The 100th NFL season opens Thursday with a meeting between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, two NFC North rivals. For the next five months, football will consume us.
As a member of The Citizen's award-winning football podcast, I wanted to expand on my predictions you will hear on our season preview episode.
Here is my NFL 2019 season preview:
AFC East: New England Patriots 11-5, Buffalo Bills 10-6, New York Jets 8-8, Miami Dolphins 3-13
Patriots will win the division, but this team has its flaws. The Bills will get to double-digit wins for the first time since 1999. The Jets are on the upswing, but there are still questions on defense. The Dolphins are tanking.
AFC North: Cleveland Browns 11-5, Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7, Baltimore Ravens 9-7, Cincinnati Bengals 6-10
A lot of hype surrounding the Browns, and they should live up to it. Defense must improve for that happen. Ravens and Steelers will battle it out for second in the division, but both teams lost key pieces. Bengals are the caboose on this competitive train.
AFC South: Houston Texans 12-4, Tennessee Titans 9-7, Jacksonville Jaguars 7-9, Indianapolis Colts 5-11
Texans could be a force in the AFC this season. Titans should be OK and the Jaguars will be better than last year, but I'm not certain Nick Foles will be the answer to their quarterback problem. Speaking of QB issues, the Colts will struggle after Andrew Luck's retirement.
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs 13-3, Los Angeles Chargers 11-5, Oakland Raiders 7-9, Denver Broncos 6-10
Chiefs will be good again. Chargers may take a step back and will miss Melvin Gordon, but have enough there to compete in the AFC West. Raiders and Broncos have some work to do to catch top two teams in division.
AFC playoff teams: Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers (wild card), Buffalo Bills (wild card)
AFC Championship game: Kansas City Chiefs over New England Patriots
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles 12-4, Dallas Cowboys 9-7, Washington 7-9, New York Giants 6-10
Eagles should dominate the division. Washington and the Giants are either rebuilding or getting ready to rebuild. Cowboys have tools to win, but could disappoint in 2019.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers 11-5, Chicago Bears 10-6, Minnesota Vikings 9-7, Detroit Lions 7-9
This will be the most competitive division in the NFL this season. The Packers should get back on track with a new coach and a fresh scheme for Aaron Rodgers. Bears will take a small step back this season, but should be good enough to make the playoffs. Vikings will continue to compete. Lions need to fill gaps to compete in this division.
NFC South: New Orleans Saints 12-4, Atlanta Falcons 10-6, Carolina Panthers 8-8, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-11
Saints still have the pieces to be successful. Falcons should put up a good fight with a high-powered offensive attack. Panthers will be the biggest disappointment here. Bruce Arians will figure out what he needs to make the Bucs a contender. (Won't be this year, though.)
NFC West: Los Angeles Rams 11-5, Seattle Seahawks 11-5, San Francisco 49ers 8-8, Arizona Cardinals 6-10
The Rams won't have it easy in the NFC West this season. Seahawks should contend and the 49ers will create problems for opposing teams. Cardinals, with Kyler Murray at QB, should be better. But Arizona is a work in progress.
NFC playoff teams: New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks (wild card), Chicago Bears (Bears will beat out the Falcons for a wild card spot)
NFC Championship game: New Orleans Saints over Philadelphia Eagles
Most valuable player: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns. With the players around him, he should have a big year and lead the Browns to the playoffs. If he checks those boxes, he will be a prime MVP candidate.
Coach of the year: Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills. If he leads the Bills to 10 wins, he should be a lock for this award. The Bills haven't won at least 10 games in 20 years. He's been a big reason why there has been a change in the Bills' culture.
Offensive player of the year: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints. With Mark Ingram in Baltimore, it will be Kamara's show in the Big Easy. He's been one of the league's top running backs for a while. He should be even better as the clear feature back in 2019.
Defensive player of the year: Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears. It's hard to imagine Aaron Donald not winning this award, but Mack should have another big year. He should post 15-20 sacks this year.
Offensive rookie of the year: Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders. Jon Gruden has a good one here. Jacobs should be a difference-maker for the Raiders and shine as the league's top rookie in 2019.
Defensive rookie of the year: Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bills. He's going to be a problem in the AFC East this season. He can stuff the run and rush the passer. He should have a big year.
Comeback player of the year: Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers will be happy to have Garoppolo back. He's capable of being a franchise quarterback for the Niners. He should bounce back from tearing his ACL and have a great season in the Bay Area. He will help San Francisco compete in the NFC West.
SUPER BOWL LIV
Prediction: New Orleans Saints 34, Kansas City Chiefs 31
Call it the "Drew Brees Retirement Game." Brees will go out a winner as the Saints win Super Bowl LIV. Saints will redeem themselves after the blown call against the Rams. The Saints have had teams good enough to win the Super Bowl each of the last three seasons. As the saying goes, the third time is the charm.
Super Bowl MVP pick: Drew Brees.
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