Latest Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team, Preseason Week 2 Edition

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2018

Latest Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team, Preseason Week 2 Edition

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    As the great Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are." Potential and promise just don't mean much in the NFL, which is a league all about wins and losses.

    As we head into the second week of the 2018 preseason, it's a good time to predict what each team's wins and losses could look like by December. While plenty of starters sat out their preseason openers, we have at least gotten an initial look at each roster.

    We'll examine all 32 teams here and make win-loss projections for each, based on factors like roster makeup, schedules, divisional competition and coaching. We'll try not to overreact to the most meaningless week of NFL action, but we'll be considering what transpired in preseason Week 1 too.

Arizona Cardinals

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    For the Arizona Cardinals, the 2018 season is going to be about setting the foundation for future wins, not present ones.

    Developing rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and identifying other pieces to build around are the top priorities. Sure, the Cardinals can put together a couple of wins, but it's going to be an uphill battle.

    Rosen—who showed poise in the preseason opener but who also underwhelmed—is going to have to learn behind Sam Bradford early in the season. Whichever quarterback is under center, though, is going to be hampered by an offense that boasts little proven talent aside from Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson—and Johnson is returning after nearly a year away from the field.

    Losing starting center A.Q. Shipley for the year certainly won't help matters.

    This is a team firmly in transition mode, with a new coaching staff and a completely new quarterback room. It also faces a schedule tied for eighth-toughest in the league based on opposing 2017 winning percentage (.520). Arizona may get a few bright glimpses at the future in 2018, but there are going to be some painful stretches as well.

    Prediction: 4-12

Atlanta Falcons

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    The Atlanta Falcons won 10 games last season and made it to the divisional round of the playoffs before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles 15-10. This is a dangerous team that should be getting some championship buzz.

    The Falcons have a plethora of offensive weapons—Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper are just a few—and a defense that allowed just 19.7 points per game in 2017, eighth-fewest in the NFL.

    If the offense can get more out of Steve Sarkisian's scheme in its second season, the Falcons are going to be a tough out for any opponent.

    In a different division, the Falcons would likely be looking at more wins in 2018. However, the NFC South sent three teams to the playoffs last season and should be hotly contested again this year. Getting to 10 wins in the division won't be easy, but Atlanta has the talent to get it done and to go on a playoff run.

    Prediction: 10-6

Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens haven't made the postseason since 2014, but they could be on their way back this year. They return a defense that survived a number of injuries in 2017 but still allowed just 18.9 points per game, they appear to have a true franchise running back in Alex Collins and they have a rebuilt receiving corps that looks to be functional.

    The big question is whether quarterback Joe Flacco can recapture some of the greatness he showed during Baltimore's Super Bowl run in the 2012 season. Flacco certainly looked like his old self in his preseason debut, going 5-of-7 for 71 yards and a touchdown.

    While the Ravens do have to contend with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North, their overall strength of schedule (.488) is one of the easier in the league. Don't be shocked if they prove to be relevant in the playoff race late in the season.

    Prediction: 9-7

Buffalo Bills

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    This is going to be a transitional year for the Buffalo Bills, who went to the playoffs in 2017 then jettisoned their starting quarterback after the season. At some point, Buffalo is going to turn the keys over to rookie quarterback Josh Allen, and the season will officially be about developing him for the future.

    Allen is a talented but raw passer, which we saw in the preseason opener. He flashed his elite arm strength but also showed the inaccuracy and lack of pocket poise that make him such a project. His upside is tremendous, but the Bills are going to struggle to get back to the postseason with him this year. Allen is simply too inconsistent.

    The good news for Bills fans is that there's still enough talent on this team to be competitive in most matchups, even when Allen struggles. LeSean McCoy is one of the better backs in the league, and the bend-but-don't-break defense won't outright lose many contests.

    If wide receivers like Kelvin Benjamin and Corey Coleman can reach their potential, this is going to be a fun team to watch, even if it isn't a title contender.

    Prediction: 7-9

Carolina Panthers

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    The Carolina Panthers are in good position to get back to the postseason in 2018. They have a quarterback in Cam Newton who is capable of playing at an MVP level, they have some new offensive pieces—like wideout D.J. Moore and running back C.J. Anderson—and they have a defense that quietly allowed the seventh-fewest yards in 2017 (317.1 per game).

    How far the Panthers can go could depend on whether new offensive coordinator Norv Turner can get Newton back to the MVP form he showed in 2015.

