Let the NFL Begin!

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Despite not having any preseason games, all 32 NFL teams kicked off their official season this week.  Obviously, it remains to be seen if they can get through the season without having to shut down.  NHL hockey, NBA basketball, and MLB baseball have done a pretty good job so far, but nothing compares to the lack of social distancing in the game of football.

You should be aware that I am writing this Sunday morning before the games (I know the Chiefs won on Thursday, but I would have picked them to win anyway).  So before the first weekend and Monday night games are played, here is how I see the divisions unfolding:

AFC

East

  • Buffalo – They finished second to New England last year with Brady.  This is their year to shine.  QB Josh Allen is the key.
  • New England – It could be a big mistake to pick against Belichick.  There’s no Brady, but there is Cam Newton.  I’m guessing he will not stay healthy for the entire season.  If he does, you will continue to despise the Patriots.
  • Miami – This team is a work in progress and progress should happen this year.  Is Tua Tagovailoa (I hope I don’t have to type this again) their next Dan Marino?  He could be and the Dolphins might surprise.
  • Jets – They may as well plan a “Celebration” of their tenth anniversary of not making the playoffs.

North

  1. Baltimore – LaMar Jackson is the real deal.  He was the NFL MVP and the Ravens are very strong on defense.  The ingredients here could win them a Super Bowl. 
  2. Pittsburgh – They are always dangerous, but a bit old and injury prone.  Everyone says Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, but, at 38, can he remain healthy in this league?

  3. Cleveland – No team causes me more grief for Gary’s Guesses than the Browns.  It got to the point where I just picked them to lose every week.  That should not be the case this year.  Baker Mayfield makes them better and they might be better than the Steelers (am I really writing this?)

  4. Cincinnati – 2-14 last year says a great deal about this team.  They took LSU QB Joe Burrow as their top pick, but it should be a tough learning process for the rookie with this team.

South

  • Indianapolis – Philip Rivers is no longer in San Diego and is reunited with head coach Frank Reich and two of the Colts’ assistants.  The sooner he gets comfortable with his teammates, the better this team can become.
  • Tennessee – I’ll be honest – I was going to pick the Texans here, but their Thursday night showing was not impressive at all.  The Titans have an excellent ground game.  They were 9-7 last year and found a steady QB in Ryan Tannehill.
  • Houston – The Texans are better than what they showed on Thursday night.  Deshaun Watson at QB makes them a contender, but the offense did not look good against the Chiefs, especially in protecting their QB.  That has to improve.
  • Jacksonville – This team was just not good offensively last year.  QB Gardner Minishew made them better after replacing Nick Foles.  Jay Gruden (OC) and Ben McAdoo (QB coach) have the experience to make them better.

West

  • Kansas City – Based on Thursday night’s performance, the Chiefs look better than last year if that’s possible.  Patrick Mahomes now can rely on a running game and the defensive line looks awesome.  Andy Reid will be smiling again this year on his way to a second Super Bowl.
  • Denver – Take your pick from here on in this division.  Denver’s defense is not strong.  They could finish second or last.
  • San Diego – QB Philip Rivers is gone and Tyrod Taylor is inserted.  The receivers he has available to him are very talented.  Combine that with a strong defense and they could certainly jump over Denver.
  • Las Vegas – If you are a betting person, what better team to put some money on?  Jon Gruden moves his team to a new home and brings former Dallas great TE Jason Witten with him.  This team looks like a last place finisher to me.

NFC

East

  • Dallas – I know – it hurts me to write it, but I have felt the Cowboys only needed a coach that really motivates his guys and they have it in Mike McCarthy, formerly of the Packers.  He will make them better defensively and that will make them good enough to win the division.  I hope I’m wrong.
  • Philadelphia – They won the East last year, but their offensive line is certainly suspect due to injuries.  Carson Wentz needs time to pick out his receivers; if he has it, the Eagles might repeat as East champs.  Also, the linebacker corps looks somewhat suspect.  E-A-G-L-E-S! (Just practicing).
  • Giants – They have a new coach – Joe Judge.  He is tough and coached with Bill Belichick and Nick Saban.  I really want the Giants to do well because I want Saquon Barkley to have a great year.  For that to happen, QB Daniel Jones must be better this year.
  • Washington – Ron Rivera will make the team with no nickname better, but it takes time.  They could improve this year and the record might not illustrate that.  Rivera is now also fighting a cancer diagnosis and may not be at full strength during the season.

