The return of Ryan Tannehill should help Miami bounce back from a lost , but the roster has seen too many changes to assume Adam Gase can get back to the playoffs after making the postseason as a first-year coach in The Dolphins feel like a middling team teetering on another rebuild. Late-season games hosting the Patriots and Jaguars, and on the road against Minnesota, could determine their season. December matchups could be a turning point for Adam Gase's Dolphins Rodak: If everything goes according to plan, they will be ready to make their patented late-season push.
But one thing that showed up in , and bears watching this year, is that the first month of the season was essentially an extension of the Patriots' preseason they were , and one could say were fortunate not to be So an overall prediction of , which is below the team's normal standard, takes that into account while also considering that five of the team's first nine games are scheduled for prime time.
A Monday night game in Buffalo on Oct. Late-season schedule has familiar look for the Patriots Reiss: Still rebuilding, the Jets are headed to their third consecutive losing season and eighth consecutive year out of the playoffs.
On paper, they have one of the easiest schedules, which should allow them to hang around until December. In other words, when do they start playing for ? Jets' schedule highlighted by Monday night opener in Motown Cimini: Whether Baltimore can end a three-year playoff drought depends on how the Ravens handle one of the toughest road schedules in the league. The Ravens' out-of-conference opponents were With a healthy Joe Flacco and a stronger supporting cast around him, the Ravens will dominate at home and pull off a couple of upsets on the road to stay in the postseason hunt.
Like the past two seasons, Baltimore's playoff fate will be decided in the final two weeks of the season. Ravens away from home for four of first six games Hensley: Game-by-game predictions Cincinnati Bengals Full schedule Predicted record: Although the Bengals have the third-easiest schedule based on opponents' wins from last year, they still have to face five teams that participated in the playoffs.
That's a tough task while breaking in two new permanent coordinators and figuring out how to improve the league's worst offense. While the trade for left tackle Cordy Glenn brought some promise, losing linebacker Vontaze Burfict to suspension hurts with three of their first four games on the road.
Bengals' schedule starts tough with Vontaze Burfict out Terrell: Game-by-game predictions Cleveland Browns Full schedule Predicted record: Not even the Browns can step backward after a winless season. But with a legitimate veteran quarterback, improved receivers and more talent throughout the roster, the Browns will win their share of games. It won't be enough to compete for a playoff spot, but it will be enough to set up future seasons.
Browns face tough early test to snap losing ways McManamon: Game-by-game predictions Pittsburgh Steelers Full schedule Predicted record: The Steelers' roster is loaded enough to compete with any team and is poised for a playoff push once again. But a leaky defense from late last season faces six teams coming off a playoff berth. Steelers' schedule packed with prime-time games and mileage Fowler: If the Texans can avoid the injury bug that plagued them last year, they will be among the most talented teams in football.
With the return of J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus and the additions of safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Aaron Colvin , the defense is poised to bounce back, while a healthy Deshaun Watson could make the offense one of the NFL's best if he can pick up where he left off last season. There will be great competition in the AFC South with Jacksonville and Tennessee, but this Texans team should be able to compete when healthy.
Texans have tough start on road vs. Game-by-game predictions Indianapolis Colts Full schedule Predicted record: So much of Indianapolis' success in will hinge on Andrew Luck's availability. As they go through their rebuilding process, they'll be competitive every week if Luck can regain the form he had prior to injuring his shoulder in They'll have fewer than seven victories if Luck continues to have shoulder -- or any other health -- problems.
Game-by-game predictions Jacksonville Jaguars Full schedule Predicted record: The Jaguars have seven games against teams that made the playoffs last season Tennessee twice but the schedule still ranks as the sixth easiest based on last season's win percentages. The offense, which finished fifth in scoring and sixth in yards per game last season, should be better with the addition of LG Andrew Norwell and the development of young receivers Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole.
The second-ranked defense returns 12 of its top 14 players from last season. Jaguars' schedule features two tough stretches DiRocco: Game-by-game predictions Tennessee Titans Full schedule Predicted record: The numbers say the Titans have one of the easiest schedules and the NFL did them a few favors with only one road back-to-back, a bye after their London trip and ending the season with two home games against non-playoff teams.
First-year head coach Mike Vrabel will preach to his team the value of "managing expectations," but they have the roster, national attention three prime-time games and schedule path to return to, at a minimum, the playoffs. Titans get prime-time respect, but it comes with added pressure Wolfe: The Broncos had quarterback Case Keenum as their marquee signing in free agency to help rescue them from last season's finish.
Their roster, at least pre-draft, still looks a little too thin in spots to compete in the AFC West race. But, history says the Broncos should get back to at least.
They haven't finished back-to-back seasons with losing records since Broncos have smaller prime-time spotlight in schedule Legwold: The trick for the Chiefs will be to keep their heads above water over the season's first six games.
