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NFL Preview: Which teams have what it takes to win it all?

What team has what it takes to win the Lombardi Trophy?

Article written by:  James Watkins, Jr. 

Here’s a preview of NFL’s best and most talented teams with the greatest opportunity to capture the coveted Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy.  Let’s analyze and evaluate which NFL teams have the best chance to attain 1st place and Wild Card positions in their respective AFC/NFC Divisional races during the 2019 NFL season.  NFL Team strengths & weaknesses will be evaluated, including the Quarterback position, Defensive Unit, Wide Receiver Corps, and Defensive Backfields.

NFL/AFC (PREVIEW of 2019 NFL SEASON)

AFC/EAST DIVISION

The New England Patriots will continue to dominate the Eastern Division of the AFC.  Even with the loss of Tight End Rob Gronkowski due to retirement, the Patriots will remain supreme while taking 1st place in the AFC East.  Quarterback Tom Brady continues to perform at a high level displayed by winning his 6th Super Bowl ring.    

Super Bowl MVP WR Julian Edelman (74 Receptions last year) will be Brady’s primary target again this season.   The Patriots hope this year’s first draft pick WR N’Keal Harry, 6′ 3″/218 from Arizona State will make an immediate impact in the receiving corp.  Harry is a strong Wideout who excels at running after the catch and he has the ability to beat double-team coverage as shown in College.  He’ll be a crucial red zone target because of his size and strong hands.  Wide Receiver Phillip Dorsett has yet to live up to his potential.  Patriots may need additional Receiving help to sustain a potent Offense.  The Patriots signed WR Antonio Brown to a one year deal after being released by the Oakland Raiders.  The Patriots offense just received a major boost in scoring firepower with the acquisition of Wideout Antonio Brown.  Brown should start along with Julian Edelman as the primary Receivers.  The Patriots offense scored 27 points a game last year.  Third Round draftee RB Damien Harris, 5′ 10″/216 from Alabama will provide Running Back depth to starting RB’s Sony Michel and veteran James White.

The Defensive Line is anchored by DE Michael Bennett, acquired in a trade from the Philadelphia Eagles, and DT Lawrence Guy who is good at stopping the run.  The Linebacker corp is solid with MLB Dont’a HightowerOLB Kyle Van Noy, and OLB Elandon Roberts who formulate a talented, formidable unit that is good in pass coverage and stopping the run.  This unit should only get better, especially with the emergence of 2nd year Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley from Purdue who’s recovering from an injury.  The Defensive Backfield is a good group with CB’s Jason McCourty and All Pro Stephon Gilmore, who are complemented by Safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung.  Depth is provided by versatile Safety Duron Harmon and CB Jonathan Jones who plays in Nickel Corner sub-packages.  This talented defense only gave up 20 points a game in 2018, ranking 7th in the entire NFL.

AFC/SOUTH DIVISION

The Houston Texans should win the AFC/South Division first place now that Colts’ QB Andrew Luck has decided to suddenly retire, while creating an unexpected shock wave throughout the NFL.  Last year, Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson passed for (4,165 Passing Yards/26 TD’s), to complement the production of Wide ReceiverDeAndre Hopkins (115 receptions/1,572 yards).  Watson and WR Hopkins are the leaders on offense and the main impetus why the Texans’ offense can be so explosive.  The offense averaged 25 points per game last year.  The Texans need a dependable #2 Wideout to complement Hopkins’ All Pro production.  Will Fuller is their #2 Receiver who has tremendous speed, but cannot stay healthy.  This off-season, the Texans were searching for another Receiver through a trade to provide more production from the Wide Receiver unit as a group.  RB Lamar Miller had an impressive year running the football for (973 yards/4.6 ypc) last year.

The Texans Defense is led by perennial All-Pro DE J. J. Watt (16 sacks) and a dependable Linebacker group.  Outside Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney was traded to the Seattle Seahawks.  Last year, LB Clowney contributed 9 sacks.  His defensive loss, and his ability to create disruption and dominance against an opponent’s offense, will have an adverse effect on the Texans defense to get after the Quarterback.  In return for Clowney, the Texans acquired OLB Barkevious Mingo and DE Jacob Martin from the Seahawks. Defensive Tackle D. J. Reader provides an excellent run-stopping force, coupled with Inside Linebackers Benardrick McKinney, first time Pro Bowler, while Zach Cunningham provides very good pass coverage against Backs and Tight Ends.  The Defensive Backfield is led by Cornerback Bradley Roby and Strong Safety Tashaun Gipson who plays well in pass coverage.  Rookie CB Lonnie Johnson, 6′ 2″/213 from Kentucky, will provide depth and additional speed 40/4.39 (Pro Day) in the Defensive Backfield.  The Defense only allowed 19.8 points per game last year to rank them 4th in the NFL.  The Texans have the Defense to remain a playoff contender with success, however, more scoring production from the Wide Receivers’ corp will greatly make them an even more serious playoff contender and catapult them to 1st place in the AFC South Division standings.

AFC/SOUTH DIVISION/WILD CARD TEAM

Jacksonville Jaguars could climb back into the playoffs with the addition of former Eagles Super Bowl winning QB Nick Foles.  Foles has a reputation as a valued teammate and excellent leader.  However, QB Foles suffered an injury to his clavicle in week one of the 2019 regular season.Rookie QB Gardner Minshew, 6’1″/225 from Washington State, has shown a quick release and surprising accuracy during pre-season games.  Rookie QB Gardner Minshew could be a fantasy sleeper and will be the starter while QB Foles recovers from his shoulder injury.  QB Minshew will have speed at the Wide Receiver position with Dede Westbrook (66 receptions/717 Yards) and 2nd year Receiver D. J. Chark, who both possess 4.3/40 speed.  D. J. Chark had an injury during the 2018 season, but the team expects him to recover fully, and improve his Receiver skills to support his high draft selection of a year ago.  Running Back Leonard Fournette, 439 total rushing yards last year, missed 7 games due to injuries in 2018, but the Jags are hoping for his complete recovery.
The Jaguars Offensive unit needs to produce more scoring points during this season to become a serious Wildcard Playoff contender.  The offense only managed 15.3 points a game last season.  That’s inadequate for an offensive unit to become a serious Playoff contender, even for the Wild Card winner.  The offensive unit will need to provide more points through the air, utilizing Receivers Dede Westbrook and an improved 2nd year Receiver D. J. Chark.  Rookie QB Gardner Minshew will have to produce points by passing to his receivers until QB Foles returns from his injury, since he will miss approximately six weeks of the regular season.  Running Back Fournette will have to remain healthy throughout the upcoming season and produce another 1,000 yard rushing season and scoring production to match his 2017 season.

The Jaguars Defensive Line is anchored by All Pro DE Calais Campbell who had 10.5 sacks in 2018, coupled with teammate DE Yannick Ngakoue, who has averaged almost 10 sacks a season over the last 3 years.  First round Draft pick DE Josh Allen, 6′ 5″/262 from Kentucky will provide Defensive Line depth and defensive scheme advantages, while providing disruption as an Edge Rusher.  Allen has been impressive in Pre-Season games with the potential and upside of becoming a dominant Sack defender and a Tackle for Loss force on the DL.  The Linebacker corp is led by MLB Myles Jack, team leading tackler with 107, while disgrunted OLB Telvin Smith hasn’t played up to his potential, leaving a question mark about his future with the team.  Recent trade acquisition ofOLB Jake Ryan may provide some encouragement about the condition of Linebacking corp.  If OLB Telvin Smith’s future remains unresolved into Regular Season play, Injured Reserve OLB Leon Jacobs may provide Linebacker help.  The emergence of Rookie Outside Linebacker Quincy Williams, 5′ 11″/225 from Murray State could help him secure an OLB spot during Training Camp and Pre Season.  Defensive Backfield is held down by two of NFL best Cover Corners Jalen Ramseyand CB teammate A. J. Bouye.  The Strong Safety leader is manned by physical and hard-hitting Ronnie Harrison.  The Defensive unit only allowed 19.8 points a game last season for an NFL 4th ranking.  

This team’s success is predicated upon QB Nick Foles ability to successfully recover from his shoulder injury, in conjunction with Rookie QB Gardner Minshew’s ability to help his offense and receivers score enough points to stay competitive while securing a Wild Card position in the Playoffs.   Second year Wideout D. J. Chark needs to further develop his Receiving skills to become a receiving threat with the ability to get open and score touchdowns.

AFC/NORTH DIVISION

The Cleveland Browns will win the AFC North Division under the leadership of QB Baker Mayfield and the tenacity of DE Myles Garrett who had 13.5 Sacks during the 2018 season.  The Browns have an excellent Receiving Corp in ODell Beckham, Jr., coupled with Jarvis Landry (81 rec./976 yds) and Antonio Callaway (43 Rec./586 yds)  The Wide Receiver group will continue to develop into an even better unit in 2019.  Running Back Nick Chubb ran for 996 Yards/5.2 Ypc last year.  The Offensive unit scored 22.4 points per game last year for an NFL rank of 20.  The Browns need to improve their offensive scoring production for the Browns to become a more serious Playoff contender.Myles Garrett leads the Defensive Line unit coupled with DT Sheldon Richardsonwho’s an excellent run-stuffer with the ability to bottle-up Blockers for greater Linebacker play.  DE Garrett will become an even greater Sack defender who’s disruptive with ability to make tackles for loss.  The Linebacker unit is led by MLB Joe Shobert, a former Pro Bowler.  OLB Christian Kirksey, formerTeam Captain, displays dominance with the ability to rack up over 120 tackles.  He must remain healthy.  The Browns drafted Rookie Alabama MLB Mack Wilson 6′ 1″/233, who will provide depth at the Linebacker position.  They also drafted Rookie LSU Cornerback Greedy Williams 6′ 2″/185, who many NFL Scouts believe will develop into an NFL shutdown Defensive Back.  The Defensive unit gave up 24.5 points a game in 2018, while the Offense only scored 22 points a game.  The Browns will have to score at least 28 points a game to become the team who has the greater opportunity to win the most games in the AFC/North.

The Defensive Backfield is led by formerOhio State Cornerback Denzel Ward who will continue to develop into one of NFL’s better shutdown Corners.  Rookie CB Greedy Williams from LSU, 6′ 2″185 should become the other starting Cornerback.  CB Williams has been impressive in Training Camp.  The Browns were surprised that CB Greedy Williams was still on the board when they drafted him in Round 2.  Williams excels playing Man/Press pass coverage, especially against the deeper patterns.  Free Safety Damarious Randall is the defensive backfield field general who manages the defensive back formations, in conjunction with Strong Safety Morgan Burnett.  Safeties Randall and Burnett will be the veteran presence necessary to foster the development of young, inexperienced CB’s Ward and Williams.

AFC/NORTH DIVISION/WILD CARD TEAM

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not the same talented and powerful football team who dominated many NFL teams for several years.  The Steelers lost All Pro Wide Receiver Antonio Brown who was first traded to the Oakland Raiders and then signed by the Patriots.  RB Le’veon Bell signed with the Jets.  QB Ben Roethlisberger is the Steelers’ venerable leader who enters his 16th season. Roethlisberger threw for 5,000 Yards and 34 touchdowns, both career highs last year.  Big Ben has Wide Receiver’s JuJu Smith-Schuster (111 Recs./1,426 Yds.) and James Washington who will likely become the #2 Wideout.  Recently acquiredWR Donte Moncrief and second year Receiver James Washington will pick up the catch production negated by Antonio Brown’s departure.  Pro BowlerRB James Conner will again carry the bulk of the running workload.  The offense averaged26.8 points a game to rank 6th in NFL scoring.  WR Antonio Brown was released by the Oakland Raiders during the first week of the 2019 regular season, and then WR Brown signed with the New England Patriots for a 1 year deal.

The Defensive Line is led by 2-timePro Bowl DE Cameron Heyward (20 Sacks in 2 yrs.) and Nose Tackle Javon Hargrave (6.5 Sacks/2018).  The Linebacker corp is headed by sack leader T. J. Watt (13 sacks 2018) and OLB Bud Dupree.  Steelers expect Michigan Rookie Devin Bush, 5′ 11″/234 to crack the starting lineup while having an impact as a disrupting force in the 3-4 middle.  Rookies OLB Sutton Smith, 6’/233 Northern Illinois and ILB Ulysees Gilbert, 6′ /230 from Akron will provide Linebacker depth.  The Defensive Backfield will be led by veteran Cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steve Nelson.  Versatile Free Safety Sean Davis is the most experienced Safety on the team.  The Defensive Unit gave up 22.5 points a game for a 16 NFL rank.  The continued development of a primarily young defensive unit into a traditional dominant Steelers Defensive unit will determine if the Steelers will settle for the Wild Card Winner, or become the AFC/North Division winner.

