1/11-5/Philadelphia Eagles ... If QB Carson Wentz stays healthy, the Eagles win the division with ease, and may go deep into the playoffs. There is no Nick Foles to come to the rescue, anymore, so if Wentz goes down, Philly loses the division to Dallas. The Eagles traded to make their dismal running game better, newbies Jordan Howard (traded for) and Penn State RB Miles Sanders (drafted) may move the running game into respectability and help Wentz open up the passing game. Rookie Josh Adams led the team in Rushing last year and will also help as he grows. TE Zach Ertz leads a very capable, and sometimes explosive, receiving corps. WR Alshon Jeffrey will get more throws to him, and addition DeSean Jackson from Tampa Bay will add to the high caliber weaponry Wentz will have to throw to. TE Goedert had good production last year, and I expect the rookie to get better this year. Philly's pro-bowl Offensive Line is among the best in the game. Defensive Line is among the best in the game, and as they say, games are won in the trenches. DT Fletcher Cox leads the group, and the addition of Jaquar Malik Jackson makes the D-Line better. Tim Jernigan was re-signed. Inside pressure on opposing quarterbacks is expected, and will elevate Philly's place as a force in the league. The team's top LB, Jordan Hicks, is gone. He was injury-prone, so I get it. They did only a little to work on the linebacker corps, not expecting much from that unit. Secondary is better than average, but the best quarterbacks, if they can escape the inside pressure from the D-Line, will find their targets with ease and regularity. Jake Elliot is a good enough kicker, Punter Cam Johnston is phenomenal, and the return game is solid with Darren Sproles and Rick Lovato.
2/7-9/Dallas Cowboys ... QB Dak Prescott is a winner not living up to his capabilities. If he figures it out, Cowboys dominate. Ezekiel Elliot is the best RB in the NFL. WR Amari Cooper can be better. Randall Cobb signing makes receiver corps better, but not quite what Dallas needs to be a major power in the NFC. Offensive Line is better than most, but is it good enough to keep Dak Prescott on his feet? DE DeMarcus Lawrence is a star. The rest of the D-Line, not so much. Linebackers are young, hungry, and capable. Are they ready for the faster pace of the NFL? Secondary is a weakness, and the Cowboys did not invest in the far reaching positions during the off-season. Throwers will throw, and that's the main reason Dallas will have trouble reaching .500. Brett Maher as a Place Kicker who is good enough. Mostly, he'll give you what you need, but don't expect miraculous kicks from the guy, and do expect a couple misses. Punting game is better with Chris Jones being more consistent than his placekicking counterpart. Tavon Austin and Rookie Tony Pollard should make a number of the returns fun to watch. I was surprised they got to 11 wins last year, predicting 9. They are not as good this year unless keep pieces begin to produce. 7 Wins likely, but then again, they got to double-digits last year. Is it possible they'll do it again?
3/6-10/New York Giants ... Last year was dismal with only 5 Wins. Eli Manning stays at QB, and may have a good season since he may be sensing he is rapidly approaching his last hoorah. RB Saquon Barkley is coming off of a Rookie of the Year performance. The running game is the strongest chess piece the Giants have on the board. Odell Beckham was traded to Cleveland, reducing the strength of the receiving corps. Veteran receiver Golden Tate will keep them from becoming laughable, and WR Sterling Shepard and TE Evan Engram will now have an opportunity to show what they have. Offensive Line is not great, but adequate. Defensive Line expectations are unknown considering all of the renovation to the position. The Linebackers are looking for direction, with nobody capable of being a standout player. This group will struggle, and be a little less effective than one would hope. A number of pieces from last year's secondary are gone. Pieces are being moved around. What we plan to see may be slightly better than 2018, but not by much. Throwing teams will likely enjoy their games against the Giants. Kicking battery is top notch, return game not so much. Overhaul and renovation is the name of the game for the Giants, right now. Until they get the pieces in place, and find a quarterback to be Eli's successor, they will remain a less than .500 team.
4/2-14/Washington Redskins ... Head Coach Jay Gruden is on the hot seat, and I expect him not to make it as a member of the organization in 2020. The Redskins, after a four-win season last year, will get worse. QB Colt McCoy is worthless, Case Keenum is not worth much more, and Rookie Dwayne Haskins is not ready to take a snap in real games. RB Adrian Peterson is old, but still producing, and will be the single shining star on this struggling team. Derrius Guice is fighting injuries. Chris Thompson may provide a little help, and take some of the heavy lifting off of Peterson, every once in a while. WR position is so bad, it is not even worth talking about. Offensive Line is pretty good when healthy ... but keeping them healthy has been the challenge. The Defensive Line is better than good, anchored by youngsters Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Matt Ionnidis is also pretty good on the line. Unfortunately for the Redskins, there is no depth for the defensive line. Reuben Foster and Mason Foster are better than average, and Ryan Kerrigan on the outside is a proven talent. What remains is unproven. Josh Norman had a bad season. We'll see if he can make a comeback as an elite CB in 2019. Signing S Landon Collins helps. Otherwise, the Secondary needs a lot of work. Special Teams overall is adequate, but nothing special. Washington also faces a pretty tough schedule, especially during the first half of the season. Morale will wind up as bad as their record.
