2019 NFL Preview

Everyone of us is getting itchy for the season to begin. With pre-season games beginning the end of next month it’s time for my NFL predictions that could go wrong. We start with the AFC.
AFC East
• New England. Fresh off a Super Bowl win and Bill Belichick is very much a “business as usual” type of coach. He finds players that can make contributions immediately and don’t cost a lot of money. Tom Brady seems to be ageless. The Patriots will win this division simply because everyone else in the East is not on the Pats’ level.     (12-4)
Buffalo. I liked the signing of Cole Beasley, but his stats will take a hit and he will find it’s not as much fun playing with a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade, not to mention they play in the cold and snow in most of their November and December games. (8-8)
Miami. Adam Gase no longer the head coach and you know have a quarterback battle between Josh Rosen who lost his starting job in Arizona to the #1 overall pick Kyler Murray from Oklahoma and Ryan Fitzpatrick who lost his starting job early in the year in Tampa Bay to Jameis Winston. The Dolphins have a long way toward being relevant. (6-10)
New York. The Jets sign Le’Veon Bell in free agency and he’s made more headlines on TMZ than his play on the practice field. This is a bad look for the Jets who are hoping Sam Darnold has a better sophomore season. They made some good moves in the draft, but this team is a circus with Bell on the roster. (5-11)

AFC West

Oakland. Yes, I know how noisy the Raiders have been in Jon Gruden’s second year as coach. They just signed rookie RB Josh Jacobs (Alabama) to his deal. They trade for Antonio Brown and give up very little for him. They signed a few good receivers, they made some good draft moves on defense, and Derek Carr has weapons again in the Raiders’ swan song in Oakland before they move to Las Vegas. Despite their brutal
schedule, I like their odds to win the West. (10-6)
Kansas City. Let the Madden curse talks begin…Now. Patrick Mahomes had an amazing year and had the Chiefs on the doorstep of a Super Bowl berth. However, Tom Brady and the Pats got in the way in overtime of the AFC Championship game. Losing Tyreek Hill
leaves a big dent in Mahomes’ weapon arsenal. Their defense is still questionable at times. I think KC takes a step back this season. (9-7)
Los Angeles. The L.A. team no one really talks about. The Chargers had a great year, but most of their fanbase is back in San Diego. They can’t even fill the soccer stadium in L.A. their using until their shared stadium with the Rams is completed. Philip Rivers had
a terrific season, Melvin Gordon is a top 10 running back in this league when healthy, and this defense when at 100% health is scary good. Come playoff time, the Chargers fold like a house of cards and did so in their playoff opener against the Baltimore Ravens. Chargers fall back a bit this season because Oakland got that much better. (8-8)
Denver. The Broncos’ revolving quarterback door leaves them now with Joe Flacco. Yes, Joe Flacco. At 33, he doesn’t have a lot in the tank, but after all if John Elway (team president) can get something out of Peyton Manning whom the Colts simply cut after his neck surgery and drafting Andrew Luck, then maybe there’s hope for Denver fans. Yeah, Philip Lindsay is one of the best things you have going for you on the offensive side of
the ball. Broncos take a back seat in this division. (6-10)
AFC North
Pittsburgh. The Steelers got rid of the dirty laundry in the locker room by unloading Antonio Brown and disgruntled running back Le’Veon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger is getting older, but he is the best quarterback in this division and one of the top 10 QB’s in
the league. Look for the Steelers to rebound this year to redeem themselves from last season’s awful collapse after starting 7-1-1. (10-6)
Baltimore. The Ravens surprised a few people and they have some nice pieces. Lamar Jackson is electric to watch. He reminds me a lot of Michael Vick when he runs with the amount of speed he possesses. However, he’s got to throw more or he’s going to get banged up frequently. Their defense isn’t great, but it’s pretty good. (9-7)
Cleveland. Oh, Browns. You went all in and acquired Odell Beckham Jr. in a stunning trade with the NY Giants. Baker Mayfield will be better in his sophomore season considering he also has Beckham’s former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry on the other side to throw to and Mayfield must take full advantage. The Browns will be .500. They talk too much, they’re too brash about what they have, and it will come back to bite them. They’re not quite ready for prime time just yet. (8-8)
Cincinnati. The Bengals moved on from Coach Marvin Lewis. Andy Dalton and AJ Green are the two best pieces this team has moving forward. It’s time to part ways with both pieces and rebuild but having AJ Green on the roster will keep Cincinnati somewhat
relevant. However, it won’t be by much with their 3 improved counterparts in the AFC North. (6-10)

