Wednesday, September 20, 2017

2017 Week 3 Fantasy Advice: The Column that injured your highest draft picks

Bad football, ratings are down and your highest of draft picks are all injured: seems like quite the flying start for most of us in the world of fantasy football. The good news is that things can only go up from here, right? This column always expects the worst, and for good reason (have you read it since 2010? That'll tell you), so be prepared for more debilitating injuries, nine carry, eight yard games for Ezekiel Elliot and offensively bad QB play.

And no, these opening paragraphs for this column are not ripping off Matthew Berry's fantasy show in any way. This column has been around longer than Berry's attempt to make a fantasy football version of Pee Wee's Playhouse (you're awesome Matt).

Start of the Week: QB Derek Carr (OAK) at WSH

Somehow, Derek Carr was not as highly regarded in the world of fantasy as he probably should have been, and his first two performances this season have been excellent. Washington's secondary looked OK against Jared Goff, but struggled against Carson Wentz and the Eagles in Week 1, and Carr is better than both of those QB's and then some. He is one of the best QB options this week.

Who to Start:

QB Matthew Stafford (DET) vs. ATL: The Falcons defense is still very good, but without Vic Beasley they lack a little of that extra punch. Stafford is also a far better QB at home than he is on the road as well. His decision making has looked quite a bit better in 2017, which means debilitating and dumb interceptions are on the way down. Even though at first glance this matchup isn't wonderful, it's one worth considering.

RB Carlos Hyde (SF) vs. LAR THU: Hyde was able to break through a bit against a stout Seahawks defense, and that is saying something. Since the 49ers have very few legitimate options, they'll turn to Hyde to create something, and odds are against the Rams, who were destroyed on the ground last week by Washington, there's a chance Hyde has a breakout game.

WR Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) vs. NO: Carolina's offense has been... poor to say the least, but if there's any week where they can and will break out, it'll be this week against the absolutely pathetic Saints defense. Benjamin should see an uptick in production with Greg Olsen out, and most everyone on the Panthers offense figures to be good fantasy plays this week.

WR Keenan Allen (LAC) vs. KC: It's good to see Keenan Allen looking healthy and at his best after his injuries last season, and he's taking the majority of the snaps and seeing a healthy number of targets. In spite of what you may think, the Chiefs do give up fantasy points to wide receivers at a decent clip, and Allen will get his action this Sunday as the best option for the StubHub Chargers on offense.

TE Zach Ertz (PHI) vs. NYG: Ertz has been one of the league's most solid tight ends for a good while now, but he's never gotten the pub he deserves for being one of the better PPR options at tight end. He's seeing plenty of love from Carson Wentz, and his start to the season is no fluke. The Giants have linebacker issues, which will lead to issues defending tight ends, so Ertz figures to be in the spotlight on Sunday.

DEF Baltimore vs. JAX LONDON: This should have been obvious before, but any defense playing against the Jaguars (except maybe the Jets) is a wonderful fantasy play because Blake Bortles is Blake Bortles. The Ravens defense is also a machine, which helps.

Sit of the Week: QB Russell Wilson (SEA) at TEN

I've always thought Russell Wilson was a better fantasy option than most people, but my opinion on that is slowly changing as I cringe watching the Seahawks offense and their horrible offensive line. Tennessee's defense is a machine and underrated, so with the Seahawks offensive troubles, Wilson is someone you should avoid this week if you can.

Who to Sit:

QB Jameis Winston (TB) at MIN: I love Jameis just as much if not more as a fantasy option than even Russell Wilson. But with last week's season debut, it was mainly academic for my fantasy crush since the Bucs crushed the Bears. This week, it's a less than stellar matchup that might hurt Jameis in Minnesota, since the Vikings defense did a number on both Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.

RB Joe Mixon (CIN) at GB: Backfields with three options are always riddles to figure out, and if you own Joe Mixon, that riddle is not yet solved. He's splitting snaps with Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, and it beats me to figure out who is the workhouse, handcuff, etc. We keep saying that eventually it will be Mixon's time, but that time evidently isn't now.

