AROUND THE NFL

Bill Barnwell makes the case for all 32 teams to win the Super Bowl here, The more improbable cases are below with the respective teams, as well as a few others of interest.

 

– – –

The Panthers sold for $2.3 billion last year.  Could another mid-range (and maybe that’s generous) NFL team now be worth more than $3 bil to a rich person?  That’s what this story in the Indianapolis Star says.

 

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was recently offered $3.2 billion for his team, the team confirmed Wednesday. A team spokesperson told IndyStar the team is not for sale.

 

The offer was nearly $1 billion more than the $2.3 billion the Carolina Panthers sold for last year and more than double what the Buffalo Bills sold for in 2014.

 

On Wednesday, Forbes.com released its annual estimated values of all 32 NFL teams, with the Colts slotting in at  No. 20 at $2.65 billion, an 11% increase from the organization’s list last year.

 

Forbes has the Panthers valued at $2.4 billion (22nd) and the Bills at $1.9 billion (32nd).

 

Irsay’s daughters, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Foyt and Kalen Irsay, are all listed as vice chair/owner.

 

The Dallas Cowboys are ranked No. 1 at $5.5 billion, New England No. 2 at $4.1 billion and the New York Giants No. 3 at $3.9 billion.

 

Here are those Forbes.com values, with everyone at around $2 billion (which doesn’t make the $3.2 bil for the Colts seem that crazy):

 

32 | Buffalo Bills

• Value: $1.9 billion

• 1-Year Change: 19%

• Owners: Terry & Kim Pegula

• Operating Income*: $82 million

 

31 | Detroit Lions

• Value: $1.95 billion

• 1-Year Change: 15%

• Owner: Martha Firestone Ford

• Operating Income: $73 million

 

30 | Cincinnati Bengals

• Value: $2 billion

• 1-Year Change: 11%

• Owner: Michael Brown

• Operating Income: $58 million

 

29 | Tennessee Titans

• Value: $2.15 billion

• 1-Year Change: 5%

• Owner: Amy Adams Strunk

• Operating Income: $53 million

 

28 | Cleveland Browns

• Value: $2.175 billion

• 1-Year Change: 12%

• Owners: Dee & Jimmy Haslam

• Operating Income: $32 million

 

27 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers

• Value: $2.2 billion

• 1-Year Change: 10%

• Owner: Glazer Family

• Operating Income: $66 million

 

26 | Arizona Cardinals

• Value: $2.25 billion

• 1-Year Change: 5%

• Owner: William Bidwill

• Operating Income: $87 million

 

25 | New Orleans Saints

• Value: $2.275 billion

• 1-Year Change: 10%

• Owner: Gayle Benson

• Operating Income: $126 million

 

24 | Kansas City Chiefs

• Value: $2.3 billion

• 1-Year Change: 10%

• Owners: Lamar Hunt Family

• Operating Income: $83 million

 

23 | Jacksonville Jaguars

• Value: $2.325 billion

• 1-Year Change: 12%

• Owner: Shahid Khan

• Operating Income: $77 million

 

22 | Carolina Panthers

• Value: $2.4 billion

• 1-Year Change: 4%

• Owner: David Tepper

• Operating Income: $78 million

 

21 | Los Angeles Chargers

• Value: $2.5 billion

• 1-Year Change: 10%

• Owner: Dean A. Spanos

• Operating Income: $72 million

 

20 | Indianapolis Colts

• Value: $2.65 billion

• 1-Year Change: 11%

• Owner: James Irsay

• Operating Income: $104 million

 

19 | Minnesota Vikings

• Value: $2.7 billion

• 1-Year Change: 12%

• Owner: Zygmunt Wilf

• Operating Income: $65 million

 

18 | Baltimore Ravens

• Value: $2.75 billion

• 1-Year Change: 6%

• Owner: Stephen Bisciotti

• Operating Income: $131 million

 

17 | Atlanta Falcons

• Value: $2.755 billion

• 1-Year Change: 6%

• Owner: Arthur Blank

• Operating Income: $97 million

 

16 | Miami Dolphins

• Value: $2.76 billion

• 1-Year Change: 7%

• Owner: Stephen Ross

• Operating Income: $67 million

 

15 | Seattle Seahawks

• Value: $2.775 billion

• 1-Year Change: 8%

• Owners: Paul G. Allen Trust

• Operating Income: $106 million

 

14 | Pittsburgh Steelers

• Value: $2.8 billion

• 1-Year Change: 8%

• Owners: David Rooney Trust, Arthur Rooney II

• Operating Income: $102 million

 

13 | Green Bay Packers

• Value: $2.85 billion

• 1-Year Change: 9%

• Owners: Shareholder-owned

• Operating Income: $39 million

 

12 | Oakland Raiders

• Value: $2.9 billion

• 1-Year Change: 20%

• Owner: Mark Davis

• Operating Income: $28 million

 

11 | Denver Broncos

• Value: $3 billion

• 1-Year Change: 13%

• Owners: Pat Bowlen Trust

• Operating Income: $94 million

 

10 | Philadelphia Eagles

• Value: $3.05 billion

• 1-Year Change: 11%

• Owner: Jeffrey Lurie

• Operating Income: $150 million

 

9 | Houston Texans

• Value: $3.1 billion

• 1-Year Change: 11%

• Owner: Janice McNair

• Operating Income: $176 million

 

8 | New York Jets

• Value: $3.2 billion

• 1-Year Change: 12%

• Owners: Johnson Family

• Operating Income: $115 million

 

7 | Washington Redskins

• Value: $3.4 billion

• 1-Year Change: 10%

• Owner: Daniel Snyder

• Operating Income: $120 million

 

6 | Chicago Bears

• Value: $3.45 billion

• 1-Year Change: 19%

• Owners: McCaskey Family

• Operating Income: $62 million

 

5 | San Francisco 49ers

• Value: $3.5 billion

• 1-Year Change: 15%

• Owners: Denise DeBartolo York, John York

• Operating Income: $93 million

 

4 | Los Angeles Rams

• Value: $3.8 billion

• 1-Year Change: 19%

• Owners: Stanley Kroenke

• Operating Income: $30 million

 

3 | New York Giants

• Value: $3.9 billion

• 1-Year Change: 18%

• Owners: John Mara, Steven Tisch

• Operating Income: $142 million

 

2 | New England Patriots

• Value: $4.1 billion

• 1-Year Change: 8%

• Owners: Robert Kraft

• Operating Income: $240 million

 

1 | Dallas Cowboys

• Value: $5.5 billion

• 1-Year Change: 10%

• Owners: Jerry Jones

• Operating Income: $420 million

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Coach Matt Nagy is going all Joe Maddon with the Bears.

 

There was “Club Dub,” the Chicago Bears’ postgame victory party, and the “American Idol”-themed dance-offs on Saturday mornings.

 

Surely the fun-loving, freewheeling Bears had seen it all from Matt Nagy, their 41-year-old head coach. But the man largely responsible for flipping the organization’s stale culture on its head had a new trick up his sleeve — literally.

 

“So he got us, like, a magician,” Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “It was amazing. This guy was unreal.”

 

Matthew Furman is something of an institution at corporate events. He has performed at functions for golfer Zach Johnson and NBA MVP Steph Curry as well as Notre Dame football, the New York Jets, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins.

 

For 17 years, Furman, a professional magician and mind reader, has performed for celebrities in the grandstand, in the clubhouse and at the VIP parties throughout the week at the American Century Championship Celebrity Golf Tournament at South Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

 

This past July, Nagy played in the event. When he wasn’t golfing, Nagy hung out with other celebrities, including friend and Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich. However, he couldn’t escape Furman, who seemed to be, well, everywhere.

 

“Whether it was in the grandstand after playing golf or at the functions they have at night or during dinner or fireworks, everywhere you looked, Matt was just walking around doing tricks,” Nagy said, “and it would always start with it being three or four people, and by the end, there would be 30 or 40 people.

 

“So one night I start thinking to myself, ‘How cool would it be to break up the monotony of training camp and get him in here to perform in front of the guys?’ He never messed up his tricks. At least, we didn’t see it. So I thought it would be a little outside of the box and bring him in so we could get away from football a little bit.”

 

That’s how Furman ended up in Bourbonnais, Illinois, the site of Bears training camp.

 

“It was unbelievable, man,” Bears receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. “Some of that stuff he was doing … I was like, ‘No way, man. No way!'”

 

Furman’s best trick, according to several players, was having Nagy pick a random card from a full deck, sign it and slide it back into the middle of the deck. Furman then put a rubber band around the deck and tossed it up 25 feet to the ceiling in the team’s training camp auditorium. Amazingly, the card signed by Nagy stuck on the ceiling, and the rest of the deck fell back down into Furman’s hand.

 

“My thoughts on magic are it’s not really magic. It’s just an illusion,” Amukamara said. “I mean, he was doing something, but we just couldn’t figure out what he was doing. It was so cool.”

 

Added Patterson: “Stuff like that just blows your mind. You go home and try those tricks, but they don’t turn out like that.”

 

The card trick was a hot topic the rest of camp.

 

“After he [Furman] left that day, the card stayed up there, so every time we went in the room, we’d look to see if the card was still up there, and it was,” Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel said. “I’m wondering right now if that card is still up there.”

