Written by The Blitz Team
The NFL regular season is almost upon us! For all the fans that have been waiting to put the 2017 season behind them, besides Eagles fans, of course, this will give everyone a chance at another run at the Lombardi Trophy. For this month’s All32 series, we are giving an outlook on what to expect from each team and give an idea how the season may turn out. The preseason gave us a little glimpse of how some players and teams are looking so far in 2018, but that is in the past and ‘real football’ is back again. We don’t know about you, but The Blitz Team is beyond excited that the 2018 season is here!
The Bills are coming off their first playoff berth in 17 years. The organization and their fans will be looking for a repeat after finally ending the drought. Their offense will enter the season with a lot of question marks, the biggest of which is the offensive line. It was dreadful in the preseason and whoever is behind it will be running for their lives until they fix it. Beyond that, they have LeSean McCoy, who is still one of the better backs in the league, but he will have to use that agility to find open lanes as the guys blocking for him might not create much space. Kelvin Benjamin is the top receiver, and I personally feel like he could be in store for a career year. Regardless, the team lacks threats besides him in the passing attack. They will need guys like Zay Jones, Charles Clay, and Jeremy Kerley to step it up. Lastly, despite Nathan Peterman starting the season, Josh Allen will more than likely end the season as the starter. This is his team and he is the most exciting part to watch when Buffalo’s offense is on the field this season.
One of the biggest things that brought the Bills to the playoffs last year was their defense. It will be on that unit to once again help carry the team. Their front seven should be the strongest part, with a defensive line including Trent Murphy, Kyle Williams, Star Lotulelei, and Jeremy Hughes. While these aren’t flashy names, they are veterans who know how to get the job done. Lorenzo Alexander will have a veteran presence in their linebacker corps and 1st round pick, Tremaine Edmunds, has a chance to become a star on this defense. Their secondary will depend on Tre’Davious White and Micah Hyde to hold the backend down. If everything can click for this unit then they should be able to help keep Buffalo in games throughout the season.
I am not sure what to expect from the Bills in 2018. I can see this team struggling and going right back down as one of the worst teams in the league. But, their coaching staff showed last year they can win with less, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they are at least competitive throughout the year. If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t put my money on Buffalo not making the playoffs this season.
I’m not a fan of the Miami Dolphins this season. Quite frankly, I don’t think they have a lot of high-end weapons on offense, and defensively, I think they will still give up a ton of yards on the ground. I do really like head coach Adam Gase, so I hope the Dolphins front office is smart enough to give him time to build up their roster.
While Gase will call plays for the Dolphins, I am not sure it will make much of a difference. Ryan Tannehill is one of the biggest question marks at quarterback in the NFL. I don’t know if he has potential to be a good player or if he will fizzle out after this season. Getting hurt last year really stunted his development. Kenyan Drake proved to be a competent running back at the end of last season, but he has never been asked to be a team’s lead back since his high school days. If he gets hurt or underperforms, Frank Gore will get a bunch of carries. Hopefully, he has some gas left in the tank. The wide receiving position is a problem. DeVante Parker should be one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, but he just has not put together a good season to date. Kenny Stills is a great deep threat, but the team needs him to make more plays in short yardage situation if he is going to take the next step in his development. The one player that intrigues me is rookie tight end Mike Gesicki. He has the potential to be one of the league’s top red zone targets due to his size and athleticism. The offensive line is subpar as well.
Miami’s defense should be a little bit better this season than they were last year. For one, the linebacking corps will be adding Raekwon McMillan, who was a stud linebacker at Ohio State but did not play a down in 2017 due to an injury. He could help the Dolphins defend the run better, but losing Ndamukong Suh will definitely hurt. The defensive backfield was feast or famine in 2017. Xavien Howard is a very talented player that could morph into a shutdown corner. I actually like their safeties as well. TJ McDonald and Reshad Jones are a nice tandem that fit each others’ styles perfectly. Newcomers Jerome Baker and Robert Quinn should help the Dolphins’ defense to become at least average. Regardless, I still do not think they can compete at a high level this year.
New England Patriots
The Patriots offense is riddled with question marks. They lost their 1st round pick, offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, to a torn Achilles, creating more turmoil in an already cloudy position group. Sony Michel underwent a “clean up” procedure to drain fluid from his knee, keeping him out of practices and off the field throughout preseason. Rex Burkhead is reportedly playing through a partial knee tear and the receiving group is in shambles. Here is a list of the Patriots receiving transactions over the last month: Julian Edelman suspended, Malcolm Mitchell cut, Kenny Britt cut, Jordan Mathews cut, Eric Decker retired. The remaining list includes a reliable weapon, Chris Hogan, and two first round busts, Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett. If this were any other team, we may be staring straight into the abyss of a bottom 25 team, but the Patriots boast Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and a demon named Rob Gronkowski to help pull them out of purgatory. With Brady at the helm, it is safe to say the Patriots offense will be just fine when the season gets underway.
New England’s defense lost a key piece to their system when defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left for the head coaching role of the Detroit Lions. Although he departed, the Patriots have acquired key additions and retrieved others who were lost for the 2017 season to injury. With Dont’a Hightower back from IR, the group already gets a sizeable upgrade. Now, add Jawhaun Bentley, the 2018 Patriots Preseason MVP, to the mix and the underwhelming linebacking corps of the 2017 Patriots looks rejuvenated and fast.
The Patriots defensive line underwent a makeover too, acquiring Adrian Clayborn to boost their pass rushing group and Danny Shelton to help support in obvious running situations. The Patriots top pick of the 2017 NFL draft returned from injury this summer, and Derek Rivers is expected to add depth and talent to a group that already features Trey Flowers and rookie standout Deatrich Wise Jr. New England’s defense looks like a formidable group heading into 2018, and they shouldn’t have much trouble producing.
The Patriots may have question marks surrounding numerous positions, but Tom Brady is still taking snaps behind center with Belichick in his sleeveless hoodie on the sidelines. As long as these two are both on New England’s payroll, they can be expected to push for the AFC’s top seed and a 12+ win season. Don’t blink an eye or worry about the Patriots, they will be just fine.
New York Jets
Hey Darnold! Can you lead the Jets behind one of the weakest offensive lines in the NFL? Well regardless of that answer, it’s what impatient Jets fans are clamoring for. Although not much is expected of the Jets this season, and there isn’t much pressure facing Todd Bowles since it’s expected he gets at least two seasons to work with the rookie QB, Jets nation finally has a shiny glimmer of hope for the future after a miserable decade of play so far. On the defensive side, Jamal Adams hopefully progresses further after a rookie season with no interceptions. But this will mostly be a season of focus on Darnold’s every move.
Perry Griffith IV