WR Marvin Jones (DET) vs. ATL: He's quickly losing favor to Kenny Golladay both in reality and in fantasy terms as the Lions begin to turn away from him as the primary receiver. He does have a touchdown and has played a ton of snaps, but that isn't turning into fantasy production. Desmond Trufant also makes for a tough matchup too.

WR Sammy Watkins (LAR) at SF THU: After trading all of that capital to acquire Watkins from Buffalo, the Rams have done precisely nothing with him and he's been surpassed as a fantasy option by rookie Cooper Kupp. The 49ers defense has been tougher than expected early in the season, so keep Watkins away from any starting lineup everywhere.

TE Tyler Eifert (CIN) at GB: A friend of mine who owns Eifert texted me earlier in the week, "I'm done with his BS". While I might not go that far, his injuries are problematic, and this is hurting a player who is so very good when he does play, but heading into Green Bay with the injuries he's carrying, it's seriously hard to start him.

An alternative option at TE since I don't like recommending starting or sitting two players from the same team: David Njoku (CLE). Only four targets thus far this season as he grows into the offense, and that growing process is still in its infancy.

DEF Houston at NE: Houston's fantasy defense looked great in Cincy last Thursday, but the Patriots are not the Bengals, and Tom Brady is certainly not Andy Dalton.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Cam Newton (CAR) vs. NO: I'm concerned about his health, his offensive line and his sudden lack of Greg Olsen. But for this week, he's worth a flyer against the Saints, who as this column has already mentioned essentially doesn't play defense.

RB "Buck" Allen (BAL) vs. JAX LONDON: While he's still splitting carries and touches to an extent with Terrance West, he's starting to take on more of the workload. As the Ravens inevitably wear out the Jaguars defense since they'll be on the field a ton, Allen has a chance to do what Derrick Henry did last week: eat up points as the game wears on.

DEF Indianapolis vs. CLE: This has the makings of a very ugly game between two 0-2 teams with no QB's. Even Cleveland's defense is not a terrible fantasy option, but the Colts are probably a slightly better idea, considering they weren't all that bad against Arizona last week.

Buyer Beware:

WR DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) at NE: If you have Hopkins, you're probably starting him because you drafted him as WR1. But, the Patriots will do what they always do: scheme to take your best player away in every way possible. DeAndre Hopkins has looked good in the six quarters of football he's played at times, but at the Patriots is another challenge entirely, which means Hopkins will have troubles too.

Good luck in Week 3!


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2017 Week 2 Fantasy Advice: The Column is coming for your Brains

It's not dead yet, and I'm not talking about your team if you drafted David Johnson #1 overall. No, this column is still going after it made its triumphant return from the dead last week. Week 1 in every NFL season is ripe for overreaction, and certainly this column will likely be guilty of it at points, but we pride ourselves (and by we I mean me and my imaginary fantasy friends) on brevity and calmness of mind and process. So as this column chugs along, trying to eat other ones like it alive, remember that there are 16 weeks of football left, and plenty more overreactions to come.

Quick aside: We're probably not going to recommend any players against the Jets in this column, because that would be too obvious. We have to work for our meager page clicks here. 

Start of the Week: Doug Baldwin (SEA) vs. SF

He was only targeted four times last week against the Packers, but that was largely because Wilson was running for his life against a resurgent Packers defense. Baldwin will certainly see more targets against the 49ers, who will be up for a tougher challenge this week on the road against a non-rusty QB.

Who to Start:

QB Jameis Winston (TB) vs. CHI: I am a huge Jameis Winston fan in fantasy, and will be riding on his shoulders all year. The Bears defense played up against the Falcons last weekend, but isn't that impressive. Winston and his cadre of weapons should be primed for success in their delayed season opener this weekend.

RB Dalvin Cook (MIN) vs. PIT: Anyone who can break a record originally held by Adrian Peterson is doing something right, and that's what Cook did Monday night against the Saints. The Steelers on the road are a step up in class, however that defense wasn't at its best against the Browns and may not have Stephon Tuitt for a bit.

WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ) at IND: Yes, he and the Cardinals were bad last weekend in Detroit. But this week, they're facing the appalling bad Colts who handed Jared Goff the best game of his young career, and that says way more about the Colts than it does Goff. Without David Johnson, the Cardinals will lean more on the regulars and old faces like Fitz to guide them through, and this is a plum matchup for that.