    "He knows what's happening and we're working on him, doing some things to help with his decision-making and making sure we get all our eligible receivers involved," Turner toldxplained the team's official website.

    When Newton is at the top of his game, the Panthers are a tough team to knock off. Expect Carolina to be in the playoff mix all season long.

    Prediction: 10-6

Chicago Bears

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    While the Chicago Bears would undoubtedly love to rack up some wins this season, 2018 is going to be more about the continued development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The North Carolina product showed flashes as a rookie but also led a passing attack that was worst in the league (175.7 yards per game).

    This is why the Bears brought in pass-catchers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Anthony Miller. They also hired former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as head coach.

    Chicago has talent at other areas on the roster. It have a stout defensive line, a tremendous running back duo in Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard and a serviceable cornerback tandem in Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara. However, all of these pieces are going to need to mesh quickly if Chicago is going to overcome the eighth-hardest strength of schedule (.520).

    The Bears will have their biggest win of the season if Trubisky is producing like a true franchise QB by the end of it.

    Prediction: 5-11

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals can be pretty dangerous when things are clicking. The problem is that this team has to get past both the Ravens and the Steelers in the AFC North, which is a challenge.

    The Bengals also have some uncertainty heading into 2018. There is no guarantee head coach Marvin Lewis will be around beyond the season, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has struggled to field a threatening attack.

    Yes, Andy Dalton and Co. looked solid in the preseason opener (fluke pick-six aside), but this is still an underachieving unit that averaged just 280.5 yards per game last season, fewest in the league.

    The Bengals will have to find a winning identity if they're going to be more than an average team, and time may be running out for the current regime to do so.

    Prediction: 8-8

Cleveland Browns

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    The Cleveland Browns brought in a lot of new talent this offseason. They traded for a former Pro Bowl quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, traded for a 2015 first-round defensive back in Damarious Randall and dealt for slot standout receiver Jarvis Landry. They also added quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward in the first round of the draft.

    Fortunately for Browns fans, all of the new additions looked solid in the preseason opener. This means there is hope for the long-suffering Cleveland fanbase that new general manager John Dorsey is the right man to get the franchise back on track.

    Still, this is a team that has won just one game over the last two years, and coach Hue Jackson might not be long for Cleveland. The Browns will be better in 2018, but even a five-win improvement, which is big, would leave them far outside of the playoff mix.

    Prediction: 5-11

Dallas Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys have talent. They have a capable quarterback in Dak Prescott, a franchise running back in Ezekiel Elliott and a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Demarcus Lawrence. What the Cowboys don't have is a clear idea of who will be Prescott's top targets in 2018.

    Dallas said goodbye to both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten this offseason. The Cowboys brought in the likes of Allen Hurns, Tavon Auston and rookie Michael Gallup. This means Prescott will be working with a lot of new faces while also trying to rebound from a down 2017 campaign.

    The Cowboys can lean on Elliott and on a defense that allowed a respectable 20.8 points per game (13th in the NFL), which should keep them competitive in most matchups. However, the course of the season will largely be defined by the efficiency of the passing game.

    Even if Prescott returns to form, the Cowboys are going to have a difficult time making the playoffs out of the NFC East. The Eagles are going to be title contenders again, and the New York Giants appear to be much improved. Dallas will still be relevant this season, but it likely won't be a legitimate playoff threat.

    Prediction: 8-8

Denver Broncos

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    The Denver Broncos have an outside shot of getting back to playoff football in 2018 thanks in large part to a defense that is still dangerous. It's not the championship unit it once was, but it features top-end talent like Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, Von Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb.

    Chubb, Miller, Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray should form quite the pass-rushing rotation this season.

    Everything is going to hinge on the quarterback play, which was disappointing the last couple years, to say the least. Good defense was too often trivialized by stalled drives and turnovers.

    The Broncos brought in Case Keenum to solidify the position, but he'll have to be better than he was in the preseason opener (1-of-4 for five yards) if he's going to do so. If he struggles, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Broncos turn to Chad Kelly, who was recently promoted to backup over former first-round pick Paxton Lynch.

    If the Broncos can get even above-average play out of the quarterback position, they're going to be a challenge for most opponents. This isn't the same team that a hobbled Peyton Manning was able to take to the big one, though.

    Prediction: 6-10

Detroit Lions

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    There's a lot to like about the Detroit Lions heading into 2018. They still have an elite quarterback in Matthew Stafford, he has a collection of talented pass-catchers, and new head coach Matt Patricia should help add some attitude to the defense.