1/13-3/Green Bay Packers ... Most prognosticators are estimating a continued downward spiral for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. I disagree. In fact, I think Rodgers is watching Tom Brady, and listening to the doubters in the media, and has decided to will his 36-year-old body to win, and win big, this year. If Rodgers stays healthy all year long, his dismal performance last year will be forgotten quickly. RB Aaron Jones was explosive last year, and while not as explosive, Jamaal Williams is consistent and hangs on to the ball. WR Devante Adams was among the NFL's top receivers, last year, with 1,386 yards. TE Jimmy Graham in 2018 had 55 receptions. Rookie TE Jace Sternberger will get the after-catch yards that Graham struggled with last year, and will encourage Graham to step up his game. The Offensive Line is strong, and if they want, could challenge the elite groups in 2019 as the best unit in the game. That's a good thing, because Rodgers has never been real mobile, and he is even less mobile, now. NT Kenny Clark was the top defensive player in 2018, and anchors a strong D-Line. Blake Martinez, Preston Smith, and Za-Darius Smith makes Green Bay's linebacker corps among the better units, and then added with the draft physical freak Rashan Gary, who played DE at Michigan, but will be moved to outside linebacker for the Packers. Rookie CB Jaire Alexander was an all-rookie team inhabitant last year, Adrian Amos was brought in through free agency at Safety, and CB Tramon Williams and Kevin King, while uninspiring last year, all make for a very solid Secondary. Special Teams ranked at the bottom, last year. The unit can only get better.
2/10-6/Chicago Bears ... Da Bears will not win the division, but post double-digits in the win column. QB Trubisky is steadily improving, and Defense is anchored by a beast, Khalil Mack. RB position is strong, but carry by committee since nobody is standing out. Mike Davis and David Montgomery will likely get the bulk of the workload. The youth movement at the WR position is working, and getting better. The Offensive Line is strong, and Trubisky's ability to run makes them look even better. Good morale makes unites better, and they are committed to protect their QB when he needs it. The Defensive Line is reminiscent of past Bears' defensive units, and the LB position, with Mack as its anchor is incredibly masterful at what they do. With all of the support in front of them, the Secondary was quite productive last year, and will be more so this year. Free Agency has shook a few things up, but the unit received fine replacements in Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine, along with exceptional depth, will make this one of the better unites in the NFL, thus capping Chicago's return to defensive dominance. Kicker Parkey is the "double-doink" guy you've been hearing about. The replacements are unproven. Punter Pat O'Donnell has been falling short, literally. The return game, however, will be strong.
3/10-6/Minnesota Vikings ... While the Vikings will have as good of a record as Da Bears, they will lose to Chicago in both 2019 meetings. QB Kirk Cousins is overpaid and overvalued. Cousins is adequate, but he's not a QB that can get you into the playoffs. RB Dalvin Cook is capable, but nothing that will break any records. Latavius Murray is gone, Ameer Abdullah is excited if he can get over 500 yards, an achievement he has only reached twice. Third-round pick Alexander Mattison may give the rushing game a little more punch, but nothing like they were used to back in the day with someone like Adrian Peterson. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are exceptional Wide Receivers, but Cousins' limitations will limit their star power. They may get their 1,000 yard season, each, again like last year, but after them there is not much. There is a significant lack of depth at the WR position. The 2019 mission for the Offensive Line is improvement. It is in definite need of a fix. The Defensive Line is among the strongest units on the team, and perhaps in the league. DE Danielle Hunter had a career high 14.5 sacks last year, and DE Everson Griffen and NT Linval Joseph both made a trip to the Pro Bowl. LB Anthony Barr re-signed, and had four straight Pro Bowls under his belt. Eric Kendricks is solid, and may have an All-Pro season in him. Depth is a concern among the Linebackers, however. The best unit on the Vikings is their Secondary. They were among the NFL's best in 2017, and though they slipped a little last year, they are still a powerful unit. Punt Returner Marcus Sherels took his exceptional skills to New Orleans. Ameer Abdullah will carry the responsibilities more so than last year. Punter Matt Wile and Kicker Dan Bailey return from last year. Wile is solid, Bailey struggled but is capable.
4/3-13/Detroit Lions ... Woe is I if I am a Detroit fan in 2019. After a 6-10 Record in 2018, the wins total will slice in half. Coaching is capable, but under fire. Matthew Stafford has lost his shiny covering, and we expect no playoffs out of the rest of his career, just like the zero trips to the post-season over the last ten years. There are no QBs on the horizon to challenge him, either. The Lions like draft-pick Kerryon Johnson, and he turned out to be a good addition with 641 yards, last year, as RB. But, he's all they've got. The Lions' running game will remain as one of the cellar-dwellers in rushing numbers. At WR, Golden Tate is gone, and there have not really been anybody else that is expected to step up, and Detroit has not invested in the receiving game, either. Offensive Line is slightly better, and the Defensive Line went from among the league's worst to a unit that is expected to be among the strongest in 2019. LB position didn't change much, and neither will their average production. The Secondary has received a lot of attention, and work. It may be better, it may be serviceable, but don't expect any Hall of Famers out of this group. There is still plenty of room for improvement. Once a strength, the Special Teams unit has dropped into a level of mediocrity. Matt Prater is a good kicker, but Punter Sam Martin had his worse season ever, last year, and if healthy, Jamal Agnew is an All-Pro return man. Highlight of the Special Teams unit is top-notch long snapper Don Muhlbach.
