Finally, we’re back.
The last image the NFL left us with was at U.S. Bank Stadium in February, where the Philadelphia Eagles ended their over half-century long championship drought with a 41-33 win over the New England Patriots.
Since then we’ve gone through free agency, a fascinating draft process full of intriguing quarterbacks, an excruciating summer, 65 meaningless preseason games, and one team who somehow couldn’t find the money to pay their best player (looking at you, Oakland). But here we are, with real games on the horizon beginning Thursday night in Philadelphia.
There’s a new season here, and our experts are here to preview it from their perspectives. To do it, we’ve got Los Angeles Chargers fan David Howell, Green Bay Packers supporter Ste Hoare, somehow still an Oakland Raiders fan Tyler Arthur, Indianapolis Colts die-hard Sam Brown, Chicago Bear George Butler, and Atlanta Falcons fan Alan Cole.
Have some predictions of your own? Leave a comment below or tweet us @ReadAmFootball.
Who will win Offensive Rookie Of The Year?
David: I think one QB from this class will become at least a solid NFL starter right away and earn the award for that, but I would not want to predict who that would be. Sam Darnold looks the likeliest based on preseason, but you can never tell from preseason. I’ll go with him anyway.
Ste: Saquon Barkley seems like the logical answer here. He’s going to get a lot of action, both in terms of rushing and receiving and those numbers will stand out in the eyes of voters. Added to that, he’s really good!
Tyler: I know that Saquon Barkley has everything stacked in his favour, and that might seem like a cop out, so (especially until I’ve seen him get to work between the tackles) I’m happy to opt instead for the dark horse here. If he can be the starter, I would love to see Baker Mayfield take home the OROTY; I think if he could start 12 games or more, and the Browns perform how people seem to think they will, it’s possible that Mayfield can prove himself in his first year and if Saquon disappoints, the man who went 1 pick before him might take it.
Sam: I’m all in on DJ Moore. I loved him in the draft, and Carolina was a good a landing spot as any. He’ll have little competition for snaps, and if his hands play ball, could post some monster numbers.
George: Saquon Barkley. It’s the obvious pick but the one I see happening the most. While it was a gutsy call to take Saquon at #2, it’s a clear indication the Giants want to take the pressure off Eli and pound the rock. Outside of Odell Beckham, Barkley is the star of this offense and should see plenty of action and could prove a highlight reel machine. This is a shoe in.
Alan: I’ll take the safe option here and go with Saquon Barkley. The Giants stunned everybody by drafting him, and they’ll get as much use out of him as they can. He’ll be the big playmaker out of that backfield, and in turn will coast to the award.
Who will win Defensive Rookie Of The Year?
David: Plenty could. I’ll go Bradley Chubb based on the impact position he plays and the likelihood he plays it well. The AFC West edge rush crew as Whack-a-Mole; you get rid of one and another pops up.
Ste: I think Derwin James will have a really good season for the Chargers. The LA pass rush should make his job easier and I think he’ll flourish and win this award.
Tyler: Roquan Smith is my pick, and I really wish that the Raiders had ended up with him in the draft. Amusingly, he still gets the same benefit of playing with Khalil Mack in front of him… Smith is an addition to a previously underrated defense, and he is one of the most athletic linebackers of the class.
Sam: The safety is a ferocious presence when his squad are on defense, and the brand new Charger has the never-say-die attitude that could really help his new team. I expect him to intercept Patrick Mahomes three times this season.
George: I see Derwin James as a player who can take the already elite Chargers D to the next level. Feasting on the pressure provided by Bosa and company, James will have plenty of opportunities to be steal the football and live up to his draft status as a ballhawk.
Alan: This one’s much tougher to call, and I’m going to go a bit off the board and take Minkah Fitzpatrick of the Miami Dolphins. That was an absolute steal to get him at #11, and he’ll be joining what is already a pretty good safety corps down there. He’s in for a big year, with plenty of interceptions coming his way.
Which team will be the surprise package team this season?
David: I can only see this being an AFC team because at this point the AFC is so weak that someone could emerge from it and stumble all the way into a playoff loss in Foxboro without even their own fans seeing it coming. Could it be the New York Jets? Or are they going to do the most Jetsy thing ever and show they can only win games when their roster was literally designed not to?
Ste: I have a feeling that the Washington Redskins will be pretty good this year. They have an excellent offensive line and a quarterback who won’t turn the ball over. They don’t have the greatest defensive roster but they have some very good players who will help them win games. I think they could be pushing to be a wildcard team in a loaded NFC, although they will probably fall a bit short.
