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 NFC WEST
Another stacked division in the NFC, producing last years SuperBowl runner-ups in the last 2 seasons. Add into the mix the ever ready Seahawks who won it all in 2014 and the rapidly improving Cardinals who seem to be building aggressively towards a bright future and you can see why this division looks like being fun all the way to the end. Someone big is probably missing out, but who?
I feel I’ll get grief for this one, but stay with me here. In a division that looks so competitive the advantage always goes to the team with the best QB. In this case that man is Russell Wilson. Wilson put up 4000+yards and 31 TDs in 2019 despite playing behind a bad o-line, and whilst not much has changed in front of him, why would you bet against him pulling it off. The Greg Olsen addition helps me to be confident as he can be a great blocking piece as well as a receiver. Lockett and Metcalfe are rapid, Chris Carson is undervalued at RB and now backed up by Carlos Hyde who had his own 1000y season last year whilst on the Texans. The D is always crucial to the ‘Hawks, Wagner and Shaquill Griffin return, Bruce Irvin comes across from Carolina (8.5 sacks) and they’ve paid big for Safety Jamal Adams who can be a difference maker in the middle of the field. Wait and see, they’ll be great this year despite the tough division.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Im on record saying there will be no post -SB hangover in San Fran. I believe it too. This team is too young, talented and motivated to react badly, they’ll shake themselves off and come again. All that said, I didn’t like the loss of DeForest Bucknor who was a pivotal piece in the defense, and I think Sherman is probably a year to deep into his illustrious career. Nick Bosa and Fred Warner catch the eye on every defensive play and Arik Armstead is a mauler that any team would want. Offensively the return after 2 lost years of Jerrick McKinnon makes up for the loss of Matt Breida, George Kittle is the best TE in the NFC and the line now has Trent Williams onboard to make them even more dominating. Im not, however, sold on the weapons. Deebo Samuel misses the season start on IR, Drafee Brandon Aiyuk is carrying an injury and Kendrick Bourne isn’t a lead WR. Shanahan gets a lot out of fringe players, but where is the difference maker here? Jimmy G has probably peeked at QB too, which is fine, hes definitely good enough, but he isn’t Russell Wilson…
Projected record: 10-6
Sean McVay on Hard Knocks seems confident. Im not sure why. Sure they have great weapons on offense in Kupp, Woods, Reynolds and TE’s Higbee and Everett, but Jared Goff hasn’t looked a world beater since they lost the Superbowl in 2018 and they don’t have another option at QB to pressure him. Malcolm Brown heads the RB depth chart, but Cam Akers will succeed him quickly, either way it could be a slow start to the year from the backfield. Beside the evergreen Andrew Whitworth I don’t much like the o-line either. The Defense will keep this Rams team in games they shouldn’t be in, Aaron Donald is probably the best DE in football, Jalen Ramsey isn’t far off being the best cornerback too, BUT, behind the decent starting 11 it’s a poor group who could get exposed once injuries take their toll.
Projected record: 7-9
Oh this is going to be so much fun to watch. DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald on the same team? Two the the greatest receivers of my lifetime? How can that fail to entertain?? The Hopkins trade was a steal and equally showed real commitment from the front office to what Kingsbury wants to achieve here. Kenyan Drake emerged as a real threat from the backfield after last years mid-season trade and id expect him to get huge usage too. Pugh and Sweezy make the O-line passable but it’s a good job Kyler Murray is mobile. If he continues to impress and grow then we could be seeing the new Russell Wilson right here. Chandler Jones and Pat Peterson keep the D interesting and I like Budda Baker as a tackling monster from safety, but Dre Kirkpatrick isn’t a starting CB anymore so he’ll get picked on time and time again. This team will impress and frustrate, but another year of growth and they’ll be favourites more often than not.
Projected record 7-9