The Wildcard’s NFL Predictions - Week 1

Arizona+Cardinals+v+Atlanta+Falcons+oKg6JCNuQ4_x.jpg

Last Season: 160-94-2

 

Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)

Friday 12.30pm NZT

Hola amigos! He vuelto para otra temporada de esto. Ves algo diferente? Si, esta columna está escrita completamente en español ahora! Haha! Buena suerte con eso, compañero. Los Cowboys van todo el camino, Dak Prescott es el rey.

Nah jokes, can’t be bothered keeping that up.

Rightio, new season then. Patriots at home? Check.

Tom Brady is fit? Irrelevant but also check.

Bill Belichick hasn’t had his secret dark powers harvested by The Woodsmen yet? Check.

Patriots knocked these guys out of the playoffs last season? Check.

Chiefs haven’t won in Foxboro since 1990? Check.

Oh I see. Then everything is wrapped up in a neat little package.

1251183.jpg

(First Simpsons reference of the season, what a moment!)

Wildcard’s Pick: Patriots by 6

New York Jets (0-0) at Buffalo Bills (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

If the Bills are trying to tank they’re not doing a great job of it. In fact they’re doing the worst possible job of it – they still have a half-decent quarterback and a defence that could do some damage but with the rest of the team pretty much gutted. Too good for a top three pick and not good enough to compete.

Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby were stunningly traded away by a team that has six picks in the first three rounds. That’s a clear sign, right? Except LeSean McCoy is still there ready to eat up some yardage and Tyrod Taylor, even if he’s been treated a bit crap by the Bills, remains capable of at least keeping them in games. But then this isn’t the NBA where one new player makes all the difference. You can’t build a whole team in one draft so in trying to overlap their future rebuild with their current intentions they might be going about this secretly quite intelligently.

Of course, Tyrod Taylor may not agree – they already had the top rushing team in the NFL (thanks in no small part to his own scrambling ability) and now they’re working with a new set of WRs. Frankly it looks like they’re setting him up to fail and his recent concussion stuff doesn’t help things. Back in a 4-3 defence they should bring the heat off the ball but they still won’t be able to throw it.

Now, if they really wanted tanking advice then they could do a lot worse than chatting to the New York Jets, who begin this new season with the glorified title of Worst Team in the NFL.

Like, seriously, prove me wrong here. I dare you.

Wildcard’s Pick: Bills by 9

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Man, this new season of the NFL. Sure gets you pumped for those early kiwi Monday mornings. Up at the break of dawn to witness the finest athletes in their chosen profession doing incredible things, marvelling at the ability of these incredible…

… ah, bollocks.

Wildcard’s Pick: Texans by 7

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

The Browns are the Browns and being up against to the Steelers first up… seems like an easy one to pick. I’ve got high hopes for Pittsburgh this season. Last time they took it all the way to the conference final and this year they welcome back Martavius Bryant as well after his suspension. Could be Big Ben’s last year in the league, if so he’s got the best team around him he could realistically hope for. Just a matter of keeping everyone healthy now, of course.

Although there was one distraction. Le’Veon Bell didn’t take too kindly to being franchise tagged and he pretty much skipped the whole preseason. In fact the jobless bloke even went as far as applying for other vocational positions as he waited out before signing his one-year deal.

Funny guy. Bell left his mark on the dotted line eventually and then said some stuff about wanting to wait so as not to risk injury in preseason while playing for a new contract. Fair enough, as long as he’s in the right physical shape then he’s good enough to put it all together in quick time. Dude tore an MCL in 2015 and still rushed for 4.9 y/c last season. It ain’t like he takes it easy either – Bell is one of only five RBs with 1000+ touches since he was drafted into the league in 2013 and thanks to injuries he’s played fewer games than anyone above him.

Also this is bound to endear him to a few folks…

Wildcard’s Pick: Steelers by feckin’ 20

Arizona Cardinals (0-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Here’s the complete list of players who Matt Stafford earns more money than:

  • Literally every other player in the NFL.

