NFC Preview 2019-20

NFC East

2019 predictions

Eagles 12-4*

Cowboys 9-7

Giants 8-8

Redskins 5-11

*2nd seed

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

Nick Foles is gone which means Carson Wentz needs to stay healthy if this team wants to make a Playoff run without another miracle. Wentz has proven he can be one of the better Quarterbacks in the NFL, but the list of injuries is extensive. The good news is he will have at the very least a good line in front of him. The Eagles have the pieces to have the best line in football, but injuries have put that in doubt. Jason Peters and Jason Kelce have proven they are up to the task and as they age the Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round. Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson are both extremely talented but coming off of injuries. The Eagles traded for Jordan Howard and drafted Miles Sanders and both should have at least some success behind this line. The big move on the offense was the acquisition of DeSean Jackson which gives Wentz a downfield threat. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor will pair up with Zach Ertz to give Wentz plenty of talent to throw the ball to. Fletcher Cox is still the star of the defense and will need to be even better this year. There is a chance he will be as the Eagles signed Malik Jackson which gives them a scary tandem upfront. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett will be in charge of rushing the QB and they both have the talent to do it. They will replace Jordan Hicks with Zach Brown who will team up with Nigel Bradham. The secondary is less impressive than the rest of the defense, they have depth at corner but not enough talent. Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills need to take steps forward this year. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod will start at Safety. The Eagles also signed Andrew Sendejo for depth. The return of a healthy Carson Wentz will make all the difference in the world to the Eagles. A dominant line on both sides of the ball make this a team that could make a long run into January. Some injuries and age questions could derail them but expect this team to win the division.

TL;DR: Carson Wentz will come back healthy and better than ever. A good roster that is stacked in some places and has plenty of depth will pace this team as they win the division. They have some tough games on the schedule, but they will go 12-4.

Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

Last season the Cowboys started the season 3-5 before ripping off 7 of 8 wins to finish the season. In the Playoffs they beat the Seahawks before falling to the Rams. As usual Jason Garrett’s future is anything but certain and the Cowboys have plenty of drama to deal with. Dal Prescott shows great promise, but sometimes he looks mediocre, which is at the heart of an argument over how much he should earn. It might not be so bad if it was just him, but the Cowboys have several players looking for big pay days. Ezekiel Elliot is in a holdout over his new contract, but if the Cowboys can figure it out, they have a solid QB and a great RB behind a tremendous line. Travis Frederick will return and could make the offensive line the best in the NFL. Amari Cooper returns for a full season, but Cole Beasley is playing for the Bills. Randall Cobb is going to try to replace him in an offense that often featured him on third downs. The Cowboys have high hopes for Michael Gallup and of course Elliot adds a receiving threat out of the backfield. Jason Witten being back will provide for an interesting story, but he will have a limited role. The defensive line will be led by DeMarcus Lawrence who returns with a big contract to his name. The Cowboys added Robert Quinn who they hope can take some of the blocking schemes away from Lawrence. The line has several injuries and it will be interesting to see the growth of Taco Charlton. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch anchor this defense from their Linebacker spots. Both of them are so good that Sean Lee is now a third Linebacker for the Cowboys. Byron Jones is a Pro Bowl corner, but beyond him the secondary drops off. Chidobe Awuzie will start opposite of him. The Safety position is probably the biggest whole on the roster and may hold the team back in big games. It is a good and balanced roster and they have great potential. The biggest worry is that the drama and contract worries bury them. They will win 9 games and fight for a Wild Card spot in a tough NFC.

TL;DR: Off field drama and contract disputes are hurting a great young collection of talent. A similar team from last year will win 1 less game and lose the division.

