Wednesday, September 5, 2018

2018 NFL Predictions

For these predictions last year, I did think New England would make it to the Super Bowl and beat... Seattle. I didn't have the Eagles in the postseason, nor did I have their NFC Title game opponent, Minnesota. I also picked Oakland to win the AFC West, which was probably not wise either, and didn't see the rise of the Jaguars coming. You try to guard against foolish predictions at this time every year, but no matter how well thought out your arguments are, they end up meaning little because reality is stranger than anything the wilds of your mind can cook up.

With that said, here's what I think we see in 2018 in the NFL. May these predictions be better than the last set, and never as bad as I fear they could be.

AFC East:
New England: 12-4
New York Jets: 7-9
Miami: 6-10
Buffalo: 3-13

So long as those Brady and Belichick surnames are on the Pats payroll, they're going to win the AFC East, especially as everyone below them has yet to figure out what they're doing. With the Jets, they will see improvement on offense with Sam Darnold and they have a solid defense to backstop some growth at long last, though it will be well short of anything meaningful record wise. Miami finally gets Ryan Tannehill back after missing nearly 20 meaningful games, but will that change the Dolphins fortunes with a mediocre roster? And after finally ending their playoff drought, the Bills dumped their QB, drafted a new one who has been compared to Blaine Gabbert and will start someone who threw five interceptions in his first career start. They're a contender for the number one pick in April's draft.

NFC East:
1. Philadelphia: 11-5
2. Dallas: 8-8
3. New York Giants: 7-9
4. Washington: 6-10

Philly, Philly. They will have one of the tougher runs in the NFC to get back to the Super Bowl, but will probably have the easiest run to win their division. Nick Foles can steer the ship steadily until Carson Wentz is healthy, and they certainly have the defense to pick up the slack. Their problems come in the postseason, where everyone else got better and they were forced to stand pat. Dallas suddenly has health issues in their most important unit on the team: the offensive line. If they can't get what they need there, Dak and Zeke will underwhelm. Their cap mess has prevented them from substantially improving, so it's more likely they stay flat than anything else. The Giants will improve with a real running game and a better offensive line, but the defense has plenty of holes. Washington is relying on the aging Alex Smith to be a better answer at QB than Kirk Cousins, which is a bold call considering Cousins gave them their only meaningful successes in recent years. So long as Daniel Snyder owns the team, this is where they'll be stuck.

AFC North:
1. Pittsburgh: 11-5
2. Ravens: 9-7
3. Bengals: 8-8
4. Cleveland: 5-11

While the Steelers wait to see if Le'Veon Bell will ever show up again, they won't be wanting for much in terms of offensive talent elsewhere, and James Connor isn't getting the appreciation he deserves. In the mediocre AFC, Pittsburgh is still absolutely a favorite to make the Super Bowl, but oddly, it's their defense that may hold them back. Baltimore was a fourth down meltdown away from making the postseason, and since they're really no worse than last year, it stands to reason even with Joe Flacco that they'll compete for the postseason again. The Bengals changed both coordinators and added some young talent to go along with Dalton, Green and Mixon, and since last year was about as bad as its been in recent years, odds are it will get a little better in 2018, but not enough to make the playoffs. And yes Cleveland, five wins. There's talent on this team and Hue Jackson seems to have struck a cord with this group, if Hard Knocks is an indication. It's a step in the right direction, at least.

NFC North:
1. Green Bay: 12-4
2. Minnesota: 11-5
3. Detroit: 8-8
4. Chicago: 7-9

Now that the Packers have Aaron Rodgers back and healthy, and handsomely paid, the Packers become a Super Bowl favorite. With a new GM in place and a slightly tweaked philosophy, the roster is in better shape than it has been in recent years. Rodgers' presence puts them over the top. Minnesota will not be easy to dethrone though, because with Kirk Cousins, in theory they have more stable QB play plus a newly healthy Dalvin Cook, great receivers and a young and hungry defense. There may be a new coach in Detroit, but they seem to be the same team they've been in recent years: hanging around the playoff race but not good enough to make it or win a game. Chicago went for broke with the Khalil Mack trade, which means their window is now open to win for Matt Nagy, but they need a year to grow. Next year, could the Monsters of the Midway be back?

