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Season7 Analysis

by jeff beyel
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers always seem to be a solid team and pull off a few big wins but have not been a truly relevant team yet. QB Marcus Mariota may have hit his ceiling and Carolina looks like it may be more of a ground and pound attack than a balanced approach. RB Chris Carson is a top back and reserve Tevin Coleman is talented. Third down back Jalen Richard is a very good option as well. H-back Evan Ingram can pose serious match-up issues for clubs. Tyler Lockett is the top receiver and the Panthers do have some deep ball threats that can chew up yardage on the limited throws of Mariota. The offensive line is a major worry spot and might not be quite good enough to support the apparent lean on the running game. Traditionally tough on defense, Carolina has a good defensive line led by the stout presence of 6'1" NT Geno Atkins and the quick play of DE Trey Flowers. DT Tyrone Crawford and DE Jonathan Allen completes a group that can track down the quarterback. The Panther might have the best line backing in the league! Leighton Vander Esch, Dee Ford, Kayon Brown, and Demario Davis are all good and give coach Doug Crandal diversity as well as talent. The secondary also ranks among the league's best units. CBs Xavien Howard, Bryce Callahan, and William Jackson are good and gives the team the ability to match-up vs spread offenses. Safety Eddie Jackson is outstanding and can lend solid run support as well while Ha Ha Clinton Dix completes the unit.

Prediction: Carolina will be a rugged team to deal with each week and can win games with its defense and rugged offensive look. They should contend in the tough NFC East.


Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have a new coach in Rick Main who now has his dream job. Main set all types of offensive records while running the hi-octane Atlanta Falcons for a number of years and it remains to be seen if he brings that same attitude to Philly. QBs Carson Wentz and Nick Foles are a very capable tandem who should be more than able to play main's style of football. The running game looks like it will be done by committee with Nyheim Hines a nice weapon as a third down back. Kenny Golladay and veteran Larry Fitzgerald are the main go to receivers but the Eagles have a number of role types who are extremely dangerous after the catch in TE Jesse James and WR Rashard Higgins. The offensive line is talented with injury free types which should lend itself to consistent line play there. The Eagles' defensive line is also gifted and could be tough to move the ball on inside due to the likely presence of 6'5" 332 lbs Akeem Hicks and 6'4" 320lbs Eddie Goldman in the interior. The ends are not great vs the run but are excellent rushing the passer. Joey Bosa, Julius Peppers, and Takkarist McKinley can all run to the ball. Most teams have good run defenses if they have good line backing and the Eagles have an elite unit here. OLB Justin Houston heads this gang and he will be joined by Fred Warner, Blake Martinez, and TJ Watt giving Main one of the few teams in football with the option of going 3-4 or 4-3. The secondary is also top notch with all types of talents back there. Safety Budda Baker is a ner-the-line run defender while safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Maye are your traditional pass defenders. CBs Desmond Trufant, Pierre Desir, Malcolm Butler, and Shaquil Griffin form, arguably, the deepest secondary in the league.

Prediction: Philly will contend for the East title and should be in the discussion as a Super Bowl contender. They have talent at every level and simply need to put it together at the right time to win.


Dallas Cowboys: The Pokes missed the playoffs last year and that does not sit well in Big D. The offense should, once again, rank among the league's best. QB Kirk Cousins is a serious deep ball heaver who must rebound off his disappointing campaign of a year ago. He has some great hands to throw to this season with Michael Thomas as his prime receiver. Thomas is as sure handed as they come and is a real chain mover while not being as much of deep ball type to take the lid off the defense. The other target will be Julian Edelman who is also an excellent catcher of the ball but, like Thomas, is not a real true deep ball weapon. Still, those two will cause headaches for any DC in the league. TE seems a bit lacking and could become problematic in certain situations during the season especially given that top TE Charles Clay is not a great in-line blocker. The running game duties will be mostly by committee with Matt Brieda being the best of the bunch. All of the Cowboy backs are threats to move the ball with Zach Zenner, Marcus Murphy, Malcolm Brown, and Kalen Ballage steady runners. Blocking back Zach Line is the best in the business. Of course, the bevy of backs are expected to benefit from one of the better offensive lines in the game although there are health concerns among some of their stars here. G Zach Martin is still elite while T Tyron Smith has shown some signs of slowing down just a bit. The real problem for Dallas has been on defense particularly in the secondary. Not this year. CBs Joe Haden and Tre-Davious white are very good and both could get better in the future. The Cowboys can handle the spread attacks too as they have the additional services of three more CBs named Orlando Scandrick, Jalen Mills, and Taron Johnson to utilize as they see fit. Add in newly acquired stud safety Eric Weddle and it is easy to see why hopes in Dallas are high this year. The Dallas defensive line is geared more to stop the pass then the run but should be strong enough to at least hold its own against the run. The play of DEs Jabaal Sheard and Henry Anderson will be a key. Dallas will also roll out two of the best line backers in football. OLB Darius Leonard is a night mare in real life having the rare ability to stop the run, pressure the quarterback, and cover out of the backfield! Jaylon Smith is an elite ILB. The rest of the group is injury prone leaving little in the way of depth and it is wholly possible, given the make-up of this team, that Dallas utilizes a 4-2 look most of the time.

