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NFL Preview: Is this the year Brees earns second title?

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NFL Preview: Is this the year Brees earns second title?

Michael Raupp

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The NFL season is here, as the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles prevailed against the Atlanta Falcons last night. Here’s the Forest Scout breakdown of the 2018 NFL season.

AFC East:

Patriots: 12-4

Dolphins: 7-9

New York Jets: 5-11

Buffalo Bills: 4-12

 

Patriots:

Year in and year out, the Patriots reign throne in the AFC East. No team in the past decade has come close to dethroning the dynasty in New England. This past seasons Super Bowl runner up will be without all-purpose receiver Julian Edelman, as he was suspended four games for PED’s and lack the presence of an impactful pass rusher. But if things stick to course another season, with the health of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots should defend their title another season.

Dolphins:

Just two seasons ago, first year coach Adam Gase reached the AFC wild card game. Things were different last year, as the team lost play caller Ryan Tannehill and had inconsistent play all around the offense. With a weak division outside the Patriots, consisting of two rookie quarterbacks in New York and Buffalo, the Dolphins could slip by with some coveted divisional victories.

New York Jets:

The page seemingly flipped for a struggling franchise in this past NFL draft this spring, as the Jets picked their presumed star of the future in quarterback Sam Darnold. With one of the leagues easiest schedules this coming season, there is reason of optimism for this team heading into the future. But for now, we need to see Darnold under center in an NFL game and there is still gaping holes to fill on a thin roster.

Buffalo Bills:

The Bills ended their 17 year playoff drought a year ago, in part to the late heroics of Bengals QB Andy Dalton, which knocked the Baltimore Ravens out of the playoff picture. However, things do not look as luminous this season, as the Bills are primed for a major step back. Josh Allen could have a spectacular career, but for now, we’re talking about a rookie quarterback with a patchwork offensive line and a below average receiving tree. These questions are not a recipe for success.

AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6

Baltimore Ravens 9-7

Cincinnati Bengals 6-10

Cleveland Browns 5-11

 

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Even with the uncertainty of when Le’veon Bell will report to the Steelers facility, this team has all the right pieces in place to put up points and contend for a division title and beyond. The only worry is how the team can fill the linebacker hole left from the catastrophic injury of Ryan Shazier, which has been a major blow to the entire defense.

Baltimore Ravens:

One or two plays from making the playoffs last season, Raven fans are itching to reach the playoffs once again. With a favorable schedule supported with a veteran supporting cast on defense, if the Ravens can count on the health of Joe Flacco, or open the box of chocolates with prized quarterback draft pick Lamar Jackson, the Ravens can find their way in the playoffs.

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals look for more out of second year running back Joe Mixon to carry their offense. With new coordinators both on offense and defense, the team looks for a complete overhaul. With little depth, improving on last years 7-9 win total may be tough, which doesn’t help that the team is without linebacker Vontaze Burfict to start the season.

Cleveland Browns:

Improvement from last season isn’t a tall task, as the Browns went winless in yet another underwhelming season. Being active this past offseason, acquiring veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor and improved the rest of the roster, this team will finally win some games this season, but might be a year away from being a threat in this division.

 

AFC South:

Jacksonville Jaguars 12-4

Houston Texans 11-5

Tennessee Titans 9-7

Indianapolis Colts 7-9

 

Jacksonville Jaguars:

With arguably the league’s best defense, the Jaguars should defend their title as AFC South champions for the second straight year. However, the offense is the only thing that stands in their way to reaching the next step. If quarterback Blake Bortles and company can hold things down, this team definitely has Super Bowl aspirations.

Houston Texans:

If second year quarterback Deshaun Watson can stay healthy, the Texans can compete with anyone. They boast one of the leagues top offenses, but, the team is in a deep division, with the likes of Jacksonville and Tennessee. If the defense can rebound this season, they can hang in there until the end.

