Red’s long held dream of a 6-10 team making the playoffs is still alive thanks to the pathetic excuse for a professional football division that is the NFC East. If the 6-9 Washington FTs lose to the we-can’t-believe-we-are-out-of-it Philadelphia Eagles and the 5-10 New York Football Giants beat the 6-9 Dallas Cowboys then all three teams will finish with 6-10 records and the Giants will make the playoffs on a tiebreaker. Sadly, however, there appears to be no chance for a blizzard game in New Jersey on Sunday. You can’t have everything. But on a positive note, we did have Steve Kornacki breaking down the playoff picture on Sunday Night Football for NBC – wearing the Kornacki Khakis of course. Onward through the fog.
Red’s Top Ten:
- Kansas City Chiefs (14-1). Having clinched the top seed in a sloppy game against the Falcons, the Chiefs will not play on the road until either the Superb Owl or next season. Red thinks the BIlls are the only AFC team that can beat the Chiefs.
- Buffalo Bills (12-3). Bills fans celebrate the first AFC East Championship since the days of Jim Kelly. That a complete dismemberment of the Patriots on MNF makes for a glorious season. Only the Chiefs stand in the way of another Superb Owl loss (or possibly victory).
- Green Bay Packers (12-3). Packers were certainly impressive in dispatching the Titans as if they were a Trump lawsuit challenging the election results.
- New Orleans Saints (11-4). Four straight NFC South Division Titles and a dollar will get you a Jack-in-the-Box taco. That said, Red doesn’t think that Alvin Kamara is going to rest on his record tying 6 rushing touchdowns against the Vikings on Christmas Day. AK tied Ernie Nevers who had 6 for the Chicago Cardinals in 1929. Red isn’t sure but that probably was the longest standing single game record left in the books. That probably leaves Norm Van Brocklin’s single game passing yardage record as the longest outstanding single game record.
- Pittsburgh Stealers (12-3). The Stealers rebounded with a big come-from-behind victory against the chocking Colts. Red still wonders if the Stealers will make it out of the first round of the playoffs against the Dolphins, Ravens or Titans.
- Seattle Seahawks (11-4). Give the Seahawks their due, they punched the Rams to the brink of playoff elimination while securing the NFC West title. That may be as good as it gets for the Seahawks.
- Miami Dolphins (10-5). Is there another miracle finish in store for the Dolphins? The Dolphins are Just a victory over the Bills away from the playoffs. And Red is just a few hundred million short of being a billionaire. Miami will be a hot pick for the Superb Owl next season with oodles of draft picks and cap space.
- Baltimore Ravens (10-5). The Ravens have righted the ship and trimmed the sails with four consecutive wins over weak competition (with exception of the Browns). Can the Ravens beat a good football team?
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5). The reward for what Red views as an entirely mediocre season (the Bucs will likely finish with exactly one win over a team with a winning record (how this team beat down the Packers is a mystery) probably will be getting to play the winner of the NFC East and an almost assured second round playoff game against more formidable competition. If they win against the Falcons on Sunday, the Bucs might just be the worst 11-5 team in NFL history.
- Chicago Bears (8-7). Bears will clinch a playoff spot with an upset win over the Packers at Soldier Field.
Still in the Hunt:
11. LA Rams (9-6). A win against the Cardinals and they are in the playoffs. Sounds exciting.
12. Arizona Cardinals (8-7). A win against the Rams and they are in the playoffs. Sounds exciting.
13. Tennessee Titans (10-5). Red has been on the Titans’ bandwagon all year. His horn was ripped out of his hands this week by the Packers – who exposed all the flaws in the Titans. Titans still have a clear path to the playoffs if they can beat the Texans. And if they cannot, then the Titans deserve to sit and watch.
14. Cleveland Browns (10-5). Red can’t really blame the crippled Browns for losing to the Jets but it was about the most Browns’ thing yet this season. Red still thinks they can beat the Stealers at home and make it to the dance.
15. Indianapolis Colts (10-5). On life support now despite a pretty good season.
15. Washington FT’s (6-9). See above.
16. New York Giants (5-10). See above.
17. Dallas Cowboys (6-9). See above. Is Andy Dalton better than at least 10 other current starting quarterbacks in the league? Let’s see – Newton, Bridgewater, Cousins, Jones, Fitzpatrick (sort of) and whoever is starting for the Jaguars, Bengals, Broncos, Jets and Bears.
The Dogs of the Downs:
- Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14). Nobody does football worse.
- New Jersey Jets (2-13). Red is rooting for a 3 game win streak to finish the season. Watch out 2021.
