It’s finally here. The 2019 NFL season is upon us. The action kicked off last night with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears renewing their rivalry on Soldier Field.
But let’s talk about what we think might happen the rest of the way. The staff here at QB List recently put together our predictions for how this season may go, including division winners, conference champions, individual award winners, and yes, a Super Bowl champion.
Nearly 20 staffers submitted their picks, and some of these answers might surprise you. Then again, some of them seem painfully obvious.
Let’s start with the teams the QB List staff thinks will make the playoffs.
Which Teams Will Make the Playoffs in 2019?
Each participating member of the QBL staff picked division winners as well as the two Wild Card teams from each conference. Let’s start with the division winners:
This is one of those that seems painfully obvious. Only one division ended up as the unanimous pick to win it, and that’s the AFC East.
We picked the Miami Dolphins.
I’m kidding, obviously. The Dolphins are in full “Tank for Tua” mode, apparently, and neither the Buffalo Bills nor the New York Jets are real competition for the New England Patriots for this division title.
In fact, one entry actually included a “duh” after voting for the Patriots. Now that’s confidence. Here’s “duh” voter Mike Miklius with the reason the Patriots are the obvious pick here:
The Patriots have won the division every year since 2009. Bill Belichick is still the head coach, Tom Brady is still the quarterback, and I’m still picking them as my division champ. Why not the others? I don’t trust Josh Allen to lead the Bills as a passer. I don’t trust the Jets offensive line to keep Sam Darnold safe. I do trust the Dolphins in their blatant tanking efforts. Don’t overthink this one … take the Patriots.
Yep. Moving on.
Now this is where things start getting interesting. The Cleveland Browns have hope like they may have never had before. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the old guard, and even the Ravens, riding the Lamar Jackson hype train, got a little love. Let’s see the results:
Not all of the QBL staff is on board with the Browns, but enough are that they’re our pick to win the division. Baker Mayfield to Odell Beckham Jr. will be a fun connection to watch all season, and Myles Garrett should contend for Defensive Player of the Year this season. The individual pieces are there. The only question may be whether they can come together as a team.
But they aren’t the only ones getting some love here. A couple of our guys went against the grain and voted for the Baltimore Ravens to win this division. Let’s let Dan Adams tell us why:
While the Cleveland Browns have gotten all of the offseason hype, the Baltimore Ravens are the team best positioned to win this division. The Ravens offense should be improved after an offseason to build an offense tailored to Lamar Jackson that should feature an underrated collection of pass-catchers as well as an upgraded backfield with the additions of Mark Ingram and Justice Hill. Earl Thomas is a game-changing defensive player and gives the Ravens one of the league’s best secondaries. The defending division champs will need more out of Jackson in the passing game given the improvements the Browns made in the offseason, but the Steelers lost Antonio Brown after missing the playoffs and the Bengals should not be much of a factor in this division. The division’s best defense and running attack should combine to propel the Ravens to a first-place finish.
As a big fan of Ravens defensive lineman Brandon Williams, I’ll almost always pull for the Ravens. But I have to admit I disagreed with Dan here and voted for the Browns. But those two Browns/Ravens games will be FUN to watch. You won’t want to miss it.
The AFC South is the only division in which every team got at least one vote. My guess is this says something about the overall strength of the division, though I imagine it’s a statement that, as a Houston Texans fan, I probably wouldn’t want to reckon with either way.
All of our votes are submitted after the news of Andrew Luck’s retirement, so I can’t be sure there was any sort of mass migration away from the Indianapolis Colts. Still, I’d imagine the team would’ve been picked more if Luck were still around. The Colts should be competitive without him, but it’s definitely hard to withstand that sort of loss so late in the game.
The lone Colts vote belonged to Kenny Hyttenhove. Let’s let him defend that one:
The Colts are still strong in the trenches. Pro Football Focus ranked them as having a top-five offensive line. People are underselling head coach Frank Reich’s scheming ability. Jacoby Brissett finished 26th in the league in 2017 in time it took from snap to throw the ball (Next Gen Stats). In 2016, Luck finished 29th in the league in the same metric. After Colts general manager Chris Ballard shored up the line and Reich schemed for more plays that get the ball out quickly, Luck finished as sixth-best in the league. I think it’s reasonable to see a similar result this season.
