Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus 2018 Regular-Season NFL Predictions

NFL StaffContributor ISeptember 5, 2018

Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus 2018 Regular-Season NFL Predictions

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    It's that time of year again.

    On Thursday, the long, dark NFL offseason is finally over. No more news from training camp. No more rotten preseason action. When the Atlanta Falcons visit the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, it's going to count.

    And football will be back.

    It's a long way from that season opener to Super Bowl LIII. Actually, it's 256 regular-season games and 10 postseason contests, if you want to count. That's 15,960 minutes. Or 957,600 seconds.

    Much can (and will) change between now and February. Teams will surprise and fall flat. Players will exceed expectations or fail to produce. The league is a wild ride—every single year.

    As that ride is about to begin, it's an annual tradition for the NFL writers here at Bleacher Report to get together and look ahead to the upcoming season. Who will win the individual awards at year's end? Who will have the league's worst record?

    And which two teams will play in (and who will win) that big game in Atlanta?

        

Our Panel

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Before we get underway, here's a rundown of the eight writers who took part in these predictions:

    Gary Davenport, NFL analyst
    Tyler Dunne, NFL features lead writer
    Mike Freeman, NFL national lead writer
    Brad Gagnon, NFL analyst
    Matt Miller, NFL draft lead writer
    Dan Pompei, NFL national lead writer
    Brent Sobleski, NFL analyst
    Mike Tanier, NFL national lead writer

Coach of the Year

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers (3 votes)

    In news that surprised approximately no one, our panel was all over the place with this first category. Five head coaches garnered at least one vote.

    Pompei cast his for Pat Shurmur of the New York Giants.

    "The coach who wins Coach of the Year," he said, "usually does something very few people expected him to do, and his team makes a big jump in the standings. Shurmur, in his first year with the Giants, could be well-positioned for improvement."

    Tanier was one of two scribes who targeted first-year head coach Matt Nagy of the Chicago Bears.

    "We all know Coach of the Year is not awarded to the best coach but the one who surprises everyone by winning about 10 games with a previously bad team thanks to a combination of good decisions and excellent circumstances," Tanier said. "Nagy inherited a lot of unused and poorly used talent, and he looks like a pretty good coach with an impressive staff.

    "Nagy leads the Bears into the thick of the wild-card hunt, Mitchell Trubisky takes a leap forward, Nagy pockets the award, and we continue to take what Bill Belichick and Sean Payton do every year for granted."

    Nagy came up just short of the head man for a team that's generated buzz as a dark-horse contender.

    The Chargers have a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers and skill-position talent galore. They have a defensive line and a secondary that are as good as any in football. If Anthony Lynn can avoid the terrible injury luck that has plagued the Chargers for years and guide the team to its first AFC West title since 2009, he'll be in the thick of the mix for Coach of the Year honors.

    Others receiving votes: Matt Nagy, Bears (2 votes); Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers (1 vote); Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams (1 vote); Pat Shurmur, Giants (1 vote)

Offensive Player of the Year

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (3 votes)

    There may be disagreement about who will win Offensive Player of the Year. But there's at least a general agreement that the player will be a quarterback. The position received six of the eight votes in this category, including a nod for Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers.

    "After a stellar end to the 2017 campaign," Sobleski said, "Garoppolo had an entire offseason to acclimate himself to the 49ers organization and looks like a natural fit in head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense. As long as the skill positions hold up their end of the bargain, the $137.5 million man is the perfect facilitator to maximize the scheme's effectiveness and lead San Francisco from also-ran into contender."

    Just one signal-caller received multiple votes. In fact, Aaron Rodgers was the only player at any position to receive more than one.

    That should surprise no one. After Rodgers missed half of last season with a broken collarbone, his return was one of the dominant offseason storylines—and that was before he signed a four-year, $134 million extension that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history.

    We know Rodgers is more than capable of posting huge numbers. And given Green Bay's problems on the ground and on defense, he may have to in order to keep the Packers in contention.

    If that's the case, the individual accolades are going to pour in.

