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NFL 2018

A less waffly / verbose / well investigated (delete as you see fit) for the 2018 season, created by another dead Norseman, Tryggve Olafsson.

AFC EAST

There is no reason for this boringly predictable division to change much. The Bills and the Jets have both made quarterback changes and left it ominously late to decide who will start the season in the key position. Both can field good defences, but not often with any predictability. The Dolphins will probably persist in their laws of physics defying method whereby incredible amounts of movement and activity generate complete inertia. So it looks as if the only thing that could stop the Patriots is injury to the venerable Brady. And even then, it is not a certain disaster.
1] New England 2] Buffalo 3] New York Jets 4] Miami

AFC NORTH

In contrast to the East this division is usually rather lively as the main three teams consistently detest each other and will not allow the historic ineptitude of the Browns to allow any sympathy for that team to creep in. Even when they do not have a strong team, the Steelers conjure up a good home advantage, and this yeat they seem to have a strong team and good depth when the injuries start to stack up in winter. The Ravens are very similar apart from a passing offence that was dreadful last season, retreating into it shell at the slightest sign of danger like a wise old tortoise. What have they done to change that? After a couple of regressive seasons the Bengals needed a big overhaul, but did not do it. Meanwhile the Browns have one win over the last two seasons and four this time would be triumph.
1] Pittsburgh 2] Baltimore 3] Cincinnati 4] Cleveland

AFC SOUTH

Let us start with the Texans. Things were looking good for them last season until rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson got injured. Will he continue how he started or be another rookie sensation that opposing defences had worked out by season two? Their defence is potentially very strong. That is quite encouraging but next on the list are the Colts, who have the possible plus of Andrew Luck returning after a year and a half out - he is bound to be rusty. A mess of a new coach recruitment made the rest of the offseason bad. Next stop is with the Jaguars. They had a great time last season because their quarterback raised his game to the giddy heights of mediocre. It had taken many years to do this and may have been a one-off. The defence will carry them a certain distance. Finally the Titans. They were fancied to move into contention last year and failed. They still have an inexperienced looking roster but if the defence with a new coordinator thrives, they will do what was supposed to happen twelve months ago.
1] Houston 2] Jacksonville 3] Tennessee 4] Indianapolis

AFC WEST

The story of last season was the Chiefs flying start and late fade. Since then they have parted ways with stat-unfriendly but win hogging Alex Smith and go with quarterback youth. They were also one of two teams to have an exceptionally injury free season. Have they drafted for durability or was it luck. They will be relying on running back Kareem Hunt, just like Olafsson's fantasy team. The Raiders off-season saop opera was a contract dispute with star defender Khalil Mack, recently traded to Chicago. With former coach Jon Gruden back from years in television punditry, a big do over was expected anyway. Expecting instant returns is too much. Meanwhile in the Rocky Mountains, the Broncos have quietly tooled up a decent defence, with the trade of Aqib Talib ensuring that there will be fewer punch ups in their matches. At quarterback they got hold of Case Keenum, the supersub that the Vikings did not want to keep. Did they just gameplan him to damage limitation last season or find a genuine way to use the skills that he has? The last team to consider is the Chargers. To do this, get the advice of a doctor. Their recent seasons have been plagued by significant injuries and promising tight end Hunter Henry is already gone for the year. With players like Melvin Gordon, Melvin Ingram, Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa they can win this if staying fit.
1] Los Angeles Chargers 2] Kansas City 3] Denver 4] Oakland

NFC EAST

Rule number one is that the Cowboys are the most hated team in the league, and a loyal Texan media overhypes their best players. Attention hungry over the hill receiver Dez Bryant has gone, and only Cleveland offered him a deal. Long standing tight end Jason Witten has retired, so they should be focussed on running this season and win some games unless tempted to overuse the media favourites, but not enough to annoy people even more. The Redskins joined the Chiefs in a miraculous degree of injury avoidance last season. With Kirk Cousins taking his ability to rouse a rabble into an unexpected win to Minnesota, a backwards step is expected. The Giants problem is that after many, many years of evidence to the contrary, Eli Manning's two Superbowl wins do not make him a reliable sixteen game performer year in, year out. The defence looked to be making interesting progress before the 2017 season. Finally the reigning champs. The Eagles got a cracking performance out of Nick Foles when Carson Wentz got injured last season. Everything else is much the same, other than having nabbed the NFL's leading hippy, Michael Bennett, from Seattle. They are good enough to win again, but ont so good that it is inevitable.
1] Philadelphia 2] Dallas 3] New York Giants 4] Washington

NFC NORTH

All of a sudden this looks like a division where anything could happen. Last season unravelled for the Packers due to injuries, but it is not certain how good they are even if everyone comes back in rude health. The Bears did not seem like much unless their injury prone quarterback can survive the season and claw them into the mix. The defence was a bigger weakness, but the threat to opposing passers from new arrival Khalil Mack has really moved the goalposts on that one. One of the more surprising stats in the NFL is that the Lions in the last nine years have a record against teams with a winning record of 8-61. Even allowing for the implication that having a winning record makes a team better than average, this is outstandingly bad and the story as to why they keep failing to make the upward step seemingly within their reach. Finally we have the Vikings, who had a great season until falling down at the last hurdle when presented with a chance to play in the Superbowl in the home stadium. There is a change at quarterback, but the division remains theirs for the taking.
1] Minnesota 2] Green Bay 3] Chicago 4] Detroit

