As the 2018 NFL season approached, On & Off the Field decided to make some BOLD predictions for the season. Since then, the NFL has changed more than any expert or fan could’ve imagined.
If you missed our preseason BOLD predictions, go see how BOLD we really were. You won’t be disappointed.
If you did catch them, you’ll remember that we broke our predictions down by conferences…bolstering six predictions for each.
Starting with the NFC, here are the predictions we made and how they turned out.
- Detroit Lions keep pace with the Vikings, finish with 10+ wins
The Lions finished just 6-10 this season, but that doesn’t mean this prediction was as far off as it seems. Although the Vikings finished just 8-7 this season, they didn’t play as well as we expected them to. Finishing 2nd in the NFC North, behind only the Bears (thanks Khalil Mack), the Vikings had plenty of chances to win games and clinch the division.Both the Lions and the Vikings have had a rough few years, but I expect both to play above .500 football next year and challenge a young Bears roster coming off an early exit in the playoffs after clinching their division.
- David Johnson has strong comeback, Cardinals get back to the Playoffs
Before this season-ending injury at the beginning of the 2017 season, David Johnson had an exceptional first season as a starter for the Cardinals. Earning himself 1,200+ yards and 16 TDs and almost 900 receiving yards (with 4 more TDs), Johnson solidified himself as one of the best dual-threat running-backs in the league. Most experts and fantasy football players expected him to continue his dominance in 2017, drafting him early in the first round. Unfortunately for him, and all his fantasy owners, Johnson got injured as was out all season.
This year, we all expected a strong bounce-back performance. Although it wasn’t as statistically successful, Johnson and the Cardinals faced plenty of obstacles throughout the season. Johnson rushed for 940 yards and 7 TDs, which was plenty good to make him their leading rusher and 2nd leading pass-catcher. Hopefully the Cardinals can bounce-back after a tough 3-13 season.
- Saquon Barkley will lead the NFL in rushing yards
Sooo close to getting this one right. In his rookie year, the world expected Barkley to take the league by storm and have a strong rushing year. What I’m proud of is that he ended up being the 2nd leading rusher in the NFL. Behind only Ezekiel Elliott (1,434 yds), Barkley racked up 1,307 yards on the ground this season.
For comparison, 2017 OPOY Todd Gurley only rushed for 1,251 yards this season. Additionally, Barkley earned himself the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and the FedEx Ground player of the year awards. Although the Giants struggled again this season, finishing just 5-11, we expect Barkley to be in the backfield for years to come, leading the Giants to W’s and back into playoff contention.
- Russell Wilson will finish top-3 in MVP voting
In making this prediction, we anticipated a better year for the Seahawks. With a 10-6 finish, the Seahawks had a chance to make a run in the postseason, but fell short to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round. Once the season got underway, it was obvious that the MVP race would exceed expectations.
Only a few weeks in, it was clear that Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees were running away with the votes. As the season continued, some star players had huge games (Mack, Donald, Kamara, Gurley, Luck etc…), but Brees and Mahomes kept running away with the fan votes.
- Jimmy Garoppolo will lead the NFL in yards and completion percentage
Lets just skip over this one…
During week 3 of the regular season against the Chiefs, Garoppolo tore his A.C.L. and was out for the rest of the year.
- Colin Kaepernick gets signed mid season
After taking a knee during the National Anthem over a year ago, Kaepernick was cut from the 49ers roster. Since then, he has become the face of the social injustice movement and remains away from the NFL.
We’d hoped he’d get signed mid-season by a team, because he is a young player that brings excitement to the game, but that didn’t happen. Maybe he’s accepted being done with the NFL, maybe he’ll get an invite/roster spot on an AAF or XFL team. Who knows.
Moving on to our AFC predictions…..
- The AFC South is the strongest division in the conference
It didn’t shake out how we expected it would, but the AFC was a very strong conference all year long. Up until the last week of the regular season, 12+ were in contention for the final 8 playoff spots. Heck, the last game of the regular season, which got flexed to prime-time because of its playoff implications, proves that the AFC South was still the strongest league in the AFC.