    Others receiving votes: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (1 vote); Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (1 vote); Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (1 vote); Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (1 vote); Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers (1 vote)

Defensive Player of the Year

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers (3 votes)

    The vote-getters for Defensive Player of the Year are a who's who of the stuff of nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.

    Davenport cast his vote for Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns.

    "Garrett was absolutely dominant in the preseason and appears to be ready to take a big step forward in his second season," Davenport said. "There's a reason he was the first overall pick of the 2017 draft. His mixture of power and a ridiculous first step is what wins DPOY awards. He'll join the elite at his position in his sophomore season."

    Freeman, on the other hand, singled out the recently traded Khalil Mack of the Bears. He did so before the deal went down Saturday, but Freeman was prepared for the possibility it would.

    "Wherever Mack ends up—in Oakland, another team, another planet—he is destined to have a breakout year," Freeman said. "He's due."

    As with Offensive Player of the Year, the vote was spread out. And with only two players getting more than one, the door opened for Joey Bosa of the Chargers to surge to the front.

    "With so much defensive support entering his third season, Bosa looks as though he's ready to explode," Gagnon said. "Watch for him to put up monster numbers. "

    Others receiving votes: Aaron Donald, DE, Rams (2 votes); Khalil Mack, OLB, Bears (1 vote); Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings (1 vote); Myles Garrett, DE, Browns (1 vote)

Offensive Rookie of the Year

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants (5 votes)

    There wasn't as much dissent among our writers in regards to the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. Only two newcomers received a vote, and both will begin their careers in the Empire State.

    Three writers, including Davenport, singled out No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold of the New York Jets, who will open the season as the starter under center for Gang Green.

    "I don't know that Darnold will be the best rookie of 2018," Davenport said. "But he has the advantage of being a quarterback—the position that dominates individual awards like no other. Darnold showed flashes in the preseason and will open the year as the starter for a team that isn't without offensive weaponry. Assuming he has a decent first season, we could see a repeat of 2016, when Dak Prescott won over Ezekiel Elliott. Sorry, Saquon."

    Saquon as in Giants tailback Saquon Barkley, who was selected one pick before Darnold—the highest a running back has been drafted since Reggie Bush was picked second overall in 2006. Dunne (and four of his colleagues) expects Barkley to justify Big Blue's investment.

    "No rookie, and maybe no running back, possesses Barkley's blend of power and speed and athleticism," he said. "And no rookie steps into a better situation than Barkley, who'll run behind a beefed-up offensive line and will be fed the ball. A lot."

    Others receiving votes: Sam Darnold, QB, Jets (3 votes)

Defensive Rookie of the Year

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Bradley Chubb, OLB, Denver Broncos (4 votes)

    And we're back to being all over the place...sort of.

    It shouldn't be that big of a surprise that five defensive rookies received at least one vote. While this is a talented class on that side of the ball, there wasn't a consensus about the top player.

    All five youngsters who earned a vote were among the first 32 picks, including Denzel Ward of the Browns, who was the first defender drafted at No. 4 overall.

    However, the player drafted one slot later (and the edge-rusher most expected to be the first defender picked) was chosen by half of our analysts.

    Bradley Chubb went from terrorizing quarterbacks with his hand in the dirt in the ACC to playing outside linebacker after the Broncos made him the fifth overall pick.

    There are worse ways to learn how to get after NFL quarterbacks than by playing opposite the great Von Miller. And Pompei said Miller could play a pivotal role in Chubb being named Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    "Chubb has the talent, and he's in a perfect spot," he said. "Chubb might even find the quarterback running into his arms to get away from Miller now and then."

    Hey, those kinds of sacks count the same as any others.

    Others receiving votes: Tremaine Edmunds, ILB, Buffalo Bills (1 vote); Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Miami Dolphins (1 vote); Roquan Smith, ILB, Bears (1 vote); Denzel Ward, CB, Browns (1 vote)

Comeback Player of the Year

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    Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts (4 votes)

    After all the injuries that befell big-name quarterbacks last year, four of the five players who received votes in this category hail from that position.