NFC SOUTH

To get off the mark, we sail down the bayou and take a peek around New Orleans, where the Saints have a very old quarterback (see New England), and an excellent youthful supporting cast such as Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. For the first time in living memory they have good defence, radically reverting to a policy of players who can cover and tackle. What they also have is a ferocious bunch of divisional opponents. The Falcons have been a respectable team for a few years now, and over the close season they took measures to address the gaps and lack of depth that made ten wins last season look a bit of an under delivery. Over on the east coast the Panthers have been contenders throughout the decade and nothing has happened to worry about the defence.The trouble lies on the other side of the ball, where Cam Newton lets them down in critical moments more often each year. On that subject there is the Buccaneers. Their quarterback is suspended for the first three games and they have assembled a potentially amazing bunch of receivers and backs whilst overlooking all the other positions. What could possibly go wrong?
1] Atlanta 2] New Orleans 3] Carolina 4] Tampa Bay

NFC WEST

An splendid division whose recent history is summed up in the epic 6-6 tie between the Cardinals and Seahawks two seasons back. The Cardinals have regressed since, and may find that if they cannot run the ball effectively, the defence, although hanging on to some important bits, is no longer powerful enough to carry them all. The Seahawks have also ha da major roster overhaul, going back to earlier this decade when they began to reel in vast numbers of players that nobody else rated/wanted and moulded a championshp team from them. They still have Angry Doug Baldwin (slightly lame version), Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson, and more promising young defenders but these things take time. After rolling up a few wins when the 2017 season was alreadyshot to hell, the 49ers have been a trendy pick for success this season - can Jimmy Garropolo repeat the trick over sixteen games and are the other newcomers a team or random bunch of individuals? That leaves the Rams, with arguably the best running back in Todd Gurley and arguably the best defence going into 2018. They could get more improvement at quarterback but can do well even if that does not come.
1] Los Angeles Rams 2] Seattle 3] Arizona 4] San Francisco

Superbowl: Atlanta beat Pittsburgh

Leading Rusher: Le'Veon Bell (provided he ends his contract dispute and plays from week 1 as 90% of people expect). Plan B is Leonard Fournette

Leading Receiver: Keenan Allen
Tryggve Olafsson's NFL Week 2 Preview

Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers: The two teams had contrasting opening week adevntures. The Chiefs went to Los Angeles and saw off a qualiy Chargers team. They put 38 points on the board. They did not rack up gaudy numbers but ruthlessly sliced up the home team when they got a chance. Meanwhile the Steeler had earlier been busy becoming the first team since 2004 to not beat the Cleveland Browns on the opening weekend. Their main running back did not end his contract dispute, and they put the workload on James Conner, who did OK but it was not the same. A second away win for the Chiefs is an appealing option. Kansas City Chiefs win, at 19/10 or more.  WON - The Chiefs dashed into a clear lead and tried their best to concede it, just getting home by one score

Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers: One thing to never do is over react to week one occurences that seem out of line with pre-season expectations. For instance, the Lions did not seem like play-off material, but they hardly looked like a team that would concede 48 points at home to the Jets. This week they may not win, but should offer up a rather sturdier resistance on their visits to Santa Clara. Week one also was a bit of a reality check for the over hyped 49ers, but they were at least on the road against the quality Vikings. It is hard to oppose them now at home, but a lowish score is failry feasible - assuming that the Lions are not the rabble witnessed last Sunday. Under 48.5 points, at 10/11. Lost - Sacrificed on the altar of slipshod defences, with both sides letting down lots of good play with moments of awful tackling and non-existent coverage

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys: As the most hated team in the NFL (appart from just after any occasion when the Patriots have just won a Superb Owl) the off-season soap opera at Dallas would have delighted the fans, as it was worse than usual, stirred up by Dez Bryant (wide receiver who forgot how to catch) from afar after his release. The total points that they scored in week one was 8, achieved after the Panthers had completely contained them. The Giants did not score much themselves - just 15 in a home game - but they faced the Jaguars strong defence. However, new running back Saquon Barkley had a hundred yards and a touchdown, and the home defence can expect to see plenty of him. Under 42.5 points is an appealing option, but the Giants win is even more attractive. New York Giants win, at 7/5 or more. Lost - Dismal contribution from the Giants offence, so should have stuck with Plan A on under the points line.
Week One selections

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts : Under 48 points, at 10/11 - Lost, inexplicably. Average offensive output, two turnovers each and the only defensive score was with 47 points on the board. A bit of a fluke?

San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings: Under 45.5 points, at 10/11 - WON, and always ticking along nicely at an unthreatening scoring rate

Seattle Seahawks at Denver Bronco : Denver to win, at 4/6 - WON, but the Broncos had a couple of officiating errors and several Seahawks mistakes go their way. May be over rated in games coming up simply becuase they won
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