Updated: Sep 12, 2019
By Ari Eizen and Mayer Fink
Football is officially back, as the 100th season of the National Football League begins. Here at MacsLive, we have provided a preview of every team in the NFL. Included are looks at the bright spots and weak points of each team, as well as a peek at how each squad’s schedule will affect their final record. Check out these predictions, as well as a forecast of how the playoffs will turn out, our pick for Super Bowl LIV Champion, and a look at who will win each of the major awards. It’s been 216 days since Super Bowl LIII. Who’s ready for some football!
Roster Rundown: Buffalo has been rumored to be a destination that nobody wants to head to. A recent case for that is Antonio Brown’s threatening to retire if he was traded there. That being said, the Bills have put together a strong roster through free agency and this past season’s draft. There are two rookies on the Bills who may make or break their season: defensive tackle Ed Oliver and running back Devin Singletary.
The player to watch on this team is sophomore quarterback Josh Allen. Allen showed flashes last year, and demonstrated that he can be one of the most unstoppable quarterbacks in the NFL. He has also shown an inconsistent side; he is often inaccurate and tends to make poor decisions. Many are expecting a major jump from Allen this year; if it happens, the Bills will likely be a playoff team. Aside from him, the Bills have a mediocre roster; nobody stands out in the receiving corps, there are no pro-bowlers on the O-line, and their running game doesn’t look like it will produce a 1000-yard rusher.
The Buffalo defense was probably the most underrated unit in the NFL last season. They played well, but were overshadowed by a terrible offense, and more specifically Nathan Peterman. 2018 top pick Tremaine Edmunds improved incredibly as the season went on, and appears to be one of the best defenders on the Bills this year. The key thing to watch out for is their secondary; it’s very top-heavy with Micah Hyde, Tre'Davious White and Levi Wallace. Depth is lacking behind these players; if any of them gets injured, we will see a major production drop-off.
Schedule Prediction: The Bills are in an interesting situation. They have many games on their schedule that can go either way. These games include the Ravens and Eagles in Orchard Park, and the Steelers, Browns, Titans, and Cowboys on the road. In all likelihood, they will need to take advantage of the in-division punching bag in Miami. Buffalo will also play the Jets in week one, a game which may determine the second best team in the AFC East. If the Bills overachieve, they will have a 10 win season, and Bills mafia will be looking at a playoff berth. If they underachieve, we’ll be looking at a 7 win season, and head coach Sean McDermott may be out of a job. Expect something in the middle, an 8-8 or 9-7 campaign.
Roster Rundown: I was going to write about how the Dolphins cleared house this off-season. That would be before last week. Now to say that the Dolphins are holding a fire sale is an understatement. They traded away Laremy Tunsil and Kiko Alonso this past week as moves to clear cap space and load up on draft picks. Despite head coach Brian Flores denying the possibility of “tanking”, it’s clear that the Dolphins aren’t trying to win this year.
The week one starter is Ryan Fitzpatrick. In Fitz’s career, he has had a game where he threw for six touchdowns and zero interceptions, and a game with zero touchdowns and six interceptions. Fitzpatrick will have a few games were he performs great, but at the end of the day he won’t win many games. Both Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake are solid running backs, but they will have to run behind an offensive line that just shipped away their best blocker in Tunsil. The Dolphins don’t have a clear number one receiver. I think we can admit at this point that former first round pick DeVante Parker is a bust.
Besides for Xavien Howard and Reshad Jones in the secondary, the defense isn’t good. If their defensive line draft selections in Christian Wilkins and Jonathan Ledbetter work out, we could start to see a new core being built in Miami. However, the lack of talent is simply part of the house cleaning that the Dolphins have been doing. There is no longer Kiko Alonso, no Robert Quinn, no Cameron Wake.
Schedule Prediction: As mentioned above, the Dolphins’ off-season moves prove that they aren’t trying to win this year. They may win two games within the division, but at this point that might even be a stretch. They can also beat the Colts, Bengals and Giants, but they don’t look better than any of these teams. It’s also noteworthy that the Dolphins will probably go through either a quarterback rotation between Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick, or a full switch to Rosen at some point this season, should they continue to lose. They are more likely to end up with the number one pick and two to four total wins than they are to make the playoffs.
