As is tradition, us PSF writers get together and make predictions on the NFL on the eve of the season. So with football officially 6 days away please enjoy!
AFC East Winner
Alex: Patriots – Does this really need an explanation?
David: Patriots- Pretty easy pick here. While this Patriots roster does not look as strong as it has in the past, especially with the lack of depth at the wide receiver position, there is no team in this division that can contend with them. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins all may legitimately have double-digit losses. As long as Brady remains at the helm, the outcome of this division will likely never be in question.
Vagmi: Patriots- Despite the increase in competition as opposed to previous years, the Patriots still have the best chance in taking home the division crown. As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are in the house, there is no one else that can come close to taking the division. Despite losing Matt Patricia, Belichick still runs the defense, as he can improve it from the dismal showing in the Super Bowl. Malcolm Butler has left the Patriots, but they have a shutdown corner of their own in Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots will once again take the division.
Eric: The Patriots- They do have question marks this year though. Who outside of Gronk and Edelman, suspended for the first four games, does this team have to throw to. Is the defense improved at all? They didn’t make a ton of moves on that side of the ball and lost there best corner. All that said, the division is populated by subpar NFL teams. Maybe the Bills could make a run but I don’t think so. The Patriots win the Division but only with ten wins. They take a step back this year.
Regardless of aging talent, this team will still find ways to win, especially when the rest of the division is “straight trash homie”. I’m sure this team will look inadequate compared to years past, but it’s Tom Brady, its Bill Belichick, it’s the AFC East. Patriots.
AFC West Winner
Alex: Chargers – Despite all the injuries that seem to be a yearly tradition for the Chargers, they are far and away the most talented team in the division. The Raiders and Chiefs both have the makings of solid offenses but are both lacking defense, while the Broncos defense is good (though on the decline) with an offense that hasn’t done anything since Peyton Manning was in town.
David: Chargers- The Chargers have obviously had bad luck over the years, between losing key players to injuries and falling in close games. However, this is their year to win the AFC West. The offense is solid, led by Phillip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen, and that scary pass rush with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. Rookie safety Derwin James is a name to remember, as he will have a major impact this season. If Patrick Mahomes lives up to the hype in Kansas City, then this may be a close race. Outside of that, the Raiders still have question marks with their new system, and the Broncos don’t seem to have enough offensive firepower to contend in this division.
Eric: Chargers- The most talented team in the division. Held back by special teams last year is ready to fly in 2018. They have caught the rest of the AFC West in a rebuild, no excuses the Chargers should easily win this division with the best roster in the AFC.
Vagmi: Chargers – Despite the injuries suffered before training camp, with their second corner and starting tight end out for the year, the Chargers still pose the best chance to win the division just with experience alone. Their team is the most balanced out of all the others, as they have both a good offense and good defense. The Chiefs have an unknown at QB and traded their best corner away. The Broncos have a problem QB-wise as well. The Raiders are also having problems defensive side, especially without their best player, Khalil Mack, on the field. The Chargers have the best chance to win the division, provided they stay healthy.
There is to much talent this season for the Chargers to screw this up. They have all the major injuries out of the way early this season and they are more than capable of adapting. Top to bottom this roster has playmakers, HEALTHY playmakers. The offense has been set for years now and they have arguably a top 10 defense. With the rest of the division in decline the Chargers are my pick to win this division.
AFC North Winner
Alex: Ravens – The Steelers do still have the Killer B’s, but their defense just isn’t up to the same level as it’s been. The Ravens D has quietly returned to prominence, and the offense appears to have some spring in its step after several years of rather subpar play. Add in the consistently superb special teams play and the Ravens are just too well-rounded to ignore.
David: Steelers- Whether or not this may be the final season for Le’veon Bell or Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, the Steelers will win the division this year. The defense will of course be shaky at times as it’s been for awhile, especially with the loss of Ryan Shazier, but not many defenses will be able to slow down Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell. Name me a better running back and wide receiver combination, I’ll wait. This offense is one of the most explosive and consistent in the league. The only team in this division that I can possibly see keeping up with them is the Ravens, but they tend to be feast or famine, and who knows if Joe Flacco will start the entire season with rookie Lamar Jackson waiting in line?