The receiving corps has been built up with young talent in Parris Campbell and Deon Cain, plus the return of Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, and T.Y. Hilton. They should be able to exploit mismatches on the field.
The Colts defense has gotten deeper as well as the team stocked up on young talent in the secondary and at linebacker. Because they are young but talented in the secondary, they improved their pass rush by adding veteran Justin Houston in order to help keep the pressure off the back end.
Within the division, the Texans improved their offensive weapons but barely improved their O-line, and their defense is worse. The Jaguars improved at quarterback, but it’s not a major upgrade. Tennessee has a long way to go still; we will leave it at that
The Houston Texans are the new (?) favorite to win the division based on QBL staff votes (and my own personal bias), and that no doubt stems from belief in the elite pass rush from JJ Watt and his supporting cast of Whitney Mercilus and Jadev—well, maybe just Mercilus. That’s to say nothing of the big-time playmakers on offense in quarterback Deshaun Watson and my pick for best wide receiver in the NFL DeAndre Hopkins. If new addition Laremy Tunsil can keep Watson upright, watch out.
Living in the heart of Chiefs Kingdom, I really thought this one would be the Kansas City Chiefs’ division by unanimous vote. Our results show it’s still their division to lose, but it’s not unanimous:
We’re not much different than anyone else here. We still think the division runs through Kansas City. But the Los Angeles Chargers are no slouches, and they’ll definitely make the Chiefs earn it.
Luckily for the Chargers, there are two Wild Card spots up for grabs, and plenty of QBL staffers think that’s how Philip Rivers and friends will make the postseason.
AFC Wild Card Picture
I honestly expected this to be a little more crowded. The Wild Card picture is often pretty crowded as a couple of good (or bad) bounces can give a team an extra win or two and keep several teams around 8-8 or 9-7, which is enough to keep them in the hunt until the last two weeks in most cases.
Still, seven different teams got vote from QB List staffers as being Wild Card teams this season. Obviously they won’t all earn those two spots, but let’s take a look at every team that got a vote anyway:
For those keeping score at home, that means every single member of the QBL staff who voted in this poll picked the Chiefs to make the playoffs. What that means is that the Chiefs and Patriots are the only two unanimous votes in the AFC to make the postseason, though the Chiefs had to do it with some Wild Card votes while the Patriots won their division going away.
It might be a little surprising to see the Raiders and Jets in that list of vote-getters, but new head coaches and new impact players (Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, respectively) are reason for optimism for two franchises that have struggled recently.
Still, the playoff picture based on QB List votes would look like this:
- New England Patriots.
- Kansas City Chiefs.
- Houston Texans.
- Cleveland Browns.
- Baltimore Ravens.
- Los Angeles Chargers.
Looks like the Steelers just miss the cut again. Does that mean Mike Tomlin is on the hot seat? Guess we’ll find out.
Getting all-world running back Ezekiel Elliott back in a week or two (or three) will do wonders for the Dallas Cowboys’ odds of winning this division and making the playoffs. The late contract negotiations were no doubt a distraction and source of worry for the team and its staff and players, but the deal is done. Now it’s time to go to work.
And go to work they must as the Cowboys will battle all season with the Philadelphia Eagles for this division. The New York Giants and Washington Redskins are clearly not contenders this season, so it’s a two-horse race out in the East. The QBL votes reflect that:
Philadelphia is the clear favorite between the two, and it’s easy to see why. After all, this is a team that isn’t that far removed from (and not too different from) winning a Super Bowl. Plus, quarterback Carson Wentz is getting MVP hype in some circles. Nobody but Cowboys fans are talking about MVP potential for Dak Prescott.
Still, let’s let QBL staffer Nate Watt make the case for the Cowboys:
The Cowboys have one of the absolute most exciting and talented defenses in football, led by newly extended DeMarcus Lawrence as well as their incredible linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Add to that a deep secondary and pass rush (talented sophomore Dorance Armstrong should hold things down until Robert Quinn returns), and I see no reason the Cowboys couldn’t finish the year as a top-five defense, especially if the secondary can force a few more turnovers than it has the past few years.
For as maligned as he is, Dak Prescott has proven he can win games with two 10-plus win seasons in three years and has an intriguing receiving group with a lot of upside. Amari Cooper is obviously the headlining act (he averaged 5.9/80.6/.67 per game as a Cowboy last year), but second-year wideout Michael Gallup can’t be ignored and neither can former Pro Bowler Randall Cobb.