    Oh, and the long-struggling running game finally looks like it could be good. LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah and rookie Kerryon Johnson all averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in the preseason opener.

    The challenge for the Lions is their presence in the NFC North, a division that now features two other top-tier signal-callers and an emerging Bears team. The Lions face the league's second-hardest strength of schedule (.535) which is going to make it difficult for them to challenge for a division title.

    Still, the Lions have enough talent to remain relevant in the playoff conversation for the majority of the season.

    Prediction: 8-8

Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers will have Aaron Rodgers back under center, and that's obviously going to provide a big boost for the team. However, even the return of the most gifted signal-caller in the game isn't going to make Green Bay an instant Super Bowl contender.

    The reality is that the Packers have a middle-of-the-road roster aside from Rodgers.

    They have taken steps to revamp a defense that allowed the seventh-most points last season (24 per game). However, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine isn't going to have a top-tier unit on his hands right out of the gate.

    The Packers also need to figure out how to field a more efficient running game. The backfield was functional last season, but Aaron Jones was the only back to tally more than four yards per carry. He'll be suspended the first two games of the season.

    Green Bay faces the league's toughest schedule (.539). Can the Packers navigate it and push for a playoff spot? Yes. Should they be considered Super Bowl favorites just because Rodgers is back? No.

    Prediction: 9-7

Houston Texans

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    The Houston Texans have to be considered a legitimate sleeper team this season, due to the simple fact they're going to be healthy. Last year, they lost quarterback Deshaun Watson, pass-rusher J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus to season-ending injuries.

    Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this offseason.

    The Texans were a different—and a dangerous—team when Watson was on the field. Fortunately, he looked back to 100 percent in the preseason opener, even if he didn't see much action. The next few weeks will be telling.

    With Watt, Mercilus and Clowney all healthy, the Texans should have one of the most disruptive front sevens in the NFL.

    The Texans have the league's easiest schedule this season (.453), and it's easy to see them taking advantage and making a playoff push.

    Prediction: 9-7

Indianapolis Colts

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    If you're an Indianapolis Colts fan, the best sight of the preseason so far was quarterback Andrew Luck on the field. The standout signal-caller has missed more than a year after undergoing shoulder surgery, but there he was in the preseason opener, throwing honest-to-goodness NFL passes with a real NFL football.

    Luck even took a sack, which didn't seem to faze him. For any player coming off a serious injury, that's important.

    The Colts are going to be a more competitive team this season just because Luck is back under center. However, they aren't likely to jump right back into playoff contention. They're rolling with a new head coach in Frank Reich, are in a division that has become incredibly competitive and still have a defense that logged just 25 sacks (31st in the NFL) and allowed 25.2 points per game (30th) last season.

    Luck makes Indianapolis relevant again, but until the defense starts showing signs of competency, contending with the Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars is going to be difficult.

    Prediction: 6-10

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Jaguars are poised to take another stab at an AFC South title and to go on another deep playoff run. They have a revamped receiving corps that now features Donte Moncrief and rookie D.J. Chark, they have a legitimate running back in Leonard Fournette and they have a defense that is as dominant as we've seen in recent years.

    Jacksonville allowed just 16.8 points per game last season and produced an impressive 55 sacks.

    The Jaguars also improved their offensive line by landing All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell in free agency.

    The only real questions for this team are whether it can handle the spotlight of success and whether quarterback Blake Bortles can be more than a game manager. And will the team trust him to? Regardless, Jacksonville should be a postseason threat once more.

    Prediction: 10-6

Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Kansas City Chiefs were one of the league's hottest teams early in 2017 before a midseason slump brought the team back to earth. While the team still finished 10-6 and with a postseason spot, that midseason stretch did highlight some weaknesses—namely a disappointing defense that yielded 365.1 yards per game, fifth in the NFL.

    The porous defense may be even worse in 2018. Safety Eric Berry should be back after missing most of last season with an Achilles injury. However, veterans like Marcus Peters, Ron Parker, Tamba Hali and Terrance Mitchell are gone.

    A poor defense is going to be tough to overcome, especially with the steady hand of Alex Smith no longer guiding the offense.

    The Chiefs obviously believe the long-term future is brighter with Patrick Mahomes II under center. This may be true, but the Texas Tech product, who has just one pro start on his resume, is going to experience some growing pains. If those include numerous turnovers (Smith had just six total in 2017), the defense is going to be exposed even more—and the Chiefs will be in store for a notable step back.

    Prediction: 8-8

Los Angeles Chargers

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    The Los Angeles Chargers were close to making the postseason last year. They finished at 9-7, and four of Los Angeles' seven losses came by a field goal or less. Had one or two plays bounced the Chargers' way, we'd have seen them in the playoffs.

    Expect the Chargers to be right back in the postseason mix in 2018, though injuries are going to make the challenge more difficult. The Chargers have already lost star tight end Hunter Henry and cornerback Jason Verrett to season-ending injuries. This is big, as both are among the best at their respective positions when fully healthy.

    Still, this is a Chargers team with an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers, a capable running back in Melvin Gordon and perhaps the league's most-feared pass-rushing duo in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Chargers should have an excellent chance of challenging for the AFC West title and using it to slip into the tournament.

    Prediction: 9-7

Los Angeles Rams

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    The Los Angeles Rams had one of the league's most complete rosters in 2017, and it got even better this offseason. L.A. added defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib.

    The Rams also have an emerging quarterback in Jared Goff and an MVP-caliber running back in Todd Gurley.

    There are two big questions the Rams must answer if they're going to be title contenders in 2018. Can they improve a run defense that allowed the fifth-most yards last season (122.3 per game)? And can they get defensive tackle Aaron Donald onto the field?

    Though there has been talk that Donald and the Rams were close to a deal, head coach Sean McVay has denied it.

    "I've seen a lot of reports out there, but that's news to us," McVay said, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. "So, no news on that front for us."

    Still, almost all the pieces are in place for the Rams to make a strong playoff run.

    Prediction: 11-5

Miami Dolphins

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    The Miami Dolphins could be in for a long season, and not because the team is devoid of talent. Guys like Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn and Kenyan Drake will make Miami competitive, but this is clearly a franchise that lacks an identity and a direction.

    Miami parted with Ndamukong Suh this offseason and over the last year, it has traded its two best offensive players—Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry. Plus, head coach Adam Gase is firmly on the hot seat; OddsShark gives Gase 15-2 odds to be the first coach fired this year.

    The Dolphins need to determine if Gase and quarterback Ryan Tannehill need to be part of the future. Tannehill isn't the worst starter in the league, but he holds a career passer rating of just 86.5 and is returning from a year lost to a torn ACL.

    If Tannehill is merely average once again, the Dolphins are going to have a tough time even sniffing the playoffs. They could also be headed for some big changes at the end of the year.

    Prediction: 5-11

Minnesota Vikings

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    The Minnesota Vikings rode their NFL-best scoring defense (15.8 points per game allowed) and some timely throws from Case Keenum to a 13-3 record and the NFC title game last year. However, the team fell short on both sides of the ball there in a 38-7 blowout loss.

    In the offseason, the Vikings brought in Kirk Cousins at quarterback and used a first-round pick on cornerback Mike Hughes to bolster the secondary. They're also getting running back Dalvin Cook back from last year's season-ending ACL tear.

    As long as Cousins doesn't fall flat with his new team, Minnesota should be just as much of a threat as last season. So far, he seems to be fitting in fine. Cousins went 4-for-4 for 42 yards and a touchdown in his Vikings debut.

    "I think it was a smooth first drive, but it is a small sample size, and the next couple of weeks will be a good test for us," Cousins said, per Ronnie Stapleton of the Associated Press.

    Minnesota's strength of schedule is tied for the eighth-hardest (.520), but the Vikings will almost certainly be playoff contenders.

    Prediction: 12-4

New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots have a knack for reinventing themselves, and we're likely to see it again this season. The offense could be transitioning to more of a run-based attack after adding guys like Jeremy Hill and rookie Sony Michel to the backfield.

    Don't discount the changes made to the secondary, either. The Patriots brought in cornerbacks Jason McCourty and rookie Duke Dawson to bolster the group.

    Still, New England is trying to fix a defense that allowed 366.0 yards per game last season, fourth-most in the NFL. They'll be doing so without defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who is now in Detroit. Offensively, the Patriots will be operating without Brady-favorite Julian Edelman for the first month of the season, due to a PED suspension.

    Don't expect New England to be the same dominant force we've seen in the past. However, the Patriots will still be one of the top teams in the AFC because of their ability to adapt and evolve—and because Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are two of the best we've ever seen at what they do.

    Prediction: 11-5

New Orleans Saints

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    The New Orleans Saints narrowly fell short of the NFC crown last season. They have the tools to get a step closer to the Super Bowl this season.

