Four Downs, 7/27: A handful of Bold Predictions for the NFL in 2018

With training camps underway, here’s a four pack of NFL predictions that some of you may agree with and others…well…not so much:

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FIRST DOWN: The New England Patriots WILL NOT make another Super Bowl with Bill Belichick and/or Tom Brady.
How to describe the Patriots’ offseason – I don’t know, does complete and utter disfunction ring a bell? After a stunning defeat in the Super Bowl to the Eagles which included Belichick benching one of his best defensive players, CB Malcolm Butler for an inexplicable reason, the hits just kept on coming. WR Brandin Cooks was traded to the Rams and his compadre Danny Amendola left for Miami. Julian Edelman, who was supposed to be Brady’s primary pass-catcher while returning from a torn-ACL, was suspended for the first four games due to PEDs. Butler and RB Dion Lewis left for Tennessee while defensive coordinator Matt Patricia took the Lions head job. Oh, and top offensive tackle Nate Solder bolted for the Giants. And I haven’t even mentioned behind the scenes discord between Brady and Belichick due to the QBs professional relationships.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s no team in the AFC East that’s within 4 games of beating New England for the division title. But with enough upstarts in the AFC: Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Los Angeles (Chargers) to name a handful, there’s strong reason to believe that Super Bowl berths are a thing of the past for the Brady-Belichick duo. Sorry Pats fans – you’ve had an all-timer of an incredible run but it’s over now.

Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots

SECOND DOWN: No team that finished last in their division in 2017 will make the playoffs in 2018.
In 2017, the Jaguars, Eagles, and Panthers went from last place in their respective divisions to the playoffs – the first two of which won their divisions. In 2018, that won’t be the case and here’s why:

New York Jets: Went 5-11 and finished last in the AFC East yet again in 2017. But the truth is they haven’t gotten much better, at least in the short term, and won’t contend in a deep AFC. It would be a mild surprise if coach Todd Bowles made it to 2019 with this talent-depleted squad.

Cleveland Browns: They’re 2-41 in the regular season since mid-October 2015 and while Cleveland has had a very good offseason, they’re still a LONG ways away from contention.

Houston Texans: Easily the most promising of all the last place teams in 2017. They get J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson back from injuries but playing in a division with fellow high upside teams, the Titans and Jaguars means they’ll come up just short. The Colts actually tied the Texans at 4-12 last season…and I fully expect them, even with a potentially healthy Andrew Luck at QB, to struggle for 6 wins. The talent differential between the rosters of the Titans, Jaguars, and Texans compared to the Colts is significant.

Denver Broncos: Case Keenum doesn’t turn the Broncos from a 5-11 team to 11-5. Simple as that. I’d say the ceiling for this defensive-minded team is maybe 8-8 at best.

New York Giants: Odell Beckham, Jr. and Saquon Barkley are a scary duo in terms of extreme talent. But the rest of the roster really isn’t too good. There’s long term potential here…but this year I don’t see any chance they’re better than Philadelphia or Dallas.

Chicago Bears: I really like Mitchell Trubisky and think he’ll be an above-average NFL QB in time…but the Packers and Vikings are simply too strong, injuries not withstanding, at the top of the NFC North.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Franchise QB (or is he now?) Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games of 2018…and I’ve never been a fan of head coach Dirk Koetter nor his weak gameplans. He’s 8-1 on some sportsbooks to be the first coach fired in 2018…might want to take that one to the bank. I don’t see how he survives past midseason.

San Francisco 49ers: Hang on a second with the Jimmy Garoppolo-hype for a second. Another team on the rise for sure…but are they ready to take that next step, especially when the Rams were a playoff team last year and got SO much better in the offseason. They might win 9 games but as of now, I like the Eagles, Cowboys, Packers, Vikings, Saints, Panthers, Falcons, and Rams better in the NFC.

Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers

THIRD DOWN: Pete Carroll is in his final year as Seahawks coach.
Six straight seasons of winning records in Seattle…including one Super Bowl championship and one yard away from another one. But the culture in Seattle isn’t changing for the better. Significant personnel changes on both sides of the ball leaves Russell Wilson, a disgruntled Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin…and who else? A couple years ago this was a team full of stars!

Carroll will be 67 just before Week 2 and seems ready to ride off into the sunset. Look for an amicable parting between he and the front office after a below-.500 season…and from there I expect the former USC National Championship coach to join either FOX Sports or ESPN as an analyst.

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FOURTH DOWN: The NFL MVP will be a first time winner.
Not a bold prediction you say? Basically I’m taking the field against Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan. That’s 4 of the top 9 betting favorites according to Bovada.lv.

So who am I picking instead? Not Carson Wentz…who I don’t believe will start a full 16 games in Philadelphia, especially when his backup is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles.

How about Drew Brees (15-1), Kirk Cousins (22-1), Philip Rivers (28-1), and Marcus Mariota (40-1) – all QBs who very well could lead their teams to division titles?

Le’Veon Bell (40-1) has a ton to prove in his contract year, Ezekiel Elliott (30-1) behind a standout Cowboys offensive line, or Todd Gurley (30-1) who arguably should’ve been in the mix in 2017. Maybe even long shot 2nd year RBs Alvin Kamara (66-1) or Leonard Fournette (70-1) on winning teams.

I’ll take those 9 and give you the four previous MVPs…would you take that bet?

 

To read previous entries of my blog, click here. Also make sure to follow me on Twitter @eacohen83.

 

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