2018 NFL season: Bold predictions, playoff picks, NFL awards and every team's final record
Will Brinson breaks down the entire 2018 NFL season and gives his predictions for every team
Guys, we are almost there. It's been a pretty long offseason, but we're honing in on the start of the 2018 NFL season and what better way to celebrate than by firing up a post slam full of predictions for the 2018 NFL season?
I've already made some bold, individual predictions, includingand . I was going to make one more individual prediction, but it's the season for sweeping, grand proclamations and I like the idea of and having a full slate of predictions on the table for you to mock throughout the year.
You can also see predictions from my pal Pete Prisco,.
That seems like a whole lot of needless work to be wildly inaccurate once January gets here, so instead of playing out every single game, I'm just going to predict the order of finish in every single division, along with each team's record, tell you why I think it's going to happen, and throw a bold prediction for an individual player, coach or team inside the division.
Devotees of this space know quite well that I had a terrible pair of picks last year that involved a surprise team in the AFC and an NFC team/Super Bowl champion with a bird mascot. Let's hope that things are a little better this time around.
Holler at me on Twitter @WillBrinson with questions and complaints and if you're dying for a daily NFL podcast, well, I've got you covered with the Pick Six Podcast, which drops every single day, Monday through Friday and can be found right here if you want to subscribe.
AFC East Bold Prediction: Bills finish with worst record in the NFL
This is not quite the year for the Patriots to crater, and it might not happen for another two or three years. But the division could flip at some point and I think the Jets are the team to flip it, thanks to the Giants handing them Sam Darnold in the draft. It's still too early to expect a flip from them this year, but it wouldn't be surprising at all if the Jets made went on some kind of wild card run/made the Patriots at least uncomfortable midway through the season. The Dolphins should win seven games (to hit their over) if Ryan Tannehill is healthy, but if he goes down Adam Gase will have his work cut out to keep the plane from veering into the mountain. It's pretty hard to find a scenario where the Bills are good, but Sean McDermott took them to the playoffs last year, so anything's possible. Their under would be the lock of the year if not for the pricey juice.
So who should you back in Week 1 of the NFL season? Visit SportsLine now to see which teams are winning more than 50 percent of simulations, all from the model that has outperformed 98 percent of experts tracked by NFLPickWatch.com the past two seasons.
AFC North Bold Prediction: The Steelers miss the playoffs
HELLO THERE. It's insane to project this, I guess, but spoiler alert: football doesn't always work out the way we expect. Anything that is widely assumed (outside of the Pats winning the division anyway) should be a red flag. I've covered extensively my belief that the Ravens will be a better team this year -- Joe Flacco is motivated and has his best group of pass catchers in a long time (all due respect to ageless wonders Steve Smith, Sr. and Mike Wallace). The defense will miss Jimmy Smith early but the schedule is manageable and they're deep at cornerback. The Bengals need their offensive line to stay healthy and that offense will be good. The defense is underrated again this year. I think Andy Dalton has a bounceback season and Joe Mixon has a monster year in Cincinnati. People are sleeping on A.J. Green in a big way this year. Go watch Geno Atkins destroy Vlad Ducasse. The Steelers defense might not be good and if the Big 3 of Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown don't stay healthy, this team could struggle with a difficult schedule. The Browns will be a pain in the rear for everyone else, but they will also bring up the rear when it's all said and done.
AFC South Bold Prediction: The Jaguars miss the playoffs
I've been on the Titans for a while now, and firmly believe they are the 2018 version of the Rams. Matt LaFleur is unproven, but he's not following around Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay without some idea of what he's doing. Marcus Mariota has been misused his entire professional career and a breakout year is coming. The defense is a sneaky bet to finish in the top five because of the front-seven additions and the depth/talent in the secondary. The Jaguars are still going to be very good! I think they'll be right there in the playoff hunt, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if they regressed their way out based on game scripts not going their way. Jacksonville is loaded on defense, obviously, but if they're forced to throw the ball a ton while playing from behind, things could get sideways on them. The Texans are a little too stars/scrubs for me to buy in; if Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt don't stay healthy, it's easy to see this team struggling in 2018. Even if Watson plays 16 games, we're talking about a young QB who likes to use his legs to make plays, coming off a torn ACL, behind one of the most questionable offensive lines in the NFL. The Colts are headed in the right direction, but they've got work to do on both sides before I can buy into them making noise here. A healthy Andrew Luck will scare some people though.
AFC West Bold Prediction: Patrick Mahomes leads the league in passing yards
There's a very good chance that the Chargers win this division. They're the best team in the AFC West in terms of having a complete roster. But as the captain of the Chargers bandwagon over the last decade, I'm fully aware that L.A. is going to find some path to doing some stupid things that will result in them taking some bad losses. That opens up a big window for the Chiefs and Andy Reid, who is not being given the respect he deserves based on his history in this league and his history in developing quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes is the Ferrari this offense deserves, even if sometimes he might drive too fast for his own good. With Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt and Sammy Watkins, the Chiefs can overcome any defensive issues by winning in shootouts to take this division. I like Denver more than I thought, but there are too many concerns on both lines. The Raiders might be a tire fire this season if the offseason trend is any indication of what's coming in the first year of Jon Gruden's tenure.