Following last season, we expected the Jaguars and Texans to have very competitive seasons, alongside Marcus Mariota and the Titans who squeaked into the Wild Card last season. When Andrew Luck finally got healthy, the Colts were another safe bet to challenge the league and make their own push towards the postseason. The AFC South was the only division in the NFL (not just the AFC) with three out of four teams finishing above .500 on the season. Strongest. Division. In the conference.
- Jon Gruden leads the Raiders to 10 wins in his first season
Welp…I have to chalk this one up as a big ‘L.’
Not only were the Raiders tied for the 2nd-worst team in the league (Cardinals were worse), but Gruden traded the farm in hopes of success only to see his season end at 4-12. Trading away Khalil Mack (to the Bears) was a risk, but to follow it up with the Amari Cooper trade… WOW. Maybe Gruden has an elaborate plan to rebuild around Derek Carr or there’s someone else he has in mind, but Raiders fans (the few, the proud) have their fingers crossed.
- The Broncos defense will earn 50 total sacks throughout the season
With Von Miller at the helm, the Broncos defense seemed like it was ready to hold its own against any team in the league. After drafting Bradley Chubb in the first round, they looked determined to build their defense back to how it was in 2016 when they won Super Bowl 50.
Earning 44 total sacks as a team, the Broncos still impressed us all season. Although they only finished 6-10, and more than half of the teams sacks came from Miller (14.5) and Chubb (12), young stars like Josey Jewell (out of Iowa) will look to gain experience and earn more playing time to help the Broncos play for another ring in the future.
- Tom Brady and the Patriots only win 10 games
Before I explain myself on this one, let me first admit that I should NEVER doubt the G.O.A.T. I understand that and now realize that we’re in the golden era of his dynasty.
That being said, the Patriots did finish 11-5 in the regular season. Yes, I know they won the Super Bowl and held one of the top offenses in the NFL to just 3 points, but they were doubted all year.
All five of their losses were by teams who didn’t make the playoffs (Jaguars, Lions, Titans, Dolphins, Steelers)
- The Browns will have more wins than the Bengals
Going into the season, the Cleveland Browns were a joke. We felt this was our BOLDEST prediction for the season because the franchise was such a question mark. With the arrival of Baker Mayfield, the Browns believe they have found their QB of the future. With a strong backfield. above-average defense and a young, energetic QB, the Browns proved themselves as real contenders.
Finishing 7-8-1 in 2018 was a huge step in the return of the Browns franchise. From 2015-2017, the Browns went 4-44 and were the laughing stock of the entire league. Now with real potential, they are in the midst of a real comeback and should remain in playoff contention for years to come.
- The Steelers will have multiple 1,000 yard receivers
Check this one off the list.
Before the Le’Veon Bell drama, and now the Antonio Brown drama, the Steelers were facing offseason challenges. Once Bell was ruled out for the season, the Steelers had to bank on James Connor (and eventually Jaylen Samuels) to run the ball. Connor and company filled the role well, but the offense was still dependent on Big Ben and the passing game.
Antonio Brown is an elite receiver, earning 100+ receptions and 1,000+ yards in his last six seasons–including this year with 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and a whopping 15 TDs. In making this prediction, we assumed Le’Veon Bell would play and have a solid year catching the ball as well. That went down the drain quick, and other players had to step up. Enter Juju Smith-Schuster…
He had a great rookie year, bringing in 900+ yards on just 58 receptions. This season, Schuster ran wild–earning 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and 7 TDs.
Our predictions for the NFC were a mess. Out of the six predictions made, only one was even close (Barkley rushing leader). The rest were very far off. Even for being BOLD, we hoped to do better than 1/6.
In the AFC, we were a lot closer on several predictions. I still think the AFC South was the strongest division in the conference, so I’m happy with that prediction. Additionally, the Broncos racked up 44 team sacks, which very close to the 50 prediction, the Steelers did have two different 1,000 yard receivers in Brown and Smith-Schuster, and the Patriots did level off a bit by only winning 11 games (just a little better than our prediction of 10 wins). Unfortunately for the Raiders, their season was a lose and our prediction was the same.
Let us know what you think! Leave a comment or follow us on Twitter (@OnOffField) and like us on Facebook (On & Off the Field). Want to see our individual opinions? Follow our writers personally: @m_lash13 @kweeden2020 @Z_Nelsy. As always, stay tuned for new perspective on and off the field.