The NFL and Twitter have instituted some official hashtags for 2016 (which display next to them an "emoji", also known as a f*cking team logo), and they are, unsurprisingly, awful.
Here is my not-very-funny attempt at defining a better set of tags for the teams:
Atlanta Falcons: #ThrowToJulio - Once one of the most feared offenses in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons dropped to 21st in points scored last season. The days of Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez terrorizing secondaries, while Michael Turner slammed 300 times into 7 man fronts, are gone. All that remains of those weapons are Julio.
Arizona Cardinals: #CarsonsHurtSeasonsOver - For two seasons in a row, Arizona's promising buildups have come to an abrupt end following a Carson Palmer injury. Oh sure, this last time the injury didn't take him off the field, but anyone watching the games (or Amazon Prime's excellent "All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals") could tell that the MVP candidate was not the same guy following the injury.
Baltimore Ravens: #MakeFlaccoEliteAgain - Last year was terrible for Joe Flacco, and consequently was terrible for the Baltimore Ravens. Any rebound is predicated on Flacco returning to a level of play that at least makes the "elite" question not be a complete parody of itself. Injuries ravaged the 2015 Ravens, and probability tells us that they should have a better go of it this time around, but Flacco remains the limiting factor.
Buffalo Bills: #RyanTwinsPowersActivate - It really doesn't matter whether or not the Buffalo Bills are good or not this year. The Ryan twins are together, and that is good for all of us. It's a tad bittersweet, as their father Buddy passed away before getting to watch his boys coaching together again. But for the rest of us, we get to see if two Ryans can make the kind of defense that has often eluded the individual Ryans. The 2015 Bills was a dismantling of a top 5 defense, in an attempt to rebuild it in Rex's image, and not yet completing the job. The defense was bailed out in part by Tyrod Taylor playing better football than anyone expected him capable of. Can the Ryans take this collection of defensive talent and build their style of attacking defense with it?
Carolina Panthers: #DominateTheFoe - #KeepPounding is so last year, and last we saw the Panthers, they were receiving the pounding. For a franchise that's only occasionally treated as relevant, you have to take the best piece of fandom they've ever had, and enshrine it as a "thing". Alternate option was #DaysSinceLastJStewInjury, as this is one of the most important active streaks in the NFL. Stewart's 13 starts last year was his first double-digit total in an 8 year career.
Chicago Bears: #DaRebuild - The Bears roster has been drastically overturned, to the point where it's hard to have much of an idea what kind of team they are going to be this year. The defensive personnel has been flipped as the team tries to put together a group appropriate for a Vic Fangio defense. Offensively, they waved bye to Matt Forte, and hope to be saying hi to last year's top pick Kevin White. QB whisperer coach Adam Gase got Jay Cutler's INTs to the lowest total he's ever had in a full season, and a nice drop in his sacks total as well, while bringing up his yards per attempt to a career high. Quietly, this was the best Jay Cutler we've probably ever seen, although a less exciting one than the gunslinger days of Denver. How much that stays intact with Gase gone to Miami remains to be seen.
Cincinnati Bengals: #WeDey - Last season may turn out to be the pinnacle of this era of Cincinnati Bengals, and the self-defeating performance may prove to be its lasting memory. Everything was in place for last season's Bengals to make their run, with Andy Dalton playing the football of his life, and there's every reason to believe that this team won't achieve the same mix again. Hue Jackson got Dalton to play to the edge of his capabilities, and then got AJ McCarron to play like a legitimate NFL QB, and now he's gone. So is the sneaky good WR weapons they had hiding behind AJ Green, as both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are elsewhere. On top of that, Tyler Eifert will miss the early part of the season. The odds for regression here look stacked.
Cleveland Browns: #Analytics - Every good thing that happens to the Browns this year will be attributed to analytics. Every bad thing that happens to the Browns this year will be attributed to analytics. Though that probably won't prove to be very fair to analytics in general, there's no denying that eyes around the league are watching Cleveland to see what happens.
Dallas Cowboys: #CowboySuk - When I think of Dallas and hashtags, I think of their unfortunate #CowboysUK tag from a couple of years ago, which people quickly realized had a different meaning with a slight change in capitalization.
Denver Broncos: #ItsSiemian - I hope Phil Simms does a Broncos broadcast, because if any NFL booth announcer is going to make the same mistake, it would be him:
Detroit Lions: #ComeBackCalvin - I respect Calvin Johnson's retirement, not only on grounds of protecting his health, but also upholding the tradition set forth by Barry Sanders of the Lions' best player retiring young and leaving the fanbase to scream for him to come back for years. 5 years from now, we'll hear a fan saying that Calvin isn't too old to return.