New England Patriots
Roster Rundown: When it comes to the Patriots roster, the start and end is Tom Brady. The one constant in the Patriots’ dynasty has been TB12, who is the greatest quarterback the game has ever seen. A quick look at the rest of the offense reveals depth at every position. The running back personnel looks strong with Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead; fullback James Develin has been critical as a blocker in the past. The receiving corps will not have first round pick N’Keal Harry due to injury, but they were able to bring back Josh Gordon. They also brought in Demaryius Thomas and, in a late-breaking development, the man who has participated in six consecutive Pro Bowls, Antonio Brown. The one team that already had so many weapons just got one of the most skilled wide receivers of our generation for pennies on the dollar. When taking into account the aforementioned players, and considering the fact that Julian Edelman will be returning after a four week suspension, it’ll be hard not to see Brady and Co. breaking some records this year.
The offensive line also has depth; Russell Bodine was acquired from Buffalo. The only weakness on offense is the tight end unit; since Rob Gronkowski’s retirement in March, the Patriots have not really addressed the need to replace him.
The same depth can be said for the defense. The noteworthy players on this Pats crew are All-Pro corner Stephon Gilmore and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Gilmore took out numerous number one receivers down the stretch in last year’s Super Bowl run. Hightower is the piece on defense who makes everything work; the Patriots have been shown to play significantly worse without him in games.
Schedule Prediction: The Patriots have a rather easy schedule. Even though the division may be stronger this season, they are still the heavy favorites in the AFC East. They do play some tough games against the Ravens, Texans, and Eagles on the road, and have to face the Browns, Steelers, Chiefs and Cowboys at home. That being said, it looks like they can roll through their schedule and finish the season with 12 or even 13 wins in the regular season. Expect the Patriots to earn a bye in the playoffs, which would give them a bye in every season of this decade.
New York Jets
Roster Rundown: The Jets made it clear that they wanted to add talent this off-season. They were able to land a few stars in All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell, imposing linebacker C.J. Mosley, and stud D-lineman Quinnen Williams, the third overall pick in the draft. The new coaching staff brings both its positives and negatives. Head coach Adam Gase has been known as an offensive mastermind who can fix quarterbacks. However, he was rumored to have lost the locker room when he was in Miami, and is already having issues with Bell. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is also deserving of praise, but is instead linked to Bountygate from when he was with the New Orleans Saints a few years back.
Sam Darnold is now entering his sophomore season. After a year full of promise and rookie mistakes, we’ll see if he can do what no Jets quarterback since Mark Sanchez has done: lead the Jets to the playoffs. Bell should take a lot of pressure off of Darnold, as the offense is expected to be run-heavy. The offensive line appears stronger this year following the acquisition of Kelechi Osemele. Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa are nice pieces, but their success will be very dependent on Sam Darnold’s performance.
The defense’s strength is probably on the line, which is led by veteran Leonard Williams. The Jets also have Jamal Adams, who has emerged as one of the best safeties in the game. The key for the Jets on defense is to stay on the field. This team has at least one pro-bowler at every position, but besides for the defensive line they don’t have the depth to overcome an injury.
Schedule Prediction: The Jets got hit with a tough schedule. To begin, they have a week four bye, which is extremely annoying. They also play the Patriots twice within the first seven weeks, with the Eagles and Cowboys sandwiched in between. After this rough stretch they may be too far behind to feel relevant; they could end up throwing in the towel and tanking the season. A good stretch early in the year will set the Jets up for a possible run at the playoffs. It looks like they can finish strong, as they play the Dolphins, Giants, Raiders and Bengals during weeks 9-14. I can see the Jets finishing with as many as 8 wins, but if things go wrong early they will probably end up closer to 4 wins.
Roster Rundown: John Harbaugh made a move last season that may have kept his coaching job. Down the stretch, he decided to go with rookie Lamar Jackson at quarterback instead of Joe Flacco. That bold move helped the Ravens to their first division title since 2012.