WR Tyreek Hill (KC) vs. PHI: He will continue to rack up points, especially in PPR leagues, if he can come anywhere close to replicating his performance against the Patriots last Thursday. The Eagles won't have Ronald Darby, which makes this matchup even better for Hill and Alex Smith.

TE Delanie Walker (TEN) at JAX: While the Jaguars defense was amazing last week, Houston tight ends (three of them) still performed relatively well. Walker has also played well against the Jaguars in the past, and its not likely the Jaguars are going to match their performance against Houston against a better Titans team. Walker is a sneaky play this week that could pay off big.

DEF Baltimore vs. CLE: Since we're not in the business of telling you the obvious: start whoever is playing against the Jets, how about the Ravens? They shut out the Bengals, and even though they've dealt with some tough injuries on that side of the ball, they are a very talented yet underrated unit. Hosting a rookie QB is a fantastic matchup for the Ravens.

Sit of the Week: Frank Gore (IND) vs. ARZ

Gore defied time and logic last season, but with the carries and touches he's sharing with Robert Turbin and rookie Marlon Mack, that doesn't help his cause this season. Even with the Colts trotting out either Scott Tolzien or Jacoby Brissett this weekend and needing to rely on the run, Gore is a big risk.

Who to Sit:

QB Matt Stafford (DET) at NYG MON: While the Giants weren't impressive last weekend, it wasn't their defense that was the problem. And though Stafford lit up the Cardinals secondary, the Giants defense is a sterner test and may show us more about Stafford and the Lions offense this time around.

RB Tarik Cohen (CHI) at TB: Cohen played so well last week as a spell for Jordan Howard, so naturally he's a good play down the lineup this week, right? Well, consider Tampa's defense a sterner test than Atlanta's, and that it's still somewhat unclear how touches will be divvied up between he and Howard. Cohen will be good in fantasy, maybe even next week, but this week, perhaps not.

WR Sammy Watkins (LAR) vs. WSH: Should you be worried that Watkins saw fewer snaps than both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp? Maybe. Should you be even more worried that Watkins is going up against Josh Norman, who is still very good at his job? Probably more so.

WR Kenny Golladay (DET) at NYG MON: Normally, I wouldn't put two players from the same team in this portion of the column, however Golladay is a prime case of buying high, especially when his exploits are now on tape. The Giants will key in on the rookie as a prime player to take away, and so expect his numbers to fall this week.

TE Jordan Reed (WSH) at LAR: Reed is still not 100% healthy, which is a problem. The Rams defense also has confidence, which itself is a problem. And the Washington offense is also not quite in gear yet, which is likely the biggest problem Reed faces at the Coliseum on Sunday.

DEF Minnesota at PIT: The Vikings have an insanely talented defense that is one of the best units in football. However, even those best units will struggle against the Steelers offense, which though not at its best, still gave Antonio Brown 182 yards receiving. As they start to mesh and click, even the best defenses will need to be weary.

3 Super Sleepers:
QB Sam Bradford (MIN) at PIT: Is Sam Bradford a good and viable fantasy option after last year's disaster? Certainly the early returns from Monday night are encouraging. And he gets to face another less than stellar defense in Pittsburgh, with plenty of offensive weapons and confidence. If you lack a better option, Bradford isn't a bad choice.

RB Javorius "Buck" Allen (BAL) vs. CLE: With Danny Woodhead out for half of the season, it'll be a mixture of the other Buck in Baltimore and Terrance West to split touches. While Allen may not be the number one, he's shown explosive potential in the past and is certainly a possibility this week and for the immediate fantasy future.

WR Chris Hogan (NE) at NO: The Patriots offense won't struggle like it did against the Chiefs again. The Saints defense is also very bad. So Hogan, who has to see more looks with the injuries to the Pats receivers, will likely be successful.

Buyer Beware:

QB Kirk Cousins (WSH) at LAR: He was a relatively decent QB1 prospect this summer, but the performance against the Eagles left a lot to be desired. He's not particularly a great option this week, but remember, once is an accident, twice is a trend. If there's another poor performance on the cards for Cousins in LA, the future may start looking bleaker for him as a fantasy play.

