GameDay Decrees – Season Preview

Back in my church-going days I once heard a pastor say, “in order for something great to begin, something great must also end.” If that dude was right, then his cryptic words apply perfectly with what is about to happen to our precious day of worship. Sundays are about to undergo changes of epic proportions – the penultimate season of Game of Thrones has ended. And the 2017 NFL season is ready to begin! Both Dem Thrones and the NFL have so much in common – a combination of winners, losers, power players, unforgettable scenes, and moments that leave you thinking, “hold up, that’s racist!” Our mission here at TLA is to use sports to bridge the gap between cultures and this edition of the GameDay Decrees will get you ready for football season by putting NFL teams and key players into categories based on some of our favorite Thrones characters. I’m assuming you’re all caught up on GOT. And if you aren’t…well, you are already among the Dead.

THE REEKS

No Game of Thrones character had a bigger identity crisis than Theon Greyjoy Stark Bolton Reek – dude just couldn’t quite figure out who or where he wanted to be. He switched up on his people quicker than Jim Brown and Ray Lewis did after Trump got elected. In the business of the NFL, it’s only natural that players leave the nest to explore other options. The following list of players jumped ship this offseason, whether by choice or by force, and look to make a new name for themselves on their new teams. Let’s just hope they didn’t sell their souls in the process:

Dontari Poe (left KC for ATL), Martellus Bennett (left NE for GB), Alshon Jeffrey (left CHI for PHI), AJ Bouye (left HOU for division rival JAX), Kevin Zeitler (left CIN for divisional rival CLEV), Sammy Watkins (left BUF for LA), Jeremy Maclin (left KC for BAL), Pierre Garcon (got TF out of WASH and went to SF), DeSean Jackson (left WASH too, but for TB), Chris Baker (also left WASH for TB), Stephon Gilmore (left BUF for division rival NE), Russell Okung (left DEN for LAC), Adrian Peterson (left MIN for NO), Jamaal Charles (left KC for DEN), Calais Campbell (left AZ for JAX), Brandin Cooks (left NO for NE), Marshawn Lynch (retired from SEA, joined OAK), Joe Haden (left CLE for PITT), Sheldon Richardson (left NYJ for SEA), TJ Ward (left DEN for TB)

 

THE BRONNS OF THE BLACKWATER

With all the back-stabbing, side switching, and ice cold betrayals that go down in Dem Thrones, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater (does he even have a last name?) is the only character whose allegiance has never changed. His loyalty simply belongs to the highest bidder. “Chase a check, never chase a chick” isn’t just a Future lyric to Bronn – it’s his mantra. Floyd Mayweather probably has him on The Money Team Payroll.  We saw a handful of NFL players force the Lannisters to pay their debts this offseason, inking multi-year contracts to stay with their teams. But I ran into a couple NBA players while up in Philly last weekend and they said “we don’t call that money over here…”

Falcons’ Devontaa Freeman – 5 years, $41M

Patriots’ LB Dont’a Hightower – 5 years, $43.5M

Ravens’ DT Brandon Williams – 5 years, $54M

Packers’ LB Nick Perry – 5 years, $60M

Cardinals’ DE Calais Campbell – 5 years, $60M

Giants’ DE Jason Pierre-Paul – 4 years, $62M

Chiefs’ Eric Berry – 6 years, $78M

Panther’s DT Kawann Short – 5 years, $80M

Texans’ WR DeAndre Hopkins – 5 years, $81M

Lions’ Matthew Stafford – 5 years, $135M

 

THE LADY OLENNAS

We would be remissed not to take time out to acknowledge the most beloved character on Thrones – the triple OG herself, Lady O. Not one fuck was given since the moment she stepped on screen and she held her own with the best of ‘em until the end. Just like Lady O, this category is dedicated to those players who took a sip of their own mortality this summer and said “Nah, fam. Y’all can keep that CTE over there. I’m good.” It’s something about hearing 110 out of 111 muthafuckas’ brains lost function after playing football that makes a brotha get his Maxine Waters on and choose to reclaim his time. Whether they knew they were too smart for the game, too tired of playing it, or was just satisfied with the work they put in, the following players hung up their cleats and stepped away from football this year. And now, their watch has ended…

