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2018 over/under predictions for the NFC, plus a Thursday night pick

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We are so close to football. SO CLOSE!

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots
That’s right — we have to watch Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles on Thursday night, not Carson Wentz.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Football is officially back.

In like 60-something hours.

I’m overloading over here. I’ve been reading too many magazines and online articles, writing too many NFL previews, obsessively trying to figure out which players are going to have monster fantasy seasons and which teams are going to make the playoffs, drinking way too much Diet Mountain Dew.

Seriously, I just need the 2018 NFL season to start already. I can’t take any more of this, and I don’t think the Queen can take any more of me.

But before the season can officially start, I have to hit the over/unders for the NFC and make a pick for the Eagles-Falcons season opener on Thursday night. We already did the AFC over/unders; now it’s time to complete the process. And no, I’m not a Sixers fan.

Here we go. NFC over/under predictions, plus a pick for Thursday, coming at you in three… two… one…

(Over/under win totals and gambling lines courtesy of OddsShark.com)

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys: 8.5

I’m not a believer in Jason Garrett (never have been). I’m sure as heck not a believer in Jerry Jones (a little senile). However, I am a believer in Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. I think they are both super fun players to watch who, with any luck, can break the football curse in Dallas.

Am I concerned that everybody but me is writing them off, saying they are going to be terrible? Yes I am, but I still like them anyway. The Cowboys don’t have a cakewalk of a schedule, but I think it works in their favor enough to the point where they can go something like 9-7 and squeeze back into the playoffs.

Final verdict: Over

New York Giants: 7

As someone who drafted Saquon Barkley at No. 7 overall in my fantasy football draft, I don’t want to see the Giants completely suck this year (trust me, that’s the only reason why). I want Barkley to have a MONSTER rookie season. I want him to usurp Todd Gurley as the best running back in the league by rushing for 190 yards and four touchdowns every single week. Sounds reasonable, right?

Barkley might be a machine, but it’s hard to see the Giants as a team making much noise. Here’s a look at their first eight games: home against Jacksonville, at Dallas, at Houston, home against New Orleans, at Carolina, home against Philadelphia, at Atlanta, home against Washington. That is an absolute death sentence.

By the time the Giants reach their bye week in Week 9, they’ll be lucky if they’re 2-6. I’m going way under on this one.

Final verdict: Under

Philadelphia Eagles: 10

I thought 10 games was way too low for a team that just won the Super Bowl with Nick freakin’ Foles and would be getting back Carson Wentz, who looks like he’s going to be the next Peyton Manning, to start the 2018 season. I thought the Eagles would have 13-3, 14-2, maybe even 15-1 potential.

That was, until it was announced that Foles would start the season at quarterback because Wentz still hasn’t been cleared to play. I don’t care what Foles did in last year’s playoffs, sooner or later we have to admit that … he’s still Nick Foles, right?

Since Wentz isn’t coming back right away, I’ll give Philadelphia anywhere from 10, 11, maybe 12 wins. That defense is still going to do some serious damage.

Final verdict: Over

Washington Redskins: 7

Jay Gruden seems like an alright coach. Alex Smith is a very good quarterback. Adrian Peterson is capable of being really good, but it’s hard to tell what he’s going to be in 2018 since his career is starting to fizzle out.

Maybe Smith and Peterson can somehow manage to have the best year of their careers, but if they don’t, I don’t see much coming out of Landover, Maryland this year. But it’s all good though, D.C. fans, because if you’re not STILL drinking beer out of the Stanley Cup, you’re doing this hockey thing wrong.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: 6.5

Congratulations to the Bears on pulling off the trade of the year, maybe even of the decade. Two first round picks to the Raiders in exchange for one of the best defensive players in the league (Khalil Mack) – who eats quarterbacks for breakfast – AND a future second round draft pick. Chicago might not be a Super Bowl contender, but they are now good enough to stay relevant in the NFC North.

With that being said, however, they are about to play what might be the most brutal month of December of any team in the league. Their last four games: home against the Rams, home against Green Bay, at San Francisco, at Minnesota. The Bears could easily go 0-4 in that stretch, but 1-3 looks like the best case scenario.