AFC South
Indianapolis. The Colts last year came on strong after getting Andrew Luck back from his 2017 surgery. Their offensive line is very underrated as well as their defensive line. They went into Houston in the AFC Wildcard game and defeated the Texans in dominating fashion. Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the game and not only has a line to protect him, but a defense to protect leads. Their defense doesn’t have a lot of big names, but they play big. Despite a lack of a star receiver, much like Tom Brady, Andrew Luck makes the most of anyone lined up to
catch passes from him and makes the best of it. Colts should be favored to make it to the AFC Championship game. (11-5)
Tennessee. The Titans had a solid season and former Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry had a breakout year and one of the NFL’s highlights: a touchdown run of 99 yards in a Thursday night game against AFC South rival Jacksonville. The Titans need to ensure Marcus Mariota stays healthy and has weapons to find to score the ball. Tight end Delanie Walker tore his ACL and he’s not sure if he’ll even be ready to come off the Titans PUP list before the start of the season. The Titans did pretty well in the draft by taking former Ole Miss receiver standout A.J. Brown in the 2nd round. With the 19th overall pick, the Titans took a risk on Misssissippi State defensive end Jeffery Simmons who’s coming off an ACL tear. However, Titans’ owner Amy Adams thinks he will be 100% by the start of the season. The AFC South might very well be this year’s top division in football. I’m predicting 3 teams from this division make the playoffs. (10-6)

Jacksonville. The Blake Bortles era has come to an end with the Jaguars. They acquire veteran and former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles when he did not re-sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jags added to an already potent defense taking DE/LB standout Josh Allen from Kentucky in the first round of the draft. They also took offensive tackle Jawann Taylor in round two to give protection to Foles and allow running holes for Leonard Fournette. On the plus side, Foles will be 30 the end of this year, so he still has some good years on the table. He won’t have the quality of receivers in Jacksonville that he did with Philly, but this defense, when healthy, can be a top 5 unit in the league. Look for Jacksonville to be a Wildcard team and could even find a way to make it to the AFC Championship game. (10-6)
Houston. The Texans had a pretty good season last year as Deshaun Watson improved from his rookie year and stayed healthy recovering from a torn ACL. However, the team fell flat in the playoffs and got blown out by Indianapolis at home in the AFC Wildcard game. DeAndre Hopkins is a top 5 WR in this league and proved that last year with one big time grab after another. Houston released Demaryius Thomas due to injury and age after acquiring him late in the season from Denver. This defense must play better than they did last season. At times, they gave up several big plays. The front seven has to get more pressure on the quarterback if they are going to stay in games against the likes of Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, and other mobile QB’s in this league. JJ Watt is the heart and soul of the defense and the anchor of this franchise. He gives everything he has on and off the field but has little playoff success thus far. Texans will be in the thick of things, but unless their defense improves from last year’s performance, they’re going to fall behind their AFC South rivals. (8-8)
Now we switch sides to the NFC.
NFC East
Dallas. The Cowboys made it to the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs narrowly losing to the NFC Champion L.A. Rams. The Cowboys are heading the right direction by improving their secondary in the draft and making their already great offensive line even
better. Dak Prescott is a top 10 QB in this league and will continue his upward trend having Amari Cooper for a full season. Ezekiel Elliott is a top 5 running back and gives defenses nightmares whether in the backfield or lining up as a slot back. Tight end Jason
Witten comes back out of retirement as Dak’s safety valve whenever Amari gets double teamed. Dallas also signed former Green Bay Packers WR Randall Cobb. If he stays healthy, this gives Dak yet another solid target to give this offense a boost. This team is
ready to take the next step. If Jason Garrett doesn’t get it done, he will get canned in favor of someone else despite owner Jerry Jones’ backing up till now. Their goal should be Super Bowl or bust. They will win the Super Bowl in 2020. (11-5)
• Philadelphia. The Eagles bid goodbye to their former Super Bowl winning quarterback
in Nick Foles. Carson Wentz (more like Wince) gets injured yet again, and Foles makes an erroneous throw late in the NFC Divisional round in New Orleans against the Saints. Philly and Dallas are the two best teams in this division with the Redskins and Giants enduring rebuilds. Philadelphia should be a Wildcard team in the NFC and it all hinges on the health of Carson Wentz. (10-6)

