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November 18, 2019
Sports

NFL preview: 1-32 projections, breakout picks and a guide to every team

Big questions. Bold predictions. Breakout fantasy football candidates. Over/under picks. Record and playoff projections. In-depth schedule analysis for all 32 teams. This is what you need to know for the 2019 NFL season.

The ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) ranked every team from 1-32 based on how it projects the season to play out. Click the links below to read about each team.

Jump directly to a team preview:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE
NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

Has the defense improved?

Adam Teicher: The Chiefs did as close to a complete overhaul of their defense as is possible in one year, but nobody is quite sure how it will go. They saw some encouraging signs in training camp, most notably the play of end Frank Clark, who was acquired in a trade with the Seahawks, and safety Juan Thornhill, a second-round draft pick. But the Chiefs still need to prove they’ve improved on defense. Read the full Chiefs preview.


Can the defensive line stay dominant?

Mike Triplett: One of last year’s hidden strengths, the Saints ranked second in the NFL in run defense and fifth in sacks. But standout DT Sheldon Rankins is still recovering from a torn Achilles, and starting DE Alex Okafor left in free agency. The Saints still have one of the league’s best ends in Cameron Jordan. But they’ll need big contributions from young DEs Marcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson and new veteran DT Malcom Brown among others. Read the full Saints preview.


How much will Rob Gronkowski’s retirement hurt?

Mike Reiss: The Patriots have looked impressive at times in the preseason, but tight end is one notable question mark. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Patriots keep just two tight ends on the initial roster. Under coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Patriots have traditionally been an offense that reshapes itself annually based on the strength of its personnel. After nearly a decade of at-times dominant play at tight end, the position could be deemphasized without Gronk. Read the full Patriots preview.


Can Todd Gurley perform at high level and make it through the season?

Lindsey Thiry: Gurley rushed for more than 1,200 yards in back-to-back seasons, and last season scored a league-high 21 touchdowns — even as he nursed a sore knee that sidelined him in Weeks 16 and 17. The Rams took a conservative approach with Gurley throughout training camp, limiting him to an every-other-day practice schedule. It remains to be seen if the star back can return to form, or if he could be forever slowed because of his knee. Read the full Rams preview.

play

1:08

Louis Riddick and Victor Cruz detail why Rams DT Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL.

Can Carson Wentz stay healthy?

Tim McManus: After suffering significant injuries in back-to-back seasons, Wentz overhauled his diet and workout regimen this offseason and plans to be smarter about the number of hits he takes. He hasn’t felt or looked this good since making an MVP charge in 2017, but needs to prove he can make it through a full 16-plus games. Read the full Eagles preview.


How can the defense replace Derwin James?

Eric D. Williams: With the All-Pro safety out until at least November after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot, the Chargers are tasked with replacing one of the best defensive players in the game. Veteran defensive back Adrian Phillips will try to fill the void, but it likely will be a team effort to make up for the versatility and playmaking ability that James brings to the defense. The Chargers believe they have one of the best defenses in the league, so players such as Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Thomas Davis and Casey Hayward have to show leadership and make plays for the Bolts to live up to that billing. Read the full Chargers preview.


Can the defense return to its vaunted form?

Courtney Cronin: The Vikings’ once-loaded cornerback group has been depleted by injury (Mike Hughes) and suspension (Holton Hill), and it remains to be seen whether Xavier Rhodes will be able to play like he did in 2017. Coach Mike Zimmer will have to get creative in the way he schemes to overcome the Vikings’ weaknesses, relying heavily on Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander to hold this group together. At safety, All-Pro Harrison Smith will lead the way opposite Anthony Harris, while Jayron Kearse provides the Vikings with a different look when they utilize their nickel packages (they were in their nickel defense 77% last season). Read the full Vikings preview.


Can Mitchell Trubisky take his game to the next level?

Jeff Dickerson: Trubisky is the key to everything. The Bears have arguably the best defense in the league, but the offense struggled at times last year with Trubisky under center. Without any legitimate preseason action, it has been difficult to measure Trubisky’s progress over the course of training camp. Is he elite? Is he just average? Will he be any better than last season? Everyone is anxious to find out. Read the full Bears preview.


