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The 2018 NFL season begins THURSDAY *AIR HORN*. Atlanta travels to Philly on ring night in a perfect kick-off to the year. Given all the off-season transactions, this looks to be the most competitive season in some time (at least on the NFC side). Prognostication season is here and that means its time to make some BOLD picks.

Sure, some of these are a bit chalky but others might lead you to believe I huff air duster. Either way, it is inevitable that I look dumb by Thanksgiving if not a lot sooner. So without further ado, here are some bold predictions for the 2018 season.

First Coach Fired

Dirk Koetter

Two years ago, Koetter was kept on over head coach Lovie Smith because they wanted a guy who could unlock then rookie QB Jameis Winston. That hasn’t happened, and not only has Jameis not looked like a franchise guy on the field but has looked even worse off of it.

He’s suspended for the first four games because of some abhorrent behavior which looks even worse given his behavior in college. Winston hasn’t eaten enough W’s to warrant the Bucs looking the other way after this year. The defense has gotten worse each year and the offense has sputtered.

Koetter should’ve been let go last year and given their brutal early schedule he might not make it by the time Jameis returns unless back up QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can steal a game or two. Not quite a bold pick but most probably think it’ll be Browns coach Hue Jackson.

Coach of the Year

Matt Nagy

If Nagy can turn second-year QB Mitch Trubisky into the 2018 Jared Goff then the Bears can make the playoffs. They have a cupcake schedule and if they split with either the Packers or Bears then they’re definitely a wild card team.

Defensively they’ll be a force now that they have Khalil Mack. They loaded up on offensive free agents including wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, along with tight end Trey Burton so the offense can finally put some points on the board. Coach of the Year usually goes to a guy who takes a team from worst to first and Nagy seems like a prime candidate.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Bradley Chubb

Chubb going to Denver was incredible. Pairing him and Von Miller and the rest of that pass rush is almost unfair. Chubb should feast especially when they play the Raiders. Not a bold pick but unless something catastrophic happens, Chubb is a lock.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Sam Darnold

The USC product isn’t quite a bold pick given the “Savior Sam” hype but the chalk pick is Giants running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley will be amazing but if Darnold plays well and the Jets compete for a wild card spot, the New York media won’t be able to help themselves.

The 2019 Draft Order (Top 5)

1. Buffalo Bills

The Bills were supposed to pack it in last year but they overachieved and made the playoffs. This is the rebuilding year.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For all the reasons listed in Koetter getting fired first. This team will be a train wreck

3. Miami Dolphins

They’ve cleared out a lot of the “bad culture” guys, most notably Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry. Head coach Adam Gase likely survives so he can develop his own guy after the Ryan Tannehill era comes to a screeching halt.

4. Oakland Raiders

Jon Gruden is looking to tank because he wants more “Gruden Grinders” as the team begins its transition from the bay to Sin City. There will be more purging over the next few years and its likely QB David Carr and WR Amari Cooper will be the only stars left.

5. Dallas Cowboys

Their line is battered and bruised, they have no receivers, and Jerry Jones missed the boat on taking advantage of Dak’s dirt cheap contract. Ezekiel Elliott (more on him later) could still have a monster year but the rest of the offense will sputter. The defense could keep them out of the bottom five but it’s not likely. Jason Garrett somehow gets a pass because of the injuries.

The Cardinals, Browns, Lions, Ravens, and Colts round out the top ten.

Most Disappointing Team

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners were the SEXY pick coming into the year. Jimmy Garoppolo comes into it with a ton of hype and they made splashy signings including running back Jerick McKinnon (now out with a torn ACL) and corner Richard Sherman (coming off a torn Achilles).

San Fran has a decent receiving corps but their defense needs work and that’s assuming Sherman can return to form. They’ll likely go 7-9. Other contenders will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who don’t have any weapons outside of running back Leonard Fournette who should have a great year and the Carolina Panthers whose offensive line will be a problem all year.

Most Rushing Yards

Ezekiel Elliott

Zeke is primed for a gigantic year. Sure, his line is hobbled but he will be responsible for the bulk of the points and yards because of how anemic the passing game is. He’ll have a Steven Jackson mid 2000’s style season where the numbers are great even though the team is not. The only difference is Zeke won’t be doing it in complete anonymity because the Cowboys have a lot of prime time games. Le’Veon Bell is lurking but he might not play Sunday so he’ll be behind.

Most Passing Yards

Drew Brees

If Brees retires tomorrow his Hall of Fame resume is unassailable. He has a ring (for the Saints no less), he’s top three in both passing yards and touchdowns. He’s still got two years left on his deal and this team is primed for another Super Bowl run.

He can pass both Brett Favre and Peyton Manning in passing yards this season and if he really lights it up could pass Favre and Manning in touchdowns too. That’s more of a long shot but passing yards is pretty much inevitable.

Most Passing Touchdowns

Aaron Rodgers

If Rodgers stays healthy, the Packers offense will once again be a juggernaut.

Most Rushing Touchdowns

Leonard Fournette

As stated earlier, the Jags will struggle to throw so this he will be their only reliable source for points.

Most Receiving Yards

Emmanuel Sanders

Yes, that’s right, Emmanuel Sanders. New Broncos QB Case Keenum will lean on him ALOT.

Most Receiving Touchdowns

Odell Beckham Jr

OBJ is back from injury and he should light it up despite the Giants offense being on shaky ground. Barkley will make it easier for Eli Manning to throw and Beckham should shred defenses up all year especially given their schedule.

 Defensive Player of the Year

Joey Bosa of the Chargers. Yes, Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and Von Miller are all obvious picks but Bosa could have a real coming out party this season. The Chargers defense (barring anymore injuries) will be one of the best units in the league and Bosa will be the leader upfront.

Comeback Player of the Year

It has to be Aaron Rodgers right? Although in the interest of being bold, if it isn’t Rodgers or even Andrew Luck, the pick is David Johnson of the Cardinals.

Off the Field Surprise of the Year

Former head coach Bruce Arians is the 2018 Tony Romo and kills it in the booth. Arians retired from the league and thus won’t be worried about burning any bridges so he can be honest. He was already a fairly candid guy as a coach so he should be a lot of fun.

Biggest Fantasy Bust

DeAndre Hopkins / Deshaun Watson

Both are amazing players but the Texans offensive line is atrocious and that will greatly hinder the offense. Not only that but Watson is coming off a torn ACL and it isn’t clear just how ‘back’ he is.

Most Unlikely Fantasy MVP

Jordan Howard / Tarik Cohen

Either one of these two could unexpectedly swing a ton of leagues this year. Cohen could be a Tyreek Hill type of game breaker and Howard could have a Todd Gurleystyle (though not as great) bounce-back year now that he’s operating under a real offense. How’s that for bold?

AFC Playoff Seedings

1. New England Patriots

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Tennessee Titans

4. Kansas City Chiefs

5. Cincinnati Bengals

6. New York Jets

NFC Playoff Seedings

1. Los Angeles Rams

2. New Orleans Saints

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Philadelphia Eagles

5. Green Bay Packers

6. Atlanta Falcons

AFC Championship

Chiefs vs Steelers

NFC Championship

Saints vs Rams

Super Bowl

Saints vs Steelers

Super Bowl Champion

New Orleans Saints

League and Super Bowl MVP

Drew Brees

So, there are my bold picks for the upcoming season. I can’t wait to be gloriously wrong on a lot of these and to hear about it from all of you. Either way, football is BACK BABY!

Sports Al Dente 2019

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