America's real pastime is finally back.
Our collective addiction to the impossibly violent pickup truck-sponsored concussion circus known as the NFL is on par with anything a heroin addict experiences when going through withdrawal. It has to be. Why else would we accept any of it? Why else would we back an organization that floods stores with pink merchandise for a month to support breast cancer, yet allows less than 10 percent of the revenue to actually go towards cancer research? Why would we watch a game where every single week somebody loses consciousness from a head injury during a game, when we know full well those injuries often later lead to abuse and suicide? Why else would be put up with Roger Goodell making $44 million dollars a year? We wouldn't if we weren't addicted to the product.
Yet, after seven long months without a real hit of the good stuff, it's still safe to say many of us can't fucking WAIT to fall back off the wagon.
Through all the concussions, domestic abuse, and the daily evil that passes for "business as usual" in the National Football League—there are still Sundays. There's still one day a week where we as awful, awful supporters of the NFL can sit and enjoy the game itself without being bombarded by all the hype and negativity that surrounds it. Watching world-class football from 1 p.m. until 11 p.m. is still bliss, and until the natural reaction to seeing your favorite defensive lineman sack-dance around the writhing corpse of an opposing quarterback is no longer to jump to our feet in celebration, we'll keep watching.
We're not bad people. We just love this game.
So to prepare you for the next several months of touchdowns, torn ACLs, and terrible discoveries about the personal lives of people you support, we present the Complex Sports 2015 NFL Season Preview. Scroll through to catch up on what's new for each team this season, what games will win you money, what embarrassing proclamations your team's fans have made, and who the most interesting humans are in the league today.
Interesting human: OL John Urschel more than defies the “dumb jock” stereotype. After graduating from Penn State with a master’s in mathematics, he published his thesis (“A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians”) and later presented his findings to the NSA. Urschel also claims that he doesn’t play for the money. So why risk injury and trauma (he suffered a concussion in August) to that brilliant brain of his? His answer is simple: “I love hitting people.”
Vegas O/U: 9.5
Sunday to make some money: Oct. 11, Browns at Ravens (-7)
Deserves a follow: FS Will Hill III, (@WillThrill25)
Our favorite celebrity Ravens fan: Carmelo Anthony
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Ravens:
Just set my appointment for my Baltimore Ravens 2016 Super Bowl champions tattoo— Benjamin Richards (@benji_rich) August 13, 2015
Bottom line: There’s a lot of talk about the Ravens winning this (very competitive) division. Because he couldn’t get Jay Cutler to stop throwing touchdowns, new offensive coordinator and supposed QB whisperer Marc Trestman is in place to help Joe Flacco throw for 4,000 yards for the first time in his eight-year career. Yet, with rookie wideout Breshad Perriman’s health a big question mark, veteran WR and Napoleon Complex personified Steve Smith Sr. is left as Flacco’s No. 1 option. Injuries like these could leave the Ravens offense significantly less potent than they’d hoped. —Melissa Persaud (@melissaamrita)
Interesting human: This should be Devon Still. We all wanted it to be Devon Still. But Still and his daughter’s inspirational story are unfortunately no longer with the team. So we’re giving it to Andy Dalton. No, Andy Dalton didn’t get a face tattoo and or write a slam poem tribute to Ta-Nehisi Coates during the offseason. He gets this honor because he’s so damn plain that it’s interesting. Andy Dalton’s mediocrity and vanilla essence are so extreme that it somehow pushed him so hard on the swing that he looped over the bar and became interesting. He is a meme. His last Instagram post is a collage of quotes from The Office? You’re too perfect, Andy Dalton.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Dec. 13, Steelers at Bengals (-1)
Deserves a follow: WR Mohamed Sanu Sr. (@Mo_12_Sanu)
Our favorite celebrity Bengals fan: George Clooney
One overly optimistic fan’s take on the Bengals:
I will bet my first child's left hand that Andy Daulton wins AT LEAST 1 Super Bowl.— Bert Macklin (@Ianmurray7) September 5, 2014
Bottom line: Marvin Lewis will never not be the coach of the Bengals. After we’re all dead and gone, and the players are all dead and gone, and the No. 1 sport in the country is a rough-touch football alternative run by Vince McMahon, Lewis’ bones will be rested in a chair, somehow still coaching the Bengals. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With four straight playoff berths, he has proven he can get to the NFL’s knockout round. The problem is he just keeps getting knocked out. Expect the Bengals to be very good this season. Expect Jeremy Hill to run amok and Cincinnati to look like one of the most balanced teams in the league. Then expect them to lose in their first playoff game. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
Interesting human: Like this could be anyone but Johnny Manziel. He’s gone through rehab and retired the money dance, and while 36-year-old journeyman Josh McCown has been named the starter, Manziel remains the most intriguing QB on the Browns roster—if not in the entire NFL. Assuming Manziel is no longer rolling bills in bathrooms, it seems a safe bet that he’ll get his shot sooner rather than later. And assuming he’s spent as much time working on his passing game as he has his golf game, maybe the legend of Johnny Football will grow.
Vegas O/U: 6
Sunday to make some money: Sept. 20, Titans at Browns (-4.5)
Deserves a follow: CB Joe Haden (@joehaden23)
Our favorite celebrity Browns fan: LeBron James...or is it the Cowboys? Mr. Two Teams has made it no secret that he's down with the Dallas star, but ever since coming back to Cleveland (and befriending Johnny Manziel) King James has more publicly held it down for the Dawg Pound.