 

“Everybody likes a good trick,” Furman said.

 

The Bears are out to prove that last season’s NFC North title was no sleight of hand.

 

With a roster full of Pro Bowlers, the Bears are expected to contend for an NFC Championship after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs at home in January, thanks to the infamous, double-doink, 43-yard field goal miss by ex-kicker Cody Parkey.

 

Expectations are sky high for a team that last reached the Super Bowl in 2006 and last made the playoffs in consecutive years in 2005 and ’06.

 

The Bears still have questions — kicker, obviously — but the core is relatively young, accomplished, talented and under contract.

 

What ties it all together is the culture Nagy has created.

 

“Everybody has a little bit of different swagger to themselves,” Patterson said. “But you got to keep your eyes open and your ears open with Nagy because he’ll throw something at you each and every day — and it’s fun. You never know what the challenge is going to be.

 

“He might come out here one day and run the whole practice. The next day he may be like, ‘Hey, I have a magician for y’all.’ He’s a great coach, and he brings that energy each and every day. If we mess up, he yells at us. If we do something right, he smiles at us. It’s just exactly what you want in your head coach.”

 

Nagy is big on variety.

 

“The one thing is where you can get monotonous in practice and meetings is doing the same thing over and over again,” he said. “So we’ll have some fun in meetings. We’ll maybe make some jokes on some guys here or there. Prince in particular we like to pick on.

 

“And then in practice, too, there’s that balance of not being too crazy serious and letting the guys be themselves. I feel like one of my strengths is probably not sticking to a script. I believe in just, if I feel like it’s a day where we want to have fun, we do.”

 

And winning is fun.

 

Amukamara won a Super Bowl as a rookie with the Giants in 2011. That’s fun. But it wasn’t like ex-Giants coach Tom Coughlin was Mr. Amusing.

 

“I tell everybody when I went from Coughlin to Gus Bradley down in Jacksonville, it was like going from private school to public school,” Amukamara said. “Coughlin, no hats in the building, you start five minutes early, everyone had white socks at practice, no music at practice … [With Gus,] we’re playing basketball in meetings, playing music videos, music at practice, you can wear whatever you want, even when you travel. Coughlin was, like, full suit and tie. Gus was, like, just look presentable.

 

“Nagy is a great mixture. It’s good for where I’m at in my career. When I was a rookie, I needed that structure, that routine. Now, late in my career, I’ll take any bone I can get, any way I can feel relaxed, it’s great. Nagy does that. … Rookies love him, too, because he earns their respect. He can lay down the law when he has to.”

 

 

DETROIT

The Lions are kicking the tires of former Vikings WR LAQUAN TREADWELL. Benjamin Raven of MLive.com:

 

The Detroit Lions worked out former first-round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell as the team heads into their season opener in Arizona.

 

ESPN’s Field Yates reports the team worked out Treadwell shortly after the former Viking did the same for Buffalo. This move comes after the Lions signed receiver Marvin Hall to their practice squad on Wednesday.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

After a lot of tough talk, the consensus is that owner Jerry Jones caved to the demands of RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT.  Brian Jones of PopCulture.com collected some critical tweets:

 

And while most fans and media members love the signing, there are a few who have a problem with the contract.

 

Scroll down to look at NFL media members and fans criticizing Elliott’s contract.

 

Colin Cowherd is glad that Elliott signed, but he wanted to make it very clear that he believes quarterback Dak Prescott runs the show. Cowherd said, “This has never been Zeke’s team. This is Dak’s team… He saved the franchise.”

 

Cowherd went on to say that Elliott’s contract is less than Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and half of what Prescott will sign for.

 

Former NFL offensive lineman Daimen Woody, who now works for ESPN, doesn’t have a problem with Elliott. However, he has a problem with Elliott not getting a contract like Adrian Peterson did in 2011. Woody said, “Here’s my question….does Zeke’s extension even top Adrian Peterson’s deal from 2011? Still feels like RB market is stagnant.”

 

Eight years ago, Peterson signed a seven-year, $96 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

 

Again, this isn’t anything negative towards Elliott, but John Breech of CBS Sports has an interesting thought on this with the help of Bryan DeArdo. He said, “Not subtweeting the Cowboys, but only one Super Bowl winning-team over the past 10 years has had a starting running back who made more than $2 million in base salary during the regular season his team won the Super Bowl.”

 

Who knows. Maybe Elliott can be the first in a decade to help his team reach the Super Bowl with a base salary of over $10 million.

 

Marcus Mosher of the Raiders Wire said, “I can’t wait to see what Lincoln Riley does with Ezekiel Elliott next season. Should be a lot of fun.”

