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By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Hear Me Out...The most courageous 2019-20 NFL season predictions: Outside Look In teams

 

August 29, 2019



The most courageous 2019-20 NFL season predictions continue and this week’s predictions will focus on the “Outside Looking In” teams. These five teams, provided that there are no major injuries in their division or conference, will be the outside of the playoff bubble.

Only one subcategory for this week and it’s pretty self-explanatory.

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

We’ve got a jam-packed sports section this week and not a lot of room, so let’s get to it!

Atlanta Falcons

2018 record: 7-9

2019 Over/Under: 8.5 – Over, shouldn’t have the terrible injury luck they had last season.

The Falcons going 7-9 in 2018 actually isn’t that bad when you consider that by season’s end they were patching their defense with guys that they were pulling off their and others’ practice squads. Odds are that they shouldn’t have the same awful injury luck but then again this is Atlanta we’re talking about. It feels like Atlanta sports fans were meant to be tortured in the worst possible ways.

I’m going to stay positive though and say the Falcons should have a better season in 2019. I don’t like them more than two other teams in their division but if Cam Newton’s ankle injury is worse than expected, I like the Falcons to take the Panthers spot as NFC South champs or at worst be a wildcard team.

Minnesota Vikings

2018 record: 8-7-1

2019 Over/Under: 9 – Over, I’d say after this season, the Cousins contract is going to attract more heat.

The window is quickly closing for the Vikings and this offseason they doubled down on their defense re-signing key players. My favorite move of the Vikings offseason was bringing in Gary Kubiak as an assistant coach and offensive advisor. Dalvin Cook, understandably, struggled coming back from an ACL injury but he’s ready to go in 2019 and with Kubiak’s influence in the offense he could be in for a monster year. Although, if Cook makes the leap into the Tier 1 of RBs, it could push the Vikings over the top and into the playoffs. Making this prediction look foolish.

I’ll admit, I had a lot of shares in Vikes WR Adam Thielen in fantasy last season and was very thankful that QB Kirk Cousins threw to him so much. That said though when it comes to actual football I’m not the biggest Cousins guy. And it’s why I don’t have the Vikings in the playoffs.

The weird thing is if you breakdown the numbers from 2018 Cousins put up good numbers. He threw for 4,000-plus yards and had career-highs in TDs with 30 and completion percentage at 70.1 percent. But when going by the eye test I’ve never really been impressed. If you want to be in that top tier of QBs you need to strike fear into the other team. Has any team ever been afraid of Cousins? What about fans of the other NFC North teams? At any point last season, were any of you like “Oh no, Cousins has the ball, we’re done for.” I’m going to confidently guess, no, and add no one has ever felt that with Kirk Cousins under center.

If anything, it’s more like “Awesome, Cousins has the ball, we got this game.” That’s why it’s so fun to bet against Cousins, you don’t have to worry about any bad beats.    

Baltimore Ravens

2018 record: 10-6

2019 Over/Under: 8 – Over, and the Lamar Jackson era is a go.

In terms of on-the-field production, there isn’t a more divisive player amongst NFL fans than Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. There are essentially two camps. Either, you’re in the camp that believes he’s a rising superstar or you belong to the camp that thinks he’s a gimmick waiting to be exposed. There’s very little in between but there is an in-between. I know this because that’s where I am with Jackson.

I see his potential and how electric of a player he can be. The Ravens were floundering before he took over the job last year, they made the playoffs because of him. He heads into this season with an offense tailor-made to his strengths and it’s going to be interesting to see what he can do as a starter for all 16 games.

But I also watched some of his games, and the playoff game vs. the Chargers is the freshest, where he missed throws that you have to make as an NFL QB. He has work to do when it comes to throwing, that’s obvious.

Watching Jackson you’d think he’s putting up Tim Tebow like numbers but when you go back and look at his stats he wasn’t bad, and dare I say it, they were pretty solid numbers for a rookie QB.

Jackson is in the same boat as the Bills Josh Allen, they both have to show that they can beat NFL defenses with their arms this season. If they don’t make any significant progress on that front this year, they won’t be long for this league.

As for the Ravens as a whole, I think they win, just not enough this season and it’s not because of Jackson. The loss of CJ Mosely is going to hurt the Ravens D more than what’s expected and they are going to be a peg down from what they were last season.

Although, I will hedge by saying if any of the AFC wildcard team slips up, they are next in line for a wildcard spot.

Los Angeles Rams

2018 record: 13-3

2019 Over/Under: 10 – Under, but if Blake Bortles starts, I reserve the right to change this the easiest Over bet of the 2019 NFL season.

