Completely Biased and Irrational Power Rankings: Week 1.

1. New England Patriots. The second coming has come and all hail Jimmy Garoppollo. I’d like to see Tim Brady avoid that Arizona pass rush with no Gronk to throw to. 

2. Green Bay Packers. The only team that’s continual success pisses off almost as many people as the Patriots. Plus Aaron Rodgers may be a robot.

3. Denver Broncos. Quarterbacks? Where were going we don’t need no stinking quarterbacks. The tales of Denver defensive demise have been highly exaggerated.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers. You’d have to be high to think this offense could be stopped by a suspension. 

5. Cincinnati Bengals. It’s not playoff time yet so they pretty much are unbeatable.

6. Seattle Seahawks. They almost lost to the Miami Dolphins. I want to put them lower. But everyone else sucks more.

7. Carolina Panthers. You lost to a quarterback who’s name I can’t spell. I didn’t think I’d have to learn it. You still lost to him.

8. Arizona Cardinals. You lost to the Patriots when they didn’t have Gronkowski. Seriously aren’t like 95% of the pats losses in the last few seasons  the games Gronk didn’t play in? Probably the first team in 15 years that can say they wish they had played the Pats with Brady instead.

9. Kansas City Chiefs. Like all good Andy Reid teams they just win.  Until the playoffs.

10. Houston Texans. I want to rank them so much higher. I really do, I’m from the same hometown as JJ Watt. I really really want them to be good. But they struggled with the Chicago Bears.

11. Oakland Raiders. I believe they may be the team of the future in the NFL. I have a ton of faith the Las Vegas Raiders will bring home a Lombardi eventually. The Oakland Raiders though well that young defense may have singlehandedly justified Drew Brees’s contract extension.

12. Minnesota Vikings. This will go up when Bradford takes over, but good thing Adrian Peterson and his 35 yards rushing proved that 31 year old running backs can still be great in the nfl. Maybe they can just have the d play ironman?

13. New York Giants. I had to talk myself into typing that but if Victor Cruz is actually back to form this could be a dangerous team. Then again they only beat the Cowboys, we have to see what they will do against nfl competition.

14. Detroit Lions. Indianapolis got a good look at what their offense will be like when Jim Bob Cooter is their head coach next year. 

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Famous Jameis. That is all. The clock is running to when Cam Newton is the nfl good guy and Jameis is the new villain. Reality check, Winston might be the best qb under 26 years old in the nfl. Free crab legs for everyone.

16. Baltimore Ravens. Well Flacco hasn’t gone wacko yet. Suggs hasn’t got hurt yet. But how long can that last?

17. Jacksonville Jaguars. Narrowly losing to the Packers at home is better then narrowly losing to the Seahawks or Bengals closely on the road? Yep. Plus the Jaguars have a lot of really hot female fans. Who wear bikinis to the game. Can you say that Jets? Can you say that Dolphins? (Well maybe the Dolphins can, but do they have a pool at their stadium?)

18.  Miami Dolphins. They almost beat the Seahawks at their home. One of the toughest places to play in the nfl. If this would be horseshoes or handgrenades that would really count for more. If their logo was a little better maybe I could trust them more.

19.  New York Jets. It’s fitzmagic. I’m not sure what it is though. Darrelle Revis isn’t as bad as he looked against the Bengals. He isn’t the Darrelle Revis of 4 years ago either. They are the best bearded team in the league though. That has to count for something. 

20. Philadelphia Eagles. Hey igloos fans enjoy this moment. They won’t be this high again this year. The upside? Wentz is the real deal. The downside? He is going to get a rough rest of his welcome to the nfl. Upside it’s always sunny in Philadelphia is still the best sitcom on tv.

21. Washington Redskins.  Captain Kirk failed at the box office and in week one. How could you do this to me? I picked you to win the division! 

22. Indianapolis Colts. Well you’re still number one in neckbeards. Seriously get Luck some talent around him soon. 

23.  New Orleans Saints. The demise of Drew Brees may not come this year. Too bad he is stuck with this defense. 

24. Buffalo Bills. The countdown to it becoming Cardelle “12 gauge” Jones team has begun. Rex Ryan is going to be so awesome when he joins the Fox pregame show.

25. San Francisco 49ers. Chip is not insane. I repeat Chip is not insane. His offense can’t work for 17 weeks of NFL football….but it can be a machine for 8 or 9 weeks. He hasn’t alienated anyone on his team yet either. Plus it’s not like any of his players has done anything controversial.

26. San Diego Chargers. Or should I say Los Angeles? They lack as much identity as their name implies. They have Phillip Rivers. He is the last true gunslinger quarterbacking in the league. His best receiver is done for the season. Yepp. So if they don’t play out their schedule will anyone notice?

27. Tennessee Titans. They got some good running backs. A great qb coach can make something out of Mariotta. If dogs could tap dance we’d all watch. 

28.  Chicago Bears. Jay Cutler. I repeat Jay Cutler. Good news though. You can afford to cut him after this year.

29. Atlanta Falcons. Jeff George keeps putting up great numbers in loses. Wait that’s not Jeff George? It’s Matt Ryan? Are you sure? Good thing they aren’t wasting the best wr in the game or anything. I like how they just grab 11 fans out the stands to play defense though…

30. Cleveland Browns. Even when they do the right thing it backfires. They needed more then a qb. They traded down. They got more pieces that they desperately needed. They took a no risk flyer on a former golden child qb. The only way it could backfire was if he got hurt in week 1. They have the best left tackle in the game and have one of the best wr tandems in the game. It’s the other 49 roster spots that they have to worry about.

31. Los Angeles Rams. They got shutout and blown out by the San Francisco 49ers. Their number 1 overall draft pick didn’t even dress for the game. At least  you have Todd Gurley. Ask the 90s lions how having just a great rb with nothing else does for you. Or a coach that is mediocre yet never has to worry about his job.

32. Dallas Cowboys. Dez keeps dropping it. Tony Romo’s experimental procedure to replace his bones with peanut brittle appears to have backfired. Reaching for ezekial elliot seems to have been a great move. The upside? Dak Prescott looks like he is going to be a great qb someday. Downside? It won’t be this year. 

J. Russell Zinn

A Packer Weekend in Jacksonville

Prologue 

I journeyed to Jacksonville for the Packers opening game. Traveling to a packers road game is an experience that is probably very similar to a steelers or cowboys road game. I want to share a first person account of what it’s like to spend travel with one of the largest fan bases in the nfl.

Saturday 

1pm. Ventured out of my hotel room for the first time. Went to Jacksonville beach. 9 packer hats or swimsuits sited. 3 people yelled go pack go at me….

3:32 pm arrive at packers pep rally. They are definitely not lacking in attractive female packer fans. They are lacking seats and shade though. Decent band.

4:30 pm  The crowd is beginning to get big here, they are expecting 1500 people, looks like they only have room for 1200. Still no shade. The Wisconsin style buffet is complete with usingers brats and fried cheese curds a huge plus…but lacking spicy horseradish ground mustard and the potato salad is American style not German style, another reminder were in Florida not Wisconsin  (as if the 95 degree heat on blacktop wasn’t enough of a reminder).


6pm  Mark Murphy takes the stage. He says nothing of importance. The Packers are notoriously tight lipped and never let anything slip. Soon after former packer greats (and Jacksonville area products) Leroy butler and nick Collins take the stage. It becomes clear that Leroy has a radio show in retirement, and that nick has used his retirement to grow an awesome beard. 

8pm I have yet to see a jaguars jersey, shirt or hat. I’m not sure green bay has as many people in packer gear as are currently roaming the bars and clubs of Jacksonville tonight.

GameDay 

10:30 am   it’s a 1 o’clock game. We’re running late for tailgating. As we drive to the stadium I spot my first jaguars jersey of the trip. 

12 noon. The Jacksonville fairgrounds  (which is adjacent to the stadium) is nothing but packers fans. It’s a sea of green and gold and brats and beer. The few jaguars fans (my count is now 17 jaguar hats/jerseys/t-shirts) seem confused. I’m pretty sure they are used to frolicking in open fields as they tailgate. I think the fact that all the packer fans are offering them a beer and brat and wishing them good luck confuses them more.

