2018 Stat Predictions for Every Projected Starting NFL QB

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMay 28, 2018

2018 Stat Predictions for Every Projected Starting NFL QB

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL. It's the big difference between the league's contenders and pretenders.

    The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl with Nick Foles under center, but they were thrust into the postseason hunt by the outstanding play of Carson Wentz. The team the Eagles downed in that big game has a quarterback many consider the best to ever play the game in Tom Brady.

    At the opposite end of that spectrum, you have the winless Cleveland Browns, a team that's been looking for a quarterback for two decades. The team hopes it has that quarterback in Baker Mayfield, but the first overall pick in this year's draft more likely than not won't be the Browns' starter in Week 1.

    With OTAs well underway and training camp set to kick off in mid-July, many fans are curious what to expect from their favorite team's quarterback, whether it's stars like Wentz, Brady and Drew Brees or newcomers like Mayfield and Josh Allen.

    This article aims to answer that question, with early projections for the quarterbacks for all 32 NFL teams.

          

    Note: You'll notice that some quarterbacks have rushing projections as well, while others do not. Generally speaking, if a quarterback's 40-yard dash is best timed with a calendar, there's not much point in worrying about his running stats.

Arizona Cardinals: Sam Bradford/Josh Rosen

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    There are a couple of things we know about the quarterback situation in Arizona after the retirement of Carson Palmer.

    As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling reported, Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks indicated that veteran Sam Bradford will open the season as the team's starter under center over rookie first-rounder Josh Rosen.

    "We're pushing everybody to start," Wilks explained. "I've stated this several times: Sam Bradford is our starter. We gotta go out there with 11 guys, and Sam's going to be the first guy out there. But everybody's fighting for a position, so I'm not going to hold [Rosen] back at all."

    However, we also know Bradford's bum knee has already cost him all of the 2014 season and most of last year. Bradford has missed a staggering 48 games in seven years—three full seasons.

    Even if Bradford holds off Rosen in training camp, it's only a matter of time until Rosen gets a chance to show what he can do.

    And once he gets that chance, odds are the job will be his for good.

    Projected Passing Stats (Bradford): 225 attempts, 145 completions, 1,465 yards, 8 touchdowns, 3 interceptions

    Projected Passing Stats (Rosen): 358 attempts, 224 completions, 2,431 yards, 14 touchdowns, 7 interceptions

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    To say that Matt Ryan's numbers were down in 2017 is both accurate and a touch misleading.

    Yes, relative to Ryan's MVP campaign in 2016, the 33-year-old's production was lower across the board. His passing yardage was down almost 1,000 yards, Ryan's touchdowns free-fell from 38 to 20, and he threw five more interceptions in 2017 than the year before.

    However, it's not like Ryan had a bad year under first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. He passed for almost 4,100 yards, posted a passer rating of 91.4 and led the Falcons back to the playoffs.

    Ryan may never get all the way back to his Kyle Shanahan heyday statistically, but he has no shortage of passing-game weaponry at his disposal, from superstar wideout Julio Jones to rookie Calvin Ridley and tailbacks Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

    With a year in Sarkisian's offense under his belt, Ryan's numbers should be better in 2018 than a year ago, even if he doesn't reach the heights of the season that came before.

    Projected Passing Stats: 552 attempts, 353 completions, 4,410 yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    The upcoming season may mark the end of an era in Baltimore.

    With the selection of Lamar Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft, the clock may be ticking on Joe Flacco's time as the starter for the Ravens. For years, the team has been waiting for a repeat of Flacco's magical run leading up to Super Bowl XLVII, but he hasn't come close to repeating that success.

    Flacco threw for a career-high 4,317 yards two years ago, but 2017 was not one of his better years. As a matter of fact, Flacco's 3,141 passing yards and 18 touchdowns were his lowest totals in a 16-game season since his rookie campaign in 2008.

    Flacco has improved receivers at his disposal this year, spearheaded by veteran wideout Michael Crabtree.

    That isn't going to be nearly enough for Flacco to light up the stat sheet, though, and by midseason the calls for Jackson will be coming in on drive-time radio.

    Projected Passing Stats (Flacco): 500 attempts, 315 completions, 3,122 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

    Projected Passing Stats (Jackson): 65 attempts, 39 completions, 417 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats (Jackson): 11 attempts, 70 yards, 2 touchdowns

Buffalo Bills: AJ McCarron/Josh Allen

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    After making the postseason for the first time this millennium, the Buffalo Bills made an effort to upgrade the quarterback position.

