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Projecting the 2018 NFL season

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With the NFL regular season kicking off Thursday, enjoy a full-season mock that is bound to be completely wrong.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

NFC East

NFL: NFC Championship-Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

*Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)

Dallas Cowboys (8-8)

New York Giants (8-8)

Washington Redskins (7-9)

Going into this projection, I wasn’t overly high on the NFC East. All but one team is projected to finish .500 or better. Until I see what the Cowboys offense looks like, it’s hard for me to buy into them. The Giants offense could be fun, even with an aging Eli Manning.

NFC North

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

*Minnesota Vikings (13-3)

*Chicago Bears (10-6)

Green Bay Packers (10-6)

Detroit Lions (7-9)

This is going to be the best division in football in 2018. Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid following the Khalil Mack addition, but the Bears are playoff bound for the first time since 2010. Make no mistake, the Vikings are the best squad here, but it’s going to be more competitive from top-to-bottom in comparison to last year.

NFC South

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

*Atlanta Falcons (12-4)

*New Orleans (10-6)

Carolina Panthers (7-9)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)

Maybe I’m higher on the Falcons that most but their offense should be deadly, assuming the play calling is better. The Panthers’ offensive line issues worry me and the Bucs appears to be looking at an 0-4 start. What was the strongest division in football takes a step back.

NFC West

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

*Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

San Francisco 49ers (8-8)

Arizona Cardinals (6-10)

Seattle Seahawks (4-12)

The Rams might have the most complete team in the NFL, but we’ve seen what too many superstars on the same roster can do. The 49ers could end up finishing better, but losing Jerick McKinnon is a big blow. The Cardinals and Seahawks are both bound to take a step back, especially the latter.

AFC East

NFL: New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

*New England Patriots (12-4)

New York Jets (6-10)

Miami Dolphins (5-11)

Buffalo Bills (2-14)

It appears the Patriots’ dominant run is close to being over, but in such a weak division it’s going to have to wait another year. The Jets are going to be better than their record projects and they have a bright future. The Bills appear to be the worst team in football after making the playoffs the previous year, and I’m not sure it’s close.

AFC North

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

*Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Baltimore Ravens (7-9)

Cleveland Browns (7-9)

Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)

The Steelers are loaded on offense and could dominate the AFC this season. The Ravens will continue to float around .500, and the Browns could surprise. There’s a lot of young talent on that Cleveland roster. I feel like I’m too low on the Bengals, but keeping Marvin Lewis was a terrible decision.

AFC South

NFL: Houston Texans at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

*Houston Texans (10-6)

*Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

Indianapolis Colts (7-9)

Tennessee Titans (5-11)

The battle at the top is going to go into the final weeks of the season, as I like both the Jaguars and Texans. The Colts have a bad roster, but if Andrew Luck is healthy, it’s easy to see them accidentally winning six to seven games based on him alone. Not sure why, but I’m not buying what the Titans are selling.

AFC West

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

*Los Angeles Chargers (11-5)

*Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

Denver Broncos (7-9)

Oakland Raiders (4-12)

The battle between the Chargers and Chiefs will be a fun one. I’m not completely sold that Patrick Mahomes will be playoff ready in his first year starting, but I like them long-term. The Chargers will finally figure it out. They have too much talent not to. The Raiders are a team that I had around seven wins heading into last weekend, and what a disaster that ended up being. Trading Mack, cutting Martavis Bryant, and trading a fifth-round pick for A.J. McCarron was brutal.

Playoffs

Wild Card Round

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

NFC: Eagles over Bears, and Falcons over Saints.

AFC: Texans over Chiefs, and Chargers over Jaguars.

Divisional Round

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

NFC: Vikings over Eagles, and Falcons over Rams.

AFC: Steelers over Texans, and Patriots over Chargers.

Conference Championship

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

NFC: Falcons over Vikings

AFC: Steelers over Patriots

Super Bowl:

NFL: Combine Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers over Falcons