That’s a pretty strong case. If I were allowed to root for the Cowboys—which, as a Texans fan, I assure you I am not—I might jump on Nate’s hype train.
But no. It’s the Eagles for me and most of the QBL staff.
Though this division isn’t quite as spread out as the AFC South, it did feature three teams getting votes in the tightest race among QBL staffers. Let’s get right to the results:
That’s about as close a vote as you could get, right? Sure, no love for the Detroit Lions (I mean, it IS the Lions, after all), but any of these three teams could take that division.
The Bears have that strong defense and an enigma at quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. He could be an MVP who leads this team to the Super Bowl, or he could flame out and they miss the postseason altogether.
The Vikings have a little bit of everything with a good defense and some incredible playmakers on offense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins may not be as good as his contract suggests, but when you’re throwing to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, even middling quarterbacks can look great on any given day.
And the Packers—well, you’d be wise to never, ever vote against any team that has Aaron Rodgers at the helm. That’s not to say the team around him isn’t also very good, but that man could will even a bad team to the playoff hunt. In fact, let’s check in with QBL staffer Marshal Hickman to see what he thinks about the Packers this season:
While the Packers are no longer the consensus favorite to win the NFC North, their 7-9 and 6-9-1 finishes over the past two years should certainly not be considered the new norm. 2018 saw the eviction of long-term head coach and pedestrian play-caller Mike McCarthy, which bodes well for the offense even if new head coach Matt LaFleur’s most recent NFL experience was at the reins of the 27th-best scoring offense last season in Tennessee.
Their young offensive weapons (i.e. Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling) have had time to develop, Davante Adams is arguably the best wide receiver in the league, Aaron Jones is an extremely productive back when utilized correctly (fingers crossed!), and Aaron Rodgers will hopefully be fully recovered from the broken leg he played on throughout 2018.
Moreover, the defense has been bolstered with draft day acquisitions Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage Jr. as well as free agent signings Adrian Amos and Za’Darius Smith.
The Packers have all the pieces in place for a serious playoff run; it just all has to come together. I think 2019 is their time.
It might be. But that division will be a dog fight one way or another. I, for one, can’t wait to watch it.
After last season ended in soul-crushing defeat at the hands of a referee crew, the New Orleans Saints may be out for blood this season. And I don’t necessarily mean in the Bountygate sort of way, although they DID just acquire linebacker Kiko Alonso. So. You know. Anything is possible.
No, what I meant was that Drew Brees and his band bad, bad men will be looking to run roughshod over the rest of the league on a mission to prove last year really was a fluke and that they deserved to be in the Super Bowl.
But will playing with a chip on their shoulder help them? I don’t know. What I do know is that QBL staffers think the Saints are the team to beat in the NFC South:
That tiny sliver for the Carolina Panthers seems almost sad, honestly. Let’s go back to Dan Adams to make us feel less sad for the Panthers:
Last season, the Panthers started out 6-2 before falling apart and finishing the season 7-9. Cam Newton suffered a shoulder injury that prevented him from throwing the ball downfield, but he appears to be fully healed heading into this season and will have the best set of weapons of his career. The defense added Gerald McCoy and should be among the top half of the league, so as long as Newton stays healthy, the Panthers should be able to take advantage of a favorable schedule.
The Saints might take a step back after back-to-back heartbreaking endings to their seasons, and the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of question marks defensively. The Panthers have the talent on both sides of the ball to win this division; they just need to keep Newton healthy.
Sounds like that Bountygate thing I mentioned earlier might have something to do with what may be the Panthers’ inevitable lack of success this year. Or will it?
I don’t know. All I know is that I voted for the Saints because my buddy Joe would’ve slapped me had I voted for the Falcons. But because I have several shares of quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones on my fantasy teams, I’ll be pulling for the Falcons to have as much success as possible.
This one was so close to being unanimous. After a few days of voting, only the Rams had gotten any votes to win the NFC West. And then Bryan Sweet had to come along and ruin it.
Still, if the Rams’ never-ending supply off superstar weapons isn’t enough to convince you, maybe the QBL staff votes will:
Another sad sliver. THANKS, BRYAN.
Though I have to admit that I considered voting for the Seattle Seahawks as well if only because they have so many of my beloved Texans. And they got them for so cheap too! Shame, really.
Though I suspect Jadeveon Clowney will eat Jared Goff’s lunch a time or two this season, it’s still the Rams’ division to lose. And the QBL votes suggest it’s not close.
NFC Wild Card Picture
Ah, this is the crowded Wild Card picture I wanted in the AFC. A dozen (!) teams got votes for being Wild Card teams. The only four NFC team without a vote were the Buccaneers, Redskins, Giants, and Cardinals. Wild indeed.
Check out the votes:
It’s worth noting that every QBL voter but one put the Saints in the playoffs either as a division winner or as a Wild Card team.
But seriously, for those of you keep up with things, these results mean the NFC playoff picture looks like this:
- Los Angeles Rams.
- Philadelphia Eagles.
- New Orleans Saints.
- Minnesota Vikings.
- Atlanta Falcons.
- Green Bay Packers.
I gave the Packers the tiebreaker over the Bears for the last Wild Card spot because they got more votes in the division polls. I have no idea if that is fair, but I have spoken.
Now tell me that six-team field wouldn’t be fun to watch in the playoffs. But could any of them beat the Chiefs? Or the Patriots? Or even the hype fest that is the Browns?
I’ll tell you what the QB List staff had to say.
Road to the Super Bowl
Six different teams the AFC got votes as being the team to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl: The Chiefs, Texans, Chargers, Jaguars, Patriots, and Browns were all represented. And no, I didn’t vote for the Texans. That was Mike Miklius. Thanks, buddy.
The Chiefs and Patriots were the most common vote-getters, however. In fact, the other four teams all got just one vote while the Chiefs and Patriots split the rest.
Let’s call that our AFC Championship game. And who wouldn’t want to see a repeat of last year’s AFC title game? The Chiefs came from behind in the second half after looking like they’d get blown out, only for a coin toss to (at least to some degree) decide their fate in overtime.
I’d take another game just like that with the same result, if I’m being honest. But the QBL staff has spoken, and with half the votes, the Kansas City Chiefs are headed to Super Bowl LIV.
But just for fun, let’s check in with Colin Weatherwax, who is all in on the Browns this season, predicting they’ll win the AFC and head to the Super Bowl:
It’s not very often that a team comes into the year with all the expectations and actually lives up to it. This year, I think the Browns will meet those lofty expectations by representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. Baker Mayfield makes tremendous strides and becomes the NFL MVP. Nick Chubb, OBJ, and David Njoku are all top-five players at their positions. The defense, led by Myles Garrett, becomes a top-10 defense, and the Browns finally put it all together for a great season.
I voted for the Chiefs, but Colin has me ready to run through a wall for the Browns. It might be time to grow a mustache like that one Mayfield rocked during camp.
In the NFC, seven teams were picked as potential NFC champions: The Saints, Bears, Rams, Falcons, Eagles, Vikings, and Packers all received votes. The NFC North stays strong in the minds of QBL staffers.
But it’s the Saints, with their six votes, who will head to the QBL Super Bowl. Looks like that chip on their shoulder paid off after all.
Now here’s the crazy part:
Six teams earned votes as the team to win the AFC. Seven teams earned votes as the team to win the NFC. And SIX (!) different teams earned votes to win the Super Bowl.
I told you it was crazy.
In the various combinations of Super Bowl matchups, the winners called by QBL staffers were the Saints, Bears, Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, and Eagles.
It’s truly a wide-open field this year, which is great for fans and probably for the league as seeing Tom Brady dominate the league for the past 47 years has been a little much to take for some of us. And though a few QBL staffers have Brady winning his 39th Super Bowl ring in February, he and his team aren’t the winners of this poll.
No, the staff at QB List have chosen a Chiefs-Saints Super Bowl, and based on the votes for which team will win that Super Bowl, we’ve chosen world champions:
The New Orleans Saints will win Super Bowl LIV.
And what a story it’d be. The Chiefs overcome the ghosts of Brady and that coin toss last season to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in decades. The Saints overcome a ghost of their own in the form of the pass interference that wasn’t and get back to the Super Bowl as Brees’ career begins to wind down.
And they win another one for their longtime leader. Does he retire after the game and go out on top? Is a second Super Bowl enough to put him into the G.O.A.T. conversation? Can he finally win an MVP through all of this?
Well, next week, we’re going to find out. The same QB List staffers voted on the NFL’s year-end award winners. I’ll detail that vote after Week 1.
(Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)