Good luck in Week 2!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

2017 Week 1 Fantasy Advice: the Zombie Column Returns!

For the first six NFL seasons on the blog, I wrote a weekly fantasy advice column not just as a passion project, but also because of my love of fantasy football that kept growing through time. I'd bet almost half the posts on this blog are fantasy columns. Last year, I didn't write one because I thought I'd be too busy with a job to write it again. That wasn't true, and it's also not true this year. It's also a place for me to scratch my fantasy itch because I don't have a team or a league this year because I have no friends. But that doesn't mean I can't help the few who read this blog with fantasy advice they may or may not need. The column has returned, so let's get back to work.

Start of the Week: QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) vs. OAK

Mariota will finally have a full compliment of healthy receivers for this game, and looked to show no ill effects of his injury from the tail end of last season. He faces a Raiders secondary that isn't as good as you'd think, especially with the injury to David Amerson. It also wouldn't be a shock to see the Titans begin to throw the ball more than they have despite the success of "exotic smashmouth".

Who to Start:

QB Carson Palmer (ARZ) at DET: Thanks to injuries to Andrew Luck and hurricane enforced bye weeks, Palmer is a good stopgap if you need one. He has a healthy receiving corps, David Johnson, and faces a less than stellar Detroit defense. He always has bust potential too, but the boom potential this week is exciting.

RB Dalvin Cook (MIN) vs. NO MON: He's been less heralded than his fellow rookie RB's in Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, but he has the potential to be quite a solid option all season, depending on how he and Latavius Murray split touches. Regardless of how many he gets on Monday, the Saints defense is one almost every opposing offense will have success against, so Cook could get his career in fantasy off to a great start.

WR Sammy Watkins (LAR) vs. IND: I don't trust Jared Goff yet, and neither should you. But, Sammy Watkins has experience putting up numbers with less than stellar QB in Buffalo, so even with questions over who is throwing him the ball, the Colts defense without Vontae Davis poor defending the pass. Watkins should get off to a great start with the Rams.

WR Martavis Bryant (PIT) at CLE: The Steelers have so many weapons on offense that the biggest problem for fantasy players might be deciphering how the love gets spread around. Bryant, now back from a season-long suspension, figures to get plenty of looks from Big Ben and should be very successful against the Browns, who still don't have a good secondary.

TE Jason Witten (DAL) vs. NYG: He's not a number one fantasy tight end anymore, but he always seems to do well against the Giants, no matter how good their defense is. As teams key in on Dak, Zeke and Dez, Witten will occupy the soft spots in defensive schemes which will offer him the chance to be a decent fantasy option all season.

DEF Houston vs. JAX: Start every team's defense when they play against the Jaguars. This should be obvious from last year, and Houston's defense has the trio of Clowney, Watt and Mercilus on the field together for the first time ever. They could make some big noise on Sunday.

Sit of the Week: Joe Mixon (CIN) vs. BAL

Mixon has quite the crowded backfield to sort through before inevitably becoming the starter, but that day isn't going to be on Sunday against a stout Ravens defense. Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard will siphon touches from Mixon, and the Ravens defense looks to be one of the sneaky good units in football. Mixon's time will come, but not right now.

Who to Sit:

QB Philip Rivers (LAC) at DEN MON: Rivers could end up being fantastic this season, but he's never played well against the Broncos. He's only had one dynamite fantasy outing in the last six games against Denver dating back to 2014, and even though his receiving corps is healthy, Denver's D is still fairly stout despite a fair amount of attrition. Avoid Rivers for now.

RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) at HOU: Fournette could still be really good this season, and should be a contender for offensive rookie of the year despite the Jaguars ineptitude. But his offensive line is a mess, and he's likely not 100% healed from that foot injury. No Jags RB has scored against the Texans since 2013.

WR T.Y Hilton (IND) at LAR: Scott Tolzien is starting at QB, which makes T.Y Hilton a very dangerous fantasy play. Hilton only had three catches for 54 yards last season in Tolzien's lone start, and only has 630 yards in 10 career games without Luck playing. Hilton is so talented, but he may be QB dependent, making him a dangerous fantasy play.

