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With many storylines hyping of players and teams league-wide, the constants continue to operate quietly. Remain suspicious in the NFL for 2019.

Robby Sabo

It’s everywhere. It’s overwhelming. It’s absolutely absurd. The talking points surrounding some of the so-called “up-and-coming” players and teams in the National Football League are nearly too much to take.

With Odell Beckham Jr. firmly in tow, many pundits already have the Cleveland Browns in the tournament. As the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, folks have already pegged Kyler Murray as the top rookie. And, of course, every playoff team from a season ago is expected to take that “next step.”

Remain extremely suspicious of the hype.

Travel back to previews prior to the 2018 campaign. You may not even remember some of the storylines heading in, yet the world always forgets to gauge future success based on the past few seasons rather than a lone calendar year.

AFC East

New England Patriots

  1. New England Patriots (12-4)
  2. New York Jets (9-7)
  3. Buffalo Bills (7-9)
  4. Miami Dolphins (4-12)

Anybody who picks against the New England Patriots winning the AFC East in 2019 needs to dial Rodney Dangerfield’s personal doctor immediately. The dominance is so obscene it’s not even worth a discussion. With Antonio Brown now employed, Tom Brady’s offense looks scarier. Hey, at the very least (if he doesn’t work out), a suspension will block him from joining another team in the Pats way.

The New York Jets finally make it back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season. The first-year head coach season works like a charm again as Adam Gase’s nine wins sneak them in as the No. 6 seed. From a Bill Parcells nine-win year in 1997, an Al Groh nine-win season in 2000, a Herm Edwards 10-win campaign (with playoffs) in 2001, an Eric Mangini 10-win playoff season in 2006, a Rex Ryan nine-win playoff season in 2009 and a Todd Bowles 10-win year in 2015, the Jets first-year head coach good times roll forward.

AFC North

PIttsburgh Steelers

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
  3. Cleveland Browns (8-8)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)

Be aware of the hype. The Cleveland Browns will be improved, but they’re not yet ready for primetime. Big fantasy names such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Nick Chubb can get a team only so far. After losing Kevin Zeitler on an already suspect offensive line and Jabrill Peppers in the secondary, key pieces of the structure are now gone.

Lamar Jackson will miss significant time in 2019. It’s just the life of a running quarterback in the league. It does not work, as we’ve witnessed time and time again. Still, Baltimore’s defense and the roster is talented enough to muster nine wins, eventually losing out the Jets for the second wild-card via head-to-head tiebreaker.

The mark of a true NFL organization is when they let star power walk prior to its decline. No Le’Veon Bell and no Antonio Brown matter very little in the grand scheme of building a 53-man roster under the unforgiving salary cap.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5)
  2. Houston Texans (10-6)
  3. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
  4. Tennessee Titans (6-10)

Folks have already forgotten the Jacksonville Jaguars run to the AFC title game two years ago … with Blake Bortles. Edge rookie Josh Allen is already scary one, making this defense filthy on paper. With one of the best offensive lines in football and Nick Foles behind center, the Jags are a 2019 powerhouse.

As great as Indy’s O-line and defense may be, Jacoby Brissett isn’t ready for primetime. A talented roster will finish .500 while the Houston Texans capture the No. 5 seed.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
  2. Denver Broncos (7-9)
  3. Los Angeles Chargers (6-10)
  4. Oakland Raiders (3-13)

The Los Angeles Chargers are in for a rough season. The injury to Derwin James is beyond crucial (it changes the entire defense), as are other nagging injuries upfront and elsewhere.

Joe Flacco will enjoy a solid comeback season with the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders won’t move forward at all.

While Patrick Mahomes will experience a rougher go at it in 2019, the Kansas City Chiefs are too talented to fall out of the playoffs.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
  2. New York Giants (9-7)
  3. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
  4. Washington Redskins (3-13)

The Dallas Cowboys finishing 8-8 is nothing other than a culture problem. Ezekiel Elliott may capture another rushing title (with a serious O-line and Jason Witten back, serving as a sixth lineman), but Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper won’t enjoy the same success they sprung on the league late last year. Prescott just isn’t a big-time NFL quarterback. A great defense will be let down by pocket passing, the area that wins in the league today.

The New York Giants will surprise the world with a nine-win campaign, proving Dave Gettleman’s past Super Bowl experience is legitimate.

Carson Wentz, as long as he remains healthy, will be in the MVP discussion at season’s end.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings

  1. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
  2. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
  3. Chicago Bears (7-9)
  4. Detroit Lions (6-10)

The only matter that needed attending to this offseason was the offensive line, and the Minnesota Vikings accomplished that with Garrett Bradbury in the draft. While Kirk Cousins comes with many questions for January (and as a salary-cap net-negative), he’s plenty competent enough over 16 games.

