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By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Hear Me Out...The most courageous 2019-20 NFL season predictions: The Baddies

 

August 15, 2019



It's time! The NFL season is a few short weeks away and optimism abounds for all 32 NFL franchises. So what better way to burst some bubbles with another year of the most courageous NFL season predictions.

I liked last year's format of separating the teams into categories (Bums, The Jeff Fisher Zone, In the hunt, Playoff Teams) rather than going by conference and division. Last year, I messed up the schedule and had to combine the In the Hunt and Playoff teams. This year I'm spreading it out through four weeks with the Playoff Teams being the finale published on Sept. 5, opening night of the NFL season.

The categories are different for this season as well, The Baddies, The Either, Or(s), Outside Looking In and Playoff Teams.

I've added subcategories to the main categories, for the Baddies there will be Just Bad, Boring Bad and Entertaining Bad. They're all self-explanatory, the Just Bad teams have little to no redeeming qualities, Boring Bad teams are one-dimensional teams and the Entertaining Bad teams are bad but obviously entertaining.

The over/under win totals for each team are pulled from oddsshark.com and the stats are courtesy from pro-footballreference.com.

Let's get to it!

JUST BAD

New York Giants

2018 record: 5-11

2019 Over/Under: 6 – Over, the schedule is stupid easy.

I'm here for the Giants 2019 campaign. I don't know how fun they are going to be to watch because they're basically Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram. Eli is another year washed and the defense is below average. But I'm here for the Giants, mostly due to how bad the New York media is going to overreact to every win and all the hot takes those wins are going to overproduce.

Every year there's one bad team that starts out hot, going 4-0 or 4-2 only to fall apart when reality catches up with them and they finish the season at 5-11 or 7-9. The Bucs were that team last season and the Giants are going to be that team this year. Their schedule is very easy and a 4-0 start is in play. 

I can hear the hot takes now, New York starts 4-0 and all New York media is like, "The Giants got rid of Odell and now look at them. They're among the NFCs best and atop of the NFC East. Goes to show, get rid of a diva and you're a contender." 

Jump ahead to December and the Giants are 5-7, having dropped five straight the hot takes have morphed into, "See this is what happens when you give away a playmaker like Odell. Teams are keying on Barkley and Ingram and none of their receivers can get open. I said it from Day 1, giving away Odell was going to haunt this team."   

Then the calls for backup rookie QB Daniel Jones will come because he looked awesome in the preseason against vanilla defenses and second and third unit players. He'll get rocked in his first start. The New York media will turn on him and claim they knew along he wasn't that good. 

Miami Dolphins

2018 record: 7-9

2019 Over/Under: 4.5 – Under, easy money.

The tank is on in Miami and if your team has the Dolphins on its schedule congrats to you! They're as close as you can get to be an automatic W in this league.

The only person I feel bad for in Miami is QB Josh Rosen. He got traded from Arizona because the Cards took Kyler Murray and he's likely to be traded again in the offseason when the Dolphins take Tua Tagovailoa. Maybe I shouldn't feel so bad because he'll likely be on the Patriots next year and become their franchise QB for the next two decades.  

Cincinnati Bengals

2018 record: 6-10

2019 Over/Under: 6 – Under, activate stealth tank mode. 

When mapping out this year's predictions on my fancy excel spreadsheet, I had the Bengals with the "Outside Looking In" teams. But a little research and I moved them to the Just Bad sub of the Baddies. 

The Bengals are in stealth tank mode. They made upgrades to their offensive line and they'll be able to put up points for however long AJ Green stays healthy for, but their defense, which was bad last year, is going to be stinky bad this year. If you're a DFS player, make sure to take any and every skill position playing the Bengals.  

BORING BAD

Tennessee Titans 

2018 record: 9-7

2019 Over/Under: 7.5 – Under, the schedule doesn't favor them.

The Titans have a good defense that will win them several games this season. It's their offense that's going to cost them the most this season and make them painfully one dimensional. Just like it was last season, the Titans can only win one way, run the ball to kill the clock and play stingy defense. If they trail by double digits at any point, they're cooked.

This is also Year 5 for QB Marcus Mariota and once again we're being told, "this is the year he makes the leap." Mariota is who he is at this point in his career, he might get slightly better from now until his final game but he's not the gunslinger QB the Titans hoped for. 

Mariota is essentially a slightly more athletic, low-rent Andy Dalton. Dalton's first four years in the league he had a 61.6 completion percentage, Mariota is at 63.2. Dalton threw for 99 TDs, Mariota 69; Dalton 55 INTs, Mariota 42; yards per throw Dalton 7.0, Mariota 7.5; rushing yards Dalton 624, Mariota 1270; and rushing TDs Mariota 11, Dalton 11.

Dalton had played more games to that point than Mariota, 64 to 56, but that's another glaring flaw with Mariota. He can't stay healthy, he's never played all 16-games in a season and the smart money says that trend will continue.

