— What a mess they have in Cleveland; they’ve made the playoffs once the last 19 years, they signed QB Deshaun Watson to a huge, guaranteed contract, but he’s suspended 11 games by the NFL for alleged sexual misconduct- he didn’t play last year either.
Jacoby Brissett is Cleveland’s QB to start; the Browns traded the previous starter Baker Mayfield to Carolina, their opponent in Week 1.
— Mike Zimmer went 74-59-1 as coach of the Vikings from 2014-21, but went 2-3 in playoff games, so he was shown the door and in comes Kevin O’Connell, who has an offense-based background, but he’s never been a head coach.
Will QB Kirk Cousins/WR Justin Jefferson benefit from the coaching change? Defense-minded coaches like Zimmer tend to run the ball more, to protect their defense from being on the field too much. Minnesota figures to be more wide open on offense now.
— Trey Lance is the new QB in San Francisco; he’s started only three football games the last two years, going 1-1 with the 49ers LY, after North Dakota State played only one game in the short 2020 season.
17 starts at the I-AA level, two starts in the NFL, he takes over a team that lost the NFC title game 20-17 last year. 49ers are in win-now mode; is Lance good enough right now to lead them to a Super Bowl?
— Brian Daboll is the guy who developed Buffalo QB Josh Allen into a big star; Daboll is now the head coach of the Giants. Allen will have a new voice in his ear; new OC Ken Dorsey. Buffalo is favored to win the Super Bowl; can Allen maintain his high level of play, with a new OC calling his plays?
— if Daboll can turn Daniel Jones into a top-flight QB the way he did with Allen, then he’s going to be known as an elite QB whisperer; last five years, Giants are 22-59. This is a made-or-break year for Jones in New Jersey; the 2023 draft is expected to be QB-heavy.
— AFC West is loaded; Raiders are the longest shot to win the division, and they were 10-7 LY, a playoff team. Mahomes, Wilson, Herbert, Carr; lot of good QB’s.
— Chiefs have hosted the last four AFC title games, but won only one Super Bowl- they played the Buccaneers in Tampa in the Super Bowl they lost. Kansas City has won the AFC West six years in a row; can they make it seven this year?
— Raiders, by the way, haven’t won a playoff game since losing the Super Bowl 20 years ago.
— Matt Ryan will be the Colts’ 5th different starting QB the last five years; they were 9-6 at one point LY, but gagged at the end, losing last two games to Raiders/Jaguars, missing the playoffs, which prompted the Carson Wentz-to-Washington deal.
Ryan went 124-108 as QB of the Falcons; he led a Super Bowl 28-3, but things went downhill after Atlanta lost that game in overtime. Now, at age 37, he starts the final chapter in his NFL career.
— Some numbers to consider:
Tom Brady was 249-75 as QB of the Patriots, 30-11 in playoff games.
Bill Belichick is 321-156 as a head coach, 31-13 in playoff games.
Do the math, subtracting the Brady games, and Belichick is 72-81 as a head coach, 1-2 in playoff games.
— Sean Payton was 161-97 coaching the Saints, 9-8 in playoff games; he won a Super Bowl, but he is working on TV for FOX this year. His presence will hover over the Dallas Cowboys this year; Dallas is 18-15 in two years under Mike McCarthy- they haven’t won a playoff game since 2018.
Dallas was 12-5 last year, but lost their first playoff game; they haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1995. Jerry Jones ain’t getting any younger; there is pressure on McCarthy to produce this year.
If he doesn’t, Payton could very well be the Dallas coach next season.
— During a preseason game last week, Arizona QB Kyler Murray was calling plays in the fourth quarter; would Kliff Kingsbury ever let Murray call his own plays while he was playing?
Back in the day, quarterbacks called their own plays, but this off-season, Arizona questioned Murray’s willingness to study/prepare like NFL QB’s are supposed to do. They’re also paying him $46M a year, so they obviously think he is capable.
— Doug Pederson is Jacksonville’s third head coach in three years; he was 46-39-1 coaching the Eagles, winning a Super Bowl. Trevor Lawrence enters his second year as the QB; he should do a lot better with Pederson mentoring him.
— It has been 18 years since a team won consecutive Super Bowls; can the Rams repeat this season? They lost some veteran players from LY; Whitworth. Woods. Von Miller. Weddle. Hekker. Corbett.
They’re being dismissed in preseason predictions; they still have a great coach, a great QB and Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in the game. We’ll see what happens.