Dutch Lion’s 2018 Pro Football Spectacular
A week ago, the “Dutch Lion” published his “2018 College Football Spectacular.” This week, we’re doing our NFL Preview and calling it by the same awesome name. Welcome to “Dutch Lion’s 2018 Pro Football Spectacular!”
Why do you call it “pro football” rather than “NFL football?” Good question. It’s because “Dutch” not only loves the NFL, but he loves all organized leagues, especially leagues with history, tradition, and some different rules. Thus, the Canadian Football League (CFL) is high on the “Lion’s” list of interests. Some of our readers are Canadian and they might appreciate the CFL Preview too.
Yeah I know the CFL started in June. Big deal. So we’ll do a quick take on the CFL while we’re at it. First off, let’s touch on some fun NFL topics with my rankings.
Best NFL Stadiums : Most NFL stadiums are very similar in the modern era. In fact, nearly all of them are the same style nowadays but there are a few that stand out. Let’s rank some of these places just to get a conversation started.
- AT&T Stadium/Cowboys Stadium/JerryWorld (Dallas Cowboys) – This has got be the coolest stadium in the world right now. In my mind, AT&T Stadium is clearly the best. The size, the scoreboard video boards, the windows are all incredible features. Having “America’s Team” and their famous cheerleaders doesn’t hurt.
- Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis Colts) – Sweet windows let the light shine in on game days. Remember the old RCA Dome? I went to a Colts/Bills game there once. It was fun but the stadium was very dull, like most of the old domes. The city of Indianapolis fixed the problem. Lucas Oil looks fantastic on TV because it’s so bright.
- CenturyLink Field/Qwest Stadium (Seattle Seahawks) – Excellent design. Typical of the Pacific Northwest’s style with the overhanging roof to fend off wind and rain.
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta Falcons) – This place is so new that I haven’t gotten a great look at it yet. Last year was the inaugural season and it hosted big college football games like the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic, the SEC Championship, the Peach Bowl, and the National Championship game in addition to the Atlanta Falcons NFL games. This year…..the site of Super Bowl 53.
- US Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings) – Opened in 2016. They already hosted Super Bowl 52 this past February. US Bank has a unique design. It is absolutely massive. We saw it in the Summer of 2016. Gigantic!
- Dallas Cowboys – For my money, it has never been better than the blue star glistening on the metallic silver. I remember the first time I saw it as a kid, I thought, wow, now THAT’s a cool helmet. It screams tradition. It’s simple yet elegant. Easily the best.
- Oakland Raiders – Similar to Dallas, this helmet screams not only tradition, but intimidation. When I see the Raiders helmet, I think of John Madden and the 1970’s and 80’s tough guys such as Lyle Alzado, Howie Long, and Jack Tatum. I think of Fred Biletnikoff, Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, and Ted Hendricks. I think of Matt Millen and Marcus Allen. I also think of Al Davis and the renegade style they’ve always projected. The Silver and Black, the “Commitment to Excellence”, and the Black Hole fan section all move to Las Vegas in a few years. Typical….. for they are renegades, right! They just better keep those classic helmets after they move to Vegas.
- Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles wings are just plain cool. I feel like flying when I see the Eagles play on TV.
- Atlanta Falcons – I’ve always loved the Falcons look. Way back in the 1980s, Atlanta had a slightly different “falcon” logo. It was a black bird with on a red helmet. That may have been even sharper. However, this black-on-black look is solid.
- Los Angeles Rams – Classic look with the wrap-around “rams” horns. The Rams helmet hasn’t changed much since they started with these in the 1950’s.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Where do we begin? The “bowling ball” airbrushed paint fade? The insane jaguar? Looks like a WLAF helmet. Better yet….an XFL helmet.
- Baltimore Ravens – Typical of Maryland, they love their weird shield logos. Why did they throw a “B” into the raven design? They didn’t need it. It distracts from the actual raven, which is sorta cool, in an Edgar Allen Poe kinda way. This reminds me of “The Following” starring Kevin Bacon……creepy!
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The logo is just too darn big! Calm down! It’s like a kindergartener designed this one and zoomed it up to “supersize” font. It’s a shame too because the old ones, both the 80s style creamsicle and the more modern pewter helmets were super rad. This one…..bad. Hey, I could write a poem about Tampa’s helmets.
Most Overrated Players
- Richard Sherman/CB/San Francisco/#25 – Not only is Sherman a complete blowhard, he’s completely overrated. All he does is grab and hold receivers but because of his reputation, he often gets away with it. Who will ever forget his infamous post-game interview with “EA” Erin Andrews on Fox after the Seahawks beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship? Talk about a cocky prima-donna! Sherman is a joke.
- Joe Flacco/QB/Baltimore/#5 – Threw only 18 TD’s with 13 INT’s in ’17. He’s not that good. He’s not the QB that took the Ravens to a Super Bowl championship back in 2012. He hasn’t really had a good season since 2014. That’s the last time he led Baltimore to the AFC Playoffs. Maybe the Ravens organization sees what I do and that’s why they just drafted Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. We’ll see what happens in Baltimore.
- Aqib Talib/CB/L.A. Rams/#21 – Maybe he just had a bad year, but Talib bombed for Denver in ’17. He only had 1 INT and 7 PBU’s so Denver traded him to the Rams for a 5th rounder. He’s either starting to show his age or he just had one bad year. Maybe he’ll rebound in ’18? Now he’s with a new team in L.A. which has an awesome group around him including pass rushers Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Maybe he’ll get it back….or maybe this is the end.
Most Underrated Players
- Lavonte David/LB/Tampa Bay/#54 – As a Nebraska fan, I first noticed Lavonte David in 2010 when he transferred to the ‘Huskers from Ft. Scott Community College. Immediately David jumped off the screen. As a pro, David has continued his dominance. He’s a small, quick LB that dominates in the modern era. Last season, he recorded 76 solo tackles, 25 assisted tackles, 5 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, and scored 1 TD. And that was a down year for Lavonte. For some reason he doesn’t get much notoriety, probably because he is a quiet type who doesn’t bring attention to himself. Plus, he’s on Tampa Bay. They are not usually very good, but David is. Check him out this season.
- Akiem Hicks/DE/Chicago/#96 – Hicks is a one man wrecking crew on the Bears defensive line. He plays End in the 3-4 so he’s supposed to be stout. Did somebody say stout? Hicks is about 330 pounds. He consistently collapses the pocket. As a Bears fan, I watch Hicks every week and I think he’s a stud. I don’t understand why he doesn’t get more hype. Hicks is a big reason why the Bears defense was 10th last year in total D.
- Reshad Jones/SS/Miami/#20 – Jones doesn’t get much respect, outside of fantasy leaguers that are familiar with IDP’s. IDP’s are “Individual Defensive Players” rather than fantasy leagues that use team defenses. Jones has 3 seasons with 100+ tackles, 4 seasons with 2+ interceptions, in 7 of his 8 seasons he has at least 1 sack, and he’s scored 5 total defensive TD’s since his debut in 2010. If you watch the Miami Dolphins this year, check out #20 Jones.
Dutch Lion’s 2018 NFL ALL-PRO TEAM
QB – Drew Brees/New Orleans/#9 – Overlooked as the best, but why? Brees just set a new single-season record with a 72% completion percentage in ’17. What will he do for an encore at age 39?
RB – Todd Gurley/L.A. Rams/#30 – Incredible year for a surprisingly dominant offense, Gurley rushed for 1305 yards and received for 788 more yards. That’s a ton of yards, literally (a ton is 2,000) and he scored 19 total TD’s. As Al Michaels would say, those are “UUUGE” numbers for L.A.
RB – Ezekiel Elliott/Dallas/#21 – Elliott was suspended for 6 games last year but still rushed for 983 yards and 7 TD’s. Behind one of the league’s best offensive lines, expect Elliott to get back to his rookie form of 1631 yards.
3rd Down RB – Alvin Kamara/New Orleans/#41 – He caught 81 balls in ’17.
WR – Julio Jones/Atlanta/#11 – Over 1400 receiving yards but only 3 TD’s. That number will increase or my name isn’t E.F. Hutton.
WR – Antonio Brown/Pittsburgh/#84
Slot WR – Julian Edelman/New England/#11
TE – Zach Ertz/Philadelphia/#86
LT – Tyron Smith/Dallas/#77
RT – Lane Johnson/Philadelphia/#65
OG – Zach Martin/Dallas/#70
OG – David DeCastro/Pittsburgh/#66
C – Travis Frederick/Dallas/#72 – Hasn’t allowed a sack since ’14. Seriously?
DE (3-4) – Aaron Donald/L.A. Rams/#99
DT – Geno Atkins/Cincinnati/#97
DT – Kawann Short/Carolina/#99
DE (4-3) – Calais Campbell/Jacksonville/#93
OLB (3-4) – Khalil Mack/Chicago/#52
ILB – Luke Kuechly/Carolina/#59
ILB – Deion Jones/Atlanta/#45
OLB (3-4) – Von Miller/Denver/#58
OLB (4-3) – Lavonte David/Tampa Bay/#54
CB – Patrick Peterson/Arizona/#21
CB – Jalen Ramsey/Jacksonville/#20
SS – Landon Collins/N.Y. Giants/#21
FS – Harrison Smith/Minnesota/#22
K – Justin Tucker/Baltimore/#9 – Simply the best every single season.
P – Sam Koch/Baltimore/#4 – Both the K and P are from B? A-OK.
ST “The Steve Tasker Award” – Steve Tasker/Buffalo/#89 – Just kidding. I don’t know who is the best special teams coverage guy right now but I can’t wait to find out this season. (Steve Tasker made the Pro Bowl 7 times including 6 straight years from 1990-’95 for being a special teams gunner when he played from 1985-’97 and now that he’s retired nobody is currently standing out. Maybe someone will step up this year?)
MVP – Todd Gurley/RB/L.A. Rams
Coach of the Year – Mike Zimmer/Minnesota Vikings
Best Rookies in 2018 –
- Saquon Barkley/RB/N.Y. Giants/#26 – My pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year
- Roquan Smith/LB/Chicago/#58 – My pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year
- Bradley Chubb/OLB/Denver/#55
Top Draft Picks in 2019 – As you can see below, it’s a fantastic “out-of-this-world” draft class for defensive linemen.
- Nick Bosa/DE/Ohio St./#97
- Ed Oliver/DT/Houston/#10
- Christian Wilkins/DT/Clemson/#42
- Devin White/LB/LSU/#40
- Rashan Gary/DE/Michigan/#3
Dutch Lion’s 2018 NFL Predictions
AFC East – Part of the reason New England wins this division every year is because the other teams in this division always stink. Of course, maybe the other teams always stink because they always have to play New England twice a year, and are always rebuilding to compete with the Patriots. Hmmmmm.
- New England Patriots (11-5) – 13-3 last year, AFC Champion – Expect a step back for the Patriots in ’18. By step back, we mean, they might lose a game or two more than last year. Tom Brady is 41. Belichick has been around since last century. Is there dissension in the house? Who knows. But the talent around Brady seems to be depleting. No Brandin Cooks? No Danny Amendola? No Nate Solder? No Dion Lewis? Julian Edelman is suspended for the first 4 games? I’ll call for another AFC East Championship but no home-field advantage for N.E.
- Buffalo Bills (8-8) – 9-7 last year, AFC Wild Card
- Miami Dolphins (7-9) – 6-10 last year
- New York Jets (3-13) – 5-11 last year – Rookie QB Sam Darnold steps in. Is that good…. or bad?
- Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – 13-3 last year, AFC North Champion – Almost always one of the NFL’s best. The Steelers triplets of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB LeVeon Bell, and WR Antonio Brown are probably one of the NFL’s all-time best Triplets, right up there with the 1990’s Cowboys QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, and WR Michael Irvin. Let’s give Pitt the AFC home field advantage. Last we saw them, they were shocked at home by the Jax Jags 45-42. Maybe this is the Steelers year.
- Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) – 7-9 last year – Three years ago (’15) they were awesome, winning 12 games. Then they fell apart for two years, winning just 6 and 7 games. What will happen in ’18? I expect a rebound. They have QB Andy Dalton, RB Joe Mixon, WR A.J. Green, TE Tyler Eifert, and a solid defense starring DT Geno Atkins, DE Carlos Dunlap, and CB Dre Kirkpatrick. Why don’t they win more?
- Baltimore Ravens (7-9) – 9-7 last year
- Cleveland Browns (3-13) – 0-16 last year
- Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5) – 10-6 last year, AFC South Champion – The Jags are hot right now. Nobody really saw it coming but all of a sudden the Jaguars went 10-6 last year and almost went to the Super Bowl, losing 24-20 at New England in the AFC Championship. How did they improve from 3-13 to 10-6? DEFENSE. The Jags put it all together in ’17, finishing #2 in Total D, #1 in Pass D, #2 in Scoring D, #2 in INT’s, and #2 in Sacks.
- Tennessee Titans (9-7) – 9-7 last year, AFC Wild Card – I thought the Titans were on the brink of something big last year, rather than Jacksonville. Instead, Tennessee finished in 2nd place with a 9-7 record behind Jax. Not bad nonetheless. QB Marcus Mariota didn’t put up good numbers in his 3rd year, but he keeps winning more. He won only 3 times in his rookie year and then won 9 in ’16 prior to last year’s 10-8 Wild Card victory finish.
- Houston Texans (7-9) – 4-12 last year – No QB Deshaun Watson + no DE J.J. Watt = 4-12 season to forget. Add them back in after comebacks and Texans might = AFC Playoffs.
- Indianapolis Colts (5-11) – 4-12 last year – Will Andrew Luck play again? I’ll believe it when I see it.
- Los Angeles Chargers (11-4-1) – 9-7 last year – I’m calling it now! A Tie between division rivals L.A. and Kansas City. It could happen in either Week 1 or Week 15….or both!!
- Kansas City Chiefs (8-7-1) – 10-6 last year, AFC West Champion – This tie will mess up all the playoff scenarios. K.C. was 10-6 last year with Alex Smith. Will they improve with Pat Mahomes? No way.
- Denver Broncos (8-8) – 5-11 last year – 3 game improvement from new QB Case Keenum? Sure.
- Oakland Raiders (4-12) – 6-10 last year – Jon Gruden returns! Oakland is in need of a revamp. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better.
AFC Playoff Seeds:
#1 Pittsburgh (12-4)
#2 L.A. Chargers (11-4-1)
#3 Jacksonville (11-5)
#4 New England (11-5)
#5 Tennessee (9-7)
#6 Cincinnati (9-7)
AFC Wild Card Weekend:
- #3 Jacksonville over #6 Cincinnati
- #4 New England over #5 Tennessee
AFC Divisional Weekend:
- #1 Pittsburgh over #4 New England
- #3 Jacksonville over #2 L.A. Chargers
- #1 Pittsburgh over #3 Jacksonville – The Steelers will get revenge on the Jags for last season’s upset in Heinz Field.
NFC East – Usually a solid division. They have the defending Super Bowl Champs….again. If we were to add up all 52? Super Bowl Champions, I bet the NFC East would have the most. Let’s check…….
- Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) – 13-3 last year, NFC East Champion, NFC Champion, Super Bowl 52 Champion – How cool was that? The Eagles had a dream season in 2017 and won their first ever Super Bowl Championship. I’m happy for them. I’m especially happy because they overcame the adversity of losing their wunderkind QB Carson Wentz to a late-season knee injury. The ’17 Eagles are proof for why you always need a backup quarterback. Nick Foles stepped in when nobody thought he could, that they could, that the Eagles would overcome underdog status for all three postseason games to win their first Title since 1960? Wow. Never give up, don’t ever give up. Just because they lost their MVP QB didn’t mean it was over for Philly. Foles led the improbable Championship run in a made-for-Hollywood story. So now what? Does Philadelphia repeat? Will it be Foles or Wentz, assuming he’s near ready to return from the ACL injury. Ahhh, who cares. Let’s just enjoy and see what happens.
