In the past couple weeks of NFL preseason, we saw Colts quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly retire, Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney traded to the Seahawks, and Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil traded to the Texans. The 2019 preseason was obviously a wild ride, but just about everybody is ready for the regular season to get underway.
Now with the clarity of how each NFL roster turned out, there is no better time to make regular season predictions. Today, I'll attempt to project to future record of all 32 teams.
It's impossible to know which players will suffer major injuries ahead of time, which makes season-long record predictions a bit of a fools' errand. But with a general understanding of how each team will operate, this is a strong indicator of how I feel about each NFL team entering the 2019 NFL regular season.
Kansas City Chiefs 12-4
Los Angeles Chargers 10-6
Oakland Raiders 7-9
Denver Broncos 6-10
The Derwin James injury could throw a wrench into the Chargers season, as his absence will likely put them behind the Chiefs in the standings early in the year. Even if James is able to return, playing catch up against Kansas City throughout the season will be no easy task.
The Chiefs should be stronger defensively this time around, which should make up for any natural regression in production on the offensive side. As long as Andy Reid is the head coach and Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback, Kansas City will be perennial Super Bowl contenders.
Oakland is trending upwards after a talent influx this off-season, but still face an uphill climb to compete in the division. Denver figures to struggle with a limited ceiling coming from their quarterback position and middling overall talent throughout the roster.
Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6
Baltimore Ravens 9-7
Cleveland Browns 7-9
Cincinnati Bengals 5-11
While Cleveland may be everybody's favorite pick to win the AFC North, their coaching staff and most of their roster still have a lot to prove. Add in that they play in a tough division, and I think the Browns fail to meet expectations this season.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has never been below .500 during Mike Tomlin’s tenure. They’re still one of the strongest teams in the trenches throughout the NFL, and have a future hall of fame Quarterback. That’s the combination of a division winning team.
Baltimore will be an interesting team to monitor as they cater their offensive scheme around second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson. They might have the strongest secondary in the league, which should keep them in every game they play. If Jackson takes a step forward this year, Baltimore has enough defensive talent to make them contenders in conference.
Houston Texans 9-7
Jacksonville Jaguars 8-8
Indianapolis Colts 7-9
Tennessee Titans 7-9
With Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement and the Texans trading away a premiere EDGE in Jadeveon Clowney, the AFC South feels wide open. I expect all teams to hover around a .500 record this season, ultimately being won by the team with the best player behind center.
While Houston’s front office is all over the place, DeShaun Watson is on a totally different level than Nick Foles, Jacoby Brissett and Marcus Mariota or Ryan Tannehill. Watson's presence, along with a dangerous wide receiver corp, should be enough to get the Texans that extra win over the rest of the division.
Jacksonville still has the core of players that got them to the AFC Championship game two seasons ago, but their offense is lacking in a few too many areas to make them a Super Bowl threat.
While Tennessee has won a strong amount of games in recent years, Marcus Mariota limits the ceiling of the roster. Until the Titans get improved play out of the quarterback position, they'll remain an average team.
New England Patriots 11-5
Buffalo Bills 7-9
New York Jets 7-9
Miami Dolphins 3-13
The Patriots are winning the AFC East.
With that said, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets should see progression from their second-year quarterbacks Josh Allen and Sam Darnold. Both rosters improved their talent base through free agency and the NFL Draft, and could threaten for Wild Card spots if their quarterbacks are up to the task.
Los Angeles Rams 10-6
Seattle Seahawks 9-7
San Francisco 49ers 8-8
Arizona Cardinals 4-12
The NFC West figures to be competitive at the top, especially because the San Francisco 49ers' roster appears ready to compete. While the Arizona Cardinals will likely go through growing pains under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, I could realistically see the Los Angeles Rams, Seattlle Seahawks or 49ers take the division crown.
Los Angeles has the most balanced roster on either side of the football, even with Seattle adding Jadeveon Clowney to the fold. With elite play-callers on both sides in Sean McVay and Wade Phillips, the Rams should maximize their talent once again. That should be enough to get them over the Seattle hump once again.
Minnesota Vikings 10-6
Chicago Bears 9-7
Green Bay Packers 9-7
Detroit Lions 7-9
Before I get into this, I want to take a moment and appreciate how much the fan bases within the NFC North hate each other.
With that said, the division figures to be it's typical gauntlet, and it all gets started on Thursday night. In my view, the Minnesota Vikings currently have the strongest roster among the NFL North teams. With two division titles and 40 wins over the past four seasons, their nucleus has proven capable of taking the crown.
Chicago and Green Bay both have reasons to be optimistic entering the season, as the Bears have a ferocious defense and excellent offensive play-caller in head coach Matt Nagy. Green Bay has one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers, who will be playing in a better offense for his skill-set under new head coach Matt LaFleur.
Ultimately, I think Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky limits their ceiling, and LaFleur's inexperience spells doom for the Packers.
The Detroit Lions should be more competitive in year two under Matt Patricia, as they have one of the best defensive lines in football. If new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell meshes well with quarterback Matthew Stafford, they could threaten for a Wild Card spot.
New Orleans Saints 10-6
Atlanta Falcons 10-6
Carolina Panthers 7-9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-9
The New Orleans Saints will be the favorite to once again take the NFC South, as they have one of the strongest rosters in the NFL. However, Atlanta's roster isn’t far off, as long as they’re able to remain in better health this season.
Both Atlanta and New Orleans figure to have efficient passing attacks along with talented running backs, and play-makers on the defensive side. I envision the battle for the top spot in the division coming down to their two mid-season match-ups.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a fun team to monitor in Bruce Arians' first season at the helm, but their roster isn't quite ready for that next step. The same could be said for the Carolina Panthers, as Cam Newton's health has limited the Panthers offense over the past few seasons. Even if Newton is at 100%, Carolina's overall roster fails to move the needle.
Philadelphia Eagles 12-4
Dallas Cowboys 10-6
Washington Redskins 6-10
New York Giants 3-13
Philadelphia has arguably the best roster in the NFL and will once again be coached by Super Bowl winner Doug Pederson. Assuming that quarterback Carson Wentz is able to stay on the field this season, they should be a Super Bowl contender until the very end.
The Dallas Cowboys nearly rival the Eagles in talent, but Jason Garrett has yet to prove that he can elevate a team through a playoff run. It’s possible that the Cowboys take that next step with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, as the new play-caller figures to add more dimensions than we saw out of Scott Linehan.
The Washington Redskins figure to struggle through to growing pains of a rookie quarterback, though their future outlook remains bright.