Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team, Post-Draft
With the first few waves of free agency and the draft now over, it's safe to analyze how teams are projected to shake out on the field this coming season.
After poring over rosters and schedules, we took a stab at predicting all 32 teams' records for the 2018 season. Schedule variance is as important as talent, but these prognostications generally reflect talent outside of a few extreme cases.
How does your favorite team stack up? What about your division rivals? Take a look below.
While the Arizona Cardinals just drafted Josh Rosen, who was once considered the top player in his draft class, it's rare for a rookie quarterback to make a significant impact right away. Even among first-round quarterbacks, the list of first-year stars is short: Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Dan Marino, Robert Griffin III and Deshaun Watson for a half-season.
The Cardinals also lost defensive coordinator James Bettcher, the architect of their above-average unit under former head coach Bruce Arians, to the New York Giants. If they regress on defense, where they have not added significant talent this offseason, their season could go south quickly.
Their away slate (Rams, 49ers, Vikings, Chiefs, Chargers, Packers, Falcons and Seahawks) is one of the toughest in recent memory. If Rosen does play early on, he'll endure major bumps and bruises.
The Atlanta Falcons were not big spenders in free agency, mostly because they have so many veterans on offense. Those veterans and the long, cheap contracts they have on defense give them stability, though.
That allowed the Falcons to take a long-term outlook in the draft.
They spent their first-round pick on Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who likely will be their third wideout in 2018 before replacing Mohamed Sanu in 2019 when Sanu's contract expires. With their second-round pick, they grabbed Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who figures to be a nickel corner with Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford already on the team.
If offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian can figure out how to get the ball to Julio Jones in the end zone, you can bump up Atlanta's projected record a game or two. Regardless, it would be shocking for this team to finish more than a game under .500, barring an injury to quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons are too stable across the board for that type of collapse.
Defense has kept the Baltimore Ravens in games over recent years, but their offense determined who won or lost depending on whether it was clicking. The Ravens were flooded with defensive talent, particularly in the front seven, but their passing offense has been as volatile as any in the NFL over the last two seasons.
In longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome's last offseason, he attempted to correct that.
The Ravens traded up to the 32nd overall pick to grab Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, a dual-threat who can run the same playbook as newly signed free agent Robert Griffin III. Rookie quarterbacks are rarely efficient, but Joe Flacco hasn't exactly set the world on fire over the past few seasons, either.
At receiver, the Ravens signed Willie Snead, Michael Crabtree and John Brown, while they also drafted Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott. Baltimore also double-dipped on tight ends during the draft, spending a first-round pick on Hayden Hurst and a third-round pick on Mark Andrews.
If Jackson gets playing time as a rookie and is an above-average passer, the Ravens could be far more balanced on both sides of the ball moving forward.
It's hard to imagine a rougher landing spot for a rookie passer than Buffalo right now.
The offensive line is going through drastic changes after the Bills traded offensive tackle Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals. Eric Wood won't play again after suffering a career-ending neck injury, while guard Richie Incognito retired on Twitter, unretired on Twitter and is currently in some sort of gray area.
At receiver, Buffalo's top wideout last season was Deonte Thompson, who is now a Dallas Cowboy. Second was Zay Jones, who was arrested for felony vandalism this offseason. Third was Jordan Matthews, who is now a New England Patriot. The Bills do have Kelvin Benjamin who can help, but his inconsistency will make him tough to rely on.
Josh Allen, the Wyoming passer with a rocket arm and middling efficiency, does not appear to be set up well for short-term success after the Bills traded up to select him at No. 7 overall.
On defense, Buffalo should be fine. The addition of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei will be significant, as the team's run defense struggled in the second half of the 2017 season. Still, it's hard to imagine the passing game clicking in the first year of the Josh Allen Experience with this supporting cast.
Over the past few years, Cam Newton went from one of the NFL's most efficient passers to one of the least efficient. That's largely due to the Carolina Panthers' fairly poor decisions around him.
Matt Kalil, the team's starting left tackle, struggled mightily in his first year with the squad after signing a five-year, $55 million contract last offseason. In 2020, Kalil will still have a dead cap number of $9.8 million. Regardless of how poorly he plays, Kalil's contract almost ensures he'll continue to start for the team for the next two or three seasons.
The Panthers are also going into the season with Devin Funchess, Torrey Smith, rookie first-round pick D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel at receiver. While that's a better receiving corps than they had at the end of last season, it's difficult to identify a clear-cut No. 2 receiver behind Funchess in 2018.
