By Shaun Blundell – @Shaun_F10Y
One of the great things about the NFL is its designed to produce parity across its competing teams. Recent history suggests that roughly half of the teams that make the playoffs one year do not repeat 12 months later. Predicting the playoff field in August is a tough gig but without further ado let’s predict the 12 strong field and detail those that have been replaced and why.
Chicago Bears – The formula for the Bears last year was to win tight games and win the turnover battle. It’s tough to win close games 2 years in a row, and can the defence turn over the ball as regularly? It’s a lot to ask, add in the fact that it’s a loaded division and I can see the Bears slipping out of the playoff field this season.
Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson is brilliant, but I just don’t see an awful lot else to get excited about on the Seattle roster. The once feared defence is certainly lacking star quality outside of Bobby Wagner and although Pete Carroll will have them competitive as always, but I can’t see another playoff run this year.
Philadelphia Eagles – I think it will be tight in the division (see below) but I don’t think the runner up record in the NFC East will be good enough for a wildcard spot. So much will depend on Carson Wentz after the safety net that was Nick Foles has been removed.
Houston Texans – The Texans roster has plenty of individual star power with the likes of Watt, Clowney, Hopkins and Watson but lacks overall depth. The offensive line and secondary are big concerns in what is a pass first league, and I believe they will not overcome both.
Baltimore Ravens – How long will it take for defences to catch up with the run heavy approach of Lamar Jackson and co? The Chargers handled them comfortably in last year’s playoffs and Jackson will have to develop quickly as a passer to allow the offence to be more balanced. I don’t think that happens this year, if at ever does.
New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees has possibly 1 last chance to win at all and despite a strong division, I can see the Saints playing in January again next year.
LA Rams – I don’t buy a post Super Bowl hangover as there is just too much talent on this team along with question marks on others in the division.
Dallas Cowboys – QB question marks for the Skins and Giants probably make the NFC a 2-way fight between the Cowboys and Eagles. I’ll take the Cowboys, just!
Kansas City Chiefs – Still questions defensively but the offence will more than carry the Chiefs with MVP, Pat Mahomes entering year 3.
New England Patriots – Don’t they just always win the AFC East? Hard to see past yet another divisional crown in 2019.
LA Chargers – It could be another wild-card berth for the Chargers but expect them to go back and forth with the Chiefs all season.
Indianapolis Colts – After a poor start in 2018 a red-hot finish followed. Andrew Luck should be able to lead the Colts to the postseason as division winners this time around.
New Kids on the Block
Minnesota Vikings – Expect a greater return from the Kirk Cousins investment in year 2 with a better O-line in front of him. I still see the Vikings as the most complete team in the division and if they can keep Thielen and Diggs healthy along with Dalvin Cook I expect the offence to roll. Defensively the return most of the key players and Anthony Barr’s U-turn on the New York Jets in free agency is a massive plus.
Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons were dealt huge injury blows to the defence last year and assuming that they don’t suffer the same fate they should be a middle of the road unit this time around. Matt Ryan and the high-powered offence will carry this team and Julio Jones thinks he might put up 3,00 yards receiving! I can’t see that but I can certainly see a big season from Atlanta and expect them to find a wild card berth.
Green Bay Packers – Call it blind faith but assuming Aaron Rodgers plays a full 16 games, I think the Packers find a way to get it done. Mike Pettine plays good aggressive defence and has plenty of young talent to work with. They are always so strong at home so if they can find a couple of road wins I believe they will sneak into a wildcard.
Cleveland Browns – I know…..believe it when you see it, it is the Browns! It is just impossible to look past how much talent has been assembled on this roster in just a year and a half under John Dorsey. Baker Mayfield, OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, Myles Garret to name but a few of the stars that will be suiting up in orange and brown. It’s been a while, and as Browns fan it’s been painful, but this season promises to be great.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Similar to what I said about the Patriots, they just don’t miss the postseason party very often. Minus the diva that is Antonio Brown and the diva that is Le’Veon Bell, look for Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster and James Conner to have nice campaigns. The Steelers have a habit of playing up or down to their competition and if the Browns do indeed fire then look for the AFC North to be sending 2 representatives into the January competition.
So there you go, your 12 playoff teams are as follows: –
NFC – Saints, Rams, Cowboys, Vikings, Falcons & Packers
AFC – Chiefs, Patriots, Colts, Browns, Chargers & Steelers
Prediction for the Superbowl? Don’t be silly, nobody can predict what is going to happen that far advance in the NFL!