NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Record (9-7)

Key Offseason Additions: WR Allen Hurns, WR Deonte Thompson, OT Cameron Fleming, DE Kony Ealy, LB Joe Thomas

Key Offseason Losses: WR Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten, CB Orlando Scandrick, WR Brice Butler, RB Alfred Morris, G Jonathan Cooper, OLB Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber

For the first time this decade, Dallas will be without long-time tight end and future hall-of-famer Jason Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant – the franchise leader in touchdown receptions. This is bad news for quarterback Dak Prescott, who took a huge step back in his second year running the Cowboy offense. Prescott saw a decrease in nearly every stat, including completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio as well as yards and touchdowns. Prescott will need to find what made him successful in 2016 for the Cowboys to get back to the playoffs in 2018.

Dallas will try to replace Bryant and Witten with Allen Hurns, who signed with the Cowboys after four seasons with Jacksonville. Hurns has one 1,000-yard season in his career. Third round pick from Colorado State Michael Gallup and Terrance Williams will be the team’s other receivers. Fourth round pick Dalton Schultz will get the first chance to replace Witten at tight end.

Ezekiel Elliott will be heavily relied upon once again and should improve from last year now that he has no suspensions to worry about. Elliott was suspended six games last year and when he was available to play, he wasn’t nearly as effective as he was in his rookie season. Left tackle Tyron Smith will be healthy this year and him, along with Pro Bowlers Zack Martin and Travis Frederick should help Elliott get back to his rookie year numbers, when he rushed for more than 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns.

New York Giants: 2017 Record (3-13)

Key Offseason Additions: RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Cody Latimer, OT Nate Solder, G Patrick Omameh, DE Kareem Martin, OLB Connor Barwin, LB Alec Ogletree, S William Gay, S Michael Thomas

Key Offseason Losses: QB Geno Smith, RB Orleans Darkwa, RB Shane Vereen, WR Brandon Marshall, OT D.J. Fluker, G Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Jay Bromley, OLB Devon Kennard, CB Ross Cockrell, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Quarterback Eli Manning returns for another season and should have an improved offensive line with the additions of free agent Nate Solder and second round pick Will Hernandez. 

Odell Beckham Jr. will be back and healthy after missing all but four games in 2017. He’ll be joined by second overall pick Saquon Barkley to form one of the league’s most exciting WR/RB duos. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard returns after a promising second season that saw him have three games of 130+ receiving yards, as well as second-year tight end Evan Engram, who caught six touchdowns his first year. Those four players, along with Manning and an improved offensive line, should prove to be a dynamic offense in 2018.

The one strength of the Giants in 2017 was their defense. New York ranked second in points and allowed and 10th in yardage, but lost several key members from that unit with the departure of Jason Pierre-Paul, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ross Cockrell. New York will switch to a 3-4 defense in 2018, and the defensive line will be lead by nose tackle Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson, who had an impressive rookie campaign in 2017. 

Landon Collins is one of the better safeties and defensive players in the NFL and he returns to lead the Giants defense in 2018.

Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Record (13-3)

Key Offseason Additions: WR Mike Wallace, WR Markus Wheaton, TE Richard Rodgers, DE Michael Bennett, DT Haloti Ngata, OLB Paul Worrilow, LB Corey Nelson

Key Offseason Losses: RB LeGarrette Blount, RB Kenjon Barner, WR Torrey Smith, TE Trey Burton, TE Brent Celek, DE Vinny Curry, NT Beau Allen, OLB Mychal Kendricks, CB Patrick Robinson, CB Corey Graham, K Caleb Sturgis, P Donnie Jones

The defending Super Bowl champions will look to repeat in 2018 and welcomes back quarterback Carson Wentz, who went down with a torn ACL in mid-December. Wentz was an MVP candidate at the time of the injury, so if he’s healthy, expect Philly to once again reach the playoffs. It’s unclear how healthy Wentz is right now but he has said he expects to play in week one against Atlanta. The man who replaced Wentz and went on to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl, Nick Foles, returns for another season and the Eagles are confident with him at QB if Wentz isn’t 100 percent to start the season.

The Eagles will once again have one of the league’s best offensive lines led by left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson. Peters was limited to only seven games in 2017, but this line still proved to be one of the best in the league. 