North

  • Minnesota The Vikings were not better than the Packers last year.  I think they are better this year.  QB Kirk Cousins is a veteran (9 years) with some outstanding receivers and the Vikings have a very strong defense. They will win the North.
  • Green Bay – 13-3 last year is certainly a great NFL regular season and much of the credit always goes to Aaron Rodgers.  He’s back and, if he stays healthy, he is as good as any QB in the league.  The Packers win close games.  If that trend continues, they will win the division again.
  • Chicago – I like the Bears; they should have been in the NFC Championship game last year (remember the Cody Parker missed field goal?).  Their defense should be better than last year and they were very good last year.  Yet they don’t seem to win the big games.
  • Detroit – 3-12-1 is bad.  The Lions were bad last year.  QB Matt Stafford’s injury caused him to miss half a season and the Lions defense is just not good.  The team needs to rally around HC Matt Patricia or he will be gone.

South

  • New Orleans – Are the Saints ever bad?  They were 13-3 last year and in the last three years, they have won more regular season NFL games than any other team.  Former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins is now a Saint and one of the best safeties in the league on the field and in the locker room.  He will motivate a team that is always ready to play.
  • Tampa Bay – They now have Tom Brady, right?  Enough said.
  • Atlanta – This team is just not good defensively and that means losses in the NFL.  They were 7-9 last year and I do not see improvement in their record.
  • Carolina – Talk about a one-man team – As Christian McCaffrey goes so goes the Panthers offense.  He can do it all, but can he do enough to win games for this team which really struggles on the defensive side of the ball?  No.

West

  • San Francisco – They won the NFC title last year (13-3) and had a 10-point lead on the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.  Coach Kyle Shanahan proved he was up to the job and QB Jimmy Garoppolo followed in the footsteps of successful QBs under Shanahan.  Garoppolo should be better in year two.  And that makes the 49ers better.
  • Seattle – Pete Carroll has eight  consecutive winning seasons.  Almost their entire team is back from an 11-5 season. Their defensive secondary is much improved and they still have QB Russell Wilson, a proven winner.  Coach Carroll gets his ninth consecutive winning season.
  • LA Rams – The Rams will play in a brand new stadium and, despite the absence of a big crowd, should have some extra incentive this season.  Sean McVay appears to be a very good young coach.  Their offensive line was decimated with injuries last year and they still finished 9-7.  Give QB Jared Goff some blocking and the Rams could surprise.
  • Arizona – At 5-10-1 last year, the Cardinals struggled.  They appear, however, to come into this season with a very potent offense with two excellent running backs, a stable of receivers, and Kyler Murray at QB.  This team will cause defenses many problems; they hope their defense does the same.

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Isn’t it ironic (a nicer word than a Philadelphia fan would use) that neither the Phillies nor the Eagles can hold a lead?
  1. What was worse on Sunday watching an inept Eagles offensive line or the downhill performance of Carson Wentz?  Might the two be related?
  1. Speaking of irony, New England QB Cam Newton looked terrific while former New England QB Tom Brady looked average for Tampa Bay (two interceptions; one touchdown).
  1. Dustin Johnson won $15 million by winning the FedEx Cup last weekend.  That money used to be deferred into a retirement fund, but now the winner gets $14 million with $1 million deferred.  Rory McElroy and Tiger Woods are the only ones to win the Cup twice.  When they won, the prize was $10 million.  $9 million of Tiger’s winnings were deferred each time.  Just from that event, he has an $18 million retirement fund! 
  1. Congrats to the Notre Dame HS and Northwestern HS football teams.  They both won the first two football games of the 2020 season. 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 11-5; OVERALL- 11-5 – 69%)

Cleveland

Tennessee

Buffalo

Pittsburgh

Dallas

Indianapolis

Green Bay

San Francisco

Chicago

LA Rams

Tampa Bay

Arizona

Kansas City

Baltimore

Seattle

New Orleans

 

Gary Laubach About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

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