I’m definitely taking the over with Chicago, but that horrifying month of December is what’s going to shoot down their playoff hopes.

Final verdict: Over

Detroit Lions: 7.5

The Lions have a new head coach: former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Detroit hired Patricia to fix a defense that ranked 27th in the league last year. But don’t forget that a Patricia-led defense just got sliced and diced for 41 points in the Super Bowl by Nick freakin’ Foles.

Is Patricia really going to turn a 27th-ranked defense around in just one year? Are the Lions going to be good enough to improve on their 9-7 record last year and actually make the playoffs? Maybe if they weren’t playing in a division with three teams that are all better than them, as well as dealing with other teams on their schedule like the Niners, Cowboys, Patriots, Rams and Panthers.

It’s looking like another “down in the dumps” season for DEEEEEE-troit.

Final verdict: Under

Green Bay Packers: 10

I’m not sold on the Packers as a legitimate Super Bowl threat.

I’m sold on Aaron Rodgers, obviously. He’s the most naturally-gifted quarterback in the league. Green Bay could play a .500 season with just Rodgers on the field alone. He’s that good.

But the Super Bowl? Does Rodgers have any real help? He lost Jordy Nelson. He has Randall Cobb and the newly-acquired Jimmy Graham, but both are getting up there in age and their bodies have been through the wear and tear. The Packers haven’t had a good defense since they won the Super Bowl in 2010. Plus, is Mike McCarthy really a great coach? And on top of everything, Rodgers is coming back from a broken collarbone that caused him to miss most of last season.

Here’s what I’m thinking: if Rodgers stays healthy, Green Bay goes 9-7 and squeezes into the playoffs as a wild card entirely because of him. The Super Bowl though? Good luck.

Final verdict: Under

Minnesota Vikings: 10

Is Kirk Cousins a quarterback that’s going to win you a Super Bowl? It’s highly unlikely. Is Cousins worth breaking the bank for, as the Vikings decided to do this offseason? It’s highly unlikely.

But, Minnesota has a really good defense and really good team around Cousins. Because of that, they will probably win 12 or 13 games, win the NFC North with ease, and Cousins will put up some pretty impressive fantasy numbers. But just wait for that first playoff game, when he goes 12-of-28 with one touchdown and two interceptions (with one of them coming on the potential go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter) and the Vikings are once again reminded that you really shouldn’t overpay for average quarterbacks … which is something that they love to do.

Final verdict: Over

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons: 9

I’ve now been saying it for a year and a half: the Falcons should’ve won the Super Bowl when they were up by 25 points, because they might not get that close again. And that’s exactly how I feel about the 2018 Atlanta Falcons.

In fact, I think Atlanta can have one of the best offenses in the NFC. Matt Ryan is a former MVP. Running back Devonta Freeman disappointed last year because of concussions, but should bounce back this year. Julio Jones is still one of the best receivers in the game, especially if he can start contributing in the red zone.

But Atlanta’s defense scares me, and not in the good way. There’s nothing about this unit that says they are really going to be difference makers this year. The Falcons’ win total is set at nine games, and that seems like the perfect number to me. The 2018 Falcons look like a 9-7 team that will come up just short of getting back to the playoffs.

Final verdict: Push

Carolina Panthers: 9

I like the Panthers a lot. Cam Newton might not have looked like it the last two years, but I still view this guy as one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. He just has to get that Super Bowl ring and he’ll be all set.

I’ve got Carolina winning the NFC South this season, not just because I think both Newton and Christian McCaffrey are going to have great years and they have a top 10 defense, but I also like how their schedule works out for them.

They start out with games against Dallas, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and N.Y. Giants – they can go 3-1 in through those four. Then they play Washington, Philly, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay – another potential 3-1 stretch. Then they play Pittsburgh, Detroit, Seattle, and Tampa Bay – ANOTHER potential 3-1 stretch. Then they close the season against Cleveland, New Orleans, Atlanta, and New Orleans once again – realistically, they probably go 2-2 in those last four.

If their season plays out exactly like that, they’ll finish 11-5, which could very well be good enough to win the division. I think the 2018 Panthers will be better than a lot of people think.