1pm so my seats are really really high up. Like I have to look down to find the uecker seats. It’s also hot as the Devil’s balls in this stadium. It’s a fairly well designed stadium until you realize it’s designed to keep the wind out, not allow a breeze through. It’s the afternoon of a 95 degree day with no breeze and no shade. I’ve sweat through my Bart Starr jersey by opening kick off. There are 6 jaguars fans in my section. As I look over the field I guesstimate it to be a 60-40 packers to jags fans crowd. I’m impressed with Jacksonville I was expecting 75-25. Especially after the ratio tailgating. 

1:45 pm. The heat is becoming unbearable. I’ve seen two older ladies succomb and have to be carried off already. I must get water instead of beer now.

1:5o pm the main concessions stands have already sold out of water and Gatorade. Apparently even though they new the temperature forecast and that the game would be a sell out they didn’t think anyone would drink it. They were wrong.

2 pm I arrive in the end zone restaurant/bar and vip party area. There is shade. The vendors have water and Gatorade. There are pools. More importantly there are bikini clad female fans in and out of the pools. My opinion of this stadium is changing for the positive rapidly. 


2:25 pm I manage to sneak into the pool area despite not having the $100o wrist band. I wrap my Starr jersey around the wrist that’s supposed to have the wrist band and enter the pool. The view from the edge of the pool is amazing. As I watch Rodgers connect with Jordy Nelson for a touch down while floating in a pool surrounded by bikini clad beauties I begin to question if this, not bundled against the cold of Lambeau, is the perfect way to watch football. 


3pm apparently the rest of my group does not have the skill to get past security into the pool. As I go to check in with them the security guard makes me show him my jersey wrapped wrist. I’m now kicked out of my pool football Shangri-la. 

3:45 pm as the game winds down into its dramatic finish the sun still beats down with horrible ferocity. There is probably a 80-20 ratio of packers fans to jaguar fans in this area. Those 20% are vocal enough to make up for it though. I am now accompanied by my football bff, my friends 16 month old child who’s only words are mama and go pack go. He is easily the most popular person (amongst both fans) in the area. I’m pretty sure he has been photographed as much as the players on the field. 


4:10 pm victory! The jags fans were polite in defeat and the packer fans I saw were modest in victory. Beers and waters (did I mention it was hot) were shared back forth. No one talked trash and there were no fights. Just a lot of fans who had survived insanely hot conditions to witness a well fought game on both sides.

5pm We find a lost older gentleman in packers gear. He is suffering from some heat type disorientation. He wonders by our wait for traffic to thin out post game tailgating. We give him water let him sit down then drive him to find his car. 

6pm Jacksonville landing. This city has impressed me. It’s reputation as a white trash armpit of Florida is completely false. The beaches are beautiful, the people nice and educated, and this area is hip and fun. We go to a riverfront steak and seafood house. It’s fine dining, we’re wearing packer jerseys. It’s OK so is everyone else in the restaurant. It’s surreal to see white tablecloths and packer jerseys in another state. 


9pm return to the hotel. Everyone we run into congratulates us, they all seem to genuinely care that we enjoyed their city and had a good time. 

Epilogue 

Jacksonville impressed me as a city, although the stadium has a lot of work to do. The teams getting better fast and larger crowds like this may soon be the norm, not just when the packers or steelers are in town. They really need to know how to prep for a sellout in the heat. I came to this city thinking the jags should go to london. After seeing the fans and the people of this city my opinion is they deserve to keep their team. The fans are loyal and respectful, and more then wonderful hosts.


J.Russell Zinn

Ranking the QBs

 Ranking the top 50 qbs in the nfl. Potential is given credit as is on the field results. Winning gets more credit then numbers. (ie. Eli Manning is ahead of Phillip Rivers) 

5th tier (if your starter goes down a series you are fine, if he misses games you are in trouble)

50. Derek Anderson – he was almost starter quality once. 

49. Matt Moore – he’s looked okay at times

48. Chase Daniels – in the right offense he can be a decent backup.

47. Geno Smith – the reverse of everything I say about Bridgewater. He may not have a Canon but he can make all the throws and hit an open receiver. Unfortunately nobody wants to play with him. If you could take Bridgwaters brain and put it in Genos body you’d have a top ten qb. Too bad we don’t have that technology.

46. Colt Mccoy – same as teddy Bridgewater…only with less of an arm. 

4th Tier (solid backups, may develop into more) 

45. Teddy Bridgewater *- In between the ears he’s a top 15 qb. Unfortunately he has the least accurate arm in the nfl. He holds the ball way to long he makes his progressions way to slow. Great qbs make bad wrs look good. Teddy makes good wrs look bad. He will make a great offensive coordinator one day, probably a even better head coach. But he doesn’t have the tools to take the game from his head to the field. *written before injury

44. Matt Schaub – he seemed to be done years ago. He was once a top 20 starter. Word out of Atlanta is he might push Matt Ryan for the starting job. Maybe he has something left in the tank afterall. 

43. Brett Hundley – how this guy fell to the 4th round is a mystery that many pundits will be asking for years to come. Now in his second year under master qb sansai in the NFL (Mike mccarthy) you know his mechanics and understanding of the game are amazing. Look for somebody to send a high pick to the Packers for him next year.  

42. Josh McCown – he’s not a starter but can play one on TV for the right team. He wouldn’t scare you if your starter got hurt and he had to come in.

41. Paxton Lynch – another case of potential. He’s got the tools. He’s far from ready though to be a nfl qb now. Can Kubiak build him? 

40. Scott Tolzien – he put up decent numbers in losses a few years ago when he was pulled from the practice squad to start during Aaron  Rodgers injury. He’s had 3 years under the master qb guru in Mike Mccarthy since then. I’d feel comfortable with him if my starter went down. He might even be able to start for some teams.

 39. Nick Foles – for a little bit he seemed like a real qb. Maybe back with any Reid he can be again. 

38. Colin Kaepernick – this kid needs out of San Francisco. He was developing nicely under Jim Harbaugh. Unfortunately he hasn’t listened to a head coach since. Can he check his ego and be coached again? He has an accurate rocket arm. He runs like a gazelle. He’s almost as solidly built as Newton. Can he learn to read his progressions? So many questions. So much talent. Can he be saved?

37. Blaine Gabbert – an epic failure has a had a rebirth of sorts in San Francisco.  He at least looks like a real NFL qb. Not a starter but someone I’d be willing to let play a few games if my starter was hurt.

36. Drew Stanton – he doesn’t have an NFL arm…but he’s accurate and knows how to win. He’s Chad Pennington. If you let a d coordinator set a game plan to take away what he can do and force him to do what he can’t you’ll beat him. If he comes off the bench with you not ready he’ll pick you to pieces.

35. Jimmy Garoppollo – the heir apparent to Tom Brady is going to get to prove whether he is truelly worthy of the title. Many say he is….but there seems to be some fear in organization.

34. Dak Prescott – Seems high you say? Off only a few preseason games you say? Yepp. He’s got that magic. I’ve argued with a cowboys fan that they might be best served by Romo going out and Daks learning curve being  raised by playing. 

32 (tie) Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemien – whoever wins this job is the is 32 the other 33. Neither are legit starters, both would be great 2 or 3 game options if your starter went down. 

31. Mike Glennon – he could start for at least 7 teams in the nfl. Should be the star of the 2017 free agent class. Minnesota Vikings I’m looking at you. 

30. Sam Bradford – he was taken number one for a reason. Granted I think that was a mistake but he can toss the pigskin with accuracy and make all the throws. Moving in the pocket or reading defenses is another story. He won’t lose you a ton of games as your number one backup, and can be a serviceable starter ad you develop a young qb.

3rd tier (legitimate starters or loads of potential)

29. Jay Cutler – he can have moments of greatness. But he’s been in the league long enough to know he is what he is. He’s got all the tools but will always throw the key interception. He mentally checks out of games. When he listens to his coaches he can almost convince you he’s a top ten qb….then he pulls a Jay Cutler move.

28. Brock Osweiller – he’s got a starters paycheck. He played ok, a poor man’s Alex Smith. He needs to play better with Houston to justify that check.

26.(tied)  Carson Wentz, Jared Goff – this is all on potential, but you don’t take someone this high without at least him ranking here. They’ve got the tools, let’s see how the  Eagles and Rams develop them.

25. Robert Griffin III – He has all world talent. The problem was between his ears. His ego ran away and he was uncoachable. It seems like he’s eaten some humble pie and is listening to offensive guru hue jackson. I’d love to see him reward the long suffering fans in Cleveland with his return to form. 

24. Alex Smith – the penultimate game manager. He won’t lose you a game. He also won’t win you a game. 

23. Matt Ryan – Matty  ice may be the worst nickname ever. Based on his clutch and playoff performances he should be Matty lukewarm. The more he plays the more I come to believe he is Jeff George without the doucheness.
2nd tier (up and comers, and flashes of greatness)
22. Ryan Tannehill – this is his last chance. He’s shown flashes of brilliance but has never been able to consistently put it together. He’s got a headcoach who made Jay cutler look good now, if it’s not this year well…hey backup qbs make good money and he has a gorgeous wife, life won’t be that bad.

21. Marcus Mariotta – he’s got great speed and is a winner, a born leader. He has the arm. I still contend he needed a rebuild similar to the one Mike McCarthy gave Aaron Rodgers when he came out of college. He needs to learn to read defenses and his progresssions. His mechanics need to be tightened up to increase his accuracy. With a Rodgers type rebuild he could have been Rodgers type good. But maybe he can learn on the fly, kids got a ton of talent.

20. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Ever wonder what Brett Favre would be like without a mobile rocket launcher for an arm and a longer beard? Wonder no longer, it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick. He can have Favre like magic, he will also try to make a pass that only Favre could make without a second thought. When he stays within himself and has a good oc he can be devasting though. 

19.. Tyrod Taylor – we’ve had a small sample size but he’s coming off as a poor man’s Cam Newton. He is accurate and can run. He needs to take the next step reading defenses.

18. Kirk Cousins – Captain Kirk played like a star on the rise last year, competitive and accurate. I loved him in college but need to se e a second year of the same to rank him higher.

16 (tie) Blake Bortles, Derek Carr – flip a coin between Bortles and Derek Carr. Both have the moxi of a star qb, both can read an NFL d and can go through their progressions like a seasoned vet. Bortles reminds me of a young Big Ben, Carr of a young Drew Brees. Most importantly they are accurate, the most important skill a qb can have.

15. Jameis WinstonWe can argue the best of the “young gun” qbs all day. We just know we haven’t seen this much young talent at the position since the early 80s. My money is on the biggest, strongest and most accurate passer. He’s a college national champ and reads d’s better then most 5 year vets. He will be the villain qb in the league for the next decade.

Top Tier

14. Joe Flacco – has he plateaued? He’s got a ring and throws one of the best deep balls in football. Can he carry a team? His paycheck says he can, it’s time to justify that check.

13. Andy Dalton – the “Red Rocket” has shown everything he needs to be elite…except winning in prime time or the playoffs. Until he does that he’s just Matt Ryan version 2.0. 

12. Matt Stafford – This is a make or break year for the former number 1 pick. He has the hottest offensive coordinator in the game, but lost the best wr in the game. Will it make him spread the ball better and live up to his potential? Or will he collapse without the crutch of Megatron? His legacy will be decided by the answer. 

11. Philip Rivers –  the last gunslinger, he can chuck it with anyone. He makes wrs look good. He just doesn’t seem to be able to get the matching w’s though.

10. Carson Palmer – he’s teased us with greatness all career just to fall short, mostly due to injuries. One last rich Gannon type season to finish his career could change that legacy.

9. Eli Manning – 2 rings. 2 superbowl rings. That’s the argument. He’s clutch, he can be amazing. He’s also inconsistent, and can be a turnover machine. He seems to have found new life with ODB in McAdoo’s offense a strong finish could solidify him into the hall. 

8. Tony Romo* – If healthy (and that’s a huge if) he is still one of the best in the league. Has his body given up on him? We’ll see.*written pre-injury

7. Andrew Luck – He’s got every tool in the book. Physically he’s Aaron Rodgers version 2.0. Can he translate that to greatness behind that porous line? 

6. Russell Wilson – with 2 super-bowl appearences and one win, Russell has shown he belongs with the big boys. If he can keep up the success without beast mode he will be elite.

The Elite. 

5. Drew Brees – Easy breesy, this may be the year that father time catches up with our favorite boilermaker. It hasn’t yet though so until it does his pinpoint accuracy and mastery of his offense keeps Brees in the top 5. 

4. Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben has played in 3 Superbowls and has won 2. You want to know how good he is? Watch the Steelers play with anyone else at qb. He single handedly has elevated the play of his receivers to the point people think Antonio Brown is better then Julio Jones. 

3. Tom Brady- Father time is his biggest enemy now. His accuracy is second only to Rodgers and they are equal in reading defenses. A master of making average receivers look great. At 39 he’s not what he once was but he’s still better then 98.5% of the qbs on the planet.

2. Cam Newton- Sorry Randall Cunningham you are now the second greatest running qb of all time. His arm strength, speed, size and raw power make him a freak who’s impossible to game plan against.

1. Aaron Rodgers– his accuracy is the best the NFL has ever seen. He can run better then 90% of the qbs. He even completed multiple hail Mary’s last season.
J.russell Zinn

The “Sports Page 1 Elite” Staff Writer’s NFL Preview: NFC South

Carolina Panthers

Michael Eccleston predicts 13-3 division champs.

Yes, Carolina will regress from 15 wins to 13 because, well, it just isn’t very likely that happens two seasons in a row. Outside of Josh Norman signing with the Washington Redskins, it’s pretty much the same story here. They still have the reigning MVP of the league in Cam Newton, they get top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin back after he missed all of last year because of injury, and they still have Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr., and Devin Funchess on the offensive side of the ball. Runningback Jonathan Stewart will continue to be solid because of the dual-threat Newton is. On the defensive side of the ball, they’re still led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. The addition of Shaq Thompson will help as well. I expect more of the same from the Panthers who will be hungry after losing to the Denver Broncos in this past Super Bowl. They take this division convincingly. Michael Eccleston 

Ralph predicts 14-2, division champs.

The Panthers will once again finish at the top of this division, for good reason, Cam Newton is the second best running back on the team behind starter Jonathan Stewart.On any given play Cam can run for the first down yardage or more.

The Panthers front 7 is still intact and just as dominant as last year.

The Panthers get Kelvin Benjamin back, the wide receiver added 1000 plus yard in 2014, something the Panthers missed last year when KB went down with an injury in pre-season. Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen carried most of the load last season but now they get the man back.

One glaring weak spot on the Panthers offense is the tackle position, we seen Von Miller absolutely destroy them last year in the championship game. If the tackles can’t set the edge against formidable pass rushers, it may be their achilles heel.

Finally, we all know Josh Norman left the team and Charles Tillman retired. the Panthers tried to fill in the spots with draft picks but I don’t think it will be enough. The young DB’s will benefit from a very strong front 7 to help cover their weaknesses, but eventually they may be exposed.

Still, the Panthers have way too many weapons to not have a strong season. Ralph 

Scott Brown predicts 12-4, division champs.

The Carolina Panthers finished last year 15-1 and won the NFC championship. But, they could have issues with their secondary after losing Josh Norman. They did draft Vernon Butler improving their pass rush. But, Greg Olsen, one of the best tight ends in the league is suffering back issues in the pre-season. Scott Brown 

Antwon predicts 11-5 division champs 

The Panthers are coming off one of the best seasons in the teams franchise history with a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance. Cam Newton was spectacular in 2015 as he pulled out all the stops on his way to the NFL MVP award. Their defense took some losses this offseason but they still should be on top of this division at seasons end. Look for them to make another run at the big game. Antwon 

Brian Jones predicts 11-5, division champs.