Is this the Falcons team Matt Ryan finally leads to a Super Bowl title?

Vaughn McClure: The 2016 MVP, entering his 12th season, sounded pretty optimistic this summer, telling ESPN the Falcons have the right people in the building that give them a “great chance” to get back and, hopefully, win the Lombardi Trophy. The skeptics believe the Falcons might never overcome the Super Bowl hangover from 2016 after their 28-3 implosion and eventual 34-28 overtime loss to the Patriots. Ryan has to prove otherwise and keep his teammates focused on that mission, with the window of opportunity closing. Read the full Falcons preview.


Will Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur click?

Rob Demovsky: It has been the question since Jan. 8, the day LaFleur was hired as the Packers’ coach. And we don’t seem much closer to knowing the answer. It’s a new offense for Rodgers, whose entire career as a starter had been under Mike McCarthy’s tutelage. Training camp saw days good and bad for the offense. It could take a while before anyone knows whether this system will work for Rodgers & Co. “You’re probably not going to know something until the middle of the season,” GM Brian Gutekunst said. “These things take time.” Read the full Packers preview.

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1:45

Marcus Spears thinks it was a mistake for the Packers to sit Aaron Rodgers during the preseason because Matt LaFleur and Rodgers need to work on their communication.

Will Deshaun Watson get hit less in 2019?

Sarah Barshop: The Texans were worst in the NFL with 62 sacks allowed last season. They addressed a hole at left tackle in a trade with the Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil on Saturday. Watson started all 16 games last season but played through several injuries. O’Brien said he believes Watson has improved at getting the ball out quicker, but “the proof will be in the pudding when the real games start.” Read the full Texans preview.


Can the rebuilt defense hold up?

Brady Henderson: That seems a lot more likely than it did even a week ago, when Ezekiel Ansah wasn’t even practicing and Jadeveon Clowney was still in Houston. Clowney’s addition changes the outlook in a big way as does Ansah being on track to play in Week 1. Seattle has a pair of premier edge rushers as part of what now might be the NFL’s best front seven — at least once Jarran Reed returns from his suspension in Week 7. Read the full Seahawks preview.


Can the Cowboys get past the divisional round?

Todd Archer: If Jason Garrett wants to be the coach in 2020, that seems to be the minimum the team will have to accomplish since they have made it to the second round of the playoffs three times in his tenure. The roster is as talented as it has been since 2007 and they have a defense that could be dominant. If the Ezekiel Elliott saga doesn’t drag into the season, then the offense can be more than sufficient. Read the full Cowboys preview.


Does the Steelers’ offense have enough firepower to win big without Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown?

Jeremy Fowler: This question lingered throughout the offseason, and it’s one Pittsburgh is eager to answer. The Steelers believe they have a chance in every game with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. The next step is discovering whether JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner can turn Pro Bowl seasons into Year 3 greatness. The Steelers are confident the production will be there. Outside of that, expect the Steelers to spread the ball with several different receivers posting respectable numbers — maybe 500 here, 700 there — with the hope a no-huddle attack remains one of the league’s best. Read the full Steelers preview.


Can QB Cam Newton stay healthy?

David Newton: Now the 2015 NFL MVP has a midfoot sprain that has his status for the opener somewhat in question. For the entire offseason it was his right shoulder that underwent surgery for the second time in three offseasons that was in question. While the team remains cautiously optimistic that Newton will be ready for Week 1, with no proven backup, having their star player healthy will be crucial to success. Read the full Panthers preview.


Can Jimmy Garoppolo stay healthy for a full season?

Nick Wagoner: For now and the future, the Niners need Garoppolo, who has 10 career starts, to play all 16 games so they can truly know what they have in him. To contend for the playoffs in 2019, the Niners need him at full strength after a torn left ACL last season. If he can’t stay on the field or struggles to move the offense consistently, San Francisco could have a tough decision to make and, potentially, find itself searching for answers again at the game’s most important position. Read the full 49ers preview.


