There is a pretty strong consensus as to who’s going to contend for playoff spots and potentially win the Super Bowl, and it generally consists of the usual suspects. Expectations are already fairly cut and dried for everyone — who’s going to be good and who’s going to be bad.
There are, however, a few teams capable of beating those expectations. It may be that they’re underestimated, or little is expected of them this season. It may be that they’re expected to be downright awful but have the potential to be more than that.
Here are ten teams that may beat the expectations set for them during the 2018 NFL season.
10) Detroit Lions
There’s been almost no buzz about the Lions this offseason, and it’s easy to forget that they held themselves in the playoff race pretty late into last season. In fact, expectations are such that the failure to get there despite a fairly forgiving schedule cost Jim Caldwell his job. He’s been replaced by Matt Patricia, and the Lions still have a quality quarterback in Matthew Stafford. They’ve also aggressively tried to fix their moribund running game, with rookie Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount now part of the fold. The NFC’s toughness may be their biggest enemy, but they shouldn’t be overlooked.
Rhys Hoskins teamed up with Little Leaguer Alfred Delia to film a great video on Sunday.
Hoskins’ Philadelphia Phillies were set to face the New York Mets on Sunday night as part of the Little League Classic. Being in Williamsport, Penn. gave Hoskins and other major leaguers the chance to interact with some Little League players.
This video between Hoskins and “Big Al” stole the show:
— Rhys Hoskins (@rhyshoskins) August 19, 2018
Big Al went viral this month thanks to a hilarious player intro he filmed for a Little League World Series regional game. The video with Hoskins was a tribute to that video, where Big Al talked about hitting dingers.
The Golden State Warriors will almost certainly want Klay Thompson to take less money from them next summer than he could earn on the open market, and it seems clear that the sharpshooter is very much open to the idea of a hometown discount.
Thompson’s father, former NBA star Mychal Thompson, spoke with Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday about his son’s impending free agency. The elder Thompson said he has complete confidence that Klay will remain with the Warriors for years to come.
“Oh yeah, you can mark it down,” Mychal Thompson said. “Klay’s going to retire in the Warriors’ uniform. He’s going to play at Chase Center (the Warriors’ new arena, opening in 2019), and he’s not going to be at Chase Center as a visiting player, he’s going to be a Warrior for the next seven or eight years.”
Even with the Warriors continuously adding talent and less shots to go around, Thompson has consistently averaged 20 or more points per game for the past four seasons. He’s one of the best shooting guards in the game and is an obvious max contract player, and Golden State can dip further into the luxury tax to sign him. Rather than Klay taking a pay cut, Mychal hinted that he believes the Warriors will be willing to pay the big bucks.
“He’s got such a good thing here,” Mychal said. “The Warriors have such a special thing here. For the next six or seven years they’re going to be championship material, they’re not going to break that up. The Bulls (with Michael Jordan) were broken up too prematurely. (Warriors owners) Joe Lacob and Peter Guber aren’t going to let that happen. Are you kidding? They can afford it. They’re the Warriors, this is the Bay Area, they got a beautiful arena, and money’s no object for this team.”
Kevin Durant has already taken a pay cut to allow the Warriors to keep their core together, and some comments Thompson made in the past make it seem like he could be open to doing the same. There’s obviously some sort of limit to how much luxury tax Golden State wants to pay, so perhaps there will be enough motivation on either side for them to come to a reasonable agreement with Thompson.
Paxton Lynch’s brutal summer continues, and he’s not hiding his emotions about it.
Addressing reporters after going just 5-of-11 for 39 yards in Saturday’s preseason loss to the Chicago Bears, the Denver Broncos quarterback admitted that his recent demotion to the third string was “tough” and “really upset[ting].” Here is what he said, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post:
Lynch on demotion: "It was tough. I was upset when I first got the news. Really upset about it because I know how hard I've worked, how bad I want to play and how much this means to me." #Broncos
— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) August 19, 2018
Lynch’s performance this weekend comes after he went 6-of-11 for 24 yards with an interception in last week’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings. He has also taken three total sacks in the two games and has heard boos from fans both times out.
The 24-year-old has now been leapfrogged by former Mr. Irrelevant Chad Kelly as Case Keenum’s backup and seems to be losing confidence with each passing snap. Lynch also took some heat last season for his shows of emotion, but it looks like this season may be even more of an uphill battle for him.
- Paxton Lynch
Lorenzo Cain was not happy with his division rivals on Saturday night.
In the top of the first inning of his team’s eventual 7-2 loss to the NL Central foe St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder was drilled by a pitch from Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas and proceeded to chirp in the direction of the St. Louis bench. That was followed by a sequence of events where Brewers starter Wade Miley threw behind Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill in the bottom of the inning, leading to both benches behind warned and Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell being ejected for arguing the warning.
Addressing reporters after the game, Cain said that he thought the Cardinals threw at him intentionally, noting that it was not the first time they had hit him, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Cain said he did think Cardinals intentionally hit him but didn't know why. Said somebody woofed at him from St. Louis dugout so he woofed back. "That team has hit me a few times. I definitely don't like getting hit."
— Tom (@Haudricourt) August 19, 2018
Cain entered play Saturday hitting just .162 in 11 games versus the Cardinals this season, so it probably doesn’t have anything to do with his performance against them. What we do know for certain though is that the Brewers and the Cardinals have already had some serious bad blood in recent months.
The Boston Red Sox got more ominous news on ace left-hander Chris Sale on Saturday.
The Red Sox placed Sale on the disabled list a day before his scheduled start, citing a recurrence of left shoulder inflammation.
Uh-oh: Red Sox placed Chris Sale back on the 10-day DL, as his left mild shoulder inflammation has returned. He was scheduled to pitch Sunday.
— Michael Silverman (@MikeSilvermanBB) August 18, 2018
Sale was placed on the disabled list abruptly on July 31 with the same shoulder issue. He spent the minimum time required on the DL and returned to start on Aug. 12, where he looked perfectly fine, striking out 12 Baltimore Orioles and allowing just one hit over five innings. Obviously, his problems weren’t over, and it will be very worrisome that this appears to be a recurring issue with the postseason looming in a little over a month.
- Chris Sale
The Washington Nationals placed many players on revocable trade waivers this week, including star Bryce Harper, according to a report.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal shared the news, noting that teams placing players on revocable waivers at this point in the year is extremely common.
#Nationals put a number of players on revocable trade waivers yesterday, including Harper and Murphy, sources tell The Athletic. Team’s intentions not clear; virtually every player goes on waivers as matter of procedure this time of year. Nats 7 games out in NL East, 5 1/2 in WC.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 18, 2018
Although the “trade deadline” in MLB passed, trades can still be made. The difference is the previous deadline is for non-waiver trades. Now players can either be claimed by a team off waivers, at which point a trade could be made. Or if the player passes through waivers going unclaimed, the team can then trade the player anywhere. A player who is claimed off waivers can also be revoked so that he remains with his original team.
Rosenthal isn’t sure why Harper was placed on waivers but speculates that it’s to give the Nats more options.
Harper owed ~$5M, Murphy ~$4M. Both potential FAs. Nats might simply want to see if they clear, giving GM Rizzo option to make deal before 8/31 if team fades. Harper seems less likely to move. Rizzo at non-waiver deadline: “Bryce is not going anywhere. I believe in this team.”
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 18, 2018
Even though the Nats have said that Harper isn’t going anywhere, this seems to show at least some level of willingness to trade him.