Tennessee Titans:

With health concerns of Indianapolis’ quarterback Andrew Luck and Houston’s quarterback Deshaun Watson, there is possibly a window for the Titans in the AFC South. With hopes of a return back to the playoffs, anything short will be considered a failure. But this team can only go as far as Marcus Mariota can bring them.

Indianapolis Colts:

With an arduous schedule in one of the league’s best divisions, the success of this team rides on the right arm of Andrew Luck. The health of his shoulder will be the storyline of this team, as his injury situation will indicate how this team performers this season.

 

AFC West:

Los Angeles Chargers 11-5

Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

Denver Broncos 8-8

Oakland Raiders 6-10

 

Los Angeles Chargers:

After a tough 0-4 start last year, the key for the Chargers will be getting of to a hot start. Finishing the season last year was not a problem, winning nine of their last 12 games, however, that was not enough to reach the playoffs. With a strong offense and defense both in place again this year, this team is a front runner to win the division.

Kansas City Chiefs:

After winning another division title a season ago, this team will have a tougher hill to climb with an improved division. If Mahomes can build off his strong preseason performance and lead this high powered offense, this team can ease their defensive struggles and make a push back to another division crown.

Denver Broncos:

With a game changing defensive addition through the draft with Bradley Chubb on the defensive side, alongside Von Miller should be a definite strength. Also, with signing last year’s quarterback breakout Case Keenum, the offense should see an explicit improvement. However, with still a thin roster and inconsistency at some positions, this team doesn’t look like major threat to return back to the playoffs.

Oakland Raiders:

With one of the leagues older rosters and uncertainty in the teams future, signing veteran receiver Jordy Nelson, along with the blockbuster trade sending star pass rusher Khalil Mack to Chicago, the Raiders future seems very uncertain. Even if quarterback Derek Carr can improve from a year ago and head coach Jon Gruden can get back to NFL speed as a coach, there are many questions this season and in the future.

NFC East:

Philadelphia Eagles 11-5

New York Giants 9-7

Dallas Cowboys 8-8

Washington Redskins 7-9

 

Philadelphia Eagles:

There is no reason to believe the Eagles won’t make it back to the Super Bowl this season. The defending champs return most of their starters from a season ago, including Carson Wentz who returns from his knee injury. He won’t be ready for week one, but if Nick Foles is anything close to where he was in last season’s playoff run, this team will be just fine to start the season.

New York Giants:

It is almost guaranteed the Giants will bounce back from an abysmal 3-13 season a year ago. With a team returning a healthy roster decimated by injuries last year, with a new coaching staff, there is a fresh mindset. Not to mention their number two overall selection will be… pretty good, but Eli Manning must be better.

Dallas Cowboys:

With a similar roster from two seasons ago when the Cowboys took the NFC best record, the Cowboys look to return back to the playoffs with third year quarterback Dak Prescott. Head coach Jason Garrett remains on the hot seat as he only has one playoff win in seven seasons as the Dallas’ head coach.

Washington Redskins:

The Redskins let go of Kirk Cousins this past offseason, but replaced him with playoff tested Alex Smith. However, there isn’t much more to get excited about, as the team has already lost promising running back Derrius Guice and a has a thin roster at many important positions.

 

NFC North:

Minnesota Vikings 11-5

Chicago Bears 10-6

Green Bay Packers 10-6

Detroit Lions 7-9

Minnesota Vikings:

The Vikings stunned the league with the signing Kirk Cousins to an immense contract, putting the team on his shoulders. The pressure in on him, but things should be easier with the help of one of the teams best defenses. It is Super Bowl or bust this season, even in the footballs toughest division.

Chicago Bears:

The Monsters of the Midway are back, soon to give nightmares to opposing quarterbacks. The team put the league on notice this past weekend, trading for top defensive pass rusher Khalil Mack. First year head coach Matt Nagy seems to already be more in sync with Ryan Pace then John Fox ever was. With a completely upgraded offensive arsenal, with a returning defense that just got even better, this team will no longer surprise anyone if they find a way into the playoffs. But the team can only go as far as second year quarterback Mitch Trubisky can lead them, in a division with three other elite QB’s.