- Dallas Cowboys (10-6) – 9-7 last year – Dallas is transitioning away from some older skill players like WR Dez Bryant (waived) and TE Jason Witten (retired) and concentrating on their youth in QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. Will the defense help out? The ‘Boys drafted a LB in the 1st round from Boise St. named Leighton Vander Esch. Suddenly the front seven seems to be improving if Dallas can avoid injuries. They have DeMarcus Lawrence at DE, Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith at LB, and maybe even DE Randy Gregory will be able to avoid suspension for the first time in years. Who knows? Maybe Dallas grabs the even-year magic they had in both ’14 and ’16 when they won 13 games and the NFC East Championship both years.
- New York Giants (6-10) – 3-13 last year – Odell Beckham was hurt. Eli Manning played like garbage. It all fell apart for the Giants. They fired their coach. New HC Pat Shurmur steps in with some weapons to work with. New York drafted RB Saquon Barkley #2 overall and Beckham returns from his broken ankle. If Manning plays better, maybe the Giants will be better too.
- Washington Redskins (5-11) – 7-9 last year – How many games was Kirk Cousins worth? He seemed like a most valuable captain to his team type of guy. Of course, so did Alex Smith out in K.C. Now Smith moves to D.C. Will the ‘Skins get better or worse? I think they’ll take a step back this year.
NFC North – One of the best divisions in the league, the NFC Norris (Thanks Chris “Boomer” Berman for all of your great nicknames over the last 30 years!) might have 3 playoff teams this season.
- Minnesota Vikings (12-4) – 13-3 last year, NFC North Champion – Minnesota is excellent. They are knocking on the door. Will they break the door down with new QB Kirk Cousins? I think they will.
- Chicago Bears (10-6) – 5-11 last year – The Bears have a new HC in Matt Nagy. They have an established DC in Vic Fangio with an underrated top 10 defense. Now they added in rookie ILB Roquan Smith and…..catch your breath…..OLB Khalil Mack. OMG! “Bears, Ditka, Butkus, Nagy, Mack, Trubisky, Smith!” Fans are pumped. I’m pumped. We’re all pumped. The Bears are back and ready to crash the NFC Playoffs for the first time since 2010.
- Green Bay Packers (9-7) – 7-9 last year – For the first time since 2008, Green Bay missed the NFC Playoffs. If they miss out again, will HC Mike McCarthy get fired? He might. They seem to be making plenty of changes up North, including releasing WR Jordy Nelson. What! Reportedly QB Aaron Rodgers wasn’t too happy about that development, among other things. Surprised?….”but I thought Rodgers was so nice and easy-going” they all surmised. Yeah? Well, Rodgers is so friendly that he hasn’t even talked to his own brother Jordan and the rest of his family since at least 2014 according to reports. Interesting.
- Detroit Lions (6-10) – 9-7 last year – They might be a decent team but might finish in last place. I told you the Norris was incredible.
NFC South – A really good division. The only division to get 3 teams into last year’s Playoffs. Can they do it again, or will the NFC Norris steal their thunder?
- Atlanta Falcons (11-5) – 10-6 last year, NFC Wild Card – Don’t forget this was a really great team 2 years ago that held a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl 51. Then you know what happened. Defending their NFC Championship last year, they had to deal with tons o’ heat from that blown Super Bowl lead. Nonetheless, they still made the NFC Playoffs before losing at Philly 15-10. I envision a return to form from the Falcons. Watch them win the NFC South again and make a run for it all.
- New Orleans Saints (11-5) – 11-5 last year, NFC South Champion – The Saints had one of the greatest NFL Drafts ever in 2017. It was enough to get them back to the Playoffs after 3 consecutive 7-9 finishes. By winning the NFC South, it raised the bar for New Orleans this year. Can they do it again? Can they do it for Drew Brees one more time before he hangs up his cleats?
