2018 NFC PROJECTIONS & ANALYSIS
New York Giants
We were all fooled into thinking that the NYG were a decent team going into the 2017 season. We all thought that somehow Eli would find a way to win with no RB, no O-LINE and a DEF that at times was invisible. We were duped. The 2017 NYG were horrible and pathetic and HC Ben McAdoo didn’t know how to handle the adversity and was fired after losing @OAK, his record 2-10. GM Jerry Reese was fired too. DC Steve Spagnuolo was named interim HC and he went 1-3. Yeah, he was fired too after the season and was not retained as DC. NYG cleaned house. Pat Shurmur was named new HC & Mike Shula was named OC & James Bettcher was named DC. Dave Gettleman was named the GM. Right now, NYG still believes that Eli is still a viable QB because in the QB rich draft NYG went with an RB. Eli is now 37 yrs old and doesn’t have anyone on the bench behind him that NYG can groom for the future. So it’s either win now or bust with Eli. At RB, Saquon Barkley was selected in the 1st round out of Penn State. If he does half of what he did in college in the NFL, NYG are better off in the running game. NYG were #29 in 2016 & #26 in 2017 in rushing. They can only get better. Orleans Darkwa was the leading rusher for NYG behind a sometimes non-existent O-LINE but hasn’t been re-signed. RB Jonathan Stewart was signed after he was cut by CAR. Hopefully Stewart has something left in the tank. Wayne Gellman who was a rookie in 2017 and has shown that he can catch passes as well as run will be the projected #2 RB. RB Paul Perkins who was disappointment in 2017 was waived with an injured pectoral and has not been picked up by another team. RB Shane Vereen, the versatile 3rd down runner and receiver has not been re-signed. At WR, NYG are hoping that Odell Bekham Jr is officially healthy from his broken ankle. This is a contract year for OBJ and he wants to get the money he feels he deserves. Look for a big yr from him. NYG was looking to trade OBJ but, the asking price was too high. Sterling Shepard cemented himself as a solid #2 WR that works the slots and is also coming back from an ankle injury. WR Brandon Marshall was cut after an injury plagued season that saw him play in only five games. He signed with SEA. WR Tavarres King signed with MINN. WR Roger Lewis 15/8 needs to show something in training camp to stay with this team. WR Russell Shepard 15/3 was cut in the off-season and signed with NYG. He plays a lot of special teams but should add depth to the receiver core on NYG. The WR core for NYG is thin and if guys get injured not too much experience lies beneath. At TE, Evan Engram had a nice rookie season and should continue to be a big part of the OFF. TE Rhett Ellison 16/14 didn’t see as many passes but continues to be a big part of the two TE plan. TE Jerell Adams 16/1 didn’t see a lot of passes but can block very well. He should also see more passes. The O-LINE gave up 34 sacks in 2017, up from 21 in 2016. It was clearly a soft spot for GIANT fans who saw nothing getting done on OFF due to a weak O-LINE. At LT, Ereck Flowers 15/15 has been a disaster. In the off-season NYG signed LT Nate Solder from NE and inserted him as the starter at the position. Flowers moves to RT supplanting Bobby Hart 10/7 who was waived by NYG after the season and signed by CINNCY. But, Flowers may not make it out of training camp. OT Chad Wheeler 11/5 may be big competition for Flowers at the RT position. At LG, Will Hernandez who was drafted in the 2nd round out of UTEP is penciled in at the position and is an upgrade over OG John Jerry 16/16 who is better at pass blocking than run blocking. C Brett Jones 16/13 will be the starter after Weston Richburg signed with SF in the off-season. C/G Jon Halapio 10/6 gives good depth to the O-LINE but will also compete for a starter’s position at G. RG Patrick Omameh 13/13 was signed from JAGS to replace Justin Pugh who signed with ARZ. RG/RT DJ Fluker 9/6 also left and signed with SEA. OT John Greco 6/0 was signed in November and provides good depth to the O-LINE. He previously was a starter in CLEVE for many years. On DEF, with a new DC comes a new scheme. Out with the 4-3 and in with the 3-4. That meant that DE Jason Pierre-Paul was expendable and traded to TB in the off-season. DE/LB Kareem Martin was signed from ARZ and will replace LB Jonathan Casillas who was not re-signed in the off-season. DE Josh Mauro 13/7 was signed from ARZ but will first serve a 4 game suspension for PEDs. DE Kerry Wynn 15/3 will continue to serve as backup & depth or may even start a few games in Mauro’s absence. NT Damon Harrison 16/15 with 1.5 sacks is a dominant run stopper. DT Dalvin Tomlinson 16/16 is solid. DT BJ HILL who was drafted in the 3rd round out of NC State & RJ McIntosh who was drafted in the 5th round out of Miami(FL) will be worked into the rotation to give Tomlinson & Harrison a breather. DE Olivier Vernon 12/12 with 6.5 sacks will switch to OLB. ILB Alec Ogletree 15/15 was acquired in a trade from LAR. He will be the leader on DEF. ILB BJ Goodson 7/7 is expected to bounce back from an injury filed season. OLB Lorenzo Carter who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Georgia will likely find time in the rotation behind Vernon or Martin on the outside. DE Avery Moss 11/2 will look to get more time in the rotation but needs to show that he has improved. LB Ray-Ray Armstrong was acquired during the middle of the season and needs injuries to the LB core to see more time. LB Calvin Munson 14/5 with 2.0 sacks had a nice rookie yr but needs to show he can play in a 3-4 DEF. OLB Connor Barwin 14/13 with 5.0 sacks was recently signed from LAR to give leadership and extra protection to the LB group. He certainly will be a welcome addition. In the secondary, CB Eli Apple 11/7 had a terrible 2017 on and off the field. NYG should have cut him but, instead they gave him a free pass. At times he looked lost and not caring. He certainly will be picked on by opposing QBs. CB Janoris Jenkins 9/8 with 3 INTS had an injury filled season but, going into 2018 may have some off-the field issues that may jar his focus. Longtime STEELER CB William Gay was cut by PITT in the off-season and signed by NYG. He will take over the slot corner position that was vacated when NYG CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was cut in March. CB B.W. Webb who didn’t play in 2017 was signed for veteran depth at the position. CB Ross Cockrell 16/9 with 3INTs signed with CAR. SS Landon Collins 15/15 with 2 INTs had two surgeries on his broken arm looks to come back strong. FS Darian Thompson 16/16 needs to up his production if he wants to remain the starter. S Michael Thomas 13/2 was signed from MIA to offer depth at the position. S Nat Berhe 15/0 signed with PITT. DB Curtis Riley was signed from TENN to also give depth to the secondary. CB/S Andrew Adams 16/4 gives depth to the secondary and can play either position. This team has made a lot of changes on both sides of the ball. With new HC, DC & OC some players will take some time getting used to it, others will already be used to it having played in those schemes. But, there isn’t a lot of depth at many positions and if the NYG get the injury bug there aren’t many guys with much experience backing up. ELI is definitely on the hot seat because the O-LINE has been revamped and NYG drafted a much better RB to take some of the load off. Eli has turn back the hands of time and have a better season than the last two. He certainly needs to make better decisions when there is pressure as well. DEF needs to step up and not look lost and confused like they did in 2017. This team has a chance to improve in 2018 but too many good teams in the NFC and a very tough schedule the first eight weeks could sink the season early. But, we’ll see.
PROJECTED 2017 (10-6), ACTUAL 2017 (3-13), PROJECTED 2018 (7-9)
No one could have predicted that PHILLY would have the season that they did. HC Doug Pederson did a great job in his 2nd yr as the HC of PHILLY. Getting back to the SuperBowl will be tougher. QB Carson Wentz was having a fine yr until he tore his ACL & LCL in his knee Dec 10th @LAR. In came QB Nick Foles, he not only played well but, led the team through the playoffs and on to a SuperBowl win. OC Frank Reich left to take the HC job in INDY & QB coach John DeFilippo left to become the OC at MINN. Mike Groh moves up from WR coach to OC. At QB, the hope is that Carson Wentz will be ready to go but hoping that it’s wk 1 is a little too optimistic. Training camp and maybe a pre-season game would be a better sign. If not, Nick Foles who is signed for 2018 will be the starter until Wentz is fully ready. PHILLY doesn’t want to bring back Wentz when he is not fully recovered. Foles squashed any doubts that he can play in this league and that his numbers in 2013 were just a fluke. QB Nate Sudfield is the 3rd stringer in case both are not available. At RB, RB LeGarrette Blount 16/11 who led PHILLY in rushing in 2017 signed with DET. RB Jay Ajayi 7/1 who was traded for during the season will be the leading RB but has arthritic knees. However, he has explosive power and a running style that takes pressure off of the QB. RB Corey Clement 16/0 was undrafted but could run and catch and is the backup. Clement should see more action this season now that Blount is in DET. RB/PR Darren Sproles 3/0 suffered a season ending knee injury and will be back for 2018. Anything can happen when this guy touches the ball. RB Wendell Smallwood 8/3 was limited in his playing time due to his pass protection problems. RB Donnel Pumphrey was on IR all of 2017 but PHILLY should see what he is capable of in training camp. RB Matt Jones 5/0 was cut by INDY in the off-season and signed by PHILLY. He could be used as the FB because of his size. RB Kenjon Barner 13/1 signed with CAR. At WR, Alshon Jeffery 16/16 had 9tds but is currently on the PUP list after having rotator cuff surgery but, is expected to suit up for wk 1. WR Nelson Agholor 16/10 had a breakout yr as the slot receiver. WR Torrey Smith 16/14 was traded to CAR for DB Daryl Worley. WR Mike Wallace 15/14 signed with PHILLY from BALT and is extremely dangerous as a deep threat. WR Mack Hollins 16/0 played mostly on special teams but is PHILLY’s 4th receiver. WR Markus Wheaton signed with PHILLY after being cut by CHI in the off-season. Wheaton has skills but needs to get his head in the game. At TE, Zach Ertz 14/13 is a solid pass catcher. TE Trey Burton 15/1 signed with CHI. TE Brent Celek 16/10, a longtime EAGLE was cut in the off-season. TE Dallas Goedert who was drafted in the 2nd round out of South Dakota State will replace Trey Burton’s spot as #2 TE on the roster. TE Richard Rodgers 15/1 signed with PHILLY from GB. Rodgers needs to show something or this may be his last stop. TE Joshua Perkins was on the ATL practice squad in 2017 but may get a fresh start with PHILLY in 2018. The O-LINE which gave up 33 sacks in 2016, gave up 36 sacks in 2017. They were not responsible for the injury to Carson Wentz as he injured his knee on a bootleg play @LAR. This is a solid O-LINE that has plenty of experience playing together. However, they should be able to cut down on sacks allowed in 2018. At LT, Jason Peters 7/7 the future HOF had an ACL tear which shortened his season. He will be back at the position. LT/RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 16/10 filled in nicely when Peters was injured. He will return to backing up both sides in 2018. LG Stefen Wisniewski 14/11 did a fine job and will continue at the position. LG Isaac Seumalo 14/2 gives good depth to the line. OG Chance Warmack 11/3 plays backup. C Jason Kelce 16/16 was finally recognized as ALL-PRO in 2017. RG Brandon Brooks 16/16 is one of the top Gs in the league. OL Matt Pryor who was drafted in the 6th round out of TCU should see time in the rotation. RT Lane Johnson 15/15 is another ALL-PRO and solid linesman. OL Taylor Hart is a converted DE who didn’t see action in 2017 but PHILLY will see what he’s got in training camp. OL Jordan Mailata was drafted in the 7th round out of Sydney Australia is a work in progress who has never played football and was a rugby player. On DEF in the secondary, CB Jalen Mills 15/15 with 3INTS could be moved to slot cover after playing outside. CB Patrick Robinson 16/8 with 4INTS & 1.0 sack signed with NO. CB Ronald Darby 8/7 with 3INTS had an injury plagued season and is in the last season of his contract. CB Sidney Jones 1/0 was on IR for most of 2017 with a torn Achilles. He is penciled in as the starter opposite Mills. CB Rasul Douglas 14/5 with 2INTS filled in nicely when Darby was hurt can swing S/CB. CB Avonte Maddox who was drafted in the 4th round out of PITT will compete for the slot position even though he mostly played the outside in college. CB De’Vante Bausby didn’t play in 2017 but was signed could provide depth. At FS, Malcolm Jenkins 16/16 with 2INTS & 1.0 sack is solid and can be used in multiple packages. SS Rodney McLeod 14/14 with 3INTS is solid. S Jaylen Watkins 12/1 signed with LAC. S Corey Graham 14/1 with 2INTS provides essential depth. S Tre Sullivan was upgraded from the practice squad. S Chris Maragos 6/1 missed 10 games in 2017 with a knee injury. He plays mostly on special teams and his status for wk 1 is unclear due to an injured PCL. The D-LINE is a solid bunch and wrecks havoc on opposing teams. On the D-LINE, DE Brandon Graham 15/15 with 9.5 sacks is entering the final season of his contract so look for his numbers to go up. DE Chris Long 16/1 with 5.0 sacks works great in the rotation. DE Vinny Curry 16/16 with 3.0 sacks was cut and signed with TB. DT Fletcher Cox 14/14 with 5.5 sacks seems to always draw double-teams which gives others opportunities. However, Cox is still a force in the middle. DT Beau Allen 15/3 with 1.0 sack signed with TB. DT Elijah Qualls 6/0 showed talent in his rookie season, should see more time in the rotation for 2018. DT Destiny Vaeao 11/0 is listed as the 4th DT on the depth chart but saw some significant action in 2017. He should see more in 2018. Timmy Jernigan 15/15 with 2.5 sacks had off-season surgery to repair a herniated disc and his return is unknown. DT Haloti Ngata 5/5 signed with PHILLY from DET but had an injury plagued season. He should fill in for the recovering Jernigan and strengthen PHILLY’s run defense. DE Michael Bennett 16/16 with 8.5 sacks was acquired from SEA for draft picks and WR Marcus Johnson. Bennett is ferocious at what he does whether it’s inside or outside but, is looking at a possible suspension for an off-the field incident. DE Derek Barnett 15/0 with 5.0 sacks provides great depth and fresh legs. DE Josh Sweat who was drafted in the 4th round out of Florida State will look to get into the rotation. DE Steven Means 6/0 with 1.0 sack is listed as the 5th DE and will have to show a lot to stick around after training camp. In the LB crew, OLB Nigel Brandham 15/15 with 1.0 sack had his best season in 2017 but is suspended for wk 1 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. However, in the off-season he was rewarded with a nice contract extension. LB Najee Goode 16/3 signed with INDY in the off-season. LB Nathan Gerry 10/1 is a converted S but plays mostly on special teams. MLB Jordan Hicks 7/7 missed most of 2017 with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Hopefully he will be back strong for wk 1. MLB Joe Walker 12/3 filled in as the starter when Hicks got hurt. We’ll see where he fits in, in 2018. LB Paul Worrilow 13/8 was signed for depth from DET but is already on IR for sustaining an off-season torn ACL. OLB Mychal Kendricks 15/13 with 2.0 sacks was cut in the off season and signed with CLEVE. OLB Corey Nelson 5/0 was signed by PHILLY in the off-season. He played mostly on special teams but will compete for the OLB spot Kendricks had. LB Kamu Grugier-Hill 16/0 plays mostly on special teams but may battle Nelson for the OLB spot. This team is strong but has lost a few components of their SuperBowl team. Who will start at QB is a question to be answered. Their schedule is not as tough as advertised. They will certainly have an X on their backs as everyone they face will play tough. Making it back to the SuperBowl will be tough and PHILLY will come up short. They should go deep into the playoffs barring a catastrophe.
