From the Archives - 2019 NFL Season Preview
Updated: Jan 5
BLUF is a communication technique used by the military. It stands for Bottom Line Up Front: a short summary of the longer communication given at the beginning at the document, like an abstract or executive summary. BLUF also is a great technique to use for blog posts like this NFL preview, because I know how long your attention span is. Hey, get back here! Don't check your Facebook account yet.
Giving you the important information you need up front gives you more time to go back to looking at memes. Just another example of me working for you.
Please remember that this season preview was written before the Week 1 games. I stand behind my predictions even after some of the surprising early losses (Steelers, Browns). The season is a marathon, not a sprint.
So here it is, your One-Pager 2019 NFL Preview BLUF:
4 great AFC teams: Patriots, Chargers, Chiefs, Steelers
4 + 1 great NFC teams: Saints, Bears, Rams, Vikings, Seahawks
6 dreadful teams: Cardinals, Buccaneers, Redskins, Bills, Dolphins, Bengals
Five Storylines I'm excited to follow this season (This was written before the Antonio Brown saga went down, which is clearly the #1 story of the year so far):
1. Whether the Browns (my new favorite AFC team) can live up to the immense hype and end up with a winning record, or, amazingly, actually make the playoffs. Probable answer: Yes! They will have a winning record and will be relevant, competitive, and entertaining all season.
2. How the Cardinals will do with a rookie QB and rookie Head Coach. Probable answer: Not very well. I predict 4-12.
3. Whether the Chiefs can repeat last year's amazing offensive display. If they can play any sort of defense they will be the best team in the league this year. Probable answer: Yes, they will be terrific offensively this year but still won't have a good defense. 11-5 at worst, more likely 12-4.
4. Whether the Rams will be as good, or even better, than they were last year. Probable answer: No, but they will still be very good.
5. Will Tom Brady defy time and have another great season? The Pats lost a lot of players from last year's SB-winning team, but that has not mattered in years past. Probable answer: Yes, he will have a great season, but the Pats won't repeat as champions.
Seahawks preview: The One-Pager predicts the Seahawks will be 10-6 and will once again make the playoffs as a Wild Card team, based mostly on the great performance of Russell and the improved play of the Offensive line and Running backs. Much is expected of the defense with the Clowney signing, and I think he immediately improves the defense, but the unit overall will be very good but not great, dragged down by its sub-par secondary. Same goes for the receiving corps, which won't be elite but will be good enough to catch most of Russell's passes and score a lot of points. But the team will probably attempt to run the ball, successfully or not, more than they pass.
I expect the Hawks to play a lot like they did last year, with nothing coming easy for the team or its stressed-out fans. But they will beat the Rams once this year.
Strengths: QB, Running game, Offensive line (should be better than last year, Week 1's performance notwithstanding), Defensive front 4/Pass rush (after trading for superstar DE/LB Jadeveon Clowney, this unit is instantly much better), Linebackers, Punting
Weaknesses: Secondary, Offensive line (possibly, especially if they don't improve after Week 1), WRs (aside from Tyler Lockett, who will do great)
Predicted Playoff Positions
AFC East: New England Patriots
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers*#
AFC South: Houston Texans
AFC West: L.A. Chargers
AFC Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns#
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles (if Wentz stays healthy)
NFC North: Chicago Bears*# (not confident about this pick but I'm sticking with it)
NFC South: New Orleans Saints
NFC West: L.A. Rams
NFC Wild Card: Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings
Super Bowl LIV: Saints defeat Chiefs to claim the Crescent City's second Championship
All predictions accurate or your money back
*Certified Hot Take
#Even after Week 1's performance
You're still here? Terrific. Welcome to the rest of the 3rd Annual One-Pager NFL Preview, in which we take 2-3 sentences from the season preview of each team provided to us by Lindy's Sports 2019 Pro Football Preview. This year, since I have been chasing around a 4-year-old all summer, I outsourced my research to the NFL prediction professionals. I bought the magazine several weeks ago and read it from cover to cover because I am a football nerd.
Each team has 4 pages of content, which is way too much for this blog, so I am going to BLUF you guys and give you 2-3 sentences on each team along with their BetOnline predicted win total (as of 9/3) and my guess on whether they will be OVER or UNDER said total. Teams are in order of how they appear in the magazine.
Dallas Cowboys (9 - OVER/PUSH) - "Everything we were about was improving from where we were last year," Jones said. "There is no tangible reason we shouldn't be expected to be better than we were last year."
