Latest Win-Loss Predictions for Every NFL Team
Ahead of the NFL season, players have been partaking in the usual training camp theatrics. Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey arrived in an armored truck, and new Oakland Raiders wideout Antonio Brown landed in Napa, California, in a hot-air balloon. The players can enjoy the spectacle for now, but what's going to happen when the fun ends and the games count?
As training camps ramp up, we'll hear reports about injuries, suspensions, lineup combinations and who's standing out on the practice field. The players will provide us a glimpse of what's to come with their performances.
Opinions on 2019 win-loss outlooks fluctuate with roster changes. Following the post-draft forecasts, a club projected at 10-6 may have lost a key player. Perhaps the league suspended a starter for the first few weeks of the season. And of course, some teams are still acquiring talent.
Following Thursday's Hall of Fame Game, we'll go through our latest round of win-loss predictions for the 2019 season. For the most part, developments over the last three months haven't dramatically changed many of the projections, but some teams did pick up or lose a win or two because of injuries, suspensions and various other transactions.
"Zoom" may be the perfect word to describe Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury's air raid offense. According to running back David Johnson, this squad could run track meets against their opponents, per ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss.
"Johnson said the goal is to run 90 to 95 plays per game, primarily out of the shotgun and primarily no-huddle, which could provide more opportunities," Weinfuss wrote.
Theoretically, Kingsbury's offense should fare well in the pros. Quarterback Kyler Murray can sling the ball into open pockets downfield or take off on runs while avoiding the pass rush. The rookie signal-caller can also hand off or pitch short to Johnson, his All-Pro running back.
In the long term, the Cardinals offense should put up big numbers, but Murray will need to develop a rapport with a wide receiver group that's relatively young aside from Larry Fitzgerald. Secondly, despite Murray's ability to scramble, he needs pass protection from a front line that will feature new starters at left guard and right tackle.
The Cardinals should have success pressuring the pocket with Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs on the edges, but they'll go into the season without All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson because of a six-game suspension for a PED violation. On the opposite side, Robert Alford must have a solid start in coverage with his new team.
The Cardinals need to walk before they can run on offense. Defensively, a void at cornerback will cause some shortcomings early in the season.
Aside from the injuries on defense, the Atlanta Falcons also struggled in the trenches last season; the offensive line ranked 24th in adjusted line yards (4.08) and 14th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders.
The front office selected two offensive linemen in the first round of this year's draft, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, in addition to signing guards Jamon Brown and James Carpenter.
If McGary misses significant time after undergoing a heart procedure, Ty Sambrailo will lock down the starting right tackle spot.
In 2018, Atlanta fielded the No. 4 passing attack and the 27th-ranked ground game. The Falcons should have the manpower to clear lanes for a healthy Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith to balance their offense.
Defensive end Vic Beasley's disappointing two-year stretch after leading the league in sacks three years ago causes some concern, but Takkarist McKinley and Grady Jarrett should give the front line a push up front. The coaching staff's decision to move Damontae Kazee into the nickelback spot following his eight-interception campaign will patch up coverage holes on the back end.
The Falcons have enough offensive firepower to outscore the New Orleans Saints within the division and just enough defensive playmakers who can make critical stops in big games.
In recent years, the Baltimore Ravens have developed an identity built on toughness and physicality on both sides of the ball. The club ranked second in rushing yards and No. 2 in points allowed last year, but the offense must show a little more zing through the air in 2019.
The Ravens need quarterback Lamar Jackson to push the ball downfield to wideouts Willie Snead IV, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. Right guard Marshal Yanda has seen growth from the 22-year-old signal-caller, per Mike Jones of USA Today:
"Lamar is more confident in the huddle," Yanda said. "He's more confident in his calls. He's making those steps that you need from him in Year 2."
Jackson may have a better understanding of the offense, but his playbook and film study must translate to execution on the field. He only threw six touchdown passes in 170 attempts last season. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has to allow his starting signal-caller to show his arm in order to correct issues with his mechanics and delivery.
The Ravens lost pass-rushers Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency but attempted to compensate for the departures by signing Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray and selecting Jaylon Ferguson in the third round. The additions don't compare to the subtractions on the edge, but Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser could take major steps at the position.
We have to acknowledge the Ravens secondary will likely remain stingy with safety Earl Thomas joining the group. Nevertheless, losing linebacker C.J. Mosley, Suggs and Smith in the front seven may leave this group vulnerable against mobile quarterbacks and top-notch ground attacks.
Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will continue to mold second-year quarterback Josh Allen after an inconsistent year filled with splash plays, missed opportunities in the passing game and a heavy dose of tuck-and-run sequences.