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Browns:
Bottom line: The Browns haven’t had a winning season since 2007, and the optimism of last year’s 7-4 start was shattered as they lost their next five to finish 7-9, last in the AFC North. With receiver Josh Gordon set to miss yet another season due to a drug suspension and McCown as the starting quarterback, this doesn’t look to be the Browns’ season either. Hey, at least they have new uniforms. —Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson)
Interesting human: The Steelers have a history when it comes to taking star college quarterbacks and turning them into all-purpose players in the NFL. Both Kordell Stewart and Antwaan Randle-El proved to be productive for the team in the past. And now, the Steelers are hoping they've found another guy in that same mold in Tyler Murphy. He didn't have a 180-yard, two-touchdown game in the preseason or anything, but the former Boston College QB did enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster and could very well slide into the same role that Stewart and Randle-El used to occupy.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Oct 18, Cardinals at Steelers (-2.5)
Deserves a follow: WR Antonio Brown (@AntonioBrown84)
Our favorite celebrity Steelers fan: Wiz Khalifa
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Steelers:
Steelers 16-0 going to the Super Bowl to win making them the first to win it all without losing in a 16 game season https://t.co/P2DIHK88zp— anthony (@WhooYoou) August 27, 2015
Bottom line: The Steelers' offense shouldn't have any problem putting points on the scoreboard this fall. Even with Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant serving suspensions at the beginning of the season, Ben Roethlisberger will have plenty of weapons to use. However, the defense underwent a huge change earlier this year when longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau resigned. There's a sudden youth movement taking place on that side of the ball for the Steelers, and it could result in the offense needing to try to score as many points as possible in order to win games. Should be weird for Steelers fans to watch that. —Chris Yuscavage (@CYuscavage)
Interesting human: With Hard Knocks shining a spotlight on all things Texans, it’s no surprise that Basic America has grown to love J.J. Watt even more than last season when he (yet again) won Defensive Player of the Year. And now that the HBO docu-series is over we know that Watt is not only amazing on the field, but that he is and/or enjoys appearing amazing off the field. The guy has a bed in the equipment room. “On the field, when you step on the field, you're the baddest fucker on the planet,” Watt said on the show. “And together we're the baddest fucking team on the planet. And that's the way we're going to attack every fucking day. I don't care who walks into our building. I don't care whose building we walk into. We're the baddest fucker out there.” Arian Foster may be a non-religious vegan, but he doesn't give quotes like that.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Sept. 27, Buccaneers at Texans (-6.5)
Deserves a follow: RB Arian Foster (@ArianFoster)
Our favorite celebrity Texans fan: Hilary Duff
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Texans:
Rockets made the playoffs. The Astros SHOULD make the playoffs. Texans, you're up.— Bob Dobalina (@outonthepatio) August 27, 2015
Bottom line: If Brian Hoyer can prove himself as their new starting QB, the Texans might actually have a chance. Yes, the Colts are still the favorites in the AFC South, but this isn’t entirely new territory for Hoyer. Adjustments should come more naturally now that he is reunited with coach Bill O’Brien, who worked with Hoyer while in New England. However, if Hoyer chokes, Houston may have a problem. And with Arian Foster's health issues the Texans offense could be on shaky ground. Defensively they’re stout, but this team will need to find a way to put up points. —Melissa Persaud (@melissaamrita)
Interesting human: Everyone likes an underdog so everyone should root for David Parry. He was told he was too small to play for a big-time college program and because of this his only scholarship offers came from FCS schools. Eventually walking-on at Stanford, Parry worked himself into a fifth-round draft pick in May and the Colts starting tackle this summer. “People haven't thought highly of me my whole career, but that's prepared me to this point,” Parry told ESPN. “That's why I play with a chip on my shoulder.” Now that he’s responsible for protecting Andrew Luck, people are definitely thinking differently.
Vegas O/U: 11
Monday to make some money: Nov. 2, Colts (-1) at Panthers
Deserves a follow: P Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow)
Our favorite celebrity Colts fan: David Letterman
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Colts:
Note to AFC South Arthur Jones being out for the season doesn't really help you in any way, Andrew Luck is still breathing. #Coltsnation— ColtsSociety: BBN (@ShawnWard31) September 2, 2015
Bottom line: This season there isn’t much reason to doubt that the Colts will yet again finish first in the division. With the addition of veterans like WR Andre Johnson and RB Frank Gore, Luck will have no shortage of
old dependable weapons. The Colts should start the season strong being that their first four games are against the Bills, Jets, Titans, and Jaguars, and that they play in one of the weakest divisions in football. They’re one of the best teams in the AFC for a reason and are a legit Super Bowl contender. Offensively they’re stacked, and if the offensive line can keep Luck out of the hospital, they might find themselves in Super Bowl 50. —Melissa Persaud (@melissaamrita)
Interesting human: Sen’derrick Marks spent his off-season rehabbing from a torn ACL, getting married, and helping a sick teenager forget about her trials for one night. As part of the Dreams Come True of Jacksonville program, Marks befriended 18-year-old Khameyea Jennings who had been battling liver cancer and asked the teen to prom. Picking her up in his Lamborghini, Marks gave Jennings a tiara and the two received a loud ovation when the defensive tackle escorted her inside. Cruelly, Jennings passed away just 19 days later. During an interview, Marks was left wondering why football players are so revered. "There's a whole world going on outside that a lot of people in this business don't know about," Marks said. “They're so stuck in this business because it gives you so many perks, so much fame and glorifies you so much. What the hell are we glorified for?”
Vegas O/U: 5.5
Thursday to make some money: Nov. 19, Titans at Jaguars (-1.5)
Deserves a follow: TE Marcedes Lewis (@marcedeslewis89)
One overly optimistic fan’s take on the Jaguars:
Somewhere in a parallel universe, the raiders will play the Jaguars for the Super Bowl— M⃟O⃟H⃟A⃟M⃟M⃟A⃟D⃟ (@M_AlnaimiXVII) August 31, 2015
Bottom line: Another year, another losing record. The fortunes of the Jaguars won’t be changing in 2015 after suffering their fourth-straight losing season in 2014. On the bright side, if Blake Bortles can avoid a sophomore slump and show more signs of being a competent quarterback, the Jaguars won’t have to waste another high draft pick on a signal caller and can use the coveted asset to address basically every other position on the field. —Adam Caparell (@AdamCaparell)
Interesting human: We're not gonna lie to you: It's hard to find an interesting player on the Titans. Their rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota is a robot that was pieced together by Chip Kelly in an Oregon lab, and Tennessee has five (five!) nondescript tight ends on their team. That—coupled with the Titans' lack of a run game—leads us to believe Mariota is going to spend his rookie season running for his life before hitting one of his many TEs for an occasional five-yard pass. But every now and then, we hope he'll look for Dorial Green-Beckham, a guy who has been described by, well, everyone as "the next Randy Moss." That's a lofty expectation, but if he can keep himself out of trouble off the field (in the words of Stephen A. Smith: "Stay OFF the WEEEEEEED!"), he might be able to make some noise on it this season. Hey, it happened for that other "Beckham" guy last season, right?