 Although they won’t run roughshod over this division (or the NFL) like they did last season, Carolina won’t have any problems repeating as division champion. Cam Newton is a year wiser and I believe he’ll learn from the Super Bowl loss and grow from it on the field (press conferences are another story). Kelvin Benjamin returns from injury to add another weapon on offense and the defense should be in the top 5 again. They’ll win the division with relative ease. Brian Jones

J. Russell Zinn predicts 14-2, division Champs, number 1 NFC seed.

Add one top flight number 1 wr. Subtract one top tier system cb. Where does that leave us? Still the best team in football. It took a perfect game plan by an all time defense to stop them in the superbowl. Now they are angry. They have the best running qb ever, who happens to be the 2nd best qb in the league. They are on a mission, they have a tough schedule they could end up only 11-5 with it….but they are also capable of going undefeated with it. I think they’ll lose 2, only because they know now they want to keep something in the tank for the playoffs. Good luck to Green Bay or Arizona, they’ll need a perfect game to subplant Carolina as the NFC team in the superbowl this season. J.Russell Zinn

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Michael Eccleston predicts 9-7, second in division 

The Bucs will be a very interesting team to watch this season. Jameis Winston had a very good rookie year throwing for over 4,000 yards. That doesn’t happen very often. Third year wide receiver Mike Evans looks to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing season in 2015 dropping from 10 touchdowns the year before to 3 last season. Running Back, Doug Martin, was dreadful in 2014, but came back to life last season. I expect Martin to continue to have success as Winston progresses. Defensively, they are led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and young outside linebacker Lavonte David. They also have an interesting group of cornerbacks with Alterraun Verner, Brent Grimes, and one of the best cornerbacks in the draft in Vernon Hargreaves. This is a young, upcoming team with a new head coach and as Winston continues to get more comfortable, I expect them to improve a lot, especially considering I don’t trust either the Saints or the Falcons… Michael Eccleston 

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 97, second in division. 

This is a team that will rise faster then anyone is ready for. Why? Jameis Winston. He is part of the plethora of megatalented young qbs to hit the league in the last 4 years (only the early 80s have seen the NFL blessed with so much talent at the position at once) Winston may be the best pure passer of the bunch. Tampa will make some noise. They aren’t good enough to make the playoffs in the tough NFC but will be in contention until the last snap of the season. J.Russell  Zinn

Scott Brown predicts 3-13, last in division 

Tampa Bay finished last season at 6-10. Their offense struggled in pre-season joint practices with Jacksonville and Cleveland. They did upgrade their defense with Robert Ayers, Daryl Smith and Brent Grimes. They did nothing to improve a bad offensive line. Scott Brown

Antwon predicts 8-8, 3rd in division 

The Bucs were a very competitive team last season despite their 6-10 record. Jameis Winston played about as well as any rookie last season leading this team and assuring them a bright future at the QB position. Dirk Koetter brings his wide open offensive scheme to this new team and it should make them fun to watch with the twin towers they have at receiver. There defense is solid so look for them to continue to improve and become a solid contender down the road. Antwon 

Ralph predicts 7-9, 2nd in division.

I will admit, in writing this preview I initially wrote off the Bucs, until I looked over their record from last year and took into account their off-season moves. Coach Lovie Smith is now, gone. Whether that is a good or bad thing, we don’t know yet.

Lovie being a defensive minded coach didn’t help the Bucs defense last year though. Mike Smith will try to put the talented players into a scheme that can win. Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter will get his shot at leading the team this season.

The Bucs will rely heavily on Winston and his two giant wide receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson to move the ball down the field. Also featured is the running back duo of Doug Martin and Chris Sims. The problem is those two have to run behind a horrible offensive line. Ralph

Brian Jones predicts 8-8, 2nd in division.

Another team that has the potential to be either one of the biggest surprises in the league or one of its biggest disappointments. Jameis Winston looks like he’s ready to take things to the next level but as long as Doug Martin isn’t consistently producing and Mike Evans not consistently dropping balls Winston’s growth will only go so far. The defense has to improve, especially the pass defense. The pieces are there to make the playoffs in 2016 but I think they’ll fall just short of that goal. Brian Jones 

New Orleans Saints

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction  5-11, 3rd in division.

I love Drew Brees. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person, he a great guy. I’ve been a fan of him since his days at Purdue. Thing is he’s 37 years old, with a 5’11 1/2″ 209 pound frame. The human body can only take so many hits from behemoth NFL linebackers and d lineman. The smaller the frame the less hits it takes. Brett Favre and Tom Brady are freaks, the exceptions to the rule. Most qbs can’t physically play after their 37th birthday. Maybe he will be able to wring another year out of his body. I’m not betting on it. Plus their defense couldn’t stop anyone in the big ten much less the NFL. Things aren’t going to be easy in the big easy. Ending of storybook careers seldom are. J.Russell Zinn

Brian Jones predicts 7-9, tied for 3rd in division. 

 The good news? Drew Brees is back again. The bad news? The Saints’ defense is back again. They have tried to make some improvements on defense but they still aren’t going to be able to stop teams enough to contend. Brandin Cooks will be the same explosive weapon he’s been but he’ll have little help otherwise on offense. Brees will also turn in another MVP-caliber season as well. The defense needs retooling (again) and playing in a division with 3 teams that can put 35 on you with ease is bad news. Look for offensive fireworks and defensive letdown in the Bayou this season. Brian Jones

Ralph predicts 6-10, last place in the division

Drew Brees is not immortal and one of these years he won’t be there to carry the team, But for the time being, he’s still throwing touchdowns. Brees favorite target is Brandin Cooks, who’s very much a threat. Mark Ingram needs to stay healthy for this team to win games.

The defensive unit was so horrible last year they fired the defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. Also gone is Brandon Browner, thank goodness. With the subtraction of Browner alone, the defense has to improve.

The offense is not the problem on this team, anchored by a strong offensive line. The biggest problem is the defense, it doesn’t look like the Saints did much to remedy that. Ralph

Antwon predicts 7-9, last In division

 Sean Payton and Drew Brees are ready to put the ball in the air again this season but can their defense hold opponents long enough to get some wins. Dennis Allen is the new coordinator in the Big Easy and players seem to be buying into his scheme but can they produce this year or continue to struggle? One thing for sure this will be a tight race all season. Antwon.

Scott Brown predicts 9-7, second in the division. 

New Orleans finished the 2015 season 7-9. They have a solid running game with Mark Ingram, Tim Hightower and CJ Spiller. They improved their interior pass rushing with free agent Nick Fairley and draft pick Sheldon Rankins. They added an offensive weapon in Coby Fleener, but still have issues with their secondary. Scott Brown 

Michael Eccleston predicts 6-10 last in division 

Yes, those same overrated New Orleans “we have a lot of talent on offense and we have Drew Brees” Saints that we all expect to improve every year but then are disappointed when they don’t. That team. Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. That has been established. Mark Ingram is expected to step up as the full time starting runningback for the first time since he won the Heisman trophy in 2009. No, but seriously this time…. I expect Brandin Cooks to continue to improve as a very formidable number one receiver, and I also think that tight end Coby Fleener will have a career year with a team that will use him like the large, athletic player that he is. Wide receiver Willie Snead expects to see a lot more attention this season after a promising end of last year, and rookie Michael Thomas will get his feet wet in this offense that relies heavily on the passing attack. And then there’s the defense…….. Yep, that’ll about do it for the New Orleans Saints. Michael Eccleston 

Atlanta Falcons

Ralph predicts 5-11, last in the division.

This year the Falcons don’t get to pad their record with easy wins against the NFC East. Gone is Devin Hester and Roddie White. As replacement the Falcons signed Mohamed Sanu. Yes, they still have Julio Jones but that won’t be enough to save this team.

The running backs are plagued by drops, even though they run behind one of the highest ranked lines in the NFL.

The defense surely won’t scare anyone, filled with young talent, they have yet to prove to be formidable.

The clock will strike midnight and this team will turn back into the pumpkin they really are. Ralph. 

Scott Brown predicts 8-8, 3rd in the division.

The Atlanta Falcons finished last year 8-8. During the off season the acquired Alex Mack in hopes of solidifying their center position. Vic Beasley Jr. should help improve their pass rush now that he is healthy and its a good thing since the Falcons were the worst team in the NFL at both sacks and pressuring the quarterback last year. They didn’t really upgrade by signing wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. With a tough schedule they will finish the same as last year. Scott Brown

Antwon predicts 9-7 second in division 

The Falcons started off a red hot 5-0 last season but their Achilles heel which is their defensive unit would be their downfall and end their season an average 8-8. Coach Dan Quinn finally has all the pieces he wants in his defensive scheme and now he looks to put it all together. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman were the lone bright spot for the team and put up outstanding numbers but they could not stop the slide. Atlanta picked up some good talent this offseason but can they overcome a brutal regular season schedule? We shall see. Antwon 

Brian Jones predicts 7-9, tied for 3rd in division

After starting 5-0 and being considered a Super Bowl contender before they went into a freefall and wound up 8-8. Was this an abberation or a pattern? I think it’s a pattern. Offensively, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will produce and put up numbers but who else will help them? The run game hit a wall and the defense played with concrete shoes the last portion of the season. They added some pieces in free agency and the draft but it’s not going to be enough for the Dirty Birds to fly high in 2016. Brian Jones 

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 4-12, last in division.

