NFL Crystal Ball: What Will Happen this Season?

Many teams throughout the league have improved this season, making for a very enticing 2018 season.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Power Rankings[a]

1. Philadelphia Eagles

2. Minnesota Vikings

3. New Orleans Saints

4. Los Angeles Rams

5. New England Patriots

6. Jacksonville Jaguars

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

8. Atlanta Falcons

9. Green Bay Packers

10. Los Angeles Chargers

11. Houston Texans

12. San Francisco 49ers

13. Carolina Panthers

14. Kansas City Chiefs

15. Tennessee Titans

16. Oakland Raiders

17. Detroit Lions

18. Baltimore Ravens

19. Dallas Cowboys

20. New York Giants

21. Arizona Cardinals

22. Denver Broncos

23. Seattle Seahawks

24. Indianapolis Colts

25. Chicago Bears

26. Buffalo Bills

27. New York Jets

28. Cincinnati Bengals

29. Cleveland Browns

30. Washington Redskins

31. Miami Dolphins

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Teams that will Rise in the Power Rankings by the End of the Season

* Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns have the potential to win at least six games this season. That might not sound like a lot, but it is a drastic improvement for a team that has won just one game in the past two seasons combined. The team certainly had a busy offseason, signing quarterback Tyrod Taylor and drafting quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft with the hopes of finally ending the team’s quarterback woes that have been going on for 20+ years. The receiving corps greatly improved with the signing of receiver Jarvis Landry and the return of talented receiver Josh Gordon, who has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for the past four years. The defense will improve on its abysmal 2017 team ranking of 31st overall with the return of defensive end Myles Garrett from injury and the addition of cornerback Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns will not make the playoffs this season, but they will take a step in the right direction as a franchise and see the biggest jump yet in the power rankings by season’s end.

* Tennessee Titans

Though the Tennessee Titans made the playoffs last season, they did not prove to the world that they could hang with the big boys, which is why they are not ranked as high as they could be. Their offense has a bunch of potential to surprise, especially at the running back and wide receiver positions. With the departure of Demarco Murray, their 2016 second round draft pick and former Heisman Trophy winner, Derrick Henry, will be given the opportunity to get the bulk of the carries for the Tennessee offense, not to mention their 2016 first round draft pick, Corey Davis, who has not had the opportunity to show his skills yet due to injury. The Titans’ offensive line, led by Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan, has been strong for the past two years, providing great protection for quarterback Marcus Mariota and support for the run game. Their defense is a little lacking, especially in the front seven, which is a cause for concern. However, with the reunion of former Patriots cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, and the return of Kevin Byard in the secondary, the Titans’ defense is no pushover. If the young Titans offense can live up to its potential this season, which very well could, the Titans could become a top 10 team in the NFL.

* New York Giants

The Giants finished the 2017 season with a record of 3-13, their worst in franchise history. A lack of accountability and leadership, combined with several devastating injuries, were responsible for such a poor season. The franchise was dysfunctional, with head coach Ben McAdoo never having total control of the locker room and veteran quarterback Eli Manning being scapegoated for the team’s struggles. Star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who plays a huge role in the team’s offense, suffered a broken ankle, which made it even harder for the team to recover from its 0-4 start. The team hired former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to replace McAdoo as head coach, while the former Panthers’ general manager was hired to improve the roster. Gettleman’s plan was clearly to surround Eli Manning with more talent, as he drafted running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in the 2018 draft instead of Manning’s successor and bolstered the offensive line through free agency and later rounds in the draft. The team also signed linebacker Alec Ogletree and drafted many defensive linemen to improve a defense that ranked 31st in the league last season. With a much improved roster loaded with talent, the Giants have a lot of potential to return to the playoffs after an abysmal 2017 season.

Teams that will Drop in the Power Rankings by the End of the Season

* Oakland Raiders

The Raiders finished the 2016 season with a record of 12-4 with hopes of winning the Super Bowl before then-MVP candidate and quarterback Derek Carr suffered a serious leg injury. Though the Raiders were eliminated from the playoffs in the wild card round, many people felt that they had a bright future. The very next season, however, the team failed to make the playoffs, largely due to Carr’s struggles and a defense that ranked 23rd in the league. This offseason, the front office did not do much to improve a weak roster, as they made many questionable decisions in the draft and did not make many improvements through free agency. To top it all off, the team decided that 2017 Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Khalil Mack did not deserve the money that he demanded. Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears, further depleting a roster that lacks the talent to compete to begin with. In a competitive AFC West, the Raiders are expected to struggle, and they may end up being the worst team in the league by the end of the season.

* Philadelphia Eagles

The reigning super bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, come into the season ranked as the best team in the league. However, before the season has even started, the Eagles have looked a little shaky. Their star quarterback and MVP candidate, Carson Wentz, does not look ready for their season opener, and their top receiver, Alshon Jeffery, is out for at least the first two weeks of the season. Under these circumstances, it is expected that the Eagles will get a slow start to the season and likely drop in the power rankings because of it.

* Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback Dak Prescott regressed significantly from his magical Offensive Rookie of the Year award-winning 2016 season, as he finished 2017 with a quarterback rating of 86.6 and failed to lead his team to the playoffs. Superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games while receiver Dez Bryant showed that he was undeserving of his lucrative contract yet again. This offseason, reliable tight end Jason Witten retired while Bryant was released by the team and (at the time this article is written) has yet to find a job. The Cowboys replaced Bryant with receiver Allen Hurns, who has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, while failing to fill the large hole left by Witten at the tight end position. With a lack of receiving options surrounding Prescott, as well as the team’s long history of players who break the law, the Cowboys are expected to finish in the bottom half of a strong NFC East and the league.

Breakout Players

* Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

In the 2016 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs surprisingly traded up to select the second quarterback in the draft, Patrick Mahomes II, at 10th overall. Last season, the Chiefs stuck with veteran quarterback Alex Smith as their starter, and Mahomes II spent the season on the pine to learn and develop his skills before he took over the quarterback job. His extremely strong arm, combined with Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill’s speed, should prove to be a lethal combination this year.

* Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

Though Davis did not have the rookie year he was hoping for in the 2017-18 season due to a hamstring injury which sidelined him for five games, he seemed to make progress over the course of the season and gain the trust of his manager and quarterback. Now, heading into the 2018-19 season, the former fifth overall pick is the Titans’ number one receiver and should finally reach his full potential after a year of experience and some improved chemistry with Marcus Mariota.

* David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

Before the 2017 NFL Draft, David Njoku was considered by many analysts to be the best tight end in the entire class. He flashed lots of potential in his rookie campaign, compiling 32 receptions and 386 yards in 16 games even with poor quarterback play. The 6’4”, 286-pound tight end is expected to take a massive statistical leap this season, as new general manager John Dorsey made many improvements to the team’s roster, most importantly at quarterback with the signing of Tyrod Taylor. Njoku will greatly feed off of a rejuvenated Cleveland Browns team and improve in every statistical category.

* Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers

In 2017, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin’s role in the 49ers’ offense was to stretch the field with his blazing speed, as shown by his 17.2 yards per catch, while Pierre Garcon was viewed as the team’s number one receiver with 67 targets in just eight games. This season, however, Goodwin is the clear-cut number one wide receiver, as Garcon’s injuries continue to pile up as he enters his age-32 season. With a full training camp and preseason to build more chemistry with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was acquired towards the end of the 2017 season via trade, Goodwin will evolve into a more well-rounded receiver who will surprise many people with his stellar numbers.

[a]Note to layout: This should go in a gray box