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Red’s 2021 NFL Predictions – AFC North

Red always struggles a bit to remember exactly who is in this division.  As a young boy, the Baltimore Colts were in the NFL West conference and for years Red thought Baltimore was somewhere between LA and San Francisco.  And to continue on the Baltimore theme, the first time Red actually drove through Baltimore in the 70’s he was convinced it was the worst looking place he had ever seen in his life – and Red had been to Nuevo Laredo.  

Cleveland Browns (12-5).  The Browns had their best season in this millennium last year.  Yet, an 11-5 record was only good enough for a third place finish in this the Light Heavyweight Division of the NFL.  Otto Graham sneers at the thought of making the playoffs with a third-place finish.  See above.     This once proud franchise who was the NFL Champion in the year of Red’s birth (Red will leave you to guess) has been a laughing stock for too long.  Knocking off the Stealers in the Wild Card round was nice and there wasn’t much shame in losing to the defending champion Chiefs the next week.  Adding a real TE in Austin Hooper will add to the arsenal at the disposal of B. Mayfield who makes a legitimate bid for league MVP – depending on the breaks and a timely snowmageddon.    Their reward for a good season – getting to face the Chiefs at Arrowhead in the featured late game on opening Sunday.  After that it gets easier for a few games.  The make or break point of the season comes in Weeks 12-14 with the anomaly of playing the Ravens – followed by the off week  – followed by the Ravens.  If the Browns split with the Ravens, they still face a tough closing stretch with the Raiders, Packers and Stealers.  If the division is still up for grabs in Week 18 , the Browns have the luxury of facing the likely to be hapless Bengals.   

Baltimore Ravens (11-6)  “No football matter in Baltimore is more urgent than the state of the Ravens’ offensive line” according to Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun.  Hopefully, the unit that takes the field in Las Vegas on the first Monday of the season will include several starters that are currently sidelined because of injuries.  Bozeman, Zeitler and Stanley better be ready or else Lamar Jackson’s obsession with winning  the Superb Owl (and Jazz Hands! – see above) will be as much of a pipe dream as his ranking last season as the No. 1 talent in the league.  Note to LJ:  You are now rated No. 24 – the biggest drop of any player.  And lest ye forget, the Ravens are the biggest post-season floppers of the past two seasons.  The mighty 12 points they put up against the Titans in the Divisional Round against the Titans in 2019 was only exceeded in infamy by the incredible 3 points they managed to score against the Bills in the Divisional Round after wrecking revenge on the Titans in the Wildcard game. In 2019 regular season the Ravens only scored less than 23 points once (a 20-17 win against the Niners).  2020 was much more up and down with 3 games scoring 20 or fewer points and 8 games with more than 30 points on the board.  Who know which Ravens team shows up this year.  Red sure doesn’t.  The targets are in place for LJ with Watkins, Brown and Andrews, but the running game is sketchy.  The defense was similarly inconsistent last season.  The Ravens are good enough to make the playoffs as a wild card entry, but beyond that . . .    

Pittsburgh Stealers (10-7).  One discounts the Stealers at one’s peril.  Red has made that mistake more than once.  But it really seems the window behind the Steel Curtain is closing on the Big Ben era who will be moving on to star in the remake of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams [JB1] (get out of the way Dan Haggerty).  And in his own version of 5 Bold Predictions Red offers up this:

  1. Ben Roethlisberger is old
  2. Hines Ward is retired.
  3. Dwayne Haskins sucks.
  4. Mike Tomlin gets the boot.
  5. The Steelers miss the playoffs.
Allens Boots - Austin, TX

Cincinnati Bengals (6-11).  Red has no ill will towards the hapless NFL franchise in southern Ohio.  The Bengals really don’t need any help in that department.  They remain in a dogfight with the Lions for the current longest playoff win drought having last had the sweet taste of playoff victory in 1991 (The Lions won a playoff game in 1992).  That’s 30 years for the math challenged out there.  Red actually does have some shoes that are older than that – a pair of cowboy boots that he purchased at Allens Boots in Austin in 1989. They have been resoled at least twice but Red thinks that those well-crafted canoes just might outlive the Bengals playoff win drought.  He will leave them in his last will and testament to Red, Jr. just in case.  To understand exactly how pathetic this 30 year streak is – all you have to do is accept the unbelievable fact that the Jaguars won a playoff game in 2018. 


