September 6, 2018

32 NFL team-by-team predictions for 2018

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

With a new season kicking off tonight, let’s run down where each team stands and where we see them finishing come January.

AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh

The Steelers remain the class of the AFC North. Even with the drama surrounding Le’Veon Bell, this is a team that has plenty of receiving weapons – including the best in the game, Antonio Brown. The defence is among the league’s top units, too.

Prediction: 11-5

Cincinnati

A decidedly average team last year, the Bengals didn’t get better or worse, but they did get a bit older. That’s not the right direction for them to be moving, but the veteran core could

Prediction: 8-8

Baltimore

This could be it for the Joe Flacco era in Baltimore. We’d like to say that he’ll go out with a bang, but it’s more likely the defence carries this team and probably falls just short of .500.

Prediction: 8-8

Cleveland

Just because the Browns are better, doesn’t mean that they’re going to make the playoffs or anything. There’s still plenty of room for improvement and it’s not going to happen with Hue Jackson as coach.

Prediction: 5-11

AFC EAST

New England

Clearly the cream of this division crop, especially given how poor the other three teams could be. The Pats real challenge will come in the playoffs and whether or not Tom Brady will ever start acting his age.

Prediction: 12-4

N.Y. Jets

Sam Darnold gets to start right off the bat, which isn’t a bad thing for his development, but might be a bad thing if the Jets are hoping to make a run this season. The rest of the Jets roster beats out the next two teams, though.

Prediction: 6-10

Buffalo

It’s hard to believe this team made the playoffs last year. The Bills might have the least all-around talent of any team in the league, but at least have a few bright spots on the roster like a pretty good defensive backs corps and LeSean McCoy running the ball – if he doesn’t get suspended.

Prediction: 5-11

Miami

The Dolphins got rid of their best players on the both sides of the ball and will be led by a QB that has missed nearly a season and a half, and was never above average in the first place. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Prediction: 4-12

AFC SOUTH

Jacksonville

While everyone touts the Jags as a potential powerhouse, let’s remember that they only went 10-6 last year. The passing attack still has some question marks with Blake Bortles remaining a pivotal piece. The defence and running game should be fantastic, though.

Prediction: 10-6

Tennessee

The Titans are going from a coach that didn’t know what he was doing to one that seems fairly competent. This was already a playoff team and we could see Tennessee be even better — but only if Marcus Mariota stays healthy.

Prediction: 10-6

Houston

So much went wrong the Texans last year that you can’t help but think they’ll be bounce back. The defence has potential to be special with J.J. Watt returning, but we’re still a bit skeptical of Deshaun Watson. He has only started six games and he’s coming back from a torn ACL and his O-line is awful.

Prediction: 9-7

Indianapolis

Andrew Luck is back! Can he run the ball or play defence? The Colts QB should single-handedly win the team some games, but it won’t be enough to bounce back from a 4-12 seasson.

Prediction: 6-10

AFC WEST

Kansas City

The Chiefs traded away their starting QB and their top corner back after winning the division last year and we still think they’re good enough to do it again. This is a case of a well-built infrastructure leading to wins, even in a tough division.

Prediction: 12-4

L.A. Chargers

The biggest concern for the Chargers, other than what seems like an annual injury curse, is that their home-field advantage might be the league’s worst. Can Phil Rivers and Co. overcome having to use a silent count at home in some games? The talent is certainly there to do so.

Prediction: 9-7

Denver

We actually like the Broncos as a nice sleeper built its pass rush and some improved QB play from Case Keenum — he can’t be worse than the Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler combo from last year. It wouldn’t even surprise us to see them in a wild-card spot, except this is a tough division at the top.

Prediction: 8-8

Oakland

The Raiders weren’t particularly good last year, underperforming to a 6-10 record after getting a lot of pre-season hype. Now, they’ve hired a coach that hasn’t been on the sidelines in a decade and traded away one of the three best defenders in the league. This team could be a trainwreck.

Prediction: 3-13

NFC NORTH

Minnesota

The Vikings are one of the most loaded teams in the league and they just added a Pro Bowl-calibre QB in Kirk Cousins. Minnesota’s defence was one of the league’s best and now we could see some more consistency on offence, although the offensive line does worry us a bit.

