Last week our NFL writers predicted what players would win the major awards for the upcoming season. Now we tackle who will win each division and earn the wild card spots. After that, we will each make a pick for the Super Bowl.
Andy Lykins: New England Patriots – As long as things remain status quo you cannot pick against this team. With the tank job of the Miami Dolphins the #1 overall seed also becomes a little easier to attain.
Scott Frizzell: New England Patriots – The Patriots should skate to another division title and challenge for the top overall seed in the AFC. Nothing is changing yet.
Mike Quilty: New England Patriots – Brady and Belichick run away with this division again. The defense is loaded with veteran guys who are versatile to go along with Brady and this offense.
Dante Coppola: New England Patriots – The Patriots will once again win their division. You have a Dolphins team which is actively tanking and the Jets and Bills each with unproven offenses. As for the Patriots, they don’t really have any weaknesses. Plus, their defense hasn’t been this good in a while. The other teams in the division will just have to keep waiting for their turn.
Max McAulliffe: New England Patriots – New England has a deep depth chart filled with talented skill position players, a great offensive line, a fantastic defense, and the one and only Tom Brady. They lose only two games, on the road in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Andy Lykins: Pittsburgh Steelers. The most Interesting division in the conference. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns can also get hot and claim this spot.
Scott Frizzell: Cleveland Browns – The Browns went 5-2 down the stretch last year and almost beat a Ravens team that had to win to make the playoffs in week 17. They would have won this division last year if not for Hue Jackson still being the coach in September. Add in Odell Beckham with Baker Mayfield having a year under his belt, not to mention Kareem Hunt being added to Nick Chubb in the backfield for the second half, this team should score some points.
Mike Quilty: Baltimore Ravens – This one’s tough, the popular pick is the Browns, the steady pick would be Pittsburgh and the dumb pick would be the Bengals. I’m not sure what I’d call the Ravens pick, just a gut feeling maybe? Comes down to coaching here for me. Harbaugh surprises some people this year.
Dante Coppola: Cleveland Browns – Hear me out, this race will be extremely close. But in the end I do see the Browns pulling away from the Steelers. The Bengals are the Bengals, and the Ravens are in the same boat as the Bills and Jets. The Browns have Baker Mayfield to dish out passes to Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and David Njoku while being supported by Kareem Hunt AND Nick Chubb. As for the Steelers, they lost arguably their two best players in Bell and Brown. While Juju and Big Ben are still there, their offense just can’t compete.
Max McAulliffe: Pittsburgh Steelers – Even without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers still win 11 games. With a quieter locker room and a great offensive line, Big Ben’s age doesn’t matter. They will lose five games to New England, Baltimore, the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo and the New York Jets.
Andy Lykins: Houston Texans. Overlooked in all the trade craziness is that they enhanced their offensive strengths. Extremely short sighted but they are better for 2019. If the team collapses they are being cleaned out anyways.
Scott Frizzell: Houston Texans – This would have been the Colts before Andrew Lucks surprise retirement. I don’t really see any of the other three teams doing better than about .500, so the Texans should take this division. They gave up a ton for Tunsil, but they got Deshaun Watson some much needed protection.
Mike Quilty: Houston Texans – Now with the retirement of Andrew Luck, the Houston Texans have even more room for error. The Texans acquired some offensive line help for Watson and I just don’t see the Jags, Titans or Colts beating them out.
Dante Coppola: Houston Texans – Its finally their year. The pairing of Hopkins and Watson will finally be able to work now that the Texans have grabbed more offensive lineman. Don’t forget about JJ Watt either, who is still at the top of his game. The Jags are in a weird place, and it is uncertain if Foles can bring them success. The Colts were hit with the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck, and I don’t think they can recover in time for this year to be saved. The Titans have the best chance, but you can just feel it’s the Texans year.
Max McAulliffe: Houston Texans – The recent acquisitions of Duke Johnson, Laremy Tunsil, and Kenny Stills tipped the scales in their favor. Those will all be key assets to a top five offense this season, led by Deshaun Watson. The Texans sustain five losses to New Orleans, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and New England.
Andy Lykins: Kansas City Chiefs. This team is still hungry to get to the big game. Getting past New England is going to be the storyline all season.