- Houston Texans (4-11). It’s not a dumpster fire on South Main – the entire dump is ablaze. Is Urban Meyer really interested in this franchise?
- Atlanta Falcons (4-11). Never have so many done so little with so much.
- Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1). A truly pathetic season all around. And the prospects are not looking good.
Red thinks that a little diversion from the Reality TV Show Joke of a President, his inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the GOPs relentless voter suppression campaign and forced togetherness couple with boredom is in order. So looking ahead to an NFL season that may or may not happen as planned, Red offers the following:
Numerous sports writers like to put out their top player lists. So even though Red is not a member of the scribe tribe, he will put out his top ten list for the coming season and maybe compare to a couple of others.
Red’s Top Ten NFL players for the 2020 Season;
- Patrick Mahomes – can there even really be a debate about this one? Mahomes led his team to come from behind victories in three consecutive playoff games to cap the 2019 season with the Chiefs first Superb Owl win in 50 years. More of the same in 2020.
- Lamar Jackson – the reigning MVP (a unanimous choice) had a breakout season leading the league in a number of categories including passing touchdowns, touchdown percentage and rushing yards for a quarterback. He has all his offensive weapons back and another year to adjust to Harbaugh’s scheme. And he has the sting of consecutive first round play-off exits as motivation.
- Derrick Henry – Led the league in carries, rushing yards, touchdowns and yards per game. He has size, speed, toughness, vision and will be playing for a big contract. If he becomes a pass catching threat out of the backfield, Katy bar the door.
- Christian McCaffery – Mr. All-around. The league leader in total offense with 2392 yards. What is not to like. A new quarterback is going to rely on this guy even more.
- Khalil Mack – the best defensive player in the league needs to be in the top ten. His stats are not that impressive because he is always a target for the offense.
- Michael Thomas – A tough call, but Red has him as the best wide receiver in the game. 149 receptions, 1725 yards!! The only question is can he get to 2000 receiving yards in a season before Drew Brees expires in the huddle.
- DeAndre Hopkins – There is a decent argument for him as the best receiver based on a slightly longer resume than MT. But he was nowhere close to MT last season. Don’t be surprised if he lead the league in multiple categories in Kingsbury’s offense.
- Russell Wilson – Never a favorite of Red’s but he has to give him his due. He has missed the playoffs once in his career and won at least one playoff game in every other season except for 2017 when the Cowboys and refs robbed him. He is still in his prime and very dangerous.
- Aaron Donald – The offense must account for this guy on every play – usually with a double team. Toss-up between him and Mack for best defender in the league. Lots of folks think he is the best player in the league bar none.
- Travis Kelce – A defensive coordinator’s nightmare. He beats you short, long, in, out and when he doesn’t even appear to be trying that hard. The best tight end in the game as modern tight ends go. He doesn’t get near enough credit for making the Chiefs offense the juggernaut that it is.
Other Guys Picks:
Pete Blackburn – CBS Sports
- Patrick Mahomes
- Aaron Donald
- Russell Wilson
- Michael Thomas
- Christian McCaffrey
- Stephon Gilmore
- Lamar Jackson
- Chandler Jones
- Khalil Mack
- Aaron Rodgers
Pete Prisco – CBS
- Patrick Mahomes
- aaron Donald
- Russel Wilson
- Michael Thomas
- Christian McCaffery
- Stephon Gilmore
- Lamar Jackson
- Chandler Jones
- Khalil Mack
- Aaron Rodgers
NFL Players Rank – 2019
- Aaron Donald
- Drew Brees
- Khalil Mack
- Patrick Mahomes
- Todd Gurley
- Tom Brady
- Antonio Brown
- Aaron Rodgers
- Julio Jones
- Von Miller
All you Texans’ fans can be proud of what Head Coach/GM Bill O’Brien did in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. Absolutely nothing. Red was expecting Bill to trade away some more draft picks and All-Pro talent to pick up a player in the first round that the experts had going in the third round at best. So Kudos to Bill for sitting on your hands.
It won’t last.
In an amazing (but not altogether unpredictable) turn-around, the Houston Texans lost to the Kansas City Chiefs by 20 points after being up 24-0 in the second quarter of Sunday’s playoff game. The 44 point swing may be the largest post-season change in NFL history. Red is going to bother looking that one up, because it doesn’t matter if the Texans C-H-O-K-E is historic – the humiliation and disappointment is enough.
