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The hazards inherent in playing Futures was on display this past weekend with the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck. Almost any key event that occurs during the pre season or regular season will have a negative impact on that player’s team. 

Those holding Futures to win the Super Bowl and conference title, Overs on Season Wins or to make the playoffs on Indianapolis have already seen their chances of collecting take major hits. 

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Using the Westgate SuperBook as the source, the Colts Season Wins Total is now 7.5 with the Under at -125 after opening in the spring at 9.5 and then being bet up to 10 before being taken off the board when the injury issues surrounding Luck first surfaced. 

Indianapolis is forced to adjust late in the preseason while other NFL teams fine-tune their rosters in anticipation of the start of the season next week.

There are question marks all over the league. Some surround the quarterback. Some involve new coaches. Other teams are dealing with injuries.

The preseason showed us little, if any useful information as virtually every NFL team opted to play their starters on both sides of the ball sparingly in an attempt to not only keep their personnel as healthy as possible but also to prevent tipping their hand in Week 1.

Who will prevail? 

AFC East 

Once again the questions relate to which team finishes second to New England and will that team be good enough to contend for a Wild Card? 

Until proven otherwise, the Pats get pencilled in as division winner for an 11th straight season (and 16 in 17 seasons!). The Jets and Bills have the talent to finish at least at 8-8. The Jets have the better second-season QB (Sam Darnold vs. Josh Allen) but Buffalo fields a better defense. Whether third- season coach Sean McDermott’s experience is worth more than Jets’ first-season coach Adam Gase’s familiarity with the Division (Gase coached Miami the past three seasons) determines who finishes second. 

I’ll side with the Jets with neither earning a Wild Card. Miami likely finishes last with a rookie coach, an uninspiring QB rotation and a general lack of talent on the roster.  

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AFC North 

The Cleveland Browns are not the 1989-91 Dallas Cowboys who went from 1-15 to 7-9 to 11-5 and the playoffs in the first three seasons of the Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson regime. They are better, but I still see both Pittsburgh and Baltimore finishing ahead of the Browns who improved from 0-16 to 7-8-1 last season. 

Cleveland is better than Cincinnati, my pick to finish last as the QB Andy Dalton era winds down despite what many thought was a well needed coaching change. 

AFC South 

This division is even more of a tossup following the retirement Luck. But don’t write off Indy too quickly as new starter Jacoby Brissett was reluctantly traded by Pats’ coach Bill Belichick in 2017. 

With QB Nick Foles replacing Blake Bortles in Jacksonville and a defense that still managed a top-five finish the Jags should battle Houston for the division title. Houston must deal with last week’s season-ending injury to RB Lamar Miller (torn ACL) and an aging, injury-prone defense. 

I give Jacksonville the nod over the Texans to win the Division. The Colts’ improved defense displayed last season should enable them to finish ahead of nondescript Tennessee for third.  

AFC West 

Kansas City deserves to be favored to build upon last season’s success that came within an offsides penalty of reaching the Super Bowl. The continued improvement of QB Patrick Mahomes should be the difference in holding off the Chargers for the division title. 

The Chargers are dealing with the holdout of RB Melvin Gordon. Any prolonged absence will put added pressure on aging but still effective QB Philip Rivers to produce. 

Oakland is on the improve but that demanding first-half schedule suggests their record will not be reflective of that improvement. Still, the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders should improve enough to finish ahead of rebuilding Denver which will feature yet another first-season veteran QB (Joe Flacco) and a first-time head coach (Vic Fangio). 

NFC East 

There’s a pronounced gap between the odds for the two top teams in the division — Dallas and Philadelphia — and the bottom two, the Giants and Washington. Despite the current absence of RB Ezekiel Elliott I’ll side with the Cowboys largely to the injury concerns with Eagles QB Carson Wentz and their issues in finding a capable and healthy backup. 

The Giants are an intriguing team. Without the Odell Beckham Jr. drama and the decision that Eli Manning is the starting QB until he and/or the team struggles as likely successor rookie Daniel Jones learns from the sidelines the G-Men could be much better than expected, especially if RB Saquon Barkley can duplicate last season’s rookie performance. 

I’ll pick the Giants to finish well ahead of the Redskins and possibly contend for a Wild Card deep into the season. The prospects appear dim for Washington who appears to have settled on veteran QB Case Keenum ahead of rookie Dwayne Haskins. 

NFC North 

This is the division with many questions. How will QB Aaron Rodgers mesh with rookie coach Matt LaFleur? Can the Bears repeat last season’s success with former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now coaching in Denver? Can Detroit’s Matt Patricia build upon last season or was their dominant 26-10 win over his former team, New England, a colossal fluke? Will Minnesota continue it’s yo-yo record under coach Mike Zimmer, with regular season wins of 7-11-8-13-8 since his hiring in 2014? 

My answers are “Perhaps, Yes, No and Yes” which makes my predicted order of finish as Minnesota, Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit. 

NFC South 

I rate the NFC South as the NFL’s best balanced division. A case can be made for each team to finish first, including Tampa Bay. 

Following a pair of 5-11 seasons, the Buccaneers made a coaching change. If anyone can get the most out of QB Jameis Winston, former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is that guy. The division sets up nicely for the Bucs to move up with Atlanta and New Orleans relying on aging QBs (Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.) 

Carolina QB Cam Newton is hampered by with yet another injury (foot). I’ll rely on Sean Payton’s proven success to lead Brees and the Saints to another Division title. If healthy, Newton and underrated coach Ron Rivera will finish second.  

I’ll call for Tampa Bay to finish ahead of Atlanta and would not be surprised if all four teams are in playoff contention at the start of December with the ultimate last-place team finishing at 7-9. 

NFC West 

Last season was thought to be one of transition for Seattle’s defense. But the Seahawks went 10-6, making the playoffs as a Wild Card. 

Seattle’s coach/QB combo of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson rates as one of the best. I see Seattle edging the Rams for the division title and San Francisco, with a healthy QB Jimmy Garoppolo, closing the gap that existed last season when he was lost for the season in Week 3. 

I’m not yet a fan of rookie QB Kyler Murray and less of a fan of first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury which translates into a forecast of Arizona finishing fourth with the largest gap to the third-place team of any of the division cellar dwellers. 

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About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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