AFC South:
1. Jacksonville: 11-5
2. Houston: 10-6
3. Tennessee: 8-8
4. Indianapolis: 6-10

The Jaguars have built their roster in such a way that they will try to win without asking Blake Bortles to do much of anything, which is much how the 2000 Ravens and 2002 Bucs became champs. It may be harder to do that in 2018 than then, but with their talent on defense and on the offensive line, they sure could pull it off. Don't discount them either, because that will make them angry. The Jaguars angry could be more dangerous than the Jaguars out of the blue. With Houston's big stars now healthy, they will absolutely be a contender to win the division and perhaps make the Super Bowl, if DeShaun Watson's growth curve wasn't stunted in any way by the ACL injury. Tennessee is a bland and mediocre team that lucked out in both getting to the postseason and winning a game last year, but with other teams around them getting better, average won't be good enough in the AFC this year. Indianapolis finally has Andrew Luck back which means they won't be a disaster, but with very little on the roster, they won't be that great either.

NFC South:
1. New Orleans: 12-4
2. Atlanta: 10-6
3. Carolina: 9-7
4. Tampa Bay: 3-13

Another team going for broke are the Saints, who last year were a miracle play away from the NFC Championship game. They may have been favorites against Philadelphia too. They don't really have many serious weaknesses on their team, even with Mark Ingram suspended for four games. They seem to be a cut above the rest of the very good NFC South and perhaps the NFC too. If it wasn't for some poor play calling in 2017, the Falcons may have not just beaten the Eagles, but won the NFC too. With Calvin Ridley, they have even more talent on offense, and aren't exactly lacking it on defense either. In another division, they'd be favorites to win it. Carolina looks like the odd one out here, which is a shame because they're pretty dang good too. Christian McCaffrey is going to be an amazingly fun to player to watch, but perhaps the entire team will be undone by a slightly bare roster in their front four and secondary. And for the Bucs... a housecleaning is in order. Justin Herbert, anyone?

AFC West:
1. LA Chargers: 11-5
2. Kansas City: 10-6
3. Denver: 7-9
4. Oakland: 5-11

If it wasn't for the Chargers being snakebit with terrible kicking and injury luck, they would have waltzed away with the AFC West last season. They still have bad injury luck, but with Philip Rivers looking rejuvenated, an immensely talented running back in Melvin Gordon and a great defense, they're AFC West favorites, perhaps even sneaky Super Bowl contenders. Kansas City went to Pat Mahomes at QB and he will not be the reason why the Chiefs fail to make the playoffs, if they do. That will be their lackluster defense. But with all their offensive talent, they should be just fine. Denver will be better than last year with any semblance of offense, but they seem deficient talent-wise in key areas compared to their rivals. Jon Gruden has come back to Oakland only to see the Raiders now accumulate the oldest roster in the league and trade away their best player for futures. That doesn't seem like a winning formula for a coach who seems to be stuck in 2008, when his team gagged away a playoff spot.

NFC West:
1. LA Rams: 11-5
2. San Francisco: 10-6
3. Seattle: 8-8
4. Arizona: 6-10

The Rams have gone completely Hollywood with all the star power they've added, meaning that after stunning the world to win the NFC West last year, there can be no surprises this year at the Coliseum. It'll be Sean McVay's task to glue everything together, which he seems apt to do. Jimmy G will lose games he's starting this season for sure, but the improvement the 49ers made was good enough to think they will contend for a playoff spot, even with injuries playing a role. The Seahawks are not the Legion of Boom they once were, and may now just want to put Russell Wilson's outline on their helmet, because it is on him alone that they will succeed or fail, but he can't do that much himself. In the desert, Larry Fitzgerald's career will end with a whimper as Sam Bradford guides a flawed roster until Josh Rosen takes over.

AFC Playoff Order:
1. New England
2. Jacksonville
3. Pittsburgh
4. LA Chargers
5. Houston
6. Kansas City

NFC Playoff Order:
1. Green Bay
2. New Orleans
3. LA Rams
4. Philadelphia
5. Minnesota
6. Atlanta

AFC Playoff Predictions:

3. Pittsburgh over 6. Kansas City
5. Houston over 4. LA Chargers

1. New England over 5. Houston
2. Jacksonville over 3. Pittsburgh

1. New England over 2. Jacksonville

NFC Playoff Predictions:

6. Atlanta over 3. LA Rams
5. Minnesota over 4. Philadelphia

1. Green Bay over 6. Atlanta
2. New Orleans over 5. Minnesota

1. Green Bay over 2. New Orleans

Super Bowl LIII:

Green Bay over New England

Award Predictions:

MVP: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
OPOY: Antonio Brown (PIT)
DPOY: Aaron Donald (LAR)
OROY: Saquon Barkley (NYG)
DROY: Roquan Smith (CHI)
Comeback: DeShaun Watson (HOU)
Coach: Bill O'Brien (HOU)

No fantasy columns for me this year, but you can always solicit me on Twitter if you need help. And here's hoping these predictions are better than last year, and sorry in advance if they aren't.

No comments:

Post a Comment