Saturday, August 28, 2021

NFL 2021 preview, part 1

 Believe it or else, after the conclusion of play on Sunday, the NFL preseason will be over, and fans will wait 10 days before the season opener on NBC/Peacock (Tampa Bay vs. Dallas). Extending the season to 17 regular season games over 18 weeks means cutting the preseason to three games for most teams, and everyone gets an extended break before the season begins.

Let's take a look at the AFC in part one of our preview.

AFC East:

Defending champion Buffalo hasn't missed a beat, completing a perfect preseason by shutting out Green Bay earlier today, 19-0. Unseating them will be difficult. However, no one expected the Jets to also go unbeaten in the preseason, finishing 2-0-1 after a 31-31 draw with Philadelphia (no overtime) on Friday. Maybe hiring Robert Saleh (San Francisco) as head coach was the right call. Rookie QB Zach Wilson (Brigham Young) has opened some eyes, mostly in an upset over Green Bay last week. New England may have their heir apparent to Tom Brady, albeit a year late, in rookie Mac Jones (Alabama). Cam Newton may have to play over his head to stay in Foxborough, or open a yogurt stand at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots could also finish 3-0 if they beat the Giants tomorrow night. Miami may have just been lapped out of a playoff spot.

Projected order of finish:

1. Buffalo.
2. New England.
3. Miami.
3 (tie). Jets.

AFC North:

Cincinnati has to hope that 2nd year QB Joe Burrow can finally make some waves after injuries cut his rookie season short. Good luck with that, as they're not the best team in their own state anymore, what with Cleveland having improved the last couple of years. Still, the division goes through either Baltimore or Pittsburgh. However, the sands in the hourglass are starting to fade for Ben Roethlisberger, entering his 18th season (!), despite signs of diminishing skills last season The Ravens have Lamar Jackson, but the time is now for him to get them into position for their 3rd Super Bowl.

Projected order of finish:

1. Baltimore.
2. Cleveland.
3. Pittsburgh.
4. Cincinnati.

AFC South:

The buzz in the division surrounds Jacksonville. Drafting Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) in the 1st round made Gardner Minshew expendable, and he was dealt to Philadelphia earlier today. New coach Urban Meyer, coming as he does from television (Fox), tried a publicity stunt by bringing his former quarterback at Florida, Tim Tebow, to camp as a tight end. Remember how they tried convincing Tebow to move to TE when he was with New England, and, I think, Philadelphia, and he balked? Funny how times change. Unfortunately, Tebow lasted one preseason game, and his comeback was over. He's back with ESPN (SEC Network), I do believe.

There are rumors surrounding Houston trading scandal-scarred quarterback DeShaun Watson, but so far, nothing's happened. Color him gone by the trading deadline at the latest, especially if the Texans are out of the postseason picture early. With Philip Rivers now coaching high school football, Indianapolis acquired injury-prone Carson Wentz (Philadelphia), and let Jacoby Brissett walk. Not a good idea, as Wentz is already hurt. That opens the door for Tennessee, as I don't think Meyer & Lawrence will be enough of a difference to allow the Jaguars to win the division.

Projected order of finish:

1. Tennessee.
2. Jacksonville.
3. Indianapolis.
4. Houston.

AFC West:

Everyone's making moves trying to unseat Kansas City. They'd have a better chance of a bucket of Head & Shoulders falling on Patrick Mahomes, with the bucket to follow, before a big game. We'll soon see if he's still doing those silly State Farm ads. If the ads with basketball star Chris Paul of late are any indication, Mahomes might want to stick to the shampoo. Denver, still looking for a veteran to mentor Drew Lock, signed Teddy Bridgewater, and the veteran will start on September 12 vs. the Giants. Well, at least they'll get off to a good start. It's year 2 in Las Vegas, and Jon Gruden is hoping they can finally open the new Black Hole at Allegiant Stadium. Well, maybe Snoop Dogg can hook him up with a couple of cases of Corona to invite the usual crazies. It's also year 2 for Justin Herbert in Los Angeles, and, like Burrow, has to bring the Chargers out of the abyss to at least get to .500 and contend. I don't see it.

Projected order of finish:

1. Kansas City.
2. Las Vegas.
2. (tie) Denver.
4. Los Angeles.

Of course, I could be wrong.

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