2019 NFL: Week 1
The long slog is over.
No more draft prep. No more free agency rumors and reports of arrests. No more training camps or useless preseason games. No more talks about which Dallas Cowboy is going to get which new contract (for now). No more Patriots wide receivers getting cut.
We’re finally here for the start of the regular season, and what makes things even better is that we’re not being forced to watch the Patriots unveil yet another championship banner on Thursday night. Granted, that will happen on Sunday night, but at least that won’t be the first football game I watch in 2019.
So, now that we’re here, let’s make some award predictions. As always, I’m going to take some chances here, but I’ll be sure to revisit my predictions halfway through the season and mock myself for everything I get wrong.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Let’s get started!
2019 AWARD PREDICTIONS
MVP: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
He’s a former rookie of the year, a two-time Super Bowl winner, has led the league in passing yards twice and has played in six Pro Bowls. One thing he’s never done is hold up the hardware for the league’s highest individual honor.
Anyone who has worked in an office or really any business can attest that sometimes you can make things run smoother by eliminating toxic people. Now, I’m not going to place that label on the departed Le’Veon Bell, because he was just looking to get paid and he shouldn’t be faulted for that. He did what he felt was right.
When it comes to Antonio Brown? Well … we’ve seen his antics in Oakland and while he does have a smile made for television, it makes one wonder if his talent is worth the headache.
Big Ben, also a problem child from time to time, has apologized for his past mistakes and has a clean slate this season. He won’t feel forced to feed the ball to one receiver 10-15 times per game and has some burgeoning weapons at his disposal.
Pundits have been predicting Pittsburgh’s demise and point to the Browns as the new kings of the AFC North. (Yes, I know Baltimore is the defending Division Champ.) I’m not buying it. Roethlisberger will lead this team to a division crown and will get even more credit for holding off the pesky upstarts from Cleveland.
Enough credit to clinch the one honor that has always eluded him.
Defensive POY: Aaron Donald, Rams
The man has won the award two years in a row. And it appears nothing has changed. There has been no word out of Rams camp that he’s lost a step or is nursing an injury.
Will he repeat the 20.5 sacks he had in 2018? Maybe not, but there’s no reason to believe he’s become blockable all of a sudden, so he’ll come close. He puts up numbers that are unheard of from a defensive tackle.
An absolute unicorn. Name one defensive player who can match him. I’ll wait.
Offensive POY: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
The Chiefs quarterback put up cartoon numbers last season. He’ll do more of the same in 2019, but he won’t have two games with six TD passes each. Those are flukey stats that don’t tend to repeat.
His head coach Andy Reid is a wizard and undoubtedly has another bunch of goodies in his playbook designed to make defensive coordinators look stupid. Who else can’t wait to watch?
Offensive ROY: Kyler Murray, Cardinals
There are reasons to be doubtful. Maybe even scared. Not to sound like a broken record, but it was really startling to see how small he looks out there.
However, there are reasons to root for him. It would be lovely to finally put the “he’s too small to play QB in the NFL” nonsense. Drew Brees succeeded. Russell Wilson succeeded. Baker Mayfield is balling. If Murray makes it, there’s no reason to ever bring it up again, because I can’t imagine a shorter person playing the position.
But he needs to stop with the clapping while standing in the shotgun. It seems juvenile.
Defensive ROY: Nick Bosa, 49ers
The child out of Ohio State was taken with the No. 2 pick of the draft. Yes, I’m so basic that I’m going to take the top two picks of the draft to win both rookie of the year awards. And there’s already reason to worry as Bosa is already dealing with a high ankle sprain.
However, if he’s anything like his older brother on the pro level, my pick isn’t going to seem so silly. The 49ers should have an interesting defense and most are anxious to see how he’ll fit in. As long as he can stay healthy, he should be a beast.
Comeback POY: Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
There are a couple reasons to resent the young quarterback, starting with the fact that no matter how many times I type his name, I always have to google him to make sure I get the spelling right.
The real reason to roll your eyes in his direction is that he’s made a ton of money in this league and he’s only started 10 games. By the way, he got drafted in 2014. So, it might sound weird to predict him for this award, since you can make a convincing argument that he never arrived in the first place.
But, there’s something to be said for rebounding off a major knee injury. If he can put up some solid numbers and bring the 49ers back to relevance, he should be an easy pick for the prize.
