Hello, football! Last week, the NCAA Free Money Machine started back up, with its usual course of early-season gimme games, a few interesting games, and FSU choking big-time. But our long national nightmare, the one that lasts from the first Sunday in February to the first full week of September because preseason doesn’t count and costs too much and leads to too many injuries, is over… NFL FOOTBALL IS BACK!
First, let’s get to the Khalil Mack-sized elephant in the room… the Raiders’ boneheaded decision to trade Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, where he’ll enjoy an Urlacher-esque renaissance of “occasionally being good, but mostly sucking” because Chicago’s top two wideouts are running on knees slapped together with masking tape and chewed-up gum, and their quarterback is still Mitch Trubisky, who threw four passes in a win last year. Ever since the Raiders hired Jon Gruden back, they’ve regressed as decision-makers. For some reason, they still have Marshawn Lynch on their roster, and they signed Jordy Nelson to be a contributor somehow to their receiving corps. Their offensive philosophy will basically boil down to “throw it and see if Amari can come down with it,” not unlike the Falcons with Julio Jones recently. But they literally traded away a franchise cornerstone player who has multiple awards, because they didn’t want to pay him even though they had the cap room.
That, my friends, is dumb. HOWEVER, there is precedent for these actions. Yes, indeed, let me tell you of the following records: 7-9, 6-10, and 7-9. Those are the records of the last three years the Rams football team was in St. Louis. Whether intentional or not, the Rams went through a period of sucking (although, to be honest, they didn’t have a winning record since 2003, and the last time they had 8 wins was 2006) which very likely caused some fan disenchantment that led into the moving of the franchise. I believe that, with the trading of Mack, the Raiders are setting themselves up for the kind of Vegas turnaround that happened for the Rams when they moved to L.A. – 4-12 year one, but 11-5 in year two, and the arrow is pointing up for year three, when they spent to the gills to grab some free agents. Yes, the Raiders are setting themselves up for failure now to lock in being able to sell seats and make games attractive in the near future, when they are officially moved to Las Vegas.
Also, let me say that I am proud of Jacksonville legend Nathan Peterman, who was named the week one starter for the Buffalo Bills recently. Despite his interception at the end of the 2017 Wild Card game against the Jaguars, he seems to be pretty good and hopefully can put together some wins with the Bills.
Finally, in this initial column, I have to talk about my beloved Jaguars. I truly and honestly think that they will be a force to be reckoned with this year. This is a good feeling, because last year at this time I was filled with nothing but self-doubt and the belief that they would be thrashed by a Houston team recovering from the effects of a hurricane. This year, as a Jags fan since 1994, I am going to sit back and enjoy where the season takes us. As for Jalen Ramsey’s discussion of other players in the NFL – bring it on. He can back up his words with actions, and it’s not like other players haven’t done the same. Jalen may be a little crass but some attitude is what Jacksonville needs right now.
THE AARON IT OUT TOP FIVE
- L.A. Rams
WEEK ONE PREDICTIONS
Falcons at Eagles – This should be an exciting game. However, both of these defenses should be pretty good, so it could also be a Punting Showcase. It’s week one and nobody really knows how good anyone else is going to be, so the guess here is that, since they are playing at home for the first time since winning the Super Bowl, the Eagles are going to win.
Bengals at Colts – I’m not sure how I feel about this matchup. First, you have the Bengals, who find a way to lose nearly every game they are in. Second, you have Andrew Luck, who’s probably a sack away from another shoulder procedure. The Colts made some bewildering moves this offseason, and I don’t think they did enough on the offensive line to give Luck enough time to do his thing. However, I think that overall the Colts are a better football team and I’ll give them the win.
Bills at Ravens – I’m not a believer that the Ravens are “back,” and I’m also skeptical of the Bills and their puzzling offseason moves, including jettisoning one of the best quarterbacks they’ve had since Jim Kelly retired. Well, ya can’t always pick the home teams, so I’ll go out on a broken table-sized limb and say the Bills win.
Bucs at Saints – Tampa is a joke. Saints win.
Texans at Patriots – Deshaun’s back, right? The Patriots didn’t do enough to rebuild whatever they have built and their next man up philosophy is probably running out of men. Their wideouts are pedestrian and I don’t think they’ve done what they need to do in order to make the front seven of their defense worth anything. I don’t think the Texans are a huge contender but I do think they’re going to build their way up to wild card status if they can stay healthy. Texans win.
