NFL RedZone Previews, Part 3: The Quad Boxers

NFL RedZone Previews, Part 3: The Quad Boxers

The second-tier teams that are always on RedZone because they aren't ready for prime time

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Every week during the season, NFL RedZone is packed with action from across the league, and there are some stalwarts who carry the action every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 8 Eastern.

The main characters of RedZone can’t be the teams that are constantly playing primetime games, because, well, they’re not on RedZone. And it can’t be the stinky teams who are almost exclusively on RedZone, because they stink.

The happy medium is really good teams who don’t get a ton of night games because they aren’t super-popular nationally, mixed with teams with huge followings who aren’t at the level of the league’s elite. You’ll know which is which as you continue through this preview of teams who will regularly occupy the screen on Sunday afternoons, often with one, two, or even three other games at the same time, because you want to see all of these teams in action for one reason or another.

This is Part 3 of Deadspin’s season preview for RedZone fans... The Quad Boxers.

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Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears

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Non-RedZone games: 9/12 at Chargers, 11/8 at Steelers, 11/25 at Lions, 12/12 at Packers, 12/20 vs. Vikings

Vegas O/U: 7.5 wins

Does that make sense? Insofar as it’s the oddsmakers throwing up their hands and saying they have no idea. The Bears were somehow 8-8 and made the playoffs with Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky at quarterback last year, managed to get Justin Fields in the draft, and named Andy Dalton the starter anyway. But they can run the ball and have a good defense, so, uh… just stay away from this one.

Best fantasy player: WR Allen Robinson

Vibes: Fields will be treated like a deity in Chicago right up until he throws three interceptions in a game, after which it’ll be all worries that he’s the latest in a generations-long string of disappointing Bears quarterbacks. This is one of those moments that’s a test: can the Bears manage to turn him into a pumpkin, and if so, how? That’s kind of an agonizing thing to wait for, and Matt Nagy isn’t making it any easier by making Dalton his QB1 to start the season.

TL;DR: Same old story since Sid Luckman retired, waiting for a messianic quarterback. Maybe it’s Justin Fields, maybe the Bears will screw it up with him.

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3 / 10

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills

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Non-RedZone games: 10/10 at Kansas City, 10/18 at Tennessee, 11/25 at Saints, 12/6 vs. Patriots

Vegas O/U: 11 or 11.5 wins

Does that make sense? The Bills are good enough to win 14 or 15 games, but also stupid enough to sabotage their entire season by being the biggest bunch of anti-vaxxers in the league. Also, the part about being good enough to win 14 or 15 would include presumptively sweeping six AFC East games, which, yes, they would in a computer simulation, but probably not in real life. The under is a dumb bet, but the over isn’t a ticket you’d feel good about holding.

Best fantasy player: WR Stefon Diggs

Vibes: Stop listening to your dumbass wide receiver or your safety’s dumbass wife. “Do your research” doesn’t mean “watch 15 minutes of YouTube” or “see what your friends are saying.” There are real scientists and doctors to listen to. Get the fucking shots, morons.

TL;DR: After all this time, the Buffalo Bills — literally the Buffalo Bills — are Super Bowl-contending heels.

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4 / 10

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns

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Non-RedZone games: 10/21 vs. Broncos, 11/28 at Ravens, 12/25 at Packers, 1/3 at Steelers

Vegas O/U: 10.5 wins

Does that make sense? No, unless you’re a fatalist. While we’re still talking about the Browns here, they won 11 games last year, still wound up with a third-place schedule, have no reason to think they’d be measurably worse, and the number is below that previous year’s win total. Yes, 11 games is a lot to win, but there’s also six slam dunks on the Browns’ schedule. If they go 5-6 in the rest of the games, they hit that over.

Best fantasy player: RB Nick Chubb

Vibes: The last time the Browns won 11 games in back-to-back seasons, they were in the middle of winning four straight AAFC championships. Not AFC. AAFC, the league that Cleveland dominated before joining the NFL in 1950 (and winning it all that year). The last time the Browns won 11, in 1994, Bill Belichick was their coach, and they came back in 1995, went 5-11, and Art Modell decided to fuck off to Baltimore. Think they’re ready for a contender by Lake Erie.

TL;DR: Recalibrate everything you thought you knew about the universe, because the Browns are not only Actually Good, but have reason to expect to remain so.

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5 / 10

Tampa Bay Bucaneers

Tampa Bay Bucaneers

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Non-RedZone games: 9/9 vs. Cowboys, 10/3 at Patriots, 10/14 at Eagles, 11/22 vs. Giants, 12/19 vs. Saints

Vegas O/U: 11.5 or 12.5 wins

Does that make sense? Throw up a high number and see who bets it when you’re talking about the defending Super Bowl champs, playing in a garbage division, with a schedule that includes another garbage division in the NFC East. In fact, the idea of the Bucs winning exactly a dozen games for a sweet middle is appealing. Thankfully, some of us are too lazy to go to New Jersey to bet legally on this stuff.