New York Giants (6 - UNDER/PUSH) - [Eli] Manning is coming off his best statistical season in quite some time, but that didn't stop the team from bringing his eventual successor, Daniel Jones, on board. For now, head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman have indicated that Manning's job is safe, but since wins are the bottom line, the Giants might not be as reluctant to give Manning the hook, regardless of how he's performing if the team struggles.
Philadelphia Eagles (10.5 - UNDER) - Last year, [the Eagles] dropped to 17th in red-zone production and had just 17 takeaways, which was the fifth fewest in the league. They need to improve in both of those areas this season.
Washington Redskins (6.5 - UNDER) - It would seem unwise to throw [Rookie QB] Duayne Haskins to the wolves early, but if [Coach Jay Gruden] goes with [Case] Keenum, it might also be unfair to give him a quick hook after facing tough competition. After last season's late meltdown, keeping morale high will be important; the Redskins can't afford to slide back into their old, dramatic ways.
Chicago Bears (9.5 - OVER) - This time Khalil Mack has an offseason, training camp, and preseason to prepare for a season with the Bears defense. It almost seems unfair to quarterbacks everywhere.
Detroit Lions (6.5 - UNDER) - While Detroit has reasons for optimism on defense and in the running game, questions abound in their aerial attack. That fell apart after Golden Tate was dealt at the trade deadline last year, and they've made only tepid investments since.
Green Bay Packers (9.5 - UNDER) - [Packers Superstar QB Aaron] Rodgers tuned [former coach] Mike McCarthy out by the end of his tenure. Now, many are wondering if Rodgers will allow [new coach Matt] LeFleur - who's just four years older than him - to coach him. Rodgers is just 24-24-1 in his last 49 starts and is at a career crossroads.
Minnesota Vikings (9 - OVER) - On paper, there's no reason to believe the Vikings won't be back in the playoffs. They return 10 starters from a unit that ranked in the top four in the NFL in total defense for a third straight season. And they beefed up the offensive line.
Atlanta Falcons (8.5 - UNDER) - When [Falcons QB Matt] Ryan is upright and able to slide up in the pocket, the Falcons normally go to the playoffs. When Ryan is on the run and doesn't have time to read and find his receivers, the Falcons are normally at home for the playoffs. Fixing the [offensive] line, which gave up 108 QB hits and 42 sacks last season, is key for the Falcons to rebound from an injury-riddled 7-9 campaign and quickly return to elite status in the NFC.
Carolina Panthers (8 - OVER/PUSH) - The biggest intangible for the Panthers in 2019 will be the health of [QB Cam] Newton's shoulder. So much of their offense runs through him and [RB Christian] McCaffrey, and the team feels it always has a chance to win when Newton has the ball in his hands.
New Orleans Saints (10.5 - OVER) - The next step for the Saints would be the Super Bowl. Two years ago they lost a divisional playoff game on the last pla; last year they lost the NFC Championship on the final play. And with QB Drew Brees entering the final year of his contract at age 40, it's unclear whether this Super Bowl flirtation will continue beyond this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6.5 - UNDER) - Despite [QB Jameis] Winston's 21-33 career record, the Bucs picked up his fifth-year option and [new Coach Bruce] Arians believes the top overall pick in the 2015 draft can thrive in the 2019 offense with better coaching. [WR] Mike Evans enters his prime years as one of the league's elite targets. Tampa Bay boasts a strong tight-end tandem in O.J. Howard and Cam Brate, who have combined for 23 touchdown catches in the past two seasons. If Howard can stay healthy, he has the look of a perennial Pro Bowler.
Arizona Cardinals (5.5 - UNDER) - Texas Tech put up gaudy numbers under Kliff Kingsbury over six years, but how will it translate to the NFL? Arizona is not only hoping for improvement, but hoping [rookie QB Kyler] Murray can ignite a frustrated fan base the way another former Oklahoma QB, Baker Mayfield, did for Cleveland as a first-year starter. By hiring [new coach Kliff] Kingsbury, [GM Steve] Keim has seemingly pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table to go all-in on an unproved pro coaching commodity. It will either pay of or be his final undoing.
Los Angeles Rams (10 - OVER) - As the Rams begin their third season under wunderkind coach Sean McVay, armed with one of the NFL's most complete rosters, top to bottom, they now find themselves tasked with the same challenge that all runner-ups face in the season after a failed Super Bowl run. Of course, the Rams have quite a bit working in their favor, chief among them having the brighest young offensive mind in the NFL (McVay), a young Pro-Bowl QB (Jared Goff), and the two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year (Aaron Donald). The rams, by any measure, should be considered serious Super Bowl contenders again.
