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.
Incredibly, none of the previous nine sentences mentioned the Dallas defense. The Cowboys have a lot of firepower on the line with Demarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn (suspended three games), and many other skilled players. Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch make up one of the most skilled linebacker corps in the NFL. Their secondary is made up of numerous young players who are looking to prove their worth in the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how everything pans out on that front.
Schedule Prediction: The Cowboys have a rough schedule this year. For the first time in franchise history, they do not have a single two-game homestand, but they also are never on the road for more than two in a row. Dallas is a really young and talented team in a two-team division (sorry Giants and Redskins fans, we all know that’s true). They have three very hard road games against the Saints (week 4), defending-champion Patriots (week 12), and Khalil Mack-led Bears (week 14). At home, they’ll have to play against the Rams and Packers, two teams that can never be underestimated. On top of all of that, they still have to play the division rival Eagles twice. A realistic expectation for the Cowboys is to win 8-10 games. Maybe an unimpressive season will finally give the Dallas fans the coaching change so many of them have been asking for?
New York Giants
Roster Rundown: The New York Giants are a team with very low expectations this year, and a quick look at their roster reveals that the above statement is not so shocking. Eli Manning vs. Daniel Jones will be a major talking point for the whole year, since the degressing veteran can lose his job at any point this season to the rookie. Saquon Barkley is an absolute stud, and is already being touted as the best RB in the NFL in just his second season. At wideout, Golden Tate is suspended for the first four games, and is out of his prime; Sterling Shepard looks to be like the only legitimate receiver on the roster for now. Evan Engram will be a very solid tight end, and is expected to be one of the top in the league at that position. The offensive line is built out of young, developing players and veteran Nate Solder. They have the pieces on offense to be a competitive team… in a few years.
The Giants defense is comprised of a bunch of kids with raw talent, who all just have to be given time to evolve into NFL players. On the defensive line, first round draft pick Dexter Lawrence will look to lead a group of young linemen in the trenches. Many of the New York linebackers are new faces to the Giants franchise, while newly acquired Jabrill Peppers and three rookies will join Janoris Jenkins and free agent signing Antoine Bethea in the secondary.
Schedule Prediction: This team has a bright future, but the future is not here yet. Giants fans better be ready for another long, miserable season. Fans may also call into question GM Dave Gettleman's decision to trade the generational talent in wide receiver Odell Beckham in exchange for the 17th pick (becoming Dexter Lawrence). The Giants have to play both the Cowboys and Eagles twice, as well as three potential playoff teams in the NFC North (Packers, Bears, Vikings) and the defending champs Patriots. They should win between 3 and 6 games.
Roster Rundown: The Philadelphia Eagles have reappeared on the list of Super Bowl contenders with what appears to be a healthy Carson Wentz. Wentz will try to return to MVP form, and help bring the Eagles back to the elite level that this roster is built to attain. Wentz will be throwing to a receiving corps which includes Alshon Jeffery, newly signed DeSean Jackson, and one of the best tight ends in football, Zach Ertz. Despite cutting both of their leading rushers from a year ago, Jordan Howard and rookie Miles Sanders will be ready to lead the rushing attack. These running backs’ lives will be made somewhat easier, with the help of one of the best lines in football. That said, both Jason Peters and Brandon Brooks are not far removed from major injuries, so it is very possible that the Eagles will run into offensive line problems if these injuries end up nagging their star players.
Defensively, this team is totally stacked. On the line, Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson and Brandon Graham headline a group of both experienced and young playmakers. Nigel Bradham will lead the inexperienced linebacker corps, and hold the middle of the defense down. Sidney Jones could be the most important player on the Eagles defense. With Ronald Darby holding down the other starting cornerback position and Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod as starting safeties, Jones could be the key to the Eagles having one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
Schedule Prediction: Just like the Redskins, the Eagles have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. That being said, they still have to play the Cowboys twice, as well as the Falcons on the road (Week 2) and a Super Bowl LII rematch against the Patriots in Philly (Week 11). On top of that, they still have to play the whole NFC North, just like the rest of their division. At the end of the season, expect the Eagles to have anywhere from 10-12 wins; they will probably be one of the last eight fighting for a chance to go to Indy.
