Post-Draft Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team
There's buzzing optimism among all 32 fanbases following the 2019 NFL draft. Every roster appears to have vastly improved over the last two months. How will the offseason upgrades impact win-loss records for the upcoming campaign?
There's little reason to believe front-office executives made mistakes in their plans for brighter futures. But as we know, their intent doesn't always match the forthcoming reality.
At times, it takes multiple years before offseason acquisitions affect the bottom line. In other cases, rookies and veterans immediately influence game results.
We'll take a look at all 32 rosters and schedules to project the final 2019 win-loss records. Which teams are set to take steps back? Who's on the rise? Where are the pitfalls and sweet spots for each club on the 256-game regular-season slate?
AFC East: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots
NFC East: Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Redskins
AFC North: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers
NFC North: Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings
AFC South: Colts, Jaguars, Texans, Titans
NFC South: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints
AFC West: Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders
NFC West: 49ers, Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks
The Arizona Cardinals handed the franchise over to quarterback Kyler Murray on Thursday and then traded Josh Rosen to the Miami Dolphins on Friday. In consecutive years, the club has looked toward a fresh start with a new head coach-quarterback tandem.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury recruited Murray out of high school and is embarking on a future with a signal-caller he touted as worthy of the No. 1 pick roughly six months before selecting him first overall. With that said, don't expect the wins to pile up in an instant.
Kingsbury doesn't have NFL coaching experience. Larry Fitzgerald, the team's best wide receiver, is heading into his age-36 term. After a down season, running back David Johnson has to find his groove again. Most importantly, the offensive line has to protect Murray. Last year, Arizona ranked 26th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders.
The front office added right tackle Marcus Gilbert, but D.J. Humphries has struggled to stay healthy on the blind side over the last two seasons, missing 18 games. Training camp will sort out the left guard spot that's up for grabs because of Mike Iupati's departure.
Edge-rusher Terrell Suggs, linebacker Jordan Hicks and rookie cornerback Byron Murphy should help a defense that ranked 26th in scoring last year (26.6 points allowed per game). Then again, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph needs to figure out who's a fit for his system in the early months.
The Cardinals will draw viewers with Murray under center but won't win many games. This club could lose every game to the NFC South opponents on its schedule in addition to the matchups with the playoff-caliber Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West.
2018 Results: 3-13
Don't underestimate the Atlanta Falcons after a down season. Head coaches won't use injuries as an excuse, but it's a major reason this team finished below .500 last year. The secondary lost safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, and linebacker Deion Jones missed 10 games with a foot injury. Running back Devonta Freeman's 14-game absence hurt the ground attack.
Injuries happen every year, but the defense should be equipped to handle attrition with head coach Dan Quinn making the calls. This is the play-caller who pulled the strings in Seattle during the Legion of Boom's rise.
Ito Smith isn't a proven backup behind Freeman, but the Falcons made a concerted effort to upgrade the offensive line. General manager Thomas Dimitroff acquired guards Jamon Brown and James Carpenter, and he took interior lineman Chris Lindstrom and right tackle Kaleb McGary in the first round of last week's draft.
Ball-carriers should be able to find wide lanes after handoffs. The upgrades in the trenches will keep quarterback Matt Ryan out of harm's way. He'll have ample time to connect with wideouts Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu downfield. In the upcoming season, Atlanta will push for the NFC South crown.
2018 Results: 7-9
The Baltimore Ravens won six out of seven regular-season contests with quarterback Lamar Jackson as a starter. Nonetheless, the offense didn't light up the scoreboard, and the Louisville product seemed limited in the passing game. He didn't throw more than 25 times in any contest and finished with a 58.2 percent completion rate.
Now that teams have a year's worth of film, Jackson must elevate the offense with his arm.
The front office signed veteran wide receiver Seth Roberts. Moreover, team brass selected wideouts Marquise Brown (first round) and Miles Boykin (third round) during last week's draft. The additions on the perimeter should benefit Jackson, but the timing between the quarterback and his receivers remains a crucial factor in anticipatory throws.
Secondly, Baltimore's signal-caller has to earn the coaching staff's trust with consistent, accurate passes from the pocket.
Last year, Baltimore's defense surrendered the fewest yards and ranked second in scoring (17.9 points allowed per game). The unit lost leaders in linebacker C.J. Mosley (New York Jets) and Terrell Suggs (Cardinals), and both were key contributors. Safety Earl Thomas is an upgrade over Eric Weddle, but Baltimore won't have the same stout front seven.
The Ravens' developing offense and slightly less ferocious defense will force them to take a step back. Baltimore will take some losses within the AFC North division and struggle against clubs with stingy run defenses.
2018 Results: 10-6
In 2018, Buffalo Bills quarterbacks were sacked a combined 41 times. The front office took necessary measures to upgrade the offensive line, signing Quinton Spain, Spencer Long, Ty Nsekhe, Jon Feliciano, LaAdrian Waddle, Mitch Morse. Team brass also selected Cody Ford in the second round of the draft. The unit could feature four new starters in the upcoming season.
Like Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, Josh Allen will have to do more with his arm to keep defenses honest. Buffalo's second-year signal-caller has a different issue, though. He throws the ball with frequency but only completed 52.8 percent of his passes last year.