In the front seven, Carolina will replace Star Lotulelei's snaps with free-agent defensive tackle Dontari Poe and 2016 first-round pick Vernon Butler. Outside of that swap of defensive tackles and Thomas Davis' four-game suspension, the front seven should continue to roll through the NFC. The team's secondary is what could hold it back on defense.
The Panthers should be on the fringe of both the NFC South and NFC wild-card races this season, but they'll need time to get back on track after past decisions have tied the offense's hands.
The Chicago Bears have a tough schedule this season. On top of playing the rest of the NFC North—the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions each could be in playoff contention—they also have to play the NFC West, including the fast-rising Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers.
Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw for only 183 yards per game last season, which put the Bears in a bad spot. This offseason, they signed veteran receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Trey Burton, and they spent a second-round pick on Memphis wideout Anthony Miller. That should make life easier on new head coach Matt Nagy and new offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
The Bears have made marginal improvements this offseason, but they still have plenty of work to do before digging themselves out of the NFC North basement. Questions like "How is anyone but Akiem Hicks going to get to the quarterback?" still loom.
The Cincinnati Bengals are in purgatory.
In head coach Marvin Lewis' first 15 years at the helm, the Bengals went 125-112-3 during the regular season and didn't win a single playoff game. Whenever they've had a future NFL head coach serving as a coordinator under Lewis, that side of the ball has done well. When they don't, they fall apart.
At this point, the Bengals' top strength is quality cornerback play, which is a product of them targeting that position early and often in the draft. Their skill players are average. Despite the additions of Cordy Glenn and Billy Price, their offensive line is average. Their front seven is average.
Until they start hitting on some of their top-100 picks at premier positions, the Bengals are one of the NFL's more vanilla teams. In a division with the established Pittsburgh Steelers, the new pass-focused Ravens and the quietly improving Cleveland Browns, they could get lost in the shuffle.
A.J. Green and quality cornerbacks can only drag a team so far.
Last year's winless Cleveland Browns weren't as bad as their record would indicate. Had they been able to carry over any first-half momentum into the second halves of games, not turned the ball over at an alarming rate in the red zone and had receivers who could catch a cold, they otherwise had the talent of a 5-11 rather than a 0-16 team.
Thanks to their improvements this offseason, they should be vastly more competitive in 2018.
At quarterback, Cleveland traded for Tyrod Taylor, who at worst was average in Buffalo, and spent the No. 1 overall pick on Baker Mayfield, who had the two highest passer ratings ever for a Power Five quarterback. At running back, traditional runners Carlos Hyde, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, and Nick Chubb, a second-round pick out of Georgia, join pass-catcher Duke Johnson.
At receiver, Josh Gordon is slated to play a 16-game season, and former first-round pick Corey Coleman is healthy. The Browns also traded for slot receiver Jarvis Landry and spent a fourth-round pick on high-upside Florida wideout Antonio Callaway.
Cleveland got stronger on defense as well. The team spent the fourth overall pick on Denzel Ward, making him the highest-drafted cornerback since Charles Woodson, and traded for Damarious Randall, who was the Green Bay Packers' top cornerback last year and will convert to safety for the Browns.
If the Browns hadn't gone 0-16 last year, you would say their roster was average. In Cleveland, that's a win in and of itself.
Last season, seven Dallas Cowboys players had at least 100 receiving yards. With the release of Dez Bryant, the expected retirement of Jason Witten and Brice Butler's decision to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are the only non-running backs in that group who are set to return to the 2018 Cowboys.
Dallas' offensive line should be strong again this year, especially after the team spent a second-round pick on Connor Williams, but the majority of quarterback Dak Prescott's production in 2018 will come from throwing to receivers he's never played with. Who knows how Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin and rookie third-round pick Michael Gallup are going to translate?
On defense, the Cowboys' only major addition was No. 19 overall pick Leighton Vander Esch. In the nickel-heavy NFL, either Vander Esch, 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith or star linebacker Sean Lee will be on the bench more than they will be on the field. As a result, don't expect Dallas' defensive efficiency to surge this year.
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway drafted for the future in 2018.
Despite already having Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on the roster, the Broncos selected both Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton in the first four rounds. They also took pass-rusher Bradley Chubb fifth overall even though they have Von Miller, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett.
Why? Denver can easily terminate the contracts of Thomas and Sanders in 2019, and Ray and Barrett's contracts are set to expire soon. If the Broncos wanted to win now, they would have dumped assets into their offensive line. Elway's approach was different: re-establish stability.
