With the NFL preseason nearly complete, teams are beginning to get an idea of how their team could perform in the upcoming season. With rookies developing, suspensions pending, and injuries to deal with, predicting how the new season could unfold is almost impossible, perhaps even bold. Even so, some teams have already made mistakes or the right moves that can place them in fairly favorable or immensely unfavorable positions.
Based on that, here are some bold predictions for the 2018 season:
Jacksonville will not make the playoffs
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been notoriously at the bottom of the barrel since they became a franchise in the early 90s. But last season proved different, when the team took their division over the Titans, securing the third seed in the AFC playoffs. After a stunning upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round, the football world finally started to take notice of the ragtag underdogs. After falling to the New England Patriots in a close matchup a week later, Jags fans had plenty of reason to hold their heads high. But that won’t be the case in 2018.
Beginning with the draft, the Jaguars failed to address vital team needs, drafting two defensive players and a wide receiver in the first three rounds. The team did not address their big hole in the offensive line until round four after more talented lineman had already been taken off the board. This fumble in the draft leaves the Jags returning most of the same starting 22 they had last season, without the prospect of a breakout rookie performance.
The team also chose wrong when giving Blake Bortles a five- year contract, ensuring the quarterback will be at the helm of their offense for the foreseeable future. Bortles underperformed in his first five seasons, and many fans pleaded for the team to trade him prior to last season. But in a contract year Bortles, performed well enough to take the Jags to the conference championship and that earned the Jags another year of mediocre QB play.
Also, the Jags have much more competition within their own division next season as the 4-12 Houston Texans will have star quarterback Deshawn Watson back in action to start the season. With their division on the rise and the Jags inability to play well against poor teams, the Jacksonville favorites will find themselves watching on the couch come postseason.
Prediction: 9-7 (Miss playoffs)
The Browns will beat the Steelers Twice
The Cleveland Browns have unarguably been the worst team in the NFL since the 90s, yes, even below the Jaguars. But the team has rarely shown so much promise, with high expectations, before heading into a new season.
The Browns hit their team needs in the draft. They selected Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield first overall in the draft, and although number 1 overall picks have not particularly panned out for this team in the past, Mayfield could be the exception. Mayfield is either going to shine or bust in his first season, with most experts believing he is not a middle ground quarterback. The Browns have said they do not plan on starting Mayfield, but if so, this team has the potential to ruffle some feathers in their own division.
Other notable draft picks for the Browns were running back Nick Chubb out of Georgia, as well as wideout Antonio Galloway out of Florida. Both are versatile skills players that can take the pressure off of Mayfield as he develops into the quarterback they need him to be.
The Steelers defeated the Browns twice early last season, but by only single-digit margins. In each game, the Browns held a lead at some point but were unable to maintain their momentum for an entire game, with the first game ending in overtime. The Browns and Steelers are hated division rivals and the Steelers, although still a powerhouse, are only getting older. Out of all the games on the calendar, Pittsburgh will be circled twice, and the Browns will be ready.
Prediction: 6-10 (2-0 vs Steelers)
The Bears will go 0-16 in 2018
Yes, it is a rarity that teams in the NFL win no games in a season. But since the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978, its happened twice, and both unfortunate teams to accomplish this did it in the last 15 years. The Chicago Bears went 5-11 last season, finishing last in their division. After a lackluster offseason and worrying doubts about the potential of 2017 draft pick Mitchell Trubisky, Bears fans should set their expectations for the upcoming season fairly low.
On top of that, the Bears have the 8th hardest strength of schedule of all 32 teams in the NFL. With a combined opponent strength of schedule sitting at a daunting .520, the majority of the teams they face won more games than they lost in 2017. Given the Bears are a team who over the last 10 years have lost more than they have won, this sets up a bad season for the storied franchise.
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