Has the offense improved enough to complement what should be one of the league’s best defenses?

Michael DiRocco: That mainly depends on what the Jaguars get out of QB Nick Foles and RB Leonard Fournette. Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory, but he ranks 23rd in Total QBR among all QBs who have thrown at least 1,500 passes since 2012 (Foles’ rookie year), which means he has pretty much been an average QB. That’s still an upgrade over Blake Bortles, though. There are questions about Fournette’s work ethic, maturity and ability to stay healthy, but he has had a great training camp and those inside the franchise are optimistic this could be a huge bounce-back season. If those two come through with good seasons, the Jaguars will contend for the AFC South title. Read the full Jaguars preview.


How will Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. gel together?

Jake Trotter: In Mayfield and OBJ, the Browns boast potentially one of the best QB-WR combos in the NFL. Collectively, they have that level of talent. The question is whether their chemistry actually will translate into an elite pass-catching duo. All preseason signs have pointed in that direction. But the pressure of actual games will present the real challenge. Read the full Browns preview.


Can Lamar Jackson keep defenses honest with his arm?

Jamison Hensley: Teams are going to stack the box and force Jackson to beat them by throwing the ball. One of the most dramatic developments in training camp was Jackson showing significant improvement in his mechanics and his accuracy downfield. This is an area where he struggled last season. In the last seven weeks of the regular season (when Jackson made all of his starts), he connected on 37.5 percent of his throws (9-of-24) that traveled at least 15 yards. That ranked 24th in the NFL. If Jackson can be more efficient on those passes, the Ravens offense will be dangerous this season. Read the full Ravens preview.

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1:06

Matthew Berry likes the additions at WR for the Ravens and thinks their boost in talent will lead to more passing attempts for Lamar Jackson.

Can the Titans’ offense do enough to make the playoffs?

Turron Davenport: New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has to figure out a way to make the Titans a balanced attack that can win shootouts or grind it out, depending on the opponent. The Titans invested heavily to set up the offense for a productive season. Their success comes down to three things: the offensive line keeping Mariota upright, Mariota’s ability to distribute the ball to the weapons in place and Derrick Henry‘s effectiveness in the running game. Read the full Titans preview.


Can Jacoby Brissett lead the Colts back to the playoffs?

Mike Wells: Andrew Luck is retired and Brissett — like many of his teammates — is in his second season in coach Frank Reich’s offense. The easy way to look at Brissett is by his 4-11 record as a starter in 2017 season. Circumstances are completely different from two years ago when he was acquired two weeks before the regular season. Brissett, who struggled at times in training camp, is set up to have an effective season because the Colts have a better overall roster. Read the full Colts preview.


Is the offense going to score some points, or what?

Jeff Legwold: Though the starters had limited work in the preseason and quarterback Joe Flacco did, indeed, flash some skills in the offense, the regulars still did not construct a touchdown drive in August, and that is always a concern. That’s especially true for a team that has been as balky on offense as the Broncos have been for much of the past three seasons. Denver will run the ball better when the games count. But in the passing game, a player or two beyond Emmanuel Sanders and DaeSean Hamilton will have to pick up the pace. Read the full Broncos preview.


Will Darrell Bevell’s new offense produce enough for the Lions to be successful?

Michael Rothstein: The Lions have kept Bevell’s plan mostly hidden during preseason games and during practices with the Patriots and Texans. The franchise made the switch from Jim Bob Cooter to Bevell, in part, to find an offense that fits Matt Patricia’s overall philosophy. So it should mean more running, play-action and vertical passing. If it works, the Lions have a chance to contend for the NFC North. If it doesn’t, it could be another long season in Detroit. Read the full Lions preview.


Can Le’Veon Bell still perform at a Pro Bowl level?

Rich Cimini: Bell will be productive, and his presence will help quarterback Sam Darnold, but don’t expect a vintage Bell year with 1,900 yards from scrimmage. The concerns: His new surrounding cast isn’t nearly as good as what he enjoyed in Pittsburgh, which will mean more attention from defenses. There will be early timing issues with the offensive line. After all, the man hasn’t played a game in 20 months. The good news: He’s still only 27, and the year away from football undoubtedly preserved some tread on his thinning tires. Read the full Jets preview.


Can the offensive line protect Jameis Winston?

Jenna Laine: Winston enters Year 5 — the most pivotal season of his career — with a well-assembled cast of receiving targets: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. But he won’t be able to do much if an offensive line that surrendered a league-high 15 sacks through three preseason games doesn’t protect him. Read the full Buccaneers preview.


Can Josh Allen put his ‘hero ball’ days behind him?

Marcel Louis-Jacques: The Bills want Allen to opt for his checkdowns and intermediate options over pushing the ball downfield this season. His ability to do so and take care of the ball is paramount to the team’s offensive success in 2019. Read the full Bills preview.


Antonio Brown is all-in … but for how long?

Paul Gutierrez: It’s a fair question, since he left camp for two weeks and sought treatment for his frostbitten feet and then took off again for a day after his grievance to wear his old helmet was denied, setting up GM Mike Mayock’s ultimatum. Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, swears Brown will play regardless of helmet type, and Brown has reconnected with Derek Carr in pregame warm-ups — even if he has had to slow up on a couple of deep balls. Brown has averaged more than 11 targets per game since 2013. What happens if Carr cannot get him the ball and the Raiders get off to a slow start? Read the full Raiders preview.


How soon will the Bengals contend for a playoff spot?

Ben Baby: After five consecutive playoff appearances at the beginning of the decade, the Bengals have failed to finish .500 or better the past three seasons. This year will show if the franchise has the necessary pieces to be competitive in the immediate future or look for new players to build around. Wide receiver A.J. Green is on the final year of his contract and Andy Dalton is approaching the final two seasons of his deal. Read the full Bengals preview.


Can the offense provide any help?

John Keim: Washington lacks a proven playmaker on the outside. Their top-receiving target (tight end Jordan Reed) is already in the concussion protocol. Their quarterback of the future (Dwayne Haskins) isn’t ready, so the job, for now, falls to journeyman Case Keenum. There without perennial Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams. But they should have a good running game, especially if Derrius Guice stays healthy. Still, a lot of questions need to be answered on offense. Read the full Redskins preview.


Can Kliff Kingsbury’s offense work?

Josh Weinfuss: It’s an impossible question to answer, because nobody has seen what Kingsbury’s version of his Air Raid scheme will look like. And nobody will until Week 1. But how well it works will dictate how well the Cardinals do in 2019. And if it doesn’t work, the biggest question becomes how bad will 2019 go for Arizona? Read the full Cardinals preview.


How are the Giants going to handle their quarterback situation?

Jordan Raanan: Eli Manning is the unequivocal starter. There is no internal debate about that at this point. But rookie Daniel Jones‘ strong spring and summer has the clock ticking quickly on Manning’s tenure. The second the Giants stumble or Manning has a poor performance, the calls for Jones will begin to ring louder. Does coach Pat Shurmur pull the trigger at the first sign of distress or, more likely, wait until the Giants’ playoff dreams disappear before making the highly anticipated move? Likely the latter. And how much will owner John Mara and even GM Dave Gettleman be involved in the sensitive situation to bench the most accomplished quarterback in franchise history? Likely plenty. Read the full Giants preview.


Will Josh Rosen show enough to become the Dolphins’ starting QB?

Cameron Wolfe: The Dolphins don’t want to rush Rosen on the field, and the fact that he won’t start Week 1 isn’t as important to them. Rosen has shown considerable improvement in recent weeks but simply being better than Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t enough to be the Dolphins’ QB of the future. Rosen has a certain standard of consistent performance he must reach. Read the full Dolphins preview.

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/27491783/nfl-preview-1-32-projections-breakout-picks-guide-every-team

Author: ESPN

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