During that stretch, they'll play four road games, with the Chargers, Steelers and Patriots among those opponents. If the Chiefs survive that stretch, things get easier and they could win at least 10 games for the fourth consecutive season. Roughest portion of Chiefs' schedule is at the start Teicher: The Chargers finished last season winning nine of their last 12 games after a start, and have the ninth-easiest strength of schedule in the NFL to start the regular season at.
Playoff teams will provide early test for Chargers Williams: Game-by-game predictions Oakland Raiders Full schedule Predicted record: The schedule-makers did Jon Gruden 2.
Getting to the bye at would be an accomplishment given four of their first six games are away from Oakland, including a Week 6 tilt in London against the Seahawks. The slate evens out a bit for Oakland, which is tied for the fourth-easiest strength of schedule in the NFL, before a tough finish with two of the last three on the road, and in cold weather cities Cincinnati and Kansas City. A year after playing a franchise record five prime-time games, the Raiders are under the lights four times in Jon Gruden, Raiders to be tested early Gutierrez: Record predictions, analysis for all 32 teams d ESPN.
Week 2 takeaways for every team: Concern for Eagles, Steelers? Let's overreact to Week 2 in the NFL: Mahomes will break records Cincinnati Bengals. Roughing passer flags 'out of control' Green Bay Packers. Cowboys' Prescott rises to 'challenge' vs. Wilks hints at changes after Cardinals shut out Arizona Cardinals. Packers find it 'hard to play defense now' with QB roughing calls 55m Rob Demovsky. Eli Manning, offensive line make Giants' weapons obsolete 9h Jordan Raanan.
Colts hang on as Andrew Luck earns first victory since season 9h Mike Wells. Sam Darnold's Broadway debut: Some promise, too many mistakes 16h Rich Cimini. Packers have to show they can win with a gimpy Aaron Rodgers 16h Rob Demovsky. Saints avoid disaster with first victory, keep Browns waiting 16h Mike Triplett. Rams lose kicker Zuerlein to injury before game Los Angeles Rams. Lions' Slay out with concussion; Blount ejected Detroit Lions. Falcons' Kazee ejected for head hit on Newton Atlanta Falcons.
Gore passes Martin for fourth on rushing list Miami Dolphins. And hopefully for the Browns, that one road win will turn into two, and two will turn into…. The Chiefs have made it to the playoffs the past three years playing in what has been, over that span, the most competitive division in football. The steadiness of Alex Smith, the coaching of Andy Reid and a stout defense have been the reason. The defense will hardly be recognizable from last year.
The outcome of this game could decide the AFC West. Considering how weak the AFC is, 10 wins should get you into the playoffs, and a victory here will help the Chiefs secure at least one game at Arrowhead. After two down years, this team crawled out of the AFC West cellar to finish second last year with little contribution from their rookies.
Now Mike Williams and Forrest Lamp enter Year 2 with rookie safety Derwin James—possibly the best value pick of the first round—bolstering a defensive backfield that already has Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett.
Losing tight end Hunter Henry to an ACL tear hurts, but the Chargers have three months to figure out a position that was a given for so long thanks to Antonio Gates. The Chargers played a lot of home games last year that felt like road games in the 30,seat StubHub Center.
This will be the second home game of for Los Angeles, and it comes against the resurgent Bay Area club with the popular young quarterback. On top of that, the Raiders basically got a new secondary, new No.
How will Oakland and its coaching staff respond after a week off following what I suspect to be early-season success based largely on the schedule? Also telling was Denver getting just one road win, against the hapless Colts in Week The former Broncos defensive coordinator returns to Denver, where he helped craft the Super Bowl-winning defense three seasons ago.
This game will be the best test for both sides of the ball in Denver. The Jaguars defense is not to be trifled with. On offense, Jacksonville signed guard Andrew Norwell at the start of free agency to bolster an already strong line. The rematch, slated for the second week of the season, will be a tone-setter for the Jags. Deshaun Watson is better than those three combined. DeAndre Hopkins has come into his own after another stellar season got him the deserved recognition of the All-Pro team.
And the worst scoring defense in the NFL gets the best pass rusher in the game back while also adding Tyrann Mathieu, on a one-year bet-on-himself deal, to the secondary. These teams split the series last year, but the one game in which Watson played really tells the story. The Texans won and Watson led the franchise to its highest scoring output ever. The way I see it below , the Titans will very much be in the hunt in Week 12, so this division contest is a crucial one for Houston.
Derrick Henry has control of the running game. The offensive line is solid. Tennessee had great offseason pickups with Malcolm Butler in free agency and Rashaan Evans in the draft.
But I like Jacksonville and Houston more in the division and Marcus Mariota throwing 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions in his third season is concerning. A slight step back for Tennessee feels like the call here. These teams also meet in Week 3, so really you can take your pick.
