Jeff Harvey

Before I engage in another off-the-cuff football preview, I feel the need to comment on the brawl which recently occurred between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke that there should have been stronger penalties for several in the brawl, including Amir Garrett, Yasiel Puig, both managers and the Pittsburgh pitcher who started this particular donnybrook. Except for Puig, all involved should have gotten 25 games (I’d give Puig and the others suspended 10 games each for relatively minor offenses). Garrett touched off the fight, Pela, the Pittsburgh pitcher set off the explosion by throwing at a Cincinnati hitter’s head and the managers either failed to maintain control (both) or allowed/ordered the pitchers (Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle) to throw beanballs.

Going to the NFC East, I’m picking the Philadelphia Eagles to finish first. Carson Wentz has to stay healthy because their insurance policy is now in Jacksonville. Besides Wentz, they have the best depth in the division and are the most settled team.

The drama kings of football, the Dallas Cowboys, have more talent offensively than the Eagles, but have drama in that three key offensive players are in contract situations and one, Ezekiel Elliott, is not in camp. They also aren’t as good along the offensive line and defense as the Eagles.

The Washington Redskins have an uncertain quarterback situation with a journeyman veteran and a rookie as their two top choices. Their best offensive lineman is a no-show due to his anger over the team’s training staff’s alleged malfeasance. The rest of the team is good enough to be picked third.

The New York Giants have an aged quarterback in Eli Manning and a rookie in Daniel Jones. What they don’t have is receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., a running game and enough other talent to finish higher than fourth.

The NFC North could be the tougher division to pick, since any of the four teams could win the division under the right scenario.

The Green Bay Packers could win if Aaron Rodgers and the new head coach Matt Lefluer work together. Rodgers’ comments over the past year come out of his frustration with the way things have been going and the fact that he’s in his mid-30s and realistically doesn’t have that much time left. The defense should be improved, which is a good sign.

The Chicago Bears need quarterback Mitchell Trebusky to continue to improve. They have the defense to win.

The Minnesota Vikings slipped last year and new quarterback Kirk Cousins took most of the blame. The team needs their running back to get back healthy as well as their top receivers. By the way, Cousins is a better quarterback than Case Keenum, who took them to the NFC championship game two years ago and now is in Washington or Sam Bradford, now retired. Teddy Bridgewater didn’t get a chance to reclaim his old job and is biding his time waiting for Drew Brees to retire in New Orleans.

The Detroit Lions could win the division if Matthew Stafford remains healthy and he does have good receivers. They need to improve their defense to win, though.

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