New York Giants (5-11)

The Giants addressed the QB problem by taking one with the 6th pick of the draft, but they took Daniel Jones who was not rated highly by experts or fans. Meanwhile Eli Manning is coming off a decent year in 2018 and will probably still be the starter even though they should have moved on from him several years ago. On the surface it seems like a terrible position to be in, to have a veteran who can’t win now and a rookie who will need seasoning. However, even if Jones started and had a great year, this team doesn’t have the talent to make a real run. Maybe sitting him for a year and handing him the reigns in 2020 will help with his growth. Golden Tate is the replacement for OBJ which pretty much tells you what you need to know about the receivers Manning will be working with. Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley will have to be seriously involved in the passing game. Barkley was incredible last year and is one of the best weapons in football. The offensive line is improved as the Giants acquired Kevin Zeitler and Mark Remmers. Nate Solder’s health will go a long way in deciding how good this offense can be. After the shocking Jones pick, the Giants selected Dexter Lawrence to help their defensive line. Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill are both great upfront and they could have a ton of success in stopping the run. Getting after the QB was a major struggle last year and after trading Oliver Vernon it looks like it might get worse. Markus Golden is coming off an injury and Lorenzo Carter is young and unproven. Alec Ogletree will lead the Linebacking corps that looks average at best. The Giants also traded up in the draft to pick a corner named DeAndre Baker. He will join a secondary that underwhelmed last year and lost Landon Collins to boot. Janoris Jenkins needs to rediscover his form and Antoine Bethea is too old to be effective. Jabrill Peppers isn’t as talented as Collins, but he isn’t a major downgrade. The Giants lost some close games last year but losing 3 extremely talented pieces isn’t going to help. Giants fans will be anxious to see what Jones has to offer. The problem will be getting sacks and finding receivers to throw the ball to. I’m not as bullish on Eli as many are, I think he still has some wins in their and the Giants will win 8 games.

TL;DR: The Giants lost 3 huge talents, but they argue that the team is overall better. It is a tough argument to make and regardless they will struggle in some of the areas they struggled at last year. Manning will play well enough to hold off Jones for much of the season and the Giants will finish 8-8.

Washington Redskins (7-9)

The Redskins were 6-3 before QB Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury that may have ended his career. The team was probably playing above its talent level and the loss of Smith highlights some holes in the roster. With the 15th pick they drafted Dwayne Haskins, but Case Keenum will be the starter to begin the season. The young QB will probably be forced into action at some point and right away they will miss LT Trent Williams who is undergoing a lengthy holdout that may run into the season. They signed Ereck Flowers and drafted 2 linemen. Morgan Moses should be good and the line without Williams has a chance to be better than average. The Redskins lost Jamison Crowder to Free Agency and cut Josh Doctson making the receivers a giant liability. Jordan Reed could prove to be the only real option to throw to for Keenum. Adrian Peterson had a magical year last year as he rushed for 1,000 yards. Pairing him up with Chris Thompson should at least make the running game potent. In addition to the excitement over Haskins, Redskins fans will enjoy watching a young and talented defense. Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne return to stuff the run. Matt Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan will get after the Quarterbacks. The solid defensive line will also allow them to show off their rookie, Montez Sweat. Losing Rueben Foster to injury was a huge blow to the Linebacking group. Josh Norman hasn’t lived up to his contract and Quinton Dunbar has been held back with injuries. The Redskins splashed some money to get Safety Landon Collins who will replace D.J. Swearinger. It isn’t a great situation anywhere but the defensive line which is young and stacked. Keenum isn’t good enough to push them anywhere and Haskins isn’t ready to take over. The wide receivers are awful, and the line is having injury and contract problems. Jay Gruden is on his way out and they aren’t going to finish anywhere near .500.

TL;DR: Keenum will need to be more than a stopgap, but doesn’t have enough talent around him to pull it off. The defensive line can be built around and will show its talent throughout the season. The team will win 5 games.

NFC North

2019 predictions

Packers 11-5*

Bears 10-6^

Vikings 9-7

Lions 8-8

*4th seed

^6th seed

Green Bay Packers (6-9-1)

Back-to-back losing seasons and a fired coach don’t usually make for Super Bowl contenders. However, their QB is still Aaron Rodgers and despite injuries he is the most talented Quarterback on the planet. It is easy to blame everything on Mike McCarthy but is Matt LaFleur the answer? The Packers spent some money on Guard Billy Turner, but the main plan of the offseason was to improve the defense. Obviously, this team will live or die with the health of Rodgers, but the defense was pretty bad last year. The line has some good pieces and is led by LT David Bakhtiari. By going after defense and Guard, the Packers didn’t do much to improve the Receivers for Rodgers. Davante Adams comes back as one of the best in football, but after him the experience and talent drops. Jimmy Graham is past his prime, but the Packers will be happy to get any sort of solid production from him especially in the Redzone. Aaron Jones has been explosive out of the backfield, but like Rodgers he has struggled with injuries in recent seasons. For most QBs, holes in the line and at Receiver would spell a death sentence, but Rodgers will thrive. The Packers have these holes on offense because they spent their offseason addressing the defense. They are bringing in Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith to instantly improve their pass rush. They will join Kyle Fackrell at the Linebacker spots, Fackrell had over 10 sacks last season. The Packers drafted Rashan Gary who will be on the line with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark. Improving the front-7 was only half the job so the Packers made sure to sign former Bears Safety Adrian Amos and they drafted Darnell Savage. Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, and Kevin King will improve just from having another year of experience. The Packers did lose plenty of veterans who still have talent left. Randall Cobb, Nick Perry, and Clay Mathews all moved on. The Packers have much to be excited about, but they will be asking a bunch of players to adjust to a new team and a different system. Aaron Rodgers is going on a comeback tour and it will be something to watch. The problems with the rest of offense will become apparent and will hold him back in January, but he will be there.

TL;DR: Aaron Rodgers will show why he is headed to the Hall of Fame. The Packers defense is much improved, but it will take time for the new pieces to mesh. The Packers are returning to the top of the division and will win 11 games.

Chicago Bears (12-4)

In doing these previews, it feels like the NFL is full of teams who are waiting for a young Quarterback to take the next step. The Bears version of this is Mitchell Trubisky the second pick of the 2017 draft. The good thing is that his numbers were better before his injury last season although you could argue those numbers are inflated by a great game against Tampa. Either way the young QB has looked decent but not special. In 2018 the Bears were 3-3 before winning 9 of their last 10 games. In the Wild Card round they lost a heartbreaker to the Eagles. The team only managed 15 points and will need more from their offense to go deeper this year. Jordan Howard was traded away because he didn’t really fit into Matt Nagy’s system. The Bears will replace him with 2 main players. Tarik Cohen will continue to catch passes out of the backfield, and rookie David Montgomery can run and catch. Allen Robinson is another year removed from an ACL tear and will show his quality as a number 1. Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller aren’t the best options, but they will be joined by Tight End Trey Burton. The offensive line returns all of its starters which is great news for Trubisky. Nagy ran a complicated system last year, but he has the weapons to pull it off. If Trubisky improves this offense can be a force to be reckoned with. The defense emerged as the best in football last season but did undergo a few changes. The main change is Vic Fangio departing to be a Head Coach and Chuck Pagano replacing him. Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols join Eddie Goldman in a dominant front that get stop the run and get after the QB. Khalil Mack is in a class of his own and with him anchoring the defense, there is only so much that can go wrong. Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith won’t get the same recognition as Mack but they both produce at high levels. Leonard Floyd hasn’t lived up to his draft pick and even a small turnaround could make a big difference. The changes for the Bears come in the secondary. Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos are gone and are being replaced by Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine. Skrine struggled on the Jets but Clinton-Dix has proven he can play at a high level. The Bears will return Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and Eddie Jackson. The defense is still great, and the offense has a chance to improve. The problem is many are projecting this team to regress like the Vikings and Jaguars in recent years. They will still be good, but their schedule is much tougher, and it will take a lot more to win 12 games.

TL;DR: Trubisky is another young QB looking to take a step forward. Khalil Mack and the defense will keep them in games, and it will be up to Trubisky and co. to show some improvement. The schedule is much harder, and the Bears will win 10 games.

Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1)

Last year was a frustrating one for the Vikings. It was the first year of having Kirk Cousins and he played well, but they could not string wins together. A big part of that was a tough schedule which meant anytime they would come off a win they would have to go up against the Bears or Patriots. Year 2 for Cousins can’t go the same way or there will be major changes in Minnesota. The real knock on Cousins is how bad he was against the better teams, but to be fair the entire team was worse in those games. Offensive line was a mess and so the Vikings spent their first pick on Garrett Bradbury, and they acquired Josh Kline from the Titans. Both those moves should improve the interior of the line, but the Tackles need to play better. After struggles last year, the Vikings are hoping to return to more of a running offense. Dalvin Cook has had injuries since he came into the league, but he certainly has talent. The strength of the offense is the weapons that surround Cousins. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are both star Receivers and they will be complemented by Tight End Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings defense retains a very similar unit to the one that was so great in 2017. Sheldon Richardson is gone, and Everson Griffin had a rough season last year mentally and physically and a rebound from him would be huge. Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph are 2 studs who will keep the opponent’s running and passing game in check. Anthony Barr was going to the Jets until all the sudden he wasn’t. The Vikings won’t complain as he will pair up with Eric Kendricks to form a great duo. Xavier Rhodes was less productive than usual as he dealt with injuries in 2018, and Trae Waynes struggled in coverage. Despite this, the Vikings are solid at Corner and great at Safety. Andrew Sendejo is gone but Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris will do fine. It is rare in today’s NFL to have a unit that has played together for so long. The schedule is a mixed bag. 3 of their first 4 games are against the Falcons, Packers, and Bears. It does get easier after that, but the season will come down to their last 3 games when they play the Chargers, Packers, and Bears. Last year they couldn’t come up with enough at the end, will this year be different? The defense will be better, but its hard to see them winning 10 games.

TL;DR: They are tough to predict. There is a lot to like and fans should enjoy watching a better defense. Kirk Cousins still struggles against good teams and they play enough of them to keep them at 9-7 and out of the Playoffs.

Detroit Lions (6-10)

It is interesting to wonder if in a few years we will be discussing the failed Sean McVay coaching tree. It isn’t fair to judge Belichick because his assistants haven’t been great, but football isn’t fair. Matt Patricia is turning this team around and it isn’t being appreciated. The jokes about the Detroit Patriots are fair but don’t let them distract you from a better roster. Because here’s the thing, Patricia is building a good team, but it will take a few years. Matthew Stafford isn’t Brady or Rodgers, but he has the talent to be a Playoff winning Quarterback. He really struggled last year after they traded away Golden Tate. The Lions went out and got Danny Amendola and they drafted T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson is a rookie Tight End so it might not be immediate production. Aside from Amendola, Kenny Golladay could become a favorite target for Stafford. The Lions are solid at Tackle, but the Guard spots and the Center position will be a concern. Kerryon Johnson will return from injury and should produce, and he will be joined by last year’s Playoff star C.J. Anderson. The Lions were weak at all 3 levels on defense in 2018 and should be stronger this year. Trey Flowers cost 90 million dollars but has the talent to transform the line. Flowers will instantly make Devon Kennard more productive. Damon Harrison solidified the line against the run last season when he was brought in via trade. A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand were both solid as well. Jarrad Davis should improve at Linebacker and will be joined by second rounder Jahlani Tavai. Darius Slay was the only decent member of the secondary last year so the Lions went out and got some players. Justin Coleman, the former Patriot, will play Corner. The Safety position will be taken by Quandre Diggs and Tracy Walker who both need to improve. The interior of the offensive line is the biggest weakness, but that in itself is a huge improvement from 2018 when it was hard to name the biggest weakness because there were so many. The Lions have been getting better the last 2 years and if they keep Patricia maybe they will be a Playoff team in the future. An easy schedule will get them to 8 wins and keep Patricia around and the team on the right track.

TL;DR: The jokes about the mini Patriots will continue and the Lions won’t be very good. However, the roster is balanced and certainly better than it was when Patricia started. They will be improved on defense and will win 8 games, but don’t be shocked when they are good in 2020.

