- New Orleans Saints
After the controversial non-pass interference call that jeopardized a possible Super Bowl appearance last season for New Orleans, the NFL installed rule changes for pass interference calls for the upcoming season. This team finished with the best record in the NFL in the regular season last year and will likely be a similar threat this year. This is assuming Drew Brees can continue to be the future Hall of Fame quarterback he has been his whole career, even at 40 years old.
Projected Finish: First NFC South
- Chicago Bears
After a devastating end to their season due to a short missed field goal, the Bears, who finished with the top-ranked defense in the NFL in 2018, should come into this season with a chip on their shoulder. Mitchell Trubisky has been above average since taking on the role of starting quarterback. If Trubisky can continue to elevate his game, and linebacker Khalik Mack and the defense continue to dominate, the Bears are as good as anyone on any given Sunday.
Projected Finish: First NFC North
- Los Angeles Rams
After coming out flat in the 2019 Super Bowl, morale may be low for the NFC’s LA team. However, there is still plenty of talent on both sides of the ball that could be enough for the team to make another run for the Lombardi Trophy in 2019, spearheaded by quarterback Jared Goff and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The biggest question is how serious the arthritis is in running back Todd Gurley’s knee.
Projected Finish: First NFC West
- Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have officially locked running back Ezekiel Elliot in a four-year contract extension. Elliot still had two years left on his rookie contract, so this move will keep the two sides together for the next six years. To give an idea of what Zeke means to the Cowboys, in his three years in the NFL, he played two full seasons in which he led the league in rushing and the Cowboys won the division and made it to the playoffs both years. In Elliot’s second year he was suspended six games by the league and Dallas missed the playoffs. Of course, it is unfair to say Elliot is what makes or breaks the team, but he is the engine for an offense that seems to look flat when he is not on the field.
Projected Finish: First NFC East
- Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles started 2018 with a bit of a Super Bowl hangover, but were able to pull it together towards the end of the season and steal a wildcard spot, despite quarterback Carson Wentz going down at the end of the season once again. The Eagles elected to choose Wentz over long time backup quarterback Nick Foles going forward, with Foles joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. Wentz played at an MVP level in 2017 before tearing his ACL in December. Doug Pederson feels confident that his quarterback can return to that level.
Projected Finish: Second NFC East – Wildcard
- Minnesota Vikings
2018 was wildly disappointing for the Vikings following a 2017 campaign where they finished 13-3 and added free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed contract for three years. Year one did not turn out how either sides would have hoped, and Cousins’ inability to win big games carried over from Washington to Minnesota. If Cousins doesn’t have a bounce back year, Minnesota may look to use an early draft pick to add a new quarterback to their talented roster.
Projected Finish: 2nd NFC North – Wildcard
- Atlanta Falcons
Wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are arguably the best duo in the NFL. Ridley, entering his second season, will look to further elevate his game as the two former Alabama receivers will likely carry to the Falcons offense if Matt Ryan can continue to play at a high level. The Falcons will also have a lot of talent returning from injury on the defensive side of the ball. With 30-1 Super Bowl odds, the Falcons may be a sneaky team to throw a dollar or two on.
Projected Finish: 2nd NFC South
- Green Bay Packers
There is no question about the talent of future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The things he can do with the football in his hands have unlike anything that has been seen on the field before. However, there are concerns about his leadership and how well he can lift up his team. First-year head coach Matt LaFleur tore his achilles’ playing basketball and will be spending a good deal of time coaching from a cart. If Rodgers manages to have an attitude change, the sky’s the limit for Green Bay.
Projected Finish: Third NFC North
- Seattle Seahawks
This may be a lower ranking than this team deserves. Head coach Pete Carroll’s squad is always competitive, but insert stud linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, and the defense drastically improves. Quarterback Russell Wilson’s ascension to a top five quarterback in the league is remarkable when you consider the lack of premier talent he’s had to work with the last few years. This team loses the last member of the ‘Legion of Boom’ secondary from 2013 as safety Earl Thomas walked in free agency. Wilson and Carroll may have the ability to lead this team to the postseason, and possibly compete for the division with LA, but don’t have a great chance at making much noise in January.
