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 Bears are entering the 2018 season with much more hope than usual. Chicago’s offense has been dreadful to watch in recent memory. But with addition of new head coach Matt Nagy, weapons on the offense, and an expected improvement from their young franchise quarterback, they could feature a fun unit. Their receiving corps has boom or bust potential. It will feature Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel. Each of these players bring something to the passing attack and could help stretch the field. Trey Burton could have a breakout year after coming over from the Eagles. Chicago also has one of the better running back tandems in the NFL with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. With so many weapons, this unit depends on the arm of Mitch Trubisky. I think he can take that next step, and if he does, then the Bears should be seeing the end-zone a lot more than they did in 2017.
Chicago quietly had the 7th best defense in 2017 and they brought into two major additions to that unit. They recently acquired Khalil Mack, the former Defensive Player of the Year, who will make a major impact and helps fill that need they had prior to the trade. If Leonard Floyd can stay healthy, then this duo will wreak havoc on quarterbacks all year long. 1st round pick Roquan Smith was the top linebacker in this year’s NFL Draft. If he can get up to speed after his lengthy holdout, then he will be able to control the middle of the defense while the opposing offense is dealing with the front four. Kyle Fuller is their top corner and they have solid guys in the secondary to go with him. Vic Fangio should be able to build a top 10 defense once again with this unit.
While there is much deserved optimism for Bears fans, I would hold back from setting expectations too high. They play in a tough division and I think they are another year away from making a playoff run. They should be competitive and should shock some teams throughout the season. Expect a better product, but not a winning season.
- Cody Manning
Detroit’s offense will still run through their QB, Matthew Stafford. Stafford has been as reliable as could possibly be over the years and has shown comfort in offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s scheme. The Lions haven’t had a threatening rushing game in years, but it looks like that could change this year with the additions of LeGarrette Blount in free agency and Kerryon Johnson through the draft to go along with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. At receiver, Detroit has Golden Tate and Marvin Jones returning to hold down the top two spots while hoping that second year receiver Kenny Golladay has a breakout campaign in his sophomore season. Tight end has seen a change as well, as Luke Wilson takes over for the departed Eric Ebron. The offensive line struggled with health issues last year, but is solid when healthy. Taylor Decker, TJ Lang, Ricky Wagner and Graham Glasgow all return from last year, and Detroit added 20th overall pick Frank Ragnow to the line. The offense has always been held back by the lack of a true run game, so fans should be excited for the new additions in the backfield.
The defense was good last year and will be trying to replicate that level of success this coming season. The defensive line is still led by Ziggy Ansah, with Anthony Zettel opposite of him. The interior will be played by A’Shawn Robinson and Sylvester Williams. The Lions are hoping for more disruption from the pass rushers to take stress off of the rest of the defense. The linebackers welcome a new face to their group with the arrivals of Devon Kennard and Christian Jones from the Giants and Bears, respectively. He joins Jarrad Davis, a high-upside 2nd year player. The secondary had a good season last year with the duo of star cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin. Nevin Lawson will start opposite Slay, with Deshawn Shead and Teez Tabor adding solid depth. It will be interesting to watch and see how new defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni runs this talented group, as they are in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins, two very difficult QBs to play against.
The Lions have the talent. New head coach Matt Patricia, former defensive coordinator for the Patriots, will have all eyes on him. But when a team is coached by a Belichick disciple they can usually expecting good things. The Lions have the backfield to finally take some of the load off of Stafford and open opportunities for him. It’s always tough being in a division with the Vikings, Packers, and up-and-coming Bears, but this team has just as much potential as any other.
- Jacob Patterson
Green Bay Packers
Just like that, the preseason is behind us. Many questions have been answered, but with the season just days away and roster cuts looming, there are plenty that remain. Let’s start all the way at the top. New General Manager Brian Gutekunst has made his presence felt. He and Aaron Rodgers have worked out a deal that settles any and all contract disputes by locking up the 2-time NFL MVP for an additional four years. The coaching staff has been revamped to include former Dolphins head coach and Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who, when with Green Bay in 2011, helped the offense achieve record numbers with a total of 560 points, ranking 3rd of all time. Defensively, the Packers brought in former Browns defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and departed from long-time coordinator Dom Capers. The move seems to be paying dividends as players have really embraced the change. Capers’ zone-blitzing style just did not cater to the young Packers defense, and it showed time and time again with missed assignments. Pettine has been gifted two great young cornerbacks, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds of this year’s draft, who have already made their presence known this preseason.
With Rodgers at the helm there is always a fighting chance, which is why many have the Packers as a playoff contender. However, Rodgers can’t play running back or defense. The backfield has been hit with injuries and a suspension, leaving them thin. Jamaal Williams will get the first crack for the starting job, but head coach Mike McCarthy will need to get creative with short pass plays to help mask the weak running attack. Defensively, the inside linebacker position has also been hit with injuries. Starter Jake Ryan is gone for the season and Oren Burks got banged up with a shoulder injury. A veteran presence such as Navorro Bowman could be just the guy for the job if one of the young linebackers can’t do it.
Mike McCarthy, after replacing nearly his entire staff, has all eyes on him this year. All-in-all, this is still an extremely talented team with plenty of playmakers. I envision this team going 10-6, as they have the yearly trouble of finding the proper balance offensively. However, they’re young and ready to prove they’re up for the challenge. Wth Aaron Rodgers leading the way, there’s always the opportunity to bring another Super Bowl back to titletown.
- James Davis
Coming into 2018, the Vikings have re-loaded and are ready to make another run at the Super Bowl. The offensive line looks to be healthy and ready to lead the way for running back Dalvin Cook, who was was looking like the steal of the draft last year until he went down with a knee injury. Cook is back this year, and reports from Vikings camp are that he looks healthier, stronger, and faster than he was this time last year. A major part of keeping him healthy will be working Latavius Murray into the backfield rotation. Minnesota’s weapons are loaded with stud pass catchers Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph.
Defensively, the Vikings are stacked, starting up front with Sheldon Richardson, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph. The linebacking corps includes Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks and should be a fast moving, talented group behind their defensive line and in front of a loaded secondary that features Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Andrew Sendejo and Trae Waynes. The Vikings defense looks to be top 3 in the NFL this year and will cause serious problems for opposing teams.
As loaded as the Vikings are both offensively and defensively, the truth is that this team will only go as far as newly signed free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins takes them. Regardless of who’s playing QB, a team with this much talent will win regular season games. But taking the next step and winning the Super Bowl will be on Cousins.
- Nick Van Fossen