Super Bowl matchup: Chiefs vs. Eagles
Kansas City was a Dee Ford brainfart from reaching the Super Bowl last year. And Andy Reid is due. The one injustice in the NFL is that a head coach as talented as Reid doesn’t have a championship ring to validate his solid coaching career.
He’s a wizard with quarterbacks and he finally has someone under center who can flourish consistently in his offense.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have their fortunes tied to the health of QB Carson Wentz. If he stays on the field, it will be tough to beat this loaded roster. Especially in January if they can secure homefield advantage.
My winner? The Chiefs. It’s finally Reid’s time.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Andrew Luck: It’s been a couple weeks since the Colts quarterback bowed out of professional football, but the shock hasn’t worn off. Many people have weighed in with their takes, but what the heck, I’ll add mine on top. The man has every right to put himself first and if he wasn’t enjoying going to work, then why continue?
That being said … is it acceptable to say his timing could have been better?
Backup QB Jacoby Brissett has the opportunity of a lifetime. He takes over at the helm of a young roster that seems to improve with every passing game. If he can do even a serviceable job this season, there’s reason to believe the Colts can still contend for a division crown.
Zeke gets his: Again, I’m in favor of players holding out to get what they feel they deserve. And $50 million guaranteed is a nice chunk of change, not to mention he didn’t need to go through the nonsense of training camp. I’m jealous of the fantasy players who landed him with a second-round pick.
Goff gets his: People (or, idiots on Twitter) keep pointing to the Super Bowl, as if a bad game is a reason to ignore the progress Jared Goff has made since his disastrous seven games under Jeff Fisher.
He’s still just 24-year-old, and over the past two seasons he’s thrown 60 TD passes to 19 interceptions. He’s also a major reason why the Rams have won back-to-back division titles and reached the Super Bowl in just his second season working with head coach Sean McVay. The good news is that McVay feels that Goff hasn’t hit his ceiling yet.
There’s room to grow. And we all know in two weeks, someone will get a slightly bigger contract than Goff and everyone can turn their attention to whether or not Dak Prescott deserves that kind of money.
No deal? Reports broke Wednesday that Colts owner Jim Irsay turned down a $3.2 billion offer to buy the team. His decision is understandable, considering that he inherited the business from his late father and most likely has an emotional connection to the franchise.
Yet … man, that’s a real fat check to refuse. Not sure I would be strong enough to do that.
Cam feels like Cam: The Panthers quarterback told NFL.com that he “feels like a rookie again.” That’s good. I’m a huge Cam Newton apologist and it’s been rough to see the injuries he’s racked up over the years.
He may not ever change his playing style. He may not ever stop running and putting himself in harm’s way. He can’t be someone he isn’t. I just want to see him get through an entire season without missing games.
The Patriots: They’re back for yet another run toward the Super Bowl even though it appears their roster is lacking weapons. Don’t believe the hype. Tom Brady is still there, Bill Belichick is still there and the roster still has enough myriad running backs to cause problems. They’ll fall short of the big game this year, but they’ll still win that lousy division and make the playoffs.
WHAT TO WATCH IN WEEK 1
Packers at Bears: What better way to kick off the NFL’s 100th season than with a matchup of the league’s two original franchises on Thursday night? You can practically taste the dirt and grass. And let’s be honest, we’re all hoping the Aaron Rodgers-Matt LaFleur pairing implodes in the first game.
Titans at Browns: Cleveland is appointment television this season, but the Browns might want to hold off on sizing championship rings. The Titans sport a brutally tough defense and it wouldn’t be a shock to see them steal a win here.
Falcons at Vikings: Let’s hope Atlanta can get out of this game without losing half their starting defense to injury. Nothing was more frustrating than watching Matt Ryan put up sick numbers in 2018, only to see what was left of his defense let him down.
Bills at Jets: We need to check the progress of the two young quarterbacks. Let’s see what another offseason did for Josh Allen and Sam Darnold. Plus, Le’Veon Bell is back after a season away from the game. Let’s see if he lost a step.
Rams at Panthers: Two playoff worthy teams and I’m a complete homer. I’ll be in front of the TV with bells on.
Lions at Cardinals: Kyler Murray’s first game!!
Steelers at Patriots: Enjoy that banner raising (groan). Also, this will be the first step in Ben Roethlisberger’s MVP campaign.
Texans at Saints: The first of two Monday night games. The Broncos and Raiders are the nightcap, starting at 10:20 p.m. ET. Ouch. The Saints need to wash the taste of that NFC Championship game loss out of their mouth. A win at home would be a good start.
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.