WR Dez Bryant (DAL) vs. NYG: Another player you probably drafted fairly high, but has risk written all over him.  The Giants always seem to defend Dez well, but his numbers weren't what many expected from him last season, particularly against Big Blue. If you have Bryant, you're probably starting him, though beware what could be some troubles ahead.

TE Eric Ebron (DET) vs. ARZ: The Cardinals always defend tight ends well, and it's also tough to play a player coming off a hamstring injury as Ebron is. He's also not proven enough as a fantasy option to play him in a brutal matchup.

DEF Kansas City at NE THU: This seems inevitable, but because the Chiefs D is so good, you may start them anyway. But don't. Tonight is the Pats show, and while the Chiefs D will be really good the rest of the way, the start of their season could be plenty rough.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Sam Bradford (MIN) vs. NO MON: Even Sam Bradford is a worthy fantasy play against the Saints defense, which is seemingly getting worse with each passing season. If you have a Luck or Winston problem, Bradford could be a great stopgap.

RB Adrian Peterson (NO) at MIN MON: The Saints backfield is a crowded one with Mark Ingram getting the majority of touches in all likelihood, but with Peterson embracing the revenge game angle in ways many players don't, watch for him to be a sneaky flex play. Don't be surprised if he goes off.

TE C.J Fiedorowicz (HOU) vs. JAX: Tom Savage will need a safety blanket, and his number one tight end could be the guy against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has never defended the tight end well, and Fiedorowicz could easily benefit this week. He's a deep sleeper, but not a bad play either.

Buyer Beware: QB Dak Prescott (DAL) vs. NYG

I love Dak. He was so great as a rookie running and passing the ball, but not only did he struggle against the Giants, he's a prime regression candidate because of his running successes. Dak will have plenty of time to improve his play, but the Giants D has flummoxed the Cowboys in recent year. Dak is not the best start this week, especially if you have better options.

Welcome back this wonderful column, and enjoy the start of the football season.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

2017 NFL Season Predictions

After an offseason of dull and inane non-stories, controversies and mindless talk of the Patriots going 16-0, the new NFL season is upon us. At long last, we can talk about controversies and mindless non-stories on the field instead of off it. We can obsess over the minutae of our fantasy teams (except me, because I have no friends and no league), marvel at how good some of the league's standard bearers are, and laugh at the dumpster fires once again instead of saying how we're going to do these thing. So, below you'll find this blog's official NFL season predictions for the eighth consecutive season. Let's get down to business:

AFC East:

1. Patriots 13-3
2. Dolphins 7-9
3. Bills 5-11
4. Jets 3-13

There should not be any surprises here. Though the Patriots have lost Julian Edelman for the season, they are still insanely deep and have Tom Brady. The talk of 16-0 was premature and ridiculous, but this team is dynastic for a reason. They go into the season as favorites to repeat for good reason. What the Dolphins did last season to make the playoffs was impressive, but to pull off the same feat with the injuries they've suffered, playing 16 straight weeks and yes, Jay Cutler would be a testament to Adam Gase and that front office that just isn't there.

In Buffalo, they're looking towards a future with Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Sam Darnold and not with Tyrod Taylor after their bizarre training camp trades, and Sean McDermott's comments that LeSean McCoy could play every snap this season don't inspire much confidence. 1999 will still be a halcyon year for Bills fans. And as for the Jets... the less said, the better (I don't predict records better than 13-3 or 3-13, for the record).

NFC East:

1. Cowboys 11-5
2. Giants 10-6
3. Eagles 8-8
4. Washington 7-9

The NFC's toughest division looks at this point to shape up much the same way it did a season ago, with the Cowboys as standard bearers and everyone else following suit. While Dallas won't be quite as good a year ago thanks to a talent drain on the offensive line and on defense, they have Dak, Zeke, Dez and the league's best offensive line anyway.  The Giants defense figures to be impressive, even though their best player is not one of their big free agent signings of past years. Their offensive issues remain basically the same as in past years, but they should have enough to contend for a wild card spot regardless.

