Sports Stack Preseason NFL Divisional Debacle

Sports Stack? What’s a Sports Stack? I thought this was BroSports (and stuff), THE BEST KIND OF BS! WHAT KIND OF DEBACLE IS THIS?

If ya know, ya know, and if not, here are a few talented writers that may or may not have ever worked together somewhere or another compiling their preseason predictions for all eight of the NFL’s division champions. I hope you’re on a plane, train, or automobile because oh boy, this is a long one.

Sports Stack Preseason NFL Divisional Debacle

AFC

North

Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): The Cleveland Browns

I’m not confident in this pick. I want to be, I really like this young Browns team. I like Baker Mayfield, I like Odell Beckham Jr, I like Myles Garrett, I like Denzel Ward, I want this team to be good. But I worry about the offensive line and most importantly, the coaching staff. We’re going to learn a lot about Freddie Kitchens this year.

I think the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are better than people give them credit for as well, but I have my doubts about Pittsburgh’s defense and Lamar Jackson’s development.

Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): The Cleveland Browns

I’m a part of the brand new, shiny, Browns bandwagon. I know it’s risky because too often a team that looks great on paper has struggled on the field but Cleveland is in a great position this season to shock the world. Cincinnati is, well, Cincinnati. I couldn’t explain that team if I tried. Realistically it still could be Baltimore or Pittsburgh, I’m not saying either of those teams are garbage or anything I just think Cleveland has a real shot at it this season. 

Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): The Baltimore Ravens

This was tough, but, I like the Ravens. That defense is solid enough to make up for a lot of mistakes that Lamar could make this year as he still develops as an NFL passer (hopefully). Cleveland had a great year last year, but they need to prove they can follow it up before we get too hyped on them. Pittsburgh will be tough as always but the defense is a little too questionable for my taste.

William Frost (@WillFrost_): The Baltimore Ravens

The disrespect shown toward this team is crazy. Everyone and their mother seems to think Cleveland are going to walk this division in 2019. Now, yes the Cleveland Browns are the new hot thing in the NFL. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens have a polarizing quarterback under-centre. But they won 10 games last year and have gotten better on both sides of the ball.

Mark Ingram gives Lamar Jackson a feature-back to take the load off, whilst speed-demon Hollywood Brown will keep opposing defenders honest with his ability to stretch the field. Add Earl Thomas into what is already a ridiculously talented defense the Ravens should be looking to improve on last year’s 10-6 record before they worry about conceding the division to Cleveland.

Martin McConnell (@Mart_M24): The Baltimore Ravens

Surprisingly, the Cleveland Browns homer is picking the Ravens to win the AFC North. The North is a tight race right now, and the Browns, Ravens, and Steelers are all battling it out for the top spot. With a second-year leap from quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are set to rule the roost in the North, even if they lost a few pieces on defense. Jackson’s sheer athleticism was enough to make him one of the winningest 21-year old quarterbacks in the NFL last year, but consistently taking hits will only shorten the Louisville product’s career. He should be more accurate this season, allowing John Harbaugh to take more liberties with the playbook.

This race is one of the hardest to call, as three out of the four teams have legitimate cases. The Steelers are experiencing addition by subtraction, and the Cleveland Browns have added head-spinning amounts of talent on both sides of the ball over the past two seasons. But, I like what the Ravens are doing here with Lamar Jackson and the defensive side of the ball now that they’ve signed Earl Thomas. The AFC North is a toss-up, but I like Baltimore to take it with the Browns just barely missing the division title in second.

Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): Who’s to say?

The AFC North is such a huge toss-up. You can legitimately make a case for every team in this division to win it, besides the Bengals of course. If the Browns can live up to expectations, they very well may win it. If the Ravens see improvement from Lamar Jackson and the defense can deal with the losses on defense, they have a good shot. I’m most interested to see how Earl Thomas bounces back from his season-ending injury last year.

If the Steelers can prove they filled their defensive holes effectively and can replace Antonio Brown’s production, they too have an opportunity to win the division. It’s so hard to put a pin on what team is going to win the division right now, but we may see all three teams in the playoffs. 

Michael Larson (@Larstradamus): The Cleveland Browns

The AFC North will be fun to watch, besides the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have a first year head coach, an injury to their star wide receiver AJ Green to start the season, and holes all over the defense. This is the second bottom 5 NFL team in the AFC.

