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2018 Season Predictions

September 6th, 2018

I don’t know why I do this.

Well, I do, actually. It’s because I’ve had months and months (213 days) to think about football without watching football and now there’s this part of me that feels like I have to say something. That part of me couldn’t be more wrong, of course. I don’t really have to say anything. And I know that. But I’m ahead with this anyhow.

So here goes the only football-related activity I engage in that’s more pointless than trying to pick a given week’s slate of games.

As in previous years, I’m not interested in trying to predict win-loss records. Even my stupidity has its limits (or so I really, really, really hope). I’ll just present a range of the total wins I think each team is capable of. And then, having forgotten sometime during my advance walk through 32 teams’ 17-week seasons that I’m just completely making this stuff up, I’ll refer back to the products of my own idiocy and pretend I can predict postseason seedings and outcomes

You still here? Man, you might be even sadder than I am. Might as well keep reading.

AFC East

New England Patriots, 11-13
I don’t know, like, maybe you’ve heard this, but Tom Brady just turned 41, which as I now understand it is the age at which one expects to see a quarterback transition from from league MVP to worthless bum. I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be a problem. Still, when the Patriots drafted Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, I thought (and I’m pretty sure tweeted, but going back to check that would, you know, require effort), hey, adding an explosive running back is a certainly one way to ameliorate the sudden bumification of an aging quarterback. It’s been done before (I think; like maybe there was a guy in Denver once or something like that — no, no, longer ago than that). This was an exciting thought to me. But not apparently to Bill Belichick, who in his eternal determination to play chicken with the Grim Reaper has opted to um, let’s say de-emphasize the wide receiver position this season. This, one anticipates, may put some of that pressure right back on Gray-dy. (See what I did there?) It might also tend to put some pressure on the dinged-up Michel, who could conceivably have trouble gaining yards if he’s the only guy defenses have to worry about. Except Gronk, I mean. They still have to worry about Gronk. Also, Chris Hogan has been known to make a catch from time to time. And if Cordarrelle Patterson is ever going to evolve into an actual NFL receiver, the QB best suited to help him get there is probably Brady (dotage notwithstanding). The Patriots also should get Julian Edelman back after week four — and one can at least hope that Edelman will start to return to form by the second half of the season. That’s all good-ish news for young Mr. Michel and old Mr. Brady alike. It’s no guarantee of a third straight Super Bowl appearance for the Patriots, mind you. But it does at least suggest that things may not be so terribly bleak for New England after all.

Miami Dolphins, 5-8
Let’s say Ryan Tannehill returns to his previous form. What does that get you? A guy who can throw 25-ish TDs and lead you to eight wins? Are those the goals? Is eight wins the goal? If so, I’m not sure I think this Dolphins organization is particularly well run.

New York Jets, 4-6
Sam Darnold very likely represents a huge step in the right direction for the Jets. Should be interesting to see what creative ways New Jersey comes up with to bollix the whole deal.

Buffalo Bills, 2-5
I’m sure Nathan Peterman’s going to do just great.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-12
The temptation this year (actually, it’s not all that new a thought process) is to consider the fact that Ben Roethlisberger seems significantly older at 36 than Tom Brady does at 41 and conclude that the Steelers and their quarterback alike are destined to fall apart. But the end never seems actually to arrive, does it? And I don’t think the Le’Veon Bell situation changes the calculus much, if at all. (Might hurt in the short term, but long term, I think as great as Bell is, the Steelers are built to achieve roughly the same level of success with or without him.)

Baltimore Ravens, 7-11
The Ravens defense, once again, should be able to keep the team in the hunt no matter what happens with the offense. Whether “in the hunt” translates to just missing the postseason or overtaking the Steelers for the division title (or, you know, one of the possibilities in between) will depend on the extent to which Joe Flacco continues his ongoing slide.

Cincinnati Bengals, 3-6
I wonder if anyone in the Bengals organization has noticed that Andy Dalton gets worse every season.

Cleveland Browns, 1-4
Here’s what I wrote about the Browns last year: “I’m sorely tempted to set up a template that populates this space with ‘The Browns are rebuilding.’ Feel like I could save a ton of time that way.” So there you go.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars, 9-13
If defense truly won championships, the Jaguars would be … well, actually, they might have gone into this season as the defending Super Bowl champs. But defense doesn’t win championships. Balance wins championships. And championship-level balance in the NFL requires consistently strong quarterback play. Blake Bortles has yet to deliver that. Maybe this is his year. Or maybe Jacksonville will field one of those Ds that are so dominant that even an average QB is enough. Or maybe the Jags will finish another season as also-rans. Time will tell.

Tennessee Titans, 8-11
The Titans were very good last season. They could, maybe should be better this season. If Marcus Mariota can step up his game, Tennessee may even be able to challenge Jacksonville for the division.

Houston Texans, 7-10
Deshaun Watson is a stunningly good quarterback. Next off-season, the Texans should consider bringing in an offensive line to protect him.

Indianapolis Colts, 5-10
You tell me whether Andrew Luck is healthy and ready to play like his old self. Without knowing, it’s impossible to say whether the Colts are a contender or a disaster.

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers, 8-11
I’m not sold on the Chargers. I keep hearing about how they’re poised to make a deep run into the postseason after struggling to 9-7 and just missing the tournament last season. But I keep thinking about how all I heard last season was that the Chargers were “better than their record” (man, do I hate that stupid cliche). I suspect that, for whatever reason, a lot of experts just sort of love to love the Chargers. Thing is, as I look around at the rest of the AFC West, I’m just not clear on which of the other team can step up and take the division. There are too many questions all around. So maybe Los Angeles gets it done. Or maybe they back into it. Or maybe neither. (And, ugh. Now that I’ve said all this, the Chargers will probably go 14-2 and win the Super Bowl.)

