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2019 Season Predictions

September 3rd, 2019

I think I’ll start by noting that a year ago at this time, I predicted the Patriots would beat the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

Seriously. I totally did.

And then (ready for this?) the week before the game, I predicted that the Patriots would force Jared Goff to make a fatal mistake late in the game and that New England would come away with a 10-point victory. Which is, you know, exactly what ended up happening. And, OK, sure, I got pretty much everything in between completely wrong. But still, pretty good, right?

So what I should do now is retire from making any kind of predictions. Because I’m never doing any better than that.

And also, trying to predict the outcomes of football games five months in advance is an exceedingly stupid thing to do. But, uh, I guess I’m an exceedingly stupid person. Because once again, here I go.

As usual, I’m not going to predict win-loss records. I’ve found I can be just as wrong just as often in offering a range of the total wins I think each team is capable of. And then, I’ll get into specific matchups and outcomes in my postseason predictions, mostly because I can’t come up with a way out of it.

Let’s get on with it, then, shall we?

AFC East

New England Patriots, 12-14
The 2019 Patriots offense was always going to need a bit of time to get into a groove. No, not because Tom Brady is 42 years old, though there will be no shortage of pundits and fans ready to pin a slow offensive start on the GOAT. And not entirely because of the significant adjustment losing a player like Rob Gronkowski requires, though Gronk’s retirement is certainly a significant factor (and one the will be pointed to frequently by frustrated fans and gleeful haters alike). It’s to do with the scope of changes the O has undergone during the off-season. The New England offense during Brady’s career has been better than most (all?) at adjusting to change. But even they need time to work things out on the field. And that task became even harder with the last-minute loss of their starting center to injured reserve. I expect the Pats to lean on the ground game early on, perhaps through the entire first half of the season. And I expect that shift to scare the life out of fans. But at the same time, I expect a Patriots defense that looks stronger than it has in maybe 16 years to allow the new offense the luxury to grow into itself. And assuming everything manages to click by the time December rolls around, I expect New England go to into the postseason strong and ready to make yet another run at the championship.

Buffalo Bills, 7-10
The Bills were maybe a half step better than a shrug a year ago. And they’ve probably improved by half a step, which means they should be a shrug and a friendly sigh this season. But they’ve also got a tough schedule. So maybe the ball bounces their way a few times and they finish a bit better than last season’s 6-10. And maybe not.

New York Jets, 5-8
Somewhere in the middle of their transition from a one-dimensional team focused on defense to a one-dimensional team focused on offense, the Jets may accidentally achieve enough balance to win a few games they really should lose.

Miami Dolphins, 2-4
The Dolphins weren’t looking like a very good team even before they gave up on the season (or didn’t, even though they did). Which might explain why they gave up on the season.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-11
The Steelers are going to go as far this season as their defense takes them. And that’s not my way of saying I think Ben Roethlisberger can’t or won’t pick up where he left off in 2018, which wasn’t his best season but was his best season in quite some time. I honestly don’t know whether he can, particularly in light of the Steelers’ meaningful off-season changes in offensive personnel. But I do know that the younger, more athletic D Pittsburgh is fielding this season looks like the kind of unit that can carry a team with an evolving offense for at least half a season, and possibly a good bit longer. The Steelers may miss the playoffs again. Or they may get to the second or third round. Which it is will depend largely on just how good Pittsburgh’s D turns out to be.

Cleveland Browns, 8-12
Maybe the Browns turn out to be as good as the hype around them would have one believe. Maybe they turn out to be the Browns yet again.

Baltimore Ravens, 7-11
Lamar Jackson might take a step back this year. Or he might not. And if he does, it will probably be less about Jackson than the Ravens’ new offense. (Jackson’s a talented QB, who’s going to work out just fine for Baltimore over the long term.) Whether the Ravens end up repeating as division champs or getting an early start to their off-season will depend not only upon how Jackson plays, but on whether the D is up to last year’s high standard, and whether the team gets a few good bounces over the course of a challenging schedule.

Cincinnati Bengals, 5-7
The best thing that can happen with the Bengals this year is that they finally figure out their quarterback is a liability.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts, 7-11
I thought about changing my forecast for the Colts following Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement. And then I didn’t. No disrespect to Luck, who was a terrific passer when he was healthy. It’s just that you never really knew how healthy Luck was or how long he’d stay that way (which, you know, is a huge part of why he’s now retired). I still feel about the Colts roughly the same way I feel about the rest of the AFC South. They could be good. They could be mediocre. They shouldn’t be awful. And they probably can’t be great. Let’s see how the ball bounces.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 7-11
Another AFC South team I have no idea what to make of. (See the second half of my thoughts on the Colts above.)

Tennessee Titans, 7-11
And another.

Houston Texans, 7-11
And still another.

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers, 11-13
I know it’s heresy to pick any team except the Chiefs to win the AFC West this season. (Hell, it may be heresy to pick any team other than the Chiefs to take the conference title.) But I’m one of those folks who remembers that the Chargers exist. And, well, they were good enough last year to reach the divisional round. And this year’s squad is probably a notch better than last year’s. So let’s see what happens.

