Zach Schiller’s Hot Take: The Arizona Cardinals will win the NFC West.
Although the Cardinals suffered a disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins that dropped them to 5-3 on the season, they are very much still in position to win the toughest division in football. This is due in large part to the emergence of second-year quarterback Kyler Murray. After dazzling as a rookie, Murray has taken the leap many hoped he would in his sophomore season. He has blossomed into a true elite dual-threat quarterback. Surrounding Murray, the Cardinals boast a trio of great receivers, headlined by superstar DeAndre Hopkins, speedster Christian Kirk and the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona’s offensive firepower allows them to compete with any team in the league, as evidenced by their thrilling overtime win against the previously undefeated Seattle Seahawks.
Looking at the division standings, the Cardinals sit only one game back of the Seahawks and have a chance to sweep them for the season when the two meet on November 19. After a tough matchup against the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills this week and the aforementioned Seahawks game, the Cardinals schedule eases up as they face sub .500 teams in the Giants, Eagles and Patriots. They also have two games against the very mediocre Los Angeles Rams and a game against the injury-depleted San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals could very easily win at least six if not more of their final eight games of the season, which would put them squarely in the mix for a division crown.
Hunter Firment’s Hot Take: The Green Bay Packers will win out and be the top seed in the NFC.
14-2. Fourteen wins and two losses. That is my prediction for the Green Bay Packers record when the regular season ends in early January, following their matchup with the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Week 17. And what better way to finish the season than with a matchup with their arch-nemesis Chicago Bears and Nick Foles, who won a Lombardi trophy right in my backyard in Philadelphia. Here is why I think the Packers will do it:
First of all, their relatively weak schedule for the remainder of this season. The Packers remaining matchups are the following: Jaguars, Colts, Bears, Eagles, Lions, Panthers, Titans and the aforementioned Week 17 Bears showdown. Outside of maybe a slip up against one of their NFC North divisional foes, or maybe the Titans or Colts, who scares you in that group? Three of those seven teams are last in their division, and the Packers remaining opponents collectively have a record of 26-31-1. Not great.
And secondly, Aaron Rodgers. Take the tape from the Tampa Bay game a few weeks ago, set it on fire, and analyze his full body of work. Rodgers’ season statistics include 24 touchdowns, two interceptions and a completion percentage that is just 0.8% lower than the highest percentage he has ever put up in a season, which was the 2011 season when the Packers went 15-1 and Rodgers was NFL MVP. He is playing out of his mind, and the Packers offense looks potent and prolific. Davante Adams is also playing outstanding football, with an NFL-leading eight touchdown receptions, despite missing games due to injury. Not to mention, getting guys like Aaron Jones, Jamal Williams, Kevin King, David Bakhtiari, Chandon Sullivan and Allen Lazard back to 100% after injuries and COVID-19 protocols will be massive as well for the Packers remaining schedule.
Fully healthy, the Packers are tough to beat. Winning out is entirely within the realm of possibility. Need I remind you of the infamous “run the table” 2016 Packers season when they began the year 7-6 and then proceeded to win out and make the playoffs in a tough NFC North that year? Already being 6-2, winning out this year would be much more meaningful, as it would almost certainly secure the top seed in the NFC and the conference’s lone bye in the playoffs.
Aaron Silverstein’s Hot Take: The Miami Dolphins will make the playoffs and win a game.
Last season, the Dolphins finished with a record of 5-11 and simply did not have enough talent to compete. However, it is important to note that in their eleven losses a year ago, they often looked like a competitive, hardworking and united football team under head coach Brian Flores. This year, with a surprisingly stout defense and solid quarterback play from the old man Ryan Fitzpatrick and the young rookie Tua Tagovailoa, the fins have built upon last year’s learning experience to get off to a 5-3 start which includes wins over the Rams, Cardinals and Niners. They’ve won four straight, and Flores deserves a ton of credit. He’s built a culture of fight, grit and discipline in Miami that hasn’t been seen for years. Things just feel like they are going the Dolphins’ way, and that trend will continue into January. Under the new playoff format, the Dolphins will dive their way into the postseason, as Tua improves with each passing week. And yes, once they arrive, they will make some noise on wildcard weekend, fighting incredibly hard for Flores to beat a team that is probably more talented. The Dolphins may not host many big names, but they will shock the football world down the stretch this season.
Aaron Notis’s Hot Take: LaMelo Ball slips in the NBA Draft, the Balls bring NOLA a Championship.
The Balls were meant to ball together. Lavar was able to speak Lonzo being the number two pick in the draft into existence. Recently, he’s stated that he wants LaMelo to be a Detroit Piston. Reports are saying that Ball isn’t doing well in his pre-draft interviews. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said that teams are worried about his shooting and lack-of-effort on defense. He seems to be slipping down draft boards. What if the Pelicans, who are dangling elite guard Jrue Holiday as a trade chip, trade up in the first round to snag LaMelo? A Ball brother reunion would be great for the NBA, for both Lavar’s business and the Pelicans. You have two playmaking point guards with size who can become elite defenders. If they both learn to shoot, you can play them on the floor together with forwards Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. This core of LaMelo, Lonzo, Ingram and Williamson is elite and will bring the Pelicans a championship before the team is broken up (if it happens).
Cam Cobey’s Hot Take: Trevor Lawrence is not playing so that he doesn’t get drafted by the Jets.
This is a conspiracy theory I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of weeks and it kind of makes sense. Apparently, he needs to have 10 days to have cleared the protocols and test negative to play, and that kept him out of the Notre Dame game this past weekend. But why was he on the sidelines? What’s the difference between being on the sidelines and in the game? If he’s on the sidelines, he may as well be playing. There have been rumors that Lawrence doesn’t want to be drafted by the Jets (because who would?). Could this be a way of lowering his draft stock so that he falls in the draft? Or could he stay an extra year at Clemson and avoid the New York Jets in this year’s draft? Who knows, it just seems a little fishy to me.