NFC South

2019 predictions

Saints 11-5*

Falcons 11-5^

Panthers 8-8

Buccaneers 4-12

*3rd seed

^5th seed

New Orleans Saints (13-3)

The Saints looked like the real deal last season. They went 13-3 and stopped the Eagles from another improbable run behind Nick Foles. They were undone by an unfair no call and a loss in overtime to the Rams. A slight change could’ve had them in the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t to be. Drew Brees played like an MVP for most of the season but faltered over the last few games. He did play well in the Playoffs, but any dip in production at his age is concerning. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara return as 2 of the best weapons an offense can have. Mark Ingram is gone and will be replaced by Latavius Murray. The Saints also brought in Jared Cook which will be important because after Thomas the Receiving corps drops off. The line is solid but lost Center Max Unger. The Guards are good, and the Tackles are arguably the best tandem in the league. On defense Cam Jordan runs things. Jordan is the rock of the defense, but New Orleans could use another edge rusher. Marcus Davenport played well as a rookie but struggled with injuries. Malcolm Brown was signed to help stop the run and the Saints eagerly await the return of Sheldon Rankins from injury. Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone, and A.J. Klein return as Linebackers. They each are solid and should be better this season. The Saints secondary is the weakest of the three levels. Marshon Lattimore had a tough sophomore year, but he is too good to play bad for long. The Saints traded for Eli Apple who has been inconsistent. Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams play the Safety position. Williams struggled last season, but the Saints are still high on him. It’s a talented roster, led by a Hall of Famer, who were snubbed last year. It could be a recipe for a Super Bowl, and it is hard to see a situation where they don’t at least make the Playoffs.

TL;DR: The Saints were one play away from a Super Bowl last year. They return a very similar team that is balanced and talented. Brees isn’t ready to decline yet, but a harder schedule will knock them down 2 wins to 11-5.

Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

The only thing that rules the NFC South is inconsistency. The Falcons had a Super Bowl in their grasp before letting it slip away. They won a Playoff game the next season but last year they finished at 7-9. Matt Ryan’s play hasn’t dropped off, if anything he was better last year than most other years. The Falcons suffered from some injuries and some even worse play in 2018. They stripped the coaching staff down aside from Dan Quinn who remains. Matt Ryan will benefit from being reunited with Dirk Koetter, but how much better can he be already? The Falcons Front Office spent most of their resources on the offensive line. Jamon Brown and James Carpenter were picked up in Free Agency, and their first 2 draft picks were linemen. Alex Mack and Jake Mathews are returning Pro Bowlers who will make the rest of the line better. Julio Jones as always is a major force for this offseason, and he needs more touches in the Redzone. Calvin Ridley continues to improve, and Mohamed Sanu can play as well. Austin Hooper had a solid 2018 and adds another dimension to the passing game. The biggest return is Devonte Freeman who only played 2 games last season. He will feature even more than normal after the departure of Tevin Coleman. Quinn takes over the defense and should see immediate improvement with guys returning from injuries. The Falcons brought back Adrian Clayborn in Free Agency, but the pass rush will hinge on Vic Beasley returning to form. Bruce Irvin went to the Panthers and the Falcons look thin here. Grady Jarrett was great last year and was rewarded with a big extension. The Falcons added Tyeler Davidson from the Saints to help stop the run. Linebackers are super important in a division featuring Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara. Deion Jones was banged up last year and he was probably their greatest loss. With him back the Falcons get a huge boost. Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen also missed significant time with injuries and having them back will solidify Safety. Desmond Trufant will be the number 1 Corner and Damontae Kazee will play well after emerging in the absence of Allen. The Falcons have their Bye Week in Week 9 and then play divisional opponents for 5 games in a row. The season ends with the 49ers, Jaguars, and Buccaneers.

TL;DR: Matt Ryan is still great, and the defense will be better just because the injuries can’t continue at that pace. They will win 11 games and finish in a tie for the division lead.

