Before we start with our look at the NFL, I want to say that I’m very angered by the NFL basically letting Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill off for behavior which included assaulting the mother of his child, threatening her later which was caught on tape and a yet-unresolved incident involving an injury to that child. They punished his ex-teammate Kendrick Hunt for less. It should have been at least six games suspended.
Starting with the World Champion New England Patriots, they will remain strong as long as Tom Brady keeps defying time and Bill Belichek wants to keep coaching. The latter is more important than the former because it’s been the organizational strength established by BB that has allowed it to flow. BB is the modern-day Paul Brown in that he isn’t the most personable coach to interview but he knows his organization. It might take BB a little bit of the season to get things in line, but his history with the Patriots indicates that he will.
The other three teams in the AFC East are basically a toss-up as to whom gets second, third and fourth. I’m going with the New York Jets second on a whim. I don’t think they’ll be this year’s surprise team but they have a young quarterback in Sam Darnold, Le’Veon Bell to run and catch the ball, and they improved the defense. Adam Gaze gets media attention for his mannerisms in press conferences, but he did improve the Dolphins in his time as coach.
The Buffalo Bills also have a young quarterback in Josh Allen, who distinguished himself as a runner. What they need is him to improve as a passer. I’m picking them third, but they have enough to surprise.
The Dolphins could have had a young quarterback in Josh Rosen, but failed to trade for him when they had a chance. They go into the season with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter and they aren’t strong enough anywhere to really make a move this year.
Going to the AFC Central, we come to the Pittsburgh Steelers, now minus Antonio Brown and Bell. I never understood why Brown ripped Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomblin so much, considering that they, respectively, threw him the ball as much as any receiver ever and gave him the chance to be a superstar. The first seven years of his career, he looked and behaved like Jerry Rice. Then last year he was Terrell Owens in behavior. Well, enjoy third place in Oakland, because the Steelers are good enough to give the Patriots a real battle for AFC supremacy.
The Cleveland Browns have the makings of a very good offense with Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr., leading the way. I’m being cautious with them, though, because they weakened their offensive line to get Beckham, but they remain the team most likely to make a big slash.
The Baltimore Ravens won the division last year, but they looked bad against the Chargers in the playoffs. Lamar Jackson is another young quarterback who needs to develop as a passer. He already has the team’s respect as a leader, but he can’t run like he did last year or he won’t last long.
The Cincinnati Bengals have decided to start over after 15 years of Marvin Lewis, the team’s best coach since Paul Brown. It’s going to be a challenge for them to contend, since they are down on Andy Dalton, who has only given them years of good service.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m writing this without use of reference materials (pre-season guides).
Contact Jeff Harvey at email@example.com