By Paul Gallant, SportsRadio 610By Paul Gallant


HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – The coming kickoff of the NFL brings us many joys. Watchable, non-preseason football. An opportunity to re-connect with, bond with, and most importantly embarrass your friends via fantasy football. And for the few people that followed my work on websites other than SportsRadio610.com, my weekly “Hateful Power Rankings”.

Why hateful? Because it’s more fun that way. Themes are fun too. So with just under two days until 2014 kicks off – aka ~ 7 months until the start of Game of Thrones season 5 – why not add a little Westerosi zest into the mix for week one? I only make references to the show every night.

Immediately below: My power rankings (which for those who haven’t watched the show, HAVE SO MANY SPOILERS) starting from 32 and working all the way to number 1. For predictions, scroll all the way to the bottom.

THE RANKINGS

Theon Greyjoy
32. Oakland Raiders
31. Cleveland Browns
30. Buffalo Bills

Serious question: can the Boltons just kill off Theon Greyjoy? Watching that rama-lama-ding-dong-less loser is like searching for ANY redeeming qualities in Mad Men characters: An eternal struggle.

Speaking of eternal struggles, that’s what 2014 will be for these 3 Theons. Oakland legends Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have continued the Post-2002-Al-Davis tradition of “Uh…wut?” in fantastic fashion. Assembling a roster of aging veterans that haven’t been good since 2011? Great job fellahs.

Meanwhile, the cities of Cleveland and Buffalo haven’t seen real quarterbacks in close to 20 years. But don’t worry, the Browns went 2009 Dolphins and drafted a QB – Johnny Manziel – to run the wildcat! In the first round! And the Bills traded a 1st rounder next year (which could very well be the 1st overall pick) to pick a receiver – Sammy Watkins – who will catch passes from the E.J. Manuel. That won’t end poorly…

Well the Starks aren’t COMPLETELY dead. But…
29. New York Giants
28. Washington Redskins
27. Carolina Panthers

…Behind these offensive lines, they would be. Remember the “Is (quarterback X) elite, bro?” phase of football two years ago? Maybe we should re-evaluate Eli Manning. Was his offensive line non-existent last season? Yes. But that doesn’t excuse his league high 27 interceptions.

Meanwhile, Washington has bigger issues than their nickname:
1. RG3’s ability to slide. Hey bro, stop doing this.
2. RG3’s decision making. Stop doing that.
3. RG3’s command of Jay Gruden’s offense. Miss the Shanahans yet?

And Carolina has screwed over Cam Newton. Failing to upgrade the offensive line for a quarterback coming off of ankle surgery was a bad idea. But if you’re gonna go big, go big. Get rid of Steve Smith. Replace him with Jason Avant and Jericho Cotchery. And put way too much pressure on rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin!

Samwell Loves Gilly guys!
26. Tennessee Titans

Awww, what a cute storyline that totally isn’t taking time away from the characters that matter! Just kidding. Still, the romantic scenes between those two can’t touch this snooze-fest Titans roster.

Actual sentences spoken by Titans fans:
“Trust me bro, this year IS THE YEAR Jake Locker plays 16 games.”
“Bishop Sankey is TOTALLY Giovanni Bernard 2.0, even though he’s only 3rd string
“Trust me guys, Justin Hunter is a Randy Moss clone!”

The Guys Who Played “The Mountain”
25. Houston Texans
24. St. Louis Rams
23. New York Jets

Fun fact: there have been three separate Gregor “The Mountain” Cleganes through 4 Game of Thrones seasons. Understandable. Dramatic monologues like this don’t really require…skill. Are you seven feet tall and built like a tank? Great! YOU could be the next Mountain.

But we aren’t watching the Mountain for his acting prowess. And we aren’t watching the Texans, Rams, or Jets for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shaun Hill, and Geno Smith. We’re glued to the screen for old Mounty Mount to see random prisoner murder and skull crushing. Just like we enjoy seeing J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Sheldon Richardson smash quarterbacks.

Unfortunately also that means Samwell and Gilly FOREVER-esque scenes with these three offenses.

Robert Baratheon’s Excuse was Alcohol
22. Detroit Lions
21. Atlanta Falcons

So what will Jim Caldwell – master of timeouts – and Mike Smith – lord of second half adjustments – use as excuses after under-achieving with these talented rosters?