The Bills signed wideouts John Brown and Cole Beasley to upgrade the perimeter talent around Allen, but the former has a 50.2 percent catch rate for his career, which doesn't seem like a good mix with a quarterback who completed 52.8 percent of his passes last year. The team placed tight end Tyler Kroft on the physically unable to perform list with a broken foot, which is bad news for the aerial attack.
Daboll may have to rely on the ground game, featuring LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon while Allen continues to develop under center. With that said, an offensive line in transition may hurt the team's run success. The five-man group could feature four new starters, with left tackle Dion Dawkins primed to retain his starting role.
In 2018, the defense ranked 18th in points allowed and second in yards surrendered. Even with interior tackle Ed Oliver, the group could struggle if the offense can't sustain drives.
With a conservative offense and a strong defense, the Bills would need to win a lot of low-scoring one-possession games to pull off some surprises in the upcoming season.
The Carolina Panthers have an ascending offensive group with a defense going through transition.
In 2018, running back Christian McCaffrey finished third in yards from scrimmage (1,965) as a focal component of the offense. He'll continue to draw enough attention to create opportunities for wideouts DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel.
Moore and Samuel can line up in various spots across the formation. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner intends to shift his players around like chess pieces, telling Max Henson of the team's official website, "Our system has always been about moving people around and they’re always going to move around."
Quarterback Cam Newton drives the offensive engine. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery but didn't start training camp on the PUP list, which bodes well for his growth in Year 2 under Turner. The 30-year-old signal-caller completed a single-season high 67.9 percent of his passes last year.
Head coach Ron Rivera will take over defensive play-calling duties in 2019. He has experience as a coordinator on that side of the ball, but the lead skipper will also attempt to install a hybrid look with more odd-man fronts. Brian Burns, an agile edge-rusher, and Christian Miller, who's coming out of a similar alignment in Alabama, fit into the system.
However, the Panthers have to translate that potential into a pass rush with quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Drew Brees in the division. That's a tough task for a front seven going through changes. Carolina ranked 27th in sacks last year, logging just 35.
The Chicago Bears defense had a phenomenal 2018 campaign, forcing the most turnovers (36) and tying the Minnesota Vikings for third in sacks (50). But former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is now the head coach of the Denver Broncos and has been replaced by Chuck Pagano.
Fangio, who's fielded multiple top-notch scoring defenses, has more experience at the position than Pagano, who served as a defensive coordinator for just one full season in 2011 with the Ravens. The transition between play-callers may cause the unit to take a slight step backward.
The Bears traded running back Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles but acquired two versatile tailbacks who can catch out of the backfield. Rookie third-rounder David Montgomery caught 71 passes for 582 yards in three seasons at Iowa State, and Mike Davis led the Seattle Seahawks running backs in receptions (34) and receiving yards (214) last year.
Along with running back Tarik Cohen, Montgomery and Davis could pose matchup problems for linebackers and safeties out of the backfield. Chicago ranked ninth in scoring last year, and the offense could make a moderate jump in quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's third year.
The Bears may not rack up 36 takeaways again, but they're still a playoff team with a high ceiling on offense.
The Cincinnati Bengals went into the offseason with changes for the offensive line in mind. Rookie first-rounder Jonah Williams prepared to play left tackle, but he underwent shoulder surgery, which may cost him the entire 2019 campaign.
Instead of shifting inside to left guard, Cordy Glenn will revert to left tackle, but Clint Boling's decision to retire leaves a hole at guard. According to The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr., Christian Westerman is the front-runner for the position, but he has just two career starts.
The offensive line will also need a fill-in starter for right guard Alex Redmond, who will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's PED policy.
Quarterback Andy Dalton has solid offensive assets in running back Joe Mixon and wideouts A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, but head coach Zac Taylor told reporters that Green will miss regular-season games after he underwent ankle surgery.
Secondly, Dalton may not have enough time to deliver the ball to his playmakers. According to Football Outsiders, the Bengals ranked 19th in pass protection last year. We're looking at an unsettled group with a pair of questions marks at guard.
The Bengals have the pass-rushing talent to pressure opponents with Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson, who's returning to the field after tearing his ACL last year. Cincinnati will rely on new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo to mold an accumulation of talent into a solid unit.
Former head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin struggled to accomplish that feat last year, as the Bengals gave up 455 points in 2018, third-most in both the NFL and in franchise history. Because of his inexperience, having previously served as a DC on an interim basis only, we can't expect Anarumo to snap his fingers and field a strong unit right away.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will dominate headlines concerning the Cleveland Browns. Assuming the latter stays healthy, we can expect the two to connect for several highlight plays throughout the year.