1/14-2/New Orleans Saints ... I will be surprised if the Saints don't make it to the NFC Championship Game. The Los Angeles Rams are their primary obstacle when it comes to getting to the Super Bowl. QB Drew Brees is a Hall of Famer, and seems to only be getting better. He is the NFL's career leader in passing yards and touchdown passes, and after 19 years in the NFL, he's hungry for a second Super Bowl Title. The running game has been good to Brees, with RB Alvin Kamara proving to be among the top NFL rushers. Latavius Murray joins the unit, and Dwayne Washington shores up the corps of Running Backs. WR Michael Thomas was very productive with 125 catches last year, but there hasn't been much help behind him. Raider Jared Cook was brought in to help at TE, and there is plenty of youth that can step up in the receiving corps if they want it. C Max Unger retired, creating all kinds of havoc for New Orleans' Offensive Line. There is plenty of competition for Unger's spot. Aside from questions regarding Center, the Saints' O-Line is among the strongest in the NFL. The Saints used the draft to strengthen their Defensive Line, as well as bringing in free agent Mario Edwards Jr. from the Giants. Former Patriot Malcom Brown was brought in at Tackle. The Linebacker Corps was rebuilt last year, and the work paid off. In fact, the linebackers did well enough that little was done during this last off-season to contribute to the position, aside from seventh round draft choice Kaden Elliss. The Secondary, like the Linebackers, is stable, after recent acquisitions. While solid, the Saints did use their fourth and sixth round draft choices to bring in two young Safeties. Kicking and Punting is outstanding with Wil Lutz and Thomas Morstead. Lutz hit 93.3% of his field goals. Morstead led the NFL in net punting yards. Returns are good, but was boosted with the addition of Marcus Sherels who is also a CB. Alvin Kamara is among the best in the game at punt and kickoff returns. Taysom Hill will also be used as a returner in the hopes of lessening Kamara's workload.
2/10-6/Carolina Panthers ... QB Cam Newton throws more than he used to, but he is still a threat to run. Last year's arthroscopic procedure on his throwing arm was a minor set-back, he seems to have bounced back pretty well, and claims there is no problems with his range of motion. RB Christian McCaffrey was a workhorse last year and was rewarded with 1,098 rushing yards, 867 receiving yards, and 107 team-leading receptions. He enters his third year in the NFL as a valuable tool for the Panthers. There has been some losses and some gains among the WB position, but nobody is standing out as a major threat. A knee injury led to the loss of LT Matt Kalil. The unit added free agent C Matt Paradis, and drafted Ole Miss T Greg Little to help the struggling unit that gave up 32 sacks last year. All-Pro Guard Trai Turner keeps the right side strong as the rest of the line searches for its identity. The "OK" Defensive Line has made some improvements by adding Brian Burns and beast Bruce Irvin. Last season DT Dontari Poe and DT Kawann Short struggled, and will be back to prove they deserve to stay. DT Kyle Love is a strong rotational presence. Depth is not a problem for this fairly solid unit. Ten year Carolina team member LB Thomas Davis is gone. The back-ups and youth will be tested, but is unproven. S Eric Reid got resigned. He has been solid for the Panthers for three years. The corners are adequately manned by James Bradberry and Donte Jackson. The kicking game does not change and is solid, return duties fall on Rashad Ross who went to the AAF and was a star, and is getting a second chance in the NFL.
3/6-10/Tampa Bay Buccaneers ... Tampa Bay is slowly getting better. QB Jameis Winston missed a number of games last year as a result of suspension and being benched after throwing four quick interceptions in the first two quarters against Cincinnati. Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin, who have both been in the league longer than Winston, may be able to take the job away from Winston if he doesn't get his collective you-know-what in order. Despite the frustrations at quarterback, the Bucs will beat last years 5-win performance. RB Peyton Barber had 871 rushing yards last year, and may be on the verge of a break out season. Unfortunately, there is no depth in the running game. Receiving is not a problem, therefore, whoever is throwing the ball looks better than they are. Mike Evans anchors the squad. He is alone with only A.J. Green and Randy Moss with the feat of 1,000 yard seasons in each of his first five seasons in the NFL. Chris Godwin returns with his better than average hands, and free-agent Breshad Perriman adds needed speed. TE O.J. Howard and TE Cam Brate are strong and Pro-Bowl caliber. DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries were lost to free agency. The Offensive Line boasts big contracts for slightly better than average play. The Defensive Line was overhauled last year, and we are still trying to figure out if the musical chairs made the unit any better. Rookie Devan White will make the Linebacker corps better, and with Lavonte David also at Middle Linebacker, the attack up the middle could be devastating. The outside is in good hands with Denver Free Agent Shaquill Barrett, and Deone Bucannon. Depth is not a problem with capable Kevin Minter and Devante Bond who have experience in the league. Last year the Secondary was downright disgusting. Departures were enabled, and three early draft choices were used to hopefully help the suffering unit. I am not expecting much, and teams with even average passers will have their way with the Bucs. Special Teams has been completely renovated, is unproven, and will likely not be much better than its usual mediocre self.
4/5-11/Atlanta Falcons ... QB Matt Ryan is capable of Super Bowl heroics. The rest of the Atlanta Falcons team is not. Even with no protection up front Ryan is completing more than two-thirds of his passes, and is racking up close to 5,000 yards per season. The RBs are new and unproven, the receiving corps is good because QB Ryan makes them good, and the front line is atrocious and is among the main reasons the Falcons won't even get close to a winning season, this year. The Defensive Line is improving and is serviceable, the Linebackers are gutsy and solid, and the Secondary is good enough but not spectacular. Giorgio Tavecchio is taking over place-kicking duties and should be adequate. Punter Matt Bosher is pretty good, despite two blocked punts last year. Return duties are mostly Justin Hardy's to keep, but he does have some young competition.