 

Of course, Riley is the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners which would mean Jason Garrett gets fired. So the pressure will be on Garrett to make some noise with Elliott in 2019.

 

This Cowboys fan is disappointed in the signing. El said, “Anyone that thinks this is a good thing is delusional! This just set us back another ten years! The Cowboys will never win the super bowl paying trash this kind of money! Jerry needs to takes some lessons from real franchises like the Steelers and Patriots!”

 

Considering the Cowboys have won three Super Bowls under Jones, I think he has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing,

 

A down season for Zeke? This fan believes it will happen since he signed a new contract. The fan said, “Now watch, he will be terrible this year..never fails. These guys are not worth it. Too greedy and no heart.”

 

In fairness, Elliott has earned the right to be the highest-paid running back in the NFL based on the work he has put in. In fact, this is a good thing for other NFL running backs as they are undervalued in the league.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has the contract:

 

The full contract is in, so let’s break it down from start to finish. The full Ezekiel Elliott deal, spelled out below.

 

Here are all the details:

 

1. Signing bonus: $7.5 million.

 

2. 2019 base salary: $752,137, fully guaranteed at signing.

 

3. 2020 base salary: $19.8 million, fully guaranteed at signing. (There’s a $13 million option bonus that triggers the 2026 season; if exercised, the base salary for 2018 reduces to $6.8 million.)

 

4. 2021 base salary: $9.6 million, guaranteed for injury only at signing. It becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2020 league year.

 

5. 2022 base salary: $12.4 million, guaranteed for injury only at signing. It becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2021 league year.

 

6. 2023 base salary: $10.9 million.

 

7. 2024 base salary: $10 million.

 

8. 2025 base salary: $15.4 million.

 

9. 2026 base salary: $16.6 million.

 

The deal includes an annual salary de-escalator of $500,000 from 2020 onward, based on Elliott participating in at least 90 percent of the offseason program, participating fully in all minicaps, and participating fully in training camp.

 

Elliott gets $28 million fully guaranteed at signing. That amount pushes to $37.65 million by the middle of March. By March 2021, it’s $50.05 million.

 

As a practical matter, he’s getting the $37.65 million to cover the first three years of the deal, and the $50.05 million over the first four years of the deal.

 

The deal gets interesting after four years, when it becomes a year-to-year deal from the team’s perspective. How many years will they keep Zeke beyond 2022? Will they pay $15.4 million in 2025 or $16.6 million in 2026? Will they eventually squeeze him to take less?

 

These are questions that the Cowboys will be facing after the next four years and $50 million, regarding whether Zeke will get $52.9 million over the four after that.

 

Jones responds.  Chris Ryan of NJAdvanceMedia.com

 

The long standoff between the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott ended on Wednesday when the star running back agreed to a six-year, $90 million contract extension, ending the holdout four days prior to the start of the regular season.

 

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones eventually found common ground with running back, getting the main cog of the team’s offense back on the field prior to the season opener against the Giants on Sunday.

 

Jones was outspoken about the negotiations with Elliott throughout the process, even ruffling a few feathers in Elliott’s camp when he joked, “Zeke who?”

 

So even though the contract is now done, Jones isn’t done talking.

 

Appearing on CNBC Wednesday, Jones described Elliott’s new contract and where the running back stands in the league’s marketplace.

 

“Anybody, when you’re talking about that kind of money, we’re all overpaid,” Jones said on CNBC. “For what he has done, how he’s worked, how he’s utilized his skills, he’s in the marketplace of where we are in pro sports and pro football.”

 

 “I’m $100 million lighter as of this morning. Zeke has been arguably our best player… he’s an incremental part to our success.”

 

NFL teams have grown increasingly reluctant to hand out big deals to runnings backs in recent years, leading to holdouts similar to Elliott’s. Current Jets running back Le’Veon Bell sat out the entire 2018 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers while waiting for a long-term deal. Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is currently holding out and is expected to miss games in the 2019 regular season.

 

Part of the reasoning for these contract disputes, on both the player and team sides, is longevity. Running backs typically have smaller career windows for productivity, and cheaper options can often be found in the draft.

 

But for Jones, he’s comfortable committing to Elliott because he’s seen a running back have sustained, long-term success in the NFL.

 

“Running backs are short-lived, although we had what I consider to be one of the top five greatest ones in Emmitt Smith,” Jones said on CNBC. “And Emmitt ran the ball for 13 years. So you don’t have to have a four- or five-year career to be a running back.”

