Last Season: 170-82-2
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Friday 12.20pm NZT
Bit late on the ol’ picks because the Quarterback Rankings took ages to do and hey I’m a busy fella after all. So have a read of that thing first because it’s got lots of words in it. Lots of words and lots of numbers too. Sequential numbers, just the way you like them. Also got a few of them pesky opinions too which is what you’re here for but I used heaps of them up over there already.
Anyway, I picked the Packers to win a close one. Aaron Rodgers against a division rival, even away from home amongst the festivities of the first game of the season, he’s the ultimate spoiler and with a fresh and exciting outlook for the season these Packers are a team I’ve got plenty of time for. By the time you’re reading this the game’s long over and the season has gotten underway and that pick turned out to be bang on. So that’s cool, nice way to get into it.
But oh my jeezus that was a shocking game of gridiron. Both defences were excellent but Mitch Trubisky was flirting with interceptions all night, neither team could run the ball to any decent standard, and only a few spare Aaron Rodgers moments really mattered in the end. But very promising early signs for the new regime in Green Bay. Giving Aaron Rodgers options to work with each play? Brilliant. Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Oh right, everybody other than Mike McCarthy had figured this out, that’s right.
Here are some highlights from the game…
Aaaaaaaand that’s about it.
Wildcard’s Pick: Packers by 3
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
Monday 5.00am NZT
You never quite know what to say ahead of the first game, aye? Every team has that feeling of optimism and a clean slate and until that optimism gets shattered into a million shards by the ruthless nature of the league, leaving devastation and emotional wreck in its wake. That’s what we do here after all. Most of watching sports is just feeling like trash but we do it because the high moments, rare as they are, are so unbelievably great.
The Kansas City Chiefs are my pick to win the Super Bowl (although the Saints are still way up there) and I’m far from alone in that sentiment. Patrick Mahomes is probably in for a little regression as other teams have now had a proper look at the reigning MVP and will come up with schemes to stop him but the Chiefs also have so much room to improve, insanely. Specifically on defence after giving up 6488 total yards last season, second only to the Bengals who were woeful. Now generally a team as good as the Chiefs don’t give away yards for free like that and with a couple sneaky additions – Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark specifically – they’re poised to balance out the ledger in 2019 which should give them a much more reliable shot at the big one.
But the Jags could be extremely useful themselves if Nick Foles clicks. If not then slap him and tell him he’s in Philly again and see how it goes. But the Jags… they’ve been close, you know. It was only two years ago that they made the AFC Championship game and now that the shadow of Blake Bortles has dissipated the road back to the playoffs from being a 5-win team last year might not be as far off as it seems. Especially on defence where they still have dudes like Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsay, and Myles Jack. Obviously a lot depends on McFoles but then quarterbacks are always a bit like that aren’t they, the silly buggers.
Also it helps for Jax that, like, the Texans just got weird with a few trades, the Colts just had their quarterback retired, and the Titans aren’t even entirely sure who their quarterback should be. It ain’t a weak division but it’s a very confused division, at least it will be for the first month of the season.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chiefs by 7
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings
Monday 5.00am NZT
Some thoughts on what I just read:
1) I absolutely refuse to believe the fact that Russell Wilson and Brock Osweiler have been in the league for the same amount of time
2) Russell Wilson should’ve gone second after Luck, clearly. Like at the time Andy Luck was a consensus first overall but Wilson came straight into the Seahawks and laid the beat down on Matt Flynn – he was NFL ready from the start and they slept on him for two full rounds
3) Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins are basically the same person, just that Foles has been made a little more humble by his failures and in turn has had successes far beyond The Cuzz
4) Shout out to RG3 for still getting at it. He’s the crash test dummy for Lamar Jackson at the moment and that’s not a terrible place to be – for a guy who burst onto the scene as dramatically as him to then settle into this no-ego backup role is pretty impressive
5) Brandon Weeden, lol
There’s another one relevant to both teams here. Safe to say there’ll be some passing yardage in this one and that kinda suits both teams, the question here as far as my pick goes is do I consider the Falcons to be a winning team? Because we all know that Cousins is utter mud against winning teams. Lucky for him everybody starts 0-0 and this isn’t a prime time game and it’s at home in Minnesota so his three enormous red flags stay out of sight. Crap, guess I’d better pick the Vikes then. It’s been foretold already… and in fairness I do like the talent they have around Cousins, particularly on the other side of the ball where Cuzz isn’t at all involved. Yeah nah that’ll do.
Wildcard’s Pick: Vikings by 5
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
Monday 5.00am NZT
It’s been 16 years since the Cleveland Browns last made the playoffs, the longest active streak in the NFL (the Buccs are next with 11, the Jets following with 8, and nobody else has been out longer than five years).