General manager Brandon Beane added proven slot receiver Cole Beasley as well as John Brown as a potential deep threat. Tight end Tyler Kroft may emerge as a factor in the end zone. Still, the pass-catchers have limitations because of Allen's questionable ball placement—a criticism that followed him from the collegiate level into the pros.
The Bills allowed the second-fewest yards in the NFL last term and added defensive lineman Ed Oliver, one of the top 2019 prospects, with the ninth overall pick. Head coach Sean McDermott will maintain a respectable defense, but his team won't reach .500 this season with a quarterback who struggles to throw an accurate ball.
Aside from facing the Patriots and an improved Jets squad in the AFC East division, the Bills will have challenging matchups against the AFC North.
2018 Results: 6-10
Over the last seven seasons, the Carolina Panthers have alternated single- and double-digit wins. According to The Athletic's Joe Person, the team doesn't have a timetable for quarterback Cam Newton's recovery, and the front office drafted Will Grier in the third round last week.
The Panthers chose a rookie signal-caller for a good reason. While it's too early to set off alarms concerning Newton's availability, the soon-to-be 30-year-old veteran had his second shoulder surgery since 2017.
Based on the roster makeup, the offense will continue to rely heavily on running back Christian McCaffrey, who ranked third in touches (326) last season. Cameron Artis-Payne and rookie fifth-rounder Jordan Scarlett will serve as the primary backups, and the veteran has just 118 carries in four terms.
Wideout D.J. Moore had a solid rookie season, but the offense has little depth or high-end playmakers behind Newton and McCaffrey, which is a predicament in a physical game.
Rookie first-rounder Brian Burns should boost the Panthers pass rush, but questions at safety (after Mike Adams' departure) and nickelback remain. Rashaan Gaulden will have a shot to start at one of the two positions, but he's an unproven third-rounder from the 2018 draft.
The Panthers pass defense ranked 27th in touchdowns allowed and doesn't have clear-cut answers to question marks in the secondary. Carolina will face Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Seattle's Russell Wilson, who are all capable of exploiting flaws on the back end. With Drew Brees and Matt Ryan in the division, this club must patch up its coverage issues.
2018 Results: 7-9
The Chicago Bears rose from the cellar of the NFC North to the division champion between the 2017-18 terms. Matt Nagy took over as head coach and put together a top-10 scoring offense after he served one year as the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jordan Howard's production declined under Nagy, and the front office traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles in March. Running backs Mike Davis and rookie third-rounder David Montgomery are joining the backfield to replace the one-time Pro Bowl tailback. Tarik Cohen will probably maintain his versatile role as a ball-carrier and pass-catcher after leading the team in yards from scrimmage (1,169) in 2018.
The Bears lost defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who accepted the head coaching vacancy in Denver. Chuck Pagano is replacing him and taking over a top-notch group. Chicago allowed safety Adrian Amos to walk during free agency, but the front office signed one-time Pro Bowler Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to fill the void.
The defense should rank in the top five at the end of the season. The Bears' schedule deals several upper-echelon opponents outside the division, though, including the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers, Eagles, Rams, Dallas Cowboys and Chiefs. Chicago also sees its former defensive play-caller in Denver in Week 2.
Nagy's squad is still a playoff team, but it'll take a lot more to win the division in 2019.
2018 Results: 12-4
Zac Taylor has taken over for Marvin Lewis, who held the head coaching position for 16 years. Taylor made the jump after spending 2018 as the quarterbacks coach for the Rams, which raises some concerns for the offense, especially with a signal-caller who has a cloudy short-term future.
Bengals owner Mike Brown said he won't discuss an extension with quarterback Andy Dalton until he earns it, per Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer: "I think it's a good year for [Dalton] to show like he can, like we think he will. After he re-establishes himself, we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend it."
Dalton has two years left on his deal without any dead money owed for the remainder of his contract, per Spotrac. It's fair that Brown wants to see the 31-year-old signal-caller mesh with the new coaching staff before ironing out an extension.
Dalton has been average over the last two seasons, falling short of 3,400 passing yards with 25 or fewer touchdowns in each term. He's played with A.J. Green for his entire career, but the Bengals' passing attack ranked top-10 in yards once with the tandem. Tight end Tyler Eifert hasn't played more than eight games in a season since 2015. Wideout Tyler Boyd has to build upon his best season in a new system.
Offensively, the Bengals have too many what-ifs, uncertainties and a recent history of mediocrity. Lou Anarumo served as a defensive play-caller in an interim role with the Miami Dolphins in 2015; that's his only coordinator experience in the NFL. He's tasked with flipping the league's 30th scoring defense (28.4 points allowed per game) and 32nd defense overall (413.6 yards allowed per game) into a solid unit.
Amid a regime shift, Cincinnati's season could run off the rails, especially if Dalton doesn't come out strong.
New coaches usually want to mold a roster in their vision, and the AFC North is a competitive division. The Cleveland Browns' expectations are on the rise, and Ben Roethlisberger is still under center in Pittsburgh. The Bengals will also play against the Patriots and the Rams, and they open the season on the road in Seattle.
