By: David Connors @DConBlitz
We are moments away (as of the writing of this article) from the start of the 2019 season. What a crazy ride this offseason has been. Two of the best wide receivers got traded in Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. Two star Running Backs held out, as well as, some last-minute trades and player movement. Finally, here we are moments away from the first kick-off at Soldier Field in Chicago. All our fantasy rosters are set and it's time to set my predictions in stone.
AFC West-Kansas City Chiefs
This may be the chalk pick, but it's hard to deny the talent on that roster. Andy Reid is one of the best coaches of his era. This division should still be fun to watch. The Chargers are only a tier behind the Chiefs making for a fun rivalry to watch for in 2019. I believe the Raiders and Broncos will be improved. The Raiders added Antonio Brown (maybe) and 4 top 50 draft picks to their roster. The Broncos bring in defensive special Vic Fangio who will get their two stud pass rushers to scheme with. This should be a fun conference, but the Chiefs should take it again.
AFC North-Pittsburgh Steelers
The Browns are the sexy pick, but I think the Steelers are safe. This should be a competitive conference with three teams in the same tier. When teams are close I usually lean towards the team with the best offensive line, and I believe that exists in Pittsburgh. The defense looks much improved with the addition of Devin Bush, and the loss of Bell and Brown might benefit the team structurally.
AFC South-Indianapolis Colts
This one might be a hot take, but I think the Colts still win this division despite Andrew Luck’s retirement. Brisset gets a lot of criticism for his play in 2017 when Luck missed the season due to a shoulder injury, but this was a very different team in 2017. I believe Head Coach Frank Reich will rally his team behind a much-improved offensive line lead by their second-year guard Quenton Nelson. The addition of Laremy Tunsil in the Texans make me think that Houston will make it very competitive for the AFC South, but the Colts take it in the end.
AFC East-New England Patriots
There simply is not a team ready to dethrone Bilichek and the Patriots yet. The Jets and Bills should have vastly improved rosters but are still lower-tier teams. This will be the least competitive Division, as usual.
NFC West-Las Angeles Rams
This will be the second least competitive division. I have all three other teams either 20th or lower in my initial power rankings. Sean McVay will have this offense scoring a lot of points every week, and there is not an offense that can keep up with them in the NFC West.
NFC North-Green Bay Packers
The Packers made a ton of improvements along the defensive side of the ball adding Preston and Za’Darius Smith in Free Agency. Their young corners are looking to take another step up this season. The Chicago Bears will make for solid competition for this Division, but Aaron Rodgers behind center tips the scale for me.
NFC South-New Orleans Saints
Saints are number one on my initial power ranks. They will have to take on the most competitive division in the NFL to do so. The Saints get the nod because they have the most complete team on both sides of the ball.
NFC East-Philadelphia Eagles
I give the East to the Eagles under the assumption that Carson Wentz can stay healthy. They are really good in the trenches. The secondary caused them the most trouble last season, but Avante Maddox emerged as a solid player back there. Him, plus the defensive backs returning from injury, should help lock that down.
AFC Wildcard Teams
Los Angeles Chargers
That's right! I do not have the Browns making the playoffs. I think they will be a casualty of playing in a really tough division. They have three top tier teams that will make life difficult for all three. In this situation, I will always lean towards the better offensive lines and better staff. Browns' offensive line looks like it is a liability and Harbaugh has a long track record of success as Head Coach of the Ravens. The Chargers are a top tier team.
NFC Wildcard Teams
Here is another hot take, I do not have the Chicago Bears making the playoffs. I think the NFC North will play each other out of Wild Card contention while the Cowboys will get to beat up on two lower-tier teams. I have the Panthers making it as well. They were a 6-2 to start in 2018. Unfortunately, once Cam Newton hurt his shoulder, the season fell apart. Cam Newton looks healthy and the team looks well balanced.
AFC Championship Game
New England Patriots vs Kansas City Chiefs
NFC Championship Game
Philadelphia Eagles vs New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl Prediction
New Orleans Saints vs New England Patriots
I have the New Orleans Saints winning it all, and Drew Brees leaves the NFL a champion!
Coach of the Year-Frank Reich
If Reich can lead the Colts to a division championship after losing his starting quarterback late in the preseason, he will be the clear cut winner.
Defensive Rookie of the Year-Devin Bush
Nick Bosa was in consideration, but Bosa spent the preseason battling injury while Devin
Bush has been tearing it up.
Offensive Rookie of the Year-Josh Jacobs
Kyler Murray was in consideration, but the Cardinals offensive line worries me. Jacobs will get a lot of opportunities in Oakland. Oakland’s defense still looks like a bottom-tier group which should force the Raisers to need to score points.
Defensive Player of the Year-Aaron Donald
I considered Von Miller. He is still an explosive player who will now have Vic Fangio coaching that defense, but it's just impossible to pick anyone besides Aaron Donald.
Offensive Player of the Year-Ezekiel Elliot
There were many directions, but Elliot’s targets shot way up after the acquisition of Amari Cooper. Zeke averaged almost 10 targets a game which would have put him on pace for the 3rd most last season after that trade for Cooper. New Offensive Coordinator, Kellen Moore, suggested that trend will continue. On top of the increase work through the air Zeke has lead the league in rushing 2 out of the 3 years he has been in the league. This combination will make him a highlight reel all season.
I think Brees has got one more legendary run left in him. This future Hall of Famer has one of the greatest statistical careers in the NFL. I think he catches fire in the second half of the season and leads the Saints to another championship.