There is a real live football game tonight. It may only be the Hall of Fame Game, but let’s get it going.

Introducing Clean Smoke’s first contributor. Joe will act as our NFL guy because I haven’t been able to watch almost anything the past 3 years. These are his opinions, enjoy. 

I’m Joe Vito, NJ native living in Saratoga Springs, NY.  I used to be an athlete but sadly those days are over and I’m now a sports watching, sports gambling, live for the weekends NARP. I’m a die hard Yankees and Jets fan, thank god for the former or else I’d have lost it by now, and also root for the Sixers and Flyers.  If I could I’d never work another day in my life and just live on a beach or lake with a 60 in flat screen and a cooler full of beers (and maybe some wines, shits not bad). Here’s my analysis headed into the 2018 NFL Season:

Division Winners

AFC

EAST – New England Patriots

It hurts to have to admit this again and again but there isn’t one team in the AFC East that has a chance to take them down. The only hope for the rest of the division is for a wild card spot. Their reign of terror is coming towards the end and when it does the Jets and Bills will be the best suited to take over the division. This season though, no ones challenging Brady.

NORTH – Pittsburgh Steelers

Just like the Patriots, the Steelers should steam roll through the division with little to no resistance.  There seems to be a fire lit under Big Ben’s ass since the team decided to draft Mason Rudolph in the 3rd round of the draft this past April. It’s a bit strange that he reacted the way he did seeing as its just a 3rd rounder but if I was a Steeler fan I would be happy. Look for Ben to show some late career magic and get this high-powered offense of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown (can’t forget Juju) back to the AFC Championship Game.

SOUTH – Houston Texans

While it won’t be the best division in football, the AFC South could wind up being the closest division in the league next year. If Andrew Luck can miraculously throw a football farther than a toddler, the Colts will stand a fighting chance. The Jags are the consensus pick by most for this division, but I don’t see a repeat of last season for this team. The defense will continue to be the best in football but Blake Bortles is NOT a franchise QB and quite frankly, he sucks. Deshaun Watson unfortunately tore his ACL half way through one of the best rookie campaigns maybe ever but has shown all the right signs that he’s fully recovered and ready to go for 2018. With half a season strictly spent in the film room and another offseason/preseason under his belt I expect big things from Watson. DeAndre Hopkins will also put up the best numbers in the league for wide receivers due to the fact that he actually has a competent quarterback throwing him the ball. Let’s just pray J.J. Watt can stay healthy for once.

WEST – Oakland Raiders

Two words …. GRUDEN GRINDERS. There’s now an entire roster full of them. Many expect the Chargers to make a push for the division and even a possible playoff run but I can’t bet against Gruden. Don’t forget, he briefly trained more than half of the starting QBs in the league before they were all drafted so not only does he know their tendencies, he has Khalil Mack. I’m going to miss him on Monday nights but the show on the sidelines might be better. Hey HBO, get these guys on Hard Knocks next year. As for the Chiefs, they will go as far as Patrick Mahomes goes, and that’s right for a 9-7 record.

NFC

EAST – Philadelphia Eagles

This may be the best division in football this year. The Giants will rebound from a disappointing season and make the playoffs but it won’t be a big enough rebound to take down the defending champs for the division. They’re North Dakota Tough and similar to Watson, Wentz is right on track to be on the field opening day. A name to watch, Dallas Goedert. This guy is a freak who has the potential to turn into the next Gronkowski. Pair him up with Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery and you might have the best red zone offense in the league. Watch out for Saquon’s legs for Big Blue though, those things will do some serious damage.

NORTH – Green Bay Packers

The Baaaaaaaaaaaddd Man has returned and he won’t be denied this year. The Packers defense may still be trash but Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the league and that’s all that matters. Vikings fans are cute for thinking they can beat this guy. Something that doesn’t get enough attention is that Rodgers now has Jimmy Graham to throw to…. that’s lethal. Devante Adams will prove that he’s a true No. 1 WR and keep an eye out for Equanimeous St. Brown, rookie WR out of Notre Dame. While the front 7 is among the weaker in the NFL, they beefed up the secondary taking two of the top 5 CB’s in 2018 Draft in Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. This team will make a deep playoff run.

SOUTH – Carolina Panthers

If this team can avoid the injury bug they’re going to have a very successful season. The Saints and Falcons make this division very tough to pick but I think the Panthers found their first real top notch WR since Steve Smith. If it wasn’t for Saquon Barkley, D.J. Moore would be my choice for rookie of the year.  Their defense has some question marks but the offense should provide fireworks with Cam, McCaffrey, Olsen, and Moore. 2015 Cam is making a comeback, and the Falcons will continue to not run the ball when they need to. Drew Brees and company will finish with the same record but Carolina will hold the tie breaker and take the division.

WEST – San Francisco 49ers

Undefeated…. Not the Niners don’t worry I’m not insane, but Jimmy G hasn’t lost a game as a starting quarterback. That streak won’t hold but he’ll win enough to take the division. You know he’s getting his needs taken care of off the field from lovely film actress Kiara Mia so this guy only has to worry about football. Not to mention he openly thinks he’s already better than Tom Brady, I support anyone who disrespects New England and any of its players. The Rams will be good enough to make the playoffs but they’ll have struggles along the way. They’re doing their best Golden State Warriors impression by signing every All-Pro on the market but that’s doesn’t always lead to success in football.