Cameron Jordan, Zach Orr, John Urschel, Jordan Cameron, Roddy White, James Laurinaitas, AJ Hawk, Doug Free, Rob Ninkovich, Terrance Knighton, DeMarcus Ware. Future Hall of Famer Anquan “the last dinosaur” Boldin. (Yes, he is a hall of famer. Fight me)

 

THE JON SNOWS

Good ol’ Jon Snow. The Prince that was promised. The players that fall into this category aren’t being praised for their looks, bravery, or tendency to fuck up a good thing if you let ‘em. The following players are being recognized because like our friend Jon, these dudes must have 9 lives, plus more. These guys each possess the Resurrection Stone laced with white privilege. Seriously, none of these guys should still be alive. How many times must they prove to us they don’t value their own existence? Look bruh, if you don’t wanna be here anymore feel free to let yourself out. I’m sure there’s another guy who could do more with your roster spot…one who rocks an afro in particular, who has played in a Superbowl before, and could actually be a productive asset on half the teams in the league. But, I digress:

Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown, Geno Smith, Nick Foles, Blaine Gabbert, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallet, Mark Sanchez (seriously, whose daughter is HE dating?), Kellen Clemens, Matt Cassel, Dan Orlovsky, the 6-God himself Matt Schaub, Brock “What-Is-Dead-May-Never-Die” Osweilerand of course…

Ryan FUCKING Fitzpatrick! Someone on Hard Knocks actually asked him how it felt playing against Bart Starr. That’s how many lives Fitz has.

 

THE BRANDON STARKS/THREE-EYED RAVENS

We live in a time where being “woke” is almost a necessity. Becoming socially conscious is often a process, a journey defined by a sum of eye opening events. Or sometimes it’s ignited after an impactful life-altering experience – like a confrontation with the police, or discrimination at work…or Wal-Mart randomly selling all their tiki torches in one weekend. But no one can deny the woke-est Game of Thrones character is none other than Mr. Brandon Stark, whose path to enlightenment started with him being pushed out of a fifth-story castle window, to traveling through Canada as a cripple, to coming back home armed with hella knowledge sounding (and looking) a lot like Jaden Smith.

We all have that cousin who returned from only a semester at A&M State University College Online dressed like Dead Mike and performing spoken word. We’re lucky enough to have some Three Eyed Ravens in the NFL who have already made it clear this season they are fully aware of what’s going on in this country and they will NOT stand for it. Literally. The black (or white)-balling of Colin Kaepernick led to others around the league picking up the torch and carrying it in his absence. They ain’t impressed if you are first of your name or how long you’ve condoned oppression – they’re here for a bigger purpose. The following players made it clear before the season started they would in some way protest the national anthem by not standing for it – or they’ll simply be in solidarity with those that decide not to stand. I know Daenerys would be happy that SOMEONE is finally bending the knee…

Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins, Eagles’ Chris Long, Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch, 49ers Eric Reid, Rams’ Robert Quinn. Those eight dudes on the Cleveland Browns

Never did I ever think we would be congratulating anyone on THE BROWNS for a group decision. But aye, we gotta start somewhere…

 And now…the teams!

THE EDDARD STARKS

Ol’ reliable Ned Stark. The most honorable man we’d ever meet.  Neutral Ned managed to stay true to himself despite all the chaos and deceit that happened on Thrones. He was also predictable AF.  Everybody knew exactly where to find him come January once Winter finally arrived – it was expected. We have an elite group of teams this season who are also expected by most to make the playoffs, some are even picked as Superbowl favorites. The one thing these teams all have in common is they are solidified at the quarterback position. All but one of these teams can claim their signal caller has gotten them to the Super Bowl before. And of those select QBs, all but one **cough**cough**gag*choke* everyone point at MATT RYAN** can claim they’ve won at least one Super Bowl in their career. That level of consistency at the quarterback position embodies everything King Ned believed in. We know where they stand and what we’re going to get from them. But don’t misconstrue this as a guarantee – Ned Stark knew better than anyone that it ain’t never ever safe out in these streets. Y’all do know what happens to most kings, right? They eventually get their heads cut off (Hov said that so hopefully you won’t have to go through that)