Vagmi: Steelers – The division is for the Steelers to lose, as they have the talent, especially on the offensive side, to pull through. The “Killer B’s” will look to run it possibly one last time, as Le’veon Bell will most likely leave the Steelers for more money. The Steelers improved their defense, adding Joe Haden to improve their secondary. TJ Watt had a good rookie season and will look to build off the impressive campaign. While the Ravens defense is the best in the division, the Steelers’ offense is still too good to be matched by any other team.
Eric: This division has belonged to the Steelers for so long it is time for a change. Change is coming, any team, yes even the Browns can win this division this year. I am taking the Ravens though. Joe Flacco is healthy, the defense is still stacked and the Ravens put together one of the most fascinating wide receiving cores this offseason lead by Michael Crabtree. This team has stars in the back field in Alex Collins and Kenneth Dixon, the Ravens make there triumphant return to the playoffs. The Steelers meanwhile lacking a defensive leader will take a step back this year and miss the playoffs for the first time in a long time.
The only way the Steelers DON’T win the AFC North is if Big Ben, Antonio Brown, and Lev Bell were out for the season. Yes all three. There is enough talent on this offense that even when a major piece is gone this team is able to find a way to win. The Browns are much improved and pose the only real threat in this division.
AFC South Winner
Alex: Jaguars – This is really close between the Jags and Texans. The Jaguars have the better D, but the Texans have the explosive offense. Ultimately, I have to go with the Jags. Bortles showed just enough improvement toward the end of last year that it’s possible the Jaguars offense takes the step forward it needs to be true Super Bowl contenders.
David: Jaguars- Last season, the Jaguars’ defense was the main reason why they were so successful, and that will not change this year, as Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye are as good of a cornerback duo as they come, along with that monster defensive line. They earned the nickname “Sacksonville” for good reason. The offense still may not be sharp, but if Leonard Fournette does his part on the ground, and Blake Bortles plays at least average, then it should be enough for the Jaguars to win the division ard earn a high seed in the AFC. The Texans are definitely a team to keep an eye on, though, as Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt are back and healthy.
Vagmi: Jaguars- Despite the improvements in other teams in the division, the Jaguars still pose the best chance to take the division. AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey pose one of the best cornerback duos in the league. Telvin Smith, Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue, and many others are part of that ferocious front seven. Although the offense does pose some problems for themselves, as Bortles has been nothing but average for the team, Leonard Fournette has been the key component for the offense and will look to keep it rolling. It will be a very competitive division throughout the season, as anyone can steal the division crown.
Eric: Titans- I just can’t pick a Blake Bortles lead team to repeat. The Titans have the most balanced roster in the division. A great offense with practically no clear weaknesses paired with a defense with no clear weaknesses. The Titans are a huge unknown but I think they can be a team that wins this division. Marcus Mariota will need to step up but I believe he will.
It’s possible Blake Bortles regresses to his old self and stinks it up, but with this locked and loaded defense, winning the division is still possible even if that happens. It’s impressive to see a team succeed that has been built to thrive regardless of the quarterback play. Stud running back, killer defense, everything else is decent… they are literally a quarterback away from a superbowl. Jaguars have nothing to fear in this division anymore.
AFC Wild Cards
Alex: Texans, Steelers – The Texans are one of the most well-rounded teams when healthy, and the Steelers have one of the best offenses in the NFL even if its defense has some question marks. Both teams should easily hit double-digit wins.
David: Texans, Chiefs- Deshaun Watson’s connection with star receiver Deandre Hopkins looked extremely dangerous last season while it lasted, and now they have the chance to make a playoff push. Throw JJ Watt back into the defensive line and Tyrann Mathieu into the secondary, and you have a very complete team in Houston. As for the Chiefs, I am expecting them to be a little more inconsistent this year with new quarterback Patrick Mahomes. However, he has the weapons around him, and in a weak AFC, 9 wins or so should be enough get them the 2nd wild card spot.
Eric: Texans, Raiders- The second one might surprise some but why not? The defense has looked good in pre season and young pass rushers have emerged to potentially cover for Khalil Mack. Then on offense you have an elite offensive line paired with an extremely deep running back core. Derek Carr is just two years and a back injury removed from an MVP year and Jordy Nelson has looked good. Not to mention Amari Cooper, one bad year does not mean an offense is completely done. The Raiders are do for a bounce back.
