With NFL training camps officially underway and the season just around the corner, people are beginning to get excited about the 2018-19 season. Everyone has high hopes for their team (except the Browns — sorry, Cleveland) and is ready to see what the new season will bring. While no one knows for sure who will end up rising to the top by the seasons’ end, we have decided to take a stab at predicting the 12 teams that will make the playoffs. We considered past results, current rosters, important accusations, and division strength as we attempt to tell the future records of these playoff-bound teams.
12. AFC East Winner – New England Patriots – 11-5
The New England Patriots have basically owned this division for over a decade and we don’t see that stopping this season. While some of the other teams in this division have improved, none will be able to offer a lot of a challenge to the Patriots. While we do believe the Pats will regress a little this season, their performance will still be more than enough to take the division and set up another potentially deep run in the playoffs. With a healthy Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady, anything is possible for this team. Every year people say things Brady is done, Gronk will retire, and Bill Belichick has lost the support of his players. And every year, they keep showing up and playing well. Plus the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills all stink.
11. AFC North Winner – Baltimore Ravens 11-5
The AFC North will likely go down as one of the most interesting divisions this year. The Browns did a ton to get better, but can they shed their reputation of being a perennial loser? The Steelers will still have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL with top level talent at nearly every position, although Big Ben is slowing down as gets up over 35-years-old. However, we believe that the Baltimore Ravens will be the team to come out on top. Their wide receivers got a lot better, and their defense is just as dangerous as ever. As long as they can stay healthy throughout the season, the Ravens could be primed for a deep playoff run.
10. AFC South Winner – Jacksonville Jaguars 10-6
This is arguably one of the most open divisions in the NFL, where nearly every team can make a claim that they are the rightful winners. The Titans’ young and talented team should only get better, the Colts should finally get Andrew Luck back healthy, and with a full year of Deshaun Watson throwing to Deandre Hopkins, the Texans are a team to watch out for. However, we feel the Jaguars will win the division on the backs of their outstanding defense. It will be hard fought, but ultimately, their combination of outstanding pass rush and a strong secondary will overwhelm offenses.
9. AFC West Winner – Oakland Raiders – 11-5
With the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos all being solid teams, this division could go any number of ways. You could make a case for every single team and many people have. However, we feel the Raiders and new head coach Jon Gruden will shine and come out of the division as the winner. The schedule for the Raiders is favorable early-on, so if they get on a roll, their confidence will be sky-high and we could see them doing enough in the second half of the season to win one of the most competitive divisions in football.
8. NFC East Winner – Philadelphia Eagles – 12-4
Last year’s Super Bowl winners were one of the best teams throughout the regular season and carried that success into the playoffs, even without their starting QB. Now with Carson Wentz back under center, there is no reason why they can’t do the same again next year. The Eagles, with a perfect balance of a capable offense and a solid defense, are our pick to win the NFC East once again. They will be pushed by the likes of the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins, but none of those teams are as well rounded as the Eagles. While we don’t know if they’ll win back-to-back Super Bowls, they definitely will be in the playoffs with a shot.
7. NFC North Winner – Green Bay Packers – 11-5
In reality, the race for the NFC North crown is a two horse race. Neither the Lions or the Bears are likely to put up much of a fight and will both turn in average results (at best). However, the race between the Vikings and the Packers will be exciting. The Vikings were among the best teams in the NFL, and only got better this offseason with Kirk Cousins coming to town to play quarterback. However, the Packers have arguably the best current quarterback in the league in Aaron Rodgers. If he can stay healthy, they will win this division — it’s probably as simple as that. It will be interesting to see how Rodgers does without Jordy Nelson, but The Pack have enough weapons that he should be fine.
6. NFC South Winner – New Orleans Saints – 10-6
For years, the Saints have been an offensive powerhouse with a suspect defense. However, last year was a little different as they showed improvement in stopping other teams. This upcoming season should be more of the same. They will be a more well-rounded team, and still have Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on offense — so you know they will put up a lot of points. While the Falcons and Panthers are also solid teams, and could definitely make a run at the NFC South, the Saints are simply too good and have too many playmakers to not make the playoffs. As for the Tampa Bay Bucs, they should just be happy if they win a couple games, as they will likely be among the worst teams in the NFL.
5. NFC West Winner – San Francisco 49ers 11-5
This is another division that could go in a few different directions, and surprise some people along the way. The Seahawks are in a rough place, but with Russell Wilson at the helm, anything could happen. The Rams became a lot better this offseason, and could challenge for the division, but I believe the 49ers will make a lot of noise and be one of the better teams in the NFL. Adding Richard Sherman to the defense instantly makes them better and with Jimmy Garoppolo finishing off last year so hot, don’t be shocked to see the 49ers make a deep playoff run.
4. AFC Wild Card – Pittsburgh Steelers – 10-6
While we don’t have them winning their division, the Steelers are still one of the better teams in the NFL and will find a way to make the playoffs. Their offense is too good to ignore and if their defense steps it up, they could be a scary team for anyone to play against. With Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown being at the top (or near the top) of their prospective positions, the Steelers will be a tough matchup for anyone in the playoffs, especially if they come in as the underdog in a wildcard game. The only thing that worries us a bit is Big Ben and how much longer he has before he truly starts to regress.
3. AFC Wild Card – Tennessee Titans – 9-7
The Titans shocked a lot of people in 2017 when they not only made the playoffs, but won a game in which they were huge underdogs. This offseason, they have made a lot of good moves like bringing in former New England Patriots Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis. Chances are they will be just as good, if not better, than they were last year. While quarterback Marcus Mariota will need to be better and more efficient with the ball, if their defense and run game can be as solid as it was last year, they have a good chance of making the playoffs and potentially winning a playoff game for the second straight year.
2. NFC Wild Card – Minnesota Vikings – 10-6
Last season, the Vikings were one of the best teams in the league. When the playoffs stared, many people picked them to go all the way to the Super Bowl. So what did they do this offseason? Well, they went out and got Kirk Cousins to come to town (YOU LIKE THAT? YOU LIKE THAT!). This, along with the return of running back Dalvin Cook, makes the Vikings a very dangerous team. They are better than average on both offense and defense, and could very well do even better than last year, especially if Cousins plays how we know he can. While we think a Rodgers-led Green Bay team is better, the Vikings can definitely contend for a playoff spot.
1. NFC Wild Card – Los Angeles Rams – 9-7
Out of all the teams in the NFL, few improved more over the last few months more than the Los Angeles Rams. They added a lot of help on defense, to back up their high-powered offense. With RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, QB Jared Goff, WR Robert Woods and others, they will surely put up a lot of points. If their defense can play how it looks like they can on paper, this Rams team could be incredibly dangerous. While we think the 49ers are slightly better, the Rams could surprise a few people if they make the playoffs on the back of one of the best RBs in the NFL, Todd Gurley.