Prediction: The Cowboys are another contender in the rugged NFC East and definitely have the talent to win it all this season. There are a few areas that need to be upgraded or addressed in some way but, otherwise, the Pokes will be a load for all comers this year.


New York Giants: The G-men had a breakout season last year going 10-6. They dealt away QB Dak Prescott to the Packers but got back young slinger Baker Mayfield and veteran DT Ndamukong Suh. The Giants have a nice backfield featuring Sony Michel and scat-back Tarik Cohen. The diminutive 5'6" 181lbs Cohen is a super option out of the backfield possessing both great hands and the ability to do a lot of damage after he catches the ball. New York also has a nice mix of receivers that check all the boxes for a top notch receiving corps. Top WR TY Hilton is a deep threat who can take it to the house on any play while Cole Beasely is a solid possession wide and Cooper Kupp offers another deep ball option. TE Zach Ebron will fill a major role in the offense. All of this pyrotechnic ability will be bolstered by an offensive line that should be strong in the middle. C David Andrews is very good and he will have two guards, Shaq Mason and Brandon Scherff, on either side of him. One area of concern could be the tackles who will have to stand up to the pass rushing off the edges. Defensively, New York is over-loaded with defensive tackles and some may get moved in the upcoming trading period. DE Jason Pierre-Paul and OLB-DE Kalil Mack are tremendous talents that will cause problems while the interior of the line will be stout with whomever the Giants elect to use there. Mack may have to play LB unless the Giants can trade for one to go along with MLB Danny Trevathan and Patrick Onwuasor. The Giants' secondary is excellent with CBs Logan Ryan, Trumaine Johnson, and Kendall Fuller back there but all three do have some injury worries. S Jessie Bates is one of the best at his position while Sean Davis and Tony Jefferson should split time as the other safety.

Prediction: The Giants are a fourth team in the NFC East that could win it all this year. Like the other clubs in the division, though, how they play in the big games and big moments will tell the tale plus how their health holds up.


Washington Redskins: Sadly, the proud Redskins find themselves sitting in, probably, the best division in the league. 8 games against Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, and Carolina is rather daunting to say the least. QB Case Keenum will the man in DC this year and he is likely the weakest signal caller in the division. The backfield is a bit unsettled due to injury problems but the ageless Frank Gore appears to be the front runner. None of the current backs are threats out of the backfield to catch the ball and that will allow defenses to focus on other weapons. WRs Desean Jackson and Josh Gordon are both major deep ball threats but virtually the entire Redskin receiving unit is injury prone to some degree. The offensive line does have some talent but, like much of the offense, this unit also has some injury problems that will probably have to be navigated. The defensive line is going to have its hands full facing the power houses in the division although the line backers are pretty good and can help. OLB Ryan Kerrigan can still play. To be honest, the secondary appears to be seriously outmanned against the type offenses they will face this year.

Prediction: Someday Washington will get its due but this is not the time for them. Playing is a truly loaded division, The Redskins really have no shot and will have to be content at playing the spoiler in the division.

NFC CENTRAL

Chicago Bears: The Bears and coach Calvin Opheim have to excited heading into the season. They have one of the very best offensive lines in the game that can flat out road grade teams into the ground. Guard Joel Bitonio, tackles Terron Armstead and Taylor Lewan, and center Corey Linsley are all excellent. Quarterback is a present dilemma but having both Jimmy Garapollo and Sam Darnold is not too shabby. Darnold will probably be the main arm this season but Garapollo could prove pivotal if he can engineer some early season wins over Detroit, Green Bay, and Minnesota. RBs James Connor and Rashaad Penny figure to benefit mightily from the play of the offensive line in the rough weather at Soldier Field as the season unfolds. The Bears will have a ton of receivers to use this season with Alshon Jeffery and Corey Davis the best ones in the lot. H-backs Dallas Goedert and Gerald Everett should also pose problems for defenses. Speaking of defense, Chicago will have a solid one. The d-line will be tough to move the ball on consistently and DE Myles Garrett is a real beast on the loose. CJ Mosely, Deion Jones, and Nigel Bradham are all good backers but the team could use another OLB. The unit, though, does have some injury problems it may have to work with during the season. The secondary is adequate with CB Mackensie Alexander having a unique ability to rush the quarterback.

Prediction: The Bears are going to be tough each week and can set up a run if they can win the early season games perhaps using Garappolo. Injuries could derail them as the year progresses and the secondary will be tested.


Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings and coach Eric Lindner have won at least 9 games every single season in league history and they are a very good bet to do it again this year. QB Philip Rivers is a top tier thrower and Minnesota has revolutionized the league with its use of running backs as major receiving weapons that cause match-up problems that most teams cannot contend with, Last season, the Viking completed 176 passes to running backs for an astounding 1939 yards and 14 touchdowns! RB Duke Johnson was a particularly powerful force grabbing 75 balls at an amazing 17.6 YPC clip! This group of backs looks a lot like last year's gang of trouble with James White a top target option along with Johnson, Melvin Gordon, and Kenyan Drake. Those backs will carry a major load but WR Golden Tate is a solid possession type while Mike Williams and Marvin Jones provide explosive abilities deep. TEs Nick Vannett and Ryan Griffin should be able to get it done at that position. The Viking offensive line has always be a traditional force and it does have some talent again but injuries could play a major role in how their season goes. Minnesota's defensive line is one of the best in the league featuring 6'0" 305 lbs Grady Jarrett and 6'4" 315lbs Lawrence Guy at defensive tackle and Chris Long and Derek Wolfe as the ends. The linebackers are solid and include the talents of veteran Jamie Collins. CB Kyle Fuller is as good as it gets in the secondary and safeties Bradley McDougald and Patrick Chung should be good enough to get the job done.

Prediction: A season opener at rival Green Bay looms to start the season and the Vikings should pose quite a task for any team that takes them on. There backfield attack is formidable and many teams simply cannot find ways to stop it. Minnesota will vie for a divisional crown and a deep run in the post-season.

Green Bay Packers: Jeff Beyel's 15-1 Packers felt the wrath of the Los Angeles Rams ,who were on their way to an undefeated championship season last year, losing 16-0 in the NFC title game. It marked the first time a Beyel coached team had ever been zipped. Green bay had one of the best defenses in league history last season but the offense, led by QB Eli manning and RB Dion Lewis, simply was not good enough. This season, the Pack will have Dak Prescott at the helm and RB Joe Mixon to work with Lewis in the backfield. Beyel traditionally uses a 2TE set but that offense will not be possible with the players they have this season although a varied formation offense is likely. WRs Dede Westbrook, Mohammad Sanu, Seth Roberts, and Ryan Grant can all catch the ball and TEs Jared Cook and OJ Howard are dangerous at their positions. The offensive line is pretty good but has some injury problems it will have to contend with. The defense will not match the dominance of a season ago but could be very good again. The defensive line looks like it will one of the better ones in football led by DT Kenny Clark and DE Demarcus Lawrence. Pass rush specialist Jarran Reed should also be a factor. The line backers are good with Erik Kendricks, Telvin Smith, and Melovin Ingram manning their posts. The packer secondary could be one of the best in football. CBs Stephon Gilmore and Patrick Peterson as a good a tandem as there is although there are rumors Peterson may play some safety for the Pack against certain teams and formations. Third CB Adoree Jackson is also talented. Safety is a concern although Mike Adams should be adequate enough if Green Bay uses a CB as a safety.

Prediction: The Packers have talent but also have enough flaws to make them vulnerable. Always tough at Lambeau Field, Green Bay opens up their season with a huge game against the powerful Vikings before travelling to Soldier Field for another tough match with the Bears. Green bay has a very tough schedule and will do well to win 10 games but that is a goal that is attainable if things fall right.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have a real shot at the title this season! While that may seem a bit shocking for a team that has never had a winning season in its existence in the league, Detroit is a force to be reckoned with this year. QB Jared Goff is an elite signal caller and gives Detroit their best situation there perhaps in team history. Kerryon Johnson and Leonard Fournette will share the running duties and how effective they are will go a long ways to determining the Lions' ultimate success or failure. Goff will have some deadly weapons in WRs Ju-Ju Smith-Shuster, Jarvis Landry, and Jordy Nelson. That trio will put a lot of pressure on defenses. The lack of a true TE target could prove problematic in the long run and is an area that could have this team fall just a shade short but time will tell. C Jason Kelce is among the top players at his position and T Lane Johnson is very good. The defense will need to step up if the Lions are to reach their goal. The team can rush the passer with the likes of DE Carlos Dunlap, LB/DE Za'Dariius Smith along with LBs Bud Dupree and Wesley Woodard but there are concerns the team might have issues stopping the run . CB Denzel Ward is elite and fellow CB Chidobe Awuzie is going to have to play well. Safeties Tashaun Gibson and Terrell Edmunds will be tested and there are questions how the Lions can match up against spread offenses.

Prediction: The Lions have a pretty tough schedule overall but have enough talent to be a very dangerous team indeed. The days of using Detroit as a home coming game are over and this team could very well surprise in the same manner as the Oakland Raiders could over in the AFC.

NFC WEST
Los Angeles Rams: Awfully hard to improve on perfection but the Rams certainly will try. LA rolled to an unprecedented 16-0 regular season and then tacked on 3 more W's last year to complete the first perfect season in PAFL history! Like the Bengals' Drew Brees, the Rams' Tom Brady just keeps plugging along showing no signs of slowing down. Brady and his rams have gone an amazing 29-3 the last two season and will be seen a favorites again this year. The backfield is going to be dynamic with super weapon Alvin Kamara and David Johnson carrying and catching the ball all the time. 6'1" Davante Davis is one of the best overall receivers in football and he will be joined by WR Demaryius Thomas and aging TE Rob Gronkowski to form a good enough unit considering the output likely from the running backs. The offensive line is built for the passing game and the threat of the aerial attack should allow the line to be effective running the ball. The defensive line does seem vulnerable inside with Dalvin Tomlinson the team's best DT. The line backing is solid but there are some injury concerns and the front 7, as a whole does not appear to be a powerful pass rushing force. The secondary is, again , very good but not quite to the truly elite levels of past seasons and even this group has some injury woes.

Prediction: The Rams have more than enough firepower to defeat most teams but there are some worries about possible injuries in quite a few key positions on this club. They have some late season games in chilly Philadelphia and frigid Lambeau Field against the Packers that could go along ways towards their NFC threepeat effort.


Atlanta Falcons: Gone is the gun slinging ways of head coach Rick Main (now in Philly) and I comes new coach Bill Howell. Howell will inherit the services of one of the league's all-time pass throwers in QB Matt Ryan who holds several league records. They are likely going to utilize a trio of backs in LeSean McCoy, LeGarette Blount, and Mark Ingram but none of them are seen as viable full time backs and only Ingram has true breakaway abilities. The running game might still rumble because teams will have to pay a ton of attention to the renowned aerial potential the Falcons possess. It will remain to be seen how Howell runs this team but under Main there was never any doubt although Main got a lot of mileage out of the running game due to the fear of the pass. Atlanta has a tremendous receiver in 6'3" 220lbs Julio Jones who has been one of the best targets in the league for years now. Jones has snared 439 receptions for 7811 yards and 108 touchdowns in his illustrious tenure! The Falcons might go to a 2TE set if they elect to use the dynamic skills of Travis Kelce and Vance McDonald. WR Zay Jones is the other main receiver. The offensive line is nothing great but it should be good enough. A tackle spot remain in the flux. Sadly, the Falcons have not been able to consistently play good enough defense to match their prolific offense. The defensive line will be extremely vulnerable to the run although DEs Mario Addison and Vic Beasely could cause some anguish in passing situations. MLb Zach Brown is good but the rest of the line backing has some injury concerns and there simply is no pass rush in sight. Their secondary should be solid and consistent all year long.

Prediction: Atlanta is a team in transition with a new head coach and it seems likely they will have to outscore a few folks if they wish to make it to the playoffs again. Their early season schedule mandates they get some wins under their belt because the second half lineup features a number of heavy weights.


San Diego Chargers: The Bolts have been one of the league's most active teams under coach Hank Seinzant.with the club going from 2 to 6 wins in his second year at the helm. They do have two QBs in camp (Alex Smith and Josh Rosen) but the team drafted Daniel Jones early in the first round this Spring as they franchise continues to struggle to find their long term guy. It does, though, seem probably both Smith and Rosen see time with Smith getting the top nod. A diverse group will fuel the running and passing game out of the backfield. Mike Davis, Wendell Smallwood, and Kenneth Dixon all have different attributes while TJ Yeldon might be the best they have. Again, though, San Diego drafted RB Josh Jacobs this year and he seems destined to finally give Sienzant a true #1 at tailback. San Diegos' receiving composition is woefully lacking top talent. The offensive line has some talent particularly with Sienzant's prized selection in G Quenton Nelson. Fellow G Rodger Saffold is also skilled but he is rumored to be OTB as the Bolts continue their efforts to build. The Charger defensive line is young and can hunt quarterbacks if they get the chance. However, the line lacks true run stuffers and that will be an issue. The line backers are equally young paced by LB Myles Jack but the front 7, as a unit, is not overpowering. The secondary has become one of the better units in football especially with the arrival of two young CBs named Marshon Lattimore and Levi Wallace. Lattimore was another Charger high pick from two seasons back. Veteran and diverse DB Kareem Jackson is one of the most valuable players in any secondary and gives the Chargers tremendous flexibility. Wallace is a major injury concern but this unit is deep and should be fine.

Prediction: San Diego is hoping to take another small step in the wins department. However, with winning comes a bit more difficult schedule and the Chargers have quite a few tough hombres to face this year. It is not likely the Bolts will win enough to make the playoffs but they could be just good enough to make things interesting.