They look so good on paper. Sorry Antonio Brown, but Julio Jones is the best wr in the league right now. Matty ice looks like a great qb. Except he’s not. He definitely doesn’t live up to his nickname. He’s Jeff George without the attitude. He puts up big numbers (thanks to great wrs) but folds in the clutch. They started last year 6-1 then collapsed finishing the season on a 2-7 pace. Looking at their schedule this season they could very easily start off 0-6. They won’t recover from something like that. J.Russell Zinn

Michael Eccleston predicts 7-9, 3rd in the division.

Oh boy. What can I say about the Atlanta Falcons? They got off to such a great start last year…. And then, just, yeah the rest is history. The offensive talent is there….. It’s been “there” for so many years now. I’m getting tired of saying it’s time for Matt Ryan to step up and play to his potential. At this point, just get the job done or he just is what he is: An above average quarterback who has the talent but just couldn’t seem to put it all together. He has had the weapons around him offensively. Julio Jones is arguably the best wide receiver on the planet, Devonta Freeman turned into one of the best receiving runningbacks in the league. They’re going to get second year runningback Tevin Coleman involved in the offense more. Atlanta is also going to need Mohamed Sanu to step up big time. The Falcons added a lot of speed to their defense through this year’s draft, but it will probably take a year for them to gel. I expect more of the same from them. Inconsistency. NEXT Michael Eccleston 

The “Sports Page 1 Elite” Staff Writer’s NFL Preview: AFC South

Houston Texans 

Brian Jones’ prediction 11-5, division champs 

 I’m actually a bigger believer in Brock Osweiler than most people are. I think he can get the job done for the Texans. In Denver he had a top-flight wide receiver, a solid running game and they went out and won games. In Houston he’s got DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue – all three better options than what he had in Denver. Add in the division’s best overall talent and the most consistent defense and they’ll win the South for the second year in a row. The quarterback will be a reason they win it this year, not in spite of him like last season. Brian Jones

Antwon Smith’s prediction 8-8, 2nd in division 

Bill O’Brien finally caught his man in Brock Osweiler and his new backfield mate RB Lamar Miller should help open up the passing game and give all-world receiver DeAndre Hopkins some much needed help. J.J. Watt is still the man on defense and their front seven is still strong but their secondary is questionable and it could be pivotal to their season. Antwon Smith

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 11-5, division champs. 

JJ watt is the best non Qb in the league. Hands down. They have a good coach and a retooled offense. As long as Osweiller doesn’t shit the bed they will win this division. I’m going out on a limb here and saying JJ breaks the single season sack record and wins the NFL MVP 30 years after L.T. did it. He also ends up with more TD catches then their starting tight end. J.Russell Zinn 

Kip Ambrose’sprediction 9-7, second in division. 

The Texans made a couple of huge signings this offseason in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, the latter of which should be a huge upgrade from the injury-prone Arian Foster. The jury is still undecided on Brock Osweiler, and whether he becomes a starting-caliber quarterback or not could be the difference from them finishing first or the Texans not making the Playoffs. I have always been a supporter of Osweiler, so I see him becoming a mid-level quarterback this season.  

​The defense is obviously the strong point of this team, as JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus serve as one of the league’s best one-two punches. The only doubt is that Mercilus won’t hold up his current form. It was definitely unexpected that Mercilus would end up posting 12 sacks after not even getting above 7 the three years prior, but I believe that as long as Watt and Vince Wilfork are drawing defenders, Mercilus will have a lot of easy sacks this season. I know that I said that Osweiler will become a decent quarterback and they should win the division, but even with Osweiler improving, I can’t see the Texans finding a way around the Jaguars. Kip Ambrose 

Ralph’s prediction 9-7, 2nd in division 

It seems that the Texans finally have a viable option at quarterback in Brock Osweiler. Whether or not he actually pans out, we have to wait and see. We do know the Texans have JJ Watt, and even if he’s coming back off of an injury, he’s still Watt. Teams still have to game plan around him. The Texans replaced Adrian Foster with Lamar Miller in hopes of producing some kind of running game. I think the chips fall into place for the Texans and the stars align just right for a decent season. Ralph 

Scott Brown’s prediction 10-6, division champions.

The Houston Texans were 9-7 last year. Houston upgraded at quaterback. Osweiler just spent four years under Peyton Manning and John Elway. He learned from the best and he showed that he can lead an offense while Manning was hurt. Drafting Will Fuller out of Notre Dame will help their passing game because the kid has wheels. But, will the offensive line stay healthy enough for it to matter? They have a solid defense and if they stay healthy that won’t change, but you have to wonder how JJ Watt will be after back surgery. Scott Brown

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kip Ambrose’s prediction, 10-6, division Champs 

​I am just obsessed with this entire team. The amount of young talent that they have is insane, and the offseason that they had was one of the best that we’ve seen in a while. Getting arguably the Top 2 defensive players in the draft in Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack was my favorite part of the offseason. Gus Bradley, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator, is building what we have known as “Seattle Southwest”. With Jalen Ramsey, he found his Richard Sherman (or Earl Thomas, depending on where he lines up), and with Jack, he found his Bobby Wagner. The Jaguars addressed every single concern that I had with them this offseason. They needed a running back. Check! They needed to bolster their secondary. Check! The needed to bring in an elite pass rusher. Check! There are just two things holding this team back from a Super Bowl. The first is the offensive line. They brought in Kelvin Beachum, one of my favorite left tackles who is vastly underrated, in free agency to bolster the line, but aside from that, they could use a couple more stars on that line. I mean they are building Seattle Southwest so I guess that they got the offensive line part of it right. (Makes bad Seattle Seahawks offensive line joke). The second thing holding this team back is time. They have one of the youngest rosters and in a couple of years, this team will explode onto the scene with numerous superstars on every side of the ball. Kip Ambrose 

Antwon Smith’s prediction 10-6, division champs.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will finally get back to the top spot in the division and get back to respectability. The Jags young trio of Bortles, Robinson and Hurns are a throwback of the old Jags trio of Brunnell, Smith and McCardell, which means they can rack up yards fast and also put points on the board. They have quite a bit of young players on defense but the veterans they signed in the offseason should help offset some of the inexperience. Gus Bradley finally has the weapons he wants in his system, now it’s time to get them to buy in. Antwon Smith

Ralph’s prediction 11-5, division Champs 

It’s time for a new king of the division, it is the Jags turn. Bortles threw for over 4000 yards last season. The two wide receiving Allen’s each had 1000 yard seasons. Julius Thomas is back and healthy. The Jags signed Chris Ivory to running back alongside TJ Yeldon. The Jags also drafted Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack on defense.Dante Fowler is also healthy this season. The Jags have put a lot of work into their defense to help them win games. If Bortles continues to grow as a quarterback this team can be trouble for a very long time. Ralph 

Scott Browns prediction 4-12, 3rd in division.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were 5-11 last year. They strengthened their defense by drafting Jalen Ramsey and signing free agents Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson. They got their quarterback some protection on the left side by signing Kelvin Beachum if his knee holds up. T. J. Eldon and Chris Ivory give them a decent running game. Regardless, they are Jacksonville and have a tough schedule. Scott Brown.

Brian Jones prediction. 8-8 3rd in division.

This is probably the one team in the NFL that has the potential to be the most surprising team in the league and the potential to be the most disappointing. I’m going to err on the side of caution and say they’ll be (slightly) disappointing. Blake Bortles leads what should be a top 10 offense this season but the real issues with this team are on the defensive side of the ball. The health of the defense is a big question. If healthy they can help this team make some noise and grow like the offense did a year ago. Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler, Jr. are all nursing injuries and will return to make an impact for Jacksonville – but not enough of one to make the playoffs in 2016. Brian Jones

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction. 9-7 2nd in division wild card playoff team. 

