2018 NFL season preview/predictions

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The NFL is moving in a direction that you may not like, but you cannot avoid. The elimination of kickoffs, the elimination of big tackles, and even the elimination of rushes. Rushes? You mean teams will stop running the ball? Yes, I do. Not totally, but mostly.

You see, as the Patriots nearly proved in Super Bowl LII, it is actually profitable to pass the ball on every single play. Tom Brady threw for over 500 yards, but it was not enough, as the Eagles lit up the scoreboard as well. I don’t know if the NFL’s record of a 72-41 score will be threatened, but I do expect scores to go really high in the very near future. Scores where both teams score 40 points will become common. A team will likely challenge the Bills’ record for a 32-point comeback. And the power-running game will go mostly extinct.

Who does that favor? Well, obviously, the teams with the best quarterbacks. The only question is which quarterbacks will step up when it matters most. Can Aaron Rodgers make it through a season uninjured? (Not sure on that one.) How long will Tom Brady play before retiring? (Probably until he gets ring #6.) Will people keep overlooking Ben Roethlisberger? (I don’t like the guy, but I cannot deny his Hall of Fame talent.) Who wins it all? Read on to find out.

AFC

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots (12-4)
  2. New York Jets (9-7)
  3. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
  4. Buffalo Bills (4-12)

The Patriots will coast to another first-round bye. They’ll once again be the class of the AFC, and easily win a 10th consecutive division title. The Jets will be competitive under rookie QB Sam Darnold, a guy from my second school USC. Miami will hang around for a while, but not contend. The Bills are starting over, and won’t be back to the playoffs.

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (5-11)
  4. Cleveland Browns (5-11)

The Steelers will end up with the #1 seed in the conference, because they have, by far, the most talent in the league. Baltimore should be in the wild-card hunt, while Cincinnati won’t compete. The Browns will obviously not go 0-16 again, but there’s still a long way to go before they become competitive again.

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans (10-6)
  2. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7)
  3. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
  4. Tennessee Titans (5-11)

The Texans will win the division if Deshaun Watson can come back from his injury. The Jaguars unfortunately blew their chance at glory last year in the fourth quarter in New England, and now with all the trash-talking from Jalen Ramsey, I think they take a step back. The Colts will be competitive with Andrew Luck back, as long as he stays healthy. Tennessee doesn’t strike me as a threat to make the playoffs.

AFC West

  1. Oakland Raiders (10-6)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
  3. Los Angeles Chargers (8-8)
  4. Denver Broncos (5-11)

I think with Derek Carr, the Raiders are the class of the division even without Khalil Mack. I’m not sold on the Chargers, who have no home-field advantage and are basically playing 16 road games. The Chiefs will end up tied with them in the division, while the Broncos peter out in last place.

NFC

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
  3. New York Giants (8-8)
  4. Washington Redskins (4-12)

There is no end in sight to the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chants. The Eagles will once again be in the Super Bowl hunt, and it doesn’t matter who their quarterback is. The only hope to the rest of the NFC is that a quarterback controversy develops. If it doesn’t, then the Eagles will have a great chance at repeating. The Cowboys should be in the hunt for a wild-card berth, as the Giants should, too. The Redskins won’t be as good with Alex Smith.

NFC North

  1. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
  2. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
  3. Detroit Lions (8-8)
  4. Chicago Bears (4-12)

The Vikings have such a good defense that it’s hard to pick against them, even as a Packers fan. Plus, I can’t be sure that Aaron Rodgers will make it through a whole season without getting hurt again. If he can, the Packers will make the playoffs. The Lions are the ultimate mediocre team, right at 8-8. The Bears may have upgraded their defense with Mack, but their offense is still a joke, and they won’t be in it.

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
  2. Carolina Panthers (9-7)
  3. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)

Atlanta is a Super Bowl contender, and the only reason I have them not at the top of the conference is that they play in a tough division. The results may not reflect it, however. The Panthers should be in the wild-card hunt, but not the Saints. Drew Brees is the ultimate stat guy. He racks up all the statistics and records, but has only the two conference championship appearances in his career and that’s it. The Bucs won’t be in it.

NFC West

  1. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (9-7)
  3. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
  4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

Picking the Seahawks not to win this division is tough, but Seattle’s defense is not what it once was. The Niners are my pick to win the division thanks to the acquisition last year of Jimmy G. I think he leads them to a surprise playoff berth. The Rams stay in it until the very end, while Arizona struggles mightily.

Playoffs:

AFC:

#1 Pittsburgh Steelers
#2 New England Patriots
#3 Houston Texans
#4 Oakland Raiders
#5 Jacksonville Jaguars
#6 Baltimore Ravens

NFC:

#1 Philadelphia Eagles
#2 Minnesota Vikings
#3 Atlanta Falcons
#4 San Francisco 49ers
#5 Green Bay Packers
#6 Dallas Cowboys

Wild-Card Round:

#6 Baltimore beats #3 Houston
#5 Jacksonville beats #4 Oakland

#3 Atlanta beats #6 Dallas
#5 Green Bay beats #4 San Francisco

Divisional Round:

#1 Pittsburgh beats #6 Baltimore
#2 New England beats #5 Jacksonville

#1 Philadelphia beats #5 Green Bay
#2 Minnesota veats #3 Atlanta

Conference Championships:

#2 New England beats #1 Pittsburgh

#2 Minnesota beats #1 Philadelphia

Super Bowl LIII:

Minnesota 30, New England 27 (MVP: Kirk Cousins)

MVP: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Josh Jackson, Green Bay Packers
Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

And there you have it. I’ve only gotten the Super Bowl champion right once since I started doing this in 2008. I’ve only gotten two Super Bowl teams right. So if I didn’t pick your team, you’re in great shape!

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