Submitted by Jim Feist on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 12:00 AM
The NFL is back, and I wanted to look at each division, give you my picks in those divisions, the conferences and who I expect to be in this year’s Super Bowl.
AFC North: The Ravens could unseat the Steelers in the division. I do prefer coach Harbaugh over Tomlin even though the Steelers might be the better team. With Bell not answering the bell, so to speak, the Steelers take a major hit until he returns. Does this open the door for the Browns or the Bengals to sneak into the mix? I won’t go that far, but I will say I expect both to be better than a year ago. At least the division is expected to be a little more interesting than it was in 2017.
AFC East: The Patriots win the division they have owned for the last 15 years or so. With Sam Darnold the chosen one for the Jets, there will be a learning curve for the rookie QB. Last year the Jets made some noise but that was with veteran QB Josh McCown, who was very good for a not-so-great offense. I still don’t see much from the Dolphins or the Bills. And the Bills could be the worst team in the league.
AFC South: This is the toughest of the all divisions in the AFC to predict. I don’t care for the Titans as QB Marcus Marietta has not shown the potential he had coming out of college and think QB Andrew Luck will have trouble after missing the last two seasons. I see this division coming down to the Jaguars and Texans. Flip a coin, as one has the better QB and the other the better defense. Although the potential is there for the Texans to step up on defense as well. I'll go with the Texans here, but they must get better coaching from Captain Hook if they are to make progress.
AFC West: Throw out the Broncos and the Raiders here, but not so far that if injuries hit any of these teams things could flip fast. For me, it’s all Chargers and Chiefs with the Chargers winning it due to experience at the quarterback position and the bookends on defense. QB Phillip Rivers over QB Pat Mahomes is an easy call for me to make.
AFC Prediction: Ravens over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
The NFC is not as clear cut as the AFC due to it being the much better conference currently.
NFC North: This one goes to the Vikings because they have better skill players at more critical positions. The Packers have QB Arron Rodgers who might be the best in football, but they have holes in critical areas. The Bears have a solid defense that just got better with the addition of LB Khalil Mack. They can get ugly to deal with. But they will need more from QB Mitch Trubisky this season. A lot more. Can he step up if given a solid OL and running game? The Lions will cause trouble, but we know very little about their new head coach. They have a highly skilled QB in Mathew Stafford who is a real warrior. He has just never been given enough support to go very far.
NFC East: We start with the World Champs, The Philadelphia Eagles. The OL is the highest rated in the league and that were it all starts. Their running game is hard to stop because of great OL play. QB Carson Wentz and Foles are a great combo to have while Foles will start the season and Wentz will be available at some time in the future. That was proven last year. The defense is stifling, and their HC Pederson is one of the best.
Even though I see an upgrade from the Giants, especially at head coach. Their OL should be better because they were injured all 2017 as were the WR’s. I see a decline from the Cowboys with the loss of Whiten and some OL problems. At one time the Boys had a solid OL and running game but today we will have to see if that OL can be rebuilt. The Redskins have added a top quality QB in Alex Smith who wins about 70% of his games. He’s not dynamic but he makes few mistakes and keeps his team in the game. Can Gruden build around him? However, no one has the overall skill players the Eagles do.
NFC West: I can’t argue with everyone that says the Rams should take this division. The Niners are improved but too weak on defense. We still don’t know what Jimmy G will do at QB when he faces tough opponents. The Seahawks and Cardinals are in decline and will be rebuilding. Although the best QB in the division is Russell Wilson, albeit with no OL in front of him. You just hope he can stay healthy with all the hits he takes. The Cardinals have some quality talent, but all the pieces are not there for new HC Steven Wilks. This is the Rams division to lose in my opinion. They have a young and creative HC and are loaded on both sides on the ball. The Rams were young last season and look to be more matured this year and even better.
NFC South: This is the best division in the NFC. The Saints and Falcons along the Panthers will fight it out most of the year, but I believe, in the end, it will be Drew Brees vs Matt Ryan for the division title. That is a close battle, but the difference might be the HC and offensive coordinators. I think that battle goes to the Saints taking down this division and getting revenge over the Vikings in the NFC championship.
NFC Prediction: The Saints.
Super Bowl: I see the Saints and Ravens meeting with the Saints taking it all.