 

This tweet from Jane Slater of NFL Network on what we can expect Sunday:

 

@SlaterNFL

Ahead of Ezekiel Elliott’s first team practice since June, I’m told the plan right now is about 20-25 reps on Sunday, rookie Tony Pollard behind him and FB Jamize Olawale as your best blitz pickup guy on 3rd downs. Things can always change but this is the plan heading into today.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com on how the Giants might reach the Super Bowl:

 

28. New York Giants

Chance to win Super Bowl LIV: Less than 0.1%

Chance to make the playoffs: 6.5%

Caesars Super Bowl odds: +7500

 

Like Washington, the Giants are hoping to ride a possible Wentz injury and a decline from the Cowboys to an unlikely division title and playoff run. Their offensive game plan won’t exactly be modern, given that the avowed plan is to get the ball to Saquon Barkley and hope for the second-year back to do something magical, but they should have a much-improved offensive line after adding guard Kevin Zeitler. New York has the possibility of a massive improvement at quarterback with Daniel Jones, who looked fantastic in the preseason and won’t need to do much to improve upon the 38-year-old Eli Manning.

 

The most significant hole for the Giants is at pass-rusher, where the depth chart is led by the likes of Lorenzo Carter, Kareem Martin and former Cardinals standout Markus Golden. Carter flashed as a rookie, and Golden is just two years removed from a 12.5-sack campaign with Arizona. The Giants have to get one or more of those edge rushers to deliver a career season to build a competent defense. Remember that the 2011 Giants won a Super Bowl while being outscored by six points during the regular season; this is a franchise that has won its past two championships by sticking around and then getting hot at the right time.

 

 

WASHINGTON

They both may be bad, but Bill Barnwell thinks it is a long way from Washington to Miami.

 

31. Washington

Chance to win Super Bowl LIV: Less than 0.1%

Chance to make the playoffs: 8%

Caesars Super Bowl odds: +20000

 

I think there’s a much larger leap in probability between the Dolphins and Washington than the numbers might indicate. There’s a huge disparity in terms of talent between the two teams. Washington has a legitimate offensive line with one star, Brandon Scherff, and a second, Trent Williams, holding out. (Williams probably has to return sometime in September for this scenario to play out.) Jay Gruden’s defense was 20th in DVOA last season, but it has three first-round picks along the D-line in Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat to go with stars such as pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan, cornerback Josh Norman and free-agent addition Landon Collins at safety. A healthy Washington defense could be above average.

 

There’s also the possibility of an upgrade at quarterback with first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, who would have to catch fire and play at a high level for Washington to win its division and get into prime position for a playoff run after taking over for Week 1 starter Case Keenum. With the Cowboys facing a likely decline and the Eagles one Wentz injury away from starting 40-year-old Josh McCown at quarterback, Washington is likely to require an injury to a division rival and a hot stretch from its inexperienced quarterback to sprint into a deep playoff run.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Look out NFL, QB CAM NEWTON is feeling like its 2011.  David Newton of ESPN.com:

 

Any question that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton would have a clean bill of health for Sunday’s opener against the Los Angeles Rams was answered Wednesday when the 2015 NFL MVP did not appear on the team’s injury report.

 

If that wasn’t enough, then Newton’s big, familiar smile said the rest.

 

“I feel like a rookie again,” said the 30-year-old Newton, who is entering his ninth NFL season. “I’m having fun, feeling good, and the thrill is still there.”

 

Newton suffered a sprained left foot in the third preseason game that initially had his status for Sunday in question. But the injury healed quickly, and coach Ron Rivera said there will be no limitations on the offense because of his quarterback’s health — either the foot or the right shoulder that he had surgery on in January.

 

“No reason to,” Rivera said. “He’s in great shape. He’s right where we need him to be. He’s thrown the ball very well. He’s been very sharp, as has the team as a whole.

 

“I really do feel good about what he’s done. I love the work he’s put into it. He’s done a great job, and we’ll see how it all plays out on Sunday.”

 

Newton credits a change in his diet earlier this year to why he’s feeling so good.

 

“Vegan. Vegan strong,” Newton said. “That helps a lot. I’ve been a vegan all year, and I don’t think I’m going back. I feel good. I recover well. And that’s pretty much what it’s all about.

 

“It’s not putting certain things in your body that is going to combat your body trying to recover. You want to put things in your body that is going to expedite that whole process.”

 

Having great weapons around him like running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel also has Newton feeling good.

 

“First off, I’ve got a beef with all three of them, really,” he said. “They’ve got this thing right now where they’re a part of the rat pack, cat pack, whatever it is. And I was thinking they need like a lead singer, like The Temptations.

 

“David Ruffin was in The Temptations. It was David Ruffin and The Temptations. I was saying they’ve got to add me to it, Ace Boogie. … If they want to sell records, if they want to get noticed … they need to implement me in some type of way.”

