2018 NFL Season Preview

Note: predicted records are in parentheses.


New England Patriots (12-4) — Only five of the last 17 Super Bowl runners-up have won their division the following year, but perhaps none of them had as easy a path to doing so as this team has, and Tom Brady shows no signs of slowing down, even though he is a Gen Xer in what is now an almost exclusively Millennial league.

New York Jets (8-8) — Sam Darnold gives them the kind of credibility at quarterback that they literally haven't had since Joe Namath, and that credibility could come just in time to keep head coach Todd Bowles off the firing line.

Miami Dolphins (7-9) — Getting tired of hearing Ryan Tannehill's injury excuses, and the well-traveled, to say the least, Brock Osweiler is 10-4 at home as a starter, but 4-9 on the road, something to consider if Tannehill does go down again.

Buffalo Bills (6-10) — They finally break their playoff drought last year, yet they're tied (with the Jets) for the longest price in the league to win the Super Bowl? Do the Vegas sharpies know something we don't — as in more damning evidence coming out on LeSean McCoy? And with their passing game not having cracked the top half of the league in yards per game since 2011, McCoy getting suspended means finis, kaput, hasta la vista to their offense.


Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) — Now we know why the Rooneys drafted James Conner in the third round of the 2017 draft: They knew that Le'Veon Bell would cause trouble, and clearly, it paid for them to lose to the Jaguars at home in the AFC divisional playoffs rather than to the Patriots on the road in the AFC Championship Game, which they surely would have done: Seven teams that lost playoff games in 2016 faced the team that beat them therein in the regular season in 2017, and all seven lost, including the Steelers, who lost at New England in the 2016 AFC title game and then lost a controversial (was it ever!) game to the Pats at home in Week 15 of last year.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-8) — Marvin Lewis, Andy Dalton, and A.J. Green all move on unless they make the playoffs, a prospect that no doubt suits their fan base all too well, certainly in Lewis' case at least.

Baltimore Ravens (7-9) — Every year they get older and older, yet every year they manage to hang in. If they do that again this season, it will be a miracle.

Cleveland Browns (2-14) — The other two winless teams in modern history both became two-win teams the following year. And when will they dump the supremely incompetent Hue Jackson? Tell me — quando, quando, quando?


Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5) — There is always the chance that they will "bounce" as they say at the racetrack, and Blake Bortles still has an army of doubters, but with Leonard Fournette and that defense, Bortles doesn't have to do much.

Tennessee Titans (9-7) — Don't they always finish 9-7 by beating a team that has nothing to play for in their season finale? And this year their last two, maybe even three, games figure to be against such teams. But will it add up to a playoff appearance, the way it did last year but not the year before?

Houston Texans (7-9) — Would like their chances more if someone better than Brandon Weeden, who is 6-19 as a starter, would come in if Deshaun Watson can't make a complete recovery. And there are the same doubts about J.J. Watt (and others) on the other side of the ball, too. They do take league's biggest drop in strength of schedule — their 2017 opponents had a .516 winning percentage; their 2018 foes were .453 in '17.

Indianapolis Colts (5-11) — It's Andrew No Luck so long as he has to operate behind that offensive line, which allowed the most sacks in the league a year ago. Not in good shape at running back, either, and defense needs to improve massively over 2017, when it couldn't stop either the run (26th in the league) or the pass (28th).


Denver Broncos (9-7) — Case Keenum plus the league's No. 1-ranked defense equaled a trip to the Final Four for the Vikings last year, so it is not too much to ask that Case Keenum plus what was the league's No. 3-ranked defense last year should equal at least a trip to the playoffs in the weaker conference this year. You can throw a blanket across all four teams in this division, though.

Oakland Raiders (9-7) — Dude, where's my Carr? If he doesn't spend too much time in the shop getting his transmission or his struts fixed, the returning Jon Gruden is liable to keep him on the highway into January.

Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) — Bobby Beathard may be gone for 18 years, but his imprint remains indelible: only one rookie (first-round draftee strong safety Derwin James) is a projected starter, and the 21 returning veterans have a median five years of NFL experience (the league average is closer to three). Must find a way to beat the Chiefs, who have beaten them eight times in a row and effectively knocked them out of playoff contention last year with a 30-13 win over them at Arrowhead in Week 15.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-9) — That Billy Joe Tolliver is the best quarterback that Texas Tech has ever sent to the NFL is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Patrick Mahomes II's prospects — and their defense is coming off a season which was no better than that of the Colts — 25th against the run and 29th against the pass.


Philadelphia Eagles (12-4) — Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman are ten times more proactive than Andy Reid ever was: lose LeGarrette Blount in free agency? Pederson and Roseman sign Matt Jones in free agency and rookie Josh Adams, who inexplicably wasn't even drafted. Lose Torrey Smith in free agency? Pederson and Roseman sign Mike Wallace in free agency. No defending Super Bowl champion has repeated since the 2003-04 Patriots, so maybe it's overdue to happen again?

