After an eventful offseason that saw some big names changing teams, massive contracts doled out to some of the league’s best players, and a whopping five quarterbacks drafted in the first round, there’s actual football to be played this week.
The reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles kick off the action on Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons, leading into the first full Sunday slate of the year.
So far, it looks like the NFC is stacked with teams ready to push for a championship, while the AFC remains wide open save for a few familiar faces.
Take a look below and see where every team stands heading into the 2018 campaign.
32. Buffalo Bills
2017 record: 9-7, 2nd in AFC East
Week 1 opponent: at Baltimore Ravens
One thing to know: Nathan Peterman won the quarterback battle over rookie Josh Allen and A.J. McCarron, who was traded to Oakland this past weekend. With limited firepower, it’s worth wondering how long it will be until Allen takes over.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2017 record: 5-11, 4th in NFC South
Week 1 opponent: at New Orleans Saints
One thing to know: After Jameis Winston’s latest suspension, the Buccaneers will be left to start the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for their first three games. Wins won’t come easy, as they face the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers.
30. Miami Dolphins
2017 record: 6-10, 3rd in AFC East
Week 1 opponent: vs. Tennessee Titans
One thing to know: It’s hard to feel optimistic about the Dolphins after they let some big-name players go this past offseason. Can Ryan Tannehill’s return from an ACL tear give the team a needed boost?
29. New York Jets
2017 record: 5-11, 4th in AFC East
Week 1 opponent: at Detroit Lions
One thing to know: Sam Darnold will be the only rookie quarterback to start this season after a five highly touted signal-callers were drafted in the first round this year. His impressive preseason was enough to give Jets fans hope that they’d found their quarterback of the future.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
2017 record: 7-9, 3rd in AFC North
Week 1 opponent: at Indianapolis Colts
One thing to know: The Bengals rebuilt the offensive line and got a new offensive coordinator to rejuvenate Andy Dalton. Dalton has had two below-average seasons following a career-best 2015 that led to a 12-4 Bengals season.
27. Arizona Cardinals
2017 record: 8-8, 3rd in NFC West
Week 1 opponent: vs. Washington Redskins
One thing to know: The Cardinals’ 2017 season went off the rails following David Johnson’s wrist injury. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a huge weapon for Sam Bradford and the Arizona offence.
26. Indianapolis Colts
2017 record: 4-12, 3rd in AFC South
Week 1 opponent: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
One thing to know: Andrew Luck is back! Really! He’s taken snaps in preseason games and thrown touchdowns and everything. While the roster around him leaves a lot to be desired, he alone raises the Colts’ ceiling and floor.
25. Washington Redskins
2017 record: 7-9, 3rd in NFC East
Week 1 opponent: at Arizona Cardinals
One thing to know: The loss of rookie running back Derrius Guice was a blow to the Redskins’ hopes of competing in a stacked NFC this year. New quarterback Alex Smith will have to find a way to lead Washington without him.
24. Cleveland Browns
2017 record: 0-16, 4th in AFC North
Week 1 opponent: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
One thing to know: Though rookie QB Baker Mayfield was impressive in preseason, the job is Tyrod Taylor’s to start the year. The Browns also welcomed back Josh Gordon, who will reportedly be ready for Week 1, even though he won’t start right away. Things seem to be looking up in Cleveland.
23. Seattle Seahawks
2017 record: 9-7, 2nd in NFC West
Week 1 opponent: at Denver Broncos
One thing to know: The days of the “Legion of Boom” are in the past, and it seems likely that the Seahawks will have to find a new identity if they hope to reestablish their dominance in the NFC.
22. Oakland Raiders
2017 record: 6-10, 3rd in AFC West
Week 1 opponent: vs. Los Angeles Rams
One thing to know: After failing to come to a contract agreement, the Raiders made the shocking decision to trade Khalil Mack to the Bears. Now, a unit that ranked 29th in defensive DVOA last year lost its best player. Things are off to a bumpy start for Jon Gruden.
21. Detroit Lions
2017 record: 9-7, 3rd in NFC North
Week 1 opponent: vs. New York Jets
One thing to know: Former New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is finally getting his shot to run a team on his own. He’ll be put to the test early, with his Lions taking on the Patriots on Sunday night in Week 3. Thankfully, he’ll ease his way into the season with a game against a team he’s a bit more familiar with beating.
20. Denver Broncos
2017 record: 5-11, 4th in AFC West
Week 1 opponent: vs. Seattle Seahawks
One thing to know: After guiding the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game last year, Case Keenum’s new project will be to do the same with a similarly consistent supporting cast in Denver.
19. Dallas Cowboys
2017 record: 9-7, 2nd in NFC East
Week 1 opponent: at Carolina Panthers
One thing to know: Ezekiel Elliott has played in 25 games in his NFL career and averaged 105 yards per game. He’ll have to keep that pace up if the Cowboys hope to compete this year, as Dallas turns to Allen Hurns as a primary pass-catcher despite back-to-back seasons failing to reach 500 yards.
18. New York Giants
2017 record: 3-13, 4th in NFC East
Week 1 opponent: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
One thing to know: The Giants made Odell Beckham Jr. the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history this preseason, keeping their top weapon in the fold. A stacked offensive unit, including rookie running back Saquon Barkley, hopes to help the Giants bounce back from an injury-plagued 2017.
17. Baltimore Ravens
2017 record: 9-7, 2nd in AFC North
Week 1 opponent: vs. Buffalo Bills
One thing to know: The Ravens traded up in the draft to select Lamar Jackson, and while Joe Flacco will undoubtedly start the season under center, don’t be surprised if rumblings of a switch arise should he underperform. It’s also possible that Flacco finally plays up to his abilities with the knowledge that Jackson is right there behind him.
