is really only the blueprint of the 2001, 2014, and 2018 Patriots. Tampa is the first defending champ since the 70s to bring back all 22 starters. Let's see how that works out. I'm sure nobody will get complacent!
#3. Green Bay Packers (12-5): The Packers face one of the toughest schedules in the NFL; it's hard for me to see them only lose three regular season games like they have the last two years. That being said, This team should've been in the Super Bowl. People forget that Brady threw interceptions on three straight second-half drives, but the Packers could only capitalize like three points off those turnovers. I am a little worried about their offensive line after losing Corey Linsley and David Bakhtiari is on the PUP list recovering from a torn ACL late in the 2020 season.
#4. Dallas Cowboys (9-8): Someone has to win this division. Dak looked phenomenal last season until his cramp (h/t Tony Romo). I stopped watching Hard Knocks after the 2nd episode, but this offense has too much talent not to win this division. They added some guys on defense too. Micah Parsons is the favorite for Defensive ROY. I don't think the Giants or Eagles are close to competing, and the Football Team isn't going to the playoffs back-to-back years. That hasn't happened since three straight appearances from 1990-1992.
#5. Seattle Seahawks (11-6): I used to hate this organization with the fire of 1,000 suns, but now I'm sort of a Seahawks sympathizer. I was at a dinner party during their playoff loss and only saw like 18% of the game, but I still can't believe they lost to the Rams. I expect them to be right back in the mix with fans back in Seattle and one of the most explosive offenses in football, and enough guys on defense to make the occasional stop. It wouldn't shock me if they won the division.
#6. San Francisco 49ers (10-6-1): The 49ers were the most injured team in football last year and are finally healthy. I don't know what will happen at QB, but with Kyle Shanahan, I expect them to be back in the playoffs. There's always a worst-to-first team in the NFL, and they're one of the best bets, even though I clearly have them finishing 3rd in what I believe is the best division in football.
#7. Minnesota Vikings (10-7): Since Mike Zimmer became the Vikings Head Coach in 2014, the Vikings have made the playoffs in odd years and missed them in even ones. The last time I checked, 2021 is an odd year. This is all contingent on unvacced Kirk Cousins not fucking over his team.
MVP: DT Aaron Donald-----no DT has won the MVP since Judge Alan Page in 1971....50 years seems like a good time to break the streak, and if there's anybody to do it...it's Aaron Donald on the NFC's #1 seed.
OPOY: QB Josh Allen-----stud on a great offense. My Mahomes bias is showing, and I don't careeeee. I can totally see 45+ total TDs (thinking like 39 in the air and 6 on the ground) for Josh.
DPOY: DT Aaron Donald------best player at his position in the NFL. I once heard the gap between Donald and the 2nd best DT is the most significant gap between the 1st and 2nd best player at any position.
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick------I've predicted him multiple times; he's won the award thrice, but none since 2010 when the Patriots went 14-2. Usually a narrative-driven award, but the narrative of the Patriots being all the way back with a rookie QB should get BB the hardware. I didn't wanna be a basic bitch and say Kyle Shanahan like everybody else.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: QB Mac Jones-----I'm drinking the Mac Jones kool-aid, but I genuinely believe in him. I was not too fond of the pick at first because I wanted Justin Fields, but Mac is the perfect fit in New England. I think in three months, the NFL is going to be soooo mad they let him slip to the Pats.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: EDGE Kwity Paye-----gotta show the local boy some love. I think he's going to have double-digit sacks in Indy.
Comeback Player of the Year: QB Dak Prescott------safest bet; if the Cowboys make the playoffs and his QB rating is above 90, it's his award to lose.
AFC Wild Card:
2. Bills over 7. Broncos
3. Browns over 6. Chargers
5. Patriots over 4. Titans
5. Patriots over 1. Chiefs
3. Browns over 2. Bills
5. Patriots over 3. Browns
NFC Wild Card:
2. Buccaneers over 7. Vikings
6. 49ers over 3. Packers
5. Seahawks over 4. Cowboys
6. 49ers over 1. Rams
2. Buccaneers over 5. Seahawks
2. Buccaneers over 6. 49ers
A5. Patriots over N2. Buccaneers.
Super Bowl MVP: Devin McCourty
No team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the 2003-04 New England Patriots. In the ultimate narrative bowl the Patriots beat Tom Brady and the Bucs to stop the repeat; cementing Belichick as the greatest coach in NFL history.
Non-biased (even though I do think that's gonna happen) pick: Buccaneers over Browns.
Most importantly, TOO MANY LEGS TEASER OF THE WEEK returns on Sunday. Let's get rich watching the greatest sport on earth!!!