Green Bay –Aaron Rodgers was amazing last season. He water-danced his way around the pocket Arya Stark-style and turned your favorite defender into No One. If he is at MVP-level production again this year, the Pack should be in position to compete for the NFC title. Their Achilles heel of late has been their defense, which was God-awful in 2016. They were so bad they made James Harden look like Scottie Pippen. But after using their first three draft picks to improve their D this year, the Packers look to be an improved version of their 2016 selves, which won 10 games and the NFC North division

Seattle – even if they struggle to keep Russell Wilson upright again in 2017, the ‘Hawks are talented enough to at least get to the postseason. They signed The Doughboy Eddie Lacy with hopes to resurrect their physical run game. If safety Earl Thomas is actually better after the injury, Seattle will be in familiar territory by the end of the year

Oakland – with a healthy Derek Carr, the Raiders are set to return as one of the AFC’s best teams. If they want to get over the hump they can’t lead the league in penalties like they did in 2016, and they have to improve defensively so their offense isn’t always carrying the load. But if the homegrown Marshawn Lynch can be close to the player he was two years ago, he could very well carry the Raiders all the way to the big game in Minnesota. We all know why he’s here.

New York – I have some valid questions about their O-line. Add in a non-existent running game and an over exerted, under pressure Eli and there could be some Big Apple turnovers on the menu in NY. But the Giants have been floating around as everyone’s sexy Superbowl pick. And I see why. Their already-dangerous receiving corps got even better after signing Brandon Marshall, plus their young and stifling defense is a year better with experience under their belt.

Pittsburgh – assuming Le’Veon Bell’s extended vacation in Dorne has no lasting impact on him, the Steelers offense should return as the league’s best in 2017, especially with Martavis Bryant back from suspension. Their defense is still sketchier than Lord Baelish at a teen club, but with the addition of Joe Haden and facing one of the easier schedules this year, the black and bodak yellow are solid enough all around to compete for the AFC’s top spot

Atlanta – Are y’all sure the entire Falcons team doesn’t come from the Stark bloodline? Just like everyone from Ned’s loins, the Falcons are undoubtedly skilled. Built for this life. Molded by it. These mofo’s got to be the most talented roster in the whole Seven. Yet they keep finding ways to come up short – mainly by shooting themselves in the foot EVERY POSTSEASON. It doesn’t matter if the Falcons go 16-0 this year and shut out every opponent they face. This team will only be measured by how they perform in the playoffs. We will holla at y’all in January 2018 when the Falcons’ games truly matter

New England – As long as Bill Belichick is roaming the sidelines in his Fleabottom hoodie, and Tom Brady AKA Jamie Lannister has blonde hair, blue eyes, and that golden arm…the Patriots will be playing in the postseason.

 

THE GREY WORMS

My man Grey Worm AKA young Barry Obama started from the bottom and managed to seduce the finest girl that Thrones ever did see. But he was stripped of his “tools” at a young age and couldn’t quite…you know…get the job done. And we all know you need the whole package if you gonna deliver the goods. Otherwise you’re here for no reason at all but to work on your cardio and brag to your friends about your FitBit statistics. We have a long list of NFL teams that either have some pieces in place, or are just pants-rubbing for the foreseeable future. They’ll spend the 2017 season serving as sparring partners for the true contenders to hone their skills before the real war begins. I’m glad y’all already know who y’all are.

Teams with the Pillar, But No Stones (they have some good pieces but are missing…something)

New Orleans – Pro: they have Drew Brees Con: ALL they have is a 40 year old Drew Brees. Can Adrian Peterson play safety?

Indianapolis – Is Andrew Luck healthy? If not, there’s no reason to continue this conversation. And if Luck is indeed healthy, can that offensive line of theirs even KEEP him healthy?

