The Sox clinched a spot in the postseason last night with a win and an Angels loss. At the very least, they’ll be a wild card team. They’re in the driver’s seat for the division though, so barring a pretty big collapse they’ll have (likely) Houston, or more likely they’ll be heading to Houston.
I’m not as confident as I’d like to be in the Sox. Their offense is inconsistent. Just look at their last 3 games: two overtime Wins, one going 15 innings, and one blowout win on the back of Chris Sale’s absolutely dominating performance. If they had a consistent showing on offense even for the past month or so they could be contending for home field advantage. I’m still no 100% sold that they’ll be ready to compete in the playoffs with playoff pitching, whether it be Verlander, Keuchel, or even Kluber if things go south for Cleveland.
Pitching is another concern. Sale is Sale, but other than yesterday he kind of struggled (relatively, of course, for the Cu Young award hopeful). Big congratulations are in order on his 300 strikeouts this year, the first time since 1999 that it’s happened in the AL. Drew Pomeranz has actually been consistently very good this year, which is something I wouldn’t have expected to say last year. He has done a tremendous job and has been one of the few cconsistent pieces on this team. Beyond that, what do we have? Rick Porcello, who isn’t even close to what h was last year; Eduardo Rodriguez, who is what you’d expect him to be; Doug Fister, a solid fifth starter with an unfortunate last name who would be exposed as a third starter; and the billion-dollar man David Price, who will probably be a bullpen pitcher (which is good considering that’s the only way he’s ever won a playoff game).
The Sox will most likely play the Astros in the ALDS. I think they can win, but it’ll probably go to at least 4 games if not 5. Houston has been coasting a bit since starting the season like a rocket and burning out after the all star break. After Houston would be Cleveland, a juggernaut who won 22 games in a row and is poised to have home field to defend their pennant from last year. Cleveland looks to have Boston’s number this year, whatever the reason. If I were a gambler, I wouldn’t bet on the Sox in Cleveland. But stranger things have happened, so the Sox shouldn’t be counted out yet.
The final round of my preseason predictions. Here it is:
1. Seahawks: 11-13 wins
Seattle will have another strong year, contending for a high playoff seed. How they fare in the playoffs is a mystery.
2. Cardinals: 6-9 wins
I think Arizona will finish stronger than last year, but their potential isn’t particularly great. They could contend for a wild card slot, but they’ll be a dark horse if anything.
3. Rams: 5-8 wins
Los Angeles’s season is up in the air, especially since their quarterback situation is a little messy. But now that they’re free from the clutches of Jeff Fisher, their future looks brighter than before.
4. 49ers: 4- wins
Oh my. This team is a hot mess. Guaranteed top 5 draft pick.
Another unpredictable division is the NFC South. Here we go:
1. Buccaneers: 9-12 wins
Tampa Bay has the talent to win the division, and Jameis Winston could pull it off this year. They should continue to improve and have a huge impact on the NFC.
2. Falcons: 7-11 wins
Atlanta could have a but of a hangover year after their monumental collapse in the Super Bowl last year. Or they could come out for revenge. Who knows?
3. Panthers: 7-10 wins
Can Newton needs to bounce back. They’ve lost a good chunk of their 2015 postseason team, but Carolina should be competitive for a wild card spot if Newton plays consistently.
4. Saints: 6-9 wins
If they had a defense, they’d be golden. Drew Brees is one of the best passers ever, but he can only carry the team so far.
The NFC North features some of the oldest franchises in the league, including the original Super Bowl winner. Here’s round 6:
1. Packers: 11-14 wins
Green Bay sometimes gets off to a slow start, but when they get rolling they can be absolutely deadly. Aaron Rodgers is pretty much good for 10 wins on his own.
2. Lions: 8-11 wins
Detroit has performed surprisingly well recently. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a small decline, but at the same time 11 wins is a very achievable goal.
3. Vikings: 6-9 wins
Minnesota’s offense is a huge question mark on the 2017 season, especially at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater returning at some point. I hope they make a run for the playoffs but it seems very unlikely.
4. Bears: 1-5 wins
Oh boy. This team is a hot mess. We’ll see how the rookies perform, but having high hopes for Da Bears is setting yourself up for disappointment.
Here we go. Time for the NFC, starting with the most unpredictable division in football.
1. Giants: 10-12 wins
The Giants have been steadily improving for several years now, and I think this is the year they move into first. How long that lasts, who knows.
2. Cowboys: 9-12 wins
Dallas has a lot if question marks. A lot. Particularly around sophomore seasons for Prescott and Elliot. But they should be good, and could easily take first place again over NY.
3. Redskins: 7-9 wins
The Redskins could end up surprising me either way here. I could see them winning more or fewer games than I predict the range will be. Their offense is going through a big change, so the bulk of the uncertainty rests on quarterback Kirk Cousins.
4. Eagles: 5-9
I think it would be really cool for Philly to upset everyone and take the division, but I don’t see that being much of a possibility. They do have hope for the next few seasons if they draft well, though.
Round 4, the last of the AFC: the AFC West.
1. Raiders: 11-13 wins
Oakland should win the division this year, if Carr stays healthy. Their defense is going to improve, and their offense is much better than the rest of the division.
2. Chiefs: 11-13 wins
Kansas City has the defense to get them to the postseason, but their offense is a big question. Last year they managed to win the division, but I think this year it’ll be a wild card berth.
3. Broncos: 7-10 wins
They have a fantastic defense, but they were one of the worst quarterbacking teams in the league last year. Denver must get consistent performance from their offense to contend for a wild card berth.
4. Chargers: 5-8 wins
Los Angeles’s newest team has potential for growth, but they probably won’t make it very far. Losing to Cleveland last year doesn’t boost my confidence in them.
Round 3: the worst division in the NFL the last few years. This could be a positive year for a few different teams in the division, as young players grow.
1. Titans: 9-11 wins
Tennessee has been steadily improving, fairly rapidly as of late, since drafting Mariota. This could be the year they get into the postseason.
2. Texans: 8-11 wins
Houston has been hovering at around 9 wins, carried by solid defensive play. JJ Watt’s Hurricane Harvey relief fundraising has won over a lot of people (including me) as well. I think they’ll be contenders for at least the wild card, and could hold off the Titans if their quarterback play improves.
3. Colts: 6-9 wins
Oy. Andrew Luck has so much potential, if the front office could just give him a damn offensive line, and half a defense.
4. Jaguars: 2-5 wins
Jacksonville will be lucky to win 4 games. I don’t think they’ll be out of the top 5 in the draft next year.