2018 NFL Football Preview
The National Football League has always dealt with controversy, but things feel even more on edge than usual these days. Be it with the drama surrounding the national anthem or properly defining a tackle, every week seems to introduce a new debate. Thankfully, one thing that everyone can agree on is that Super Bowl LIII will take place in Atlanta on February 3, 2019. The hometown Atlanta Falcons have the talent to be the first team to ever play a "home" finale, and INsite believes they'll pull it off. As for the debate over who they'll play once they get there, well, that'll be an ongoing discussion throughout the season in New England, Pittsburgh and Houston.
Having $5 craft beers inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the NFL's first player to average $30 million per season (Matt Ryan) are great, but if the Falcons are to cash in on the talented roster, they have to be money in September, where three of the first four opponents made the playoffs a season ago.
We know the Vikings' defense is a machine (allowed just 83.6 rushing yards/game), but it's the shiny new offensive parts (free agent Kirk Cousins, a healthy Dalvin Cook) that could put things into an even higher gear.
3. L.A. Rams
We understand your drooling over the Rams offense (Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks). But our jaws are still dropped over the fact that Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are all now on the same defense.
Nick Foles' improbable Super Bowl charge was phenomenal. But if the Eagles are to have realistic thoughts about a repeat, they're going to need its best quarterback option, Carson Wentz, to come back strong from his ACL injury.
5. New Orleans
If there's anyone who can help the Saints shake off the heartbreaking Minnesota postseason loss, it's the old guy who everyone loves (39-year-old QB Drew Brees) and the kid no one can stop gushing over (23-year-old RB Alvin Kamara).
6. Green Bay
The Packers haven't been to the Super Bowl since 2010. To even hint at a return to the big game this year, they'll need the defensive line to be good and the Aaron Rodgers' collarbone to be great.
7. San Francisco
We don't think Super Bowl parades need to be scheduled just yet, but with interesting talents at QB (Jimmy Garoppolo), RB (Jerick McKinnon) and DB (Richard Sherman), things have certainly gotten interesting around the bay.
While the Legion of Boom days may be over, the Seahawks still have serious talent on D (Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner). Oh, and we still give QB Russell Wilson an "A" for his improvisational skills during broken plays.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will score some points, but we just don't know if All-Pro lineman Sean Lee is enough to stop the rest of the NFC East from getting even more most weeks.
10. NY Giants
With a rejuvenated Eli Manning, rehabbed Odell Beckham and remarkable Saquan Barkley in the fold, the G-Men should have no problem getting fans to forget about last year's ridiculous 3-13Â performance.
Pairing offensive wiz Norv Turner with the talented Cam Newton is scary but seeing linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson coming across the line at the same time should have opposing QBs quaking in their shorts.
12. Tampa Bay
When franchise QB Jameis Winston comes back from his three-game suspension in Week 4, the Bucs hope he's not only matured some but that his team hasn't already fallen out of the competitive NFC South race.
David Johnson is coming back from a devastating wrist injury. Sam Bradford is coming back from a left knee injury. Larry Fitzgerald, almost 35, is simply coming back for another season of sensational slot receiving.
It's a good thing that Matthew Stafford still has one of the league's strongest arms because the team is going to need him to pull the lethargic offense for much of this season.
Until Alex Smith figures out how to get the ball downfield with consistency, it won't matter if he's tossing the ball in D.C., K.C. or the Cayman Islands â his team won't go anywhere.
If Mitchell Trubisky is as good as the Bears front office will have you believe he is, the young signal caller might be able to temporarily mask the fact that the Chicago offense (29th in total points) is a complete farce.
Atlanta over the L.A. Rams, 31-24
Future star Deshaun Watson is back, so scoring issues are remedied. And if J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney can stay out the trainer's room, they'll have zero concerns on defense, too.
Folks talk about the Steelers' offense (Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown) for obvious reasons, but it may end up being the nasty defense (NFL leader in sacks last year) that guides the team to its first Super Bowl since the 2011.
3. New England
It doesn't appear that Father Time (41-year-old Tom Brady), internal bickering (alleged beef between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick), suspensions (Julian Edelman), retirements (Eric Decker) or your favorite team's weak secondary will stop the Patriots any time soon.
If we had even half the confidence in QB Blake Bortles that we do in Jalen Ramsey and the Jags' secondary (NFL-topping 169.9 passing yards in '17), these cats would be purring even higher up this poll.
While there's excitement from all the folks (head coach Jon Gruden, WR Jordy Nelson) joining the organization, nothing can hide the fact that the team is still moving to Vegas in the next 12-24 months.
We don't know how long it's going to take for Case Keenum and Demaryius Thomas to get on the same page with routes, but we do know that it's taking opposing teams forever to come up with an offensive playbook that standout CB Chris Harris doesn't know cover to cover.
7. Kansas City
It's amazing that the Chiefs can have so many weapons (Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce) yet still come up shooting blanks when it counts (one postseason win in the 2000s).
8. L.A. Chargers
With an ever-consistent QB (Philip Rivers), an electric tailback (Melvin Gordon) and a newly engaged defense, these Chargers should entertain serious playoff talk this campaign.
When you look at all the young studs (Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett) and proven talents (Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde) on the Browns roster these days, you have to at least take a sip of the Kool-Aid, don't you?
If the Bengals are to return to the postseason for the first time since 2015, they need QB Andy Dalton to forget about his 2017 performance (just one 300-yard passing game) and A.J. Green to forget most of his (only three 100-yard receiving games).
The Ravens will always make their biggest impact stopping the other team from scoring. Yet with the likes of versatile rookie QB Lamar Jackson and veteran WR Michael Crabtree joining the offense, times could be changing.
Marcus Mariota's third-year troubles (passing TDs and yards went down while interceptions soared) were real, but he's got the smarts, wheels and arm for a fourth-year flourishing.
Scouts don't just call Bills first-round pick Josh Allen Cam Newton 2.0 for his strong arm and speedy legs. As you may have noticed during his shaky preseason, Allen has the veteran QB's knack for inaccurate tosses, too.
Though the Dolphins don't have much to look at on the defensive side (they gave up 24.6 points a game, fourth-worst in the NFL last season), big-play running back Kenyan Drake will be must-see TV.
15. New York Jets
Sam Darnold has people excited about the future. But as of right now, so-so names like Morris Claiborne, Isaiah Crowell and Robby Anderson personify mediocrity for the J-ehhhh-ts.
Since the start of the 2015 season, Andrew Luck has played in just 22 games. It sucks that the franchise's welcome-back committee consists of just one co-star (T.Y. Hilton) and a host of supporting cast members (Marlon Mack, Jack Doyle, MalikÂ Hooker).
Houston over Pittsburgh, 41-31
Super Bowl LIII:
Atlanta over Houston, 27-17