Carolina Panthers (7-9)

When you have a Quarterback as dynamic as Cam Newton it feels like everything rests on his shoulder. That takes on new significance this year for Cam and the Panthers after Cam underwent shoulder surgery. After he was deemed healthy enough to take some snaps in a preseason game, he went out and injured his foot. It seems he will start in Week 1, but it isn’t a great start for a team that will be relying on their Quarterback’s health. Last year the Panthers were 6-2 and Cam was playing great. After the shoulder troubles they won just 1 more game in an epic collapse. The Panthers replaced Center Ryan Kalil with Matt Paradis. That may even be an upgrade, but Tackle will be a problem. Taylor Moton can play either spot, but they are looking to rookie Greg Little to take one of those spots. The Guard position will be fine and of course with a backfield of Newton and McCaffery the line will look good. Christian McCaffery was even better than expected in 2018 and catches passes like no other Running Back. D.J. Moore showed he has the talent to be a great Receiver, but can he be the number 1 guy? Devin Funchess is gone, and Curtis Samuel will need to step up in his place. Greg Olsen returns for another year and is one of the more underappreciated players in football. The Panthers drafted Bryan Burns with their first-round pick in the hopes that he can improve their dreadful pass rush from 2018. Julius Peppers retired even though it felt like he could play for ten more years. The Panthers also added Bruce Irvin to help with pass rush. Kawann Short and Dontari Poe had down years in 2018 and so the Panthers signed Gerald McCoy. Luke Kuechly has looked like the best Linebacker in the NFL ever since he came into the league. His longtime partner, Thomas Davis, departed. Shaq Thompson will be more than fine as his replacement, but they will miss the toughness that Davis brought. James Bradberry keeps improving and is quietly a very good Corner. Across from him is Donte Jackson who gets a lot of comparisons to Josh Norman because of his swagger. 2019 will be key in seeing if he can live up to that. Eric Reid returns at one of the Safety spots while the other is going to be up for grabs. Graham Gano won’t play this season which is a big blow for the Panthers. The truth is that they showed signs that they weren’t the real deal before the second half of the season. They needed a 63-yarder to beat the Giants and lost to the Redskins. They open against the Rams, but things get easier after that.

TL;DR: Cam’s health will decide this team’s fate. They still have extremely talented pieces, but there are a few holes on the roster. They will win 8 games and finish at .500. Will they keep Rivera?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

“Jameis Winston enters a make-or-break year.” They will be saying that in 2053. Bruce Arians was brought in to see if he can fix Winston. The offense has talent and Arians believes in Peyton Barber. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin return but Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson have moved on. O.J. Howard has some serious talent at Tight End and will feature even more this season. The other Tight End is Cameron Brate who is a good backup.  The Bucs are weak at Tackle and only slightly better at Guard. The best of the bunch is probably Guard Ali Marpet but it’s a sorry group. The offense will live and die with Jameis and that isn’t a good thing. Todd Bowles gets another chance to coach as he was hired as the Defensive Coordinator for Arians. The Buccaneers continued the rebuild with the 5th pick of the draft. They took Devin White out of LSU. On the line, Gerald McCoy is playing for the Panthers. They replaced him with Ndamukong Suh who will play with Vita Vea. Beau Allen struggled on the line last year and would be a huge help if he could return a little better. Jason Pierre-Paul has aged but he still has enough talent for another year. He will pair up with Carl Nassib to get after QBs. The Bucs added Shaq Barrett but lost Kwon Alexander. The secondary has some serious holes. Vernon Hargraves was bad last year, and the Buccaneers didn’t have the talent or experience to fill around him even if he had been good. They spent some picks on Defensive Backs and they will be forced into action early. Justin Evans is alright at Safety, but there is no one to line up with him. The offense put up good numbers last year, but they also turned over the ball too much and weren’t much better with Winston over Fitzpatrick, if at all. Jameis Winston has had the time to prove himself and it hasn’t worked out. Arians is a good coach and he could have an impact, but they need to fix the QB situation first. Tanking for Tua or Justin begins now.   

TL;DR: Winston is at the end of his rookie contract and it hasn’t been pretty. Arians comes back to coach and will see an improved defense. This team is filled with holes but has some pieces to build on for the future. They will go 4-12.