The Texans were effectively gifted 14 points on a blocked punt (give the special teams credit) and a muffed punt by KC speedster Tyreek Hill (curiously attempting a punt return for only the second time this season). But still a 24-0 lead should guarantee a competitive game down the stretch. Not so for the hapless Texans. Red does not fault Head Coach Bill O’ the Clown O’Brien for taking a field goal when faced with 4th and 1 in the “red zone”. But after the Chiefs marched effortlessly down the field following a brilliant kick-off return, BO botched the next series with a foolish fake punt that even Red could see coming. That gave the Chiefs another short field and after another quick score to make it 24-14 – a new lease on their playoff football life.
The Chiefs proceeded to ultimately score touchdowns on seven straight possessions while the Texans offense returned to the BO tank in which in normally lives. Being outscored 51-7 in any stretch of any game is agony enough. But when you had the game in hand it is a franchise altering result – or at least it should be.
If this debacle is not enough to get Bill O’ the Clown fired, then it is hard to imagine what would. He and defensive coordinator Romeo “I’m not on the take from our opponents even though it sure looks like it” Cremel need to exit NRG this week. If not, the talent on this team (and there is talent) will be wasted for at least one more season.
Really, the Texans need a clean sweep from top to bottom. It starts with hiring an actual general manager who may be able to find someone, somewhere willing to take over this reclamation project.
“If he plays into his forties, he may throw for a 100,000 yards.”
Archie Manning on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes of Tyler, Texas.
Red just hopes he doesn’t throw for 500 of them on Sunday. However, he is still picking the Chiefs to beat the Texans, if not handily, by more than one score.
Red gets to cheat a bit on this one as he ran out of time before the season started to make his selection in the former NFL Division of Excellence. Oh yes, there was a time when the AFC South routinely put up the best numbers of any division in football. That has long since passed. The AFC South did post two play-off teams last season – that is, if you considered the Texans to actually be a playoff team after getting rolled and smoked by the Colts in January. Jacksonville regressed to recent form and perhaps the Titans did not get the love they deserved for their close to the play-offs 9-7 record last season under new coach Mike Vrabel. So with the benefit of Week One under his belt, Red goes all in.
Tennessee Titans – Again, yet another pick that Red will likely regret. The Titans were at best erratic last season. They started 3-1, then lost three in a row (including 2 one-point losses to the Bills and Chargers before blowing out the Cowboys and Patriots in back to back weeks to seemingly right the ship at 5-4. Then they get smacked by the Colts and Texans before winning four in a row against the weakest of the weak sisters last season (Jets, Jags, Giants and OTNA’s) and then blew amy shot at the playoffs in the last game to the surging Colts. The Colts probably had all the tie-breakers anyway, but . . . The Titans bring basically the same team back – with a few additions. Derrick Henry leads the league in rushing and M&M proves that he is a serviceable NFL QB if not a star. Tennessee is 10-6 and back in the mix.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Losing Nick Foles in the first quarter of the first game might not be the end for the Jags. They still have a rough-house defense (ask Patrick Mahomes how he feels this week) and strong running game. Rookie QB Tyler Minshew made an impressive and record-setting debut (completing his first 13 NFL passes in a row) before the Jags simply could not keep up with the Andy Reid show feature Patrick Mahomes and the Powerhouse Chiefs Offense Band (words that will be written many times this season). Jags will win low scoring ugly games and just enough for an 8-8 finish.
Houston Texans – Disorder be an easy one. The problem starts riot at the top. What is up with Cal “the Idiot Son of Deceased former owner and once-hailed Houston football savior Bob” McNair? Is he stupid or just morass than previously thought? Here’s Red’s tangle on the situation. Janice McNair needs to cut discord with Idiot Son and find a real person to ruin the franchise. Otherwise, Red will be one pandemonium all season about the Texans. The trouble will travel from the owner’s box down to the sideline and into the muddle on the field before plays. Before the season is over, attendance drops, ticket resale lags, and tickets will be free for all practical purposes. Even turning tumult-iple formations on the field doesn’t revive fan interest. Disarray of different offensive schemes can’t cure the problems with management. The problems compound and even moving the bollix a problem for the offense. In the last game of the season, angry maelstrom the field and call for Cal’s sizeable head on a pole. Has Red made his chaos? Texans tough schedule and rudderless front office lead to anarchy on South Main 7-9 rat’s nest.
Indianapolis Colts – Red hates the Colts. The Colts would hate Red if they ever thought about him – which of course they don’t. Red tempers his hate by season end and gets some much needed help. Indianapolis is lucky to finish 7-9 as well.
Since Red is making NFL predictions, he is technically obligated to pick a winner in the AFC East. For 16 of the last 18 seasons, that has not exactly been a particularly taxing chore. Here goes again – Damn it.
