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Sowing's 2019 NFL Predictions

Just some projections of standings, along with an amusing postseason narrative that could but probably won't happen.

NFC East: [Cowboys 12-4 // Eagles 10-6 // Redskins 7-9 // Giants 4-12] - I was very impressed with the Cowboys defense last season, and considering they came within 8 points of the NFC Champion Rams, I don't see them as being too far off the mark if they can just get into a rhythm offensively - something that might happen now that Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper have a full season under their belts together. The Eagles should be in the mix as long as Wentz is healthy, but that's a big if. The Redskins have a few pieces in place and should be competitive, but Keenum won't steer this team to a division title - and once that becomes apparent, the calls to start Haskins will begin. The Giants are in full rebuild mode but will still get a few wins on the back of Saquon Barkley.

NFC North: [Vikings 11-5 // Packers 9-7 // Bears 8-8 // Lions 6-10] - There's simply too much talent in Minnesota for them not to go further than they did last season, and it's put up or shut up time for Kirk Cousins. I think he'll deliver here, at least in the regular season, surrounded by the best WR tandem in the NFL of Diggs/Thielen. Rodgers will again have Green Bay on the doorstep of the playoffs, but does he have enough weapons around him? The Bears lost their defensive coordinater and the "thunder" half of their backfield (Jordan Howard). They seem like a risky bet to repeat last year's shocking 12-4 record. The Lions are about as middle of the road as they come on paper, and they're simply out-classed in a very strong division.

NFC South: [Saints 13-3 // Falcons 10-6 // Panthers 8-8 // Bucanneers 4-12] - The Saints are hungrier than ever after an upset loss at home to the Rams in last year's NFC Championship, thanks in part to a no-call on a blatant pass interference that in effect would have ended the game. They lost Ingram but gained Latavius Murray as Alvin Kamara's complement - a slight downgrade - but as long as Drew Brees keeps humming, this is their division to lose. Atlanta is the dark horse - if Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and Calvin Ridley can all remain healthy, then we all know what Matt Ryan is capable of. They have the potential to return to the buzzsaw offense that tore through any defense in its way in '16-'17. As Cam goes, Carolina goes. Will his shoulder ever be 100% again? Tampa may be headed in the right direction under Arians, but they're still a long way from competing in this division.

NFC West: [Rams 11-5 // Seahawks 9-7 // 49ers 8-8 // Cardinals 3-13] - There's reason to doubt the Rams based on their Super Bowl no-show, the historically famous "Super Bowl hangover", and the uncertain health of Gurley's knee. Still, they are overloaded with talent on both sides of the ball and are primed for at least one more deep run. The Seahawks overachieved a little bit last year, but they're never out of the picture as long as Russell Wilson is out there performing magic tricks with his legs. The 49ers are something of an unknown, but could surprise if Garrappolo is all he's cracked up to be. Arizona is virtually the same team as last year, now just with a rookie QB - I think Murray will end up being a special player, but you can't just throw him into a mess like this and expect immediate results.

AFC East: [Patriots 11-5 // Bills 9-7 // Jets 7-9 // Dolphins 3-13] - Every year, I want to proclaim the Patriots' dynasty as over and predict that Tom Brady will finally falter. The thing is, I see New England evolving. Sony Michel was a wrecking ball on the ground in the postseason, and I think New England will persue the "Peyton Manning 2015" approach - pound the rock and don't break on defense. They have the personnel - and coaching - to make it work. Josh Allen impressed me down the stretch last year and I see the Bills as the eventual heirs to the divisional crown. The Jets will compete in most games, but Darnold/Bell/Gase need time to gel. The Dolphins are a mess, but if one thing is certain, they will still beat the Patriots in one of their games this season.

AFC North: [Browns 10-6 // Bengals 9-7 // Steelers 9-7 // Ravens 6-10] - All aboard the Cleveland hype train! The last time a team was this stacked with explosive talent was...well, last year - and we saw what the Rams did. I don't have the same amount of faith in Kitchens as I do McVeigh, so I'm tempering my expectations slightly to go along with the assumption that the egos of Baker Mayfield and OBJ might occasionally clash. Cincinatti has quietly been a decent regular season team for the better part of the last decade, and I see a small bounce back thanks to a receding Pittsburgh squad. The Steelers still have Big Ben, JuJu, and James Connor - but the big name departures combined with a suspect defense leave them no higher than the "wildcard hopefuls" tier. Lamar Jackson is a phenomenal athlete but his accuracy and understanding of coverages left something to be desired last year. If NFL defenses figure out the team's rushing attack even a little, Baltimore could be in trouble.

