Looking at upcoming schedules as we try to map out a season, we tend to default the previous season’s record to infer strength of schedule heading into the new season. What we need to examine more closely are the quarterbacks on the schedules. That’s a better way to determine the possible records for teams heading into the 2018 season.
Los Angeles skyrocketed to the NFC West title last season behind first year head coach Sean McVay, quarterback Jared Goff, their run game, and the defense. If we take a closer look at their 2017 schedule, we see it’s littered with below average quarterbacks. The two best quarterbacks they beat were Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, with the Seahawks being a shell of themselves by the end of the season.
The Rams lost six total games (11-5 regular season) and the list of quarterbacks they were defeated by were some of the best they played all season — Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Case Keenum (based on his 2017 performance), and Carson Wentz. (I’m excluding Jimmy Garoppolo for the moment.)
If we look at their 2018 schedule, there’s improvement among their opponents, especially those within the division. Jimmy G twice a season and either Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen in two games. They also face Derek Carr, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Brees, Matthew Stafford, Cousins, and Wentz. You can also include Pat Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky, who could be much improved by Week 11 and 14, respectively, when they play the Rams.
The Rams did add Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, and Marcus Peters to their defense, which should bolster Wade Phillips’ unit. Also, Goff and company have another year in McVay’s offense.
The Rams have potential to be excellent, but I don’t like their schedule. I’m taking the under for Los Angeles Rams to reach 10 wins.
When I scan NFL win totals, I keep coming back to one as my most confident pick. That’s the under on the Jacksonville Jaguars for nine wins.
I’m supposed to bet the over on Blake Bortles? Nope, not happening. The Jaguars often won last season in spite of him. In the last five road games of the season, Bortles was 1-4 with four touchdowns and six interceptions, and he only averaged 6.7 yards per attempt.
While teams are becoming more creative on offense, the Jaguars seem to want to ground and pound. It’s hard for me to see this working as well in 2018 unless they are ahead in every game. That’s possible with that defense, don’t get me wrong. It’s an outstanding group, but unless the Jaguars are ahead in every game, we’ve seen that the staff doesn’t trust the quarterback to win it for them.
Bortles and his team had a 2017 season with very little bad luck. Everything went their way, including their schedule. They missed on Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson twice. They lost to a Titans team with Marcus Mariota not playing close to where his career trajectory points. This year, they get the NFC East and AFC East (which outside of Tom Brady isn’t so great at the quarterback position). They also have to play the Chiefs and Steelers. Combine that with their much improved division, take the under on the Jaguars at nine wins.