The Browns backfield should have a strong season. Running back Nick Chubb finished 10th in yards on the ground last year. Kareem Hunt will return to action after serving an eight-game suspension for shoving and kicking a woman at a Cleveland hotel. Two years ago, he won the rushing title as a rookie.
On the flip side, question marks across the offensive line may level the playing the field. The Browns don't have a clear-cut starter at right guard, and right tackle Chris Hubbard gave up 8.5 sacks last season, per the Washington Post. If Mayfield has limited time in the pocket and Cleveland gets only narrow running lanes, the Browns may struggle against aggressive defenses.
In terms of a pass rush, the defense should show significant improvement with Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson joining Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi on the front line.
In 2018, the Browns tied for 22nd in sacks (37). This year, that number should reach the mid-40s. Cleveland will need that extra push up front with rookie second-rounder Greedy Williams potentially starting at cornerback and safety Morgan Burnett coming off a down year with six pass breakups.
The Dallas Cowboys' offseason headlines revolve around money and contracts. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence inked his five-year, $105 million deal. Quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott (who's holding out) and wide receiver Amari Cooper continue to wait for the front office to open the checkbook.
Assuming the Cowboys don't opt to trade Prescott, Elliott or Cooper and the star running back doesn't miss regular-season games, the trio will experience joint growth going through a full year together under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
Center Travis Frederick didn't land on the physically unable to perform list, which suggests he'll start Week 1 after missing the 2018 campaign with Guillain-Barre syndrome. His presence bodes well for the ground attack whether Elliott plays or not.
Dallas placed Lawrence on the physically unable to perform list after he underwent offseason shoulder surgery. If the 27-year-old doesn't open the season on the field, defensive end Robert Quinn could pick up the pass-rushing slack.
The Cowboys selected defensive tackle Trysten Hill and defensive end Joe Jackson in the second and fifth rounds of the draft. They may contribute to the pass rush if the coaching staff needs to generate more pocket pressure.
Prescott's limitation in stretching the field lowers the team's offensive ceiling—that unit isn't designed to build big leads. In 2018, nine of the team's 10 wins were by one possession. The Cowboys will show consistency, but they won't win as many of those tight contests, which is hard to do for any club year to year.
If Elliott holds out into the regular season, the Cowboys would drop below .500.
The Broncos hired Vic Fangio, one of the most successful defensive coordinators in the league. He's fielded eight top-10 scoring units in 19 years. Despite his role as head coach, the 60-year-old will likely have a large say on that side of the ball.
Fangio will have multiple quality defenders on the field this year, starting with the strong pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Cornerback Bryce Callahan spent four seasons with him in Chicago. Defensive back Kareem Jackson will provide versatility at cornerback and safety. All-Pro cover man Chris Harris Jr. will maintain a prominent role.
The Broncos defense should return to top-10 territory; the team could win several low-scoring matchups.
On the other hand, quarterback Joe Flacco must develop a rapport with a group that features Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton on the perimeter. Running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman will attempt to boost the ground attack higher than last year's rank of 12th.
Sanders is coming off a torn Achilles, and Sutton is in only his sophomore year. Rookie tight end Noah Fant will likely need time to find his groove.
The Broncos will face high-scoring offenses—two within the division in the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers; the Indianapolis Colts are also on their schedule. Despite a potentially improved defense, Denver will suffer some crucial losses to upper-echelon teams.
The Detroit Lions should go into the season as a more physical football team. Running back C.J. Anderson will bring his one-cut bruising style. Rookie first-rounder T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James can catch and block at tight end. The additions should balance the offense.
The Lions landed defensive end Trey Flowers, who was a coveted free agent, and signed defensive lineman Mike Daniels—formerly of the Green Bay Packers.
In 2018, Detroit fielded a top-10 run defense that should continue to stuff ball-carriers with Flowers and Daniels. Teams will probably opt to test the secondary because of the question marks at safety next to Quandre Diggs and cornerback opposite Darius Slay.
Head coach Matt Patricia's use of varied fronts could force quarterbacks off their marks in the pocket, leading to ill-advised throws and turnovers.
On the field, the Lions will show moderate improvement, but they play in a tough division with three playoff-caliber teams.
Green Bay Packers
In Green Bay, the spotlight will follow quarterback Aaron Rodgers' work relationship with new head coach Matt LaFleur. Expect some bumps in the process of installing a new offense, but the Packers have players capable of providing bright moments.
Rodgers and wideout Davante Adams have formed a solid connection in the passing game over the past five seasons. In an interview with NFL Network's James Jones, Rodgers said Marquez Valdes-Scantling stood out during the offseason.
In the backfield, the Packers can utilize Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in running or passing situations; their dual-threat capabilities will keep defenses on their heels. The pair combined for 1,608 yards from scrimmage last year.
The Packers released Mike Daniels, but the additions far outweigh the notable subtraction from the defensive line. Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, rookie first-rounder Rashan Gary and rookie fifth-rounder Kingsley Keke can rotate in as viable pass-rushers, and they're all capable of lining up in different spots.
The reinforcements in the front seven could become the driving force behind a surging defense. This group should be able to close games.
Green Bay isn't the best team in the NFC North, but it will contest for a wild-card playoff spot.
The Houston Texans have a budding quarterback-wide receiver tandem that will put any pass defense on edge. In 2018, Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins connected on 115 passes for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns. The two-time All-Pro wideout registered a 70.6 percent catch rate.
The Texans offense will receive a boost with running back D'Onta Foreman returning after tearing his Achilles in November 2017 and missing all but one game in 2018. According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the second-year running back "has regained the explosiveness."
Houston's offensive weapons won't perform at optimal levels until the coaching staff puts together a solid offensive line. In 2018, the unit ranked 27th in adjusted line yards (3.9) and 32nd in pass protection, per Football Outsiders.
Last year, defensive end J.J. Watt reverted to All-Pro form. Will he play another 16-game slate in his age-30 campaign with so much wear and tear on his body? Jadeveon Clowney has yet to join the team as an unsigned franchise-tagged player.
The Texans have question marks at cornerback. Though solid in recent seasons, Johnathan Joseph is 35. He'll have to cover the top-notch Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans this year. On the opposite side, Aaron Colvin has to prove his worth as a full-time starter. He's opened only 11 times in 36 games over the last three years.
Houston could finish the season with a top-10 scoring offense, but the defense may have some lapses because of the secondary. According to Football Outsiders, the Texans allowed the sixth-most receiving yards to No. 1 wideouts (77.4 per game) in 2018.
The Colts have reached the playoffs in four of five seasons with quarterback Andrew Luck under center for more than half the games—the 2016 campaign is the only exception. With each of those postseason runs, he earned a Pro Bowl invite.
Luck suffered a minor hamstring injury during OTAs, but head coach Frank Reich told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero that Luck's "been feeling better" and that he won't be rushed. The Colts should vie for the AFC South title with Luck at full strength.
Indianapolis signed Devin Funchess and selected Parris Campbell in the second round of the draft to bolster the wide receiver corps behind T.Y. Hilton.
With Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle at tight end, the Colts' high-powered passing offense seems sustainable after it scored the second-most touchdowns (39) in 2018. The offensive line ranked No. 2 in pass protection last year, per Football Outsiders.
General manager Chris Ballard added pass-rusher Justin Houston to a defense that ranked 10th in scoring and 11th in yards allowed in 2018, so the Colts can win shootouts or shut down their opponents.
On the surface, the Jaguars seem like an improved squad. Quarterback Nick Foles takes over for Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler under center. He's built instant chemistry with wideout Chris Conley. The front office selected edge-rusher Josh Allen in the draft—one of the top pass-rushers in this year's draft class.
So, what's the issue?
Foles won't have Pro Bowl talent at wide receiver or tight end. Aside from Conley and Marqise Lee, who's recovery from a torn ACL, the Jaguars have a relatively young pass-catching group with a lot to prove. And according to Football Outsiders, Jacksonville ranked 27th in pass protection last year.
Running back Leonard Fournette has missed 11 contests in his two seasons. If that trend continues, the Jaguars would have to turn to Thomas Rawls, Alfred Blue and rookie fifth-rounder Ryquell Armstead.
The Jaguars have a pair of high-end edge-rushers in Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue—if Ngakoue and the team come to terms on a new deal—and cornerstones in the secondary with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.
However, a top-notch defense doesn't necessarily equate to victories without a decent offense. Last year, the Jaguars defense ranked fourth in scoring and fifth in yards allowed, but the team won five games.
The defense lost some pieces over the offseason, including defensive tackle Malik Jackson, linebacker Telvin Smith Sr. and safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson. While the group still features key playmakers, they don't score points.
Foles, Fournette, a developing wide receiver corps and an offensive line coming off a down season must find a way to pull their collective weight. With multiple parts trying to jell simultaneously, expect the Jags to experience rough patches.
Kansas City Chiefs
The connection between quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill—who was not suspended after an NFL investigation following allegations of child abuse (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter)—will continue to stretch defenses vertically. The reigning league MVP threw 12 of his 50 touchdown passes to the speedy wideout, who led the team in receiving touchdowns last year.
The Chiefs offense won't have an established workhorse running back, but Damien Williams fared well in that role at the end of last season. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, which gives Mahomes options in his audibles at the line of scrimmage. Still, we can't expect him to toss 50 touchdown passes in back-to-back seasons—no player has accomplished that feat.
