For my NFC predictions, go here.
1. New England Patriots 12-4
2. New York Jets 8-8
3. Buffalo Bills 6-10
4. Miami Dolphins 5-11
Comments/Fantasy Predictions: As usual, New England will benefit from a strong offensive line, terrific coaching and the softest division in football … Tom Brady has been surprisingly funny on social media and gets a nice fantasy boost with Josh Gordon’s return ... James White finished last among 56 qualified backs in elusive rating last season, while Rob Gronkowski eventually comes out of retirement but fails to make much of an impact in fantasy leagues … Sony Michel would be on the shortlist of favorites to lead the league in touchdowns if health cooperates, but the bet here is that his balky knee sidelines him, making Damien Harris one of the most important backups in football. The rookie is going to be a major difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs.
Sam Darnold was the youngest starting QB ever to open a season, and he finished by leading the NFL in QBR in December (he was also PFF’s highest-graded passer over the final month). The Jets’ franchise appears to be moving in the right direction thanks mostly to the 22 year old (adding Quinnen Williams helps as well) and despite new coach Adam Gase, whose offenses have been nothing short of a disaster whenever Peyton Manning hasn’t been his quarterback. He’s a problem ... Robby Anderson busts out and is a top-15 wide receiver, but Le’Veon Bell is a bust, resulting in Ty Montgomery providing the most fantasy value of his career.
Josh Allen finishes as a top-12 fantasy QB, while Devin Singletary wastes little time taking full control of Buffalo’s backfield ... Robert Foster rises from the dead and is a popular FAAB addition in the second half of the year.
Josh Rosen starts the most games for Miami, but that still results in the team using the first pick of the 2020 draft on Tua Tagovailoa … Kenyan Drake burned fantasy owners last year (Hate the Drake!), but that doesn’t mean you should draft Kalen Ballage this year … DeVante Parker is nearing a catatonic state of sleepiness, but I’m giving him one more chance.
1. Cleveland Browns 10-6
2. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7 (Wild Card)
3. Baltimore Ravens 8-8
4. Cincinnati Bengals 5-11
Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Baker Mayfield will battle Patrick Mahomes for MVP awards for the next decade, and he’s good enough to have Cleveland as a legitimate Super Bowl threat in 2019 … Todd Monken just coached Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston to combine as the fantasy QB2 behind only Mahomes last season, when TB finished with the fourth-most passing yards in NFL history. He’ll now be calling plays for Mayfield, who’s about to light up the league.
No other receiver in football can match Odell Beckham Jr.’s upside now that he’s undergone a drastic upgrade at quarterback, as he finishes as the No. 1 WR (a historic season is coming at some point), while Myles Garrett wins Defensive Player of the Year … Nick Chubb just set the record for YPC after contact while leading the league in elusive rating as a rookie, and he has a ton of touchdown potential in this offense, so he’s the top overall player on my board.
Mike Tomlin’s never had a losing season and historically bounces back strong after not making the playoffs, but losing Antonio Brown won’t make life easier on the field … James Conner has a much better fantasy season than Le’Veon Bell, while Vance McDonald is a top-five tight end … Donte Moncrief laps James Washington in production, while JuJu Smith-Schuster finishes with more fantasy value than Davante Adams and Michael Thomas.
Lamar Jackson just broke the record for most fantasy points per dropback while recording the most rushing attempts by a QB in NFL history (while starting just seven games). The 22 year old has shown improvement as a passer entering Year Two, has an OC in Greg Roman who knows how to utilize dual-threat QBs and has a developing star at tight end in Mark Andrews. I have Jackson as a top-five QB on my board … After Jackson became Baltimore’s starter last season, the team’s running backs led the NFL in rushing yards and YPC. Over the last five years, Mark Ingram leads football in YPC, and he gets another solid O-line and now a mobile QB at his disposal. He’s screaming RB1 production at a much lower cost.