Vegas O/U: 6
Sunday to make some money: Nov. 29, Raiders at Titans (-2)
Deserves a follow: CB Brandon Harris (@HarrisNOFLYZONE)
Our favorite celebrity Titans fan: Faith Hill
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Titans:
Titans gone win the Super Bowl and the Lakers gonna win the finals in the same year— Neezy (@Iam_NickNeezy) September 3, 2015
Bottom line: If Mariota ends up being the star that everyone thinks he will be, this season will likely be the "Hey, remember when he went 1-15 in his first year?" season that everybody references when he leads Tennessee to the postseason in five years. This team just doesn't have enough star power on it at the moment. And did we mention that almost 10 percent of their team is made up of tight ends?! This season has "rebuilding year" written all over it. —Chris Yuscavage (@CYuscavage)
Interesting human: Depending on who you ask, Shane Ray might be the steal of the draft. The Broncos first round selection dropped all the way to No. 23 after an April citation for marijuana scared some teams away. And while the pass rusher gave Broncos fans a sneak peak at the havoc he can wreak in the backfield during the preseason, his post-sack dance could use a little work. That’s why the rookie has been consulting with veterans Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware to refine his routine. Basically, the dance was some kind of Pee Wee Herman punctuated with a fist pump combo and, according to Miller, it’s a work in progress. "I give him a 5 for that,” Miller told 247sports.com. “I would have made it look better."
Vegas O/U: 10.5
Sunday to make some money: Oct. 18, Broncos -4.5 at Browns
Deserves a follow: PR Emmanuel Sanders (@esanders_10)
Our favorite celebrity Broncos fan: Jessica Biel
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Broncos:
Bottom line: Peyton Manning. That who it’s riding on. If the future Hall of Famer doesn’t run out of gas like he did last season, then the Broncos again figure to be one of the best teams in the AFC and a legit Super Bowl contender. But after watching Manning throw ducks late last year and struggle to deal with the cold weather, can we really expect anything different at age 39? The dude can't even feel his fingers anymore. Sure, he was banged up and if he’s healthy maybe things are different, but the Broncos are going to need to beef up before December so they can afford a few losses heading into the postseason. They’re still the team to beat in the AFC West. But the clock is ticking on Manning. —Adam Caparell (@AdamCaparell)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Interesting human: Travis Kelce is more than just the non-Gronk dominant white tight end who also wears No. 87 and isn’t shy about dancing and showing his vibrant personality. Sure, there’s the side that blasts “Hotline Bling” while deciding which of his 300 pairs of sneakers to wear, but there’s also another side. The side that frequents children’s hospitals unprovoked when he’s not studying the more mental aspects of the game. Kelce recently told Complex he wants “to have the greatest season statistically that a tight end has ever had.” We’re looking forward to seeing it.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Oct. 4, Chiefs (+3) at Bengals
Deserves a follow: S Eric Berry (@Stuntman1429)
Our favorite celebrity Chiefs fan: Paul Rudd
One overly-optimistic fan’s take on the Chiefs:
Ready for deeze. Chiefs 12-4. Add west champs. Will play in Indy for a trip to the super bowl. https://t.co/h5tdMgLtqR— DOM COBAIN (@DominickWarren) September 1, 2015
Bottom line: The Chiefs are overlooked by many in the NFL when it comes to possible Super Bowl contenders, but maybe that’s a mistake. Maybe that’s based on the fact that Kansas City doesn’t have a sexy headline-grabbing quarterback and instead opted for Alex Smith aka Young Checkdown to run things under center. Where are the glaring holes? Pro Bowler Eric Berry is back after battling cancer, they have one of the best RBs in the league in Jamaal Charles, added a solid No. 1 receiver in Jeremy Maclin, and are coming off a season where their defense allowed the second fewest points per game. Why not KC? Peyton Manning and his fused neck can’t dominate the division forever, right? —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
Interesting human: Quick, name the highest paid Raider. Even die-hards would struggle to answer that one considering Oakland made its center—yes, its center—its most handsomely compensated player this past off-season. Rodney Hudson was brought in as a free agent to anchor the Oline and thanks in part to the 5-year, $44.5 million deal he signed, Oakland’s offense is expected to be marginally better than the one that racked up the fewest yards in football last year.
