The first NFL game of the season is September 5th on Thursday night with the Chicago Bears taking on the Green Bay Packers. The NFL is the biggest sport in America with millions of fans turning into every game and the Super Bowl to crown the champion at the end of the year is one of the biggest events in the world. Fans love watching their favorite team on Thursday or Sunday or Monday night as well as check in on their fantasy teams. In this preview I’ll go through couple storylines to watch, what to not to watch, fantasy sleepers, fantasy bust, playoff prediction, and NFL awards prediction. Fantasy picks are based on NFL fantasy rankings.
The “New” Browns
The first storyline to watch is the Cleveland Browns who have been the joke of the century with their many swings and misses in trying to land a franchise Quarterback since 1999 (picture below). After 28 misses it seems like they finally connected on one. Last season Rookie of the Year Baker Mayfield looks ready to take over the Browns and led them to the playoffs. When the Browns hired Hue Jackson they hoped he could turn it around. After going 1-31 in his first two seasons and going 2-5-1 in the start of the season before getting fired. Gregg Williams took over and with Baker, they look like a whole new time ending the season 5-3. Williams left and took the Defensive Coordinator job with the Jets, but Freddie Kitchens the former Offensive Coordinator got promoted to head coach this season. In the Browns backfield, they will have Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson and Kareem Hunt once his suspension is over. Baker will have a talented receiver core in Jarvis Landry, his college buddy Odell Beckham Jr., Rashad Higgins, Tight End David Njoku speedy former Florida Gator and returner Antonio Callaway (suspended 4 game for WEED). They are loaded on the defense with young studs like Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Denzel Ward, Joe Schobert, and added former Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Cleveland sports have had many rough years in sports as Lebron finally brought a title home for the Cavaliers and looks like its Baker turn to bring another championship to Cleveland.
Another storyline to watch will be the young Qbs around the led and how each of them will try to progress faster then others and keep their jobs in the NFL. Starting with the rookie class with the first pick Kyler Murray. Murray has the most to prove with the Cardinals selecting Qbs in the first round in back to back drafts. Murray is suppose to be the prefect fit in Kliff Kingsbury new offense. Next is Daniel Jones the 6th pick with the Giants who looks to take over for Eli Manning this season. Giants got a lot of negative attention with these selection and picking Jones so early but, only time will tell if they made the best pick or not. The last Qb drafted in the first round is Dwayne Haskins to the Redskins. Haskins has looked good so far in training camp and the former Buckeye only competition is Case Keenum in which he should beat out easily. The other rookie that could see playing time is Drew Lock on the Broncos. The Broncos will probably start with Joe Flacco but as the season progress its likely they will go with the rookie and let him grow into a franchise Qb. Their is also 5 second year qbs that look to avoid the sophomore slump. First, last year number 1 pick Baker Mayfield like I mention above is ready to continue off his rookie of the year season and brings the Browns to the playoffs. Next is Josh Allen who had a up and down season with the Bills battling injuries and is ready to make Buffalo fans to believe he is the guy. Sam Darnold look decent in his first year with the Jets but struggle with no solid players around him. The Jets sign Le’veon Bell which should help the Jets offense and take some pressure off of Darnold. The only Qb to make the playoff is Lamar Jackson with the Ravens. Lamar Jackson running ability help him led the Ravens to the playoffs last season. Jackson will need to work on not turning the ball over with his playoff ready team as he looks to take over full time with Flacco gone. Josh Rosen is the only guy to be on a new team after his rookie season as it probably best for him to get out of Arizona. Rosen had one of the worst QBR in the NFL last season but the cardinals didn’t offer much him. Rosen with a new surrounding in Miami with Fitz-magic looks to improve after a terrible rookie season. With 10 of the 32 teams with a rookie or second year guy looking to led the way it is important to watch the future of these teams.
What to not Watch: New York Giants Offense
The New York Giants were one of the worst teams in football last season and decided to get rid of their best player on both sides of the ball in Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins. Giants rookie Qb Daniel Jones will need time before taking over for Tom Brady Kryptonite Eli Manning. Training camp hasn’t been kind to the Giants Receivers with Corey Coleman tearing his ACL, Sterling Shepard Fracturing his thumb and Golden Tate getting suspended 4 games. This will hurt tight end Eli Engram fantasy value as he is the only legit downfield target. Last year Rookie of the Year runner up Saquon Barkley will be the only star on the team and will struggle with teams loading the box on him. It will be another long season for the Giants and the only positive is they will have a top pick in next year NFL draft.
- Vikings Qb Kirk Cousins, 19th ranked Qb Cousins will be better than the big numbers he put up in his first year with more time to get used to Diggs and Thielen and an improved O-line.
- Bears RB Tarik Cohen, 28th ranked RB Cohen should be much higher in PPR leagues and Matt Nagy offense. Jordan Howard left the Bears will rely on Cohen speed and catching ability on offense.
- Browns WR Jarvis Landry, 26th ranked WR Landry won’t struggle like his first season with the Browns. Odell arrival with help Landry with the defense focus on Odell and Baker being the full time with help Landry production increase.
