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B / R NFL Expert Picks for 2019 Division Winners | Bleacher Report



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    Mark Humphrey / Associated Press

    It's still a while until the NFL regular-season opener between Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Sept. 5.

    But we're getting there

    On Wednesday, veterans and rookies reported for the Denver Broncos. Over the next week or so, players across the league will do the same. Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

    Of course, that goal is more realistic than some others, and before any squad can make it to the biggest game in sports, it has to make the playoffs.

    A lot can (and will) happen between now and the end of the regular season, but it's never too early for a little prognostication. NFL analyst Gary Davenport, NFL analyst.

    Note: The writers who participated in this panel are NFL analyst Gary Davenport, NFL Features Lead Writer Tyler Dunne, NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman, NFL Analyst Brad Gagnon, Lefkoe Show Host Adam Lefkoe, NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller, NFL Analyst Brent Sobleski and NFL National Lead Writer Mike Tanier.

    One of NFL's biggest stars, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, and actor Rob Riggle, stop by The Lefkoe Show to talk about Patrick Mahomes, Shark Week, and more. Check it out here.

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    Steven Senne / Associated Press

    New England Patriots (8 votes)

    We'll start off this division with one such perceptible captain Obvious rolled his eyes.

    Back in the long-ago days of the 2000 season, the New England Patriots were a 5-11 mess of a team that finished in the cellar of the AFC East. It was an inauspicious start for the tenure of head coach Bill Belichick.

    In 2001, the Pats were forced to roll out on a second-year sixth-round quarterback from Michigan after Drew Bledsoe got hurt. New England's first Lombardi trophy.

    Since that first title of the Tom Brady / Belichick era, New England has claimed the AFC East a staggering 15 times in 17 years. The team has played in eight more Super Bowls, winning five. The last time the Patriots were not the champions of the AFC East was 2008, when Brady missed almost the entire season with an ACL tear.

    To say that the Patriots own the division is a massive understatement. And that's not going to change in 2019. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are rebuilding teams with second-quarterbacks (Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, respectively) who have a lot to learn. The Miami Dolphins are just beginning a ground-up rebuild and may have the NFL's least-talented roster.

    As NFL analyst Brad Gagnon wrote, as long as Tom Terrific and Darth Hoodie prowl Gillette Stadium, the Pats are all but impossible to pick agent.

    "With the Bills and Jets both improved on paper and with Rob Gronkowski no longer a factor, the gap between the Patriots and those Teams is a lot smaller," he said. Bradley and Belichick are there. "

    Fellow analyst Gary Davenport was a tad less diplomatic.

    " You could build a team with the 53-best players from the Bills, Jets and Dolphins, "he said," and it would be loose eight of 10 to the Patriots. "

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    Gail Burton / Associated Press

    Cleveland Browns (7 votes)

    The times they are a-changin 'in the North AFC.

    Despite the 10 games and the division a year ago,

    the Baltimore Ravens did not receive a single vote to claim the AFC North. Maybe it's all the changes on defense. Baltimore's throwback offense struggled in the team's postseason loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers underwent some big changes of their own in the offseason. But NFL's National Lead Writer Mike Freeman was one of a few scribes who believes he has at least one more division left.

    "This is not an extremely confident selection," Freeman said. Cleveland being king. "

    That last part would." "You loose a great deal when you let Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell go." But the Steelers still have enough firepower to win a division that is transitioning from Steelers-dominated to perhaps Cleveland being king. " at this point a year ago. But as NFL National Lead Writer Mike Tanier wrote with a new head coach in Freddie Kitchens, a new superstar wide-spread in Odell Beckham Jr. and a retooled defensive line, the Browns could be a legitimate playoff contender.

    "A little voice Inside my head telling me we're sleeping on the Steelers, who's still having a formidable face despite departures and have the talent to pull them together on the as soon as they realize 1998 tactics no longer work, "he said. There's so much top-tier talent on the roster with so much to prove that the Browns could outrun, outscore and out-bag everything in their path. "

    Repent , The end is nigh.

