The NFL is usually hard to predict. That’s how it’s supposed to be, at least.
Now there’s a new season on the way, and your team has a chance to be the one that dethrones the Patriots. It probably won’t, but hey, there’s months of free agency and the NFL Draft that will let you fire that optimism up to full blast.
But before we do all that and get an idea of what teams will look like in 2019, let’s take a way-too-early test of our NFL fortune-telling abilities:
2019 NFL MVP
Carson Wentz — Adam Stites
Andrew Luck — Sarah Hardy
Aaron Donald — Christian D’Andrea
Patrick Mahomes — James Brady
Why I picked Wentz: It’s kind of wild how ho-hum we all were about the season Wentz had in 2018. After spending the offseason rehabbing an ACL tear injury he suffered late enough in the year that he wasn’t ready for Week 1, Wentz finished with career highs in completion percentage (69.6), passing yards per game (279.5), and passer rating (102.2). That was after he almost won MVP in 2017.
If Wentz can stay healthy for a 16-game season, there’s not much reason to believe he won’t have another great year in 2019. — Adam Stites
Why I picked Donald: Donald led the league in sacks last fall, then wound up being shut out in the postseason while suffering an embarrassing Super Bowl loss. I can’t think of any better motivation than that. — Christian D’Andrea
Comeback Player of the Year
Jimmy Garoppolo — James Brady
David Johnson — Adam Stites
Earl Thomas — Christian D’Andrea
Le’Veon Bell — Sarah Hardy
Why I picked Jimmy Garoppolo: Some incredibly silly 49ers fans think that Kyle Shanahan isn’t the right man to lead the team, but he absolutely is, and he knows he wants Garoppolo to be his quarterback. Coming off an ACL injury caused by an awkward plant while trying to run the ball for some dang reason, Garoppolo will have a ton of pressure to perform.
And I expect he will. He thrives under pressure and has the right attitude. Garoppolo spent the majority of last season learning Shanahan’s intricate offense, watching what did and did not work with C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens, and continuing to be alarmingly handsome. He’s gonna crush it next year. — James Brady
Player who will regress the most
Patrick Mahomes — Hector Diaz
Drew Brees — David Fucillo
Christian McCaffrey — Christian D’Andrea
James Conner — James Brady
Why I picked Brees: By November, Brees went from an MVP-caliber season to looking every bit of his now 40 years old. Next season, Brees is going to fall off a cliff, Peyton-style. — David Fucillo
Why I picked McCaffrey: Betting on any kind of non-Kuechly consistency in Charlotte is a fool’s errand. — Christian D’Andrea
Which underwhelming rookie will level up in his second year?
Dante Pettis — Christian D’Andrea
Sam Darnold — Sarah Hardy
Josh Rosen — Adam Stites
Why I picked Pettis: Pettis wasn’t exactly underwhelming as a third-round pick last fall, he just wasn’t the darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate I’d hoped he’d be. He came on strong toward the end of 2018 with Nick Mullens — and now he gets to show out with a hopefully-healthy Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019. — Christian D’Andrea
Why I picked Rosen: There’s a really good chance the Kliff Kingsbury experiment goes down in hot desert flames. But if it does, you’d probably figure it’ll be the defense that lags behind. That’s what happened during Chip Kelly’s three seasons as the head coach of the Eagles.
So even if the Cardinals don’t turn things around, Rosen can post some serious numbers after finishing his rookie year with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. — Adam Stites
Team that will definitely acquire Antonio Brown
Why I picked the 49ers: Chiefly, I’m trying to do that thing where you will something into existence. Is it working yet? Please say it is. But I mean, outside of that, the 49ers seem to be a pretty perfect fit for Brown.
For one, the 49ers need a No. 1 receiver to pair with tight end George Kittle and solid No. 2 WRs Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon. Plus, Brown wants the football. He wants on that Kyle Shanahan and Julio Jones in Atlanta train. Shanahan and Garoppolo can get him the football. And finally, the 49ers have ample cap space to give him a new contract, and ample draft capital to make a trade. — James Brady
Why I picked the Steelers: I’ll believe AB gets traded when I see it. I also secretly think both him, the Steelers, and especially Ben Roethlisberger loooooove the drama.— Sarah Hardy
Why I picked the Jaguars: Because it would be the meanest possible destination for Pittsburgh to choose, barring Arizona or possibly Buffalo. — Christian D’Andrea
Team that will employ Blake Bortles
Why I picked the Patriots: Picking bad teams makes sense because Bortles is a bad quarterback. But there are some things that he’s good at. One of those things is running the ball. Bortles is third all-time in rushing yards per attempt (6.32) among quarterbacks, behind only Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham. Bill Belichick has noticed and compared Bortles to Cam Newton back in September.
