The 2018 NFL season is upon us and all 32 teams across the two conferences and eight divisions will go into the season ahead with renewed hope, vigour and energy. Last time out was all about who could survive a tough year of injuries and setbacks. This year, though? Well, we’re hoping it’s all about seeing some great football.
It’s been all change for a lot of teams since last season with everyone vying to up their games and make the play-offs. Will the Pats add to their tally of ten Super Bowl wins? Maybe the Broncos, Cowboys or Steelers will assert their former dominance once more? Or perhaps someone else will spring another surprise.
We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime though, it’s time to look ahead to the new season and make some predictions. Here are ours…
American Football Conference
Ben Roethlisberger may be 36, but you still can’t write him off. And with Antonio Brown in your roster, you’ve got to be confident. And The Steelers are. Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland are all more than capable of winning plenty this year, but can they catch one of the NFL’s strongest outfits in Pittsburgh? We’re not so sure. The Steelers have won three of the last four AFC Norths and who’s going to bet against them bagging their third in a row? We’re certainly not.
Our pick? Pittsburgh Steelers.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the AFC South was perhaps the weakest of all the divisions. But that’s no longer the case anymore. The Jags, Colts, Texans and Titans have all steadily improved in recent years and will all go into 2018 buoyed. While all four will fancy their chances this time out, it’s tricky to look past Jacksonville and with their games at Wembley and hordes of UK-based fans, it makes sense to get behind Doug Marrone’s Floridians. Especially with their excellent running game and top playmaking defense.
Our pick? Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tom Brady will be 41 when the season begins, if you can believe that. The dude is Superman, though. So few are too concerned about his legs. No one expects the Pats to do anything other than dominate once again, but things could be slightly closer this year. The Jets, with the sharp Todd Bowles as coach, will use tactics and defense to run New England close and the Bills could have a good showing if new quarterback Josh Allen steps up. We don’t expect much from the Dolphins, though. Miami are in some danger of becoming something of a footballing relic.
Our pick? The New England Patriots. Obviously.
The AFC West has been a two horse race for some eight seasons now, with the Broncos and Chiefs sharing the spoils. Things could change this year with many experts tipping the the Chargers to go big in 2018 and challenge. They could certainly spring a surprise and break the duopoly, but with the Chiefs’ offence looking even stronger than usual, we’re looking to them to set the standard once more. LA will snap at their heels, though. And you don’t write off the Denver Broncos, do you? We may well write off the Raiders, though. Sorry, Oakland.
Our pick? Kansas City Chiefs.
National Football Conference
When the already strong Minnesota Vikings sign someone (quarterback Kirk Cousins) on a three-year deal worth over $84 million, it’s a true statement of intent. The Packers will be confident they can run the Vikings close, as will the Detroit Lions. But the Lions will need to improve their defense significantly to mount a real challenge. ‘Da Bears’ have finished rock bottom of the division for four consecutive seasons and despite strengthening in preseason, will do well to get out of their funk.
Our pick? Minnesota Vikings.
The NFC South is many football fans’ favourite division. Why? Well, it’s simple – it’s the sheer quality on display. The New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all capable of lighting up Sunday nights. It’s the Saints and Falcons that can go the furthest, though. Each team has its superstars, but it’s the Louisiana team that boast the most complete and talented squad in the division. And the AFC, probably. Maybe even the whole of the NFL…
Our pick? New Orleans Saints.
This is, arguably, the toughest division to predict. The Redskins, Cowboys, Giants and Eagles all have their strengths and most have more than a few weaknesses too. The Eagles will be many people’s picks to win out, given their strength in depth. But Dallas have a talented pool of players too and are due a big year. The Giants have a new coach to bed in and hopefully none of 2017’s injury concerns to worry about and so could do well too. Washington may need to console themselves with another consolidation year, though.
Our pick? Dallas Cowboys.
Last year, most folk saw the Seahawks continuing to assert their dominance in the NFC West and bag their fifth division title in eight seasons. It wasn’t to be, though. The Cardinals surprised few by being bang average all year, but it was the Rams that really impressed. And they will again this year, at the expense of Arizona and Seattle once more. While the Rams are many people’s picks for the Superbowl this year, we’ve got a feeling that they’ll be bested by the 49ers before then. The annoyingly-handsome figure of starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo goes into the new season brimming with confidence. And not just because he has movie star good looks. San Francisco have never lost a game he’s started in.
Our pick? San Francisco 49ers.
Early Super Bowl LIII prediction!
Well, while we’re here we may as well make a couple of long-shot Super Bowl shouts, eh? Alright. Here goes. The Pats are obviously favourites and will compete, but at 5/1? We don’t fancy them. The Steelers at 10s are attractive, sure. But we’re going a little longer. We like the look of the Jags at 22s to win their first Super Bowl; they’re worth a little flutter. Our main call, though? We think it could be the Saints’ year again. You can get Sean Payton’s men at 18/1 before the season starts. And that’s big value.
The new NFL Season starts on Thursday 6th of September, with most games after that on Sundays (with a few on Mondays). If a game’s being televised while your local Rileys is open, you can guarantee we’ll be bringing you all the pigskin action. So join us for it, a few beers, some food and a half-time game of pool…