Dan Hanzus takes questions from you, the readers, in his latest mailbag. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. You all deserve fully guaranteed contracts.
Usually, there is an option in this game that jumps out to you right away, but I just don't see it. Are the Pats and Jets going to switch places? The Ravens and Bengals? The Chiefs and Raiders? The Rams and Cardinals? No. No. No. No. But if I had to pick, let's go with the AFC South, a competitive division that won't offer up an easy path back to the title for the Texans. And the last-place team? The 2017 division champion Jaguars, who just replaced Blake Bortles with Nick Foles and still have premium players on defense looking to wash out the terrible taste of a year ago. Really, you can make a case for any team in the AFC South to win the division and you don't have to stretch at all. The Jags have as good a shot as any of them.
Yes, in his mailbag on another website, Jay Glazer essentially predicted the blockbuster trade of Odell Beckham Jr. weeks in advance. This sent shockwaves through the mailbag industry, and yes, I'd be lying if I told you that seismic activity didn't shake me to my very core. All I can do is keep #grinding, check in with my sources on a regular basis, and hope I can return volley before long. Stay tuned.
A few weeks back, I ranked the five eligible "Hard Knocks" teams in this order, from most to least compelling:
Beckham and his immense star power are gone, but the Giants would remain a compelling watch for the reasons I laid out in my write-up. That said, the addition of Antonio Brown to the Raiders bumps them to No. 1 on my list. Hell, it'd be worth it just to see Brown and Vontaze Burfict together on the same team (Brown insists there's no issue between him and his new teammate, but I have a hard time believing it given their history).
I will divulge nothing publicly about the Wess bachelor party. It's that electric and controversial.
I feel like they are two different situations. With the Steelers, it feels like opportunity, not talent, that was squandered. Pittsburgh won 11, 10, 11 and 13 games in the last four years the Killer Bs played together, qualifying for the playoffs in each season. They had plenty of bites at the apple -- they just couldn't get over the hump in January. Remember, their last game together was a home playoff loss to a Blake Bortles-led Jaguars team. Oh, the indignity!
The Packers, on the other hand, are certainly guilty of not maximizing Aaron Rodgers' prime. Stagnation set in after the franchise-shaking collapse against the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Championship Game, and GM Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy stuck around far longer than they probably should have. It feels like Green Bay threw away at least a couple years of Rodgers' prime, but the good news is the Packers finally seem to be operating like a forward-thinking franchise again. Last week's free-agent splurge on young defensive playmakers should provide an instant lift for Mike Pettine's unit. The next challenge for general manager Brian Gutekunst is finding a way to upgrade the weapons around Rodgers. Last year was proof the man can't do it alone. No one can.
I'll give you this: It's a nice outside-the-box thought -- I just don't think it works from an energy-in-the-room standpoint. There's a reason every comedian has a warm-up act or three. Imagine hitting the stage cold at the Super Bowl? You're also asking 75,000 people in attendance to jump from the high-stakes tension of the biggest game of the year to the comedic stylings of Kevin Hart or Kevin Hart adjacent. Your brain would probably reject it out of confusion.
I do miss when the Super Bowl halftime show wasn't a socio-political minefield. It's a 12-minute musical performance that somehow morphed into an annual referendum on whether or not the NFL "gets it." Not everything needs a thinkpiece.
As a Browns fan, or as any fan of a team that's earned its place on the Pain Rankings, it's perfectly healthy and normal to be suspicious of sudden expectations. You're entering a totally new world now. Let's not forget, the Browns were coming off 0-16 and 1-31 when Baker Mayfield was selected with the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. That was less than one year ago! The fact that there's legitimate buzz about Cleveland as a top Super Bowl contender is both incredible and worthy of closer inspection. Is Mayfield a lock to avoid regression? Can Beckham stay healthy? Can Freddie Kitchens handle the locker room? Can the defense take the next step? These are all fair questions, but everything points toward the Browns being a very competitive -- and potentially very good -- football team. My advice to you is to do your best to enjoy this long overdue moment in the sun ... just brace yourself for whiplash.
The answer is no, because Gettleman actually had a track record of success before taking the Giants job. Millen, a venerated good guy who received a heart transplant in December, took over as president of the Lions with no front-office experience. Disaster quickly, then endlessly, followed. Gettleman built a winner around Cam Newton in Carolina, culminating with a trip to Super Bowl 50. The success of that 15-1 Panthers team is fading deeper in the rearview however, and it's hard to imagine Gettleman surviving the toxic fallout from the Beckham trade unless the Giants are playoff contenders this year. With Millen, the Lions were patient to a fault. Lions fans were throwing "Fire Millen" parades before ownership finally cut the cord. Millen got seven years in Detroit -- Gettleman might be lucky to get more than two in New York.
Yes, good luck selling Giants fans on the current in-house options. "Yes, we know you would have liked to see Sam Darnold throwing to Odell Beckham for a decade, but you'll love the Alex Tanney to Golden Tate connection coming in 2019. Season ticket packages available now!" As far as Josh Rosen ... eh, I don't know. NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly's critical comments on Rosen -- based on conversations with people close to the situation -- would spook me if I were a GM looking for a young passer. If the Cardinals are ready to quit on Rosen after one year, what does that tell you? That's why it makes sense for the Giants to go after Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, even if it means they have to trade up to make it happen. It could do wonders for them, both from a roster standpoint and on the PR front. They're losing both battles right now.
"[Haskins] is the classic dropback passer who has dominated the league the past 30 years," NFL Network draft guru Bucky Brooks said this week.