The Ravens are one of the more unpredictable offenses in the AFC, and that’s solely because of Lamar Jackson. Jackson was one of the more exciting quarterbacks in the NFL last season, but he was more of a running threat than a throwing threat. To succeed in the NFL, Jackson will need to prove that he can throw just as well as anyone. The unpredictability of the offense helps Jackson; they have many different plays which can develop out of similar formations. One option is to run the ball with Mark Ingram or Gus Edwards. A second possibility is that Jackson keeps the ball and runs with it. A third option is to pass the ball to wideouts like Marquise Brown (2019 1st round pick) and Willie Snead, or tight ends such as Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has brought the RPO (run-pass option) to a new level. The O-line may be the primary strength on offense; it is led by Marshal Yanda, their reliable right guard.
The defense is what is going to put the Ravens in the playoffs. Despite losing key veterans Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith, the Baltimore defense looks to return to the power that it was last season. Their primary strength may actually be the secondary; the Ravens don’t have a weakness at any of the secondary positions, and with the acquisition of safety Earl Thomas, they will be a tough team to throw on. The group of linebackers may be a question after the departures of Suggs, Mosley and Smith, but expect Patrick Onwuasor to fill the void in the middle. The defensive line is top heavy, led by Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce.
Schedule Prediction: Against the same opponents which the Steelers and Browns will play at home, the Ravens have to go on the road to play. This means that they play @ Kansas City (week 3), @ Seattle (week 7) and @ the Rams (week 12), all of which are going to be tough games. They do get the Patriots at home following a bye week, so that is a potential upset. They follow that game by playing the Bengals, so they can potentially find themselves in a hot streak during the second half of the season. The last two games on their schedule are against the Browns and Steelers, which will probably determine whether they are a playoff team or not. Even though the schedule doesn’t give them much breaks, expect the Ravens to win 10 or 11 games and make the playoffs.
Roster Rundown: This team was a mess at the end of last season. Their roster was injured and underachieving. The Bengals finally decided to make a change. Marvin Lewis was sent packing, and Zac Taylor was brought in to fill the head coaching vacancy. Taylor was the quarterbacks coach under Sean McVay last season.
This is a pivotal year for Andy Dalton. Should he disappoint this season, he will likely be replaced by a rookie in the near future. The new and improved offense should help him; the running game should be strong. It is led by Joe Mixon, with Giovani Bernard and Samaje Perine serving as backups. The receiving corps took a hit last season when A.J. Green went down to injury; he starts this season on the sideline again. Now in his third season, it’s almost time to declare John Ross a bust; this is his last chance to prove the haters wrong. In the past, no receivers on the roster have emerged with Green hurt. The O-line is good, but not great; the Bengals hope that rookie guard Michael Jordan (not basketball) can be the glue that binds it together.
The defense is past its prime. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are still good, but both are in their thirties. Dre Kirkpatrick is still a solid player, but has seen better days. They finally let go of Vontaze Burfict after years of illegal hits and PED use, which added up to many fines and multiple suspensions. However, that's only part of the rebuilding process in Cincinnati. They have drafted some key starters in Carl Lawson, Jessie Bates, and Will Jackson, but it's clear that the Bengals have done a poor job in recent years when attempting to build a young defense.
Schedule Prediction: Being that the Bengals don't look like such a good team, it’s hard to see them winning many games. Maybe they’ll beat the Cardinals at home? Maybe they’ll take one or two games in the division? Maybe they’ll beat the Raiders or Dolphins? Right now I wouldn’t be optimistic if I were a Bengals fan. They are on track to finish last in their division, and are staring at a top five draft pick. They’ll probably finish with between 3 and 5 wins.
Roster Rundown: There’s more hope than ever for Cleveland fans. After winning five of their last seven games to cap off the 2018 season, the Browns went out and made moves which show that they are ready to contend. They traded for Odell Beckham and Olivier Vernon, and signed Sheldon Richardson. It’s clear that they are trying to win more than just the division. The Browns hope to pull off one of the greatest turnarounds in history: from 0-16 in 2017 to Super Bowl Champions.