Here is my most courageous of courageous NFL predictions, the L.A. Rams will miss the playoffs. I have no empirical stats to back this up, this is all anecdotal. I just can’t shake that this is going to be an up and down season for the Rams. I can see them getting off to a shaky start, rallying to get back into the playoff race, only to falter late and miss the playoffs by a game or losing a tiebreaker.

I’m not making this pick out of spite because I don’t think Sean McVay is a genius or Jarred Goff is a bad QB. I’m still all-in on McVay, he’s the next head coach genius, and I mostly believe in Goff. The Super Bowl was a bad look for him but he’s still a top 12 QB in the league.

I’m sure sports media personalities like Colin Cowherd will use this bad season as evidence that McVay is a fraud and produce countless dumb takes. It should be a lot of fun, especially in a few years when McVay wins a Super Bowl and they have to walk back all those bad takes.

Bad seasons happen and McVay is due for his first bad season as a head coach. If you’re not playing in the comfortable AFC East or sneakily soft AFC West, holding onto a division for longer than two seasons is brutally tough.

By bad season, I’m not saying the Rams will have a losing record. They’re just going to miss the playoffs and with their Super Bowl aspirations, falling short is going to be tough. They’ll lose some weird games and might even have a sub-500 record in one-possession games.

However, there is a caveat to the Rams making the playoffs. First, key injuries to the other playoff teams and, second, QB Blake Bortles getting the starting job.

There’s no way around it, things went very poorly for Bortles in his final season in Jacksonville, yet, very little of what happened was on him. And I still believe in Bortles and now he’s on a team with the best offensive guru in the league. He couldn’t have landed in a better position. If Bortles gets on the field, in a non-blowout scenario, that’s a wrap for Goff. Bortles for MVP!!

WELL THIS IS AWKWARD

Indianapolis Colts

2018 record: 10-6

2019 Over/Under: 7.5 – Over, redoing things I think I’d move the Colts with the Either, Or teams, but could be talked into leaving them here.

I completely forgot the Colts made the playoffs last year and that’s not a shot at them, actually, it’s more of a dig at me. I legitimately could not remember who the other AFC wildcard was and I’ve always had a strong memory when it comes to sports. Is this what happens when you get older? I’m only 32. Yeesh, this does not bode well for me.

Here’s what I wrote pre-Andrew Luck’s retirement “If Luck misses multiple games this season, he is knocking on the door of the club of ‘Superstar athletes that had their worse possible careers due to rotten luck’ and joining the likes of Chris Webber and Tony Romo.” Post-Luck retirement I’ve updated it to “Luck officially enters the club of ‘superstar athletes that had their worse possible careers due to rotten luck’ club where he joins the likes of Chris Webber and Tony Romo.”

Saturday night was kind of a crazy day and when the news started to spread on Twitter that Andrew Luck was retiring. It felt like people fell for another tweet from the Adam Schefter parody account but it was all real. Everyone is comparing this news to Jordan’s first retirement but I’m going deeper and off the board with my reference. Luck hanging it up is like George Washington I’m good after two terms as president. Even when people were telling Washington he could be president for much longer he was like, “Nah, I want to enjoy Mount Vernon before I die. You guys will be fine.” (I’ve made a lot of comps since beginning this column and by a long margin, this is my favorite.)

From a football perspective, Luck’s retirement is legitimately shocking news. Look as a Jags fan I love when the Colts or any AFC South team loses but this is a damn bummer. Luck was a fun player to watch and not many people receive the hype he does coming out of college and live up to it. Everyone loses here.

That said, the only people I don’t feel sorry for are the nerds who booed Luck or are trashing him after his decision. Those are the people that give sports fans a bad rap. In large part the entire sports world is sympathetic toward Luck but you have these entitled dweebs acting like Luck somehow did them dirty.

Get out of here with that, it’s ridiculous. At the end of the day, if you can’t find even a shred of empathy for a guy who lost the passion for a game he loved, it says more about you than anything else. The Colts will not fill the dark voids in your heart, get counseling if you are that angry about Luck retiring.

As for the Colts, they do have Jacoby Brissett, who showed flashes when he was the starter in 2017. Obviously, he’s no Luck but you can make the case that he can keep the ship afloat. When he came over in 2017, he was running a different offense and was thrown into it because of the trade from the Pats. So with a year-and-change to learn the ins and outs of Frank Reich’s offense, and it was rumored that Reich was already game planning Week 1 with Brissett as starter, the transition isn’t going to be that rough.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell said it best in that there are only a handful of NFL franchises that could deal with this unforeseen development, and the Colts are one of those teams. With Reich as the coach and GM Chris Ballard putting everything together, the Colts are in good hands. Ballard rebuilt this roster quickly after the years of incompetence under former GM Ryan Grigson. They’ll bounce back and still be a competitive football team.

The most courageous 2019-20 NFL season predictions wraps up next week with a look at the “Playoff” teams.

 
 

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