2018 Results: 6-10
Someone tell rookie cornerback Greedy Williams to pump the brakes on the Super Bowl talk. The LSU product believes in the team that selected him in the second round this year, but the Browns have to walk before they can run—toward the playoffs.
General manager John Dorsey added flash and substance to the roster during the offseason. He acquired wideout Odell Beckham Jr. via trade with the New York Giants and swapped guard Kevin Zeitler for defensive end Olivier Vernon.
Freddie Kitchens could have a Matt Nagy-like rise from play-caller for a portion of a season to innovative head coach. There are legitimate concerns about the right side of the offensive line, though. Austin Corbett, a 2018 second-rounder, is replacing Zeitler at guard, and right tackle Chris Hubbard allowed 8.5 sacks last year, per the Washington Post's STATS.
If quarterback Baker Mayfield is constantly under siege, he won't have time to find his talented pass-catching group, featuring Beckham, Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku. Kitchens can lean on running back Nick Chubb to neutralize the pass rush. Despite having only 16 carries in the first six weeks, the 23-year-old ball-carrier finished 10th in rushing yards (996) last year.
Cleveland's talented defense may also take some pressure off the offense. Vernon and Myles Garrett form a strong pass-rushing duo on the defensive line. Denzel Ward and Williams could develop into one of the better cornerback tandems in the league.
The Browns appear to have the talent to claim the AFC North, but they must finish with a winning record in the division and knock off some tough opponents in the NFC West, including the Rams, to earn respect from legitimate contenders.
2018 Results: 7-8-1
The Dallas Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper before the Oct. 30 trade deadline and went 7-2 with him on the roster. There's no doubt the four-year veteran opens up the offense even when he's not targeted.
Quarterback Dak Prescott and Cooper must continue to develop their on-field connection in order to remain effective in the upcoming season, but running back Ezekiel Elliott is still the engine of the Cowboys offense. He's averaged the most yards per contest since entering the league in 2016.
Opponents know Elliott will have approximately 25-30 touches per game, but he's difficult to stop behind a solid offensive line. And Dallas is welcoming Travis Frederick back to the trenches after the All-Pro center missed the 2018 campaign with Guillain-Barre syndrome.
According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys ranked third in power run blocking last year. Expect new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to continue feeding Elliott the ball.
The front office added a proven pass-rusher in Robert Quinn to complement Demarcus Lawrence on the opposite side. The defensive line also has depth with rookies Trysten Hill and Joe Jackson.
The Cowboys and Eagles will battle for the NFC East crown and probably split their season series. But Dallas has to increase its scoring production; the offense ranked 22nd in points per game last year with 21.2. The Rams, Saints and Patriots will pose the biggest threats because each team can light up the scoreboard.
2018 Results: 10-6
The Denver Broncos acquired Joe Flacco in a trade with the Ravens. Despite losing his job to Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, the 34-year-old signal-caller is a capable starter. The 11-year veteran can stretch the field with the offensive skill players in place, which says a lot following a season with Case Keenum's underwhelming arm talent.
Wideouts Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton should see an uptick in production because of the potential for big plays. Assuming running back Phillip Lindsay returns to pre-injury form after undergoing wrist surgery, Denver's ground game should adequately complement the aerial attack.
Edge-rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will flourish under head coach Vic Fangio, who's been the defensive coordinator for top-10 scoring defenses in Carolina, San Francisco and Chicago during his 19-year run as a play-caller.
Barring a trade involving cornerback Chris Harris Jr., the Broncos pass defense should show improvement with versatile defensive back Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan in the slot.
The Broncos fanbase has to prepare itself for Flacco's ups and downs. This club could lose three out of four games against the NFC North—with the exception of the Detroit Lions at home.
2018 Results: 6-10
Head coach Matt Patricia's defensive expertise has already helped the Lions. In 2018, Detroit's defense was top-10 in yards allowed for the second time since 1993.
The front office signed Trey Flowers during free agency—the defensive end was a former player under Patricia in New England—and added depth on all three levels of the defense during the draft. Rookie third-rounder Will Harris could start at safety in 2019.
In a division with the pass-heavy Vikings, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the playoff-caliber Bears, the Lions have a defense that should keep them competitive.
This is a recurring theme for Detroit, but the coaching staff must balance the offense to avoid placing all of its hopes on quarterback Matthew Stafford. In 2018, the Lions finished 23rd in rushing yards, but left guard Frank Ragnow and running back Kerryon Johnson will continue to grow in their roles this year.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson's willingness to block and his ability to catch adds another dimension to the offense, but the first-round rookie can't elevate this unit alone. Until the ground attack shows some consistency, the Lions will struggle against clubs with stingy secondaries such as the Bears and Vikings.
Darrell Bevell was an offensive coordinator for six teams that ranked top-five in rushing yards, but those squads featured two of the most physical running backs in NFL history: Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. Johnson and C.J. Anderson have a lot to prove as a viable tandem.
The Lions won't have a winning record against their NFC North rivals. They also play the Chargers, Cowboys and Eagles (at Lincoln Financial Field) and those are tough matchups.
2018 Results: 6-10
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are one of the most difficult projections because they have arguably the most talented quarterback on their side, but it's fair to question how Aaron Rodgers will mesh with first-time head coach Matt LaFleur, who's far from a proven offensive mind in the NFL.