NFC East Bold Prediction: Jason Garrett is the first coach fired in the NFL
I've been on the Redskins all offseason as a sleeper to flip this division for the second year in a row (the Eagles were 7-9 the year before last, when they won the division and the Super Bowl) but it certainly took a hit when Derrius Guice went down with an ACL and I'm not sure that Adrian Peterson automatically fixes everything. But I do believe this offensive line is secretly the best in the division and I think Alex Smith gives them a nice upgrade in terms of floor at QB. There are plenty of weapons and the defense is underrated (so is Jay Gruden). The Eagles can have a great season, finish 9-7 and still miss the playoffs because of how difficult the NFC is this year. With Carson Wentz missing at least one game, I see it happening. The Giants have a brutal schedule to start the year and it's going to take a toll on a team with a questionable situation at quarterback. Saquon Barkley might have a monster year and still could not be enough to put the Giants over the top. I think the Cowboys might have a better defense than offense and could see that team cratering as a result of the offensive line issues.
NFC North Bold Prediction: Khalil Mack leads the NFL in sacks
Did you realize the Packers aren't even the favorite to win this division?? That's wild. Give me Aaron Rodgers with +175 odds all day -- you're basically betting on whether or not he'll stay healthy for 16 games and then taking the Packers straight up against the Vikings late in the year. I like those odds, almost as much as I like the upgrade of Mike Pettine for the Green Bay offense. I think you're going to see a throwback year from Rodgers, even with all the change around him. The Vikings will still be great, they're just going to end up a game short of winning the division; the Kirk Cousins gambit here pays off nicely as the Vikings make the postseason. The Bears have a good year with Khalil Mack but not quite what they wanted. They're still looming as a serious contender in 2019 thanks to Mitchell Trubisky's emergence. The Lions are just in a tough spot with a tough division.
NFC South Bold Prediction: Michael Thomas leads the NFL in receiving yards.
Yes, I've got the Falcons winning the Super Bowl but NOT winning the division. There's nothing wrong with a wild-card team getting hot and ripping through the playoffs, even if having that home-field advantage is huge for NFL teams in recent years. The Saints are gonna be great this year, even with Mark Ingram suspended for four games. Alvin Kamara is due to regress, and I think we see Drew Brees sling the ball around more this year, with Mike Thomas exploding in 2018. Julio Jones will also have a big year with Matt Ryan, who returns to peak form and plays well in the red zone this year in his second season with Steve Sarkisian. The Panthers have a major weapon in the form of Christian McCaffrey, and I think he could challenge to go over 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season, but Carolina is just too weak up front on the offensive line and too old on the defensive line to max out their talent and their season. The Buccaneers can't ever overcome the Jameis Winston suspension and fall well short of expectations.
NFC West Bold Prediction: Russell Wilson wins the NFL MVP.
I'm not out on the Seahawks yet. They have a top shelf coach and a franchise quarterback, along with a better offensive line than people think and a better defense than people think. This is a perfect time for Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, with their backs against the wall and no one believing in them, to come out firing and steal this division out from everyone with no one expecting it. Seattle's not as bad as the prognosticators believe and they'll surprise this season. The Rams are still going to be good, but there's something about them that throws me off a little bit and I could see them taking a small step back -- teams go 9-7 in the NFC this year aren't going to make the postseason. Jared Goff could take a step forward and the Rams might still fall short. The 49ers are definitely a year away, even if I like Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan, while the Cardinals might just be overwhelmed with a new coach and new quarterbacks in what is a difficult division. I like David Johnson to win Offensive Player of the Year this season, however.
MVP: Russell Wilson
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sam Darnold
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Roquan Smith
Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson
Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack
Comeback Player of the Year: Andrew Luck
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid
Teams: 1. Chiefs 2. Patriots 3. Ravens 4. Titans 5. Chargers 6. Bengals
(3) Ravens 16-10 over (6) Bengals
(5) Chargers 24-21 over (4) Titans
(5) Chargers 23-20 over (1) Patriots
(1) Chiefs 24-17 over (5) Ravens
(1) Chiefs 38-31 over (6) Chargers
Teams: 1. Saints 2. Packers 3. Seahawks 4. Redskins 5. Falcons 6. Vikings
(5) Falcons 28-17 over (4) Redskins
(6) Vikings 17-13 over (3) Seahawks
(1) Saints 31-28 over (6) Vikings
(5) Falcons 28-27 over (2) Packers
(5) Falcons 34-30 over (1) Saints
Super Bowl LIII (CBS)
Falcons 28-21 over Chiefs
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