Bold Predictions for 2018: AFC Edition

As we turn the calendar to September, the NFL season is finally upon us. If you’re a fan of bold takes, you’ve come to the right place. While I’m not trying to simply create chaos here (and I refuse to predict injuries), these are my bold predictions for AFC teams this year. Adjust your rosters accordingly.

AFC South

Houston Texans – DeAndre Hopkins won’t come close to replicating last year’s stats, and isn’t a top-5 wide receiver this year

Hopkins’ target share was an insane 33.1%, which was the most in the NFL. In this past, he’s been QB proof but I don’t see how defenses don’t key on him, and Watson will spread the ball around much more as a result. It’s hard to predict touchdowns, and while I think while Hopkins is still a top-10 WR, TD regression is undoubtedly coming.

Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota is in the NFL MVP Discussion

They say a rising tide lifts all boats, and that’s exactly what is about to happen in Nashville. New Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur comes from Los Angeles and instantly upgrades the offense for Mariota. The Oregon product delivers in a big way. I’m calling for 4,100 yards passing and 32 TD’s.

Indianapolis Colts – Jabaal Sheard registers 12 sacks

As the Colts switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, Sheard transitions from outside linebacker to defensive end. His highest sack total came his rookie year when he notched 8.5 sacks with Cleveland while in the 3-technique. He led the Colts in sacks, QB hurries and QB hits in 2017, and the 8th year pro is now primed for career year.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Keelan Cole notches 1,300-yard season

Cole led the NFL in receiving yards over the last five weeks of the previous season. Sure, the Jags’ receiving group is pretty crowded, but Marquise Lee is out for the year. When Fournette isn’t pounding the rock, Bortles will key on Jacksonville’s best receiver.

AFC East

New England Patriots – Sony Michel tallies less than 800 Rushing + Receiving Yards

I wanted my bold prediction to be that the Patriots don’t make the playoffs, but look at their division. There’s a difference between bold and just plain dumb. Anyways, because of lingering knee issues, James White’s contribution, and the best season of Rex Burkhead’s career, Michel will not be a huge factor in the offense.

Buffalo Bills – Tremaine Edmunds wins the Defensive Rookie of the Year

All eyes were on Josh Allen in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the player that will make the biggest contribution to the Bills is fellow first rounder Tremaine Edmunds. The 16th overall pick is a force in the middle of the field, and recorded 108 total tackles and 5.5 sacks while at Virginia Tech. While there might be some rookie growing pains, talent eventually wins out here.

New York Jets – Bilal Powell is the most valuable Jets RB by seasons’ end

Bilal Powell has caught at least 47 balls in two of the last three seasons, and this year he might have receiving duties, or more, locked up. Elijah McGuire is starting the season with a broken foot, and Isaiah Crowell is battling concussions early. Powell goes over 500 yards receiving in 2018, which would be a career high. He quickly becomes Darnold's safety net.

Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins only beat one non-divisional opponent

A week 12 win against the Colts. That’s it. Most likely, the ‘Phins will split with the Bills and Jets and get housed twice by the Pats, so that puts their win total at 3. The Dolphins will be the worst team in the NFL this season, but they still should have a few fantasy relevant pieces. Looking at you, Kenyan Drake and Kenny Stills.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco throws 32+ touchdowns

Joe Flacco was a QB1 the last five games of the 2017 season, tossing 9 TD passes during that span. If Flacco’s preseason performance is any indication of how the rest of his season will go, he’s not giving up the starting job any time soon. Bonus semi-bold prediction: Lamar Jackson doesn’t start a single game in 2018.

Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Mixon and John Ross are the only bright spots on the Bengals

AJ Green doesn't bust by any means, but only puts up pedestrian numbers thanks to Andy Dalton's inefficiencies. To put up points, Dalton either dumps it to Mixon or Ross and lets them do the dirty work. Even bolder: Marvin Lewis still finds a way to keeps his job even when his Bengals playoff resume doesn't have a win on it.

Cleveland Browns – Browns make the playoffs

The offense has been completely overhauled. Tyrod Taylor looks polished, and Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and David Njoku will not remain silent. Watch the Browns surprise AFC West teams this year.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Juju Smith-Schuster finishes outside the Top 25 WR’s

More than a third of Juju’s yards came with Antonio Brown on the shelf last year. Big Ben has too many mouths to feed in Pittsburgh, and while Juju figures to be a big part of the offense, he won’t get enough work to justify his draft position.

AFC West

Denver Broncos – Broncos start 4-7; HC Vance Joseph fired after Week 12

Case Keenum inserts a pep into the step of the Bronco’s offense, and Royce Freeman makes a case for Rookie of the Year honors, but it’s not enough to survive the poor coaching of Joseph. John Elway doesn’t make a change at the bye week and regrets it. After Joseph is gone, the Broncos finish the season inspired, end up with an 8-8 record, and begin the search for a new head boss.

Kansas City Chiefs – Travis Kelce has 100 or more receptions

Everyone wants to drool over the big arm of Patrick Mahomes in the preseason. But when the games actually count, I see Andy Reid being fairly conservative with his young gun. Enter Kelce as a security blanket who will be able move the chains and control the middle of the field. 100 is a big number, but I feel like Kelce reaches it. Not bold enough? Kareem Hunt also repeats as the league’s leading rusher.

Los Angeles Chargers – Keenan Allen finishes as the #1 Fantasy WR

If Allen can stay healthy and play a full slate of games, I see him finishing the year as the top wide receiver in fantasy. The Chargers will be missing Hunter Henry, and Allen will pick up where he left off when he finished fifth in targets, fourth in receptions, and third in receiving yards in 2017. It only gets better from here.

Oakland Raiders - Marshawn Lynch is a Top 10 fantasy RB

I know… a lot has to happen for this to come true. The offensive line is improved and the Raiders should actually win several games, so the workload will be there. Lynch rushed for 4.3 yards per carry last season and that number will increase to over 5.0 YPC in 2018. Lynch dominates goal line work and reaches pay dirt 13 times.

What do you think? Hit me up on twitter and start a conversation. I'd love to hear your hot takes for the year.

Michael Klos

Dynasty and Redraft Specialist

@michaelsklos

#TennesseeTitans #HoustonTexans #IndianapolisColts #CincinnatiBengals #JacksonvilleJaguars #PittsburghSteelers #NewEnglandPatriots #MiamiDolphins #BuffaloBills #NewYorkJets #BaltimoreRavens #ClevelandBrowns #DenverBroncos #LosAngelesChargers #KansasCityChiefs #OaklandRaiders #AFC #2018 #FantasyFootball #NFL #AFCWest #AFCSouth #AFCEast #AFCNorth

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