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2018 NFL Picks And Predictions

Despite a woeful knockout early in the '17 playoffs, the L.A. Rams should return to the Super Bowl hunt.

The NFL has taken a helluva beating the last two years. For decades it was blue skies and nothing but up. That has changed. Adversity has gathered like an angry mob, with its torches and sharpened tools, pounding and howling at the gate. We all know why they’re there. Meanwhile, ownership strolls along, trying to keep its eyes on the field. We shall dutifully do the same.

NFC EAST

Philadelphia – Highly appraised defense torn to ribbons in the title game, a performance fitting of a blowout loss. Pass rush went MIA. Most yards allowed in Super Bowl history. Oh, well. Birds won anyway. Vets Ngata and Bennett imported as a moral vitamin. Overachieving offense (3rd in scoring) takes a step back this year; too much went their way, dodging the law of averages. Fast ’18 start crucial, as the schedule turns vicious from October on. 9-7

NY Giants – Lotsa, lotsa hype in New York…Look out, world, the Giants are back! New coaching crew plus Saquan Barkley can do that. Despite refueled offense, QB Manning drying up; stat-wise, ’17 was his worst ever. At 37, the gun ain’t always there. New DC Bettcher gives all the right cliches but where’s the pass rush? Psychology watch: Will Beckham gear it down, now that he’s the world’s richest receiver, ego properly fed? 8-8

Dallas – Disciplined, old-style ground game allowed QB Prescott to mature smoothly. Now? With new, faceless receiving corps, teams will “pretty-please” him to throw. Loss of TE Witten devastating… for now. Defense average enough to save them one week, get murdered the next. 7-9

Washington – I read in some preseason publication that they’re a 7-9 club, destined for third in the crowded East. Hmmmm. Based on my fancy model, ‘Skins should be favored in only three of 16 games. New QB/OC combo (Alex Smith/Matt Cavanaugh) doesn’t quicken the pulse. Not enough killers on defense. 5-11

NFC NORTH

Minnesota – Best personnel in division keeps them on top. Entire gang returns on defense ( No. 1 in yards, point allowed). Big $$ QB Cousins had to do it all himself in Washington. Based on surrounding firepower on this team, we’ll learn how good he really is. 11-5

Green Bay – I look at this club and see the Shula Dolphins of the late ’80s, with their dead running and fishnet defense and Marino gunning it 100 times each week trying to keep it close. In GB, the setup looks the same. Pack management lauded for blowing up a defense that ranked 31st in the red zone. Who wouldn’t? Once again, who are the RBs? Fans cheering the arrival of TE Graham, but they remember too much of his New Orleans days when he could wreck the game downfield; now he’s a possession guy. Still, the favorable schedule allows the wonderful Rogers to keep it afloat for another year. 10-6

Chicago – One of the 2018 surprises. Defense gets a severe boost in Khalil Mack trade, giving unit first superstar since days of Brian Urlacher. LB corps is suddenly serious business. QB Trubisky was thrown into it last year as a rookie, little around him, but didn’t fold. Bears lost every division game in ’17; that ain’t happening this year. 8-8

DetroitLions fire head coach after winning season. When was the last time anyone read those words in a sentence? Jim Caldwell went 9-7 last year and brass canned him for missing the playoffs. Big expectations in Detroit, you know. The crummy defense was what done him in. Lions went for “D” in head coach in Matt Patricia, who handled that side in New England for five years; he never finished worse than 10th in points allowed. Meanwhile, QB Stafford enters his tenth season, mumbling Does it ever get any better? 6-10

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta – Best talent in the division…or conference… yet again. The defense did its job last year (19.7 ppg), but the offense went ka-blooey in scoring range. Julio Jones too much of a decoy was the steady offseason chatter. Falcons will get that straightened out or OC Sarkisian is headed back to the colleges. If rookie Cal Ridley gives them anything, this will again be top receiving corps in the NFC. Overall, a Super Bowl-grade contender. 11-5

Carolina – Lotta people predicting a big dropoff from ’17. I don’t see it. QB Newton still in the prime of career. RBs far from frightening but somehow run game finds its yards. A defense full of mean people, although pass coverage was a big headache last season. Rookie CB Donte Jackson sharp enough to crack the lineup, but starting FS Mike Adams turned 37. Will likely be a headache again. 10-6

New Orleans – Overachiever last year, by industry standards. Brees kept things tight at QB, while the run game tied for league-best 4.7 ypc. Exactly what a 39-year old QB is looking for. Saints think they found a Richard Dent clone in rookie DE Marcus Davenport. A destroyer. Extreme speed. Severe eruption off the edge. Teams will run right at him but god-forbid the things that could happen on third-and-long. 10-6

Tampa Bay – The Jameis Winston thing is flopping. I remember seeing his first game ever at Florida State, carving up Pitt from the gun, something like 23-straight completions. One after another. Bang! Bang! Lord, this is a freshman. A prodigy! As a pro, the numbers have been there, the accuracy and the gun and the touch, but it’s just been too weird. Complications from off-field antics. Now he’s suspended for three games, groping on an Uber. Just more of the nonsense that has followed Winston around like a ghost. Poor Bucs. They laid a big down payment on him. They took a chance. The returns have been shaky. 5-11

NFC WEST

Los Angeles – Things were cruising along for the Rams late last season. They stood a firm 11-5, their best record since 2003, since the high-flying days of Faulk and Bruce and the “Greatest Show.” Then, in the wildcard round, a veteran Falcons club delivered one to the gut and one to the jaw and L.A. hit the mat for good. 13-points of offense for the number-one scoring team in football. The Coliseum crowd emptied like a clogged drain. Expectations are still high. They’ve added muscle to the defensive core (Suh, Talib, Peters). The Special teams are tip-top. Goff and Gurley commanding the offense. There’s still plenty of upside. 10-6

San Francisco – Garoppolo fever. All kinds of wonderful things expected. We’ll see. RBs as faceless as they come. Defense, wrecked by injuries a year ago. could be rugged. On the right road again. 7-9

Seattle – Carroll hasn’t been able to reload since Super Bowl run of 2012-16. Too many key people exiting. Roster thinning. Happens to the best of ’em. 6-10

Arizona – Cards open with Sam Bradford at QB and a nice run game behind him. Receiving corp not what it was; Larry Fitzgerald now in year 15. The defense held up last season, but three of four top tacklers have exited. 5-11

NFC TITLE PREDICTION

Falcons over Rams

AFC EAST

New England – We’ve been picking them here since when, 2002? I’m sorry, but I don’t like this roster. It’s the flimsiest I can recall during Brady/Belichick. Lotsa people who couldn’t start for other teams. What happened to them defensively in the Super Bowl was an embarrassment. RBs and WRs, all elevated by Brady. Give him the Jets’ people and he’d do the same thing. Schedule, however, does play beautifully in their favor. Why don’t you try finding six losses in there? 11-5

Miami – I never understood why ownership gave Mike Tannenbaum the wheel down there, control of all things football. From the team website: “He works together with General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Adam Gase and other senior executives in implementing the philosophy of building a championship caliber football team.” Great. Mission-statement football. In New York, I saw several of his teams reach the playoffs but never got the feeling the Jets were a crisply run, high-detail operation. Always some kind of hand-wringing or consternation or wackiness under his watch. Mr. T’s year four in Miami, and the roster continues to erode. 8-8

Buffalo – Lousy QB situation buries them. Nate Peterman backed by Josh Allen, the Wyoming rookie. Lotsa punting. The defense will be onfield forever, but somehow, in an ugly way, keep them hanging around near the two-minute warning. 7-9

NY Jets – Plenty of luscious cap space, $90M of it…but not until next year. 5-11

AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh – Offense all-galaxy, defense folds when you need ’em. Everyone pointed to the loss of LB Shazier as the cause, but DL more suspect then people want to believe. Bell one of the beautiful “style” backs in history…when he’s not holding out or suspended. One of the most complex rosters in NFL, but hasn’t owned the killer instinct in years. 11-5