The Broncos likely won't be contending for an AFC West title this year, as the Los Angeles Chargers were a kicker away from the playoffs last year and the Kansas City Chiefs could repeat Patrick Mahomes can replicate Alex Smith's passing stats. Don't assume Denver is going to have another top-five pick next year, though.
Their draft class and the signing of former Vikings quarterback Case Keenum should give the Broncos stability, removing some of the low-end scenarios that plagued them in 2017.
The Detroit Lions are clearly the third-best team in the NFC North, trailing the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers (with a healthy Aaron Rodgers) but ahead of the Chicago Bears. New head coach Matt Patricia will impact the product on the field, though.
In Patricia's first draft, the Lions drafted two offensive linemen, a running back in a second round and a fullback. That could mean Matthew Stafford will no longer have to carry the offense single-handedly.
The Lions were best in 2017 when they were pushing the ball down the field as they faced a scoring deficit or in two-minute drills. It bears watching whether they embrace more of a Bruce Arians-esque style of play under Patricia, a play-action-heavy deep-passing game.
On defense, Detroit's only significant addition this offseason was third-round safety Tracy Walker of the Sun Belt's Louisiana-Lafayette. For as drastically as the offense could change based on the Lions' personnel decisions this spring, the defense looks like a carbon copy of 2017.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers might not be as talented as the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, but they do have a major advantage over those teams: They get to play a third-place schedule.
While those NFC contenders have to battle each other this year, the Packers have the benefit of playing against the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons.
Since Aaron Rodgers took over as the Packers' starting quarterback in 2008, the team has played against a first-place schedule six times, a second-place schedule three times and a third-place schedule just once. That one time was in 2009, when Green Bay's record jumped from 6-10 the year before to 11-5.
Among Rodgers' amazing stats, his career 94-48 regular-season record while playing nine of 10 seasons against first- or second-place schedules is up there. This year, the Packers have plenty of fluff on their schedule relative to other NFC contenders, as they'll face the Bears (twice), Bills, Cardinals, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.
Before suffering a torn ACL midway through the 2017 season, rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson had a 103.0 passer rating. Tom Savage, who is no longer with the team, finished with just a 71.4 passer rating.
If you stopped watching the Texans when Watson went down, you likely missed why they lost enough games to send the Cleveland Browns the fourth overall pick. First, their offensive line was a liability across the board. Second, their defensive backfield was one of the worst in the NFL, if not the worst.
Last year, the Texans basically punted on free agency. This year, they had no picks in the first two rounds of the draft. Outside of betting on safety Tyrann Mathieu to bounce back and hoping J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus recover from their 2017 injuries, there isn't much reason to think Houston will progress in 2018.
Out of Watson, Watt, Mercilus and Mathieu, at least one of them likely won't resemble the player he was a season or two ago. With the offensive line and defensive backfield not leaving the team with much room for error, it'll be an uphill battle for Houston to make the playoffs.
The AFC South should be much more competitive in 2018 than it has been in recent years. The Indianapolis Colts hope to get star quarterback Andrew Luck back, the Jacksonville Jaguars went to the AFC Championship Game last year and the Tennessee Titans also won a playoff game. The Texans are making up for what amounts to a missed offseason over the last two years, but they still have some work to do.
The Indianapolis Colts' win-loss record in 2018 depends almost entirely upon the health of quarterback Andrew Luck.
If he's healthy, we can likely plug the Colts in for nine wins. If he isn't healthy, they might win four again.
As it turns out, quarterbacks mean a lot in the NFL.
At this point, everyone in the Colts organization seems optimistic that Luck will play in 2018, but we have no proof that he in fact will. Until that doubt dissipates, it's only fair to find a middle ground for their win-loss projection for the coming season.
By August, it'll be far easier to suss out the Colts' 2018 outlook.
Other than addressing their quarterback position and not guaranteeing two more years of Blake Bortles, what more could you have asked the Jacksonville Jaguars to do over the last two seasons?
To bolster their rushing attack, they drafted Leonard Fournette fourth overall last year and have added Cam Robinson and Andrew Norwell to the left side of their offensive line. In the passing game, they've drafted receivers Dede Westbrook and DJ Chark to go along with free-agent signings Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Donte Moncrief.
On defense, the additions of Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus, Taven Bryan, A.J. Bouye and Ronnie Harrison are game-changers. Their 2016 draft class of Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already looks like one of the best from that year.
Jacksonville is clearly trying to maximize its window with short-term veterans while also drafting players (Chark and Bryan) to replace those veterans in the near future with cheaper deals. If the Jaguars manage to find an above-average quarterback one day, they could be AFC favorites down the line.