 [JB1]

Red’s 2021 NFL Predictions – AFC East

For nigh onto two decades, Red professed that it was spineless and cowardly to continue to pick the Patriots to win this division – and then did just that.  Since the 2002 realignment, the Pats have failed to win this division all of 3 times.  First in 2002, again in 2008 and then last season when the Bills took charge.  Throw in a bunch of NFL Championships and you have the story line for 20 years.  Conversely to real life, the more things change in the NFL the more they don’t stay the same.  Change is afoot.  It is now spineless and cowardly to pick some team other than the Patriots to win this division.

Bills Stadium lease negotiations will cost Erie County ...

Buffalo Bills (13-4).  The latest rumors have the Bills considering a move to Austin, Texas in the event that the Greater Buffalo area does not cave in and pony up for a new stadium.  Red for one is very tired of the blackmail routinely pursued by NFL owners.  Say what you will about the Cowboys, but when they sought a home away from the Cotton Bowl in the 70s – they figured out a way to pay for it themselves and Texas Stadium was built.  Of course, Jerry Jones regressed to the norm and now sucks mightily on the taxpayers’ teats in Arlington – a city desperate to find relevance in the hinterlands between Dallas  and Fort Worth.  Red finds the idea of an NFL franchise in Austin almost laughable.  Red for one cannot see UT – Austin, Jerry Jones or professional walrus imitator Cal McNair letting an NFL team encroach upon their hallowed turf.  But enough about politics.  Red sees the Bills as a dominant franchise for at least a few more seasons.  Josh Allen is securely in the building with a new record-setting contract.   As for the schedule, it could be a lot tougher given that the Bills are a division champ.  All of the AFC East has a favorable draw in getting to play the NFC South  with potential walk-overs against Atlanta and Carolina and the AFC South which features two weak sisters in Houston and Jacksonville.   Plus Red thinks the Bills will go 5-1 in division and at least split the games against the other divisions.  That means the Bills have to pick up three wins from among Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Tennessee, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Washington and Tampa Bay.  It’s easy to see that happening and Bills fans celebrating another division title and a first round bye. 

Roster Moves: Dolphins Sign LS Rex Sunahara

Aug 06, 2021 at 11:17 AM

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Miami Dolphins today announced that they have signed long snapper Rex Sunahara.

Sunahara joined Miami’s practice squad on Nov. 16, 2020 but was waived on July 23, 2021. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted college free agent with Miami on Aug. 1, 2020. Sunahara was a three-year letterman (2017-19) at West Virginia, where he played in 25 career games.

Roster Moves: Dolphins Waive LS Rex Sunahara

Aug 09, 2021 at 06:02 PM

  • MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Miami Dolphins today announced that they have waived long snapper Rex Sunahara

Sunahara spent part of last season with the Dolphins practice squad and had multiple stints on the active roster this offseason. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted college free agent with Miami on Aug. 1, 2020. Sunahara was a three-year letterman (2017-19) at West Virginia, where he played in 25 career games.

Miami Dolphins (9-8)   Full disclosure – Red is a Brian Flores fan.  He has basically taken a rag-tag squad often led by the redoubtable bearded one (aka Ryan Fitzpatrick) and turned them into an almost viable contender. But with Fitz decamped to the nation’s capital to play for the “Football Team”, BF will have to choose between unproven Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett and some guy named Reid Sinnett to run the offense. Such dilemmas are why being an NFL head coach is almost worse than managing your average local Little League team.  That and having things like what is shown above  on your webpage.  It gives the average fan such a sense of confidence that the team knows what it is doing.   

