The 2018 NFL Season & Week 1 Preview
First, a word on Colin Kaepernick.
Just kidding, there’s no need for yet another gasbag to bloviate a cliched opinion on a topic that refuses to go away. Seriously, it won’t. Trust me, there will be people who watch Thursday’s NFL season opener between the Falcons and the defending champion Eagles just to see that Nike commercial and be the first one to tweet how “powerful” it is.
But I’m a simple man from Los Angeles who is unable to think critically without getting myself in trouble. So, let’s stick to pigskins and run/pass options, yes?
Anyway, the offseason is over, training camps are closed, preseason games are history and rosters are all set. And Bill Belichick is still a lousy soundbite. And Joe Flacco is still the Ravens starting quarterback. Good to see that some things never change.
So, how will 2018 go down?
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
MVP – Drew Brees
People continue to blather about Tom Brady and how his weirdo trainer aims to extend his NFL career until he reaches his 60s. Meanwhile, Brees is down in Louisiana at 39 years old, putting up big numbers without asking for his backup to be traded and putting out a weird reality series.
The Saints aren’t dependent on Brees to put up giant numbers with a strong running game setting the pace, but with teams being forced to account for Alvin Kamara – and eventually Mark Ingram – I foresee Brees being able to find gaps in the secondary with ease.
The veteran will also have the spotlight on him as the Saints’ three toughest games (vs. Rams, Eagles and Steelers) will be at home. There’s reason to believe New Orleans will be in line for a No. 1 seed.
But more on that later.
Defensive POY: Jalen Ramsey
He has a giant mouth, but he has the goods to back it up. Some people might have resented his breakdown of NFL quarterbacks in GQ magazine, but let’s be honest: Was he wrong? Nope. He’s the next classic shutdown cornerback in this league and he’s just 23 years old.
He might not put up the gaudy numbers because at some points, people will stop throwing in his direction, but there’s no doubting the impact he’ll have on every game.
Offensive POY: Ezekiel Elliot
“Something just feels different. I think he’s ready for a big year.”
That wasn’t Jerry Jones doing some cheerleading, that was offensive lineman Zack Martin calling it the way he sees it. Even Zeke himself is feeling it.
“I want to prove I’m the best back in the game,” Elliott told the Dallas media. “That’s what my focus this offseason was.”
Who doesn’t love hearing that? Elliott made noise for all the wrong reasons in 2017, but it appears he has his head on straight. And that means trouble for opposing defenses.
Offensive ROY: Royce Freeman
Anyone who followed his career at Oregon saw a relentless runner and he’s the type of player that Broncos head coach Vance Joseph loves, given his love for pounding the rock. Freeman didn’t play in the team’s preseason finale, which is a good sign that he’s going to be the starter in Denver.
So, while Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and the rest of the rookie QB class got all the headlines up to this point, once games start counting, Freeman will pop off the screen.
Defensive ROY: Derwin James
“Rare to see a young guy with so much talent.”
“…the speed he plays with.”
“…everything you’d want in a ballplayer.”
Those are just some of the early reviews coming out of the Chargers camp about their new safety. L.A. (still weird to type that) has a stacked roster and the fact that they’re going to put so much responsibility on James’ shoulders says a lot.
Comeback POY: Andrew Luck
Honestly, I’ll just be happy if he gets through this season with all his limbs still attached. Random trivia question: Who is the only player to be named Comeback Player of the Year twice. I’ll give you the answer later.
SUPER BOWL MATCHUP?
Steelers vs. Saints
There it is, I’m taking the plunge and not taking the easy way out by saying the Patriots will represent the AFC.
Now, the Steelers seem to be imploding before our eyes as half the locker room took time to blast still-absent running Le’Veon Bell on Wednesday, but don’t worry about that. Pittsburgh under Mike Tomlin always seems to be one step from disaster, yet they’re always in the mix every season. And quite frankly, the Steelers have the ability to win without Bell in the lineup. He’s been gone for stretches before.
The AFC is softer than usual this season, which could make it easy for the Steelers to get that valuable No. 1 seed. And if they get the Patriots in their house this season, barring injury, I feel this is the year they get over the hump.
The Saints are in the tougher conference and the NFC South is no joke. However, as I said before, their three toughest non-division games are in their stadium and it’s not a stretch to see them getting that top playoff seed. And if that’s the case, I don’t see anyone stopping them from a conference title.
Let’s just hope, for their sake, they’ve shaken off that ugly playoff loss in Minnesota.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Nike: Sorry, back to Kaepernick for a second. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but to me, it’s simple. There’s nothing more American than making money. And if Kaep can make a few bucks with what he’s doing, I can’t be mad at him.
Le’Veon Bell: I can both understand Bell’s stance that he’s upset over not getting a longterm deal and his offensive linemen being a tad bitter. After all, they’re making way less money than the glory boy Bell and they’re the ones opening up the holes for Bell to run through and make big money. And if there’s one credo that QBs and RBs should live by, it’s this: Don’t piss off the men blocking for you.
Yo, Adrian: Don’t look now, but Adrian Peterson is going start for the Redskins on Sunday. And to think everyone thought he was washed up just a few weeks ago. That’s a feel-good story.
Shaq attack: Speaking of inspiring stories, one-handed rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin didn’t just make the Seahawks roster, coach Pete Carroll said he will start at strongside linebacker vs. the Broncos on Sunday. Kevin Garnett said it best: Anything is possible.
Mack attack: The Bears are still the fourth-best team in their division, but at least they’ve got one outside linebacker spot secured for a while. I’m not hating on the Raiders for trading Khalil Mack as they have plenty of holes to fill and it’s probably not the best idea to take up so much cap space with a giant contract.
Hard Knocks: I’m ashamed to admit this, but I didn’t watch a single episode this year. Forgive me, but I don’t feel like I missed anything.
WHAT TO WATCH IN WEEK 1
Falcons at Eagles: Duh, it’s the opener. If you miss this game, you’re a bad person. And probably a Putin puppet.
Texans at Patriots: Deshaun Watson threw for 300 yards and almost stole a win in New England last season. Now, Watson is back but he’s coming off knee surgery. Even so, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Houston get a W here.
49ers at Vikings: San Francisco gave Jimmy Garoppolo a ton of money this offseason. Now, he gets to start to prove his worth, but it won’t be easy on the road and in the dome.
Jaguars at Giants: Jalen Ramsey vs. Odell Beckham? That’s appointment television.
Chiefs at Chargers: Nothing wrong with a classic AFC West tilt to start the season. I’m more curious to see if Chiefs fans outnumber Bolts fans in the stands. (Yes, they will.)
Bills at Ravens: I’m interested just to see if the Ravens have their Lamar Jackson package ready to go.
Jets at Lions: Sam Darnold’s first game action. And on a Monday night. No pressure, kid.
Rams at Raiders: Will be nice to see the Rams offense, since we didn’t get a chance to all preseason. And how dominating will Donald y Suh be on the defensive line?
Trivia question answer: Chad Pennington. That poor guy was always banged up.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.