Packers in the playoffs, but not for long in this forecast
The NFL off-season is essentially over. All of the big free agents have been signed, the draft picks have been made (and scrutinized) and we have a schedule.
So why not waste our time by predicting all 267 games that will happen during the 2018 NFL season and playoffs? To do this, we used PlayoffPredictors.com, which you can use to pick the games yourself, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.
After picking every game, here are our final regular-season standings and the results we came up with.…
1. Vikings 13-3 2. Packers 12-4 3. Bears 6-10 4. Lions 6-10
Lowdown: A healthy Aaron Rodgers gets the Packers back in playoff contention but Green Bay eventually loses a season-long battle with the Vikings for the NFC North. Meanwhile, competitive Lions and Bears teams fight to avoid last place and end up with identical 6-10 records that don’t accurately represent the talent level on both rosters.
1. Eagles 11-5 2. Cowboys 10-6 3. Giants 7-9 4. Washington 4-12
Lowdown: We’re predicting a bounceback year for the Cowboys, who get off to an early lead in the division while Carson Wentz works his way back to full health. But the defending Super Bowl champs make a late run and steal the East from Dallas in Week 17, knocking Jerry’s ’Boys out of the playoffs.
1. Panthers 11-5 2. Saints 11-5 3. Falcons 9-7 4. Bucs 6-10
Lowdown: For a second consecutive year, the NFC South is the NFL’s most competitive division. The Panthers take the division title based on a tie-breaker over New Orleans. Atlanta just misses out on the playoffs with a 9-7 record. The Bucs disappoint once again.
1. Rams 12-4 2. 49ers 9-7 3. Seahawks 8-8 4. Cardinals 4-12
Lowdown: The Rams make good on the off-season hype, winning 12 games and the division. The 49ers get their first winning record since the Harbaugh days thanks to an improved defense and a full season of Jimmy Garoppolo behind center.
1. Steelers 11-5 2. Ravens 6-10 3. Bengals 6-10 4. Browns 4-12
Lowdown: It’s the Steelers division once again as the Ravens take another step back and the Bengals and Browns fail to pose a threat. Cleveland finally wins a game in Week 3 but ultimately
doesn’t live up to expectations after a busy off-season.
1. Patriots 14-2 2. Dolphins 4-12 3. Jets 3-13 4. Bills 3-13
Lowdown: The Patriots, once again, dominate the division. The three other teams are out of the playoff race by November, which allows New England to lock up home-field advantage fairly early.
1. Jaguars 11-5 2. Titans 9-7 3. Colts 9-7 4. Texans 6-10
Lowdown: Andrew Luck is back healthy but still has some rust to knock off. Same goes for Deshaun Watson, who suffers a sophomore slump. That leaves the Jaguars and Titans to fight for the division once again. Jacksonville’s defense makes the difference, but Tennessee still manages to sneak into the playoffs.
1. Chargers 12-4 2. Chiefs 10-6 3. Raiders 5-11 4. Broncos 4-12
Lowdown: This is the year the Chargers finally put together a full season, and it nets them a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Chiefs also make it back to the postseason thanks to a more explosive offense that carries an inconsistent defense. The Raiders struggle under Jon Gruden in Year 1, but the offense looks much better.
Some observations before we pick the playoffs… ❚ The South divisions are the most competitive in the league, with five games separating first and last place in both the AFC and NFC. ❚ The NFC is the better conference once again. Three NFC teams with winning records miss the playoffs (Cowboys, Falcons, 49ers) while only one AFC team with a winning record (Colts) misses the postseason.
❚ We only get two new playoff teams, with the Chargers and Packers replacing the Bills and Falcons.
❚ The top-five picks in the 2018 NFL draft go to the Bills, Jets, Browns, Redskins and Cardinals.
And now let’s pick a Super Bowl champ…
❚ Panthers beat Packers ❚ Saints beat Eagles ❚ Jaguars beat Titans ❚ Steelers beat Chiefs
Lowdown: We get one major upset on the first weekend: Drew Brees and the Saints outgun Carson Wentz and the Eagles in Philadelphia, sending the de- fending champs home early. Carolina marches on after Cam Newton tears up the Packers defense. In the AFC, Jacksonville blows out the Titans and the Steelers take advantage of two Patrick Mahomes interceptions and advance.
❚ Rams beat Panthers ❚ Vikings beat Saints ❚ Chargers beat Jaguars ❚ Patriots beat Steelers
Lowdown: No upsets here. The Vikings beat New Orleans for second straight year, and don’t need a miracle this time thanks to Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook. The Rams’ pass rush proves to be too much for Newton to overcome. Tom Brady continues to terrorize the Steelers defense. And Philip Rivers dissects the Jags defense while Blake Bortles struggles.
❚ Vikings beat Rams ❚ Patriots beat Chargers
Lowdown: The home teams win again. Mike Zimmer out-schemes Sean McVay in a fascinating chess match. On the other side, Anthony Lynn is no match for Bill Belichick, who makes his third consecutive Super Bowl.
Super Bowl LIII
Lowdown: With two weeks to prepare for Zimmer’s defense, the Patriots put up 30 points. Bill Belichick allows Cook to run wild but Cousins plays a terrible game, throwing three INTs. It’s another great gameplan from the Patriots coach. New England wins as Belichick and Brady collect their sixth rings.
❚ Patriots 30, Vikings 16
WR Adam Thielen (left) and the Vikings may win the NFC North, instead of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Bill Belichick (right) and the New England Patriots are projected to win Super Bowl LIII.