PROJECTED 2017 (9-7), ACTUAL 2017 (13-3), PROJECTED 2018 (11-5)
HC Jay Gruden is entering his fifth season with WASH and has been mediocre at best with this team. When you think they should win a game, they lose. When they should lose a game, they win. But they don’t win the games, they need to win. This has to change or a new coaching staff will be in control in 2019. Maybe Jay Gruden doesn’t get this team motivated enough, because there are guys that don’t seem to step up when needed & that’s a problem. That has to change in 2018. The big news for WASH was the move at QB. Kirk Cousins was not re-signed and was able to sign with MINN. QB Alex Smith was traded for in what looks like a lateral move at best. I have never been a big fan of Alex Smith because his numbers are inflated by the fact that he has played small ball his whole career in the NFL. Regular season stats don’t mean anything if you can’t get to a SuperBowl. Smith is signed for another five years so WASH is stuck with him. Behind him is Colt McCoy who knows the WASH system and may see action if the O-LINE falters which has been the case of the last several years. At RB, Derrius Guice who was drafted in the 2nd round out of LSU has been penciled in as the starter and WASH is excited about this guy. Unfortunately for WASH, Guice has just suffered a torn ACL and will be out all of 2018. Someone from the rest of the RB core will have to step up. RB Samaje Perine 16/8 was the leading rusher for WASH but seemed to break down when starting after RB Rob Kelley 7/7 went down with a broken leg. Both will be worked into the rotation. RB Chris Thompson 10/1 was having a fine season catching passes out of the backfield but broke his leg in wk 11. RB Kapri Bibbs 3/0 came off the practice squad late to contribute when injuries decimated the RB group. He showed that he could catch passes out of the backfield and could provide good depth. At WR, Terrelle Pryor 9/2 who had a breakout season as a WR at CLEVE in 2016 was a major disappointment at WASH in 2017 and was injured and on IR most of the season. He signed a 1yr deal with NYJ. WR Ryan Grant 16/7 who had a breakout season for himself in 2017 signed with INDY. WR Paul Richardson 16/13 was signed from SEA to a five yr deal. He brings speed on the outside. WR Jamison Crowder 15/6 led WASH in receptions & yards and is a top slot receiver. He should be a good combination with Alex Smith. WR Josh Doctson 16/14 was reliable for the season and led the team with 6tds. Look for him to see more catches in 2018. WR Brian Quick 11/1 had a very down yr in his first season with WASH after coming over from LAR. He needs to revive his game if he wants to stick around. WR Trey Quinn who was drafted in the 7th round out of SMU is a slot receiver and needs to impress to get into the rotation. At TE, Niles Paul signed with INDY. TE Vernon Davis 16/16 continues to be a rock at the position. TE Jordan Reed 6/5 had an injury plagued season but needs to stay healthy to be part of the team. TE Jeremy Sprinkle 11/5 is used mostly as a blocking end. The O-LINE which went from 23 sacks allowed in 2016 to 41 sacks allowed in 2017 was hampered by injuries. LT Trent Williams 10/10 tore his patellar tendon and went on IR. LG/LT Ty Nsekhe 11/5 filled in nicely for Williams and can play swing. LT TJ Clemmings 6/2 landed on IR but gives depth to the T position. OT Geron Christian who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Louisville could play swing tackle and see time in the rotation. LG Arie Kouandjio 8/6 was signed off the BALT practice squad and filled in nicely for injured players but he is currently on the IR with a torn quadriceps. LG Shawn Lauvao 9/9 has had some injury problems but was re-signed after the draft. OG Kyle Kalis 4/2 bounced from WASH-INDY-WASH and filled in late in the season. He brings depth to the O-LINE. C Spencer Long 7/6 was also injured for most of the season but signed with NYJ in the off-season. C is wide open but Chase Roullier 13/7 is the early FAV to start at the position wk 1. C Tony Bergstrom 9/3 was picked up from BALT during the season and started three games at center. He could provide quality depth behind Roullier. RG Brandon Scherff 14/14 is solid at the position. OG Tyler Catalina 7/2 is there for depth. RT Morgan Moses 16/16 played on two bad ankles and needed off-season surgery. ON DEF, WASH runs a 3-4 setup and that will stay the same for 2018. DE Jonathan Allen 5/5 with 1.0 sack missed eleven games with a Lisfranc sprain. WASH needs him healthy. DE Anthony Lanier 11/2 with 5.0 sacks made a big leap in his 2nd season. He should continue with his progression. NT Da’Ron Payne who was drafted in the 1st round out of Alabama is penciled in as the starter as Stacy McGee 16/10 moves from DT to DE but is on the active PUP list recovering from off-season core muscle surgery and his status for wk 1 is up in the air. DT Ziggy Hood 15/13 with 0.5 sacks is a solid veteran. DE Terrell McClain 12/2 with 2 sacks signed with ATL in the off-season. DE Matt Ioannidis 14/10 with 4.5 sacks had a great season despite playing with a broken hand. DT Tim Settle who was drafted in the 5th round out of Virginia Tech will add depth to the line. DE Phil Taylor was going to start but was on IR all of 2017 with a torn leg muscle coming out of camp. Look for him to see time in the rotation in 2018. DE Junior Galette 16/0 with 3.0 sacks wasn’t re-signed. In the LB core, OLB Ryan Kerrigan 16/16 with 1INT & 13.0 sacks has never missed a game. LB Ryan Anderson 14/0 gives depth to the LB core. OLB Pernell McPhee 13/5 with 4.0 sacks was signed from CHI for depth. OLB Preston Smith 16/16 with 2INTS & 8.0 sacks is solid on the other side and hasn’t missed a game. ILB Zach Brown 13/13 with 2.5 sacks led the team in tackles even though he was injured for three games. LB Will Compton 9/3 was on IR for part of the season but signed with TENN in the off-season. LB Chris Carter 13/0 was used for depth and situations but hasn’t been re-signed by WASH. LB Zach Vigil 7/6 was signed half way through 2017 and played situational and is there for depth. ILB Mason Foster 5/4 with 1INT & 0.5 sacks landed on IR with a shoulder injury. He should be ready to go for 2018. He is coming back as the presumed starter. LB Martrell Spaight 15/6 is a key reserve at the position and will be there again for 2018. LB Shaun Dion Hamilton who was drafted in the 6th round out of Alabama sustained leg injuries his last two seasons in college and dropped down in the draft. If he is healthy, he should be able to contribute in different packages. LB Trent Murphy who was on IR in 2017 wasn’t re-signed and signed with BUFF. In the secondary, Josh Norman 14/13 is an elite CB and can cover any receiver. CB Orlando Scandrick was signed from DAL to replace CB Bashaud Breeland 15/15 with 1INT who was not re-signed by WASH. Orlando could play slot corner or outside but CB Quinton Dunbar 15/4 with 1INT has also a chance to start now that Breeland is gone. After the 1st preseason game, Orlando Scandrick was released which leaves a golden opportunity for Dunbar. CB Fabian Moreau 16/0 played mostly on special teams but may see action in the secondary. CB Greg Stroman who was drafted in the 7th round out of Virginia Tech will have to impress to find a spot. CB Kendall Fuller 16/6 with 4INTS was in the trade to KC that brought Alex Smith to WASH. S DeAngelo Hall 5/2 was cut after the last four injury plagued seasons. SS Su’a Cravens who didn’t play in 2017 was traded to DEN for draft picks. Monte Nicholson 8/6 with 1INT moves into the starting slot at SS. SS Dashazor Everett 14/8 got chances to play and start due to injuries at the position. FS DJ Swearinger 16/16 with 4INTS & 0.5 sacks has been a nice FA pickup. S Troy Apke who was drafted in the 4th round out of Penn State has a lot of speed and will need it to find room in the rotation. The SKINS go into 2018 with a lot of questions that were not answered in the off-season. How will the O-LINE stand up after going through massive injuries in 2017? How will Alex Smith hold up? Will the running game get going? Will receivers catch passes instead of dropping them? Will the D-LINE be able to stop the run? Will the secondary make the necessary plays? Will HC Jay Gruden make the right calls? There is limited depth in crucial areas like LB & S which gives this team a sense that it will be mediocre or worse. Plus the NFC EAST has gotten tougher while WASH hasn’t gotten any better.
PROJECTED 2017 (10-6), ACTUAL 2017 (7-9), PROJECTED 2018 (8-8)
After DAL had a nice run in 2016 and reached the playoffs, they came back down to Earth in 2017. RB Ezekial Elliott missed six games with a suspension and the OFF at times couldn’t get going. DAL ended up 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Jason Garrett is safe at HC as long as he plays the puppet. But after coaching changes made by Garrett, this may be the year where he has to prove that he belongs to stay the DAL HC. At QB, Dak Prescott had a down yr after having such a good yr in 2016. All his numbers were down and his INTS were up. He was also sacked more in 2017 than in 2016 and that may have put more pressure on his mind to excel. DAL will be running more of a college spread formation in 2018 but the pressure will be on Dak to produce. The job is all his unless he has a total meltdown. Cooper Rush is the backup but Mike White was drafted in the 5th round out of Western Kentucky to compete with Rush. At RB, Ezekial Elliot will probably be looking to go full steam after getting gypped in 2017. He will have something to prove and that will take a lot of pressure off of Dak to perform. If Elliott is healthy, he will get over 300 carries throughout the season. Alfred Morris was the main backup in 2017 but wasn’t re-signed for 2018 and Rod Smith will be the primary backup RB. Bo Scarborough who was drafted in the 7th round out of Alabama will look to compete for the backup RB role. FB Jamize Olawale was traded from OAK to be the lead blocker and play special teams. At WR, Dez Bryant was cut and has yet to sign on with another team. WR Allen Hurns who was cut by JAGS, was signed by DAL is expected to fill the role vacated by Dez. WR Cole Beasley needs to prove himself in 2018 after having a down 2017. WR Terrance Williams is looking to have a big yr in 2018 before he enters free agency. WR/RB Tavon Austin was acquired form LAR to give the OFF a lift but may have a problem finding a definite role with DAL besides KR/PR. WR Deonte Thompson was signed from BUFF but may have a problem finding a roster spot. WR Michael Gallup was drafted in the 3rd round out of Colorado State and needs to show value and production in 2018 to stay with this team. Same goes for Cedrick Wilson who was drafted in the 6th round out of Boise State. At TE, Jason Witten retired after fifteen seasons in DAL. Next stop for him is Canton. Witten will not be easily replaced. The TE position will be scrfutinized seriously to see who rises from the group of Geoff Swaim who is used primarily for run blocking, Rico Gathers who was on IR all of 2017, Dalton Schultz who was drafted in the 4th round out of Stanford & Blake Jarwin who played one game in 2017 after being activated from the practice squad. On the O-LINE, LT Tyron Smith 13/13 is solid but when he’s not there it can be a problem. OT Cameron Fleming was a starter in NE but gives DAL depth as a swing tackle. At LG, Jonathan Cooper signed with SF & LG Connor Williams who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Texas is penciled in to start. DAL signed OG Marcus Martin to give depth to the LINE. C Travis Frederick 16/16 is solid and the leader of the O-LINE. C/G Joe Looney 16/0 is a solid backup and good for depth. RG Zack Martin 16/16 is considered one of the best OL in the NFL. RT La’el Collins 16/16 was in his first yr at the position since moving over from G. He should be better this yr. On DEF, in the secondary Byron Jones 16/16 with 1INT has been moved from S to CB. CB Chidobe Awuzie 10/6 emerged as the starter on the other side. CB Jourdan Lewis 15/7 will compete for the nickel spot with CB Anthony Brown 16/10 who can play either side and in the slot. CB Orlando Scandrick 11/11 was cut in March and then signed with WASH. At SS Kavon Frazier 15/0 will get the shot to start because he is a heavy hitter and great tackler. S Jeff Heath 15/15 is an important part of the rotation and will battle Heath for the start. Xavier Woods 16/4 is the likely starter at FS. On the D-LINE, DE Tyrone Crawford 16/14 with 4.0 sacks, is a solid and consistent player. Newly acquired DE Kony Ealy from NYJ gives the D-LINE added depth and experience. Ealy can also rush from the T position. DE Dorance Armstrong who was drafted in the 4th round out of Kansas is a natural pass rusher. DT Maliek Collins 16/16 with 2.5 sacks. Collins suffered a broken foot in the off-season and his status for wk 1 is uncertain. DT Jihad Ward was acquired in a trade with OAK and gives depth to the position. Ward may be in competition with Collins and DT David Irving. DT David Irving 8/8 with 7 sacks had some big numbers but played half the yr due to a 4 games suspension at the beginning of 2017 & personal problems and again starts 2018 with a four game suspension. He must play strong with the time he has in 2018 or he’s gone. This may give T Brian Price 8/0 an opportunity to shine and take the spot. DE DeMarcus Lawrence 16/16 with 14.5 sacks is playing on the franchise tag in 2018 so he will be motivated to excel and secure a long term contract. DE Taco Charlton 16/0 with 3.0 sacks adds depth to the outside and needs to improve on his numbers. DE Randy Gregory has been given a restricted re-instatement which gives him the right to training camp and everything else but not yet the regular season. WLB Sean Lee 11/11 with 1 INT is the a leader on DEF. The DEF is completely different without him on the field, he needs to stay healthy. LB Justin March-Lillard 7/0 played with three teams in 2017 but adds depth to the LB crew if he makes the roster. MLB Leighton Vander Esch who was drafted in the 1st round out of Boise State has been compared to Brian Urlacher and will replace MLB Anthony Hitchens 12/12 who signed with KC. MLB Jaylon Smith 16/6 was solid in 2017 after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury. Look for him to compete with Vander Esch for the starting MLB position. If not, Jaylon could fit in at the SLB position. SLB Damien Wilson 16/9 is in the fight of his life for the position and may lose out to Smith if Smith doesn’t get the MLB position. Wilson is in a contract yr so he needs to show that he is deserving of starting a getting a new deal. LB Joe Thomas was signed from GB to give depth to LB crew because he can play all three positions. On special teams KR/PR Ryan Switzer was traded to OAK and newly acquired Tavon Austin will assume those duties. For DAL it comes down to Dak and how the DEF stacks up. They need to stay healthy and try not getting suspensions. DAL plays the tough NFC SOUTH & AFC SOUTH which DAL could easily go 2-6. They have a tough NFC schedule and the OFF & DEF will be the same as the DC & OC were kept on after the off-season coaching shakeup. There is a little depth concern in the secondary and that might hamper DAL down the stretch. Nothing too surprising coming out of DAL.