LaFleur served in a play-caller role for two years—one under Rams head coach Sean McVay and the other for a Titans team that didn't have its best pass-catcher in 2018 after tight end Delanie Walker broke his ankle in Week 1.
Perhaps Rodgers' talent will supersede any growing pains in the offense, but it's not a guarantee.
On paper, Green Bay's defense looks like a top-10 unit. The front office added pass-rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith and safety Adrian Amos in free agency. Rookie first-rounders Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage will probably play significant snaps this year.
With that said, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has to fit the new pieces together to form a masterpiece. The group needs to jell if we're going to see positive results.
Rodgers doesn't have a strong rapport with any prominent pass-catchers on the roster other than wideout Davante Adams. Tight end Jimmy Graham tied a single-season low in touchdown receptions (two) last year. The offensive transition will cost this club a few victories in the first half of the season.
The Packers have a tough regular-season opener on the road against the Bears. They also have back-to-back contests with the Eagles and Cowboys, consecutive away games against the Chiefs and Chargers and travel to their NFC North rival Vikings and Lions for Weeks 16 and 17, respectively. That's a tough slate.
2018 Results: 6-9-1
Last year, the Houston Texans won the AFC South but exited the playoffs early after losing to the Indianapolis Colts. It's worrisome the offensive line doesn't have proven perimeter protectors for quarterback Deshaun Watson, who took the most sacks (62) in 2018.
There's a reason the Panthers released Matt Kalil; he didn't play up to his five-year, $55.5 million deal and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery that cost him the entire 2018 season. Kalil is now in Houston. According to the Washington Post's STATS, Julie'n Davenport allowed 8.75 sacks last year. Rookie first-rounder Tytus Howard comes from Alabama State, and his adjustment to the competition may become an issue.
One of the aforementioned offensive tackles will protect Watson's blind side, which doesn't sound like an encouraging position battle.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will bail Watson out of trouble with his ability to separate downfield, but he's going to face consistent double-teams if wideouts Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee struggle with injuries in consecutive years.
In 2018, the Texans pass defense ranked 28th in yards and 18th in touchdowns allowed. The front office let Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson walk in free agency. The secondary will miss Mathieu's versatility, while Jackson led the team with 17 pass breakups last season. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph is going into his age-35 campaign, and fellow cover man Aaron Colvin broke up one pass in 10 games last term.
Outside of the division, the Texans will play clubs with high-end aerial attacks, including the Chargers, Chiefs and Falcons. Houston will run into some rough patches in 2019 because of a shaky pass defense.
2018 Results: 11-5
If quarterback Andrew Luck maintains his health for an entire season, the Colts should finish with double-digit wins in consecutive terms. This time, Indianapolis will start strong and play like a postseason contender for the duration of the year.
In 2018, Luck built a rapport with tight end Eric Ebron, who tied Packers wideout Davante Adams with the second-most touchdown receptions (13). The front office selected versatile wide receiver Parris Campbell in the second round of the draft. That acquisition further strengthens the league's sixth-ranked passing attack, which produced the second-most touchdowns last season.
More importantly, the Colts signed Justin Houston, a proven edge-rusher who can close football games with pocket pressure. He'll help the defense match up against prolific offensive units.
Indianapolis drew Kansas City, Pittsburgh and New Orleans this year, which all look like potential shootouts on paper. However, Luck may not have to score 35 points to beat those teams because of the Colts' improved defensive play. They ranked 10th in points allowed and 11th in yards allowed in 2018.
2018 Results: 10-6
The Jaguars signed quarterback Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million deal. While there's an assumption that he's an upgrade over Blake Bortles, the 30-year-old doesn't have a full 16-game season on his NFL resume. The seven-year veteran hasn't thrown more than seven touchdown passes in a single term since 2014.
If Jacksonville needed a fill-in starter for a playoff run, Foles could play the part, but he's still unproven over four-month stretches. Running back Leonard Fournette's injury history doesn't help; he's missed 11 games in two seasons. Thomas Rawls and rookie fifth-rounder Ryquell Armstead may have solid roles in the backfield at some point this season.
Last August, Marqise Lee suffered a significant knee injury with ligament damage. Although head coach Doug Marrone expects him back "late in the preseason," per Daniel Popper of The Athletic, there's no guarantee he'll suit up for Week 1 or take on a full workload. Foles will rely on a mostly inconsistent receiving group featuring Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley and DJ Chark Jr.
The Jaguars defense will keep games close, but a strong pass rush and shutdown cornerbacks don't score many points. Jacksonville ranked fourth in points allowed per game and gave up the fifth-fewest yards last season, but the team finished below .500.
The Jaguars play in a division with two teams coming off playoff appearances (the Texans and Colts), and they're going against a couple of top-notch offenses outside of the AFC South. Their offense won't be able to keep pace with the Chargers, Falcons and Saints. Despite adding Foles, this club will go 4-12 with the third-hardest schedule.
2018 Results: 5-11
Kansas City Chiefs
It's odd to think the Chiefs would look anything but spectacular after their 2018 campaign, but transition and uncertainty could cost this club a handful of games this season.
Kansas City will transition to a 4-3 scheme, and the philosophy shift may result in a slow start for the defense.
