1 – Hard Knocks Life
The HBO show Hard Knocks does an excellent job every year of giving fans a taste of the NFL in August. Sometimes they focus in on players on the bubble, other times an entertaining coach or player may take center stage. One of the most interesting seasons featured the Cleveland Browns, Head Coach Hue Jackson, and number one overall pick Baker Mayfield. Jackson compiled a 1-31 record during his first two seasons in Cleveland but acted like the second coming of Bill Walsh. A stunning display of a lack of self-awareness.
This season, Head Coach Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys take center stage and I get similar fraud vibes. I never got the sense that McCarthy deserved a ton of credit for the success in Green Bay and thought the Packers would move on quicker than they did. Given the divorce in GB, the PR job McCarthy managed to pull off to get his gig in Dallas might be more impressive than any Super Bowl run.
The Browns fired Hue halfway through the season and you can’t convince me that his odd performance on the Hard Knocks show didn’t have something to do with it. I wonder if the Cowboys have another lackluster year if McCarthy doesn’t suffer the same fate.
2 – Oh, oh, oh, Fitzmagic
Call me a sucker, but I’m cheering for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ron Rivera to win the NFC East this year. I think the Washington Football Team made a good decision to bring in the journeyman vet as he’s playing some of the best football of his career. He takes over a fun roster that could quickly make things interesting in that division. For my money, I’d much rather take the longer odds that Washington puts it all together with a good defense and a solid offense than hope that Dak can overcome the injury, the bad defense, and McCarthy.
The line for WFT to win the division moved over the last few weeks from +260 to +225. Seems like others have bought in as well.
3 – Value at the Draft Table
Fitzpatrick currently rates as QB21 on average in your local drafts. His top WR, Terry McLaurin, and his top RB, Antonio Gibson, both rank in the top 12 at their respective positions. We know Fitzpatrick can sling it around the yard with the best of them and while that comes with the risk of a higher turnover rate, he should score plenty of fantasy points. I love pairing Fitzy with another QB late in drafts so that you can play matchups during the season or sit and wait on a rookie. How about someone like Matt Ryan (QB15) to be the boring caddy? If you can play favorable matches, you can build a QB1 that can finish near the top without the premium investment. Alternatively, Fitzpatrick could keep the seat warm until one of the electric rookies earns the starting job. Give me Fitzy and Trey Lance or Justin Fields for big upside play.
4 – Personal Foul, He was Giving Him the Business
The NFL wants to crack down on taunting. Who asked for this, exactly? Reverend Lovejoy’s wife from the Simpsons?
NFL rosters currently employ all humans and zero robots (Russell Wilson is not a robot, right?). Sure, maybe at some point in the future they’ll let robots play but until then, they need to be careful pushing points of emphasis on moments of emotion. Officials already can throw a flag for taunting. It won’t take long for this point of emphasis to cost a team a game because an official interprets a player’s actions in the wrong way. I’m not sure how this improves the game.
5 – Top 100: Still Stupid
The NFL Network continued their annual tradition of making everyone mad with their Top 100 list. All lists like this contain plenty of issues but because the NFL puts the network name on it, more people tend to get upset.
Heavily biased toward skill positions, the lack of offensive and defensive linemen makes you wonder if people would like to just watch a 7 on 7 league. I do enjoy a good ranking, but this one never makes a lot of sense. I mostly ignore everything about it... and then get mad at the lack of Bears despite myself. For the record, the Bears only put two players up on that list – Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson.
6 – Desert Dogs
I think the Rams will win the NFC West and push for a Super Bowl appearance once again. The 49ers might push them with Kyle Shanahan’s crew boasting some terrifying offensive playmakers. The Seahawks still have Russell Wilson and while I won’t make the case for their ceiling, they will have a solid floor and win plenty of games. The Cardinals? Not so sure.
I really liked the Cards coming into last season, thinking Kyler Murray would get the Year 2 bump and take the offense to new heights. Instead, it exposed Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme and lack of creativity. The Cardinals competed for a playoff spot mostly due to an unexpected boost from their defense. Heading into Year 3 with Kingsbury-Murray, it feels like this team could get used as a doormat by legitimately competitive teams in the division and finish well under their 8.5 win betting line.
7 – The Jag with Swag
Obviously, the Jaguars will name Trevor Lawrence the starting QB and let the #1 overall pick take his rightful place under center to lead this team to… well, a bad season. They surely wouldn’t let Gardner Minshew actually win the job out of camp and let Lawrence sit, would they?
Honestly, I can’t see it happening for anything short of Lawrence looking lost and for it to be a danger for his development to put him out there. And this is Trevor Lawrence, supposedly the best prospect since Andrew Luck, that we’re talking about. It would be a huge upset to say the least. It seems weird to me to let Minshew take practice reps away from Lawrence. Maybe Minshew plays himself into enough buzz that the Jags can flip the mustachioed man for a decent return to a desperate team. Whatever happens, I hope he’s starting somewhere in this league and soon. The league is more entertaining with him playing.
8 – The Mitch Switch
Mitchell Trubisky lit up the Bears defense in the second preseason game. Good for him. I hope he can rebuild some value in his career.
9 – Vic’s Pick
I don’t know who the Broncos will end up choosing to start the season for them, but I’m hoping Teddy Bridgewater wins the job. Bridgewater’s career has had more twists than an M. Night Shyamalan script but seems like a good guy. He fits the profile of a quarterback Fangio would prefer to pair with an elite defense and keep them in games.
Lock’s game is Vic’s worst nightmare, someone who puts the ball in harms way far too often. Vic Fangio deserves someone that can at least manage a game without a handful of turnover-worthy throws. I think the answer is Bridgewater.
10 – Justin Freaking Fields
The numbers didn’t shine quite as bright as his debut, but make no mistake, Fields looked the part. The improvisation and the scrambles make it clear that Fields gains very little from playing against 2s and 3s. Matt Nagy’s decision to play Andy Dalton for the entire first half can only be described as mind numbing. Give it up, Coach – give this guy some real game reps throwing to top wide receivers.
The charade has gone on long enough.
Those are my thoughts – what are yours? Sound off in the comments and find me on Twitter @gridironborn.