And, yeah, that’s it.

Let us not dwell upon the negatives, however. Let us instead ponder what a fully fit (fingers crossed) Ziggy Ansah might do in 2017 for what last year was one of the worst pass rushes in the game. Let us also ponder what David Johnson might be able to do if he had a half-decent offensive line in front of him. By the way, old quarterback + lots of hits on said old quarterback = lotsa trouble.

I definitely think there’s bounce-back potential about this Cardinals team but the worry is that they might not have improved that line at all and they’ve lost several key defenders (Tony Jefferson, Calais Campbell, Keith Minter, Alex Okafor…). A full season from Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson will be hell for the 49ers and Rams but the Seahawks and even a team like Detroit are fairly well poised to exploit those weaknesses too. Definitely a contest I’ll be keeping a close eye on, for sure.

alwayssunny-maccateyes.JPG

Wildcard’s Pick: Lions by 2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Ermm, maybe not…

The Florida derby shan’t be taking place as advertised on account of there’s a hurricane a-blowing. So understandably, after what just happened in Texas, the Dolphins have decided not to play this one in their home stadium. The NFL might ask them to play on neutral territory or they could play later in the season since both these teams share a bye in mid-November. As of writing they still haven’t decided but… yeah. Safety first.

Jay Cutler: “Luckily for us, we started Monday, so we're ready to go. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday we're kind of open to anything. This team is young and flexible and they're ready to rock.”

That’s just a reminder that Jay Cutler’s starting for these dudes these days. Adam Gase means it shouldn’t be as bad as that sounds though nothing he does can make Jay anything other than Jay Cutler. I liked that quote too. The Dolphins want to play. Let’s rock.

Assuming they do play then I’m strongly favouring the Buccs to start this season well. Jameis Winston is coming off a good one and I’m expecting a better one in 2017. Ooh they got DeSean Jackson too, almost forgot about that. They were 9-7 last season. One more win and they’d have been in the playoffs.

Wildcard’s Pick: Buccs by 6

Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Pretty easy one here. What I’m curious about is A) the Falcons bouncing back after choking away the Super Bowl and B) where that defence goes for ATL. The offence is bound to take a slight step back if only because they hit such heights last time (it’s not like they’re any worse on paper) while they’ve added a fair few enticing players on defence. Hey, if they had Dontari Poe, Jack Crawford and Takkarist McKinley last year they might have even held on to that 28-3 lead…

Wildcard’s Pick: Falcons by… umm… 16

Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

There was a real interesting feature on Sports Illustrated the other day about Marcus Mariota’s development, how he’s transitioned into a professional offensive system from that spread stuff in college and all that. There’s lots of hype about Mariota and the Titans. Lotsa hype about Carr and the Raiders too – which makes this a pretty hyped up game on the whole. The Raiders were the team that unexpectedly jumped out to a 12-4 record last season, making their first playoffs since 2002… the Titans were a two-win team when Mariota was drafted and two seasons later they were within one win of the playoffs. They could be in 2017 what the Raiders were in 2016.

Considering what Andrew Luck’s got to work with (once he gets back to 100%), what’s going on in Jacksonville and the Tom Savage show in Houston… Mariota’s helming the best offence in that division. If they can take care of J.J. Watt’s Texans defence then that division title is there for the taking – keep that in mind when people call them overrated in response to the hype, they don’t even have to be that good to get a home playoff.

Here’s a coincidence for you (!there are no coincidences!): Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota are both playing their first regular season games since breaking legs on the same day last year – Christmas Eve.

Spare a thought for Connor Cook. You may never hear of him again or he may go on to have a fine NFL career but he was the dude who last year had to make his debut start in the playoffs away in Houston and threw three picks in a comfortable loss. It was a crap way for the Raiders’ season to end. Derek Carr got injured in week 16 and Matt McGloin got injured in week 17, leaving Cook the last man standing. To be honest McGloin might not have done any better and even with the Texans having to field Brock Osweiler that day – man, it was a terrible game – they were buggered from the moment Carr went down.

