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NFL Expectations Reach The Stratosphere

This week, we’re taking a deep dive into the NFL. The first game is Thursday, so this is our last chance to roast some strong takes before we find out, for instance, whether the New Orleans Saints are any good without Drew Brees, or if Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens can play up to their on-paper potential, or if Tom Brady will finally relinquish that ring he discovered in a cave and find that age will catch up to him. Our model again likes the Bucs and the Chiefs’ chances this year, but there are still interesting questions and fun drama playing out, especially around the crop of new young quarterbacks entering the league.

It might be to the Patriots’ benefit that they’ve settled early on Mac Jones, as we live in an age when young quarterbacks are both expected to be productive earlier on and tend to live up to those expectations. But it also seems like the Niners can’t lose by slowly having Trey Lance settle into Kyle Shanahan’s offense. To put our predictions to the test, we draft a complement of NFL teams for each host, and we’ll be tracking whose teams score the most total wins over the course of the season. Some picks were made for empirically strategic reasons, and some were made for emotionally strategic reasons, so we’ll see who triumphs in the end. 

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Sara talks about the WNBA’s 25th anniversary and the recent list put out by the WNBA itself of the top 25 players in its history. It features 10 current players like Sue Bird and Tina Charles, as well as 15 stalwarts from the WNBA’s past like Lisa Leslie and Cynthia Cooper. Sara shares which players just missed the list in terms of win shares and which current players will almost certainly make the WNBA’s W50 list (A’ja Wilson). But it is worth celebrating the early pioneers in the league, as players like Cynthia Cooper did not get to play as much of their career in the WNBA but made it possible for so many others to do so. 

What we’re looking at this week: 

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.