Tight end Zach Ertz returns after the best season of his career and is now viewed as one of the best tight ends in football.

Philly doesn’t have the best skill players in the league but what they do have is a solid group of running backs and receivers. Alshon Jeffery is back after catching nine touchdowns in 2017 and he’ll be joined by Nelson Agholor, who had a breakout year last year and newcomer Mike Wallace. Jay Ajayi, who came over from Miami during the season last year, and averaged 5.8 yards per carry, will be the number one running back and will be backed up by Super Bowl standout Corey Clement and veteran Darren Sproles.

Washington Redskins: 2017 Record (7-9)

Key Offseason Additions: QB Alex Smith, QB Kevin Hogan, WR Paul Richardson, DE/OLB Pernell McPhee

Key Offseason Losses: QB Kirk Cousins, WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Ryan Grant, TE Niles Paul, C Spencer Long, DT Terrell McClain, DE/OLB Trent Murphy, DE/OLB Junior Galette, ILB Su'a Cravens, ILB Will Compton, CB Kendall Fuller, CB Bashaud Breeland, S DeAngelo Hall

Washington said goodbye to quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason, but welcome Alex Smith 2018. Smith comes to the Redskins after a very successful stint in Kansas City where he made five playoff appearances and three Pro Bowls.

Injuries was the theme of the Redskins 2017 season. The offensive line was hurt the most. Left tackle Trent Williams, right guard Brandon Scherff and right tackle Morgan Moses were all hurt at some point in the season. Moses didn’t miss any games but was not as effective as he usually is when healthy. All three should be back and fully healthy for 2018 season. Tight end Jordan Reed has never played a full 16 games in his career and was limited to just six games last season. He has said he feels “100 times better” after multiple surgeries so maybe this will be the year he is finally healthy.

Injuries are already taking a toll on Washington in 2018. Second round pick Derrius Guice tore his ACL in the team’s first pre-season game and will miss the season. Chris Thompson, Robert Kelley, Samaje Perine and newly signed Adrian Peterson will form a running back by committee at first and Washington hopes one of them will prove to be the main guy. Josh Doctson will lead the receiving corps. The former first round pick is still looking to have his breakout season. He’ll be joined by third year man Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: 2017 record (9-7)

Key Offseason Additions: QB A.J. McCarron, RB Chris Ivory, WR Jeremy Kerley, OT Marshall Newhouse, C Russell Bodine, DE Trent Murphy, DT Star Lotulelei, CB Vontae Davis, CB Phillip Gaines, S Rafael Bush

Key Offseason Losses: QB Tyrod Taylor, FB Mike Tolbert, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Deonte Thompson, OT Cordy Glenn, G Richie Incognito, C Eric Wood, DE Ryan Davis, ILB Preston Brown, CB E.J. Gaines, CB Shareece Wright

Despite leading the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, the team decided to part ways with quarterback Tyrod Taylor. A.J. McCarron was signed in the offseason and the team moved up in the draft to take Josh Allen with the 7th pick to replace Taylor. McCarron suffered a broken collarbone in the team’s second pre-season game, so Allen will now compete with Nathan Peterman for the starting spot. Allen should probably sit for a year to improve his accuracy before taking over, but the team may have no choice with McCarron out. 

No matter who is at quarterback, they will lean heavily on running back LeSean McCoy, who is still one of the league’s best backs. McCoy rushed for more than 1,100 yards last season. McCoy lost three offensive lineman this offseason so things could be a little tougher this season. McCoy will also help out the receiving game (59 catches in 2017), as the team has just one proven wide receiver on the roster in Kelvin Benjamin.

The defense was the biggest reason the Bills finally got over the playoff hump last season. 

Buffalo has one of the league’s best secondaries and will return three of those four players. Second year cornerback Tre’davious White and safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde all return after great 2017 seasons that saw Buffalo give up 17 points or fewer in 10 games last season. Former pro-bowler Vontae Davis arrives and the team is hoping to get the old version of Davis back to replace E.J. Gaines, who left for Cleveland in the offseason.

