Barber: Khalil Mack, Hue Jackson, Garoppolo and other NFL predictions!

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I watched a football game last Thursday night. It was a real NFL game, with real NFL players whose names were familiar to me. It wasn’t a great game, but it was NFL football, and it served the purpose of a triangle dinner bell, calling us all home for sustenance.

The 49ers get their feet wet today, the Raiders on Monday night, and away we go, plunging headlong into another wild, gripping, calamitous campaign. To mark the occasion, here are a few predictions for the 2018 NFL season:

* The NFL will continue to be a political hot potato. Some fans will announce personal boycotts because the players don’t respect the flag, others because the league respects the flag more than the players, others because of the horrors of head trauma. New outrages, and hashtags, will emerge. The NFL will be condemned because it is #UnfairToLatvianKickers and because the league’s collective uniforms #NeedMorePurple. By Week 11, 93 percent of Americans will have signed petitions to disband the NFL. And TV ratings will be through the roof. NFL games will claim 19 of the 20 top-rated shows of the fall. Only Donald Trump’s exclusive Fox News special, “I Didn’t Collude With the Russians, but If I Did, This Is How I’d Have Done It” will break the stranglehold.

* Despite an attempt at clarification by the NFL’s Competition Committee, the question “What Is a Catch?” will continue to vex football fans in 2018. It will be joined by “What Is a Legal Hit?,” “What Is a Fumble?” and “What Is a Platypus?”

* The Minnesota Vikings will beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in Super Bowl 53. Neither the 49ers nor the Raiders will make the postseason, though the Niners will have at least a .500 record.

* As always, quarterbacks will suffer the consequences of a long and violent season, and will give way to other, less talented (or less proven) quarterbacks. By December, several NFL teams will be piloted by practice-squad graduates, Canadian Football League rejects and 45-year-olds coaxed out of retirement. The Buffalo Bills’ quarterback will be a bear riding a unicycle. But Colin Kaepernick will not have a contract.

* New Bears defensive star Khalil Mack will have more sacks than the entire Oakland defensive line. Meanwhile, Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper will casually mention to a reporter that “pretty soon we’ll need to start thinking about a new contract,” and will immediately be shipped to Tampa Bay for first- and third-round draft choices.

* Your fantasy team will suck.

* Jon Gruden and Jimmy Garoppolo will accidentally meet at a gas station in Fremont and a wormhole will open in the earth’s electromagnetic field. Machines will glitch all over the world and clocks will stop for several seconds. When normalcy resumes, every adult on the planet will own a Bose coach’s radio headset and will be dating a porn star.

* By early October, “run-pass option” will have replaced “recovery point objective” and “recruitment process outsourcing” as the No. 1 search result when you Google “RPO.”

* The Detroit-Dallas game in Week 4 will be indefinitely postponed when Golden Tate scores a fourth-quarter touchdown and the Lions celebrate in the end zone with an hours-long interpretation of the assembly-line manufacture of the first Model T and the ensuing tensions between labor and capital.

* A local Bay Area sports radio show will devote 90 minutes to the topic “Is it time for the 49ers to start C.J. Beathard?” when SF begins the season 1-3 after tough road games in Minnesota, Kansas City and Los Angeles (against the Chargers).

* Houston defensive end J.J. Watt will play four dominant games before his left arm spontaneously falls off. He will then play two more games before ending his season on the Texans’ injured reserve.

* CBS play-by-play man Kenny Albert will step down midseason, becoming the first broadcaster to lose his job over a poor grade from Pro Football Focus. Albert will apologize for the 38.7 mark PFF gave him for his lackluster promotions of “The Big Bang Theory.”

* The Raiders, scheduled to open their Las Vegas site in 2020, will reach agreement with the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority to play the 2019 season in the Coliseum after a fruitless search to find a temporary stadium that features a dirt baseball diamond.

* Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, barred from their locker rooms by ticked-off teammates, will pool money to build a two-locker facility (with shower and Jacuzzi) halfway between them, somewhere in South Dakota.

* Philadelphia QB Nick Foles will lead the NFL in receiving by the time Carson Wentz returns from his ACL injury.

*Tom Brady will pass for 3,500 yards, Frank Gore will run for 900 and Adam Vinatieri will make 92 percent of his field-goal attempts. Oops, I mistakenly leaked some of my 2022 predictions!

* Quarterback Philip Rivers will attain legendary status when he ducks into the Chargers’ blue pop-up medical tent in Week 9 and is never seen again.

* Bill Belichick will stun the football world by announcing his retirement following the Patriots’ loss in the AFC championship game, and will immediately be replaced by Alex Guerrero, Tom Brady’s personal trainer. Guerrero will step down a week later when he is linked to a controversial reiki-and-cupping procedure, and will eventually be replaced by Lane Kiffin.

* Like every other sportswriter in America, I predict that I will not revisit these predictions to see how I fared. Unless the Vikings beat the Jaguars in the Super Bowl.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at (707) 521-5263 or Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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