The NFL preseason is just a few weeks away now and the NFL is now seemingly shifting towards a younger generation of talent. While the New England Patriots still reign supreme as the defending NFL Champions, teams like the Cleveland Browns, with Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr, and Jarvis Landry, the New Orleans Saints with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara helping out Drew Brees, the LA Chargers, with Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon looking to help Philip Rivers get a ring before he retires, and of course the Kansas City Chiefs led by the most exciting player in football, Patrick Mahomes. Safe to say that New England will have more competition than they have had in years, but have other teams eclipsed them yet? Here are my predictions for the season (all these predictions are subject to change based on team health, performance, and other factors that can affect a team throughout the NFL season. These are just predictions are of today):
Aaron Rodgers Returns as the NFL’s Best QB & Wins MVP
Aaron Rodgers last season was said to have the ‘worst season of his career’, yet many do not realize that he had the second-most passing yards in a season in his illustrious career and threw just 2 interceptions. They let the lack of wins, good players around him, and his individual health overlook the greatness he achieved over the previous season. Now, I am not saying that it was one of his best years, but to say it was his worst is a bit overdramatic. Rodgers will have a new coach and system, a healthy receiving core, running back, and offensive line, and a much-improved defense to back him up. Expect him to rival Mahomes for the MVP.
The NFC East, NFC North, and AFC West Will Have Two Playoff Teams Each
These three divisions will come into the season with the most competition out of all of them. The NFC East and North have winners which are up in the air, unlike the AFC West which has Kansas City as the clear favorite. The NFC East has Philadelphia and a much-improved Redskins roster, as well as Dallas (assuming that they can figure out Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott’s contract issues, which I will assume they do not, knowing the Cowboys). The NFC North features the best defense in the NFL in the Chicago Bears and a healthy and vamped-up Packers team, and those will be the teams that go on to the playoffs. However, unlike last year, Green Bay will take back the crown of NFC North champions.
As for the NFC East, I think Philadelphia, having a healthy roster and simpler offense to run around Carson Wentz in order to keep him healthy, similar to how they played with Nick Foles. Coach Doug Pederson knows that with the lack of playing time that Wentz has gotten late in seasons due to injury is because of the gameplan, and he will be able to change it. I think Washington will be the next team in from the NFC East. Rookie QB Dwayne Haskins is in a great position right now, good young receivers on offense, a steady running attack, which will help him as a scrambler, and one of the best defenses in the NFL (when healthy). So, Philadelphia might win the division, but Washington will be the wild-card sleeper in the playoffs that could pull off an upset or two.
Pittsburgh Will Be Better Without AB and Le’Veon
Last season, one of the most talented teams in the NFL was blown out of proportion by one player sitting out an entire season to “protect his body” for his impending free agency, and another player who decided that rather than care about winning and the team he played for, that he would instead only care for himself. These players were Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, respectively. Now, while these are two top 5 players at their position, Pittsburgh also found themselves with two more players with top 5 potentials at their position in James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers also have a much more stout defense this year, and that coupled with no distractions should keep Pittsburgh in Super Bowl contention, although Cleveland will take the division.
While Mahomes May Not Win the MVP… The Chiefs Will Be in the Super Bowl
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were a non-offside call and a coin toss away from going to the Super Bowl instead of New England. However, New England won the toss, there was no offsides call, and New England scored a touchdown to end it. This year, Kansas City brings the same slew of weapons in Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Damien Williams, and a defense that looks like they can actually make some stops. They’ll win the AFC West handily, and should steamroll through the AFC Playoffs as well, leading them straight to the promise land where they will face…
The New Orleans Saints Will Be Kansas City’s Opponent
New Orleans also had their hearts ripped out of them during the NFC Championship Game when the most obvious defensive pass interference call was not called by the referees. Every single person in the stadium knew it was pass interference, including LA Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, who got away with the call and even admitted after the game that he was “thankful” for the no-call. This year, however, New Orleans kept the core of their team together and is going to bring the same energy and extra motivation to win it all. The NFC South hasn’t improved enough to the point where New Orleans will have trouble there, and they are the deepest team in the NFC, so they should find a way to be in the Super Bowl. You know what they say, third times a charm. Expect them to get home-field advantage through the NFC, the best record in the NFL, and the ring. A game like this between 2 teams that are so explosive on offense, it comes down to who is the more complete defensive team, and that is clearly New Orleans.