It’s been 21 years since the Browns last won a playoff game, the fourth longest active streak thanks to the general postseason ineptitude of the Cincinnati Bengals (28), Detroit Lions (27), and Buffalo Bills (23).
In those 16 years out of the playoffs, the Browns have finished last in their division on 13 occasions.
The Browns had the worst record in the NFL in 2016 and 2017 and tied worst in 2015.
Since re-entering the league in 1999 they have had two winning seasons in 20 years. They were a 9-7 effort in 2002 and a 10-6 in 2007, neither good enough for a division title.
In that time the Browns have a win-loss record of 95–224–1.
They have had 30 starting quarterbacks in those twenty years, with Tim Couch leading the way with 59 starts and only six of them completing the equivalent of a full season (16 games) in their Cleveland careers.
The list of those starting quarterbacks, in order of appearances, reads as follows…
Tim Couch, Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Charlie Frye, Brian Hoyer, DeShone Kizer, Baker Mayfield (yes, Baker is already eighth on the list with 13 career starts), Kelly Holcomb, Brady Quinn, Trent Dilfer, Josh McCown, Jeff Garcia, Jason Campbell, Cody Kessler, Johnny Manziel, Doug Pederson, Seneca Wallace, Robert Griffin III, Jake Delhomme, Luke McCown, Ken Dorsey, Tyrod Taylor, Austin Davis, Ty Detmer, Bruce Gradkowski, Kevin Hogan, Thaddeus Lewis, Connor Shaw, and Spergon Wynne. Some of those don’t even sound like real people.
So yeah anyway I just wanted to reinforce some of those ridiculous stats before the Browns make the step up into competitivity. Not saying they’ll make the playoffs… in fact I don’t think they will… but they’re at least going to win some games and they know who their quarterback is now and… tell you what, most franchises couldn’t be that bad if they honestly tried. And some have tried, Miami are tanking right now as we speak. It takes something special to be that inadequate. If this were the 1800s then the Cleveland Browns would be making big cash in one of those travelling freak shows.
Wildcard’s Pick: Browns by 7
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
Monday 5.00am NZT
Did you see that one? They reckon the Loch Ness Monster might actually just be a giant eel. Crazy, man. I mean I don’t really believe that there’s a huge prehistoric creature living in that lake or else it would have been discovered long ago and that famous photo is probably a hoax and there are plenty more mysteries in the world that actually have miraculous answers which we just take for granted all the time but I kinda hate when they send the scientists in to explore these things. We know it’s not real but let’s not destroy the mystery. There’s magic in the mystery. The world needs more magic.
So umm… Jets vs Bills? Nah, I’m good.
Wildcard’s Pick: Jets by 6
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Monday 5.00am NZT
Tell you what feels like a good idea… some preseason predictions! This is all off the top of the dome so don’t treat it like I’ve hunkered in the bunker for four months deliberating every little permutation but this is sorta where I’m leaning on it all…
AFC DIVISION WINNERS: New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans & Kansas City Chiefs
AFC WILDCARDS: Los Angeles Chargers & Pittsburgh Steelers
NFC DIVISION WINNERS: Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams
NFC WILDCARDS: Philadelphia Eagles & Seattle Seahawks
SUPER BOWL: New Orleans Saints beat Los Angeles Chargers
MVP: Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals)
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Joey Bosa (LA Chargers)
COACH OF THE YEAR: John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens)
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Le’Veon Bell (NY Jets)
A bit of love for the Ravens in there. I know a lot of people are big on the Browns but I reckon that might take another year or two for them to really emerge while the Ravens have much better immediate breakthrough potential with Lamar Jackson in place and with, more importantly, a little bit of a resurgence of defensive slegehammership. And they’ve got a nice easy one to start with.
Wildcard’s Pick: Ravens by 10
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington R*dskins
Monday 5.00am NZT
Okay so looking around the league I see five teams who are in direct competition for the number one overall pick. Not saying they’ll all be rubbish because this is a wild league where wild things happen but it seems like this is… actually let’s un-power rank them…
1. MIAMI DOLPHINS – Clearly tanking, having traded away their quarterback and chucked the dude they got in return on the bench. Hauling draft picks for talent as they did in the Houston trade is another dead giveaway, plus they’re on the first year of a new coach. Worst team, intentionally.
2. ARIZONA CARDINALS – They were the worst team in the NFL last year and now they’re starting a rookie quarterback… again. Kyler Murray has the goods so it’s not a matter of tanking here, however 2019 is all about easing their franchise leader into the future rather than chasing the Ws.
3. CINCINNATI BENGALS – Yeah they seem pretty poor. Andy Dalton steadies them to a degree but that defence has lost some dudes and the general shake up of moving on from a long term coach is always a tricky thing to get around.