AFC/WEST DIVISION

The Kansas City Chiefs will once again show the NFL teams how prolific they are offensively.  The Chiefs averaged 35 points a game to place them 1st in scoring among all NFL teams.  The Chiefs follow the leadership of rocket-arm QB Patrick Mahomes who threw for 5,097 Yds/50 TD’s.  Mahomes throws to Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins (40 Rec/519 Yds), and Tight End Travis Kelce (103 Rec/1,336 Yds), arguably the best Tight End in the NFL.  The Chiefs expect GeorgiaRookie WR Mecole Hardman, 5′ 10″/187, 4.33/40 Combine speed to provide the deep speed Mahomes’ needs to complement his longer throws downfield.  RB Damien Williams will be the starter and primary ball carrier.  The offense  should continue to average 35 points a game during the 2019 season.The defensive front leaders are DT Chris Jones (15.5 sacks last year) coupled with run-stuffers DT Derrick Nnadi and DE Alex Okafor.  DT Jones is the most dominant and disruptive Defensive Lineman on the team.  The Linebacker corp is led by OLB Anthony Hitchens (135 total tackles last year) and injured MLB Reggie Ragland (86 total tackles).  The secondary is protected by newly acquired Cornerback Bashaud Breeland (avg. 15 Passes defended over 4 years) and CB Kendall Fuller.  Strong Safety Tyrann Mathieu will replace cut Eric Berry who was leader of the team and defense.  Rookie Safety Juan Thornhill, 6’/205 from Virginia and Armani Watts will compete for the Free Safety position.  The Chiefs secondary will be a work in progress this year because of all the recent changes and additions to the Defensive Backfield.  The secondary may be the Chiefs weakest group on the defense.  The defense gave up 26.3 points a game last year, ranking them 24th in the NFL.  Mahomes and the offense will have to carry this team again on its back throughout the season and into the Playoffs.  In today’s NFL, you need very good Defensive Secondary performances by Corners and Safeties to make it to the Super Bowl.  Coach Andy Reid doesn’t have enough shutdown pass coverage talent on his team to win a Super Bowl.

NFL/NFCNFC/EAST DIVISION

The Philadelphia Eagles have the Offensive firepower to win the NFC/East Division.  The Eagles are led by strong-armed QB Carson Wentz who has experienced a series of injuries over the last two seasons which have prevented him from performing and completing full seasons.  Wentz must remain healthy for the Eagles to have an opportunity to make and advance deep into the Playoffs.  The Eagles believe they are the front-runner for another playoff run and Super Bowl appearance.  Wentz’ primary targets areTight End Zach Ertz (116 catches/NFL Record) and Receivers Alshon Jeffery (65 Rec/843 Yds) and Slot Receiver Nelson Agholor (64 Rec/736 Yds).  Trade acquisition of WR DeSean Jackson from Tampa Bucs will provide the vertical, deep threat that Wentz needs to improve the team’s scoring opportunities.   The Running Back load will be carried out by RB Jordan Howard and Rookie RB Miles Sanders, 5′ 11″/211 from Penn State.  Rookie WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside, 6′ 2″/225 from Stanford will provide a red zone threat and Receiver depth.  The Offense scored an average of 22.9 points a game last year for an NFL rank of 18th.            

The Defensive Line leader is DT Fletcher Cox (10.5 Sacks), who will be joined by newly acquired DT Malik Jackson from the Jaguars.  Defensive Tackles Cox and Jackson will create one of the NFL’s best Defensive Tackle tandems.  DE Brandon Graham (40 QB pressures/hits in 2018) is another veteran, emotional leader of the Defensive Line.  The Linebacker group is led by MLB Nigel Bradham who may be the Eagles best Linebacker.  The Eagles signed Free Agent OLB Zach Brown (114 tackles for Redskins/2018) who will hold down one of the Outside LB positions, giving the Eagles a Linebacker with good pass coverage skills.  MLB Jordan Hicks will be missed, although he was often injured and could not stay healthy and remain on the field.  The secondary leader is Free Safety Malcolm Jenkins (97 tackles/2018) who is a playmaker always around the ball.  This is a Defensive Back unit which has experienced an inordinate amount of season-ending injuries.  The defensive back unit must remain healthy for the Eagles to have great success in the regular season and Playoffs.  