Prediction: 10-6

Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers is one of the best players in football and he’s back after last season’s broken collarbone. The Packers will always be able to move the ball on offence with Rodgers, but can the defence hold up its end of the bargain?

Prediction: 9-7

Chicago

The trade for Khalil Mack launches the Bears into contention for a wild-card spot. Mitchell Trubisky should be able to operate well in an RPO offence with some new weapons to throw to. Mack provides some pass-rush pressure in a division with some good QBs.

Prediction: 9-7

Detroit

The Lions are the odd man out in this division. They’re always in close games, even when they should be — for better or worse. Will a coaching change matter? Well it depends on how much you think of Matt Patricia, who we’re not entirely sure about considering how his tenure in New England ended.

Prediction: 5-11

NFC EAST

Philadelphia

The Super Bowl champs have one of the best rosters in the league, but could have some issues, especially early on. We’re not sure when Carson Wentz will be healthy and Nick Foles has looked bad in the pre-season. Top receiver Alshon Jeffery will miss some games, too. It’s not enough to derail their season, but maybe to cost them a first-round bye.

Prediction: 10-6

Washington

There’s little buzz about Washington, but it has quietly gotten better this off-season, switching Kirk Cousins for Alex Smith. This could be a nice sleeper pick for a wild-card spot if Jay Gruden can keep the offence humming with a new QB under centre.

Prediction: 9-7

N.Y. Giants

The biggest issue for the Giants is the offensive line, but with a new, competent coach, Odell Beckham healthy and Saquon Barkley in the backfield, this could be an explosive attack. The defence took a huge step back last year, but with Ben McAdoo gone, it should have some positive regression.

Prediction: 7-9

Dallas

The Cowboys have more problems that they’re willing to admit. Their receiving corps may be the league’s worst, the defence hasn’t improved too much, Jason Garrett remains an average coach at best and the offensive line – the team’s biggest strength – already has some injury issues. This could be a lost season for Dak and Zeke.

Prediction: 6-10

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta

The Falcons were  a blown red-zone situation away from beating the Eagles in the playoffs last year and potentially returning to the Super Bowl. While the offence fell a bit under Steve Sarkisian, it’s by no means a poor group and should be among the league’s top 10. The defence is young, fast and should hold up its end of the bargain.

Prediction: 10-6

New Orleans

The Saints surprised many last year by running the ball more often and holding it up defence. We don’t question New Orleans’ ability to adapt on offence, but will the defence be able to hold off some natural regression?

Prediction: 10-6

Carolina

The Panthers are already facing some issues with linebacker Thomas Davis out and starting LT sidelined. But the key players are obviously Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly. If either one misses time, that side of the ball could fall apart for the Cats.

Prediction: 9-7

Tampa Bay

The Bucs and Jameis Winston are headed for a messy divorce. He’s already going to miss three games due to another suspension and he hasn’t exactly proved to be worth the trouble. Coach Dirk Koetter hasn’t exactly panned out either.

Prediction: 3-13

NFC WEST

L.A. Rams

After years of mediocrity, the Rams might be the best team in football. The offence, orchestrated by coach Sean McVay is among the league’s best and is well-balanced. The defence just added several big pieces, including Ndamukong Suh to pair with Aaron Donald up front – possibly one of the best DT pairs in NFL history.

Prediction: 13-3

San Francisco

Now, it’s the real test for Jimmy Garoppolo. The contract has been signed and the games matter for the former Pats backup, now. The rest of the 49ers aren’t too shabby either, but the running game took a hit with the loss of free-agent signee Jerick McKinnon. It’s also questionable if the defence can hold up.

Prediction: 9-7

Seattle

The Legion of Boom is dead. The Seahawks will look to rebuild on the fly and change their identity on defence. The good news is that Russell Wilson is still in charge of the offence and is more than capable of keeping his team in games.

Prediction: 7-9

Arizona

The Cards are a team in transition at QB, so our expectations aren’t very high. David Johnson returns to anchor the running game and Patrick Peterson is one of the league’s best CBs, but what else is there? Larry Fitzgerald can’t do it forever and we also don’t know how Steve Wilks will fare as a head coach.

Prediction: 4-12

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