San Francisco 49ers (8 - UNDER) - This season's fate likely hinges on the suave leader Jimmy Garoppolo, specifically his return from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. Garoppolo's greatest target remains [George] Kittle, arguably the NFL's top tight end just two years into his career. While CB Richard Sherman continues to play at a solid level, second-year pro Tarvarius Moore will push the veteran for starts. Moore has good length, will tackle with force and can find the ball in space.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8.5 - OVER!) - The Seahawks signed [DE] Ziggy Ansah in the offseason, but it won't be easy to replicate all that [DE Frank] Clark gave the team a year ago. (UPDATE: Yes it will be! Trading for former Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney was a spectacular move that will immediately make this a better overall defense. He is undoubtedly better than Clark when healthy, and word is that he is as healthy as ever. This is a game-changer!). Oh, and Seattle has the best middle linebacker in the game in Bobby Wagner. With [QB Russell] Wilson and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer having had a year to work together and three new receivers in the fold, don't be surprised if Wilson airs it out a bit more in 2019.
Buffalo Bills (7.5 - UNDER) - [In 2018] The bills finished 6-10, with [rookie QB Josh] Allen going 5-6 as a starter ... However, they're clearly making an effort to help accelerate Allen's development. Of the 18 free agents signed this offseason, 13 were offensive players and as many as six could start. Head coach Sean McDermott realizes getting everyone on the same page before the season won't be easy.
Miami Dolphins (4.5 - OVER) - Miami will struggle on the offensive and defensive lines. Other than Laremy Tunsil (UPDATE: Tunsil was traded to the Texans), there are no established standouts on either side of the ball. It's going to be trial by fire, especially on offense ... This is a roster short on talent - no player ranks among the best 100 in the NFL. Miami is looking ahead to 2020, when they have stockpiled 12 draft picks.
New England Patriots (11 - OVER/PUSH) - What happens when once again it looks like storm clouds are building in Foxborough after the retirement of TE Rob Gronkowski, the departure of top pass rusher Trey Flowers, and an apparent dearth of reliable WRs? Sounds like a February Super Bowl trip to Miami for a team that even when it seems between a rock and a hard place finds some way to dominate the competition ... Michael Bennett is an upgrade over departed DE Trey Flowers. Will he thrive or wither in Bill Belichick's button-downed atmosphere? (Ed. note: MANY people would disagree with that statement. This same publication said that Trey Flowers was the biggest free agent of the offseason. If Michael Bennett is better, wouldn't he have been a bigger free agent?)
New York Jets (7.5 - UNDER) - The Jets roster is stacked with new additions, including former Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell, Ravens 4x Pro-Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, and ex-Redskins WR Jamison Crowder. They are clearly in win-now mode. But even with so many talented players on the roster, the Jets' ability to take a quantum leap this year rests on the right arm of QB Sam Darnold. He was understandably inconsistent last year, playing as a 21-year-old rookie. If Darnold takes his game to the next level, the Jets should challenge for a playoff spot. If he struggles, this could be another season for Jets fans.
Baltimore Ravens (8.5 - OVER) - The Ravens are looking for QB Lamar Jackson to become a more effective passer to provide more balance. They added impressive speed by drafting WRs Marquise Brown and Mikes Boykin along with RB Justice Hill ... The team strengthened its secondary by signing safety Earl Thomas from Seattle and added depth at RB with Mark Ingram. The team plans to be competitive in 2019 (Ed. note: Don't all teams plan to be competitive?), despite opinions that the Browns are the favorite to win the division.
Cincinnati Bengals (5.5 - UNDER) - (Ed. note: Seriously, who cares? But if you really do, here you go) After a third straight losing season, the Bengals shook things up and (amazingly) parted ways with 16-year head coach Marvin Lewis. Seeking to keep up with the trend of prolific offenses leading the league, Bengals brass brought in 35-year-old Zac Taylor, fresh off a Super Bowl run with the Rams, where he "worked with" the QBs ... Despite the perceived emphasis on offense, the Bengals' defense remains the biggest concern a league-worst 413.6 yards per game last season.
Cleveland Browns (9 - UNDER/PUSH) - After foundering like a lost ship for most of the last 20 years, the Browns might finally be on a course set for relevancy and more. Four Browns games are in prime time this year (?!). "Yeah, our roster looks great on paper - whoopty hell, alright? - but at the end of the day, we better be a good team," head coach Freddie Kitchens said. "Our expectations have nothing to do with the outside world. Our expectation are going to be on how we prepare every day." Something about this team feels different.
Pittsburgh Steelers (9.5 - OVER) - The Steelers lost four of their last six games to finish a half-game behind the Ravens and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Now they must find a way to get back without WR Antonio Brown and RB Le'Veon Bell. If they hope to overtake the Ravens and fend off the emerging Browns, the Steelers need their defense to improve.
