The chilly weather will soon roll in, and training camp has started. That means the NFL season will soon be upon us. Since the season is coming up very quickly, I will be previewing and predicting how I feel like the season will unravel and how all 32 teams will fair this upcoming season. Below I give a brief overview of how I see each team playing out. First, we will go over the NFC.
First, I begin with the NFC North…
1st Place: Green Bay Packers
Projected Record: 11-5
The Packers are back healthy again and addressed their offseason needs. For years they have had a void in their secondary, they fixed that and drafted Jaire Alexander. They also acquired a first-round pick in next year’s draft when swapping first-round picks with the Saints. The Packers made their line stronger and signed Muhammad Wilkerson, they will pair him with Mike Daniels which will be killer in this division. They also added Jimmy Graham, another big receiving threat for Aaron Rodgers to use. They lost Jordy Nelson, but his career is slowly dwindling down, he simply has not been the same since he tore his ACL a few years back. The Packers also start the season with some very easy winnable games. They start with the Bears, and Vikings in Green Bay, then on the road vs Washington and Detroit and then back in Green Bay vs Buffalo. NFL teams that make the playoffs usually find a way to start the season with momentum and end the season with momentum and the Packers schedule allows them to do that. I see the Packers taking steps forward and winning this division.
2nd Place: Minnesota Vikings
Projected Record: 9-7
I like the Vikings’ direction as a whole, they have Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs all locked up until 2020, and their defensive core plays right into the system Mike Zimmer loves to run. Last year the Vikings were unusually lucky in their injuries on defense (not one starter missed a game). They also got extremely lucky in the turnover department, something that usually does not continue. However, I see the Vikings falling back this upcoming year. They have a new coordinator, a new system, a new QB, and a running back coming off a torn ACL. I like the Vikings long term, just not this year.
3rd Place: Detroit Lions
Projected Record: 7-9
The Lions are somewhat of a mess. For years the Lions have struggled to establish the run game, what do they do to fix that? They add 31-year old LeGarrette Blount. I like Blount paired with Patricia but I don’t think it really fixes anything or alieves that much pressure off of Matt Stafford. The Lions also didn’t have a fantastic offseason. In a division with Minnesota’s defense and Aaron Rodgers, I predict the Lions to finish 3rd.
4th Place: Chicago Bears
Projected Schedule: 5-11
The Bears are in an interesting position. The Bears very well could be this seasons Rams. They have added a young offensive minded coach who could help develop Mitch Trubisky and make Jordan Howard flourish. However, I am not a fan of Mitch Trubisky. Mitch Trubisky last year ranked the 5th worst in passer rating, the only people behind him, are all now backups elsewhere. Trubisky also did not have a single game with multiple touchdowns, another red flag. I don’t know how the Bears will fair, they have an alright schedule so they very well could shock people and go 9-7 or play out and go 5-11. I’m saying Mitch Trubisky is not the answer and taking the 5-11.
1st Place: Los Angeles Rams
Projected Record: 11-5
The Rams had a fantastic offseason, they added Brandin Cooks, and signed him to a long-term contract extension. They bolstered their defense and added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh. Suh and Aaron Donald. The Rams have the best punter and kicker in the game, which usually goes unnoticed but is very valuable. The Rams have the smartest young coach in the game. They have the reigning offensive player of the year, Todd Gurley who is as good as anybody at that position. The Rams are loaded, it’s just time for them to put everything together. They have 3 other rebuilding teams in their division, which makes their schedule way easier. I see the Rams easily winning the division and going 11-5.
2nd Place: San Francisco 49ers
Projected Record: 8-8
The 49ers rebuild is coming along nicely, but it still has its ways to go. They added Weston Richburg and drafted Mike McGlinchey to help strengthen their offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball, they added Richard Sherman but the secondary still needs some work. However, the 49ers are built for the future, they have a terrific A+ coach in Kyle Shanahan that pairs perfectly with their QB Jimmy Garoppolo. This offseason they added Jerick McKinnon who will fit in very well, and I think will have a breakout year. 5 of the 49ers last 8 games are all winnable.
3rd Place: Seattle Seahawks
Projected Record: 7-9
The Legion of Boom era is over. Kam Chancellor retired. Cliff Avril retired. Michael Bennett was traded to Philly. Richard Sherman is in San Francisco. Brandon Browner is in jail. And Earl Thomas wants out. Seattle was built on their defense and their run game. Both of those are now very faulty. The Seattle offensive line has plagued them for years and it will continue to plague them this year. Pete Carroll has lost his locker room, and the Seahawks look to be heading in a downward trajectory. The one bright spot the Seahawks have is QB Russell Wilson. Many do not give Wilson the credit he deserves. Wilson last year threw for the most TDs in the NFL. More than Brady, Brees, and Rivers. He is an excellent quarterback that will really have to will this team in order to make a playoff push. For these reasons, I see the Seahawks going 7-9.
4th Place: Arizona Cardinals
Projected Record: 6-10
The Cardinals are heading in a better direction than Seattle. But they are not as talented as Seattle this year. The Cardinals have legitimate studs on both sides of the ball. WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB David Johnson, CB Patrick Peterson, and DE Chandler Jones. However, the lost one of the best safeties in the league in Tyrann Mathieu, Larry Fitzgerald is just getting older and David Johnson is coming off a torn ACL. The Cardinals defense is very solid, CB Patrick Peterson has made the pro bowl in all 8 of his years in the NFL and DE Chandler Jones has more sacks than any one of the last 3 years. Josh Rosen fell and the Cardinals snatched him up. Sam Bradford will most likely start for them but I do not see him making it through the full year. Sam Bradford is very injury prone and will have an old, unathletic offensive line that ranked 29th in the NFL blocking for him.
