10 predictions for 2018 NFL season: Future Jet Kirk Cousins?

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What are the options for free-agent quarterbacks? (1:29)

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Super Bowl LII just ended. The Philadelphia Eagles are still celebrating. But that's not what matters here.

You wake this morning to face a stretch of seven painful, football-free months. The 2018 season is more than a half-year away, and you're already aching to see what happens next.

We've got you covered.

For the third year in a row, we have looked into our crystal ball and foreseen many of the key events of the next NFL season, so you don't have to wait. As you know from reading this column the past two years, all 10 of these predictions are absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed to come true.

Now, get to reading while I excuse myself to go scrub the internet clean of the past two years' editions of this column. Here are 10 bold predictions for the 2018 NFL season:


1. Free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins signs with the Jets

It's a six-year, $186 million contract with $100 million in guarantees, including $75 million fully guaranteed at signing. The Jets outbid the Browns, Jaguars and division-rival Bills for Cousins, who becomes the highest-paid player in NFL history after hitting the market following two seasons as Washington's franchise player. He then leads the Jets to a 10-6 record and a wild-card playoff spot.

2. Odell Beckham Jr. sits out at least one regular-season game

Beckham's contract situation is going to be a tricky one for the Giants, who hold a 2018 option on him and aren't in a hurry to give him the extension he wants coming off an ankle injury that cost him almost the entire 2017 season. Uninterested in taking the field without a new deal, Beckham stays in California throughout training camp and, Aaron Donald-style, sits out the season opener in protest. New coach Pat Shurmur and quarterback Eli Manning continue to insist they can get by with Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as their top receiving options -- and are wrong.

3. There are a least five new playoff teams, including the Jets, Chargers, Raiders, Packers and 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo helps San Francisco snag a wild-card spot with a fast start and a furious finish. Aaron Rodgers returns to put Green Bay back where it belongs. Philip Rivers has one more big year left in him, and this time the Chargers don't start 0-4. Jon Gruden's return revitalizes a Raiders team that should have been better than it was in 2017. And you already heard about the Jets.

The two AFC teams that repeat as playoff participants are the Steelers and Patriots, of course. The crystal ball is fuzzier in the NFC, where it can't tell yet whether the Rams can repeat or the Cowboys can bounce back.

4. Le'Veon Bell signs a contract extension with the Steelers

Bell's new deal is heavily front-loaded but guarantees him more than $25 million and averages more than $12 million per year -- not the mega back/receiver deal of which Bell has been dreaming, but still pushing the top of the running back market well above where it is right now. A 2017 training camp holdout, Bell shows up on time for everything in 2018 and helps drive Pittsburgh's offense where it needs to go.

5. Josh Allen is the first pick in the April's draft ... but he doesn't start a game in 2018

The Browns take the big Wyoming quarterback No. 1 overall but sit him for at least a year behind AJ McCarron, whom they acquire when they lose out on Cousins. McCarron doesn't love having to play with a first-round pick looking over his shoulder, but his reunion with coach Hue Jackson -- his former offensive coordinator in Cincinnati -- makes it more palatable. Besides, if you can win a couple of games with the Browns, think of how attractive that would look to future employers.

6. Six more teams change head coaches after the 2018 season

Those teams are: Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, Washington, Tampa Bay and Seattle, where 67-year-old Pete Carroll decides to retire after a second straight season without a playoff appearance.

7. Nick Foles leads the Eagles to a 3-1 start while Carson Wentz continues his rehab

Philadelphia enters the season as one of the Super Bowl favorites, even though the NFC East hasn't had a repeat champion in 14 years. Questions about Wentz's return from a torn ACL haunt the offseason, but Foles puts them to rest with a hot start that has the team in position to repeat as division champs once Wentz is healed and back in the lineup. A soft September schedule that includes the Buccaneers, Colts and Giants helps.

8. Andrew Luck returns and plays all 16 games for the Colts

Luck looks like a pretty good candidate to beat out J.J. Watt, David Johnson, Aaron Rodgers and others in one of the most crowded Comeback Player of the Year races in history.

9. The NFL changes the catch rule to appease fans and increase scoring

Seriously, there's no way the league likes seeing touchdowns taken off the board by a rule that confuses and infuriates its fan base like no other. Expect a big competition committee discussion this offseason that results in a great deal more leniency in determining whether a player completed the catch. It's probably too much to expect common sense to rule the day and for the NFL to relax the extent to which it uses its infernal replay review system, but new guidelines will result in fewer catches being overturned into noncatches because they didn't "survive the ground."

10. The Saints will beat the Steelers in Super Bowl LIII

Frustrated divisional-round losers this season, New Orleans and Pittsburgh put the past behind them quickly and reach the Super Bowl in Atlanta. It's the second straight year one of the Super Bowl teams has a 40-year-old quarterback, and Drew Brees doesn't disappoint, hitting Michael Thomas for the game-winning touchdown pass with 24 seconds left on the clock.