Tyler: I’m not sure if the Chicago Bears are a surprise anymore, but I think that it is genuinely possible that they stop the Packers making it to the Playoffs, which would definitely be a surprise to Aaron Rodgers… I don’t actually expect that to happen but it undoubtedly is possible that they double their wins this year. Their offense has improved massively, their new head coach looks to be a perfect person to assure that, and the defense is just as upgraded too, I miss you Khalil.
Sam: The Indianapolis Colts. The defense is more bereft than the buffet after Andy Reid has swept through it, but Andrew Luck could win 8 games minimum with Ryan Grigson himself playing inside linebacker.
George: The New York Jets have an impressive young core on offense that could shock fans if Sam Darnold is able to adapt to the pro game efficiently. Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa are a young dynamic duo that could prove a nightmare for defensive coordinators given their impressive size and speed. Adding Trumaine Johnson to the defense gives the Jets a shutdown corner while Todd Bowles always seems to get his defenses to play better than the sum of its parts.
Alan: In a year where the AFC looks very wide open after the Patriots, I think the Baltimore Ravens could surprise some people this season. The AFC North is extremely up for grabs with the drama currently going on in Pittsburgh, and I think Baltimore had a pretty good offseason, and especially draft. They were also one fluke play away from reaching the playoffs last season.
Who will be the most disappointing team this season?
David: A huge-market team that just added a locker room headache or two on a win-now team with a QB who may not be nearly as good as advertised. Remind anyone of the worst team in the NFC last year? The Los Angeles Rams won’t be going 3-13, but with the breathless hype around them anything less than 13-3 might feel like a disappointment. I can honestly see them missing the playoffs as teams catch up to Sean McVay’s scheme and the limitations of Jared Goff are exposed.
Ste: I think the issues that the Dallas Cowboys have on the offensive line will be a huge factor and with such a poor cast of pass catchers, I think they’ll really struggle.
Tyler: No I’m not going to go with my Raiders (primarily because I’m expecting failure so I won’t be dissapointed). I think that this year the Giants will dissapoint. They have their shiny new rookie running back, but they have a tough schedule in my opinion and I think that they’re going to find themselves with a very average record, and therefore not a good result, or a top draft pick.
Sam: The Minnesota Vikings. I’m out on a limb here. People will probably name the Raiders, but how can you be disappointed with the impending John Gruden meltdown? I have a bad feeling about the Vikings. Everything tells me they’re going to be good – but something isn’t sitting right.
George: The Raiders are going to crash and burn this season. The pressure is firmly on Derek Carr’s shoulders and I’m not sold on Jon Gruden’s ability to piece together a modern NFL offense. The defense lost its entire pass rush in Khalil Mack and starters such as Derrick Johnson and Reggie Nelson would be far more fitting in an OAP Home than a NFL field.
Alan: I’m going to double down on my answer for the last question and take the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s hard to see them missing the playoffs completely just because the AFC is so unbelievably garbage, but they won’t win the AFC North. It’s anyone’s guess how the Le’Veon Bell situation will play out, and I think father time is starting to catch up to Ben Roethlisberger. The defense barely resembles what it has in years past either. I see a wild card weekend exit for the Steelers.
The 2018 NFL MVP will be ________
David: …flips usual QB coin, heads is Rodgers, tails is Brady… Heads! Aaron Rodgers it is.
Ste: Drew Brees. He is set to break a lot of records this season and Injabe a feeling that voters will select him, not only for his performances during the season – which I expect to be great, but also in a ‘lifetime achievement’ type of manner too.
Tyler: Anyone that isn’t Tom Brady, preferably. I think that it will go to Aaron Rodgers; I don’t want to say too much because last year Dave said his arm definitely wouldn’t fall off and he was wrong. A-Rod is the most talented QB I’ve ever seen and so if he can play 16 games he is my favourite for MVP.
Sam: Aaron Rodgers. The best player in the league has been given Jimmy Graham to play with. Next.
George: The Saints are going all in to capitalise on Drew Brees’ Super Bowl window and he will repay their faith with a MVP season. The defense may be the best of Brees’ career, certainly in recent memory, giving the 39 year old plenty of time to dissect opposing defenses at will. With a plethora of weapons available, from Michael Thomas to Alvin Kamara, Brees will have no problem racking up the touchdowns.
Alan: I’m all in on Drew Brees. He looks as good as he ever has even at this age, and the Saints look like an absolute juggernaut on offense. Brees will win the MVP, and the Saints could be in for a historic offensive season if Alvin Kamara can replicate last season’s performance.