- Carolina Panthers (10-6) – 11-5 last year, NFC Wild Card – Carolina quietly went 11-5 and made the NFC Playoffs in ’17. Don’t forget this team has been knocking on the door since 2015 when they went all the way to Super Bowl 50 before losing to Denver in Peyton Manning’s swan song. Since then, the Panthers went through the typical Super Bowl runner-up hangover and then back to the Playoffs. What’s in store in ’18? Maybe a special year for HC Ron Rivera and Carolina.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14) – 5-11 last year – The Bucs…. they uhhh…. they’re not good.
NFC West – Horrible division. One good team, three lousy teams.
- Los Angeles Rams (12-4) – 11-5 last year, NFC West Champion – The L.A. Rams are going for it. Los Angeles not only went from worst (4-12) to first (11-5) in one quick, unforeseen year, but they also decided to go all-in on their free agency acquisitions. Los Angeles is on the cusp of being special. They have a young QB in Jared Goff. They have a young RB in Todd Gurley. They have a new stadium on the way in 2020, which by the way looks incredible. Now the Rams went out and grabbed CB Marcus Peters, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Aqib Talib, CB Sam Shields, LB Ramik Wilson, and DT Ndamukong Suh. Other than that, they haven’t done much. Oh yeah, they paid DT Aaron Donald a contract that had him as the highest paid defensive player in the NFL…. for a day. Then the Bears paid OLB Khalil Mack a little bit more. L.A. wants it all. They might be able to get it all too. I love L.A.!
- Arizona Cardinals (7-9) – 8-8 last year
- Seattle Seahawks (6-10) – 9-7 last year
- San Francisco 49ers (4-12) – 6-10 last year
NFC Playoff Seeds:
#1 Minnesota (12-4)
#2 L.A. Rams (12-4)
#3 Atlanta (11-5)
#4 Philadelphia (11-5)
#5 New Orleans (11-5)
#6 Chicago (10-6)
NFC Wild Card Weekend:
- #3 Atlanta over #6 Chicago
- #5 New Orleans over #4 Philadelphia
NFC Divisional Weekend:
- #1 Minnesota over #5 New Orleans
- #2 L.A. Rams over #3 Atlanta
- #1 Minnesota over #2 L.A. Rams – This looks like an extremely exciting game in U.S. Bank Stadium. Good thing it’s indoors. If it was outdoors, we’d have Ice Bowl II in the sub-zero temps of Minneapolis in January. Vikes will get it done in their dome.
Super Bowl 53:
- Minnesota Vikings over Pittsburgh Steelers – The Vikes will finally do it! Just like last year’s Philadelphia Eagles, we’ll have a first-time Super Bowl Champion. After losing four times, Minnesota will finally come out on top. The Vikings are your Super Bowl 53 Champions. The Gods have spoken. Fans will be in Valhalla. Skol!
I know we’re already halfway through the 2018 Canadian League season, but let’s do a quick CFL Playoffs Preview nonetheless. The CFL season started back in mid-June. They’ve completed 12 weeks of their 21 week schedule. Currently there are 9 teams in the CFL. 5 teams are in the West Division and 4 teams are in the East Division.
Western Final Prediction
- Calgary Stampeders over Saskatchewan Roughriders
Eastern Final Prediction
- Hamilton Tiger-Cats over Ottawa RedBlacks
106th Grey Cup Championship on Sunday, November 25, 2018 in Edmonton
- Calgary Stampeders over Hamilton Tiger-Cats – The Stampeders will stamp out all challengers on their way to their 8th Grey Cup Championship Title in franchise history. So far, the Stamps are 7-7 in 14 Grey Cup appearances. This looks like Calgary’s year. I’m cheering for them to win their fourth Title this century, as they also won in 2001, 2008, and 2014. Behind a dynamic passing game led by QB Bo Levi Mitchell, RB Don Jackson, and Receivers Davaris Daniels and Kamar Jorden, the Stampeders will fly all over the field and put up a big score on Hamilton.
That’s it everyone. We hope you enjoy football once again this Fall! And don’t forget…..you are now obligated to gamble big money on “Dutch Lion’s” predictions because…..he’s almost always 50% correct.