Vegas O/U: 6
Sunday to make some money: Dec. 6, Chiefs at Raiders (+3.5)
Deserves a follow: LB Khalil Mack (@52Mack_)
Our favorite celebrity Raiders fan: MC Hammer
One overly optimistic fan’s take on the Raiders:
The Raiders are gonna win the AFC West dont @ me.— Netflix and Phil. (@TheBlackCarlton) August 31, 2015
Bottom line: Basement dwellers in the AFC West the past three seasons, the Raiders will likely spend 2015 there as well. After an impressive rookie campaign, Derek Carr just might be a franchise quarterback, giving the Raiders a leg up on plenty of other organizations. But the playoffs are still a pipe dream and the Raiders figure to generate more headlines for their potential move to Los Angeles than anything they do on the field. —Adam Caparell (@AdamCaparell)
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Interesting human: Danny Woodhead looks more like a Keanu Reeves character than a real, live NFL player, but the 5-foot-8, 30-year-old has been posting serious numbers (both rushing and receiving) since his days at Division II Chadron State. After a breakout first season with San Diego in 2013 saw him lead all running backs with six TD receptions, he missed most of the 2014 season with a broken fibula. Assuming he can regain his 2013 form, he adds a much-needed multipurpose threat to the San Diego offense.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Oct. 4, Browns at Chargers (-6)
Deserves a follow: FS Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard)
Our favorite celebrity Chargers fan: Kendra Wilkinson
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Chargers:
Chargers winning the super bowl anyway so this Tom Brady shit don't matter— Rene (@The_RAD) September 3, 2015
Bottom line: The Chargers went 9-7 last year and missed the playoffs by one game. That shouldn’t happen again. Philip Rivers is back, complete with a new contract, and with Woodhead being added to a WR corps that includes Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson along with the addition of rookie running back Melvin Gordon, the offense should be plenty potent. If their defense improves at all—which, quite frankly, shouldn’t take much—they should be right back in AFC contention. —Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson)
Interesting human: It’s too bad IK Enemkpali didn’t make the final roster, because the guy who busted Geno Smith’s jaw and was then picked up by Geno Smith’s old coach Rex Ryan would have been the obvious choice as someone to keep an eye on (especially if you were a teammate who owed him money). Instead we’ll go with 26-year-old Tyrod Taylor, who was named the Bills starting QB after seeing limited action (just 35 pass attempts) in four seasons as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore. Even if rumors of his commissioning a diamond mouthguard were tragically untrue, Taylor should add some shine to an offense that ranked 18th in passing and 26th in total yards last season.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Nov. 8, Dolphins at Bills (-2)
Deserves a follow: RB LeSean McCoy (@CutonDime25)
Our favorite celebrity Bills fan: Shooter McGavin
With Tyrod Taylor named starter this Buffalo Bills team reminds me of the 49ers that went to the Superbowl.— The Honey Badger (@AlwaysN_Trouble) September 3, 2015
Bottom line: It’s not clear which 49ers team @AlwaysN_Trouble is talking about, but it seems highly unlikely that the Bills—who went 9-7 last year and named a virtually untested NFL quarterback their starter—get into Super Bowl 50 without tickets. Then again, offense is never the hallmark of a Rex Ryan-coached team, and the Bills did rank fourth overall last season in total yards allowed. If Taylor can emerge as the multipurpose threat he was at Virginia Tech and LeSean McCoy is good to go come Week 1, that should be enough to get them into the playoffs. After that, who knows? —Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson)
Interesting human: This past off-season, the Dolphins made 28-year-old Ndamukong Suh the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL thanks to a six-year, $114 million contract ($60 million guaranteed). That means he should have no problem paying the inevitable fines ($286,875 and counting) that come with his rule-defying (some might say dirty) style of play. Or maybe he just had a bad temper because he had to kick it in Detroit for so long. Regardless, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Suh adds a lot of talent and a lot of nasty to a Dolphins defense that had its porous moments last season.
Vegas O/U: 8
Sunday to make some money: Oct. 4, Jets at Dolphins (-3.5)
Deserves a follow: RB Jay Ayaji (@JayTrain27)
Our favorite celebrity Dolphins fan: Serena Williams
One overly-optimistic fan's take on the Dolphins:
Dude got in my car with a Patriots towel...I made him say "I love the Miami Dolphins, best team in the NFL" before I kicked him out— Trent Cates (@Floridaboy_tc) August 29, 2015
Bottom line: The Dolphins didn’t spend all that money on Suh to remain mediocre. They went 8-8 last season while allowing 23.3 points a game, and Suh’s arrival should help with that. On offense, quarterback Ryan Tannehill—who was sacked 46 times last season—remains an underrated asset who primarily just needs to find a way to stay alive. Maybe rookie wideout DeVante Parker can help out. Joe Philbin’s squad should have a shot at the playoffs, but any progress for one of the internet’s favorite dark-horse picks should be considered a plus. —Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Interesting human: From hosting party cruises with Waka Flocka to rapping to a highly anticipated book release, Rob Gronkowski had quite a busy offseason. He now even dabbles in the art of singing. As one of the most famous Patriots, the record-setting tight end knows how to have a good time on the field and off—as evidenced by his documented accounts of a naked Slip N’ Slide. He is the guy that everyone seems to. So if you didn’t already know, it’s really good to be Gronk.
Vegas O/U: 10.5
Sunday to make some money: Sept. 27, Jaguars at Patriots (-11.5)
Deserves a follow: CB Malcolm Butler (@Mac_BZ)
Our favorite celebrity Patriots fan: Dana White
One overly-optimistic fan’s take on the Patriots:
Thank god Tom Brady exists or I might of had to kill myself by now #RedSox— Matt #BradysFree (@MattTB12) July 22, 2015
Bottom line: Having won the AFC East 12 of the past 14 seasons, the Patriots are a force. There is no doubt that they are one of the league’s premier franchises and one of the best teams in the AFC. And with Brady’s suspension lifted, there is no need to play the guessing game about backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Yes, the Super Bowl champions will do as they always do: have a great season and more likely than not, make it to the AFC Championship Game. —Melissa Persaud (@melissaamrita)
NEW YORK JETS
Interesting human: Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to ask for directions, even if they’re from his 13-year-old neighbor. The Jets new starting quarterback (thanks to the Geno Smith sucker punch debacle) learns a new skill each off-season and the Wall Street Journal reported in August that the Harvard-educated QB challenged himself to solve the Rubix’s Cube. When he struggled to master it, Fitzpatrick picked up some much needed pointers from seventh grader and Rubix master Jacob Dixon. Thanks to the tips, Fitzpatrick can now solve the puzzle in about 90 seconds, nine seconds slower than his 8-year-old son, Brady.