Arizona Cardinals: Few organizations have had it has historically bad as the Cards. They have endured six straight losing campaigns including three in a row under current head coach Dan Oakes. However, the good times might finally be on the not so distant future for beleaguered Cardinal fans in the desert. They now have one of the most exciting young signal callers in the game in Patrick Mahomes and having him makes this team instantly dangerous. RBs Aaron Jones and Alfred Blue are capable backs although neither can be seen as a true every down back. Like the backfield, none of their wide receivers can qualify as a true #1 but many of them are dangerous deep ball threats that could maximize their limitations! The tight-end spot is in a bit of a shambles at the moment. Rookie draft pick Terry McLaurin could be welcomed addition a season from now for sure. The offensive line is, in truth, the best unit in the division! Guards Brandon Brookes and Austin Blythe are excellent. Blythe is an undersized 298 lbs but uses his leverage and quickness to be effective. 6'9" 320lbs Alejandro Villeanueva, however, is not undersized by any means and is awfully good. Center Ben Jones is solid and T Bobbie Massey completes the five. The defensive line is actually also pretty solid and deep. They are particularly tough inside where defensive tackles Damon "Snacks" Harrison and Michael Pierce reside. These two could prove virtually immoveable combining for some 693lbs! The defensive ends are not outstanding but many of them can pressure and most are good enough to hold up against the run. The Cardinals have two pretty good OLBs with Kyler Fackrell a player few have heard of but will soon. the 6'5" Utah State grad Fackrell can alot from his position able to pressure and stop the run. If he has a small weakness it would be in pass coverage but even there he is ok. Opposite Fackrell, the Cards will post another 6'5" player in Anthony Barr giving them one of the more imposing pairs in the league. MLB is a bit of a weaker spot but the undersized Vince Williams should be able to hold up. The secondary has, perhaps, the best safety duo in the league. Super diverse Derwin James is a top tier 6'2" 215lbs hammer who can cover, rush, or defend the run. Fellow safety Damontae Kazee is a ball hawking machine that teams will have to avoid. The corners, though, are a bit mundane but , as a whole, this is one of the better secondaries Arizona has ever had, atestament to the efforts of Oakes.

Prediction: The Cards are moving in the right direction and doing it fast. They have a good and dangerous WR coming up next year to aid Mahomes and selected another interior monster in Clemson's Christian Wilkens. This season, they have enough defense to be sticky and will be dangerous with Mahomes but the team still is missing key components needed to truly contend.



AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: The Bills may be a team on the rise this season but might be one more season away. It is likely that both Jameis Winston and Lemar Jackson will play this season but somebody has to go before next year and the odds are it will be Winston. They do have one of the best RBs in all of football in Christian McCaffrey. An incredible runner and pass catcher, McCaffrey will exert maximum pressure on every DC in the league. Robert Woods is the top receiver on the team but Buffalo has a whole gang of targets it can use in various amounts and formations. TE Mark Andrews is a monster to cover and has deep ball ability that increases his value immensely. The offensive line is not overpowering by any means led by T Andrew Whitworth. On defense, Buffalo has some worries up front. The defensive line is adequate against the run but none bring much in the way of a pass rush or ability to pressure the quarterback. This will likely compel them to blitz a lot to get pressure and that will open them up to attack. A lot of the pressure will have to come from their OLBs: Von Miller and Lorenzo Alexander. Those two, along with MLB Bernardrick McKinney form one of the better line backing units in the league but they may be asked to do a lot more than expected. The secondary will be vulnerable especially against spread offenses like New England can deploy and it is probable that they will be forced into a zone more often than they would prefer.

Prediction: Buffalo has weapons on offense that can cause an upset or two along the way but the offensive line may have issues and the defensive secondary combined with the defensive line's inability to get pressure without blitzing backers will cause problems for them. Their schedule has a number of difficult games on it and they will be forced to pull off a few wins against teams about their level.


