Monday Morning Digest: Breakout Stars Ready to Dominate

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterJuly 30, 2018

Monday Morning Digest: Breakout Stars Ready to Dominate

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    That's right folks: The NFL is back, and so is Monday Morning Digest!

    In this week's special training camp kickoff edition, you'll find:

    • Which young stars (other than Derrick Henry) are poised for breakout campaigns

    • A Ravens preview that's about much more than the Joe Flacco-Lamar Jackson non-controversy

    • A Packers preview that's about much more than Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Graham

    • All the holdout, PUP and contract news you can handle without needing a calculator or a pre-med degree

    • Helicopters, Twitter rants and all the other telltale sights and sounds from the start of camp

    • The Ultimate Rooting Guide, for new fans and old

    All that and much, much more!


Derrick Henry, T.J. Watt Lead the Charge for Breakout Stars

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Derrick Henry arrived at Titans camp on a mission.

    "I definitely want to be dominant this year," he said in a start-of-camp press conference. "And any opportunities that I get, take the most advantage of them. Make plays for this offense, be a consistent back, make plays any chance that I'm in there and just do what I'm asked and help this team win games."

    Henry will get a lot of opportunities this year. Mike Vrabel has replaced Mike Mularkey as the Titans head coach, which means no more 1950s Texas high school play-calling. DeMarco Murray is also gone, which means no more splitting carries to justify a veteran's paycheck. (Newcomer Dion Lewis will have a more defined passing-down role.) Henry is a lock for a 1,000-yard season, and the Titans—who are loaded with young veterans ready to break out—are poised to be stealth contenders in the AFC.

    Rookies, big-name newcomers, veterans returning from injury and holdouts usually dominate the early-camp storylines. But young veterans poised to make that leap to superstardom, like Henry, are the players most likely to make the biggest difference once the season starts. Identify this year's Carson Wentz or Nelson Agholor, and you may just discover next year's Super Bowl winners.

    Here are a few more second- and third-year vets who are ready to take that next step. We skipped some obvious choices—we'll have plenty to say about Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo once the preseason action kicks off—to focus on other players who have generated early-camp buzz:


    T.J. Watt, Edge-Rusher, Steelers

    J.J.'s kid brother has bulked up a bit, is switching sides of the defensive formation and is eager to reveal a little more of his personality this season. "I was really quiet last year," Watt told Lance Allan of TMJ4 (via Simon Chester of Behind the Steel Curtain). "I was just trying to stick to the books and do as best as I can on the field. But now, I can have a little bit more of a personality, kind of just be an all-around great football player, but also be a great teammate for my guys." We know what a vocal, confident Watt looks like, and we like it.


    Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Vikings

    Cook averaged 4.8 yards per rush before his early-season ACL injury last year. He's a full participant in training camp and is running without a brace, which is great news for the Vikings. But if you wanna make a new offensive coordinator swoon (and get the playing time that comes with it), you gotta shine in pass protection for that $84 million quarterback. "He got into the blitz period yesterday, and he was assignment perfect," John DeFilippo told reporters. "I think that when you see a young player that understands protections the way he does at an early age, I think that's really unique." Swoon.


    Josh Doctson, Wide Receiver, Redskins

    Doctson had an MRI exam on his Achilles this week (gasp), but it revealed nothing (phew). "Nothing showed up, so why would it be alarming?" Jay Gruden asked reporters. Um, well, Coach, it's alarming because Doctson lost most of his 2016 rookie season to injuries and the whole Skins roster looked like an urgent care facility last year. But Doctson flashed big-play potential last year and is penciled in as Alex Smith's primary target this year. If he's healthy, Doctson could be this year's Agholor.


    Solomon Thomas, Defensive Line, 49ers

    The third pick in last year's draft struggled with the transition from interior defender to edge-rusher last year. Well, who wouldn't? Thomas is expected to play more of a Leo role this season while also taking some interior snaps on passing downs. A little bigger and a lot more experienced, he will become the sack producer the 49ers desperately need if he can apply the quickness and power he demonstrated at Stanford to his new role.


    Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback, Cowboys

    Awuzie flashed Pro Bowl potential at cornerback in a handful of rookie starts after missing the beginning of last season with a hamstring injury. But there were offseason rumors that the Cowboys would move Awuzie over to safety. So far in minicamp and training camp, he appears to be locked in at cornerback. "I definitely know what the safeties do, but right now it's pretty confirmed that I'll play corner," he told reporters before the start of camp. Smart move: Awuzie may be a useful safety or slot defender in certain packages, but he has the talent and temperament of a shutdown cornerback. 

Sights and Sounds of the Start of Camp

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    From splashy arrivals to creepy tattoos to Twitter rants, the NFL announced its return to work this week as only the NFL can. Here are the highlights:


    Antonio Brown arrives at Steelers camp via helicopter

    Le'Veon Bell ain't showing up until he can arrive via Brinks truck.


    Tom Brady shuts down his press conference after an Alex Guerrero question

    Everything is 100 percent fine and normal in Foxborough as long as no one ever mentions the quarterback's personal trainer/confidant/guru who mysteriously holds undetermined power over the organization by name, got it? In a franchise run by Bill Belichick, who would have thought some fitness dude would end up being Voldemort?


    Baker Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor have a private "quarterbacks only" RV at Browns headquarters

    What a coincidence: Most Browns quarterbacks end up living in a van down by the river.


    Chris Long reveals a tattoo of Eagles assistant coach Ken Flajole on his torso

    That Eddie Vedder tattoo you got in '93 doesn't seem so embarrassing anymore.


    Andrew Luck looked rusty in Indy's first practice (...but he practiced)

    It's the headline Colts fans craved in 2017. But in 2018!


    Jon Gruden hasn't spoken to contract holdout Khalil Mack at all since taking over as head coach, per ESPN's Adam Schefter (or maybe did once after taking the job but hasn't since, as Gruden told radio host JT The Brick)

    Sun Tzu, as quoted by Vince Lombardi, as paraphrased by some dude on Reddit, as interpreted by Jon Gruden, said it best: "Doing everything you can to alienate and not communicate with your most indispensable employees is great leadership!"   


    Cowboys doing yoga at training camp

    "Everybody is cool with it," Jourdan Lewis said, per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. "Everybody is a manly man and understand this is just to prolong their career." No one tell Jerry Jones. Or Jon Gruden. Or Larry Fedora. Or Papa John. And just to be safe, don't mention it to Tom Brady.


    Dez Bryant goes ham on Twitter

    Bryant responded to out-of-context Stephen Jones remarks by dragging everyone from former head coach Jason Garrett to teammates Sean Lee (Dez called him "Snake" Lee) and Travis Frederick. That'll prove the critics wrong for calling him a bad locker room influence!

Financial Digest

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Who got paid? Who didn't get paid? Who had better get paid soon? There's more action on the budget spreadsheet than on the field in the opening days of camp. And as always, Digest is all about the money:


    Julio Jones reports to camp after agreeing to a contract restructuring

    Falcons fans can now stop worrying about whether the team will be able to use Jones at all and start worrying about how they will misuse him.


    Falcons extend coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff through the 2022 season.

    Wait: Management took care of itself financially before taking care of the most valuable employees? That's not how business works! (Narrator: That's precisely how business works.)


    Titans tackle Taylor Lewan signs a five-year, reported $80 million extension; wears a Boss Hogg costume to the signing ceremony

    So...Boss Hogg isn't considered "problematic" these days? The crooked Hazard County politician was always trying to apprehend the Duke Boys and their Confederate Flag-emblazoned General Lee, so maybe he was actually...woke? Nothing makes sense anymore. (Narrator: The Dukes of Hazzard never made sense.)


    Falcons tackle Jake Matthews signs five-year, $75 million extension almost simultaneously with Lewan

    The left tackle market is resetting, which is why the Falcons needed budget flexibility, which is why they couldn't just drop a zillion dollars on a receiver with three years left on his contract, which is why guys like Dimitroff get big bucks while the rest of us just yell, "Pay Julio!" on radio shows. Remember this next time there's a sticky holdout situation, folks. (Narrator: No one would.)


    Seahawks give Duane Brown a three-year, $36.5 million extension

    Brown is good, but he looks like a cross between Orlando Pace and the Hulk compared to the rest of the Seahawks line, so of course the Seahawks front office (which has made some odd decisions lately) has decided to pay the almost-33-year-old the Pace-Hulk rate.