Washington. The quarterback carousel continued its turn in D.C. as rookie Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State takes over under center. This team does not have a lot of great pieces and will need to build through the draft over the next 3-5 years. Adrian Peterson showed flashes of his old self last season, but at age 34 after a torn ACL and a knee procedure, the clock is ticking for the aging running back. Jay Gruden will likely keep his job because owner Dan Snyder is hitting the reset button on this team. (6-10)
New York. All I can say is, LOL. The Giants jettison star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland for a 3rd round pick and then with the 5th overall pick selects not Dwayne Haskins (who was on the board), but instead take Duke QB Daniel Jones. They are also stuck with an aging Eli Manning whose numbers will be even worse having only Sterling Shepherd, Golden Tate, and Saquon Barkley as his main weapons. This team is in a major rebuild moving forward. They won’t be very competitive this season. (4-12)

NFC West
• San Francisco. GM John Lynch is building this team the right way, and Niners fans are about to celebrate the finished product. Jimmy Garoppolo is the best QB option this roster has had since Alex Smith and San Francisco has gotten some good pieces to surround him. In the draft, they chose Ohio State’s monster DL Nick Bosa (#2 overall who will be their version of JJ Watt) and WR Jalen Hurd (3rd round, Baylor/Tennessee). In free agency, they acquired Atlanta Falcons RB Tevin Coleman and veteran WR Jordan Matthews. If Garoppolo stays healthy, this team is playoff ready. (11-5)
• Los Angeles. When you’ve been to the Super Bowl, it’s a tougher road returning to the big game (unless you’re the New England Patriots). The Rams, despite acquiring former Packers LB Clay Matthews, were a bit exposed in the Super Bowl. RB Todd Gurley’s arthritis in his knees should be a big concern moving forward. Rams’ Coach Sean McVay needs to rely more on QB Jared Goff to make plays to cut back on Gurley’s usage rate to preserve his problematic knees. This team is good enough to get to the NFC Championship game, but with the Niners improvement and with other teams in the NFC
bolstering their rosters, the climb back to the mountain just got steeper for the Rams. (9-7)
Seattle. The Seahawks’ dominance ended a few years ago with several of their key pieces retiring, being traded, or departed via free agency. Russell Wilson became a very wealthy quarterback this offseason (4 years $87.6 million) despite them losing to the
Cowboys in Dallas in the NFC Wildcard matchup. Russell Wilson is not a one-man wrecking crew and the Cowboys’ defense proved that to be the case. They also gave head coach Pete Carroll an extension on his contract. Moving forward, Russell Wilson is a great quarterback, but he’s not worth $87.6 million. The Seahawks will regret making this financial mistake and will pay the consequences of it. (8-8)
• Arizona. The Cardinals have yet another head coach at helm and this time it’s former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. They also trade away their 2018 First Round choice Josh Rosen to the Miami Dolphins and take Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy
winner Kyler Murray #1 overall. The Cardinals find themselves amid another reset. If things don’t start trending the right direction quickly, Kingsbury won’t last long as coach. This team won’t be relevant for a few years and their schedule this season is brutal on a young roster. (5-11)
NFC North