    What a bunch of glory hogs.

    Dunne cast his vote for Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans.

    "After an ultra-aggressive rehab process," Dunne said, "Watson is ready to pick up where he left off. He'll drive defenses mad again with his arm and his legs and, most of all, his mind."

    Another AFC South quarterback, however, was the winner.

    Andrew Luck didn't get hurt last year. To do that, the Colts quarterback would have had to play. Instead, the shoulder injury that was supposedly no big deal cost Luck the entire campaign.

    Per ESPN.com's Mike Wells, Luck said he's ready to get after it again.

    "My shoulder feels awesome, the best it's felt," Luck said. "I actually feel very good, strong. My shoulder felt alive. I was a little happier with where the ball went when I threw it. I keep feeling and seeing improvement. Keep working at it."

    There's hasn't been much good news over the last year-plus in Indy.

    A return to form by a healthy Luck would most assuredly qualify.

    Others receiving votes: David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (1 vote); Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (1 vote); Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans (1 vote); Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles (1 vote)

Fantasy Player of the Year

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    Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (3 votes)

    Running backs are the kings of the hill in fantasy football, and tailbacks secured five of the eight votes for Fantasy Player of the Year. Le'Veon Bell of the Steelers and Todd Gurley of the Rams garnered two each, while Davenport cast his for Dalvin Cook of the Vikings.

    "Cook's the type of player who will win leagues for a lot of people," he said. "He showed last year he's capable of elite fantasy production, but he doesn't have the price tag of a Bell or Gurley. Success in fantasy football is all about value. Cook's got the potential to be a massive one this season."

    A quarterback, however, received the most votes—the quarterback, to be more specific.

    Rodgers was the first signal-caller taken in the overwhelming majority of fantasy drafts this year, per FantasyPros, and Gagnon said that investment will pay off bigly for those folks.

    "The healthy Rodgers had a special energy this offseason and looks primed to get back to roasting the league," he said. "I think the difference between him and the next-best fantasy quarterback will be a lot larger than the difference between Gurley and Bell at running back."

    There you have it.

    Others receiving votes: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers (2 votes); Todd Gurley, RB, Rams (2 votes); Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings (1 vote)

Breakout Player of the Year

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    Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings (3 votes)

    The votes for Breakout Player of the Year were spread over six players—all of whom play offense.

    For Matt Miller, the pick was young tight end Austin Hooper.

    "The Falcons passing attack is already great," Miller said, "but Hooper's connection to Matt Ryan will make him one of the best tight ends in the league."

    Still, Hooper, like five of the six vote-getters, managed just that lone tally.

    Our winner received three.

    Dalvin Cook got off to quite the start as a rookie last year, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and picking up over 100 yards per game in the first four games. But then Cook tore his ACL, and just like that, his promising first season was over.

    Now, however, Cook's healthy again and ready to re-assume duties as the lead tailback for one of the game's most potent offenses. The Vikings have both a passing unit that will keep opponents from loading the box and a line capable of consistently opening holes for Cook.

    Combine that with Cook's prodigious talents, and you have the makings of a breakout year.

    Others receiving votes: Jay Ajayi, RB, Eagles (1 vote); Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks (1 vote); Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons (1 vote); Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears (1 vote); Mike Williams, WR, Chargers (1 vote)

Most Improved Player

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears (4 votes)

    Following Saturday's blockbuster Mack trade, the hype surrounding the Bears has kicked into overdrive.

    A team that many expected to be improved is now being tabbed as a potential playoff contender.

    But one big question remains: Can second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky make full use of the improved weapons at his disposal and take a step forward after an uneven rookie year in which he managed just seven touchdown passes in 12 games?

    Our writers believe the answer will be in the affirmative, as they tabbed the No. 2 overall pick in 2017 as their preseason choice for Most Improved Player.

