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Many of the perennial NFL playoff contenders are projected to be around at the end of this regular season, but which teams that were on the outside looking in last year will be postseason-bound in 2018?
The 2018 NFL Welcome Wagon
They say the only constant is change. And that applies perfectly to the NFL playoffs because every year since the league went to a 12-team postseason format, at least four teams that hadn’t made it the year before became playoff entries the following season. Below we discuss the most likely candidates to emerge from the darkness of 2017 to the white-hot spotlight of postseason contention in 2018. We will also click on over to Sportsbook Review, a site featuring all of the up to the minute lines from the best online sportsbooks on the planet, to reveal how the oddsmakers perceive their chances.
Houston Texans (2017 Record: 4-12)
If Deshaun Watson stays healthy, this team is playoff bound. He was on pace for a scorching rookie campaign until he tore his ACL just six weeks into the regular season. The Texans were only 3-4 on the year when Watson was sidelined but that was due to a brutal early schedule in which they suffered setbacks to eventual playoff teams Jacksonville, New England and Kansas City along with a three-point loss to the 9-7 Seahawks. After Watson left, it was all downhill as the Texans went 1-8 down the stretch.
But this year the Texans defense will have healthy bodies like JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. The defense will be the key and when you have a pass/catch tandem like Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, anything is possible.
We forecast a sweep over the Colts, a split with the Titans while notching W’s against the Giants, Cowboys, Bills, Dolphins, Broncos, Redskins, Browns, and Jets. That’s 11-5 and worthy of a postseason berth. Expect the Texans to supplant the Buffalo Bills as playoff participants in the AFC.
A quick click over to Sportsbook Review tells us that a consensus of the best online sportsbooks are offering the Texans at +187 to win the AFC South (trailing only Jacksonville by a hair), +1050 to win the AFC, +2250 to win the Super Bowl and the over/under total wins on the regular season is 8½ (O-140).
Dallas Cowboys (2017 Record: 9-7)
Chances are you will hear more than a few from the Lone Star State utter the ubiquitous phrase during football season, “How ‘bout them Cowboys!” Yes, America’s Team was nudged from playoff contention after garnering a 9-7 record last year, but even without Dez Bryant and Jason Witten this team should be better than last season. Dallas has a tenacious core defense led by QB killer DeMarcus Lawrence and his 14½ sacks from last season. Some will pause and point to the departures of Anthony Hitchens on defense, the release of Bryant, and the retirement of Witten.
But the latter two were clearly fading while reports are that the Cowboys’ first-round pick, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, has come to play and should make an immediate impact. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are bona-fide stars and we see newly acquired Allen Hurns seizing the opportunity to rekindle the magic he had in 2015 in Jacksonville when he was virtually injury free. Add Terrance Williams and third-round rookie Michael Gallup to the mix and this offense will be more potent than most.
As we gaze into our crystal ball we see a sweep of divisional rivals the Washington Redskins and New York Giants as well as victories over Carolina, Seattle, Detroit, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, and a split with Philadelphia. That 10-6 record should be enough to oust last season’s playoff entry Carolina out of the picture.
The premier sportsbooks at Sportsbook Review are reflecting Dallas as +375 to win the NFC East, +1350 to win the NFC, +3300 to win the Super Bowl, and their season win total is 8½ (U-125).
Detroit Lions (2017 Season Record: 9-7)
The Cats will be back in the postseason under former Patriots defensive guru Matt Patricia at the helm and it is partially due to an offensive line that is slated to return healthy and poised to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford. Detroit was intent on keeping Stafford upright when they selected Arkansas lineman Frank Ragnow in the first-round and reports are that he has been everything and more thus far in the preseason.
The Lions’ backfield should be better equipped with the freight train LeGarrette Blount and second-round pick out of Auburn, Kerryon Johnson, combining for a dangerous change-of-pace tandem. Stafford has a slick set of receivers in Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate but some are concerned with the Detroit defense. Not to worry we say. Ziggy Ansah will play like an NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
The Lions should roar this season with a sweep over Chicago, a split with Minnesota and Green Bay while notching wins over the Jets, 49ers, Dolphins, Seahawks, Cardinals, and Bills. That 10-6 mark should get them to the Promised Land and replace Atlanta in the postseason.
The top online sportsbooks over at Sportsbook Review are reflecting Detroit as +675 to win the NFC East, +1650 to win the NFC, +5000 to win the Super Bowl, and their season win total is 7½ (O-125).
Green Bay Packers (2017 Season Record: 7-9)
Guess who’s back … back again? Guess who’s back – tell a friend. Yes, it’s Aaron Rodgers with his bazillion dollar contract in hand and ready to rock. Rodgers broke his collarbone last season and the Packers went from a 4-1 record before that game to 3-8 the rest of the way. Are quarterbacks important in the NFL? Yeah, we’d say so.
OK, so the offense will be on point but it’s this revamped and retooled defense that should get tongues wagging. Green Bay used their first and second-round picks on cornerbacks by selecting Jaire Alexander of Louisville and former Iowa Hawkeye Josh Jackson and welcomed back veteran corner Tramon Williams to the fold. Former New York Jet Muhammad Wilkerson will bolster the Packers defensive line and this edition should be far better equipped to stop opposing offenses and get Rodgers back on the field quicker than in 2017.
We envision a sweep over Chicago and splitting divisional series with Detroit and Minnesota while picking up wins over Washington, Buffalo, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle, Arizona, Atlanta, and the New York Jets. That’s 12-4 and good enough to not only knock the Vikings from their perch as NFC North champs but straight out of the playoffs. Yeah, you heard it here first.
The best online sportsbooks in the industry featured at Sportsbook Review are reflecting Green Bay as +155 to win the NFC North, +665 to win the NFC, +1350 to win the Super Bowl, and their season win total is 10 (U-115).