Tired: Predicting division winners.
Wired: Predicting division winners and cellar dwellers.
That's right! Studs & Duds isn't a format the lends itself particularly well to being exclusively optimistic, so I'm going to have to piss off 8 fanbases and indirectly piss off 16 of them by not acknowledging them whatsoever. But such is life. We have entered June, people...this thing is becoming real again -- next month is training camps and then the month after is pre-season and cut downs and the start of college football.
I hope you're as excited as I am. We just need to get through the next *squints* seven weeks, first. This should help. Let's get after it.
AFC East Stud - New England Patriots
Hail to the king, baby. The Patriots' roster has undergone a significant facelift -- again. But it has done so seemingly every year for the last decade and the rest of the East hasn't been able to make a dent other than Miami's miraculous worst to first 11-5 performance in 2008. The Patriots still have Belichick, they still have Tom Brady and they still have their deep secondary and what should be an even better running game in 2019 than the one they rode to the Lombardi in 2018.
AFC East Dud - Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are going to be bad. They're not going to be 0-16 bad, though. And in any other year in the AFC East, they probably wouldn't finish last. But the Jets and Bills are making a push of their own and they do have more talent than the Dolphins this year. Miami probably finishes between 5 and 7 wins in 2019 -- but the meat of the East sandwich is probably looking at 8 to 10 wins apiece (unless Adam Gase's wheels fall off in year one instead of year three).
AFC North Stud - Cleveland Browns
This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill. The Browns aren't just talking a big game. They're super talented on both sides of the ball. And now that Odell is out of New York and got his swagger back, things are looking up for the Brownies. But listen -- this isn't just about Cleveland's talent. The Steelers have lost Antonio Brown and I don't really care that they still have Big Ben and Juju, that's going to hurt a lot. And for as ambitious as Baltimore is being with their new offensive philosophy, I have to see it work to believe it will work over 16 games. And then there's the Bengals...
AFC North Dud - Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Mixon and A.J. Green - outstanding football players. William Jackson and Jessie Bates - tremendous young talents. Geno Atkins - still very good. Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson, promising young pass rushers. Billy Price and Jonah Williams? Promising young offensive linemen. And yes, I do like Tyler Boyd. Those 10 players are the core of the Bengals -- but the offensive line as a whole isn't good, Andy Dalton is who we thought he was five years ago and the Bengals linebackers belong in 1980. Hard pass.
AFC South Stud - Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is healthy, the Colts have established their personality on offense as a bunch of body snatchers and ass kickers and the defense is young, fast and athletic. The Colts are one of those teams I expect to hoist a Lombardi in the next five years -- their direction under general manger Chris Ballard is tremendous.
AFC South Dud - Jacksonville Jaguars
There's a lot of moving pieces here. This could be Tennessee, too. But generally speaking I'm not sure Nick Foles is going to play to his Eagles standard outside the confines of Philadelphia. The Jaguars seem to be teetering on the edge of a messy divorce -- there were egos at play by the end of last season and I don't think there's a lot of harmony in that locker room these days.
AFC West Stud - Kansas City Chiefs
Do the Chiefs still have Patrick Mahomes? Yes? Oh, okay. Put them in first place and let's move on.
AFC West Dud - Denver Broncos
Denver fans are fixing to be #BigMad with me by the end of this column but here's the thing: I don't expect Denver to be all that bad. I expect this division as a whole is going to be competitive and I could see Denver or Oakland bringing home the rear with 7 wins. Why did I pick Denver? Because Joe Flacco is not elite and while I'm excited at what the Broncos have brought in on offense (Dalton Risner, Noah Fant, Drew Lock, Ja'Wuan James) this offseason, things are still spearheaded by Joe Flacco and I don't think he'll win you the games he needs to in order to go 10-6 instead of 7-9.
NFC East Stud - Philadelphia Eagles
This was between Philly and Dallas, make no mistake. And this was damn near a tie, these two teams are shaping up to be tough outs in the offseason. Will Philly's secondary stay healthy this year? If it does, I like their pass rush over the Cowboys' situation and I like the Eagles' collective receiving group more than Dallas' group, too.
NFC East Dud - New York Giants
Listen to me, Giants fans. I'm not already telling you anything you don't already know.
Additions - QB Daniel Jones, OG Kevin Zeitler, WR Golden Tate, S Jabrill Peppers
Subtractions - WR Odell Beckham Jr, DE Olivier Vernon, S Landon Collins
Players out are better than the players in this offseason, I think you guys got worse.
NFC North Stud - Green Bay Packers
The Packers have a ton of moving pieces this offseason too, but all of the foundational pieces are intact. Aaron Rodgers is still running the show, the offensive line has the majority of their pieces back, the center of the defense is all returning players and the cornerback group is another year older but still mighty talented. I think with new coaching in place, Aaron Rodgers becomes AARON RODGERS again.
NFC North Dud - Detroit Lions
The recipe for success in the NFL is rarely *copy everything your old team used to do* and yet that's exactly what we're getting with Matt Patricia's Lions. Onboarding Patriot names this offseason like Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman, Danny Amendola and trying to capture the magic of Gronk with T.J. Hockenson is ambitious. I just think they're missing the secret Foxboro ingredients to make it really work, especially in a tough division.
NFC South Stud - New Orleans Saints
The Saints were the best team in football last year, miss me with your hissy fits, Pats fans. The best team doesn't always win -- but if you give them enough chances the law of averages will work itself into the equation. The Saints are back in full force and actually stole a few talented players in the 2019 NFL Draft to help give them a little something extra this season.
NFC South Dud - Carolina Panthers
Will the real Carolina Panthers please stand up? Who are you, Carolina? The 6-2 squad from early 2018 or the team that went 1-7 down the stretch? Here's the thing about the Panthers -- they're talented. I like their core skill group of McCaffrey, Olsen, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. I like Cam Newton, when his shoulder is 100%. I love Brian Burns and Luke Kuechly and James Bradbury. But this came down to coaching for me. The Panthers had Ron Rivera on the hot seat at the end of last season and Carolina's greatest competition for the cellar is Tampa Bay. But Tampa is energized by the presence of coach Bruce Arians -- I expect he's going to draw the best out of that team and Tampa will out-perform expectations. And if Carolina starts slow, their second half is especially tough and things could get ugly.
NFC West Stud - Los Angeles Rams
I really wanted to pick Seattle here. I think the Rams will slide back a bit -- but I also don't think it will be enough. The Seahawks have a lot of new faces in the skill group and while like the Packers their offensive line is back, the Seahawks offensive line brought back the bad bits, too. The Rams probably win 11 games this year, not 13, but it should still be enough to lock in the NFC West crown.
Pipe down back there, San Francisco. The bettors may be sipping your kool aid but I need more than 2 wins before December before I get on the wagon.
NFC West Dud - Arizona Cardinals
Apologies, Arizona. I think your season will be thrilling and fun with a lot of exciting plays. But I don't think it's going to be filled with a lot of wins. I see now why you had to take Kyler -- because you chose to ignore the offensive line all together, so you needed a more mobile passer since he's going to be running for his life all season. And with the pass rushes we see in Los Angeles and San Francisco, I wish Kyler the best of luck.