 

But Newton’s focus, as he said when asked about the foot injury, is the Rams and getting back to playing the way he did before the shoulder sidelined him for the final two games last season.

 

“We just want to execute,” Newton said. “We want to get back to playing Carolina Panthers football, and that’s staying on rhythm. We want to get back to doing things we want to do when we want to do them.”

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Bill Barnwell on the Super Bowl aspirations of the Buccaneers:

 

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chance to win Super Bowl LIV: 0.1%

Chance to make the playoffs: 8.2%

Caesars Super Bowl odds: +10000

 

Tampa Bay is one of the teams I expect to improve in 2019, in part because it’s virtually impossible for its defense to be worse than it was in 2018. The Bucs were beaten up by injuries and were epically awful in the red zone. Over the past four years, they’ve been three standard deviations below the mean on field goal attempts. I’d project them to be below average in those categories in 2019. If they can get lucky and finish above average in those categories this season, they have the potential to get good quickly.

 

The logic, of course, is that the Bucs should be good on offense with their weapons and the arrival of coach Bruce Arians, who has built great passing attacks at virtually every one of his recent stops. It’s difficult to see them thriving to the point where they win the NFC South, as the Saints are expected to contend for a Super Bowl and both the Falcons and Panthers are likely to improve. In a scenario in which Drew Brees falls off with age and Cam Newton struggles to stay healthy, though, the Bucs could land on top in a division in which each team wins eight to 10 games. And if the offense lives up to expectations, no team is going to want to play a Bucs squad capable of going for 40-plus points any week in January. Could they be the 2016 Falcons?

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com on how the Cardinals might win the Super Bowl.

 

30. Arizona Cardinals

Chance to win Super Bowl LIV: Less than 0.1%

Chance to make the playoffs: 3.6%

Caesars Super Bowl odds: +15000

 

Speaking of inexperienced quarterbacks! Kyler Murray threw just 519 passes over three seasons in college, but his brilliant performance under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma in 2018 was enough to propel him to a Heisman Trophy. We saw how great Baker Mayfield looked for the Browns last season, although the needle really only moved for the 2018 No. 1 overall pick after the Browns fired Hue Jackson and Todd Haley and installed Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator.

 

Mayfield and the Browns were 5-3 with Gregg Williams as coach, and if the Cardinals are similarly effective with the duo of Murray and Kliff Kingsbury, they’ll be in line to make the playoffs in the NFC. Arizona will miss the suspended cornerback Patrick Peterson for six weeks, but it was competent on defense (17th in DVOA) last season and it has the potential to be explosive on offense.

 

The Cardinals will need the division in front of them to clear out, but we could have said that about the AFC North last year, only to see the Steelers fall off and miss the playoffs and the Ravens require late-season heroics from Lamar Jackson to win the division. If they can get home-field advantage, the Cardinals will get plenty of home support; they’re 4-0 at home in the playoffs since moving to Arizona.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

Bill Barnwell on the Chiefs and their Super Bowl favorite status (one of the things that makes the NFL fun is that the Chiefs are Super Bowl “favorites” with just a 16% chance and 6 to 1 odds):

 

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Chance to win Super Bowl LIV: 15.5%

Chance to make the playoffs: 82.8%

Caesars Super Bowl odds: +600

 

The Patriots aren’t the favorites, though, as the Chiefs return every important piece of their offense and upgraded on defense by acquiring pass-rusher Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu. We know the Chiefs can beat the Patriots, given that Alex Smith led Kansas City to a victory over the Pats in New England during Week 1 in 2017, but you also figure that Kansas City’s best chance of winning a Super Bowl involves some other team dispatching the Patriots.

 

Since we’re here at the end, let’s dream out a little scenario. The Chiefs go 12-4 but lose in the regular season to the Patriots, who also go 12-4 and claim home-field advantage in the AFC. The Chiefs host and beat the Texans in the divisional round, but when it looks as if Kansas City is about to head to Foxborough, the Chiefs are saved by an upset win from the same Jaguars team that dominated the Pats in 2018 and came within a quarter of beating them in New England in the 2017 AFC Championship Game.

 

That leaves the Chiefs at home for the AFC Championship Game and a matchup of Nick Foles against Andy Reid, the head coach who saved Foles’ career. Just for fun, let’s say that the Chiefs advance and face the Eagles in the Super Bowl, giving us Reid vs. protégé Doug Pederson and an organization that still has Reid’s fingerprints all over it after a 14-year stint as head coach. Could be fun, right?

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Did the DB make a good move with a late round Fantasy pick on RB AUSTIN EKELER?  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn doesn’t sound particularly worried about Melvin Gordon‘s holdout.

 

Lynn said he likes the 1-2 punch of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson at running back and thinks they both bring plenty to the offense.