Overachievers

New York Jets

While the playoffs won’t happen this year for this team, they will take a big next step in the rebuild process. Teddy Bridgewater will start the season as the starting quarterback but by week 3 Sam Darnold will be ready to take the reins. Bridgewater will start the season 2-1 and Darnold will hover around .500 the rest of the way.  The defense is mightily improved with the signings of Avery Williamson and Trumaine Johnson along with a couple other lower tier good signings. Despite a weakness in edge rush talent, Leonard Williams will do enough to get adequate pressure on opposing QB’s. Things are looking up in the Big Apple.

Chicago Bears

Solid defense, two headed backfield, true No. 1 WR, and the arm behind the famous Philly Special at TE.  Similar to the Jets, this team won’t do enough to make the playoffs but they’ll no longer be the bottom feeders of the NFC North. Get the betting accounts going because there’s going to be some solid money lines that these guys are going to win. Trubisky made decent strides as the season progressed last year and his best target was Zach Miller. With Allen Robinson in the fold I expect him to continue to improve.

Denver Broncos

From pick 5 to playoffs. While Case Keenum isn’t the guy John Elway wanted he’s still a very serviceable QB who will once again be blessed with a solid core of WRs to throw to. Nick Chubb and Von Miller coming at you from different sides is downright scary and will result in 25-30 sacks between the two.  Even though the loss of Talib hurts they still have Chris Harris to shut down opponent’s top WRs. Royce Freeman, rookie RB out of Oregon, will become the work horse back and become one of the top 3 RB’s from this year draft.

Underachievers

Cleveland Browns

Its kind of strange to think that the Browns could even be in this category but with all of the hype surrounding them it would be so fitting for a big-time choke from the Browns. While they definitely made serious improvements through free agency and the draft, ITS STILL THE BROWNS. I’ll give them no more than 5 wins, which is still a major improvement from the 1-31 record over the last 2 seasons, but this team isn’t sniffing the playoffs. Also, how long can Josh Gordon actually “stay off the weeeeeeduh.” One thing to be positive about if you’re a Browns fan, you won’t be last in the North again this year.

Los Angeles Chargers

I keep hearing people say that this team is going to make a super bowl run and win the division and blah blah blah. It’s Phillip Rivers…. This guy is allergic to big game wins.  Even with LT he couldn’t get it done, arguable a top 5 back all-time. They have a solid nucleus of players surrounding Rivers in Keenan Allen, Gordon, etc. and a decent defense but the guy at the helm will let Charger nation down yet again.  They’ll somehow have a playoff spot pretty much locked up just to lose the last 3 games of the year and finish 9-7. It’s time to find Rivers replacement and quick while this team is still young.

Los Angeles Rams

I hinted at this a little bit when I picked the 49ers to win the NFC West but this roster on paper should be a 14-2 team. That’s not going to happen. There’s too many egos on this squad in Marcus Peters, Talib, Donald, Suh, etc. for this to go smoothly. They’ll still be a force in the NFC and possibly make a decent run in the playoffs behind the true 2017 NFL MVP Todd Gurley (Tom Brady made out with his son and shouldn’t be allowed to get the award because of this). They also need to make sure to get Aaron Donald paid or else he’s not touching the field. Too much drama will cause a slight underachievement for LA but they’re still playoff bound.

False Hope

Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton needs to be fired. Like Rivers, this guy is allergic to big game wins. They just need to start over and it begins with firing the entire coaching staff. There’s no reason that Marvin Lewis deserves to still have this job. Each year they have the talent to get it done and each year they fall short or drastically fail. They need to trade A.J. Green because he deserves to have a chance at winning, the guys a freak, and then they need to rebuild and find their new QB. This team is heading straight to bottom of the division and a top 5 pick in next years draft. They’ll lead the league in one category though! Personal Fouls.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are in a similar position as the Bengals, but they’re slightly ahead of the curve. Joe Flacco needs to go. He’s gone from Super Bowl winning borderline elite QB to total scrub. Luckily for them they have Lamar Jackson who’s shown that he can handle being a QB in the NFL, at least in practice. He’ll be the starter for the Ravens by week 5 and will have a promising but rocky rookie season. Other than under center, they have a decent run game and always have a solid defense but you aren’t going to get very far without a solid option at QB in the NFL. The future looks bright for Baltimore, but for this season, there shouldn’t be any hope at all.

Washington Redskins

Yea Alex Smith isn’t doing that again. Washington fans better enjoy the Capitals Stanley Cup title as much as they can because their football team certainly isn’t going to give them anything to cheer about for a while. They weren’t able to keep Kirk Cousins and make him the franchise QB for years to come, weren’t able to sign anybody significant in the offseason, and I don’t even know who they drafted.  People think that Alex Smith is going to come in and produce like he did last season but that’s the definition of false hope. Like the Bengals, the Skins are heading right for a top 5 pick and a rebuild.

Playoff Prediction

AFC Championship Game: Steelers vs Patriots

NFL Championship Game: Packers vs Eagles

Super Bowl: 2010 Super Bowl Rematch – Steelers vs Packers

Champ: Packers