Vegas O/U: 7.5
Sunday to make some money: Oct. 25, Jets (+8.5) at Patriots
Deserves a follow: C Nick Mangold (@nickmangold)
Our favorite celebrity Jets fan: Larry David
I would like to thank Rex Ryan and the entire Buffalo Bills organization. Your decisions have led the NY Jets to be the 2015 AFC East Champs— Andrew Garabedian (@Andrew_Chandy) August 31, 2015
Bottom line: Things can’t get much worse than last year’s 4-12 campaign. Armed with a new coach and GM, the Jets addressed their secondary concerns by bringing back Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie and should feature a formidable defense. But about that quarterback situation... Geno Smith is sitting on the sidelines after getting slugged during training camp leaving the journeyman Fitzpatrick in charge. The Jets do have playoff potential and could weasel their way into the crowded wild card field, but they’re still chasing the Patriots—and possibly the Dolphins—for the division. Some things never change. —Adam Caparell (@AdamCaparell)
Interesting human: One scroll through Martellus Bennett’s Instagram and it hits you—this guy is great at branding. But, unlike with a lot of players, the brand he’s pushing isn’t that of an egotistical millionaire hoping to come across as interesting...it’s of an actual interesting person! The seven-year veteran was once fined by the Cowboys for spitting offensive bars on YouTube, is currently coming off his first Pro Bowl, and recently starred in an animated short film with Cari Champion of ESPN and (former?) rapper Asher Roth. Weird life.
Vegas O/U: 6.5
Sunday to make some money: Nov. 15, Bears (+4.5) at Rams
Deserves a follow: Bennett (IG @Martellusb). But someone tell Cutty to man up, join Twitter, and give the world a Kanye rant for the ages. We know it’s in you, Jay.
Our favorite celebrity Bears fan: Obama? Nah. Horatio Sanz. Horatio Sanz is gold.
One overly optimistic fan’s take on the Bears:
Bottom line: Rookie WR Kevin White’s absence because of a stress fracture isn’t made any better by the fact that the Bears don’t have any defensive players. It’s amazing that the NFL allows them to play this way. You’d think the league would step in and force Chicago to put 11 guys on the other side of the ball instead of just letting opposing offenses repeatedly promenade into the endzone without resistance. Easily one of the bigger mysteries in the NFL right now. Here's to hoping Vic Fangio’s defensive rebuild includes an actual defense. *LOOKS DEEPER INTO CRYSTAL BALL* Jay Cutler will also throw interceptions. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
Interesting human: One day, Zach Zenner wants to attend medical school. But for now, he's "stuck" playing football because, even though he went undrafted this past spring, the guy has a knack for making big plays. As a running back at South Dakota State, he rushed for 2,000 yards in three seasons. And he showed why he's going to be a player to watch this summer by leading the entire league in rushing yards during the preseason. The Lions have already said they're not going to put too much on his plate just yet, but if he keeps producing, med school is going to have to wait for a few more years.
Vegas O/U: 8
Sunday to make some money: Dec. 27, 49ers at Lions (-1.5)
Deserves a follow: WR Golden Tate (@ShowtimeTate)
Our favorite celebrity Lions fan: Eminem
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Lions:
With Jordy Nelson out, gotta think the Lions are the Super Bowl favorites— Paul Kenneth Beroza (@RealPaulBeroza) August 23, 2015
Bottom line: Despite the loss of Ndamukong Suh in the off-season, the Lions still seem like they should be good enough to contend for a spot in the postseason. Matthew Stafford will once again have Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to throw to, and the addition of rookie running back Ameer Abdullah through the draft was a good one. The issue is that the Lions still don't seem to have the "it" factor that it takes to be a true contender. Maybe it's Stafford's abysmal record against good teams (he's just 3-32 for his career against teams who have finished a season with a winning record) or maybe it's their head coach Jim Caldwell's low-key personality that fails to get us excited. But whatever it is, it doesn't seem like the Lions are ready to get on the Packers’ level just yet. —Chris Yuscavage (@CYuscavage)
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Interesting human: It’d be fun and cute to have a player here like John Kuhn (“KUUUUHHHNNN!”) and mention talk about him having a some sort of tractor-racing hobby (not true, probably)...but who are we kidding? The answer is Aaron Rodgers. He’s the best quarterback in the world, routinely makes extremely difficult human feats appear effortless, and is dating MF Psylocke from X-Men. Who gives a shit if there’s a backup lineman somewhere on this team who can juggle? A-A-Ron is the glue that binds this team, the engine that drives this team, the balancing mechanism on this team’s hoverboard—whatever you wanna call it. He is *GASP* the greatest quarterback in Green Bay Packers history.
Vegas O/U: 11
Sunday to make some money: Oct. 4, Packers (Pick ‘Em) at 49ers
Deserves a follow: G T.J. Lang (@TJLang70)
Our favorite celebrity Packers fan: Lil Wayne
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Packers:
PACKERS WILL WIN THE SUPER BOWL THIS YEAR. FUCK EVERYONE WHO DOESNT THINK THAT.— evanKiefer (@e___kiefer) August 13, 2015
Bottom line: The Packers are Super Bowl contenders whether or not their best receiver has a functioning anterior cruciate ligament, which says a lot about the quality of their team as a whole. Most teams would be ruined by the loss of a player with Jordy Nelson’s ability, but the Packers have Rodgers. His wide receivers could be wearing straight jackets while running curl routes in wheelchairs and dude would still throw 30 TDs a season. Pairing Rodgers’ powers with an underrated offensive line, an every-down power back, and a solid-enough defense should be enough to get them to at least the NFC Championship Game. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
Interesting human: Three seasons ago, Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing. Last season, due to suspension, he played just one game. But hey, even though it wasn’t by choice, maybe the year off riding camels with Jamie Foxx will have been good for the 30-year-old running back, who plays a position where 28-year-old superstars rapidly become 32-year-old has-beens. He’ll have to endure plenty of taunts and signs on the road, but Peterson—judging from how he spent his year off—doesn’t seem to be terribly affected by reality much. And as long as he eats up yards, the home crowd will welcome him like he never left. Or, more accurately, like he never asked to be released so he could play for the Cowboys.