Jaime Lannister Won A Lot Too
20. Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith is 30-9-1 as a starter over the last three years. But just like everyone with a clue wondered about Jaime Lannister’s perfect record (against warriors similar to the boxers Floyd Mayweather has fought) so too should they worry about Alex Smith. Kansas City had the opportunity to draft Teddy Bridgewater OR Jimmy Garoppolo in May. Instead, they left Smith with the same mediocre receiving corps he had last year. And gave him a four year, $68 million deal. TAKE THAT CONVENTIONAL WISDOM.

I’d take Smith over the guys the Texans have. But can Smith get to – let alone win – a Super Bowl with those targets and a defense that was exposed in an epic playoff collapse against the Colts? Doubtful. Jamaal Charles can’t do everything.

…And Now Jaime’s Washed Up
19. Dallas Cowboys

Now look at Jaime. He can’t play swords. He can’t read. His legacy is non-existent…other than stabbing a dude in the back. And unlike his Dad and bro, he’d probably be terrible if allowed to make meaningful decisions. Until Tywin Lannister croaked, Jaime’s relevance was essentially done-zo.

Dallas WILL be in that same situation until Jerry Jones stops making personnel decisions. Jer-Bear’s chance to win with Tony Romo has dried up. And it isn’t completely Romo’s fault – despite what many say. On paper, the Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Weapons like Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and DeMarco Murray plus a VERY good offensive line will do that.

But as good as the offense is, the defense is that bad. They had the worst defense in the league last season. And on top of that, let DeMarcus Ware leave for Denver, lost Sean Lee for the season to injury, and placed rookie linebacker DeMarcus Lawrence on the revocable injured list. Wild guess: it’s not getting any better.

Barring any injuries on offense, the Cowboys could scrape together 8 wins. Especially with 10 games combined against the weak NFC East and AFC South. But with a couple of injuries and that defense, could the Cowboys could wind up with a top five pick next year.

There are worse things than “The Friend Zone”
18. Arizona Cardinals

Poor Ser Jorah. That dude would have died for Daenerys – even after he found out she was getting frisky with other fellahs. But if you consider aiding the murder of this guy to prevent him from becoming king (and to get yourself a pardon), then BOOM. You’re out.

The Cardinals have been there and done that. Missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record is the NFL’s version of “the friend zone”. And like Ser Jorah, they might have missed their chance too. Last season’s dominating D will be without Daryl Washington (suspended for season after violating league substance abuse policy) and Darnell Docket (torn ACL). Throw in another possible suspension for John Abraham – who was arrested for a DUI this offseason – and I’m selling on Arizona.

House…Bolton???
17. Jacksonville Jaguars
16. Minnesota Vikings
15. San Diego Chargers
14. Miami Dolphins
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. Pittsburgh Steelers

Roose and little Ramsay’s ascent to power from the end of season 3 through season 4 has been THE SHOCK OF THE SHOW for non-book reading Thrones fans. Here are 6 reasons why the 6 above COULD surprise:

Jags – Definitely the biggest reach. But Gus Bradley, an improving defense, and Blake Bortles (who should be starting…now) are giving me a strange gut feeling of…optimism?…for Jacksonville.

Vikes – Norv Turner was a bad head coach. He’s a damn good offensive coordinator though. And with Adrian Peterson and Cordarelle Patterson, maybe he can be THE GUY to make Matt Cassell successful. If not…there’s always Teddy Bridgewater.

Bolts – Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen with a year under his belt could be the best QB – WR tandem in football.

Phish – New Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is bringing elements of Chip Kelly’s offense to Miami. Will THIS be the offense that gets Ryan Tannehill in gear?

Bucs – If you’re going to give Josh McCown a shot, you may as well replicate his Chicago setting by giving him massive receivers (Vincent Jackson = 6’5, Mike Evens = 6’5, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins = 6’6). Also, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is in the same class as J.J. Watt. Seriously.

Steelers – They finished last season 6-2 and were a missed Ryan Succop (Chiefs) field goal away from a shocking playoff push. This offseason? They added some much needed SPEED in the draft. Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier looks like a monster, and defensive end Stephon Tuitt and running back Dri Archer also have wheels.

