The Schein Nine  

 

2018 NFL guarantees: L.A. rules, Mitch Trubisky rises and more

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The 2018 NFL Draft has been in the books for a couple weeks now, but the buzz on this epic class remains ever-present. Fans are fired up. Players, too. Heck, even front-office heavies are feeling their oats. See: New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, who got pretty frisky earlier this week ...

"I honestly think (people) are going to look back 20 years from now," Johnson said Tuesday, via ESPN.com, "and say this is the moment the Jets shifted into a new gear, that they became a great team."

I get it. Mid-May always feels like a good time to let it fly. With the coaching carousel, the bulk of free agency and the draft in the rearview, rosters have really taken shape. It's only natural to peer into the future. Time to dream big, time to think bold. Yes, this is always the time when I channel my inner Joe Namath and toss out some audacious proclamations on the coming campaign.

Without further ado, here are my way-too-early guarantees for the 2018 NFL season, Schein Nine style:

1) Each Los Angeles team makes a deep playoff run.

I'm "California Dreamin'," as The Mamas & The Papas sang. And Sia perfected. (Yeah. I said it.) I'm all in on the Rams and Chargers this year. I think both teams will win 10-plus games and be in the thick of their respective division races.

Over the past week on my SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio show, "Schein on Sports," I've spoken with Rams general manager Les Snead and Chargers GM Tom Telesco. Both are feeling good about the offseason, and rightfully so. Snead cleaned up in trades and free agency, making a reigning division champ even stronger. Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh were spectacular pickups. We all know this. But don't sleep on what the Chargers did.

Snagging Swiss Army Knife safety Derwin James with the No. 17 overall pick was a heist. Adding him to a defensive backfield that already includes Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett, Desmond King and Jahleel Addae makes that unit special. And given the pressure that will be applied by the dynamic pass-rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Bolts' secondary is poised to make plays -- plenty of 'em. Meanwhile, last year's top pick, Mike Williams, had his 2017 season derailed by injury. It's a big offseason for him. And I think he's going to be great in Year 2.

Both teams are well-coached and have big-time running backs. Philip Rivers is a future Hall of Famer. Jared Goff blossomed into a fine player under Sean McVay. The Chargers and Rams are both hitting the postseason and winning playoff games. I guarantee it. An all-L.A. Super Bowl isn't a Hollywood pipe dream. It's truly possible.

2) The Denver Broncos finish last in the AFC West.

I still cannot believe the Browns passed on Bradley Chubb. It was a no-brainer for John Elway to pounce on the accomplished N.C. State product -- this gives the Broncos the kind of pass-rushing juice that they had in their Super Bowl season of 2015. Unfortunately, the rest of the roster doesn't exactly resemble that title squad.

Denver has issues. Both lines have question marks. The defense is nowhere near as loaded as the 2015 unit, while the offense is unsettled at tight end and in the backfield. And the roster just doesn't stack up to the competition in the AFC West. Even though Case Keenum is an upgrade from last year's quarterback situation in Denver, he doesn't compare to Philip Rivers or Derek Carr. And I think Patrick Mahomes is going to be special in his first year as the Chiefs' starter. Denver will look up at all three. I guarantee it.

3) The Cleveland Browns DON'T finish last in the AFC North.

I loathed the Browns' draft approach in Round 1. Cleveland took the fourth-best quarterback with the first overall pick and passed on the best defender with the fourth overall pick. But I already went over this immediately following the draft. Don't want to continually dwell on it, especially considering ...

... I loved Cleveland's March, when the Browns brought in quality football players like Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde. With viable threats lining up behind a solid O-line, Cleveland's offense -- which has finished 30th or worst in scoring over each of the past three seasons -- could actually put some points on the board. And with some better health luck in Year 2, defensive end Myles Garrett could take the league by storm.

Meanwhile, the arrow is pointing the wrong way in both Baltimore and Cincinnati. (Is Marvin Lewis really coming back, or was that just a dream?) Cleveland has held down the AFC North cellar in 13 of the past 15 seasons, including each of the last seven. That changes in 2018.

4) Aaron Donald wins Defensive Player of the Year (again).

I provided this very guarantee in this very column one year ago. And it came to fruition. So ... If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Donald is the best defensive player in the sport by any measuring stick. This cat is the definition of a game wrecker. And now, with Ndamukong Suh joining him up front, Donald will have the opportunity to wreak even more havoc. He is going to ruin Sundays for offensive coordinators. Now, about that new contract ...

5) David Johnson is the NFL's best running back in 2018.

Johnson was on my SiriusXM Radio show last month and said he is 100 percent, physically. Oh, and his goals include 1,500 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. Honestly, I'm not going to bet against this guy. He's special.

The Cardinals should have my guy Josh Rosen as the quarterback sooner rather than later. That will greatly help Johnson's cause. Comeback Player of the Year? How about Offensive Player of the Year? Johnson's going to be right in the mix for that high honor.

6) The Houston Texans go from 4-12 to playoff participants.

I love this team. There is no more drama and infighting. New GM Brian Gaine and head coach Bill O'Brien see things the same way. And O'Brien is armed with a brand-new contract. Onward and upward, Texans!

Deshaun Watson is an extraordinary talent. Every football fan in America took notice during his abbreviated rookie season. And it sounds like his recovery from knee surgery is coming along nicely. Get back Watson ... and J.J. Watt ... and Whitney Mercilus? And add the Honey Badger into this delicious stew? See you in the playoffs, Houston!

7) Mitchell Trubisky is this year's Jared Goff.

I'm infatuated with the Bears' offseason. Wrote back in March that Chicago's poised to be the NFL's Cinderella team. The Bears smartly followed the Rams' blueprint from last offseason: hand the keys to an offensive guru/quarterback whisperer (Matt Nagy) and dedicate the offseason to surrounding your young signal-caller with talent (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in free agency, James Daniels and Anthony Miller in the draft).

Trubisky will follow in Goff's footsteps and take a major jump in his sophomore campaign.

8) The Atlanta Falcons field a top-five offense.

Matt Ryan rightly got PAID. Calvin Ridley was a perfect draft pick -- a speed receiver to complement Julio Jones. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are a fantastic backfield duo. And it's Year 2 for Steve Sarkisian calling the plays.

Last year was the blip for Atlanta's offense. 2016 was real -- and we'll see that again in 2018.

9) The Jacksonville Jaguars boast the league's best defense.

Appearing recently as a guest on my SiriusXM Radio show, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone was giddy when describing how the big and athletic Taven Bryan will fit into the D-line rotation. Man, what a loaded group. What a loaded defense. The Jaguars' D boasts difference makers at every level. And it's deep. Bryan and former No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. and promising rookie safety Ronnie Harrison are all coming off the bench.

Yes, following last year's appearance in the AFC title game, Marrone's team faces the great challenge of living up to expectations. The coach knows this. But his veteran leadership, spearheaded by Calais Campbell, is strong. And this defense is absolutely nasty -- a league-best unit.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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