1/15-1/Los Angeles Rams ... Can anyone stop the mighty Rams? Probably nobody. Maybe, just maybe, New Orleans may pose a challenge in the NFC. Only New England can beat them in the grand finale. Head Coach McVay has been masterful, QB Jared Goff encouraged some MVP buzz last year, despite his slight slump down the stretch, and Aaron Donald secured a second Defensive Player of the Year honor. Goff is only getting better. 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley should be back to prior greatness after struggling a little last year, especially down the stretch. But, just in case he doesn't, the Rams picked up draftee all-purpose back Darell Henderson in the third round. WR Cooper Kupp began his career as a certified star, but a torn ACL ended his 2018 season in November. Kupp, with Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, poses as likely the best receiving corps in the NFL. Josh Reynolds gives that group capable depth, which he proved last year when he scored five touchdowns last year in Kupp's absence. TE Tyler Higbee and TE Gerald Everett look good, as well, although their opportunity to prove themselves has yet to materialize. The Offensive Line provides more than enough protection for Goff, especially since LT Andrew Whitworth decided to stay around just a little bit longer. He lost veteran talent on the line with him (with the loss of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan), but there is youth available to step into those slots with capable 2017 draft choices Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen. T Aaron Donald is a one man wrecking crew, and he makes the rest of the Defensive Line better as a result. Donald's 2018 20.5 sack total was astounding, but with Ndamukong Suh gone, he may begin to see some double-teaming against him. Fourth Round 2019 Draft Pick Greg Gaines will take over Nose Tackle, helping Donald continue to make the middle a no-man's land for opposing rushers. The Defensive Ends, Morgan Fox and John Franklin-Myers will be tasked with catching the rotational rushers, and are more than capable. LB Dante Fowler is finally beginning to fit in well, and Clay Matthews, while a shadow of his former self, is still a powerful influence behind the line. Plenty of youngsters are present as a part of the Rams' depth at Linebacker. The Secondary under-performed last year, but the addition of Eric Weddle may get the Secondary where it needs to be. Rookie Safety Taylor Rapp may not start at the beginning of the season, but will likely be a starter by the end. He will likely prove to be a valuable talent. K Greg Zuerlein and P Johnny Hekker may be the best kicker/punter combination in the NFL. Return duties are pretty much up for grab, but JoJo Natson will likely get the bulk of the duty.
2/6-10/Seattle Seahawks ... Somehow, after a massive roster overhaul, the Seahawks pulled off a playoff visit in 2018. I am not so sure they can pull that off twice. I believe that aside from the coaching and QB part of the equation, the Seahawks are essentially rebuilding. Russell Wilson remains one of the better Quarterbacks in the NFL, and he had a pretty good year in 2018. RB Chris Carson has emerged as a surprise positive in Seattle, posting 1,000 yards last year. 2018 First Round Pick Rashaad Penny, after an injury-irritated 2018, will likely also get a fair share of carries. WR Doug Baldwin has departed, leaving the leadership role up for grabs. The Offensive Line was adequate last year, but don't hold your breath in the hopes that QB Wilson will be running for his life any less in 2019. The Defensive Line has lost key components, and Seattle has failed to fill those holes. LB Bobby Wagner is a top notch man up the middle, but the remaining linebacking corps is weak and has struggled through injuries. The Secondary is longer the Legion of Boom. Likely contenders for a new emergence of a solid Secondary has been anemic. Special Teams is continuously in question. Kicker Jason Myers may be the permanent man in that position. Maybe. Rookie Punter Michael Dickson was a pleasant surprise last year with booming punts. The return game has been horrid, but the 2019 Draft had eleven picks that could try their hand at the duties.
3/2-14/San Francisco 49ers ... The only thing that will keep the 49ers out of last place in the NFC West division will be the fact that they will pull off a sweep against the Arizona Cardinals. QB Jimmy Garoppolo is overrated. Reconstructive knew surgery last year will make him less mobile, and gun-shy. As bad as Garoppolo is, the depth at QB in San Francisco is worse. RB Jerick McKinnon's ACL injury decimated the 49ers Rushing game last year. Former Falcon Tevin Coleman was brought on board, and may help. Matt Breida was working towards a 1,000 yard rushing year, but he injured his ankle. TE George Kittle was a bright spot in 2018 for San Francisco with his 1,377 yards receiving. Otherwise, the receiving corps was unreliable. The Offensive Line returns all five starters, giving the QB average protection. Most of San Francisco's off-season work was pointed towards their Defensive Line. DE Dee Ford will be the most prominent addition, having 13 sacks last year in Kansas City. DT DeForest Buckner earned 12 sacks and a first Pro-Bowl berth last year. First Round Draft Picks Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas will add to the strength of the Defensive Line. Linebacking Corps is not powerful, but good enough to do the job. Despite very weak performances last year, and nearly no interceptions, the 49ers kept the same Secondary. Richard Sherman is the key leader in the Secondary. The off-season ripped any stability out of the Special Teams unit. Kicker Robbie Gould is now gone. The Punter is a rookie who will replace Bradley Pinion. The long snapper, Kyle Nelson, still has six games left on his suspension. Return duties are adequate.
