We are just days away from the start of the 2019 NFL season, as the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will kick off the NFL’s 100th season on Thursday night at Soldier Field. But before the ball is put on the tee and sent flying into the South Side air, let’s spend a few moments looking at how we expect the 2019 season to unfold.
Our Pro Football Network predictions for the NFC can be found below. And if you’re looking for AFC predictions, we have you covered.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles enter 2019 with one of the most complete rosters from top to bottom. Howie Roseman has done a masterful job of roster construction, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines. Now with his franchise quarterback healthy, the Eagles seem poised to contend once again in the NFC.
The return of DeSean Jackson will provide Carson Wentz with the true deep threat that the offense has lacked. The additions to the backfield of veteran Jordan Howard and rookie Miles Sanders should help balance the offense and take some pressure off of Wentz as he returns from injury.
Defensively, the secondary will receive a boost from having a healthy Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod on the field. Meanwhile, the signing of free agent Zach Brown will help sure up a linebacker unit that struggled in 2018. If the defense can bounce back in 2019 and Wentz can stay healthy, this team will be a top contender to represent the NFC in Miami in February.
-Matt Infante, PFN Chief Editor
2. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2019 season as the defending NFC East champions and with a lot of talent and expectations. But they also have some big questions, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Namely, how long will Ezekiel Elliott hold out? And will either Dak Prescott or Amari Cooper receive new deals before the end of the season?
On the field, the Cowboys have plenty of talent up and down the roster, including one of the best offensive lines in the league. That includes the returning Travis Frederick, who missed the entire 2018 season while dealing with Guillain-Barre syndrome. And even if they don’t have Elliott to start the season, fourth-round rookie Tony Pollard has shown plenty of promise this season.
On defense, the Cowboys are led by linebacker Jaylon Smith, who has become one of the best stories in the NFL after suffering an injury in his final bowl game at Notre Dame. He was, rightfully, awarded a huge contract extension just before the season and will lead what should be a strong defensive unit. Dallas has all the makings of a team destined to make a return trip to the postseason. But expect a very tight battle with the Philadelphia Eagles for division supremacy.
-Bill Riccette, PFN NFC East & NFC South Writer
3. Washington Redskins
One of the more heated discussions in our ranking process, Washington could be up for the top pick in 2020 despite the roster at hand. Following one of the best draft classes in franchise history, there are still more question marks than answers at this point heading into the season.
All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams has still not reported to camp, and reports are he won’t be joining the team anytime soon. A smart team would move on from him and try to pick up a massive return via trade. Washington, however, still has hope he’ll return. Meanwhile, multiple offensive weapons are consistently injured and there’s no telling what is happening at the quarterback position.
While there’s hope for the future with draft picks Dwayne Haskins, Montez Sweat, and Jimmy Moreland, it’s going to be a long season in Ashburn. Expect the team to rely heavily on Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson to do most of the work. If Haskins figures it out, a six to eight-win season seems plausible. If not, five or less is probably realistic.
-Cole Thompson, PFN Lead NFL Columnist
4. New York Giants
After cleaning house in the locker room this offseason, the Giants’ season will be determined by the success of the revamped offensive line and the youth movement by the defense. If the offensive line is able to keep Eli Manning upright, look for him to push towards starting the entire year, with Daniel Jones having to sit until the 2020 season.
It remains to be seen whether the New York Giants can bring it all together on a consistent basis. Having the second-easiest strength of schedule this upcoming season should help keep them competitive in some games, but they aren’t ready to challenge the Eagles or the Cowboys for the division just yet.
-Oscar Lora, PFN NFC East Writer
NEXT: NFC NORTH