New England Patriots: The Patriots are coming off a disappointing 9-7 season in which they were the second highest scoring team in the AFC! QB Derek Carr appears to be the man under center again this season. Carr came to New England from the Browns and has tossed 59 TD passes during his tenure here. In truth, he has played pretty well for the Pats having thrown for 6534 (3267) yards as a Patriot but his completion rate needs to improve. Meanwhile, RB Ezekiel Elliott powers the run game. Elliott plowed his way for some 15 rushing touchdowns his rookie season but was only able to chip in 6 during his suspension season of a year ago. He is expected to return to his rookie form this year and that could go along ways towards a Patriot run at a divisional crown. Carr will also have a bevy of extremely talented and dangerous targets to throw to this year. WR Adam Thielen is an elite player while super threat Brandin Cooks seems destined to start opposite him. Tyler Boyd allows the Patriots to have 3 terrific weapons in the attack when and if they go spread. If that is not enough for you, consider they also have TE Kyle Rudolph to utilize in possession downs. The offensive line is not overly dominant particularly at guard and there are health concerns around C Matt Paradis but this unit should still move the ball. The Patriot defensive line could be one of the more disruptive groups in the league. They have diverse players here with 6'5" 302lbs Leonard Williams and 6'7" 300lbs Brent Urban able to play anywhere along the line. 6'4" 310lbs Fletcher Cox and 6'2" Sheldon Rankins will provide plenty of push up the middle from their DT positions while Chandler Jones and Frank Clark offer tremendous pressure off the ends. Some of these players might be moved during the trading period but the depth and talent here is unquestioned and having quality depth along the D-line is a key in this league. As good as the line is, the line backing has a few worrisome spots. OLB Lavonte Davis is solid but the rest of the unit is below top tier levels. The secondary is solid although not spectacular. Still, the overall secondary group is above average and has more than enough talent to be very effective.

Prediction: The Patriots have an extremely favorable schedule this season and should be favored in almost every game they play. 10+ wins is a near certainty as a division crown and deep playoff run is well within range


Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags are under new ownership and leadership and it will take some time to see the effects. QB Eli Manning was dealt from the Packers to Jville in the off-season. He led Green Bay to a 15-1 record proving just good enough to help his team win games behind one of the better defenses in league history. No such defense exists, however, in Jacksonville and he may be compelled to be more effective than he was last season. He will be able to hand to ball off to rookie Nick Chubb but Chubb does not seem quite ready to assume the workhorse role just yet and this may prove problematic as the season evolves. The wide receivers are woefully lacking and the entire offensive line is average at best. In short, Eli's last stand could end in a massacre. The defensive line is capable but the line backing is a mess and the secondary is in just about as bad a situation.

Prediction: The rebuild is under way in Florida. This is going to be a painful year for the Jags but it is hoped they make solid moves going forward.


Cleveland Browns: Cleveland is coming off their best season in the league going 11-5 last year. They did it mostly behind a punishing 1-2 ground game paced by RBs Kareem Hunt and Derrick Henry. At 6'3" and 250lbs, Henry is an absolute smasher who is one of the toughest inside runners in the game. Hunt, at just 5'11" 216lbs, is a balanced runner who can hurt teams both inside and out. It is a good bet the Browns will utilize the same formula again this year. QB Matt Stafford will take the reins after being shipped over from the Eagles. In Philly, he never had a season below a 94 rating and had a career best 36 TD passes last season. He will have two extremely dangerous targets in the forms of the highly unpredictable Antonio Brown and Mike Evans. Those two are, arguably one of the best, if not the best, duo in football and when you consider that the Browns can also play WR Adam Humphries if they go spread you can see how many feel Cleveland's offense is among the best around. They do not have a tight end in camp yet and this must be addressed. The offensive line has some talent along the line with T Mitchell Schwartz and G David Decastro but the rest of the unit has some health concerns. On the defensive side of the ball, The Browns feature the presence of all-world DT Aaron Donald and he alone makes the line formidable. MLB Bobby Wagner and OLB Bradley Chubb give Cleveland some nice talent but they could sue depth here. The secondary is solid albeit not great especially at corner. Still this group is not awful and should have the ability to stand up to most attacks most games.

Prediction: The Browns contend with New England talent-wise but their schedule is significantly more difficult and likely will cost them along the way.


Miami Dolphins: New leadership has arrived as both Florida teams in this division hope to get untracked. Miami has some talent in their ranks due to some decent drafting past seasons. Still, they seem a team not quite ready for prime time. RB Dalvin Cook has had an injury plagued career thus far but has shown signs of being great should he ever be able to stay healthy. WRs Tyreek Hill and Calvin Ridley are very real talents that can threaten any secondary and TE George Kittle is certainly one of the best in the business. The QB situation seems unsettled, long term, but the expected efforts of Ryan Tannehill and Blake Bortles could be enough to get the job done. The offensive line has slowly improved but still is not dominant although it no longer is inferior. While the offense has made strides, the defense really has not. The defensive line does not hold up well against the run although it is capable of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The line backing unit simply is not on a high enough level although MLB Preston Brown is pretty good. The secondary has long since been a real area lacking talent and that situation has not changed again this season

Prediction: Miami will, again, be a dangerous team to play due their offensive potential. If they can outscore a foe they can win but their defensive holes are so glaring it is likely a repeat of last season is on the horizon.