Coming in third are the Baltimore Ravens. Their offense will be as unconventional as it gets for this era in the NFL. Run the ball is the name of the game for this team. With Willie Snead being the top threat on the outside, the offense will score points from the legs of quarterback Lamar Jackson, and running backs Mark Ingram and Justice Hill. This won’t lead to enough wins to stand over the Steelers or Browns.

Pittsburgh is still standing strong. The retirement of Ben Roethlisberger gained some ground last off-season for no good reason. He went on to mark career highs in completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington will continue the Steelers trend of dominant wide receivers, and James Conner entrenched himself as the Steelers main back. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Browns are even more loaded. The Browns went on an off-season spree to give their second year leader Baker Mayfield everything he needs to make a Super Bowl run.

Remember when the Philadelphia Eagles had a big off-season and built around their second year quarterback Carson Wentz? Then they won the Super Bowl. The Browns have done exactly that, except on a bigger scale, which is why there is more hype for the 2019 Browns than the 2017 Eagles. I believe that may be their downfall, but I still expect them to win this division. The offense is insane and the defense has some serious playmakers, both young and seasoned. There will be two playoff teams that come out of this division, but the Browns will go from worst to first, and the Steelers join the ranks as a wild card team.

South

Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): The Houston Texans

I think the Indianapolis Colts might have the best team in the entire AFC. Andrew Luck is still healthy and they spent the off-season adding reliable pieces to a roster that already exploded the year before. The AFC South isn’t a cakewalk, but as long as they can handle Deshaun Watson’s Houston Texans, they should take home the division gold, if not a possible first round bye.

And by all that, I meant Andrew Luck retired so the Texans are easily the best division in football.

Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): The Jacksonville Jaguars

I know everyone is excited about Nick Foles coming to Jacksonville. We did all say that 2017 team was a quarterback away from being a superbowl team. I just don’t expect any of these teams to top these Indianapolis Colts. I know Luck is injured but if he can come back (and STAY) healthy this season, he FINALLY has a solid looking team around him. They’re a young team but there’s a lot of talent there. Houston doesn’t have good pass protection (or even a GM to get them one) and that defense is slowly deteriorating. Tennessee has a lot of potential, I just don’t trust Mariota. 

Except actually, how about those Jags?

Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): The Houston Texans

Coin flip I think between Indy and Houston, but I think I’ll sway with the Texans. A lot of people seem to be down on them, but Watson/Hopkins is one of the best offensive duos in football and I think the defense is better than advertised. Combine that with even more health questions surrounding Andrew Luck and the Colts to start the year, and the fact that the rest of the division isn’t all that good, should allow Houston to sit top at years end.

William Frost (@WillFrost_): The Houston Texans

Each team in this division got significantly better this off-season, but none of the other three teams improved enough to knock the Colts off of their perch atop the AFC South. The Colts’ defense is still underrated and if Andrew Luck, Marlon Mack and T.Y Hilton don’t give you enough faith that they will get the job done, look no further than superstar offensive lineman and best moustache in the NFL Quenton Nelson.

I mean, hey, got Texans?

Martin McConnell (@Mart_M24): The Houston Texans

This pick was chalk until about 72 hours ago when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck retired. Now, the entirety of the South has been turned on its head, and the division is totally up for grabs. Despite the three straight 9-7 finishes from Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans, I don’t think this will be the year they finally take the next step. I’m lukewarm on Nick Foles in Jacksonville and I think the Jaguars are a nice longshot, if you’re the betting type.

No, I’m going with Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans here. Even with the Jadeveon Clowney situation swirling over head coach/general manager combination Bill O’Brien, I like what Houston has built and I think they could be contenders if they could just fix the offensive line. Stop forcing Deshaun Watson to run for his life, and he will show you exactly why you traded up to draft him No. 12 overall in 2017. Houston takes the AFC South in Andrew Luck’s absence.

Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): The Houston Texans

The Colts are coming off a year where Andrew Luck was (gasp) healthy again! Chris Ballard is doing a fantastic job as the GM of this team with rebuilding both sides of the ball from a dumpster fire to a respectable roster. On paper, the receivers and tight ends won’t blow you away, but don’t forget that Eric Ebron with 13 touchdowns, and only expect that redzone connection with Luck to get stronger.

On the defensive side, Darius Leonard can BALL, and Malik Hooker will be another year removed from ACL surgery. Both of these young defenders are absolute ballers and the Colts hit on two great young defenders in back to back drafts, and they should be cornerstones for years to come. Again, you could make a case for the other teams in the division; I almost want to put the Jaguars here, but I’m going with Indy. 

