|By Tim Edmonds|
1. Saquon Barkley will lead the NFL in rushing yards
Barkley was drafted into an ideal situation to win the NFL rushing title. New York’s offense will undoubtedly run through him, both on the ground, and in the passing game. And despite big question marks at offensive line, I think the Giants will greatly improve this year and give Saquon the chance to make a name for himself. Barkley will rack up 1,300 rushing yards and win the NFC Rookie of the Year as well.
2. The Chicago Bears will win 10 games, earn a playoff spot
The Chicago Bears are entering this season with a new head coach in Matt Nagy and a lot riding on second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. That being said, this team has significantly improved from last year and it’s not even close. Growth from internal options like running back Jordan Howard and defensive end Leonard Floyd along with free agent signings like wide receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Trey Burton will propel this team to five more wins than in 2017, and a playoff berth for the first time since 2010.
3. Joey Bosa wins the NFL’s sack title with 18, the Chargers win their first AFC West division title since 2009.
This one’s a bit out there, but stay with me. This Chargers team is good, really good. After starting last year 0-4, they caught fire during the second half and just missed the playoffs on the final day. Now they’ve added impact rookie Derwin James and their core has had a season to grow around veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers. Despite injuries to Jason Verrett and Hunter Henry in preseason, this team will be the next to feel the Los Angeles effect and win a division title. As for Bosa, he’s an absolute freak who is entering his third season at just 23 years old. Last season he accumulated 70 tackles and 12.5 sacks enroute to an All-Pro selection. This season expect him to add 5.5 to that tally as the Chargers improve and opposing teams are forced to pass more. And don’t forget how Bosa’s life is made easier by bookend pass-rusher, Melvin Ingram, as the two form one of the most dynamic pass-rush duos in the NFL today.
4. Tom Brady shows no signs of slowing down, Patriots win 13 games and their 10th straight AFC East title.
As he enters his age 41 season, Tom Brady has continued to hear it each and every offseason how this coming year he’ll finally slow down, and for the thousandth time, I’m not buying it. This guy’s mental, and a maniacal winner who won’t quit or stop being the best until he finally hangs it up. I see this new look Pats roster rolling over a weak AFC East and clinching a 10th straight title with 13 wins, before Brady and the Pats return back the Super Bowl.
Joe Flacco’s days in Baltimore are numbered and everyone knows that. Since signing his six year $120.6 million dollar contract he has made an art of disappointing Ravens fans with his mediocre performances. So much so that Ravens leadership traded back into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select University of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick. This selection, to the surprise of many should spell the end of Flacco’s stint in Baltimore. I believe with the Ravens underwater and out of the playoff race come week 9, the team will eat Flacco’s remaining money and throw Jackson into the mix to become the team’s new franchise QB.
6. The Bengals finally end Marvin Lewis’ time in Cincinnati.
An unhappy marriage that should’ve ended 3-5 years ago, this season will be the final straw for Marvin Lewis. He’s failed to make the playoffs in each of his last two season’s and more importantly is 0-7 in playoff games during his stint. I believe after another missed postseason and tension boiling, Bengals brass will finally bite the bullet and release Marvin Lewis 16 seasons in charge in Cincinnati.
7. Antonio Brown is finally unseated as the NFL’s number one statistical wide receiver.
Over the past four seasons, Antonio Brown has made mincemeat of NFL secondary’s and finished as the number one statistical wide receiver. This season I expect more of the same from him and no signs of slowing down, but I believe a new wide receiver will dethrone him. That receiver is Deandre Hopkins. With 16 games of Deshaun Watson throwing to him, the sky’s the limit for Hopkins who’s had nothing but inconsistent quarterback play since he broke out in Houston. With an elite passer under center and plenty of red zone targets, I expect Hopkins to take the crown as WR1 in the NFL.
8. Alex Smith is the surprise of the NFL, lead’s the Redskins to a playoff berth.
Since he’s entered the league in 2005, it seems Alex Smith has always taken a backseat to a younger and more talented quarterback. It happened to him in San Francisco when Colin Kaepernick replaced him when he went down injured and never relinquished the job. Then after four above average seasons in Kansas City that included three separate trips to the playoffs, the team shipped him out to the Washington Redskins to give young draft pick Patrick Mahomes the reigns. Smith now looks to lead the Redskins to their first playoff berth since 2015 and despite starting running back Derrius Guice going down with a torn ACL early in preseason, this team has the talent to do so. With Smith under center, a solid receiving core of Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and tight end Jordan Reed along with a defense anchored by corner Josh Norman, D-linemen Jonathan Allen and rookie Daron Payne and finally a stout linebacking core of Zach Brown and Ryan Kerrigan, this team could definitely make some noise in the NFC East.
9. Oakland becomes the NFL’s next dumpster fire, finish 5-11 in Jon Gruden’s return to coaching.
Since firing Jack Del Rio at the end of the 2017 season, nothing has seemed right about the Oakland Raiders. After hiring former head coach Jon Gruden who’s been away from the game from a decade, they’ve found a way to completely bungle the Khalil Mack contact situation, have one of the worst regarded draft classes including a first round pick in Kolton Miller who’s “years away from being ready to play,” and finally they’ve shipped out lots of past starts like receiver Michael Crabtree and punter Marquette King and replaced them with questionable options like Martavis Bryant. All these reasons are why the Raiders are due to become the NFL’s next powder keg and finish 5-11 in their first season under Gruden.
10. Andrew Luck returns to full health, captures the AFC MVP award but Indy fails to reach the playoffs.
Andrew Luck seems like he’s finally ready to get back on the field after more than a year away from the NFL. He’s returning from a shoulder issue that reportedly had him worried “He would never play in the NFL again.” With these issues behind him however, and a Week 1 start seeming more and more evident, I’m gonna bet big that he returns to his old self sooner rather than later and lights it up for 4,500 passing yards 42 passing touchdowns to capture the NFL MVP award for the AFC, despite the Colts finishing 9-7 and missing out on the playoffs in a loaded AFC South.