    Whether that effort will be successful is another matter.

    Tyrod Taylor was shipped off to Cleveland. The Bills brought in free-agent veteran AJ McCarron and then moved up in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft to select Josh Allen, the big-armed youngster from the University of Wyoming.

    Per Mark Inabinett of AL.com, McCarron said he finds the notion of competing with Allen for the right to start enjoyable.

    "It's fun," McCarron said. "You compete. You know, I've shared reps before. But it's fun. We're out here, everybody's really learning, especially, speaking for myself, just trying to get timing with guys—first live action. But it's been fun. And it's always fun to compete."

    Allen said he's ready for the challenge as well.

    "The challenge with it is getting a limited amount of reps," Allen said, "especially yesterday, it was split up where the ones and twos got more than the threes. But at the same time, it's me standing back there and trying to take mental reps, trying to learn from what Nate [Peterman] and AJ are doing, staying engaged the entire time."

    There isn't a harder competition under center to peg this summer, but the smart money says McCarron has the job in Week 1, while Allen takes the reins later in the season.

    Peterman should get used to holding a clipboard.

    Projected Passing Stats (McCarron): 333 attempts, 207 completions, 2,197 yards, 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

    Projected Passing Stats (Allen): 179 attempts, 98 completions, 1,147 yards, 6 touchdowns, 10 interceptions

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    There's no other quarterback in the NFL quite like Cam Newton.

    He is a fullback with a howitzer. His athleticism and arm strength are as impressive as that of any quarterback we've seen in the last 25 years.

    However, Newton has completed 60 percent of his pass attempts just twice in seven seasons. He hasn't hit that benchmark since 2013.

    New Panthers OC Norv Turner told ESPN.com's David Newton (no relation) that improvement in that regard is an important step in Cam's evolution from zone-read quarterback to a more prototypical passer.

    "I see Cam as a guy that can be in the mid- to high-60s in the completion percentage," Turner said. "We're working hard in terms of scheming and getting the ball out quick. We want a good mix of dropback, play action."

    Fewer designed runs would mean less punishment for Newton, who takes as many shots as any signal-caller in the league.

    But with a suspect cadre of wide receivers, meeting Turner's goal might be easier said than done.

    Projected Passing Stats: 511 attempts, 303 completions, 3,410 yards, 24 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 122 attempts, 577 yards, 5 touchdowns

Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Mitchell Trubisky didn't exactly take the NFL by storm as a rookie. In 12 starts last year, Trubisky managed just seven touchdown passes against an equal number of interceptions. In five of those starts, Trubisky passed for fewer than 150 yards.

    Those numbers are, as they say, ungood.

    Still, Bears general manager Ryan Pace told Dan Pompei of The Athletic (via USA Today) that he likes what he's seen from Trubisky in the offseason.

    “You can see him taking more of an authoritative approach,” Pace said. “The way he commands the huddle, the way he talks to teammates, you can see him taking ownership. And it seems very comfortable and natural.”

    The addition of veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton and rookie wideout Anthony Miller offers Trubisky much better targets in the passing game than he had last year.

    Fans shouldn't get too carried away with breakout expectations, but it's reasonable to think Trubisky will improve substantially in his second season.

    Projected Passing Stats: 481 attempts, 288 completions, 3,201 yards, 19 touchdowns, 15 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 49 carries, 248 yards, 2 touchdowns

Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton

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    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    Since the beginning of the 2011 season, there have been all of three regular-season games in which Andy Dalton was not the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. Five times in his seven NFL seasons, Dalton has helped guide the Bengals to the playoffs.

    However, Dalton has won a grand total of zero playoff games, and in each of the past two years Cincinnati has missed the postseason. Those failings (and Dalton's robust salary) have led many to question whether "The Red Rifle" should remain the Bengals' starter.

    In 2018 at least, Dalton's the unquestioned No. 1. His success (or failure) in 2018 will depend largely on one thing. It isn't the wide receiver corps, led by the annually awesome A.J. Green. Or the ground game, keyed by second-year pro Joe Mixon.

    It's the revamped offensive line that will determine the day. Dalton is a different quarterback in a clean pocket as opposed to with guys in his face. If newcomers Cordy Glenn and Billy Price perform up to expectations, the Bengals will contend in the AFC North.

