2019 NFL Preview

Entering the NFL’s 100th season, it feels as if there are 100 questions surrounding it.

But I don’t have the time and you don’t have the attention span for all that, so I’ve taken the liberty of paring it down to the top seven.

As is customary for my NFL preview, I’ll go division-by-division and predict win-loss records for every team. I’ll do an overview of each team and explain my logic behind each prediction. Since every team can’t win the Super Bowl, it’s highly likely I’ll say some stuff about your favorite team that you don’t like. That’s where you come in: Feel free to file it away and whip it out at season’s end if I’m loud wrong. Just be sure to do the same if I nailed it.

One caveat: The process for these picks took place before the flurry of high profile moves last weekend, so though I’m sticking to my guns for the way I predicted divisions, such as the AFC South and NFC West to shake out, I’m not super confident in those picks. But otherwise … bring it!

OK, time to get started.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

Overview | Playoffs | Awards

C’mon, Tom Brady has to slow down now, right? Right?!

Spoiler alert: This is the first question to every one of these sections until the GOAT finally hangs up his cleats.

Whether he plays particularly well or not, the 42-year-old Brady is making history just by being in New England’s starting lineup. He’s in the best shape of his life and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. But Father Time is undefeated, and sometimes visits his victims in-season (remember Peyton Manning’s precipitous decline?) so Brady’s not really in the clear unless and until he’s clutching yet another Super Bowl MVP trophy at season’s end.

Who’s this year’s worst-to-first story? 

Last year, the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans made sure at least one team went from last place in their division to champion of said division the following year, something that’s now happened in 15 of the last 16 seasons.

In 2019, however, the best hope for such a turnaround is the Jacksonville Jaguars. All four teams in the AFC South are surrounded by major questions, and if Nick Foles can be Philly special in Northern Florida, the Jags could finally realize the potential they flashed in 2017.

Otherwise, we’ll need the New England Patriots to fail to surpass last year’s 11-win “underachievement” and first-year New York Jets coach Adam Gase to put together all the talent they’ve acquired in a meaningful way. No pressure.

Are the Browns for real? 

Cleveland is just two years removed from an 0-16 eyesore, but now find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being saddled with the expectations of being Super Bowl contenders. That’s what a 5-2 finish to 2018 and an offseason of adding Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon, Kareem Hunt and Sheldon Richardson to an already talented roster will do.

The Browns have embraced the challenge but their top football executive is telling us not to believe the hype. Is this a legit championship contender, or is the Dawg Pound barking up the wrong tree (again)?

Which second-year QB gets the sophomore slump?

Speaking of Cleveland, the Browns’ resurgence depends heavily on Baker Mayfield at least replicating his historic rookie campaign. The Patriots’ chokehold on the AFC East is only challenged if Sam Darnold and Josh Allen produce big years for the Jets and Bills, respectively. Lamar Jackson was the only rookie to reach the playoffs, and Baltimore only repeats that feat if he runs the Ravens offense better than last year. Who takes the next step and who fades back to the pack?

How will the McVay clones fare? 

This offseason, Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona), Matt LaFleur (Green Bay), and Zac Taylor (Cincinnati) all landed head coaching gigs (largely at the expense of more qualified minority candidates) because they either worked with or vaguely resemble coaching wunderkind Sean McVay. Will any of them find the immediate success McVay has enjoyed in Los Angeles or will this misguided fad backfire badly?

Do the Saints recover from back-to-back playoff heartbreaks?

First, it was the Minneapolis Miracle. Then, it was the abomination of a pass interference no-call that cost the Saints their rightful march to the Super Bowl. Will three times be the charm in the Crescent City or will the weight of their despair be too much to carry in what could be Drew Brees’ final season?

Patrick Mahomes has to slow down, right? Right?!

Every QB who has thrown 45 or more TDs in a season has seen that number dip the following year, and Drew Brees is the only one to even top 40 as an encore. Mahomes can literally throw the ball out of the stadium, but can he direct it to open targets in historic fashion again?

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