Mance Rayder’s Army Of Frauds
11. Indianapolis Colts

“OMG GUYS, Mance Rayder has an army of 100,000!” Yeah…an army of depressing refugees.

Time to repeat a hot take. For the 3rd straight year, I refuse to believe:

  • a team with four players of worth – Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne (coming off a knee injury), and Robert Mathis (suspended first four games) is as good as their record has said
  • That offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton – obsessed with handing off to Trent Richardson – is competent
  • And that an abysmal offensive line that allowed Luck to be hit a league high 237 times the last two years can keep him healthy a full season

 

Luck can’t carry this pathetic roster on his back forever. #RyanGrigsonWonGmOfTheYearOnce

Know Your Role, Ser Davos
10. Baltimore Ravens

I lost count of the times I complained about Gary Kubiak’s offense last season. I don’t think highly of Joe Flacco. And I think Ray Rice’s best days are behind him. So why do I have the Ravens at 10?

Here’s why. Just like Ser Davos – another illiterate with hand issues in Westeros – excelled as Stannis Baratheon’s number two, Kubiak was once a GREAT offensive coordinator. And he could very well fix Baltimore’s problems. Flacco running bootlegs to set up bombs for Torrey Smith and Steve Smith sounds enticing. And you’re telling me there’s no chance that Kubes – who got 1,000 yard rushing seasons out of guys like Reuben Droughns and Steve Slaton – can revive Ray Rice to competence? I won’t rule it out.

Drogo’s Immune System
9. Chicago Bears

Drogo died after that little cut became infected. Should’ve bought neo-sporin bro.

We all know that Marc Trestman’s offense is loaded with weapons. Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery are an intimidating trio. That arsenal helped both Jay Cutler and Josh McCown excel under center.

Here’s the problem. We know Cutler has talent. But we also know he gets injured. A lot. And if he misses a couple of games, do you trust THIS GUY to bail you out? Uhhh

Actually, Ygritte knew nothing about playoff success, Jon Snow
8. Cincinnati Bengals

Fun Fact: Ygritte and Andy Dalton have red hair. And in the playoffs, Andy Dalton freezes up like Ygritte whenever she sees Jon Snow and his jheri curls. CLASSIC! This team is still loaded, but they need WAY more out of him.

“I’m surrounded by MORONS”
7. San Francisco 49ers

Honestly, I don’t know how Tywin OR Tyrion put up with the imbeciles of King’s Landing. Cersei – who’s always wasted on red wine and dropping condescending barbs – and Pycelle – senile king of the pervs are TRUSTED AND IMPORTANT DECISION MAKERS there. Joffrey Baratheon WAS the most important decision maker at one point. And these guys were stuck cleaning up the messes left by that trio time and time again.

The potential for Harbaugh to someday feel that way about his team is certainly there. Between Aldon Smith’s 9 game suspension, Ray McDonald’s recent alleged shenanigans, plus a supposed rift between he and general manager Trent Baalke, you could see how Harbaugh could EASILY go on a Tyrion-esque rant.

…Littlefinger?
6. Philadelphia Eagles

After this scene in season one, I’d NEVER have guessed that Petyr Baelish would even think of accomplishing all that he did in season four. Just like I was doubtful that Chip Kelly and his system at Oregon could succeed in the NFL. Let alone encourage a slew of copy-cats. Perhaps the label of “genius” WAS merited.

I know Kelly has only been coach for a season. And that things will be much more difficult for the Eagles than last year with Desean Jackson now in Washington. Still, I’m believing more and more that Kelly’s system works no matter what weapons are available to it. And maybe, no matter the quarterback. Nick Foles had a great season last year. But he isn’t TRULY 27 touchdown passes against 2 interceptions…right? We’ll see soon.

Oberyn Martell stars in GETTING TOO CHEAP CUTE!
5. New England Patriots

The Patriots defense hasn’t been this good on paper since 2005. Rob Gronkowski may actually be healthy enough for week one. And that schedule couldn’t be easier. So why the concern?