    "Trubisky didn't have a lot of success last year," Tanier said, "but he learned how to fail. Every young quarterback must learn to deal with adverse circumstances at some point in his career. Jimmy Garoppolo, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson haven't had to play through those bad circumstances yet, which is why they get to be Next Big Thing darlings. Trubisky will be throwing to NFL receivers in an NFL offense this year after playing one long fourth preseason game for half of last year. He'll be avoiding mistakes the other young quarterbacks are making for the first time. And it will show."

    In Allen Robinson II, Trey Burton and a defense that should set the tone, Trubisky has assets to work with that just weren't there in 2017.

    Now it's on him to make the most of them.

    Others Receiving Votes: Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (2 votes); Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders (1 vote); Julie'n Davenport, OT, Texans (1 vote)

Most Touchdown Passes

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (3 votes)

    Someone's becoming quite the regular in this piece.

    Last year, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots paced the NFL with 4,577 passing yards. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks led the league with 34 touchdown passes.

    Each of those superstars received one vote as the league's touchdown king through the air this season, but in what's becoming a trend here we're headed back into Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood.

    It isn't exactly unheard of for Aaron Rodgers to lead the league in touchdowns. Two years ago Rodgers tossed a league-high 40. It's no stretch to imagine him doing so again. Green Bay's ground game isn't scaring anyone. The defense has some potential, but no one's comparing them to Minnesota.

    This is a team built to win high-scoring games through the air on the back (or more appropriately the arm) of their superstar quarterback—a quarterback with plenty to prove after missing much of last year and signing a contract that will net him almost $70 million by the end of this year alone.

    Gotta earn all that cash. And nothing does that quite like touchdowns.

    Others receiving votes: Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (2 votes); Tom Brady, New England Patriots (1 vote), Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (1 vote); Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (1 vote)

Most Rushing Yards

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (3 votes)

    In each of the past two seasons, a first-year tailback has led the league in rushing. Last year, it was the Kansas City Chiefs' Kareem Hunt, who piled up 1,327 yards. The year before, it was the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott, who rumbled for 1,631 yards.

    Gagnon thinks that streak will continue, and he singled out Saquon Barkley.

    But Elliott's three votes won the day, with Matt Miller predicting the lack of passing game weapons in Dallas will mean huge numbers for Elliott.

    "Elliott playing 16 games means a monster season—especially with no receivers on the depth chart to scare defenses," he said.

    Davenport agreed.

    "Elliott averaged over 98 yards per game in 2017," he said. "If he can match that production over a full 16-game slate, he would rush for 1,572 yards. That sounds like a league-leading total to me."

    Others receiving votes: Todd Gurley, Rams (2 votes); Saquon Barkley, Giants (1 vote); Le'Veon Bell, Steelers (1 vote); Jordan Howard, Bears (1 vote)

Most Receptions

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Michael Thomas, WR, Saints (3 votes)

    In 2017, Jarvis Landry led the league with 112 receptions. But Landry (who failed to top 1,000 yards) switched teams and didn't receive a vote. A change at quarterback may be part of the reason Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals (who finished second with 109 receptions) didn't either.

    The 25-year-old wideout who finished third with 104 grabs was the panel's pick as the NFL's top pass-catcher.

    Mind you, it was hardly a runaway. Freeman was one of two scribes who singled out veteran Julio Jones of the Falcons.

    "Jones and Ryan may not reach a second Super Bowl this season," Freeman said, "but they will continue to click. Jones will get even better, which is a scary thought."

    Another NFC South player, however, is in a similarly advantageous situation. The Saints' Michael Thomas, like Jones, is immensely talented and in the prime of his career. Thomas, like Jones, will have an elite quarterback to chuck him the rock.

    And Thomas, like Jones, should be in line for a huge year.

    Others receiving votes: Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers (2 votes); Julio Jones, WR, Falcons (2 votes); Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers (1 vote)

Most Sacks

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    Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers (3 votes)

    A year ago, Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones led the league with 17 sacks. But Jones didn't get a vote from our writers—perhaps because Arizona switched defensive schemes in the offseason.