Baltimore – Baltimore went all offense in the draft, recharging club that shockingly scored on par with vaunted Steelers last season (395 pts vs. 406). QB Flacco wearing out his welcome, however, a team hasn’t won playoff since ’14. The defense can bring the heat, posting three shutouts last season. Can also get blown out. 10-6

Cincinnati -Drafts haven’t been productive. QB Dalton hasn’t progressed enough to elevate things. After a five-year run of playoffs, things have gotten very stale again. 6-10

Cleveland – Vegas came out with a highly curious 5.5 on the over/under win total. What do these shadowy operatives, know? An opening 1-2 punch of Steelers, Saints starts them at 0-2. Then it’s up to shaky Tyrod Taylor to straighten out an offense that averaged 14.6 ppg in ’17. Good luck. Top rookie Baker Mayfield waits in the green room. 4-12

AFC SOUTH

Jacksonville – A default pick. King of the South until they’re not. Defense wonderful last year, except for Pittsburgh playoff, when offense made the shocking rescue. Speaking of offense, QB Bortles still under a severe microscope; he cannot get the ball downfield. At times Jag offense looks like a basketball team running inbounds plays. Again, king until they’re not. 10-6

Houston – Cursed by injuries. Impossible to get a steady read as stars are never healthy. We’ll try again with QB Watson, who was on fire until knee came apart. DE Watt overrated; Clowney isn’t. 10-6

Tennessee – Head coach loyalty to OC cost Mularkey his job, despite a 9-7 year and playoff win. Not sure how the team will bounce back. Minimal picks in the draft, so the team went heavy on the pass rush (Evans, Landry). QB Marcus Mariota is better than I thought he’d be. Receiving corp remains a weakness. Overall the foundation is good. 9-7

Indianapolis – Still wounded from disastrous Grigson term at GM. Should trade QB Luck if they can secure a boatload. 5-11

AFC WEST

L.A. Chargers – That 9-3 finish last season has the world doing summersaults about ’18. Man oh man, haven’t we seen this movie before? One of the great underachieving clubs in history. Plenty of defense secured in the draft (six rookies made it). Still, I can close my eyes and see Chargers driving, thirsting for a win, then Rivers fumbles the snap at the 19. 10-6

Kansas City – Defense has fallen to pieces, with several serious faces exiting. with seven rookies now on hand, there is much riding on new QB Mahomes and super cannon reputation. Coaching, however, has been good in this kind of situation. 10-6

Oakland – Immense roster turnover from ’17, including superstud Mack, who’s now a Bear. Raiders have Carr at QB; Broncs have Keenum. That’s only reason Raiders get the nod here. 6-10

Denver – Very shaky coaching. Without a miracle, HC Joseph likely kaput. Linebacking still carries the team; last year it carried them to five wins. Best scenario would be to work a trade for Indy’s Luck…or fall to the top of the draft and see which collegians look enticing. 6-10

AFC TITLE PREDICTION

Steelers over Patriots

SUPER BOWL LIII

Falcons over Steelers

Tom Danyluk joins SportsGamblingPodcast after nine years as a columnist for Pro Football Weekly. His is also the author of three books on pro football. His latest, None Yards: 30 Years of John Madden in the Broadcast Booth, is available at Amazon.com through this link: https://www.amazon.com/None-Yards-Years-Madden-Broadcast-ebook/dp/B07DRXR7TH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"For day-in, day-out football writing, I think the most knowledgeable person covering the game is Tom Danyluk." -Paul Zimmerman, SI.com (5/17/2007) Tom has been a pro football writer for over 30 years, starting at The Pitt News - the University of Pittsburgh's student newspaper - where he won the schools' first Outstanding Sports Columnist Award. He has been a member of the Pro Football Writers Assocation since 1987. Tom joined Pro Football Weekly in 2004, where he was a feature columnist through 2013. At Pro Football Weekly, he won several PFWA writing awards, including "Best Column," the most coveted of the awards (2009). This is his first season with SportsGamblingPodcast.com. Tom's first book, The Super '70s, was published in 2005. "The Lost Super Bowls" was published in July of 2016. None Yards! 30 Years of John Madden in the Broadcast Booth is his latest effort.

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