Rejoice, folks. This is the last issue of The Wesleyan Argus before the first NFL Sunday of the year. In just a few days, we’ll be able to relax, knowing that our beloved sport has officially returned.
Before I get into this year’s NFL season, however, I need to address something. Last January, I predicted that the Los Angeles Rams would defeat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl by the score of 38-34. (The Patriots won 13-3.) This pick has and will continue to haunt me for quite some time. It was a BAD prediction. So, I want to address it and say that I’m going to try hard to make more calculated, less emotionally driven sports predictions. Let’s start with 2019.
In the past few months, the two main headlines surrounding AFC South have been the retirement of Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ acquisition of quarterback Nick Foles. As they lose one of the division’s best players, Andrew Luck, the quality of the AFC South will no doubt only get worse. This division has been dominated by two incredibly average teams for the past decade. The Colts or Texans have won the division for nine out of the past 10 years, and, if you recall, the Colts and Texans have not had a single outstanding season during that stretch.
I don’t believe in quarterback Marcus Mariota, but I do like the Tennessee Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel and how he’s developed the offensive and defensive lines. With the Colts losing Andrew Luck, the AFC South seems like a bunch of average teams. For this reason, I’m picking the Houston Texans to win the division.
It’s the New England Patriots’ division. The Pats have failed to win the division only twice since 2001. That’s just incredible. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick ’75 are still rolling: The Pats will win their 22nd division championship this season.
For the sake of the preview, I’ll mention that I’m eager to see how Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell play together on the New York Jets. The Jets also drafted powerhouse Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, who is sure to be a problem for offensive lines. Given that the coaching situation remains steady, the Jets have a good chance to go over .500 this year. The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, once again, will not be real competitors.
This one is complicated. The Cleveland Browns have an immense amount of hype around them—and for good reason. They’ve got Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, and Jarvis Landry. The team already had a ton of potential, and then General Manager John Dorsey went off. He added superstar Odell Beckham Jr., defensive stud Sheldon Richardson, run stopper Olivier Vernon, and moved up in the draft to get blisteringly fast defensive back Greedy Williams. The Browns SHOULD be good. But, they are the Browns. And they are in a division that is home to two great coaches: John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin.
Just because the Pittsburgh Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown does not mean they are going to be bad. And we can’t forget how good the Baltimore Ravens’ defense was last year. Quarterback Lamar Jackson and his Ravens are fresh off winning the AFC North championship. With the offseason acquisitions of running back Mark Ingram and safety Earl Thomas, I think the Ravens will repeat, winning the division. The Browns and Steelers are sure to put up a fight, as the division title could very well come down to the last regular season game.
The AFC West will be a battle between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Similar to the last few seasons, the Chargers and Chiefs will battle for the division title, and whoever does not win the division will most likely earn a wild card birth. It’s hard not to see Philip Rivers or Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs. Both teams are stacked on both sides of the ball.
One question that might decide which team wins the division is when and where Chargers running back Melvin Gordon will sign. Gordon is currently holding out for a better contract and has been granted permission to shop himself to other NFL teams. Another problem for the Chargers is the injured All-Pro safety Derwin James, who suffered a stress fracture in his foot and won’t play at least half of this season.
Because of Mahomes’ new weapons and the Chiefs’ adding safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark, I think the Chiefs will repeat as division champs.
The Denver Broncos recently welcomed in quarterback Joe Flacco, who was more or less run out of Baltimore by a young talent. I don’t think Flacco or the Broncos’ offensive has the versatility to compete in the high-octane AFC West. And after watching HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” it’s hard to see the Oakland Raiders as real competitors in the AFC West.
The New Orleans Saints do not have much competition this year in the NFC South. Both the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons have had success in the recent past, but last season proved how strong the Saints roster is. And Drew Brees is back.
The Saints are out for revenge after last season’s missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship game. The city of New Orleans is looking to take revenge after being robbed of a Super Bowl birth last year, and I believe the Saints will at least make it back to the playoffs, earning another chance to win a Super Bowl.
Christian McCaffrey is sure to put up good numbers for the Carolina Panthers, but other than him, the Panthers lack offensive weapons as well as a solid defensive unit. The Falcons are coming back stronger, as a significant portion of the team was injured last season. They should finish above .500 because of Matt Ryan’s experience, Julio Jones, and a fresh defense. Lastly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They won’t be very good.
This one’s entirely between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles are returning a potent defensive force led by their stellar defensive line. The Cowboys just signed running back Ezekiel Elliott to a monster six-year contract, so Zeke will be eating up defenses for the ’Boys all season. The Cowboys also locked up key defensive players DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith for five years each, so they have lots of returning talent.
The Cowboys are betting big on their guys, and I don’t blame them. When the Cowboys stay healthy, they are a great football team. A great offensive line for Zeke, a scary good linebacking core—the Cowboys are no joke.
However, I like the Eagles to win the division. I think they have the advantage with head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz is a better version of Dak Prescott. Wentz has a stronger arm and better down-field vision.
The Washington Redskins and the New York Giants are building their teams around newly drafted quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones, respectively, and will not be able to compete with the Eagles and Cowboys.
It’s Khalil Mack versus Aaron Rodgers. Well, it’s actually the Chicago Bears versus the Green Bay Packers. Both teams are the two real fighters for the NFC North title this year. A healthy Aaron Rodgers is dangerous, but he does have a new head coach. There could be some bumps along the road.
I think the Chicago Bears will win the NFC North. Mitch Trubisky has growing confidence, and the Bears have what’s arguably the best defense in the NFL. They are going to be hard to beat on Soldier Field come December.
The Minnesota Vikings had an upsetting season last year coming off the Minneapolis Miracle. This year, I think they will make strides in the right direction, but not all the way to the playoffs. The Detroit Lions, sadly, will continue to be unsuccessful.
The L.A. Rams, fresh off scoring a whopping three points in the Super Bowl, look to return to the game’s biggest stage. Do they make it back to the Super Bowl? Eh, maybe. Do they win the NFC West division though? Yes, probably. Their only competition in the division will be the Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson are former Super Bowl champions, and similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers, you can never just disregard them prior to a season. Wilson and wide receiver Tyler Lockett will do some damage this year in Seattle.
In San Francisco, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo returns after a season-ending ACL tear in Week Three last year. I’m eager to see how Jimmy G performs post-rehab because he’s a talented player with huge potential, and his coach Kyle Shanahan is brilliantly creative with offensive strategy. I would not be surprised if the 49ers go .500.
Lastly, the Arizona Cardinals: It’s first overall pick Kyler Murray’s time to learn what the NFL is like. He should be fun to watch, but the Cardinals will not be a very good football team this year.
Ben Owen can be reached at email@example.com.