4/2-14/Arizona Cardinals ... Top Draft Pick QB Kyler Murray is joining a team struggling in its post Carson Palmer era. The Heisman Trophy winner is expected to take on the title role as starting Quarterback on Day 1. David Johnson missed having a 1,000 yard season in 2018 by 60 yards, and will be Murray's primary rushing attack. While last year Johnson was primarily an up-the-middle runner, the plans we've been hearing about includes giving Johnson a larger variety to options to run. WR Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best ever to play the game, and he remains. No doubt Fitzgerald will be Murray's favorite target. This will be the surefire Hall of Famer's 16th Season. Rookie WR Christian Kirk garnered attention with his 590 receiving yards last year. Beyond Kirk, however, there is not a lot of depth behind Fitzgerald. The Offensive Line was the worst in the NFL last year, and that does not seem to be a good thing for a rookie QB who is still trying to learn how to play the faster professional game. The same characters return, but some depth has been added. QB Murray will be challenged often, and will likely find himself running a lot as a result. The Defensive Line is not very impressive, but it is stronger than its O-Line counterpart. Chargers' T Darius Philon has been brought on board with a two-year deal, and may prove to be a strengthening component to the unit. All four starting Linebackers return, Terrell Suggs, Haason Reddick, Jordan Hicks, and Brooks Reed, and are essentially stable. The Secondary has CB Patrick Peterson as a strong anchor of the group, but the remaining part of the Secondary is still young, learning, and unproven. The kicking game has been a concern. Last year the Cardinals used three different kickers during the season. Punter Andy Lee is okay, though. Return duties by Kirk and T.J. Logan (fourth year player drafted from North Carolina) should be adequate.
1/16-0/New England Patriots ... I don't see anyone on New England's regular season schedule capable of beating the Patriots. There is a saying... You don't bet against Tom Terrific. Head Coach Bill Belichick's Patriots may be poised for another Super Bowl Win, which would give Belichick more NFL titles than any other coach ... and with QB Tom Brady continuing to be the best passer in the game, I think it is entirely possible for the Patriots (especially after looking at their schedule) to go undefeated. Seriously. 42 year old QB Tom Brady continues to amaze. RB Rookie Sony Michel almost reached 1,000 yards rushing in his first season, finishing with 931 yards. RB James White is known more for being a backfield receiver. Though TE Gronkowski is gone, WR Julian Edelman has been a more than adequate target, instead. The Offensive Line is solid, but the Defensive Line is not. The Linebackers and the Secondary aren't used as much as the front line, but when they do play, both units are above average. Special Teams is nothing special, but Belichick is working to change that. The only weakness that the Patriots has is that eventually time will catch up to Tom Brady, and he'll need to retire.
2/8-8/New York Jets ... QB Sam Darnold, entering his second year after coming to the Jets as a first round pick, is the deciding factor. If he's the real deal, the Jets will have a winning record. If he's a typical rookie, they will have a losing record. He definitely has plenty of growth ahead of him. The addition of RB Le'Veon Bell makes the Jets' rushing game become the real deal. The receiving game is solid with Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Jamison Crowder. Potentially, the offensive line could be among the best in the league. Time will tell. New York's D-Line is game-changingly good, and the linebackers are adequate. The Secondary rounds out a pretty good defense. Special Teams is suspect, and needs improvement.
3/3-13/Miami Dolphins ... The old head coach is gone, and Brian Flores now holds the reins. QB Ryan Tannehill is gone, so Miami brought on board average with occasional flashes of brilliance Ryan Fitzpatrick, and youngster Josh Rosen. RB Kenyan Drake had 535 yards, the team leader, Frank Gore, is gone. WR Danny Amendola, Miami's 2018 leader in catches (59) and yards (575) is gone, but injury prone DeBante Parker remains. The Offensive Line seemed absent all season long, with key pieces going to other teams. First Round Draft Pick Christian Wilkins is the most exciting thing I can say about the Defensive Line, and he hasn't played a regular season game in the NFL yet. In 2018 the Miami linebacker corps ranked among the worse in the league. CB Xavien Howard has been demanding more money, or he'll take his 2018 Pro Bowl caliber play somewhere else. The Dolphins gave in. Despite being drafted as recently as 2016, he's the best player they've got, and they couldn't let him go. Three quality Safeties are battling over the two Safety positions, so the Dolphins' Secondary is fairly sound. Rookie Kicker Jason Sanders is a star, Punter Matt Haack not so much. The whole team is short on talent, and they should feel fortunate that I think they can win three times during the regular season.
4/3-13/Buffalo Bills ... The most consistent thing about the Buffalo Bills in recent years has been change. Coaching and player changes have been ever-present. QB Josh Allen, the very talented quarterback that was expected to bring the Bills out of the cellar suffered from rookie growing pains in 2018, leaving the Bills second to last in the league in passing numbers. Accuracy was among the many problems, but since last year Allen has shown significant progress in his growth as a passer and an NFL player. RB LeSean McCoy only managed 514 yards last season (QB Allen was the rushing leader with 631 yards). The goal is to get Allen passing more, and running less, so the Bills signed free agents John Brown and Cole Beasley to help in that department. Part of the reason Allen was not able to show off his powerful arm, and was running instead, was because the Offensive Line was a disaster. New players have been brought in, but time will tell if any of them were an improvement. DT Kyle Williams has retired after serving the Bills for 13 years. First Round Pick Ed Oliver should be able to fill the void. 2018 First Round Pick LB Tremaine Edmunds turned out to be worth the choice as a Middle Linebacker. LB Lorenzo Alexander returns for a 13th Season. Last year he had 6.5 sacks and two interceptions. The Secondary is the brightest light of the team, with the Bills allowing in a 2018 league low 179.2 yards passing. Rookie Tre'Davious White established himself as the number one CB on the team, while four players battle for the other corner. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer rank among the best Safety pairings in the league. Special Teams was a mess last year, and there seems to be no improvement on the horizon.