    If they don't and that line is a sieve again, it's going to be a long year for Dalton and the Bengals.

    Projected Passing Stats: 520 attempts, 320 completions, 3,705 yards, 24 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

Cleveland Browns: Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    The quarterback situation for the Browns is a matter of present vs. future.

    There's no doubt that the Browns hope rookie Baker Mayfield will start many, many games for them—that he will become the franchise quarterback they have sought dating back to the reinception of the franchise in 1999.

    There's also little doubt, however, that barring a monumental camp from Mayfield, Tyrod Taylor will open the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As Vinnie Iyer wrote for Sporting News, Taylor made it clear he has no plans to hand the job to the 2018 No. 1 overall pick.

    "I'm going to continue to keep pushing, continue to keep working the way I do—ready to take my game to the next level," Taylor said. "I've been able to take steps in the right direction each year that I've been able to play the game. So I'm excited about the opportunity that I have here. There's so much talent on this team and guys that are in the right mindset."

    Taylor will probably be the guy to start the year, and he is a competent NFL starter. But he has precious little margin for error. All it will take is one off game for the chants to start.

    "Ba-ker!"

    "Ba-ker!"

    Projected Passing Stats (Taylor): 407 attempts, 256 completions, 2,760 yards, 16 touchdowns, 8 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats (Taylor): 50 attempts, 260 yards, 3 touchdowns

    Projected Passing Stats (Mayfield): 168 attempts, 102 completions, 1,116 yards, 8 touchdowns, 5 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats (Mayfield): 28 attempts, 121 yards, 2 touchdowns

Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The 2017 season was a forgettable one for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.

    After leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and an NFC East title in 2016 en route to being named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, Prescott backslid last year. His passing yards, completion percentage, touchdowns and passer rating were all lower, and after tossing just four interceptions in 2016, Prescott threw over three times as many picks (13).

    As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reported, the Cowboys are installing an offense in 2018 that will play more to Prescott's strengths. He said, however, that things won't be all that different this year.

    "I wouldn't say there's a big difference," Prescott said. "Every time you go into the offseason, there's new adds and there's new things you're going to do and there's going to be changes. Basically, the scheme things we're doing is not much different for the most part."

    The changes schematically may not be a big deal, but there was a major personnel shake-up in the receiving corps. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten have been replaced by Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson and rookie Michael Gallup.

    It's that uncertainty among the pass-catchers (and the lack of a "go-to" guy) that would appear the biggest challenge for Prescott in the third year of his career.

    Projected Passing Stats: 485 attempts, 304 completions, 3,472 yards, 22 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 57 attempts, 310 yards, 4 touchdowns

Denver Broncos: Case Keenum

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    The Denver Broncos haven't had stellar play at the quarterback position of late. Even the Super Bowl 50 champion Broncos won in spite of Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler—not because of them.

    John Elway hopes he's solved that problem with the offseason acquisition of Case Keenum, who is coming off the best year of his career (and then some) with the Minnesota Vikings in 2017.

    Keenum was outstanding last year, completing 67.6 of his passes for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Better yet, Keenum was 11-3 as the Vikings starter. He'll have a quality pair of wide receivers to throw to in veterans Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

    But prior to last year, Keenum hadn't sniffed that level of production, going 9-15 over the first six years of his career. Denver's offensive line and running game are both question marks. And while the defense is still good, it's not the dominant bunch it was a few years ago.

    Will Keenum be better than Trevor Siemian? Yes.

    But that isn't saying a heck of a lot.

    Projected Passing Stats: 530 attempts, 331 completions, 3,620 yards, 23 touchdowns, 15 interceptions

Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Matthew Stafford is perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL who rarely gets mentioned among the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

    Stafford has piled up at least 4,200 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes in seven consecutive seasons. He's topped 4,500 passing yards three times, 5,000 yards once and has three straight seasons with a passer rating of at least 93.3.

    Stafford's career touchdown-to-interception ratio is plus-98.

    Add in a pair of excellent pass-catchers at Stafford's disposal in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. (and promising youngster Kenny Golladay), and you have the makings of one of the league's more prolific passing attacks in 2018.

    The Lions would likely just as soon see Stafford's numbers drop a bit relative to last year, as that might mean Detroit has at least the semblance of a running game.

    However, given the Lions' recent history in that regard, it's not a huge stretch to predict that Stafford could again flirt with 600 pass attempts—a number he's eclipsed four times over that seven-year stretch.

