STRIPLV1017

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Striplv Magazine - The Sexiest Magazine on the Planet, Issue 1017

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making the playoffs. By opening the season with four of six games on the road, if they do not survive that stretch and in the process do not establish some ground game to balance their offense, the Giants could be sitting at home come January. Philadelphia Eagles – Simply put, this is going to be a long season for the Eagles. They play 13 games against teams with reasonable playoff chances. They also get undesirable back-to-back games in December on the West coast, where they face the Seahawks and then stay on Pacific Time to play the Rams. While the offensive line has remained intact, and quarterback Carson Wentz has shown improvement, it will be up to the defense to keep the Eagles close. By all accounts, if their defensive line does not dominate their opponents, their weak secondary will be exposed, allowing the score to be run up on them. Washington Redskins – Although they have a roster coming off two consecutive winning seasons, there are a lot of questions about the team’s leadership with former General Manager Scot McCloughan gone and after what has been described as a “clown show” being presented around the combine. Also, quarterback Kirk Cousins’ future is in question too. It has been said that he is not too happy having lost two 1,000-yard receivers in DeSean Jackson (who went to Tampa Bay) and Pierre Garcon (who went to San Francisco). NFC West Seattle Seahawks – With quarterback Russell Wilson and free safety Earl Thomas playing healthy again, the Seahawks are the division front-runners. Nevertheless, a very tough non-divisional road schedule could make life miserable for Seattle as they travel to Green Bay, Tennessee, Dallas and New York to play the Giants. Even a 1 p.m. ET start in Jacksonville could spell trouble for the Seahawks. Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals’ schedule looks to be in their favor as they start the season with two games on the road against Detroit and Indianapolis, they get a bye after a trip to London to play the Rams, and they play three in a row at home in late November - early December. On the field, they’ve got an exceptional player, a legit superstar, in running back David Johnson. The question marks come with quarterback Carson Palmer and safety Tyrann Mathieu. Are their best years behind them or can they continue to play at the level they have been as they continue to age? And how long can 34-year-old wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who led the NFL with 107 catches, be the workhorse of their offense? Arizona has all the ingredients to make the playoffs. Los Angeles Rams – The Rams are a young team that is undergoing major changes on both offense and defense thanks to their millennial first-year coach Sean McVay, who at the age of 30, became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is bringing a 3–4 defense to Los Angeles and is moving Robert Quinn to linebacker. Quarterback Jared Goff can only improve from last season. After L.A. opens with two winnable games at home against Indianapolis and Washington, they play five of the next six games on the road, including a “home” game in London and East coast games in Jacksonville and New York against the Giants. San Francisco 49ers – When the most encouraging thing you can talk about is the new GM and head coach, both with six-year contracts to rebuild a once thriving team, you know it is going to be a long season. Last year under head coach Chip Kelly the Niners went 2-14. This year under Kyle Shanahan, who will also serve as offensive coordinator – a bold move for any head coach let alone a rookie – their record shouldn’t be any better, but they should have some better players on the field. GM John Lynch did a bang up job in his first draft. First, he traded down with Chicago to get the #3 pick where he nabbed Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas; then he grabbed Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster with the 31st pick overall. NFC North Green Bay Packers – The Packers open at home against the Seahawks and on the road against the Falcons and only play at home twice after Thanksgiving against the Vikings and Buccaneers. While Atlanta’s offense will be different without Kyle Shanahan calling the plays, and Green Bay are notoriously slow starters, the second game of the season could set the tone for the whole Packers season. Even so, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing to tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, they should once again outclass their opponents and take the division title. Minnesota Vikings – Overall, this year’s Vikings don’t appear much different than last year’s version. The big question is whether or not quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be able to return or if Sam Bradford will lead the offense. With the Vikes declining to pick up Bridgewater’s fifth-year option, speculation is high he will sit on the sidelines. Regardless of who will be running the offense, with newcomers Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray stabilizing their offensive line, not only will there be better pass protection, but it could ensure that Minnesota doesn’t repeat as having the league’s worst rushing game. Their defense should again be strong enough to keep them close in games, and by playing five of the first seven at home, there will be a good indication if the Vikings can make a playoff run. Detroit Lions – Under head coach Jim Caldwell, the Lions have had two winning seasons in three years. And while Caldwell made some questionable decisions in late-game situations during last year’s campaign that probably cost Detroit some wins but not a playoff spot, a repeat of that mindset will likely catch up with him this year. The bigger questions heading into the season are will defensive end Ziggy Ansah rebound from last season? Can running back Ameer Abdullah live up to his potential? And what about quarterback Matt Stafford? Can he improve on or at least equal last year’s performance which was the best year of his career? Stay tuned. Chicago Bears – Coming off a franchise record-tying 13 losses last season, neither Mike Glennon nor Mitch Trubisky at quarterback for the Bears will do much damage against NFL defenses, especially with their subpar receivers. And unfortunately, their opponents won’t be afraid of throwing against them due to their lack of depth in the secondary. Chicago has finished in last in the NFC North the last three years, and this year they will probably do so again during John Fox’s third year as coach. None of their first six opponents finished below .500 last season, and to make matters worse they open against Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

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