NFC West

2019 predictions

Rams 12-5*

Seahawks 9-7

49ers 5-11

Cardinals 5-11

*1st seed

Los Angeles Rams (13-3)

TL;DR: They are coming off an incredible year, but teams don’t make it back to the Super Bowl so easily. Aaron Donald and Jared Goff are good enough to win alone, but they have plenty of talent around them. Super Bowl hangover is real, but they will still win 12 games.

The Rams were so good last year that their young coach Sean McVay has already created a coaching tree. They were 8-0 before losing their first game and their 3 losses were to the Saints, Bears, and Eagles. They rolled into the Playoffs and beat the Cowboys before beating the Saints in overtime. They had scored 30+ points in 12 games and scored 29 in another. In the Playoffs, they beat the Cowboys with 30 points and the Saints with 26. And then it was all undone by a Super Bowl where they scored 3 points. Part of it was the brilliance of the Patriots and some of it was inexperience, but such a good offense did not show up in the most important game. Luckily, they are a young and talented team and it will not be their last chance. Just before the season started, the Rams locked up Jared Goff through 2024 with an NFL-record 110 million dollars guaranteed. Goff is coming off a year where he threw for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns. Todd Gurley was having a good year and then a terrible one. His arthritic knee is a huge concern and its hard to gage exactly how much it will hinder him. McVay has talked about using all of his Running Backs and many predict the Rams to throw more. Roger Saffold and John Sullivan are gone on the line which is strange for a Rams team that has kept their line intact and healthy for the last few years. Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods each had 1,000-yard seasons and Cooper Kupp will return from his ACL tear. Goff has the weapons around him to show the contract is justified. However, the loss of 2 starters on the line and Gurley’s health could set them back. On defense Aaron Donald is the winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award for the second year in a row. He is simply unbeatable and gets into the backfield quicker than anyone. Ndamukong Suh left, and he won’t be missed that much as far as production goes. They will rely on Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews to provide pressure from the edge. Mark Barron is gone, and the Linebackers are a weak unit. The Rams improved their secondary by signing Eric Weddle. Aqib Talib missed plenty of 2018 with injury and he is 33 years old. Marcus Peters struggled last season and he represents the questions in the secondary.

Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

The Seahawks have won 10 games in 3 of the last 4 seasons and the other year they won 9. They aren’t the dynasty that everyone envisioned when they crushed the Broncos in the Super Bowl with the Legion of Boom, but they find a way to win. The Seahawks won 10 games again but came up just short in a loss to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round. They played a clichéd brand of football which focused on running the ball despite having Russell Wilson. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny will figure to get as many touches as last season. The strange thing is despite featuring one of the game’s best rushing attacks, the line can not keep Wilson out of harm’s way. They added Mike Lupati which will be an upgrade, but nothing extreme was done and Wilson will seemingly be pounded again as a result. Doug Baldwin retired which feels like the end of an era for Seattle. Tyler Lockett is still around, and the Seahawks drafted D.K. Metcalf. Wilson is one of the most talented Quarterbacks in the NFL, but without a strong line or Receiving crew its hard to see how he can dominate, especially if they won’t turn him loose. Frank Clark was traded to the Chiefs which will be a big blow for the defense. They drafted L.J. Collier as a replacement and will look to Al Woods to anchor the line, at least until Jarran Reed comes back from a 6-game suspension. The line is a mess but behind them Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will continue to dominate. With Earl Thomas gone the team officially lose their last Legion of Boom member. Shaq Griffin struggled this year, but Tre Flowers was better than expected. Bradley McDougald is a fine Safety and will pair up with second rounder Marquise Blair. It is a far cry from having Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. There are too many holes to overcome in order for them to play their run-first offense and keep the ball out of Wilson’s hands. The line will let him down and the defense needs some work.

TL;DR: The Seahawks have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. They will keep their streak of finishing over .500, but there won’t be a Playoff appearance this time. They will finish 9-7.

