We’re just under two weeks away from the most wonderful time of the year – football season! The 2019 NFL year kicks off with the Packers at the Bears (tad strange no Patriots or Rams involved in the opener) on Thursday, September 5th. Anyway, its prediction time:
NFC Division & Wild Card Winners
West – Rams (12-4)
South – Falcons (11-5)
North – Bears (10-6)
East – Eagles (10-6)
Wild Card – Saints (10-6) & Cowboys (9-7)
Aside from the NFC West, the rest of the NFC divisions should be extremely competitive with at least two teams competing in each division well into December. I think the Saints take a tiny step backwards because of their catastrophic loss against the Rams in the NFC Championship game but still snag a Wild Card spot while the Falcons take the top spot in the South. The Bears could be a real force in the NFC with year two of the Trubisky/Nagy pairing plus a competent kicker. The Packers and Aaron Rodgers should be better but something always seems off in Green Bay plus #12 has had a hard time playing 16 games. The Vikings are due for a rebound but Kirk Cousins is difficult to bet on. The Eagles have arguably the best roster in football and Carson Wentz is another year removed from serious surgery. The Cowboys aren’t far behind but the contracts and egos (see: Zeke, Dak and Jerry) could very well derail a really, really good Dallas team. Regardless, I expect them to find a way to grab a Wild Card spot. Other teams to watch for Wild Card spots, outside of the Saints and Cowboys, are: Vikings, Packers, Seahawks, 49ers, Buccaneers.
AFC Division & Wild Card Winner
West – Chiefs (12-4)
South – Texans (10-6)
North – Steelers (10-6)
East – Patriots (12-4)
Wild Card – Jaguars (9-7) & Ravens (9-7)
The AFC feels a bit easier to diagnose with the two clear favorites in the conference with the Patriots and Chiefs. The other divisions and Wild Card spots have plenty of competition. If the Chargers weren’t being riddled with a major injury (Derwin James) and a contract issue (Melvin Gordon), I would’ve had them as true contenders out West with Kansas City. However, I simply can’t going into the season. The South is a
three two horse race between the Colts, Texans and Jaguars. Given Andrew Luck’s uncertain status, I couldn’t give them the division crown over the Texans. However, I do have them securing a Wild Card berth given how loaded the roster is from top to bottom. The Texans feel due and DeShaun Watson and JJ Watt are another year removed from major surgeries, making them the clear favorites. The Jaguars are weird team to peg: the defense should be elite, it’s just a matter of the offense. Can Leonard Fournette stay healthy? How much of an upgrade will Nick Foles be? Two massive questions that need to be answered positively for the Jags to be a true factor. I think London’s favorite team finds a way towards a playoff berth by virtue of their loaded defense; after all, this team was in the AFC Championship game just two seasons ago. The AFC North can really go in a number of directions. The Steelers lost AB and Le’Veon but those might prove to be blessings in disguise. They still have a top offensive line and improved the defense in a big way with drafting Devin Bush. The Browns, already making a ton of noise, should be a major factor in the division but are also a highly combustible roster capable of both greatness and dysfunction at any moment. Can’t forget about the Ravens, either, as Lamar Jackson is ready to explode and the addition of Earl Thomas adds to the list of all-time great safeties Baltimore has patrolling the secondary. I see the Steelers finding a way as all the poison has been jettisoned from that room (unless Mike Tomlin & Big Ben are the issues) and view the Ravens as being the more stable franchise to earn a Wild Card spot instead of Cleveland . The Jets and Bills will take (multiple) steps forward this year but I don’t see them knocking off Brady, Belichick & the Pats just yet. Other teams to watch for Wild Card spots, outside of the Jaguars and Ravens, are: Browns, Jets, Colts, Bills, Chargers.
NFC / AFC Championship Games
Falcons over Eagles / Chiefs over Texans
Chiefs over Falcons
Thinking – After last year’s heartbreaking loss in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots, I see Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes getting over the hump.
If I knew Andrew Luck would play a full 16 game season, I would’ve strongly leaned Colts over the Chiefs but he has proven to be unreliable in the availability department. Luck’s uncertainty departure becomes the Texans’ gain as they march to the AFC Championship game but fall short to the Chiefs.
In the NFC, I feel the Falcons and Eagles have two of the better rosters in football. The Eagles are contingent on Carson Wentz returning to his elite form but have four games against the Giants (sigh) and Redskins to help make that a reality. For the Falcons, simply better luck with health could easily put themselves back into the Super Bowl. One of the best offenses in football at every level, plus some returning key pieces on the defense, should make this a reality.
In the end, I feel Mahomes and a revamped defense for Kansas City will prove to be too much as the Chiefs hoist the Lombardi trophy come February. Andy Reid gets his elusive Super Bowl victory and cements himself as one of the greatest coaches of all time while Pat Mahomes’ star reaches a new level.
Honorable mentions: Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz
Honorable mentions: Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack
Honorable mentions: Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook
Honorable mentions: David Montgomery, Josh Jacobs
Honorable mentions: Josh Allen, Devin White
Comeback Player of the Year
Honorable mentions: Devonta Freeman, Jimmy Garoppolo
Coach of the Year
Honorable mentions: Kyle Shannahan, Adam Gase