Vagmi: Titans, Texans – With Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt returning from injury, the Texans are poised to have a great year. The defense added Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin who will be huge going forth. The Texans have DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller to add more problems for opposing teams. The Titans are also a team that improved heavily during the offseason, adding Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, as well as having a fresh set of people in the organization, in Matt Lafleur and Mike Vrabel. Expect the Titans and Texans to take the last two spots in the playoffs.
The Texans will be no real surprise here. With the Jaguars winning the division, the Texans will be on their heels the entire season. Watson returns from injury in his sophomore season likely getting him off to a slow start but the rest of this team is very talented and they should finish with 10+ wins.
The surprise here will be the Cleveland Browns. Young and talented, this team is chomping at the bit to prove the doubters wrong. This defense is capable of finishing top ten at seasons end and the offense caters to Tyrod Taylor’s style of play. Josh Gordon returns and gives this team a much needed spark.
NFC East Winner
Alex: Eagles – They are one of the most talented and well coached teams in all of football, much less their own division. The Redskins are incomplete, the Cowboys even more so. The Giants are the only real threat to the division, but that’s only if their defense can return to 2016 form instead of 2017.
David: Eagles- It is becoming more and more likely that Carson Wentz won’t be cleared to start the season. Even if Wentz isn’t ready right away, the defending Super Bowl champions are in good hands. It’s not often that your backup quarterback wins you a Super Bowl championship, but the Eagles have that luxury. When Wentz returns, he should continue to play at an extremely high level behind that strong offensive line. The Giants and the Cowboys both have a chance to contend, but they still have uncertainties and lack depth at certain positions, therefore, the Eagles will be back to back NFC East champions.
Vagmi: Eagles- The Eagles have one of the most deepest teams in the league and will look to build off from their impressive Super Bowl campaign last year. They will be welcoming back veterans from injury, such as Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, and Darren Sproles. In their division, they have the most talent and depth to most likely take the division crown, possibly competing for a championship once again. The Eagles have the opportunity to meet or even exceed expectations from last year.
Eric: Giants- I can’t pick the Eagles. Carson Wentz isn’t going to be ready for week one and in good conscience I can’t say I believe in Nick Foles. On the other side the Giants have the best offense in the division and I believe Eli Manning can re capture his 2015 form and lead this team to the playoffs. Not to mention Saqoun Barkley, Odell Beckham Junior, and Sterling Shepard. I also believe this is the year that Evan Engram really breaks out and becomes something special at the tight end position. Plus you can’t find a weakness on this Giants defense, they may not have the depth of the Eagles but I would argue they are a better overall defensive unit. They could use another pass rusher but someone will step up to replace Jason Pierre Paul. The Giants are due for a big bounceback and it comes through winning the division.
The Super Bowl champs. If this team stays healthy then this is easily their division. The Eagles are the total package: well balanced and a very intelligent coaching staff.
This is always the toughest division to figure out. Every year the team that wins the division is not who you expect. Although the Eagles would be the easy pick here, I’m sure it will end up being incorrect.
NFC West Winner
Alex: Rams – Last year Sean McVay finally unlocked the potential of the talented offense. This year, Wade Phillips gets a shot at recreating the No Fly Zone with all the new defensive acquisitions. There aren’t many more complete teams in the NFL. There isn’t much competition in the division either; the Cards are in rebuild mode, the Seahawks are entering rebuild mode, and the 49ers are just starting to climb out of rebuild mode.
David: Rams- After going from worst to first on offense, the Rams won the offseason by adding a plethora of weapons, bolstering their defense with the additions of Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib, along with receiver Brandin Cooks on offense. The success of this Rams squad may be determined by the continued development of quarterback Jared Goff. Todd Gurley was one of the best running backs in the league last season and is still getting better. The Rams are far and away the most talented team in this division, as the Cardinals and Seahawks appear to be on the decline and the 49ers are still developing. If the new pieces blend in, the sky’s the limit for this team.
Eric: Rams- The NFC West is full of intriguing storylines but there is no competition for the Rams. Don’t be shocked if they start slow though as McVay basically ignored the pre season. It would not shock me to see this team start 2-2 or 3-3 and then really take off. The first part of the season might be a bit of a struggle but once this team gets warmed up they are going to be a dangerous out come playoff time.