This team along with the Raiders is the future of the AFC. Bortles vs. Carr will be the new Brady vs. Manning. It just won’t be this year. The Jags will look much improved, but they will struggle finishing off good opponents. They still have to learn how to win. That’s what this year is for them, learning how to be great. J.Russell Zinn

Indianapolis Colts

Ralph’s prediction, 8-8, 3rd in division 

When your starting running back is Frank Gore, I can’t take your team seriously. Last season the Colts were horrible without Andrew Luck. While he is now healthy, I don’t believe he can carry this team with an aged running back and a defense that leaves much to be desired. The Colts win some and lose some, no longer will that be a playoff caliber team. Ralph 
J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 8-8, 3rd in division 

The Colts biggest blessing is their biggest curse. Andrew Luck was too good too soon, they need one more draft of high picks to stock the cabinet. They just have too many subpar players at too many positions. Where they are great, they are great but their holes can be exploited. They also suffer from inferior coaching. This team will be a contender next year with a bunch of high draft picks and Jim Bob Cooter coaching. J.Russell  Zinn

Brian Jones’ prediction 10-6, second in the division.

Until the Colts front office proves it can keep Andrew Luck upright for 16 games and until Luck cuts down on his turnovers and stays healthy, this team isn’t going very far. The offensive line upgrades weren’t enough this offseason and the defense still has some holes to fill. Head coach Chuck Pagano was given a new contract but he has his work cut out for him. A favorable schedule will help them return to the postseason but not much farther than that. Brian Jones

Kip Ambrose’s prediction, 6-10 3rd in division. 

A couple of years ago, many, including myself, would have easily put the Colts atop this list, but in the last few years, we have learned, time and again, that defense wins games. We learned it with the Seahawks, Patriots, Panthers, and Broncos. The Colts are a team built strongly around offense, but shaky offensive line play will continue to plague this team time and time again. The big question on offense is whether Andrew Luck can stay healthy. The offensive line is a sieve and Luck just keeps on taking big hits. If I were the Colts, I would be a lot more concerned about my franchise player’s health.

​The defense, outside of Vontae Davis is below-average at best. D’Qwell Jackson posted an insane amount of tackles, but he never one of the top ILB’s, Jerrell Freeman on the other hand, was a Top-5 ILB last season. He has since moved on to Chicago. Henry Anderson is an emerging 3-4 defensive end, but I am really concerned that this team could finish last in sacks next season. The linebacking corps and secondary aren’t anything to write home about either. Kip Ambrose.

Scott Brown’s prediction 9-7, second in the division. 

The Indianapolis Colts were 8-8 last year. The big question is how will Andrew Luck look when he returns to the field for the first time since half way through last season? He should come back and make them competitive again. But, Indy has an average defense. And did nothing to upgrade it. Scott Brown

Antwon Smith’s prediction 6-10, 3rd in division.

The Colts new $100 million dollar QB looks to get back on track after missing most of last season because of a kidney laceration, but he has his main weapons still at his disposal and should pick up where he left off. The defense however is the teams weak point which is why I dropped them to third in the division. Antwon Smith

Tennessee Titans

Scott Brown’s prediction. 3-13, last in division. 

The Tennessee Titans were 3-13 last year. They had a great draft, trading for two first-round picks, two second-round picks and two-third round picks when they sent the first, 113th and 177th picks to Los Angeles. They improved their offensive line and protecting Marcus Mariota should be the team’s main concern. And they added an offensive weapon in DeMarco Murray. Yes, last year was his worst ever, but that is expected considering what he did the year before and he looks good in the pre-season. They drafted Alabama’s Derrick Henry too, giving them a very good running game. Having said that, they did little to fix the many other problems they had last year. Scott Brown

Antwon Smith’s prediction 4-12, last in division.

Tennessee has their QB of the future it seems in Mariota and they have a strong backfield to take some pressure off the young QB. They have solid players on defense but they are young and still learning. Give or take 2-3 seasons they will be one of the up and coming teams in the AFC. Antwon Smith

Ralph’s prediction 3-13, last in division 

Last place in the division again. The addition of Demarco Murray helps take some pressure off of Marcus Mariota, but it doesn’t make up for their horrible offensive line and Mariota misses time again this season. The offensive line ranked near the bottom last season and trading for Dennis Kelly from Philadelphia isn’t going to fix that.Why the Titans traded away one of their best wide receivers is beyond comprehension. Ralph 

Brian Jones’ prediction 3-13, last in division.

The Titans are attempting to use a offense geared around running the football (called “Thunder and Thunder” for some odd reason) – a year after drafting Marcus Mariota and trying to make him into a pocket passer. Clearly this franchise can’t find its right now and their roster (among other things) reflects this. They have a lot of needs (WR, LT, RT and all over on defense) and the team is short on overall talent. Luckily they have a boatload of draft picks coming up in next year’s draft. Titans fans may as well start the countdown now because this season is already over for them and they’re headed for another top 5 pick (along with the Rams picks acquired last season).Brian Jones

Kip Ambrose’s prediction 4-12, last in division

​I would have been a lot higher on the Titans had they not just pulled off one of the worst trades that I’ve seen in a while. Trading Dorial Green-Beckham, a 6’5” promising receiver, for Dennis Kelly, a backup offensive lineman, was a head-scratching move. After the Titans severely overdrafted Jack Conklin, at least in my opinion, I’m starting to wonder how this franchise judges offensive lineman. Marcus Mariota should continue his progression this season, and there is no rush for him to get better right away. One thing that I love about this franchise is their running game. DeMarco Murray is expected to come back and prove that he is still the back that he was in 2014, and Derrick Henry has been everything he was expected to be and more in preseason.

​The defense is the definition of mediocre. Jurrell Casey is vastly underrated, and with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan coming off the edge, the pass-rush will provide some threat, but it’s nothing to gameplan about. Kip Ambrose.

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 2-14. Last in division.

Where to start on the poor poor Titans. They got the steal of the draft in running back Derrick Henry. Unfortunately even with him I don’t see this team winning a game against the NFC North or in their own division. Mariotta needed to sit for a year and get his mechanics and decision making converted into NFL qb. This year without that time to rebuild him (much like how Mccarthy rebuilt Aaron Rodgers) and a year of tape defensive coordinators are going to force him to make his second and third read throws. All while his porous line is getting him killed. I like Mariotta but in 5 years we will be saying I can’t believe the Buccaneers had to even think between Winston and him. He landed in the worst place for him to have success. The Titans will be sitting atop the draft again next year. J.Russell Zinn

The “Sports Page 1 Elite” Staff Writer’s NFL Preview: NFC East 

The first week of the 2016 NFL preseason has kicked off. On our road of division-by-division reviews and predictions, we’re stopping at the wildly unpredictable NFC East division. Where will each team stand by the end of December? 

Washington Football Franchise

Richard Wehrle prediction 10-6, division champs

I never thought I would write this but the Redskins seem like the most stable team in the NFC East this season. Kirk Cousins took control of the offense during the offseason for the first time as a starter. Stability at the quarterback position will help the Redskins take a step forward this year. Their defense was upgraded this offseason with the addition of Josh Norman and players like S’ua Cravens. If they are to make some noise this year they need to focus on running the ball and stopping the run. I am not sure if this will be evident the first few games of the season but I believe they will ultimately figure them out. The Redskins finish at 10-6 this year making the playoffs for the second year in a row. Richard Wehrle

Scott Browns prediction 10-6, division Champs

​The Washington Redskins were 9-7 last season and won the division. In the off season they improved their secondary by picking up Josh Norman (Panthers) when he became available. The run game had issues last year, some due to offensive line injuries, some due to second year and probable starter Matt Jones dropping the ball. And their wide reciever corps is one of the best in the league if DeSean Jackson can stay healthy. They will be tough this season, winning the division with a 10-6 record. Scott Brown

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 10-6, division champ. 

I have faith in captain Kirk. Right now he is the best and healthiest QB in the division. The D is solid and Jay gruden is proving to be a pretty damn good coach. J.Russell Zinn

Kip ambrose prediction 10-6, division champs.

