Ahhh, training camp is finally upon us, which means football season is right around the corner. Training camps bring a wave of new optimism around the league, as teams hope to bring home what the New England Patriots have brought home twice in the last three seasons: the Lombardi Trophy.
It’s also prediction season. Part one of my prediction series will look into what I perceive as the stronger conference, the NFC. Part two will feature the AFC, as well as who will be in Miami for Super Bowl LIV, and my pick to win it all.
- New Orleans Saints: 13–3
- Atlanta Falcons: 10–6
- Carolina Panthers: 8–8
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7–9
- Dallas Cowboys: 12–4
- Philadelphia Eagles: 8–8
- New York Giants: 6–10
- Washington Redskins: 3–13
- Los Angeles Rams: 12–4
- Seattle Seahawks: 11–5
- San Francisco 49ers: 7–9
- Arizona Cardinals: 5–11
- Green Bay Packers: 11–5
- Chicago Bears: 9–7
- Minnesota Vikings: 7–9
- Detroit Lions: 5–11
A lot of people will raise their eyebrows when they see the Eagles as a .500 team in 2019. As talented as they are, Carson Wentz is coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries. I simply don’t trust Wentz to remain healthy, and if he gets hurt again, Nick Foles is not around to save the day. If Wentz is able to come back strong and remain healthy, the Eagles have the roster talent to be a contender; but Wentz’s durability questions cloud Philadelphia’s 2019 potential.
As a matter of fact, aside from the Saints and the Rams, there really is not a standout third team. Every other team in the NFC possesses a weakness or two which could prevent them from playing in Miami.
The Bears entered 2018 with minimal expectations but came out of nowhere with a very strong season. Two questions face the Bears. First, how will they respond to no longer being in the shadows? We saw a similar scenario with the Jaguars, who emerged in 2017 in Doug Marrone’s first year as head coach, went 10–6 and reached the AFC Title game. But in 2018, the Jaguars bottomed out at 5–11 and made a quarterback change. Now as the Bears enter year two of the Matt Nagy era, how will they handle increased expectations and the sudden national spotlight? The Bears boasted the number one scoring defense a year ago and could be just as good again in 2019. After trading Jordan Howard during the offseason, what impact will that have on the Bears offense? Second, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has been pretty good in his first two seasons in the NFL, but can he elevate his game to another level and propel the Bears to the promised land?
The Falcons endured a down season in 2018 after reaching the postseason in 2017; the biggest reason for their stumble was their defense. Atlanta has no shortage of talent on offense; they are loaded. But if the Falcons have Super Bowl plans, they need their defense to reach its 2017 form, when they were 9th in the NFL in total defense and 8th in scoring. Another note on the Falcons: like the Eagles, they need a guardian angel to make sure their starting quarterback does not get hurt. If Matt Ryan is injured and Atlanta has to turn to Matt Schaub, whose career has been over since 2013, the Falcons are finished.
The funny thing with the Dallas Cowboys is that they share a problem with the Houston Texans: do they have the right coach? The Cowboys have the talent to get to the Super Bowl. They have a good defense, and now they have Amari Cooper to go with Zeke and Dak on offense. One would figure the Cowboys would be poised for a breakout 2019; but in eight seasons under Jason Garrett, the farthest Dallas has gone in the playoffs is the divisional round. It sounds ridiculous, but the Cowboys and the Texans mirror each other. Both franchises have the talent to contend, but due to lack of postseason success, they both face questions about whether they have the right people in the organization to push them over the top.
Still to come: The AFC and Super Bowl LIV
That puts a bow on my early thoughts of how things could go down in the NFC in 2019. Stay tuned as I next dive into my thoughts on how things could shape up on the AFC side.