Scott Frizzell: Kansas City Chiefs – I do think the Chiefs take a minor step backwards this year, but still pull out the division. It’s not every year your quarterback can throw 50 touchdowns after all. The Chargers might give them a run for the division though.
Dante Coppola: Kansas City Chiefs – No one should be surprised by this pick as they have a stacked pass game. Their defense did take a small hit, but they replaced a lot of their missing pieces. The Broncos are very close to becoming a good team, but they need some younger offensive players at the quarterback and wide receiver positions to become successful. The Chargers are pretty good, but they have a rather difficult schedule in my opinion, and they are no match for the Chiefs. The Raiders are definitely an interesting challenge for them, but it is too uncertain to say they can challenge the Chiefs.
Max McAulliffe: Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs have surrounded Patrick Mahomes with some great weapons but not a great defense. This defense will be their downfall. They will lose four games to New England, Houston, Green Bay and the Los Angeles Chargers because of it.
Andy Lykins: Cleveland Browns – Figuring out how to be a winning organization is a process. This is a young team at the beginning stages of it. This will be the first step. Los Angeles Chargers – Overcoming injuries and drama will help Ole Man Rivers buckle down and focus on a championship
Scott Frizzell: Los Angeles Chargers – I don’t think the loss of Melvin Gordon will actually hurt this team that much if he doesn’t show up. He had under 4.0 yards per carry each of his first two seasons. Austin Ekeler is a very capable back in a pass first offense. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens just seem to always be right there for a playoff spot, even when they don’t seem overly impressive. They won’t have a great passing game, but they always run the ball well and have a good defense. I can see the Jets, Steelers or any of the AFC South teams take this spot.
Mike Quilty: I took the Browns as a wildcard because of the undeniable talent. Since Hue Jackson left last year, Baker Mayfield went off, and I don’t see him slowing down. Give him a talented defense and these weapons at every position, I think he will do big things. Everything comes down to the locker room. We’ll see how Freddie Kitchens handles these egos. The second wild card team I chose was the Chargers, who always seem to be in the mix with Philip Rivers. Even with the loss of Melvin Gordon I still see this offense as being just as good this year as last year. Their defense is good starting up front with Ingram and Bosa.
Dante Coppola: The Raiders got better during free agency and in the draft. I also think Jon Gruden just needed to get used to his new team before they could become contenders. The Raiders could have a top offense this year, thanks to Antonio Brown, Jared Cook, and the hope that David Carr can get back into his prime form. Their defense is also pretty solid, boasting talent like TahirWhitehead and Gareon Conley. As for the Steelers, they still have a solid offense commanded by Big Ben, James Conner, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Their defense is amazing, hosting talents like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Joe Haden. While the Steelers may not get far in the playoffs, it would be more of their coaches fault than the players.
Max McAulliffe: Jets are a lot better than some people give them credit for. They have a solid team on both sides of the ball and a new head coach with playoff experience. Sam Darnold will have a strong second year but not strong enough to beat Cleveland, New England both times, and Philadelphia. The Chargers will be the other wild card. The Derwin James injury and the pending Melvin Gordon trade really pulls down the Chargers. They lose to Houston, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Chicago, Green Bay, and Kansas City.
Andy Lykins: Philadelphia Eagles. Nothing they have done indicates they are not going to be right there at the end. GM Howie Roseman keeps showing a keen ability to add talent.
Scott Frizzell: Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles got off to a terrible start last year and still made the playoffs. Doug Pederson looks like he’s a pretty good coach. Now they get Carson Wentz back healthy. With a year under his belt since his injury, Wentz should return to form.
Mike Quilty: Philadelphia Eagles – Philadelphia has their guy in Doug Pederson who’s done an excellent job since he’s taken over. Carson Wentz is back and fully healthy with an arsenal of weapons and a very good defense to match. This all depends on the health of Wentz, there’s no more Foles magic.
Dante Coppola: Dallas Cowboys – Like with the AFC North, the race for the top will come down to two teams: the Cowboys and the Eagles. Also like the AFC North, one of the two will probably take a wild card spot. The Cowboys just got Elliot back. Add Elliot to Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper plus a strong offensive line, and you got a dangerous offense. Their defense has an incredible sophomore in Leighton Vander Esch as well.