Kansas City Chiefs, 8-11
The Chiefs are just uneven enough that they could conceivably get a great season out of Patrick Mahomes and still manage to finish 8-8. Or they could get a few good bounces of the ball and end up taking the division.

Denver Broncos, 7-10
I like Case Keenum. I like the Broncos defense. The rest of the team, I’m not so sure about.

Oakland Raiders, 4-6
The Raiders are playing the long game. And they’re making wise decisions in that regard. But they’re not making decisions that point to success this season.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles, 11-15
I’m putting the Eagles at the top of the division because it was only a few months ago that I saw them beat a really good team in a really big game behind a backup quarterback. I don’t know how you look away from that. And then you consider that the defending champs certainly look like a team that could be better this year than they were last (maybe even if their starting QB doesn’t make it back on the field until midseason). That would be bad news for the rest of the league. Could it all fall apart? Well, sure. It’s the NFL. It can always all fall apart. For any team. But I’m not getting into the business of predicting that. And in fact, the only reason I even feel a need to hedge with the Eagles at all is that I think the NFC East is a fairly brutal division in which just a bit of misfortune can kill a team’s season.

Dallas Cowboys, 10-13
The Cowboys have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. If they can stay healthy and execute consistently, they’re at least a wild card team. And if the ball bounces right in their head-to-head matches with the Eagles, the Cowboys could potentially steal the division title.

New York Giants, 8-11
If you believe Eli Manning has a rock-solid season in him at age 37, then it’s easy to believe the Giants made all (or most) of the right off-season moves. If not, you have to expect the season to turn into a bit of a slog. I’m inclined to believe Manning’s got one more run in him, and I think that’s good enough at least for a run at a wild card berth.

Washington Racists, 7-9
The Racists could be OK. They don’t have the weapons to be great (not in this division, anyhow). And they may not even make it all the way to good.

NFC North

Detroit Lions, 9-12
I couldn’t decide whether to pick the Packers or the Vikings to win the NFC North, so I decided to go with the Lions. Detroit has a quarterback who can play pretty well. They acquired a running game in the off-season. And they have a coach who has at least shot at fixing their defense. I can get behind a team like that.

Green Bay Packers, 9-12
If Aaron Rodgers stays healthy and plays at the top of his game, the Packers can win it all. If he doesn’t, they can’t. What else is new?

Minnesota Vikings, 9-12
Let’s see if the Vikings can keep their new starting quarterback on his feet for an entire season for a change. If they can, they can win the division again.

Chicago Bears, 5-8
Khalil Mack is a great football player. He’s the equal of at least two, probably three great football players, actually. But he isn’t 11. And he certainly isn’t 22.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints, 12-14
The Saints look like a stronger, more balanced team than the one that won the division last season. As long as Drew Brees has a decent season in him (and I have no reason to suspect he doesn’t), New Orleans not only has a shot at the division title, but should be in contention for the NFC one seed.

Carolina Panthers, 9-12
I know I’m supposed to have the Falcons as the team most likely to challenge the Saints for the NFC South title. But I think it’s a mistake to look past the Panthers this season. This is a balanced team that I think can get things done on both sides of the ball. And Norv Turner is the kind of offensive coordinator who can engineer situations in which Cam Newton can excel. If this team can execute consistently, they have the potential to be very, very dangerous.

Atlanta Falcons, 9-11
If talent alone were enough to win professional football games (which I guess is to say, “if the NFL were like the NBA”), the Falcons would be a lock to make a deep run in the postseason. But it isn’t. And I need to see how things come together (over the entire season, not just the first half of it) before I’ll be ready to buy in on this team as more than a solid contender for a wild card berth.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1-5
It looks like this is the year before the rebuilding year for the Buccaneers. That’s never a good year.

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams, 11-13
The Rams rode a high-powered offense to a division title last season. And here’s the thing: they were about a year ahead of schedule. The Los Angeles D, which wasn’t awful last year, appears to have improved in the off-season. And the O may actually be a hair better. The Rams face a tougher schedule this year than they did last, but they should still fare at least as well as they did in 2017, and they’re probably better by a win or two.

San Francisco 49ers, 8-11
The Niners are probably a bit ahead of schedule, too. Which is to say, I won’t be terribly shocked if they come on in a big way this year. But I suspect there’s still one more off-season of work to do before San Francisco will truly be ready to make a run at a title.

Seattle Seahawks, 7-9
There’s enough talent in Seattle to make the Seahawks a team opponents can’t afford to overlook. But the Seahawks also have some things to figure out, including how they’re going to reconstitute their defense. Given the power at the top of this division, I suspect it’s going to be next year before we talk about Seattle a postseason contender.

Arizona Cardinals, 4-6
If you don’t have much of a defense and you can’t protect your quarterback, you’re in trouble.


Here’s where things get truly ridiculous. I don’t know what’s going to happen next week. But here’s a look at what I kinda guess might possibly happen early next year. This always works out great.

1. New England
2. Jacksonville
3. Pittsburgh
4. L.A. Chargers
5. Baltimore
6. Tennessee

1. L.A. Rams
2. Philadelphia
3. New Orleans
4. Detroit
5. Dallas
6. Carolina

Wild Card Playoffs

Los Angeles defeats Baltimore
Tennessee defeats Pittsburgh

Dallas defeats Detroit
Carolina defeats New Orleans

Divisional Playoffs

Los Angeles defeats Jacksonville
New England defeats Tennessee

Dallas defeats Philadelphia
Los Angeles defeats Carolina

Conference Championships

New England defeats Los Angeles

Los Angeles defeats Dallas

Super Bowl LIII
New England defeats Los Angeles

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