San Francisco 49ers (4-12)

Much like the list of failed Belichick assistants, Brady has a litany of promising underlings who never made it after leaving New England. The Patriots draft or sign a guy, play him for the few games Brady isn’t and then let him go. Everyone gets really excited and then the prospect does not become the next anything. With Jimmy Garoppolo it would be unfair to put him in that category. After the Patriots received a second rounder for him, Garoppolo proved his worth by winning 5 starts. Then they gave him a 5-year deal for $137.5 million. He hadn’t lost in his first 7 career starts, but it was 7 starts and he threw 5 picks in those 5 wins with the Niners. In 2018 expectations were high, but unfortunately, he only got to play 3 games before tearing his ACL. Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard did a poor job replacing him, and the 49ers won 4 games. This year we will finally get to see if Garoppolo is the guy they paid all of that money for. Jerick McKinnon also suffered an ACL tear in 2018 and his return will make the rushing attack more potent. The 49ers added Tevin Coleman who had some productive years in Atlanta. They got rid of Pierre Garcon and replaced him with Jordan Matthews. The Front Office also selected a couple of Wide Receivers in the early rounds of the draft. George Kittle was a revelation last season as he easily crossed 1,000 yards. Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey are both great Tackles. Their Center Weston Richburg struggled last season and the interior of the line is fairly average. Deforest Buckner was the only player who had more than 6 sacks for the Niners who really struggled in pass rush. The team traded for Dee Ford and took Nick Bosa with the number 2 pick. The Front Office spent a ton of money to pick up Kwon Alexander who will pair up with Fred Warner at Linebacker. Richard Sherman will be productive at Corner, but they don’t have a solid number 2. Jason Verrett has been too injury prone and Ahkello Weatherspoon struggled in coverage. The Safety position is lacking talent and could be a concern.

TL;DR: QB1 is back, but the schedule is rough and there are still a few holes on defense. Garoppolo and Bosa are enough to be excited about, but this time next year we will be talking about a 3rd talent and a new coaching staff.

Arizona Cardinals (3-13)

The Cardinals had the worst record last year which was predictable enough. What wasn’t predictable was the decision to fire Head Coach Steve Wilks after just 1 year. The hire of Kliff Kingsbury from Texas Tech may have been even stranger than the firing of Wilks. Kingsbury coached some good college QBs including Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes, but the team wasn’t very good. In his last 3 years at the college, the Red Raiders had 3 straight losing seasons. His overall record was 35-40, and his best asset seems to be a friendship with Sean McVay. The new look Cardinals had the joy of having the number 1 pick in the draft and picked Kyler Murray. Murray takes over as the face of the franchise from Josh Rosen who was picked 10th in 2018. It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals utilize Murray’s rushing ability. The Cardinals improved the line by signing J.R. Sweezy and trading for Marcus Gilbert. The line suffered from a rash of injuries last season and seemed to have a revolving door of starters. David Johnson was the best RB in football in 2016, but that feels like a long time ago. Injuries and subpar play have become the norm over the last 2 years and any sort of comeback would be welcome. Larry Fitzgerald keeps forgetting to age and will have another productive season. It can be really good for a young QB to have a veteran WR to lean on (like Cam Newton and Steve Smith). They picked up Charles Clay at Tight End but there isn’t much talent or depth beyond Fitzgerald. Chandler Jones is extremely productive for this defense. He could be even better this season as the Cardinals got Terrell Suggs. Suggs will make an impact on and off the field for the Cardinals. Corey Peters and Rodney Gunter are fine on the line and Darius Philon has high upside. The Cardinals spent some money to get Jordan Hicks and hopefully he can help Haason Reddick improve. Patrick Peterson is still a top Corner, but he is suspended for the first 6 games. They drafted Byron Murphy and signed Robert Alford, so they still have some talent at that position. D.J. Swearinger and Budda Baker should improve the Safety position.

TL;DR: After finishing 3-13 any team should improve. Murray offers a ton of excitement for fans and the defense has gotten better with some solid moves by the Front Office. They will show some flashes, but this is still a work in progress that will finish with 5 wins.

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