Finally having a reliable quarterback under center should do huge things for this franchise. The receiving corps becomes loaded after drafting Josh Doctson in the first round of the draft. By far the biggest get for them this offseason was Josh Norman, arguably one of the top 5 corners in football. I do worry that he might get exposed a lot more than usual this season, as the Redskins pass rush is decent at best, which will give the quarterback a lot more time to throw. Norman, or any corner for that matter, can only hold out in coverage for so long. Ryan Kerrigan has been a fringe-elite pass rusher thus far in his career, and he’ll need to step up to the next level if the Redskins pass rush actually wants to pose a threat. The schedule that they face is decent, with games against the Bengals, Packers, Steelers, and Cardinals showing up, but I expect the to end with a winning record. Kip Ambrose


Antwon Smiths prediction 9-7 2nd in the division 

Kirk Cousins can finally move on as the teams starting QB without having to deal with any kind of controversy. Washington spent their 1st round pick on WR Josh Doctson to give Cousins another target to stretch the field with Jackson, Garçon and Reed, which could make them one of the scariest units in the NFC. The Skins’ have a young defense and that could be the question mark of how their season will play out, but Preston Smith could be a bright spot that may be something to build around. Antwon Smith

Micheal Eccleston prediction 10-6 division Champs.

Washington is the most complete team in the NFC East. The offense is led by a much improved Kirk Cousins at quarterback, and with weapons such as Matt Jones, Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, the potential is there for a big year. The defense wasn’t very good last season, but the addition of top cornerback Josh Norman will help sure up the secondary. They will still struggle putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but as long as Cousins plays well, which might be the biggest “if” going into this season, the Redskins will finish atop the division. Micheal Ecceleston

Brian Jones prediction. 7-9, 3rd in the division.

Kirk Cousins still hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record and is facing questions on whether or not he is a long-term solution. The defense, additions withstanding, can’t do it all and will have to carry the team this season. Their running game and defensive line have questions and their schedule does them no favors. Look for last season’s division winners take a step back this season. Brian Jones.

Micheal Hesters prediction 5-11, last in division.

Why such low expectations for the Redskins. They will have another offensively explosive year but the fact that they didn’t beat a single team above the .500 mark in 2015 speaks volumes. Kirk Cousins’ mediocrity will shine. Defense has holes in the secondary, even with the addition of Josh Norman. And it gets even gloomier when you realize they’ll be facing several explosive offenses in 2016. (Bengals, Steelers, Giants, Panthers, Cowboys to name a few) Micheal Hester


New York Giants

Scott Browns prediction 7-9, 3rd in division.

The New York Giants finished last season 6-10, ushering in the end of the Tom Coughlin era for the team. The fact that they got rid of Coughlin and kept most of his staff indicates that in the front office’s mind he was the problem. We will see. They made huge improvements to their pass rushing, run stopping and secondary on defense but their offensive line is atrocious. The Giants will do better than last year, but still miss the playoffs. Scott Brown 

Micheal Eccleston prediction 9-7, second in the division.

The Giants are definitely the most improved team in the NFC East. Last season, New York had a historically bad defense, and they were still right in nearly every game until the very end. This past offseason, they signed three of the best free agents out there in defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Strong safety Landon Collins looks to improve in his second full season in the league. Rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard joins a receiving core led by star Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz who is trying to come back after missing most of the past two seasons. Quarterback Eli Manning is coming off two of his best statistical seasons behind center. This team has potential. Michael Ecceleston

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 9-7, second in division.

The G-men. They have the most exciting player in the game the must see ODB jr. Eli is a gamer who may have his career year this year. Problem is who’s running the ball? Will the retooled d gel? Can it stay healthy? How will they react now that they are out of the highly controlling Tom Coughlin watch. Will they implode with freedom or blossom without the pressure?  J.Russell Zinn

Richard Wehrle predicts 6-10, third in the division 

The Giants had a rough season last year. They upgraded their defense significantly spending a ton of money in free agency. I like the addition of Eli Apple through the draft, he could be a stud for many years to come. The Giants have a first year head coach in Ben McAdoo and when he and Eli Manning are on the same page their offense can be scary. McAdoo is still a first year coach though and I expect more of the same this season. The Giants finish with a 6-10 record this season. 

Micheal Hesters prediction 10-6 2nd in the division.

The New York Giants will be a toss-up team. They have an offense that can light it up, Eli should be locked in to McAdoo’s West Coast offense and they have revamped their offense. All of those reasons I just mentioned though, could also be New York’s downfall in 2016. Odell Beckham and Eli Manning could be the next, hottest QB/WR combo in the NFL. But can the Giants improve their running game woes and get some consistency in the trenches. (Offensive line/defensive line) Eli Manning has broken away from his 2013 self, which saw him lead the league in interceptions. With a good run game and some consistent play from his line, the Giants offense can be a lethal, volume scoring machine. With the additions of Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison on the defensive line to aid the pass rush and run support, this Giants team could find itself as division champs if all the cards align properly. Micheal Hester

Brian Jones Prediction 8-8, 2nd in division 

Although almost $200 million was spent on defense last season it’s going to be the offense that will hold the G-Men back in 2016. They don’t have much of a running game, Eli has a propensity to throw picks by the bunches and Odell Beckham, Jr. can’t do it on his own. The Giants won’t have the firepower to keep up this season. Brian Jones

Kip Ambrose’s prediction 9-7, 2nd in division.

The Giants are definitely the most improved team in the NFC East. Last season, New York had a historically bad defense, and they were still right in nearly every game until the very end. This past offseason, they signed three of the best free agents out there in defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Strong safety Landon Collins looks to improve in his second full season in the league. Rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard joins a receiving core led by star Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz who is trying to come back after missing most of the past two seasons. Quarterback Eli Manning is coming off two of his best statistical seasons behind center. This team has potential. Kip Ambrose

Antwon Smith predicts 10-6. Division champs

The G-Men are looking to regain control in the East as they have revamped their defense and put in some key pieces on offense as well. Eli Manning is coming towards the end with the Giants so it’s win now or bust, so with new coach Be McAdoo it’s all about winning. The Giants are healthy for the first time in a long time and that could spell trouble for the rest of the divisSmithon. Olivier Vernon, Jenoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison bring much needed fire power along with rookies Eli Apple and Darian Thompson, they should be heavily revamped and ready to go. Sterling Shepard could step in right away and fill the shoes of Victor Cruz who is yet to show traces of his former self. Antwon Smith


Philadelphia Eagles 


Micheal Eccleston prediction 6-10 last in the division 

They most likely have the most talented defense in the NFC East, but there are too many holes here. Offensively, their wide receivers are below average at best. Jordan Matthews has proven to be a solid number 2 option, and he needs to be a number 1, which is a problem in itself. Nelson Agholor will need to step up big time, and Reuben Randle is not much of an upgrade. Ryan Mathews hasn’t proven himself to be a reliable starting runningback in this league. Then at quarterback, well, let’s just say number 2 pick in this year’s draft, Carson Wentz, will be behind center by Week 8. If you add the fact that the offensive line is going to struggle protecting the quarterback, this just isn’t a formula for success. 2016 is a transition year in Philadelphia. Michael Eccleston

Richard Werhle prediction 4-12,

 

last place

The Eagles enter the season with a first year head coach Doug Pederson after Chip Kelly completely destroyed their team over the past couple of seasons. Under the watch of Kelly many good football players were released in order to fit his “system.” I think that the Eagles will suffer from that for a few more years to come. Carson Wentz starts 8 games for the Eagles this year and they finish 4-12 at the bottom of the NFC East. 4-12 Richard Werhle

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 5-11, 3rd in division.

I don’t understand Philly. You think you need a new voice so you can Reid. You decide you want to think out of the box. You hire chip Kelly. You see how he’s alienating his players, but you double down and let him rebuild the team as frankenteam.” The moment you let him do that you had to commit to letting him finish the experiment. You knew he was losing the team, why did you let him do it then?  You had to either stop him before he started making frankenteam or commit to letting him finish. Now this abomination of a team will take some time to rebuild. I like Doug Pederson and think he will be a great coach. I don’t think he will be the coach of Philly anymore when they finally are ready to be good again. J.Russell Zinn

Antwon Smiths prediction 6-10, 3rd in division

Philly is on the road to redemption with new coach and former Eagles QB Doug Pederson at the helm. They have a controversial QB decision to make with veteran Sam Bradford and incoming Rookie sensation Carson Wentz moving forward. Fletcher Cox leads a good defensive line unit that will need help from the rest of their youth at linebackerand in the secondary as they may struggle on D for at least one more season. If the Eagles can get steady play on defense and make plays to put up points, they could sway my prediction. Antwon Smith

Scott Brown’s prediction 9-7, second in division. Wildcard playoff.