But that’s all motivation for this season now.

Wildcard’s Pick: Hmm… Raiders by 1

Baltimore Ravens (0-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Two teams who might do something in 2017 and will surely be competitive most weeks but I dunno where the ceiling is for either of them. For one thing Cincy are gonna be starting with a couple key defensive players missing and that was an underperforming unit last time anyway. Yet the Ravens have only just last week got Joe Flacco back in training and that means zero snaps for the first team on offence there all preseason. Same goes for their offensive line, no snaps with their top five together. Jeremy Maclin’s a great addition out wide but as with their opponents this week there are a couple too many variables to really pick it.

One thing we do know is that on the other side of the ball the Bengals offence should be all sorts of explosive and the Ravens put good cash on their secondary which is where you wanna pay attention in this one. Andy Dalton’s numbers are gonna reflect the way it all goes.

And, you know, the Ravens ain’t quothed in Cincinnati since 2012 and have lost ten of their last 12 there including the last five in a row at Paul Brown Stadium.

Wildcard’s Pick: Bengals by 5

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at Washington R*dskins (0-0)

Monday 5.00am NZT

Bit weird. Then again, Kirk Cousins is nothing if not weird. DO YOU LIKE THAT!?

Kirk Cousins: “In the offseason, the ball is in the team’s court. But from Week 1 to Week 17, the ball’s in my court, and I’ve got to go play football well, so that’s where my focus is.”

Where exactly is your focus, bro? Because it sounds like you’re playing tennis, not football.

Curious game, this. Both the Eagles and R*dskins should rate themselves as playoffs prospects but they’re also both clearly a step off where the Cowboys and Giants are in the NFC East. But then this is the NFC East to literally anything could happen. Rookie QB comes from nowhere to dominate? Happened last season. One team wins the division with a 9-7 record but goes on to win the Super Bowl? Yup, seen that one too.

Last year the division combined for 39 wins, a pretty hefty total considering they’re all playing each other six times too. Every team won at least two divisional games while their record against everyone else was 27-12-1. All three of Dallas’ losses came against division rivals while Philly, who came last in the East, had a winning record outside their conference. Point being when it comes to the head to heads, there’s very little separating any of the four teams. Kirk Cousins is playing for another contract, Carson Wentz is one year better, Dak Prescott too while Eli Manning remains Eli Manning.

 he Skins would be the early pick to come fourth here and I think they’ll struggle against the Eagles here in their opener. There are just a couple too many things that need to break right for Washington to compete for sixteen full games and I like what Philly have done bringing in Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith. Ronaldo Darby from Buffalo too, that dude can play and in this division a good cornerback goes a long way. Although I don’t understand why people think Dak’s in for a sophomore slump while Wentz seems to get away with it.

Wildcard’s Pick: Eagles by 3

Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Los Angeles Rams (0-0)

Monday 8.05am NZT

Here’s hoping one of the early games goes into OT so I don’t end up watching twenty minutes of this one. No Andrew Luck for Indy and Ryan Kelly and Vontae Davis won’t be playing either. Aaron Donald’s being a pain about his contract so he probably won’t play and there goes one more reason to watch.

FRIENDS-JoeyNotListening.gif

Wildcard’s Pick: Rams by 4

Carolina Panthers (0-0) at San Francisco 49ers (0-0)

Monday 8.25am NZT

You’ll get good odds on the 49ers even getting to five wins this season so with the Panthers looking to bounce back from whatever the hell last season was supposed to be, this is about the perfect beginning.

Just, ah, gonna leave this here now…

Wildcard’s Pick: Panthers by 12

Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-0)

Monday 8.25am NZT

Seem to recall a few classics between these two teams in the past and if you happened to read my QB Rankings last week then you know that I rate both these two starters rather highly. Oh yeah, brave call, Wildcard. Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are good? And the sun’s bloody hot too.

