The NFL season is finally upon us, as we’ve all been waiting patiently since the Philadelphia Eagles took out the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. With all the offseason storylines, it is shaping up to be one of the best seasons in recent memory. There are several young names ready to step up and make their mark on the league, and several new teams ready to challenge for the Lombardi Trophy, and it makes the league quite unpredictable. A true changing of the guard will happen over the next few years, as teams like Chicago, New York, LA and Houston are ready to step up and take over the league, but this year will see a stand from the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, and it’s going to make it incredibly exciting.
Some of these aren’t too bold, but we’ve come up with our list of 20 predictions for the upcoming season, which we believe will be one of the most exciting seasons yet, as players continue to get better, stronger and faster.
20 4 Rookie QBs Take Over Before The Season's End
5 QBs were taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, all with high expectations, and with the exception of #32 overall pick Lamar Jackson, all of them will be their teams' starter before this year is over. Sam Darnold begins the season as the New York Jets signal-caller, but it won't be long before Josh Allen takes over in Buffalo, Baker Mayfield takes over in Cleveland and Josh Rosen takes over in Arizona.
Sure, none of these teams will be contending for a Super Bowl this year, so it makes sense for them to start at one point, but to beat out some tough QBs, this proves just how stacked the 2018 NFL QB Draft Class really is.
19 Todd Gurley = MVP
A year ago, the Los Angeles Rams broke out in a big way, and much of that was due to the offensive play of Todd Gurley. In 2018, he is ready to take it to another level entirely, and he will be rewarded handsomely.
He just got a big time contract that pays him like an MVP for the near future, and if he can continue the play of a year ago, not only will LA have more success, but he will too. It’s usually a QB to take home this award, but in 2018, we will see the League buck that trend and give it to the most worthy overall player.
18 The Chicago Bears Win The NFC North (But Fail To Make The Super Bowl)
Later in this piece, we'll get to our Super Bowl predictions, and while we've not selected the Bears to represent the NFC in the big game, we do see them taking out the NFC North on the back of a young, hungry offence, and a D now led by the best defensive player in the game.
Mitchell Trubisky hasn't yet proven himself, but he had a great rookie campaign. With all the talent around him, they're bound to do some damage, and after acquiring Khalil Mack, this D is now lethal. There is plenty of competition, as this is perhaps the toughest division in the league, but with such a well-rounded team, we can't go past the Bears as the NFC North Champions.
17 The Bucs Move On From Their Former #1 Overall Pick
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were thrilled when they drafted Jameis Winston first overall from FSU back in 2013, and while he’s played well, he’s had off the field troubles, and after his latest suspension, they have had enough. Whether they release him or move him to a team in need of a backup/future QB (New England could be perfect), Tampa Bay are going to move on from Winston. Sure, he shows flashes of brilliance on the field, but this team needs someone to lead the team into the future, and disappointingly, it’s never going to be the former Heisman Trophy winner.
16 Penalties Continue At An All-Time High
Football is a very violent game, and the NFL have taken steps to make it much safer for everyone involved, but that has hurt the quality of the game, and that has been evident through the pre-season. Whether it be helmet-to-helmet penalties or unnecessary roughness, it’s just been ridiculous, and if it keeps up at this rate, the NFL could lose quite a lot of fans. Sure, this usually slows down throughout the season, but it’s been getting worse over the years, and in 2018, it will no doubt be worse than ever.
15 Jalen Ramsey Backs Up His Trash Talk
Jalen Ramsey is arguably one of the best Cornerbacks in the NFL, and after leading the Jags all the way to the AFC Championship game a year ago, he is ready to step up and stand alone as the games top corner. He didn’t stop making headlines in the offseason however, as he went on a rant about several big name QBs, and like Richard Sherman in his prime with the Seahawks, he can back it up. The Jags aren’t going to return to the AFC title game in 2018, but their defense is still amazing, and Jalen Ramsey is going to cement his place at the top of the NFL.
14 Seattle Sinks To Third Place In The NFC West
Just a few years ago, the Seattle Seahawks were the most dominant team in the NFL, and the Legion of Boom led the way, but that is falling apart, and not even someone as talented as Russell Wilson can hold it together. Their O-Line is absolutely terrible, and the D is falling apart year by year, and with San Fran and LA continuing to improve, the NFC West is no longer theirs. Sure, Arizona isn’t too much better, but they have some veteran talent on their team that will win them some games, and just a few years after reaching back-to-back Super Bowls, the Seahawks will be last again.
13 Big Ben Calls It Quits
There are plenty of QB’s in the league right now who will go down in the top 10-15 of all time, and they are all not far away from retirement, and the first one to step down will be the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger. It won’t be long until the likes of Brady and Brees step down, but Big Ben has taken much more punishment than those two over the course of his career, and he will go down as a great. The Steelers have a fantastic team, so a Super Bowl run is a very real possibility, but after drafting his replacement in Mason Rudolph, the team is set for the future without him.
12 The Jets Make A Surprise Playoff Push
The New York Jets have been less than stellar since their back-to-back AFC Championship game appearances, but they’ve quietly built one of the best teams in the AFC, and they could do some serious damage in 2018.
They’ve still got questions on their roster, and Sam Darnold, although extremely talented, is still a rookie QB. Outside of that, they’re solid everywhere, and with that D, they could make it close to the playoffs. This team is no doubt built for the future, but with plenty of playoff spots in the AFC open in 2018, their future could no doubt be now.
