As we approach the start of the NFL’s 2017-2018 season, history tells us that there will always be surprises. Some teams will come out of nowhere to overperform and make the playoffs. Others will struggle with injuries and underperform. But here’s how things are expected to shake out in the regular season:
The Dallas Cowboys are the favorites here, behind their powerful offense led by Dak Prescott. The New York Giants should finish in second place, with Washington nipping at their heels. The Eagles should come in last place.
This is the year the Green Bay Packers are dethroned in the North, as the Minnesota Vikings take the division crown behind their strong defense and a steady year from quarterback Sam Bradford. Green Bay manages to hang onto second place over the Lions, while the Bears bring up the rear in last place.
In the South, Atlanta Falcons repeat as division champions, their Matt Ryan led offensive juggernaut proving to be too much for the resurgent Carolina Panthers, who finish in second place. The Saints come in third, and Tampa Bay has a disappointing season and a last place finish.
Out west, the Seattle Seahawks’ swarming defense and dominant home field advantage will carry them to first place. The Los Angeles Rams edge out the disappointing Arizona Cardinals for second place, while the 49ers continue to rebuild in last place.
No one is stopping the New England Patriots from running away from the pack to another division title. The Miami Dolphins, however, have a strong year with 2nd year coach Adam Gase. The Bills and the Jets are in a battle of underperforming teams for third place, and the Bills are just slightly better than the Jets.
The Baltimore Ravens fend off the Pittsburg Steelers for first place in the North, with Joe Flacco finding the kind of form that made him a Superbowl champion in 2013. Cincinnati will outperform the Browns to take third place, while Cleveland will look for moral victories in last place.
Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans take the next step in ascending the NFL ranks, winning the South. Houston will take second place, with Jacksonville making progress as a team but finishing third. The Colts will struggle with Andrew Luck dealing with injuries in last place.
Out West, the Oakland Raiders will win this extremely competitive division, with Denver taking the second spot over the slightly disappointing Chiefs. San Diego brings up the rear here.
Byes for: Seattle, Dallas
Division winners: Minnesota, Atlanta
Wild Cards: Green Bay, Carolina
Winner: Seattle over Atlanta
Byes for: New England, Oakland
Division winners: Tennessee, Baltimore
Wild Cards: Denver, Miami
Winner: Oakland over New England
Oakland defeats Seattle.