The NFL regular season is almost upon us, and that means it’s time for everyone’s take on how the season will play out. It’s quite the inexact science to guess how teams will do, given things like injuries and surprise performances tend to throw a wrench in everyone’s predictions.
There finally seems to be a shift in the AFC with more teams than just the Patriots and Steelers being serious contenders here. Jacksonville boasts one of the league’s best defenses along with young running back Leonard Fournette, albeit the mercurial Blake Bortles could hold them back at times. The Houston Texans hope to have Deshaun Watson available to them for their full campaign, which could mean another playoff spot for them with a much more legitimate chance at success. I’d also look out for dark horse teams like the Dolphins and Bengals here to sneak in as wild card contenders. Experts seem to be split on how these teams will do, but I think both have made interesting moves this offseason that could play out to their benefit and give them a good shot at toppling the giants of the conference. The Chargers also look to have one of the stronger teams of the conference with solid acquisitions this offseason, shaping things up for a much more exciting year in the AFC. As for the likes of the lower-tier squads like the Browns, Jets, and Bills, there may not be much hope this season, but I expect good things from each squad in the future. Fans of these teams won’t have to hold their breath much longer.
Meanwhile in the NFC, there also seems to be a shift in power dynamics for some teams. The Seahawks have all but imploded, leaving their division open for Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers and Jared Goff’s Rams to duke it out for top of their division. Minnesota still has a very strong roster and hopes to hold off Green Bay for the top of their division as Green Bay still seems poised to live or die by Aaron Rodgers. Chicago could also sneak into the playoffs here if Mitchell Trubisky makes good progress, especially considering they just traded for Khalil Mack as well. The reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles hope holding on to Nick Foles was the right call as Carson Wentz is still not cleared for contact and could be reliant on Foles for a good portion of the season. Other middling squads like Washington, Arizona, and the New York Giants could contend for a wild card spot, but in a much more contentious conference, there will be a few deserving teams who don’t make the playoffs.
As for the playoffs, I see the top teams in each conference knocking out the smaller competition fairly quickly. However, as power dynamics begin to shift in both conferences, the Patriots and the Falcons of the league might begin to fade away and give way to other teams like the Jaguars, Rams, 49ers, and Texans. That change could start to take place this year, as I predict a Rams-Jaguars Super Bowl that could come down to the final play. In any case, it’s shaping up to be another exciting season and there’s no way to tell how it will play out until the teams get out on the field.