- Jimmy G is biggest fraud in NFL history. Look, I understand the hype starting with his chiseled jawline and GQ profile. Jimmy Garoppolo looks like Superman, or at least like Christopher Reeve from the movies. In sports, there is this thing called stats – and he doesn’t measure up. In five starts last season in San Francisco, he threw five interceptions against seven touchdowns. Not worth $27.5 million per year. Yes, his career record stands at 7-0 but does anyone remember Vince Young? Young was 31-19 in 50 starts. Winning doesn’t tell the whole story. Besides, Jimmy G doesn’t have a supporting cast. The Niners don’t even sniff the playoffs.
- Browns will win AFC North. I’ve been beating my chest all offseason that Cleveland was a playoff team. I know, I know. Hue Jackson is a loser. They have lost 34 of their last 35 games, including 17 straight defeats dating back to 2016. That’s epically bad, dismal enough to warrant a dip in Lake Erie. But forget the color on their helmets and the name on the uniform and scroll down their roster. I haven’t seen this much talent since the 1990 Cowboys. With the Steelers quickly unraveling into a hit show on TeleNovela Channel, the AFC North is fit for a new king. Why not them?
- Eli Manning is all washed up. Ex-Giants coach Ben McAdoo took Tabasco-level heat for benching Manning a year ago, but he was right. I don’t care how many shiny new toys you wave at Eli, he has been in decline since 2011 when he graded out at 91.9, per Pro Football Focus. Both his accuracy and arm strength have looked like what you would expect a from a 37-year-old with nothing left in the tank. I applaud the way he handled the benching – no one is questioning his character – but the guy should retire now and start posing for his Hall of Fame bust.
- DeShaun Watson will win MVP. Did you know Watson was on pace to throw 43 touchdowns in 2017? The NFL rookie record is 26. Heck, only four quarterbacks have tossed more than 43 in a single season: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers. There’s sitting in good company and then there’s breaking bread with Jesus at the Last Supper. Watson is the latter, especially when you factor in his legs. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Watson is the “all-grows-up” version of Russell Wilson. Watson and the Texans advance to their first-ever Super Bowl.
- It was fun while it lasted, Jacksonville. Why the Jags didn’t upgrade at quarterback will forever remain one of life’s great mysteries, up there with why Jay-Z keeps churning out basic albums (you’re rich and powerful now, we get it!) Nick Foles would have been a perfect fit for that bible-thumping town. Yes, the Jags do return (arguably) the NFL’s best defense, which led the league in passing yards allowed, thanks to shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey. He might be the best at this job, a new Revis Island. But Ramsey’s mouth is going to get him in trouble after calling out everyone from Matt Ryan to Odell Beckham. He seems like the type of dude that would call out Santa on Christmas Eve. Only difference, Santa has Rudolph and Jalen has Blake Bortles. Jags miss the playoffs, finish 6-10.
- Bears make football relevant again in Chicago. It’s been 17 years since Saturday Night Live debuted their famed “Da Bears” skit on network television. Since then, the Bears have lined up a mind-numbing 30 different starting quarterbacks. That’s heart-attack worthy, Bill Swerski! Well, that all changes with the arrival of Mitchell Trubisky. New head coach Matt Nagy has installed his forward-thinking, pass-happy schemes and surrounded Trubisky with talent at the skill positions. The Bears go 10-6 and make the playoffs, maybe even contend for the NFC North title. (Editor’s note: Mike wrote this BEFORE the Khalil Mack trade).
- The Patriots dynasty isn’t crumbling. I’m going to keep this one brief because I know everyone wants to bury that team in New England. Those “sourced” reports of fractured relationships between Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were hugely overblown. No. 12 is still under center and that’s good enough to get back to the AFC Championship Game, particularly in an embarrassingly watered-down AFC. Seriously, how many AFC teams would even make the playoffs in the NFC? I’d guess three. Maybe.
- Myles Garrett will lead NFL in sacks. Those were some really fun contracts that Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald got, huh? While they were holding out, Garrett – a second-year player, mind you – was teaching three-year veteran Nate Orchard how to play defensive end on HBO’s Hard Knocks. I think that tells you all you need to know. Garrett had seven sacks in nine games last season while dealing with a myriad of injuries. He’s back, better and stronger. Look for him to flirt with 20 sacks this year, including two big ones on Big Ben in Week 1 – and bust open the locks on those Bud Light fridges because the Browns are winning that game.
- The Rams won’t live up to expectations. The Eagles proved that you can build a Super Bowl roster through free agency and the Rams admittedly followed that blueprint. However, the Eagles did it by plugging small leaks, while the Rams took a Titanic approach by adding injury-prone stars like Marcus Peters, Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib and resident head-case Ndamukong Suh. How did that work out for Jack and Rose in the movie? Spoiler alert, Jack dies in the end. The Rams still win the NFC West, but they aren’t on par with the Eagles, Saints or Vikings.
- The legend of Carson Wentz will grow. The nay-sayers will tell you that it’s hard to come back 100% from a torn ACL and LCL. They will tell you that it’s impossible to retain your mobility and stay aggressive on a bad knee. They will also tell you that underdogs can’t win a Super Bowl. Wentz is North Dakota Tough and strangles bucks with his bare hands. He’ll be back and at full speed by Week 3, once again pulling Harry Houdini acts on Redskins defenders and chucking miracle first downs while on bended knee. I’m not sure the Eagles can repeat as champs, but Wentz will throw more touchdowns than Jared Goff and Drew Brees combined.
Jabronis Bonus: My Playoff and Bowl Picks:
NFC East: Eagles
NFC North: Vikings
NFC South: Saints
NFC West: Rams
Wild Cards: Bears, Falcons
NFC Championship: Saints over Eagles
AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Browns
AFC South: Texans
AFC West: Chiefs
Wild Cards: Chargers, Steelers
AFC Championship: Texans over Patriots
Super Bowl: Saints over Texans