Nice prediction that came true in week 1 against the Chiefs. I hated the way the Spanos screwed over San Diego, so I hope the team fails miserably in Los Angeles.
With the magic of 20–20 hindsight and fevered hot takes after week 1, do you have any doubts about your predictions?
Here are the things that stood out after week 1 for me:
Jets: Sam Darnold looks like the real deal. With a home game against Miami and a roadie against Cleveland, they could go 3–0 with winnable games against Denver, Indy, Chicago, Miami and two against Buffalo. This is an 8 or 9 win team.
Bengals: On the verge of losing to the lowly Colts, the defense made a huge play to save the game, then the offense exploded against the Ravens to start 2–0. Depending on how bad Pittsburgh really is, they look like a lock to win 8–9 games.
Chargers: They showed all the old tendencies and got crushed by the Chiefs, but they have an easy schedule. Aside from the Rams, Chiefs and maybe the Steelers, they don’t play one game against an elite team. The problem is, every game is a road game, as the StubHub Center is usually filled with the ex-pats of the visiting teams. They will still suffer some embarrassing losses, but can’t help but end up with at least 9 wins and a wild card berth.
Green Bay: With an injured Aaron Rodgers, the Packers went from elite to on thin ice by the second quarter of the first game of the season. We may see the the Greg Popovich roster system come to the NFL, as the Packers selectively bench Rodgers against teams with defenses that could end his season on one hit. If he sits out against Minnesota twice, the Rams, and a Thursday night game against Seattle, they could be 8–5 going into Chicago in December, with two probable wins after that. That gets them to 10 wins, a wild card berth and then they roll the dice in the playoffs.
49ers: They’re young, but coming. Dropped passes, and four turnovers created a potential 21-point turnaround (fumble lost at the Viking 1, dropped long pass by Kittles, followed by pick-6) in a game decided by 8 points against a strong Vikings team at home. If they don’t shoot themselves in the foot against veteran teams like Seattle, San Francisco should win 10 games.
Vikings: They still have an elite defense, but the offense looks a little worse than last season. Maybe that’s a testament to how good the 49ers defense really is, maybe it’s the more predictable Kurt Cousins not doing crazy scrambles to set up the huge chunk plays that Keenum did. Cousins only averaged 5.8 yards per attempt and a QBR of 58.6. With the Vikings playing L.A., Philadelphia and New England on the road, there’s very little margin of error for them to repeat last year’s 13–win output. They look like a 12-win team.
Rams: The offense looked rusty for their first exhibition game against Oakland (the starters hadn’t taken one snap during the actual preseason). Goff had only 6.6 yards per pass and a pedestrian QBR of 74.2, while Todd Gurly was shut down in the first half.
But what a second half. Gurley wore down the Raiders defense and ended the game with over 100 yards, averaging 5.4 per carr. He even did his own imitation of Beast Mode, knocking safety Marcus Gilchrist unconscious with a failed attempt to hurdle his tackler. The other revelation was Brandin Cooks, whose efforts on five catches on passes all over the field and and as a deep threat (leading to two long PI penalties against the Raiders) was a stark contrast to Sammy Watkins’ season long siesta in 2017.
With no film or tendencies on John Gruden for the last ten years, the defense struggled in the first half, but Wade Phillips made the necessary adjustments and pitched a shutout the rest of the way, forcing three punts, two interceptions and a non-scoring drive as time ran out. And Aaron Donald’s only notable defensive play in the game was a low tackle on Derek Carr that resulted in a roughing the passer call.
With the Arizona game to end the preseason, and a more challenging warmup game against the San Diego ex-pats, I think the game of the year happens in week 4, when Minnesota comes to town.
Whoever wins this game will go on to be the #1 in the playoffs and secure the vital home field advantage. Every tough game this season will be at home (New Orleans doesn’t have the defense to be an elite team, based on their poop fest against Harvard Hall of Fame quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick).
The Rams could be undefeated going into November, followed by winnable games against Seattle, Detroit, Chicago and Arizona. That’s a 12-win season, allowing for a road loss, a couple of tough home losses and a rest-your-starters game to end the season, as a win over the Vikings would clinch the tie breaker for home field advantage.