The Chiefs fired defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and replaced him with Steve Spagnuolo. The front office later pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Seahawks to acquire defensive end Frank Clark. The four-year veteran compensates for the loss of edge-rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston.
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland is replacing Steven Nelson, who logged 15 pass breakups and four interceptions last year. Meanwhile, Breeland had a down season as a late addition to the Packers secondary in 2018. He logged two interceptions and four pass breakups in seven appearances.
Kansas City's offense led the league in yards and points last season, but the unit may not have the same flash in 2019. The team suspended wideout Tyreek Hill after the reopening of a criminal case involving him and his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, and the alleged abuse of their three-year-old son.
If the two-time All-Pro wideout misses time, the Chiefs would have to rely on tight end Travis Kelce and oft-injured wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who's missed 15 games in the last three seasons with three different teams.
This year, Patrick Mahomes will face nine clubs with defenses that ranked within the top 10 in scoring last year. Even if Hill suits up for a full season, the Chiefs may struggle to put up points in stretches.
2018 Results: 12-4
Los Angeles Chargers
For the most part, the Chargers kept their roster intact. Wideout Tyrell Williams signed with the Raiders, but the team will welcome tight end Hunter Henry back to the lineup. He suffered a torn ACL last May and only played 14 snaps in a playoff game.
The front office signed Thomas Davis, who's still able to chase down running backs and tackle in the open field. The 36-year-old will help a linebacker corps with inexperienced talent. Going into their sophomore seasons, Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White could see expanded roles, but they won't need to with a short-term starter in place.
The Chargers hope to see pass-rusher Joey Bosa play through a full season; he missed nine contests with a foot injury in 2018. His presence opposite Melvin Ingram should provide the defense with consistent pocket pressure to combat robust passing attacks.
The Broncos went in a new direction with head coach Vic Fangio, and the Raiders need time to develop a young roster. The Chargers have stability and few holes on the depth chart, though they must stay healthy to claim the AFC West crown.
L.A.'s matchups against the NFC North will bring some hardships, but a good division record should keep this team in contention for an 11-win season.
2018 Results: 12-4
Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley's condition will affect the Rams' success in the upcoming season. Head coach Sean McVay has utilized him as a focal point in the offense, and the two-time All-Pro running back has led the league in touches (658) over the last two seasons.
According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, Gurley has arthritis in his knee. During last year's playoffs, his health came into question when he logged just 14 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown between the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIII.
"You can expect Todd to be a focal point of our offense going forward. ... He's in a good place," McVay said. "He's feeling good and will continue to be a central piece of our offense, and I don't see that changing."
Based on McVay's statement, the offense should continue to run like a well-oiled machine, but the front office likely selected running back Darrell Henderson in the third round just in case something goes awry with Gurley's knee.
McVay also hopes to see Cooper Kupp, who is recovering from an ACL tear, on the field for Week 1. If its key offensive assets remain healthy, Los Angeles should have a top-five scoring unit once again.
The front office isn't expected to re-sign nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, but general manager Les Snead drafted Greg Gaines in the fourth round to potentially fill the void. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has a solid veteran secondary featuring Marcus Peters, John Johnson, Eric Weddle and Aqib Talib.
Dante Fowler Jr. could become a key holdover if he's able to attack the pocket. The added pressure off the edge would take some attention away from two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
Typically, Seattle plays Los Angeles close, but McVay's squad is still the best team in the NFC West. On the flip side, we have to see how Gurley performs with his ailing knee. The Rams have tough opponents outside of their division, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Saints, Cowboys and Bears on the schedule.
2018 Results: 13-3
The Miami Dolphins turned the page on the Adam Gase era and hired Patriots defensive assistant Brian Flores as their new head coach. Then they traded quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the Titans, signed veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and acquired second-year signal-caller Josh Rosen in a deal with the Cardinals.
The transition in the coaching ranks and at quarterback will likely result in a rough 2019 season for the Dolphins.
If Miami makes Rosen the starter right away, he will continue to take his lumps. The Dolphins also have question marks along the offensive line with new starters at left guard and right tackle.
The Dolphins also allowed Cameron Wake to walk in free agency and traded Robert Quinn to the Cowboys. Considering the two defensive ends led the team in sacks last year, Miami may struggle to pressure quarterbacks.
The Dolphins' new regime has time to build a contender, which isn't going to happen overnight. The franchise will take a step backward amid a roster reconstruction.
2018 Results: 7-9
It's easy to trust the Vikings defense, which was top-10 in scoring over the last four seasons, but the offense seems like an Achilles' heel.
Minnesota will field new starters at the guard spots to replace Tom Compton and Mike Remmers. In 2018, quarterback Kirk Cousins took 40 sacks in an imbalanced offensive attack. The Vikings ranked 27th in rushing attempts.
Running back Latavius Murray signed with the Saints this offseason, and he's a notable loss when you consider Dalvin Cook has played 15 games in two seasons. Cook suffered a torn ACL during his rookie campaign and battled a hamstring ailment in 2018.
Minnesota's defense can hold teams under 28 points, but offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has to jump-start the ground attack with a maligned offensive line and a ball-carrier who's in and out of the lineup. Rookie running back Alex Mattison will likely take on a sizable role.
