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Division winner predicted
In the inaugural poll of 2019, the question was asked: Who is the favorite in the Division?
Here are the answers that came back from across the 32 fanbases, each voting only for its own division:
AFC East - Patriots (77%)
No surprises here. Not one other team in the division (Dolphins, Jets, Bills) was able to muster more than 10% of the votes. It’s kinda hard, in a way, to figure out who the 23% of people were that picked against TB12 and the Dark Lord.
AFC North - Browns (53%)
Wow! Talk about a franchise that has turned things around quickly! Earlier this week, I was looking at the AFC pro bowl roster from last season, then realized that it was actually the Browns roster!
Last month I heard a guy on NFL Network say that the Browns roster didn’t have a hole anywhere, then doubled down by saying he didn’t think it was hyperbole to say so. Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Antonio Calloway, David Njoku, Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Denzel Ward.... This team is loaded.
Now, can Freddie Kitchens coach?
AFC South - Colts (58%)
Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about that Redskins Week 2 loss to Indy last year. Turns out that this guy Andrew Luck is pretty good when his shoulder isn’t sore. They couldn’t beat out the Texans for the division title last season, but I’m guessing former Redskins UDFA Zach Pascal puts them over the top in 2019.
By the way, who’s the better coach: Frank Reich or Doug Pederson?
AFC West - Chiefs (78%)
This is almost as automatic as picking the New England Patriots.
I said, “almost”.
The Chargers mustered 11%, but the poor
San Diego Los Angeles team hasn’t won the division since 2009, when they won a 5th division crown in 6 years.
Hey... how is it that Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner did so well with the Bolts?
The Chargers have to be sentimental favorites around the NFL (outside of the AFC West), after playing so much gritty football and coming up just short so many times in recent years. Who wouldn’t like to see Phillip Rivers enjoy a bit of success as he finishes the back-9 of his career?
It just feels like the Chargers are doomed to be always the bridesmaid, never the bride these days.
NFC West - Rams (75%)
The Seahawks garnered 15% of the vote in the the Western division of the National Football Conference, but, following an NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl mere weeks ago, Redskin-at-heart Sean McVay and his young team of hired assassins are the favorites to repeat as division winners.
They’d better hope they don’t have to meet the Saints in the playoffs; I read a tweet somewhere that the New Orleans fans felt a bit dirty about the way the NFC Championship game ended, and that they might be looking for revenge.
Of course, the Rams will be looking to take care of unfinished business themselves.
NFC South - Saints (71%)
Speaking of those Saints...
The Carolina fans, after starting off 2018 as the least confident fan base in the NFL, are feeling a bit friskier as the ‘19 season draws nigh. Carolina pulled in 15% of the votes.
I’d be shocked if the Saints didn’t dominate the South this season. They’ve had a bad taste in their mouths all off-season.
There was a feeling in New Orleans last year, I think, that 2018 was Drew Brees’ season. The fans were looking for a season filled with career records, a division championship, league MVP, Super Bowl win and Super Bowl MVP.
As it turned out, there was no league MVP for poor Drew; no NFC Championship trophy for the Saints; no chance to bring home the Lombardi Trophy thanks to those incompetent NFL refs. I think it all left the team and the city feeling dissatisfied.
The Saints are going to be out to prove something, and I think they’ve got the coach, the quarterback, the roster and the fans to make it happen.
NFC North - Bears (66%)
At the end of 2017, people were whispering that Mitchell (not Mitch?) Trubisky might end up a draft “bust” after the Bears had foolishly and unnecessarily traded a bunch of draft picks to move up one spot to grab him in the draft.
At the end of 2017, Vikings fans were feeling that they were one player away from bringing home a Lombardi Trophy. They celebrated the decision to move on from Case Keenum, and felt that they’d won the free agent lottery after Washington foolishly let Kirk Cousins walk.
What a difference a year makes.
Trubisky had an off-season to get better, and the Bears made the biggest trade of the ‘18 offseason when they acquired Khalil Mack from the Raiders. They got a lot better. They finished the season 12-4; division champs.
The Vikings made the biggest splash in free agency by giving Kirk Cousins an unprecedented fully guaranteed $84m contract. It didn’t make them better. The Vikings finished 8-7-1 and out of the playoffs.
Now, with the Chicago at 66% and Minnesota at 16%, there’s been a power shift in the NFC North. How loud will the Vikings fans howl if their team misses the playoffs again in 2019?
By the way, how much fun is it going to be if Case Keenum is the starter when the Redskins travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings this year? It may not rival the return of Bryce Harper to DC with the Phillies, but there’ll definitely be a lot of story lines that week.
It may just be me, but I don’t think that any team in the division has gotten better (though the draft may change that).
Philly has lost Nick Foles, and — let’s face it — he’s the one that’s been under center in all the big games.
The Cowboys bring their 2018 roster back largely intact, but they have Demarcus Lawrence threatening to sit out until he has a long-term deal, and they didn’t have any cash for free agency because they need to save up for 2020, when they will have multiple stars and key players hitting free agency all at the same time.
The Giants? I guess that they’ll be in a battle with Miami for the top draft pick of 2020. As one tweet that I saw recently phrased it: it seems as if Gettleman didn’t like the roster he inherited.
I’m guessing that the Giants ‘new direction’ will save the Redskins from finishing in last place in the the NFC East, but this is the least optimistic I’ve been about a Redskins team since Robert Griffin was drafted in 2012.
Perhaps the upcoming draft, and the fact that the ‘Skins have 4 picks in the top-100 will hold some magic, but the loss of Alex Smith, and its salary cap implications, really hurt this roster, and it may take another season or two to be playoff-competitive again.
I’ll be hoping that the Washington Front Office focuses on building the roster during the draft at the end of the month, and I’ll be saying rosaries that Case Keenum returns to the form that saw him lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship game just 15 months ago.
I have to admit, though, I’m more hopeful than optimistic.