In Philadelphia, Carson Wentz should improve, as should the Eagles defense, especially the secondary. But they still have more room to grow, which will become apparent multiple times this season. But this team has good upside and it wouldn't be a shock to see them contending in December. Washington, two years removed from winning the NFC East, have the major Kirk Cousins questions hanging over the head, uncertainty at the skill positions after all the transition there and the nagging feeling that the franchise is on the edge of falling off the tracks. That derails what could be a playoff contending season for them.

AFC North:

1. Pittsburgh 12-4
2. Cincinnati 9-7
3. Baltimore 7-9
4. Cleveland 4-12

These aren't your father's Steelers. Suspect on defense in spots, but home to potentially the league's most dynamic offense, the Steelers were AFC runners up last season and figure to be major contenders again; perhaps New England's toughest test. The schedule is favorable too. If the defense takes the next step, and that's a big if, they could pip the Pats to the AFC post. In Cincy, Marvin Lewis still has his job, and the Bengals have been reloading through the draft as best they can. In John Ross and Joe Mixon, they have potential impact rookies to join with their established core, and the schedule is also favorable. But there are offensive line questions and the lingering doubts about whether Lewis is long in the tooth as a head coach remain. They won't be as bad as they were a season ago, but the playoffs may be just out of reach.

Joe Flacco is healthy enough for Week 1, which is great news for the Ravens, but their offense still leaves a whole lot to be desired. While the defense may be enough to keep them in contention for a while, it can't carry an offensively challenged team to the playoffs. There simply hasn't been enough investment and talent identification on that side of the ball. And in Cleveland, there is hope, but a lot of it won't be seen this season. They'll have their moments, but the best they can hope for by Lake Erie is that this rebuild will at long last be the successful one.

NFC North:

1. Green Bay 12-4
2. Minnesota 8-8
3. Detroit 7-9
4. Chicago 5-11

The Packers are the Packers, and whether they can make it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2011 falls on their defense. Aaron Rodgers makes everyone around him better, but can his play elevate Green Bay's somewhat suspect defense? With Sam Bradford at QB, the Vikings are the definition of OK. With Teddy Bridgewater they had upward momentum, but that all slammed shut last year. They have decent playmakers on the offensive side of the ball and a solid defense, but nothing that stands out in a competitive NFC.

Detroit has the highest paid QB in NFL history and... not much else. They made the playoffs last year but that came because they were preposterously good in close games, and if there isn't a sure sign of regression, that may be the closest there is. And in Chicago, Mitchell Trubisky will be starting by the end of November, which isn't going to be bad for a team in transition that will rely heavily on Jordan Howard to shoulder the offensive load with Cameron Meredith shelved for the season.

AFC South:

1. Tennessee 11-5
2. Houston 9-7
3. Indianapolis 7-9
4. Jacksonville 4-12

This is the time for the Titans to wrest control of the AFC South. They have the best (and healthiest) QB in the division, an offensive identity and style and an improving defense. Mariota's week 16 injury only temporarily stopped their momentum. It's hard to see them not winning this division this year. Houston will be motivated by Hurricane Harvey's devastating impact on their city, and with J.J Watt healthy, they will certainly have the defense to back it up. But because of starting Tom Savage, and Lamar Miller showing signs of wear and tear, they won't have enough to beat Tennessee, but will be a wild card contender.

The Colts have so badly bungled Andrew Luck's health, new GM or not that its frankly insulting to a player of his caliber. The offensive line, a huge area of concern, looks no better than it did last season meaning that when Luck comes back, he won't be able to stand upright and find a bevy of impressive weapons. As for the Jaguars, Blake Bortles is a bust and his ineptitude will overshadow how good the defense could be and how much Leonard Fournette will run the ball.

NFC South:

1. Atlanta 11-5
2. Tampa Bay 10-6
3. Carolina 8-8
4. New Orleans 6-10

Can Atlanta overcome the usual Super Bowl hangover and then all of the 28-3 jokes to get back to the promised land? They're saying all the right things, and they certainly have the offense to do it, but the defense looks to be solid as well. In a division with many other question marks, they seem to be the most sure thing. After watching Hard Knocks, how can you not be excited to drink the Bucs Kool-aid? Jameis Winston and his offensive weapons look to be primed to take the next step, and the defense is no slouch either. They're a for sure playoff contender, and they could easily get there too and win the division.