Miami Dolphins: 2017 record (6-10)

Key Offseason Additions: QB Brock Osweiler, RB Frank Gore, WR Albert Wilson, WR Danny Amendola, G Josh Sitton, C Daniel Kilgore, DE Robert Quinn

Key Offseason Losses: QB Matt Moore, QB Jay Cutler, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Julius Thomas, C Mike Pouncey, DE Terrence Fede, DT Ndamukong Suh, ILB Lawrence Timmons, S Michael Thomas, S Nate Allen, K Cody Parkey

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill tore his ACL in training camp last season and missed the entire 2017 season. Miami’s QB situation last year was disastrous, with Jay Cutler and Matt Moore both getting starts. Tannehill hasn’t been great in his five years but he will be a huge upgrade from Cutler and Moore if he’s back to 100 percent. 

Tannehill lost his top target in Jarvis Landry, who was traded to Cleveland in March and will have unproven receivers as his supporting cast. DeVante Parker is the most talented receiver on the roster, but he has been a disappointment so far in his young career with just eight touchdowns in three seasons. Kenny Stills returns but he is pretty much only a deep threat and Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson were both free agent signings. 

Kenyan Drake will get the first crack at the running back job. Drake was productive the last six games of the season last year, averaging nearly 5 yards a carry.

The defense is a big question mark right now. Miami’s biggest weakness on the defensive side of the ball is their line after they released defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. 

New England Patriots: 2017 record (13-3)

Key Offseason Additions: RB Jeremy Hill, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, OT Trent Brown, OT Matt Tobin, C Luke Bowanko, DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Danny Shelton, CB Jason McCourty.

Key Offseason Losses: RB Dion Lewis, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Martellus Bennett, OT Nate Solder, OT Cameron Fleming, OT Antonio Garcia, DE/OLB James Harrison, OLB Shea McClellin, CB Malcolm Butler, S Johnson Bademosi.

As long as Tom Brady is on the team, New England is going to be one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. The 41-year-old has showed no signs of slowing down and another MVP season isn’t out of the question.

Rob Gronkowski will once again be Brady’s main target. Gronkowski enjoyed his healthiest season since 2015, missing only two games in 2017. Brady’s other targets are a bit of a uncertainty, but it doesn’t really matter with Brady at QB. Julien Edelman is back from injury but will be suspended the first four games, so Chris Hogan figures to be the number one receiver until Edelman returns.

New England will once again play a stable of running backs. Sony Michel was selected in the first round and he will replace Dion Lewis and will be joined by James White, Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee.

The weak link of the Patriots is their defense, as seen in the Super Bowl when the team couldn’t get any sort of pressure on Nick Foles. Injuries played a part in that throughout the season. Dont’a Hightower was hurt in week one and later returned but was never the same post-injury. He will be back and fully healthy, which will be huge for the defense. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn was signed in the offseason to help boost the pass rush that was nonexistent in 2017. 

New York Jets: 2017 Record (5-11)

Key Offseason Additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Isaiah Crowell, RB Thomas Rawls, WR Charles Johnson, OT Antonio Garcia, C Travis Swanson, C Spencer Long, DE/DT Henry Anderson, ILB Avery Williamson, ILB Kevin Minter, ILB Kevin Pierre-Louis, CB Trumaine Johnson.

Key Offseason Losses: RB Matt Forte, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, C Wesley Johnson, DE/DT Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/OLB Kony Ealy, ILB Demario Davis, K Chandler Catanzaro.

The Jets used the third overall pick on Sam Darnold, who many believed to be the best quarterback prospect in the draft. Darnold might not start right away because the team brought back veteran Josh McCown and also brought in Teddy Bridgewater but that may not be a bad thing because the Jets aren’t expected to win right now.

Whoever is at quarterback will have leading receiver Robby Anderson back if he’s not suspended for legal troubles. They will also have Quincy Enunwa, who had a good year in 2016 before tearing his ACL in training camp last season. The team also brought in Terrelle Pryor after his disappointing season in Washington. The position of running back will be a concern after Matt Forte retired. The team brought in Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls to replace Forte. Bilal Powell will return and could get more touches this year after being the most productive back on the roster the last couple of years.

The defense improved in 2017 thanks to the play of their two rookie, safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Defensive end Leonard Williams is one of the better defensive ends in the league and he will return to help get some more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

@CWickham2

cwickham687616@ohio.edu 

Comments powered by Disqus