Normally I will try to put up NFL blogs on Sundays. Just didn’t have time yesterday to do so, but I figured today would be a good day to do it as a make-up.
Of course, every year we have teams surprise many and I think there will be a few that the eyebrows will be raised on. Last year we saw the Jaguars, Rams, Chargers, and of course the Super Bowl champion Eagles take massive jumps from the season before. So which teams could follow suit in 2018?
NEW YORK JETS: Well, to say that you cannot go much backwards from the year before is somewhat of an understatement. Yes, the Jets had a 5-11 record, but finished near the bottom of both offensive and defensive categories. But the Jets were 4-6 leading up to their bye week. In that span, they beat the AFC runner up Jacksonville and AFC Playoff bound Buffalo while standing tough against the Patriots and Falcons in that same period. Unfortunately after the bye week last year New York pretty much stayed on the bye week for the next 6 weeks, going 1-5 (they did beat Kansas City however). Of course, Hope Springs Eternal in the Big Apple. And they ridded themselves of Muhammad Wilkerson who was more of a headache than an asset for the Jets so it is a young and probably a more driven team in 2018, at least on the defensive side. The Jets also solved their quarterback issues, at least the hope is that they did by drafting Sam Darnold out of USC. He may not be ready this year, but Josh McCown is a reliable quarterback in the case of showing Darnold the ropes. The Jets also added two reliable backs in Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls to carry the load as it looks like they will be a very run-oriented offense in 2018, which may be their big strength. Do I think the Jets make the playoffs? No, but they will be a tough team to beat and maybe play spoiler to an AFC squad.
CLEVELAND BROWNS: Duh. Heck, if they go 2-14 it is a improvement. However, the Browns weren’t as atrocious as one might think. 6 games were less than a TD difference and all of the games were nothing near a blowout. I’m one of the few that actually liked the Baker Mayfield selection. He’s arrogant, has that swag, and is very feisty. He also wouldn’t care about what the local media will say about him. Darnold would crack and Josh Rosen would probably get into a media war. The off-season moves of getting Tyrod Taylor to possibly start Week 1 and Jarvis Landry helps out this year too while signing Carlos Hyde and drafting Nick Chubb helps out the running game. They improved the secondary with EJ Gaines and drafting Denzel Ward (granted they paid a high price for Ward). The Browns weren’t a major pushover last year and they make some noise this year. It depends if Hue Jackson is the actual guy to head them in that direction.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: The problem with the Colts since the Peyton Manning days has been that if Manning ever went down, Indy went from a Super Bowl contender to a contender to the #1 overall pick. They did the same thing with Andrew Luck, who missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury. And there may be concerns he will miss time in 2018 with it. GM Chris Ballard didn’t wait too long and has emphasized defense while trading for Jacoby Brissett, who wasn’t terrible for the Colts in 2017 (he threw for 3,000 yards, 13 TD, and 7 INT; got sacked 52 times however). So he has built up the lines, drafting 4 guys on the offensive and defensive sides in the first two rounds in this past draft hopefully to go after quarterbacks and protect Luck/Brissett. While not completely similar to Cleveland, the Colts were in a few games they could have won (Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Baltimore). With Frank Reich taking over, it will be interesting to see what changes we see in Indy, but it may all be contingent on the quarterback situation.
NEW YORK GIANTS: Another one of the “duh” comments. Injuries destroyed New York in 2017, notably on offense. Adding the fact that Ben McAdoo wasn’t the guy to run a team pretty much made New York had one of their worst seasons in franchise history. But one silver lining was despite it all, Eli Manning had a good year for what he had to endure. He had nearly 3,500 yards and 19 TD to only 13 INT. In fact the INT total was his LOWEST since 2008. And he is coming back which is a jolt. And they gave him a couple of more weapons, notably out of the backfield with Penn State star Saquon Barkley and signing free agent Jonathan Stewart. New York also built up the line making Nate Solder the highest paid lineman in the NFL and Patrick Omameh. Adding on, they may have drafted a steal with Guard Will Hernandez from UTEP. IF Odell Beckham, Jr. is fully healthy and can keep his brain in check, the Giants offense can easily be a top 10 offense in the NFL. The defense will have questions though. They were near the bottom of the league in most categories and save for a few defensive backs, notably William Gay, it doesn’t look like they’ve done a whole lot of improvement. But they can still be a playoff threat in the NFC.
CHICAGO BEARS: Hope Springs Eternal in Chicago in 2018. The Bears have a very young group, starting with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback. But they may have one of the most dynamic RB duos in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Adding for weapons for Trubisky, the Bears got Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel at receiver and then tight end Trey Burton. Chicago also added Earl Watford on the line to help protect Trubisky, who will have to make massive strides in year two of his career as the first season was a mixed bag to say the least. The defense is solid and added Georgia star Roquan Smith to be a beast in the middle. The Bears rise will all be dependent on Trubisky however. The TD to INT can’t be 7-7, not with the weapons he has now. If he has a second year slump, Chicago may be looking at Cade McNown 2.0. I’m saying it won’t be that bad, but in the tough NFC North, he’s gotta step up when he sees Rodgers, Stafford, and now Cousins.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat