With the season starting tomorrow night, Chris and I completed our annual tradition and predicted every NFL game this upcoming season. Here are my results. Chris’ are here. Check back tomorrow to see how the playoffs shake out.
This year, a slightly weakened division will allow for an easier time for the Steelers, with a now potent offense; LeVeon Bell, Antonio Bryant, and Martavius Bryant are strong weapons surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, who is coming off his best year as a pro. Baltimore faces issues on offense: with Torrey Smith gone to Baltimore and rookie Breshad Perriman is the only replacement. Joe Flacco will be forced to rely on the swan song season of Steve Smith, who may struggle to carry the load again at 35. In Cincy, Andy Dalton needs to be effective in protecting the football if they are going to have any chance of contending with the strong defenses in this division. I don’t see that happening, and Jeremy Hill will not be able to change that. As for Cleveland, Josh McCown is not the answer, and the lack of a running game is a big issue; if Cleveland struggles early, we may see Johnny Manziel starting a lot earlier than Week 16 this year.
This is a strong division this year, but I find it hard to bet against a pissed off Tom Brady on a consistent basis, especially since the Pats returns all of his weapons from a year ago. The Bills defense, already a fierce defense with a lethal pass rush, only get better by adding one of the best defensive head coaches in the game, Rex Ryan; if Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy can lead to a fairly average offense, their defense can carry them to the playoffs. The Jets were primed to be better this season, until they pulled several classic Jets moves. In spite of the loss of Sheldon Richardson, the additions of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and rookie Leonard Williams could be enough to support Ryan Fitzpatrick and his strong cast of receivers. Miami improves on defense just by adding Ndamukong Suh; if Ryan Tannehill can continue his success from last year, they could also make a push to the playoffs. A wild card will likely come out of this division, and any team behind New England has a chance to win it.
Indy is the class of the AFC South; Andrew Luck will have his way with weak defenses on his way to another divisional title. The additions of Frank Gore and Andre Johnson give them the veteran presence and depth needed to go deep into the playoffs. Houston will struggle for the first few weeks while Arian Foster recovers from groin surgery, but once he returns, they could see some success; until then, maybe they give the offensive playbook to JJ Watt and see what he can do with it. Jacksonville could have made a big step forward had they not lost Dante Fowler to an ACL injury. Even so, Blake Bortles is the future of this team, and adding a stud TE like Julius Thomas is a big deal for his development. Tennessee will run with Marcus Mariota and he might see some success, but this team is bare of talent at almost every position; they need a few more years before seeing any success.
Denver will be strong again this year if Peyton is still Peyton. The emergence of CJ Anderson and the return of a strong defensive front will take some pressure off him. In Kansas City, weapons, such as the return of Eric Berry from cancer treatment, the signing of Andy Reid’s favorite weapon, Jeremy Maclin, and the huge big play potential Jamaal Charles, and easily propel the Chiefs to the playoffs, perhaps even past Denver. The Chargers may have locked down Phillip Rivers for now, but he is lacking the team around him. Even is Melvin Gordon can be successful off the bat, the defense does not have the chops to compete week to week. Oakland has no running game or secondary, which means a lot of pressure will fall on Derek Carr. That is a lot to ask of a second year quarterback whose best weapon is a rookie out wide.
Even with the loss of Jordy Nelson, the Packers are poised to win this division again behind the best QB in football, Aaron Rodgers, and a generous schedule. I have more faith in Matt Stafford than the average American apparently; the resurgence of Calvin Johnson and the emergence of Ameer Abdullah gives him strong weapons to work with as the Lions make a playoff push. Teddy Bridgewater is ready to make a big sophomore step with the return of Adrian Peterson to open up the secondary for him; if the defense can step up, this could be a playoff team. Chicago, in spite of John Fox’s first year as coach, is missing talent, especially on defense; if Jay Cutler cannot prove his worth, this team will struggle, and he might be looking for a new job after the season.
I see the Giants pulling it out with a strong passing attack behind the receiving corps of Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz. If Sam Bradford can stay healthy, do not be surprised to see him repeat his strong preseason performances and lead Philly to the playoffs. The Cowboys are poised to regress unfortunately, with the losses of Orlando Scandrick to injury and DeMarco Murray to Philly will cost Dallas, though they can make a push if Tony Romo can repeat his performance from last year. As for Washington, they are a broken team right now that is not ready to compete with Kirk Cousins at QB. Their year is over already.
The Falcons, behind star QB Matt Ryan and a healthy receiving corps, is the favorite to pull out the division win if the defense can play respectably. The Buccaneers come into this season with talent on both sides of the ball and one of the league’s easiest schedules. If the offensive line can keep Jameis Winston upright and help Doug Martin get some yardage, then don’t be surprised if the Bucs sneak into the playoffs. The problem with the Saints this year is their defense; not to mention Drew Brees started showing signs of age last season. The Panthers have lost weapons, namely DeAngelo Williams to Pittsburgh and Kelvin Benjamin to a knee injury. Unless Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly can singularly prop up this team, they will not repeat as divisional champions.
Seattle returns most of their defense, and adds a major offensive weapon in Jimmy Graham for Russell Wilson to throw to; best defense plus best rushing plus potent passing equals a very good football team. Arizona is also poised to repeat their success to start last season with Carson Palmer back from injury, particularly if Andre Ellington can keep defenses honest. The Rams will get the short end of the QB exchange this season, with Nick Foles not able to capitalize on a new team without anyone good to throw to, though the D-line could make this team interesting. San Francisco lost way too much on defense this season to be successful this season, and Jim Tomsula is not ready to field a winning football team yet.
- New England
- Kansas City
- Green Bay
- New York