Best fantasy player: WR Mike Evans

Vibes: Tom Brady has literally been in the NFL half his life. He’s 44 and this is his 22nd season. Now, how long do deals with Satan usually last? Clearly, he got a good one, but this is getting out of hand.

TL;DR: Brady threw 40 touchdown passes last year. He wasn’t close to Peak Brady, but he doesn’t have to be, because Tampa Bay surrounded him with talent. They’re in the title mix again.

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6 / 10

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals

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Non-RedZone games: 10/28 vs. Packers, 12/13 vs. Rams, 12/25 vs. Colts

Vegas O/U: 8.5 wins

Does that make sense? This is still the team with Kyler Murray throwing the ball to DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green, right? And they’ve got the same over/under line as Washington and Denver? With three home night games? Plus the Jaguars and Texans on the schedule? It’s true that the Cardinals haven’t had a winning record since 2015, but also this ought to be free money.

Best fantasy player: QB Kyler Murray

Vibes: They’re in this position now where Kliff Kingsbury needs to get to the playoffs or start looking for a new job. A fair amount depends on some veteran additions — Green, J.J. Watt, Malcolm Butler — still having something in the tank, but not so much as to worry about whether this is a playoff team. It’s just a matter of how strong the NFC West, which might be football’s best division, winds up being.

TL;DR: Honestly, it’s surprising with the level of star power in Arizona that they’re not scheduled for more primetime games. But, of course, they’re Arizona.

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7 / 10

KANSAS CITY GRIDIRON CLUB

KANSAS CITY GRIDIRON CLUB

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Non-RedZone games: 9/19 at Ravens, 10/10 vs. Bills, 11/1 vs. Giants, 11/14 at Raiders, 12/16 at Chargers

Vegas O/U: 12.5 wins

Does that make sense? It’s the highest number in the league. Kansas City is the best team in the league on paper. So, yes. But let’s game it out and try to find five losses… at Baltimore in primetime, at Tennessee, home for the Packers on a short week, at the Chargers on a Thursday night, and one of the four games against the Raiders and Broncos? Maybe at Philly because the Eagles are powered by the pure spite of their home crowd? Maybe at Washington if the defense there balls out? Anyone can lose five, but most teams you don’t have to wonder.

Best fantasy player: QB Patrick Mahomes

Vibes: Just keep Mahomes healthy, alright? Really just that. The ring is already won, and yeah, another would be nice and is very much possible, but we’re still very much in the afterglow of that first title and as far as the regular season goes, watching Mahomes do his thing is what it’s all about when the divisional competition is so blah.

TL;DR: Eric Bieniemy will once again be interviewed for many head coaching positions. Will he get one this time? Will he be able to claim two Super Bowl titles in three years as a coordinator heading into that job? Maybe.

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8 / 10

Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans

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Non-RedZone games: 10/18 vs. Bills, 11/7 at Rams, 12/23 vs 49ers

Vegas O/U: 9 or 9.5 wins

Does that make sense? Only after you think about it for a while. The Titans should waltz to the AFC South title, and they have six games in the division to pad their record, but the rest of the schedule does have some pitfalls — road trips to Seattle, Los Angeles, New England in late November, and Pittsburgh in mid-December. But then, aren’t the Titans well built for rugged conditions against tough teams?

Best fantasy player: RB Derrick Henry

Vibes: Julio Jones has a legitimate chance to get back to the Super Bowl. That’s neat, especially because it seems like Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 season wasn’t a fluke. He just needed to get the hell out of Miami.

TL;DR: Just a question of if they’ll get over the hump in the playoffs. The season should be easy enough.

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9 / 10

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings

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Non-RedZone games: 10/31 vs. Cowboys, 12/9 vs. Steelers, 12/20 at Bears, 1/2 at Packers

Vegas O/U: 8.5 or 9.5 wins

Does that make sense? The 9.5 line is from MGM. Just saying.

Best fantasy player: RB Dalvin Cook

Vibes: Kirk Cousins is gonna complete a lot of short passes, connect for a few big plays, toss interceptions at the worst possible times, contribute to the spread of a deadly virus amid a pandemic, and lead his team to a .500-ish record, just close enough to the playoffs that he keeps getting paid and thought of as an above-average quarterback. All standard stuff through the annals of pro football. Well, not the virus stuff. Most quarterbacks don’t do that. That’s a Kirk Cousins bonus.

TL;DR: Cousins is 51-51-2 in his career. If only the 2 was for the number of Pfizer injections he got, instead of ties.

Part 4

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