With the NFL season set to begin this upcoming Thursday, there are multiple teams who could potentially make noise, and those who probably won’t.
There is nothing better than preparing for the NFL season. It is a time for joyous fans alike to embrace their team. Whether you’re filled with optimistic suspicion or a sense of hopeless sorrow, there is nothing like sitting on the couch, eating snacks and cheering for your team on Sunday, even if it is just your fantasy squad.
There are not many teams who are out of the playoff picture at this point. Sure, there are certain organizations who are appropriately in the rebuilding stage and are looking to build solid rosters in the next few years. But nearly every team heading into this campaign either has a bright future or is looking to bring home the Lombardi Trophy this February.
Here are my predictions for three winners and losers going into the season:
Winner: New Orleans Saints
The Saints will enter the season with redemption on their mind following a heartbreaking loss in last season’s NFC Championship game. The team stayed aggressive in free agency after losing key pieces such as Mark Ingram and Max Unger during the offseason. Drafting an immediate starter in lineman Erik McCoy should keep their offensive line be one of the best in the NFL. The Saints picked up Latavius Murray to backup Alvin Kamara at the running back position. They also added some depth at the receiving position by picking up tight end Jared Cook. The combination of Cook alongside receiver Michael Thomas, who signed a five-year extension worth $100 million this offseason, is dangerous.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
Let’s make something clear right off the bat– picking Carson Wentz over Nick Foles was the right decision. Although health will always be a concern for the 26-year-old, Wentz has proven his worth at the highest level, and he should be able to make this team a contender again. At running back, Philadelphia added former Chicago Bear Jordan Howard to accompany Darren Sproles. The offensive line, anchored by players such as Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce, is elite. Their receiving corp was heavily improved by adding former Eagles star DeSean Jackson to an already impressive group constructed from Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor. Defensively there might be some concern with the lack of depth on the front seven, but they have some solid pieces such as tackle Fletcher Cox, end Brandon Graham, recently acquired linebacker Zach Brown and cornerback Ronald Darby (if he can stay healthy).
Winner: Cleveland Browns
The 2010’s have been the era of the Browns losing football games. In fact since 2010 Cleveland owns a record a 36-107-1 and has started 17 quarterbacks. Last season, however, the Browns made a great selection with the first overall pick, selecting Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Heading into his sophomore year, Mayfield will have an incredible group of talented players at his disposal, highlighted by new arrival Odell Beckham Jr. Their defense should also be excellent with former first overall pick Myles Garrett and corner Denzel Ward. It appears that Cleveland’s losing ways may finally have come to an end.
Loser: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks currently have an extensive amount of undeveloped talent that leaves a lot of open-ended questions. They do have some talent on that defensive front, including newly acquired pro-bowler Jadaveon Clowney. However, players who are expected to take several snaps this season such as tackle Poona Ford, end Jacob Martin and safety Tedric Thompson may fall short of consistently producing at the professional level. There are even more questions on the offensive side of the football. Running back Chris Carson, who impressed last year with over 1,000 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, has the potential to disappoint this season as the starting halfback. Seahawks receivers are also suspect as young players such as Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and David Moore will be asked to lead that group after Doug Baldwin retired earlier this year. One injury from any of these receivers would lead to exceptional trouble for the Hawks.
Loser: Pittsburgh Steelers
There is a high chance that the drama this offseason will benefit Pittsburgh in the long run. In fact I believe it is likely. But in terms of this season, the team should take a slight step backwards. Losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, both presences that seemed to negatively affect the locker room, will benefit the squad in terms of team chemistry. Nevertheless, Brown and Bell are two of the best skill position players in football. The Steelers do have strong substitutes that will somewhat subside their loses with JuJu Smith-Schuster at receiver and James Conner at running back. However, believing the team will become stronger with this particular transition seems unrealistic even with the charismatic Mike Tomlin at the helm for the 13th straight season.
Loser: Indianapolis Colts
Remember when the Colts were one of the favorites to win the entire AFC? Well, their chances went downhill quickly after starting quarterback Andrew Luck shockingly decided to retire at age 29. It could not have come at a worse time for the team. The offensive line was finally looking strong after Indianapolis used this year’s draft to build some solid depth. Marlon Mack appears to be ready to take the next step at the running back position. Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle are one of the top tight end duos in the NFL. The Colts also added another deep threat option in Devin Funchess to accompany T.Y. Hilton. Clearly they have a ton of talent, but with Luck gone and Jacoby Brissett set to become the starting signal caller, these players will have a tough time recreating the success they aimed to have before last Saturday’s heartbreaking announcement.