The offense obviously runs through Baker Mayfield. Being the number one pick in 2018, Mayfield showed that he can lead the Browns somewhere they haven’t been since 2002: the playoffs. He’ll have an emerging star beside him in second-year running back Nick Chubb, who is expected to be a 1000-yard rusher this year. Kareem Hunt should contribute as well, but not until he serves his 8-game suspension. The receiving corps looks to be one of the best in the league after the trade for Beckham, who joins his former LSU Tigers teammate, Jarvis Landry. The offensive line will have to deal with the loss of Kevin Zeitler, but should still be a good unit; they are led by left tackle Joel Bitonio.
The defense’s fate will be determined by the secondary. As of now it is their weakest link. The key player to watch is rookie Greedy Williams. If he can be a lockdown corner, Cleveland will have an excellent one-two punch with him and Denzel Ward at cornerback; if he can’t play in the pros, then the Browns will be an easy team to throw on. While the secondary has its questions, their front seven may be the best in the NFL. Led by Myles Garrett and Joe Schobert, as well as the signings of Richardson and Vernon, it’s clear that the Browns have built a force, especially in the pass rush.
Schedule Prediction: Two games will be a good test to see where the Browns lie in the pecking order of the AFC: week two @ the Jets, and week 10 vs. the Bills. Cleveland gets very lucky in one facet of their schedule: they play five of their last seven games against their own division. Therefore, the Browns can determine their own fate in the final stretch. Cleveland appears set to have one of their best seasons in a long time. Expect them to win 9 or even 11 games this year, possibly make the playoffs, and perhaps win the division.
Roster Rundown: The Steelers are entering a new phase, having cleared out star players Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Due to this, the Steelers roster doesn’t look nearly as good as it has in recent times. Ben Roethlisberger is still the quarterback and undeniable captain of the Steelers; he brings stability to an organization that had a dramatic off-season. The new backfield will be the duo of James Connor and Jaylen Samuels, who took over last year when Bell sat out; because they are running behind a strong offensive line led by pro-bowlers David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey, they should have success. Juju Smith-Schuster is going to have to have a breakout year should the Steelers want to fill the void left by Brown.
Pittsburgh has solid players throughout the defense. Last year’s unit was one of the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL, and the front seven got better in the off-season, when the Steelers traded up in the draft to grab linebacker Devin Bush. It will be fascinating to see if Bush can help in providing the run defense which the Steelers need.
Schedule Prediction: The Steelers have an average schedule, which makes sense, as they are an average team. One could say that they got helped by the schedule makers in that they are hosting Seattle and the Rams, and get to face the Andrew Luck-less Colts. At the end of the season, what is going to define the Steelers season is how they play within their division. They will most likely go 3-3 against the division, which would give them a record around the .500 mark.
Roster Rundown: In retrospect, it would have been nice to see more out of the Texans last year. They had an excellent regular season, and came into the playoffs as a 3 seed, but it was all for naught, as they were beaten by the Colts in the first round.
Deshaun Watson has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. His production is through the roof, despite the fact that he has to deal with a terrible offensive line. In the off-season, the Texans realized that it was time to address the issue, so they traded two first round picks for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. It’s clear that the Texans have a team built to win now, with multiple key players in their prime. One of those players is the unguardable DeAndre Hopkins, who has become one of the best—if not the best—receivers in the game. The running game is going to be a major question mark this year, as starter Lamar Miller went down with a torn ACL in preseason. It would make sense for the Texans to trade for Melvin Gordon, but it appears that the asking price is too high for them.
The defense is led by J.J. Watt. If he plays the whole season, he will finish as one of the top defensive players in 2019. Unfortunately, he has missed numerous games in two of the last three seasons; hopefully that’s not the case this year. The defense will have to make up for the loss of Jadeveon Clowney, who was traded after a long holdout. The defense does have depth, but they won’t wow anyone. They probably won’t lead the league in turnovers or scoring, and besides for JJ Watt, they may not have anyone who gets to 10 sacks. Expect the Texans defense to be solid, and with a good offense which can get the job done, that is all it needs to be.