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New England Patriots (8-9)  If anyone thought that Bill Bellichek was going to make a graceful exit stage right, think again. With success comes hubris.  With hubris comes self-delusion. And with self-delusion comes a fall from grace.  If BB needs a lesson in how this works, Red can think of a disgraced former president to observe as he sinks deeper into the throes of denial and mendacity.  In any event, it has been clear for many seasons that the key to the Patriots dynasty was outstanding defense and special teams and a guy named Brady.  Apparently all 3 parts of the equation were needed and last season one had headed for sunny southern climes and the others were not up to par.  Well that and a dismal 2-6 record on the road – the nadir being a shocking loss to a truly pathetic Texans team in Week 11.  Combine that with a 1-3 record in non-conference play against the NFC West (beating only the Cardinals) and you get the Pats first losing season in oh-so-many years.  Sadly for Pats fans about all you can expect is to break even in 2021.  Maybe they switch places with the Dolphins for the runner-up spot and a long shot at the playoffs – but probably not.  See above photo from tryouts for new punter. Red admires the excellent form.    

The Jets May Be Turning Sam Darnold Into Mark Sanchez ...

New Jersey Jets  (5-12).  It is with some trepidation that Red declares – “The Jets cannot be worse than they were last season.” ESPN has ranked the Jets as the No. 2 “most improved team” behind the Jags.  That’s kind of like saying the aesthetic appeal of a turd has improved. With apologies to Mel Brooks, Red asks,  “What could possibly be worse?”  “Could be raining.”  And cue the lightning, thunder and pouring rain.  To be fair, the Jets are trying.  Seeing Darn Old Sam hit the bricks is probably a plus.  But losing at least competent WR Breshad Perriman,  tired old RB Frank Gore, 6 of the top 10 defenders (in terms of snaps played) and some others is a wash at best.  Of course all eyes are upon QB Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft.  If he doesn’t get hauled off in a basket or  killed first (ala David Carr –just pick a season any old season or Patrick Mahomes in the Superb Owl), Wilson hopefully will have some time to develop into a respectable NFL QB.  He has at least one target in newly acquired WR Corey Davis.  The Jets are better but no one is going to write home about a 4-12 record. 

Red’s 2021 NFL Predictions – AFC South

Red used to refer to the AFC South as “The Division of Excellence” or something like that because like Rodney Dangerfield it “got no respect” from most of the pundits despite frequently having among the best collective records of any division in the NFL.   Of course, the AFC South has all of one – count it one – NFL Championships coming with the Colts win over the Bears in 2006.  The Colts accounted for the division’s only other AFC Championship but lost to the Saints in the 2009 Superb Owl.

Last season, the division was dominated by two excellent squads with Tennessee and Indianapolis both posting 11-5 records while the Texans (4-12)  and Jaguars (1-15) soiled the bed linens.  Neither the Colts nor the Titans could make it out of the Wild Card round as the Titans lost a tough game against the Ravens while the Colts almost knocked off the Bills. 

Moving on to this season, Red doesn’t see much reason for change at the top or the bottom of this division.

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Tennessee  Titans (11-6).  Red picks the Titans to repeat as division champs.  Admittedly, it is hard to look at the Titans 2021 schedule and not wonder how exactly 10 wins will be forthcoming.   Other than the 4 games against the Texans and Jaguars there appears to be only one soft spot on the schedule in week 4 against the Jets.  But with loyal fans like Jana (originally from Germany but now woefully ensconced somewhere in Florida) who had her car “wrapped in the Tennessee Titans logo” and whose “biggest wish is for the team to autograph my car” – how can this team miss?  With the amount of offensive firepower Coach Mike Vrabel and new OC Todd Downing have at their disposal, this team should easily be among the AFC leaders in points scored if not for the fact that they play in the same conference with the Chiefs, Bills, Ravens and Browns.  Geez guys you got A J Brown, Derrick Henry and Julio Jones.  Even All-Mediocre QB Ryan Tannehill should be able to do something with that bunch. Red also likes the addition of wily veteran Jackrabbit Jenkins to the secondary  and Bud Dupree to linebacking corps.  JRJ earns the wily designation because he has scored 10 career touchdowns ranking first among active defensive players (JJ Watt may beg to differ).  If Dupree is fully recovered from his torn ACL he gives the Titans another legit edge rusher.  

