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USA Today projects the entire 2018 NFL Season and has the Patriots losing in the AFC Championship Game

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Could this happen?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

USA Today’s Nate Davis predicted every game of the 2018 NFL Regular Season in order to create playoff seeding, based off which he subsequently made more predictions to determine a Super Bowl champion. The outcome is slightly funny, although I doubt it to be intentionally so.

Davis has the Patriots going 11-5, noting that it “helps when you can count on five or six wins in divisional play. Despite the turnover on offense and Julian Edelman’s suspension, hard to believe they won’t still cruise to a first-round bye. At minimum.”

We can all ignore the tone of that opening line, which appears to suggest that the Patriots have an easier path because the AFC East is terrible, despite New England holding a far superior winning rate outside of the division (41-9; 0.820 over the past five years), compared to inside the division (22-8; 0.733).

What are the Patriots five projected losses? I could see @ Jaguars as a loss with Julian Edelman suspended in week 2, while week 15’s @ Steelers is a reasonable second loss.

New England hosts both the Vikings and the Packers and they also host the Texans and the Chiefs. They go on the road against the Titans. Maybe the Patriots lose two of these five games, in addition to the annual flop against an AFC East opponent. I would be surprised if they lose five, but it’s not completely out of the question.

Davis’ postseason bracket has the Jaguars as the #1 seed in the AFC, followed by the Patriots, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, and Titans. The NFC features the Rams at #1, followed by the Vikings, Falcons, Eagles, Saints, and Packers.

The Steelers, Chargers, Falcons, and Saints all win on Wild Card Weekend, while both #1 seeds fall in the divisional round. The Patriots and Chargers defeat the Steelers and Jaguars, respectively, while the Falcons and Saints beat the Vikings and Rams (both teams with a bye!), also respectively.

I would love to see an NFC HateMatch between the Falcons and Saints in the NFC Championship game, which Davis hands to Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Davis has the Chargers upsetting the Patriots in New England, which simply won’t happen. I refuse to accept that the Chargers would go on the road and beat the Patriots in the playoffs.

The San Die- sorry, The Los Angeles Chargers have only reached the postseason once in the past eight seasons. Over that span, they’ve gone 60-68. Gus Bradley is their defensive coordinator, who runs a defense the Patriots have proven they can carve up and down the field.

Sure, the Chargers finished the season on a 9-3 streak (including a 21-13 loss in New England). And, sure, Philip Rivers is coming off a fantastic season with a great running back in Melvin Gordon and a great wide receiver in the oft-injured Keenan Allen, while their offensive line improved by adding Mike Pouncey at center.

And, yeah, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram form one of the top pass rush duos in the league that ravaged the Patriots offensive line last year and Casey Hayward and Desmond King and Trevor Williams and Jason Verrett offer extremely talented depth at cornerback, and oh, no, are the Chargers actually going to pull this off?!

The only part that makes this worse is that Davis also has the Chargers losing to the Falcons in the Super Bowl, which would defeat the whole purpose of the Chargers getting Rivers and obviously inevitable midseason signing Antonio Gates a Super Bowl ring.

I actually don’t disagree that much with Davis’ overall projections to make the postseason, either. I do think that the Chargers will find some horrible way to collapse down the stretch, allowing the Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs to back into the postseason.

My instinct is also to laugh at the idea of the AFC South sending three teams to the postseason, but the AFC is really bad and I’m not going to take a non-Patriots or non-Steelers team from the AFC East and North over the Texans or Titans. The wild card will be in the AFC West, where any of those teams could be pretty good or pretty atrocious.

I agree almost wholly with Davis’ NFC predictions, too, although I’d probably swap the Falcons and Saints in order.

I expect some combination of the Patriots, Steelers, and Jaguars to play in the AFC Championship game and I would not be surprised by any combination of teams in the NFC postseason. So, all in all, great work by Davis. I just really hope his AFC Championship outcome is incorrect.