Los Angeles Chargers – we’ve all been waiting for the Chargers to get over the hump. They have been cursed with both injuries and bad luck, with six blown fourth-quarter leads in 2016 and 9 of 11 losses were in one-score games. I wouldn’t wish injury on anyone, but until the Bolts prove they can stay healthy this dark cloud will stay over their heads. Maybe the move to LA will spin the juju in their favor

Jacksonville – they’re building a roster with a combination of youth, potential, and experience ALLL over the place. Shit, even Tom Coughlin is back in the front office. But QB Blake Bortles has yet to take the leap, and Chad Henne isn’t the answer. The Jags will be playing pocket-pull until they get someone serviceable under center. As a southpaw, I’m placing my bets on Left Hand

Minnesota – Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson are not walking through that lockeroom. Sam Bradford has shown flashes, but it just won’t be enough to match their stellar defense which unfortunately resides in the same division as two of the NFC’s best offensives

Philadelphia – speaking of teams that started 2016 on a roll, but eventually landed face-first on the pavement quicker than Tommen when he decided to play leapfrog from his bedroom window, meet the Philadelphia Eagles. GM Howie Roseman deserves credit for making solid offseason moves, signing both veteran and championship players on the offensive side to help Carson Wentz grow. Their defensive front is outright scary and should keep them in a lot of games. But the Eagles play one of the toughest schedules this season and with the Giants AND Cowboys favored as NFC powerhouses, the birds north of the Wall just aren’t quite there yet. They should be better than Washington though so I guess that’s a plus, right?

Denver – they’re heading into another season relying heavily on their defense, which is getting a bit older. That same defense will be taking the field this season without the mastermind Wade Phillips on their sideline. His Jon Snow-like creativity of drawing up simple, yet effective defensive schemes in his cave will truly be missed. The good news for the Broncos is they have ended their QB controversy. The bad news is Trevor Siemien won that non-competitive QB battle and we haven’t seen proof their offense will be much of a threat. Add the fact they play the toughest schedule in the league this year and the Broncos will have trouble getting out of the tough AFC West

Teams with No Pillar AND No Stones (no shot at all. They’re out here scissoring)

Buffalo – Lost their best cornerback to A DIVISION RIVAL THAT KEEPS WINNING THEIR DIVISION! They traded Sammy Watkins and his clipboard-holding talents out to Westeros. We haven’t seen enough from Tyrod Taylor to believe he can mask their deficiencies outside of Shady McCoy

San Francisco – their new head coach is considered an offensive genius (unless he has been spotted a 25 point lead). New GM John Lynch has his work cut out for him with a Niners team that may be a 4-5 year project. They did add veteran pieces in the offseason but let’s keep it a buck here: Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are not real answers at QB, which means it would take a serious case of divine intervention for ‘Frisco to have a real chance this year

Chicago – after going all in at the Draft, the Bears are cautiously optimistic their QB situation with Money Mitch or Mike Glennon might actually pan out. I doubt half their roster will end up on IR like it did last season, but that still won’t help the fact there are TWO OTHER playoff teams in their division that are in a better position to win right now. Chicago could very well double their win total this year from 2016. But it will be for a lost cause.

Los Angeles Rams – after this season is over the Rams will be the Clippers of Los Angeles football. Except they’ll look as bad as the Lakers have as of late. Yeah, they’ll have more talent on offense than last season but until Jared Goff plays up to his draft status, the Rams will be as useful as male nipples on the Unsullied

Cleveland – it’s 2017 and these are the Browns. ‘Nuff said. (Although they are slowly and surely putting winning pieces together)

New York – Replace “Browns” with “Jets” in the statement above. And completely remove everything in parenthesis

 

CERSEI WITH THE GOOD HAIR

There isn’t a character on Game of Thrones surer of oneself than Cersei Lannister when all things were going her way. Shorty was out in these streets murdering her enemies plus their children, then coming home at 7pm and watching Confirmation Bias with a glass of wine like she just finished an honest day’s work. Little did she know the holy and righteous of the world were plotting to strip her of her virtues and make her walk down 32 Kings Road with that Shame bell ringing over her head. There were a handful of NFL teams riding their high horses last year too; thinking one little winning season meant the foreseeable future would be all sausage and syrup moving forward. Nah son, the past eight months have been unforgiving for the following teams. And the next four months ‘bout to be dark and full of terrors:

Washington – although they didn’t make the playoffs last year, Washington’s professional football team finished the season 9-7 and with a prolific-looking offense, all signs pointed that they would take another leap forward in 2017. But in typical DC sports team-fashion, management botched yet another opportunity to ink their franchise QB to a long term deal. They also let two of their best receiving targets leave for greener grass in free agency. Add the fact there are two other playoff-caliber teams in their division and the only positive change in store for this team is if they finally CHANGE THE NAME!

Miami – so y’all telling me a playoff team from last season lost their slightly-above-average starting QB in preseason? And decided to replace him with…JAY CUTLER?!?! That’s like losing timid Tommen and replacing him with Joffrey. Miami outchere hustling backwards, y’all…

Kansas City – the Chiefs had more employee turnover this season than the Trump White House. Errrybody got the boot. Andy Reid’s small council is extremely SMALL now. He’s so out of options he just tapped whoever the dude was still working in the cubicle next to him after the office shut down. “Aye bruh, you got any plans for the next 12 months? I kinda need you to be the general manager now.” Basically the SAME exact way Cersei made Qyburn her Hand. My man went from being a nursing assistant on the ground floor on Monday to performing brain surgery on Wednesday, and didn’t even have to interview for the job. And speaking of guys getting replaced, I feel bad for QB Alex Smith. Yes, he is still on the team. But he’s about to lose his job to a younger, more athletic, racially ambiguous quarterback who will probably take the team to the next level in his place…FOR THE SECOND TIME. Alex must’ve heard the same prophecy Cersei did as a kid…“a much flyer version of you will someday take your place.” And that weird witch lady wasn’t lying… Margery [was] BAD, and then Boujie

Detroit – may be the hardest team to categorize. They were a refreshing 9-7 last season after sneaking into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. But they played with fire WAYYY more often than a Lannister Lion would prefer, with 8 of their 9 wins coming by a touchdown or less. As admirable as their late game heroics were last season, it may not be enough in 2017. A healthy Ameer Abdullah should help Matthew Stafford and the offense, but Detroit’s success (or failure) will ultimately come down to their below average defense that infamously let them down last January against Seattle. And I’m not confident they can repay their debts…

Dallas – y’all remember how fearless Cersei was any time something popped off – she could call on the Mountain and he would just crush the competition for her? Then remember how basic she became when the Mountain was on IR with career ending injuries and she could no longer play that card? That’s how basic the ‘Boys offense will be the first month of the season without Ezekiel Elliott. Add that to their regressing defense, their struggles vs. the Giants and ummmerahhh…they might still be good, but they’re not going 13-3 this season

 

CERSEI WITH THE BIEBER CUT

Alright so after shit got real for The Cers, she spent an episode or two on Iyanla “Fix My Life.” Her friends took her out to see the movie Girls Trip, then sat her down for that “we love you sis, but you treacherous. It’s time to change your ways” intervention that all of us who’ve gone off the rails has had to endure. After she deleted all the pics of her and her ex off of Instagram, she decided it was time for Cersei to get her groove back. The Queen successfully settled ALL family business. Hell hath no fury like a lady after she changes her hairstyle. Plus, we all know a white woman in America can never take an L and stay down for long. Unless she’s Hillary Clinton…then in that case she’ll suffer an embarrassing loss, no one will see her in public again, and all of a sudden we’ll start to wonder if her promise to work on behalf of minorities was just a ploy to get elected. Anyway, the following teams took a shot of that milk of the poppy and are channeling their inner Big Sean in 2017 – last year took an L but this year they’ll bounce back:

Tennessee – they were competitive in almost every game in 2016, but ultimately failed to make the playoffs in a division race that was theirs for the taking. Marcus Mariota and the offense should be even better this season with weapons at almost every position. But if the Titans plan to win their division, they have to actually beat the teams IN THEIR DIVISION, going just 2-4 vs. a bad AFC South last year. The football Gods must’ve remembered the Titans during Sunday mass because they are blessed to play against the second easiest schedule in the league this year.

Baltimore – finished a disappointing 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. But with a revamped defense including both experience and depth, the Westeros ravens aren’t the only ones who got significantly faster this summer. Assuming Joe Flacco will be healthy enough to play with his new offensive toys, the Ravens should be eyeing a playoff spot at the end of December. But Baltimore’s success will all come down to their offensive line and their ability to effectively run the football in the always competitive AFC North

Cincinnati – speaking of North teams with terrible O-lines, no one in the AFC shit the bed last year like the 6-9-1 Marvin Lewis-led Cincinnati Bengals. I’m sure the folks in Cincy look at Marvin the same way Americans look at President 45 like “bruh, HOWWW do you still work here?!” But if the Bengals are healthy in 2017, Marvin will lead the most talented team on paper in their division, and their offense shouldn’t look as AJ Green-dependent now armed with the speedster John Ross and backfield stud Joe Mixon. But we can all agree it is time to make the Bengals Great Again…for the first time.

Arizona – their 2017 season comes down to two words: Carson. Palmer. Yo actually HAS the Cersei haircut too if you think about it. But Palmer was by far one of the most disappointing players in 2016, throwing some inexplicable passes for a guy who’s entering his 15th season under center. Assuming Palmer’s 2016 demons are behind him, this Cards’ team is ready to win. Now! They have the versatile running back, the HOF receiver who is STILL putting up numbers, a young and athletic defense…and a head coach who is the second most famous man to wear a Kangol hat. And he’s running out of MOTHERFUCKIN’ time.

Tampa Bay – In theory, 2016 wasn’t really a loss for the Bucs as they achieved their first winning season since 2010. But they’re in the business to win and they ultimately failed to turn that season into a playoff berth. No team has more hype surrounding them this season than the young Bucs, who can thank both HBO and their big offseason moves for all the interest rightfully surrounding their camp. This talented squad will go as far as Jameis Winston will lead them. I look at Jameis the same way I look at Kanye West (post-Graduation). He could give you an amazing 58 minute performance, got you ready to crown the boy a genius in front of the entire world. But just when we think we got the culture in the bag, he goes on a “the-Earth-is-flat” rant and fucks up the last two minutes for everybody. We need 2017 Jameis to be poised and risk-averse…or folks will soon dub him the False Prophet.

Carolina – probably the biggest disappointment from 2016. The Panthers responded to their Superbowl loss the year before by going 6-10 last season, including a four-game losing streak early in the year that deaded their chances out the gate. But this year, Cam Newton appears to be healthy and dressed to impress even himself. He’ll get support from draft pick Christian McCaffrey who is heralded as the second coming of the Great White Hope, and their veteran defense should be bolstered by the return of Julius Peppers. But they’ll have a tough time winning their division with the upstart Bucs and the already-proven Falcons in their way

Houston – How could 2016 be an L for a team that won their division AND won a playoff game?  I’ll tell you how. Because they very well could have been a SUPERBOWL team had it not been for the $72 million mistake they had at quarterback. But I’m not here to bring up old shit. The Texans have Tom Savage calling shots now and he will eventually lose his job to draft pick DeShaun Watson at some point in the season, depending on how quickly he can come of age. Watson gives this team a dynamic and versatile option that it lacked last season. Not to mention, they have arguably the best player in football, pound-for-pound, returning to their already talented defense. Houston is built for January football. If they can play better away from NRG Stadium in 2017, we will see them there.

 

Welp, that’s all we got folks. Please don’t treat these categories as season predictions. I don’t want any of you coming back on here in Week 12 talking ‘bout “ohhh look, you were wrong. The Jets won 3 games instead of 2.” This was written way before so-and-so got hurt and way before what’s-his-name got suspended. And just like with DemThrones, we fully expect one of these front-running teams to either get stabbed in the back or burned at the stake – and for one of the underdog teams to emerge from the ashes to become lord of whatever division they claim. See you at kickoff!