FOOTBALL IS BACK !! For the first time since February there is hope and light and something to discuss that isn’t world-ending. Hurrah for football!
We’ve had the draft, we’ve had the speculation and we’ve had our fill of covid-friendly, iso-bubble namby-pamby training camps. What we really want is bone-crunching, pass-catching, touchdown-scoring football. Tomorrow night the reigning champion Chiefs get the season underway against division rivals the Texans at Arrowhead as they look to be the first repeat champions since the ’04 and ’05 Patriots. The season is going to post many, many questions and dilemmas for staff and players alike in these strange times, but ultimately one thing remains true, the best team post-Christmas will claim the crown. So lets take a look through the teams by Conference and Division and weigh up their chances of reaching the tickertape glory land…
THE AFC SOUTH
Phillips Rivers moves to the Colts and gets an O-Line, Last years surprise team, The Titans, have all their major pieces back and look determined to show they weren’t a one-season wonder, Bill O’Brien continues to sabotage DeShaun Watsons Chances of success and The Jaguars are tanking for Trevor and making few bones about it….
They retained the services of both Tannehill (Come back player of the year) and Henry (Rushing yards leader) which gives the team a real edge when entering the 2020 season. Its unlikely the Henry leads the league again, but if he’s a top 5 rusher and Tannehill can continue to utilise the weapons around him without committing turnovers then the Offense will carry on where it left off. A full season of Jonnu Smith will be a blessing (Delaine Walker WAS a great player but impeded the progress of Smith last year). The Jadeveon Clowney signing has been met with plenty of fanfare, and rightly so, not necessarily for the stats he brings but for the coverage he drags his way, freeing up players like Jeffrey Simmons and Harold Landry to make the impact plays. Vrabel is a great coach, he could be the true difference maker in this division.
Jacoby Brissett started well in 2019 then faded badly just when the team needed him most. His demotion allows Phillip Rivers to move to a new team after 76years with the Chargers, and to finally be given an O-Line that his skills deserve. Yes, there will be turnovers, yes, there will be downfield bombs that sail way beyond their target, but, given time to stand and assess the situation Rivers should have just enough in the tank to ratchet this offense up a level or 2 from last season. T.Y Hilton will be the Colts version of Keenan Allen, Jack Doyle could be the Antonio Gates-lite that Rivers really needs and the RB duo of Mack and Taylor will be excellent at keeping defences guessing. On the defensive side, DeForest Buckner his a huge signing who’ll bring fierce disruption, Justin Houston should have 1 more big push in those legs, and Darius Leonard is on his way to greatness (5 Sacks, 2FF and 5 INTs last year). Replacing Adam Vinatieri was a slow and painful process but newcomer Rodrigo Blankenship gets the opportunity to fill the greybeards shoe. This is a coin-toss between the Titans and the Colts, turnovers may prove the difference.
Projected record: 9-7
DeShaun Watson is probably as good as Mahomes, Jackson and Prescott, the biggest difference is those 3 QBs are supported by their franchises whilst Watson appears to be battling with his front office just to survive let alone perform. DeAndre Hopkins was dealt on the cheap to the Cardinals during the off-season for a Mars Bar, a track suit and cripple-in-waiting David Johnson (I really hope he can be good as he really was an exciting player). The direct replacement for Hopkins is…Brandin Cooks. Now, Cooks is fast, no doubt, but he has a concussion history (8 Games missed in career) and a habit of disappearing for stretches (Hopkins doesn’t ever disappear). When you pair Cooks with oft-injured Will Fuller and Randall Cobb who hasn’t played a full season for 5 years its hardly imposing in the long-run. Letting Carlos Hyde leave after a 1000y season seems hazardous too. The Defence is aging and has injury issues of its own, we know JJ Watt will play at pro-bowl level for 8-10 games before his body gives up, Bradley Roby and Vernon Hargreaves don’t fill me with confidence at CornerBack and Whitney Mercilus enters his 8th season shouldering a lot of the the workload without much depth should the worst happen. O’Brien frustrates me and taints my view of the team, but I can only write it as I see it.
Projected record: 7-9
Im not sure how Doug Morrone still has a Head Coaching role, but he does. I know. But honestly, I checked, he’s still in charge. Look, lets be positive for a minute… Gardner Minshew was impressive as a rookie and had a great rapport with DJ Chark. Leonard Fournette has been released which may be a blessing as his attitude was poor, and the O-Line is definitely better than average when all 5 starters are on the field. Enough with the positives… Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue are huge losses for the D to absorb but neither wanted to be in Florida anymore, so that’s more pressure on Josh Allen to continue from his good rookie season. Myles Jack isn’t playing at the level expected of him (Stats aren’t everything, but his aren’t good enough) and the CB Duo need to hit the ground running or they’ll be swamped. Recently drafted D.E K’Lavon Chaisson is a bright light on the D, so keep an eye on him.
Projected record 3-13