    Projected Passing Stats: 581 attempts, 383 completions, 4,301 yards, 29 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    There isn't a bigger storyline at the quarterback position in 2018 than the return of Aaron Rodgers, whose 2017 campaign was cut short by a broken collarbone.

    Given Rodgers' age and recent injury history, it's fair to wonder if the Packers might change things up in an effort to minimize how many shots No. 12 takes. New quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr. told ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky that won't be the case.

    "Best in the league at playing in the pocket and extending plays outside the pocket; that won’t change," Cignetti said. "Moving forward, we’re going to expect Aaron to play the way he always has."

    There's at least one major change in Titletown in 2018. Jordy Nelson, long a favorite target of Rodgers, was cut loose in the offseason. But Davante Adams is still there. So is Randall Cobb. And the Packers brought in tight end Jimmy Graham in free agency to give Rodgers another big target in the red zone.

    Plus, it's Aaron freaking Rodgers—one of the best quarterbacks of his generation and a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. His name has already been engraved on the Comeback Player of the Year award in a time-saving move.

    So long as Rodgers is under center, the Pack are back.

    Projected Passing Stats: 580 attempts, 390 completions, 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 60 attempts, 311 yards, 4 touchdowns

Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers may be the beau of the ball where NFL quarterbacks returning from injury is concerned, but Deshaun Watson isn't far behind.

    Watson exploded into prominence as a rookie last year, setting an NFL record for touchdown passes by a quarterback in his first seven games with 19. He scrambled around and made play after play down the field, rapidly becoming a favorite son of fans and the fantasy football community in the process.

    And then, just like that, it was over. Watson tore his ACL on the practice field.

    Per Herbie Teope of NFL.com, Watson told the Texans' website at OTAs that the rehab on that knee is proceeding according to plan.

    "My knee feels well," Watson said. "I'm comfortable to be able to go out there and throw and do some things on air and get the timing down with the receivers."

    Watson wasted no time developing a rapport with wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V last year, and his knack for big plays could pave the way for a monstrous statistical season.

    If, that is, a Texans offensive line that allowed the second-most sacks (54) in the NFL in 2017 can keep its young quarterback upright.

    Projected Passing Stats: 529 attempts, 329 completions, 4,015 yards, 28 touchdowns, 17 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 77 attempts, 451 yards, 3 touchdowns

Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Despite the fact that Andrew Luck missed the 2017 season and that he still has yet to resume throwing a football, new Colts head coach Frank Reich insisted to Mike Chappell of Fox 59 in Indianapolis that he isn't worried about Luck's availability for the season to come.

    That would make Reich either the most optimistic person in the world or a fool.

    This feels like a repeat of last offseason. Luck had offseason shoulder surgery, the Colts continued to proclaim that all was well, and then summer gave way to fall, which gave way to winter—all without the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft seeing the field.

    Even if you take the Colts at their word that Luck is going to be ready for Week 1, it's hard to imagine that he'll play in all 16 games in 2018.

    These projections reflect that.

    Projected Passing Stats: 465 attempts, 285 completions, 3,317 yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 39 carries, 217 yards, 1 touchdown

Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Blake Bortles is a happy man as training camp nears. The upcoming season will afford him the opportunity to take the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Super Bowl after they came up just short a year ago.

    There's also the matter of figuring out how to spend the $26.5 million in guaranteed money that playoff run netted Bortles in his contract extension.

    Despite the raise, no one is going to confuse Bortles with Drew Brees any time soon. The Jaguars win with the running game and defense. Bortles' job is to make the occasional throw down the field and not make mistakes.

    Bortles had 4,428 passing yards and 35 touchdown tosses for the Jaguars in 2015, but the odds are good he won't come close to those sorts of numbers again. In 2018 or ever again.

    In fact, if Bortles tops 4,000 yards this year, it probably means that things have gone sideways for the Jags.

    Projected Passing Stats: 503 attempts, 294 completions, 3,461 yards, 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 51 attempts, 301 yards, 2 touchdowns

Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    It's the dawn of a new era in Kansas City. After yet another playoff trip ended in a one-and-done disappointment, the Chiefs moved on from Alex Smith, shipping the veteran quarterback to Washington.

    This is Patrick Mahomes' team now.

    As The MMQB's Jenny Vrentras reported, Mahomes believes he and fellow second-year pro Kareem Hunt can build something special in Kansas City.  

