Football games that matter. My goodness, it’s a long way to get here. Just a few hours from now, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will begin their season against the Detroit Lions, giving us the perfect place to jump into the first regular season Four Verts column. Breathe it in. Love this moment. We’re back, baby!
Chris Jones’ interception was an early test for the Chiefs
Chris Jones is very serious about his suspension from the Chiefs as they prepare to play their season opener against the Lions on Thursday night. Jones is as good as it gets from a defensive tackle perspective, blowing up pass plays and matchups — and he wants to be paid roughly $30 million this year for what he brings to the table. 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa is in the same spot as Jones when it comes to his holdout status, but the 49ers have agreed to a deal with Bosa that will pay him roughly $34 million per year. Good money if you can get it.
Jones, it’s clear at this point, is ready to see if the Chiefs miss his presence before they back up the Brinks truck to his bank account. At a charity event on Wednesday, Jones stated his intentions towards his contract in a succinct manner. “All I’m doing is asking for a raise,” Jones told reporters. The Chiefs are holding firm on any contract offer they think they can make, but Jones isn’t that way — leading to an immediate tough test for the Chiefs without him.
Here comes the Detroit Lions, who have the perfect offensive setup to take advantage of Jones’ absence and potentially take on the defending champions at the start of their season. If there’s one thing the Lions can definitely do this season, or at least plan to do, it’s run the ball. They have a group of offensive linemen, two talented running backs to lead their ground game and an offensive coordinator who knows how to attack defenses in the run game. Someone like Chris Jones would be very useful at a time like this!
Regardless, unless something changes before the game, the Chiefs won’t have Jones available to start the season. Fortunately, they still have a guy named Patrick Mahomes who gives them the upper hand in every game they play, but Jones’ help in this particular matchup would be huge for the Chiefs. If the Chiefs do indeed make the cut, Jones has a strong case to get the contract he wants while playing a key role in the Chiefs season, with Super Bowl hopes.
It’s an interesting case study to see how much an elite quarterback can cover up mistakes for the rest of the team, especially with Travis Kelce likely not at 100% as he faces a hyperextended knee. The Chiefs may not need Jones to beat the Lions (we’ll see), but they definitely need him to continue their dynastic run in the NFL.
Don’t sleep on the Titans this season
Shocking development here: Mike Vrabel will coach a rude, hard-nosed football team that makes life hell for opposing teams. Although this Titans roster is one of the more flawed units than Vrabel’s in years past, they still have enough pieces to be a solid and be a player in the AFC South.
Ryan Tannehill was a potential trade piece this offseason, but they chose to keep him and now he’s the steady presence of the veteran quarterback in an offense that’s going through a bit of a transition. Yes, Derrick Henry is still a good running back and DeAndre Hopkins is a big boost to a passing game that needs weapons on the outside, but they’re just getting started. four new guys on the offensive line. That will be a tough test for them, but the Titans probably have enough talent among their skill position players to overcome an offensive line that will undoubtedly need some time to come together and grow.
Where the Titans should be legitimately strong is the defense, led by Jeffery Simmons, Azeez Al-Shaair and Kevin Byard giving them a piece of strength at all three levels. They have great depth on the defensive line overall with Teair Tart and Denico Autry providing consistent play that opens up everything for the defense. There are a few cornerback players who still have things to prove, but for the most part this is still a solid defense for the Titans.
The Jaguars are the toughest test the Titans will face in the division this season, but Tennessee has enough top-end talent to play the rock fight style of football that has won it so many football games in the past year under Vrabel. This team may not have the makings of a 12- or 13-win team, but at least they can make a push for the wild card and possibly win the division if the offensive line can provide some consistent play.
The Commanders have assembled some quality skill talent
Washington is in a transition in many areas throughout the organization as they embrace new ownership, giving the team a level of credibility off the field that it hasn’t had in decades. It’s easier to focus on what the team has assembled on the field, which is a squad that can really play spoiler from time to time within their own division.
The defense has its cast of characters that are now well-known, starting with their fierce defensive line led by Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. On the other side of the ball, they have a new starting quarterback in Sam Howell, but he’s encouraged by what could potentially be an explosive supporting cast. A lot will come down to how well new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy puts this offense together, and they have the talent to make his scheme work.
The Commanders have a wide receiver duo that most teams would kill to have. Terry McLaurin has become one of the best wide receivers in football after being a third-round pick a few years ago and Jahan Dotson is quickly looking overqualified to be a secondary receiver for one NFL offense. Throw in a backfield featuring Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson’s playmaking abilities and it’s easy to see why fans are excited about the potential of their offense. One thing this organization has done really well over the last few seasons is accumulate enough skill talent to potentially give a second-year, fifth-round quarterback a chance to succeed this year. That is no small feat.
Truly taking on the Eagles and Cowboys (and Giants to a lesser degree) in the NFC East will be difficult, but while this team may not have the depth of a true Super Bowl contender, they have enough which can give teams headaches and be a team that ruffles feathers with their talent. Of course, everyone will come into the frame once they see how well Howell can do. Right now, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be a Commanders fan.
Prediction of division winners
This year, there seems to be a lot of competition throughout the NFL, which should make for a tightly contested season, especially in the AFC division. Here is a prediction of which team will win each division.
AFC West — Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes plays on this team.
AFC South — Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have flaws that could keep them from going to the AFC title game or the Super Bowl, but this is a team that clearly has the best offense in their division and they can ride that talent to a division win. .
AFC North — Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson had another MVP-quality season with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, the Ravens defense picked up where they were at the end of last season and they barely beat the Bengals for the AFC North crown.
AFC East — Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins added a ton of talent on defense, get Jalen Ramsey back for the postseason stretch and still have the most explosive offense in the league. This division may not be settled until the final week of the season, but they have the best roster top-to-bottom in the AFC East.
NFC West — San Francisco 49ers
Seattle feels like a team that should let their young players get a year of seasoning before they push the 49ers for the crown, but it’s not an easy choice. Geno Smith has a great trio of wide receivers to throw to, but the 49ers get the edge here because of their defense and Kyle Shanahan.
NFC South — New Orleans Saints
Typing this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. However, the Saints have the best quarterback in the division at least this year. That was enough to get them the division title in a weak year for the NFC South.
NFC North — Green Bay Packers
A bit of a surprise. The Packers have the foundation of a solid roster if they can overcome some likely poor play at safety. The Jordan Love hype train is up and running, and he’s given them enough to knock off the Vikings and Lions over the course of the season.
NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles
The Cowboys have a compelling case here, but the Eagles may have the best offensive depth chart in football and have enough defensive potential to break through while some of their front seven players get more accustomed to the NFL.