99 DT DeForest Buckner

Indianapolis Colts (9-8).   The most exciting news out of the Colts training camp does not involve who will replace P. Rivers under center, but rather the Throwback Game on November 28  against the NFL Champion Buccaneers.  The big feature of the throwbacks will be the double horseshoes on the back of the helmet.  Red for one can hardly wait to see the ghosts of  Weeb Eubank, Jonny Unitas , Don Ameche and Tom Matte rallying the Colts to an OT win over the hated Buccaneers.  And for Dad, the Colts Cheerleaders (claiming to be the NFL’s first cheer squad) will also be sporting throwbacks.  Sorry no pictures available.  As for the team, who knows?  Sam Ehlinger from Texas could be the starting QB by Week 13 when the Colts come to Houston.  Ehlinger is undefeated at NRG having trounced Rice in 2019 and Missouri in the 2017 Texas Bowl.  The Colts could do worse.  As with the Titans, the Colts don’t have a favorable schedule and one that is possibly harder than the Titans with the matchup against the aforementioned defending champion Bucs.  Other than the weaklings of the AFC South and the Jets, every game looks like a toss-up. 

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Jacksonville Jaguars (6-11).  No team in the league has tried harder to get better with fewer results than the Jags.  Given the current pathetic state of London’s favorite team, it is hard to believe that the Jags were one touchdown away from playing in the Superb Owl in 2017.  Things do change fast in this era.  In the biggest news since Donald Trump professed his undying love for North Korean Dictator Kim Jung Un, new Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer recently declared, “I love Bobby Bowden” while mourning the death of his long-time Florida football rival at age 91.  Oh yeah, and in addition to adding the second most successful college coach of the last 20 years, the Jags have a new QB who is the latest in a long line of “can’t miss” top of the draft class rookies.  Red thinks the book is out on Trevor Lawrence until at least a couple of chapters are written.  Ask Jonny Manziel, Sam Bradshaw, Jamarcus Russell, David Carr, Vince Young, Andre Ware and Joey Harrington about this.  Coming into a sad-sack franchise often plays a role in the transformation from an NFL career back to being a working stiff (albeit a rather wealthy stiff) in civil society – and the sacks don’t get much sadder than they do in Jacksonville. 

Houston Texans (3-13-1).  Hey Bill, how many games do you think the Texans will win this year without your brilliant leadership skills? See photo above for answer.  Well the Texans would be right in claiming that  “Bad luck and trouble -my only friends.”  Perhaps the Texans were born under a bad sign.  Red won’t recount his personal travails with the franchise (like the 1422 days after the franchise opening win against the Cowboys and attending another game in which they eked out a win).  The fallout from the Bill O the Clown era will be with the team for a good while.  If there has been a more incompetent team leader, Red sure can’t summon up the name.  BO the C routinely gave the store away in trades, ran off good players, pissed off the media and the fans, repeatedly showed his incompetence in game management and yet, somehow managed to win four AFC South division titles and two playoff games.  Notably, BO the C only had one season with more than 10 wins in 2017 but then his team got gobsmacked by the Colts in the Wild Card round.   Admittedly, some blame has to be placed on the shoulders of Team President (and leading candidate for starring in a Captain Kangaroo revival) Cal McNair whose only qualification for the job is being winner of the lucky sperm club.  Oh enough whining Red.  Last year it took Red about 2 seconds to take the Texans up on their generous offer to defer purchasing season tickets.  This year it took Red at least 5 minutes to pull the plug on his 20 year run as season-ticket holder.  All that said, Red thinks the Texans will surprise a few teams.  Make  that embarrass.   Oh, and Red hears there is some news about DeShaun Watson.  Do tell.