Max McAulliffe: Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles have an even more talented roster than Atlanta when healthy. Unfortunately, they have some tough matchups on their hands this season. They lose to Minnesota, Buffalo, Chicago, and a Week 17 matchup against the New York Giants.
Andy Lykins: Minnesota Vikings. Year one for quarterbacks is always difficult. This should be the year it all comes together and they make their move.
Scott Frizzell: Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings struggled last year in their first year with Kirk Cousins under center. This year should be an improvement. New offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski will bring more of a balance to the offense instead of the pass happy version we saw last year; Mike Zimmer won’t tolerate any less.
Mike Quilty: Chicago Bears – Chicago is stacked defensively with Kahlil Mack as its centerpiece. Mitch Trubisky will take a big step forward this year, along with Matt Nagy coaching. The rookie David Montgomery is going to burst onto the scene as well. Imagine if this team didn’t pass on Mahomes like they did?
Dante Coppola: Green Bay Packers – They still have the amazing partnership of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, and defensive stars like Blake Martinez, Kyler Fackrell, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. While I see the Vikings having a good season worth a wild card spot (like the Raiders), I think the freedom this new coach brings will push the Packers back into the playoffs and the top of the division.
Max McAulliffe: Green Bay Packers – Green Bay starts off slow, beginning with an abysmal record of 1-3. After those losses to Chicago, Minnesota, and Philadelphia, Aaron Rodgers only goes on to lose two more games the entire season, to Oakland and another to Minnesota.
Andy Lykins: Atlanta Falcons. This division will be a battle between the Saints and Falcons. Easily could go the other way.
Scott Frizzell: New Orleans Saints – This should be a good division this year, with three teams contending for the playoffs and the Buccaneers at least making some strides under Bruce Arians. It’s tough to pick against the Saints.
Mike Quilty: New Orleans Saints – The Saints are on a Super Bowl mission after the last two seasons ended in heartbreak. Sean Payton is a great offensive mind and he’s got Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara just to name a few. I don’t see the Falcons as a real threat to New Orleans.
Dante Coppola: New Orleans Saints – They deserved to play in the Super Bowl last year, and they deserve another crack at it this year. With Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Demario Davis, and Cameron Jordan, the Saints pack star power at every end of the squad. Meanwhile the Buccaneers don’t look like they will contend for a while. The Panthers and Falcons look to make a bit of a run, but the Saints are simply too good for them.
Max McAulliffe: Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons are a very good football team when they are healthy. This season we are going to bank on this team staying at relatively good health. The only teams they lose to this season are Philadelphia and New Orleans.
Andy Lykins: Los Angeles Rams. The division gets a little tougher, but not enough to unseat the NFC Champ.
Scott Frizzell: Seattle Seahawks – I’m not sure they can beat out the Rams, but I think they will be right there, so I am taking the upset. As long as Russell Wilson stays on the field, this should be a good team. Chris Carson is looking like a good young running back to shoulder some of the load. The acquisition of Jadeveon Clowney won’t hurt on the defensive side either.
Mike Quilty: Los Angeles Rams – I think the Rams learned from last year; they’ve kept the same team for the most part. Goff is going to be better this year with McVay coaching him up. Key additions on defense like Eric Weddell should bring some more veteran leadership to this group.
Dante Coppola: Los Angeles Rams – No real surprise here. The Rams will once again push for the Super Bowl thanks to a stacked team. They have a great offense, but thanks to one of the best defenders ever in Aaron Donald, their defense is just as dominant. Gurley and his injuries are definitely concerning, but even without him they should win their division. The 49ers could be really good this season thanks to the return of Jimmy Garoppolo, but not good enough to beat the Rams. The Seahawks, like others on the list, have that feeling of breaking out but could fall flat this year. What can I say? The Rams are amazing.
Max McAulliffe: Seattle Seahawks – Seattle starts a little slow this season but pick up some steam and does not look back. After starting 1-2 with losses to Pittsburgh and New Orleans, they go on to win ten of their last thirteen games. Only losing two more to Philadelphia and Atlanta, topped off with a Week 17, backup day loss to San Francisco.