Although wideouts Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in the last term, the Vikings must develop their running game. A dynamic offense could match the tougher defenses on the schedule, such as the Bears and Chargers, and keep pace with opponents set to field high-performance offensive units like the Falcons and Eagles.
The Vikings may continue to experience uneven possession, which leads to a fatigued defense late in games.
2018 Results: 8-7-1
New England Patriots
The Patriots are tied for 27th in strength of schedule (.473). Did the NFL gift-wrap another 11-plus win season to the defending champions? No, blame their division rivals.
New England has won 10 consecutive AFC East division titles. Miami, Buffalo and New York all finished below .500 last year. The Patriots should again fare well against their division rivals in 2019.
The Dolphins will go into the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen under center and a new coaching staff. The Bills and Jets have upgraded their rosters but field inexperienced second-year quarterbacks (Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, respectively). The Patriots have Tom Brady, who's still performing at a high level. Sony Michel flashed as the lead ball-carrier last season. Head coach Bill Belichick is calling the shots.
New England has started 2-2 in the last two seasons, and the team has a challenging regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have Ben Roethlisberger under center as well as rising star wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster on the perimeter and upstart running back James Conner in the backfield.
Between Weeks 11-14, the Patriots will face teams that made last year's postseason. It's a tall order to play the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs in a four-game stretch; they'll drop one or two of those games. Other than that, New England should go through the season without many hiccups.
2018 Results: 11-5
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints hope to overcome back-to-back crushing losses over the last two campaigns—the Minnesota Miracle in 2017 and a missed pass-interference call last year. The NFC South champions will also square off against much-improved rivals.
Bruce Arians accepted the head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his five seasons as Arizona's head coach, his team was top-six in scoring twice.
Assuming the Falcons have better luck with injuries, they'll pose a tougher threat in NFC South. And if Cam Newton is healthy, the Panthers should be dangerous as well.
We could see quarterback Drew Brees take a step backward. Although he led the league with a 74.4 percent completion rate in 2018, the 40-year-old signal-caller threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions in his last six outings (playoffs included). We'll find out if that's a blip or the beginning of a trend.
Brees doesn't have a clear-cut No. 2 option at wideout, and he'll rely on tight end Jared Cook to serve as a solid receiving option in his age-32 term. Running back Latavius Murray has to find his groove in a new backfield.
New Orleans will play six clubs that had top-10 scoring defenses last season. The Saints should reach the postseason, but they won't look like the dominant 2018 squad that started 10-1.
2018 Results: 13-3
New York Giants
The clock is officially ticking on Eli Manning's time in New York. General manager Dave Gettleman selected former Duke signal-caller Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick. If Big Blue have a rough start to the season, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback could lose his starting job.
The Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns for safety Jabrill Peppers, this year's 17th overall pick (defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence) and the 95th overall selection (edge-rusher Oshane Ximines). The returns don't help Manning under center.
The front office signed Golden Tate to lessen the sting from losing Beckham, but the two wideouts aren't comparable talents. The Giants' new lead receiver had an average 2018 season with the Lions and Eagles and only recorded 74 receptions, snapping his four-year streak of 90-plus catches.
Running back Saquon Barkley is the star of the offense, but he could see a loaded box if Manning can't push the ball downfield. Rookie seventh-rounder George Asafo-Adjei needs to add bulk to his 6'5", 306-pound frame before he competes for the right tackle spot, and center Jon Halapio is coming off an abbreviated year because of a broken ankle. The 38-year-old Manning may be under constant duress.
Defensively, the Giants are in transition. The front office allowed safety Landon Collins to walk and traded pass-rusher Olivier Vernon to the Browns for right guard Kevin Zeitler. Lawrence, Ximines and first-round cornerback Deandre Baker may all play significant snaps in their first years.
The Giants or Washington Redskins will finish in the NFC East cellar, and the first club to start its rookie quarterback and then shift into development mode will be the one. Big Blue could go 0-4 against the NFC North. By the way, New York has a road game against the Patriots on a short week—good luck with that.
2018 Results: 5-11
New York Jets
The New York Jets have a new coaching staff in place as Adam Gase takes a second swing at leading an AFC East team to prosperity.
The team landed big-time additions during free agency and the draft. Running back Le'Veon Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal, and he'll run behind All-Pro left guard Kelechi Osemele, whom the team acquired via trade with the Raiders.
On fresh legs, Bell projects as the team's best offensive skill player. He'll average close to 20 carries per game and add a handful of touches in a pass-catching role.
The Jets also added heavy hitters to the front seven. Linebacker C.J. Mosley inked a five-year deal, $85 million deal. Team brass took defensive lineman Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick, and some draft analysts view him as the best prospect from the 2019 class. He's a penetrating interior defender who dominated the opposition during his redshirt sophomore year at Alabama.
Gang Green selected edge-rusher Jachai Polite in the third round. Based on his tape, he's a first-round talent but slipped because of poor interviews during the predraft process, per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
Even with New York's notable newcomers, the team's success comes down to the development of second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. Bell and new slot wideout Jamison Crowder should aid the 21-year-old's progress, but he has to make better decisions in the pocket. The USC product threw 15 interceptions in 2018.