Final verdict: Over

New Orleans Saints: 9.5

The Saints went 11-5 last year, and at first glance, I thought they would be about the same this year. But then I looked at their schedule, and I’m just not sure.

The first half doesn’t look horrible; I’m thinking maybe about 5-3 to start the year. But then things get tough: the Saints are at Cincinnati, home against Philly, home against Atlanta, at Dallas, at Tampa, at Carolina, home against Pittsburgh, home against Carolina. To me, that looks like a 3-5 stretch, maybe 4-4.

With that, New Orleans would finish at about 8-8 or 9-7. Seems very underachieving, but it also seems very possible. We’ll see what happens.

Final verdict: Under

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6.5

There’s no need to get into the Bucs. They’re going to be bad. Enough said.

Final verdict: Under

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals: 5.5

Arizona’s win total is already set incredibly low at 5.5, and yet I still think it’s too high. I can’t see them being that good this year. They are breaking in a new head coach. Their quarterback will most likely be Sam Bradford, who is not good. If it’s not Bradford, then it will be the rookie Josh Rosen who is very much a work in progress and has no business starting any games in 2018.

Larry Fitzgerald is obviously a future Hall of Famer, and running back David Johnson should put up some nice fantasy numbers. But ultimately, this is a transitional year for the Cardinals. I can’t see them winning more than five games.

Final verdict: Under

Los Angeles Rams: 10

Now here’s the most exciting team in the NFC, in my opinion.

They Rams have Sean McVay, who was last year’s Coach of the Year, is the youngest coach in the league at 32 and has a girlfriend who is absolutely stunning. They have quarterback Jared Goff, the former No. 1 overall pick who is entering his third year after throwing 28 touchdowns and just seven picks last season. They have Todd Gurley, the most hyped running back in the league (for good reason) who topped the draft board of millions of fantasy drafts. The receiving core includes Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp – three very dangerous pass catchers. They easily have a top eight defense.

If the Rams don’t sound like a Super Bowl team, I don’t know what does.

Final verdict: Over

San Francisco 49ers: 8.5

One thing to keep in mind here: San Francisco’s quarterback is Jimmy Garoppolo, who has never lost a start in his NFL career. He joined the Niners in midseason last year – they were 1-10 at the time – and led them to a 5-0 finish. Before that, Jimmy G. was 2-0 in two starts with the Patriots.

The 49ers might not be a playoff team yet, especially in a tough NFC, but they are going to be far better than the team that started last season at 1-10.

Final verdict: Over

Seattle Seahawks: 8

I want to extend a personal thank you to the Seattle Seahawks for giving me what is still the greatest sports moment of my life: having Russell Wilson pass the ball on the one-yard line in Super Bowl XLIX – instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch, who would have EASILY scored the game-winning touchdown – allowing Malcolm Butler to make the biggest interception in Super Bowl history.

I’ll never forget where I was, who I was with, what I had for dinner, or anything else about that glorious day, Feb. 1, 2015 – the night the Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl title in franchise history. It was truly special. Thank you, Seahawks.

With that being said, the “Legion of Boom” is long gone, Wilson doesn’t have near as many weapons that he’s had in years past, and the Seahawks are playing a tough second half schedule. It’s going to be a long year.

Final verdict: Under

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the big moment. We are FINALLY ready to kick off the regular season. Bill Belichick has been saying it for months, but now it finally rings true: “We’re on to 2018.”

Time to make a pick for Thursday night’s season opener.

EAGLES (-2.5) over Falcons

The Eagles have a top three defense in the NFL. They are playing at home in front of thousands of fans who will still be Super Bowl drunk (as well as regular drunk). A championship banner will be raised. Everyone will be really excited, and it might just be one of the most enjoyable, highly-anticipated nights in the history of Philadelphia sports; right up there alongside Balboa-Creed II.

It will be such a tremendous atmosphere for the defending champion Eagles that it will just be really hard for them to lose this game … even if Foles is starting at QB instead of Wentz. Oh well. A 95 percent Eagles team is still pretty darn good, especially at home.

Happy football, everyone.