Roster Rundown: The Redskins started off last season strong, but Alex Smith’s gruesome broken leg injury derailed their season. That injury’s impact will carry over to this year, as the quarterback situation in the nation’s capital has become extremely unstable; Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins have joined. With a very weak receiving corps and Jordan Reed’s inability to consistently stay in the lineup, it looks like the offense is going to run through the loaded backfield of Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Adrian Peterson. However, without All-Pro tackle Trent Williams, it may be hard to find holes to run through.
What many say is the strongest part of the Redskins roster is their defensive line. Led by Jonathan Allen, Ryan Kerrigan and Matt Ioannidis, they will look to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Even with the signing of Landon Collins this off-season, and Josh Norman still playing at an elite level, the Redskins lack any above-average secondary help from the bench, which will be a major weakness.
Schedule Prediction: The Redskins have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, which is very fortunate for a team that will probably win more games than it looks like it should. With that being said, the Redskins are still not a playoff team, but may still be in the hunt come the back-end of the season. However, if things don’t work out early on, expect a mid-season coaching change and a disastrous season. I think it’s going to be a rough season in Washington; the Redskins will win somewhere between 3 and 6 games.
Roster Rundown: The Chicago Bears have expectations that are through the roof this season. Third year quarterback Mitch Trubisky will look to build on his 2018 campaign; Matt Nagy will want to open up the whole playbook to him. He will have some weapons on the outside, as Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton headline the Chicago pass-catchers. Having one of the best offensive lines in the league can be helpful, so expect Tarik Cohen and rookie David Montgomery to run pretty well this year.
It has been just one year since the Bears traded for All-Pro Khalil Mack, and he has not disappointed at all. Along with Mack, the Bears field one of the best—if not the best—front sevens in all of football. Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, and Leonard Floyd make this group a terrifying one; they will apply pressure on every quarterback they play. The Chicago secondary is also top notch; Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson lead that group.
Schedule Prediction: The Bears have one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL, so this year is not going to be an easy one for them. On paper, this team could really contend for something more than a division title. But they have a brutal schedule, including games against the Saints (week 7), Chargers (week 8), Rams (week 11), and Chiefs (week 16), on top of having to face both the Vikings and Packers twice. The expectations are so high; I can’t see the Bears reaching them. At the end of the day, I see Chicago winning 8 or 9 games, just because of how brutal their schedule is. If they had an average schedule, this could be a 10+ win team, but the cards simply did not fall in their favor this year.
Roster Rundown: The Detroit Lions seem to be the team that no one cares about in the NFC North. Matt Patricia inherited a team and coaching staff that does not fit his vision, and is slowly turning over the whole squad. Matthew Stafford has been the franchise quarterback for the past decade, and most likely will be until he retires. Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson will be catching balls from Stafford. Despite having his season cut short by injuries, Kerryon Johnson had a very impressive rookie campaign, and is looking to build on that this year. With new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, expect the Lions to be a run-heavy offense.
On the other side of the ball, newly signed defensive end Trey Flowers will join Damon “Snacks” Harrison and now-sophomore stand-out Da’Shawn Hand as they look to apply pressure to the quarterback, which the Lions have struggled to do in past years. Jarrad Davis is the leader of this defense, but his week 1 status is still up in the air after suffering an ankle injury during the preseason. In the secondary, the Lions have one of the best corners in football in Darius Slay, but the other side of the field seems to be wide open, which has been an ongoing issue over the past few years.
Schedule Prediction: This year is just not going to be the Lions’ year. The three other teams in their division are built to win now; Detroit is slowly rebuilding and will, hopefully, be ready to compete next year or the year after that. The beginning of their schedule is brutal, and they play the Bears, Vikings and Packers in the last five weeks of the season. The Lions will be lucky to top 8 wins, but they should win at least 4. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride in the Motor City this year, and expect many Lions fans to be calling for Patricia to lose his job come Black Monday.
Green Bay Packers
Roster Rundown: Aaron Rodgers finally got a new head coach in Matt LaFleur. Now it’s time for him to prove that he was not the issue in Green Bay, and to bring them back to the promised land. Behind the future Hall of Famer, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are a proven duo that can cause issues for any defense thrown at them. Rodgers will be throwing the ball to a receiving corps led by Davante Adams; Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison are both expected to have breakout years. On top of that, Jimmy Graham is still around, and will always be a red-zone threat. The offensive line is one of the best in the NFL, so Rodgers can sleep well knowing that he won’t be getting pressured too much.