    "Kareem Hunt and I talk about building something together here," said. "Seeing his success as a rookie and how hard he works, I’m excited to build a future with the Chiefs. With the young nucleus we have, I feel like we can have a great dynasty coming forward."

    Hunt isn't the only weapon at Mahomes' disposal. Travis Kelce has staked a claim as the best tight end in the NFL. Tyreek Hill has emerged as one of the league's most explosive vertical threats. And the team signed Sammy Watkins in free agency.

    It's a lot to work with, and to his credit, Mahomes looked good in his lone start last season.

    But it was one start. The hype needs to be tempered, lest his biggest enemy turn out to be unrealistic expectations.

    Projected Passing Stats: 520 attempts, 325 completions, 3,875 yards, 23 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 60 attempts, 241 yards, 2 touchdowns

Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    There are certain constants in life. There's death. Taxes. Marvel movies making a fortune at the box office. And Philip Rivers of the Los Angeles Chargers passing for well over 4,000 yards—a mark the 36-year-old has hit five years running and in nine of the last 10 seasons.

    Per ESPN's Eric Williams, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said he thinks the pieces are in place for Rivers to lead the Bolts back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

    "I thought the pieces were there last year to do something special, and it's no different this year," Lynn told NFL Network. "And we've added some more guys. I thought we did a heck of a job in bringing in the right people that fit our locker room, in free agency and the draft."

    The loss of tight end Hunter Henry (ACL) was a sizable blow. But Rivers still has one of the league's more underrated tailbacks in Melvin Gordon and a talented trio of wideouts in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams.

    If the addition of Mike Pouncey and a healthy Forrest Lamp improves the line play, even Henry's injury won't be enough to keep Rivers from having another excellent statistical season.

    Projected Passing Stats: 590 attempts, 375 completions, 4,515 yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    There wasn't a quarterback who exceeded expectations more in 2017 than Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams.

    Two years ago, Goff looked lost on the field as a rookie. Last year, under the tutelage of new head coach Sean McVay, Goff looked the part of a No. 1 overall pick. He carved opposing defenses to pieces with regularity downfield and led the Rams to an NFC West title.

    That playoff run, and a flurry of offseason activity that included the addition of veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks, has increased expectations in 2018.

    The tools are there. Cooks. Robert Woods. Cooper Kupp. Arguably the NFL's best running back in Todd Gurley. And a stout defense that will keep Goff and the Rams in games.

    The Rams are being talked up as a Super Bowl contender in 2018, and much of the credit for that goes to Goff. But if they're going to accomplish that goal, Goff's third season is going to need to be his best.

    Projected Passing Stats: 530 attempts, 328 completions, 4,107 yards, 29 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    An ACL tear in training camp ended Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill's 2017 season before it began.

    That second straight season ended by injury (and Tannehill's robust salary) led to speculation that the Dolphins might address the quarterback position early in this year's draft. Miami passed on that, however, and as Andy Cohen reported for the team's website, Tannehill is overjoyed to be back practicing with his teammates.

    "It feels amazing," Tannehill said. "It's been a long road, a lot of hard work and a lot of time and effort."

    Not all of Tannehill's teammates were there, though. Over the past few years, no player in the Miami passing game caught more passes from Tannehill than Jarvis Landry. But Landry is in Cleveland now, and while Miami brought in veteran Danny Amendola to replace him, the Dolphins' passing game has question marks.

    It's going to be an uphill climb for Tannehill in 2018—and not just because of his knee.

    Projected Passing Stats: 502 attempts, 316 completions, 3,595 yards, 23 touchdowns, 15 interceptions

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    If you want to know what pressure feels like, ask Kirk Cousins. He was brought in as the final piece in a Super Bowl puzzle by a Minnesota Vikings team that made the NFC Championship game without him.

    Of course, if you want to know how $84 million in fully guaranteed money feels like, you should also ask Cousins. That's the whopper of a contract he got in free agency from the Vikes.

    In Minnesota, Cousins has as much offensive firepower at his disposal as any signal-caller in football. Two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. A quality tight end in Kyle Rudolph. A talented young tailback in Dalvin Cook. And an offensive line that graded sixth in the NFL in pass protection last year, per Football Outsiders.

    All of the ingredients are there for Cousins to have the best statistical season of his career and make a deep playoff run with his new team.