A first-place schedule in the AFC hurts them a bit, as the talent drops off significantly in the conference after the division winners. Regardless, the depth of their roster should help them sustain success.
Kansas City Chiefs
Most sports books have the Kansas City Chiefs with the longest odds to win the AFC West this season, per OddsShark, even though they've won the division in back-to-back years. They also have a 16-2 record against the AFC West over the last three years.
Oddsmakers must be wary of the change at quarterback from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes, despite the addition of wideout Sammy Watkins this offseason.
The Chiefs defense may not be great, but they finally shed some overpaid veterans this offseason. In another year or so, they should be full-fledged contenders. Until then, the Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers are the best teams on paper in the AFC West.
As long as Mahomes can play at a similar level to Smith, who Kansas City traded to Washington this offseason, the Chiefs should be on the playoff bubble.
Los Angeles Chargers
Quarterbacks rarely start 16 games and post a 96.0 passer rating while their teams miss the playoffs. That's the exact situation Philip Rivers found himself in last season.
Losses early in the season, mostly due to a struggling kicking game, wound up holding the Los Angeles Chargers out of the playoffs. They appear poised to put everything together this season, though.
They're deep at receiver with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams, and they now have a 1-2 punch in a runner (Melvin Gordon) and a pass-catcher (rookie Justin Jackson) out of the backfield. The additions of Russell Okung, Mike Pouncey, Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney over the last few offseasons should solidify what was one of the NFL's worst offensive lines three seasons ago.
Defensive backs Casey Hayward, Derwin James, Jason Verrett, Desmond King and Trevor Williams will suffocate passing games. Meanwhile, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Uchenna Nwosu will come flying off the edge toward quarterbacks.
On paper, Los Angeles should be the best team in the AFC West, which looked like the toughest division in the sport last offseason.
Los Angeles Rams
Two things can be true at the same time: The Los Angeles Rams are one of the six best teams in the NFC, and they also have a brutal schedule.
You may be surprised by their projected record, but when you look at their schedule, it's more understandable.
Their home games this season are against Arizona, the Chargers, Minnesota, Green Bay, Seattle, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The only layup among those will be against the Cardinals. They also lose a home game to play Kansas City in Mexico City.
That's a less than ideal situation for a team that rocketed up the NFC West standings last season.
Because of their success in 2017, the Rams have to face one of the toughest home slates in the league this season. Expect a lot of tight games.
What defines the Miami Dolphins?
Three of their top five cap hits belong to pass-rushers, but we don't know whether they can get after quarterbacks. They have three receivers with cap hits of $4.9 million or more, but we don't know who among them can get open.
In a division that has been defined by the New England Patriots for almost two decades, the Dolphins don't have any obvious strengths. At least the New York Jets have one dominant unit (their defensive line) and the Bills know they're rebuilding.
Head coach Adam Gase is in his third year with the team and Mike Tannenbaum is in his fourth year as Miami's executive vice president of football operations. And yet, the Dolphins still lack direction.
Is this a lame-duck year before Miami can make sweeping changes? Right now, the team's goal seems to be going 8-8, which is the definition of purgatory in the NFL.
Judging by the contracts that incoming quarterback Kirk Cousins and outgoing quarterback Case Keenum received this offseason, it's fair to say that the Minnesota Vikings believe they have improved at that position.
After they went 13-3 and made the NFC Championship Game last season, that's a scary thought.
With plenty of expiring contracts on the horizon, 2018 could be the end of a window of elite defensive play for the Vikings. In the year leading up to that potential exodus of talent, they drafted UCF cornerback Mike Hughes in the first round, who projects to be a slot cornerback immediately.
Minnesota is maximizing its window rather shying away from it.
The Vikings play a tough NFC North, rising teams in the NFC West and a first-place schedule, but their AFC East slate does give them some easy games. They're one of the most likely title contenders in the NFL this season.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have been to three of the last four Super Bowls and seven straight AFC Championship Games. They've won 14 of the last 15 AFC East titles.
The one time they didn't win the division over the past decade-and-a-half (2008), they still finished 11-5 even though future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1.
No one should be shocked when Brady and Bill Belichick do it again. They're the team to beat in the AFC until those two retire.
On paper, the Patriots should win 10 or 11 games easily. They've won at least 10 games in each of the past 15 seasons, and they had 11 or more victories in all but two of those years.
Never bet against the Patriots under any circumstances. All they do is beat expectations.
