AFC East: New England
AFC North: Baltimore
AFC South: Indianapolis
AFC West: Kansas City
NFC East: Philadelphia
NFC North: Chicago
NFC South: New Orleans
NFC West: L.A. Rams
Kansas City 34, New England 31
New Orleans 38, LA Rams 33
New Orleans 28, Kansas City 27
They are simply the smartest team in football. The New England Patriots have won two of the past three and three of the past five Super Bowls. With Bill Belichick as the head coach and the ageless Tom Brady at quarterback, why bet against football’s greatest dynasty?
The Patriots have won the last 10 AFC East titles and 15 of the last 16. Belichick and company have played in each of the last eight AFC championship games. Never before in the modern era of the NFL has a franchise been so dominant.
New England loses TE Rob Gronkowski to retirement, but don’t think for a minute that he won’t be replaced. Knowing they would lose Trey Flowers in free agency, the Pats traded for Michael Bennett. The running game, with Sony Michel and James White, took center stage late last season. Expect it to again in 2019. The roster might look a little different but expect another division title and run to the AFC title game in New England.
If there is a team in the AFC that can challenge the Patriots, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs. The offense, of course, is there. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes returns to guide the NFL’s most productive offense in 2018. The difference in 2019 will be the defense. The Chiefs hired new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and recently traded for DE Frank Clark. With an improved defense, the Chiefs could dethrone New England as kings of the AFC.
The Browns could be the surprise of the AFC with a roster loaded with young talent and a new wide receiver superstar in Odell Beckham Jr. While Cleveland will likely contend, the AFC North will still run through Baltimore or Pittsburgh and the Steelers simply lost too much this offseason. Expect the Ravens to capture the division after adding the speedy Marquise Brown at wide receiver to complement QB Lamar Jackson.
Indianapolis has rebuilt itself into a power and the Colts signed Justin Houston this offseason to make an already very good defense even better. The Colts have a load of salary cap space and have spent wisely. They also may have the best offensive line in the NFL. With Andrew Luck running the offense, Indianapolis should win the AFC South this season topping Houston which should also be a playoff team again in 2019.
In the NFC, the East Division will once again be ruled by defending champ Dallas and 2017 champ Philadelphia. The Cowboys defense has the potential to be one of the very best in the league. They re-signed DE DeMarcus Lawrence and the linebacking crew of Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch is arguably the best in the NFL. Carson Wentz should be at full strength for Philadelphia, but defense wins championships.
In the NFC North, the Bears are once again the team to beat. The defense is elite and despite coordinator Vic Fangio moving on to take the head job in Denver, Chicago still has edge rusher Khalil Mack. The offense sent RB Jordan Howard to Philadelphia but picked up Mike Davis to join the exciting Tarik Cohen.
Green Bay upgraded the defense adding S Adrian Amos and pass rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. They also drafted DE Rashan Gary in the first round. With new head coach Matt LaFleur, Aaron Rodgers and the offense should be able to get the Packers back into the postseason.
The other division favorites are no-brainers: the Rams and the Saints. Los Angeles is the defending NFC champion and returns an offense that is simply stellar. QB Jared Goff continues to improve. The running game is outstanding and RB Todd Gurley should be back to 100 percent. Aaron Donald returns to anchor the defense and no one in the NFC West, except for Seattle, should challenge.
Likewise for New Orleans, the Saints are loaded and have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time to lead them to another division title. Drew Brees along with RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas can lead the Saints even farther than just a division title.
If there is a surprise team in the NFC, it might be San Francisco. The 49ers with GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have been building the franchise. With a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo back at quarterback, the offense is in good hands. The Niners drafted well – DE Nick Bosa with the third overall pick – and have the makings of a winner. San Francisco won two of its last four games last season and very nearly beat Chicago and the Rams in the other two.
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2019 NFL Football Playoffs