Football starts tonight.  If you don’t have the attention span to watch all (runs calculations) 267 games, then you have come to the right spot.  I’ve looked into my crystal ball (yes, it’s cracked and it’s a little smudged, but still) and have come up with my predictions for the NFL season.

This is going to be fun. This serves as my entirely uneducated and ridiculously too early predictions for the outcome of the 2018 NFL season.  Before we get started, let me get this out of the way – I DON’T CARE.  What do I mean? You can come back to taunt me in 21 weeks, 17 weeks, or even 8 weeks and I will absolutely not care.  Oh, in addition, don’t bet on anything based on my predictions.  I have watched zero preseason football and basing this mostly on what I remember of what happened last season and what’s changed since then – bear in mind my wife had a kid in April (editor’s note: Scarlett was born in May dummy) May and my knowledge of what has happened this offseason is shaky at best. With all that being said, let’s jump to predictions.

Divisions

AFC East

Unfortunately for Patriots and Tom Brady haters like me, New England remains the class of this division until Bill Belichick decides otherwise.  The Jets and Bills both have rookie QBs possibly starting Week 1.  The Dolphins remain mostly an exercise in football futility dating back to the departure of Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson and Dan Marino (that’s 20 plus years of frustration, I feel for Fins fans.) Also, it is doubtful that this division produces a wild card team.

Prediction:

Why?: Who is going to stop them?

Why not?: Tom Brady gets injured and because they traded Jimmy G the Pats crash during Brady’s final season.

AFC West

I want to go out on a limb and select my favorite team, the Denver Broncos as the division winner in the West.  I want to believe that Von Miller and the rest of the defense will be able to get better even with the departure of Aqib Talib and terrorize the league. I want to say that I believe in (checks online to see who’s Denver’s starting QB) Case Keenum and second year coach Vance Joseph.  I want to be able to say all of these things.

Prediction: 

Why?: I originally had the Raiders, but then I found out that while other people playing chess and checkers, Jon Gruden is playing quidditch.

Why not?: What if Gruden knows what he is doing?

AFC North

Most years this division would feel like a toss up between Pittsburgh and Baltimore with Cincinnati lurking for an opportunity to jump one or both teams.  This year it feels like Pittsburgh should be able to take this division without too much of a struggle, barring a Big Ben injury of course.  If we can get a full season or close to full season of the Killer B’s we should be looking at a number one or two seed in the AFC playoffs.

Prediction:

Why?: None of the other teams seem capable of mounting a legit challenge.

Why not?: Because Bell doesn’t want his team to be great more than he wants to get paid.

AFC South

As stated in my One Sentence 2018 NFL Season Preview article, I am mostly convinced that the AFC South has the potential to be the best (read most competitive and most likely to send three teams to the playoffs from one division) division in football.  Jacksonville’s defense (if it can continue to outshine any Bortles mistakes) remains poised to run roughshod over the league.  Houston’s belief that a healthy roster, led by second year QB Deshaun Watson is capable of contention is also justified. Andrew Luck has been out here saying that he was happy to be sacked and land on his recently healed elbow because it didn’t hurt which will either inspire confidence or abject fear. Then there is Tennessee and Marcus Mariota. There isn’t an outrightly terrible team among this foursome.

Prediction:

Why?: Deshaun Watson may be on tap to rule this division for a decade instead of Andrew the Giant Luck.

Why not?: Deshaun isn’t right post injury and Houston’s dream season is denied.

AFC Playoff Teams

1 New England Patriots

2 Pittsburgh Steelers

3 Houston Texans

4 Kansas City Chiefs

5 Jacksonville Jaguars

Why?: I believe in the strength of the Jaguars defense.

6 Denver Broncos

Why?: Because Oakland traded away Khalil Mack and now has AJ McCarron as their backup QB.