Vegas O/U: 8
Sunday to make some money: Dec. 20, Bears at Vikings (-2.5)
Our favorite famous Vikings fan: Mardy Fish
Which player deserves a follow: DT Sharrif Floyd (@sharriffloyd)
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Vikings:
THE PRESEASON HYPE IS REAL. MINNESOTA VIKINGS 16-0 SUPER BOWL OR BUST. SEE YOU FEB 7 IN SANTA CLARA— Walker Emmert (@WALK_cuisine) August 10, 2015
Bottom line: The Vikings went 7-9 last year, which means first-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did better without Peterson than former starter Matt Cassel did with him (Bridgewater threw for over 1,000 more yards, for starters). With Peterson back, the Vikings offense should be that much more potent. And even if Peterson isn’t at his NFL MVP 2012 best, the Vikings at the very least should be competitive. Which is more than you can say for them over the past two seasons. —Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson)
Interesting human: *GOOGLES DE KROY BIERMANN’S REALITY SHOW* “Now that Kim Zolciak and Kroy Biermann's million-dollar wedding is over - and what a bash it was - it's time for a change. So ‘Don't Be Tardy for the Wedding’ has dropped the last half of its title. But that—” *CLICKS “READ MORE” FASTER THAN ANYTHING I'VE EVER CLICKED IN MY LIFE* “—isn't the only one in store for the TV personality and the pro football player. Their family grows and their careers keep them in the spotlight, so things aren't always easy for Kim and Kroy. They're able to make it work, though, with help from their friends and staff.” Don’t know what IMDB is talking about with this 4.6/10 rating. Sounds like fire to me.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Sept. 20, Falcons (+3) at Giants
Our favorite celebrity Falcons fan: Young Thug
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Falcons:
I will give everybody who retweets this $5 if the falcons don't win the super bowl this season— Kevin Dietrich (@kevindietrich20) September 8, 2015
Bottom line: Few teams bring about as many “what if’s” as the Falcons. They are whatever you want them to be. They are your NFL ball of clay. Do you think Matt Ryan stays alive behind a shoddy offensive line, the RBs step up, and the defense finally emerges under a new regime? Mold your clay into a double-digit win division champ. If you don’t believe those things are possible, mold it into something a little more tempered. But since the NFL has always been more about play in the trenches than stars on the outside, we’ll side with the latter, uh, clay ball of Falcons wins. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
Interesting human: Cameron Jerrell Newton is all talent and toothy political smiles and hyper self-confidence, but despite all of his incredible football skills and curiously murky history, he’s still not the most interesting cat on the Panthers. It’s Michael Oher, Cam’s left tackle and basis for the movie The Blind Side. Is this even a question? They made an Academy Award-winning movie about this dude.
Vegas O/U: 8
Monday to make some money: Nov. 2, Colts at Panthers (+1)
Deserves a follow: G Trai Turner (@Trai_Turner). Brevity at its best.
One overly optimistic fan’s take on the Panthers:
Bottom line: Losing WR Kelvin Benjamin really hurts any realistic chances of a deep playoff run, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers can’t win a weak division and get to the postseason for a third-straight year. Rookie gigantic WR Devin Funchess might make for a nice red zone target, but he can’t match Benjamin’s production. And while Cam is Cam and Jonathan Stewart as the lead back should work out better than many expect, without a reliable pass rush or secondary depth they’re hard to picture playing late in January. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Interesting human: Benjamin Watson. Guaranteed there are plenty of Saints fans who would rather still have Jimmy Graham at tight end this year, regardless of how poor his blocking may be. But despite what New Orleans may be losing by subbing Watson for Graham, they’re gaining a guy who recently took the time to publish a book on race called Under Our Skin. The book releases in November, and we felt it necessary to give credit to the NFL players out here making people think about social issues in a way that doesn’t involve them getting popped on domestic abuse charges.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Nov. 29, Saints (+2) at Texans
Deserves a follow: Junior Galette (PAGE NOT FOUND)
Our favorite celebrity Saints fan: Ellen Degeneres
One overly-optimistic fan’s take on the Saints:
Bottom line: The additions of Max Unger and Andrus Peat should upgrade what was a disastrous offensive line, giving Drew Brees time to be Drew Brees. The weapons aren’t what they were in years past, but with Brandin Cooks, C.J. Spiller, and the ghost of Marques Colston still haunting the Superdome, the offense might put up points. The problem is the defense is trash. TRASH. Anyone who tells you different doesn’t love you. The offense is like True Detective. The defense is like True Detective: Season 2. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Interesting human: Surely there’s somebody on the Bucs roster who minored in botany or who can list the state capitals in alphabetical order, but nobody like that is gonna take Jameis Winston’s spot. The dude is a Heisman Trophy winner who —at the height of his national popularity and while still under investigation for rape—yelled “Fuck her right in the pussy!” while standing on a table in the middle of campus. This is a dude who—mere months away from becoming a multimillionaire—got popped stealing $32 worth of crab legs and crawfish from a local supermarket. Jameis MF Winston is a bubbly, bright-eyed wildcard.
Vegas O/U: 6
Sunday to make some money: Sept. 20, Buccaneers (+6.5) at Saints
Deserves a follow: Sterling Moore (@SterlingMoore)
Our favorite celebrity Buccaneers fan: Hulk Hogan. Hilarious that their most famous celebrity fan is a possible racist who is too embarrassed to be associated with them.
One overly optimistic fan’s take of the Buccaneers:
Jameis Winston is going to be MVP this year mark my words— Jesús Mariscal (@HucoberryFinn) August 16, 2015
Bottom line: The numbers nerds think they’re a bad team. The “football guys” think they’re a bad team. If you’re not a fan of watching quarterbacks under extreme pressure huck prayers up to tall receivers, then there really isn’t much here for you. Jameis is in town and Lovie Smith had another year with that defense and The Running Back Formerly Known As Muscle Hamster (aka Doug Martin) is looking like his rookie self again...but this team is, um, not great. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
Interesting human: The Honey Badger don’t care about all the teams who passed on him in the draft for his supposed “red flags.” If liking weed is a “red flag” then teams should know a good percentage of the Complex office has character issues and should probably slip a few rounds in the draft. Safety Tyrann Mathieu is a playmaker and the perfect tale of redemption, and when healthy he anchors one of the best defensive units in football. Plus he’s the LSU cat that had the blond streak before Odell Beckham Jr. From “undraftable” to emerging star, Mathieu has lived it.
