1: Jacksonville Jaguars (13-3)
2: Oakland Raiders (12-4)
3: Buffalo Bills (11-5)
4: Cleveland Browns (9-7)
WC1: Houston Texans (11-5)
WC2: Denver Broncos (10-6)
There's been a passing of the torch in the AFC. The Jaguars, not the Patriots, Broncos or other such team, are now comfortably atop the conference. I think the Raiders will be a lot better this year. Many of last year's problems were coaching-related, and they still have a future Hall-Of-Famer in Derek Carr. However, the Khalil Mack trade is concerning, to say the least. The Bills made the right choice by starting Nathan Peterman and should return to the postseason. The Browns now have Baker Mayfield and a host of quality defenders, and I can't see anyone else winning that division. The Steelers are solid when Big Ben is healthy, but I honestly don't think he'll make it through the year. The Texans are playoff locks when Watson is healthy, and honestly, I think they could be much better than this. Of course, I'm ever the optimist about my Broncos, so I put them in the playoffs once again, but they could land anywhere from 13-3 to 3-13. We're dealing with a completely different team with a lot of rookies, so we don't know exactly how they'll look.
1: St. Louis Rams (15-1)
2: Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
3: Detroit Lions (11-5)
4: Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
WC1: San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
WC2: Chicago Bears (10-6)
I think the "Los Angeles" Rams are the team to beat this year, at least in the regular season. Sean McVay is the best new coach I've seen in years, and the addition of Aqib Talib should only make them stronger. I expect the Eagles to be a great team for a long time. I admit that, given their tough division and mediocre run game, Detroit's placement was a mite generous. However, I'm a big believer in Stafford's ability to rally the team. They could make a serious Super Bowl push. The Falcons could be higher or lower, depending on my mood. I think they realize that their time with Matt Ryan is limited, and that could be a good motivator. The 49ers would be much higher if it weren't for the Rams. Shanahan is a fantastic coach, the San Francisco defense is solid, and Jimmy Garoppolo is an excellent passer. I think he'll be better than Tom Brady ever was, frankly. Chicago has a new coach, another promising young quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, and future Hall-Of-Famer Khalil Mack. Football is very much a team sport, more so than basketball or baseball, but on merit of these two players, the Bears should make the playoffs. The rest of their front seven is fairly underrated, and they do have a potential star at running back in Jordan Howard, so they could end up being much better than this. The NFC is going to be extremely competitive this year, and teams like New Orleans and Dallas were hard to leave off.
Lions over Jaguars, 31-27
Man, this is risky. The Jaguars have their conference pretty well locked up, I think, but I have no idea who the NFC contender could be. However, if the Lions can improve their run game and fight through arguably the best division in football, they are taking home the Lombardi Trophy. Stafford's unique ability to engineer drives and win games is the best quality you can ask for in a quarterback. Their secondary is one of the NFL's best and Matt Patricia is one of the smartest guys in football. IF they can make the postseason (and that's a huge if), they are my pick to win the Super Bowl. Their attitude is ideal for a playoff team.
MVP: Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Offensive Player Of The Year: Todd Gurley, "Los Angeles" Rams
Defensive Player Of The Year: Aaron Donald, "Los Angeles" Rams
Offensive Rookie Of The Year: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Defensive Rookie Of The Year: Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos
Comeback Player Of The Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Coach Of The Year: Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders
There's a formula for predicting the Coach Of The Year: the first-year coach with the most-improved team. Try it-it always works. I think this says less about how good Gruden is than how bad Jack Del Rio was. As for MVP, it's hard to say any player is worth more to his team than Jimmy G, and if you don't believe me, check out the Niners' record pre-Jimmy and their record post-Jimmy. Gurley and Donald are arguably the two best young players in the NFL and will factor greatly into the Rams' dominance. The next pick depends largely on the assumption that Mayfield will, in fact, become the starter at some point, which is what tends to happen with the Browns. Of course, Tyrod Taylor is a MUCH more viable option than the kind of player the Browns usually send out on day one, so you never know. There are two things standing in the way of Chubb winning his award: Von Miller and Domata Peko. He's the best defensive player of his draft class, in my opinion, but he may not catch voters' attention as part of such a solid front seven. Watt is practically a lock for Comeback Player; when he's healthy, he's the most exciting player in football.
Top Three Draft Picks
1: Cincinnati Bengals
Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
2: Seattle Seahawks
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
3: Miami Dolphins
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
The tough thing about this part of my predictions is that I'm not only predicting the NFL season, but the college football season as well. I don't foresee any team being as terrible as the Bengals this year. The Ravens have Lamar Jackson, the Colts have Andrew Luck, the Seahawks have Russell Wilson, but the Bengals are about on the end of their rope. Nick Bosa is a stellar player, but in their position they'd be better advised to trade down for heaps of picks and get a solid core of reliable starters. The Seahawks are next, and Williams would help fill their constant need for quality offensive linemen. My placement of the Dolphins is dependent on the assumption that Ryan Tannehill gets injured. If he does, the Dolphins will have many fine quarterbacks available to them at a high draft slot. It was a close call between Stidham and Oregon passer Justin Herbert, but I think Stidham is poised for a fantastic year.
Well, there you have it. What are your season predictions?