Carolina and their new run focused offense has a chance to be successful, but this is not the team that went 15-1 two seasons ago. They have a chance to recapture some of that magic perhaps, but some of that momentum feels a bit left in the pages of history. And in New Orleans, its up to Drew Brees to keep a team with a sinking offense and a horrendous defense afloat, and this may be the season when the Saints run out of gas.

AFC West:

1. Oakland 11-5
2. Kansas City 11-5
3. LA Chargers 8-8
4. Denver 7-9

So many think that the Raiders won't have the luck or the guile to win the AFC West, but I disagree. Derek Carr will be more motivated than ever, and the defense while having some holes, is coached by Jack Del Rio who is quite the defense coach. Their schedule is a major impediment, and being a lame duck team also doesn't help. Kansas City has the stability of Andy Reid, Alex Smith and a ferocious defense to overcome the loss of Spencer Ware, but perhaps not quite enough to win the division.

Many think this is finally the year for the Chargers to be healthy and live up to their potential under Anthony Lynn, but the team has some unfortunate injury luck that never seems to leave them and some units that leave a lot to be desired, particularly their linebacking group without Denzel Perryman. And they're playing in a MLS stadium. They should not be allowed to host a NFL playoff game at StubHub Center. As for the Super Bowl 50 champions, they are feeling the squeeze of the salary cap and age curves, as well as Paxton Lynch not panning out the way so many hoped he would. Trevor Siemian is not inspiring. A lack of Wade Phillips calling the defensive plays will also hurt, as will a brutal schedule.

NFC West:

1. Seattle 12-4
2. Arizona 9-7
3. LA Rams 6-10
4. San Francisco 4-12

Adding Sheldon Richardson to that fearsome defensive line only makes the Seahawks even better, but much of this season falls on the shoulders, legs and arms of Russell Wilson, and he seems ready to take control once again, that is, if his offensive line keeps him upright. They have all the tools to be incredibly competitive in a wide open NFC. Arizona is going with a old west last chance saloon season for Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and company, and in the wild west, anything can happen. In this case, it means the Cardinals fall just short of the playoffs thanks to Carson Palmer showing his age. David Johnson can't do it all.

The Rams will improve this season, but not a whole lot. Todd Gurley and Sammy Watkins will be a big part of that, but Jared Goff is still a major question mark, and the Aaron Donald holdout will loom over them all season. The 49ers have a good plan in place, and seemingly the right people to execute it, but no players yet to do so.

Playoff Predictions:

AFC:

1. New England 13-3
2. Pittsburgh 12-4
3. Tennessee 11-5
4. Oakland 11-5
5. Kansas City 11-5
6. Cincinnati 9-7 (beats Houston in Week 2)

AFC Wild Cards: 3. Tennessee over 6. Cincinnati
                               5. Kansas City over 4. Oakland

AFC Divisional Round: 1. New England over 5. Kansas City
                                         2. Pittsburgh over 3. Tennessee

AFC Championship: 1. New England over 2. Pittsburgh

NFC:

1. Green Bay 12-4
2. Seattle 12-4
3. Atlanta 11-5
4. Dallas 11-5
5. New York Giants 10-6
6. Tampa Bay 10-6

NFC Wild Cards: 3. Atlanta over 6. Tampa Bay
                                5. New York Giants over 4. Dallas

NFC Divisional Round: 1. Green Bay over 5. New York Giants
                                          2. Seattle over 3. Atlanta

NFC Championship Game: 2. Seattle over 1. Green Bay

Super Bowl 52: New England over Seattle, 27-20.

Award Predictions:

MVP: Tom Brady (NE)
OPOY: Le'Veon Bell (PIT)
DPOY: J.J Watt (HOU)
Coach: Dirk Koetter (TB)
Offensive Rookie: Christian McCaffrey (CAR)
Defensive Rookie: Myles Garrett (CLE, hope he's healthy)
Comeback: J.J Watt (HOU, could it be anyone else?)

Most of my season predictions don't go so well, but the league feels so stratified now that I'm more confident than ever in these picks. That will be my demise come January, inevitably.

Let's stop talking about football, and instead, let's watch football.