Projected Finish: Second NFC West
- Carolina Panthers
After starting the 2018 season with a 6-2 record, the Panthers managed to collapse to a 7-9 record to finish the season. It is becoming more clear that the 2015 Carolina squad, which went 15-1 with quarterback and 2015 league MVP Cam Newton, was only a fluke. The Panthers have failed to come near that level since. Running back Christian McCaffrey may be the key factor that could lead this team to a playoff appearance, but since the road to the playoffs for the Panthers leads through two games against New Orleans and two against Atlanta, it’s hard to imagine this team winning the division.
Projected Finish: Third NFC South
- Washington Redskins
This is perhaps another overlooked team coming into the season. The Redskins were off to a 6-3 start last season before starting quarterback Alex Smith went down with a gruesome leg injury. The team selected quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the first round, who many expected would be selected by division rival New York Giants. If Haskins can live up to expectations, this team could also be a sneaky playoff contender, as long as they don’t continue to be bitten by the injury bug.
Projected Finish: Third NFC East
- Detroit Lions
Year one under head coach Matt Patricia was not exactly what Detroit fans may have hoped for from a guy that has spent years serving as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator. It has now been over 10,000 days since the Lions have won a single playoff game, and this year does not seem to fill fans with any hope of that streak snapping. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay looks like a promising number one option at receiver and will hope to make another leap in his third season. However, quarterback Matthew Stafford has proven before that a true No. 1 wideout isn’t all he needs to propel this offense forward.
Projected Finish: Fourth NFC North
- San Francisco 49ers
After quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looked outstanding to close out the 2017 season with an unlikely winning streak, Garappolo went down in week three of the 2018 campaign with a torn ACL. Injuries now seem to be an issue surrounding Garoppolo as he also went down with a shoulder injury in New England when he was filling in for Brady during his four-game suspension in 2016. With rumors floating around that the 49ers may not pick up Garopollo’s option at the end of this upcoming season, it essentially makes 2019 a make or break year for Garoppolo.
Projected Finish: Third NFC West
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Speaking of make or break years, Jameis Winston enters the final year of his rookie contract. Since entering the league, Winston has failed to live up to the hype of being the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. The Buccaneers’ defense ranked 31 out of 32 in points allowed in 2018 and have since cut their top defensive player in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, replacing him with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Project Finish: 4th NFC South
- Arizona Cardinals
Quarterback Kyler Murray was the first overall pick this past April for a reason. He is one of the most talented athletes in the world, as he was also selected 10th overall in the MLB draft. The Cardinals knew exactly what they were doing when they moved on from quarterback Josh Rosen to select this guy. The franchise will be in good hands if Murray becomes the player Arizona hopes he will develop into. It will take a couple of developmental years for this team to succeed as there is just not enough talent surrounding Murray on either side of the ball for them to compete. Especially with cornerback Patrick Peterson suspended for the first six games of the season.
Projected Finish: Fourth NFC West
- New York Giants
It is unfair to assess whether the Giants’ front office was screwed up by drafting quarterback Daniel Jones, who has looked excellent in the preseason, at sixth overall this past April, over quarterback Dwayne Haskins before either of them play a single snap in the league. But the job for whoever lines up under center — whether it’s ancient quarterback Eli Manning or Jones — just seems to get harder by the day. Obviously, with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. being traded away on top of Giants fans in the very first week of camp learning that Golden Tate will be suspended for the first four games, Sterling Sheppard suffered a broken thumb and Cory Coleman was diagnosed with a torn ACL. The depth at wideout is looking scarce, maybe stud running back Saquon Barkley can play every position at once?
Projected Finish: 4th in NFC East