Dallas Cowboys (11-5) — Not buying the surprising pessimism coming from their notoriously arrogant fan base. So long as both Ezekiel Elliott and his girlfriend stay healthy, they're a virtual lock for the playoffs.

New York Giants (7-9) — Pat Shurmur was 9-23 in two seasons with the Browns and won the 2015 season finale with the Eagles after Chip Kelly was fired. They could have done a lot better than him to replace the ill-fated Ben McAdoo, but they couldn't have done better to fix their chronic problems running the ball (five consecutive bottom-half-of-the-league rankings in rushing offense) than the seemingly can't-miss Saquon Barkley, taken with the second overall pick.

Washington Redskins (6-10) — Kirk Cousins is 30. Alex Smith is 34. So naturally they would "trade" Cousins for Smith. The ghost of George Allen still haunts his old stomping grounds.


Green Bay Packers (12-4) — Aaron Rodgers broke his "Left Twix" (his left collarbone) in 2013, and was League MVP in 2014. He broke his "Right Twix" last year. Look for 2018 to be just as sweet, for both him and the team as a whole.

Minnesota Vikings (10-6) — Could be ripe for a bounce after zooming from 8-8 in 2016 to 13-3 and a Final Four appearance last year, and Kirk Cousins was 26-31-1 as a starter with Washington, and Dalvin Cook could prove to be just another undersized, injury-prone running back.

Chicago Bears (7-9) — They're 27-53 since firing Lovie Smith, who took them to the Super Bowl in 2006. This will be their best season since 2013 if Mitch Trubisky continues to develop.

Detroit Lions (5-11) — They did sign LeGarrette Blount in free agency, but don't worry, they will still find a way to have a horrible running game: the last time it ranked in the top half of the league in yards per game, Bill Clinton was President (in 1998), and since 2003, it has ranked last in the league four times and next-to-last once.


Atlanta Falcons (11-5) — They could have thrown themselves one huge pity party after blowing that 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI, but they didn't, and the main reason they didn't was their vastly improved defense, which went from ranking 25th overall, 17th against the run and 28th against the pass in 2016 to ninth, ninth, and 12th, respectively, in 2017. And their retractable roof will be fully functional this year, which will give them an important tactical advantage if they're willing to use it.

New Orleans Saints (9-7) — Their defense, which gave up 165 points in their first nine games last season, allowed 213 in their last nine, playoffs included. Another fade like that this year and they will fade out of the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers (8-8) — Cam Newton might be the most overrated player in the NFL: over the last five years, Carolina has ranked 28th, tied for 21st, 24th, 19th, and 29th in the league in passing offense. That's five consecutive years in the second division, as they used to say in baseball — and they did not draft a running back after cutting Jonathan Stewart, who has since signed with the Giants.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13) — They fired Lovie Smith, too — and while they're a somewhat more respectable 14-18 since doing so, the worst may be yet to come, as Jameis Winston will miss the first three games due to a suspension, and don't be surprised if there are more suspensions where that one came from.


Los Angeles Rams (10-6) — Rocketed from 4-12 in 2016 to 11-5 in 2017. Did someone say "bounce" or "lost the element of surprise"? But perhaps even more troubling was their lack of clutch play down the stretch: Playing at home, they knock Carson Wentz out of the game and they still lose, then four weeks later, they get outclassed by Atlanta in a wild card playoff game, also at home. But without the big, bad Seahawks to worry about any more, a repeat division crown appears likely.

San Francisco 49ers (9-7) — Are they there yet? Not with that running game and that defense they're not. Maybe they can take Le'Veon Bell off Pittsburgh's hands in a reasonable trade?

Arizona Cardinals (6-10) — Too much damaged goods on offense (Sam Bradford, David Johnson, Jermaine Gresham) and not sold on Steve Wilks as head-coaching timber. An almost certain non-contender.

Seattle Seahawks (4-12) — Their offseason moves are a par excellence example of why the NFL needs a draft lottery, like the NBA has. What they have done this spring amounts to tanking this entire season. If I were a season ticket holder, I would demand a refund.

PLAYOFFS (Home teams in CAPS)

AFC Wild Card: JACKSONVILLE over Oakland
...........................DENVER over Tennessee

NFC Wild Card: ATLANTA over Minnesota
...........................Dallas over L.A. RAMS

AFC Semifinals: PITTSBURGH over Denver
...........................NEW ENGLAND over Jacksonville

NFC Semifinals: PHILADELPHIA over Dallas
...........................GREEN BAY over Atlanta

AFC Championship: PITTSBURGH over New England

NFC Championship: PHILADELPHIA over Green Bay

Super Bowl LIII: Philadelphia over Pittsburgh

Leave a Comment

Featured Site