The NFC is always a tough conference, and 2019 will be no different. There doesn’t seem to be a changing of the guard happening this year. It looks like the established powers will prevail yet again in my prediction. I usually write about the Seattle Seahawks, but I don’t know if they can win their division against the Los Angeles Rams. This is just an early guess at where these teams will finish the season.
New Orleans Saints, 2018 record 13-3, 1st in division
The Saints are early favorites to win the Super Bowl. They have a terrific offense with premiere playmakers at the skill positions with Drew Brees at quarterback, Alvin Kamara at running back and Michael Thomas out at wide receiver. The Saints were very close to the Super Bowl last year. If not for a non-call pass interference against the Rams, they would have been in that Super Bowl. It should be close to impossible to stop them if they get rolling.
Their defense was not bad last year. They ended up 14th in the league in yards allowed while getting the third-most sacks. They are built around their offense, meaning they like to force the other team to pass, so their pass rushers can pin their ears back and attack upfield.
Philadelphia Eagles 2018 record 9-7, 2nd in division
The Eagles are one of the deepest teams in the NFL right now. They have quality backups all over the roster, which means they have less of a drop-off when they have to substitute players. This creates a much more consistent look for the offense and gives players more leeway because they know if they have to come off the field they can trust the guy who goes in for them. In 2018 they were more inconsistent than they should have been because of injuries to a lot of their guys. But with Carson Wentz back they should be able to rally around him as their quarterback and focus on winning the division.
The defense is going to be the strength of this team in 2019. They have a good defensive line that should be able to cover up for their defensive back shortage. They rotate their linemen a lot and that can be frustrating to see them play without any starters on the field, but it keeps them fresh for the fourth quarter and on a play-by-play basis.
Los Angeles Rams 2018 record 13-3, 1st in division
This was the easiest choice to make for the NFC. The San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals are in no shape to push for the division this year, and it looks like the Seattle Seahawks could make the playoffs but it just doesn’t seem like they have enough firepower to stay with the Rams for 16 games.
Los Angeles has one of the best offenses of the past few years. Even with Todd Gurley’s injury uncertainty, it looks like they will be able to score 30 points a game with Sean McVay and Jared Goff running the show. They have four great wide receivers in Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds. So, it will be hard for defenses to focus on one or two of them. The Rams just need to find consistency from Gurley or another running back who can run the outside zone run.
The Rams need their defense to take a step forward and be a difference maker in 2019. They were able to get 18 interceptions last year, good enough for third in the NFL. That was one of the only defensive stats they were top half of the league in. But if they can build on their ball-hawking skills and start taking points away from opponents then they can be very dangerous.
Chicago Bears 2018 record 12-4, 1st in division
The Bears were a surprise team last year, but they won’t surprise anyone in 2019. Their defense is stifling, and the offense is finding its feet. They play in a very competitive division where the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions are all possible playoff teams, but Chicago has the talent to pull this out. Their offense will be solely on the backs of do-it-all running back Tarik Cohen and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in 2019. Cohen can score whenever he gets the ball, whether he throws a touchdown, gets a hand-off, catches a pass or returns a kick so he has to be game planned for. Trubisky is still growing as an offensive threat but he has the talent to make any throw and he has good athleticism to improvise.
Chicago’s defense is scary good right now. They forced 27 interceptions in 2018 (six more than the second-place team) and returned five of them for touchdowns. FIVE! That is ridiculous, and they threw in a fumble return for a touchdown just for good measure. The Bears had 50 sacks in 2018 and their pass rush looks like it will only get better. Khalil Mack actually gets to practice with them this offseason and other guys like Leonard Floyd are continuing to improve.
This team will be a force to reckon with no matter what shape the offense is in.