    Earl Thomas holds out of Seahawks camp

    This is turning into the most awkward breakup since my prom date left me in the middle of "At This Moment" to make out in the corner with Carmine Capocollo.


    Todd Gurley a signs four-year contract extension with $45 million in guarantees

    The people most outraged by the Gurley extension:

    • Le'Veon Bell

    • Julio Jones

    • Aaron Donald

    • Other teams (no one likes it when the market is reset)

    • Either the Rams in three years when Gurley is worn out or Gurley in three years when he is an all-time great and pulls a Julio Jones for more money

Training Camp Digest: Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Each week during the preseason, Digest will highlight a pair of teams with legit playoff aspirations and take a deep dive into their training camps. This week starts with the Ravens.


    What's new

    The Ravens added speed (John Brown), slot quickness (Willie Snead) and possession capability (Michael Crabtree) to their receiving corps, plus first-round tight end Hayden Hurst, who has battled hamstring injuries at the start of camp. The goal is to give starting quarterback Joe Flacco—yes, starting quarterback Joe Flacco—a chance to do more than dump the ball off in the flats.


    Who to watch

    • With no quarterback controversy brewing between Flacco and first-round pick Lamar Jackson—the rookie has a long way to go before he's a serious challenger to the much-maligned starter—all eyes will be on the controversial two-quarterback packages the Ravens started rolling out in camp this week. "I evaluate them like, 'Do they look terrible,' or, 'Do you look OK?'" John Harbaugh said of the two-quarterback gadget plays this week. Seriously, Coach: You should have been using that same litmus test on the whole offense for the past four years.

    • Fantasy gamers should keep an eye on a stacked backfield. Alex Collins remains the starter, but Buck Allen is expected to retain a major role, and Kenneth Dixon returns to the rotation after missing 2017 with a meniscus tear (though Dixon has been in and out of practice with a hammy issue). The crowded backfield situation is made more complicated by the new receiving corps; again, there won't be as many six-yard swing passes to go around if everything goes according to plan.

    • New defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale (the nickname is a 70s game show reference; who says the Ravens aren't hip?) has tweaked the Ravens defense, allowing veterans like Eric Weddle and C.J. Mosley more flexibility to make their own pre-snap adjustments. Of course, no one ever worries about whether the Ravens defense will be good.


    Bottom line

    The Ravens are coming off a 9-7 season and a productive offseason, but all anyone wants to talk about is the rookie quarterback and the Wildcat gimmicks. But don't sleep on the team known for the NFL's sleepiest offense: No team comes at you when you least expect it quite like the Ravens.

Training Camp Digest: Green Bay Packers

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Digest continues its twice-weekly training-camp deep dives on teams with legit playoff aspirations.


    What's new

    Aaron Rodgers is healthy and not muttering anything passive-aggressive about his contract situation. Jimmy Graham is already drawing rave reviews from both Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy. (No one is blocking in full pads yet.) But the biggest changes to watch are under the hood, as returning coordinator Joe Philbin tries to sweep the cobwebs off the offense while newcomer Mike Pettine finally drags the defense into the 21st century.


    Who to watch

    • Rodgers' first pass of camp was intercepted by second-year cornerback Kevin King (though Rodgers later disputed whether it was an interception). The pick prompted a lot of "Bench Rodgers" jokes on Twitter but was a revelatory moment for King, a 2017 second-round pick expected to spearhead a reconfigured secondary. Pettine has King and Davon House playing on the outside with veteran Tramon Williams in the slot in early practices, and everyone sounds more comfortable in their roles than they have in past years.

    • Longtime Packers writer Aaron Nagler also reported that Pettine has his defenders walking through pre-snap adjustments to offensive motion, something that was never seen when Dom Capers ran the defense. Maybe Capers practiced these important adjustments when the media wasn't around. Or maybe he was still preparing his defense 1997-style.

    • Bryan Bulaga has done some individual work in practices, and the Packers sound optimistic that the veteran right tackle will be ready for the season opener after last season's ACL injury. The Packers did little to address their offensive line depth in an otherwise productive offseason, and top backup tackles Kyle Murphy and Jason Spriggs each has his own injury concerns. Oh, did we mention that blocking-allergic Graham will be lining up next to the right tackle this year?