Looking at their schedule, things look even rougher for the Titans, a lot of matchups against explosive offensives. They have to play the Colts and Texans each twice and from there they have games against Cleveland, Atlanta, the LA Chargers, Kansas City, New Orleans, Carolina and Tampa. It's going to be a long season for the Titans. 

Denver Broncos

2018 record: 6-10

2019 Over/Under: 7 – Under, the schedule starts out tough and I don't think they'll be able to recover once it lightens. 

Former Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was the scapegoat for Broncos VP John Elway. I'm not even sure if he's a good or bad coach because he was always stuck with a terrible offense that limited the ways they could win. But that didn't stop Elway, the architect of these teams, from putting all the blame on Joseph, getting him out of there and bringing in Vic Fangio to be the head coach in Denver. 

Fangio is a great defensive mind and he's got a talented defense to tinker with but the offense is a problem. During this low-key rebuild, that started after they won the Super Bowl in the 2015 season, the best scoring offense the Broncos have had, going by points per drive average, (A more accurate reflection of an offense's scoring power, rather than total points that includes special team and defensive scores) came in 2018, when they ranked 25th out of the 32 NFL teams. Very tough to win games when you can't score. (Expert analysis if I do so say myself. When does the bidding war between ESPN and FS1 start?)

I don't think a 34-year-old Flacco is going to be the key for this team's offensive woes. He could help slightly improve that points-per-drive average but they'll still be among the league's worst offenses. But I will give it to Elway, he did say Flacco was in his prime and said it straight-faced, that's some Daniel Day-Lewis level of acting.

Adding to the misery of a bad offense is that Denver shares a division with the Chargers and Chiefs, both of which will be among the league's top five offenses. The NFL Redzone's Scott Hanson isn't going to be cutting to the Broncos offense much this season. Can't wait for next year when Elway brings in Eli Manning while Drew Lock holds the clipboard for another season.

ENTERTAINING BAD

Washington Redskins

2018 record: 7-9

2019 Over/Under: 6.5 – Under, it's going to be a messy year in D.C.

Jay Gruden is absolutely getting fired this year. As of writing, he's currently the favorite to be the first NFL coach fired in the 2019 season at +300. Honestly, I'm surprised it's not higher, I thought he'd be around -125 or -300. 

Washington drafted QB Dwayne Haskins this year, a player that Gruden didn't want and didn't even know they were going to draft. Of all the tell-tale signs that a coach's tenure is coming to an end, this is among the biggest red flags. If the Washington front office were scriptwriters, a note on their script would be "The foreshadowing is too on the nose. Tone it down."  

My beloved Jacksonville Jaguars did this same thing, they drafted Blaine Gabbert which totally stunned then-head coach Jack Del Rio and later that season Del Rio was fired.

Anything that happens on the field for Washington this season is going to be overshadowed by all the madness behind the scenes. Currently, my favorite story involving Washington is left tackle Trent Williams' holdout. It is absolutely fascinating. 

We've become accustomed to the typical player holdout, the player wants a new contract with more guaranteed money on the last year of their deal. Williams has added a new wrinkle to the holdout.

Williams is holding out because he wants the Washington medical staff fired and as long as they are a part of the franchise, he will not be playing for Washington. Leaving Washington the options of replacing their medical staff (Never in a million years, owner Dan Snyder is tight with the head guy), trade Williams (Probably won't happen because football GMs are weird about trading people) or offer Williams so much money he can't turn it down. (Also unlikely to happen because they didn't pay Kirk Cousins for all those years)

Washington has been trying desperately to get the court of public opinion on their side during Williams holdout. When there were rumblings that Williams was going to holdout and had asked for a trade, Washington denied and deflected. But once it became evident that Williams was holding out, Washington scrambled to make Williams out to be the bad guy. 

This strategy might have worked out had Williams just wanted to get paid but once Williams' camp put out his real reason for holding out and pointed to how bad this medical staff has been, things swung in favor of Williams. 

What jump-started this all was Washington's medical staff hand-waving a growth on Williams' head as nothing and when Williams got a seconded opinion he found out it was a tumor. Now, the tumor did come back benign but it's easy to empathize why he is so upset with Washington's team doctors.

It probably doesn't help that Alex Smith, Derrius Guice and Colt McCoy all had setbacks and multiple surgeries for the same injury or how team doctors said it was OK for RGIII to play on a very unstable knee his rookie year. Maybe, just maybe Washington's team doctors are not that good. 

Basically, it's going to be a disaster in Washington this season and there's going to be at least one bombshell story detailing how dysfunctional the Washington front office is at some point in the season. I'm guessing it will come around the team's bye week in Week 10 just after they fire Gruden.

Arizona Cardinals 

2018 record: 3-13

2019 Over/Under: 5.5 – Over, this is going to be a feisty bad team

Unlike the other two teams in the category, the Cards will be an entertaining bad team because of football reasons. The Cards should be a fascinating team to watch and it's all because of their quarterback, Kyler Murray, and head coach, Kliff Kingsbury.

