If you are reading these predictions, please note that each division has been picked separately over the course of several days. Red used to do this in one giant post, but people don’t read big giant posts anymore – except for devoted followers of Alex Jones and those folks probably aren’t among Red’s loyal fan base.
Kansas City Chiefs – Red has bet heavily on the Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill 60 yard touchdown pass combo in his big money fantasy football team. Add to that mix, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins and there is no question that the Chiefs could have the most explosive offense in the NFL this year – if Mahomes is all he appears cracked up to be. That’s a lot to put on a second year player, but Red thinks Mahomes is the real deal and not the latest retread of previously failed Texas Tech wunderkinds (tell Red you don’t remember the glorious pro careers of Kliff Kingsbury and Sonny Cumbee?). In the immortal words of HC Andy Reid “I’m fired up!” Which is the only way Red can ever use the first person in these musings. Kansas City dominates at 14-2.
San Diego (er – Los Angeles) Chargers – Red would like to attend a Chargers game this season – mostly because he likes peace and quiet and prefers being alone. Here are some keys you can blankon for a successful Chargers season. Rivers needs to empty the backfield on third down and throw cleardown the unfilled. And a hearty hollow, to undrafted rookie speedster J.J. Jones who may help on those bombs – he deserted his place on this roster. His speed may open up devoid in the middle. When they get in the dead zone, Rivers can rely more on Melvin Gordon to bare down opposing defenses. The offense is good, but vacant do it alone. The defense must desert itself and get uninhabitof making some third down plays. It may come down to the Week 15 matchup with the Chiefs, a tough game to win desolate in the season. Some help getting the missing faithful involved wouldn’t hurt – for example abandon the sidelines could pump up the fan. Barren in the hunt for the playoffs all the way this season. Red thinks they make it barely at 10-6.
Oakland Raiders – The emaciated ghost of Al Davis still stalks the cavernous corridors of the Coliseum (or whatever they call they rusting decrepit heap they play in) waiting for another Raiders championship. Dead Al continues his nightly rambles all season in vain. The Raiders’ gamble on bringing back the perfidious Jon Gruden doesn’t pay off this season. Walk Dead Al! Walk! Walk across the desert to the shining oasis in the sun – for there your spectral dreams will still go unfulfilled. Oakland 8-8.
Denver Broncos – Red also likes Case Keenum but he may just have squeezed all the juice out of that lime last season in Minnesota. This franchise seems lost in the woods right now and John Elway’s job is probably on the line if something doesn’t turn around soon. Let Red be the first to say, “Adios Juan!” Denver is 6-10.
The division of “so what.” Red still has to pick ’em.
Pittsburgh Stealers – Ben “Big Ben” Rothlessburger may be tired but he isn’t old just yet. This season may change that assessment and if so, the Stealers are in for a cold December – well make that a colder December. BB should be helped by the presence of Antone “Big Time” Brown and the debut of the JuJu “No Need for a Nick Name” Smith-Schuster. The big ? – is Le’Veon “Will he Answer the” Bell. If not, then maybe James “Hey I Don’t Suck” Conner is the answer – or maybe not. The Stealers defense is always there and probably improves with the emergence of T.J. “Yeah He’s my Big Brother” Watt. It all rests in the reasonably capable hands of Mike “Can You Believe I’m Still Here” Tomlin. Red likes Mike and Pittsburgh does more than enough to win this division at 12-4.
Cleveland Browns – You read it here first, the Browns are going to the playoffs. Red just had to choke back a spoonful of delicious Grazier’s whole milk, grass-fed yogurt when he wrote that and is now seriously contemplating the function of the back key – but the moving hand writes and when it is written moves on. Sort of like Red’s bowels. This could be the greatest prediction of Red’s life or . . . Happy times in Cleveland at 10-6.
Cincinnati Bengals – Red really likes the Bengals. He also likes Neapolitan ice cream even though he knows it’s just vanilla, chocolate and strawberry and the vanilla is always left at the end. Sort of like the end of your typical Bengals season where there either challenge for a playoff spot or make the playoffs and lose to the Texans – an even worse fate. This has to be the year for Marvin “Can You Believe I’m Still Here When I’m not Half as Good as Mike Tomlin” Lewis. He cannot hang on any longer without at least one playoff win. Marvin lets go of the rope. Cincinnati comes close but not close enough 9-7.
Baltimore Ravens – Flacco Joe, Flaco Joe, Flaco Joe. Can Red just say no? Okay then. Baltimore 2-14.
Finally we get to a division that Red pays attention to – not that it matters. This is the division of “Why do these towns have NFL teams anyway?”