Green Bay Packers: #NickelIsTheNewBase - Green Bay, ostensibly a "3-4" team, has kept only 3 inside linebackers on their final 53, while keeping 6 safeties. What does that tell you? We're zooming past nickel being the majority personnel, and heading towards a future where "base" is a personnel grouping so fringe that you barely keep enough players on the roster to line up in it. Perhaps it's time to stop referring to teams as 4-3 or 3-4, and just keep the linemen part: 3 or 4 linemen.
Houston Texans: #72MillionForThis - It's a league of QB haves vs. QB have-nots, and the have-nots find themselves in the unenviable position of putting big money down on dice rolls to try and jump from the latter group into the former. (Especially when you pass on drafting guys who could have solved that problem). The Texans threw $72 million at Brock Osweiler, whose 2015 stats were literally indistinguishable from Blaine Gabbert's. Texans fans may soon find themselves wondering what they're getting for that amount of money.
Indianapolis Colts: #GoodLuck - For a long time now, Indianapolis has been a generally mediocre overall roster built around a superb QB. When the QB plays less than superb football, well, you get the kind of dropoff the Colts suffered last season. With the new contract given to Andrew Luck, there was little left over for roster building. Any hope the Colts have rests on having the "good" Luck return.
Jacksonville Jaguars: #StealTheShow
I identify with this woman. I too reminisce about when those expansion Jaguars took it to the limit. My wife and I are looking to buy our own (couple minutes from the) beach house soon. And I am ready to watch the Jaguars come in and... steal the show.
Kansas City Chiefs: #ClockManagement - KC's writeup in this year's FO Almanac was prominently about Andy Reid. They praised him for being one of the league's better coaches at extracting the most out of his roster's talent, before taking him to task for his very real struggles with the game clock. Apparently one of the team's big changes for 2016 is a highly streamlined 2-minute offense, to allow them to be more responsive in tight clock situations. Every Chief fan will be watching.
Los Angeles Rams: #NobodyBlocksInLA - If hyphens were allowed in hashtags, this probably would have been #7-9Bullsh*t. Instead, we'll go with a song reference old enough that only people who remember the Rams' previous stint in LA will get. Greg Robinson is still this line's starting LT. In fact, there's hardly any new faces on the whole O-line depth chart. Little surprise they're not putting Goff behind it week 1.
Miami Dolphins: #OTannenbaum - Miami fans cannot catch a break in the personnel department. You might not have noticed, given Miami is perpetually irrelevant with their annual 6-8 wins, but there's some Game of Thrones stuff happening in that front office. Mike Tannenbaum, last seen not paying Darrelle Revis on Hard Knocks, has ascended to VP of football operations in Miami (after being out of the league entirely for 2 years). He chased out the existing general manager, and has installed a new puppet general manager, who will allow him to retain all the personnel control he wants, without having to do all that tedious watching of film.
Minnesota Vikings: #TradeHimBack - A 1st and a conditional 4th for Sam Bradford, the QB teams keep paying a lot of money to, and no one can understand why. In fact, let's add him in to that Osweiler/Gabbert table, and his numbers sure look like near-clones of theirs, just with 14 games' worth instead of 8. There's a couple bits of unspoken desperation in the Bradford acquisition: not only a fear of Bridgewater not being ready for 2017, but a recognition that their time with Adrian Peterson as a dominant player is growing short.
New England Patriots: #DoYourJob - I love that the Patriots are throwing some elbows in response to the Cowboys trying to co-opt their "Do Your Job" slogan. It was either this or #FreeBrady.
New Orleans Saints: #WhoDat - f*ck the NFL giving Cincy #WhoDey and not giving New Orleans #WhoDat.
New York Giants: #ManningFace -
We're down to only one of them. We have to treasure this sh*t while we can.
New York Jets: #RevisPeninsula - Don't look now, but that island Revis used to lord over isn't quite as remote and isolated as it used to be. Teams are now targeting him as much as any other CB1. He's still one of the most successful corners at stopping successful pass plays, but his island's continental drift is slowly going in reverse.
Oakland Raiders: #VegasBaby -
"You think we'll make it by 2017?"
"Baby we'll be up 30,000 PSLs by 2017!"
Philadelphia Eagles: #NotTheFCS - Philly sent Sam Bradford out of town, then inexplicably jumped Carson Wentz past Chase Daniel on the depth chart. Wentz is expected to make the jump from the FCS to the NFL without having taken a single first team training camp snap. And as I mentioned in the last thread, he only played half his senior year. That's a big jump with so few meaningful snaps on which to build on.