Dark Horses: Baltimore (because I can’t make room for Oakland right now) and Indianapolis (because Andrew Luck)

NFC East

Off and on the best division in football, this may be an off year for the NFC East.  Philadelphia is the most obvious choice on the strength of their Super Bowl victory led by a backup QB.  Dallas has a claim because a full season of Dak and Zeke necessitates it. The Giants seem to be two to three years behind schedule in starting a rebuild (which they still have not started) and can’t be seen to be legit contenders. Who knows what to make of the Washington professional football team.

Prediction:

Why?: How can you bet against the defending champs when they can potentially trade their SB winning QB midseason for meaningful help?

Why not?: Nick Foles comes back down to earth and Carson Wentz takes two to three weeks too long to return.

NFC West

I want to say Seattle.  I believe in Russell Wilson and to some extent Pete Carroll, but they seem to be in a weird semi-transitional place as a squad. Even with a full season of David Johnson, I don’t think Arizona has a legit shot at this division title. This will be fight to the finish between St. Louis and San Francisco from my viewpoint.

Prediction:

Why?: This team can be the next McNabb-era Eagles, Brady/Belichick-era Patriots or Wilson/Carroll Seahawks – basically they’ll be good for a while, just not sure how high their ceiling will be.

Why not?: If Jared Goff is closer to what he was under Jeff Fisher than what he showed last year this team could regress.

NFC North

I know that Minnesota won this division last year.  I know that Aaron Rodgers gets injured every year or every other year to some degree. I know that Minnesota probably has egg on its face after falling flat against the Eagles in last year’s NFC title game, but there is something in my gut (please don’t just be acid) that makes me feel like Green Bay has some magic in them this season. I know that means hoping Aaron is healthy all season – or healthy enough to play enough games to get his team to the playoffs and then healthy in the playoffs. I know that now means Green Bay overcoming a tremendous and possibly terrifying Bears defense to capture the division.

Prediction:

Why?: The playoffs are markedly more fun with an Aaron Rodgers led Packers team in it.

Why not?: Two words – Khalil Mack. I’m still not sure I buy the Bears hype, but if it’s real, this would be what keeps Aaron and Co. from taking the division.

NFC South

This is going to sound strange, but, hear me out.  After hearing Jalen Ramsey call Matt Ryan overrated and thinking through Ryan’s history, I can’t realistically put my money (figuratively) behind the Falcons.  The Bucs are perennially not ready. Take this as the opposite of my feeling with regards to the Packers, but it seems like Drew Brees is ripe for an injury and that could well derail the Saints 2018 season. It’s hard to argue against the Panthers who have a recent Super Bowl run and 15-1 season in their rearview as well as a knack for winning close games late.

Prediction:

Why?: The world can only take so much sour Cam.  This year we get happy, winning Cam Newton.

Why not?: Sour Cam may just be here to stay. Also, this division is never as clear cut as it ought to be.

NFC Playoff Teams

1 Los Angeles Rams

2 Green Bay Packers

3 Philadelphia Eagles

4 Carolina Panthers

5 Dallas Cowboys

Why?: This just seems like the right answer.

6 Minnesota Vikings

Why?: I don’t think they’re going to be one and done.

Dark Horses: Atlanta Falcons (because the South can be sketchy) and San Francisco (because what if Jimmy G sustains the 49ers end of season run from last year) and Chicago (because Khalil Mack)

Playoffs

AFC

Wild Card

3 Houston Texans vs 6 Denver Broncos

4 Kansas City Chiefs vs 5 Jacksonville Jaguars

Divisional Round

1 New England Patriots vs 5 Jacksonville Jaguars

2 Pittsburgh Steelers vs 3 Houston Texans

AFC Championship

1 New England Patriots vs 3 Houston Texans

NFC

Wild Card

3 Philadelphia Eagles vs 6 Minnesota Vikings

4 Carolina Panthers vs 5 Dallas Cowboys

Divisional Round

1 Los Angeles Rams vs 4 Carolina Panthers

2 Green Bay Packers vs 3 Philadelphia Eagles

NFC Championship

1 Los Angeles Rams vs 2 Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl

2 Green Bay Packers vs 3 Houston Texans

Super Bowl 53 Champions

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