Digesting football content anytime between May and August is like being a lightly filled balloon in a windstorm. The momentum of certain gusts can take you places you never thought you could reasonably go—like picking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the NFC—and push you away from the common-sense thoughts that often yield the most accurate forecasts of the upcoming season.
After a scroll through my own summer of content, as well as those of some contemporaries in the field, here are a few of the storylines we trumpeted this offseason that seem a little ridiculous now. May it serve as a reminder for all of us to stop, look and listen before we hit “publish.”
The Patriots will go undefeated
A favorite of mine during the offseason. With Ryan Tannehill getting injured, the Jets purging their roster of valuable veterans and the Bills changing coaches, it felt like a path was being machine-tamped all the way to the playoffs for the Patriots … and then they lost the season-opener to a stunningly efficient Chiefs team, 42-27. Don’t get me wrong—I still believe the Patriots will win the Super Bowl, but they won’t reach the game in 2007 juggernaut fashion. Losing the opener on purpose to motivate his team throughout the remainder of the regular season could go down as one of Bill Belichick’s craftiest maneuvers yet.
The Jets are tanking
As it turns out, cutting underperforming high-salary vets isn’t that bad an idea. General manager Mike Maccagnan was throttled by the local and national press for about four months after leaving his team without the services of Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Antonio Cromartie, Eric Decker and David Harris. (I personally argued this was bad for Christian Hackenberg’s development—double points!) So far, it the Jets have missed out on 26 receptions for 247 yards and a touchdown from Decker. Marshall is out for the season with an ankle injury. Mangold is still a free agent, as are Cromartie and Revis. Harris has played in five games, logging two tackles. While I eventually warmed to the idea, my reasoning was because the Browns are doing something similar in Cleveland and seem to be finally trending upward. Which brings me to my next point …
The Browns have finally turned the corner
I think there are a lot of forces in and around the NFL working against the Browns’ unorthodox executive team. Think of what would happen if a Harvard-educated trio lifted Cleveland from despair, and only one of them had a traditional football scouting background. It would produce a Major League Baseball-like upheaval of front offices everywhere. That being said, the Browns aren’t helping their case much. After DeShone Kizer took the starting quarterback job from Brock Osweiler in the preseason and Cleveland played Pittsburgh tough in the opener, visions of 6-10 danced in the heads of Browns fans everywhere. Alas, Kizer has been benched twice since. The team denies botching a deal for Cincinnati backup A.J. McCaron at the trade deadline. The Browns are still winless, and I cannot imagine coach Hue Jackson is interested in staying much longer.
The Raiders and Buccaneers will emerge as the teams of 2017
In the case of Tampa Bay, this is the “Hard Knocks” effect. We’re conditioned by HBO to fall in love with characters during training camp every summer, and sometimes it leads us astray. You mean to tell me, they’re adding Ryan Fitzpatrick and a 30-year-old DeSean Jackson to a roster that missed the playoffs last year?! Where do I sign up!? In the case of Oakland, this is a genuine surprise. The Raiders can still make the playoffs (in our midseason picks, I predict them to do so), but it does serve as a cautionary tale to anyone who assumes any team but New England can pick up where it left off the year before.
Tom Savage and Mike Glennon will play all of 2017
It seems that we all turn in to Ted Thompson sometime between the end of a season and the start of the next draft and bet that our team can neatly select a rookie quarterback high in the draft, not play him for three years and assume he’ll soak up all the necessary skills and knowledge with little to no practice time like some kind of football Thuja tree. Then, when (insert placeholder veteran here) underperforms in the first preseason game, we suddenly realize why the team drafted a rookie in the first place. At the same time, shame on the NFL teams that continue to insist this is a realistic possibility anymore. Alex Smith holding off Patrick Mahomes is a minor miracle to this point. The rest of the coaches who pound the table insisting (Veteran placeholder) knows the offense! (Veteran placeholder) is going to surprise some people! (Hotshot rookie) will watch and learn! have to feel as crazy as the fans who sit there trying to understand it.
The Giants will roll to the NFC East title
Buying into the Giants this year was like purchasing a mansion with water damage. Any brief peeks beyond the grand façade should have scared people away. New York scored fewer than 20 points in more than half of its games last year with Odell Beckham. The Giants didn’t upgrade the offensive line. Eli Manning got a year older. While there is still half a season remaining, and time for coach Ben McAdoo to show the fan base that he can pick himself—and a team—up off the ground, this is looking like one of the most stunning misfires in recent prediction history. Sunday’s 51-17 home drubbing by the Rams was a lesson to anyone who tries to make a living forecasting what an NFL season will look like.
And with a nod to my former workplace, some headlines I find funny in hindsight: Are the Lions talking extension with Eric Ebron? … The 49ers insist they aren’t shopping NaVorro Bowman … Adrian Peterson on Saints offense: What will opposing defenses do to stop us? … The Browns could end up using the versatile Jabrill Peppers on offense … Eli Manning says Brandon Marshall is similar to Plaxico Burress … Kony Ealy is super excited to team up with Trey Flowers in New England … Sammy Watkins: My goal is to stay in Buffalo forever … Emmanuel Sanders says new Broncos offense has us ‘really throwing the ball around.
Anyone else think we should just all take May through July off?
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