The Bengals should be more innovative and run a bunch more play action with their new coaching staff, but A.J. Green and Jonah Williams suffered serious injuries in the preseason, and it’s not hard to squint and see this all go very badly for Cincinnati in 2019 … Joe Mixon looked like a completely different back in Year Two last season (not unlike Lev Bell’s transformation early in his career), but he's in a tough situation, especially given his team’s offensive line.
1. Houston Texans 10-6
2. Jacksonville Jaguars 8-8
3. Indianapolis Colts 7-9
4. Tennessee Titans 5-11
Comments/Fantasy Predictions: The Texans experienced some luck during their nine-game win streak last year (after starting 0-3), and their good fortune continued in the offseason when Andrew Luck stopped playing for their biggest threat in the division. It may be worth noting Houston goes from having the league’s easiest schedule last season (based on win/loss record) to having the hardest one in 2019 … Deshaun Watson wins the MVP award (I got him at 20/1).
Over the last three years, Duke Johnson ranks second in yards per touch and fourth in yards per route run, not to mention that he’s Miami’s all-time leading rusher in college, has never missed a game in the NFL, and has a higher BMI than Lamar Miller (whose injury saved potential future fantasy owners). Houston offers zero competition in the backfield (Carlos Hyde is the worst, so his addition as the team’s RB2 is further good news) and a couple of WRs in Will Fuller and Keke Coutee who are as injury-prone as they come, so Johnson is going to be plenty active. The Texans also traded for LT Laremy Tunsil, so I’m treating Johnson as a top-20 RB and someone to specifically target in fantasy drafts.
Nick Foles doesn’t have to be above average to be a big upgrade at QB for Jacksonville, who is planning to rely heavily on Leonard Fournette. Don’t count on his health being up to the task … Dede Westbrook finishes as a top-20 WR.
Andrew Luck announced the most shocking retirement since Michael Jordan, and the league became less fun to watch as a result … Marlon Mack is a poor blocker and was the most game script-dependent back in the league last year, so he’s a hard pass at ADP given the new QB situation in Indy … The Colts have a strong offensive line and system in place, and Jacoby Brissett is one of the best backups in football, but the loss of Luck moved Indy from legit Super Bowl contenders to hoping for a run at .500 (and provided an equally significant blow to their fantasy values).
Marcus Mariota emphatically proves he’s not Tennessee’s long-term answer at QB, as the Titans move on from him … Corey Davis sees his targets take a big hit and is a fantasy bust, but Derrick Henry scores double-digit touchdowns running behind a talented offensive line … This is my favorite total to bet on this year, as I’d hammer the Titans UNDER (8) if the juice is right.
1. Kansas City Chiefs 12-4
2. Los Angeles Chargers 11-5 (Wild Card)
3. Denver Broncos 6-10
4. Oakland Raiders 6-10
Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Patrick Mahomes further establishes himself as the league’s best player, while Damien Williams finishes as a top-10 back despite LeSean McCoy’s addition ... Sammy Watkins’ ADP continues to perplex, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Kansas City’s revamped defense can close the gap on its offense (and special teams) … The Chiefs play overtime in the AFC Championship for the second straight season, only this time they win the coin toss and beat the Browns to advance to the Super Bowl.
Melvin Gordon gets hurt after returning from his holdout, resulting in a frustrating fantasy backfield in Los Angeles … Mike Williams finishes with more fantasy points than Keenan Allen, as the Chargers have to play in the wild card round despite winning 11 games … The Broncos have a strong defense, but with Joe Flacco at quarterback, they are an easy team to fade in fantasy drafts, especially given the weirdly optimistic ADPs of Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton.
Antonio Brown disappoints much like Hard Knocks, but Darren Waller finishes as a top-10 tight end … Josh Jacobs is going from never being a workhorse in college to having a pro coach who once rode his rookie back (Cadillac Williams) for 310 touches in just 14 games, so it’s going to be a big transition … The Raiders recorded 13 sacks last year (third-fewest in league history) — the next lowest finished with 30 (Khalil Mack had 12.5 in 14 games) … It’s going to be extremely awkward with Derek Carr buying a new house next door to Jon Gruden in Las Vegas once the coach is ready to move on to his next quarterback next season. Da Raiders!