Houston Texans – Red was shocked to witness in person the offensive onslaught that Deshaun Watson led against the Titans in October. That 57-14 ass whipping was as impressive an offensive show that Red has ever seen in a regular season NFL game. It made Red a believer. Red was also sadly present the next week when JJ Watt and Red favorite Whitney Mercilus went down in the space of about 57 seconds. Losing Watson, Watt and Mercilus was the death knell for the Texans season. Barring similarly crippling injuries this season, the Texans should be good enough to secure a playoff spot this year. A lot rides on that first game in New England. A win or even a credible loss will put this team on the right track. Texans are 10-6 and in.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Lots of pundits are writing off the Jaguars as one-hit wonders and shitting on journeyman QB Blake Bortles. BB may be mediocre but the rest of this team has enough talent to cover up the cracks. Jaguars are also 10-6 and lose tiebreaker to the Texans.
Tennesee Titans – Red wants to believe. Red also wants a job where you don’t have to show up and the money just sort of rolls in. Titans are 8-8 material.
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts are just an Andrew Luck away from mediocrity. They have no offensive line, one decent receiver, running backs???, defense???, coaching???. Colts are 6-10.
New England Patriots – This is where every year Red writes that it is spineless and weak to continue to pick the Patriots but that he will continue to do so until proven wrong. Red has yet to be proven wrong. Pats are a bit down but still finish atop a weak division even with a relatively weak schedule. Red is looking forward to week 15 matchup with Stealers. New England sits at 11-5
Buffalo Bills – Red kind of likes Josh Allen who seems to have a bit of Carson Wentz – QB out of nowhere feel to him and will not be surprised if he moves in to the lineup at some point. Sorry all you AJ McCarron fans out there – both of you. It’s just too bad there is so little else to like about this team. There is a good secondary on defense, but lack of offensive weapons is very troublesome. Buffalo (Orchard Park) is 8-8 material
Miami Dolphins – Red swears there are rumor that there is still an NFL team in the greater Miami region. Beyond that Red is clueless. Miami at 6-10.
New York Jets – Meet the Jets, Greet the Jets, Step right up and beat the Jets. Red still remembers an older fraternity brother singing that one at breakfast one bright shining morning. Funny what you remember. Funny what is still true. Led by tired old Josh McCown (Sam Houston State for the Texas reference), the Jets are likely to be featured in at least half a dozen Shit Bowls this year. Jets are 3-13.
May Red just say, “He hates this division.” Red is not entirely sure why, but he has always disliked having to pick winners and LOSERS from this one. Which is curious because the NFC-North contains three of the most venerable franchises in the league. The Lions started as the Portsmouth Spartans in 1929 moving to Detroit in 1934 and played in the first official playoff game – the 1932 Championship against the Bears (played because the teams ended the season tied for first place). The Packers joined the league in 1921, the second official NFL season. And the Bears can lay claim being one of the two original NFL franchises (as the Decatur Staleys) still in existence. The Arizona Cardinals (nee Chicago Cardinals) are the other. The Vikings are the upstart newcomer having joined the league in 1961 to increase the NFL to a whopping 14 teams.
Minnesota Vikings – New quarterback – new offensive coordinator – new challenge with first place schedule – all could add up to a tough season. Many commentators are looking at a difficult schedule and predicting a big fall off for the Nordic warriors. Red doesn’t see the NFC -West as all that tough as the Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams and 49ers are all overrated. The NFC – East component should be even easier unless the Bills and Dolphins step up – and Red thinks the more likely scenario has those teams stepping in it. Red is not high on Kirk Cousins but he made a really pathetic OTNAs team look decent at times. The big question is what to do about the running game with the loss of Jerrick McKinnon and no real answer for a solid replacement. So why the Vikings? Like he said, Red has to pick someone. Minnesota sleds to a tough 10-6 record.
Chicago Bears – Every season one formerly pathetic excuse for a professional football somehow picks itself up off the garbage pile and starts winning games. Red’s pick for worst to (almost) first this season is the Bears. Red’s just going with his ever growing gut on this one. And Red will be putting an “I Like Mitch Trubisky” bumper sticker on his car – just so people will wonder – “Who the hell is Mitch Trubisky?” To which Red could answer, “He’s the poor man’s Kirk Cousins.” Chicago also goes 10-6 but only gets Wild Card spot – Maybe – stay tuned.
Green Bay Packers – Red admires the 200 some thousand Green Bay Packers, Inc. shareholders and the way this team has been run for almost its entire existence as a community project. All professional sports teams should be owned and controlled in this fashion – not by some billionaire blowhard (Jerry Jones comes to mind for some reason) who could give a shit about the average fan once he or she has paid for the season tickets. The owner who won’t make sure the fans aren’t gouged at the concession stands and don’t have to sit in three hours of traffic to get home. The owner who plays commercials at 120 decibels at every possible opportunity. The “welfare queen” owner who sucks on the public tit and expects the taxpayers to make him richer just because he has deemed to grace their city with a professional football team – at least until there is greener turf somewhere else. So while Red always wishes good things for the Packers, he also has to be honest with his readers and tell them – not this season. A-Rodg carried them on his capable shoulders until going down last season. Is he back? If so, then maybe there is hope. Or maybe not. Green Bay is 8-8.