1/13-3/Cleveland Browns ... How amazing is it to talk about the Browns as a team that will win the division, and possibly create some real havoc in the playoffs? QB Baker Mayfield is the real thing, in statistics, as a leader in the field, and as a leader in the locker room. There is no depth behind him, so Cleveland's dominance depends on Mayfield performing injury-free. RB Kareem Hunt must serve a suspension the first half of the season, but will rejoin the team in Game 9. Hunt rushed for 1,327 yards, so he will be missed during the first eight games. RB Nick Chubb rushed for 996 yards as a rookie last year, and is capable of holding down the fort while Cleveland waits for Hunt to serve his suspension. WR is solid, and possibly over-populated. Imagine that, Mayfield almost has too many quality targets to throw to. Arrival Odell Beckham leads the group in talent, with newcomer Jarvis Landry right behind him in stats and talent. TE David Njoku was a quality rookie last year, Antonio Callaway joins Beckham in providing plenty of speed. With the loss of Right Guard Kevin Zeitler, second year player Austin Corbett has an opportunity to step up. The remaining five-man line is pretty stable and experienced. The Defensive Line is powerful, and the heart of the Browns' defensive attack. Miles Garrett being brought on board adds to the quality on the line, with 13.5 sacks last year. Oliver Vernon played eleven games with the Giants last year, and pulled off seven sacks. Both Defensive Tackles, newcomer Sheldon Richardson, and Larry Ogunjobi, add to the devastating attack against opposing QBs. Depth is also a strength for the D-Line. The linebackers gave up more than they should have last year, so work is in place to make those improvements with the cast of characters in place. The Secondary is in good hands with Rookie Pro-Bowl Selection CB Denzel Ward, and Rookie Greedy Williams who was taken with the 46th overall pick in the 2019 draft. Damarious Randall continues to carry the Free Safety responsibilities, and while Strong Safety Jabrill Peppers is gone, Morgan Burnett will likely serve as a capable replacement. Kicker Greg Joseph is pretty consistent, but missed a handful of extra-points last year. Punter Britton Colquitt is dependable. With Peppers gone, the return duties are up for grabs.
2/11-5/Pittsburgh Steelers ... The Steelers are going to exceed most expectations. Mike Tomlin is a winning head coach with no losing seasons in his past, QB Big Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in 2019 with 5,129 passing yards and 34 touchdowns, and RB James Conner has developed quickly and in 2018 earned a Pro-Bowl appearance with his 973 yard rushing performance. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster was brought in to fill the hole created by the departure of Antonio Brown for the Raiders. James Washington will likely emerge as the number two receiver. Draftee Diontae Johnson will challenge Washington. TE Vance McDonald had 50 receptions for 610 yards. The entire Offensive Line returns, and while there is room for growth, the O-Line is pretty effective, and only allowed 24 sacks last year. Pro-Bowl T Cameron Heyward and NT Javon Hargrave created 14.5 sacks between the two of them. Stephon Tuitt is expected to improve, coming off of 5.5 sacks last year. LB T.J.Watt was phenomenal, going to the Pro Bowl, and finishing the 2018 season with 13 sacks. The rest of the linebackers were less than impressive. Last year the Secondary struggled, but CB Steven Nelson may stop the bleeding. Special Teams were terrible last year, and it doesn't look like improvement is on the horizon unless the current cast of characters can pull their stuff together.
3/10-6/Cincinnati Bengals ... The coaching staff is new, but QB Andy Dalton is not. If his surrounding cast is healthy, the Bengals will be able to make some noise. RB Joe Mixon topped a thousand yards with his 1,168 yard performance in 2018. The Receiving Corps offers some top notch pass catchers, led by A.J. Green and anchored by Tyler Boyd. The Offensive Line could be better, and while some work was done with free agency to improve the squad, more work is needed. The Defensive Line is capable of being better than average, but last year they fell short. The true weakness defensively is with the linebackers. Draftee Germaine Pratt is expected to improve the group, and Malik Jefferson now has the opportunity to show what he's all about. The Secondary is the strength of the defense, with CB William Jackson and S Jessie Bates providing the solid skills needed. K Randy Bullock is consistent, Punter Keven Huber has been stellar. Alex Erickson is a top notch punt and kickoff return man, but a lack of good blocking may have hindered some of his numbers last year. With the new coaching we may see a rebirth of the Bengals in the playoffs.
4/4-12/Baltimore Ravens ... With the departure of Ravens QB Joe Flacco, the passing honors now rests completely on Rookie Lamar Jackson's shoulders. Last year, after Flacco's injury, Jackson won six out of seven games, amassed over 500 yards in rushing, and took the Ravens into the playoffs. I don't believe his success was necessarily a fluke, but Jackson's pass completion rate was only 58.2 percent, and that is what is going to haunt him during his first year as the primary passer. If he can get his fundamentals down, however, he could eventually lead Baltimore to winning seasons. Undrafted Rookie Gus Edwards was part of the reason the Ravens had a potent running attack in 2018. The addition of Mark Ingram II from New Orleans will add to the potency (as well as veteran leadership), and I am expecting newly drafted Justice Hill to provide some punch. The Receivers' production dropped last year, but that is likely because of Jackson's learning curve when it comes to the passing game. While the Offensive Line is a solid group, they faltered when the chips were down in the Playoffs. The addition of G Ben Powers in the draft may help. With Brent Urban leaving as a free agent to Tennessee, the once dominant Defensive Line may find itself not as effective against the run in 2019. The linebacker corps has gone from dominance to being decimated. Za'Darius Smith left for Green Bay. Terrell Suggs went to the Arizona Cardinals. C.J. Mosely went to the Jets. Now the need for quality falls on the shoulders of the youngsters. Draftee Jaylon Ferguson of Louisiana Tech who broke Suggs' NCAA record for career sacks with 45 may be the ray of light the Ravens needs among the linebackers. The Secondary is Baltimore's biggest strength. CB Marlon Humphrey ranks among the cornerback elite, and Jimmy Smith's production after injury was pretty good last year. Tavon Young and Rookie Anthony Averett were also solid contributors. Brandon Carr's veteran leadership with S Tony Jefferson's leadership rounds out the very capable Secondary, despite the loss of Eric Weddle. K Justin Tucker has emerged as one of the most accurate kickers in the game. P Sam Koch ranks among the best punters in the NFL. With Cyrus Jones, the return game is in capable hands. While the Ravens will likely be cellar dwellers this season, if Jackson grows, they may be poised to become regular attendees of the post-season.