Based on his history, dating back his collegiate years, Darnold will have some ill-advised throws that fall into the wrong hands, but he delivers some spectacular passes as well. Gang Green have to live with the good and bad.
The Jets will go on the road to New England after a Monday Night Football contest with the Browns in Week 2. Following a Week 4 bye, they play the top two teams in the NFC East (Eagles and Cowboys) and then host the Patriots. New York will take its lumps early and rack up victories against lower-tier teams after Week 7.
2018 Results: 4-12
For the Raiders, new faces and inexperienced players will take on major roles in the upcoming season.
General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden provided glimpses of hope for a better future with a blockbuster trade for arguably the best wideout in the league, Antonio Brown. They also signed coveted free-agent wideout Tyrell Williams to upgrade the receiving corps. Quarterback Derek Carr took 51 sacks last year, so Oakland signed 6'8", 380-pound offensive tackle Trent Brown to better protect him.
Trades involving edge-rusher Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper netted the Nos. 24 and 27 picks in this year's draft. The Raiders also had their own selection at No. 4. Mayock and Gruden utilized two of their three first-round selections to initiate a change in the organization's losing culture. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell and running back Josh Jacobs come from winning programs.
Throughout the draft, the Raiders cherry-picked from past NCAA championship rosters. Ferrell, cornerback Trayvon Mullen and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow played for two Tigers squads that won a title. Jacobs won with Alabama in 2018.
How soon will these rookies bring a winning mentality into the locker room and on to the field?
It's going to take time. Last year, team brass tore down the roster for a fresh start. The Raiders would need several young players to produce at high levels right away to compete against contenders, specifically on defense. The unit allowed a franchise-worst 467 points in 2018. While there's optimism, the rookies are still unknowns.
Last year, offensive tackle Kolton Miller gave up 13 sacks, per the Washington Post's STATS. The UCLA product must improve in pass protection to provide Carr more time to find Brown, Williams and Renfrow downfield.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, running back Isaiah Crowell tore his Achilles, and he'll undergo season-ending surgery. Jacobs could see a heavy workload for the upcoming campaign.
Oakland will go through more valleys than peaks with a brutal schedule. The Raiders don't have a true home game in Weeks 3-8, and that's going to wear on a young squad. Oakland is going to play a tough NFC North division filled with high-end or revamped defenses. The Silver and Black also finish the year with two road games against division opponents.
The victories will come few and far in between.
2018 Results: 4-12
Quarterback Nick Foles signed with the Jaguars during free agency, which means the Philadelphia Eagles don't have a high-end backup in case Carson Wentz goes down with an injury during a third consecutive season. If the 26-year-old signal-caller stays healthy, Philadelphia looks primed to win the NFC East title.
The Eagles rushing offense ranked 28th last year, but the front office addressed the ground attack. Philadelphia traded for running back Jordan Howard from the Bears and drafted ball-carrier Miles Sanders in the second round. The tailback tandem should balance the offense and take the pressure off Wentz in the pocket.
Wideouts DeSean Jackson and JJ Arcega-Whiteside will elevate the passing game. In 2018, the veteran led the league in yards per reception with 18.9; the rookie averaged 16.4 yards per catch at Stanford.
The Giants and Redskins may go through a transition at quarterback, which leaves the Cowboys as the strongest opponent within the division. The Eagles should roll through the NFC East, but they'll run into tough competition against the Patriots, Packers and Bears.
2018 Results: 9-7
Despite the buzz in Cleveland, the Pittsburgh Steelers could still win their division. The Browns have to put all their talent together before they can prove worthy of an AFC North title. Baltimore Ravens signal-caller Lamar Jackson will have to show more of his arm talent. It's unclear what to expect from the Bengals under a new coaching staff.
The Steelers traded their best player, Antonio Brown, to the Raiders, but the roster still has solid playmakers at the skill positions and a top-notch offensive line.
JuJu Smith-Schuster seems like he's ready to lead the wide receiver corps. The USC product finished sixth in the league in receiving yards last season. Donte Moncrief and James Washington will fill the complementary pass-catcher roles behind him. Running back James Conner possesses dual-threat capabilities similar to Le'Veon Bell's; he logged 1,470 yards from scrimmage in 2018.
Over the last two seasons, Pittsburgh ranked first in sacks (tied with Kansas City in 2018), and that pattern should continue with multiple pocket-pushers across the front seven. Edge-rusher T.J. Watt and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward lead the charge. The front office added rookie linebacker Devin Bush and cornerback Steven Nelson to patch up blind spots in coverage.
The Steelers play two of their toughest opponents at home (Rams and Colts). In their AFC East matchups, the Patriots and maybe the Jets—if they're in the playoff hunt Week 16—pose a major threat. Tiebreaker rules could decide the AFC North leader between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
2018 Results: 9-6-1
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers will see an immediate boost with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back under center after a torn ACL. Clearly, he's an upgrade over Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard.
Garoppolo will have a three-man backfield behind him, featuring Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida and Jerick McKinnon, who's returning from a torn ACL. The sixth-year signal-caller will also have rising star George Kittle; he led all tight ends in receiving yards (1,377) in 2018.