Vegas O/U: 8.5
Sunday to make some money: Sept. 20, Cardinals (-1) at Bears
Deserves a follow: S Tony Jefferson (@TonyJefferson1)
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Cardinals:
Bruce Arians is the best coach in the NFL!— Trent Overzet (@BigRed1328) August 23, 2015
Bottom line: Madden 16’s intro has the Cardinals in this year’s Super Bowl, so it’s not exactly like this team is sneaking up on anyone. Still, calling the Cardinals the future Super Bowl winners or even the best team in the NFC feels a bit forward. When QB Carson Palmer is healthy, the offense can hold up their end of bargain and keep this fantastic defense winning games. But Palmer is starting to look and feel a lot like Dennis Quaid in Any Given Sunday, and I don’t see any Willie Beamens playing backup on their roster. If they can keep Palmer erect (lol) and carve out some semblance of a run game, they’re contenders. If not...meh. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Interesting human: A two-time Australian rugby MVP took less money just for the chance to become an NFL running back? No, we didn’t make this up. In what is one of the best feel-good stories of the preseason, Jarryd Hayne, who had almost no football experience before this year, made the 49ers. Hanye West (© Complex Sports) cut short his sensational rugby career to give the NFL a try and Australians are rightfully proud he stuck with the team. Whether Hayne will get any playing time in the regular season remains to be seen, but the “Hayne Plane” is pretty damn fast and will no doubt keep making his home country proud.
Vegas O/U: 6
Sunday To Make Some Money: Dec. 20, Bengals vs. 49ers (-3)
Deserves a follow: C Daniel Kilgore (@DanielKilgore67)
Our favorite celebrity 49ers fan: Roman Reigns
One overly optimistic fan's take on the 49ers:
Bottom line: With the many changes that were brought about this offseason, the 49ers’ fate remains uncertain. After not making the playoffs last year for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era, the franchise parted ways with the coach and made room for Jim Tomsula. Nine starters also departed, most notably Anthony Davis, who surprisingly retired, and Aldon Smith, who was released after his third DUI in four years in the league. With so much of what made them successful now gone, it's hard to see them holding it together. The Niners schedule is also not an easy one. If this team ends up winning games and making noise, it'll be a surprise to most. —Melissa Persaud (@melissaamrita)
Interesting human: Is Kam Chancellor really going to miss games? The three-time Pro Bowl safety has been holding out, trying to extract more money from the Seahawks. But with both sides standing their ground (Chancellor is in the second year of the four-year, $28 million deal he signed in 2013 ), all indications are the hard-hitting safety will start losing $267,647 per week come Sunday. The Seahawks have reportedly fielded calls from other teams interested in dealing for Chancellor, but would Seattle really give up one of the game’s best defenders? And how much would he cost? Would Chancellor really forfeit all that money? Is he really going to watch on TV the NFC Championship Game rematch with Green Bay in Week 2? Is this the first sign the Seahawks are starting to slip? Are you sick of rhetorical questions?
Vegas O/U: 11
Monday to make some money: Oct. 5, Lions at Seahawks (-6)
Deserves a follow: CB Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25)
Our favorite celebrity Seahawks Fan: Sir Mix-A-Lot
One overly optimistic fan’s take on the Seahawks:
The Seahawks are 1-0 in Super Bowls that Bruno Mars performs at so whatever.— Dom (@DominicDs34) September 9, 2015
Bottom line: Seattle should be two-time defending Super Bowl champs and on a mission to secure an unprecedented third straight Lombardi Trophy. But we all know what happened in February. In the meantime, Russell Wilson got paid, Jimmy Graham was acquired and the defense is still stacked, meaning the Seahawks are yet again one of the best teams in the NFL. The wheels would have to fall off for them not compete for the NFC West crown and make another serious run at a championship. —Adam Caparell (@AdamCaparell)
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Interesting human: Saying the Rams have the best defensive line in the game isn’t exactly some grand proclamation considering it features five first round draft picks. But of the five, it’s Robert Quinn who stands out considering he continues to rack up the sacks while playing with a brain tumor. Since he hasn’t attained J.J. Watt status, Quinn’s plight is foreign to a lot of NFL fans: After feeling ill and fainting twice as a 17-year-old, doctors discovered Quinn had a dime sized tumor at the top of his spinal cavity that was supposed to end his sports career before it started. Quinn underwent surgery, but doctors only drilled holes in his skull to help relieve the pressure the tumor built up—removing it wasn’t an option. Quinn eventually returned to the field and turned himself into a first round draft pick who has accumulated 45 sacks in four seasons and become a huge headache for quarterbacks.
Vegas O/U: 7.5
Sunday to make some money: Nov. 1, 49ers at Rams (-1)
Deserves a follow: P Johnny Hekker (@JHekker)
Our favorite celebrity Rams fan: Nelly
One overly optimistic fan’s take of the Rams:
I really think the St. Louis Rams are going to go places. I have them in the Super Bowl this year. Jeff Fisher will have them ready to go.— LeslieinFortLee (@DisgustedNYer) August 30, 2015
Bottom line: The Rams haven’t had a winning season in 12 years, but if things break right, that could change. After the acquisition of Nick Foles, who the Rams hope will stabilize the quarterback position, and a defensive line which you already know is pretty damn good, St. Louis could make some noise in the NFC. Only a playoff push can overshadow the drama surrounding the franchise’s potential move to Los Angeles. —Adam Caparell (@AdamCaparell)
Interesting human: Is it the guy who grew up with crackheads in his house and had a damaging tape of himself destroyed by Jerry Jones & the Illuminati? Is it the guy who used physical force with his ex-girlfriend on at least four confirmed occasions and strangled her neck hard enough to leave marks? Is it the guy in this arrest photo? Nah. We won’t go negative. It’s Darren McFadden at the precipice of his football career. Can he finally stay healthy and tap into his potential? Will he rise in this, his football life's most crucial moment, while playing for the most visible NFL team in America? I can’t tell you. What I can tell you is that Darren McFadden's future will rest heavily on how he performs this year. I can also tell you that he's really good at murdering rabbits.