The Packers defense seems to be a little bit unstable right now. The defensive line does not have any major playmakers. They only have four outside linebackers on the roster for now, which is a little bit of a head-scratcher. The Green Bay secondary is a work in progress, as they are still developing their first round draft picks from a year ago, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson.
Schedule Prediction: The NFC North is one of the most difficult divisions to play in. The Vikings and Bears are right there with the Packers in terms of being the best team in the division, and the Lions have swept the Packers in the past two seasons. They do have to face the Cowboys (week 5), Chiefs (week 8), and Chargers (week 9)—all on the road—but outside of that they have a lot of winnable games. When January comes around, the Packers should have 10-12 wins and will be fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Roster Rundown: The Minnesota Vikings came into last season as Super Bowl contenders, but fell very short of those expectations. One person who did not live up to the hype was the then newly-signed quarterback, Kirk Cousins. The spotlight is on him this year, as he will attempt to prove to the Vikings and the rest of the league that he is worth $28 million/year. He’s got a talented supporting cast, with one of the NFL’s top receiving duos in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Even though they don’t have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, sophomore running back Dalvin Cook will be on a path for redemption after tearing his ACL early last year. Watch out for him, because he is a potential candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.
Just like their division counterpart Bears, the Vikings have a defense which is one of the best in the NFL. With Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen in the trenches, the Vikings have a defensive line that will give O-linemen nightmares. With Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, and superstar Anthony Barr right behind them, the Vikings’ front seven is one of the best in the NFL. The secondary is also stacked; Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes are the starting corners, with Harrison Smith behind as the strong safety.
Schedule Prediction: With the expectations for this team being lowered just a notch, the pressure on the Vikings is lower than it was in 2018. They still have a pretty tough schedule, as they play the Eagles (week 6), Chiefs (week 9), Cowboys (week 10), Seahawks (week 13), and Chargers (week 15), on top of the tough division that they are in to start with. They should still contend for the division title, but a wild card berth is more realistic for this squad. Expect them to stay above .500, but more than 10 wins may be stretching it.
Roster Rundown: At 34 years old, franchise quarterback Matt Ryan is still playing at a very high level, and does not appear to be slowing down yet. It doesn’t hurt that he has one of the top pass-catching duos in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, in addition to having Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper, which rounds out to be one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. Following Tevin Coleman’s departure, the backfield is all Devonta Freeman’s. Now that he will be the three-down back and will still be catching balls from the backfield, expect Freeman to be featured in the Falcons’ weekly gameplan.
Last year, the Falcons' defense caught the injury bug, with two top playmakers, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, missing almost the whole season. Takk McKinley is healthy and ready to wreak havoc on opposing linemen; he will line up alongside Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett. Jones will be joined by De’Vondre Campbell and company, as the linebackers look to hold the middle of the field. Desmond Trufant and Neal will lead the secondary in a division that has two of the top wideouts in the game.
Schedule Prediction: Being in the NFC South in not easy right now. The Saints came within minutes of a Super Bowl appearance, the Panthers have Cam Newton and a loaded defense, and the Bucs can be a threat if Jameis Winston is on his game. On top of that, they have to face the Vikings and Eagles to start the year, and then play the Rams and Seahawks back-to-back. All of Atlanta’s division games are after their week 9 bye. This schedule will not be easy, and it can wear out this squad very easily. That being said, the Falcons have made it to the Super Bowl before and, while they probably won’t make it back this year, they still know what it is like to push themselves to their limit. I see the Falcons winning between 8 and 10 games, and perhaps making a bid for a wild card berth.
Roster Rundown: The Carolina Panthers are a team that everyone seems to forget was in the Super Bowl a few years ago. Yes, a lot of their team is different, but they still have a bulk of that core around, in addition to new, young players hungry to win. Cam Newton will always be a threat, but can also be inconsistent and often makes bad decisions. Christian McCaffrey is an absolute stud, and will be active in both the running and passing games. Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore are both speedsters who will be threats along the sidelines, and despite his injury history, you simply cannot forget about Greg Olsen. Yes, he’s been hurt a lot lately, but when healthy he can be one of the best tight ends in football. On top of all of this, their offensive line has been revamped; the big boys are ready to help keep Newton healthy and give McCaffrey the lanes to run all over defenses.