AFC CENTRAL
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have had a bit of a checkered history in the league having both winning and losing seasons. Last year they finished 4-12 marking the worst campaign under long time head coach Pete Katsafanas. QB Ben Roethlisberger is back again. Big Ben, quite frankly, has had to do it all for the Steelers during much of his career here but he may have some help this season. Bulldog RB Peyton Barber fits the Steeler tradition of a grinding attack and he may be well suited to compliment Roethlisberger's deep ball propensity. The issue could be at WR where WR Allen Robinson will be the top target after coming over from Green Bay. H-back Trey Burton offers some intriguing possibilities. The offensive line is OK but has some serious health concerns that might reek havoc this year. The defensive front 7 lacks much in the way of pass rush and that is a major problem. Only OLB Jordan Jenkins possesses much in the way of pass rush and that means quarterbacks will have time. The defensive line is vanilla all across the front although pretty deep. The secondary appears to be a notch below top tier and could also be an area teams can exploit. Overall, the Steelers probably lack enough firepower to offset their defensive flaws.

Prediction: Coach Katsafanas usually does a very good job with his Steelers and seems to get more out of them then what seems probable. The schedule is pretty tough as well and making the playoffs could be tough.


Cincinnati Bengals: One of the best franchises in league history should keep plugging along this season as well. Future HOF QB Drew Brees never seems to age and will be an MVP candidate again this year. The running game might take a bit of with Jordan Howard as the main ball carrier but the receiving corps is as godd as it gets with TE Zach Ertz, WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR Nelson Agholor, and WR Chris Godwin out there catching for Brees. The offensive line has some superior players and is, overall, more than up to the task especially at T with Jake Matthews and Nate Solder. G Kevin Zeitler makes this unit pretty good. The Bengals have always been fantastic along their defensive front and they are again this campaign. Veteran Calais Campbell, DT Kawann Short, and DT Deforrest Buckner form one of the best trios in the league. The line backing is not elite this year and does open the door for hope against them this season. OLB Preston Smith is the best in the group. Of course, one has to be able to take on the best secondary in the league if you want to be able to beat this team. Cincinnati is utterly loaded in the secondary with stud corners Desmond King and Byron Jones making life miserable for opposing receivers and quarterbacks. Add in safety Harrison Smith and you have a lock down unit. Some spread attacks could get to this team but, overall, then secondary is elite.

Prediction: The Bengals will contend for a title again this year although they do not seem quite as formidable as past seasons.


Tennessee Titans: The Titans always seem to be a tough customer although their win-loss record does not really suggest that. This year could be very different. QB Aaron Rodgers is at the helm and super rook Saquon Barkley was acquired in a trade with Jacksonville. Those two talents, alone, make the Titans extremely dangerous. The receiving corps is no great but it could be just good enough. DJ Moore is a deep threat and Michael Crabtree is better than most. TE's Geoff Swaim and O'Shaunessey can get the job done when combined with H-back Rhett Ellison and thei blocking/passing abilities could easily allow for a very powerful 2 TE set offense. The offensive line, though, could be a problem if health becomes an issue. On defense, the defensive line can get after the quarterback and has enough talent to hold up against the run. 6'4" 329lbs Linval Joseph and 6'4" 300lbs Gerald McCoy form a powerful interior tandem that should make running inside difficult. The line backing unit has some health worries but it is also deep and talented. MLB Zach Cunningham is the best of the lot but they have quite a few solid players here. The secondary is pretty darn good with CBs Devin McCourty and Janoris Jenkins patrolling back there along with S John Johnson.

Prediction: Tennessee looks like it could contend for a playoff spot. They will have to navigate through an up and down schedule and hope their offensive line holds up enough for them to win. Their defense and offensive capabilities, though, gives them a great chance at the post-season this year.


Indianapolis Colts: Coach Bob Durfee and his Colts are always tough with only 1 losing season in their league history and four seasons of 10 or more victories. They seem set for years at QB with the super talented Deshaun Watson now running the show. Watson is extremely talented and can run making him difficult to defend. RB Todd Gurley is an elite back who will compliment Watson's talents making this team a nightmare to go up against. Then you consider they also have solid receivers in Keenan Allen, Emmanuel Sanders, and newly acquired Willie Snead along with TE Greg Olsen and you can see where this is heading. The offensive line is good but not great and might have some health concerns but it seems good enough to allow the offensive weapons to flourish. The defensive line is explosive and dangerous and can pressure quarterbacks without the need for blitzing. OLB Olivier Vernon heads a pretty good line backing unit as well with fellow OLB Matt Milano helping out. Prince Amukamara and Richard Sherman lead a talented secondary from their CB spots and Antoine Bethea is a solid safety.

Prediction: The Colts should challenge the Bengals for the title this year in a division that is one of the toughest in the league.
 


