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2019 Pre-NFL Draft Regular Season Predictions

Photo by Kareem Elgazzar, USA Today Sports

Written by Joe Carlino

After this season’s Super Bowl, NFL fans were treated to a spring league (AAF) for the first time since the XFL, and so far it has done well in keeping fans invested during the “lull period” from February to August. However, there still exists the diehard group of NFL fanbases who blatantly refuse to watch anything other than the original programming, opting to follow the Scouting Combine, NFL Draft, and OTAs before feeling complete again. Recently, certain outlets have been putting out their beliefs on how the NFL will shape up for this season, from division winners to who might walk out of Miami next year with the Lombardi. That said, let’s take a look at how I feel the NFL season will shape up, complete with win-loss numbers in parentheses.

AFC East

New England Patriots (12-4)

New York Jets (9-7)

Buffalo Bills (8-8)

Miami Dolphins (2-14)

This division is still New England’s to lose, even with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. Sure, Brady’s QBR and other stat averages drop because he’s not on the field, but any quarterback’s numbers look different when their top target is gone. The Jets are the top pick to finish in second place with the Le’Veon Bell addition, but one has to wonder if he’ll be able to produce outside of Pittsburgh. Buffalo is still an enigma to many, which is why a .500 record is the optimal target for this team- not too much, not too little. And Miami is firmly in the driver’s seat in the “Tank for Tua” campaign, doing everything in their power to ensure getting that No. 1 pick.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

Cleveland Browns (10-6)

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9)

Cincinnati Bengals (5-11)

Most would be shocked at this rationale given how Cleveland basically said “We’re the favorites now in this division”. Well, hold the horses there, Dawg Pound. Your squad has improved vastly, that cannot be denied; however, the chemistry needs to truly be produced on the field, and we haven’t seen any yet. Baltimore, meanwhile, is firmly behind Lamar Jackson, even resigning RGIII in case he goes down, since their styles are the same. Also, adding Mark Ingram is a nice touch for the offense, and Earl Thomas in the secondary makes the Ravens’ defense formidable once more. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the most bitter of rivals in the AFC, will fight for the bottom two slots, with the Steelers taking it despite finishing with the first sub-.500 record in the Mike Tomlin era.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

Houston Texans (9-7)

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)

Tennessee Titans (3-13)

Indianapolis is like New England in this division: it’s theirs to lose currently. However, unlike the Patriots, they have some real competition in the AFC South, with Houston firmly entrenched for supremacy with the Colts. Either team has a chance, but Andrew Luck is more reliable than Deshaun Watson (when healthy, of course). Jacksonville will improve on last year’s record alone, but the addition of Nick Foles won’t give them the same magic it gave Philadelphia. Tennessee rounds out this division in the standings, primarily because it’s just hard to find anything to like about their roster currently. Maybe they’ll shock the world, but for now, I just can’t see it.

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)

Oakland Raiders (5-11)

Denver Broncos (3-13)

For the last couple of years, the NFC South was the toughest division to pick because of the turnover in division champions and difficulty in intra-divisional contests. This year, the AFC West will get that honor bestowed upon them. The Chargers will just barely squeak by the Chiefs for the division title, despite Mahomes and Co. having a much flashier offense. While that doesn’t mean the Chiefs can’t go farther than LA in the postseason, most would trade a division title for a Super Bowl. Oakland’s going to be a much bigger improvement from the dumpster fire team of 2018, but like with the Jets, it remains to be seen if Antonio Brown can produce in Oakland with Carr as he did in Pittsburgh with Big Ben. Denver still doesn’t have its quarterback, and Elway’s legacy in the front office will continue to diminish with Joe Flacco (or “Fluke-o”) under center.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

New York Giants (8-8)

Washington Redskins (4-12)

The Cowboys have a more complete roster than the Eagles, so they’ll hold onto this division for at least one more season. However, that doesn’t come without some bumps, and it remains to be seen how this team will truly respond in the event Dak or Zeke is sidelined for an extended time period. The Giants just shipped Odell to the AFC, and are almost undoubtedly going to select Dwayne Haskins with the sixth overall pick. For this 2019 campaign, they’ll still struggle with productivity but will stay in the hunt until December. Washington is one team I can’t see doing anything right, and with Keenum under center and a bunch of no-name backups, all that can be said about this squad is better this way: Oy Vey!

NFC South

Carolina Panthers (11-5)

Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

New Orleans Saints (8-8)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)

The Saints are going to take a tumble this year, and it can be attested to the heartbreak of last year’s NFC title game (of which WhoDat Nation still can’t get over). Because of this, Carolina and Atlanta, with organizations representing predatory animals, will strike on the wounded and tussle it out for the division, with the Panthers getting that edge in Week 17. However, if Cam doesn’t come out 100% early, look for Atlanta to finish with the aforementioned NFC South winner’s record. Tampa Bay still needs some polishing factors to truly be considered a credible threat in this division, and with Jameis on the final year of his rookie deal, this it truly the make-or-break year for the Bucs.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (13-3)

Minnesota Vikings (9-7)

Green Bay Packers (9-7)

Detroit Lions (5-11)

Chicago is easily going to cruise into the No.1 seed in the NFC this year, and Trubisky will do just enough to compensate for his godlike defensive unit. Also, they shouldn’t have a kicking problem anymore (Bears fans hope), so a second double doink is about as unlucky as being struck by lightning twice. Minnesota and Green Bay are both going to finish with the same record, but the Vikings clinch the second spot on the virtue of better conference record. And Detroit is still a mess of an organization, Patricia doesn’t seem to have any capabilities to be considered a threat, and another playoff-less campaign is all but a formality at this point.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers (12-4)

Los Angeles Rams (10-6)

Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

Arizona Cardinals (6-10)

I’ll take the high road here after my terrible prediction about the Rams last season and push the chips to the table again. Los Angeles is going to have another strong year, but they’re not going to win the division again. That will go to the organization 382 miles due north in San Francisco. With the return of Jimmy G and that running game of Coleman, Breida, and McKinnon (and George Kittle for critical third-down conversions), the 9ers are ready to do what they wanted to do last year. Seattle is going to be tough with Russell Wilson still at the helm, but the two teams ahead of them are just too potent to see any chance of usurping them. And it doesn’t matter if Kingsbury takes Kyler with the No.1 pick and ships, Rosen, off elsewhere; the Cardinals will not do anything of note in his rookie season. Maybe his sophomore campaign will be better.

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