Chris Freud: Happy NFL season and my pick for the Broncos
I have a sense of deja vu with the NFL season that starts tonight as the Chiefs visit the Patriots.
When I was growing up, I would watch the baseball Giants stink for five months, and then the 49ers would appear magically, pillaging and plundering to victory.
The Giants have been god-awful this summer, so the Niners are going to make me happy this fall, right?
Not. A. Chance.
Nonetheless, I’m still pumped for the season.
Last year, I wrote in this space that the Broncos would not make the playoffs, and you all were a little peeved. You were downright obnoxious when the Broncos started 4-0.
And then, of course, the Broncos went 5-7 the rest of the way and didn’t make the playoffs.
I bring this up, not only to sate my ego, but to remind everyone not to place too much importance on Week 1 — the Niners were 1-0 and ended up 2-14 — or the first few weeks for that matter.
Nonetheless, we offer forward our annual predictions.
This division is a mess. The Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders could all win it, and the San Diego, er, Los Angeles Chargers will just be annoying enough to take the other three teams with losses.
The Raiders are the trendy pick, but I have three issues with them. First, I hate the Raiders.
On a more analytical front, they overachieved last season. They’re not going 12-4 again. They also have the move to Las Vegas with which to deal. If Oakland stumbles out of the gate, then it’s going to get ugly at the Coliseum quickly — not that the Raiders fan base is particularly lovely on a good day.
The Chiefs won the division last year, but there remains The Alex Smith Factory, which is can you really trust him to lead a team to greatness? No.
On the other hand, K.C. has a good defense, and some playmakers around Smith on offense with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
And then we have the Broncos — great defense, good playmakers on offense and a suspect offensive line that could reduce Trevor Siemian and company to Siemian running for his life trying to throw a predictable short pass.
The five most important Broncos are Garrett Bolles, Max Garcia, Matt Paradis, Ron Leary and Menelik Watson. The offensive line just needs to give Siemian a second or two to find Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders or to open a hole for C.J. Anderson, Jamal Charles or De’Angelo Henderson.
The offense doesn’t have to do much. It just needs to put up 20 points per game and not cough up the football.
And if Siemian struggles or gets hurt, then wouldn’t it be kind of funny to see Brock Osweiler return and be just the merely functional QB the Broncos need?
Denver goes 10-6 and wins the division.
The Patriots will win the AFC East, as the Jets and Bills are horrible and the Dolphins have Jay Cutler at quarterback. (Insert laugh here.) Seriously, the Patriots lose Julian Edelman, and they’ll just take a guy off the street and turn him into the second coming of Edelman.
You know it’s true.
The Steelers win the Central, while the South is interesting. How quickly do the Texans go to Deshaun Watson? If Houston gets a real quarterback, then the Texans will be legit. And the Tennessee Titans are a sleeper team this year. They’ll be a wild card, along with the Chiefs.
Yes, the Cowboys are trending after last year. Like the Raiders, they fall back a little bit. Ezekiel Elliott is going to be suspended at some point and Dak Prescott will regress a bit.
Dallas still wins the East and this division will continue to be on primetime broadcasts incessantly.
The NFC South should be fun. The Falcons are still recovering from their 28-3 Super Bowl gag. Tampa’s underrated and Cam Newton seems to be one of those guys who has a good year and then a bad year. After 6-10 last year, the Panthers are in the mix again. Bucs win the division.
In the Central, I think the Vikings are better, but one does not pick against Aaron Rodgers. Packers win again. Minnesota and Carolina are wild card.
Seattle takes the West because Never Rely On Carson Palmer is a corollary to The Alex Smith Factor.
Super Bowl LII
I shouldn’t. I know it. But the Patriots repeat by beating Green Bay.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.