Vagmi: Rams – The Rams had the flashiest offseason, trading for and signing many stars, making them easily the best in the division. Jared Goff will have another year of development under prodigy head coach Sean McVay. The defense will be welcoming star corners Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, as well as defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. On the offensive side, the offense will be welcoming speedy receiver Brandin Cooks, coming off a fantastic year on the Patriots. The Rams will take the NFC West division with ease.
How can you not think that the Rams will destroy this division? They signed every free agent in existence this offseason. No one else in the division got significantly better. The Cardinals have a rookie QB and the defense is in rebuilding mode. The 49ers have talent but they are unproven. Seattle, although their offense is still above average the defense has become a shell of what it once was. Rams division, easy.
NFC North Winner
Alex: Vikings – People can bang the drum of Rodgers all they want. It doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings have more talent at every other position. It’s not like Cousins is bad either. Not only do I expect the Vikings to win the division, I expect them to claim the #1 seed. They’re that good.
David: Vikings- Most well-rounded team in football. Led by the best defense in the league from 2017, the Vikings will look to continue to shut down offenses. In addition to their superb defense, that offense will be dangerous as well, with the addition of proven quarterback Kirk Cousins and the return of promising second-year running back Dalvin Cook. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will continue to be productive in an offense that will likely put up a lot of numbers. While the return of Aaron Rodgers gives the Packers hope, their defense isn’t on the same level as the Vikings’, and they do not appear to have a real threat in the running game.
Vagmi: Vikings – Despite Aaron Rodgers returning from injury, the Vikings have the most complete team in the division. With a great offense and an experienced defense, the Vikings will rebound from their rough end to the season, getting blown out by the Eagles. The Vikings return with the same team and are adding Dalvin Cook, returning from a injury, and Kirk Cousins, signed in free agency. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will present problems for secondaries. Expect the Vikings to pull away with the division early in the season.
Eric: Lions- I know I keep being contrarian but you people are sleeping on the Lions. The offensive line is much improved they have the deepest wide receiving core in the north with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Junior, and Kenny Golladay. Then you add in Legarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson in the Lions backfield and you have one of the most interesting offenses Detroit has had in a long while. There are real weaknesses at pass rush but the rest of the defense is sound and should get a nice bump from having Matt Patricia as there head coach. The Lions are going to be the surprise team that shocks a lot of people and wins this division.
Aaron Rodgers is back. He has been paid. He has more weapons. Younger weapons. It’s time to have some fun. With a new defensive coordinator and two young and talented cornerbacks at their disposal the dumpster fire that is the Packer’s defense will be much improved. More turnovers equals more chances for Rodgers the throw hail Mary’s to his receivers and win all the games.
NFC South Winner
Alex: Saints – The Falcons and Panthers are headed in the right direction, but the Saints are just too good right now. They have the best 1-2 punch at RB (even if one of them is suspended for 4 weeks), a future HoF QB, and a surprisingly staunch defense. That’s how you win championships. Of course, if they actually want to win a championship, it would help if your safeties didn’t whiff on their tackles…too soon?
David: Saints- I expect this division to be one of the tightest races in football. Both the Saints and the Falcons will have explosive offenses. The difference? The Saints have many young weapons that have yet to reach their full potential, and they will continue to make strides this season. There is a ton of young, rising talent in New Orleans for Drew Brees to work with, including Alvin Kamara in the backfield, Michael Thomas at wide receiver, along with Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams to round out the secondary. The Saints will be one of the best teams in the NFL and a team that will be a strong contender in the NFC.
Vagmi: Saints- The Saints have the best chance in winning the division. With an experienced defense and a dynamic offense, it will be tough for others to compete along with the Saints. Despite Mark Ingram being suspended for 4 weeks, the Saints still have Alvin Kamara to headline the backfield and Drew Brees to air it out. Michael Thomas will take a step forward on improving his game, as he has the chance to be top 5 caliber with Drew Brees passing him the ball. On the defensive side, the Saints have Marshon Lattimore who was a lockdown corner last year. Cameron Jordan leads this front seven and will look to do the same next year. The Saints traded up to draft Marcus Davenport, a fierce defensive end that can provide problems on one end and Jordan on the other. The Saints have all the tools to win the division.
