WASHINGTON — Welcome to the long awaited,
much anticipated 2018 NFL season.
It was an interesting offseason, fueled by more controversy surrounding what players do before (i.e. the national anthem) and during games (the helmet rule) and some intriguing roster moves.
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. The chances are strong I’ll say some stuff about your favorite team you’re not fond of, so fell free to file it away and tease me about at season’s end if I’m wholly incorrect.
Before we get to that, let’s look at some of the burning questions entering the upcoming season:
How big of a deal will the new helmet rule be?
The rule was convoluted to begin with, and players were left so confused by it that the NFL changed it before the season even started. Will this remain a point of contention in the regular season? And furthermore…
(AP File Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
(AP/Stephen B. Morton)
How will the officiating be in 2018?
The NFL will not only operate with fewer officials (121, down from 124 in 2017), but the ones they have will look very different. Ed Hochuli retired along with three other longtime referees (Terry McAulay, Gene Steratore, and Jeff Triplette) in the offseason, opening the door for four first-year refs — including Hochuli’s son, Shawn — along with seven other first-year officials. Will this hamper the already oft-criticized NFL officiating or be a forgotten storyline by midseason?
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Rob Carr)
How much does Tom Brady have left in the tank?
Yeah, I know I asked this same question last year before Tom Terrific somehow sidestepped Father Time and the Madden Curse to go to his eighth Super Bowl. But that didn’t stop the Patriots from sniffing around Lamar Jackson before this year’s draft, so even the Pats front office has to know the end is near for the 41-year-old future Hall-of-Famer. With no clear backup option and some of his top receiving options either gone or suspended, it’ll be interesting to see if 2018 is the beginning of the end for the GOAT.
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Is the need for a “franchise QB” dead?
Last postseason’s final four teams didn’t exactly give us a role call of future Hall-of-Famers. And after all was said and done, Nick Foles was double fisting trophies (Lombardi and Super Bowl MVP), changing the narrative about the quarterback position along the way. With contenders in Philly, Jacksonville and Minnesota all using similar formulas, is the NFL going back to the future and trending toward “game manager” QBs leading strong all-around teams to championship glory? Or will “franchise QBs” go back to carrying the day? Which begs the question…
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Which of the first-round rookie QBs will get to start?
An NFL-record five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, but only one is expected to start. Sam Darnold is widely considered to have the goods — so much so, that the Jets were content to deal away Teddy Bridgewater.
Tyrod Taylor is keeping first overall pick Baker Mayfield’s seat warm in Cleveland while he gets acclimated to the NFL, and if Taylor plays near the level of his 92.5 QB rating in three seasons with the Bills, he’ll likely keep the gig all year. Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson are also expected to get redshirt seasons. Which among them will get on the field earlier than anticipated?
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Does Jon Gruden still have it?
In at least one sense, Gruden has already picked up where he left off with the Raiders. And he’s talking about throwing the game back even further.
Despite being out of the game for the last 10 years — and his brother, Jay, calling a comeback “crazy” — Gruden somehow managed to net himself a lucrative 10-year contract with a team set to migrate from Oakland to Las Vegas during his tenure. Will fans of the Silver and Black be tricked or treated by Chucky’s return?
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Sean M. Haffey)
OK, enough questions — let’s get some answers. See the links below for my division-by-division preview, with predictions for all 32 NFL teams.
AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
Overview | Playoffs | Awards
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