11 Star QBs Bounce Back With Big Years
Last year, we saw way too many star players go down with injury, and in 2018, expect big comebacks from the likes of Andrew Luck, DeShaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers and the MVP candidate Carson Wentz. Sure, the level of success as a team that can be achieved is vastly different for all four of these guys, but they are all potential top-5 QB’s in the league, and that will show this season. We are in an age of prolific passers, and these guys do it better than most in the NFL, so in 2018, we can expect offenses to put up even more ridiculous numbers.
10 The Cleveland Browns' Offseason Pays Off
Cleveland have had one of the best offseason's in their franchise history this past year, and while many people are still writing them off, it's safe to say that the Browns patience is finally going to pay off. Denzel Ward and Baker Mayfield have plenty of learning to do as rookies, and Myles Garrett still has a ways to go before he's a superstar, but with all the talent they've acquired, the playoffs are in sight. That won't happen in 2018, as the Steelers still reign supreme in the North, but with an 8-8 season, the Browns are finally ready to make their mark on the NFL.
9 The Overrated AFC West Only Sends One Team To The Playoffs
Much of the talk in the AFC this offseason has been about the West division, and how it’s arguably the toughest in the NFL, with suggestions that perhaps 3 teams could make the playoffs, but that won’t happen. Each of those top teams have major holes in their game, and we just can’t see it happening, especially with how surprisingly deep the conference as a whole has become.
The Broncos look to be the strongest and deepest team in the division, and if Case Keenum can lead the way, they could be a genuine Super Bowl contender, but as for the rest of the division, they won’t live up to the hype.
8 Saquon Barkley Lives Up To The Hype
A lot of the talk in the lead up to the draft was surrounding Penn State’s 5-star recruit, Saquon Barkley, and despite what some people have said, he’ll live up to the hype for the New York Giants after being drafted at #2. There hasn’t been a prospect this talented in quite some time, and Barkley can do it all on the field, so combining him with Eli Manning and the ultra talented Odell Beckham, this team could be dangerous. Sure, it’s likely the Eagles division for a few years to come, but Barkley will go on to win ROTY and put up some amazing numbers.
7 The Anthem Controversy Remains
The NFL action on the field has been fantastic as of late, and we are seeing some of the best offensive football in history, but the biggest consistent story has been the anthem controversy, and that isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Whether you agree with what the players are doing or not, it is taking away from the game on the field, and they need to find a way to focus the spotlight on the game. Whether that’s stopping the anthem completely, making players stay in the tunnels for the anthem or something else, the NFL needs to find a way to fix it, as it is certainly dividing fan opinion.
6 The Steelers Fail To Trade Le'Veon Bell, Signs With The New York Jets
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had to franchise tag Le'Veon Bell several times now, but it looks like 2018 will be his last year in the Black and Yellow, even though the team will try and trade him before seasons end. Knowing that he's a Free Agent at season's end, most teams won't take a risk on him knowing the price that Pittsburgh will ask, so it's going to be a melee with NFL team's trying to get his signature this coming offseason.
With a young, hungry D and a new sheriff in town, the Jets are ready to make a splash in the NFL, and they have the money to pay Bell, so this offseason, prepare to see Bell finally move on from Pittsburgh after several years of franchise tags.
5 Jon Gruden’s First Season Since Return Is A Dud
In the offseason, the biggest story in the league was the return of Jon Gruden to the sideline, but despite having a very talented team with a great QB down in Oakland, they just won’t get the job done in 2018. We just spoke about the AFC West being slightly overrated, but they still have some great teams, so it will be a battle all year long, but his first season isn’t going to result in any playoff action for Oakland. His contract is 10-years long, so he will have plenty of time to succeed, so if they are patient in Oakland, good things are to come.
4 The Eagles Don’t Repeat As Super Bowl Champs
The Philadelphia Eagles surprised the world in 2018 by taking out their first Super Bowl title in franchise history, and while that isn’t going to happen again in 2018/19, they are going to stay very hot. The East is a very close division in the NFC, and with the addition of Saquon Barkley, the Giants look like their biggest threat, but with MVP candidate Carson Wentz back, this team will be hard to stop. The NFC East is now the Eagles to lose, and with their experience from a season ago, they will make it all the way back to the NFC title game, but unfortunately, this year isn’t going to be as good as last.
3 The Patriots Fall Short Of The Super Bowl
The New England Patriots have been a dynasty for close to 2 decades now, but with that dominance comes age, and in 2018, they will finally start to decline, and that starts with them finally not making a Super Bowl. They’ve featured prominently over the past 5 years in the League’s biggest game, but with so much young talent in the AFC, it may finally be the time that someone takes this franchise’s crown. Don’t get me wrong, an AFC Championship game appearance or deep playoff run is still great, but it’s going to mark the beginning of the end for the Patriots dynasty.
2 The Texans Rise To Represent The AFC In The Super Bowl
The Houston Texans have had a solid foundation for years, but they’ve struggled to find that QB to take them to the next level, and in 2017, it looks like they found that missing piece in DeShaun Watson. Unfortunately, his season ended early due to injury, but if he can come back and be the player he was in his rookie season, their future will be so bright. With the improved D that now includes JJ Watt, the Honey Badger and Clowney, the sky is the limit for Houston, and that will see them go all the way to the Super Bowl in early 2019.
1 The Vikings Win Their First Super Bowl Championship
A year ago, the Minnesota Vikings came within a game of the Super Bowl, and with the returning Dalvin Cook and the newcomer Kirk Cousins, they are primed and ready to go one step further. The division is very tough, and in the NFC, there are several contenders, but with such an elite Defense and now a very lethal offense, it’s now or never for the Vikings. Sure, a year ago they lost to a backup QB, but so did Tom Brady, and with more strike power all round, this is their year to claim the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.