 

“I’ve always used those guys as a tandem,” Lynn said, via ESPN. “That’s not going to change. We’re going to put guys in good positions to do what they do best.”

 

Gordon is a former first-round pick holding out for more money than the $5.6 million base salary he’s set to make this season. Ekeler is a former undrafted free agent who makes $645,000 (the league minimum for a third-year player) while Jackson is a former seventh-round pick who makes $570,000 (the league minimum for a second-year player). If Ekeler and Jackson can fill in adequately for Gordon, while making far less money, it’s going to be awfully hard for Gordon to convince the Chargers to give him the contract he wants.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com makes the longshot case for the Bengals to reach the Super Bowl:

 

29. Cincinnati Bengals

Chance to win Super Bowl LIV: Less than 0.1%

Chance to make the playoffs: 11.2%

Caesars Super Bowl odds: +12500

 

For the teams ranked 32nd to 30th, a quarterback is the wild card who might propel the team to unexpected heights. For the Bengals, that X factor is 36-year-old Zac Taylor, their new coach. Taylor might very well just be a replacement-level coach who happened to fall into a seat next to Sean McVay, but remember that the Rams were listed at +10000 to win the Super Bowl two years ago before they went 11-5 and won the West.

 

McVay breathed life into a moribund franchise dulled by years of mediocrity under Jeff Fisher. Could Taylor do the same for a Bengals team that collapsed into anonymity in the last days of Marvin Lewis?

 

I’d feel more confident if the Bengals were healthier, given that the NFL’s fifth-most injured team from 2018 already has lost rookie first-round offensive tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder) for the year and has both tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion) and wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) out indefinitely. It might be better to hope for a drastic improvement from the defense, which faced the toughest schedule of opposing offenses in the league last season and returns one of the league’s deepest lines. Every team ahead of the Bengals in the AFC North has red flags; the Bengals are no exception, but their core is underrated and has a higher ceiling than most remember.

 

 

CLEVELAND

It’s not exactly Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers, but QB BAKER MAYFIELD signals that he expects a big game Sunday.  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

Baker Mayfield will put his money on Odell Beckham Jr. and other Browns receivers in one-on-one matchups with the Titans on Sunday.

 

“I have full confidence in all our playmakers, our skill position guys that if they have one-on-ones, they should be licking their chops and they should all take that as disrespect because that’s the type of team we have and we need to take advantage of,’’ Mayfield said. “It’s going to be a matchup game.’’

 

Mayfield finally has almost his full complement of receivers on the field with Beckham, Jarvis Landry and others, and likes their chances in the opener at FirstEnergy. The only one not available is Antonio Callaway, who is suspended the first four games.

 

“It’s going to look like a lot of matchups that we can take advantage of, a numbers game,’’ Mayfield re-iterated. “Seeing how they’re going to play us and be able to adjust off of that. Being able to do our basic stuff but then adjust on what they’re doing.’’

 

No lack of confidence on the defense either.  More Cabot:

 

Myles Garrett is ready to unleash all his fury on the NFL this season, and the Titans on Sunday in the opener.

 

All preseason, Garrett has been unblockable, and he put into words in an interview with ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue what it’s going to be like when the Browns’ overhauled defensive line finally takes the field.

 

“I’m excited, but at the end of the day you got to actually put thoughts into action,” he said. “Odell [Beckham Jr.], Baker [Mayfield], Jarvis [Landry], they all put in the work to make this year special. We just got to believe in each other.

 

“The D-line, we’ve all been at OTAs together; nobody’s really missed any days so we’re all really getting that chemistry. It’s going to be a blood bath.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Bill Barnwell on if and how the post-Luck Colts could win the Super Bowl:

 

21. Indianapolis Colts

Chance to win Super Bowl LIV: 0.6%

Chance to make the playoffs: 24%

Caesars Super Bowl odds: +4500

 

Obviously, the Colts are in a different ballpark after Andrew Luck retired. They were favorites to win the AFC South and 15-1 to win the Super Bowl before Luck’s stunning retirement, but the good news is that there’s a logical way for them to regain their previous stature. Many onlookers were reasonably high on the Colts’ roster around Luck before the retirement, and while quarterback Jacoby Brissett is likely to be a downgrade, there’s always a chance Brissett plays at a similar level. The ex-Patriots passer played like an upper-echelon backup in 2017, but with a better offensive line and a year to learn under Frank Reich, he has a shot at drastically improving on his prior marks.