Andy Lykins: Dallas Cowboys – Playing second fiddle in the division again will not sit well with the owner and fan base. Guess you should’ve quietly extended some guys, huh? Chicago Bears – A slight regression on defense leads to some struggles. Ultimately, the Matt Nagy/Mitchell Trubisky partnership yields dividends and they become a better team for it.
Scott Frizzell: Chicago Bears – Matt Nagy looks like a good young coach, getting improved play from Mitchell Trubisky last year on their way to a 12-win season. With a strong defense, they should again be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Los Angeles Rams – I see some regression coming from the Rams, although from a 13-win season that doesn’t mean they will miss the playoffs. They will probably regress to about 10 wins. The offense won’t be as dominant, but Aaron Donald anchors a pretty solid defensive unit. The Panthers and Falcons should both be in the running from the NFC South as well.
Mike Quilty: The Seattle Seahawks will be in the playoffs; they have the coach and the Quarterback with a nice run game this year. The Recent addition of Jadeveon Clowney may give their defense a boost as well. The Dallas Cowboys are a dangerous team. Dak Prescott was a different quarterback when Amari Cooper arrived, he’s still there so defenses can’t stack the box on Zeke. Watch out for Dallas, and don’t sleep on their defense.
Dante Coppola: The Eagles have a stacked team, they just need to put everything together. They lost key defensive pieces in Bennett to the Patriots, and Hicks to the Cardinals. But their defense still has players. Meanwhile, Carson Wentz has one of the top tight ends in Zach Ertz. The Vikings still have a great defense, and an offense on the brink of breaking out. These two teams could go deep in the playoffs next year, even without being at the top of their respective divisions.
Max McAulliffe: The Saints fall a game short of a first round bye and instead have to play on Wild Card weekend. They lose to the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago, and a killer loss to the division winner Atlanta. *Spoiler alert: New Orleans will get their revenge. The Vikings, in wild fashion, eliminate their division rival Chicago from playoff contention in Week 17 and take the six seed over them and the Rams in a three-way tiebreaker. Kirk Cousins quiets some critics this season and so does Dalvin Cook. They lose to Atlanta, Kansas City, Seattle, the Los Angeles Chargers, and Washington.
Andy Lykins: Patriots over Bears
Classic matchup and excited for a new team to lose to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Patriots should win their 7th Lombardi and this could be Brady’s swan song all in one.
Scott Frizzell: Patriots over Saints
The Saints came so close last year, not to mention the year before when they lost in the Divisional Round on a miracle play by the Vikings. The NFC is wide open, but I’ll take the Saints to finally breakthrough this year. Meanwhile, the AFC looks likely to be one of just a couple teams, and it’s awfully hard to pick against the Patriots, who at least on paper have improved in the offseason. In the game itself, Belichick schemes a way to adequately bottle up Alvin Kamara. Tom Brady throws a couple touchdowns en route to his seventh Super Bowl victory.
Mike Quilty: Patriots over Eagles
In the NFL you need the coach and the quarterback, both of these teams have that. The Patriots have the edge in that department which is why I think the New England Patriots win 35-28 over Philadelphia. The path to SB54 could be easier for New England as well, besides the Chiefs are you really scared of any AFC team? I’m not.
Dante Coppola: Patriots over Saints
This may be more of a dream than a likely reality, but just imagine Brees vs Brady in a Super Bowl! The Patriots have quite simply been the best team since the year 2000, led by the GOAT Tom Brady. The only quarterback in the last few years to consistently match Brady is Brees. They are led by two great masterminds of the game, and both teams supporting casts are astounding. This could be both of the quarterbacks last shot at a Super Bowl, so this would be the matchup of the decade. Unfortunately for Brees and the Saints, I have to say that the experience of Belichick and Brady will reign supreme once again and lead to a close win for the Patriots.
Max McAulliffe: Patriots over Eagles
Patriots win in a nail biting finish against one of the NFC’s best. The Eagles’ downfall ends up being their secondary and Brady carves up the team he once lost a Super Bowl to. He beats them in Hard Rock Stadium, a place he can never seem to win.
Feature image from bleacherreport.com