    Pittsburgh Steelers (19659037) 3 of 8

      Ed Zurga / Associated Press

      Indianapolis Colts (7 votes)

      Quite a bit has changed in Indianapolis since the middle of last October.

      On the 14th of that month, the Colts lost 42-34 to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium to fall to 1-5 on the season. Andrew Reich and the Colts turned things around and then some. With nine wins over their last 10 games, they became the third team in league history to make the postseason after a 1-5 start. Indy even won a playoff game, knocking off the AFC South Texas Champion in Houston.

      Since that run, the Colts have done a good job of building on that momentum. Devon Funchess and rookie second-rounder Parris Campbell. Justin Houston is about to rush down the street.

      As NFL's National Lead Writer Matt Miller pointed out, this team is ready to come into its own, and that's not a unanimous vote, the Colts are the The South African AFC South in 2019.

      "The Indianapolis Colts were ready to take over the AFC South this year and overtake the Texans in a strong division," Miller said. "Year 2 of Frank Reich as the head coach is important, but Andrew Luck is the key to the colt's success." The maturation of the 2018 draft class plus the addition of Houston makes this one of the NFL's best Rosters. "

      Indianapolis is not well-positioned for a Super Bowl this year. With more salary-cap space than any other team, it could be a force in the AFC for seasons to come.

      [19759020] Houston Texans (1 vote)

4 of 8 [19659049] Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

Los Angeles Chargers (6 votes)

The West AFC had a pair of 12 post-win seasons teams in 2018. Both made the postseason. Each won a playoff game.

It's no surprise that the division's viewed as a two-team race again. It is, however, a bit surprising which squad the NFL writers here picked.

After all, the Kansas City Chiefs came awfully close to a berth in Super Bowl LIII. They have the reigning NFL MVP in quarterback Patrick Mahomes and a top-ranked opener that's lit up like a video game in 2018 (425.6 yards per game).

"Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the NFL, doing things We've never seen this at the quarterback position, and NFL features lead writer Tyler Dunne said. "Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu may be the best players at their respective positions and will not allow another postseason collapse."

The Chiefs, however, so have a top wideout (Tyreek Hill) facing an uncertain future as the league investigates allegations he abused his son and a recording in which he threatens his fiancee, Crystal Espinal. Michael Mann of Sports Illustrated reported Monday that the Chiefs "expect a decision [on a possible suspension] by the start of training camp on July 23."

And their defense was among the worst in 2018, allowing 405.5 yards per game.

The Los Angeles Chargers have their own problems in the midst of the AFC Championship game.

Melvin Gordon , Keenan Allen, who made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back years-a veteran's quarterback in Philip Rivers and a much better defense than the Chiefs appear to possess.

For Brands NFL analyst Brent Sobleski,

"The Chargers finished with the same overall record as the Kansas City Chiefs last season, yet the Chiefs should regress due to multiple changes throughout the lineup (and remaining uncertainty of a potential Tyreek Hill suspension), "he said. Thomas Davis Sr. and first-round defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. "

Getting the Chargers feature a better lineup with tight end Hunter Henry's return from ACL injury and a revamped defensive front seven now. Kansas City Chiefs (2 votes)

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    Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles (5 votes)

    Like most of the NFL divisions , the NFC East is a two-team race. Neither of those squads is the New York Giants or the Washington Redskins.

    A year ago, the Dallas Cowboys rode a scorching 7-1 second to a 10-6 record and the division title. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper or on defense with Demarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones.

    All that young talent creates potential cap problems

    "At some point," Dunne wrote, "Jerry Jones has to figure out who he wants to pay, and the cowboys could be in trouble right now? This is one of the most talented rusters, and Prescott has something special with Cooper leap forward. "

    However, the other NFC East team that made the postseason last year and the last team from the division to win a Super Bowl.

    The question about the Eagles is the health of Carson Wentz. Tanier expects the 26-year-old quarterback to bounce back-and-everything for slip into place around him.

    "The roster is stacked at almost every position," Tanier said. There's an intriguing mix of youth and Super Bowl experience. "There's a lot of MVP buzz around Carson Wentz , and it's legit. If he's healthy-and he sure looks and sound healthy in minicamp-nothing wants to stop this team from winning the division and probably much more. "

    Fly, Eagles, fly.

