It’s time to unleash my amazing crystal ball for 2018! For the past couple seasons I’ve bet with history and the easy odds, yet was defied by Tom Brady. But I will predict again, the seemingly immortal Tom Brady’s age finally catches up to him. I figure I have 10 more years to get this right. The not immortal Drew Brees will also hit the codger wall and start stinking it up. The Super Bowl will be a Pennsylvania showdown between the Steelers & Eagles. The Raiders will start making noise again in the AFC, and the Broncos will return to familiar territory by reaching the post season. Sleepers in the NFC are the Giants, Buccaneers, and Cardinals, and it all rests with which QB shows up for those teams.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been fortunate to play their entire career in the worst division in football. The only difference this year is that Brady is a year older. But that’s not enough to drop New England out as winner of the AFC East. However, that’s as far as they’ll go this year. The Dolphins are the best positioned to overtake the Pats, but that rests on the health of average QB Ryan Tannehill. The Bills made the playoffs last year but that was a fluke, and like the Jets will be too young at QB to pull of any miracles. Once again, the worst division in the NFL.
Winner: New England Patriots
The Steelers are the obvious choice for the North with their elite offense and ever so slightly improved defense. The Ravens could challenge because they have solid coaching and 1st round pick Lamar Jackson to provide an occasional change-of-pace from quintessentially mediocre Joe Flaco. The Bengals attempts to shore up last year’s awful o-line will be the deciding factor in whether or not they can compete. The Browns are looking like a team that actually might have a future, but no one should ever pick the Browns to do anything until they’ve at least done it once. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me 20 times, shame on me.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
Can the Jagaurs keep their momentum going? I think so, but not enough to keep the Texans from winning the AFC South. This is all predicated on Deshaun Watson staying healthy, because if he does they have enough weapons on offense and a really good defense to make some serious noise in the playoffs. The Titans are a tough call. They should be at least as good as last year, but it will be a challenge in the uncharacteristically tough AFC South. The Colts had an immediate upgrade when the fired coach Pagano, and if Andrew Luck can stay healthy anything can happen in this division.
Winner: Houston Texans
This is the hardest division to call, as each team can easily fall anywhere in pecking order. I can’t pick the Chiefs because they are rolling the dice with a young QB in Patrick Mahommes with one career start and a mixed preseason. The Broncos are looking decent under new helmsman Case Keesum, er, Keenum and their defense should be even more stout with top defensive draft pick Bradley Chubb. They also have the easiest schedule in the division. Despite his share of detractors, Gruden upgrades the Raiders, a huge improvement over Jack Del Rio (who I view as the worst D-coordinator in the history of the Denver Broncos). They have a good QB in Derek Carr, and defensive stud Khalil Mack who I think will not sit out for more than a game. The Chargers have the best QB in the division in Phillip Rivers and a strong defense, but I just don’t trust their coaching. Since I have to pick a team, I ever so slightly lean toward…
Winner: Oakland Raiders
AFC Wild Card Teams: Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos
AFC Champion: Pittsburgh Steelers over Houston Texans
So which team is going to stop the Eagles from repeating as division champs (let alone conference & super bowl champs)? Carson Wentz would have been league MVP had he not torn his ACL in week 14. The Cowboys are the closest competitor in what is an uncharacteristically weak NFC East. I think the Redskins will regress from 7 wins last year. The Giants are no doubt improved and have an outside shot at a wildcard spot.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
A healthy Aaron Rogers is still the best QB in the league (yes better than 41 year old Brady). Is this enough to dethrone the Vikings with Kirk Cousins and arguably the best defense in the league? Probably not, but it will be close. I think the Bears are improved but not enough to threaten for a playoff spot. The Lions are the Lions, they have plenty of the right pieces but should never be picked for the playoffs until there is at least one sample size to suggest its possible.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
The best division in the NFL will be a 3-way race between the Panthers, Saints, and Falcons. The Buccaneers are improved but need Jameis Winston to step it up after regressing last year. If Winston has a good year they could be the surprise team in the NFL. Despite a solid offseason, I think the Saints will miss the playoffs as Drew Brees finally hits the codger wall.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
The Rams free agent moves make them better than last year’s version and they should walk away with the NFC West. The only thing that I can see stopping them are injuries. The 49ers looked like gamebusters with Jimmy Garoppolo last year, but the jury is still out if they have enough to challenge for a wildcard spot. The Cardinals could be dangerous if Sam Bradford stays healthy, but he won’t so the Cards will miss the playoffs. The Seahawks have gone through an almost complete makeover of their team, especially their almost completely dismantled defense, but Russell Wilson can’t be underestimated so I still see them in the mix.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
NFC Wild Card Teams: Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers
NFC Champion: Philadelphia Eagles over Los Angeles Rams
Super Bowl: Eagles Repeat over the Steelers