As has been the routine in recent years, the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles will kick off the 2018 NFL regular season on Thursday night at home against Atlanta. And like every other champion before them, plenty of attention will be paid to the Eagles, who will be trying to accomplish something that only seven other teams have — win back-to-back Super Bowls.
Philadelphia appears well positioned to put up a fierce title defense but the Falcons are of several teams in the NFC looking to knock the Eagles from their perch. Other contenders entering the season include the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota and New Orleans, all playoff teams last year, as well as Green Bay, which has a healthy Aaron Rodgers back at the helm. Elsewhere in the conference plenty of intrigue lies with teams like San Francisco, Dallas, the New York Giants and even the Chicago Bears due to coaching and/or personnel changes this offseason.
Over in the AFC, New England will remain a leading contender as long as Bill Belichick is the head coach and Tom Brady is at quarterback. Pittsburgh is in that first tier as well and many are expecting Jacksonville to be just as good, if not better, than the team that pushed the Patriots to the limit in the AFC Championship Game. Jon Gruden returns to the sidelines as Oakland's coach while fellow AFC West rivals Denver and Kansas City are turning to new starting quarterbacks. Houston and Indianapolis hope to challenge the Jaguars in the AFC South with the return of their field generals, while teams like Buffalo, Cleveland and the New York Jets could be interesting to watch because of their rookie quarterbacks.
So will the 2018 season be the precursor to an Eagles repeat or will another team claim the Lombardi Trophy when all is said and done? Here his how a panel of Athlon editors and NFL contributors see the season playing out. In addition to projected standings for each division, each panelist presents their wild card (WC) picks as well as the respective conference championship game (CG) matchups and their Super Bowl LIII matchup for Feb. 3, 2019 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.