    Most of last year's team returns, including reigning Defensive and Co-Offensive Rookies of the Year, Marshon Lattimore and Alvin Kamara. The Saints have one of the best signal-callers in the game in Drew Brees, and they added pass-rusher Marcus Davenport to a defense that allowed just 20.4 points per game last season.

    New Orlenas, though, is going to have to battle to equal last year's 11-5 record. They face the second-toughest schedule in the league (.535) and will play the first month without lead back Mark Ingram.

    Still, there are few weaknesses on this team on either side of the ball. Unless Brees' play suddenly falls off a cliff, the Saints should be challenging for the NFC South title once again.

    Prediction: 10-6

New York Giants

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    The New York Giants could be dangerous. They'll certainly be better than they were a year ago, as the offense has been upgraded and receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard are back from injuries.

    With rookie running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Nate Solder now on board, the New York offense could be one of the most explosive in the league.

    Barkley suffered a "mild leg strain" in practice recently, but that shouldn't keep him from being ready for the season opener.

    Still, it's going to be difficult for the Giants to jump right into the Super Bowl conversation. While the defense can improve by getting better play from the other side of the ball—sustained drives will do that for a defense—this is still largely the same unit that gave up the fifth-most points (24.2 per game) last season.

    The Giants will be relevant in the NFC East, and the possibility of a surprise playoff run is there. Until the defense proves it can be above average, however, New York is going to be a middle-of-the-road team.

    Prediction: 7-9

New York Jets

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    Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold had a strong preseason debut for the New York Jets, and it would be a surprise if the team didn't pick him to start in Week 1 of the regular season. However, the presence of Darnold isn't suddenly going to turn the Jets into playoff contenders.

    Darnold looked poised and polished while going 13-of-18 for 96 yards and a touchdown, but he's still a rookie who will experience some growing pains.

    The Jets are still a team that scored just 18.6 points per game in 2017 and fired its offensive coordinator after the season. The defense logged just 28 sacks and allowed the eighth-most points (23.9 per game). Darnold will have a few quality pieces to work with—like budding receiver Robby Anderson and offseason acquisition Isaiah Crowell—but he isn't joining a team loaded with talent.

    The Jets are tied for the league's fifth-easiest schedule (.477) so there will be opportunities to pick up wins. However, a playoff run is likely still a year away.

    Prediction: 6-10

Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders brought in Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden this offseason to help improve quarterback Derek Carr and to change the team culture. Gruden has certainly made his mark already; he brought in wideouts Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson, dumped punter Marquette King and forced tackle Donald Penn to take a pay cut. However, there's no guarantee these changes are going to pay dividends.

    The reality is that Gruden has been away from the sideline for a decade, and it may take him time to get back into the groove. He's also trying to rebuild areas of the team outside of the passing game. The defense, which allowed 241.1 yards passing per game last season, remains a work in progress. So does the backfield, which is anchored by older runners Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch.

    Gruden is also dealing with the ongoing holdout of Khalil Mack.

    Gruden may eventually be able to return the Raiders to winning, but there are going to be some growing pains. Expect Oakland to hang around the .500 mark this season. The playoffs could be on tap in 2019 if the coach proves to be putting the franchise in the right direction.

    Prediction: 7-9

Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Philadelphia Eagles are the defending Super Bowl champions, and they're as well-positioned to repeat as any team in recent history.

    Philadelphia boasts a disruptive defense—one that allowed just 18.4 points per game last season—a stable of versatile running backs, an elite tight end in Zach Ertz and a trio of wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace that could be dangerous.

    Oh, and the Eagles have a legitimate MVP-caliber quarterback in Carson Wentz.

    Wentz, who suffered a torn ACL last season, may not be ready to take the field in Week 1, but the Eagles have no reason to rush him back. Backup Nick Foles proved he's more than capable of leading the offense when he carved up teams like the Vikings and the Patriots en route to the Lombardi Trophy last postseason.

    The defending champs face a strength of schedule of just .492, 19th-hardest in the league.

    Prediction: 12-4

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Steelers were one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC last season, coming just a couple of plays short of besting the Patriots and claiming the No. 1 seed in the conference. There's no reason to believe they won't be right back at the top in 2018.

    The Steelers have something you rarely see in today's NFL. They have a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, a receiver in Antonio Brown who will be Canton-bound if he continues to produce at his current rate, and a running back in Le'Veon Bell with a Hall of Fame skill set.