I dropped Rodgo from top spot for the first time this year. Had to pay my respects to Tom Brady after all. Brady paid his respects to Rodgers too, check out this for a quote. Obviously he wasn’t gonna slag him but this is a step beyond bland praise.

Tom Brady: “Aaron Rodgers does things that no one in the league has ever done. Some of the plays he makes are just phenomenal. Everything looks effortless with him, which is the amazing part. He makes hard look easy. He’s just an incredible player.”

For comparison…

ESPN’s Dumbass Stupid QB Tier Rankings:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Ben Roethlisberger
  4. Drew Brees
  5. Matt Ryan
  6. Andrew Luck
  7. Derek Carr
  8. Philip Rivers
  9. Matthew Stafford
  10. Russell Wilson

The Wildcard’s Mighty 2017 QB Rankings:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Matt Ryan
  4. Russell Wilson
  5. Ben Roethlisberger
  6. Cam Newton
  7. Drew Brees
  8. Andrew Luck
  9. Matt Stafford
  10. Dak Prescott

(Technically Brady and Rodgers are tied (*cough* cop out *cough*) and so are Rivers and Stafford)

I think I made preeeetty good reasonings for my own top ten (they think Cam goes from MVP to twelfth best in his position in one year!?) but I will admit I overrated Dak Prescott considering how I’m otherwise really careful with inexperienced players (like Derek Carr, rated )

No worries, these things are supposed to be subjective. It’s cool if you disagree with the list, it’s hardly definitive after all. And, yes, I agree that Sam Bradford is punching to be top 20 but he got lucky with a system that works fairly well for him and to be fair I was always a bit of a cheerleader for him in St Louis while he kept going sideways. And Jameis Winston will be top 15 next year if he can repeat the dose or better, I guarantee you that.

(Hit us up on twitter or in the facebook comments if you’ve got a question or a pondering – I’m keen to go full Bill Simmons on this bastard since Bill Simmons ain’t been full Bill Simmons since Grantland died. I’ll respond in here each week if ya do.)

Hey and I don’t get what the drama is about the new Seattle alternate logo. I kinda like it, to tell you the truth. I think people are always just sceptical when it comes to change.

DJB3L8JUwAETa70.jpg

Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by 4

New York Giants (0-0) at Dallas Cowboys (0-0)

Monday 12.30pm NZT

Huh, Giants and Cowboys beginning the season with a televised head to head? Another bold move by the NFL offices there. Speaking of which: Ezekiel Elliott. Don’t wanna touch the actual events again, would prefer to steer well clear of a tricky situation. But Zeke has had his six-match ban upheld while still being made eligible for this opener thanks to the elongated legal process. The NFLPA is completely on his side, the team has his back. These days those things don’t happen if there’s much doubt about things – the stigma against domestic abusers is quite rightly pretty huge by this time.

The longer this thing drags on the more frustrating it gets. The NFL really can’t handle anything right, can they? Like, it’s beyond a punchline how mental it is that every major disciplinary case ends up in a monstrous legal challenge, sort your life out Goodell. Beginning by not making it look like you’re trying to make a PR statement by coming down extra hard on folks with these. Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones were notoriously on-side with Goodell in the past, now they’ve both been slammed by the NFL.

Goddamn. Let’s not do that.

Long-time readers of this stuff may be aware that I don’t tend to disguise my Dallas Cowboys affiliations too much. The ‘Boys were unexpectedly great last season. Didn’t translate into a playoff win but only because of Aaron Rodgers’ brilliance. And, you know, that defence was terrible from the start so saying that it’s trash now doesn’t change much. I also think they can ride through the Elliott suspension and I’ve seen nothing to suggest Dak Prescott is coming in for a sophomore slump. More of a problem is all the pass rushers they have with four-game suspensions – somebody musta spilled their magic beans in the Gatorade because they’re all testing positive for something or other. Dallas can definitely challenge but they’ll need some young players and late picks to really come through for them.