Houston Texans (8.5 - OVER) - The entire offseason has been built around giving [QB Deshaun] Watson a better chance to be even more successful this year with a special emphasis on upgrading the offensive line ... With an ambidextrous skill to snag footballs in acrobatic fashion, DeAndre Hopkins is arguably the best all-around receiver in the game ... There's a feeling around the team that they are on the cusp of competing for a Super Bowl if everything falls into place.
Indianapolis Colts (7.5 - OVER) - (Ed. note: Since this magazine was published long before QB Andrew Luck announced his retirement, its predictions are probably inaccurate since they all revolve around Luck doing well. But let's preview them anyway.) Andrew Luck (er, new QB Jacoby Brissett), should have more weapons than ever before, which was needed last season when defenses keyed on TE Eric Ebron when WR T.Y. Hilton played hurt. Adding another playmaker in WR Devin Funchess and speedy rookie Parris Campbell should be fun to watch.
Jacksonville Jaguars (8 - UNDER/PUSH) - Are the real Jaguars the 2017 playoff Jaguars or the 2018 5-11 Jaguars? Or something in between? They signed free agent QB Nick Foles and cut Blake Bortles. Adding Foles was the centerpiece of their offseason makeover (Ed. note: Foles just broke his collarbone literally 10 minutes into his first start as a Jaguar. He has to have surgery. Beloved former WSU Cougar QB Gardner Minchew is the starter for now.). "I think all of our weaknesses have been addressed," Kahn said even before the draft (and long before Foles broke his collarbone). "I'm very, very optimistic (are you really, though?)."
Tennessee Titans (8 - UNDER/PUSH) - Beyond QB Marcus Mariota, the Titans appear that they will revert back to being built more around an overhauled offensive line and the rushing of Derrick Henry, who went from afterthought in October to superstar in December ... The defense should carry this team again in 2019. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees turned in a fine season last year, dialing up exotic blitzes and manufacturing pressure ... The Titans' mantra this season is to try and figure out a way to go from "good" (9-7) to "great" (10+ wins) and the playoffs. There is no reason they can't do that, but many of the questions - mostly surrounding QB Marcus Mariota and the offense must be answered in a positive fashion.
Denver Broncos (7 - UNDER/PUSH) - The Broncos haven't found themselves in this situation since the Nixon administration. Until the last two seasons, the Broncos had not endured consecutive losing seasons since 1971-72. Once again, the Broncos reset with a new coach and a new QB. The new boss is former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio ... The new QB is Joe Flacco, jettisoned by Baltimore in favor of Lamar Jackson. Flacco's last four seasons have been inconsistent. If he plays as he did in those campaigns, Broncos fans will start calling for second-round pick QB Drew Lock. But if Flacco recaptures his early-2010s form, Denver could return to playoff contention.
Kansas City Chiefs (10.5 - OVER) - QB Patrick Mahomes entered the upper echelon of QBs in his first season as a starter, and there's no reason to expect a dropoff entering his third year in the league. His arm strength allows the Chiefs to stretch the field vertically and horizontally, making throws only a handful of QBs can make ... The defense underwent a complete overhaul in the offseason, but are the changes enough to turn around a squad ranked 24th in scoring and 31st in yards allowed? How long it takes the defense to identify its new leaders and build chemistry should determine how quickly new coordinator Steve Spagnulo can turn around this unit.
Los Angeles Chargers (10 - OVER) - The Chargers are trending up as they look to build on their most successful season since 2009 and their first playoff appearance since 2013. The Chargers have an intoxicating mixture of veterans and young players that presents a roster which can beat teams in various ways. Defensive linemen Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram force opposing coordinators to wrestle with how to handle these two edge rushers. The secondary unit's cup of talent runneth over with decorated players at nearly every position. The cerebral [QB Philip] Rivers still provides leadership and production, two key ingredients from which younger players can benefit. While the Chargers' future looks grand, the present presents a super opportunity.
Oakland Raiders (6 - UNDER/PUSH) - Head coach Jon Gruden is back for another crack at it following a 4-12 disaster, this time with former NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock as his GM and a whole lot of young talent as a result of last year's fire sale. The performance of defensive end Clelin Ferrell, RB Josh Jacobs, and safety Johnathan Abram will determine whether last year's trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper were worth the pain incurred at the time of the deals. The influx of young character and talent along with the returning veterans who are on board with Gruden should make for an enthusiastic mix. Will Antonio Brown be a positive or negative force? (We all know the answer to that question. Yikes.) The schedule, with five weeks away from home at one point, is brutal.