    • The surprise early star of Packers camp is rookie punter JK Scott. Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette tweeted that Scott—who may be the youngest-looking guy in the NFL (he could pass as a junior YMCA lifeguard)—boomed a bunch of 60-yard kicks with 4.5-second hang time. Don't snicker at July camp punt lengths and hang-time reports—OK, snicker at them a little—but the Packers need to make marginal gains, like upgrades on special teams, if they want to do more than generate a bunch of Rodgers headlines and highlights before ending a season in disappointment as usual.


    Bottom line

    The Packers can win 10 to 11 games with a healthy Rodgers by doing what they always do. But both the Packers and their fans are tired of doing things the way they always do. Rodgers and Graham will get all of the attention, but if you are looking for the Packers to reinsert themselves into the Super Bowl conversation, it all comes down to the coordinators, the youngsters, the banged-up linemen and the tiny details. 

Panic! on the PUP List

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    There's nothing worse than a key player starting camp physically unable to perform, or with a non-football injury, or with some other ailment or issue that lands him on one of the NFL's many varieties of "he ain't practicing" lists. Should you worry about your favorite player's absence? Digest is here to modulate your anxiety levels.


    No worries

    Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, and Brandon Graham, Defensive End, Eagles: Both are on the PUP list after offseason surgeries. Jeffery has a Platinum Admiral's Preseason PUP List Membership Card but usually comes around just when he's needed, and Graham's absence only leaves the Eagles about 14 deep on the defensive line.

    Lamarcus Joyner, Safety, Rams: He started camp on the non-football injury list, but no one is stressing in Los Angeles, because franchise-tagging a safety only to lose him to a brief mystery ailment is approximately the ninth-weirdest thing the Rams have done this offseason.


    Cause for concern

    Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker, Bengals: Burfict is on the non-football injury list for undisclosed reasons and will miss the start of the season with a suspension for the third straight year. The real cause for concern is that the Bengals keep relying on Burfict to be someone other than Burfict.

    Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Bengals: Seriously, it's like Groundhog Day in Cincinnati. It would be big news if Eifert wasn't on the PUP list.

    The Colts offensive line: THE FOOTBALL GODS DEMAND AN IRONIC SACRIFICE IN EXCHANGE FOR ANDREW LUCK'S HEALTH. GIVE UNTO US ... ALL OF HIS BLOCKERS! MWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA! Granted, the ailments that landed left tackle Anthony Castonzo and right tackle Austin Howard on the PUP list aren't considered serious, and tackle Denzelle Good was briefly on the non-football injury list but quickly cleared. Then again, Luck's shoulder injury was originally classified as no big whoop, too.



    Julius Peppers, Defensive End, Panthers: Maybe you should have found a quality backup for the 38-year-old coming off shoulder surgery you've penciled in as your top pass-rusher, guys.

    Forrest Lamp, Offensive Line, Chargers: The Chargers are still targeting a Week 1 return from an ACL tear for one of last year's second-round picks. They also targeted Jason Verrett to get through the start of camp without a catastrophic injury. They're the Chargers, folks: They don't get to have nice things.


    Maintain healthy perspective and priorities

    Josh Gordon, Wide Receiver, Browns, and David Irving, Defensive Tackle, Cowboys: When it comes to substance abuse issues, always hope for the best and brace for the worst. Health—whether physical, mental or emotional—is much more important than wins and losses.

Upgrade Digest

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The start of training camp offers us our first look at units and positions teams spent big bucks and high draft picks to improve this offseason. Will they live up to the expectations and the price tag? Time will tell. Until then, all eyes are on the new guys.


    Running back: The Lions

    Second-round pick Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount bring explosive big-play potential and rugged interior running to a backfield that produced just one run longer than 40 yards in the past three years and hasn't cracked four yards per carry since 2013. This year, the Lions' only effective running play won't be a swing pass to Theo Riddick.


    Receiving corps: The Bears

    Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, rookie Anthony Miller and Philly Special specialist Trey Burton provide a mix of ball skills, speed and versatility that will get a further boost if perennial prospect Kevin White finally gets healthy. No more Tanner Gentry, Tre McBride, Deonte Thompson and Markus Wheaton! Also, no more John Fox helicopter-parenting for Mitchell Trubisky!