The Philadelphia Eagles ended last season at 7-9. The Chip Kelly era ended and the team unloaded some of his failed acquisitions changinging the whole flavor of the draft in the process. They also strengthened their secondary with Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks, who are both familiar with the defensive schemes of Jim Schwartz from their time in Buffalo together. Schwartz is the best pick up the team made this year and the defense is going to be a beast. I’m not sure that will compensate for the lack of talent and depth on the offensive line. The Eagles will improve to 9-7 and possibly sneak into the playoffs with a wild card spot. Scott Brown


Dallas Cowboys 

Micheal Hesters prediction 11-5, division champs 

The Cowboys’ formula is 2014 was simple and successful. Getting back to that formula will be easy and can make them successful again. Throw out the hype, all of it. Let’s talk real football: the Cowboys have possibly the best offensive line in the NFL. Five maulers upfront combined with the power/elusive blend of first rounder, Ezekiel Elliott and the bell-cow running of former Redskin, Alfred Morris, can make Dallas’ offense one that’s almost impossible to stop. More importantly, it should keep their deadly-when-healthy quarterback, Tony Romo, upright and give him the pleasure of not having to sling the ball as much yet again. Add in a now healthy Dez Bryant, who’s only two years removed from leading the league in touchdown receptions, along with the ageless Jason Witten and upcoming weapons like Wes Welker-ish Cole Beasley, and the Cowboys offense can be a vicious one. Like their NFC East counterparts, their questions are on the defensive side of the ball. But unlike their NFC East counterparts, they have an offense that  can literally control the game clock and keep Rod Marinelli’s ever-hustling defense off the field and with fresh legs. Micheal Hester

Kip Ambrose prediction 8-8, 3rd in division

Talk about a roller coaster ride. This Cowboys offense has the potential to be the best in all of football if they can stay healthy. Both quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant are coming off injury-plagued seasons. Kip Ambrose 

Antwon Smiths prediction 4-12, last in division

Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys may have one of the toughest roads in the teams storied history and under Mr. Jones. Tony Romo has been held back by injuries the last couple of seasons and may be making his last run in the Big D, but he isn’t the only big name player looking to get his swag back as Dez Bryant tries to put last season behind him also and to do that they must work as a unit to get the boys out of this hole. Garrett has even more problems on defense as he has to deal with suspensions and a slew of new faces to piece together a defensive unit that lacks experience which could make it hard for them to gel as a unit. I don’t see them making much noise but the rivalries in the division could help them out if they are to stay afloat.

Brian Jones prediction 10-6,  division champs
.

This prediction, obviously, is predicated on Tony Romo’s health. I’m not as concerned with the defense as most people are, I think they’ll be just fine. If Romo stays healthy they win this division easily. If he’s not healthy, they can look forward to another top 5 pick. Brian Jones

Micheal Ecceleston predicts 8-8, 3rd in division.

Talk about a roller coaster ride. This Cowboys offense has the potential to be the best in all of football if they can stay healthy. Quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant are coming off injury-plagued seasons and even though I expect them to perform well, the Cowboys’ defense is suspect at best. Rookie runningback Ezekiel Elliot is also dealing with a hamstring injury which is definitely worth monitoring throughout the season. Dallas has a wall of an offensive line that should be able to keep Romo upright. The offense can be great, but the defense is far from great. Michael Ecceleston 

Scott Brown prediction 3-13, last in division.

The Dallas Cowboys were 4-12 last year. Nothing is going to change. Tony Romo will get hurt. They have no pass rush. Their secondary is questionable. I like their first round draft pick, Ezekiel Elliott, but so what?
 

Richard Wehrle predicts 7-9, 2nd in the division.

The Cowboys finished 4-12 last season which was last in the NFC East. The Cowboys have had a lot of ups and downs this offseason. They start the season with three defensive starters on the side line due to off the field issues. They should have a solid one-two punch with Elliot and Morris in the backfield. It all comes down to whether or not Romo can stay healthy this season. I think he starts no more than 6 games and the Cowboys finish 7-9. Richard Wehrle

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 3-13. Last in division.

It’s possible they could be better then this. They have the top o-line in football. They have (when healthy) a top 10 QB, a hof te, and a top 6 wr. That shouldn’t be this bad. Except they have no pass rush, no defensive secondary. Tony Romo’s bones have been replaced with peanut brittle. Dez is always just a video on a phone away from jail. I can’t guarantee that Ezekiel Elliot will be the biggest bust in the draft….but I saw him and Melvin Gordon III on the same field in college and Ezekiel isn’t half the back mg3 is. The same mg3 who averaged 2.7 yards per carry last year. This will be the year that Ole Jerra changes coaches again. If by pattern of the last few it will be after their blow out loss to Green Bay. J.Russell Zinn

Four Games That Don’t Matter

As I type this, not a single down of preseason football (thanks to some mysterious paint) has yet to be played. Not a single star player has succumbed to a season ending injury in a meaningless game. 

It hasn’t happened…yet. It will though. It always does. Some fan base is going to get its heart ripped out, some GM is going to start calling fading veterans to grab a replacement. All over some games that don’t count.

20 games. 20. When you count preseason that’s how many games a NFL team plays before the playoffs. 4 preseason, 16 regular season. That’s a lot of football. Yes the starters only play about 7 quarters of football in the preseason. Still, that’s a lot of time on the field. For what? 2 games would be enough in the preseason to get the teams ready. Most of the position battles are decided in practice not preseason games. So why do we have them? Why do owners risk their multi-million dollar investments? Why do teams risk their season?

Money. Money is why. Those multi-billion dollar TV deals include the preseason. Preseason tickets cost the same as regular season tickets. Parking in preseason games is the same cost as regular season. So are concessions. NFL owners aren’t giving up 2 games of income. The NFL is selling 20 games. That’s not changing.

So what is the answer? How do we cut down on these meaningless games and pointless injuries?

Well the answer is simple; yet not easy. It is to take 2 preseason games and make them into fully counting regular season games. 

The first roadblock to this is that it means more time on the field for those stars. That the risk for injury goes up with 2 more games that mean something. 2 more games that they will play all 4 quarters of. 

Here’s my answer, it’s threefold. First you add a second bye. The extra rest, that week of healing will go further to help keep them able to play than a few quarters off in preseason.

 Second every NFL players can only be active for 17 of the 18 games. It would add an entire level of strategy of when do you have your star player inactive? When do they have that personal bye week? It makes depth of roster so much more important. It also means that if you are borderline with an injury there will be less pressure to rush back prematurely because you can just use your mandatory inactive game when you need it. 

Third you increase roster size, this allows almost every player to play fewer snaps, increasing the NFL jobs while making the battles to make the roster less important. It also allows teams to spend more time to develop young players. How do teams pay for these extra players? Well most would be league minimum guys and you now have two more games that you can increase what you charge the TV networks for those games. With the second bye and 2 more games you’ve added 3 weeks of real regular season football to the network schedules. That’s more income. 

The second roadblock is how do you evaluate young players without the extra training camp and preseason games? Well the expanded rosters actually make that a full season of development and work for guys who would have been cut in the old system. What else needs to be done is increasing the initial roster size. 

Say 90 players until week 4 then you cut to the increased regular roster size of say 75 after week 4. That allows coaches the shortened training camp, 2 preseason games and a month of regular practices and 4 regular games to make the roster decisions. 

There we have a way to add to regular season games, get rid of 2 preseason games, increase NFL profits and NFL player jobs. All while keeping the same or even lowering the entire number of downs a player plays in the course of the current 20 games structure, and actually gives them more rest to recover. It makes fantasy football more fun and allows you to see your young talent and depth on the field more.

Think anyone will listen to me?