Detroit Lions – The last good thing Red remembers about the Lions is reading Bobby Layne’s autobiography – Always on Sunday – in elementary school. Red is not sure why his parents let him read about Bobby’s alcoholic womanizing, drunk driving, and non-stop partying but it sure opened Red’s eyes to the possibilities of life – or a certain kind of life anyway. Unfortunately, Red’s athletic career and exposure to the side benefits of sports celebrity was cut short by a crippling lack of talent and a desire to keep his teeth. Maybe Red was allowed to read this fascinating tome because Layne had been the hero at UT when Red’s parents were in school. And maybe the curse of Bobby Layne is still hanging over this franchise. Although possibly apocryphal, after he was traded to the Stealers in 1958, Layne supposedly responded to the trade by saying that “the Lions would not win for 50 years.” Bobby apparently called for an extension at some point. So while short on analysis here, Red has hopefully provided you some insight into the stupidity of this whole exercise. Detroit stinks – 4-12.
Today we move on to the NFC South – division which has produced two NFL Champions and a few runners-up. This is the division of the nouveau teams as there is not a single member that predates the 1960’s. But last year it was the “NFL Division of Excellence” with three teams advancing to the playoffs.
Atlanta Falcons – This team was still smarting from the 28-3 letdown against the Patriots in 2016. Still they had a 10 win season and made it to the divisional round losing in a low-scoring slug fest to the Eagles. Pretty good for a team that finished in third place in their division. There are no real surprises for this season. There will be some changes on the defensive line and some help coming for the secondary. On offense, new guard Brian Fusco shores up an already very solid line. Freeman and Coleman are as solid a running back duo as there is in the league. Jones and Sanu are about the same at wide-out. Then there is Matty Ice. Perhaps more than any other team, the Falcons fate rests in the hands of the ball handler. If Ryan returns to 2016 form (or even a close facsimile thereof), the Falcons will be flying high. The schedule is reasonable favorable with the possible pathetic AFC North and the mediocre NFC East coming up. Atlanta wins this division with an 11-5 record.
New Orleans Saints – First a tip of the gold and black hat to long-time Saints owner and all round bon vivant Tom Benson who died in March at the age of 90. He tried to buck the image of the No Fun League with his antics – but likely also bears some responsibility for the targeting and injury payola scandal that cost his coach a full season. Benson also managed to create one of the most loyal fan bases in the entire league. Red and family were in New Orleans for the OTNA’s home game last season and just about everyone in the city was wearing black and gold in some form or fashion. And just between him and you, Red has no problems with a gold lame miniskirt on the right person. Red was watching at a local pizza parlor and when the OTNAs went ahead by 15 with just over 3 minutes left, it seemed to be an ugly Sunday night in NO. But Brees led an incredible comeback to tie the game and the Saints won on a 51 yard FG with about a minute left in OT. So Red is hesitant to say this is the last hurrah for 39 year-old Drew Brees as he keeps performing at a high level. And with Ingram and Kamara in the backfield, Brees doesn’t have to do as much. At this point, only Brady is better at reading defenses and getting his team in the right set. And then there is this fact which may have slipped your notice – Michael Thomas’ 196 receptions are the most by anyone in the first two years of an NFL career. Ever. The Saints’ defense has been retooled over the past two seasons and this season will show whether the pieces are finally fitting together. As for the schedule, it poses some interesting possibilities. The Saints start with a two consecutive home games against the weaker sisters (Bucs and Browns) and finish with two home games (Stealers and Panthers). That means they are on the road for 8 of 12 weeks in the middle of the season. The three game road stretch beginning on Nov. 29 may determine the Saints’ playoff fate. Red thinks the Saints are is still a Wildcard team at 10-6.
Carolina Panthers – Red once believed, but no more. The 2017 season was tumultuous at best with owner Jerry Richardson firing GM Dave Gettleman weeks before the start of the regular season, followed by his decision to sell the team after facing multiple workplace allegations, including sexual harassment and racial allegations. The team seemed remarkably unfazed and had a chance to win the division before falling to the Falcons in Week 17. Still they made the playoffs but cratered lost a high-scoring battle with the Saints and went home. The offense is probably there, but Red just doesn’t see this defense keeping the Panthers in enough games to keep pace with the Saints or Falcons in 2018. It comes down to the last three games against the Saints, Falcons and Saints. Carolina can’t close the deal and goes 9-7 and goes home.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Does Red really have to comment on this team. Jameis Winston did nothing to show that he is the mythical “franchise quarterback” every team looks for. So maybe it is a good thing he is suspended for the first three games of the season. Note to JW: Hell hath no fury like a female Uber driver groped. The Bucs pathetic excuse for a defense (last in the NFL in total defense, sacks and third-down percentage) can only be better with the addition of former Eagles tackle Beau Allen and end Vinny Curry. Whether tired old Jason Pierre-Paul had anything left in the tank is another story. Running back is a question mark and only Mike Evans is the only true offensive superstar on this squad. They will improve from last year’s sad 5-11 mark – but not enough. Tampa Bay is 7-9 material at best.