1. Los Angeles Chargers
Projected record in 2020: 8-8, chances of winning the AFC West: 10 percent
The Chargers won only five games last year but they weren’t as bad as they looked. Based on their points scored and allowed, we would have expected them to win almost eight games, which would have been the second-most in the division behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
Plus, for the first time since 2005, Philip Rivers won’t be the team’s starting quarterback. Tyrod Taylor is currently penciled in as the starter for the team this season and performs better than he’s given credit for. During his three-year stint as starting quarterback for the Bills form 2015 to 2017 he ranked 8th, 9th and 14th in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating. Rookie Justin Herbert, the sixth pick in the 2020 draft, will compete for the starting job and could perhaps make this position into a strength for the coming year.
Slowing down the Chiefs’ high-octane offense is a daunting task for any team, but the Ravens have the personnel to do it, Schisler wrote, thanks to having the best secondary in the league and a vastly improved front seven.
“The Chiefs attack the middle of the field better than any team in the league. That has a lot to do with Travis Kelce being the best tight end in football,” Schisler wrote. “It’s not going to get easier to stop Kansas City when Clyde Edwards-Helaire starts making an impact as a receiver out of the backfield. That’s why the Ravens’ commitment to the middle of the defense is going to pay off this season.”
Here is a look at the finalized preseason schedule for Kansas City:
1 vs. Cincinnati Bengals Saturday, Aug. 15 – 7:00 p.m. CT KSHB-TV
2 at Arizona Cardinals Saturday, Aug. 22 – 8:00 p.m. CT KSHB-TV
3 at Dallas Cowboys Saturday, Aug. 29 – 7:00 p.m. CT KSHB-TV
4 vs. Green Bay Packers Thursday, Sept. 3 – 7:00 p.m. CT KSHB-TV
3b. Pittsburgh Steelers (if Ben Roethlisberger is healthy)
In this reality, Roethlisberger enters the season recovered from the elbow injury that harpooned the 2019 Steelers. Big Ben did not look great without Antonio Brown during his brief sample last season, but the Steelers dropped from sixth in offensive DVOA in 2018 to 32nd without their future Hall of Fame passer. In that time, the team retooled on defense and now has tight end Eric Ebron and yet another Day 2 wide receiver in second-round size-speed freak Chase Claypool. The Steelers are much better equipped to support Roethlisberger defensively than they were from 2015-18.
The defense finished third in defensive DVOA last year and led the way to eight wins despite the Steelers getting basement-level quarterback play from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. The Steelers feature one of the league’s best 3-4 defensive end tandems in Pro Bowler Cam Heyward and the back-from-injury Stephon Tuitt and will have T.J. Watt wingman Bud Dupree back — being one of 13 teams to unholster their franchise tag — to form a high-end edge duo. Injecting Roethlisberger into this mix should vault Pittsburgh back into contention.
The first interesting matchup of this season will take place on opening night when the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, take on the Houston Texans on Thursday, September 10, at 8:25 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium. This matchup is a rematch of last season’s AFC Divisional Round, and the Texans will be looking to get their revenge. The Texans had a 24-0 lead in the first half until the Chiefs came out in the second half and made an unbelievable comeback, winning the game 51-31 and advancing to the AFC Championship game. This matchup also features two young and exciting superstar quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson of the Texans and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs.
12. Eric Fisher
While he has only one Pro Bowl nod under his belt, Fisher has been one of the better offensive tackles in football after joining the Chiefs in 2013. The Chiefs’ starting left tackle since 2014, Fisher has started in 107 in 111 of his career games. A starter on Kansas City’s 2019 championship team, Fisher has helped provide sturdy protection for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has blossomed into arguably the NFL’s best player.
A Pro Bowler in 2016, Fisher’s most forgettable NFL moment took place during that season’s playoff loss to the Steelers, when he was called for holding former Pittsburgh pass rusher James Harrison. Fisher’s holding call wiped out what would have been a game-tying two-point conversion. Kansas City’s second two-point attempt fell short, as the Chiefs fell to the underdog Steelers, 18-16.
“He told me to keep working hard, and that based on my film, the offers would come,” Bruce said. “He was right.”