    Offensive line: The Giants

    New left tackle Nate Solder is the highest-paid lineman in the NFL. Second-round pick Will Hernandez is expected to make the interior line his personal mosh pit. Ereck Flowers moves from left to right tackle like that lumpy old recliner you don't want to sit in anymore but cannot afford to replace yet. Let's not buy retirement gifts for Eli Manning until we see what he can do, but he does figure this season to have a good running game and more than 0.04 seconds to get rid of the ball on every down.


    Defensive line: The Buccaneers

    Last year, they recorded just 22 sacks. This year, the Bucs added Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry, plus rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea to help Gerald McCoy cause mayhem in the middle. In a division with two former MVPs and Drew Brees at quarterback (Brees has never won an MVP award. Seriously. Look it up!), a little pressure will go a long way.


    Linebacker: The Raiders

    Derrick Johnson, Tahir Whitehead and Emmanuel Lamur may sound like your basic Jon Gruden free-agent binge (ancient guy and two randos who fell into the shopping cart). But last year, the Raiders stopped just short of suiting up coach Jack Del Rio, general manager Reggie McKenzie and coordinator Ken Norton Jr. at linebacker.


    Secondary: The Rams

    Bold prediction for the Marcus Peters-Aqib Talib cornerback tandem: They will only allow 25 combined completions all year—but each one will result in a 50-plus-yard touchdown after they bite on a pump fake.


    Special Teams: The Seahawks

    Jason Myers (cut by the Jaguars last year) and Sebastian Janikowski (40 years old, missed 2017 with a back injury) will compete for field-goal duties, while fifth-round pick (!?) Michael Dickson pushes Jon Ryan at punter. After living through the nightmare that was 2017 Blair Walsh, their special teams needed to be improved, but folks...I'm starting to think the Seahawks front office is broken.

Digest Sportsbook

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Need to scratch that NFL wagering itch (especially now that a legal sportsbook may have just opened at your local racetrack or corner gas station) but can't bring yourself to put money on the Hall of Fame Game? Over/under bets on 2018 win totals are just what you need! Make smart picks like these now, and you'll be sitting pretty when these (mostly) undervalued teams clear the "over" by December. (Lines via OddsShark.)


    Browns: 5.5 wins. Over

    A shocking number, considering the Browns' offseason additions, positive vibes around the organization and the fact that no one seriously thinks they are losing on purpose anymore. The Bengals' over/under is at 6.5, which is also low, with the Ravens' number at a very Ravens 8. Are there wiseguys out there who think the Steelers are going 18-and-negative-2 this year?


    Colts: 6.5 wins. Over

    Get some of this action now before GIFs of Andrew Luck throwing regulation footballs cause this line to climb into the eight-win range.


    Rams: 10 wins. Over

    The wagering public hasn't caught up with how weak the rest of the NFC West is. Half the Rams defense could either be suspended or setting fire to each other's lockers by Thanksgiving (or both), and they should still clear 10 wins.


    Seahawks: 8 wins. Under

    Digest doesn't usually believe in betting the under, because rooting for losses can make you neurotic, but this over/under is leaning more toward reflecting the Seahawks' having an 11-5 reputation than the reality of their having a 5-11 roster. Russell Wilson can only win so many games all by himself, as the Seahawks offensive line has forced him to demonstrate for the past three years.

Hall of Fame, Class of 2019: Bold Predictions!

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Congratulations to the NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2018, which will be inducted next weekend: Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Brian Urlacher!

    That was alphabetical order. We weren't "snubbing" you, T.O., by listing you behind players who waited, like, 40 years longer than you for the honor. Please, don't hold your own ceremony in a separate article! Oh dear, he's gone.

    Anyway, it's time to look ahead to 2019 and see what the next Hall of Fame class will look like. This group is selected based on both merit and my years of psychoanalysis of the group dynamics of the selection committee, a group of bright, dedicated individuals (and friends and colleagues) who sometimes get a bit irrational when locked in a room together.

    Here's the class of 2019:


    Tony Gonzalez

    The greatest tight end ever to be criticized for his blocking for 17 years, whose career began about 20 years after everyone stopped really caring about tight end blocking.


    Edgerrin James

    James is the only running back on the docket, making him an appealing candidate with the high-profile receivers gone, all the offensive linemen (Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson and Kevin Mawae) perennially splitting the ticket and some other Colts superstars on the horizon. Also: truly deserving candidate, a signature player of his era, etc.  