49ers at Vikings – I don’t think Cousins was their answer at QB, but the Vikings have enough around him to ensure that won’t matter. Until they prove otherwise, I will regard the Niners as a third- or fourth-place team in the NFC West. Vikings win.
Titans at Dolphins – The Dolphins let go of all their buttheads in the locker room, but they didn’t really replace them with anyone. The Titans are… the Titans, for better or for worse; just there to kind of do stuff and exist and make it to somewhere between 6-10 and 8-8. However, between Mariota and Tannehill, I trust Mariota more. Titans win.
Jaguars at Giants – Oh, my game of the week. The return of Sacksonville, the journey of Coughlin to New York for some sweet revenge against the organization that fired him for a horrible coach. New York has its receiving corps back and Saquon Barkley is a true threat. Eli Manning is one of the smartest QBs in the league. But the Giants’ defense is not that great and just one or two big plays for the Jags will probably cause the game to break in their direction. This will be a hard-fought game but I’m thinking the Jaguars win.
Steelers at Browns – Congratulations to Le’Veon Bell, who is signed to the franchise tag and therefore making more money than I will ever see in my lifetime, and yet is somehow still unhappy with the amount of money he is getting. This, despite the fact that he scored fewer touchdowns last year at Heinz Field than Leonard Fournette. He should be thanking his lucky stars that the Steelers still want him, although with this episode, I think that he will not play anywhere else. This is pure diva behavior and the owners and players are starting to not like it. Anyway, even with Bell out, the Steelers will crush the Browns.
Chiefs at Chargers – There’s a point where I get to some of the teams in these previews and see the matchups and I just… don’t… care. That’s the case with this game. The Chargers have ’00s-era Ravens bad luck with tight ends getting injured right now and they didn’t do anything of note in the draft outside of bringing in Derwin James, who Gus Bradley will proceed to horribly misuse. The Chiefs have Byron Leftwich Jr. in at QB now, and they have some pretty dynamic players on offense. I’m going to say this is a Chiefs win.
Cowboys at Panthers – A couple of teams that have a decent shot at the playoffs meet in this week one battle… the Cowboys are always a popular pick and I think they did themselves a favor getting rid of Dez. If Dak Prescott doesn’t regress too much, the Cowboys should be solid. Meanwhile, the Panthers have reworked their offensive staff and added… Norv Turner… to be the offensive coordinator. Norv, the guy who makes you look forward to the next guy. The classic offensive coordinator who really… has never had… a scrambling QB. This will work out great! Yeah. Cowboys win.
Redskins at Cardinals – The new Alex Smith-led Redskins head out west to face the Cardinals with a new coach and hoping the desert air does Sam Bradford’s knees some good. Bradford basically sat all last season so he should be feeling refreshed until his first sack or so. But, ya know, David Johnson’s back. Let’s give the Cards a little credit here. I think Arizona will win.
Seahawks at Broncos – Denver’s not bad, they’re not good but they’re also not bad. Seattle is worse. They are going through a rebuild and even though they will say til they are navy blue in the face that it’s not one, it is. They have basically gotten rid of all their defensive stars. The window is closed. The Broncos added Case Keenum as the fingers-crossed answer at QB, but there’s not a whole lot around him. Still, in this early matchup, I’ll say the Broncos win.
Bears at Packers – There’s not much of an offensive line stopping Khalil Mack from sacking Aaron Rodgers, but at the same time Rodgers is back and has the ability to just plain get stuff done during the game. The Bears won’t have enough offensively to keep up and Khalil is just one guy. Packers win.
Jets at Lions – This should be a far and away Lions win. The Jets are what they are, and what they are is rebuilding and trying to put a team together around a rookie QB. That’s fine but let’s not fool ourselves – they’re not going to do much this year. The Lions on the other hand have something to prove and will be doing so in front of a national audience.
Rams at Raiders – The new-look Raiders vs. the Ram$$$$$. I still don’t quite understand how L.A. has signed so dang many free agents, but here we are. It will be a beautiful disaster. Anyway, there’s no chance in Oakland that the Raiders win this one, if you ask me. I could be, and probably will be, wrong but I think the Rams will win here.
THE NFL IS BACK! See you next week!