    If there's a worry, it's that a deep playoff run is expected. If Minnesota's season ends anywhere but Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII, there's going to be disappointment. Grumbles.

    With big bucks comes big-time pressure.

    Projected Passing Stats: 561 attempts, 363 completions, 4,281 yards, 29 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

New England Patriots: Tom Brady

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    On one hand, Tom Brady is...well, he's Tom Brady. No quarterback in the history of the National Football League has accomplished more than the Golden Boy. He's won five Super Bowls (and played in eight) and four Super Bowl MVP. Three times he's been named the NFL's MVP.

    Brady has thrown for over 66,000 yards. At some point during the upcoming season, he will throw his 500th touchdown pass. He ranks fourth in career passing yards and third in touchdowns.

    Even with Brandin Cooks now reeling in passes in Los Angeles, Brady's not lacking talented players—whether it's Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan or newcomer Jordan Matthews.

    The faces sometimes change, but the song remains the same.

    However, Tom Brady is also 40 years old. Before the 2018 season begins, he'll celebrate another birthday.

    There's been no indication that Brady's level of play has fallen off, but we've reached the point in the saga of Tom Terrific where that drop could happen at any time.

    What's a saga without some suspense?

    Projected Passing Stats: 585 attempts, 393 completions, 4,605 yards, 30 touchdowns, 10 interceptions

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints had a good season in 2017, winning 11 games and the NFC South. Individually, however, Drew Brees' numbers were down.

    The 4,334 yards he passed for in 2017 marked the 39-year-old's lowest output since 2005, when he was still the starting quarterback for the San Diego Chargers.

    However, part of the reason Brees threw for so few yards was the Saints had something in 2017 that's been sorely lacking: a run game and offensive balance.

    Spearheaded by Mark Ingram and explosive rookie Alvin Kamara, the Saints ranked fifth in rushing last year at 129.4 yards per game. The year before, New Orleans was 16th. The year before that, the Saints ranked 24th.

    In each of those seasons, Brees passed for over 4,800 yards because he had to.

    The closer he gets to 5,000 yards in 2018, the more it will mean the New Orleans run game has come off the rails and the worse it will be for the Saints' chances at one last Super Bowl run with Brees.

    Projected Passing Stats: 554 attempts, 385 completions, 4,460 yards, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

New York Giants: Eli Manning

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    Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

    The 2017 season was a mess for the New York Giants. After making the postseason the year before, everything that could go wrong did.

    However, despite grumblings that perhaps it was time for the Eli Manning era to end in the Big Apple, the G-Men didn't use a high draft pick on a quarterback. For one more year at least, this is Manning's show.

    To be fair, even in last year's catastrophe, Manning wasn't terrible. The 37-year-old threw for almost 3,500 yards, tossed six more touchdowns than interceptions and had a passer rating of over 80.

    It's not unreasonable to think those numbers will improve significantly in 2018. The Giants added tailback Saquon Barkley to an offense that already included tight end Evan Engram and star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and took big steps to fortify the offensive line.

    It might be a stretch to predict a playoff run, but it isn't out of the question.

    Projected Passing Stats: 571 attempts, 364 completions, 3,913 yards, 26 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

New York Jets: Josh McCown/Sam Darnold/Teddy Bridgewater

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    We have no idea who will be starting for the New York Jets. It's a true three-man quarterback competition.

    Behind door No. 1, we have veteran Josh McCown, who passed for almost 3,000 yards in 13 starts for the team last year. McCown was surprisingly effective in his 15th season, but he's 38 and has a lengthy injury history.

    Open door No. 2, and there stands rookie Sam Darnold, who the Jets moved up to select third overall. The presence of a pair of proven veteran commodities on the roster leaves the Jets the luxury of not rushing Darnold into action, but the Jets didn't draft him to wear headphones and look pretty on the sideline.

    Then there's door No. 3, and Teddy Bridgewater, who joined the team in free agency. Bridgewater enjoyed considerable success with the Minnesota Vikings before suffering a devastating knee injury in 2016, but he's looked good in practice and could insert himself into the equation if that continues.

    It's possible all three will make starts this season.

    Projected Passing Stats (McCown): 154 attempts, 100 completions, 1,742 yards, 6 touchdowns, 4 interceptions

    Projected Passing Stats (Darnold): 202 attempts, 121 completions, 1,389 yards, 7 touchdowns, 8 interceptions

    Projected Passing Stats (Bridgewater): 146 attempts, 95 completions, 1,061 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions

Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    On the heels of a disappointing 2017 season, there's a lot of change in Oakland this year—not the least of which is a new (old) head coach in Jon Gruden.

