Welcome to Thursday’s Thoughts. This week, I go over NFL season predictions, discuss my Top 5 of the Week, and have a bit of fun with things I like and dislike. If you’re not a fan of sports, gambling, politics, pop culture, or fun, then you probably won’t enjoy many (any) of my blog posts, but oh well read them anyway.
NFL Division Predictions
Kansas City: 13-4
LA Chargers: 11-6
Las Vegas: 7-10
I firmly believe this is best division in football, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see 3 teams from this division in the playoffs. The Raiders are stuck in a bloodbath, and despite notable offseason additions, they’re the only team in the division without an elite QB after the Broncos acquired Russell Wilson. The experience of the Chiefs keeps them atop the division for the 7th consecutive season.
LA Rams: 11-6
San Francisco: 10-7
After the offseason loss of Wilson, the Seahawks are starting Geno Smith at quarterback, and will be firmly at the bottom of this division. The other 3 each have a real argument as the best team in the NFC West, but coming off a Super Bowl, I’ll give the edge to the Rams. Trey Lance is inexperienced, but the 49ers run game should be Ravens-esque and won’t rely on him to carry the team with his arm.
I’m excited for the Bengals to prove that last season’s improbable run to the Super Bowl wasn’t a fluke. Is there a more likeable duo in the league than Joe Burrow & Ja’Marr Chase? Still, I think the Ravens are the best team in the division, and with the return of Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins, I think the Ravens are primed for their elite running game to usher in a deep playoff run. I don’t have much (read: any) faith in Mitch Trubisky, but the Steelers never finish below .500 so I’m obligated to predict them with at least 9 wins. The Browns are still the Browns.
Green Bay: 12-5
As much as Aaron Rodgers is just a horrible excuse for a person, who admitted to lying about being vaccinated, has consistently blamed his front office, coaches, and teammates for past failures, and just all around should be in jail… he’s also one of the 5 best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Every year before the season starts, the Packers feel like they’re close to the end of this excruciatingly painful run, and every season Aaron Rodgers comes back stronger than ever. I really do hate that guy. The Vikings have the strongest roster on paper that they’ve had in years, and should be a tough matchup for anyone. The Lions and Bears have holes across their rosters, and won’t be much of a playoff threat this season.
New England: 9-8
NY Jets: 3-14
The Bills have won the division 2 straight seasons, and I expect that trend to continue for as long as Josh Allen can continue to play at the level we’ve seen. New England has high expectations as usual, but despite notable big wins last season, I wasn’t as impressed with Mac Jones as the consensus seemed to be. The Patriots should be good, but I don’t see them as much more than that. Miami is one of the teams that could prove this prediction the most wrong, but I just don’t believe in Tua Tagovailoa at all. The Jets are starting Joe Flacco this week.
NY Giants: 5-12
One of the worst divisions in the NFL, I wouldn’t trust any of these teams to win a big game, let alone make a playoff run. The Eagles probably have the most upside, but I’m not yet sold on Hurts as a franchise quarterback. The Cowboys offense should be fine (and hopefully they utilize Tony Pollard over Ezekial Elliott because, well, he’s just a better player), but I’m not sold on the defense forcing 34 takeaways again this season. Carson Wentz hasn’t been the same in years, but I actually really like the rest of the Commanders roster. I could see them taking the division, but they’re cursed by Murphy’s Law (whatever can go wrong, will go wrong) and I can’t shake the feeling that this year won’t be much of a change. The Giants led the league in turnovers, and that’s not nearly as much of a fluke as the Cowboys’ takeaways: Daniel Jones is a turnover machine, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
I don’t really love any of these teams, which is partially why this is the division I’m the least confident about. Does Matt Ryan have anything left in the tank? If so, the Colts have a good roster around him and could be dangerous. Was Urban Meyer the main reason the Jaguars struggled last season? If Trevor Lawrence turns out to be as good as his pre-draft expectations, then there’s no reason he can’t lead them to the playoffs. Tennessee is highly reliant on aging veterans, but they’ve also been the best team in the division the past few seasons and if they can avoid injuries I don’t have a good justification to predict them to lose 5 more games than last season. The Texans just don’t have much high-end talent, but if Davis Mills turns out to be real, this team can make a playoff push. Still, those are all big ifs.
Tampa Bay: 11-6
New Orleans: 5-12
I think I might be underrating this division. It feels like I can talk myself into the Falcons and Panthers every season, but they end up disappointing me; so I took a half-measure and just threw 8-9 at the wall. The Bucs are the favorite to take the division again, and I’ve given up believing Tom Brady will ever show signs of aging. The Saints have probably the widest range of outcomes in the whole league – if they’re the worst team in the league, I don’t think that would shock people, but I could also see them fighting for the division. Why the prediction of 5-12? For a dumb reason – there are 272 wins per year (assuming no ties) and I didn’t want to change my other predictions…
NFL Playoff Predictions
NFC Round 1
Bye: Green Bay
Didn’t realize I gave the Packers the 1 seed as I was going through. I really hate the Packers
Arizona at Tampa Bay
Kyler Murray to topple Tom Brady? Nope. Tampa Bay 31-17.