The Carolina front-seven is comprised both of stars and consistent players. Gerald McCoy leads the group up front, and will be creating nonstop pressure. All-Pro Luke Kuechly and Bruce Irvin will lead a very solid group of linebackers. On top of Irvin, Brian Burns and Mario Addison will look to cause problems on the edges. The big concern for the Panthers is their secondary. If this group can hold their ground, the Panthers can surprise a lot of teams and make a push for the playoffs. However, if they cannot keep it together, they will get burned all season long, and the Carolina players will almost certainly be sitting on their couches come January.
Schedule Prediction: The Panthers don’t have an extremely difficult schedule, which does work in their favor. Carolina does start the season versus the NFC defending champs, but after that, they do not have many tough games in the first 9 weeks. However, weeks 10 through 17, outside of a week 13 matchup against the Redskins, are going to be brutal, and a real test for the Panthers. If they manage to win half of those tough games, we’re most likely looking at a playoff team. I think that will not be the case. The Panthers will end the year with between 7 and 9 wins.
New Orleans Saints
Roster Rundown: Coming off of a 2018 season that ended with a controversial loss, the New Orleans Saints are back and ready for vengeance. Now at the age of 40, Drew Brees needs to prove that his drop off at the end of last season was a fluke, and not father time. Luckily for him, he is going to be protected by one of the best offensive lines in football. In addition, he has the talent on the outside to help cover up his quadragenarian status, with Ted Ginn Jr., Jared Cook and others. The biggest help to Brees, however, comes in the form of two-thirds of potentially the best big three in football: Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Throughout his entire career, Thomas has had one(!!!) game with less than four receptions. If you’re looking for consistency in a receiver, Thomas is the model. With Mark Ingram now out of the rotation, Alvin Kamara is set to make the case for why he is the best running back in the NFL. Even if you slow down Kamara a little, he is still a receiving threat. In addition, Latavius Murray can still cause some damage.
On the other side of the football, Cameron Jordan will lead the defensive line, and apply pressure to the quarterback as often as possible. Linebackers A.J. Klein and Demario Davis will both be leaders, and help in both rush and pass defense. In the secondary, Marshon Lattimore and the other starters are going to do a great job, but depth is lacking if an injury or two strikes them.
Schedule Prediction: Expectations have not changed much in the past year, and that’s the right assumption. The Saints are going to start right where they left off, thanks to a relatively easy schedule. In addition to their division matchups, the Saints have to face the Rams and Seahawks back-to-back (weeks 2 and 3) as well as the Bears (week 7); all three of these games are on the road. But outside of that, there are not any games which appear to pose an issue for this team. They are built for a deep playoff push, and should be one of the last four teams remaining for a second straight year. Their record will almost certainly be worse than in 2018, when they won 13 games, but this team could be even better in the games that count. The Saints could win anywhere from 10 to 13 games; an 11-5 finish is the most likely result.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Roster Rundown: Bruce Arians took the Tampa head coaching job because he thinks he can turn around Jameis Winston’s disappointing career, and bring him to the expectations that a number one draft pick should have. He’s got the help on the outside in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard, but Winston’s inconsistent play seems to take away from their value. Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber will both be featured in the run game, so expect good production from at least one of them. Tampa Bay has one of the worst offensive lines in football, so Winston will get pressured all season long. Most likely, the run game will struggle at some points throughout the season.
The Bucs entire defense is full of young players, and if they create cohesion and develop well, they have the potential to be a force to be reckoned with… in a few years. Outside of Ndamukong Suh, there is not much experience on the line. The Bucs do have some promising players in Vita Vea and Shaq Barrett. Lavonte David will look to help show the new linebackers the ropes, while Vernon Hargreaves will lead a group of young cornerbacks and safeties. Expect every team that goes up against the Bucs to put up big passing numbers.
Schedule Prediction: On top of the fact that the Bucs have one of the worst rosters in the league, they do not have an easy schedule. That being said, Tampa always seems to have a few games where they play really well, and get all of their fans hopes up, before going back to dumpster fire status. The Bucs should win 3-5 games this year.
Roster Rundown: After an off-season that included the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury and selecting Kyler Murray first overall, fans are interested to see what the Cardinals have to offer. Murray will have a lot to learn this year, and he will be running around a lot, due to a very bad offensive line. With that being said, he has many weapons, and Kingsbury plans on unleashing all of the bullets in his air raid offense. The ageless Larry Fitzgerald is accompanied by second year receiver Christian Kirk, as well as rookie and potential breakout Andy Isabella. David Johnson is looking to bounce back from a very disappointing season. Regardless of the team’s record at the end of the season, their offense will be very entertaining to watch.