    The question, of course, is when Bell will return from his holdout and what kind of shape he'll be in when he does.

    The Steelers also have an emerging No. 2 receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, an elite kicker in Chris Boswell and a defense that racked up a whopping 56 sacks in 2017. The Steelers are equipped to battle any team on virtually any level. If they can pass the mental hurdle that is the Patriots, they'll have a legitimate shot at reaching the Super Bowl this season.

    Prediction: 11-5

San Francisco 49ers

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    The San Francisco 49ers head into 2018 amid lofty expectations, largely due to the presence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. In fact, OddsShark gives the 49ers 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, the same odds given to the Falcons, who reached the divisional round last season.

    We should probably pump the brakes on the Garoppolo hype, though. Yes, he's looked the part of a surefire franchise quarterback, but this is still a guy with a mere seven starts under his belt. He has yet to prove he can carry a team for a full season.

    Garoppolo is largely going to have to carry the 49ers, who are still working through the rebuilding process. San Francisco may not be fully healthy when the regular season begins either. According to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, 11 key players—including Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Richard Sherman and George Kittle—are currently dealing with injuries.

    San Francisco will take another step in the right direction this season, but the 49ers are still a few pieces away from being legitimate contenders.

    Prediction: 8-8

Seattle Seahawks

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    The Seattle Seahawks are no longer the dangerous perennial playoff contenders they once were. Staples of the Super Bowl Seahawks—like Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor—are gone, and the offense lost two of its biggest weapons in Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson this offseason.

    This season, the Seahawks are going to go as far as quarterback Russell Wilson can take them.

    The problem is that Seattle's offensive line is still in flux, and the Seahawks don't quite know what they're going to get out of rookie running back Rashaad Penny. The San Diego State product averaged just 2.0 yards per carry in his preseason debut. If he doesn't work out, Seattle could be in trouble. Wilson led the team in rushing by more than 300 yards over the next player last season.

    The Seahawks can get back to being a playoff team, but it's going to take some time. This is no longer a team that can lean on the Legion of Boom or the hard running of Beast Mode. This season will likely be spent searching for a new team identity.

    Prediction: 7-9

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in position to have a disaster of a season, and things could implode quickly.

    Starting quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of the season after a sexual misconduct investigation, Dirk Koetter is on the hot seat—he has the best odds to be the first head coach fired this season, per OddsShark—and Tampa has a defense that is ill-equipped to compete in the brutal NFC South.

    While adding Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry will help the pass rush, the secondary that allowed 260.6 passing yards per game last season (most in the league) is essentially intact.

    The Buccaneers might have a chance for a better season in 2018 in a different division. However, the other three teams in the NFC South are playoff-caliber, and the Buccaneers face the fourth-most difficult schedule (.531) as a result.

    Prediction: 4-12

Tennessee Titans

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    The Tennessee Titans squeaked into the postseason with a 9-7 record last season, and they even managed to win a playoff game. However, they're poised to regress for a couple of reasons.

    First, Tennessee isn't likely to have as much success in the AFC South this season. The Texans' top players are returning from injury, the Colts have Luck back under center and the Jaguars are still a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Titans got five of their nine wins in the division last year, which isn't likely to happen again.

    Tennessee still lacks a top-tier receiving corps as well, which has hampered quarterback Marcus Mariota's development the past few years. Second-year wideout Corey Davis may be able to change the complexion of the receiving corps if he plays up to his potential this season, but his ability to do so remains to be seen.

    The Titans can lean on the running of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, and they should be competitive this season. However, a return trip to the postseason may not be in the cards.

    Prediction: 8-8

Washington Redskins

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins obviously believe Alex Smith is a better long-term option at quarterback than Kirk Cousins. While Smith is a proven and steady signal-caller, there's no guarantee he'll be better than Cousins in Jay Gruden's offense. Plus, he may get off to a slow start in his first year operating it.

    This means Washington may take a step back from last year's 7-9 campaign. The Redskins play in a competitive division that features the reigning Super Bowl champions, and they face a middle-of-the road schedule overall (.504).

    It doesn't help that Washington is in the process of revamping a defense that allowed the fifth-most points in 2017 (24.3 per game).

    Had the Redskins been able to lean on rookie running back Derrius Guice early in the season, it would have been easier to overcome growing pains on defense and under center. Unfortunately, Guice suffered a torn ACL in the preseason opener.

    Prediction: 6-10