New Orleans Saints
The NFC South projects to be one of the NFL's most competitive divisions in 2018.
The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons would be home favorites against any team in the league right now. The Carolina Panthers can win on any given Sunday, too. Even the fourth-best team in the division, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is no pushover.
Between that and a first-place schedule, which will pit New Orleans against the Philadelphia Eagles, Vikings and Rams, the Saints have a difficult 2018 slate. They are one of the four most talented teams in the NFC, but a lot depends on their record going into the bye week.
Last year, the Saints were the one team to start 0-2 and make the playoffs. If they do that this year, they'll be in trouble.
After their Week 6 bye, they play the Rams, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Carolina at home, all of whom could contend for a playoff berth. Their five-game stretch before the bye—vs. Tampa, vs. Cleveland, at Atlanta, at the New York Giants and vs. Washington—will set the tone for the remainder of their season.
If the Saints so much as go 3-2 over that stretch, it could cost them, as they'll likely play 11 consecutive games projected as one-score favorites or underdogs.
New York Giants
Though he was temporarily benched last season, Eli Manning is somehow still the New York Giants' starting quarterback.
Instead of taking Manning's eventual replacement with the second overall pick, new Giants general manager Dave Gettleman made the decision to select running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick. In doing so, he handed Barkley the second-highest contract in NFL history for a running back in terms of guaranteed money.
The team also traded away its top pass-rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. It will seemingly replace him with Kareem Martin, who signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Giants after recording just 3.5 sacks over his first four NFL seasons, or rookie third-round pick Lorenzo Carter, who never recorded more than five sacks in a season at Georgia.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will return to the team after missing most of 2017, and New York brought in heralded defensive coordinator James Bettcher from Arizona. Outside of those two and Barkley, however, the team has little room for optimism.
The Giants are probably still a year away from a shot at the NFC East title. A quarterback away, too.
New York Jets
Last offseason, there were prop bets for whether the New York Jets would finish 0-16. Head coach Todd Bowles seemed like a lame duck because of the lack of talent on his roster.
The Jets somehow managed to destroy expectations while still finishing last in the AFC East with a 5-11 record. Bowles' team either won or finished within one score in 12 of its 16 games.
If the Jets get average quarterback play out of Josh McCown again, with the potential of more than that from first-round pick Sam Darnold, they should be able to beat their record from last season. While they still have holes on their roster, particularly at pass-rusher, they could finish second in the AFC East in 2018 behind New England.
The Jets' deep defensive line and defensive backs will help fuel whatever success they have this season. In an upset, the team's offense outperformed Bowles' defense last year.
If the Jets figure out how to get pressure on the quarterback, that may not be the case this season.
It's difficult to understand what the Oakland Raiders are doing in Jon Gruden's first year back as the team's head coach.
After cutting Michael Crabtree, they signed Jordy Nelson and traded for Martavis Bryant. Are there enough targets to go around for those new additions and 2015 first-round pick Amari Cooper?
Their draft decisions weren't much clearer, either. They selected project offensive tackle Kolton Miller in the first round. They drafted two small-schoolers, offensive tackle Brandon Parker and defensive tackle P.J. Hall, on Day 2. They also selected pass-rusher Arden Key, who temporarily left the LSU program for personal issues last spring, and defensive lineman Maurice Hurst, who has health concerns, in the first five rounds.
Instead of building a long-term foundation, Gruden's Raiders seem to be taking a short-term, boom-or-bust approach. Seeing as he has 10 years of job security, that doesn't make much sense.
At this point, Oakland's roster sits far behind Kansas City and Los Angeles in the AFC West.
Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles only beat two playoff teams during the regular season. While they earned their improbable Super Bowl run, Nick Foles might not have gotten to play back-to-back home games in the NFC playoffs had Carson Wentz faced a tougher schedule.
This year, with a first-place schedule and slates against both the tough NFC South and the AFC South, the Eagles' road will be harder. Five of their first eight games are against teams that made the playoffs last year.
It's impossible to imagine the Eagles falling outside of the conversation for the No. 1 spot in the NFC, but their schedule appears far more difficult than most. With no contenders taking a step back this offseason, the NFC should be an absolute gauntlet.
Teams' success should be measured by their record in games decided by multiple scores, not those decided by single scores.
For the most part, the ability to win close games does not translate from year to year. In fact, teams that do get lucky in close games tend to have a dramatic drop in record the next year.