16. Houston Texans
2017 record: 4-12, 3rd in AFC South
Week 1 opponent: at New England Patriots
One thing to know: The Texans appeared to be hitting their stride last season when Deshaun Watson went down with a torn ACL. Will a healthy Watson (and hopefully JJ Watt) be enough to turn the Texans into a legitimate playoff contender?
15. Tennessee Titans
2017 record: 9-7, 2nd in AFC South
Week 1 opponent: at Miami Dolphins
One thing to know: For two straight seasons the Titans have finished with a 9-7 record and second in the AFC South. Head coach Mike Vrabel will look to break the streak and turn the team into a force in a conference where the tides appear to be shifting.
14. Chicago Bears
2017 record: 5-11, 4th in NFC North
Week 1 opponent: at Green Bay Packers
One thing to know: Landing Khalil Mack for two first-rounders signalled the Bears are indeed going for it. They have a stacked defensive lineup with Mack in the fold, and they added new weapons on offence in the offseason. Can second-year QB Mitch Trubisky take the next step to make them a true playoff contender?
13. San Francisco 49ers
2017 record: 6-10, 4th in NFC West
Week 1 opponent: at Minnesota Vikings
One thing to know: After a perfect introduction to the NFL at the start of last season, this year Jimmy Garoppolo will get full control of the 49ers as they attempt to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Starting off with a trip to Minnesota is quite a dive into the deep end to open the year.
12. Kansas City Chiefs
2017 record: 10-6, 1st in AFC West
Week 1 opponent: at Los Angeles Chargers
One thing to know: With Alex Smith out, all eyes will be on Patrick Mahomes to see if he’s ready to lead an NFL squad. If he can slot smoothly into the role, he certainly has the talent around him to make a run in a wide-open AFC West.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers
2017 record: 13-3, 1st in AFC North
Week 1 opponent: at Cleveland Browns
One thing to know: It’s worth wondering if the Steelers’ window is closing. Ben Roethlisberger is a year closer to retirement, Antonio Brown recently turned 30, and Le’Veon Bell is threatening a holdout after a contract dispute. If the Steelers ever want to capture the AFC, this feels like the final year to do it.
10. Los Angeles Chargers
2017 record: 9-7, 2nd in AFC West
Week 1 opponent: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
One thing to know: The Chargers went 9-3 after beginning the season 0-4, falling short of the playoffs. They have all of the pieces to make a postseason push if they could start more consistently and stay healthy. Their division (and most of the conference) is wide open.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
2017 record: 10-6, 1st in AFC South
Week 1 opponent: at New York Giants
One thing to know: After years of healthy debate as to whether or not Blake Bortles was good enough to lead an NFL team, a turnover-free playoff run to the AFC Championship seems to have answered the question, with Bortles signing a new three-year deal in February.
8. Carolina Panthers
2017 record: 11-5, 2nd in NFC South
Week 1 opponent: vs. Dallas Cowboys
One thing to know: Look for Christian McCaffrey to have a breakout second season. Though he had opportunities last year, his touches are expected to go up this year, even with C.J. Anderson in the fold. His playmaking could be a much-needed weapon for Cam Newton.
7. Green Bay Packers
2017 record: 7-9, 3rd in NFC North
Week 1 opponent: vs. Chicago Bears
One thing to know: Aaron Rodgers will be back for the Packers after missing over half of the 2017 season due to injury, but he’s already made clear that he’ll miss his favourite target, Jordy Nelson. Can one of the Packers’ young receivers step up in his absence?
6. Atlanta Falcons
2017 record: 10-6, 3rd in NFC South
Week 1 opponent: at Philadelphia Eagles
One thing to know: The Falcons figure to be explosive on both sides of the ball once again by adding wide receiver Calvin Ridley, one of the top offensive players in the draft, and Dontari Poe, who can fortify their defensive line. Is a bounce-back in store after a relatively disappointing 2017? We think so.
5. New Orleans Saints
2017 record: 11-5, 1st in NFC South
Week 1 opponent: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One thing to know: Death, taxes, and Drew Brees throwing for 4,000+ yards – this year he’ll be looking to accomplish the feat for the 13th consecutive season.
4. New England Patriots
2017 record: 13-3, 1st in AFC East
Week 1 opponent: vs. Houston Texans
One thing to know: It wasn’t a typical offseason for the Patriots. They lost big-name talent on both sides of the ball while Brady skipped OTAs to work out next door amid continuing rumours of discontent between him and Bill Belichick. Of course, who would be surprised if the Patriots still go 12-4 and win the AFC East?
3. Philadelphia Eagles
One thing to know: With Carson Wentz still not cleared to play, the Eagles will have to turn to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to start their 2018 season. The reigning champions might not be sweating missing their starter, but in an NFC conference packed with talent, the sooner Wentz is back, the better.
2. Minnesota Vikings
2017 record: 13-3, 1st in NFC North
Week 1 opponent: vs. San Francisco 49ers
One thing to know: The Vikings gave Kirk Cousins a historic, fully guaranteed $US84 million contract, then quietly went about their business, signing or extending all of the key supporting cast. The offensive line is a worry, but the pieces are there for this to be a dominant team on both sides of the ball if everyone stays healthy.
1. Los Angeles Rams
2017 record: 11-5, 1st in NFC West
Week 1 opponent: vs. Oakland Raiders
One thing to know: The Rams have formed the NFL’s equivalent to a super-team, with elite talent on both sides of the ball to join a young nucleus of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Aaron Donald. The potential is there to dominate, but there’s also a scenario where the pieces don’t fit, the locker room grows uneasy, and things don’t go as planned. No pressure, Sean McVay.
Now, check out which players could make the leap this season…
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