    As Jerry McDonald reported for the Bay Area News Group, Gruden was impressed with his young quarterback after Derek Carr's first day on the practice field.

    "You can have a real creative imagination with that guy at your quarterback position," Gruden said. "We tried to give him some audibles, different situations on the very first day; he didn't blink."

    Carr has ample reason of his own to get after it this year. Whether it was completion percentage, passing yards, yards per attempt, touchdowns or passer rating, his numbers were down across the board last year.

    In addition to the new coaching staff this year, Carr will also be without wideout Michael Crabtree, who was released in the offseason. If free-agent signee Jordy Nelson can recapture past form with his new team, that won't be an issue.

    But if Nelson plays like he did last year or the run game falters again, a bounce-back for Carr is going to be a hard get.

    Projected Passing Stats: 541 attempts, 322 completions, 3,615 yards, 24 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    That the Philadelphia Eagles were able to win Super Bowl LII without quarterback Carson Wentz on the field is perhaps the most remarkable thing about their championship run.

    After all, it's not like he was just playing OK when he went down. In his second NFL season, Wentz was one of the front-runners to win MVP when he tore his ACL against the Los Angeles Rams.

    At the time of his injury, Wentz was averaging just over 250 passing yards a game, with an eye-popping 33 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions. His passer rating was 101.9.

    Per Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Wentz's rehab has progressed well, although he acknowledged there's a mental hurdle to overcome.

    "I'm just learning how to trust it," Wentz said. "Trust your knee, trust your movement, all of those things. And that comes over time, and every day it just gets a little better. A little more trust, a little more faith in it.

    "At the same time, you've got to be smart. You've got to be smart with what the doctors are saying. But I feel like I've made really good strides mentally and physcally and I like where I'm at."

    So long as he's out there in Week 1, there's no reason to think Wentz won't be an MVP contender again in 2018.

    Projected Passing Stats: 548 attempts, 345 completions, 4,040 yards, 32 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 61 attempts, 317 yards, 3 touchdowns

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    One thing's for sure—Ben Roethlisberger isn't hurting for weaponry on offense.

    In Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger has arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL—a player who has caught over 100 passes and topped 1,200 receiving yards in each of the last five seasons.

    Talk about a security blanket.

    In Le'Veon Bell, Roethlisberger has arguably the best running back in the NFL—a player who has piled up over 1,800 total yards in three of the last four years.

    That sort of production makes a quarterback's life a lot easier.

    Not that Roethlisberger isn't a talented player in his own right. The 35-year-old is a two-time Super Bowl champion and six-time Pro Bowler who will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame approximately five years after he hangs them up.

    The end of the line for Roethlisberger is getting relatively close, and he's not as mobile as he once was.

    But barring a major injury, "Big Ben" will sail past the 4,000 yards mark and have the Steelers in the thick of the quest to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII.

    Projected Passing Stats: 596 attempts, 379 completions, 4,460 yards, 29 touchdowns, 15 interceptions

San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    All hail James Richard Garoppolo, the savior of San Francisco!

    After leading the 49ers to five straight wins to close last season and signing a five-year, $137.5 million contract extension, Garoppolo is the talk of the Bay Area. The 49ers enter 2018 with hopes of making some real hay in the NFC West.

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group that he expects Garoppolo to be that much better with a full offseason in the offense under his belt.

    "Everyone knows the crash course that Jimmy got last year," Shanahan said, "and it's been nice to just slow it down, teach him the verbiage and the whys, instead of just, 'Hey, memorize this by Sunday.' It's been nice for him to know why and talk through that stuff. The more you do that, it will carry over to play better."

    Garoppolo's biggest potential roadblock in 2018 might be expectations. Sooner or later he's going to do something he's never done in the NFL—lose a game.

    But if Jimmy G can keep from getting snowed under by the hype, the stage is set for the 26-year-old to shine this season.

    Projected Passing Stats: 585 attempts, 381 completions, 4,323 yards, 25 touchdowns, 16 interceptions

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks are, without question, Russell Wilson's team now.

    Beast Mode last played for Seattle in 2015. The Legion of Boom is falling apart—Richard Sherman is gone, and Kam Chancellor may never play football again.