Minnesota. Despite having overpaid Kirk Cousins as their quarterback, this team’s roster is solid on the offensive and defensive sides of the football. Stefon Diggs is a star in the making as a wideout and if Dalvin Cook stays healthy, he can easily be a 1,000-yard rusher in this league. This division is a toss up because all 4 teams can win it, but Minnesota should tip the scale in their favor and win the NFC North crown. (11-5)
• Detroit. Quietly, the Lions picked up a few nice pieces through the draft and free agency. Second year coach Matt Patricia has this team taking on the identity he had as an assistant in New England under Bill Belichick. Detroit knows they’re stuck with Matthew
Stafford’s contract, so it’s vital to ensure he doesn’t take unnecessary hits. They struggled at times on defense last season, they took steps to rebolster the D by selecting defensive players in 4 of their 9 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. Their #8 overall pick T.J. Hockenson
(Iowa) should make an immediate impact especially having former Steelers TE Jesse James (free agency) on the other side. Detroit let Golden Tate (Giants) go, but the Lions will be a tough out for anyone. I like the physicality, discipline, and order that Patricia is
instilling in this roster. They could steal a game or two from teams no one expects. They’ll compete for an NFC Wildcard spot. (9-7)
Chicago. Mitch Trubisky burst onto the scene last year with the Bears who even made it to the playoffs and would have defeated the Eagles in the NFC Wildcard matchup if they
had a kicker. The bigger focus of the Bears this offseason has seemed to be the social media beer chugging battles between the Packers’ linemen, the Bears’ linemen, and even the 2 quarterbacks of Aaron Rodgers and Mitch Trubisky. The biggest name the
Bears took (no first or second round picks in 2019) was Calvin Ridley’s brother Riley Ridley (Georgia) at WR. Tarik Cohen takes over full-time at RB after the team traded away Jordan Howard to Philadelphia. Khalil Mack is a one-man wrecking crew on defense, but the Eagles’ offensive line was able to contain him well in the NFC Wildcard
matchup. The Bears will come back to earth a bit this season because the other teams in this division improved. (8-8)
Green Bay. The Mike McCarthy era came to an end. Aaron Rodgers is another year older, but this roster got much-needed defensive aid through this year’s draft. One of the franchise’s biggest faces, Clay Matthews, got traded to the Super Bowl runner up L.A.
Rams. Long-time WR Randall Cobb was let go and he’s now a Dallas Cowboy. Former Titans and Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur (who also coached Matt Ryan as QB coach in Atlanta from 2015-2017) takes over the headset. He and Rodgers have
already had a few disagreements, but it will still be an improvement from McCarthy. The Packers will go as far as Aaron Rodgers can carry them. This Packers team is starting to resemble the Lions team from a few years ago when they had Matthew Stafford and that
was about all. Packers will struggle with the current talent pool they have. (7-9)
NFC South
New Orleans. This team was on the threshold of the Super Bowl once again after a landmark year by QB Drew Brees who seems to be ageless. The one area this team needs to reinforce is their offensive line. Brees took quite a few hits and didn’t have much time
in the pocket against the Rams’ front seven. Despite the loss of veteran RB Mark Ingram (Ravens), they acquired veteran Latavius Murray to backup Alvin Kamara. With a solid defense returning, I’ve got the Saints picked to go to the NFC Championship game vs.
the Cowboys. (12-4)

Atlanta. The Falcons tend to be like Jekyll and Hyde. They’re good one year and average the next. Matt Ryan puts up incredible numbers at QB and the receiving duo of former Crimson Tide standouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley put up a lot of points any given Sunday. Defensively, this team struggles to be consistent. Head coach Dan Quinn will
have to rally his team this season and they’ll have to fight to make it into a crowded NFC playoff picture. (10-6)
Carolina. If Cam Newton and Ron Rivera can’t right this ship, the Panthers may look to start from scratch. Newton hasn’t been himself since getting obliterated by the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl a few years ago. This Carolina team started out well to begin
the year but fell apart down the stretch blowing leads and failing to close out games. Cam Newton is eerily like Russell Westbrook in the NBA: great stat line but can’t win big games in the NFL. Ron Rivera’s seat is getting warm because the talent on this roster should be performing at a higher level than they have been. Atlanta and and New Orleans are trending upward, and this will be a tough division for the Panthers to try and win. (8-8)
• Tampa Bay. Jameis Winston has to get it right at QB or his time in Tampa Bay will be done. He initially lost his starting job last season to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he earned it back when “Fitzmagic” wore off later in the season. They let Desean Jackson reunite with his former Philadelphia Eagles team. They bring a new head coach, but a
familiar NFL face in Bruce Arians. If anyone can turn Winston around, this guy is the man for the job. He squeezed years out of Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer in Arizona when everyone thought both QB’s were finished. WR Mike Evans is the best receiving threat for this team and TE OJ Howard no longer has Cameron Brate on the other side taking away targets. This Bucs team will have a transition year with a new coach, but they should begin an upward trend if the defense improves its performance. (8-8)

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