The Eagles projected starters atCornerback will be Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby which is predicated upon the health and injury-rehab success of these two starting Corners.  If one or both of these Corners is not recovered from injury, the starting Corners will most likely be Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox.  Highly rated Cornerback Sidney Jones must prove himself as a talented, dependable Coverage defender, either at the Slot Corner position, or beat out one of the projected Corners for a starting outside CB position.  The Defensive team allowed 21.8 points a game last year.  Eagles have weaknesses at the Linebacker and Defensive Backfield positions which need to be improved for the Eagles to be considered an authentic Super Bowl team.  The Eagles Offense needs to average 28 points a game for greater regular season and Playoff success.  The Eagles have experienced an inordinate amount of injuries, especially at the very important Corner and Safety positions.  If their Defensive Backs are healthy for the 2019 season, their chances for playoff success are significantly greater.

NFC/EAST DIVISION/WILD CARD TEAM

The Dallas Cowboys will represent the NFC as one of the Wild Card contenders.  The Cowboys are engineered by QB Dak Prescott who passed for (3,885 yds/22tds) last season.   Prescott hands the ball off to RB Ezekiel Elliott, who racked up (1,434 yds/4.7 ypc).  Rookie Tony Pollard, 6’/210, (4.3/40 Pro Day) from Memphis will backup Elliott, and provide additional speed as a kick returner and receiver out of backfield.  Pollard has been very impressive in Training Camp and during Pre-Season games.   QB Prescott is complemented by Receivers Amari Cooper (53 Rec./725 yds) and #2 Wideout Michael Gallup (33 Rec./507 yds).  Receiver Randall Cobb from Green Baywas signed to replace departed Slot Receiver Cole Beasley.  The Offensive unit only averaged 21 points a game last season, ranking them 22nd in NFL.  The Cowboys’ offensive goal should be targeted to score 28-30 points a game. 

The Defensive Line is led by DE Demarcus Lawrence (10.5 Sacks/2018) and DE Robert Quinn (6.5 Sacks/2 Forced Fumbles) acquired from the Miami Dolphins.   DT Antwaun Woods will be the leader in the Rotational DT group.  The Linebacking corp is a stellar unit led by MLB Jaylon Smith (150 Tackles in 2018), and last year’s sensational Rookie Pro-Bowler OLB Leighton Vander Esch (176 Tackles last year/Led Team) represent one of the NFL’s best two-tandem Linebackers.  Sean Lee is the other OLB when healthy.  The Defensive Backfield group is very talented and young with CB Chidobe Awuzie, becoming one of NFL’s better Corners, coupled with Pro Bowler CB Byron Jones.  Free Safety Xavier Woods has ability to develop into a star.  The Cowboys Defensive unit was very good, giving up only 20 points a game last year, ranking the defense 6th in the entire NFL, and 2nd in points given up in the NFC.  The Cowboys Defensive unit is young and talented, and will only get better while developing into one of the best Defensive units in the NFL.
If the Cowboys Offense can score more points per game than last year’s 21 points a game, preferably 28-30, the Cowboys have the Defense to carry them to first place in the NFC East Division, instead of settling for a Wild Card berth.  The addition ofMemphis Rookie Tony Pollard with his (4.3/40 speed) on Offense, as Elliott’s backup and kick returner, in addition to Receiver Randall Cobb’s offensive punch as a Slot Receiver should equate to more scoring.

