The 2017 National Football League season kicks off the day this issue hits the streets as the Super Bowl champion (and noted cheaters) New England Patriots take on my favorite team (and noted also-rans) the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that is sure to leave half of America rejoicing, the other half bored, and me quietly weeping into a tumbler of whiskey.
I'll get it together by Sunday, though, when the season has its first full slate of games, because I love football nearly as much as my coworkers love that show with the incest and the dragons. Football, similarly, has ornate costumes, a frightening death count and seemingly constant controversy. And like Game of Thrones fans, we NFL dorks spend the time between seasons obsessing over our beloved and occasionally dressing up for fantasy parties.
Here are a few semi-educated predictions for the NFL season ahead:
THE SEAHAWKS ARE GOING TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL
Right now a bunch of so-called "Twelves" are thinking to themselves, "Dude, you can't SAY that! You're jinxing them!" And to that I say, "Did you miss the part when I said I was a Chiefs fan?"
Seattle has an exceedingly advantageous schedule this year (just two games in the Eastern time zone and three of four prime-time games played at home) to go with the squishy-soft division they play in. Realistically, their toughest game of the year might be their first, this Sunday at Green Bay. Their trip to Dallas on Christmas Eve could be another loss.
Even if they lose both those games, and another couple just for giggles (because the Seahawks always seem to tally an inexplicable loss to someone like the Rams), we're still looking at a team that should be 12-4 and in contention for home-field advantage in the playoffs — as long as they stay healthy. And if that happens? See you in Minneapolis in February.
COOPER KUPP WILL NOT BE OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
I know, Eastern fans, I know. Your boy is going to surprise some people who never got to see the Eagles' legend play before he headed to the pros and the Los Angeles Rams. But he has on his team two veteran receivers who are going to demand the ball (Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods), a running back the coach wants to feed (Todd Gurley) and a quarterback (Jared Goff) who hasn't shown quite yet that he can, you know, actually throw the ball. Could be a long season for Kupp. (I'll totally take him for my fantasy football team if given the chance, though.)
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY WILL BE OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Maybe this can be considered some sort of progress in race relations in America at a time when we sorely need it. I think Stanford all-everything player Christian McCaffrey is going to light it up for the Carolina Panthers and become the first white running back to win the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award since a fellow with the perfect football name, Ron Bull, played for the Chicago Bears in 1962. And McCaffrey will get the award because of his relationship with black quarterback and 2011 Rookie of the Year Cam Newton. Newton's been dying for some weapons, and McCaffrey's ability to run and catch will come in handy for the Panthers' hopes of getting back to the playoffs. It will also make McCaffrey a breakout star this season.
THE NFL WILL SET A NEW RECORD FOR PLAYERS CAUGHT SMOKING WEED
The NFL is more secretive than the CIA about its disciplinary procedures, so we won't know exactly what many players are being suspended for as the season progresses. But you can bet that as recreational marijuana becomes more common, more NFL players will be lighting up for relaxation and recovery from injuries. And to hit the club, yo!
THE NEW YORK JETS WILL WIN A GAME
You might be thinking to yourself, "Well, duh! Of course they will!" You might be overestimating them. This year's Jets are going to be incredibly bad, perhaps historically so. They could become the first team to go winless through a season since the 2008 Detroit Lions. Their best chances to actually beat someone come in back-to-back weeks against the nearly-as-awful Jacksonville Jaguars and the allegedly improving Cleveland Browns. Team owner Woody Johnson is currently serving as President Trump's ambassador to the United Kingdom, and he might never want to come back.
TOM BRADY WILL RETIRE AT THE END OF THE SEASON
Speaking of Trump, he'll nominate the Patriots quarterback to be ambassador to Brazil, and Brady will jump at the chance to keep his Brazilian supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen happy — and to get out of town after losing the Super Bowl to the Seahawks. ♦