The Cardinals will be without superstar corner Patrick Peterson for the first six games of the year, as he is facing a suspension for PEDs. Outside of Chandler Jones on the defensive line and Terrell Suggs acting as veteran leadership for the linebackers, there is not much talent on Arizona’s defense. Opposing offenses will be happy to see the Cardinals in their schedule; expect them to be trampled throughout the season.
Schedule Prediction: On top of the fact that this roster is pretty bad, the Cardinals have a really difficult schedule. Outside of having to play the Seahawks, Rams and 49ers twice, they have to face the Ravens, Falcons, Saints, and Steelers, as well as other challenging teams. No matter how much they score on offense, the defense will likely give those points right back. It’s going to be a long season in the desert; the Cards will win 4 to 6 games this year.
Los Angeles Rams
Roster Rundown: The defending NFC champs look to rebound from an embarrassing Super Bowl loss with another title run. After signing an expensive extension, Jared Goff is ready to show the doubters that he is the real deal. Goff will be throwing to possibly the best trio of receivers the NFL has: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks. Despite his knee issues, Todd Gurley is still one of the best running backs in the league, and should scare everyone he goes up against. This offense is fully loaded and will be a force to be reckoned with, no matter what defense is thrown at them.
Aaron Donald is from another planet. He is the best defensive player in the NFL, bar none. That said, the rest of the Rams defense is still chock full of talent. Playing opposite Donald, Michael Brockers will be causing issues for opposing O-lines all season long. Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews lead a group of linebackers that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be using all over, in many different defensive sets. The secondary is stacked with top talents, with stars in all four starting roles. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are the starting cornerbacks, and Eric Weddle and Josh Johnson are back as the starting safeties.
Schedule Prediction: The Rams got an extremely fortunate schedule, which provides them with an excellent opportunity to show that a Super Bowl hangover is not in the calling. They have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL and have one of the best rosters in the NFL. I sincerely believe that the Rams will have a great regular season, and win 12 or 13 games; when it comes to the playoffs, they will have to face tougher competition.
San Francisco 49ers
Roster Rundown: The 49ers went into the 2018 NFL season with high expectations, but all of those fell by the wayside when Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL. Now that 2019 is here, those expectations are back, and putting some pressure on this team. Jerick McKinnon needs another surgery on his right knee, so Tevin Coleman will be leading the backfield for the time being. He won’t be getting much help, however, because the 49ers have one of the least impressive offensive lines in the league. The San Francisco wide receivers are all young, and will have to rise to the occasion if they want to be in the playoff hunt come December. George Kittle will still be one of the league's top tight ends, regardless of what happens around him; he’s an up-and-coming star.
On defense, there is a lot of potential all around. Second overall draft pick, Nick Bosa will join a group of studs in DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford and Solomon Thomas. However, the 49ers only left five linebackers on their roster, and their cornerbacks are not coming around yet. There is not much else positive to say about this defense; it is going to be a long year.
Schedule Prediction: Niners fans are not going to have it easy this year. Their roster is still developing, and they don’t have an easy schedule. Simply put, things did not fall into place this season. Outside of having to play both the Rams and Seahawks twice, they have games versus the Steelers (week 3), Packers, Ravens, and Saints (weeks 12-14). Expect the 49ers to win anywhere from 4 to 8 games, depending on how the offense turns out.
Roster Rundown: Pete Carroll is one of the longest tenured head coaches in the NFL, and he has always been able to contend for a playoff spot, no matter what people say about his squad. He has rebuilt on the fly, and has a team loaded with potential. Star quarterback Russell Wilson is in his prime, and as long as he can run he is a hard man to stop, both in the air and on the ground. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny are both ready to make a dent, as they attempt to fill the void that Marshawn Lynch left three years ago. Fan favorite draft pick D.K. Metcalf joins Tyler Lockett in the receivers room, and will try to prove that he is more than just a ripped wide receiver. Metcalf’s health and route running ability are both big question marks that will be followed as the year develops. The offensive line is not outstanding, but having Duane Brown protecting your blindside is a good start for the Seahawks. However, Wilson will likely be scrambling a lot this season.