    Five players received at least one vote, including Mack, Garrett and Von Miller. Just two managed multiple votes, though—including defensive end Yannick Ngakoue of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    "He's not a household name yet," Pompei said, "but only seven players had more sacks than Ngakoue last year. He's just starting to come into his own, and being part of an outstanding defense should help bring out his best."

    The leading vote-getter was Bosa, also our choice for Defensive Player of the Year. If Bosa does win that honor, it stands to reason he'd be among the league leaders in sacks.

    He's more than just a pass-rusher despite recording 23 sacks in his first two seasons. He's also an excellent edge-setter against the run. He's a complete player.

    Others receiving votes: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jaguars (2 votes); Myles Garrett, DE, Browns (1 vote); Khalil Mack, OLB, Bears (1 vote); Von Miller, OLB, Broncos (1 vote)

Most Tackles

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    Deion Jones, ILB, Falcons (3 votes)

    It's a near certainty the league's leading tackler will be a linebacker. There was a three-way tie in that regard last year, with Preston Brown, Joe Schobert and Blake Martinez each accruing 144 total stops.

    None of those players received even a single vote, though.

    This can be a hard category to predict. Tackles aren't an official stat, and each stadium has its own stat crew.

    Atlanta's Deion Jones is as good a choice as any—an athletic and physical player just now really coming into his own as a player.

    "The Falcons' reputation may be built upon a talented offense featuring Ryan and Jones," Sobleski said, "but this overlooks a young and athletic defense that flies to the football. Jones leads the way with ridiculous coverage range that resulted in 138 total tackles last season."

    Jones scored three votes to edge the Seahawks' Bobby Wagner, who finished with 133 combined stops last season.

    Others receiving votes: Bobby Wagner, ILB, Seahawks (2 votes); Aaron Donald, DE, Rams (1 vote); Reuben Foster, ILB, 49ers (1 vote); C.J. Mosley, ILB, Baltimore Ravens (1 vote)

Most Interceptions

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jaguars (3 votes)

    This pick will almost certainly be wrong. Interceptions are the flukiest stat in football. Sure, there's talent involved in being a ball hawk. But racking up a ton of picks requires just as much good fortune as it does ability.

    The number of people who predicted before last season that Darius Slay and Kevin Byard would each tally eight interceptions to tie for the NFL lead is exactly zero.

    Byard's own mom didn't see him snagging eight picks.

    In that regard, Tanier's selection of Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner was an interesting one. It was the only outside-the-box pick of the lot. The rest chose elite cornerbacks.

    If nothing else, at least the selection of Jalen Ramsey as the INT king makes sense. He snatched two interceptions as a rookie in 2016 and four in 2017, emerging as arguably the best in the league at shutting down opposing receivers.

    When you play the position as well as he does, anything is possible. Or maybe one of three Rams who received votes will lead the league.

    Others receiving votes: Aqib Talib, CB, Rams (2 votes); A.J. Bouye, CB, Jaguars (1 vote); Lamarcus Joyner, S, Rams (1 vote); Marcus Peters, CB, Rams (1 vote)

Worst Team (and Win-Loss Record)

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Bills (3-13) (3 votes)

    In the opinion of our writers, it'll be a two-team race to the bottom this year—the Bills and Browns got all eight votes.

    Three writers, including Dunne, picked the Browns to earn a third straight No. 1 overall pick by virtue of a 4-12 or 3-13 record.

    Dunne went with the latter.

    "The Browns added plenty of talent," Dunne said, "but they're still at least one year away from scaring anybody in their division—let alone the NFL."

    Dunne was one of four writers who tabbed 3-13 to be the league's worst record this season.

    The other three, however, picked the Bills to earn that mark.

    "I'm not one of the people who thinks the Browns might be a .500 team; if they win six games, I'll be stunned," Davenport said. "But bad though the Browns may be, the Bills are worse. Their offense consists of LeSean McCoy—and that's it. Even if he can stay healthy, the Bills are going to struggle big-time on offense—so much so that they won't win four games after they made the playoffs last season."

