Football is back. For real this time, not games that don’t mean much outside of roster evaluation.
The NFL kicked off its 100th season with one of the most storied rivalries in the history of the league when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 10-3 in a defensive battle on Thursday night.
With every new season comes signs of hope for a chance to claim the ultimate prize in the sport; the Super Bowl. There will be the obvious contenders who seem to be in the thick of things every year. There will also be up-and-coming teams who have a lot to be excited about.
Predictions are made year in and year out and this year is no different. It’s part of what makes the world of sports even better. Add in the fantasy football aspect and it makes the NFL that more exciting to try and predict.
Here are 8 bold predictions for the upcoming NFL season:
Russell Wilson will lead Seattle to the division title
As long as the Seahawks have Russell Wilson under center, which they will through 2023 after Russell signed a four-year, $140 million ($65 million guaranteed) extension in April. The loss of wide receiver Doug Baldwin won’t hurt as much with rookie D.K. Metcalf taking his place alongside Tyler Lockett. The running game should make it so Settle doesn’t have to rely on Wilson as much as it has in the past. Wilson has earned every penny of that new deal and will prove that even further this season when he leads the Seahawks to an NFC West crown.
Tennessee will finish 9-7 for a 4th straight year
It’s boom or bust for quarterback Marcus Mariota. He hasn’t had a bad NFL career, but he also hasn’t had the best. In four seasons, Mariota is 27-28 as a starter with 69 touchdowns and 42 interceptions. In his four years in Tennessee, the Titans have made the playoffs just one time. The Titans have the makings of making another playoff run and the chances of that increased with the shocking retirement of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. If Mariota can’t find a way to improve upon his 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions from a season ago, it might be time for Tennessee look to move on.
Green Bay will miss the playoffs for a 3rd straight year
This will not be the fault of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Sure, he has a new head coach in Matt LaFleur, but the quarterback/coach pairing should work well together. Rodgers will be in MVP talks late into the season. The defense has improved in the offseason with the addition of safety Adrian Amos and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith via free agency and drafting safety Darnell Savage and linebacker/lineman Rashan Gary. However, two teams are better within the division in Minnesota and Chicago.
New England will be back in the Super Bowl
Not only will the Patriots be back in the Super Bowl, but they will win it again. Listen, Tom Brady is still the quarterback and Bill Belichick is still the head coach. There is arguably no better player/coach duo in all of sports history. Sure, Brady is testing the limits of time, but nothing has shown that he is anywhere near the end. As long as these two are paired together and Brady remains on the field, this team is going to be in contention to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February. The loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski (retirement) won’t be all that significant. Sure, Brady will miss one of his favorite targets, but he still has Julian Edelman, a returning and healthy Josh Gordon along Phillip Dorsett. The running game will also help with the loss of Gronk. Sony Michele and James White are one of the best one-two punches coming out of the backfield. The defense is one of the younger, more athletic units the Pats have had in some time and this season Belichick will be doing the play calling. Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and the Patriots continuing to stay in Super Bowl contention.
Drew Brees and the Saints won’t be heartbroken this season and go to the Super Bowl
First, it was the “Minneapolis Miracle.” Then, there was the pass interference that wasn’t. Both of those instances resulted in the New Orleans Saints being eliminated from the playoffs. Well the string of bad luck is going to end this season. The Saints will use two consecutive, heartbreaking playoff losses as motivation and make it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since winning it in 2009. The three-headed monster of Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas all return and will put up their incredible numbers we are accustomed to seeing. In fact, Drew Brees will finally win the NFL MVP award. How he hasn’t yet is beyond me. Regardless, the offense is going to continue to do what it does while the defense will be one of the better units in the NFL.
Cleveland will win the division and end the playoff drought
For the first time in what seems like forever, the city of Cleveland is rockin’ and rollin’ and excited for football season. The Browns are one of the most talked about teams heading into this new season and rightfully so. Last season the Browns fought all-year and finished 7-8-1, due in large part to quarterback Baker Mayfield, who broke Peyton Manning’s touchdown total for a rookie. Baker loves the spotlight and now it will be shining brighter than ever as he will look to lead the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. General manager John Dorsey went and got Mayfield a new weapon in star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. who is reunited with college teammate Jarvis Landry. Add that to running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (who will serve an 8-game suspension to start the season) and tight end David Njoku and you have what should be a very lethal offense. The defense was upgraded with pass rushers Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson to along with Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi. Opposing quarterbacks should be hesitant when facing that front four. The corners or Denzel Ward, Terrence Mitchell and rookie Greedy Williams should be a solid secondary along with safety Morgan Burnett. First year head coach Freddie Kitchens will have his hands full, but in a good way.
Dak will prove his worth and Zeke will lead the league in rushing to lead Cowboys to NFC East title
The drama of who will get paid and when is finally over, at least for the time being. Ezekiel Elliott got his wish and is now the highest paid running back in NFL history. He will lead the NFL in rushing for a third time in four seasons. Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper will both eventually be paid, but that can wait for the time being. Now the Cowboys can focus on playing football. Prescott will prove he’s worth whatever he gets paid as he has a full offense heading into the season as Zeke was once suspended and Cooper didn’t join the team until Week 9. The offensive line is intact for the foreseeable future, which helps both Zeke and Dak. The defense is also in good hands. This will be the season that Dak and company head to the NFC Championship game and possibly even the Super Bowl.
Houston will take advantage of a golden opportunity With the sudden and shocking retirement of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the AFC South became wide open, even more so than it was before the retirement announcement. The Colts won’t suddenly be picking in the top-5 (barring an unforeseen trade) with Jacoby Brissett, but I just don’t see them winning this division anymore. Deshaun Watson will look to improve on his impressive 2018 campaign where he threw for over 4,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. The biggest issue facing Watson is keeping him upright. He was sacked a league-high 62 times last season. Houston addressed that issue by recently trading for tackle Laremy Tunsil. If Watson is upright, that will allow him to get the ball to star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The loss of running back Lamar Miller could be a hit if newly acquired Duke Johnson can’t pick up the slack. The defense should be solid again, even after trading Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks. It will be a season-long fight for AFC South supremacy, but in the end, Houston will march to the playoffs as division winners.