New England Patriots – Almost every year, Red writes, “It is cowardly and spineless to pick New England year after year. And Red will keep doing it until he is proved wrong. (Hey, this is about the point Red has trouble coming up with new material – so excuse me).” (Hey, this is about the point where Red has trouble coming up with new material – so buzz off). Barring catastrophic injury to TB-12 or early onset of dementia or the possibility of Trump taking a Sharpie and making a mess of Bellicheat’s game plan, the Pats should ride into the playoffs. But it won’t be quite as comfortable a ride as usual because go-to target Rob Gronkowski will be celebrating his new physique somewhere other than the friendly confines of Insert Corporate Name Here Stadium. Every other team in the division will be better than last season, but not better enough. As always, Red hopes that he is wrong and the loyal readers can shout from the hilltops, “Red, you were cowardly and spineless to pick New England yet again.” But Red doesn’t hear the fat lady warming up yet. New England slogs to a 10-6 record but still repeats as division champ.
Buffalo Bills – The Bills have made improvements on offense shoring up the O-line with five signings. They give LeSean McCoy a new lease on life and provide some breathing room for second year QB Josh Allen – who got way too much OJT last season. The Bills actually played decently after a 2-7 start. If they can keep that pace a winning record will be in sight. The defense is solid, the return game could be interesting and if you haven’t read about Stephen Hauscha’s back story and rise from kicker for the Middlebury College Panthers who play in the NESCAC, then you are missing out. It’s quite a story. Look it up. At any rate, he is the tallest kicker in the league. Buffalo bulls its way to a 9-7 record and as for the playoffs – hmmm.
New York Jets – After a 1-9 finish to the 2018 season, a real house cleaning was in order with a new head coach, new offensive and defensive coordinators and the hopefully fresh legs of LeVeon Bell who sat out last season and middle-of-the-pack wideout Jamison Crowder. Darn Old Sam is still the QB and that is the biggest limitation on the Jets prospects this season. Although the house may be clean, the hedges still need trimming and there are a lot of weeds in the backyard. And when you are getting your new head coach from the Miami Dolphins – well you are getting new head coach that was fired from the Miami Dolphins. Let Red repeat – Fired by the Miami Dolphins. At least the Jets finish ahead of the Dolphins but 6-10 is the ceiling here.
Miami Dolphins – Tanks to their many off-season moves, it looks like a long season for the Aquatic Mammals. Expect a lot of dive plays from the offense. Red is disgusted and must quit now. Oh, did Red say that every team in the AFC East will be better? He meant every team that is actually trying to field a team. Someone has to suck and its Miami at 1-15.
As he has mentioned more than a couple of times over the years, this is Red’s least favorite division when it comes to preseason picks. All four teams have made the playoffs in the past three seasons and there have been three different division winners during that stretch. If Red could skip this one he would, but that is not how the game is played. And he has to pick it today because the NFC North has the honor of kicking off the 100th NFL season with the two oldest franchises still playing. The Bears host the Packers in the Thursday night opener much to the chagrin of NFL Champion Patriots who are denied that traditional spot because of the 100 year anniversary. Oh, to be at Soldier Field tonight.
Chicago Bears – Da Bears are da team to beat in this division. Red expects Bears to come out of the box strong with win over the Pack in the historic season opener. By mid-point they should be 6-2 with a possible 5-0 start with a win over the Packers. The mid stretch of the season is the toughest with challenges from Saints, Chargers, Eagles and Rams. After that a break and then the Cowboys, Packers and Chiefs before a season ending laugher in Minnesota. If Da Bears win the games they should win and split the tougher match-ups they are in driver’s seat in what some are calling the best division in football this season. The only troublesome spot remains the redoubtable Mitch Trubisky who can be a turnover machine. The Bears won several games despite his lowlights. Look for the Bears defense to be even better and keep the team in enough close games to pull out more than a few. This could be Red’s best pick or his worst. Chicago has a solid season and wins division with 11-5 record.
Green Bay Packers – Things are not happy in northern Wisconsin. The Pack was in the hunt at mid-season in 2018 and then . . . Well, they didn’t quite fall off the radar, but the Bears put them in the rear view mirror. Remember when A-Rodg was the second coming of Joe Montana? That was a while back. Rodgers cannot carry a team like he used to. Fortunately he has help in a very good O-Line, Davonte Adams, Jimmy Graham (not quite tired and old yet – but check in with Red in November) and the all NFL Name Team wideout combination of Marquez Valdes-Scandling and Equanimeous St. Brown (Red picked him for fantasy on name potential alone). But it probably isn’t enough given the suspect situation at running back. Red likes Aaron Jones but can he play a full season without getting injured or suspended. If the Packers are going to have any success it will be because of an upgraded defense. Green Bay has seen better days (in the 1960s) 9-7 maybe works and maybe not.