AFC South: [Colts 12-4 // Texans 10-6 // Jaguars 8-8 // Titans 5-11] - The Colts enjoyed one of the biggest turnarounds in the entire NFL last year, thanks to new coach Frank Reich and the return of a healthy Andrew Luck. As long as Luck is healthy, there's no reason to believe that Indy won't continue to ride the success of last season, sans the abysmal start. Houston is pretty much status quo, with Watson, Miller, and Hopkins providing a lethal dose of offense to go with a strong defense that will almost certainly land them in the playoffs. Foles arrives in Jacksonville only to find that magical postseason runs are hard to do without any surrounding offensive talent. Henry keeps on trucking along in Tennessee, but the rug is finally pulled out from beneath this organization when Mariota either suffers another injury, or delivers yet another subpar season. This is the year that the Titans admit he is not the future of their franchise.

AFC West: [Chargers 11-5 // Chiefs 10-6 // Raiders 9-7 //Broncos 6-10] - LA is a team that, on paper, probably should have won 3 superbowls already. I think they can overtake Kansas City this year for the division, but will they ever deliver in the playoffs? The Chiefs lost Hunt and I'm not convinced that Williams or Hyde will give this offensive juggernaut the same spark. The defense also looked downright shoddy in the waning moments of a very winnable AFC title game. Still, Mohomes/Kelce/Hill is a lethal trio and the Cheifs will be hard to stop. I like the Raiders as a bit of a surprise team - I don't think they're playoff ready, but they made some additions on offense that will allow them to keep up in just about any offensive track meet (provided Carr elevates his game). The Broncos have potentially a great defense, but the signing of Flacco is wholly uninspiring and feels like a give-up move. What if Lindsay was a one year wonder? I see a lot of 16-9 type of losses.

NFC Playoff Picture: [#1 Saints // #2 Cowboys // #3 Rams // #4 Vikings // #5 Eagles // #6 Falcons] - This setup pits the Falcons against the Rams in what would surely be a wild shootout, and the Eagles at the Vikings in a matchup of two of the NFC's most balanced rosters. My crystal ball sees the Rams defending their home turf against Atlanta and the Vikings prevailing at home as well, against Wentz in his playoff debut. The divisional round would yield a Dallas/LA rematch, where I see the Cowboys upstart defense and power running game getting revenge for last year's heart breaker. The Saints dispatch the Vikings as part of their revenge tour for the 2018 "Minneapolis Miracle." In the NFC Championship Game, Dallas controls the ball and keeps New Orleans off the field for much of the first half, but Brees refuses to be denied yet again - leading an epic comeback to finally catapult the Saints back into the Superbowl.

AFC Playoff Picture: [#1 Colts // #2 Patriots // #3 Chargers // #4 Browns // #5 Texans // #6 Chiefs] - A lot of familiar faces in this playoff tree, except for the obvious sore thumb. The Chiefs and Chargers go down to the wire in LA, but Rivers pulls a rabbit out of his hat and outduels a defenseless, running-game-deprived Chiefs team. The Texans make short work of the Browns first playoff appearance, as Deshaun Watson makes good on last year's wildcard loss. The Chargers do what the Chargers do and fold in New England, as the ageless Tom Brady guides the Pats to yet another AFC title game. The Texans upset Andrew Luck in Indy, returning the favor for last year. Clowney and Watt terrorize Brady in the AFC Championship, while Watson slices and dices a defense that is one week removed from the highly immobile Rivers to - shockingly - send the 5th seeded wildcard Texans to their first ever Super Bowl.

Superbowl 54: The Texans and Saints meet in a battle of destiny vs. dynasty. All the media overwhelmingly favors the more experienced Saints, but Houston comes roaring out of the gate and goes up 13-0. Brees, again behind the 8-ball, starts slinging the rock in a testament of 40 year old will to make it 14-13 by halftime. By the fourth quarter, the underdog Texans find themselves ina surprisingly close 24-20 deficit. With glory so close they can almost taste it, Watson drives his team to the goal line in the final minute but is intercepted in a heart wrenching poor decision. Brees takes a knee and rides off into the sunset with his 2nd ring and as another sure fire hall-of-famer. Houston celebrates its cinderella run but feels the pain of defeat for months to come.
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