The NFL promotes itself as a league of parity, but that’s B.S. You know how many times an AFC team led by a quarterback not named Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger has made the Super Bowl in the past 17 years? One. ONE. This is not a league of chance; this is a league of inescapability, which—for 26 of the 32 franchises—is an inescapability of sadness.
Still, it’s preseason; no need to bring the rain clouds now. That storm will come soon enough. So before the 2019 NFL season begins, here is one ray of hope for each team.
Arizona Cardinals: Your coach is a handsome man, and attractive people are more successful. Look it up, it’s science.
Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley might be the best receiving 1-2 punch in the NFC. And 2019 may be the first year that a Michael Vick jersey isn’t the most popular uni in the crowd. Granted, it will be an Atlanta United FC kit in Vick’s stead, but we’re moving in the right direction.
Baltimore Ravens: There are legit questions if Lamar Jackson can complete a pass over 10 yards. He is, however, not Joe Flacco.
Buffalo Bills: The team banned table slamming in the parking lot. It did not ban Port-a-John “hell in a cell” matches. Your move, Bills Mafia.
Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera is one of the few coaches that isn’t a complete psychopath. Truth be told, he seems like every man’s dream scenario for a father-in-law. Tough exterior, heart of gold, would proactively come to your house and fix that leaky gutter without you knowing it was even a problem.
Chicago Bears: Khalil Delshon Mack.
Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Brown can’t live forever, and he’s too cheap to pay for cryonics.
Cleveland Browns: We can’t believe we’re saying this, but for once Browns fans don’t need hope; they need to check themselves. They’re walking around like they’ve hit a grand slam and it’s only a 2-0 count. (This is that sport, right?) Still, that Mayfield-to-Odell connection could be sweet.
Dallas Cowboys: You can’t lose your running back to injury in training camp when he doesn’t report to it.
Denver Broncos: Bringing in an overpaid, overrated and over-the-hill Super Bowl-winning QB worked once before.
Detroit Lions: By the law of averages, a Bill Belichick disciple eventually has to turn out competent, yes?
Green Bay Packers: Tom Brady is still playing at 42. Aaron Rodgers is 35. By the transitive property (note: not transitive property, but saying “transitive property” makes your statement sound wicked smart), the Packers have another eight years with Discount Double-Check. Rejoice.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson is the perfect, “We’re down 21 points, so let’s just sling it” quarterback. This is a compliment, we promise. Easily one of the three most exciting arms in the league.
Indianapolis Colts: The Andrew Luck Book Club now has two recommendations per month: one for “veteran” readers (adults) and one for “rookie” readers (Colts fans). With any, ahem, “luck” the base will begin to think for themselves and question some of its curious banners hanging from the rafters.
Jacksonville Jaguars: (Wrapping you in a warm blanket and handing you a hot chocolate.) It’s OK, Blake Bortles can’t hurt you anymore.
Kansas City Chiefs: The team cut its domestic abusers list in half. Progress.
Los Angeles Chargers: Soak in the well-deserved victory lap for perfectly trolling Stephen A. Smith.
Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles, Brandon Allen, John Wolford. The Rams quarterback depth chart or “Southern Charm” extras? Sign us up for either.
Miami Dolphins: In case you need to throw a fundraiser, I’m sure your owner would help.
Minnesota Vikings: As long as you focus on the fantasy stats, this is easily a top-four team in the NFC North.
New England Patriots: There’s a 69 percent chance that Gronk “retired” so he could prolong his summer vacation.
New Orleans Saints: We make a lot of “Tom Brady doesn’t age” jokes, but throw Drew Brees in that conversation as well. He had 32 TDs versus five picks as a 39-year-old last year and joined Tony La Russa and Greg Gumbel in the “Wow, these guys look exactly the same as they did 20 years ago” pantheon.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley is what we thought Reggie Bush could be.
New York Jets: Um … spa jokes?
Oakland Raiders: If you visit a Bay Area Applebee’s in the next six months, you’ll definitely cross paths with Jon Gruden.
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, healthy again. And if not, The Gang from Paddy’s Pub returns with an all-new season of “It’s Always Sunny” on Sept. 25! (#ad)
Pittsburgh Steelers: Their playoff blueprint is simple: Sit back and enjoy the Browns inevitable implosion, and hope the league realizes it can put nine in the box against the Ravens. Too simple, really.
San Francisco 49ers: Plenty of seats available!
Seattle Seahawks: The Hawks drafted a linebacker for its receiving corps. Neat.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Only one more year of Jameis, we promise.
Tennessee Titans: They’ll have the best backup quarterback in the league in either Ryan Tannehill or Marcus Mariota.
Washington Redskins: OK, so rookie Dwayne Haskins is struggling to the point where Colt McCoy or Case Keenum might start. Still, Washington games are much more entertaining if you imagine McCoy and Keenum as grown-up versions of Matt Saracen from “Friday Night Lights.”