Minnesota Vikings – Lots of pundits are going all in for the Vikings. Red will hold his chips for now. Red could never quite see what all the Kirk Cousins hype was about and if 2018 is any measure, Red was right. Red thinks the Vikings may play one of the toughest schedules in the league this year. They could lose to the Falcons, Packers, Bears (twice), Eagles, Chiefs, Cowboys, Seahawks and Chargers. If they don’t beat the Sad Sacks (Lions, Redskins, Giants and possibly Broncos), it will be a long season in the hinterlands. Minnesota misses out on chance to lose another Superb Owl at 8-8.
Detroit Lions – For more or less irrational reasons, Red has never liked the Lions. He is buying Detroit real estate however. Unfortunately for the Lions, the most exclusive real estate (their opponents’ end zone) will remain off limits for much of the season. Detroit wonders if Bobby Layne might still be available when it finishes 4-12.
The NFC South has a chance at being the premier division in the NFL in 2019. The Saints, Panthers and Falcons all could make the playoffs and the Buccaneers are not totally shabby – although still pretty shabby. It’s likely that only two are playing in January.
New Orleans Saints – Red has given the Saints short shrift for years thinking that tired old Drew Brees would actually become tired and old. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t happened yet. They tell Red, that there is nothing like attending a Saints game in person and Red believes it after having just been in New Orleans on a Sunday afternoon game day and seeing a plethora of gold lame miniskirts together with Saints jersey, caps, hoodies, sweats, dinner jackets and every other possible combination of black and gold being proudly worn by all. It just kind of makes a body want to root for the Saints because there will be so much happiness (and excessive drinking – not that there won’t be excessive drinking in N’Awlins anyway). So despite departures Mark Ingram, Ben Watson, Alex Okafor et al, with Brees, Kamar, Thomas and others will be trying hard to erase the sting of getting screwed in the NFL Championship game when Rams’ cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman pretty much tackled Saints receiver TommyLee Lewis on what could have been the game winning play. And to the dread of many (but not Red) that one play brought about a rules change for 2019. Rule 6c states: “For one year only, expands the reviewable plays in Instant Replay to include pass interference, called or not called on the field.” Somewhere Mike Renfro is smiling. The Saints will be not happy with anything short of a Superb Owl appearance. New Orleans wins division at 11-5.
Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons have been slip sliding away (with apologies to P. Simon) since blowing a 28-3 lead in SB LI missing the playoffs altogether after a wretched 2018 campaign. Fortunately for the F Troop, all of their tough non-division games are at home (Rams, Eagles and Seahawks) and feature two triple inverse time zone hexes. They do play two non-division 2018 playoff teams on the road (Colts and Texans) but come on (see Red’s AFC South Picks later). There is enough talent on the offensive side to put up points with Matty Ice, Julio and Davonte and others. And with Dan Quinn taking over as DC, expect the Falcons defense to step it up as well. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they have to play in the same division as the Saints. Atlanta 9-7 and a possible wild card spot.
Carolina Panthers – After another disappointing 7-9 season (after a 6-2 start oops), HC Ron Rivera will be coaching like a man on a hot seat having taken a big shit and realizing that there is no toilet paper. In other words, he will pull out all stops to post a winning record in 2019. A word of advice: don’t delve too deeply into Red’s analogies. RR’s hopes rest on the surgically repaired shoulder of Cam Newton and the dual threat of All Pro Christian McCaffrey. The loss of the Kalil brothers will hurt the O line, but Rookie Greg Little and new center Matt Paradis shore things up. On defense, signing pass rusher Bruce Irvin and drafting some linebackers should help. But not quite enough. Carolina goes 9-7 and misses out on a tiebreaker.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Red was high on Jameis Winston at one point. Apparently that’s not all Red was high on. With an almost record setting turnover pace at Head Coach (5 in the 10 years since Jon Gruden left), the Bucs have made exactly zero playoff appearances in the last decade. And now un-retired broadcaster and new Head Coach Bruce Arians gets to extend that streak. Enough said. Tampa Bay sucks gas and finishes 6-10.
From the Annals of Football – In 2003, the Dallas (Arlington) Cowboys announced that Bill “Big Tuna” Parcels would be their new head coach. The two time NFL Championship head coach would post a decidedly mediocre 34-30 record as the Cowboys’ coach – making the playoffs in 2003 and 2006 but never winning a playoff game. Since retiring (or being fired) after the 2006 season, Parcels has never coached again.