PROJECTED 2017 (12-4), ACTUAL 2017 (9-7), PROJECTED 2018 (8-8)
Green Bay Packers
The 2017 season started with big hopes and dreams and ended with huge disappointment. Starting out at 3-1 and going to MINN, QB Aaron Rodgers was knocked out with a broken collarbone. Backup QB Brett Hundley couldn’t save the season and GB ended up 7-9. Rodgers has declared himself fully healthy and intends to play into his 40s. Joe Philbin rejoins the team as OC the same position he had from 2007-2011 before becoming the HC of MIA. QB Deshone Kizer was picked up from CLEVE in a trade to battle for backup behind Rodgers. At RB, GB could have an explosive 1-2 punch. Jamaal Williams who was a rookie in 2017 and really only played eight games, managed to lead the PACK in rushing. He’s a power back and looking to challenge in 2018. Aaron Jones averaged 5.5 per carry but was injured for four games and parts of two others. He must prove he can stay healthy. However, he will start the 2018 season with a two game suspension due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Ty Montgomery who was converted from WR had an injury shortened season but also must prove he can take the pounding. If all three guys can stay healthy, this will take a lot of pressure off Rodgers’s arm. At WR, longtime favorite of Rodgers, Jordy Nelson was cut and picked up by OAK. Randall Cobb & Davante Adams are reliable and continue to shine for GB. Geronimo Allison who was #4 on the depth chart should see more passes this season now that Nelson is gone. At TE, Martellus Bennett was waived during the season and no one really stepped up. Jimmy Graham suddenly became available from SEA and GB signed him. He is dangerous on 3rd downs and in the red zone. TE Lance Kendricks sort of got lost in the crowd in his first yr with GB but should be more in the mix with Rodgers healthy. The O-LINE for GB is pretty solid even though Rodgers & Hundley took a beating with 49 sacks in 2017. Credit the high total to Hundley’s inexperience and probably holding the ball a little longer than he should have. The left side of the O-LINE is stable with LT David Bakhtiari 12/12 & LG Lane Taylor 15/15. Both are young and should be there for some time. OL Jason Spriggs 7/5 is a decent backup but had an injury plagued season and may be fighting for a job come training camp. G Cole Madison who was drafted in the 5th round out of Washington State is going to get a chance to compete for time on the left side of the O-LINE. C Corey Linsley 16/16 played every snap in 2017 so he’s not going anywhere. RG Jahri Evans 14/14 was signed for the 2017 season as a stopgag but, has not been signed for 2018. He could be signed at a later date if others do not work out. OL Justin McCray 13/8 who can play four different line positions is going to be in a battle with OG Lucas Patrick 12/2 for the RG spot. RT Bryan Bulaga 5/5 had an injury shortened season but RT Kyle Murphy 3/3 may give him a run at the position. AT DE, NYJ cut Muhammad Wilkerson & GB signed him the same day for a 1yr deal. GB is hoping that he returns to form and gives Clay Matthews that added QB pressure from the other side. DE Ricky Jean Francois who was supposed to be a force on the outside was moved several times from the roster in 2017 and eventually cut after only playing six games. He was picked up by NE. DE Dean Lowry 16/11 with 2 sacks will battle Wilkerson for the position if Muhammad struggles and he adds great depth. NT Kenny Clark 15/15 with 4.5 sacks works well against the run and pass. DT Mike Daniels 14/14 with 5.0 sacks is solid. DL James Looney who was drafted in the 7th round out of California will try to break into the rotation. OLB Clay Matthews 14/14 with 7.5 sacks is Mr. Everywhere and vital to the GB success on DEF. OLB Vince Biegel 9/0, unfortunately had an injury plagued rookie season and will fight for a position in the rotation. ILB Jake Ryan 15/12 may have pressure from LB Oren Burks who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Vanderbilt. Oren’s specialty is defending against the pass. Jake Ryan tore his ACL so he’s out for 2018. This may open the door for Oren. ILB Blake Martinez 16/16 is great vs the run but, has to improve vs the pass. OLB Nick Perry 12/11 with 7.0 sacks needs to stay healthy. LB Reggie Gilbert was on the Practice squad for most of 2017 and in 2/0 had 1 sack. Look for him to get a chance at more action in 2018. In the secondary a usual soft area for the PACK some changes were made for 2018. CB Tramon Williams who comes back to GB and takes over for CB Damarious Randall who was traded to CLEVE should make an impact. On the other side CB Kevin King 9/5 had a short season due to a shoulder injury and has the makings of a shut down corner. CB Davon House 12/12 provides veteran backup with the new recruits coming in. CB Josh Hawkins has blazing speed but has given up some td passes. CBs Jaire Alexander who was drafted in the 1st round out of Louisville & Josh Jackson who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Iowa will be looked at as nickel backs and covering slots to see if they can handle the pro game and get up to speed. At S, Morgan Burnett 12/12, a long time PACKER wasn’t re-signed and signed with PITT. He will surely be missed as he did the play calling for the secondary. Kentrell Brice who had an injury filled season in 2017 will look to fill the vacant spot. S Josh Jones 16/7, 1INT & 2 sacks will look to compete with Brice for the position. FS Ha Ha Clinton Dix 16/16 with 3INTS needs to step it up after regressing in 2017. S Marwin Evans 16/1 who played mostly on special teams may try to battle Dix for the starting position. This team rolls with Aaron Rodgers. Without him this team is going nowhere. If he stays healthy, GB has a great shot at going to the SuperBowl. For GB to make that push to the SuperBowl I have said that they need a reliable RB, someone on the other side of Clay Matthews to put pressure on and another good hands guy in the secondary. Did they get them? We’ll see. A lot of rookies in the secondary and guys need to step up if GB makes it to ATL in February. The toughest team in the NFC that GB would face would be in the playoffs, the NO SAINTS. Rodgers has a fire because of the wasted season in 2017. PACK is back.
PROJECTED 2017 (12-4), ACTUAL 2017 (7-9) PROJECTED 2018 (13-3)
MINN had a season that no one expected in 2017. They should have lost @HOME vs NO in the playoffs but, won on a lucky play. Those that say otherwise are mistaken. I did know that they would get shot down @PHILLY in the NFC Championship game. However, I didn’t think it was going to be such a blowout. HC Mike Zimmer was very lucky that no major injuries hampered this team and derailed MINN’s run of going deep into the playoffs. At QB, Sam Bradford went down with his bad knee after only playing in two games and was not re-signed. He signed with ARZ. QB Case Keenum who finished the year on a high note and had a great 2017 as a starter signed with DEN but only after MINN signed QB Kirk Cousins to a three year, fully guaranteed contract. QB Teddy Bridgewater who has been trying to come back from a severe knee injury the last two years and did play in one game during 2017, was not re-signed and signed with NYJ. QB Trevor Siemian was acquired in a trade with DEN to be the backup to Keenum and QB Kyle Sloter is the third stringer who was on the roster in 2017 but saw no action. At RB, Dalvin Cook 4/4 was better than expected but tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in wk 4 and was out for the rest of the season. Hopefully he has made a full recovery. RB Latavius Murray 16/11 had a slow start because of off-season ankle surgery but picked up the pace rushing and catching passes. RB Jerick McKinnon 16/1 who was Mr. Everything caught 51 passes was not re-signed and signed with SF. This may cost MINN if Dalvin Cook is not 100%. C.J. Ham 16/1 is the FB who had been converted from tailback. At WR, Jarius Wright was cut in the off-season and signed with CAR. WR Stefon Diggs 14/14 is a playmaker who needs to stay healthy. He just signed an extension, so he’s not going anywhere. WR Adam Thielen 16/16 wasn’t even drafted, had a sensational fourth season and is fast and quick with sure hands. WR Laquon Treadwell 16/7 lacks speed but has sure hands. WR Kendall Wright 16/4 signed with MINN from CHI and after five years in TENN. He will be the #3 receiver. WR Michael Floyd 11/1 who has had his own problems off the field wasn’t re-signed. WR Tavarres King was signed by MINN in the off-season. This may be his last chance to stick in the NFL. At TE, Kyle Rudolph 16/16 is solid but off-season ankle surgery should help him to continue to be a dominant force with great hands. TE Blake Bell 13/3 injured his shoulder and wasn’t as effective as MINN would have liked. He needs to step up his game if he wants to see time in the rotation. TE David Morgan 15/6 is a great blocker and has lined up all over for MINN including the backfield. TE Tyler Conklin was drafted in the 5th round out of Central Michigan will be given every chance to play alongside Rudolph. The O-LINE worked together better in 2017 by reducing sacks allowed in 2016 from 38 to 27 in 2017. Changes were made to the O-LINE before the 2017 season and the OFF was able to do their thing. LT Riley Reiff 15/15 was great in his 1st yr with MINN after coming over from DET. LT/RT Rashod Hill 11/7 filled in nicely as a starter but gives good depth as a swing T. LG/C/RG Nick Easton 12/12 unseated Alex Boone who moved on to ARZ. Nick was steady until he broke his ankle late in the season. Unfortunately now, Nick Easton suffered a herniated disc in his neck and had surgery. He will miss the whole 2018 season. LG Danny Isidora 7/1 needs to stay healthy if he wants to see more time in the rotation. C Pat Elflein 14/14 is currently on the active PUP list with an ankle injury. His status for wk 1 is up in the air. He was solid so MINN hopes he’s healthy. RG Joe Berger 16/16 retired. LG Jeremiah Sirles 14/4 signed with CAR. Sirles and Berger will be hard to replace. RG Tom Compton 11/5 was signed from CHI to replace Berger. OG Josh Andrews didn’t play in 2017 due to being cut by PHILLY but was signed by MINN after the 2017 as depth and could even compete for the position. RT/RG Mike Remmers 11/11 was injured part of the season but can play either position which makes him valuable. OT Brian O’Neill who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Pitt may need time to develop and might not see too much action in 2018. OG Aviante Collins is there for depth and short yardage packages. He should see more time in 2018. G Coby Gossett who was drafted in the 6th round out of Appalachian State needs to impress to make the team. On DEF, in the secondary CB Trae Waynes 16/16 with 2INTS & 1.0 sack keeps improving and see the Pro-Bowl soon. CB Xavier Rhodes 16/16 with 2 INTS was an ALL-PRO in 2017. CB Terence Newman 16/7 with 1INT will turn 40 yrs old Sept 3rd. He’s a role player with a lot of valuable experience. CB Mackensie Alexander 14/0 with 1INT was the nickel corner but could lose it out to CB Mike Hughes who was drafted in the 1st round out of UCF. Hughes is penciled in as the KR too. CB/PR Marcus Sherels 16/0 doesn’t see much action in the secondary but has returned five punts for tds. At SS, Andrew Sendejo 13/13 with 2INTS missed three games due to suspension. FS Harrison Smith 16/16 with 5INTS & 1.5 sacks was ALL-PRO & a versatile weapon in HC Zimmer’s 3rd down packages. S Jayron Kearse 15/0 usually plays special teams as he struggles in the secondary. S Anthony Harris 16/3 is an emergency starter in the secondary when not on special teams. The DEF which runs a 4-3 scheme was very successful in 2017 and as a whole MINN had the #1 TOT DEF in the NFL. On the D-LINE, DE Everson Griffin 15/15 with 13.0 sacks continues to rattles opposing offenses against the run and pass. DE Brian Robison 15/1 with 4.0 sacks is great for depth but is 35 yrs old and will be pushed by DE Jalyn Holmes who was drafted in the 4th round out of Ohio State. DE Stephen Weatherly 15/0 is young and is looking to get more playing time by hopefully adding some sacks. DE Danielle Hunter 16/16 with 7.0 sacks is the starter on the other side and but had a downer for sacks in 2017 after having 12.5 in 2016. NT Linval Joseph 16/16 with 3.5 sacks is solid. DT Shamar Stephon 15/1 with 1.0 sack signed with SEA. DT Tom Johnson 16/15 with 2.0 sacks also signed with SEA. DT Sheldon Richardson 15/15 with 1INT & 1.0 sack was signed by MINN from SEA and will take DT Tom Johnson’s spot. DT Jaleel Johnson 5/0 gives good depth and rotation to the line. DE Ade Aruna who was drafted in the 6th round out of Tulane is someone that MINN feels that they can work with. DE Tashawn Bower 2/0 with 1.0 sack was undrafted in 2017 and MINN is hoping they can mold him into a backup pass rusher. At SLB, Anthny Barr 16/16 with 1.0 sack is solid. LB Eric Wilson 16/0 was undrafted and plays mostly on special teams. MLB Eric Kendricks 16/16 with 1INT & 1.0 sack has speed and intuitiveness. MLB Kentrell Brothers 16/0 serves as a competent backup but will start the 2018 season with a four game suspension. WLB Ben Gedeon 16/9 filled the spot nicely but needs to step up his game. LB Reshard Cliett who has bounced around the NFL without playing a game was signed for depth. LB Devante Downs was drafted in the 7th round out of California and has a shot at backup and seeing time in the rotation. LB Antwione Williams was signed off the MINN practice squad for depth. The main change for this team was at QB and we’ll see how Kirk Cousins adapts to a better O-LINE and receivers that don’t drop passes. RB Jerick McKinnon may be missed because he could do it all but Latavious Murray will be more involved. The O-LINE still needs to do their job. Could the O-LINE be problems for the VIKES? The DEF is solid so there are no question marks. DT Sheldon Richardson is on a prove it yr so he’ll add to the DEF not take away. However, NO & GB are just a little better and have that playoff experience. This team is good but will not make the SuperBowl.
PROJECTED 2017 (9-7), ACTUAL 2017 (13-3), PROJECTED 2018 (12-4)
So finally someone listened to me and fired HC Jim Caldwell. Just remember, this guy couldn’t win with Peyton Manning as his QB, enough said. Matt Patricia was brought in as the new HC as the former DC at NE. VP/GM Bob Quinn is a former NE executive as well so he knows Patricia very well. Patricia will not be handling the DC position as Paul Pasqualoni will be the DC. But mind you, Patricia will have some input, having had some knowledge in the area of DEFENSE. Hopefully, DET can get moving in the right direction and one day battling for the SuperBowl. Unfortunately it will not be this year. At QB Matthew Stafford is back for a 10th straight yr, the key is to take pressure off of having to have Stafford play cathcup in games and win with his arm. DET has not had a reliable RB since Barry Sanders. But they didn’t have a QB so it was all on Barry. Matt Cassel was signed as the backup QB after being cut by TENN. At RB, Ameer Abdullah & Theo Riddick were the feature backs for DET and will both be back. Ameer is more of a pure rusher and Riddick is more of a pass catcher out of the backfield. DET was looking heavily at RB DeMarco Murray but decided not to sign him and signed LeGarrette Blount instead. Blount is pure rusher who needs his O-LINE to open a lot of holes and doesn’t catch passes. Murray is double threat who can catch many passes out of the backfield. Murray remains unsigned. In the RB mix is Kerryon Johnson who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Auburn who will be looked upon to get this crew going and take some pressure off of Stafford. FB Nick Bawden was drafted in the 7th round out of San Diego State to help lead Blount & CO to the promised land. Bawden lead the way for the nation’s leading rusher in 2016 & 2017 so he will fit right in with this bunch. At WR, Marvin Jones & Golden Tate are solid. WR Kenny Golladay is a solid #3 and TJ Jones rounds out the receivers. TE Eric Ebron was cut and signed with INDY. TE Darren Fells wasn’t re-signed after a 1yr deal and signed with CLEVE. There will be an open competition between Michael Roberts & Luke Willson at TE. Luke Willson was signed to a 1yr deal after not being re-signed by SEA. The O-LINE needs to improve on the 47 sacks allowed in 2017. This was more due to injury than anything else but the OFF can’t get going when Stafford is lying down. On the O-LINE LT Taylor Decker 8/8 had an injury ravaged yr and is looking to regain his rookie form of 2016. OT Corey Robinson 8/5 came off the IR late in 2017 to serve as a valuable fill-in when injuries hit the O-LINE. LG/C Graham Glasgow 16/16 is solid and can play either position. G/T Kenny Wiggins 16/16 played for LAC in 2017 and was signed by DET but, may be lucky to make the team. C Frank Ragnow was drafted in the 1st round out of Arkansas and is slotted to start for Travis Swanson who signed with NYJ. C Wesley Johnson 15/15 was signed after NYJ didn’t re-sign him. Wesley will battle Ragnow for the position and others on the O-LINE. RG TJ Lang 13/13 looks solid. OT Joe Dahl 6/3 has an uphill battle to stay on the roster after all the additions to the line. RT Rick Wagner 13/13 was handed a hefty contract to come to DET in 2017 but, has to get better. OT Tyrell Crosby was drafted in the 5th round out of Oregon and is a swing tackle that should see time in the rotation in 2018. OT Brian Mihalik 15/2 will see plenty of competition in the backup role going into 2018. In the secondary on DEF, CB Darius Slay was named All-Pro with an NFL leading 8INTs. On the other side, CB Nevin Lawson 15/15 may see some competition from Teez Tabor & CB DeShawn Shead who was signed from SEA. Shead had an injury plagued 2017 but has played every position in the secondary for SEA. CB/KR/PR Jamal Agnew may see nickel coverage when not returning kicks. DJ Hayden 16/0 left DET and signed with the JAGS. FS Glover Quin 16/16 with 3INTs is underrated and should be taken for granted by opposing OFFs. SS Tavon Wilson 10/9 ended up on IR but is solid. CB/S Quandre Diggs 16/11 with 3INTs can play either position and will see a lot of playing time in the nickel in 2018. S Miles Killebrew 16/3 may see less time due to so much depth at the position. S Tracy Walker was drafted in the 3rd round out of Louisiana and will try to impress to get some playing time in the already crowded secondary. On the D-LINE, DE Ezekiel Ansah 14/14 with 12.0 sacks was given the franchise tag and is a prove it yr. Nine of his sacks were in three games vs overmatched Tackles. DT Haloti Ngata 5/5 with 2 sacks was lost to injury and then was signed by PHILLY for 2018. Replacing Ngata at the start is DT Sylvester Williams 15/11 from TENN. DT Akeem Spence 16/11 who filled in nicely when the line started getting injured, signed with MIA. DE Kerry Hyder who missed all of 2017 with an Achilles injury should see time in the rotation. DT Christian Ringo 6/0 needs to make a statement in training camp to stick with the team. DT A’Shawn Robinson 16/16 is solid at the position. Behind Robinson will be DT Jeremiah Ledbetter 16/0 in a rotational role in the middle. DE Cornelius Washington 15/2 had a nice yr but will be in a battle with DE Da’Shawn Hand who was drafted in the 4th round out of Alabama and will look to crack the rotation. DE Anthony Zettel 16/16 with 6.5 sacks was a bright spot on the outside and will get pressure from DE Hyder. At OLB, Tahir Whitehead 16/16, 1 sack & 1INT signed with OAK and will be surely missed. In his place OLB Devon Kennard 15/11 with 4.0 sacks was signed from NYG. LB Jonathan Freeny was signed to add depth to the position. MLB Jarrad Davis 14/14 with 1INT & 2.0 sacks had a nice rookie yr and will look to improve in coverages. MLB Nick Bellore 13/2 has versatility and has played FB as well. OLB Christian Jones 16/11 was signed from CHI because he is familiar with DET’s DEF. OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin 14/0 was used in his rookie yr in sub packages and should improve under the new HC & DC. The NFC NORTH has gotten tougher and DET has a brutal schedule. Then, late in the season DET has 2 cold weather games that don’t help. DET seems to fade when the schedule turns to December but with Patricia at the helm he may be able to whether the storm. But as a rookie HC he may be overwhelmed. I don’t see DET making the playoffs ahead of MINN & GB unless they both totally collapse or fall to injuries.
PROJECTED 2017 (7-9), ACTUAL 2017 (9-7), PROJECTED 2018 (7-9)
Good news for CHI is that they got to see how QB Mitch Trubisky plays. Bad news for HC John Fox is he will not because he was fired after the season with a 14-34 record. I said that HC John Fox was on the hotseat for 2017. Matt Nagy is the new HC and was OC @KC in 2017. He has no HC experience so there will be a learning curve for him in CHI this season. OC Dowell Loggains has moved on to be the OC with MIA & Mark Helfrich is the new OC. He was recently the HC @Oregon from 2013-2016. The DC stays the same with Vic Fangio. At QB, Trubisky 12/12 is definitely the starter but has a lot of pressure on him because of the shakeup with coaches and personnel. Backup QB Mike Glennon 4/4 was cut in the off-season and signed with ARZ. QB Mark Sanchez is gone too, having not seen any action in 2017. QB Chase Daniel was signed to be the backup from NO. Tyler Bray is the 3rd string QB and he was with KC in 2017. Neither are competing with Trubisky for starting QB and neither could run the OFF if Trubisky gets injured or isn’t up to the task. At RB, Jordan Howard 16/16 is the workhorse who can run and catch but with a new OC has to prove himself all over again. RB Tarik Cohen 16/4 is the backup RB but, sees a lot of passes out of the backfield. RB Bennie Cunningham 14/0 can do it all, pass block, special teamer, receiver or backup RB. RB Taquan Mizzell 3/0 was acquired off waivers from BALT during the season and should see time on special teams and in specific situations. FB Michael Burton 16/3 mostly plays special teams but is a solid run blocker. At WR, Kevin White 1/1 has had two injury plagued seasons and needs to make an impact to stick around. WR Markus Wheaton 11/0 was cut in the off-season and signed with PHILLY. WR Kendall Wright 16/4 signed with MINN. WR Josh Bellamy 15/7 plays mostly on special teams but catches passes in an emergency. WR Allen Robinson 1/1 was on IR with the JAGS with an ACL injury for most of 2017 but signed with CHI in the off-season. He needs to be the guy he was with JAGS. WR Taylor Gabriel 16/4 was signed from ATL and needs to stay healthy. He also has great speed and will help spread the OFF. WR Bennie Fowler 16/4 was signed from DEN and likely will find time in the rotation and a specific role. WR Dontrelle Inman 8/7 was acquired from LAC in the middle of the 2017 season but was not re-signed. WR Tre McBride 8/3 was cut in late NOV 2017 and was picked up by NYJ. WR Anthony Miller who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Memphis will be challenging for White’s position. WR Javon Wims who was drafted in the 7th round out of Georgia must make an impact to be around for wk 1. TE/WR Daniel Brown 14/2 may need to upgrade to stick around. At TE, Trey Burton 15/1 was signed by CHI from PHILLY. He will be the starter who has great hands. TE Zach Miller 8/6 suffered a terrible injury to his leg in the game @NO and will miss the entire 2018 season. He will be missed. TE Dion Sims 14/14 may see more touches in the new OFF. TE Adam Shaheen 13/7 will be used more as a blocker. TE Ben Braunecker 8/0 was activated from the practice squad in the middle of the yr may not see wk 1 with all the competition. The O-LINE was a mixed bag in 2017. In 2016 they allowed 28 sacks but in 2017 they allowed 39 sacks. This is not a way to protect a young QB. They have to do a better job. On the O-LINE at LT, Charles Leno 16/16 has been a starter for almost three years but needs to improve pass blocking skills and cut down on penalties. LG/RT Bradley Sowell 16/2 can play either and should see more time in the rotation due to less qualified linemen. LG Josh Sitton 13/13 signed with MIA in the off-season. LG/C James Daniels who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Iowa will start for the departing Sitton. G/C Eric Kush was on IR for 2017 with a torn hamstring but brings depth to the O-LINE. C/G Cody Whitehair 16/16 needs to improve at C or may end up at G. C Hroniss Grasu 6/4 may have to fight for a roster spot. RG Kyle Long 10/9 has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons and has had surgery in the off-season. OG Earl Watford 10/9 was signed by CHI from ARZ. Watford is a veteran who brings depth and can start when asked. RT Bobby Massie 15/15 needs to improve his pass blocking skills. OL Cameron Lee 2/0 was cut in the off-season and signed with BALT. G Rashaad Coward 1/0 is being converted from NT so he’s a work in progress. OG Jordan Morgan was on IR in 2017 and now has to make an impact just to stay on the roster. On the DEF in the secondary, CB Prince Amukamara 14/12 plays like a blanket but needs to get some INTS. CB Kyle Fuller 16/16 with 2INTS had a very good season and was rewarded with a nice contract extension in the off-season. CB Marcus Cooper 15/4 provides depth and plays on special teams. CB Bryce Callahan 12/6 with 2INTS & 1.0 sack plays the nickel but needs to improve his red zone play. CB Cre’Von LeBlanc 15/1 with 1.0 sack plays nickel & slot backup. CB Deiondre’ Hall 2/0 usually plays special teams but, needs to make an impact in training camp if he wants more. CB Sherrick McManus 13/0 is another special teams player but is also there for depth. FS Eddie Jackson 16/16 with 2INTS had a very nice rookie season and should continue to improve. S Quintin Demps 3/3 was on IR for most of 2017 and then cut after the season. SS Adrian Amos 13/10 with 1INT is in a contract yr and needs to show he’s worth it. FS Deon Bush 13/0 is great for depth but needs to show improvement. FS DeAndre Houston-Carson 11/0 has been making progress but, needs to continue to do so. The defensive scheme is a 3-4 alignment. On the D-LINE DE Akiem Hicks 16/16 with 8.5 sacks is a defensive leader and continues to get better. NT/DE John Jenkins 8/1 serves as backup. Jenkins was signed by CHI after the 2017 season started and should see more time in the rotation in 2018. NT Eddie Goldman 15/15 with 1.5 sacks needs to show a lot as he is in a contract year. DE Jonathan Bullard 16/3 with 1.0 sack has the job to lose and needs to show why he wants it. DE Roy Robertson-Harris 13/0 needs to show more in games, not just in practices. DT Mitch Unrein 12/8 signed with TB. DE Bilal Nichols who was drafted in the 5th round out of Delaware will look to come out strong as a pass rusher. OLB Leonard Floyd 10/10 with 4.5 sacks needs to be big this yr and dominate. ILB Danny Travathan 12/12 with 1INT & 2.0 sacks must stay healthy and be productive. ILB Jerrell Freeman 1/1 was on IR & had a 10 game suspension for PEDs in 2017 then was waived after the season by CHI & retired. ILB Roquan Smith who was drafted in the 1st round out of Georgia was the last 1st rounder to sign his contract. He is penciled in as the starter and should make an immediate impact for a DEF that needs one. OLB Pernell McPhee 13/5 with 4.0 sacks was cut in the off-season by CHI & signed by WASH. OLB Sam Acho 16/12 with 3.0 sacks plays a lot of special teams and is a backup but is good at both. LB Christian Jones 16/11 with 2.0 sacks signed with DET. LB Willie Young 4/2 with 2.0 sacks was cut after the season. LB Nick Kwiatkowski 11/6 with 2.0 sacks needs to improve his cover skills to see more time in the rotation. LB Aaron Lynch 7/0 with 1.0 sack was signed by CHI from SF and must prove that his injuries and substance abuse problems are a thing of the past to get time in the rotation. ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe who was drafted in the 4th round out of Western Kentucky provides backup with speed and blitzing. OLB Kylie Fitts who was drafted in the 6th round out of Utah was injured a lot in college but when healthy, likes to go after the QB. LB Jonathan Anderson 12/0 is good at backup but with all the draft picks coming into camp, he may have to show more ability to stick around. OLB Isaiah Irving 7/0 had a season filled with IR also needs to show abilities to stick around. ILB John Timu 11/2 is another borderline guy. LB Howard Jones 4/0 with 1.0 sack was brought up late from the practice squad, then was cut late in the off-season. There is a lot of pressure for Trubisky to do well. CHI traded a lot to get him and now he has a full training camp to get in sync with a new OC. WRS are a little shaky and the O-LINE must do its job. The RBs are very good which takes pressure off of Trubisky but he needs to read defenses and know what the coverages are. The D-LINE is solid but nickel coverage is tough for LB crew due to height and size. Secondary needs to be consistent and not disappear. There is a lot to ask of this team and there are better teams in their division.
PROJECTED 2017 (7-9), ACTUAL 2017 (5-11), PROJECTED 2018 (8-8)
New Orleans Saints
Many things were positive for the SAINTS in 2017. HC Sean Payton who was definitely in the hotseat had a nice playoff run and should have made the NFC title game had it not been for a lucky play. The DEF made some nice additions in 2017 and certainly stepped up going from #27 in 2016 to #17 in 2017. The SAINTS no longer have to score 40 points a game to outscore the opposing team. The DEF has improved to stop opposing OFFs. At QB, Drew Brees has a new lease on life because he has a balanced team that has a legitimate shot at another SuperBowl. With a balanced OFF around him he was sacked the lowest total since 2009 when NO won the SuperBowl, 20x. Also, Brees attempted his lowest passes since 2009. Right now, barring injury, Brees may be around for at least four more seasons. Tom Savage was signed from HOU as backup but for NO, they don’t want to see him in the game unless it’s to run out the clock. The RB tandem of Alvin Kamara & Mark Ingram was a great success in 2017 and kept many DEFs on their toes. Together they rushed for over 1,850 yds, caught 139 passes and scored 25 tds. The OFF doesn’t have to rely strictly on Brees’s arm. However, Ingram will be sitting out the first four games due to a suspension so Kamara will shoulder the extra load for those four games. RB Shane Vereen was signed to bridge the gap while Ingram sits out his suspension. He should see a lot of action because he can catch as well as run. At WR, Michael Thomas has certainly become Brees’s is favorite target catching 104 passes in 2017. But at WR depth is weak. Ted Ginn caught 53 passes but at sometimes seems invisible. Brandon Coleman has great size 6’6” but needs to get more involved in the OFF as a go to guy. Cameron Meredith was picked up from CHI but he didn’t play in 2017 due to injuries. He is a slot receiver that NO could surely use. WR Tre’Quan Smith was drafted in the 2nd round out of UCF and will get chances to show what he can do. Anything he adds to this OFF will certainly be a plus. At TE, Jimmy Graham is long gone but, Ben Watson was picked up from BALT. He’s 37 so anything he can contribute to blocking and pass catching would add to an explosive OFF. TE Coby Fleener was hurt during the season and was not offered a contract for 2018. TE Josh Hill 16/11 became a target for Drew and should see more passes in 2018. The O-LINE LT Terron Amstead 10/10, LG Andrus Peat 15/14, C Max Unger 16/16, RG Larry Worford 14/14 & Rookie Ryan Ramczyk 16/16 allowed only 20 sacks and are one of the most an effective O-LINE’s in the NFL. OL Senio Kelemente 16/8 who was a very capapble backup signed with HOU. He will be sorely missed. OL Jermon Bushrod was re-signed for his versatility and depth. OL Andrew Tiller was also added for depth after not playing in 2017. OT Rick Leonard who was drafted in the 4th round out of Florida State & Will Clapp who can play anywhere on the O-LINE was drafted in the 7th round out of LSU will both be given chances to help the O-LINE in needed depth. RT Zach Strief retired after an injury plagued 2017 season and twelve seasons with NO. On DEF, what a difference a year makes. For years NO had no DEF and were rated near the bottom of the NFL. In 2017 things changed and DC Dennis Allen has made significant changes since being hired in 2016. In the secondary, CB Marshon Lattimore 13/13 made a big impact in leading the team with 5INTs. He has a great future in the NFL and has a sense for the ball. Definitely a leader on this team and has become a shutdown corner. Ken Crowley 13/13 is the other CB but could be a backup or nickel back this year. CB Patrick Robinson was signed from PHILLY and is slotted to start opposite Lattimore. CB P.J. Williams 16/6 provides valuable coverage and can also be used in nickel situations. CB Natrell Jameson who was drafted in the 5th round & CB Kamrin Moore who was drafted in the 6th round out of Boston College can play both the S & CB and give added depth to an already talented secondary. CB Delvin Breaux who as a rookie in 2015 was seen as a rising star was not re-signed for 2018 as he spent 2017 on IR and had an injury shortened 2016. At SS Kurt Coleman was signed from CAR replacing Kenny Vaccaro who wasn’t re-signed. SS Von Bell 16/10 has some weaknesses but is a hard hitter and contributed 4.5 sacks. FS Marcus Williams 15/15 had a solid rookie season with 4 INTs and will be even better in 2018. On the D-LINE, DE Cameron Jordan 16/16 was named ALL-PRO and led the team with 13 sacks. DT Tyeler Davison 16/16 is reliable run stuffer but NO wants more. DT Sheldon Rankins 16/16 usually gets double-teamed but still found a way to get 2 sacks. The other DE right now is Alex Okafor 10/10 who contributed 4.5 sacks but will be in competition with DE Marcus Davenport who was drafted in the 1st round out of UTSA. Marcus will definitely see playing time in passing downs and will compete to start. DE Trey Hendrickson 12/0 provides quality depth and contributed 2.0 sacks. DE/DT David Onyemata 16/6 started the last six games and also contributed 2 sacks. DE George Johnson played in three games in 2017 but recorded 2.5 sacks and gives added depth. WLB Alex Anzalone started as a rookie 4/4 but his season was cut short due to a shoulder injury. Right now he is slotted to start but must stay healthy. Craig Robertson 16/12 filled in for Anzalone and contributed 2 sacks & 2INTs. He could battle Anzalone for the starting position. MLB Demario Davis was signed from NYJ to start. MLB Manti Te’o 16/11 is solid as a backup and will compete with SLB A.J. Klein who had 2 sacks for the spot. LB Nathan Stupar is a versatile backup coming back from a knee injury that cut his 2017 short. This team is solid all around and is poised to make a run at the SuperBowl. The only thing stopping them is themselves and Brees has to stay healthy. Ingram being gone for the first four games shouldn’t be a big deal but, we’ll see what happens. Considering that the SuperBowl is in ATL this yr and NO is used to playing there. Don’t be surprised if you see them playing in February.
PROJECTED 2017 (8-8), ACTUAL 2017 (11-5) PROJECTED 2018 (12-4)
Call it whatever you want but there was some kind of SuperBowl hangover for ATL in 2017. In any event, I did say that ATL would make it back to the playoffs but not the SuperBowl. However, they should have at least made it to the NFC Championship game. Again, coaching blunders. In the playoff game @PHILLY, 1st & goal at the nine with 1:09 to play and two timeouts is a lifetime in the NFL. Play selection was terrible including two obvious passes to Julio Jones that he had no chance of catching and ATL didn’t score and lost the game. There was no consistency to ATL in 2017. They won games they should have lost and lost games they should have won. The OC Steve Sarkisian & DC Marquand Manuel now have a yr under their belts so there is no excuse as to how to handle a game. HC Dan Quinn is a good coach but needs to get more out of his players. His team is sound but more production is what he should get. In the off-season QB Matt Ryan was given a HUGE contract. Everyone loves Matt Ryan, I don’t. He is the type of athlete that everyone has to be good around him and do their job for him to be good. He doesn’t improvise and is a dead on pocket QB. ATL is stuck with him and he is getting paid handsomely. Anyway, this season he may feel a little pressure to earn that money and the SuperBowl is being played in ATL. Matt Schaub is in his 3rd season as backup QB in ATL. At RB, Devonta Freeman 14/14 is the #1 RB for ATL and has shown that he can also catch passes out of the backfield. Freeman had a bit of an off year in 2017 and looks to get back right on track. Tevin Coleman serves as the FB/RB and he too can catch passes which makes a dangerous 1-2 punch for opposing teams trying the figure where the ball will be going. RB Terrence Magee has bounced around the league but is looking to give depth to the position. RB Ito Smith was drafted in the 4th round out of Southern Miss to give extra speed to the backfield. He will also look to return kicks. At WR, Julio Jones is #1 but doesn’t see a lot of TD passes. He needs to be more of a redzone factor. WR Mohamed Sanu is more of a 3rd down receiver and unfortunately has a habit of dropping passes. WR Taylor Gabriel, the #3 receiver signed with CHI. WR Justin Hardy will need to step up to be the slot receiver if he wants to stay with the team. WR Calvin Ridley was drafted in the 1st round out Alabama and will be competing for the slot receiver position. At TE, Austin Hooper has settled in nicely and is only getting better. TE Levine Toilolo used mostly as a blocker signed with DET. TE Logan Paulsen was signed to take over for Toilolo. On the O-LINE, sacks allowed went from 37 in 2016 to 24 in 2017. Protection for Ryan is crucial since he is a pure pocket QB. Running lanes are also essential with a 1-2 RB punch. At LT, Jake Matthews is a solid starter but needs to be aggressive vs DEs coming around that side. OT Ty Sambrailo 15/2 saw action at RT in 2017 but will be used for depth at LT as well. At LG Andy Levitre 13/13 had a biceps injury that he is coming back from. LG/C Ben Garland 16/3 is great for depth and filled in for Levitre when he was injured. C Alex Mack 16/16 is solid and the anchor of the O-LINE. RG Brandon Fusco 16/16 was signed from SF and RG Wes Schweitzer will probably move to backup. Wes is adept at run blocking but needs to improve in pass protection. RT Ryan Schraeder 14/14 needs to step it up to make the Pro Bowl. T Austin Pasztor 7/0 was a former starter but plays swing T for ATL. On DEF in the secondary, CB Desmond Trufant 15/15 with 2 INTs may have slipped a little late getting beat by some inferior WRs. He needs to get his game back. CB Robert Alford 16/16 needs to cut down on penalties. CB Isaiah Oliver who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Colorado will be used as a nickel back and for coverages in the slot. If he really excels, may switch positions with Alford. CB Brian Poole 15/3 may be fighting for a roster spot. CB Justin Bethel was signed from ARZ to help in coverages. CB Leon McFadden was signed for depth after being on IR for 2017. At FS, Ricardo Allen 15/15 is a converted CB and plays nickel when needed. SS Keanu Neal 16/16 is great vs the run. S Damontae Kazee 16/1 is also a converted CB but brings swingman depth to a thin secondary. S Quincy Mauger was on IR in 2017 so is looking to compete for backup in 2018. On the D-LINE, a lot of guys left ATL for greener pastures. Starter DT Dontri Poe 16/16 with 2.5 sacks signed with CAR. He will surely be missed. DE Adrian Clayborn 16/2 with 9.5 sacks signed with NE, is a big hole to fill. Backup DTs Courtney Upshaw 13/0 with 1.0 sack signed with SEA & Ahtyba Rubin 10/0 signed with NYJ. Those are big pieces to fill on the D-LINE. DE Brooks Reed 16/14 with 4.0 sacks had a nice year and should continue to do so. Takkarist McKinley 16/0 with 6 sacks is penciled in as the starter but must be more consistent. DT Deadrin Senat who was drafted in the 3rd round out of South Florida is penciled in for DT Poe’s former spot. DT Garrison Smith was signed from SEA to give depth. DT Grady Jarrett 16/16 with 4.0 sacks is reliable and doesn’t miss a snap. DT Jack Crawford 4/0 had his season end with an injury and will look to come back strong to add depth. DE/LB Vic Beasely 14/8 with 5.0 sacks, had a very down yr compared to his ALL-PRO yr of 2016. DE Derrick Shelby 16/14 with 1 sack was cut in the off-season and re-signed for 2018. He is in a prove it yr. At SLB, De’Vondre Campbell 16/16 with 2.0 sacks has cover and rushing skills. LB Foye Oluokun was drafted in the 6th round out of Yale will certainly look for time in the rotation. MLB Deion Jones 16/16 with 3 INTs and 1 sack has a lot of speed and plays in pass coverage as well. WLB Duke Riley 12/6 had a rocky rookie yr with missed tackles but should see improvement in 2018 if he wants back into the rotation. LB Kemal Ishmael 16/1 with 1 sack is a solid backup who gives depth to the middle and outside. This team is not getting to the SuperBowl. NO is better well rounded than ATL and so is GB. Not too much depth at RB, WR and many areas should someone get injured. Not too much depth at OL either. They will have a run in the playoffs as usual unless the bottom falls out with injuries and guys all of a sudden are not producing. ATL has had a bad habit of not being consistent and that may happen here. There is talent on this team but they will not be hosting the SuperBowl.
PROJECTED 2017 (11-5), ACTUAL 2017 (10-6), PROJECTED 2018 (10-6)
I’ve never been a big fan of HC Ron Rivera. He makes suspect calls at crucial times and gets a pass because either Cam or the DEF bails him out. At other times you wonder, who made that call? Or why wasn’t that expected? At OC, Mike Shula is out & Norv Turner is in. Norv is a Tier 1 OC and certainly will make Rivera look good. At DC, Steve Wilks is the new ARZ HC so Defensive Line Coach Eric Washington was promoted to DC. But, CAR wins and loses with Cam Newton 16/16, no doubt about it. His last two seasons have been very inconsistent. In 2017, Cam was CAR’s leading rusher so he had more on his mind then passing the ball. That is a recipe for disaster. Plus, Cam takes a lot of hits. He was sacked 35x in 2017 & 36x in 2016. To make matters worse he has sustained ligament & cartilage damage in his knee and is status is uncertain for wk 1 and beyond. Long time backup QB Derek Anderson was not re-signed but could be re-signed because he knows the system. QB Garrett Gilbert who hasn’t been on the field since 2014 and has been on practice squads all over the NFL is the #2 QB. QB Taylor Heinicke was cut by HOU and signed by CAR is competing for the backup role. At RB, longtime CAR RB Jonathan Stewart 15/10 was cut in the off-season and signed with NYG. RB/WR Christian McCaffrey 16/10 can do both successfully. RB C.J. Anderson 16/16 who had his 1st 1,000 yd rushing season with DEN in 2017 was cut from DEN in the off-season and signed with CAR. RB Cameron Artis-Payne 13/0 has a shot to move up in the depth chart to starter if he shows his skills. RB Fozzy Whittaker 12/0 who is used mostly as blocker tore his ACL in off-season workouts and is done for 2018. FB Alex Armah 9/0 was a later addition from the practice squad and will be the blocker in the backfield. At WR, Devin Funchess 16/16 is the #1 receiver for CAR. This is a big yr for him because this is the last yr of his contract and what he does dictates his whereabouts. WR Kelvin Benjamin 8/8 was traded in OCT to BUFF for draft picks. WR Torrey Smith 16/14 was acquired in an off-season trade from PHILLY for DB Daryl Worley. Torrey is a deep threat that CAR needs. WR Jarius Wright 16/0 was cut by MINN in the off-season and signed with CAR. He will be the slot receiver. WR Curtis Samuel 9/4 had an injury plagued rookie season and is also a deep threat. He needs to stay healthy. WR Russell Shepard 15/3 was cut in the off-season and signed with NYG. WR Kaelin Clay 9/2 was acquired during the season off waivers from BUFF is mostly a KR/PR guy but then was re-signed by BUFF this past off-season. WR Damiere Byrd 8/3 was on IR twice in 2017 needs to stay healthy to see more time in the rotation. WR D.J. Moore who was drafted in the 1st round out of Maryland will play all three receiver spots to find a favorite. WR Brenton Bersin 8/1 wasn’t re-signed. At TE, Greg Olsen 7/7 had an injury plagued season but is one of Cam’s favorite targets. TE Ed Dickson 16/12 who played well in Olsen’s absence signed with SEA in the off-season. TE Chris Manhertz 16/4 is in competition for the #2 TE spot but as a blocker. He is currently on the active PUP list with a broken foot and it is unclear if he will be ready for wk 1. TE Ian Thomas who was drafted in the 4th round out of Indiana could see more time in the rotation due to Manhertz’s injury. TE Evan Baylis is a practice squad guy that was added to the roster and could see time in the rotation if injuries at the position persist. The O-LINE has to do a better job protecting Cam and opening up running lanes. Cam can’t do it all and take the hits. At LT, Matt Kalil 16/16 should be better in 2018 after his first yr in CAR. OT Taylor Moton 16/0 can play G too and will compete for a starting position but is also good for depth. LG/C Tyler Larsen 14/10 plays backup at C but is looking to start at LG. C Ryan Kalil 6/6 missed ten games with a neck injury. LG Andrew Norwell 16/16 ALL-PRO signed with JAGS. OG Amini Silatolu 14/3 is good for depth but struggles at times. Silatolu had surgery to repair a torn MCL so his status for wk 1 is up in the air. OL Greg Van Roten 10/0 is good for depth and can play G or C. OL Jeremiah Sirles 14/4 was signed by CAR from MINN for depth. RG Trai Turner 13/13 missed three games due to a concussion but will be ok for 2018. RT Daryl Williams 16/16 was solid in 2017. Unfortunately he suffered a dislocated kneecap and MCL tear and will be out most of the 2018 season. T Blaine Clausell has been on NFL Practice squads and has been activated is needed for depth. G Dorian Johnson has also seen different NFL practice squads and was signed for depth. On DEF in the secondary, CB Daryl Worley 15/14 with 2INTS & 1.0 sack was cut in the off season and signed with OAK. CB Teddy Williams who was on IR for 2017 and was cut after the season signed with NYG. CB Donte Jackson who was drafted in the 2nd round out of LSU is penciled in as the starter at Worley’s spot. CB James Bradberry 16/16 with 2INTS & 1.0 sack currently has a groin injury and his status is unknown. CB Corn Elder who was on IR for 2017 is healthy and likely will play nickel. CB Captain Munnerlyn 14/0 with 2.0 sacks is great at depth and is fighting for his spot vs the newcomer Jackson. CB Kevon Seymour 16/2 will be competing for a spot but is good for depth. CB Ross Cockrell 16/9 with 3INTS was signed by CAR from NYG but is on IR due to surgery to repair a fractured left fibula & tibula. CB Lorenzo Doss 3/0 was cut by DEN and signed by CAR. CAR has him there for competition. CB LaDarius Gunter 4/0 was acquired during the season off waivers from GB and if he wants to stick around has to show something. CB Cole Luke was on IR in 2017 but is healthy and will also compete for a depth spot. At FS, Kurt Coleman 12/12 was cut in the off season by CAR and signed with NO. S Da’Norris Searcy 16/6 with 1INT was cut in the off-season by TENN and signed by CAR. Searcy will likely start in Coleman’s spot. SS Mike Adams 16/16 with 2INTS is the leader in the secondary. S/CB Colin Jones 16/7 with 1INT can also play nickel. S Rashaan Gaulden was drafted in the 3rd round out of Tennessee is a heavy hitter and should see time in the rotation. S Demetrious Cox 4/0 was on IR for most of 2017 but brings depth. DB Jairus Byrd 12/0 was not re-signed. The D-LINE has a 4-3 alignment and has been top ten vs the run the last five seasons. DE Mario Addison 16/16 with 11.0 sacks was tied for the lead in sacks on CAR with DE Julius Peppers 16/5. Peppers is a possible future HOF and is back for his 17th season. DE Wes Horton 16/0 with 5.5 sacks had his own little breakout season and will see more action in 2018. DT Kawann Short 16/16 with 7.5 sacks is solid at the position. DT Vernon Butler 14/0 needs to step it up if he wants to se more time in the rotation. DT Star Lotulelei 16/16 with 1.5 sacks signed with BUFF in the off-season. DT Dontari Poe 16/16 with 2.5 sacks was signed by CAR from ATL. Poe is an immediate upgrade at the position. DT Kyle Love 16/0 with 3.5 sacks gives great depth at the position. DE Charles Johnson 12/11 was cut in the off-season by CAR. DE Marquis Haynes who was drafted in the 4th round out of Ole Miss will look to see time in the rotation with his speed. DE Kendrick Norton who was drafted in the 7th round out of U of Miami will need to work hard to stay on the roster. At SLB Shaq Thompson 14/14 with 2.0 sacks is solid at the position. LB Ben Jacobs 16/0 mostly plays special teams but adds depth to the LB crew. MLB Luke Kuechly 15/15 with 3INTS & 1.5 sacks was ALL-PRO in 2017 is the definite leader on DEF. Without him in the lineup CAR is a lot weaker on DEF. MLB David Mayo 16/1 brings great depth when Kuechly is out. WLB Thomas Davis 15/15 with 2.5 sacks has gotten better with age but will serve a four game suspension for PEDs and will return wk 5. LB Jared Norris 11/0 plays mostly on special teams but was on IR late in the season. He brings good depth. LB Jermain Carter who was drafted in the 5th round out of Maryland will play mostly on special teams but will provide good depth. LB Andre Smith who was drafted in the 7th round out of North Carolina will look to contribute any way he can. This team doesn’t look too different from the team that went to the SuperBowl a few years ago. However, the inconsistent play by Cam and others has this team not reaching its potential. There are some questions in the secondary, WR and the O-LINE that have this team not at elite status and battling for the SuperBowl. RB will depend on how the O-LINE adjusts. Cam cannot be the leading RB and take so many shots and sacks. The O-LINE must do a better job. MLB Luke Kuechly has to stay healthy as well.
PROJECTED 2017 (8-8), ACTUAL 2017 (11-5), PROJECTED 2018 (10-6)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a promising 2016 where the BUCS went 9-7 and were looking to grow on a successful season, the roof caved in for TB in 2017 as they went 5-11. HC Dirk Koetter at times didn’t look prepared to make the right call. TB didn’t beat any team in 2017 with a winning record. The win for TB vs NO in wk 17 was a game that NO had already clinched the playoffs and their seed. The third season is always a hot seat season for any HC that has mixed results their first two years. If HC Koetter doesn’t get this team going in the right direction, he may be out. At QB, Jameis Winston seemed to take a step back in his development as an NFL QB. At times he seemed not to know where to throw the ball or make the right decision. To make matters worse, he will be starting the season with a three game suspension and will be reinstated for wk 4 @CHI. QB Ryan Fitzpatick who subbed for Winston during the three games Winston was hurt in 2017, will start those games that Winston is sitting out. At RB, Doug Martin was waived by TB and then signed with OAK. RBs Peyton Barber who filled in nicely while Martin was out on suspension and Ronald James who was drafted in the 2nd round out of USC will be competing for the starting slot. RB Jacquizz Rodgers is expected as the backup and Charles Sims will likely stay as the effective 3rd down back. Sims catches a lot of passes out of the backfield so he will certainly see action. Austin Johnson didn’t see any action in 2017 but saw action in 2016 with TB and previously with NO, will be penciled in as FB to help give the running game a big lift. At WR, Mike Evans seems to catch everything thrown his way even though the OFF was stagnant at times. WR DeSean Jackson is the #2 guy but needs to be more effective to take some of the defensive pressure away from Evans. WR Chris Godwin 16/2 had a nice rookie season and should see more touches in 2018. WR Adam Humphries is reliable as a slot receiver with sure hands. WR Justin Wilson who was drafted in the 5th round out of Penn will try to make the cut. At TE, Cameron Brate proved himself on a 1yr deal in 2017. TE OJ Howard had a nice rookie season and improved his blocking skills. TE Anthony Auclair found spot duty primarily as a blocker and should see more action in 2018. TE Alan Cross needs to show something to stay with the team. TEs Brate & Howard could be a very good 1-2 TE punch if they continue to improve. On the O-LINE, sacks allowed went from 35 in 2016 to 40 in 2017. The O-LINE needs to come together. LT Donovan Smith 16/16 is very durable lineman and hasn’t missed a game in his three years. OT Leonard Wester 8/0 is a viable backup. LG Ali Marpet 11/11 is moving from C to take over for LG Kevin Pamphile 16/15 who signed with TENN. OG/C Evan Smith 15/6 is a valuable backup and spot starter. C Ryan Jensen 16/16 was signed from BALT to be the new anchor on the O-LINE. RG Caleb Benenoch 13/5 came on strong in Dec and will see action at T & G. RG JR Sweezy 14/14 will be challenged by OL Alex Cappa who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Humboldt State. RT Demar Dotson 11/11 is very dependable but is starting to get up there in yrs. OG Adam Gettis who was signed in March, may see action if there is a breakdown in depth. On DEF, in the secondary CB Brent Grimes 13/13 with 3 INTs is going strong into his 12th season and seems to be the only dependable CB for TB. CB Vernon Hargreaves 9/7 should see action as the slot corner. CB Ryan Smith 15/10 needs to step his game up after moving from S. CB MJ Stewart who was drafted in the 2nd round out of North Carolina is great vs the run but needs to get his ball skills up to par. CB Carlton Davis who was also drafted in the 2nd round out of Auburn likes to shadow receivers. Both should see time in the CB rotation due to questions of depth and who starts opposite Grimes. DB Robert McClain 14/9 with 3 INTs is currently unsigned. CB Javien Elliott 15/1 needs to up his game to see more action. At SS, Chris Conte 16/14 with 1 INT looks like the starter in 2018 by default. TB would like an upgrade but can’t find one. FS Justin Evans 14/9 with 3INTs was solid. S Keith Tandy 14/3 has been regulated to backup since he couldn’t duplicate his 2016 campaign. S Jordan Whitehead was drafted in the 4th round out of Pitt and has the skills to eventually become the starter. He should see time in the rotation to compete. TB believes that S Isaiah Johnson could battle for a starting spot and should see a lot of action in training camp. TB also did a little D-LINE revamping in the off-season. DE Jason Pierre Paul was acquired in a trade from NYG. He is not the DE he used to be but can still be effective. DE Noah Spence 6/3 with 1 sack was hampered by shoulder injuries in 2017 but could be ready to take off. DT Vita Vea was drafted in the 1st round out of Washington and who is penciled in as the starter and whose presence will take pressure off of the others on the D-LINE. D Mitch Unrein 12/8 with 2.5 sacks was signed from CHI and will see plenty of time in the rotation. DT Gerald McCoy 15/15 with 6.0 sacks is solid even though he has had no help from the D-LINE in past seasons. Hopefully this season he will be able to do more because of others making noise. DT Beau Allen 15/3 with 1.0 sack was signed from PHILLY is a great run stopper but may see some competition from Vea. DE Vinny Curry 16/16 with 3.0 sacks was also signed from PHILLY after he was cut. Curry can play DE or DT and will certainly see a lot of time in the rotation. DE William Gholston 14/10 turned in a sub-par 2017 after TB made a big effort to re-sign him. Gholston needs to come out strong because of all the sudden competition or he may be looking for a new team. DE Robert Ayers 12/10 with 2.0 sacks was cut in the off-season and has not been signed. DT Clinton McDonald 14/3 with 5.0 sacks signed with DEN. DT LaVonte Lambert missed all of 2017 with a dislocated wrist but played five games in 2016. He will look to make it into the rotation for 2018. DE Will Clarke 15/1 with 2.5 sacks was re-signed for 2018 and adds depth on the outside. DE Channing Ward 1/0 was promoted from the practice squad in 2017 and will look to make the most of his opportunity by trying to get a roster spot in the rotation. DE Ryan Russell 14/6 with 2.0 sacks wasn’t re-signed by TB. The LB core is solid but needs to play just a little better. SLB Kendall Beckwith 16/11 with 1.0 sack had a nice season as a rookie in 2017 and is expected to get better. SLB Devante Bond 14/2 brings great depth and will have a chance to shine if Beckwith’s bad ankle isn’t ready wk 1. MLB Kwon Alexander 12/12 with 3 INTS has become a vocal leader on the DEF with his play. MLB Adarius Taylor, formerly Adarius Glanton 14/4 with 1 sack is coming back from a late season broken leg and brings great depth. OLB Lavonte David 13/13 is a solid player with great instinct. OLB Riley Bullough 3/0 was activated late in 2017 from the practice squad and is looking for training camp to make his presence noticed. LB Cameron Lynch 11/0 was re-signed by TB and brings depth. LB Jack Cichy who was drafted in the 6th round out of Wisconsin has a chance to make it as a backup. The TB OFF needs to get on the same page. If Winston doesn’t get his act together on the field and off, TB may make a change at the position. The OFF needs to be spread out and more guys need to see the ball to keep opposing DEFs guessing. The O-LINE must do their job and not give up so many sacks. Plus, they need to stay healthy. There is not a lot of depth so there may be guys signed during training camp. But Winston is the key. Fitzpatrick will be starting for the first three weeks and it is possible that TB will be 0-3 after @NO, PHILLY & PITT on MON. So Jameis will come back with a big hole. The DEF can’t go MIA, and I don’t mean MIAMI. The revamped D-LINE must put pressure on and make some stops. The secondary must do its job but that’s asking a lot. The NFC SOUTH is very tough and TB is not beating anyone in their own division. This team is not making the playoffs and considering how Winston fares, he may not be with the team in 2019.
PROJECTED 2017 (11-5), ACTUAL 2017 (5-11), PROJECTED 2018 (6-10)
Los Angeles Rams
HC Sean McVay showed a lot of people that he belongs in this league. He took a struggling LAR team and brought them to the playoffs. Sean also continues to call the OFF and keeps opposing DEFs on their toes. DC Wade Phillips has done a bang up job but the run DEF, #28 in 2017, has to improve if this team is to go deeper into the playoffs. At QB, Jared Goff was struggling under HC Jeff Fisher and there were whispers that maybe Goff was a bust. But under McVay, Goff flourished and led this team to the playoffs in 2017. Now the trick is to keep it going and eventually get to the SuperBowl. Sean Mannion is the backup and Brandon Allen is the 3rd string QB. At RB, Todd Gurley 15/15 bounced back nicely from a sophomore jinx in 2016 to ALL-PRO in 2017. He rushed for over 1300 yds and caught passes for almost 800 yds and was just rewarded a very nice contract extension. He certainly takes a lot of pressure off of Goff. RB Malcolm Brown 11/1 is the backup and is a viable contributor that gives Gurley a breather. WR/RB Tavon Austin who was the LAR second leading rusher in 2017 but whose job description was never really defined, was traded to DAL for a draft choice. RB John Kelly who was drafted in the 6th round out of Tennessee is someone that LAR feel can contribute in some way. At WR, Sammy Watkins 15/14 was not re-signed and ended up signing with KC. At times Sammy didn’t seem to be on the same page with the rest of the LAR OFF. Speedster WR Brandin Cooks 16/15 was acquired from NE in a trade in the off-season and will give LAR that deep threat that they have been missing. Brandin should have some great numbers this season. WR Robert Woods 12/11 is the slot receiver with sure hands, had his best season so far in 2017. WR Cooper Kupp 15/6 had a nice rookie season and should see even better numbers in 2018. WR/PR/KR Pharoh Cooper 16/1 was All-Pro because of his play on special teams but will take the place of Austin as an OFF weapon. WR Josh Reynolds 16/1 didn’t have a lot of playing time and is recovering from a torn labrum and his status for wk 1 is up in the air. WR Mike Thomas 8/1 also didn’t see a lot of playing time and will have to impress to get more into the rotation as the field ahead of him is crowded. At TE, Tyler Higbee 16/16 is a good blocker but needs to be more of a target for Goff. TE Gerald Everett 16/2 had a so-so rookie yr but will look to improve on his catching numbers. TE Temarrick Hemingway spent all of 2017 on IR but LAR still has high hopes for what he can bring to the position. On the O-LINE, much improvement was made as they allowed 49 sacks in 2016 to just 24 sacks in 2017. A lot of improvement was made with this bunch and hopefully it only gets better. LT Andrew Whitworth 15/15 is solid and was All-Pro in 2017. OT Joseph Noteboom who was drafted in the 3rd round out of TCU will be groomed to take over at LT if Whitworth shows signs of slowing down. LG Rodger Saffold 15/15 had a great season and should continue. LG Austin Blythe 16/1 gives good depth but may be in a battle with some rookies to keep his job. C John Sullivan 15/15 had a nice 2017 and was re-signed for two more years. C Brian Allen who was drafted in the 4th round out of Michigan State is looking for a backup position and time in the rotation. RG Jamon Brown 16/16 was great at the position after some roster shuffling but, has been issued a two-game suspension for substance abuse. He will be available wk 3. RG Jake Eldrenkamp who didn’t see any action in 2017 may see time at the spot due to Brown’s suspension. RT Rob Havenstein 15/15 had a great bounce back season protecting the right side. OL Darrell Williams 16/1 is a swing Lineman and brings great depth but will be pushed by the rookies. OT Jamil Demby who was drafted in the 6th round out of Maine will look to find time in the rotation with all the veterans. T Cornelius Lucas 1/1 was re-signed by LAR for depth. On DEF, LAR plays a 3-4 scheme and DT Aaron Donald 14/14 with 11.0 sacks & 3rd straight All-Pro has responded better than expected. Only problem is that he is holding out for a better contract and after RB Todd Gurley got his, Donald wants his too. Hopefully the holdout will end soon and Donald can come back to the team. DT Dominique Easley who was on IR in 2017 with a knee injury but was with LAR in 2016 16/0 is coming back and brings good depth. He may start if Donald is not signed. DT Tyrunn Walker 16/4 was not re-signed but may be for depth if Doanld is out. NT Ndamukong Suh 16/16 with 4.5 sacks was cut by MIA and then signed to a 1yr deal with LAR. He brings his attitude and all to a line that is looking for him to be a run stopper. DT/NT Tanzel Smart 16/4 gives depth. DE Michael Brockers 16/15 with 4.5 sacks is productive and reliable. DE Ethan Westbrooks 16/9 with 4.0 sacks is valuable as a rotational lineman. DE/LB John Franklin-Myers who was drafted in the 4th round out of Stephen F. Austin can play either position and should see time in the rotation. DE Morgan Fox 16/1 with 2.5 sacks is a rotational pass rusher but with all the new people will have to show something more to keep his job. DT Sebastian Joseph-Day who was drafted in the 6th round out of Rutgers could move to the outside for contributions. At the LB position, some reshuffling was done probably to help the run DEF and put more pressure on the outside. LB Connor Barwin 14/13 with 5.0 sacks was not re-signed and then signed a two yr deal with NYG. LB Alec Ogletree 15/15 with 2.0 sacks was traded to NYG for draft picks. LB Robert Quinn 15/14 with 8.5 sacks was traded to MIA for draft picks. OLB Samson Ebukam 16/2 with 2.0 sacks is slotted to start in place of Quinn and should do well. LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo who was drafted in the 5th round out of Oklahoma should see time in the rotation due to his athleticism. ILB Mark Barron 14/14 with 3INTs and 1.0 sack is the veteran leader of the LB core. LB Ramik Wilson was signed in the off-season from KC and will make a push to start somewhere but adds valuable depth. ILB Corey Littleton 16/4 with 1INT & 1.0 sack could push to start for the departed Ogletree but may have some competition. LB Micah Kiser who was drafted in the 5th round out of Virginia will be battling Littelton for the spot and time in the rotation. OLB Matt Longacre 14/1 with 5.5 sacks should start now that Barwin is signed elsewhere. OLB Carlos Thompson was upgraded late in 2017 from the practice squad but needs to impress if he wants to stick around. LB Bryce Hager 16/1 brings depth but with all the new bodies may be pushed out. LB Trevon Young who was drafted in the 6th round out of Louisville will get a chance in camp. LB Travin Howard who was drafted in the 7th round out of TCU will get a shot at S. DE Justin Lawler who was also drafted in the 7th round out of SMU, will need to impress to find time in the rotation as it has gotten pretty crowded in the LB & DE positions. In the secondary, CB Trumaine Johnson 16/15 with 2INTs signed a big contract with NYJ. In his place, CB Marcus Peters 14/14 with 5INTs was acquired in a trade with KC. He brings an upgrade to the position. CB Kayvon Webster 11/11 with 1INT was cut in the off-season. CB Aqib Talib 15/15 with 1INT was acquired in a trade with DEN. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman 15/4 with 2INTs is used mostly in the nickel and was rewarded with an extension. CB Troy Hill 12/3 gives valuable depth and can start as well. CB Sam Shields who missed all of 2017 and almost all of 2016 with concussions signed with LAR but will miss the first two games due to a suspension for an off-the field incident. If he is healthy, he will bring veteran leadership and instinct to the bunch. CB Dominique Hatfield 11/0 needs to show stuff in a crowded secondary if he wants to stay on. CB Kevin Peterson 6/1 with 2 INTs showed flashes but is competing in a very crowded secondary. At SS Maurice Alexander 4/4 was cut during the 2017 season and signed with SEA in the off-season. SS John Johnson 16/11 with 1 INT had a good season once he took over as starter. He should see bigger numbers in 2018. S Cody Davis 7/2 with 1INT signed in the off-season with the JAGS. S Blake Countess 16/1 with 1 INT provides good depth but in a crowded secondary. S Marqui Christian 12/0 was placed on IR at the end of the 2017 season but can play CB as well. S Lamarcus Joyner 12/12 with 3INTs can do it all and is a heavy hitter. P Johnny Hekker & K Greg Zuerlein are both tops in the NFL at their positions. HC Sean McVay should be giddy with excitement looking forward to the season with this team. The OFF is solid and should score a lot of points in different ways and different guys contributing. The DEF has many options and additions to choose from and should find a steady balance to stop opponents. It will be exciting to watch this team going forward and they will make a deep run into the playoffs, just not the SuperBowl.
PROJECTED 2017 (7-9), ACTUAL 2017 (11-5), PROJECTED 2018 (12-4)
San Francisco 49ers
The 2017 season is a tale of two seasons. Before Jimmy G and after Jimmy G. The last two seasons SF went through a major transition with their roster. Players were moving about at almost every position. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded for on Oct 31st. QB Brian Hoyer was cut the same day and signed with NE. SF started 2017 at 0-9. Then they beat NYG and lost to SEA. But then Jimmy G started the next five games to go 5-0 and end the season at 6-10. Jimmy G signed a massive contract in the off season and changes to the team were made. Jimmy G will be the everyday QB. This is his first training camp with him being the #1 QB so he will be able to get very comfortable with the OFF. QB C.J Beathard who was tossed around like a rag doll on the field at times in his rookie season with SF will be the backup. At RB, Carlos Hyde 16/16 signed with CLEVE. He will be missed because he was tough and could catch passes out of the backfield. RB Jerick McKinnon 16/1 was signed from MINN. Jerick has the skill set of Hyde but, just a little bit better. RB Matt Breida 16/0 will be the backup but needs to have better hands. FB Kyle Juszczyk 14/10 is the blocker but catches a lot of passes out of the backfield (33). FB Malcolm Johnson, who didn’t play in 2017, will be the backup FB and at times an H back. At WR, Pierre Garcon 8/8 had his season shortened by a neck fracture. He should be ready to go wk 1. WR Marquise Goodwin 16/16 signed a nice extension in the off-season. WR Trent Taylor 15/1 is the slot receiver and will be for Jimmy. WR Dante Pettis who was drafted in the 2nd round out of WASH will also return punts while catching passes. WR Kendrick Bourne 11/0 didn’t have many touches in 2017 but, should see more action with Jimmy. WR Victor Boldin 9/0 returned kicks and punts but will be serving a four game suspension for PEDs. He is able to return wk 5. WR Aaron Burbridge was on IR in 2017 after being a special teams ace in 2016. WR Max McCaffrey was signed by SF at the end of 2017 but didn’t see any action. He needs to show something in training camp to stick around. WR Aldrick Robinson 16/1 had a quiet season after bouncing around the NFL and is around for depth. At TE, George Kittle 15/7 had injuries in his rookie season of 2017 but was still impressive and should only be better in 2018. TE Garrett Celek 16/13 sometimes plays FB but will be more visible in 2018. TE Cole Hikutini 4/0 was on IR for most of 2017 but figures to be part of the TE package in 2018. The O-LINE went through some major changes in the off-season, again. They gave up 47 sacks in 2016 and 43 sacks in 2017. These are not good numbers and the OFF can’t get started if the qB is running for his life. Jimmy G was sacked 8x in the five games that he started in 2017. He is a mobile QB but, sacks have to come down for SF to be winning. At LT, Joe Staley 15/15 is solid and has been with SF his whole career but will start the season at age 34. LG Laken Tomlinson 15/15 improved tremendously over the course of 2017, so he’s not going anywhere. T Zane Beadles 16/5 was cut in the off-season. OL Erik Magnuson 4/2 is a former C who played through a foot injury in 2017 and is good for depth. C Daniel Kilgore 16/16 was a long time SF but was traded to MIA. C Weston Richburg 4/4 was signed from NYG. His season was cut short from a concussion but should be ready to go. Richburg is penciled in as the starter at C. C Tim Barnes 1/0 could see action as a reserve. LT/RT Trent Brown 10/10 was traded to NE for draft picks. RG Brandon Fusco 16/16 was not re-signed and signed with ATL. OG Jonathan Cooper 13/13 was signed to a 1yr deal after playing with DAL in 2017. He is penciled in at RG. RG Joshua Garnett was on IR for all of 2017 and should be ready for 2018. RT Gary Gilliam 8/1 is a swing tackle and missed the second half of the season with a knee injury. OT Mike McGlinchey was drafted in the 1st round out of Notre Dame and is penciled in as the starter at RT. SF eventually wants him to replace Joe Staley at LT. OL Mike Person 12/4 was signed from IND for depth. OT Darrell Williams 7/0 was promoted from the practice squad during the season and has a shot at backup T. On DEF in the secondary, CB Richard Sherman 9/9 was signed from SEA and is scheduled to start even though he is coming off a torn Achilles which sidelined him in 2017. CB Dontae Johnson 16/16 with 1INT signed with SEA. CB Ahkello Witherspoon 12/9 with 2INTS learned a lot his rookie season and will see plenty of action. CB DJ Reed was drafted in the 5th round out of Kansas State will look for time at nickel while returning punts. CB Greg Mabin 7/0 was picked up during the season and is there for depth. DB Tarvarius Moore was drafted in the 3rd round out of Southern Miss and will be converting from S to CB. CB K’Waun Williams 14/5 with 1INT usually plays nickel. At S Eric Reid 13/12 with 2INTS was not re-signed. SS Jaquiski Tart 9/8 with 1INT was on IR for part of the season but will be taking Reid’s spot. FS Adrian Colbert 14/6 is a hard hitter and is penciled in as the other starter. FS Jimmy Ward 7/6 is versatile and could play CB. He was on IR for most of the season and has been plagued by injuries. S Marcell Harris who was drafted in the 6th round out of Florida did not play in his SR year due to an Achilles tear. He may not see action until late in the season. S Tyvis Powell 3/0 needs to make the most of camp to stick around. On the D-LINE, DE Arik Armstead 6/6 with 1.5 sacks is entering his fourth season and is already dealing with a hamstring injury. DE Ronald Blair 6/2 with 2.0 sacks was on short term IR but made the most of his opportunities. He should see more time in the rotation if he’s healthy. DE Tank Carradine 8/7 with 1.5 sacks signed with OAK. DT Earl Mitchell 16/16 with 1.0 sack and is solid. DT DJ Jones 9/0 had a short yr because of a knee injury. DT DeForest Buckner 16/16 with 3.0 sacks has been a starter his two years. Look for him to step up his game in 2018. DT Sheldon Day 6/0 with 1.0 sack was acquired off waivers during the season from JAGS. He should see more time in the rotation in 2018. DE Aaron Lynch 7/0 with 1.0 sack signed with CHI in the off-season. DeSolomon Thomas 14/12 with 3.0 sacks usually plays between the edge and the interior. DE Cassius Marsh 6/0 with 2.0 sacks was acquired during the season off waivers from NE should see time in the rotation. DE Elvis Dumervil 16/0 with 6.5 sacks was not re-signed by SF. DE Kentavius Street was drafted in the 4th round out of NC State will probably be inactive because of a ACL tear in a pre-draft visit. DT Julian Taylor was drafted in the 7th round out of Temple has been riddled with injuries during his college career and will fight to stay healthy. OLB Eli Harold 16/11 with 2.0 sacks is a great run stopper but must improve his sacking abilities. OLB Dekoda Watson 14/0 is mostly known for special teams but may see action if injuries mount. MLB Reuben Foster 10/10 had some nagging injuries and will be suspended for the first two games of 2018 due to Conduct & Substance abuse. MLB Brock Coyle 16/10 with 0.5 sack was a starter for most of the season and may start again if injuries persist. WLB Malcolm Smith was on IR for 2017 with a torn pectoral and needs to show a good yr or he may be gone. WLB Fred Warner was drafted in the 3rd round out of BYU and should be able to break into the rotation. LB Korey Toomer 15/8 signed with SF from LAC and should fill in for Foster while he is on suspension. LB Jeremiah Attaochu 4/0 was signed by SF also from LAC and SF is expecting big things. OLB Mark Nzeocha 10/0 gives depth. OLB Pita Taumoepenu 2/0 needs to show something after being inactive for 14 games in 2017. This franchise is moving forward and has a lot to be excited about. However, the O-LINE must mesh and do their job. There is not too much depth at WR but the guys that are there cannot drop passes. On DEF, the secondary doesn’t have a lot of depth and there is still a question whether Richard Sherman is 100%, we’ll see. The LB core has a lot of ifs so we’ll see there too. If Jimmy G can stay healthy and play well, this team has a chance at getting a wild card spot. Then they can build from there. They could certainly surprise a few teams as they move up in the standings. Things are looking better at Levi Stadium.
PROJECTED 2017 (5-11), ACTUAL 2017 (6-10), PROJECTED 2018 (9-7)
I said in 2017 that a window of opportunity only lasts for a while in the NFL. The window of opportunity for SEA may be closing even sooner as it showed in 2017. This may be the toughest yr for HC Pete Carroll knowing that SEA may be rebuilding. He has a completely new Assistant coaching staff with new OC & DC. They did not make the playoffs in 2017 for the 1st time since 2011. They also did not find a reliable solution for the RB position. QB Russell Wilson was the leading RB for SEA and that is a recipe for disaster waiting to happen. RB Eddie Lacy was signed but, was a bust in his only yr in SEA. RB Rashaad Penny was drafted in the 1st round out of San Diego St. in 2018 to help take pressure off of Wilson. RB Chris Carson who showed star potential until injuring his ankle in the 4th game and ending his 2017 will also be in the RB mix. SEA will look at these two to get the running game going. Wilson had a great yr even though at times it looked like he was running for his life. Hopefully this yr he will not have to do everything. A big loss on OFF is the departure of TE Jimmy Graham who never quite fit for SEA. Even when he wasn’t catching passes he needed to be covered by opposing defenses. Jimmy was having a better yr in 2017 statistically as compared to his first two seasons but, from gms 11-16 he caught only 11 passes. He signed in the off-season with GB. TE Ed Dickson was signed from CAR as a run blocker 1st and pass catcher 2nd. TE Luke Wilson, a fan favorite, signed with DET. WR Doug Baldwin consistently is a favorite and dependable target of Russell Wilson. He has been Wilson’s go to guy. WR Paul Richardson the #2 WR, signed with WASH. WR Jaron Brown was signed from ARZ to replace him. WR Brandon Marshall who only played in five games in 2017 due to injuries was cut after the season by NYG and signed by SEA. Maybe Marshall can be a veteran leader on this SEA team. Tyler Lockett WR/PR/KR continues his special roles w/SEA and is entering the final yr of his rookie contract. Look for him to get more passes in the red zone. WR Marcus Johnson was added and could challenge Lockett on Special Teams. The O-Line for SEA has finally gotten some attention. LT Duane Brown who was acquired during the 2017 season from HOU got a hefty raise in the off-season. Ethan Pocic who was drafted as a RT moves to LG replacing Mark Glowinski who signed with INDY. Justin Britt has been solid at C in his four yrs but needs more consistency. OG D.J. Fluker was signed to shore up the RG position. OGs George Fant & German Ifedi will be competing for the RT position. However, not much upgrade for the O-LINE for SEA and a lot of protection questions still linger. On DEF this team will look significantly different than in years past. This may be the end of the “Legion of Boom”. Gone from the secondary is CB Richard Sherman who was the consummate leader on the field and in the locker room. He signed with rival SF but is coming off a season ending torn Achilles suffered during the season & two surgeries. S Kam Chancellor is most probably played his last NFL game due to neck injuries sustained during the 2017 season. He will surely be missed by the team and the fans. CB Dontae Johnson was signed from SF to take over for Sherman. CB Shaquill Griffin who was drafted in 2017 G/GS 15/11 plus 1 INT is slotted to start at the other CB position. CB Justin Coleman 16/5 & 2INTS along with CB Byron Maxwell who was picked up mid season and is in his 2nd tour with SEA will backup and fill in on nickel situations. S Tre Flowers who was drafted in the 5th round out of Oklahoma State will be tried at CB first before moving over to S. SS Bradley McDougald was re-signed to a three yr deal to take over for Chancellor. FS Earl Thomas has been a mainstay at the position and becomes the defacto leader in the secondary if he is not traded or comes back from his contract holdout. SS Maurice Alexander was brought in from LAR as insurance if Thomas is traded or injured and FS Tedric Thompson should see more playing time than in 2017 due to the shakeup in the secondary. On the D-LINE less pressure on the opposing offenses was noticeable in 2017. DE Michael Bennett signed with PHI, so DE Dion Jordan who only played in five games in 2017 but had 4 sacks will be expected to start in the position. DT Jarran Reed 15/15 may be the new leader on the line. DT Tom Johnson was signed from MINN who replaces DT Sheldon Richardson 15/15 who in turn signed with MINN. DE Cliff Avril who had an injury plagued yr was not re-signed. DE Frank Clark 16/12 collected nine sacks and takes over for Avril. Backing the D-LINE up is DE Rasheem Green who was drafted in the 3rd round out of USC and should make an impact even though he is coming off a knee injury in college. DT Nazir Jones & Marcus Smith both continue to contribute in different defensive packages and add sacks when needed. OLB Michael Wilhoite wasn’t re-signed but OLB Barkevious Mingo was signed from INDY to give the LB crew a lift. MLB Bobby Wagner is coming off his 3rd ALL-PRO yr in four years and is the leader of the LBs. OLB K.J Wright is in the final yr of a big contract but is solid and should have another big yr. LB Shaquem Griffin who was drafted in the 5th round out of UCF and brother of CB Shaquill Griffin should get a shot at contributing in different defensive packages. On Special Teams long time OAK K Sebastian Janikowski was signed in the off season replacing long time SEA K Blair Walsh. This will be a very frustrating year for SEA fans because they have come to expect winning games and playoff appearances. But, as numerous fixtures on this team have departed fans must understand that some kind of rebuilding is underway. O-LINE problems weren’t really addressed and that could spell trouble for Wilson. Carroll is also working with a completely new staff. If the season gets out of hand in a losing way, this may be Pete Carroll’s last season as the HC.
PROJECTED 2017 (11-5), ACTUAL 2017 (9-7), PROJECTED 2018 (7-9)
HC Bruce Arians was on the hotseat in 2017 but he beat his firing by announcing that he was stepping down at the end of the season. I had them losing at SEA in the last game of the season but Arians quietly told the team that he was stepping down. Had I known that and ARZ would play their hearts out, I would have picked ARZ. But, it is what it is. ARZ supposedly did a thorough search and came up with Steve Wilks who has a lot of assistant coaching experience but zero head coaching. Also there is a new DC, Al Holcomb & new OC, Mike McCoy. This team is in a transition and after 2017, this team could go either way. At QB, Carson Palmer retired, backup Blaine Gabbert signed with TENN & backup Drew Stanton signed with CLEVE. ARZ signed oft-injured QB Sam Bradford to be the bridge for Josh Rosen who was drafted in the 1st round out of UCLA. He seems to be the readiest of the QB crop that was drafted in 2018. QB Mike Glennon was also signed as insurance for Bradford if Rosen is not ready. Bradford’s problems have been his knees and when he gets in a groove he can be dangerous. At RB, David Johnson suffered a wrist injury in the first game of the season and was out the rest of 2017. He is one of the driving forces on the ARZ OFF and his return for 2018 is welcoming. Without David Johnson the ARZ OFF was #22 in 2017 as compared to #9 in 2016. Johnson is a workhorse and can do it all. In 2016 he rushed 293x for 1,239 yds while catching 80 passes for 879 yds. He also scored 20 tds. Other RBs not coming back, Adrian Peterson who showed he did have something left in the tank. He has not signed with anyone else as of yet. RB Kerwynn Williams, who signed with KC & Andre Ellington who was traded mid season to HOU. RB Elijhaa Penny who was a rookie in 2017 and played mostly on special teams might see a transition to H-back. RB Chase Edmonds who was drafted in the 4th round out of Fordham will likely take Kerwynn’s spot on the depth chart and back up Johnson. FB Derrick Coleman who was signed from ATL will likely be blocking for David Johnson. At WR, Larry Fitzgerald can do it all whether it’s in the slot or on the outside. Unfortunately for him, this team is not going to the SuperBowl and he has stated that he does not want to play anywhere else. Also, he is not getting any younger. He continues to be the #1 WR for ARZ. JJ Nelson is slotted to be the #2 after WR John Brown signed with BALT & Jaron Brown signed with SEA. WR Brice Butler was signed from DAL to fill in where guys left. WR/PR Christian Kirk was drafted in the 2nd round out of Texas A & M and will share his time returning punts. WR Chad Williams who didn’t see much action in his rookie season of 2017 will be fighting to move up to the #3 or #4 WR spot. WR Rashad Ross who last played for WASH in 2016 and bounced around since then is looking to add to the depth chart. At TE, Jermaine Gresham is the #1 guy but is recovering from a torn Achilles and his status for wk 1 is uncertain. TE Ricky Seals-Jones is a capable guy who has transitioned from WR. He could see more action if Gresham is not ready to go. TE Gabe Holmes who was with ARZ in 2017 could see action due to depth issues. TE Bryce Williams who has bounced around NFL practice squads was signed in the off-season to also give depth to the position. The O-LINE needs to get better. In 2017 they gave up a combined 52 sacks as compared to 41 sacks in 2016. This could have been due to the fact that ARZ was throwing the ball more because RB David Johnson was out. But still, 52 sacks is way too many. At LT, DJ Humphries 5/5 was limited in 2017 due to a knee injury. LT/RT John Wetzel 16/11 filled in nicely when the line was hit with injuries. LG Mike Iupati 1/1 was limited completely due to multiple injuries. Can he stay healthy for the whole season? OT Will Holden 7/5 provides depth at both G spots. LG Alex Boone 14/13 was solid but has not been re-signed. LG/RG Earl Watford 10/9 who gave good depth to the line signed with CHI. C AQ Shipley 16/16 is tough and dependable. RG Evan Boehm 15/8 had started but then was benched. However, he does give good depth to the O-LINE. OL Jared Veldheer 13/13 who filled in nicely when injuries struck signed with DEN. RG Justin Pugh was signed from NYG to take over for Veldheer. G/C Mason Cole who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Michigan could compete to replace LG Iupati or C Shipley. RT Andre Smith 13/8 is listed as the starter but could be used for depth. OT Korey Cunningham who was drafted in the 7th round out of Cincinnati started at both LT & RT in college and should see time in the rotation. On DEF, in the secondary, LCB Patrick Peterson 16/16 with 1 INT is a shutdown corner looking for a partner. RCB Tramon Williams 13/9 with 2 INTS signed with GB. CB Justin Bethel 16/6 with 1 INT signed with ATL. CB Marcus Williams who played for HOU & NYJ in 2017 signed with ARZ for 2018 in a prove it yr. He is penciled in as the starter opposite Peterson. CB Brandon Williams 16/0 has played mostly on special teams but could find time in sub packages. CB Bene Benwikere was signed from DAL on a 1yr deal. He previously played for DC Steve Wilks at CAR. Antoine Bethea 15/6 with 5 INTs moves from SS to FS to replace Tyrann Mathieu 16/16 with 2 INTs who was cut and signed with HOU. SS Budda Baker 16/7 made All-Pro based on his special teams play but will be penciled in as the starter. CB Chris Campbell who was drafted in the 6th round out of Penn State is versatile and has played all three positions in college. DB Tyvon Branch 9/9 who was good in backup was not re-signed. DB Lou Young has bounced around the NFL but was signed by ARZ in the off-season for depth. On the D-LINE, the DEF is going to a 4-3 as opposed to a 3-4 in previous years. DE Chandler Jones 16/16 with 17.0 sacks was All-Pro in 2017 and has been nothing but great in his two years in ARZ. DE Bryson Albright was activated from the practice squad in 2017 and played seven games. He is there for depth and special teams. DT Olsen Pierre 14/7 with 5.5 sacks will be competing for a starting role. DT Rodney Gunter 16/3 with 1 sack had a disappointing 2017 season but will see time in the rotation and should look to improve his game. DT Corey Peters 12/12 with 1 sack is penciled in as the starter. DT Robert Nkemdiche 12/0 will share the position with Peters. DE Markus Golden 4/4 was on IR for most of the yr but should bounce back. He had 12.5 sacks in 2016 and could do some damage if he is fully healthy. DE Benson Mayowa was signed from DAL to give depth to the line. DT Frostee Rucker 16/16 with 1.5 sacks signed with OAK. DL Xavier Williams 11/1 with 0.5 sacks signed with KC. DE Josh Mauro 13/7 with 1 sack signed with NYG. LBs were not addressed in the off-season and depth may be a problem here. WLB Deone Bucanon 12/12 with 1 sack came off ankle surgery to have a productive yr. LB Karlos Dansby 16/15 with 1 sack was not re-signed and probably will retire. LB Jeremy Cash was signed from CLEVE for backup. MLB Josh Byrnes 14/1 with 1.0 sack provided great depth behind Dansby but will probably move into the starting role now that Dansby is muddling retirement. LB Scooby Wright 10/0 is limited in pass coverage and probably will see more special teams play. OLB Haason Reddick 16/3 with 2.5 sacks had a nice rookie yr and should see a bigger role in the DEF. LB Edmond Robinson who has bounced around practice squads is there for depth. LB Gabe Martin ruptured his Achilles in OTAs and is already on IR. LB Kareem Martin 16/10 with 1 sack signed with NYG. OLB Praise Martin-Oguike was signed for depth. This team may go through some struggles if Bradford goes down early and Rosen isn’t ready. Behind David Johnson at RB, not much depth and the QBs may rely on Johnson just too much that the ARZ OFF becomes predictable. There is a lot of unproven talent at WR behind Fitzgerald and Nelson. The O-Line needs to do a better job at protecting whoever is throwing the ball and opening up rushing lanes. On DEF, not a lot of depth in the secondary, which create a problem with coverages and nickel situations. The LB core wasn’t addressed and some key players and depth guys left. A veteran may be added before the season starts. A lot of questions and new coaches coming in may have this team going through some growing pains. The NFC WEST is tough and ARZ looks like they are rebuilding.
PROJECTED 2017 (8-8)√, ACTUAL 2017 (8-8), PROJECTED 2018 (7-9)