    John Lynch

    Dawkins' induction clears the path for Lynch, who needs to be waved through so the committee can enshrine...


    Ed Reed

    ...whose induction will pave a smooth path for Troy Polamalu, whose enshrinement will prevent a logjam at safety and make the snubbing of Steve Atwater because of the weird anti-Broncos bias even more obvious. (Yes, Dawkins and Lynch were both briefly Broncos. Shhh...the committee has forgotten!)


    Ty Law

    Law will get in so he isn't shunted behind fellow cornerback Champ Bailey, who enters his first year of eligibility in 2019. Bailey's omission will be interpreted as either a snub or anti-Broncos bias. It's not a snub. Seriously, it always turns into a thing when a Broncos defender tries to enter the Hall of Fame.


    Johnny "Blood" Robinson

    The best player on the Senior Committee docket: a six-time All-Pro who was overlooked, in part, because there were a lot of late-60s Chiefs in the queue.

    With Robinson and Gonzo in the class, book the Chiefs for next year's Hall of Fame Game. And if you don't like this class: There are about 100 deserving candidates, and we can only pick a handful.

The Ultimate Monday Morning Digest Rooting Guide for New NFL Fans!

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Are you new to the NFL? Tired of the local team and seeking a new rooting interest? A casual fan or a seven-year-old finally ready to make a commitment by choosing a favorite NFL team? Well, you're in luck. This quick-'n'-easy rooting guide will help you select the team that's just right for you!


    Front-runners: The Patriots

    The Eagles won the Super Bowl, but the Patriots provide everything a front-runner craves: a high probability of winning, an underdog angle so the front-runners can claim they aren't front-running and old Tedy Bruschi jerseys you can purchase on eBay so you can swear you are a "longtime diehard!"


    Offense lovers: The Steelers

    The Steelers will light up the scoreboard with video game cover boy Antonio Brown, franchise-tag martyr Le'Veon Bell, end-zone improv comic JuJu Smith-Schuster, a solid line, a fleet of secondary weapons and the lovable-and-cuddly Ben Roethlisberger steering the ship. If Grandpa asks, say you love 'em for the Steel Curtain defense; Grandpa thinks that's still a thing!


    Defense lovers: The Jaguars

    Come for the sacks and pick-sixes; stay to hear announcers pat Blake Bortles on the back after every 10-yard play-action pass like he's a preschooler throwing his first spiral with a Nerf ball.


    Balance lovers: The Saints

    "You see, Timmy, even a Hall of Famer like Drew Brees needs a solid defense and a running game to do more than go 7-9 every year. That should teach you something about the importance of teamwork." (Congratulate self on a Father of the Year-worthy object lesson, pour self another midmorning Scotch.)


    Nature-nurture argument lovers: The Vikings

    Does the quarterback make the team great or vice-versa? The Vikings added tabula rasa starting quarterback Kirk Cousins to their championship-caliber roster to answer this very question. Cousins costs them $84 million, but any college professor can tell you that research is always expensive.


    Stat lovers: The Browns

    Six or more wins will prove that deposed Moneyball vegan Sashi Brown's plan was right all along. Five or fewer will be blamed on Hue Jackson and the new front office. Among analytics hipsters, falsifiable hypotheses are for chumps.


    "Own the haters"-types: The Raiders

    Guys, Jon Gruden only made it look like he took the Raiders' money, hired his old poker buddies as coaches, signed guys who had big Monday Night Football games in 2015 and ordered the whole organization to return to the dial-up-modem days. He'll have the last laugh when he proves you can build a Super Bowl winner by being outdated and random!


    Political progressives: The Eagles

    If you don't know why, you aren't listening.


    Political conservatives: The Cowboys

    They've boldly aligned themselves with an unpopular president and an offensive pizza magnate, against the wishes of their fellow owners and the players union. Come to think of it, Dez Bryant may be on to something...


    Political Archconservatives: No one

    You aren't supposed to watch football anymore. Sheesh. Read the memos.


    Anarchists: The Rams

    Basically an Arkham Asylum video game, with Aaron Donald as Financially Disrespected Bane.


    Masochists: The Falcons

    After a few years, annual playoff disasters start to hurt soooo good.


    Bandwagon-jumpers: The 49ers

    Just stay on the bandwagon for another year or two until the Niners are actually good; that way, no one can accuse you of front-running!