Kansas City Chiefs, 10-12
I’d probably go along with the crowd and take the Chiefs to win the division if Kansas City had used the off-season to develop a defense. It didn’t. (This, I have to say, is not a surprise.) The Chiefs O is still more than good enough to carry a team to a division title and deep into the playoffs. But the team is going to falter eventually. It’s just a question of when.

Oakland Raiders, 5-7
The Raiders are probably going in the right direction. But they’re not getting there fast. Not in this division.

Denver Broncos, 3-6
I’ve never been a Joe Flacco hater. He’s fine. Not as good as he thinks he is. Not as bad as his detractors make him out to be. Fine. But Flacco is not the answer in Denver.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles, 9-12
Philadelphia put a balanced team on the field last season. And were it not for a bit of wear following their 2017 title run, they might have repeated as division champs. As it was, they seemed to figure things out down the stretch and into the first week of the postseason. They look like a pretty balanced squad again this year. And I’m expecting a little more experience and a little more rest to make a difference.

Dallas Cowboys, 8-11
Last season, the Cowboys struggled early and surged late, earning a division title and winning in the wild card round before falling to the eventual conference champion Rams. I expect to see the opposite this year. The Cowboys should come hot out of the gate, but I suspect they’ll stumble as the games get tougher down the stretch. In the end, I think the best they’ll manage is a wild card berth.

Washington Racists, 7-11
I think the Racists are still probably a season away from making a run at the division and the playoffs. But I won’t be shocked if it turns out I’m not giving them enough credit.

New York Giants, 4-7
The Giants have some work to do.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings, 8-12
I’m looking at the NFC North in much the same way I see the AFC South. Except for this part: I know that I’m supposed to be excited about at least one (most seem to think it’s this one) and perhaps as many as three of these teams (all but the Lions). But I’m just not. Which isn’t to say I think they’ll all stink. I actually think the division may send two teams to the postseason. It’s just that I couldn’t tell you which two. And I think all four of them have a shot

Green Bay Packers, 8-12
Maybe they’ll be great. Maybe they won’t. Depends in a lot of ways on whether Aaron Rodgers believes he’s playing for the Packers or playing for himself.

Chicago Bears, 7-11
I’m still not sold on Mitchell Trubisky. But sometimes I’m wrong about stuff.

Detroit Lions, 7-11
I still believe football games are won and lost in the trenches. So I still believe the Lions can win games. How many depends on whether they can do more than win the battle at the line of scrimmage.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints, 12-14
Sooner or later age is going to catch up with Drew Brees (just as it’s going to catch up with the guy in New England). But I’ve seen nothing that leads me to believe it’s going to happen this season. The Saints ran away with the division last season. They may get more of a challenge this time around. But they still come out on top.

Atlanta Falcons, 9-12
The Falcons might have made a run at the division a year ago if they’d been a bit healthier. They still wouldn’t have overtaken the Saints, mind you. But they might have made it interesting. Maybe this year.

Carolina Panthers, 7-11
If Cam Newton can stay healthy (assuming he’s actually healthy right now), the Panthers can be dangerous. Do you believe Newton can stay healthy? Because I’m not sure I do.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-8
I’m confident Bruce Arians can get the Buccaneers turned around. But not all at once.

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams, 11-14
The Rams look like the kind of team that’s going to be very good for a very long time. And unless the Seahawks surge, I think that puts Los Angeles in line for a third straight division title and probably at least a first round bye.

Seattle Seahawks, 10-12
The Seahawks definitely have the look of a postseason contender again this year. Whether they end up on the road as a wild card qualifier or at home for at least a week probably comes down to whether they can split the season series with the Rams, something they didn’t manage last year. Which means Seattle will probably know what their postseason prospects look like come October 3.

San Francisco 49ers, 7-10
The 49ers might be dangerous this year if Jimmy Garoppolo can shake off the rust quickly. Me, I tend to think Garoppolo’s going to need at least half a season to get into form. And by then, the Niners will probably be looking ahead to 2020.

Arizona Cardinals, 4-6
Kyler Murray should be fun to watch, anyhow.


This is the really stupid part of this exercise. (OK, the extra stupid part.) The part where I pretend it makes some kind of sense to predict what will happen 17, 18, 19, 20 or 22 weeks down the road. Because that makes sense.

1. New England
2. L.A. Chargers
3. Pittsburgh
4. Jacksonville
5. Kansas City
6. Cleveland

1. New Orleans
2. L.A. Rams
3. Philadelphia
4. Minnesota
5. Seattle
6. Atlanta

Wild Card Playoffs

Pittsburgh defeats Cleveland
Kansas City defeats Jacksonville

Atlanta defeats Philadelphia
Seattle defeats Minnesota

Divisional Playoffs

Los Angeles defeats Pittsburgh
New England defeats Kansas City

New Orleans defeats Atlanta
Los Angeles defeats Seattle

Conference Championships

New England defeats Los Angeles

New Orleans defeats Los Angeles

Super Bowl LIV (forever to be known as the Geezer Bowl)
New England defeats New Orleans

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