1/11-5/Houston Texans ... QB Deshaun Watson wants to prove himself after injury took him down last year. He's both a passing and rushing threat, but now that he is in his third year it's time to shine. RB Lamar Miller rushed for 973 yards in his 2018 Pro Bowl season. WR DeAndre Hopkins is a joy to watch, with hands that can bring in everything. His astounding 115 receptions and 1,572 yards gives Watson a viable target to take the Texans to the playoffs with. Plenty of quality receivers join Hopkins. The worst Offensive Line in the NFL is now gone, with a complete overhaul underway. DE J.J. Watt continues to be a force, and leads a very strong Defensive Line. The linebackers are packed with talent, led by Pro Bowler and 2014 first round (second overall) pick Jadeveon Clowney. ILB Benardrick McKinney was also a Pro-Bowler in 2018, and Zach Cunningham provides immense versatility. Linebacker depth in Houston is also very good. The loss of Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson places the Secondary in a position of question marks. The addition of S Tashaun Gipson and CB Bradley Roby may make up for the losses. Kicker Ka'imi Fairbaim made the Pro Bowl last year, and Punter Trevor Daniel did an adequate job replacing the retired great, Shane Lechler. Return responsibilities looks like it will be by committee.
2/10-6/Tennessee Titans ... With the departure of the Colts from the top of the division the title is up for grabs between Houston and Tennessee. 2019 poses a great opportunity for QB Marcus Mariota, but it's do or die time. Either he leads the Titans to glory, or he will be gone as his contract expires. His NFL career tells us he will likely be looking for a new team next year. RB Derrick Henry is not the best runner out there, but is good enough to take on the lead responsibilities, topping over 1,000 yards in 2018. WR Corey Davis is a quality pass catcher, and TE Delanie Walker has a lot to prove after missing much of the season due to injury last year. Tennessee improved their receiving corps by adding Adam Humphries to the group from Tampa Bay and drafting A.J. Brown in the second round of the 2019 Draft. The Offensive Line allowed 47 sacks last year and there is plenty of room for improvement. Their lack of improvement will be part of the reason Mariota won't achieve what he hopes to in the 2019 Season. The Defensive Line is weak, and the Linebackers are not much better. Changes are afoot in both groups. The Secondary, however, is top notch, with Logan Ryan and Adoree' Jackson serving as solid Cornerbacks. The real star of the Secondary is Kevin Byard at Safety. The Secondary also boasts great depth, so there are no worries in Tennessee when it comes to protecting against the long pass. Kicker Ryan Succop is searching for consistency. Punter Brett Kern is one of the league's best punters. The return game is nothing to write home about, and won't be until a permanent man is found for the duties.
3/2-14/Indianapolis Colts ... Indy went from contender to cellar during the pre-season when QB Andrew Luck suddenly announced his retirement. Young Jacoby Brissett now has to grab the QB reins, with no depth behind him. RB Marlon Mack has been uninspiring and his job may be in danger. WR T.Y. Hilton led the Colts in receiving, accumulating 76 receptions and 1,270 yards. TE Eric Ebron had 66 receptions and 750 yards. However, that is the best Brissett has to throw to, and the lack of quality targets will make Jacoby's new job as starting QB a shaky one. When healthy the Offensive Line provides more than adequate protection, and their counterparts on the defensive side finished 2018 10th in the NFL in fewest points allowed. Led by Darius Leonard, the linebackers provide a quality defensive attack, and the Secondary plays well enough, but nothing of a star caliber level that the Colts needs. Kicker Adam Vinatieri continues to be solid at age 46, and Punter Rigoberto Sanchez finished as a strong punter and kick-off man. The return game is in the hands of Wide Receivers Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers, who do a good job, but don't expect fireworks.
4/1-15/Jacksonville Jaguars ... The retirement of Andrew Luck means that Jacksonville will earn a split in their two games with Indy, thus, preventing the Jaguars from suffering through a winless season. A couple years ago they were playoff caliber. Now, QB Nick Foles comes in to hopefully save the franchise, but it'll be more than he can handle. RB Leonard Fournette comes off of an injury-marred 2018 season after topping over a thousand yards the year before. The quality of receivers that Foles needs is not there. Dede Westbrook is the best WR they've got, and he only managed 717 yards last year. Injury challenged an already lackluster Offensive Line, and four of the five starters from last year remain on board. The Defensive Line is not awesome, but Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell made the D-Line serviceable combining for 20 sacks in 2018, and 27 sacks in 2017. The already disappointing linebacker corps will be more disappointing with the loss of Paul Posluszny to retirement. Draft pick Quincy Williams may help. CB Jalen Ramsey and CB A.J. Bouyue pair up to provide top NFL quality at the corners. The Safeties are in transition, but should be okay with Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson. Kicking duties are reliable with former Chargers' kicker Josh Lambo. Punter Logan Cooke ranks among the top quarter of Punters in the NFL. D.J. Clark led the team in returns last year, but the job rotated around quite a bit.