    Others " Dallas Cowboys (3 votes)

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    Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

    Green Bay Packers (4 votes)

    Finally! Some drama!

    The NFL's 100th season kicks off on Sept. 5 at Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears will host their rivals from Green Bay.

    The game could have had a great deal in the division's race-especially if our panel's correct about how the NFC North wants to play out. NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller was one of three scribes who got his support behind the reigning division of champs, who went from worst to first in 2018 in Matt Nagy's first season as head coach.

    "NFC North's Nagy and the Bears face stiff competition," Miller said, "but the offensive adaptability and innovation will only be better as Mitchell Trubisky gains experience and the offense continues to be 2018 season.

    "We know the defense will be suffocating; Super Bowl contenders. "

    However, as the Bears were in a 12-win campaign, the season opener was a devastating one-point loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Pack at Lambeau Field Freeman thinks that as long as he will be in his first season.

    "If Aaron Rodgers Stay healthy and he'll probably be the best in the division, "he said." Sorry, Bears. "

    Week 1 can not get here almost enough.

    : Chicago Bears (3 votes) Minnesota Vikings (19659086) 7 of 8

      Jason E. Miczek / Associated Press

      New Orleans Saints (6 votes) [19659004] Actually, there are two things: It features a pair of NFL MVP quarterbacks in the Caroli na Panthers 'Cam Newton and the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan, and it has three quarterbacks (Newton, Ryan and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints) who have started in a Super Bowl.

      All three of those signal callers got Even though Newton and the Panthers had a terrible second half load season, Davenport threw a surprise pick for them.

      "Every year, there's a team that surprises by winning the division a la last year's Bears, "he said. It was lost in a nightmarish second half after Newton injured his shoulder last year, but at the halfway point in 2018, the Panthers were 6-2 and looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. "

      However, last year's division champs (and the NFC's No. 1 seed) were the runaway choice to repeat. in the NFC title game.

      "The Saints enter the 2019 campaign as a legit Super Bowl contender-and probably should have been in the big game earlier this year if not for a bogus non-pass-interference call, "he said. Drew Brees after Max Unger's retirement Otherwise, New Orleans boasts one of the game's most balanced lineups. "

      When a team's biggest problem is the center position, said team is usually in pretty good shape.

      Getting shot: Atlanta Falcons (1 vote); Carolina Panthers

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    Alex Gallardo / Associated Press

    Los Angeles Rams (4 votes)

    Four of the league's eight division-placed multiple teams in the playoffs last year. Rams both advancing.

    Entering last season, the San Francisco 49ers were one of the more hyped playoff sleepers. But a slew of injuries doomed the team to another miserable season. At least one panelist, however, went the better-late-than-never-route, as Adam Lefkoe took the Niners as dark-horse division champions.

    Seattle's way. The Seahawks suffered a few significant losses in the offseason, including longtime stalwarts like safety Earl Thomas, wide receiver Doug Baldwin and defensive end Frank Clark. But Seattle still has one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the game in Russell Wilson and one of the league's best defensive players in linebacker Bobby Wagner.

    Then there are the Rams-the defending champions not just the division but the NFC. They have suffered losses of their own. Veteran guard Rodgers Todd Gurley II's knee has been one of the off season's biggest storylines.

    Still, Gagnon thinks the Rams have enough to hold off Seattle and San Francisco.

    "I thought long and hard about the Seahawks and 49ers here, but the Rams are the deepest and most talented team in the division. "I do not fully trust Jimmy Garoppolo, and I think the Seahawks are too reliant on Wilson Rams win a tight race. "

    Davenport agrees.

    " The Rams are loaded with skill-position talent, arguably the best play caller in football (Sean McVay) running the show and are led defensively by three- time DPOY Aaron Donald, who just won the award in consecutive seasons, "he said. "It's not going to be easy, but L.A. wants to be the best in the West yet again."

    Getting Married: Seattle Seahawks (3 votes); San Francisco 49ers (1 vote)


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