NFC/NORTH DIVISION

The Chicago Bears won 12 games during the 2018 season and they should win the NFC/North Division in 2019.  Young QB Mitch Trubisky (3,223 Yds./24 Tds. in 2018) throws to Receivers Allen Robinson (55 rec./754 yds.),  Anthony Miller (33 rec./423 yds), and Tight End Trey Burton (54 rec./569 yds).  The Bears drafted Wide Receiver Riley Ridley, 6′ 1″/199 from Georgia, a possession Receiver who runs good routes.  Ridley will provide Wide Receiver depth and be inserted into three Receiver sets.  Rookie RB David Montgomery, 5′ 10″/222 from Iowa Statewill be the starting Running Back to replace former RB Jordan Howard who was traded to the Eagles.  The Offensive unit scored 26 points a game, for a NFL rank of 9th.  The Bears need to become more consistent in winning important games which will help them in the Playoffs, while more production from the Wide Receiver unit would help the Offense significantly to score more points and take pressure off the dominant Defensive team.

The Defensive Line is led by Pro Bowler DE Akiem Hicks (7.5 Sacks), and Run Stuffers Nose Tackle Eddie Goldman andDT Bilal Nichols.  Inside Linebacker Pro Bowler Khalil Mack (12.5 Sacks) and ILBRoquan Smith (121 Tackles/5 Sacks) are dominant defenders and excellent leaders.  The Defensive Backfield is held down byPro Bowl Cornerback Kyle Fuller (7 Interceptions/led league) and Pro Bowl Safety Eddie Jackson (6 Interceptions)Corner Prince Amukamara and Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are very good Defensive Backs who make this group one of NFL’s better D-Back units.  The Defensive team gave up only 17.7 points a game last year for a 1st place NFL rank.  The Chicago Bears will make the Playoffs, however, I don’t  believe the Bears’ offensive team will score enough points this year to carry them to the Super Bowl.

NFC/NORTH DIVISION/WILD CARD TEAM

The Minnesota Vikings should become the second NFC Wild Card winner.  The Vikings rely on QB Kirk Cousins (4,298 yds./30 Tds.) last year to provide the leadership and passing productivity necessary to win regular season and Playoff games.  Cousins has an excellent group of Receivers to throw the ball to, includingReceivers Adam Thielen (113 Rec./2018) and teammate WR Stefon Diggs (102 Rec./2018).  The Receiving duo of Thielen and Diggs is one of the best primary receiving tandems in the NFL.  Tight End Kyle Rudolph (64 rec/634 yds.) is a two-time Pro Bowler and one of better Tight Ends in NFL.   RB Dalvin Cook (615 yds./4.6 avg. in 2018) will be the primary ball carrier for majority of the workload, depending on his ability to stay injury-free and healthy .  He has had injuries over his first two seasons in the league.  The Vikings drafted Alabama Rookie TE Irv Smith, Jr., 6′ 2″242 to create mismatches in opponent’s Defensive Secondary coverage, especially with Smith’s size and athleticism. The Offensive unit scored an average of 22.5 points a game in 2018, placing them with a rank of 19th in the NFL.  The Viking Offensive goal should be targeted at 28 points a game to become more competitive, while positioning the offense in greater winning opportunities in the NFC Wild Card races. 

The Defensive front is manned by Pro Bowl DE Danielle Hunter (14.5 Sacks last year), Nose Tackle/Run-Stopper Linval Joseph (77 Tackles/Former 2-Time Pro-Bowler) and former Pro-Bowler DE Everson Griffen (5.5 Sacks last year).   The Linebacker corp is led by talented, 4-Time Pro Bowler Anthony Barr, and MLB Eric Hendricks (122 Total Tackles/2018) is a tackling machine.  The leaders in the Secondary are two-time Pro Bowler CB Xavier Rhodes and teammate CB Trae Waynes.  Free Safety Harrison Smith is a 4- Time Pro Bowler.  Texas Rookie CB Kris Boyd, 5′ 11″/201 will provide Defensive Backfield depth.  The Defensive team allowed an average of 21.3 points per game in 2018, placing the Defense with a rank of 9th in the NFL.  The Vikings Defense needs to only allow 21 points a game this season, or even lower for a successful 2019 Regular Season winning record and Playoff success.