The team drafted rookie wideouts Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd to spruce up the passing attack. The former runs crisp routes; the latter played running back for three years at Tennessee and transitioned to wide receiver at Baylor, logging 946 yards and four touchdowns last season.
General manager John Lynch revamped the pass rush, acquiring Dee Ford via trade with Kansas City and taking Nick Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick. Together, they'll elevate the team's sack numbers. The former Chiefs edge-rusher is coming off his best season with 13 sacks and a league-leading seven forced fumbles.
Garoppolo has to prove he can stay healthy throughout the year, which brings some uncertainty to the 49ers' outlook. On a positive note, the defensive line additions could rattle top-level quarterbacks. Outside the NFC West, San Francisco has to play the NFC South, which is a tough draw.
2018 Results: 4-12
The Seattle Seahawks grabbed offseason headlines for multiple reasons. They signed quarterback Russell Wilson to the biggest contract in NFL history, extending his deal for four years at $140 million. General manager John Schneider also traded one of the league's best pass-rushers, Frank Clark, to the Chiefs.
Seattle selected defensive lineman L.J. Collier at No. 29 to compensate for losing Clark, but it's difficult to replace a contributor who recorded 32 sacks in the last three campaigns.
Wilson may go into the season without his most reliable receiver. Doug Baldwin could retire because of an accumulation of his injuries, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The 30-year-old underwent knee, shoulder and hernia surgeries during the offseason.
Although Seattle selected D.K. Metcalf at No. 64 to bolster the wideout stable, the rookie will need time to build a rapport with Wilson. He also had some injury concerns at Ole Miss. Metcalf missed significant portions of his freshman and redshirt sophomore seasons with a broken foot and a neck ailment, respectively, the latter of which required surgery.
The Seahawks will face stiff competition outside the NFC West. They'll travel to Atlanta, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Seattle will also play the Saints early in the season.
2018 Results: 10-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will turn to head coach Bruce Arians to right the ship. Most recently, he optimized offensive talent in Arizona while utilizing quarterback Carson Palmer in the latter stages of his career.
Arians will have a much younger Jameis Winston, 25, under center in Tampa. The team traded DeSean Jackson to the Eagles, and Chris Godwin should see an expanded role. He took another step in his development, logging 59 catches for 842 yards and seven touchdowns, but the third-year wideout must overcome drop issues.
The Buccaneers focused on defense during the draft, adding linebacker Devin White at No. 5 along with cornerbacks Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean. The unit may field two first-year starters from that trio. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' group will likely take time to mesh as he employs more 3-4 looks.
In addition to being in the competitive NFC South, Tampa Bay also plays against the AFC South, which sent two teams (Colts and Texans) to the postseason last year. The Buccaneers will improve under Arians' watch, but they'll take just a small step in the right direction.
2018 Results: 5-11
Marcus Mariota is heading into a contract year, and he must overcome more instability. The fifth-year quarterback will have another play-caller in his ear for the upcoming season. The team promoted tight ends coach Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator to replace Matt LaFleur, who's now the Packers' head coach.
The Titans signed slot receiver Adam Humphries, who's coming off single-season highs in receiving yards (816) and touchdowns (five), and rookie wideout A.J. Brown. Tight end Delanie Walker may be slow in returning to the field after he suffered a broken ankle last September. There's no timetable on his recovery, per John Glennon of The Athletic.
Mariota has to build a connection with two new wide receivers, and it's not a guarantee Walker reverts to pre-injury form at 34 years old. Wideout Corey Davis has been underwhelming as 2017's fifth overall pick. That mix, with a new play-caller, could result in a stagnant offensive attack early in the season. Running backs Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis could see a crowded box.
The Titans' top-10 defense should keep games close, but the team's potential scoring issues may pop up in stretches—specifically in September and October. A rough start would likely lead to a mediocre finish.
2018 Results: 9-7
The Washington Redskins will probably have two options at quarterback: Case Keenum or rookie Dwayne Haskins. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the club doesn't expect Alex Smith to play this year after his broken leg last season. Colt McCoy had a setback while on the mend from his broken leg; he underwent an additional procedure, per NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay.
Regardless of who starts under center, the signal-caller won't have enough offensive firepower to move the chains consistently through the passing game.
Rookie wideouts Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon have upside, but Keenum's conservative game or Haskins' inexperience could limit their production. Josh Doctson hasn't fulfilled his first-round billing, having notched only 81 catches for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns in three terms. Last year, Paul Richardson went down with an AC joint injury after seven appearances; he's yet to catch 50 passes in a season. Tight end Jordan Reed could see the most action in the aerial attack.
Similar to last year, the ground game may serve as the offensive engine. Running backs Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice should have a busy season ahead. With a ball-control attack, it's difficult to erase large deficits or build big leads, though.
On paper, the Redskins could have a top-10 defense with cornerback Josh Norman on the back end, Mason and Reuben Foster (no relation) in the middle and Jonathan Allen alongside Daron Payne up front. Washington also drafted first-rounder Montez Sweat to pair with Ryan Kerrigan on the edge.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, a bottom-third offense may drain the energy from a strong defense. With the Patriots and the entire NFC North on the schedule, it's hard to find wins outside the division for this club.
2018 Results: 7-9