Schedule Prediction: The Texans literally play two schedules: one before their bye week and one after. Before the bye, they have to play the @ New Orleans, @ the Chargers, @ Kansas City, and go to London to face the Jaguars, which is always rough, regardless of the opponent. In the second half of the season they play the Broncos and Buccaneers, and also play the Titans twice in the last three weeks. Look for the Texans to capitalize on the back end of their schedule; I expect them to win the division and pick up 10 or 11 victories along the way.
Roster Rundown: The off-season was going great for the Colts, until Andrew Luck opted to retire. This was a team that was being picked as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Now, without their franchise QB, they look like a cellar team that is staring at a top pick in the upcoming draft.
All eyes are on Jacoby Brissett. He was drafted by the Patriots in 2016, but only got to start two games before being traded away to the Colts. He picked up the starting job in a lost 2017 season when Luck injured his shoulder, and the Colts finished 4-12. Frank Reich is putting his offensive genius to the test with Brissett; if he fails, they may search for a quarterback this off-season. All the pieces are there in this offense for Brissett to succeed. The running game isn’t great, but the duo of Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines is good enough. The receiving corps is led by the always reliable T.Y. Hilton. Tight end Eric Ebron had a breakout season last year, so Colts fans hope that he can keep the momentum going. The offensive line has improved rapidly over the past few years; one player of note is star guard Quenton Nelson, who was drafted in 2018.
Last season, the defense played better in the second half, partially because the offense was rolling. Linebacker Darius Leonard appears to be the future leader of the defense, and is a strong piece to build around. The Colts drafted multiple defenders in this past draft; expect them to continue improving as a result.
Schedule Prediction: The Colts' schedule doesn’t seem very demanding. This could lead to a surprise season if Brissett plays better than expected. I wouldn’t count on that, however, which unfortunately for the Colts would result in a bad year. I see them beating teams like the Raiders and Dolphins; I also see them winning one or two games in the division. At the end of the day, it looks like Indy will have a 5-11 kind of season. Losing Andrew Luck is something that is hard to rebound from; the 2017 season is the case in point. The roster has improved greatly since 2017, but without Luck the Colts appear doomed in 2019.
Roster Rundown: 2018 was a wake up call for the Jaguars. After making the AFC championship game in 2017, and starting 2-0, they fell apart, and finished last in the division. The Jaguars also had to accept the fact that Blake Bortles was not the answer at quarterback. How did they resolve this issue? Enter Nick Foles, Super Bowl champion with the Eagles. Foles has shown his magic in Philly, but has done so primarily in the playoffs, and not the regular season. The Jaguars will hope for a rebound year from Leonard Fournette. It’s clear that the recipe for success for Jacksonville is the ground game, and Fournette needs to play a full season for that to happen. Jacksonville doesn’t have any standout receivers, but have depth at the position, which gives Foles enough weapons to work with. The O-line will need to play better this year. A major factor in the line’s success is left tackle Cam Robinson, who missed all but two games last season with a torn ACL.
The defense went through a total reboot. They let go of key defenders who were part of the 2017 playoff run, including Tashaun Gipson, Barry Church, Dante Fowler and Malik Jackson. The D-line still has Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, who will lead the group dubbed “Sacksonville” two years ago. Josh Allen falls into a perfect situation, where he can get plenty of favorable pass rushing match-ups due to the presence of Campbell and Ngakoue on the line. Telvin Smith, one of the best middle linebackers in the league, is stepping away for the season; the Jaguars will feel this blow. Myles Jack will need to step up big this year; he’s shown that he can in the past. Jalen Ramsey might be the best cover corner in the NFL. He can take out any number one receiver in the NFL, and when he is on his game the Jacksonville defense becomes one of the best in the league.