The Kansas City defense will be in transition under new play-caller Steve Spagnuolo. The front office added high-end established playmakers in defensive end Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu to ease the changeover. Linebacker Darron Lee, a trade acquisition from the New York Jets, should improve the group's coverage in the middle of the field.
The ground attack will remain a middling unit, but Mahomes and the additions on the defensive side of the ball should keep this squad near the top of the NFL hierarchy.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers have a dilemma at running back. Melvin Gordon III's holdout could extend into the regular season. However, quarterback Philip Rivers seems confident in the backups, per Matt Szabo of the Daily Pilot.
"It certainly is a deep position for us, and those guys all love to play and work hard," Rivers said. "We love Melvin, but we're going to go with what we've got. It's a pretty dang good group.”
In 2018, Austin Ekeler registered 958 yards from scrimmage; he'll likely get the bulk of the work along with Justin Jackson if Gordon continues to hold out. The Chargers offensive line ranked fifth in adjusted line yards (4.8) last year, per Football Outsiders, so the reserve ball-carriers should have decent-sized running lanes with the front line still intact.
The Chargers signed veteran linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. and selected defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and safety Nasir Adderley in the first and second rounds of the draft. Each could contribute to a group that ranked eighth in scoring and ninth in yards allowed last season.
Despite Gordon's holdout, the Chargers, similar to last year, have one of the most complete rosters in the league.
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams offense will take a step backward—specifically the ground attack. The team declined center John Sullivan's contract option, and left guard Rodger Saffold signed with the Tennessee Titans. The coaching staff may lighten running back Todd Gurley II's load because of his arthritic knee.
The front office selected running back Darrell Henderson in the third round of the draft, but he's not a two-time All-Pro.
Because of the uncertainties on the interior of the offensive line and potential workload shift at running back, quarterback Jared Goff will need to deliver in spades with a loaded wide receiver group. That unit features Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who's coming off a torn ACL.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald may not match his stellar 20.5-sack season, but play-caller Wade Phillips has depth on that side of the ball. The front office selected safety Taylor Rapp (second round), cornerback David Long Jr. (third round), interior tackle Greg Gaines (fourth round), safety Nick Scott (seventh round) and linebacker Dakota Allen (seventh round) in addition to signing Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle.
If a couple of those defensive newcomers contribute, that group should perform better than last year's 20th-ranked scoring unit.
Regardless of who starts under center—Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen—the Miami Dolphins will likely earn a top-three draft pick for 2020.
Effective in short stints, Fitzpatrick has been a backup or low-end starter with average-to-below average production.
Last year, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Fitzpatrick registered his best QBR (64.4), but he shared the huddle with a stable of solid pass-catchers, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. The 36-year-old won't have a loaded group in Miami.
Wideout DeVante Parker has underachieved since entering the league as a first-rounder in 2015. Albert Wilson (hip) and Jakeem Grant (Achilles) have been limited at training camp while recovering from injuries.
If Rosen wins the job, he'll pick up a third offensive system in two years. In Arizona, the 22-year-old took calls from coordinator Mike McCoy and McCoy's replacement, Byron Leftwich. Going into his sophomore campaign, the UCLA product still has a lot to learn; he's behind in the quarterback competition.
Because of the shortcomings at quarterback, the Dolphins defense, which lost its top two edge-rushers from last year, Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn, could play in disadvantageous situations.
The Dolphins ushered in a new regime in the offseason, which signaled a rebuilding year without a clear-cut franchise quarterback on the roster.
In his first year with the Vikings, quarterback Kirk Cousins built a rapport with wideouts Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but the ground attack never found its traction.
Now, running back Dalvin Cook is back and looks ready to run behind a revamped offensive line with Pat Elflein shifting from center to left guard, first-round rookie Garrett Bradbury in the middle and Josh Kline set to start in the right guard spot after three years apiece with the New England Patriots and Titans.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski's ability to balance the attack could be crucial to the team's success.
The Vikings have fielded a top-10 scoring defense in each of the last four terms. Expect head coach Mike Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards to continue to use their assets as roadblocks to the end zone with much of the same group intact.
Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen will bring pressure off the edge; the former logged a career-high 14.5 sacks last year. The front office re-signed linebacker Anthony Barr coming off his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl campaign.
Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes had underwhelming 2018 seasons, combining for 15 pass breakups and two interceptions, but the Vikings have a solid safety tandem. Anthony Harris emerged as a playmaker in the secondary, recording three interceptions and six pass breakups, alongside All-Pro safety Harrison Smith.
Overall, the Vikings defense should remain within the top 10 in scoring, pairing with an offense that can take a step forward because of Cook's ability to start the year at full strength.
New England Patriots
This year, we'll likely hear constant remarks about Tom Brady playing his age-42 campaign and the New England Patriots' void at tight end without Rob Gronkowski. Play-caller Josh McDaniels could reinvent the offense with an emphasis on the ground attack.
In six contests last year, including two playoff matchups, the Patriots featured Sony Michel with 20 or more carries—he recorded 106 or more yards in five of those outings. The front office selected tailback Damien Harris in the third round of the draft, adding another high-upside ball-carrier to the backfield.
Brady won't have to find Gronkowski's replacement if the running backs can consistently rip off chunk yards. On top of that, Brady has longtime teammate Julian Edelman and upstart rookie first-rounder N'Keal Harry as receiving options on the perimeter.
The Patriots also addressed their pass rush, which generated only 30 sacks last year. The front office traded for defensive end Michael Bennett, who recorded nine sacks with the Eagles in 2018, and rookie third-rounder Chase Winovich—a high-motor defender from Michigan who notched 18.5 sacks in his final three college seasons.
New Orleans Saints
Quarterback Drew Brees' passing attempts have declined over the last two seasons, but he's still accurate, completing an NFL-record 74.4 percent of his throws last year. The Saints added a notable perimeter playmaker and help in the backfield during the offseason, signing tight end Jared Cook and running back Latavius Murray.
At 6'5", 254 pounds, Cook should serve as a viable target in short-yardage passing situations and inside the 20-yard line. Only wideout Michael Thomas registered more than five receiving touchdowns for this squad last year. Murray will replace Mark Ingram II, who departed to Baltimore.
The Saints' offensive acquisitions, along with key playmakers Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara, should keep defenses on edge.
The secondary may show improvement with a first-year defensive back turning heads following an impressive spring. According to ESPN's Mike Triplett, C.J. Gardner-Johnson has already caught the coaching staff's attention.
"The rookie fourth-round pick has made a quick impression this spring," Triplett wrote. "Not only has he made a few flash plays in both rookie camp and OTAs, but the Saints clearly like his versatility as both a safety and slot corner in the nickel."
Gardner-Johnson showed the tendency to force turnovers at Florida, logging nine interceptions in three seasons. He could become a standout contributor in the upcoming year.
On the flip side, the Saints run defense and pass rush will take a temporary hit while defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins recovers from a torn Achilles. Defensive end Marcus Davenport must make a significant sophomore leap to help Cameron Jordan apply pocket pressure.
New York Giants
The New York Giants acquired right guard Kevin Zeitler via trade with the Browns and signed right tackle Mike Remmers to upgrade their offensive line; we'll find out if the additions elevate quarterback Eli Manning's performance.
Manning's QBR tumbled following his Pro Bowl 2015 campaign, dropping below 52 over each of the last three seasons. Now, he's facing pressure with rookie first-rounder Daniel Jones looking over his shoulder, preparing to take over the huddle.
For now, the Giants don't have a quarterback competition, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. However, a rough start could encourage the coaching staff to consider the rookie if he looks ready to play during practices between games.
Big Blue goes into Year 2 under Pat Shurmur following a blockbuster trade that sent wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland. Running back Saquon Barkley, who led the league in yards from scrimmage last year (2,028), has become the focal point of the offense. We'll see another heavy dose of him in the upcoming season.
The Giants could field new primary starters at both safety positions, outside cornerback and at the edge-rusher spots. The widespread turnover may cause some early lapses as the group jells.
New York Jets
After three straight losing seasons, the Jets will finish with a .500 record following a strong offseason—thanks in part to former general manager Mike Maccagnan. He signed running back Le'Veon Bell and wideout Jamison Crowder and acquired left guard Kelechi Osemele in a trade with the Raiders to boost the offense.
Quarterback Sam Darnold can target Bell for high-percentage short passes or hand off to him and watch Osemele clear running lanes on the interior. Crowder provides a high-end receiving option in the slot; he boasts a career 67.2 percent catch rate.
Leonard Williams, Quinnen Williams and Henry Anderson give the Jets an odd-man front capable of pressuring quarterbacks and stopping the run. Linebackers C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson should form a solid tandem in short-area coverage and against the run.
The Jets will experience coverage issues in the secondary because they must fill a void opposite cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, head coach Adam Gase hopes safety Marcus Maye (shoulder) will suit up for Week 1. If that's not the case, the Jets must prepare a fill-in starter to pair alongside Jamal Adams as well.
The Gang Green offense should improve, but the pass defense, which ranked 24th last season, could remain stagnant with injury and talent concerns at two positions.
The Raiders will have to wait two regular-season games before fielding their new-look offensive line with Richie Incognito at left guard. He'll serve a two-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Jonathan Cooper could fill in.
The Raiders need to see significant improvement from 2018 first-rounder Kolton Miller, who gave up 13 sacks, per the Washington Post, while battling multiple knee injuries throughout his rookie campaign.
The front office signed right tackle Trent Brown, but he's transitioning from gold-standard offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia in New England to Tom Cable. The latter has a poor track record of protecting the quarterback, per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis.
Quarterback Derek Carr may continue to feel pressure in the pocket as the offensive line comes together, but he'll have wide receiver Antonio Brown to bail him out of tough situations.
Carr and Brown could form a connection that scorches the opposition and creates opportunities for others. Expect opposing defenses to force the Raiders' secondary pass-catchers to make plays while assigning layers of coverage to Brown. The Raiders have to avoid becoming a one-trick pony on offense.
Oakland has a major issue with its pass rush. Rookie first-rounder Clelin Ferrell will likely start on one side, but the defensive line doesn't have a clear-cut starter on the opposite end. Play-caller Paul Guenther mentioned Arden Key as a situational pass-rusher, per The Athletic's Vic Tafur.
"[Key's] right where we're at," Guenther said. "I know there are some reports where [they say] he's light. We drafted Arden to be a third-down rusher. That's what it was. You don't want a 260-pound slug out there."
The Raiders' concerns on the offensive line, an unproven group of pass-rushers and the hardest schedule in terms of opponents' 2018 win percentage (.539) will deal a rough hand to the Silver and Black.
Let's preface this projection with the assumption that quarterback Carson Wentz plays 16 games. If he does, the Eagles will have a Super Bowl-contending roster with an offense that should rank in the top five in scoring.
Wentz has the weapons around him to produce another league MVP-worthy season as well.
The Eagles traded for wideout DeSean Jackson to fill the big-play role in the passing game. With tight end Dallas Goedert's development behind starter Zach Ertz, the Eagles can roll out two-tight end sets to exploit mismatches in the middle of the field.
General manager Howie Roseman addressed a lackluster ground attack that ranked 28th last season, acquiring Jordan Howard via trade with the Bears and selecting Miles Sanders in the second round of the draft. The pair can become a solid one-two combination out of the backfield to complement Wentz's arm.
The Eagles won't have defensive end Michael Bennett rushing off the edge, but Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson have built reputations for wreaking havoc on the interior. They have a combined 77 career sacks.
Philadelphia will need a pair of defenders from the 2017 draft class to step into prominent roles and flourish after battling injuries over the last two years. Defensive end Derek Barnett and cornerback Sidney Jones will have opportunities to solidify their spots with the first unit. Assuming they stay healthy, the Eagles defense can pose a tougher challenge to pass-heavy offensive attacks.
The Pittsburgh Steelers offense won't look as explosive compared to previous seasons without wideout Antonio Brown, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will have an offensive line that remained intact for the most part. Matt Feiler has to claim the starting right tackle spot to complete last year's primary five-man group.
According to Football Outsiders, that unit ranked fourth in pass protection last season. The group's stability will go a long way in keeping Roethlisberger upright and able to build a rapport with a No. 2 wide receiver behind JuJu Smith-Schuster.
In addition, running back James Conner could have an impressive year, but he needs more carries. The Steelers ranked 31st in rushing attempts and yards last year. Without Brown soaking up 150-plus targets, Conner may also catch more passes out of the backfield, emulating his predecessor, Le'Veon Bell.
The Steelers added two notable players to their defense, selecting linebacker Devin Bush in the first round of the draft and signing cornerback Steven Nelson.
On the second and third levels of the defense, Bush and Nelson could patch up lapses in coverage. Last year, the Steelers allowed 27 passing touchdowns (tied for 16th).
With tighter clamps on pass-catchers going over the middle and on the perimeter, Pittsburgh should be able to limit opponents such as the Chargers, Colts, Rams and Browns, who have high-end aerial attacks.
San Francisco 49ers
We're going to find out if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo can handle a full-time starting job under center. The San Francisco 49ers hope to see a bigger return out of their $137.5 million investment in the 27-year-old.
Garoppolo stumbled out of the gate last year, throwing one touchdown against three interceptions and completing just 45.5 percent of his passes against the Vikings in Week 1. He followed that with two solid outings, logging 457 passing yards and four touchdowns with zero picks before tearing his ACL.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan has three versatile running backs who can contribute to the passing game. Garoppolo can carve up defenses with short-to-intermediate throws to Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida.
When going deep, tight end George Kittle, who logged 88 catches for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns last year, should be a viable target. Garoppolo has the weapons around him to move the ball with consistency.
The 49ers will need the offense to win high-scoring matchups because the secondary has major question marks opposite cornerback Richard Sherman and at the safety spots.
Last season, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon took a step backward, logging just four pass breakups. Neither Jimmie Ward nor Jaquiski Tartt has played more than 10 regular-season games since 2016.
New defensive ends Dee Ford and Nick Bosa must make immediate impacts to hide coverage deficiencies on the back end.
The Seahawks have Russell Wilson, who's a top-tier quarterback, but he lost a couple of offensive assets over the offseason. Wideout Doug Baldwin retired, and Mike Davis, the team's best pass-catching running back from the last season, signed with the Bears.
The Seahawks can compensate for Davis' absence with more touches for 2018 first-rounder Rashaad Penny.
Other than wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who's going to be a consistent pass-catcher in the offense? Tight end Will Dissly showed early flashes, but he's recovering from a torn patella tendon. Rookie second-rounder DK Metcalf has to show promising signs at wideout.
Former defensive end Frank Clark now suits up for the Chiefs, and the Seahawks will certainly miss his presence off the edge.
Seattle will place its pass-rushing hopes in defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who's coming off shoulder surgery. The team also needs 2018 third-rounder Rasheem Green and rookie first-rounder L.J. Collier to contribute. The latter suffered a high ankle sprain at training camp, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Interior tackle Jarran Reed was suspended six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy following an investigation into an allegation of domestic violence in 2017, though he was not arrested or charged. That will hurt the front line; he registered 10.5 sacks last year.
The Seahawks will struggle to move the ball through the air with an unproven pass-catching group and give up chunk yardage to quarterbacks because of a weak pass rush. Nonetheless, count on Wilson to pull out some victories and keep the squad around .500.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In the best-case scenario, head coach Bruce Arians will optimize the passing attack, putting quarterback Jameis Winston in position to flourish under center with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate at his disposal.
Tampa Bay may want to shuffle through free-agent running backs if Ronald Jones II doesn't show he's ready to make a sophomore jump during the preseason.
The Buccaneers defense seems like their Achilles' heel. According to ESPN's Jenna Laine, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will not return until November at the earliest.
With Pierre-Paul on the sideline for at least half the season, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will need more from Carl Nassib and Shaquil Barrett in the pass rush. Tackle Ndamukong Suh must provide a strong push up front too.
The coaching staff may resort to using rookie first-round linebacker Devin White as a blitzer to prevent opposing quarterbacks from shredding their young secondary. Three rookie defensive backs—Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards—could play significant roles.
In the final four games of the 2018 season, the Titans found success running the ball, feeding Derrick Henry 87 times for 585 yards and seven touchdowns. The club went 3-1 in that span, losing to the Colts in a virtual play-in game for the postseason.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Henry has a strained calf, but the Titans don't have major concerns.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota could elevate the team's ceiling if he can stretch the field with his perimeter weapons. Aside from the 2016 campaign, the 25-year-old has underachieved, throwing fewer than 20 touchdown passes in three of his four terms.
Per NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky, Mariota added 12-13 pounds during the offseason. He'll need the extra bulk. Three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
In the first quarter of the upcoming season, Mariota could face unrelenting pressure from defensive ends Myles Garrett, Justin Houston and Calais Campbell—a rough start even with Lewan in the trenches.
New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith must optimize Mariota's arm talent to compete with division foes Houston and Indianapolis.
Tennessee will carry over last year's No. 3 scoring defense with edge-rusher Cameron Wake added to the mix. With pressing concerns on offense, the defense will need to put together another strong campaign.
The Washington Redskins have experienced a tumultuous offseason. In May, linebacker Reuben Foster tore his ACL. The team also released Mason Foster, which opened up another spot on the second level of the defense.
Washington has a potential issue at left tackle; Trent Williams hasn't joined the team this offseason because of a dispute over a medical issue, per ESPN's John Keim.
"Williams' absence wasn't surprising, given that he stayed away from the mandatory minicamp in June over issues with the organization's medical staff," Keim wrote.
According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, the Redskins have engaged in trade discussions involving Williams. In 2018, he earned his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl invite. Despite missing 13 games over the last three years, the 31-year-old is a top-notch pass protector.
The front office signed Donald Penn on Tuesday. Entering his age-36 campaign, he could open the season at left tackle. The 14th-year veteran has missed 14 contests over the last two years because of foot and groin injuries.
Dwayne Haskins' big arm would give the Redskins' passing attack more flare than Case Keenum's conservative approach. Nevertheless, a depleted offensive line could put him in harm's way because he's not a mobile quarterback.
Washington's offseason has been filled with bad news amid a transition under center, and head coach Jay Gruden is on the hot seat—a troubling combination leading into the season.