Traditionally the NFL has been about having a tall QB who can take a hit but things are different now and playing QB isn't as physically demanding as it used to be. At the start of this decade, Murray would have been undraftable. Instead, he'd have gone and played in the MLB. 

Murray weighs 205 and tops out at 5-foot-10 unless you're a Kyler Murray height conspiracy theorist (Yes, it's a real thing. And yes, it's a weird group) and believe he's around 5-foot-5, but he's crazy athletic and super accurate. I was initially on the fence about Murray but after seeing some training camp videos and hearing Mike Vick talk him up like he's going to be the better version of Philly Mike Vick, I am all in. Give me any and all the Kyler Murray shares. 

For Kingsbury, the odds do not favor him and it's easy to take a shot at him because he had his struggles at Texas Tech, but I'm on the Kingsbury bandwagon too. I think he's going to adjust to the NFL game very well. Vance Joseph is going to handle all defensive responsibilities, whether you liked his time in Denver or not, his defenses usually ranked in the top 10. He doesn't have to worry about having a strong recruiting game against Division I's 125 other schools, he can find the precise player for his system and most importantly, he has a franchise quarterback.

Having a franchise quarterback in the NFL is a lot like having money. Money isn't going to be a cure-all for life's problems or be the direct cause of happiness, but it sure does help to have it. Better to have it than not. The same thing with a QB in the NFL, you're not guaranteed a playoff spot with a franchise QB but at least you're in contention for one. Look at what Russell Wilson did in Seattle last year, if Russ wasn't there, Seattle would have drafted in the top 5.

The Cards won't contend this year for a playoff spot but they're going to push teams and don't be surprised if they're one of those teams that puts some wins together late in December and are anointed the 2020 dark horse contenders.

Oakland Raiders

2018 record: 4-12

2019 Over/Under: 6 – Under, this is going to be such a fun Raider season.

Hard Knocks kicked off last week and it did not disappoint. (Game of Thrones, Hard Knocks and The Good Place were/are my 2019 must watch from Day 1 shows.) The show opened with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden saying, and I am paraphrasing, that he's done with dreams. Instead, he's into nightmares. I know I am tough on Gruden but that was brilliantly poetic and eerily prophetic.

The Raiders final season in Oakland is going to be a nightmare and kickstarting that nightmare was WR Antonio Brown, the franchise's key addition in the offseason. Brown hasn't practiced yet because his feet are recovering from extreme frostbite after he didn't wear proper footwear when he was in a cryotherapy chamber in July. (I feel like we're a month or two away from hearing the real story.) Former US sprinter Justin Gatlin had a similar injury and he told TMZ that it took him six months to recover. Not a great start for the Brown/Raiders marriage.

Adding to the nightmare, Brown isn't happy that the helmet he's worn for 10 years is no longer certified by the league and is now threatening to never play football again. When does the nightmare turn into a hellscape?

As bad as Brown's Raider tenure has started, the elephant in the room is still the relationship between Gruden and QB Derek Carr. Their interactions on Hard Knocks were incredibly and awkwardly forced. They're basically that couple that everyone knows should split but they're going to give it one last go because they had an awesome weekend in Jackson on the Fourth of July. But once they get back into their routine, it's right back to the passive-aggressive comments and making every dinner party wildly uncomfortable for everyone else as they try to garner support for the impending breakup. 

Gruden has already fired one passive-aggressive shot at Carr. After one of their practices, he had this to say, "This Nate Peterman is growing on me. He's athletic. I know he's had some nightmare performances in the NFL, but when you watch the film you can see why. It's not all his fault but he's got some talent, he's got some athleticism, he's got some experience."

If you're not familiar with Nathan Peterman here's a refresher. As the Bills rookie QB in his first NFL start, vs. the Chargers in 2017, he threw five picks, one a pick-six, all before the first half. The following season he was supposed to be the Bills starter while former UW QB Josh Allen learned from the sideline. That plan lasted one game because Peterman went 5/18 for 24 yards and two picks in Buffalo's 47-3 Week 1 loss to Baltimore. 

And in his final NFL start, when Allen was hurt, Peterman went 31/49 for 188 yards and three picks. The three picks obviously stand out but what's more shocking is completing 31 passes for only 188 yards, that's 3.84 yards per attempt. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN??

Peterman is essentially an embodiment of a bad Madden player. Once they throw one pick, the flood gates open and they are desperately trying to score 21 points on one deep shot pass. Before you know it you're up 28-0 at the start of the second quarter and they're rage quitting.

That's the guy Gruden is liking. Carr isn't going to last the season, he'll either be benched or traded but I can't wait to see the Peterman/Gruden era begin.

Next week's preview continues with a look at The Either, Or teams.

 
 

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