4. NEW YORK GIANTS – Eli, bro. What’s going on? At least they’ve still got Saquon though and it’s not out of the question that he bags 2200 yards from scrimmage and leads them to a few handy wins. They’ve already got their QB of the future in Daniel Jones so a top five pick isn’t really necessary.
5. BUFFALO BILLS – Some people like them. They do actually have a lot of talent on that roster… but whether they’re winning games or not has a lot to do with whether they can get a step up year from Josh Allen and I just don’t quite buy that as happening.
6. WASHINGTON R*DSKINS – Not sure they were up to much anyway, having gone 7-9 the last two years in a division with two playoff calibre teams and now they’ve got Case Keenum starting. They’re eyeing up Dwayne Haskins in the long run for that role but he’s not ready to start quite yet.
Wildcard’s Pick: Eagles by 16
Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers
Monday 5.00am NZT
Here comes an upset…
Wildcard’s Pick: Panthers by 3
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers
Monday 8.05am NZT
Are the Colts really going to stay competitive without Andrew Luck? It’s a bit of a sneaky narrative that NFL dudes throw out the whole: “Jacoby Brissett’s actually pretty good though!” and yeah I’m struggling with that whole idea. What’s good is the Colts roster. Absolutely stacked and they will for sure be winning plenty of games this year. But they were Super Bowl contenders with a hypothetically fit and healthy Luck and with Brissett… yeah nah. 8-8 is the benchmark, though obviously this early in the season it’s impossible to speculate.
59.1% COMP | 13 TD | 7 INT | 6.5 AY/A | 81.6 RATE | 9.9% SACK%
Those are JB’s stats with the Colts. We’re also talking about something around 200 yards per game in his starts, all of which came in 2017, so forgive me if I can’t really see how he offers more to this team than backups around the league such as Ryan Tannehill or Tyrod Taylor. He’s been around the team a couple years and has experience as a starter, plus those sacks oughta drop with a much better O-Line in place these days so that helps. I’m big on these Chargers though.
Wildcard’s Pick: Chargers by 9
Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks
Monday 8.05am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: Seahawks by 20
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Monday 8.25am NZT
ESPN: “Since April, the Dallas Cowboys have signed defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Jaylon Smith, right tackle La'el Collins and running back Ezekiel Elliott to deals totaling $185.5 million in guaranteed money, which is more than what Jerry Jones paid to buy the franchise in 1989.”
Along with the fact that I just learned through spellcheck that Americans spell the word ‘totalling’ wrong, that’s an incredible statistic. Especially since Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper are due new deals themselves in the short term locking them up for the long term. Can’t argue with it though, the Cowboys are doing their darndest to keep this group intact and with a tad more consistency and health on that excellent offensive line of theirs they should be poised for a decent season. I’m backing Dak in particular to have his best campaign yet in the NFL. The numbers pre-Amari and post-Amari were pretty contrasting last time and a full season of a number one receiver, plus if Jason Witten is even a shadow of what he was in the Romo days then there’s a handy third down popper, not sure about the loss of Cole Beasley but there are some quick and nimble WRs of the youngest persuasion on this roster. And of course… Zeke.
Remember when Odell Beckham Jr was a New York Giant? Yeah those were the days. But he doesn’t play for them any more does he? Eli Manning does but not OBJ. Oh well, they were gonna be trash either way and at least this way OBJ gets to hang out with that vibrant positive influence that is Baker Mayfield. What a combo… on and off the field.
By the way Dak Prescott has won 13 out of 18 starts against NFC East rivals. Which is even better than his career rate of exactly two wins for every loss.
Wildcard’s Pick: Cowboys by 13
San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Monday 8.25am NZT
Don’t really know where to go with either of these teams. Jimmy G is better than people freaking out over preseason are giving him credit for, the Buccs look pretty awful to me but then how much of an influence will Bruce Arians have? Questions on both sides and that’s one of those week one ponderings where maybe it’s best not to think too deep about it all. Trust the old gut and don’t talk myself around in circles when honestly I just don’t have a gauge on either team.
Wildcard’s Pick: Niners by 2
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
Monday 8.25am NZT
Wildcard’s Pick: Lions by 6
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
Monday 12.20pm NZT
Yeah so I don’t necessarily write each preview in order so I’d already written the preview on the Raiders game which then needed rewriting and you can see all that in a sec. Or, like, just scan down and read it now, what do I care what order you read it as long as you read it?