San Francisco at LA Rams
49ers get their payback from the NFC championship last season. 49ers move on 30-23.
Minnesota at Dallas
I mentioned above that I don’t trust Dallas to win big games. Vikings roll 38-10.
AFC Round 1
Bye: Kansas City
The best quarterback in the league on the best team in the league.
Denver at Baltimore
Denver puts up a fight, but doesn’t quite get it done. Baltimore moves on 24-20.
LA Chargers at Buffalo
Chargers continue their storied history of not getting it done in the playoffs. Buffalo wins in a shootout 45-37.
Cincinnati at Indianapolis
Cincinnati proves they’re just getting started and take one on the road. Bengals win 31-21.
NFC Round 2
San Francisco at Green Bay
I swear I didn’t plan this, but who else would it be to take these villains down? 49ers win in OT 37-31.
Minnesota at Tampa Bay
Vikings lose on a missed extra point to send the game into OT (because of course). Bucs move on 30-29.
AFC Round 2
Cincinnati at Kansas City
A matchup we’re sure to see a few more times over the next decade, this one goes to Mahomes. Chiefs win 35-24.
Buffalo at Baltimore
Home field advantage and their running game lets Baltimore control the game. They keep the Bills from having a final possession. Ravens hold on 38-31.
San Francisco at Tampa Bay
My predictions have turned out pretty chalk, but hey I’m not going to stop now. Bucs in a boring game 24-18.
Baltimore at Kansas City
Lamar plays like a true superstar, but ultimately Mahomes proves he’s the best of the best in the AFC. Chiefs win 35-31.
Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City
The new era of quarterbacks is ushered in as Mahomes gets his payback, winning his rematch with Brady and firmly taking the mantle as the undisputed best quarterback in the league. Chiefs win the Super Bowl 31-20.
Top 5 of the Week (Season)
As we enter the first week of the NFL season, I’m switching up the Top 5 of the Week, and doing a Top 5 of the Season. This will go over my picks for Top 5 players for MVP (and OPOY), DPOY, and ROY.
Most Valuable Player (and OPOY)
I’m including Offensive Player of the Year here as well, because it usually just goes to the 2nd place MVP. I’m also excluding defensive players from this list for two reasons: First, they’ll be included in DPOY, so why list them twice? Second, in practice, they’ll never win the award, so despite technically being eligible, let’s stop pretending this is more than an offensive award.
5. Lamar Jackson
Jackson has somehow become underrated over the past few seasons. He’s basically the Michael Vick of the modern era, yet people still don’t seem to give him recognition as one of the best in the league. Deserves to be in the conversation.
4. Josh Allen
Cam Newton won MVP in 2015, and Josh Allen is the first player we’ve seen since that can do everything Newton could. He’s big, strong, and faster than you’d expect, and can throw the ball over them mountains. If the Bills are fighting for 1st place, Allen will get some MVP votes.
3. Jonathan Taylor
This is too high for any running back on a list of MVP candidates, but there’s a reason Taylor shows up here. He’s a strong runner who is sure to see unlimited touches this season, and I could absolutely see him breaking the all-time rushing record given a 17-game season. If Taylor hits 2100 yards and the Colts make the playoffs, he’s worthy of the MVP.
Kirk Cousins Joe Burrow
While I do think Kirk Cousins is underrated, he is… to put it nicely… at least a year away from MVP talk. I’m high on Cincinnati, mostly because of Joe Burrow. He’s a rare talent who has consistently shown the ability to show up in big moments. The weapons around him are stacked, and I fully expect him to sling the ball all season. Burrow’s got a great story, and coming off a Super Bowl appearance, his performance will be magnified. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes home the award, even if he’s not quite as deserving as other candidates. For example, if Burrow and Rodgers have similar statistical seasons (yards, TDs, INTs, W/L, etc.), Burrow will get the nod from voters.
1. Patrick Mahomes
After reading my Super Bowl prediction, is anyone surprised? I think Mahomes is the best player in the league, and Tyreek Hill being traded to the Dolphins will affect Hill’s production far more than Mahomes’s. Despite having only 1 MVP to his name, Mahomes is already starting to enter the Peyton Manning/Michael Jordan/LeBron James tier of voters getting bored of his excellence and moving on. Still, how can I rank anyone except the best player in the NFL as number 1? I can’t. Mahomes is the MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year
5. TJ Watt
TJ Watt had an all-time season last year, and is one of the premier pass rushers in the league. I’d say he should be higher on this list, but after tying the single-season sack record, it would be difficult to duplicate such an effort. And unfortunately, if he doesn’t at least match it, he likely won’t win the award.