    In 2018, the Seahawks will go as far as Wilson takes them. As Adam Schein wrote for NFL.com, Wilson is arguably the most valuable offensive player in the NFL to his team.

    "The fact that Russell Wilson threw 34 touchdown passes against 11 picks, while running for 586 yards and three more scores, is a minor miracle," Schein said. "The Seahawks QB didn't have an offensive line—he had a turnstile row. The fact that he accounted for 4,569 of the Seahawks' 5,608 scrimmage yards—a whopping 81.5 percent—is beyond miraculous. It's otherworldly. It's LeBron-esque."

    Wilson showed last year that he's adept at standing on his head. So long as he's on the field, he'll post huge numbers and may well spend much of the season as an MVP front-runner.

    But if that line falters and Wilson goes down, the Seahawks are done. Toast. Kaputsville.

    No pressure, Russ.

    Projected Passing Stats: 559 attempts, 352 completions, 4,075 yards, 28 touchdowns, 10 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 90 attempts, 522 yards, 3 touchdowns

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    As Bucs Wire's Bonnie Mott reported, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken recently made news by claiming that Jameis Winston's struggles in 2017 were a result of "trying too hard."

    After going 9-7 with the Buccaneers in 2016, Winston managed just three wins in 13 starts last year. He failed to throw 20 touchdown passes for the first time in his career.

    But it's also worth noting that Winston threw a career-low 11 interceptions and had the highest passer rating of his career at 92.2.

    For his part, Winston said he's trying to take the criticism to heart and grow as a professional.

    “You know, I am who I am,” Winston said of Monken's remarks. “At the end of the day, you know I’m always looking for ways to get better. And again, that’s my coach, so anything he has to share. I promise you, if he shared it with you guys, he done talked to me about it. So, like I said, I just have to get better any way I can. So constructive criticism, even praise, you gotta take it in and you gotta see how you can add it to your game and improve.”

    In Mike Evans, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin, Winston has weapons in the passing game. And the Bucs added a new tailback this year in USC's Ronald Jones.

    The key for Winston is to play under control and limit mistakes.

    If he can do that, a career season could be on the horizon.

    Projected Passing Stats: 577 attempts, 352 completions, 4,335 yards, 26 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Much like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota faces something of a "put up or shut up" season in 2018. The Tennessee Titans made the postseason last year, but it was as much in spite of Mariota as because of him.

    His passing yards were down in 2017, and after throwing 26 touchdown passes two years ago, Mariota managed just 13 last season. His touchdown-to-interception ratio (13-to-15) was worse than one-to-one for the first time in his three-year career.

    Mariota told John Glennon of Titans Online he's been focused this offseason on studying film and improving his mechanics in the pocket.

    "I think it will help me throwing the football and make everything on time and on rhythm," Mariota said. "It's kind of a mixture of [improving] the timing of the play and at the same time being able to throw at any point and time within the pocket."

    That offseason of preparation, a healthy Mariota and another camp with receivers such as second-year pro Corey Davis should set the stage for a rebound year statistically in 2018.

    The question is just how far he bounces back.

    Projected Passing Stats: 478 attempts, 296 completions, 3,501 yards, 22 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 60 carries, 321 yards, 4 touchdowns

Washington Redskins: Alex Smith

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    Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

    It's a new day in the nation's capital, with a shiny new face under center for the Redskins.

    OK, so maybe Alex Smith isn't shiny. Or especially new. The 2018 season will mark Smith's 14th in the NFL. Washington also marks Smith's third team after stints in San Francisco and Kansas City.

    The Chiefs may have moved on from Smith after another postseason disappointment, but the Redskins thought enough of the 34-year-old to hand him over $70 million in guaranteed money upon his arrival in D.C.

    On one hand, Smith is what he is. He's a good quarterback but not a great one. And the receivers at his disposal in his new home aren't an especially imposing group.

    But Smith has gone from disappointing former No. 1 overall pick to a steady veteran presence with a passer rating of over 90 in four consecutive seasons.

    Smith may not hit 4,000 passing yards again in 2018, but he won't turn the ball over much and is more dangerous running the ball than he gets credit for.

    Projected Passing Stats: 528 attempts, 339 completions, 3,960 yards, 23 touchdowns. 8 interceptions

    Projected Rushing Stats: 52 carries, 264 yards, 1 touchdown