 

Indy also signed Brian Hoyer earlier this week, which improves its floor if Brissett struggles or gets injured. With 10 first- or second-round picks drafted by general manager Chris Ballard on the roster and a wide-open AFC South ripe for the taking, the Colts easily could make their way back onto the playoff radar. The 1999 Rams loom as a team that lost its quarterback in August and seemed to be left for dead, only for a great coaching staff and talent around the roster to help an inexperienced quarterback — a 28-year-old with 11 career pass attempts by the name of Kurt Warner — unlock his full potential.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

QB NICK FOLES doesn’t want to let an abdominal problem keep him out of Sunday’s game.  Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com:

 

Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles is dealing with abdominal soreness but the team expects him to play in the season opener against Kansas City on Sunday.

 

The Jaguars did not practice Wednesday because of Hurricane Dorian, but the team released an estimated injury report and Foles was on it because of a lingering issue from last week.

 

The Jaguars will return to practice Thursday.

 

Foles played only 19 snaps in the preseason — in the third game against Miami — because coach Doug Marrone did not want him on the field unless the starting offensive line was healthy and able to play.

 

Nick Foles played only 19 snaps in the preseason. Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Jaguars signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract with a team-record $50.125 million guaranteed in March.

 

Behind Foles on the depth chart is rookie Gardner Minshew, whom the team drafted in the sixth round this year. The team added Chase Litton, who signed with Kansas City as an undrafted free agent in 2018, to the practice squad earlier this week.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

QB RYAN FITZPATRICK makes history on Sunday.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick was joined in the huddle by players like Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and sacked by Sean Taylor during his first NFL start.

 

That’s a long way of saying that Fitzpatrick has been around for a while. He went on to start two more games for the Rams in 2005 and went on to start 123 more games for six other teams before landing with the Dolphins this offseason.

 

Barring an unforeseen calamity, Fitzpatrick will start against the Ravens this weekend and become the first quarterback to make starts for eight different teams during his career. Fitzpatrick said on Wednesday that he’s relishing his status as the ultimate journeyman and that he thinks that experience makes him the right man to pilot a rebuilding team in Miami.

 

“You know it is [rewarding],” Fitzpatrick said, via the team’s website. “It’s something that’s never been done before. Just in terms of who I am and the career I’ve had and the different places I’ve been, this means a lot to me. I think being able to do it here with a younger group where it’s going to rely so much on communication and I’ve got to make sure I’m at my best on every single play, whether it’s during the play or before at the line of scrimmage. I’m going to put a lot on myself this week to make sure everything goes smoothly. I think, in terms of me being in this spot and this place right now, I think my career has led me to this and I fit well in the role I’m being asked to play right now.”

 

It’s been a long and winding road that’s taken Fitzpatrick from St. Louis in 2005 to Miami in 2019 and he’s embracing it even as others are bracing for a rough year for the Dolphins.

 

For the record, Chris Chandler and Gus Frerotte were the other two QBs to start for 7 different teams.

– – –

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com cites the 2008 Dolphins as he grasps at straws for the 2019 Dolphins to win the Super Bowl:

 

32. Miami Dolphins

Chance to win Super Bowl LIV: Less than 0.1%

Chance to make the playoffs: 3.9%

Caesars Super Bowl odds: +30000

 

OK, I understand why you’re yelling. The Dolphins aren’t going to win the Super Bowl. They are in a division with the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots and just traded two of their best offensive players. The only person who doesn’t realize that Miami is tanking for a college quarterback such as Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa is coach Brian Flores. FPI thinks the Dolphins are more likely to go 0-16 than they are to win Super Bowl LIV at their home stadium.

 

The Dolphins, though, are the best reminder of just how haywire something that seems obvious in the preseason can go once the season actually begins. Go back to 2007, when the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season and came within one helmet catch of posting a perfect season. Under the stewardship of first-year head coach Cam Cameron, Miami went 1-15 and finished with the worst record in football. It would have been absolutely bonkers to suggest that Miami would win the AFC East in 2008.

 

And yet, that’s exactly what happened. The Patriots lost Brady in Week 1 to a torn ACL, and the Dolphins rode the Wildcat and a 7-2 record in games decided by seven points or less to a division title. Those Dolphins lost in the wild-card round to the Ravens, but something that would have seemed absurd before the season turned out to be exactly what happened during the campaign.

 

To get the Dolphins to win their division and fall into the Super Bowl, you’re probably going to need Brady to either suffer an injury or fall off catastrophically at age 42. If the Jets fail to realize their potential under Adam Gase and the Bills can’t do anything with Josh Allen at quarterback, the division — at least theoretically — would be wide open. Miami has one of the least-imposing offensive lines in recent memory after trading Laremy Tunsil, but it has talent along the defensive line and in the secondary. Josh Rosen is essentially a lottery ticket at this point, but lottery tickets hit sometimes, right? The 2008 Dolphins illuminate the difference between incredibly improbable and impossible.