Pittsburgh Steelers: #PayAntonio - Antonio Brown is perhaps the league's most underpaid player that isn't on their rookie contract. Absent a new long-term deal, Brown agreed to a restructuring of 2016 and 2017 that at least pays him something in 2016. His deal, however, is about on par with what the Lions just paid Marvin Jones, so, you know, there's still a problem there. This season will be Antonio playing for the big extension he might realistically get next offseason.
San Diego Chargers: #PackingForLA - When a team gets real weird about things like paying players, it usually means something is up. I remember in Jacksonville, the money faucet got shut off before former owner Wayne Weaver sold the team to Shad Khan. In San Diego, that situation is the likely move to LA. Even though the team's official webpage is shoveling out the propaganda for the stadium ballot measure, the voters are not having it.
San Francisco 49ers: #7tormsSitting - The storm from Colin Kaepernick's #7tormsComing hashtag last year turned out to be a disappointing drizzle. This year, he's far more relevant for his principled seated posture during the national anthem, something that I'm sure won't drag on as a story for months on end or anything.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: #MortarKickoffs - I'm sorry if you saw this one coming, but it is our official meme of the season. #FatQuarterbacks is so last year. That is, until Jameis Winston balloons up over the course of the year, and then has his next "showed up slimmed down" training camp. We'll be riding that rollercoaster for a few years here. But this season belongs to Aguayo and his game changing kickoff skills.
Tennessee Titans: #FireMularkey - Back in the '90s, Mularkey is exactly the kind of pox I would have wished on the Titans. But getting Mularkey after Munchak and Whisenhunt is just kicking a team while they're down. I can't even enjoy it, I just feel sad for them. If history is any indication, though, Mularkey will be an ex-head coach soon enough.
Washington Redskins: #YouLikeThat - I mean, this was an easy one. #HTTR? Really? Though it feels like Kirk Cousins will be another in the long line of QBs who briefly sparked a fanbase's hope, only to fail to sustain it over the long term, at least the team has a catchphrase that allowed me to make this hashtag something other than #ItsNotRacist.
My hashtags suck? Of course they do. Tell us your better ones.
Once again, pick'ems will be done on our pick'em site: www.gwjnflpickem.com. I spent the $10 this year again on that domain name. I hope you all appreciate it.
The site is the same site instance as before, just with its state incremented to 2016, so if you played last year, your account is still there waiting for you. Anyone who is new, feel free to register on the site and join in.
I am instituting a new rule for the threads and pick'ems this year: please do not post your picks in this thread unless you have something to say about your picks. It's fine if you want to share why you picked the picks you made, but posts that are just 5 team names are unnecessary thread clutter at this point. The site works, and we have an email paper trail to fall back on, so there's no longer any purpose to pick posts.
NOTE: This is the first time the site has rolled over to a new league year, so please let me know if you see any weirdness or have any problems.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta: Fair warning right now: for as long as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are undefeated, they will be in the pick'ems. These threads will be tracking the mortar kickoff phenomenon very closely. While the rest of the NFL watching world struggles to make sense of what they're seeing, we'll be sitting back, chuckling to ourselves, knowing that we saw it coming all along. Tampa Bay fires the first shot in a revolution.
Oakland at New Orleans: Derek of House Carr, First of his Name, Pride of the Valley, Warden of the Black Hole, Committer of Excellence, King of Alameda. Raiders.
NY Giants at Dallas: The closest betting line of the week, a pick-em game. Normally with Romo down, panic would already be spreading, but Dallas is all on board with Dak Prescott, their Paxton Lynch consolation prize who tore up some cushy preseason zone defenses. Not that playing well in preseason isn't a good sign for the rookie (certainly better than playing poorly), but the excitement reminds me of Logan Thomas two years ago, except amplified because Prescott finds himself already pushed into starting duty. (At least he actually took some first team snaps in camp.) I'm going with the Giants.
Pittsburgh at Washington: The Steelers come into DC riding out Le'Veon Bell's suspension (reduced to 3 games) and looking for answers at WR2 after Martavis Bryant was suspended for the season. Washington, meanwhile, has spent their time figuring out how to counter the Terrible Towel, deciding to pass out their own Burgandy Towels for the game. Give me Pittsburgh.
Los Angeles at San Francisco: The rivalry is back! And best of all, Jim Tomsula is not. (Yes Eagles fans, tell me more about how bad Chip Kelly and your 12th ranked offense with a scrub QB and stonehanded WRs are. That must have been so terrible). Kelly will feel right at home with San Francisco's even scrubbier QB and equally stonehanded WRs. I don't ask for much, but if week 1 can end with Jeff Fisher screaming about his team's 7-9 bullsh*t, that'd be great. San Francisco will at least uphold last year's tradition of a strong prime-time week 1 performance before showing how far down they really are.