Green Bay Packers:

It was a disappointing season for the Green Bay faithful a season ago, as the team could not overcome the loss of Aaron Rodgers, just a year removed on the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance. Even with an improved division, the presence of Aaron Rodgers alone warrants to be included into the playoff hunt. But if Rodgers can’t stay healthy, things can get ugly real fast, as the team’s many weakness, especially on the defensive side will become fully exposed.

Detroit Lions:

Another year, another missed opportunity for the Detroit Lions. Even in a respectable 9-7 season, missing the postseason dampened the overall season. However, with Stafford under center for another season and a new head coach, this team, like the rest of the NFC North can surprise some people come January.

 

NFC South:

New Orleans Saints 11-5

Carolina Panthers 10-6

Atlanta Falcons 9-7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-9

 

New Orleans Saints:

Even with a tough schedule ahead, the Saints are apart of the NFC’s elite. With a dynamic young offense and a drastically improved defense from two seasons ago, the defensive unit will continue to get better with experience. This team is a sleeper pick to reach the promised land, as they were a tackle away from reaching the NFC Championship a season ago.

Carolina Panthers:

Not making it back to the Super Bowl in 2015, where the team went 15-1 has been a disappointment. Quarterback Cam Newton needs to regain close to his MVP self and stay healthy, alongside fellow teammate Luke Kuechly. The secondary remains a concern, but with consistency this team has some scary weapons on offense, including second year running back Christian McCaffrey.

Atlanta Falcons:

The Falcons have a rigorous start to the 2018 season, in primetime taking on the Super Bowl champions at their stadium in the NFL season opener. The addition in the draft of Alabama product Calvin Ridley could get them back to their high scoring ways, along with a strong defense. Like Carolina, consistency was a problem last season, as the Falcons will try and get back to their winning ways in 2016.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

The Buccaneers have been up and down the past few seasons and things won’t get any easier to start the season as they will be without quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games due to suspension. The story of last year was the close games the Bucs couldn’t come through in. If things don’t turn around this year, head coach Dirk Koetter will be gone.

 

NFC West:

Los Angeles Rams 13-3

San Francisco 49ers 10-6

Seattle Seahawks 8-8

Arizona Cardinals 8-8

 

Los Angeles Rams:

There’s no other way to sugarcoat it: this year is Super Bowl or bust for the Rams. With all the wheeling and dealing this team has made since Sean McVay took over as head coach, it has almost felt like a Madden franchise. If quarterback Jared Goff can continue taking strides from a breakout season last year, the Rams are well on their way.

San Francisco 49ers:

There was plenty of optimism last season when Jimmy Garoppolo got traded to the 49ers and did nothing but go undefeated in all five games he started. This team has a chance to stay in the mix with a reasonable schedule if Jimmy Garoppolo can play at the level he did last season, as they look to make the playoffs for the first time since Jim Harbaugh’s departure.

Seattle Seahawks:

The legion of boom has been dismantled all in one offseason. The only player than remains is free safety Earl Thomas, but he could out the door too. Even with the total defensive revamp, they still have star quarterback Russell Wilson and the rest of the offense in place. But the days of the legion of boom are gone, as this isn’t the same Seahawks team we have seen in years past.

Arizona Cardinals:

The team signed Sam Bradford during free agency, but health has been his nemesis over his career. They lost some key starters from last season, but the return of star running back David Johnson should help get their offense back on track. Nonetheless, with a tough end of the season schedule, it is hard to believe the Cardinals will contend.

Super Bowl Champion: New Orleans Saints over the Jacksonville Jaguars

About the Writer
Michael Raupp, Staff Writer

Michael Raupp is looking forward joining The Forest Scout as a junior. He enjoys running on the cross country team, watching baseball, and running track...

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NFL Preview: Is this the year Brees earns second title?