Today begins the 101st season of the National Football League and what is shaping up to be the strangest on record. Then again, what about this year hasn’t been strange? Most people anticipated 2020 to be a special year, but I’m sure that wasn’t yellow short bus type special. Still, it is good to have sports back. I’m sure ESPN and Fox Sports were close to exhausting their library of meaningful sports reruns. Few things are as uncomfortable to watch than Sports talks shows with no sports.
Anyway, welcome back NFL. We have missed you. Like most normal years there are many intriguing storylines entering this season.
However unlike previous years, the Coronavirus has cast a shadow on everyday life . While sports has historically served as the distraction needed to rally and unify the country, this trial feels very different. I think as a country, what we need right now is not a distraction, but a different perspective about what matters in this life. I know people feel some sort of way these days when you stand on your soap box and tell them what you think matters. However, I’m asking sports fans to be mindful this season of the incredible sacrifice these athletes, coaches, and their families are making to play and perform this season. I know its hard for many to feel empathy for millionaires, but put the money and status aside for a moment. I care about the lives of these men the same as I would for any of you reading this post. With this in mind, let me share a really deep thought right here, a successful NFL season will be measured by how many players we can keep safe and not by ratings or revenue, in my opinion. I hope this is a perspective shared by a majority of NFL fans.
Now on to the business at hand. Because I know you turn to The TEAM for that hard-hitting, award worthy sports journalism and unabashedly fresh perspective, you want to know my take on the upcoming season. And here it comes.
Here are some players to watch week 1:
This is my Week 1 Fantasy Line-up. I need all of them to have big games or there will be benching and cuts. Yes, I’m bringing that George Steinbrenner-type Swag to Football.
In all seriousness, I am curious about the impact of not having a preseason on team chemistry and rhythm. This could spell trouble for those offense schemes that rely on timing such as the Ravens, Chiefs, Seahawks, and 49ers. That doesn’t necessarily mean any of these teams will struggle early on, but from a fantasy perspective, I would be cautious about who I started in weeks 2-4. Week 1 will not give an accurate view of who’s truly dominate just because everyone is fresh and still learning schemes. Weeks 2-4 will tell us more about whose game planning, routines and conditioning are solid.
With that said, I think there will only be one 13-game winner in the league this year. And no I’m not convinced it will be either the Ravens or Chiefs. Last year, the 49ers, Packers and Saints all hit the mark. The Ravens were 14-2 while the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs were 12-4. However, the team with the best shot to hit 13 wins this season is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And no, its not really about Tom Brady but more about Strength of Schedule. I honestly would like the Bucs chances for a good season with Jameis Winston under center. Let’s take a look at their Schedule.
Now before you NFC South Fans clog up my email to tell me how wrong I am, a few assumptions. First, 13-3 assumes a healthy Tom Brady. Tom is too old to take many hits or to be flushed out of the pocket and forced to scramble. Its also not lost on me that there are accuracy concerns that started to surface late in his Patriots tenure. Still, he is now surrounded by more talent than he has ever had minus those Randy Moss years. Secondly, I assume the Bucs defense will still be formidable and not put in many of the uncompromising situations turnover prone Jameis Winston put them in. Third, the Bucs running game will be effective. It cannot and I repeat, CANNOT be all on Tom Brady to carry this team. Ronald Jones III, LeSean McCoy, Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shaun Vaughn much take care of the ball and move the chains. This will open up the passing game and keep the defense rested. Fourth, as is true for every team in the league – Health is the great equalizer. The difference between a healthy Bucs team and an injury prone one is the difference between a 13-3 team and a 3 -13 one. Said another way, as their health goes so will their season. Final Assumption, the NFC south will be weak. Yes, the Saints will be good, but I don’t think the Panthers or Falcons will be. That doesn’t mean the Falcons won’t win a game versus the Saints or that the Panthers won’t beat the Falcons or that the Saints won’t lose games they should win. I think all four teams will be incrementally better, but better than bad is still poor. Now like most things, I could be totally wrong.
I know you Cowboy fans are likely offended that I haven’t mentioned you before now. On paper, you look great. But you are habitual disappointers and I caution your fanbase to be cautious optimistic. Championships aren’t won on paper and as of late, neither are they won in Texas.
You Should be Great.
You Should Win the NFC East.
You Should be in the NFC Championship Game.
I’m just not yet convinced you will be.
One final takeaway is about my beloved Browns. I’ll go on record right here and say the 2020 Cleveland Browns WILL make the Playoffs for the first time in 17 years …..IF……they do the following:
Beat the Bengals and Washington in weeks 2 & 3
Beat the Colts, Steelers, Bengals and Raiders in weeks 5 thru 8
That will put them at 6-2.
After a week 9 Bye
I need them to beat the Jaguars in Week 12,
Giants and Jets in Week 15 & 16
And they will be 9-7.
One more Surprise win to go 10-6 would not hurt either.
Even if 9-7 isn’t enough for a playoff berth, it would be awesome to have a winning record for the first time in forever. And this would be the perfect cap to an already unpredictable year.
Ok NFL Fans – enough banter. Are you Ready for Some Football? I Sure Am.