NFC/SOUTH DIVISION

The New Orleans Saints will win the NFC/South Division once again, while hoping to march through the Playoffs into the Super Bowl.  Team Leader QB Drew Brees, (3,992 yds./32 Tds. in 2018) will throw to Wide Receivers Michael Thomas (125 Rec./1,405 yds./9 Tds.), Ted Ginn, Jr. (injured 2018 season) and RB Alvin Kamara (81 Rec./709 Yds.) who are QB Brees’ primary targets.  RB Alvin Kamara who ran for (883 Yds./4.6 Ypc./14 Tds) is the primary runner who is versatile at running the ball and receiving out of backfield.  The prolific Offensive unit scored an average of 31.5 points a game in 2018 for an NFL Rank of 3rd.

The Defensive Linemen leaders are DE Cameron Jordan Sack Leader (12 Sacks/2018), DT Sheldon Rankins (8 Sacks/2018) and Free Agent DT Malcom Brown who signed from the Patriots and will be team’s primary run-stuffer.  Second year DE Marcus Davenport is already a sound Run-Stopper, but the Saints believe Davenport can develop into a double-digit Sack Defender with improved Strength & Power.   The Linebacker corp is anchored by captain MLB Demario Davis (110 Tackles/2018) who uses his speed to blitz and make plays utilizing his excellent range.  Weak Side LB Alex Anzaloneeffectively uses his speed in pass coverage and Strong Side LB A. J. Klein is the the most effective as a run stopper.  The secondary is led by young Cornerbacks Marcus Lattimore (Defensive Rookie of year 2017) and CB Eli Apple who was acquired from NY Giants in 2018.  Strong Safety Vonn Bell is best as a down Safety making plays close to scrimmage while Free Safety Marcus Williams needs to improve his production to complement his Defensive Secondary unit.  Rookie CB/Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson 6’/208 from Florida is a hybrid Defensive Back known as a big-time College hitter who will probably play the Safety position in the NFL and provide Backfield depth and play in Saints Defensive sub-packages.  The Defensive team gave up 22.1 points a game last year, placing them with a 14th NFL rank.  The Saints will win the NFC/South Division while advancing deep into the playoffs with a potential Super Bowl appearance. 

NFC/WEST DIVISION

The Los Angeles Rams have enough Offensive scoring power and playmakers to win the West Division and represent the NFC in the Playoffs.  Jared Goff (4,688 Passing Yds./32 Tds./12 Int)) is the Quarterback and leader of the potent Ramsoffense whichaveraged 32.9 points a game in 2018.  The Rams Receivers are Robert Woods (86 Rec./1,219 Yds/14.2 Yd Avg), Brandin Cooks (80 Rec/1,204 Yds/15.1 Yd Avg) and Cooper Kupp (40 Rec/566 Yds/14.2 Yd Avg) who suffered an ACL injury last year.  RB Todd Gurley (1,251 Yds/4.9 Yd Avg/17 Tds) has experienced knee injuries, and a healthy Gurly is paramount for the Rams success during the regular season and into the Playoffs.  The Rams drafted Rookie RB Darrell Henderson 5′ 8″/208 from Memphis for RB depth.  He’s known for his durability, explosiveness and power.

The leader of the Defensive Line is DT Aaron Donald (Defensive Player of Year 2018).  In 2018, Donald led NFL in (Sacks 20.5) to add to his reputation as the league’s most dominant defensive player.  He is supported by DE Michael Brockerswho is the primary run stopper.  The Rams intend to start Rookie Nose Tackle Greg Gaines, 6′ 1″/312 from Washington.  The Linebacker group is led by ILB Cory Littleton (125 Sacks/led team) and OLB Dante Fowler, Jr., who’s expected to become an elite Pass Rusher.  ILB Micah Kiser will assume a starting Linebacker role while Rams expect him to become a defensive leader.  The Defensive Secondary leaders are former Pro Bowl CB Marcus Peters and 34 year old veteran FreeSafety Eric Waddle who still performs at a high level in both pass coverage and run support.  Strong Safety John Johnson (4 Int’s/119 Tackles) is a talented, emerging defender who along side Free Safety Waddle formulate one of NFL’s best Safety tandems.  The Rams have the talent to be a repeat Super Bowl contender if the Offense can sustain last year’s scoring (32.9 points/game), and the Defense only allows (24 points/game) or less.  Rookie Safety Taylor Rapp, 6’/208 from Washington who excels in tackling and downhill pass coverage, will add depth to the defensive backfield corp.  Corners Peters and Talib (injured last year) need to be productive in pass coverage this season.

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