Okay devil’s advocate here… which is weird because you’d think that siding with the devil would mean agreeing with the Patriots but okay. That was six years ago and Josh Gordon has continually proved unable to stay on the straight and narrow since then while Demaryius Thomas is 31 years old with injuries. Plus of course there’s only one ball to go around and the Patriots have a very clear hierarchy of leadership from Belichick down to Brady and then everyone else. Antonio Brown isn’t going to be as much of a nutcase in structures like this but he’s also not gonna get a leash to run around on either. Hopefully it all explodes in a fiery emotional crash.
But how about this, aye? He won’t be playing but the first game since Antonio Brown signed with the Pats and they’re up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s enough to make me want to pick a mini upset here despite the Steelers not winning at Foxborough since 2008 (that doesn’t sound right but whatever, I’ll trust the websites) and this is my column so if I want to do something, I will. The Pats often start slowly. They know week one doesn’t matter. They’re coming off a title. The Steelers have a whole lot to prove right now.
Wildcard’s Pick: Steelers by 0.5
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
Tuesday at 11.10am NZT
The Texans should ask if they can trade for this win for a sixth round pick. Maybe two sevens if they’ve lucky. I mean I kinda like what they did in getting Laremy Tunsil especially considering what it tells you about them going all in to protect Deshaun Watson but just not sure of the willingness to pay whatever it takes and all that. Kenny Stills will be a nice weapon as well, you’d hope. And I can even cop with giving up Jadaveon Clowney considered he wasn’t going to be r-signed anyway. It’s the draft picks they sent to Miami that’s the kicker… everybody should know in this day and age that draft picks are wild lotteries whether you trust your scouts completed or not. Injuries and suspensions and unexpected failures in development and all sorts can go wrong even if you don’t strike out and draft a dud. Andrew Luck, for example.
But that’s why you want more and more picks so that you get to roll the dice more often. And let me just tell you as a person who has supported the Cowboys when they drafted crap and when they drafted great (recently, happily) there’s just no way you can compete in a salary capped league such as this without constantly replenishing your side in the draft. So for a team that lost its running back to a season-ending knee injury and just traded away one of their two or three finest defensive players… are they ready to compete for a title immediately? Coz that’s what they’re positioning themselves for. I dunno, maybe they are.
New Orleans are definitely in title contention. Love this team, love how they play, love the options that they have… too good. This could be a really fun game. But, you know…
Wildcard’s Pick: Saints by 6
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
Tuesday 2.20pm NZT
This Week in Jon Gruden Mayhem:
Funny thing is these days Jon Gruden hasn’t even been the most mayhem-filled bloke at the Raiders the last few months. Groods had 2018 on lock with his constant madness and it’s not like he’s slowing down having been legit thinking about giving Nathan Peterman a prominent backup role in Oakland but nah here’s Antonio Brown coming along saying hold my beer old fella.
A recap of AB’s offseason:
Demanded a trade from the Steelers and here we are in Oakland now
Continually stirred up the beef (can beef be stirred?) at every possible opportunity with his old Steelers buddies, particularly Big Ben
Grew a moustache and dyed it blonde
Packed a huge sad because the NFL stopped him from wearing his favourite helmet
Got frostbite on his foot coz he didn’t wear shoes in the cryogenic chamber
Had a big argument with the Raiders GM
Shared the fine letter he got for that argument online
Then, incredibly, shared this video online…
Followed of course by an Instagram post demanding his release which the Raiders promptly adhered to. He’s lost his mind and the Raiders dug themselves this hole by trading away Amari Cooper (and not wanting to pay Khalil Mack before that), only to chase up a big money name who might be a better receiver than Cooper but he’s a much more abrasive personality. All comes back to dumb Jon Gruden things. For a third and fifth round pick they had AB for a couple months and he never got to play a proper game because, let me just say this: Jon Gruden has no control. He’s an illogical fella and illogical decisions confuse players and break the illusion of the coach’s power.
Umm… now this is what I’d already written before the news that he’d been released. And then the news that he’d signed with the New England Patriots. It’s not a minimum contract at the Pats but ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod this is a disaster. I hate this sport. I hate Bill Belichick. This is not fair.
But yeah Antonio, son. What’s going on here? Like, just lay low a little while and catch a few touchdowns… if the Raiders end up voiding his contract and releasing him then that’s just a complete and avoidable mess from all angles. Especially because he’ll probably then end up playing on a minimum contract for Bill Belichick on the Pats instead. Dammit.
Should probably add some words on the Broncos too but I’ve not got much to say. I think Joe Flacco will do quite well there, it’s a really good fit for both team and player. And they should win this game because they don’t have Jon Gruden involved in decision making. But I’ll reserve all other judgement until I’ve seen them in action.
Wildcard’s Pick: Broncos by 3
The Wildcard is a staff writer for The Niche Cache. Each week he walks thirty kilometres through native forest in his barefeet in order to consult an extraterrestrial guru in order to gather his NFL predictions for the upcoming games.
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