Tennessee impressively topped the Jags twice last season on its way to a division record. As noted above, I think the AFC South will come down to the wire, so a win here for the Titans will very likely prove this prediction wrong. This prediction, which mirrors the results for Indianapolis, is solely rooted in the uncertainty around Andrew Luck.
This should be the first time since Jan. If Luck is not ready by Week 1 as he should be, further doubt should be cast on this season. No team—not the Packers or the Patriots or the Saints—has a better quarterback situation than Philadelphia.
The Eagles will be coming off their Week 9 bye, so a strong performance against a rival is needed to kick off the second half of the season.
Yes, Dak Prescott took a small step back in his sophomore campaign, but he still put together four game-winning drives last season. Ezekiel Elliott should play the whole slate rather than sitting out six games when the Cowboys went without him.
And Leighton Vander Esch will fit perfectly with the Cowboys. Dallas will be coming off that huge Week 10 tilt with the Eagles and heading to Atlanta to face a Falcons team that crushed them by 20 points last year while Elliott was out. The winner of this head-to-head will greatly improve its odds of getting a wild card.
Like the Cowboys, the Giants have one glaring hole. The only way to beat Drew Brees is to hit him consistently. Obviously that should be a challenge for this Giants defense. This also kicks off a four-game stretch for the Giants against playoff teams. And finally, we get treated to Beckham vs. Kirk Cousins pulled off a miracle last year that is rarely discussed. His banged-up offensive line got him sacked 41 times.
His best pass-catcher missed most of the season with a hamstring injury. The defense was 27th in scoring was the worst in the league against the run. And somehow Cousins led Washington to a record.
Washington needs more than that. The Vikings are about as well-built as any team in the league. Their top-ranked defense from a year ago got even better in the offseason with the addition of Sheldon Richardson and rookie corner Mike Hughes. Following a career year from Case Keenum, the offense got a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who could get them over the hump, and Minnesota returns running back Dalvin Cook from an early-season ACL tear after he dazzled in his debut.
The interior of the offensive line may be the only question in Minnesota, which is looking for its third NFC North crown in four years. This is the sort of early game that eventually decides a division. As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the Packers will reach the playoffs. The Packers finally have a legitimate No. Adding Mo Wilkerson to the defensive line and strengthening the defensive backfield in the draft gets the Pack back in postseason play.
Brady and Rodgers have met on the field just once before, and a week for the quarterbacks and their head coaches to scheme against one another could be a multipart docuseries on HBO. This could be the best game of the regular season. Matt Stafford has played a high level the past two seasons, the receiving group has gotten better and the 27th-ranked defense from a year ago should improve immediately under the former Pats defensive coordinator. But the Lions are clearly the third-best team in this tough division.
The schedule makers pitted the Lions against the Vikings in Weeks 7 and 9, so Detroit has to show mental toughness against a Seahawks team that may be down this year. The outcome of this game will show how focused the Lions are. The Bears got better at crucial positions they had to get better at this offseason. The offensive line took a big hit losing guard Josh Sitton and the defense, while improved with Roquan Smith at linebacker, still needs to find a pass rush. It may take one more year for this group to gel.
After a difficult home game against the Pats, the Bears have a soft middle-season schedule during which they host the Jets, travel to Buffalo and host the Lions in consecutive weeks. The rich got richer this offseason, and the Rams look to be completely unfair. Ndamukong Suh is now on a defensive line beside Aaron Donald. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are in the same secondary. Brandin Cooks adds speed to the offense.
The Rams are building a monster, and their youthful wild-card exit last year will only fuel this campaign. No game on paper is as exciting as this one. Both squads have surrounded their third-year quarterbacks with veterans acquired through various trades and deft free-agency moves. No team that missed the playoffs last year should feel as good about its odds in as the 49ers. They went with Jimmy G, with three wins against playoff-bound teams. Talk about a statement game to open the season.
The Seahawks as we knew them are no more, and we should all mourn that. Once built with smart draft picks, the Seahawks had to go out in free agency this offseason to get parts such as Jaron Brown, Brandon Marshall and Maurice Alexander.
The Legion of Boom is gone, taking the identity of this team and its juice with it. Plenty of storylines in this one. Jon Gruden gets to go against a quarterback he gushed about for years on Monday Night Football. Marshawn Lynch faces his former squad. All this and more in a West Coast tilt between teams looking for their footing. The Cardinals are going to have to find themselves in the desert this year. I believe first-year head coach Steve Wilks will soon have success in Arizona, but not this season.
The quarterback situation with veteran Sam Bradford and future-of-the-franchise Josh Rosen will be a difficult one to navigate for the defensive-minded first-time head coach.
There was a great deal of roster turnover this offseason for a team looking for a new identity.