With the offense that he has to work with and a coach who gives him everything he needs to succeed, this looks like Partick Mahomes’ award to lose. Outside bets could be Sam Darnold in his second-year if the Jets start firing or even Carson Wentz if he can stay on the field in what could be a big comeback year for him and the Eagles.
Surprise package of the year
There are usually just two ways to surprise in the NFL - do well and silence the critics or perform badly and hear nothing but the critics. The third and most rare of them all is to do a bit of both. Last years breakout team, the Chicago Bears will continue to play well and their big-time defense will frighten many but their grueling schedule this year may see them miss out on the playoffs.
Worthy mentions here would be as follows:
- The LA Chargers missing out on a playoff spot
- The Detroit Lions' actually having a say in the NFC North
- Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots not having everything go their way while not making the Super Bowl cut
- The question of whether or not the Ravens can go all the way
Disaster waiting to happen
Is Kyler Murray the future? Maybe. Is he the present? Yes. But the question is whether he should be. Perhaps a year shadowing a veteran and paying his dues would have been better. Only time will tell, however, the Arizona Cardinals and the Miami Dolphins appear to be in a race to the bottom of the pile while Murray’s inexperience might just see the Cardinals take it.
However, events elsewhere might take the heat off of Murray if he starts well and if the inevitable Oakland Raiders, John Gruden and Antonio Brown meltdown will avert everyone's attention.
Also worth noting, has anybody mentioned the Colin Kaepernick shaped cloud hanging over the Jay-Z/NFL love-in?
Rookie of the Year
One name to keep a lookout for this year is Josh Allen. One eye to see how the second year. Buffalo quarterback develops from a solid start last year and another on his namesake in Jacksonville. It doesn’t go as often to a defensive player but the seventh overall pick pass rusher out of Kentucky could be the one to do it.
The Patriots. Easiest one to predict. But, could this be the year they take a step backward? Sam Darnold and the Jets will be a team snapping hard on their heels, signaling what will be the beginning of the end of the Patriots era albeit an end that still could see them in the Miami showpiece come February.
Toss a coin. On one side you have Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham and all the Cleveland hype. On the other, you have the Ravens and a potential breakout second year from quarterback Lamar Jackson. On which side it lands could have everything to do with how the Steelers prevail but the Ravens will sneak what could be the most interesting division in the AFC this year and go all the way to Miami in February.
This is another close-run division, especially now that Andrew Luck has retired from the Colts. Could it be Nick Foles’ year now the former Eagles Super Bowl winner steps into the Jacksonville spotlight as the main man? Can Jacoby Brisset step out from Andrew Luck’s shadow in Indianapolis and out from under that cloud? Have the Titans made big enough strides during the offseason to challenge or have the Texans mortgaged their future with their offseason trades? The answer will be interesting but expect the Jaguars to get to the post-season, just.
It’s too easy to equate Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce & Tyreek Hill being on the same field to automatic divisional winners and Super Bowl appearance. Yes, Mahomes will probably be league MVP again but they can give too many points away and can look too shaky in defense. The bigger question in the West is how the Chargers will fare? If their defense can keep improving, they can challenge but the biggest question is, will the Chargers put together a challenge for the division or fall away? It might just be the latter this year.
- New York Jets
- Indianapolis Colts, even without Andrew Luck
Just as Nick Foles steps out into his own spotlight, this will be the year Carson Wentz cements his reputation as a top league quarterback. New diet, new workout regime, new sense of Wentz staying healthy, same Eagles and same consistently inconsistent Cowboys trailing them.
This is the division to watch in the NFC. Can the Bears hold out and build on what they achieved last year, despite what is possibly the toughest schedule in the league this year? Expect them to be mean in defense but is Trubisky the franchise quarterback they need to push on in the same way Aaron Rodgers has been for the Packers? Perhaps Kirk Cousins will never be talked about than either of the above but his offensive weapons are a match for anyone and the Vikings boast a solid defense and surely the Lions are better this year. It’s a dog eat dog division meaning only the winners will make it into the playoffs. It’s a roulette wheel of a division so let’s go bold - Vikings.
Another division stacked with teams who could challenge but also a division with question marks over the quarterbacks. Is Drew Brees going to lose a step due to father time? Can Cam Newton’s shoulder hold up long enough to inspire the Panthers? Is this Matt Ryan’s and the Falcons’ year? No, No and possibly. Saints to take this one again.
Money to burn in your pocket and desperate to gamble on something in this division? Don’t bet on anybody else but the Rams to take this one even if some of their flaws are exploited more than they were last time around. If you have to put that money somewhere, put it on the Rams having a worse record than last year or the Seahawks to get a wild card spot behind them.
- Seattle Seahawks
- Atlanta Falcons
- AFC Championship Game
- Ravens to beat the Patriots
It has been a long climb to the summit and they have stayed like true champions but, even though they have earned the right to a slow walk down the other side, this is where it begins for the Pats. Where are the Chiefs you might ask? They gave up too many points along the way despite their offensive abilities.
NFC Championship Game
Eagles to beat the Rams
One thing you can not label head coach Sean McVey and his Rams team is conservative. His daring offense coupled with Jared Goff at quarterback is exciting to watch as is what Aaron Donald can do on the other side of the ball. But Todd Gurley will not make it through the season without injury but sometimes old school solidity and a high percentage game still beat innovation. With a fit Carson Wentz, the Eagles will go all the way.
Eagles vs. Ravens
He missed out a couple of years ago but Miami will be the stage for Carson Wentz to claim his comeback of the year and get his hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy after understudy Nick Foles stole his thunder last time.
Contributing Author - Rees Dale