Any team that needs Bortles to be its starting quarterback is in trouble. The Patriots wouldn’t. They could, however, find a way to creatively use Bortles’ rushing ability a la Taysom Hill in New Orleans. — Adam Stites
Team that will surprise us and make the playoffs
Why I picked the Bucs: idk, the NFC South is weird. — Sarah Hardy
Why I picked the Bengals: Escaping Marvin Lewis’ orbit is going to shoot Cincinnati into the postseason like a rocket — especially with an uneven AFC North schedule looming. — Christian D’Andrea
Team that will disappoint us like the 2018 Jaguars
Why I picked the Chiefs: I think the Chiefs will make it back to the playoffs, no problem. Just don’t expect anything more. It’s the price Paul Rudd has to pay for never aging:
— Sarah Hardy
Why I picked the Ravens: Clubs won’t be taken by surprise by Lamar Jackson, and he’ll be tasked with staying healthy one year after averaging 17 carries per game. Multiple defensive starters were 30+ years old in 2018, and C.J. Mosley could leave in free agency. — Christian D’Andrea
Team that will lose in the playoffs in excruciating Saints fashion
New Orleans Saints — Adam Stites
Atlanta Falcons — James Brady
Kansas City Chiefs — Christian D’Andrea
Why I picked the Falcons: Boy, did I swing and miss when I picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of this past season. The Falcons have a lot of great players and seemed to be trending in the right direction, and then ... they broke.
They fell apart at basically every level, through injuries (Devonta Freeman, Keanu Neal, and Deion Jones are among the many who missed significant time). The offensive line collapsed. The offense was moving the ball but couldn’t score in the red zone. The slowly improving defense was injured at every front.
But there is still a strong core there, and the Falcons will reload and refocus. And it will all come crashing down in the playoffs, because the NFC South is, simply put, cursed. Good teams feed on the inwardly crumbling souls of the NFC South, and that will culminate in a great regular season followed by an absolute stomping at the hands of someone, probably a dumb team like the Cardinals or something. — James Brady
Six-win team that will inexplicably beat the Patriots this season
New York Giants — Christian D’Andrea
Miami Dolphins — Sarah Hardy
Why I picked the Dolphins: It’s not just because they hired Brian Flores as their new coach. It’s because, well, isn’t it always the Dolphins? The Patriots will lose to them in hilarious fashion in December — to Jay Cutler, or because Gronk tried to play safety — and we will laugh and laugh.
And then the Patriots will be right back in the Super Bowl less than two months later because nothing matters. — Sarah Hardy
Team that will win Super Bowl 54 because it has Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
New England Patriots — Adam Stites
New England Patriots — Christian D’Andrea
New England Patriots — Sarah Hardy
I am protesting this category. — James Brady
Why I picked the Patriots: Because they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and I’m tired of being wrong when I pick another team. They’re inevitable. Just embrace it. — Adam Stites
Team we’ll pretend will win Super Bowl 54 because we’re sick of the Patriots
Indianapolis Colts — Adam Stites
Kansas City Chiefs — David Fucillo
Kansas City Chiefs — James Brady
Still the Patriots — Christian D’Andrea
lmao, it’s always the Patriots — Sarah Hardy
Why I picked the Colts: The bulldozing offensive line of the Colts was the centerpiece of an offense that finished No. 5 in the NFL, despite a lackluster group of skill position players. Andrew Luck got better as the year went on, and earned Comeback Player of the Year.
Now they enter the 2019 offseason with three top 60 picks, the most cap space in the league, and exciting young players on an up-and-coming roster. Nail the draft, add some talent in free agency, and — look out — the Colts are coming. — Adam Stites
Why I picked the Patriots: I can’t even pretend anymore. I’m picking the Patriots to win every Super Bowl until the end of time now. Congrats on Super Bowl CCL, 238-year-old Tom Brady. — Sarah Hardy
Super Bowl 54 halftime performer
Ariana Grande — Adam Stites
Pitbull — Hector Diaz
Jennifer Lopez, with a special appearance by Will Smith AND Pitbull AND DJ Khaled — Sarah Hardy
Taylor Swift — James Brady
Maroon 5, again — Christian D’Andrea
Why I picked J. Lo, Will Smith, Pitbull, and DJ Khaled: Jennifer Lopez has enough mass appeal and ability to put on a spectacle that I’m a little surprised she hasn’t at least cameoed at a halftime show yet. She’s even told Andy Cohen recently that she wants the gig. It’s kismet.
Not to mention, she’s worked with Miami natives Pitbull and DJ Khaled before. And Will Smith, who has Bad Boys 3 coming out in January 2020, almost co-starred in a A Star is Born remake (?!) with J. Lo. Plus, y’know he wants to party in the city where the heat is on ...\ — Sarah Hardy
Why I picked Maroon 5: Adam Levine’s gotta take his pants off somewhere. — Christian D’Andrea