• Pigskin Pundit’s Preseason Permutations: What’s Ahead for the NFL’s AFC and NFC?

    Surge Summary: With the day’s constantly evolving elements (COVID-19, etc.) it’s tough to predict what the upcoming season holds for the NFL. Below, speculations about the league’s AFC and NFC.

    by Pigskin Pundit

    Second Installation – AFC North and West

    I feel like a kid trying to cross a very busy street doing this, because every time I sit before my keyboard to prognosticate, some new event happens that could change things substantially for some team’s outlook.  Case in point: the signing of Cam Newton by the Patriots, and the Covid opt-outs by key defensive starters Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung.  These types of events are game-changers.  So, before Earl Thomas gets let go for fighting with fellow Ravens, or some other needed superstar has a season-ending injury in practice, I’ll try to hammer out the rest of my early evaluations.  Hold on, it’s a fast ride.

    AFC NORTH

    This division looks much the same to me as last season.  The Ravens are clearly the runaway favorite to crush the other three teams’ hopes, and challenge for conference dominance.  The Earl Thomas dust-up notwithstanding, this team is loaded.  I don’t believe the Madden Curse will hobble league MVP Jackson, and a year’s maturity and playoff seasoning should only improve his upside.  The thing about really deep teams is that their weaknesses are minimized by their excellence in other areas.  Harbaugh is a good coach, and Baltimore is poised to be dynastically strong for years, which doesn’t bode well for this weak division.  The Blackbirds are likely to cause some sleepless nights in Arrowhead Stadium as the season gets underway.

    In Steelertown, questions abound.  How much gas does aged starter Roethlisberger have left in the tank?  We weren’t sure that he would even want to return for another campaign, as his big frame has taken a beating over the years under center.  To me, none of the other QBs on the roster look like starters.  JuJu is a solid #1 wideout, and James Connor moves the sticks reliably, but Pittsburgh will live and die by what they are always known for – stout defense.  Standouts like Minkah Fitzpatrick patrolling deep and T J Watt providing extra wattage among the linebackers will help Tomlin’s troops win some close ones, staying ahead of the two orange teams of Ohio.

    As Derek Smalls says in ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, “Hello Cleveland!”  This team, like the Detroit Lions, exemplifies the fact that team culture starts from the top (management) and flows down.  These two legendary blue-collar NFL cities are long-standing laughingstocks of pro football, because of poor ownership and management over decades.  This trend has established a culture of losing and acceptance of mediocrity and malfeasance.  Cleveland is one of the most talent-heavy teams in the NFL…on paper.  Why they can’t parlay that ability into W’s is baffling, but somehow they manage to persist in their quest to disappoint their loyal fans decade after decade.  I don’t really see why this season will be different. This city has been through a recent renaissance, rebuilding itself and attracting high end restaurants and even the doggone Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, for pete’s sake.  Yet this perennially underperforming team will probably do well to finish ahead of rebuilding Cincy.

    Speaking of Cincy, Joe Burrow probably had trepidations on draft day, knowing his immediate future was deeply uncertain.  On April 23rd of this year, he was sentenced to play for the other orange team from Ohio, and the word out of Cincinnati is that he accepted his fate and began busting rock right away.  I find it ironic that both the Browns and Bengals dress their players in orange, like most state prisons do.  It appears both destinations are going to have their players doing ‘hard time’, trying to overcome their systemic mediocrity.

    AFC WEST

    Let’s start with the champs.  Nothing significant has changed here, so the Chiefs are the favorites to repeat.  A head-to-head matchup with Baltimore looms, and my early take is that the Chiefs are vulnerable against the Ravens’ defensive secondary.  Hill and Kelce are a historic pair to be sure, but a hard chuck off the line and then that lockdown secondary has me thinking that maybe Harbaugh’s team has a puncher’s chance.  One thing is sure; second place in this division is a long way down from Andy Reid’s ringbearers.

    Occupying that second slot in my opinion is the Broncos.  They have made strides through the draft and free agency, adding acrobatic ball-snaggers like Jeudy and Hamler, and deepening the running assault with the addition of Mel Gordon from the Chargers.  Drew Lock continues to grow into his role of team leadership, and Denver’s defense, especially their secondary, is becoming a no-fly zone.  Is Drew a Lock for the QB job on this team where a HOF quarterback selecting the talent so often blows it picking his own position?  Expectations are mile-high.  We’ll find out whether this season is Rocky or not for Elway’s team.

    It’s a pick-em for the next two slots, but I will give the edge to Vegas.  First of all, they have a quarterback controversy between Carr and Mariota, as ‘the back-up’ has made a case for himself in preseason play.  The Chargers, on the other hand, are looking for a starting quarterback among the three they carry, and 2020 1st-rounder Herbert is going to be saddled with very high expectations right away, while another one of them is named for a piece of hockey equipment (Easton Stick).  The Raiders should be excited about settling into their new home city and facility, while the Chargers have to be content doing the time-share thing with the Rams, but they own all the blue weeks.  How a franchise without a home city fan base can feel like winners is beyond me, and Anthony Lynn faces challenges no other NFL coach has to.  I just think Los Diego has too much to overcome, and I see another low number draft pick coming their way.

    The NFC is up next.  Stay tuned!

    -Pigskin Pundit (Nate Clark)

    The views here are those of the author and not necessarily Daily Surge

    Image: Senior Airman Carlin Leslie |  VIRIN: 110109-F-2722L-185.JPG; https://www.afgsc.af.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2000294457/

    Nathan Clark is a conservative commentator who resides with his wife in New Hampshire. He is passionate about preserving the vision of our nation’s Founders and advancing those tried and true principles deep into America’s future. His interests range broadly from flyfishing, cooking and shooting to pro sports, gardening, live music and fine-scale modeling.


    Trending Now on Daily Surge

    Send this to a friend