4. Maxx Crosby
If the Raiders defense is elite, Crosby has a good chance at this award. Despite being 2nd team All-Pro, he’s still been arguably underrated for the past few seasons. Now all he needs is a team that makes some noise, and he will be firmly in the DPOY conversation for years to come.
3. Joey Bosa
The Chargers had the most players in the NFL named to the top 100 with 9. Despite J.C. Jackson being ranked higher, Bosa is probably the most talented player on the team. I wouldn’t count out a 20 sack season, and the Chargers are expected to be near the top of the AFC, so I expect to see Bosa get quite a few DPOY votes.
2. Myles Garrett
The betting favorite to win the award, Garrett thinks he should also be #1 on the NFL top 100. While that may be a bit of a stretch, he’s certainly one of the few players who can say that and have people take him seriously. That alone should tell you all you need to know. Assuming the Browns don’t suck (big assumption!), Garrett should be right near the top of this race.
1. Aaron Donald
He’s on pace to be the greatest defensive player in NFL history. Even if he retired today, he’d be in the top 10. He’s been the best defensive player in the league for more than half a decade, and I can’t bet against him taking home this award. (Also, the 2 players who have attacked other players with helmets end up as the top 2 in DPOY rankings.. coincidence? I think not).
Rookie of the Year
Full disclosure – I don’t watch much college football, so a lot of this is based on the combine, training camp reports, and fantasy football discussions. Take that for what it is.
5. Breece Hall
The undisputed most talented running back coming out of college, Hall landed in a weird situation. Michael Carter already had a successful rookie season, and seems like he’s going to take touches away from Hall. Plus, it’s the Jets. Still, you should never bet against talent, so I can’t leave him off the list.
4. Dameon Pierce
The opposite of Hall, Pierce has landed in a perfect situation. The role as a 3-down back is there for the taking, and despite a lack of elite college production, he’ll be given every opportunity to get touches. I expect middling results, but the volume should be there.
3. George Pickins
Pittsburgh wide receivers are unmatched.
2. Romeo Doubs
Christian Watson was drafted higher, but Doubs seems to already have the rapport with Rodgers. With the departure of Davante Adams, there are plenty of targets to go around.
1. Drake London
An injury in the preseason could make this prediction look dumb, but I think London is a special talent, as evidenced by being the first skill position drafted in a season with many strong wide receivers. The Falcons might not be great, but they should be passing quite a bit, and due to the Calvin Ridley suspension, London is the only other receiving threat outside of Kyle Pitts. I expect a big year.
Framley Teaser League
In addition to my weekly and ad hoc/random favorite picks over the next few months, I’ll also be giving my weekly teaser selections here. For those unfamiliar with teaser leagues, I’ll give a simplified version: Each person (or team) selects 4 teams each week, and the betting line is adjusted by 10 points in favor of the team you select (e.g. if you choose a team with a -3 line, their new line would be +7). Each team that goes 4/4 gets paid by all those who had at least 1 missed pick (and paid extra for more misses). I’m currently on a team with a friend, where we select our picks together, so he has 50% say in these picks, and our conversations may be a recurring theme here. Week 1 options:
Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: You good with BAL, DEN, ATL, MIN?
Nicholas: Atlanta feels shaky. Rather take the Rams.
Me: Hate to bet against Buffalo, but ok.
Final picks: BAL +3, DEN +4, MIN +12, LAR +12.5
Things I Like and Things I Don’t Like
I don’t like
NBA Media double standards. So apparently the Timberwolves messed up the trade market for other stars when they traded for Rudy Gobert because it was such an overpay. If that’s your opinion, totally fine. But when the Cavaliers give up a similar amount for a worse – albeit younger – player in Donovan Mitchell, it’s hailed as a huge success. The Timberwolves roster is significantly better than the Cavs today, so I don’t understand the difference in the reactions.
The Minnesota Timberwolves winning the championship. Wolves in 4.
I don’t like
Time Zones. NFL isn’t too bad as I can still catch most games, but trying to watch the NBA in Europe has been a disaster. I’m no longer able to watch games every night, and it’s a huge downer.
FIBA. Okay, so it’s not the greatest competition compared to the NBA, but basketball is basketball! And at least it’s at a reasonable hour!! Sheesh – kids these days! (Yes – I’m fully aware this is me):
I don’t like
Summer sports. I’m supposed to get excited about baseball? Come on.
First Game of the NFL season. Holy cow am I excited for tonight. FOOTBALL IS BACK!