Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the NFL season.
Three teams on the rise
The Texans will be way better than the 4-12 they were a year ago. That's assuming their best defensive player, DE J.J. Watt, and their best offensive player, QB Deshaun Watson, are healthy.
Now that Jimmy Garoppolo, who was 5-0 after he inherited a 1-10 team, is in at QB, the 49ers should start climbing back to challenge for the NFC West title.
I guarantee this team will win more games this season that last. Okay, that's not exactly going out on a limb, but the Browns are headed in the right direction.
Three teams on the decline
They still have QB Russell Wilson. But what else do they have? Maybe Wilson will be enough, but my gut tells me the Seahawks are in for a fall.
They went 9-7 a year ago, but they are in the NFC North with two heavyweights: the Packers and Vikings. That might be four losses right there.
They were the feel-good story of 2017 as they made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. They won't make the postseason this year. In fact, I could see a fall off a cliff to like three or four wins.
Three best coaches in football this minute
1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
Does this even need an explanation?
2. Doug Pederson, Eagles
What he did last season — using two QBs to win a Super Bowl — was brilliant.
3. Sean McVay, Rams
I could take the easy route here and chose the Steelers' Mike Tomlin, the Saints' Sean Payton or the Chiefs' Andy Reid, but let's go new school. McVay has been in L.A. only one season, but he's a quarterback whisperer and an offensive guru.
Three coaches on the hot seat
1. Dirk Koetter, Bucs
It's simple. If the Bucs makes the playoffs, he keeps his job. If they don't? Wouldn't want to be him.
2. Marvin Lewis, Bengals
I'm shocked he's still the Bengals' coach. Sooner or later (and I'm guessing sooner) time is going to run out.
3. Jason Garrett, Cowboys
Do you realize that if the Cowboys miss the playoffs this season, Garrett will have missed the postseason six times in eight full seasons? No way Jerry Jones will stand for that.
Three most exciting offensive players
1. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
Throw out the quarterbacks and there might not be a more impactful offensive player in the game.
2. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
I'll watch this guy do anything … on or off the field. Because everything he does on and off the field are things no one else on the planet can do quite like Gronk.
3. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
Runs. Catches. Scores. The ball becomes special in his hands.
Three most exciting defensive players
1. Aaron Donald, DT, Rams
He's the most dominant interior lineman since Warren Sapp.
2. Von Miller, LB, Broncos
Double-digit sacks in six of the past seven seasons and a great dancer, too.
3. Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals
Is there a better corner in the NFL? Well, you have the Vikings' Xavier Rhodes and the Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey, but Peterson has made seven Pro Bowls in seven seasons.
Three players at a career crossroads
1. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens
Does he have one more run in him, or will his career start to fade this season?
2. Gerald McCoy, DT, Bucs
McCoy is a tremendous talent, but he isn't getting younger and you wonder if he will ever be on a playoff team.
3. DeSean Jackson, WR, Bucs
He didn't have the type of year most expected last season. Was it an off season or the beginning of the end?
Three players better than you realize
1. Chris Godwin, WR, Bucs
Don't be surprised if only Mike Evans ends up with more receptions on the Bucs this season.
2. Marvin Jones, WR, Lions
He led the NFL with 18 yards per reception last year. Bet you didn't know that.
3. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Cowboys
Whatever you do, don't say he has a Humpty Dumpty body. Just ask EA Sports.
Three players not as good as you think
1. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
I'm starting to think that Super Bowl appearance was a fluke.
2. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders
It's not that he got bad. He's just gotten old.
3. Tavon Austin, WR, Cowboys
I thought this guy was going to be a superstar. But he was practically invisible last season.
Three games we can’t wait to see
1. Packers at Patriots, Nov. 4
A matchup of the two best quarterbacks in the league.
2. Vikings at Eagles, Oct. 7
A rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game.
3. Washington at Cowboys, Nov. 22
One of the league's great rivalries over Thanksgiving dinner.
Three teams that need to put up or shut up
The excuse of being in a conference with the mighty Patriots is just that, an excuse.
We keep hearing how they've improved. Now it's time to back up the talk and make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
Are they ever going to be the bride? Or are they just going to be the bridesmaid all the time?
Three NFL folks I’ve grown tired of
1. Commissioner Roger Goodell.
He makes the owners money, but the league's reputation has never been worse.
2. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
He criticizes anthem protesters, then doesn't remove his cap for the anthem.
3. Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
He's the best coach to ever live, but would it kill him to act like he has one of the best lives in sports?
Three things that would make the NFL more enjoyable
1. I never thought I'd say this, but ESPN should bring Chris "Boomer'' Berman back full time to NFL Countdown and NFL Primetime.
2. Holding the national anthem before the players take the field. That way, there are no protests. Better yet, we don't have to listen to certain presidents and others whine about said protests.
3. Eliminate Thursday Night Football. The games are bad, and it oversaturates the product.
Three bold predictions
1. Is it bold to predict the Patriots will win the Super Bowl?
2. Colts QB Andrew Luck will be the comeback player of the year.
3. The Bucs will miss the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.
Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones