Leigh’s 2019 NFL Preview

Last year was embarrassing. I was humbled by my lack of good takes, but folks who know me know that I am not afraid to take risks and lay it all on the line. Sometimes this works out in my favor, sometimes not so much. Let’s run it back.

AFC WEST

1.Kansas City Chiefs 11-5

Sorry KC, I was very wrong about you guys last year. Although I don’t think KC will wax through their schedule like they did last year, this team is the real deal and will be hungry and poised come playoff time.

2.Los Angeles Chargers 8-8

For the first time in BackJudge history I am off the Bolts. Bad O-line, mediocre coaching, Melvin holdout/Derwin injury and essentially 16 road games. The star-studded roster in LA will disappoint this year and miss the playoffs.

3.Denver Broncos 7-9

First year defensive-minded head coaches have not fared well in the NFL recently. I am not trying to say Fangio won’t be a good head coach, I just think this will be more of a building year than an execution year. The offense does not excite me and this team traded out of drafting Devin Bush to get two project picks in Noah Fant and Drew Lock. Bad look.

4.Oakland Raiders 6-10

Oakland will be fun but not consistent. I see this team playing the underdog role well but ultimately this team doesn’t do much for me in terms of being a playoff contender. If Carr can revitalize and play like he did in 2016 I don’t think it’s unrealistic that the Raiders surprise some people but this AB nonsense does not seem to be slowing down or stopping anytime soon.

AFC SOUTH

1.Houston Texans 10-6

The acquisition of Laremy Tunsil saved the Texans this year. Their superstar QB will now be able to sit in the pocket just a little bit longer knowing a perennial All-Pro is protecting his blind side. This division should be super competitive, but the Texans have the best QB and the most experience. If they don’t make the playoffs O’Brien will almost certainly lose his job.

2.Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7

This years Jags team will be a comfortable medium between the past two years. I do not expect a playoff bye, but I do not expect anything under .500. Nick Foles should revitalize this offense and I expect very big things from Dede Westbrook and Leo Fournette. Doug Marrone is a sneaky hot-seat candidate if the defense doesn’t play with a chip and this team isn’t at least competing for a playoff spot in December.

3.Tennessee Titans 8-8

Oh the Titans, a scrappy team with a great defense, a solid O-line and an intense, young Head Coach, what’s not to like? Marcus Mariota will play his final season as the starting QB in Nashville this year. Watch out for this group when they end up getting a QB who can actually compete in this league. Ryan Tannehill will start at least 4 games this year.

4.Indianapolis Colts 7-9

We all know how devastating the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck is for this team. Nonetheless, I expect them to compete on a weekly basis but no longer see them as a playoff contender. Maybe Jacoby Brissett will prove me wrong, but I have a feeling the Colts will not reach .500 this year.

AFC NORTH

1.Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4

The fat has been trimmed. And by fat I mean personalities that span outside of the game of football, no disrespect, but demanding the ball more or more money or publicly scolding your 2 time super bowl winning QB mid-season is just not the Steeler way. Devin Bush is the Steeler way, James Conner is the Steeler way and, ultimately, Mike Tomlin is the Steeler way. Look for this team to bring a hard hat and dented lunch pail every week this year and go 5-1 in the division.

2.Baltimore Ravens 8-8

Lamar Jackson is quite possibly the least accurate starting QB in the NFL but also the most athletically lethal starting QB in the league. The Ravens have invested heavily in defensive players in the past 3 drafts and we are finally starting to see that show this year with some younger players earning more meaningful roles. I like the veteran acquisitions of Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram, and I expect this team to win some games unconventionally, but I do not yet trust the passing attack this team has to offer and for that they will suffer.

3.Cleveland Browns 8-8

This may be the most hyped team in NFL history. Cleveland has a lot of talent, but we are all just assuming it will meld together beautifully in their first year as a unit. I like Baker and Kitchens, but I truly believe OBJ and Jarvis are overrated and this O-Line is less than impressive. On defense, they have an incredible D-Line but their secondary and backers worry me. I understand the hype in Cleveland, but this league doesn’t run on hype. The Browns need to get a little less GQ magazine, they will learn that this year.

4.Cincinatti Bengals 5-11

The Bengals are in trouble. They have the worst roster in this division by a significant amount and a first year head coach. I don’t like their chances to surprise anyone and tear off 8 or 9 wins this year. We will probably be seeing them take a QB in the 2020 draft.

AFC EAST

1.New England Patriots 11-5

The Pats will be back like they are every year. I have some minor concerns about the O-Line and parts of the defense, but they should be completely shored up by week 8 in classic Belichick fashion. The downfall will come, but not this year.

2.New York Jets 10-6

I am doubling down on the Jets. This team went all in this offseason, re-shaping their whole team all the way from the coaching staff to linebackers to running back. I expect nothing short of an obvious year of improvement from Sam Darnold and that comes with winning almost every game they should win. With the schedule they have, if the Jets can do this, they will make the playoffs. (See: weeks 7 thru 14 on the Jets schedule)

3.Buffalo Bills 7-9

I have cooled off on the Bills. I believe this team is definitely heading in the right direction, but their QB play scares me. Josh Allen is closer to Lamar Jackson as a passer and decision maker then he is to a Darnold or Baker. Although I believe Allen can improve and their is a lot to like about his Buffalo “gamer” style of play, this teams defense and O-Line will keep them in games but their QB’s bad decisions will take them out.

4.Miami Dolphins 3-13

Sorry Josh Rosen. I don’t know if it will be Tua, Fromm, Herbert, or my boy Mond, but the Miami Dolphins will be picking first in next years draft. Their best receiver is Devante Parker, they just traded the only bright spot on their O-Line away and their QB is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Regardless of what Brian Flores may say, this is an absolute reshape year for the lowly Dolphins.

AFC PLAYOFFS

Wild Card

6.Jacksonville Jaguars @ 3.Kansas City Chiefs

5.New York Jets @ 4. Houston Texans

Divisional

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Conference

Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots

KC 35 NE 32

NFC WEST

1.Seattle Seahawks 10-6

I have always been a Goff/Rams hater, and that bleeds into this pick. I believe this division is essentially a two horse race that will be won by Seattle. I think Pete Carroll has done a phenomenal job of creating a consistent winning culture in Seattle overall. It definitely helps that they got contract year Jadeveon Clowney from Houston in exchange for a bag of chips. Even with the departure of Doug Baldwin, I expect Russel Wilson to continue to be an elite QB and a possible MVP candidate.

2.Los Angeles Rams 8-8

This is the year that Jared “Boy King” Goff finally lives up to his name. We saw signs clear as day in last years Super Bowl that Jared Goff is a trailer QB and nothing more, and quite frankly, I am tired of anyone saying he is more than that. I definitely expect this team to compete like they always have, the only difference is Goff will no longer be catching any breaks. He will prove to be disgustingly overpaid this year and a couple of tough close losses will bring the ever so spoiled “LA” Rams fans back down to earth.

3.Arizona Cardinals 7-9

I am excited to see what the Cardinals are going to look like this year. As most BJP fans know, I am a big time Kyler Murray believer. I think this team will absolutely show signs of being a force to be reckoned with in years to come, but they are relying on a lot of youth to carry the load and their defense is not good, especially considering Pat Pete is suspended for the first part of the year. I expect Kyler to struggle at points this year but also justify the Rosen trade and eventual #1 pick.

4.San Francisco 49ers 5-11

Karma never forgets. That was aimed at Jed York, the smug prick CEO of the 49ers. I am tired of the hype surrounding this team, they have not drafted very well the past half decade and they are paying for it. Kyle Shannahan is absolutely a legitimate football mind, but has yet to prove he can be a successful Head Coach and John Lynch has made some very suspect decisions as a GM. I ultimately just feel like this team is relying on a lot of things to go in their favor in order for them to succeed this year. I think Jimmy G will be average which is not good enough, their receivers are either young and unproven or old and washed up and their secondary is average at best. Sell.

NFC SOUTH

1.Atlanta Falcons 11-5

Atlanta is coming off injuries and bad O-Line play that resulted in overall underachievement. They are back healthy and spent their first two picks in the draft on the O-Line. That won’t fix everything but I just see this team getting back on the track they were on before last year. Assuming their O-Line can let up less than 42 sacks this year, this teams offense is electric and Matt Ryan is not elite but very reliable. The defense is not going to blow anyone up but quietly has solid players at every level. The most crucial thing about Atlanta this year is that they play 3 games outside of a dome (Carolina/SF/Tampa) brrrrrr cold!!! just kidding. This may hurt them in the playoffs if they have to travel to Philly in December but it should help them get there. Look for very big years from Freeman and Julio.

2.Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-7

This is definitely my most emotional prediction. I can’t say enough good things about this coaching staff (Arians/Leftwich/Bowles) and I truly believe Jameis will have a very solid year this year. I think the Bucs will finally live up to their “Hard Knocks” level expectations a few years later. Bruce Arians took this job for a reason, he made 40 year old Carson Palmer look like a top 10 QB and I think he will finally get Winston over the hump of mediocrity he’s been accustom to his whole career so far.

3.New Orleans Saints 8-8

7-9,7-9,7-9,11-5,13-3. Those are past five years for the Saints, I see them falling a little bit closer to the 7-9 days than the 13-3 days. I saw a significant drop off in arm talent from Drew Brees last year and the departure of Mark Ingram will prove to be a bigger deal than most people are making it. I also am not in love with the pass catching options on this roster behind superstar Mike Thomas. I would not be shocked if the Saints end up winning 9 games and earn a playoff spot, but my faith in the Bucs is strong and I think Brees’ best days are behind him.

4.Carolina Panthers 6-10

Cam Newton’s career is too erratic to invest in at this point. He is 30 years old now and has showed no signs of accuracy improvement because that is nearly impossible. The defense has stars on it but also has spots where I really question the depth and ability. On offense, assuming Cam stays healthy and is hitting targets, which he very well may not, they are relying on Curtis Samuel and D.J Moore to have breakout years or else they will have a pretty awful passing attack. I think Rivera gets fired and Cam gets replaced after this years campaign.

NFC NORTH

1.Minnesota Vikings 10-6

I paid for my love of the Vikings last year when their O-Line got exposed and they could not find consistency to save their lives. The O-Line is still a fairly big question mark but I think this defense will continue to play at a very high level and Kirk Cousins and co. will be going on a bit of a revenge tour this year. I love their receivers, backs, tight ends, and Mike Zimmer has a lot to prove after last years mess. Two wins against the Bears this year will help the Vikings secure the division.

2.Detroit Lions 9-7

I am not going to lie, ever since Klepp and I did the Lions preview podcast I have been less and less excited about the team this year. I still think the Lions are poised to surprise though. Stafford is healthy and I have monster expectations for Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay. The first four weeks of the season will be crucial for this group and Patricia will have to prove his defensive “genius” with a less than impressive group of linebackers slated to start week one. I think a Turkey Day win against the Bears will be a huge belief point this year for the Lions.

3.Green Bay Packers 8-8

The Packers do not have the weapons around Aaron Rogers to make the playoffs and Matt LaFleur is in over his head as a first year Head Coach. Although I think this teams defense has improved from last year, they seemed to ignore the fact that their O-Line is average and similar to New Orleans, behind their superstar receiver Devante Adams, they don’t have viable options. This will be another frustrating year for Packers faithful that may result in Rogers last season in Green Bay.