1/11-5/Kansas City Chiefs ... QB Patrick Mahomes was phenomenal in 2018, and Kansas City will remain a force in the AFC as long as the kid remains on board. Expect the Chiefs to once again go deep into the playoffs, and perhaps battle again in the AFC Championship Game. The Super Bowl may even be in the cards. RB Damien Williams rushed for 256 yards in the final five games of last season, and will likely be the primary rusher in 2019, with a chance to top over 1,000 yards. Despite pain in the ankle, which led to off-season surgery, TE Travis Kelce racked up 1,336 receiving yards in 2018. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins have been challenged by off-field issues and injury, but have a firm hold of their receiving duties. The stolid Offensive Line returns in full force, and the Defensive Line will also continue its reign of terror. Despite injuries, LB Anthony Hitchens finished the year with 135 total tackles. The LB unit is adequate elsewhere, but its strength lies in Hitchens. The Secondary was atrocious last year, so Kansas City invested in the group during the off-season. Free Agent Tyrann Mathieu will provide much needed leadership in the absence of Eric Berry. Draft picks also brought a lot of youth into the group, but time will tell if any of them stand out. Rookie K Harrison Butker did well enough connecting with 89% of his field goals last year. Punter Dustin Colquitt is a quality punter, and Rookie Tremon Smith's return game last year earned him All-Rookie honors. Punt return duties will be carried out by youngster Mecole Hardman, who has plenty of speed to spare.
2/11-5/Oakland Raiders ... If Antonio Brown works out, Derek Carr will finally be able to return to his 2016 self when he won 12 games before breaking his leg. Head Coach Jon Gruden is sold on Brown, and the prolific WR has built a good relationship with QB Carr. Draft Pick RB Josh Jacobs should provide just the extra rushing power the Raiders need, with Isaiah Crowell there to share the duties. With the departure of TE Jared Cook, the receiving game needs to pick up the pieces if they are to compete. WR Antonion Brown's example should make them all better. The Offensive Line has been pretty bad since 2016, but the Raiders worked to rectify the situation first round pick T Kolton Miller. The unit should improve this year, and adding a run threat with Jacobs and a passing threat with Brown may help the unit come together. The Defensive Line has been atrocious since the departures of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. It's up to the youth, with second-year player Arden Key, and Rookies Maxx Crosby and Quinton Bell. The building process is still in play with the linebackers, as well as with the Secondary, but a number of additions may strengthen the anemic defensive units. Time will tell. Kicker is solid with Daniel Carlson, but Punter Johnny Townsend was horrid last year. Dwayne Harris returns as return man for both punts and kick-offs, and is fine at both.
3/10-6/Los Angeles Chargers ... The Chargers has always been an underachiever. Every year we expect big things from the Bolts, but they always find a way to beat themselves. 2019 will be no different. They will show plenty of spark, but in the end lose it to Kansas City. QB Philip Rivers continues to be tireless and of high quality, despite his occasional bout with throwing interceptions. RB Melvin Gordon III with yet another 1,000 yard performance is among the best rushers in the league. WR Keenan Allen had over 1,000 yards in 2018. Michael Williams is also a quality target, along with TE Hunter Henry who is returning from injury. The Offensive Line is stronger and should provide Rivers with better protection. In the past Rivers has had to constantly run for his life. With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram patrolling the edges, the D-Line in Los Angeles is a force to be dealt with. LB Denzel Perryman leads a strong squad behind the front line, and the Secondary poses as among the best in the NFL. All-Pro Safety Derwin James recorded 109 tackles, and Corners Casey Hayward and Desmond King are both Pro-Bowlers. The kicking game is finally in capable hands with Michael Badgley, and the Punter position is under competition between Ty Long and Tyler Newsome. Desmond King is dynamic as a return man.
4/3-13/Denver Broncos ... The downward slide is not finished in Denver, just yet. The search for a Quarterback will not end with the addition of Joe Flacco. Rookie RB Phillip Lindsay was a pleasant surprise with his 1,037 yards rushing, and if Royce Freeman can bounce back from his injuries in 2018, the tandem should be fun to watch. WR Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick, all second year guys, may be the future of pass catchers for the Broncos. The addition of TE Noah Fant is expected to make the passing game stronger. The high-paid Offensive Line was overpaid, and under-produced. Remaining healthy will be the key for any quality when it comes to the O-Line. While the Defensive Line is going through changes, it should be strong with Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris, and Adam Gotsis at the helm. At linebacker, the Broncos excel. Von Miller is MVP caliber, and Bradley Chubb had 12 sacks in 2018, the most for an NFL rookie in seven years. The Secondary has lost its luster, with only Chris Harris Jr. remaining from the great "No-Fly Zone" group of recent past. Despite being a group in transition, quality replacements may emerge the group as one to watch in 2019. Kicker Brandon McManus is solid, but the rest of the Special Teams unit is in shambles. Don't expect much from them.
- NFC Division Winners Seeding Order
1. Los Angeles Rams
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Chicago Bears
6. Carolina Panthers
NFC Championship Game
New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams
- AFC Division Winners Seeding Order
1. New England Patriots
2. Cleveland Browns
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Houston Texans
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
6. Oakland Raiders*
* Due to the release of Antonio Brown, the Raiders will not make the playoffs, and won't even have a winning record, for that matter, and in their place the final wild card team will be the Los Angeles Chargers.
AFC Championship Game
Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots
New England Patriots
- SUPER BOWL: Los Angeles Rams vs. New England Patriots
- SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: New England Patriots