The NFL is finally back and it is great that football has fully returned. The most popular sport in the United States is back and America will tuned in to watch every game. This also could be a very competitive season as well as it seems very balanced in both conferences. With that being said, let’s take a look at the teams.
American Football Conference
After 17 seasons, the Bills finally made the playoffs in 2017. What helped was that they have a very good defense and some key weapons on offense like LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay, but they did add wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the middle of the season which made them better. However, it seems like they don’t quite have the team this season to compete, but stranger things have happened.
This is a very weak division, but if the Patriots some how and magically falter this year, the Dolphins would be the next best team to represent the division in the playoffs. Head Coach Adam Gase has asked for a culture change with the club, but whether they can succeed because of that will be seen soon. There is some promise in the defense and they have a great running back in Kenyan Drake, but the Dolphins should struggle this season.
New England Patriots
The Patriots are clearly the best team in the division and are arguably the best team in the NFL, but considering how weak the division is, wouldn’t that mean the Patriots breeze through their season? Yes they have the legendary Tom Brady leading their offense with players like Rex Burkhead and Rob Gronkowski, but they have a very stout defense too. Plus they have a system designed by head coach Bill Belichick that absolutely works. They should have no problem winning the division, but more importantly they will be looking to avenge their Super Bowl loss to the Eagles.
New York Jets
What to do with the Jets. They have absolutely struggled the last few years as there has been seemingly no hope for them. Then comes in Sam Darnold, their best hope for a knight with shining armor, and change their fortunes around. He doesn’t have much on offense to work with, so expect him to struggle, but this is the future and the hope is that the Jets will finally have that superstar that will lead them to the promise land.
James Rowe: New England. They will always win that division it seems
Chris Beauvil: New England
Tali Raphael: New England
Ravens just barely missed out on the playoffs last year before having their hopes dashed on a late touchdown by the Bengals which allowed Buffalo to clinch a spot. However, this year there is a lot of hope that they will make it to the playoffs and not only that, clinch a higher seed. The biggest storyline for them will be quarterback Lamar Jackson as he will be the heir to Joe Flacco, but Flacco’s time is coming to a close soon.
The Bengals had every opportunity to do big things in 2017, but things didn’t go quite the way they wanted. Now they have an even more talented side and better constructed roster. However, they just need some of their key players like A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, and Carlos Dunlap to stay healthy if they want to be taken seriously. That being said, the division will be harder for them to succeed like they should.
Everyone knows that the Browns will do Browns things. However, since head coach Hue Jackson took over, the team started to net more competent talent like Myles Garrett and David Njoku. The storyline will be the quarterbacks as Tyrod Taylor will likely be the starter, but number one overall pick Baker Mayfield might be the future. With the amount of talent and after having such a dismal 2017 season going 0-16, the only way to go for them is to go up.
The Steelers always seem to stay constant and for good measure as they have an incredible array of talent, but will they continue their dominance in the division? They have a boat load of superstar players like Antonio Brown, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Jesse James plus they have some weapons on defense that could help them dominate. Right now the story line is about whether Le’Veon Bell will come to terms with a contract to keep him with Pittsburgh. However, they would probably win a lot with or without him.
James: Pittsburgh. Le’Veon Bell will eventually re sign with them and they will take the division with no problem.
This is an intriguing one. The offense may be predicated on whether Deshaun Watson stays healthy as he is the driving for for the offense. Their defense will be shaky at times, but with J.J. Watt leading it, it’s still pretty freaking good and hard to play against. That will be one of the driving forces for the team as well. While it may not seem optimistic, the Texans might be the most talented team in the division
Last year was a rough season for the Colts as they lost their quarterback Andrew Luck for the season. They used Jacoby Brissett, but they could not muster anything and they struggled mightily. There was some bright spots like the emergence of rookie safety Malik Hooker, but 2018 should be a season where there should be some improvement especially with Luck coming back healthy.
The shock of the NFL as they won the division and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. Their defense nicknamed “Sacksonville” was absolutely brutal to play against as their speed and tenacity made it difficult for opposing offenses. Their offense is very talented too with the likes of Leonard Fournette leading charge. They could be a staple in the playoffs for the next few seasons.
The Titans were supposed to take a giant step forward last season and win the division, but they limped their way into the playoffs (though they did defeat Kansas City in the Wild Card round). There is still questions as to whether their quarterback Marcus Mariota is the real deal or not, but there is a ton of talent on this squad including running back Derrick Henry. Watch out for the Titans this season to see if they live up to their potential or not.
James: Jacksonville. They will still dominate with that defense.
Last season was a difficult year for the Broncos as they used a lot of different quarterbacks and had a losing campaign, but they still do boast a lot of talent. Von Miller leads them on defense, but their offense is a big question as they hope quarterback Case Keenum will help lead them to a better year especially after having such a big season with the Vikings in 2017.
Kansas City Chiefs
Start the Patrick Mahomes era. Last year it looked like the Chiefs were going to be the class of the conference especially after trouncing the Patriots in the first game of the season, but then they struggled and barely made it into the playoffs. They still have a lot of dynamism in their offense like Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill plus they boast a good defensive corp. They should still be scary good in 2018 despite a new starting quarterback in Mahomes.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers surprised some in 2017 as they barely missed the playoffs, but they have a lot of talent around them that could suggest they will do big things in 2018. They are led by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and solid defensive corp, it could be fun to see what the Chargers do in 2018.
Raiders really fell flat last season as the year before they surprised many by going to the playoffs, but in 2017 they struggled. They are led by Derek Carr at quarterback and have a very talented offense, but the defense will be a question mark as their best pass rusher Khalil Mack was traded to Chicago. Keep an eye out on what they will do in 2018.
James: Kansas City. I think they will do big things in 2018.