Bruce, who was originally worried about not landing a Division I football scholarship offer, received offers from Iowa, Iowa State and Tulsa.
“In one of (Mahomes’) texts, he said, ‘Congrats on the offer from Iowa. Glad people are finally starting to realize,’” Bruce said.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Many people were hoping the Kansas City Chiefs wouldn’t be able to afford to bring back Chris Jones, but nonetheless, he and his 33 career sacks and 37 tackles for loss will stay in Kansas City for at least one more season. To make matters worse, Frank Clark gives the team a nice pass-rushing combo that will continue to be a problem for opposing offenses.
If the Broncos didn’t add Casey into the mix, I’d give the Super Bowl champs the top spot here, but regardless, they’ll still be very good upfront. It is pretty scary when you consider how good the Chiefs will be on both sides of the ball in 2020.
Around the NFL
As for minority hiring: Goodell was blunt in his State of the League address before this year’s Super Bowl. He said what the league has been doing has not been working and wouldn’t work.
“There’s no reason to expect we’re going to have a different outcome next year without those kinds of changes,” he said. “(We’re) trying to figure out what steps we could take next that would lead to better outcomes. It’s clear we’re all committed to doing that, and we have to make those changes.”
The first group of employees allowed back into facilities would include no more than 50% of non-player staff, up to a total of 75 per day. The only players permitted to return would be those who were already rehabilitating injuries prior to the facility closures, and no members of the coaching staff are allowed in the facility. Strength and conditioning coaches participating in player rehab may continue that work in the facility but otherwise are barred until the rest of the coaching staff is allowed to return.
This was one of the precious few times in life when the finished product matched the emotional sandstorm kicked up by a monumental hype campaign. (Doritos Locos Tacos being another that immediately comes to mind.) With their uniform shift, the Chargers showed they understood both the intimate love affair the general public has with their throwback powder blue uniforms and the blank canvas that accompanies being somewhat of an expansion team in a new market. The result was something responsibly psychedelic, yet ultimately familiar. Various combinations of the powder blue and mustard yellow were pitch perfect, while the additions of the dark and royal blue uniforms were suitable for “Color Rush” type engagements. The numbers on the helmets, a flourish that tickles the fancy of nearly all uniform spotters new and old, helped push them over the top.
“I think it was more the surprise of the pick, based on my own feelings of wanting to play into my 40s, and really the realization that it does change the controllables a little bit,” Rodgers said during a nearly 40-minute conference call. “Because as much as I feel confident in my abilities and what I can accomplish and what we can accomplish, there are some new factors that are out of my control. And so my sincere desire to start and finish with the same organization, just as it has with many other players over the years, may not be a reality at this point.
“And as much as I understand the organization’s future outlook and wanting to make sure they’re thinking about the team now and down the line — and I respect that — at the same time, I still believe in myself and have a strong desire to play into my 40s. And I’m just not sure how that all works together at this point.”
5. T.J. Watt
Pittsburgh Steelers · OLB
It didn’t take Watt long to figure out how to consistently get to NFL quarterbacks off the edge. The No. 30 overall pick in 2017, Watt has piled up 27.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles over the past two seasons. He was a splash play machine in 2019, finishing third in Defensive Player of the Year voting. Watt’s energy, athleticism and hand skills make him a nightmare to block when he is in attack mode off the edge.
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Hill revealed that he is taking a novel approach to preparing for the 2020 campaign.
“I’m doing yoga two times a week,” he said. “I’ve been trying to open up my hips a little more, open up my glutes and things like that. I have been feeling amazing, been getting out of routes even better. It’s going to be crazy. I feel like this is going to be a crazy year for me, so I’m excited.”
Hill said he has not taken reps with Mahomes since the Super Bowl, and he hopes that changes sooner rather than later. With the end of the virtual offseason being extended to the end of May, the wide receiver said that some of the Chiefs plan to come back early in order to get together for throwing sessions.
A tweet to make you think
Kansas City Chiefs play-by-play announcer Mitch Holthus: Kansas City Chiefs will 'jump right into the deep end' to open 2020. https://t.co/0y0sHXQR7R— Mitch Holthus (@mitchholthus) May 16, 2020
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