Except actually, the Houston Texans, because Andrew Luck retired.

Michael Larson (@Larstradamus): The Jacksonville Jaguars

The AFC South opened up with the news of Andrew Luck retiring from football. The Colts still have an excellent team but how much confidence can someone have in a quarterback that only threw 13 touchdowns in a full season? Jacoby Brissett is set up to succeed, but his ceiling is 26-28 total touchdowns, and that won’t be enough. Especially since it’s unlikely he’s good enough to reach that.

The Texans would be the clear favorites, but their offensive line is so bad. I wouldn’t trust them to keep their quarterback Deshaun Watson untouched by a gang of 10 year old PeeWee football players. Unfortunately for Watson, that line is entrusted to keep him from the likes Calais Campbell, Marcelo Dareus and Jurrell Casey. Watson will be familiar with those guys and many more.

The Jaguars still have an excellent defense, although it isn’t on the same level as the AFC Championship squad from two seasons ago. Nick Foles will handle the offense but the most important player is running back Leonard Fournette. His health will be the determinant of the Jaguars season. The Tennessee Titans have quickly figured out that Marcus Mariota might not be the man to lead this franchise. This year most likely will be the end of him in a Titans jersey. Ryan Tannehill sits behind him waiting for an opportunity, and Mariota’s injury history gives no one confidence that Tannehill won’t see the field. Expect the Titans to look towards the 2020 NFL Draft for a quarterback after a fourth place finish in the AFC South.

The crushing loss of Andrew Luck drops the Colts to third place, while the Jaguars finish in second fighting for the division title with the Texans. If Watson can survive the season behind the dreadful offensive line, or if the Texans do something about his protection (hello Trent Williams), then I can foresee the Texans on top of this division.

East

Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): The New England Patriots

Some goofball is going to pick the New York Jets. Laugh at that person and comment a bunch of Brady-Thanos gifs down below.

Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): The New England Patriots

Man let me tell you about these white hot Jets who are poised to dethrone the Patriots. Just kidding I hate predicting this division it’s just unfair. New England will continue to steal this division like Le’Veon Bell’s girlfriends stealing his jewelry. 

Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): The New England Patriots

Lets not waste time on this. Tom Brady is still in that division, so the division is his and the Pats. Not to mention, every other team is hot garbage. Moving on.

William Frost (@WillFrost_): The New England Patriots

I don’t care that Gronk retired. I don’t care that the Jets spent all this money. I don’t care that he’s in his forties and sold his Boston home. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots own this division until they decide they don’t want it anymore.

Martin McConnell (@Mart_M24): The New England Patriots

I will continue to predict the Patriots to win this division until the Jets, Dolphins, or Bills show me that they can even begin to wrestle it away from them. Next question.

Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): The New England Patriots

I shouldn’t have to explain this one but I will. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still employed by the team. The rest of the division sucks. This isn’t rocket science. 

Michael Larson (@Larstradamus): The New England Patriots

The only way the Patriots lose this division is if their legendary quarterback and his arm fall apart. I just don’t see that happening, maybe ever. Tom Brady has done the best job of taking care of his health of any football player of all time. There is no reason we shouldn’t see him in a Patriots uniform until at least the age of 64. The Patriots have a multitude of weapons on offense despite losing Rob Gronkowski. Their defense is led by arguably the best secondary in the NFL. The Patriots take this division.

Coming up in last are the Miami Dolphins who will be a bottom 5 NFL team. The Bills have a good head coach at the helm and he’s rebuilt the defense into a top unit. The offense is led by Josh Allen who gave the fans some hope with flashes of arm strength and athletic plays with his legs. The Bills will show some competitiveness landing in third place.

The second playoff team in this division will be the New York Jets. Sam Darnold is a dangerous quarterback. Interceptions and fumbles are no strangers to him,but they weren’t to Brett Favre either. Darnold tends to overextend plays which gets him in trouble, but his talent is unquestionable. For every bad play, he comes right back, unfazed, and makes it up with something good. His sophomore season growth will lead the Jets into the playoffs behind the upgraded offensive line and the addition of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell.

West

Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): The Los Angeles Chargers

I think the Los Angeles Chargers have the best roster in the division, and people forget they ended the 2018 season with just as many wins as Kansas City. Assuming Melvin Gordon shows up before the season starts and everyone stays healthy, this might be the year that Philip Rivers and company make a real run at the post-season.

Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): The Los Angeles Chargers

Hot take: Mahomes struggles in year two. I love Mahomes and I watched him play in high school at Whitehouse so I’m partial to him and I think he’s going to have a great career. Every team has a full season of film on him, however, and I think he’s going to have to make some serious adjustments to keep defenses guessing. He’ll rise back to the top in 2020 but the Chiefs don’t take the West this year. Oakland is in that awkward stage of puberty where they could be great or horrible and Denver is a shadow of the team they were 5 years ago. This one is the Chargers division to lose in my opinion. 

Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): The Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City came alive last year thanks to the MVP and new young superstar, Patty Mahomes. I expect much of the same this year. The chiefs were as good as they were despite having a horrible defense, and I suspect that area will be cleaned up this year. If the D gets better and the offense is even close to how they performed last year, they’ll hold off the Chargers and win the division. (NOTE: I secretly, not so secretly hope Joe Cool takes the division and the league by storm for Denver. Sorry, Ry.)

William Frost (@WillFrost_): The Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs seem to have gotten away with murder (or battery) this off-season. Kansas City drafted wide-receiver Micole Hardman as a potential replacement/cover for in-the-news wide-out Tyreek Hill. But with Hill not facing a suspension from the NFL, reigning MVP Pat Mahomes now has two of the fastest players in football stretching the field for him.

As shown in 2018, it doesn’t matter how bad their defense is. Yet they still pose one of the more potent one-two punches with recently acquired Frank Clark and superstar defensive tackle Chris Jones.

Martin McConnell (@Mart_M24): The Kansas City Chiefs

Boy, oh boy, do the Kansas City Chiefs have a shot to be insanely fun this year. Led by gunslinger Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs are frighteningly talented on the offensive side of the ball. Fans have no reason to believe that Mahomes will regress from his MVP season last year, and he is the favorite to win the league MVP again this year for good reason. Mahomes sports a railgun for an arm and has weapons all over the field. On the defensive side, the situation is a bit more dicey. Frank Clark is a tremendously talented defensive end, and the Chiefs spent a lot of their draft on defense. Kansas City’s defense is a mystery, but their offense really is so good that it might not even matter.

The Raiders, Broncos, and Chargers are in an arms race just to get to second place in the West. The Chargers could be one of the AFC’s wild card teams come playoff time, but Denver and Oakland will likely have to wait their turn to have a shot in this division. Unless something catastrophic happens, the Chiefs are going to take the AFC West, and it may not even be close. 

Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): The Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs haven’t really lost many important pieces. They replaced Eric Berry with Tyrann Mathieu, and they traded Dee Ford for Frank Clark. They continue to have the fastest receiving corps in the league,and now that Rob Gronkowski is retired people will finally put some RESPEKT on Travis Kelce’s name as the top tight end in the league. I like the Chiefs to repeat as division champions and contend for a Super Bowl. At least this year Dee Ford can’t line up offside. 

Michael Larson (@Larstradamus): The Kansas City Chiefs

The AFC West is the most clear cut division in the AFC. The Chiefs will remain on top of the AFC as a top 2 seed. No suspension for the sure handed wide receiver Tyreek Hill only led to this affirmation. Patrick Mahomes might not put on the performance he did last season, but he easily could. The weapons, his youth, the coaching, it’s all there for a repeat season.

The other three teams have their own issues. The worst is the Denver Broncos. Their new quarterback Joe Flacco was castoff by the Ravens for someone who had a 58.2% completion percentage. The offense will not be good. The defense is still led by Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr., but this is not the same defense that carried Peyton Manning to a Super Bowl victory. The Raiders will finish a level above the Broncos in their last season in Oakland. The most important number to know for the Raiders is 32,023, which is the amount of miles they will travel this season. The second most important number is 21,347, which is the amount of miles they will travel from Week 2 to Week 8.

The Raiders will spend 49 days away from their home stadium and travel more in that period than 22 NFL teams will travel all season. After that first half though, the Raiders should finish strong. The connection between Derek Carr and wide receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams should blossom after that torturous start to the season. The skill sets of Brown and Williams are very similar to former Raiders Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. The difference is that Brown and Williams are better in every way. In second place, the Los Angeles Chargers will end their season just shy of the playoffs. The combination of injuries, expectations, and a distracting holdout will bring back the inconsistent Chargers that we know and adore. A mediocre finish for a team with high expectations.

