Second and Long: Early Season Predictions

Don’t you hate when your favorite team loses yards on first down? It’s not a great feeling, but certainly not a death sentence for the drive. They could easily pick up those lost yardage over the next couple of plays, but by that same token, they may end up in a third an unmanageable. That’s where I find myself now, not with the full-chested optimism of August, on first and ten, but a little later, and a little farther back than I’d imagined. Here’s my attempt to pick up some lost yardage.

Second and Long: Early Season Predictions

The Carolina Panthers Are The Worst

This feels a little rude, but I don’t think things are going to get better for the 2022 Carolina Panthers. It’s not a good look when you fire your head coach before Thanksgiving, and with a rumored firesale sending their best players away, I think they end up with the NFL’s worst record. After collecting everyone else’s first round picks at quarterback, they get to select their own.

The Philadelphia Eagles Are The Best… But Fall Short

The Philadelphia Eagles are currently 6-0, with the NFL’s best record, and I don’t think that changes. Their schedule is not exactly daunting, with no legitimate contenders on the horizon, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they made a legitimate push for an undefeated regular season. However, the problem with a cupcake schedule is that it makes the real contenders quite daunting. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Eagles finish the regular season with the NFL’s best record… only to lose in the divisional round.

The Cincinnati Bengals Pull Away

The Cincinnati Bengals started 0-2 and did not look like the reigning AFC Champions. They couldn’t beat a Steelers team that was a shadow of itself and couldn’t really put up points against the Dallas Cowboys. Blowing out the seemingly measly New York Jets was nice, but two weeks later, they lost to a struggling Ravens team. The Bengals have failed to break 21 points in three of their six games this year… all losses.

But do you know what else happened in those losses? Small differentials. They lost by 3, 3, and 2. The Bengals were one big play away from winning all three of those games, including a wild one against the Steelers in OT where just about everything had to go right for Pittsburgh.

After an offensive explosion against the New Orleans Saints, I think the Bengals get back on track and run away with the division crown in a wildly overrated AFC North.

The Las Vegas Raiders Make The Playoffs

After a ton of preseason hype, the Las Vegas Raiders have started the regular season 1-4. They’ve had some remarkable gaffs, including a fumble-six in overtime, multiple blown 10+ point leads, and Hunter Renfrow playing defensive back against his teammates. Their defense still looks questionable, and in a competitive AFC West, it’s not likely that the Raiders run the gauntlet the rest of the season. However…

The next six games? The Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, and Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders should be favored in all of those games and could go on a serious run to end up 7-4 before they host the Los Angeles Chargers in early December. The Rams the following week pose a serious threat, but after that, they get the underachieving New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and San Francisco 49ers before finishing the season against Kansas City.

I see nine games that the Raiders should win. The Raiders are a disappointment in record only, with all four losses coming by five points or less. If Hunter Renfrow doesn’t fumble or attack Davante Adams, the Raiders are 3-2, with their only losses coming by mere inches. They’re top ten in offensive category, and that’s after their week six bye. Even if they lose to the Chargers, Rams, and Chiefs, this could still be a ten win team, which will be enough to make the playoffs in an underachieving AFC.

Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers Retire

Here’s a funny story. I messaged my friend, Jensen, that Tom Brady had fallen off the “quarterback cliff,” and that he was done. His arm had diminished, he didn’t have the same zip, this was his last hurrah. I said this on January 14th… 2017. Three Super Bowls later, he’s still slinging it around. However, like Jake Johnson’s Peter Parker, he’s not slinging the way he used to. The alleged collapse of his personal life and a decrease in offensive efficiency have me thinking that this, 2022, may actually be Tom Brady’s last year.

As for the other 12, I think Aaron Rodgers’ goose might be cooked. The off-season drama and the departure of Davante Adams have hurt Rodgers and the Packers. Brett Favre’s successor has only nine touchdowns to pair with his six turnovers this season, and hasn’t sniffed 300 yards passing in a game. Barring a collapse from the Vikings (not unheard of), he won’t even win his division this year. As he allegedly almost walked away this year, I think the pace he’s on has his chances of playing next season in… Jeopardy.

Washington, Arizona, Denver, Indianapolis, and Baltimore Fire Head Coaches

It’s not polite to speculate about someone losing their job, but I can see some surprising head coaching vacancies next season. I think Ron Rivera’s Washington Commanders are a trainwreck, and could push the Panthers for the worst record in the NFL. I think Kliff Kingsbury has proven he doesn’t have what it takes to coach a full game or develop a roster in Arizona. Nathaniel Hackett’s Denver Broncos are laughably bad, and mortgaged their future, in terms of both cap and draft picks, on a washed up quarterback. Frank Reich’s Indianapolis Colts have played quarterback roulette with middling results for far too long, and John Harbaugh, on top of losing several 10 point leads, is starting to lose his locker room, and has fewer playoff wins over the last ten years than Zac Taylor has in the last ten months.

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