NFL Predictions 2018: Projecting Teams with Most-Improved Win Totals

Richard Janvrin@@RichardJanvrinFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2018

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) waves to fans after an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants won 18-10. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Predicting how teams will perform in the NFL before the season starts is always a dangerous task. What we see on paper doesn't always match up to what kind of product is put out on the field.

However, there are those teams each year that you can look at and just have a gut feeling things are going to be better.

For a lot of teams, it's hard to be worse. For example, the 2017 Cleveland Browns went 0-16. They can only get better, right?

There are other teams that were set up to succeed in 2017, but perhaps injuries dismantled their season.

With all of that said, there are three teams that should improve the most this coming season.

Let's begin with a team in the AFC South.


Houston Texans

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

Heading into 2017, the football world didn't expect much from the Houston Texans.

They were set to roll with Tom Savage as their quarterback while rookie DeShaun Watson waited in the wings.

However, Savage was abysmal in Week 1 and was benched after just one half of football against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With that flame going on, a new star was born in Watson.

However, his season, like defensive end J.J. Watt's, was cut short. He went 3-3 as a starter, coming close to beating both the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. He also threw 19 touchdowns in just 6.5 games.

Speaking of injuries, the Texans were also without Brian Cushing for a solid chunk of the year.

With Watson fully healthy coming off an ACL tear, expect the Texans to challenge the Jaguars for the AFC South crown this coming season.

With an offense that possesses one of the best receivers in the game in DeAndre Hopkins, a solid running attack and the new addition of Keke Coutee at the wide receiver position in the draft, the Texans are set to markedly improve from their 4-12 record in 2017.

Remember, most of those games were started by Savage or T.J. Yates—they never had a chance.

This one isn't rocket science if you watched the Texans with Watson under center. They're a double-digit win team with Watson at the helm.

And if they can get some solid production out of the offensive line, this is going to be a tough team to beat.

Prediction: 11-5

2017 record: 4-12


Cleveland Browns

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

The Browns appear to have a pretty darn good football team—their best in years.

While they might be a far cry from hoisting a Lombardi trophy, the Browns have put together a solid roster after years of being humiliated.

At every position, especially on defense, they have solid depth and have an offense that is set to be led by Tyrod Taylor—with Baker Mayfield on standby—that should also be competitive.

On that offense, we'll get the triumphant return of wide receiver Josh Gordon. Though he played in five games in 2017, this is the real return as he'll be ready to roll for a full 16-game schedule.

The Browns also traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry to help out in the slot.

The running game also went from Isaiah Crowell to now having Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb, potentially allowing the team to utilize Duke Johnson more so as a receiver.

Along the offensive line, they have some excellent players in Kevin Zeitler, JC Tretter and Joel Bitonio.

Looking on the other side, they should be one of the league's best run defenses with defensive linemen Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, Emmanuel Ogbah and Trevon Coley.

That's not even including the secondary where they drafted Denzel Ward to go with EJ Gaines, Jabrill Peppers and Damarious Randall. 

Lastly, Christian Kirksey is one of the more underrated linebackers in football.

The depth this Browns team has is unlike anything we've seen from them in the past.

If head coach Hue Jackson can't win some ball games with this crew they need to cut bait.

Maybe we see a Mayfield appearance that sparks this team like Watson? Even if we don't, Taylor will lead this team adequately in the interim.

This is about as big a turnaround that you'll see from one year to the next.

Prediction: 8-8

2017 record: 0-16


New York Giants

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26:  Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.  (Ph
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The 2017 New York Giants were a gargantuan train wreck. Not only on the field with injuries, but we know about all the behind the scenes stuff with head coach Ben McAdoo. Also, the 2017 Giants had an absolutely atrocious offensive line.

Things are different this year, though.

Yes, quarterback Eli Manning is still there and aging—he's now 37 and will turn 38 toward the tail end of the season.

However, the Giants did the best thing they could for him and supplied him with a running game by drafting the elite prospect in Saquon Barkley.

One of the biggest issues the Giants have had for what feels like nearly a decade is the lack of a running game.

They addressed the offensive line by signing left tackle Nate Solder and drafting guard Will Hernandez.

One of the biggest losses the Giants had in 2017 was Odell Beckham Jr., who fractured his ankle in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos—he'll be back, too.

Defensively, it's essentially the same unit, but they're bound to improve from last year just from a morale standpoint. Cornerback Eli Apple is still on board, which shows new head coach Pat Shurmur has faith in him.

If the defense can get back to their old ways, the players stay healthy, Barkley lives up to the hype and takes the pressure off Manning and Shurmur leads the ship, this team will be back on track this upcoming season.

Prediction: 10-6

2017 record: 3-13


Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.