Aaron Rodgers reminds the world why he’s still the most talented arm in the league, helping guide a much better defense to the playoffs. And speaking of dropoffs like the Chargers, Matt Nagy will quickly realize Mitchell Trubisky was a product of the passing inflation so many of these young quarterbacks enjoy.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints

  1. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
  2. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
  3. Carolina Panthers (6-10)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

The three teams that won’t slide much in 2019 will be the Pats, Chiefs and Drew Brees’s New Orleans Saints. There’s just too much talent on the field and sprinkled throughout the coaching staff.

Bruce Arians, while a tremendous offensive mind, just won’t get it done with Jameis Winston. Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons will make a solid surge, but come up short in the end.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks

  1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
  2. San Francisco 49ers (10-6)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (8-8)
  4. Arizona Cardinals (4-12)

From two Los Angeles playoff teams in 2018 to none in 2019. Despite the talent level, the Super Bowl hangover strikes the Los Angeles Rams. Jared Goff comes with serious questions that his talent won’t be able to answer and Todd Gurley’s health is a concern. Plus, that offensive line, mainly Andrew Whitworth, the man who turned it all around for the better a couple of seasons ago, is aging.

Russell Wilson puts together his most brilliant NFL season while leading the Seattle Seahawks to 12 wins. The San Fransico 49ers turn out as the most shocking squad of the season.

NFL Playoffs

AFC

Wild Card Weekend

  • No. 6 Jets defeat No. 3 Jaguars, 26-20
  • No. 4 Pittsburgh Steelers defeat No. 5 Houston Texans, 20-10

Adam Gase shocks Doug Marrone’s talented Jags team as Sam Darnold reminds us of a younger Andrew Luck doing damage in the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers use home-field to knock off the Houston Texans, who struggle offensively.

Divisional Weekend

  • No. 1 Chiefs defeat No. 6 Jets, 34-24
  • No. 4 Steelers defeat No. 2 Patriots, 31-27

The Jets just don’t have the offensive line or pass rush to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City. Antonio Brown’s week prior to facing his former team serves as very non-Bill Belichick-like. For once, the Pats culture takes a hit and it showcases itself on the field. Plus, Dante Scarnechhia’s offensive line looks mortal for the first time in what seems forever.

AFC Championship Game

  • No. 1 Chiefs defeat No. 4 Steelers, 38-20

Finally, Andy Reid makes it back to the Super Bowl and Chiefs fans rejoice.

NFC

Wild Card Weekend

  • No. 6 Packers defeat No. 3 Vikings, 30-23
  • No. 4 Eagles defeat No. 5 49ers, 21-10

Aaron Rodgers won’t be denied in Minnesota as Kirk Cousins suffers through a horrid performance. The Eagles handle the upstart 49ers in Philadelphia.

Divisional Weekend

  • No. 6 Packers defeat No. 1 Saints, 26-24
  • No. 4 Eagles defeat No. 2 Seahawks, 17-14

Amazingly, both road squads pull off the upset. The Sean Payton rough times continue in January while Russell Wilson’s squad get beat by Carson Wentz and a dynamic Miles Sanders in a classic.

NFC Championship Game

  • No. 4 Eagles defeat No. 6 Packers, 27-20

Philadelphia takes advantage of homefield as a No. 4 seed and returns to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl 54

  • No. 4 Eagles defeat No. 1 Chiefs, 34-27

In a matchup of the master and the student, the latter comes out on top. Doug Pederson incredibly comes away with his second Super Bowl ring while he denies Andy Reid. What wins in the NFL is excellent offensive line play and four-man conventional pass rushes, both of which the Eagles employ in droves. Of course, Carson Wentz playing like a stud and Miles Sanders establishing himself as one of the NFL’s most exciting players won’t hurt either.

NFL Awards

  • NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  • Offensive POY: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
  • Defensive POY: Jamal Adams, Jets
  • Offensive ROY: Miles Sanders, Eagles
  • Defensive ROY: Josh Allen, Jaguars
  • Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan, 49ers
  • Comeback POY: Carson Wentz, Eagles

Staff Picks

Geoff Magliocchetti, Jets Columnist

AFC East Champ: Patriots (12-4)
AFC North Champ: Browns (10-6)
AFC South Champ: Texans (11-5)
AFC West Champ: Chiefs (12-4)
AFC Wild Card 1: Chargers (12-4)
AFC Wild Card 2: Steelers (10-6)

