Robby Sabo, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Geoff Magliocchetti

Football is finally back and the Philadelphia Eagles are defending champs. Here’s ESNY’s 2018 official NFL preview and predictions.

New York’s greatest nightmare came to fruition on Feb. 4, 2018. A Super Bowl showdown between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles might as well have been a boxing match between Darth Vader and Thanos for the tri-state area, two of its most despised organizations squaring off for athletic supremacy on a national stage.

New York Giants and Jets fans alike watched in horror, their greatest rivals going blow for blow at US Bank Stadium.

The path to redemption officially began 81 days later, a 15-minute span perhaps forever altering the course of National Football League history. Their brutal seasons, a combined eight wins between them making their enemies’ triumphs all the more difficult to bear, allowed their names to come up early in the 2018 NFL Draft, and their team names were soon followed by the prospective saviors many believe will restore their franchises to former glory. Saquon Barkley head his name called by the Giants, Sam Darnold’s following shortly after, thus beginning the youth movement of New York football?

Is it enough? Has the Eagles’ reign of terror only just begun? Is the Patriots dynasty alive and well? Why am I asking you?

Here’s ESNY’s official 2017 NFL season preview and predictions, each of the NFL’s 256 regular season games, plus the 11 playoff games. You’ll have to wait until next season for the handicapping of the 65 preseason games, however …


AFC East

1. New England Patriots (12-4/#1)
2. New York Jets (7-9)
3. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
4. Miami Dolphins (5-11)

New England Patriots

What more did you expect? Until further notice, this division is New England’s to lose.

Hell hath no fury than a Patriots with something to prove, and the latest battalion of doubters emerged the second the clock hit triple zeroes against the Eagles. The road gets off to a tough start, as Julian Edelman will be missing the first of four games on Sunday, part of a PED-related suspension, but any team armed with the duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick should never be counted out, and it’d be foolhardy to believe their reign is coming to a fast end. So.

For all the reports of the Jets’ 0-16 demise last season, New York’s green team actually kept pace in a majority of their games last season, seven of their losses coming by single digits, anchored by young talents. The addition of Darnold won’t be the final piece, as the team still has its share of issues (such as a dormant pass rush), but, for the time being, if a team is primed to take advantage of any sign of New England regression, it’s the Jets.

The Bills managed to end major North American’s sports’ longest playoff drought last season, but don’t expect a streak to begin. The team is already dealing with the heinous LeSean McCoy accusations, and the quarterback is a huge question mark, the team’s irrational belief in Nathan Peterman, and subsequent discomfort with rookie Josh Allen, having the potential to end their season before it truly begins.

For what feels like the 17th consecutive season, it feels like Ryan Tannehill is entering a make-or-break year. He’ll have one less weapon to work with, as Jarvis Landry was dealt to Cleveland.

Tom Brady Bill Belichick
(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Offensive Player to Watch: WR Cordarelle Patterson (NE)

Patterson has flashed potential in multiple areas of the field, but has mostly made his mark as a special teamer. Edelman’s suspension gives him an opportunity to become the latest big receiving emergence in Brady and Belichick’s traveling roadshow.

Defensive Player to Watch: LB Jordan Jenkins (NYJ)

With the Jets desperate for a pass rush, it’ll be interesting to see what Jenkins, who enjoyed a breakout season in the midst of the Jets rebuild, can do for an encore. Either, expect plenty of more Jenkins jerseys at MetLife Stadium this season, and not just Janoris editions.

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