    Others receiving votes: Browns (4-12) (2 votes); Bills (4-12) (1 vote); Bills (2-14) (1 vote); Browns (3-13) (1 vote)

Super Bowl LIII Matchup

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    Patriots vs. Rams (3 votes)

    There is no shortage of Super Bowl predictions being made with the start of the season less than 48 hours away. The majority of those predictions involve the Patriots representing the AFC again—and five of our eight writers agree.

    That isn't to say there aren't dissenters. Gagnon called for the Chargers and Saints to meet in Atlanta in February.

    "I want this to happen just for the Drew Brees storyline," Gagnon said, "but I believe it can happen because I think the Saints are the best team when you give proper weight to the quarterback position. And the Chargers might finally be ready to overcome their demons. The AFC is wide-open, with both the Patriots and Steelers vulnerable, and the Bolts have the talent on both sides of the ball to make a run."

    New England's status as top dog wasn't a surprise. There are good teams in the AFC, such as the Jaguars and Steelers, but the conference isn't as top-heavy as the loaded NFC.

    The Eagles didn't get a single vote, and neither did the Falcons. The Vikings and Packers each earned a vote, and the Saints got two, but the Rams were the pick of four pundits.

    The Golden Boy vs. the Dream Team. CBS executives will faint with glee.

    Others receiving votes: Chargers vs. Saints (1 vote); Jaguars vs. Rams (1 vote); Packers vs. Patriots (1 vote); Patriots vs. Saints (1 vote); Vikings vs. Steelers (1 vote)

Super Bowl LIII Champion

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    Rams (3 votes)

    The goal of every team is to make it to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. Once that goal is achieved, two teams will shift into "win the thing" mode.

    It can be a life-changing event—just ask Nick Foles.

    Or, in the case of the Patriots, it can almost be boring since you've done it five times. Matt Miller predicted Darth Hoodie and the Beantown Stormtroopers will make it six.

    "As long as Belichick and Brady are on the sideline for the Patriots," Miller said, "they're going to be my Super Bowl pick. Winning this season would be their most impressive victory given the roster and competition across the board."

    Of our eight writers, Miller was the only win who picked an AFC team to win the Super Bowl. Two teams received multiple votes. One was the Saints, who were the pick of Tanier.

    "They're strong," Tanier said. "They're balanced. They're returning all five starters from the league's best offensive line. Their young defense is only going to get better. And yeah, Brees. The Saints are the only NFC contender without a 'Yeah, but' argument. They don't need their quarterback to get healthy, or be better, or for new coordinators to upgrade their system. The Saints can win the Super Bowl just by doing a little bit more of what they did week in and week out last year."

    The Saints, however, lost out by one vote to the new-look Rams. L.A. led the NFL in scoring en route to the NFC West title in 2017. Then the Rams went bananas in the offseason, adding wide receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib.

    Our writers expect those additions to pay off.

    Others receiving votes: Saints (2 votes); Packers (1 vote); Vikings (1 vote); Patriots (1 vote)

Most Valuable Player

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (4 votes)

    If the Rams really are going to win the Super Bowl, then it makes sense Jared Goff would be a factor in the MVP race.

    Sure enough, Sobleski thinks Goff will be more than in the mix.

    "Goff plays the most important position on arguably the league's most talented roster," he said. "He'll benefit from a stout offensive line, handing the ball to Gurley and tossing the ball to Cooks. It's Super Bowl or bust in Los Angeles, which places Goff at the forefront of the MVP conversation."

    But while Goff and Brady picked up two votes each, everyone's favorite insurance pitchman garnered four votes—including one from Freeman.

    "Rodgers is healthy," Freeman said. "He's motivated. He has Jimmy Graham. We might see him have one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had."

    An all-time season would no doubt land Rodgers his third MVP award. And whether he wins the hardware or not, it's hard to dispute he is the most valuable player on the Packers. All it took was one play last year to demonstrate that.

    Rodgers is back, to the delight of fans in Titletown.

    And so long as he's under center, the Packers have hope.

    Others receiving votes: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (2 votes); Jared Goff, QB, Rams (2 votes)