Here’s why. New England’s offensive line wasn’t very good to begin with this season. To make matters worse, esteemed O-Line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired this offseason. And then, they traded their best lineman – Logan Mankins – to Tampa Bay for a 4th round pick and a tight end who had a good season last year. This move has been rationalized by Belichick supporters as such:

  • Belichick moves like this typically pan out
  • Mankins was past his prime
  • Tim Wright is the next Aaron Hernandez

 

My responses:

  • Typically panning out doesn’t guarantee anything.
  • Who is replacing Mankins? Any All-Pros on the bench?
  • Stop.

Once again, the AFC is a two horse race between the Patriots and Broncos. And here is the deciding factor: who on New England can block Denver’s DeMarcus Ware or Von Miller?

The answer? Probably no one. Giving away Logan Mankins only makes that problem bigger.

WHO LET THE F*&%ING DRAGONS OUT OF THE BASEMENT?
4. Green Bay Packers
3. New Orleans Saints
2. Denver Broncos

Oh – the NFL did – when they decided to re-emphasize illegal contact and defensive holding rules. Based off of what we saw in the preseason, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning all have a chance to reach the records that Manning did last season.

The Iron Throne: As Uncomfortable As It Looks
1. Seattle Seahawks

Sorry ma, I’d prefer Ser Pounce over your booze aided story. I’ll pass on the poison too.

When you’re at the top, teams are going to come after you. And from the sounds of things, the Seahawks have been putting in all the work – sometimes illegally – to push back all the fools who want to mess with the best. And until they lose, they’ll sit atop this bad boy.

HOW IT ALL PLAYS OUT

AFC EAST
1. Patriots (14-2, Home Field)
2. Dolphins (8-8)
3. Jets (6-10)
4. Bills (5-11)

AFC NORTH
1. Bengals (10-6, Division Champs, #3 Seed)
2. Ravens (10-6, Wild Card #1)
3. Steelers (10-6, Wild Card #2)
4. Browns (3-13)

AFC SOUTH
1. Colts (9-7, Division Champs, #4 Seed)
2. Jaguars (7-9)
3. Texans (6-10)
4. Titans (6-10)

AFC WEST
1. Broncos (12-4, First Round Bye)
2. Chargers (8-8)
3. Chiefs (6-10)
4. Raiders (2-14)

NFC EAST
1. Eagles (13-3, First Round Bye)
2. Cowboys (7-9)
3. Redskins (5-11)
4. Giants (5-11)

NFC NORTH
1. Packers (12-4, Division Champions, #4 Seed)
2. Bears (10-6, Wild Card #1)
3. Vikings (8-8)
4. Lions (6-10)

NFC SOUTH
1. Saints (13-3, Home Field)
2. Buccaneers (9-7)
3. Falcons (5-11)
4. Panthers (5-11)

NFC WEST
1. Seahawks (12-4, Division Champions, #3 Seed)
2. 49ers (10-6) (10-6, Wild Card #2)
3. Cardinals (8-8)
4. Rams (6-10)

AWARDS
MVP: Drew Brees – QB – New Orleans Saints
Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly – Philadelphia Eagles.
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers – QB – Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player of the Year: Gerald McCoy – DT – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kelvin Benjamin – WR – Carolina Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney – OLB – Houston Texans

THE BIG DANCE

Wild Card
(6) Steelers over (3) Bengals
(5) Ravens over (4) Colts
(4) Packers over (5) Bears
(3) Seahawks over (6) 49ers

Divisional Round
(1) Patriots over (6) Steelers
(2) Broncos over (5) Ravens
(1) Saints over (4) Packers
(3) Seahawks over (2) Eagles

Championship Round
(2) Broncos over (1) Patriots
(1) Saints over (3) Seahawks

SUPER BOWL XLIX
Broncos over Saints

So there you have it. The NFL is going to get its wish: a showdown of the league’s best two passing attacks for the “biggun” in Arizona. And that’s a pretty realistic expectation, especially when you consider that they changed the rules to bail out Peyton Manning FOR THE SECOND TIME IN HIS CAREER.

Happy kickoff everyone.

Paul Gallant hosts the “B-Straw and Pauly G” show – Tuesdays 9-11 PM, Wednesdays 8-11 PM, and Fridays 8-11 PM – with Brien Straw. Get in contact with Paul on Twitter – @PaulyGSays – or on Facebook – Paul Gallant.

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