Schedule Prediction: The Jaguars open up against the Chiefs and Texans in their first two games. The schedule gets easier after that, but circle the calendar for week six vs. the Saints. Michael Thomas will be matched up against Jalen Ramsey; possibly the best receiver in the league will be facing the man who claims he is the best cornerback. After a trip to London in week 9, a lighter back end of the schedule begins; they play the Colts twice, as well as the Buccaneers and Raiders. It looks like the Jaguars will finish with a record somewhere between last season’s 5-11 and 2017’s 10-6. Expect the team of Duval to finish 9-7 or 8-8.
Roster Rundown: In recent years, the Titans have been very consistent; they have not great or bad, but average. Marcus Mariota is the embodiment of consistency, as he hasn’t played to the point where he is fighting to remain a starter, but hasn’t shown any flashes of brilliance, either. Last season, many thought Derrick Henry would be replaced, but towards the end of the year he played on a completely different level, and single-handedly dominated defenses. The Titans will have to figure out how to play without Taylor Lewan; he is suspended for the first four games. The rest of the O-line is good, and the newly signed Rodger Saffold will be of great assistance, but Lewan is one of the best in the game, and the Titans need him to have an effective offense. Corey Davis became Marcus Mariota’s number one target last season; the Titans will be getting back star tight end Delanie Walker, which strengthens the passing game.
The defense has a very similar story to the offense: there’s depth across the board, with some players that stand out. Players of note include defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, cornerback Malcolm Butler and safety Kevin Byard. Overall, the defense doesn’t have any notable weaknesses; it’s a strong personnel that will finish in the top ten this year.
Schedule Prediction: The Titans have an interesting schedule, where they don’t get any breaks, but also don’t play many tough games. They do have to finish the season by going up against the Texans in weeks 15 and 17 and the Saints in week 16, which is going to be rough. Expect the Titans to finish around the .500 mark, which seems appropriate for them.
Roster Rundown: The Denver Broncos are a team that is in full rebuild on offense. Joe Flacco will be taking over as the starting quarterback, and second-round draft pick Drew Lock will be learning from him on the sideline. Breakout rookies in 2018, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, will be in the backfield, and both will be looking to build on last year’s success. Outside of Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos lack depth in the receiving game, so don’t expect much from their air attack this year.
On defense, Denver still has big names all over the field. Derek Wolfe is going to be a disruptor on the defensive line. Superstar Von Miller and his partner Bradley Chubb look to put themselves in the conversation for best linebacker duo in the NFL. Chris Harris and Kareem Jackson will both be on their top game to help lead the Broncos’ secondary.
Schedule Prediction: This season will not be an easy one for the Mile High fans. Ever since winning the Super Bowl three years ago, Denver has experienced a very deep decline, and its looks like they will struggle again this year. Their division is not easy, and they also have to play a tough NFC North. I expect them to win between 4 and 6 games this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
Roster Rundown: The Kansas City Chiefs have what could be one of the best offenses in the history of the sport. Patrick Mahomes is the real deal, and is looking to build on his 2018 MVP season. Their running back group looks like it can be one of the best in the NFL. In addition to recent signing LeSean McCoy, they have Damien Williams and rookie Darwin Thompson. The KC receiving corps is also top notch, with speedster Tyreek Hill, deep threat Sammy Watkins, and the best tight end in football in Travis Kelce. On top of all of that, they have one of the league's best offensive lines. The Chiefs’ offense is going to be really fun to watch, regardless of which team you are a fan of. Come January, this squad could very possibly be holding the record for most points scored in a single season.
On the defensive line, newly acquired DE Frank Clark will lead the unit with his elite speed and power, and Chris Jones will be a monster again in the middle. Outside of that, there could be some issues brewing for the Chiefs. They don’t have any surefire playmaking linebackers, since they traded Dee Ford to the 49ers. When it comes to the secondary, their cornerbacks don’t look too strong, and they will likely give up a lot of points to their opponents. But this defense does not have to be elite to carry the team. It just has to be average.
Schedule Prediction: Get used to watching the Chiefs, because you will probably be watching them in January. This offense is just too good for KC not to do major damage. Mahomes may not throw for 50 touchdowns again, but he’s going to throw a lot. Those running backs are going to come at defenses in so many different ways. If the defense can be average, we’re looking at a team that should be one of the four squads playing in a conference championship. Expect the high-flying Chiefs to win between 11 and 13 games.