NFC East Champ: Eagles (10-6)
NFC North Champ: Bears (11-5)
NFC South Champ: Saints (12-4)
NFC West Champ: Rams (10-6)
NFC Wild Card 1: Cowboys (10-6)
NFC Wild Card 2: Packers (9-7)

AFC Divisional Round Teams: Chiefs, Chargers, Patriots, Steelers
NFC Divisional Round Teams: Saints, Packers, Bears, Eagles
AFC Championship Game: Patriots over Chargers
NFC Championship Game: Saints over Eagles
Super Bowl: Patriots over Saints

NFL MVP: Phillip Rivers
Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees
Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Josh Jacobs
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Quinnen Williams
Coach of the Year: Anthony Lynn

Kyle Newman, Jets Staff Writer

AFC East Champ: Patriots (12-4)
AFC North Champ: Browns (11-5)
AFC South Champ: Jaguars (9-7)
AFC West Champ: Chargers (12-4)
AFC Wild Card 1: Chiefs (11-5)
AFC Wild Card 2: Ravens (10-6)

NFC East Champ: Cowboys (11-5)
NFC North Champ: Bears (11-5)
NFC South Champ: Saints (14-2)
NFC West Champ: Rams (12-4)
NFC Wild Card 1: Eagles (10-6)
NFC Wild Card 2: Falcons (9-7)

AFC Divisional Round Teams: Patriots, Chargers, Ravens, Chiefs
NFC Divisional Round Teams: Rams, Saints, Bears, Falcons
AFC Championship Game: Chargers defeats Patriots
NFC Championship Game: Saints defeats Rams
Super Bowl: Saints defeat Chargers

NFL MVP: Drew Brees
Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Deebo Samuel
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Josh Allen
Coach of the Year: Freddie Kitchens

The Saints are primed for a big year in the NFC. Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and a young improving defense are primed to make the Saints a real contender. Pair that with a mostly easy schedule and the Saints are going to sit pretty at the top of the NFC come playoff. When it comes down to it, in a rematch of last year’s matchup the Saints get their revenge. All of this behind the strength of NFL MVP Drew Brees who is looking to end his NFL career in a blaze of glory.

In the AFC, the Pats and Chargers will be neck and neck at the top. The Jets will be in the thick of the Wild Card race at the end of the season, but just miss out. Two other second-year quarterbacks get to the playoffs though, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield. Yes, the Browns make the playoffs. It’s short-lived, though, as they get dropped by the Ravens in their first game. At the end of the day though, the Chargers get to host the AFC title game and best Tom Brady’s Patriots in a close game.

Come to the end of the year, Brees will be holding up the Lombardi trophy and the Saints will be on top. The Chargers are going to give them a fight, but fall just short after a last possession TD Drive by the NFL MVP.

Rob Lepelstat, ESNY Personality

AFC East Champ: New England Patriots (12-4)
AFC North Champ: Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
AFC South Champ: Houston Texans (9-7)
AFC West Champ: Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
AFC Wild Card 1: LA Chargers (10-6)
AFC Wild Card 2: Cleveland Browns HERE (9-7)

NFC East Champ: Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
NFC North Champ: Packers (11-5)
NFC South Champ: Saints HERE (10-6)
NFC West Champ: Seahawks HERE (11-5)
NFC Wild Card 1: Bears (10-6)
NFC Wild Card 2: Rams (10-6)

AFC Divisional Round Teams: Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, Chargers
NFC Divisional Round Teams: Packers, Saints, Rams, Seahawks
AFC Championship Game: Patriots over Chiefs
NFC Championship Game: Saints over Seahawks
Super Bowl: Patriots defeat Saints

NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive Player of the Year: Saquon Barkley
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Daniel Jones
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Quinnen Williams
Coach of the Year: Freddie Kitchens

I learned a life lesson a long time ago. Never bet against the New England Patriots. I’m rolling with the all-time GOAT Brady and all-time GOAT coach Bill Belichick. Mr. Defying Time and the Evil Genius head coach as his sidekick. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s no proverbial Brady cliff. That’s a myth. He’ll be playing until he’s 50 with his avocado ice cream in one hand and Gisele holding his other.

Patrick Mahomes at 95% of what he was last year is still Madden Numbers and an MVP favorite. 48 TDS and 4800 passing yards are just fine with me.

Aaron Rodgers wants to prove he won the divorce with Mike McCarthy. Packers win the NFC North and remind the world he’s a BAAAAAAAAD MAN.

Everyone will sip the Browns Kool-Aid. They’ll make the playoffs. Don’t think they’ll be great but they will surely be entertaining. Kitchens will be the savior and Coach of the Year. Baker and Odell will have some insane highlight-reel plays together.

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