1st Place: Philadelphia Eagles
Projected Record: 11-5
Congratulations to the Eagles on last year’s title, I truly did not think they would win. But here we are in their hangover season. I see the Eagles faring pretty well. Depending on when and how Carson Wentz returns will determine a lot but he has looked good so far in training camp. The Eagles have a great system in place, one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, a good receiving core and a great running back committee. On the defense side of the ball, the losses of Patrick Robinson and Mychal Kendricks could play out to be more major than most think. However, linebacker Jordan Hicks is supposed to be coming back which is beneficial.
2nd Place: New York Giants
Projected Record: 9-7
The Giants could be the most improved team in football. The Giants first drafted Saquon Barkley, the best running back prospect in years. The Giants have struggled to establish the run since they last won the super bowl. Saquon should help alleviate pressure off of Eli Manning and have a great rookie campaign. Odell Beckham Jr. will be back this year after an injury that ended his season last year. The Giants also improved and hired a new coach Pat Shurmur, and got new offensive-minded coordinators. Defensively, they have stars Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon. The Giants will come out and surprise people and maybe push for a wildcard spot. I see the Giants going 9-7.
3rd Place: Dallas Cowboys
Projected Record 7-9
The Cowboys could be very good or very bad this year. They have Ezekiel Elliott back from his suspension, and he will be with them for the whole year. Sean Lee is back after an injury. However, the Cowboys lack dynamic players on offense. Their receiving core is very weak. Dak Prescott has proved before he doesn’t need all-pro receivers to flourish but this will be a true challenge. The Cowboys defensively don’t have David Irving for a month and have a very weak secondary. I see a 7-9 season and another missed playoff berth for the Boyz.
4th Place: Washington Redskins
Projected Record: 5-11
The Redskins for years have struggled to stay healthy. This year the Redskins added QB Alex Smith. It will be fascinating to see how he plays out with Jay Gruden. Defensively the Redskins have stars Ryan Kerrigan, and Josh Norman. Again, this is a team that could go 8-8 in other divisions but in a strong NFC East division, I do not see them getting more than 6-7 wins this year.
1st Place: Atlanta Falcons
Projected Record: 11-5
The Falcons last year made the playoffs and lost to the Eagles on a goal line play. They were that close to knocking off the super bowl champions. The Falcons had a solid offseason and bolstered key positions. The Falcons probably have the most underrated offensive line in the NFL which ranked 2nd last year. The Falcons offensively struggled in their first season with Steve Sarkisian but in his 2nd year, there are no excuses. The Falcons have terrific depth at receiver with a core that consists of Julio Jones, the 2nd best WR in the league, Mohammed Sanu, and rookie Calvin Ridley. They also have the tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in their backfield. The Falcons are a legitimate super bowl contender and will win the NFC South.
2nd Place: New Orleans Saints
Projected Record: 11-5 (Loses Tie Breaker to ATL)
The Saints were a surprise team last year. They went on a key 8 game winning streak that pushed them into first place in the NFC South. During this win-streak, the Saints defense came to life. Led by Pro Bowler Cam Jordan and defensive rookie of the year Marshon Lattimore the Saints defense became the 10th best scoring defense and 8th overall. The emergence of the defense was vital for the Saints and their success. Throughout Sean Payton’s tenure, he could always put up points but the defense was always lacking. The defensive success allowed the Saints to lure free agents Patrick Robinson who was the number one Nickel cornerback last year and Demario Davis who was rated a top 5 inside linebacker last year. The Saints also traded up to grab Marcus Davenport, a raw speedster on the edge. The Saints offensively drafted Tre’Quan Smith who has broke out during training camp, the Saints also added receiver Michael Floyd and running back Shane Vereen. Alvin Kamara could put up ridiculous numbers with Mark Ingram starting the season on suspension. Michael Thomas has added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason which will be crucial in his development. Overall, the Saints will be a super bowl contender for the next couple of years and will place second behind Atlanta in the NFC South.
3rd Place: Carolina Panthers
Projected Record: 7-9
The Panthers as a franchise have never had back to back winning seasons. This year Cam Newton will have to super elite and have an MVP caliber season to compete in the best division in football. The Panthers have one of the best front sevens in the league. Their front seven consists of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, Kawann Short, Mario Addison and their free agency addition Dontari Poe. Their secondary is still very weak and they lost vocal veteran leader Kurt Coleman to the Saints. Offensively, the Panthers offensive line is horrendous. Cam Newton will take a beating this year. And to add onto their offensive line woes, the Panthers just lost their best offensive lineman Darryl Williams for the whole year. Outside of Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffery, they have no proven pass catchers. They drafted DJ Moore who is, in my opinion, the best receiver in the draft, but I do not see him having a good rookie year. The Panthers schedule is also brutal, they finish their season playing New Orleans twice, and playing in Atlanta. I do not see the Panthers making the playoffs, and see them struggling majorly.
4th Place: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected Record: 3-13
The Buccaneers are a mess. “Franchise” quarterback Jameis Winston will miss the first 3 games of the year with a suspension. It just happens those first three games they face New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. In the offseason, they acquired Jason Pierre-Paul which was a nice upgrade. However, during the draft the Buccaneers drafted DT Vita Vea. The Buccaneers already have Gerald McCoy and the selection of a defensive back would have been better. Derwin James was on the board at 13, the best defensive back in the draft fell and the Buccaneers failed to draft him. The Buccaneers ranked dead last in passing defense last year and failed to truly strengthen it during the offseason. On the offense, the Buccaneers do not have a true running game unless Ronald Jones emerges. Mike Evans is the only bright spot in a lackluster receiving core. Things just aren’t working out in Tampa Bay. I see them having a dreadful unspeakably bad season at 3-13.