What will happen over the next five weeks
As the NFL nears the final quarter of its season, there’s still a whole lot yet to be decided. Who will be the next coach fired? What records will fall around the league? Will the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams both finish at 15-1? These are some major questions.
We’re also highly intrigued to see how the AFC West and NFC East races play out down the stretch. With so much on the line, the next five weeks are going to be extremely important.
It’s in this that we give you 10 bold predictions for the final quarter of the 2018 NFL season.
Marvin Lewis fired, Hue Jackson named coach
Cincinnati’s blowout loss to Cleveland this past Sunday might be the final nail in the coffin of Lewis’ career as the Bengals’ head coach. This team has now been humiliated in three of its past five games and would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today. For a squad that started 4-1, that’s not good.
Our prediction here is that Lewis gets his walking papers right around Christmas, at which point former Browns head coach Hue Jackson takes over in an interim role. Remember, there was talk that Jackson would replace Lewis during the latter part of the 2017 campaign. That might now come to fruition.
Drew Brees doesn’t throw another interception
This future Hall of Famer entered Thanksgiving having thrown 25 touchdowns compared to one interception on the season. Despite seeing his Saints with a 10th consecutive game, Brees added another pick to the mix. The good news? He also threw four touchdowns and is on pace for a record-breaking touchdown-to-interception ratio.
We’re going to boldly predict that Brees does in fact break said record. He’ll go the final five games of the season without tossing an interception. Taking it one step further, Brees will account for 11-plus touchdowns during this span to reach 40 touchdowns compared to two interceptions on the season.
Raiders and 49ers don’t win another game
It’s not really going out on a limb to suggest the Jon Gruden-led Raiders won’t win another game. Here’s a squad that has lacked competitive spirit all season long. Each of the team’s past six losses have come by double digits, including a 34-3 defeat at the hands of the cross-bay rival San Francisco 49ers.
Instead, what makes this prediction bold is that San Francisco won’t win another game, either. The team has regressed as the season has progressed (not good for a rebuilding squad), most recently dropping a 27-9 affair against a Buccaneers squad that entered Week 12 having lost seven of its past eight. With off-field drama and a downtick in on-field competitiveness, we’re going to boldly predict that both the 49ers and Raiders finish the season with two wins.
Browns finish over .500
Realistically speaking, Cleveland could be 8-3 on the season. Prior to being fired late last month, Hue Jackson oversaw a team that lost three one-score games while tying another. That inability to finish games has turned the remainder of the season into one in which the Browns are simply looking to see progression from their youngsters. And boy, has that happened.
Fresh off a blowout win over Cincinnati, the Browns have now won consecutive games for the first time since 2014. They’ve done so in convincing fashion and with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield balling out. At 4-6-1 on the season, we’re predicting that Cleveland will win four of its final five games to finish at over .500. How remarkable would that be?
Matt Ryan breaks single-season passing record
Heading into Week 13, Ryan is about 100 yards shy of the pace to break Peyton Manning’s single-season passing yards mark. That represents about an increase of 20 yards per game from what the former NFL MVP has already put up this season. Despite his team’s struggles, Ryan has played exceptionally well this season. Even with Atlanta pretty much out of the playoff chase, we don’t expect that to change down the stretch.
This is bold primarily because Atlanta’s next three games all come against teams that boast top-10 pass defenses. But with the Falcons’ rushing attack struggling to get going, we expect offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to continue putting the ball in Ryan’s hands at a high clip.
Chargers win the AFC West
One game behind Kansas City heading into this week’s action, Philip Rivers and the Chargers have been among the NFL’s biggest surprises. They currently boast an 8-3 mark and rank in the top seven of the NFL in both points scored and points allowed. With a tough remaining schedule against five playoff hopefuls, including on the road in Kansas City, we’re going to boldly predict that the Chargers win out and earn the division title.
Philip Rivers is playing elite-level football right now. In fact, he’s coming off one of the best statistical performances for a quarterback in NFL history. Add in a stingy defense, and there’s every reason to believe Los Angeles will shock Kansas City in the AFC West.
Saquon Barkley finished with 2,000-plus total yards
Barkley is having one of the greatest rookie seasons for a running back in modern NFL history. He’s now tallied 1,410 total yards and 12 touchdowns. Equally as impressive, Barkley has caught 71 passes and is averaging nearly five yards per rush. With the Giants struggling big time, they have decided to focus more on this generational talent. We fully expect that to continue through the season’s final five games.
Look for Barkley to rack up the necessary 590 yards to reach the 2,000-yard plateau as the season comes to a conclusion. We also have an added prediction here. It will not be enough for him to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year with Baker Mayfield doing his thing in Cleveland. Yeah, this has been one good rookie class.
NFC East champion finishes at .500
Riding a three-game winning streak and seemingly now the class of the division, there’s every reason to believe the Cowboys will continue their recent hot streak. That’s what the narrative tells us. Unfortunately for Jason Garrett and Co., it’s not as easy as that. Of the five games remaining on Dallas’ schedule, two come against the red-hot New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. It will also have to go up against a desperate Eagles team in Week 14.
We’re still going to predict that Dallas wins the division. Despite their win last week over the Giants, the defending champion Eagles remain a hot mess. It took a fourth quarter comeback to dispose of Eli Manning and Co. Meanwhile, the Redskins are reeling after losing Alex Smith to a devastating leg injury back in Week 11. Look for Dallas to come out of this division with an 8-8 record.
Saints and Rams finish at 15-1
It’s never happened in the modern history of the NFL. No conference has seen two teams finish with a 15-1 record. But based on how well the Saints and Rams have both played this season, we’re going to boldly predict that to happen in the NFC.
New Orleans has won 10 consecutive games by an average of 16.1 points per game. It ranks No. 1 in the NFL in scoring at north of 37 points per game. While four of their final five games come against teams that are currently over .500, the Saints boast a 5-0 record against like teams this season.
In Los Angeles, it’s going to be a bit easier to run the table. Fresh off a stirring victory over the Chiefs, Jared Goff and the Rams have just one game remaining against a winning team. Outside of that, their final four games consist of outings against teams with a combined 13-31 record.
Lamar Jackson leads Ravens to playoffs
There’s now no reason to believe that Baltimore will turn back to Joe Flacco after seeing this rookie first-round pick lead the team to two consecutive wins. John Harbaugh would be absolutely foolish to do that, especially with him being on the hot seat as the season draws to a conclusion.
Jackson adds a new element to the Ravens’ offense. That’s evidenced by the 509 rushing yards the team has put up in the quarterback’s two starts. Prior to that, Baltimore had gained less than 500 rushing yards in its previous five games, four losses.
At 6-5 on the season, Baltimore is currently in playoff positioning. Despite a tough remaining schedule that includes the Chiefs and Chargers, we’re going to go ahead and predict that Baltimore finishes the season at 9-7 and squeaks into the playoffs.