AFC WEST

Kansas City Chiefs: QB Andrew Luck was dealt for in hopes of boosting this franchise but things simply have not worked out to date. Luck, though, is talented and should allow the Chiefs to be relevant in a very balanced AFC West. RB Lemar Miller will lead a pack of backs that will include the third down services of Austin Ekeler and the short yardage power of Royce Freeman. The 6'0" 238lbs Freeman is at the top of the league as far as short yardage blasting is concerned. The receiving situation is a bi desperate and looks like it could really hamper this team going forward. The offensive line is OK although not intimidating. On defense, KC has a defensive line that could be one of the most disruptive in football. Defensive ends JJ Watt and Chandler Jones are as good as it gets off the edge and will be in the backfields of most teams much of the time. The line backers are pretty good led by Whitney Mercilus who is an above average force at his OLB slot. If teams can find the time, it is possible to get after the secondary a bit and injury woes could eventually really hurt this grouping.

Prediction: The Chiefs might contend in a division that seems to be lacking a true bell cow team. The lack of any wide receivers at the moment is a major draw back that could halt any plans for success this team could, otherwise, have.


Denver Broncos: Denver may have found their guy in QB Josh Allen going forward but, for now, they will go with both he and fellow slinger Joe Flacco. Those two can hand the ball off to a dangerous back in Phillippe Lindsee but do not have a lot of options at wide receiver. Doug Baldwin is the best they have and the team lacks any true blocking tight ends. The offensive line has all world G Marshall Yanda but little else. The Bronco defensive front 7 does not look like it can hold up against good running teams nor does it possess a lot of pass rushing capability and that could prove fatal. CB Chris Harris is good but the entire secondary could be under siege if the front seven cannot hold up.

Prediction: Denver seems not quite able to contend in this division but the AFC West has enough teams with enough flaws to give them a fighting chance most weeks.


San Francisco 49ers: QB Cam Newton has never quite lived up to his one great MVP season but he still is formidable. The Niners lack any true breakaway threat in the backfield and none of their backs are very dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield. This could allow teams to focus more on Newton and the passing game. WR Odell Beckham is the only real weapon here and will draw double teams all game long. The offensive line is pretty good except at center but it might not be good enough to create enough holes for the running backs to be effective. The defense is pretty good. The defensive line can pressure especially with DE Danielle Hunter and Romeo Okwara off the edges. The line backing unit is solid having the ability to play 4-3 or 3-4 effectively. ILB Joe Schobert is the best here while Terrell Suggs can play DE or OLB and get after it. The secondary is among the elite units in the league although the health of CB Ron Darby will be a concern.

Prediction: The Niners play a pounding style that has served them well. Their defense will prove difficult for the teams in the division and can keep them in most games. They will be a tough out each week and could slowly play their way into a playoff spot if not an outright divisional title

Oakland Raiders: Every season the league seems to have a darling. The Raiders appear to be an early candidate to be the story of the year. Oakland has never had a winning year and even have an 0-16 season in their resume but tall of that frustration could be obliterated this season. QB Mitch Tribusky should be good enough at his position to move the ball. The Raiders will utilize a two back system to run the ball with Marlon Mack and Latavius Murray playing key roles. WR Amari Cooper is dangerous indeed as is TE Austin Hooper especially in possession downs. A number of other receivers will fill out the unit. The offensive line is not great at all but it does have depth and only a few injury worries. The defensive line is better than it has been , perhaps, ever with Jurrell Casey leading a line that can get it done. ILBs Luke Kuechly and Roquan Smith man the middle of a diverse and pretty talented line backing force. The secondary has zero health issues and is pretty solid and deep enough to even handle spread attacks fairly well. S Adrian Amos and CB Jalen Ramsey can flat out play.

Prediction: The combination of a favorable schedule and the best talent assembled in Paydirt Raider history could have the Silver and Black contending for the division! The excitement, alone, should be worth the price of admission as pay back time could be looming!

Seattle Seahawks: QB Russell Wilson is the best QB in the division and that make the Seahawks a force each and every season. Seattle has a few backs that can do damage in ancient Adrian Peterson and Gus Edwards along with third down option Jacquizz Rodgers. WR Stephon Diggs is a major force although he is mostly a terrific possession target. Danny Amendola is the same type target as Diggs but the overall attack in Seattle could be one of ball possession and moving the chains. The offensive line has some injury worries but it might be a workable their depth and the diversity of Wisniewski helping out. project . The defensive line is suspect and where and how Jadeveon Clowney is used is a key here. ILB Todd Davis is about the best they have at line backer although Clowney's use can alter this assessment. Johnathan Joseph is solid at CB but the rest of the secondary is pretty pedestrian.

Prediction: Like much of the AFC West, Seattle has some strengths and some glaring weaknesses. Wilson, Diggs, AP and company should be good enough to put some points on the board but can the defense hold up? Considering the lack of a truly dominating offense in the division, Seattle could easily win this thing as lose it. They do have a pretty rugged non-division slate ahead of them so they will need to win the ones they can.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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