The regular season is now all wrapped up and for 20 teams, in Monopoly parlance, it is ‘do not pass go’, and head straight to a long off-season full of reflection and ‘what might have been’s’.
But for some there is hope, as there were signs from certain teams that they were headed in the right direction. For others the season ended in a bit of a hot mess – let’s look at a few of each of these.
Signs are good for……
Cleveland Browns – this is an easy one, Baker Mayfield was a hit as was Denzel Ward. Myles Garrett is a future HOF. Bags of young talent and Gregg Williams seemed to be able to get the mix right as the latter stages of season progressed. I love Browns fans (was in amongst them at Wembley in 2017 for the London game vs Vikings – such great fun). They will make playoffs next year, likely WC spot to another Ravens AFC North Title for me.
Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen is another hit at QB from the last draft, great duel threat but they do need to provide him with more weapons and over $80M in cap space should help.
49ers – Assuming Jimmy G comes back fit and well (although Nick Mullens proved a useful back up) I think the pieces are there (with another good draft) to really challenge in a tough NFC West division. George Kittle – what a find.
New York generally – Sam Darnold shows promise for the Jets and I think with (similar to Bills) oodles of cap space, approaching $100M, there is room to manoeuvre in free agency. For the Giants, c’mon look at the weapons on offense – Saquon, OBJ, Evan Engram (on the basis of last few games) with a bit more protection for Eli (or maybe Dwayne Haskins….) and giving James Bettcher a 2nd year with a young defense, progress will be made. Bold prediction – both NY teams have winning records next year!
In the ‘this should be interesting’ category – roll up, the Oakland Raiders – Gruden, Mayock, over $70M cap space and 3 (count them T-H-R-E-E) 1st round draft picks. I can’t wait to see what kind of roster that results in come September.
And Hot Mess time…………
Miami look adrift with a new HC needed and probably QB – seem to have lost direction since Jay Ajayi wandered off to Philly. What on earth is going on in Pittsburgh? No Bell and pretty soon no Brown by looks of it, and Big Ben looking increasingly mad as hell (or even HellBoy). Jags full of talent (apart from at QB) but not the discipline to match (how is this so in a Tom Coughlin world??). Denver, again looking listless without a definite philosophy on offense led by the QB. In the NFC north the previously dominate pair of Green Bay and Minnesota look troubled (Thielen and Cousins anyone). And lastly Arizona…..well at least you have 1st pick.
Seven teams there with perhaps more of an overhaul needed whereas a few tweaks with the aforementioned sides may be enough to tip them over the top and into the 2019 season playoffs.
In the meantime fans of all these teams can sit back, be the neutrals, and enjoy some NFL playoff football in relatively relaxation (whilst wishing our sides were there).