Christian Cieri, Illustrator

At long last, the great expanse is behind us: the rocky and unforgiving terrain of Tom Brady updates, fantasy football drafts and breathless training camp reports (“He’s added 25 pounds of muscle!”) have been traversed, and here we stand at the precipice of another NFL season. Will the Patriots repeat as champions? Will J.J. Watt continue his reign of dominance? How will the Packers fare without Jordy Nelson? Let’s make some predictions.


1. LeSean McCoy will be hugely disappointing: coming off of a season in which he was handed the ball over 300 times for the second year in a row, McCoy is looking to reestablish himself as a premier back in Buffalo. However, a so-so offense and a lack of any passing threat to open up the field for him (not to mention a lingering hamstring injury) could spell some serious issues for Shady McCoy this season.


2. The Rams will make the playoffs: the last time the Rams made the playoffs, “Everybody Loves Raymond” was still on TV and the song “Hollaback Girl” didn’t exist. What have they been up to this whole time? Mostly incompetence, but there’s reason to believe that this year’s squad, with their stellar defensive line and exciting options on offense (don’t sleep on Todd Gurley), could end the drought.


3. This is Jay Cutler’s final season in Chicago: I’m a Jay Cutler defender, but there’s just too much negativity around his current position and not enough talent for him to make it through this season either intact or having accrued enough good will to get another year at Soldier Field.


4. Adrian Peterson is going to have a monster year: the last time Adrian Peterson had a year off, he rushed for 2,000 yards in the next season. He wasn’t even injured this time, although his reputation certainly was. Look for him to ruin a lot of linebacker’s days this season.


5. Jameis Winston is going to be more successful than Marcus Mariota: the quality of weapons that Jameis has at his disposal (Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin, a potentially great defense) is far superior than those of Mariota (Kendall Wright, Bishop Sankey, an old sock). Alhough Mariota still has a chance to be just as good if not better than Winston in the future, it’s not going happen this year.


6. The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the Super Bowl: make no mistake, as of today, Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in football. Once he returns from suspension, a Steelers offense that was top-10 last year should be even more explosive. Don’t be surprised to see Big Ben raising trophy number three this February.

Bernstein is a member of the class of 2018.

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