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.