Who will finish with the worst record in the NFL?
David: I’m going to guess that Hue Jackson is mercifully denied the opportunity to complete the top-pick hat-trick for the Browns, and that someone else will come through on the rail. I’ll go with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers given how friendly their schedule isn’t.
Ste: I think the Bills, Browns, Buccaneers and Colts will be the worst teams in the league with the Bills being the worst of the lot.
Tyler: The Buffalo Bills have an awful team, which last year scraped out wins whilst combining their average but reliable Quarterback play with a good running back… This year that RB might not be available all year, and the QB play is going to be absolutely catastrophic. I can’t see them winning more than an absolute maximum of three games.
Sam: Buccaneers. The offence under Dirk Koetter is woeful, and I can see things turning south very quickly for the Floridians.
George: I was tempted by the Browns here but my hot take is that the Bucs will have the #1 pick. With Winston missing the start of the season, coupled with an already dismal roster, Tampa will be swashbuckled by opponents in the incredibly stacked NFC. The running back position is already a mess and the offensive line is hit and miss. I can see a scenario where the offense tires out the D, leading to the number one pick.
Alan: I need to see something out of the Cleveland Browns before moving them out of their endless cellar dwelling. As long as Hue Jackson is still their coach, there’s nothing to suggest they’ll turn it around and avoid picking first overall for the third consecutive season.
Which six teams will make the AFC Playoffs?
David: The Patriots and five teams filling in the schedule.
My guess for those five are the Steelers, Chargers, Titans, Jaguars, and Jets. But it really doesn’t matter who they are.
Ste: Chargers, Jaguars, Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Texans
Tyler: The Patriots, Chargers, Jaguars, and Steelers take the top spots, and then the wild cards go to the Texans and Chiefs.
Sam: Patriots, Jaguars, Ravens, Chargers, Steelers, Titans.
George: Patriots, Titans, Jags, Chargers, Chiefs, Steelers.
The Patriots does not need explaining. The Chargers win the AFC West off the back of their D, the Titans list the Jags as the AFC South champs and the Steelers win another divisional title on the back with the lack of genuine competition. The Jags grab one of the wildcard spots, followed by the resurgent Kansas City Chiefs.
Alan: Patriots, Jaguars, Ravens, Chargers, Steelers, Texans.
It doesn’t really matter, though. This is the Patriots and five teams who will be cannon fodder if they play the Patriots.
Which six teams will make the NFC Playoffs?
David: Six teams who would all be at least the second-strongest in the AFC. At the expense of one or two who would also have that distinction.
Let’s go with the 49ers, Eagles, Saints, Vikings, Packers, and Falcons.
Ste: Eagles, Falcons, Packers, Rams, Saints, Vikings,
Tyler: The Vikings, Saints, Eagles and Rams win their divisions, and then the Falcons and Packers take the wildcard spots.
Sam: Eagles, Saints, Packers, Rams, Bears, 49ers.
George: Vikings, Eagles, Rams, Saints, Packers, Falcons.
The Vikings battle their way to the NFC North crown, the Saints win the South comfortably, Philadelphia retain the East division while the Rams fight off the 49ers to take the West. The Green Bag Packers claim a wildcard spot as do Dan Quinn’s Atlanta Falcons.
Alan: Saints, Eagles, Rams, Packers, Vikings, 49ers.
The Saints behind a resurgent Drew Brees run to the #1 seed with a 13-3 record, while the Eagles get the other bye. I think the Packers get back into January with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, and Jimmy Garoppolo sneaks the 49ers into the postseason as a wild card.
Finally, who will be playing in the Super Bowl, and who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy?
David: Robert Kraft hoists the hardware for the sixth time this century. Tom Brady retires on the podium and goes on to win the 2020 Senate race in Massachussetts over Democrat incumbent Ed Markey, who blows a 25-point polling lead.
Ste: I think it will be the Atlanta Falcons versus the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Super Bowl with the Falcons winning the title in their home stadium.
Tyler: The Vikings will beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Sam: Patriots v Eagles, Pats win it this year.
George: Patriots vs. Vikings.
The Patriots take on the Minnesota Vikings and while it pains me to say as a Bears fan, the Vikings follow the Eagles formula to hand defeat Brady and Belichick in the Super Bowl for the second successive year.
Alan: I think both one seeds get to the Super Bowl, which means we get the Patriots and Saints. It’ll be a tight game, but I think New Orleans edges it, giving the Saints their second Super Bowl title of the decade.