Vegas O/U: 9.5
Sunday to make some money: Nov. 22, Cowboys (+1) at Dolphins
Deserves a follow: WR Dez Bryant (IG @dezbryant)
Our favorite celebrity Cowboys fan: Jay Z
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Cowboys:
Plus, I want no excuses when the Cowboys go undefeated and win the superbowl— Jason Douglas King (@Jason72King) September 3, 2015
Bottom line: For as much as I and large portions of our nation dislike the Dallas Cowboys, there’s no denying the talent on this roster. They already had one of the best offensive lines in football, then they added La'el Collins as an undrafted rookie for nothing, who was graded as a first round talent. The Cowboys will miss DeMarco Murray more than they’ll admit and there are still some question marks running around the field on defense, but with one of the best QBs in the league, one of the best o-lines in the league, the most reliable TE in the league, and the world’s best WR, it’s hard not to see the Cowboys being a problem again this season. If they can simply stay healthy, Jerry Jones should be celebrating playoff wins in his secret lair with a few petrified 20-somethings. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
NEW YORK GIANTS
Interesting human: Earlier this summer, Eli Manning revealed that he thinks the Giants are capable of averaging "27 to 30 points per game" this season. He's excited about having weapons like Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings, and more at his disposal. The problem, though, is that the Giants' offensive line has been shaky at best in recent seasons, which is why they spent their first-round draft pick on Ereck Flowers last spring. And while the 6-foot-6, 329-pound left tackle has already received tons of praise from his teammates—Giants defensive end Damontre Moore said, "I've never felt somebody that strong," during training camp—it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the success of the Giants' potentially potent offense could rest on Flowers' bulky shoulders. Is the rookie up for the challenge?
Vegas O/U: 8
Sunday to make some money: Nov. 8, Giants (-2) at Buccaneers
Deserves a follow: CB Prince Amukamara (@PrinceAmukamara)
Our favorite celebrity Giants fan: Tracy Morgan
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Giants:
The Giants will probably win the Super Bowl next year bc every time everyone assumes Coughlin is gone and Eli is garbage they beat the Pats— Ben smith (@bs2143) March 12, 2015
Bottom line: Every single team that the Giants beat last season during their 6-10 campaign, save for the Texans, finished with a record below .500. They also endured a painful seven-game losing streak in the middle of the year that included a loss to the Jaguars. So it's tough to get too excited about what the team might be able to do this season. But if nothing else, Manning and the offense now have a full year of experience under coordinator Ben McAdoo, and the Giants should have both Beckham and Cruz on the field together for the entire season. So that—coupled with their relatively weak schedule—could lead to a surprising season for the G-Men. —Chris Yuscavage (@CYuscavage)
Interesting human: This could’ve been Jon Dorenbos who for years has been known for his impressive skills in close-up magic, or Connor Barwin who in between bike rides to practice throws indie rock concerts for charity and helps rebuild Philadelphia parks, but this is going to defensive end Fletcher Cox. Cox is one of the league’s most underrated, as his dominance typically goes without gaudy statistical backing. But what makes Cox interesting isn’t that he’s J.J. Watt without the insane PR hype machine, it’s that he owns a fucking muscle race car named Golddust. NFL stars and fast cars are rarely a good combo, but even the most pathetically nervous Eagles fan like myself has to love this gem. The wrestler Goldust is literally painted on the hood exhaust. Gilded-out Mustang named Golddust? Flech wins.
Vegas O/U: 10
Thursday to make some money: Nov. 26, Eagles (+2) at Lions
Our favorite celebrity Eagles fan: Kobe Bryant
Deserves a follow: C Jason Kelce (@Jkelce)
One overly optimistic fan’s take on the Eagles: “
Can you imagine how mad people are gonna be when we win the Super Bowl? You think you hate #Eagles fans now? Just wait. OMG JUST. WAIT.— Geoff Crawley (@VoiceOfThePhan) August 30, 2015
Bottom line: Chip Kelly has looked smart so far, and even though moving Nick Foles and a pick for Sam Bradford and shipping Shady McCoy to Buffalo's winter hellscape all seem like dumb moves to NFL laymen, there’s reason to believe “Big Balls Chip” knows what he’s doing. The man simply has never had a losing record as a head coach on any level. Bradford has by all accounts shined early in the up-tempo offense, and the DeMarco Murray/Ryan Mathews/Darren Sproles backfield may be the best in football. If the changes to the secondary lead a much-needed upgrade in play and Bradford (hah) remains (hahah) healthy (hahahah), the Eagles could be a Super Bowl contender. If not, expect to see Mark Sanchez in December piloting this team to mediocrity. —Maurice Peebles (@tallmaurice)
Interesting human: It's a shame the Redskins can't find a reliable quarterback, because they have more than enough weapons for him to throw to. From DeSean Jackson to Pierre Garcon, Washington has the pieces in place to have an explosive offense. And this season, Rashad Ross has the tools necessary to play a part in it. He actually got cut by the Redskins last summer but, after spending the off-season working out with Jackson, the speedy wide receiver returned this year and impressed coaches with his output and could serve as a returner on special teams. Now if only they could find someone to throw consistent deep balls to him and the Redskins' other receivers.…
Vegas O/U: 6
Sunday to make some money: Oct. 25, Buccaneers at Redskins (-4)
Deserves a follow: LB Will Compton (@_willcompton)
Our favorite celebrity fan: Wale
One overly optimistic fan's take on the Redskins:
Captain Kirk is about to lead the Redskins to the super bowl— Evan Eschenburg (@evanesch10) August 31, 2015
Bottom line: Best case scenario, Kirk Cousins does just enough to justify the Redskins' decision to make him their starter this season. At this point, an 8-8 (or hell, 7-9!) season would be a great sign for the team. Worst case, Cousins goes down with an injury, and Robert Griffin III is thrust back into the starting lineup again. We still think RGIII has a future in the NFL, but it's not with the Redskins. And the absolute last thing head coach Jay Gruden needs is to spend another season answering questions about his confidence in his quarterback. STAY HEALTHY, KIRK! —Chris Yuscavage (@CYuscavage)