Los Angeles Chargers
Roster Rundown: The one thing Chargers fans are praying for is that the injury bug does not bite them this year. They lost some of their best players to it in 2018, but hopefully safety Derwin James will be the only casualty to injuries this season. With that being said, this Chargers team looks ready to make a deep playoff run. Philip Rivers is back and will be playing at his top competitive level, as usual. As long as they stay healthy, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry are all legitimate threats in the passing game. Even with Melvin Gordon probably never wearing a Bolts jersey ever again, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are ready to pick up the slack and lead the running game. Their subpar offensive line may be an issue, but it has not stopped them in the past.
Despite losing James for at least the first half of the season, this Chargers defense is still stacked. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram lead a deep, talented group of defensive ends who will be causing issues for offenses all year. Thomas Davis will lead the LA linebackers, but does not have much experience around him. Casey Hayward is going to be the leader of the secondary until the return of James. Expect this defense to be above average, but not on an elite level.
Schedule Prediction: The Chargers have a team built to make a run in the playoffs. Their offense is one of the best in the NFL, and even without Derwin James, they have a good defense. LA has some easy games on their schedule, so they will get some help in that aspect. When January comes, expect the Chargers to have 10 to 12 wins.
Roster Rundown: Jon Gruden will hope to bring the Oakland Raiders from Hard Knocks stars to winners on the field. Derek Carr is going to have to prove himself sometime soon, because not many people believe in him right now. RB Josh Jacobs may be able to help relieve some of the pressure from Carr, since he has been attacked in recent times behind the god-awful Oakland offensive line.
Now it is time to address the exciting part of the Raiders offense. The whole Antonio Brown saga has been a great ride for everyone not involved. The Raiders traded two draft picks for the star receiver in the offseason, and expected Brown to contribute majorly. It’s safe to say that the Raiders did not get what they expected. Three fines, multiple temper tantrums and one fight with GM Mike Mayock later, Antonio Brown will never see the football field in the silver and black, as he was released by the Raiders. Essentially, the Raiders traded two draft picks for nothing. Now, the Raiders are left with J.J. Nelson and speedster Tyrell Williams as their starting receivers. How will the offense compete in-game? That’s a great question that no one has the answer to, but one can only assume that it will not perform nearly as well as it would have with Brown on the field.
The Raiders defense is full of projects. Veteran Johnathan Hankins will look to teach youngsters Maurice Hurst and Corey Liuget the ropes and lead them to success. Clelin Ferrell will try to show that he can be a major force like he was at Clemson. After the interesting move to cut Brandon Marshall, the Raiders are left with Vontaze Burfict, Nicholas Morrow, and Tahir Whitehead as their starting linebackers. The Oakland secondary is full of young, unproven players, and will probably be dismantled by opposing receivers.
Schedule Prediction: Oakland fans are not going to be happy after this season. Despite trading for Antonio Brown, the Raiders will never see what could have been, being that he is no longer on the team. Oakland has some easy matchups on their schedule, so they will probably win a couple more games than they should. I’d expect the Raiders to be victorious 3 to 5 times his year. Las Vegas, here we come?
Roster Rundown: When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, the Dallas Cowboys have a roster built to go far in the playoffs. Dak Prescott is an above average QB who should be able to lead this team into the postseason. Even though he has some issues, he has been one of the more clutch quarterbacks in the 4th quarter since being drafted in 2016. He is 9-1 in games that were tied in the 4th quarter, and has a 150.5 QBR in those situations. Since the statistic was created, Prescott leads the league in career passer rating when tied or trailing by eight points or fewer in the fourth quarter or overtime. He has weapons like Amari Cooper, potential breakout player Michael Gallup, and Jason Witten to help the receiving game. But let’s not forget about the beast behind Dak. Having signed a mega-deal right before the season is set to start, Ezekiel Elliott is here to prove to everyone that he was worth the contract which makes him the highest paid running back in the NFL. Zeke is behind one of the league’s best O-lines; expect Elliott to run all over every defense put in front of him.