Eric: Falcons- Wow I almost feel insulted that I am in the minority picking the Falcons. They have the most talented offensive roster in the NFC by far. An MVP level QB in Matt Ryan, the best wide receiving core in the league with Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, and Austin Hooper. A dominant backfield pair in Devonta Freeman, the pure power runner, and Teven Coleman, the guy that can hurt you in the passing game out of the backfield. Not to mention the best defense in the division with Desmond Trufant, Keanu Neal, Vic Beasley, and Robert Alford. Not to mention Grady Jarett and Takk Mckinley. This team should run away with this division.
Mark Ingram has a four game suspension to start the season. GOOD. The Saints have a two headed monster in their backfield and the veteran of the two could use four extra games of rest. This only improves things for Mark Ingram and the Saints. Michael Thomas is still here, sure, but also Cameron Meredith is in the house. Remember him? He was decent. And oh yeah! That defense.
NFC Wild Cards
Alex: Packers, Falcons – The Packers should easily lock up the first wild card with a healthy Rodgers, but the second spot will be a toss up. The Giants, Lions, Bears, and Panthers could all easily be in the hunt with the right breaks. I think the Falcons are the most ready to compete right now though, so I have to go with them.
David: Packers, Falcons- With Aaron Rodgers returning, it will be tough to see the Packers missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. He may have lost his main target in Jordy Nelson, but he has finally been given defensive support in this year’s draft, led by first round cornerback Jaire Alexander. The Falcons still have several pieces that nearly won them Super Bowl 51 (sorry, Falcons fans), and the addition of Calvin Ridley should help improve their red zone offense.
Vagmi: Packers, Falcons – Aaron Rodgers is healthy and the Packers will run it back with a revamped team. Giving Rodgers Jimmy Graham will present nightmares for defenses, provided Rodgers utilizes him correctly. As long as Rodgers is healthy, the Packers will make the playoffs. The last spot is up for grabs, as any teams can steal that seed. The Falcons will most likely take it, as they most of their pieces returning and still have more talent than others. They also have a good QB in Matt Ryan who could help lead the offense. Expect the Packers and Falcons to take the last two spots.
Eric: Vikings, Packers- The NFC North is the best division in football and will produce both NFC wild card teams. The Bears and Niners aren’t ready yet.
Regardless of their issues on defense the Cowboys have an offense that is still good enough to get them to the playoffs. The 49ers obviously won’t win their division, but they are talented enough to make it into the playoffs as a wildcard team.
Eric- (6) Texans 24 @ (3) Ravens 27, (5) Raiders 31 @ (4) Titans 21, (6) Vikings 31 @(3) Rams 24, (5) Packers 10 @(4) Giants 20
David- (5) Texans 10 @ (4) Chargers 16, (6) Chiefs 14 @ (3) Patriots 27, (6) Packers 20 @ (3) Saints 31, (5) Falcons 21 @ (4) Eagles 13
Eric- (5) Raiders 17 @ (1) Chargers 31, (3) Ravens 24 @ (2) Patriots 21, (6) Vikings 42 @ (1) Lions 31, (4) Giants 24 @ (2) Falcons 38
David- (4) Chargers 19 @ (1) Steelers 26, (3) Patriots 17 @ (2) Jaguars 13, (5) Falcons 14 @ (1) Vikings 26, (3) Saints 24 @ (2) Rams 34
(3) Ravens 17 @ (1) Chargers 31
(6) Vikings 31 @ (2) Falcons 38
David- (3) Patriots 21 @ (1) Steelers 30, (2) Rams 17 @ (1) Vikings 23
Eric-Falcons 31 Chargers 23
David- Vikings 20 Steelers 16
Individual awards (everyone writes who they have and why)
Eric- Matthew Stafford
Vagmi- Carson Wentz
David- Aaron Rodgers
Brian – Aaron Rodgers
Brian – Marshon Lattimore
Eric- Myles Garrett
Vagmi – JJ Watt
David- Joey Bosa
Brian – Melvin Gordon
Eric- Ezekiel Elliott
Vagmi – Deshaun Watson
David- Ezekiel Elliott
Brian – Royce Freeman
Eric- Saquon Barkley
Vagmi – Saquon Barkley
David- Saquon Barkley
Brian – Anthony Lynn
Vagmi – Sean McVay
David- Anthony Lynn