Chris: Los Angeles Chargers
Tali: Kansas City
National Football Conference
It kind of hurt them that they lost their talented running back Ezekiel Elliott for a good portion of 2017, but their flaws were also exposed as some saw them continuing their success from 2016. 2016 might not have been a fluke, but the struggles from last season were because of the flaws they never fixed in 2016. Dak Prescott is a talented quarterback, but after last season, there are some that question whether he should be the starter.
New York Giants
Well, let’s forget about last season. That was absolutely brutal to watch as Eli Manning struggled mightily and there seemed to be no hope for them despite having such a successful 2016. They drafted Saquon Barkley in this year’s draft from Penn State as they hope he can ignite their offense and give them some more hope. The defense isn’t too shabby, but they will have to continue that if they want to be successful in 2018.
For the first time in franchise history they can finally call themselves Super Bowl champions. But for good reasons as they were a strong side with an explosive offense and solid defensive corp. Their prized quarterback Carson Wentz won’t be back for a while, but backup Nick Foles should serve competently in that capacity. Even with a Super Bowl championship in their back pockets, some won’t be taking them seriously.
Oh what could have been a great season had it not been for all the injuries to all their key players. There was one unnamed NFC executive in an ESPN article that said that the Redskins were super talented and were good enough to make a deep playoff run. But injuries hampered that. They may have lost Kirk Cousins, but with Alex Smith coming to from the Chiefs, they still expect big things in DC especially with such a talented roster. They could do big things in 2018.
James: Philadelphia. They are a fun team to watch.
The Bears might be the most improved team in the league as they beefed up their promising defense by grabbing the possibly best pass rusher in the league, Khalil Mack. They do have some talented players like Kevin White, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard and Mitchell Trubisky. They might even surprise some people this year and make a playoff push.
The Lions have a potent offense, especially with such a great talent like Matthew Stafford at quarterback, but they are also trending down as the rest of the division has gotten better. They will be competitive, but the division will be really hard for them to earn a playoff spot. The hope is that head coach Matt Patricia will help the defense balance things out and make them a playoff caliber squad.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers will be getting back Aaron Rodgers from injury. When Rodgers is healthy, he basically is the only reason why the Packers succeed as he can take any team and place them on his shoulders and lead them to success. He’s that good of a quarterback. But this time around, the Packers might not have to rely on Rodgers to get the job done as they signed talented players like Muhammad Wilkerson, they might actually be a very well balance squad. Heck, they might even be a Super Bowl contender.
The Vikings were so close to being the NFC representative for the Super Bowl last season, but they fell flat in the NFC Championship game against the eventual champions Philadelphia Eagles. However, they are a really talented team and probably got even more talented this offseason as they found a quarterback, Kirk Cousins, who fits their offense perfectly with the skill set he has. They should be really fun to watch in 2018.
James: Minnesota. That team is scary good
Tali: Green Bay
The Falcons sorely disappointed in 2017, but what was disappointing for them is seen as a positive for most teams in the league as they were a talented squad that made the playoffs and came close to making a deep run in the playoffs. They boast names like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but they also play in a very good division in which might send three representatives to the playoffs two years in a row.
The Panthers came back from a disappointing 2016 campaign to have a very good 2017, but Carolina has enough talent that could help them make a deep run as they have a great defense lead by Luke Kuechly and some amazing offensive players such as Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey, plus their offensive line is excellent. They might surprise everyone this year.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints had a terrible defense for a while, but last season it turned out to be pretty decent which led them to a playoff appearance along with their potent offense. Drew Brees has seemingly been an ageless wonder, but he is a future Hall of Famer. They were very close to making the NFC Championship game, but with their talent, they could make some more noise in 2017.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers were seemingly a favorite to breakout and make it to the playoffs because of the talent they have like Jameis Winston (who is suspended to begin the season) and Mike Evans plus they added a veteran to the team like DeSean Jackson, but they fell flat in 2017 and disappointed sorely. But that being said, they do play in a tough division. They did add more talent during the offseason like Vita Vea via draft and others, they might make some noise and live up to their potential.
James: Atlanta. To me they are a better roster than that 2016 squad
The Cardinals are seemingly transitioning from the Carson Palmer Era. They have a promising quarterback in Josh Rosen, but it’s a rebuild. They will hope to make some gains, but they are expected to struggle especially as they play in a division that is very hard to play in. Do not expect the Cardinals to do too much in 2018.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams really shook the football world with their explosive season opener in 2017, but they were truly the real deal last year. In 2018, they might be the best team in the NFC with the likes of Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Brandin Cooks to add to a roster with the likes of Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, and Todd Gurley. This might be team that actually is the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers struggled for most of 2017 until Jimmy Garoppolo showed up and went 5-1 in the games he played in. There is a lot of young talent here, but one thing for sure is that they are going compete. Some are actually thinking that they might actually make the playoffs, but this will be a tough division and only time will tell if they are good enough.
The Seahawks seem to regress every year since their Super Bowl victory in the 2013 season, but they should make a run at the playoffs. The defense has continually regressed with the loss of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, but they still do have Russell Wilson who alone can change the whole dynamic of a game. While there isn’t much optimism, you never know with this team.
James: Los Angeles Rams. Holy moly are they gonna be fun to watch.
Chris: Los Angeles Rams
Tali: Los Angeles Rams
Wild Card Teams
James: Cincinnati and Houston. Bengals should be better and it’s hard to not pick the Texans
Chris: Jacksonville and Cleveland
Tali: Jacksonville and Pittsburgh
James: Washington and Carolina. The Redskins are more talented than people give credit for. They will be really good plus Carolina should continue their success.
Chris: Green Bay and New Orleans
Tali: Minnesota and New York Giants