Having added former number one overall draft pick, Jadeveon Clowney for practically nothing, this defense is scary. Clowney is joined by the newly signed Ziggy Ansah, L.J. Collier and company on the defensive line. Bobby Wagner is one of the best defenders in the NFL; watch for him to be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Wagner also has a superb group around him, with players such as K.J. Wright, Mychal Kendricks, and Shaquem Griffin. In the secondary, Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers have the two starting corner positions locked up, and the Seahawks have a lot of depth at safety.
Schedule Prediction: It looks like it’s going to be a good year to be a Seahawks fan. With one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, and a strong roster which the front office, Pete Carroll, and his staff has put together, expect the Seahawks to be in the race for a division title. Outside of their division, the only difficult games they have are against the Steelers (week 2) and Eagles (week 12) on the road, and at home against the Saints (week 3). The Browns could be a tough game, but I personally won’t buy into the hype until I see Baker play more professional football, and see how he reacts to other teams who now have ample film on him. To me, this team should at least be a wild card team, and they could do even more damage if players like Metcalf and Ansah step up and don’t get hurt. They could land up with anywhere from 9 to 12 wins; at the end of the day, Seattle should be in the playoffs again.
American Football Conference
(1) New England Patriots: 13-3
Buffalo Bills: 8-8
New York Jets: 6-10
Miami Dolphins: 3-13
(3) Baltimore Ravens: 11-5
(6) Cleveland Browns: 10-6
Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-8
Cincinnati Bengals: 4-12
(4) Houston Texans: 11-5
Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-8
Tennessee Titans: 7-9
Indianapolis Colts: 5-11
(2) Kansas City Chiefs: 12-4
(5) Los Angeles Chargers: 11-5
Denver Broncos: 6-10
Oakland Raiders: 4-12
National Football Conference
(4) Philadelphia Eagles: 11-5
Dallas Cowboys: 9-7
New York Giants: 5-11
Washington Redskins: 4-12
(1) Green Bay Packers: 12-4
(6) Minnesota Vikings: 10-6
Chicago Bears: 9-7
Detroit Lions: 6-10
(3) New Orleans Saints: 11-5
Atlanta Falcons: 9-7
Carolina Panthers: 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-12
(2) Los Angeles Rams: 12-4
(5) Seattle Seahawks: 10-6
San Francisco 49ers: 5-11
Arizona Cardinals: 4-12
AFC Playoff Predictions
Wild Card Round
(6) Browns over (3) Ravens
(4) Texans over (5) Chargers
(1) Patriots over (6) Browns
(2) Chiefs over (4) Texans
(1) Patriots over (2) Chiefs
NFC Playoff Predictions
Wild Card Round
(3) Saints over (6) Vikings
(5) Seahawks over (4) Eagles
(1) Packers over (5) Seahawks
(3) Saints over (2) Rams
(3) Saints over (1) Packers
(3) Saints over (1) Patriots
While New England will be favored to win this game, the Saints have the team to limit the Patriots on both sides of the ball. New Orleans is also attempting to bounce back from two heart-breaking playoff defeats (Minneapolis Miracle and pass interference no-call); in both years they had a team which could’ve won the Super Bowl.
This may be Drew Brees’ last chance to win a second Super Bowl. If the Saints are the ones holding the Vince Lombardi trophy on February 2nd, he might choose to ride off into the sunset.
This is also the last year in which the Saints have many of their great players under rookie contracts. Michael Thomas already became the highest paid receiver in the NFL, so it won’t be long until Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore, Alex Anzalone and Zach Strief ask for the same.
At the end of the day, no one is questioning other teams’ will to win. However, New Orleans’ desire to come out on top is on a completely different level. They have the roster to get it done; we see the Saints being victorious this season.
AP Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots
AP Offensive Player of the Year: Saquon Barkley, RB New York Giants
AP Defensive Player of the Year: Bobby Wagner, LB Seattle Seahawks
Pepsi Rookie of the Year: Josh Jacobs, RB Oakland Raiders
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kyler Murray, QB Arizona Cardinals
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Josh Allen, DE Jacksonville Jaguars
AP Comeback Player of the Year: Earl Thomas, Safety Baltimore Ravens
AP Coach of the Year: Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers
FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Year: Patrick Mahomes, QB Kansas City Chiefs; Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys
Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year: Dallas Cowboys