NFC

North

Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): The Minnesota Vikings

Why is this team bad? Can anyone explain to me why the Minnesota Vikings are bad? Good defense, good quarterback, good tailbacks, crazy receiver and tight end depth. Why isn’t this team as good as they were in 2017? I’m taking a leap of faith here because I don’t trust Chicago’s offense or Green Bay’s defense. Skol, am I right?

Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): The Chicago Bears

I would say this is a hot take but I think it’s actually becoming popular opinion that Aaron Rodgers is overrated. Detroit has pieces but I just don’t trust them and Minnesota is a real contender here. I just think Chicago’s defense is enough to take this division. Trubisky is far from being a great quarterback but I think the defense will make his job easy week after week and he’ll be able to do just enough to take the North. 

Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): The Chicago Bears

This is one of the harder divisions to call, but I think it has to be Chicago’s to lose. They have a fantastic defense and the premier pass rusher in the NFL. I’m not sold on Minnesota’s offense, the Lions are, well, the lions, and Rodgers will miss just enough time with some sort of injury for the Packers that they’ll struggle to win a few games and hand the Bears the crown. Will they go far in the playoffs? Probably not, but that’s not what this column is about, is it?

William Frost (@WillFrost_): The Chicago Bears

A full-go Khalil Mack? Forget it. We’ve all heard so much about “Aaron Rodgers is pissed off”, “he’s going to come out firing, 2019 is about to be the revenge tour”. And my personal favourite: “at least they’ve found something they can beat me at” (referring to every single starting –and probably backup, quarterback chugging beer better than himself). That’s a lot of shit for a guy who only won a single divisional game last year.

Well… we’ll find out pretty soon. September 5th is Packers @ Bears, my guess is it won’t be pretty. 

Martin McConnell (@Mart_M24): The Chicago Bears

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the Chicago Bears are my pick to win the Super Bowl this season. It all starts from the top. Matt Nagy is a head coach with serious offensive prowess, and as a product of the Andy Reid coaching tree in Kansas City, has a knack for getting the most out of his players. Nagy showed his coaching chops last year, leading Da Bears to their first playoff appearance since 2010, and he could’ve gone further if not for Cody Parkey’s now-infamous missed kick against the Eagles. 

Highlighted by Khalil Mack, Chicago’s defense is full of young talent at some of the game’s most important positions. Mack could very well take home another Defensive Player of the Year award this season, like he did in 2016. The offense, although not nearly as flashy, is nothing to sneeze at. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky looks ready to make a jump to true stardom, and running back David Montgomery is one of the favorites to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. If the Bears put it all together, they could very well be hoisting the Lombardi come February.

Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): The Green Bay Packers

The Packers have a nice young secondary that will help them contend. The NFC North is pretty wide open and every team has their clear strengths and clear holes. I’m picking the Packers here because they have the best quarterback in the division and it isn’t even close. I can see any team in this division taking it though. The Bears’ defense still has Mack and Jackson, if the Vikings can get $84 million out of Kirk Cousins they can win, and the Lions can win if the other three teams forget that they exist.

Michael Larson (@Larstradamus): The Chicago Bears

It’s at this point that Larson stopped sending me (Hi, Ryan Smith of Mr. BroSports fame) novels for his explanations. He sent me a message on Facebook messenger that read, and I quote ” Eagles Cowboys Giants Redskins Bears Packers Vikings Lions Falcons Saints Panthers Bucs Saints Falcons Panthers Bucs Rams Seahawks 49ers Cardinals”. That’s right, he sent me the NFC South twice. He must really believe in those Falcons.

So instead of leaving this space blank, I’m going to give you guys my patented Michael Larson “Larson Fun Facts.”

Larson Fun Fact #1- Despite claiming to be a Raiders fan and going so far as to live where the team will be located after next year, he’s a Bears fan. I saw it. He laughed when the Raiders traded Khalil Mack away. Laughed. With his face.

South

Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): The New Orleans Saints

It’s crazy to think of how many championships Drew Brees and Sean Payton could’ve won if they had any luck at all or if Marshawn Lynch didn’t exist. Twice, the duo went into Seattle only to get beast bounced, and then Stefon Diggs and bad officiated ended their seasons. This roster is still stacked, but time is running out. If they don’t win in 2019, they might not win at all.

Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): The Atlanta Falcons

I wanted to make a really spicy prediction here and say Tampa or Carolina but I just can’t say that (or type it) with a straight face. I do think Tampa will surprise people this season I just don’t think they’re anywhere near being able to take down New Orleans or Atlanta. This could really go either way between the Saints and Falcons. Atlanta has a glaring weakness in the offensive line and New Orleans has an inconsistent defense. Both teams are capable of putting up high octane offensive performances and at the end of the day, I think Atlanta takes the division this year. 

Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): The New Orleans Saints

Atlanta and Carolina will be better, but it still won’t be enough to challenge New Orleans this year. I know everyone is clamoring for a Drew Brees dropoff because of his age, but I won’t believe it until I see it. Look for the Falcons to finish second and push the Saints, but New Orleans is, from top to bottom, a more talented team. (Oh and yeah, I guess Tampa Bay is in this division too, but, aside from one crazy upset they’ll inevitably pull this year, like every year, does it matter? Not so much.)

William Frost (@WillFrost_): The New Orleans Saints

A healthy Atlanta Falcons team will run the Saints much closer than they were able to last year. That being said, Drew Brees is slated to make another run at the MVP award with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara helping him get there. New Orleans have pro-bowl talent at each level of the defense which will propel them above the 10 win mark for the third straight year.

Martin McConnell (@Mart_M24): The New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees is really good, Michael Thomas is really good, and the Saints have a defense that can, at the very least, keep their heads above water during bad games before Brees’ surgical accuracy finally kicks in. New Orleans has been plagued with bad playoff luck for two years in a row now, and they are in line to win the NFC South again and make another run.

Atlanta is New Orleans’ closest competitor, and could very well wrestle the division away from them if they have a great year. Carolina and Tampa Bay are mysteries, and I have no confidence that either of them could give the Saints a run for their money. I’ll take Brees here, even at 40 years old.

Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): The Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan is the most underrated QB in the league with arguably the best receiving corps. An overlooked part of the Falcons however, is the defense. The defensive line is fresh of their anchor getting an extension, Grady Jarrett is going to have a big season. If Takk McKinley can turn the corner and if Vic Beasley can regain 2016 form then the NFC is in huge trouble.

Not to mention they have one of the best and fastest young linebackers in the league in Deion Jones, and they are getting Keanu Neal back at safety. The NFC South is a three team race, but I just think the Falcons have less/smaller holes than the Saints and Panthers do.

Michael Larson (@Larstradamus): The Atlanta Falcons

Larson Fun Fact #2- Michael Larson loves and respects animals, but not more than he loves and respects eating them. He welcomes the apocalypse as long as he doesn’t have to change his diet.

East

Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): The Dallas Cowboys

Assuming everyone finally shows up, the Dallas Cowboys are loaded. In fact, they might be too loaded. There’s so much talent on this squad, they can’t afford to pay everyone. I don’t know if I trust Carson Wentz and the Redskins are still a year or two away. And the Giants… oh boy, the Giants.

Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): The Dallas Cowboys

I’m gonna just go ahead and say it. Philly caught lightning in a bottle 2 years ago and that bottle was shattered during the superbowl celebrations. The Giants are not a threat either. Washington has a really nice looking young team but think it’s going to be a few years before they realistically contend. As much as it pains me to get the Cowboys fans excited, I think Dallas is the most complete team in the East and take the division with ease. 

Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): The Philadelphia Eagles

This is a very tough one to call, between a couple of old school rivals in Dallas and Philadelphia, but my edge goes to the eagles. I think there’s a little too much drama and uncertainty surrounding the Cowboys (mostly drama), and Philly just feels like a more complete team, don’t they? Meanwhile, DC is a joke and the Giants have two Eli’s at QB. Shame for Saquon, really.

William Frost (@WillFrost_): The Philadelphia Eagles

This one would have been a very different pick a month ago. But with Ezekiel Elliott holding out of training camp trying to secure his long term future, there is legitimate concern about Dak Prescott’s ability to lead the offense without him. Provided Carson Wentz stays healthy, the Eagles have enough firepower on both sides of the ball to take back the division crown.

Martin McConnell (@Mart_M24): The Philadelphia Eagles

Maybe, just maybe, this is the year Carson Wentz stays healthy. The Eagles have shown that they can win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles, and with all due respect to the Jaguars’ quarterback, he simply is not as good as Carson Wentz. It really is as simple as, if Wentz stays healthy, no one else in the East can stand up to the Eagles.

Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): The Philadelphia Eagles

There are a couple of factors that will be very important in deciding the NFC East: Carson Wentz’ health and Ezekiel Elliott’s contract. The Eagles have THE deepest roster in the NFL. Their receiving corps consists of Alshon Jeffery, Desean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor. Agholor continues to improve, Jeffery is a bonafide number one, and DJax has the speed to take the top off the defense. They are returning 4⁄5 of their offensive line, have two fantastic tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and pretty deep stable of running backs. The defensive line still employs Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, the linebackers are fast and deep, and they have an excellent secondary. Philly and Atlanta are my early pick for the NFC Championship game matchup.

Michael Larson (@Larstradamus): The Philadelphia Eagles

Larson Fun Fact #3- Larson actually accurately predicted the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl season a full year before it happened. That’s the best thing about Larson, he actually knows what he’s talking about and he’s a very good writer. But getting him to write is a major struggle because he enjoys antagonizing me (Hi, Ryan Smith of “highest Pac-Man score at the Philadelphia Dave and Busters” fame) more than he enjoys writing.

West

Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): The Los Angeles Rams

It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the division really making a push this year. The Seattle Seahawks are wild-card contenders, but they’re missing a few pieces, and don’t get me started on the Cardinals. Meanwhile I just don’t see the hype for the San Francisco 49ers. How the hype of Kyle Shanahan has lasted this long, I’ll never know.

Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): The Los Angeles Rams

Only two words are needed to explain who takes this division: Aaron Donald. I know a lot of people don’t trust Goff, honestly I’m not 100% sold on him yet either, but the Rams are a dangerous team either way. Arizona is coming into the season with a 1st year coach AND quarterback and I’m not sure Kyler Murray will have early success. Seattle has Russell Wilson (don’t get me wrong he’s great) and that’s about it. DK Metcalf is a project receiver and they really don’t have a solid run game to make up for lack of a star receiver. San Francisco could potentially have a shot I just feel like Shanahan needs another year or two to get this team just right. 

Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): The Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles hasn’t taken far enough of a step back, and nobody else has taken far enough of a step forward for the Rams to be challenged this year. Seattle will be the closest threat but even that seems minor. The real question will be once the postseason rolls around, but the Rams shouldn’t have any problems getting there.

William Frost (@WillFrost_): The Arizona Car.. No, I’m kidding, it’s the LA Rams:

You want to believe in the 49ers? That’s fine, I don’t. The Super-Bowl runners up from a year ago may well suffer a hangover from their devastating loss in Atlanta but the talent level on their team is unparalleled to anybody else in that division. Russell Wilson doesn’t do losing season, but neither does Sean McVay. Whether Gurley is at full-capacity or rookie runner Darnell Henderson takes the balk of the snaps the Rams are primed for another playoff run in 2019. 

Martin McConnell (@Mart_M24): The Los Angeles Rams

Although they very well could suffer from a Super Bowl loss hangover, the Rams are still the most talented team in the NFC West. It should be a close battle for the division crown with the Seattle Seahawks, but under head coach Sean McVay, the Rams should certainly be able to pull ahead.

The 49ers and Cardinals are still at least a year away, and Jared Goff works very well in McVay’s system. I still like LA’s defense even without Ndamukong Suh working with Aaron Donald. Donald may very well be the league’s best player and may have another shot at breaking the single-season sack record this year. Don’t be surprised if the Rams find themselves in the Super Bowl again this season. (But PS… Bears over Chiefs).

Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): The Arizona Cardinals

Ha! Just kidding. The only hope the Cardinals have are that every team forgets that they’re there. My real pick is the Los Angeles Rams. This same team that went to the Super Bowl didn’t really lose much outside of Ndamukong Suh. Expect this same exact team to win the division again because 1. Injured players are coming back healthy, and most importantly 2. Sean McVay is still a very good head coach. I almost put the Seahawks here, but I can’t even name a member of their defense off the top of my head outside of Bobby Wagner. The Legion of Boom is gone, and unless this defense can replicate that production expect the Rams to run away with the division.

Michael Larson (@Larstradamus): The Los Angeles Rams

Larson Fact #4- I have it on very good authority that his mom calls him Mikey and that if you’re mean to him on the internet, you end up on her list. I’m on this list (Hi, Ryan Smith of “the Ryan Smith Debacle” fame) and I don’t know what it means. Mama Larson please tell us, I can’t sleep.

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