This should worry Pittsburgh Steelers fans, who went 8-2 in single-score games last year. On average, they played more like like a nine-win team than a 13-win team in 2017. Other than at safety, where the Steelers drafted Terrell Edmunds and signed Morgan Burnett this offseason, it's hard to pinpoint where they have improved.
With both Cleveland and Baltimore flooding assets into their passing games, the gap in the AFC North appears poised to narrow. While Ben Roethlisberger is still of one of only three active AFC quarterbacks to have been to the Super Bowl, the Steelers aren't the overwhelming division favorites that they used to be.
We're about to find out exactly how much of Seattle's success is because of Russell Wilson.
After losing key defensive pieces like cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive end Michael Bennett this offseason, Seattle's defense figures to be a step behind the Legion of Boom of years past.
Despite needing offensive line help for years, Seattle drafted a running back in the first round of the draft. Its most significant addition to the line may be fifth-round selection Jamarco Jones, although he isn't a lock for playing time (or a roster spot, for that matter).
While San Francisco gets to clean out a fourth-place schedule and the Rams try to make the most of their window while Jared Goff is still on a rookie deal, the Seahawks will be the Russell Wilson Show. Wilson hasn't missed a game since entering the league in 2012, but the Seahawks might not win a game in his absence if he does this year.
San Francisco 49ers
After the San Francisco 49ers began 2017 with a 1-10 record, trade acquisition Jimmy Garoppolo moved under center to win five straight games to end the year. While the 49ers aren't unbeatable with Garoppolo at the helm, the only passers with better efficiency numbers than him last year were Jared Goff, Tom Brady and Alex Smith.
If he can put up those type of numbers against a fourth-place schedule, San Francisco will soar up the NFC West standings.
After the first seven weeks, when they'll be no more than a one-score underdog in any game, the rest of their schedule is mostly fluff. From Week 8 on, they play just one 2017 playoff team and five teams who owned top-10 picks in the 2018 draft.
Most of the 49ers' projection is based on Garoppolo. If he's a Pro Bowl candidate, San Francisco is in good shape to join the Packers as a team that makes the playoffs this season after missing out last year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in the AFC, we'd be talking about them as a potential wild-card team. In the NFC South, where every other team made the playoffs last season, they are mostly overlooked.
The Bucs had an above-average passing attack, and rookie running back Ronald Jones should help bolster their run game. On defense, they're two-deep at every defensive line spot, have proven linebackers and have dumped assets into the secondary over the last three years.
That still might not be enough to make a dent in the NFC South just yet.
Since selecting quarterback Jameis Winston first overall in 2015, the Bucs have gone 20-28, including 5-11 last season. In 42 seasons of NFL football in Tampa Bay, the team has only had seven seasons with 10 or more wins. In contrast, the Bucs have recorded 10 or more losses 25 times in their history as a team.
It often takes something extraordinary, like Super Bowl-winning coaches Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy, to crack 10 wins in Tampa. Until Winston goes from a slightly above-average quarterback to a savior, the Buccaneers will stay on the bubble of relevance.
It took an amazing turn of events to get the Tennessee Titans into the divisional round of the playoffs, but can they repeat?
Outside of signing former New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis, the Titans left the rest of their offense virtually untouched this offseason. That may come back to bite them, as Tennessee's passing attack ranked 20th in the league in Football Outsiders' DVOA.
Given new head coach Mike Vrabel's defensive background, the Titans instead focused on bolstering their defense. Their major free-agent signings were cornerback Malcolm Butler and defensive tackle Bennie Logan, while their major draft picks were linebacker Rashaan Evans and pass-rusher Harold Landry.
The Titans should be better on defense this year, but will they be as good as Jacksonville? That's doubtful. Will they outshoot Houston? Probably not. A second-place schedule doesn't help a team in somewhat of a transition phase in Vrabel's first year.
Like the Buccaneers, the Washington Redskins would be a playoff sleeper in the AFC but are mostly overlooked in the NFC. A change of quarterback from Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith should be treated as neutral, at least until we see how he fits in Jay Gruden's offense.
Last year, Washington went 7-9 despite having awful injury luck. But having to play the NFC South, the AFC South, the returning Super Bowl champion twice and the Green Bay Packers as a third-place team in 2018 is no cakewalk.
Take a look at their home slate: Indianapolis, Green Bay, Carolina, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, the Giants and Philadelphia.
On a neutral field, the Redskins would be favored against only the Colts and Giants. They're either playing on the road or against better teams in 14 of 16 games as it stands today.
With a different schedule, the Redskins could make noise in 2018. Instead, expect them to hover around .500.