- Texans WR Will Fuller, 37th ranked WR Fuller when healthy is a touchdown machine. I understand that he is injury-prone after drafting him many times but with Hopkins on the other side, it allows Fuller to get 1 on 1 looks.
- Falcons TE Austin Hooper, 14th ranked TE Hooper will be able to be a sleeper with teams locked in on Julio and Calvin Ridley. Hooper is always a good pick if you strike out on the top tight ends.
- Cardinals Qb Kyler Murray, 10 ranked Qb and hasn’t played a game yet. Rosen struggle with the Cardinals having nothing around him. Many questions about Murray height and had a lot of stars around him in college will be hard for me to draft him early.
- Jets RB Le’veon Bell, 5th ranked RB after missing a whole season. Bell is on the struggling Jets and not playoff contender Steelers. After James Conner success it seems like Bell could have been a system back and will struggle with a new team.
- Packers WR Davonte Adams, 2nd ranked WR, first this is just terrible to have him ranked above Julio, Antonio, Odell, Michael Tomas, and Tyreek Hill. 2nd will Packers new offense and Adams being Rodgers only option, will be hard to take over all those other guys listed.
- Buccaneers WR Mike Evans, 9th ranked WR, Evans big body helps him be one of the best in the game but Winston inconsistent play and Bucs having no other options on offense will be tough for Evans to succeed.
- Giants TE Evan Engram, 5th ranked TE, Engram came on the scene last year and grew into a must-have at TE. Like I said before it will be hard for him to have the same success.
NFC Division Picks
West: LA Rams, Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald and the Rams look to get back to the Super Bowl and will make it to the playoff easily. Sean McVay and the Rams will walk through the West and make it back into the playoffs.
North: Minnesota Vikings, SKOL, Vikings got some O-line help for Cousins and Vikings are ready to get back to the playoff after a disappointing season a year ago.
South: New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees is hungry for a MVP season and another superbowl after the Minneapolis Miracle and blown PI called ended their last two playoff runs. They will win the divison again with one of the best offense in football.
East: Dallas Cowboys, Cowboys were hot to end the year and their young studs in Cooper, Zeke, Dak and return of Jason Witten look to lead the offense. On, Defense Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith look to help the defense to grow into one of the NFL best.
Wildcards: Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, Bears new offense was unstoppable in the beginning of the year and a disappointing playoff game (Doink!) the Bears will be a good team again and sneak into the playoffs. The Seahawks seem to also figure out a year to make the playoff and i’m not going to be one to count them out.
AFC Division Picks
West: LA Chargers, Chargers have one of the best defense in football and Bosa healthy will help them dominated the conference. With Keenan Allen, Rivers, and Gordon on Offense Chargers look like a compete team ready for the playoffs. Even with Derwin James and Russell Okung injuries Chargers will win the division. Last year they lost many games because of their kicker and would have made the playoffs if it wasn’t for those misses.
North: Cleveland Browns, All the reasons I listed above its Baker time in Cleveland and they are ready to taste the playoffs.
South: Houston Texans, J.J. Watt healthy on defense and Watson having some help on O-line will help them get back to the playoff and have a better chance once they end up there.
East: New England Patriots, Brady and Belichick enough said.
Wildcards: Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chiefs with Mahomes with win many games easily but Defense will cost them some. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will sneak into the playoffs after missing a season ago. Steelers won’t have the Antinio Brown and Le’veon Bell distractions from last season.
MVP: Saints QB Drew Brees, Its finally Brees turn, with Mahomes having high exceptions, and Brady doing just enough to win games. Brees will put up the numbers with Kamara and Thomas and finally win his first MVP award.
Comeback Player of the Year: 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Jimmy G was 2-0 with the Pats before getting traded to the 49ers the next season and going 5-0 to end the year. After that, he signed one of the biggest Qb deals in the NFL before going 1-2 and tearing his ACL. Jimmy G is healthy again and ready to lead the 49ers offense.
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Redskins Qb Dwayne Haskins, Murray on the struggling Cardinals, Jones not playing right away and Josh Jacobs on the Raiders it gives Haskins the best chance to win and succeed right away.
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: 49ers DE Nick Bosa, Bosa the number 2 pick in the draft is fully recovered from his back injury and is looking good in training camp. Bosa looks to dominate like his brother Joey on the Chargers and put up big numbers.
AP Offensive Player of the Year: Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot with his new contract is ready to go behind the best o-line in football. Leading the NFL in rushing since he been in the league even with his suspension. The Cowboys got Cooper and one of the best O-line in football and Zeke will be able to put up big numbers once he and Jerry Jones make a deal.
AP Defensive Player of the Year: Rams DT Aaron Donald, Donald is the best player in the game on either side of the ball. The defensive tackle had 20 sacks last season even though he was triple-team a majority of the time. This selection doesn’t need much reason why and is the easiest prediction to make. The only other player that is competition to Donald is Chicago Bears Khalil Mack.
AP Coach of the Year: Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, Chargers are one of the most complete teams in football on both sides of the ball. Chargers were in every game they played last season and won 12 games and got a wild card spot. With a healthy team, Lynn should be able to take the division from the Chiefs and get a first-round bye.