4.Chicago Bears 7-9

I am a hater, I will be the first one to admit it. Last year, Nagy took the league by storm with his playbook and the skull-crushing defense led by Vig Fangio was nearly impossible to scheme around, but most importantly, this team had a last place schedule. This year, Fangio is gone, they have a first place schedule, and although it’s more opinion than fact, Mitch Trubisky is not a legitimate threat at QB. Bears fans expectations are sky-high after last year and they will surely be disappointed when their QB is exposed as average and they revert back to their frustrating ways.

NFC EAST

1.Philadelphia Eagles 12-4

The Eagles have very few weaknesses on their roster and Carson Wentz no longer has Nick Foles and his 12 inch shlong breathing down his neck this year. I see the Eagles handling their schedule this year and Wentz playing MVP level football on offense. I have some concerns about the defense but overall this is the most talented and best coached team in the division and quite possibly the conference.

2.Dallas Cowboys 9-7

Zeke finally got paid and now I can return to taking the Cowboys seriously. This team is very well rounded and lacks gaping holes on their roster. If their stellar and young group of D-Line and Linebackers can play like they did last year, it will take pressure off of their questionable secondary. On offense, if Zeke can continue to rumble behind a top unit O-Line and Dak can play trailer ball, the Cowboys shouldn’t really miss a beat in 2019. I don’t believe in Dak as an elite level QB and he should not be paid like one, things can get interesting this offseason if the Cowboys don’t make a playoff run.

3.New York Giants 6-10

The G-Men have gone through a very tumultuous past few seasons and they will continue to struggle this year. Although they have, in my opinion, the best player in football in Saquon Barkley, I don’t believe either of their QB’s can play consistent winning football, their O-Line is below average, they do not have one proven high level defensive player on their roster and the Pat Shurmur/Dave Gettlemen combo has done nothing to prove they can be special. This team should be a tough out, but I have a hard time seeing them stay afloat this year.

4.Washington Redskins 4-12

I think this is the year the Skins’ clean house. Although they have a competitive defense that may keep them in a few games, their structure as a team is an absolute catastrophe. Established NFL journeyman Case Keenum will be starting at QB for them with one of the least exciting offensive units in the league. Their O-Line is below average, mostly due to the fact that their start LT and best player, Trent Williams, no longer wants to be a part of the organization. They have the least amount of talent in the league at receiver and a somewhat capable stable of running backs that consists of a mix of old guys and mostly injured guys. This offense will be amongst the least productive in the NFL and Jay Gruden will lose his job this year. I believe Dwayne Haskins should sit until around week 7 or 8 when games no longer matter for this Redskins team because lord knows what starting in this offense would do to a rookie QB’s confidence.

NFC PLAYOFFS

Wild Card

6.Dallas Cowboys @ 3.Minnesota Vikings

5.Detroit Lions @ 4.Seattle Seahawks

Divisional

Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles

Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons

Conference

Seattle Seahawks @ Minnesota Vikings

MIN 27 SEA 21

SUPER BOWL PREDICTION

Kansas City Chiefs 33 Minnesota Vikings 24

LINES I LEAN

Atlanta Falcons OVER 8.5 (-110)

Cleveland Browns UNDER 9 (-105)

New Orleans Saints UNDER 10.5 (EV)

San Francisco 49ers UNDER 8 (-110)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OVER 6.5 (-115)

AWARDS

Coach- 1.Mike Tomlin 2.Adam Gase 3.Bruce Arians

MVP- 1.DeShaun Watson 2.Russell Wilson 3.Pat Mahomes

OPOY- 1.Dalvin Cook 2.Julio Jones 3.Leonard Fournette

DPOY- 1.Jamal Adams 2.Khalil Mack 3.Joey Bosa

OROY- 1.Kyler Murray 2.David Montgomery 3.Parris Campbell

DROY- 1.Devin Bush 2.Quinnen Williams 3.Josh Allen

2020 TOP 5 PICKS

1. Miami Dolphins

2. Washington Redskins

3. Cincinnatti Bengals

4. Carolina Panthers

5. San Francisco 49ers

 

 

 

 

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