As for the G-Men, they’re extremely close to what Dallas can offer. Right down to the potential Super Bowl run if things break right. Brandon Marshall at WR to complement Odell Beckham (and also not rely so much on OBJr after his boat party antics last time) is massive. Can’t really say I believe in Paul Perkins as the answer at running back to an awful rush game but… meh. Fair play to him. The Giants’ defence is top quality though, this should be a typically entertaining Giants-Cowboys clash alrighty.

Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 6

New Orleans Saints (0-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-0)

Tuesday 11.10am NZT

Saints and Vikings. That’s funny because you know who just signed for the Saints after playing his whole career at the Vikings, including winning MVP with the team, aye?

Five bucks you hear Adrian Peterson’s name in excess of one hundred times during the broadcast.

Wildcard’s Pick: Vikings by 2

Los Angeles Chargers (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0)

Tuesday 2.20pm NZT

Meet Younghoe Koo, the new kicker for the Chargers. Hails from South Korea via New Jersey and he’s amazing.

Could be a really good one, this. A couple division rivals who probably backed themselves to make the playoffs last season only for neither to get there. The Chargers will really wanna pick things up after a 5-11 season ended their tenure in San Diego. They should, too. This AFC West looks really strong and given the plights of a couple other AFC teams it wouldn’t be a shock to see the West supplying three teams for the ol’ postseason.

Obviously they’ve all gotta deal with the Raiders now though they showed last time out they’re pretty reliant on Derek Carr still – we’ll see how Marshawn Lynch goes but wouldn’t anticipate him hitting the old heights straight away or anything. The Broncos are the opposite of a team reliant on their quarterback. Trevor Siemian is solid but nothing more while Phil Rivers and the Chargers… yeah they’re on his shoulders as always. That’s not a bad thing though, better to have a quarterback you’re dependent on than one you can’t rely on.

I’ve got questions about the Broncos that will take a few weeks to unfold and I’m curious to see how the Kansas City Chiefs go too – usually they’re as consistent as it gets but drafting Mahomes could be a dawning of a new age, one where playoff wins are possible. The Chargers are probably, on paper, the weakest team in the division though… hence why this is a big game. A first up win as the New Los Angeles Chargers – and away against the Broncs too! - and we’ll see where they go. I still think they’re a team capable of getting on a real roll.

You know, as opposed to last year when they could’ve started 7-0 had they not choked away a ridiculous number of early leads.

So in those QB Ranking pieces I did, there was a story about Phil Rivers. Sorry, Philip Rivers. He was a bit stroppy about the team planning to leave San Diego and although he didn’t end up throwing a Carson Palmer about it all (haha, remember when he said he’d sooner retire than play for the Bengals ever again?), he still refused to move his family from San Diego. Understandable when he’s got like 25 children and all. Monsieur Rivers knows how to turn a negative into a positive though and that’s what the story was about – he was hiring a driver to take him to and fro into Los Angeles for training every day in a car converted into a video room for quarterback analysis.

Besides the obvious thing about braving LA traffic for a 90 minute (at least) drive every day, I guess it’s not so bad if you don’t have to drive and I guess it’s not so bad driving if you’re getting paid to chauffer a probable Hall of Fame NFL player. And, mate, you oughta see what the bloke came up with…

sd-1504544067-58wx1lnnpm-snap-image.jpg

San Diego Tribune: “Essentially, his mode of transportation is a mobile man cave with the seats like those in a first class airplane set side-by-side in the back facing forward, plenty of room for a 6-foot-5 quarterback to fully recline while watching film on the 40-inch television screen separating the front seat and rear cabin. There is satellite TV, WiFi and a small refrigerator Rivers would rather you call a cooler. For upwards of $200,000 (plus a driver’s salary), anyone can make the freeway melt away.”

It’s quite the commute, right?

Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 3, have some!


The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. He is the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream.


If you like what we write then reward us by smacking an ad. Only takes a split second to get it done... just like Le'Veon Bell at the one-yard line.