Looking back at last year’s preview I had no idea what the anger I was feeling at the time meant. Less than three months later I would find out, and I ended up spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year’s in the hospital. Thankfully I am feeling much better now and am very excited to see the dawn of a new football season. Much like the human body the NFL is a delicate ecosystem, wherein a coaching change, an important draft pick or two, suspensions, & injuries can completely alter the destiny of a team. As usual there have been plenty of those things occur in the offseason, and now we must sort thru all of it to calculate what may be in store in the coming months. Each team’s 2015 record is noted in parentheses, followed by what I am predicting they’ll do this season. Enjoy.
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Can you believe a year later we are STILL talking about DeflateGate?? After putting up a valiant yet misguided fight Tom Brady’s four game suspension is finally going to happen, but will it have that much of a negative impact?? Sadly I don’t believe it will. The Jets surprised a lot of people with their success last season, but their QB situation is as muddy as ever. The Dolphins have a new head coach, and though the change may pay dividends in the future I don’t think we’ll see an immediate improvement. The Bills finally settled on Tyrod Taylor as their signal caller last year and he’s the man for the foreseeable future. I just don’t happen to think that is a good thing.
Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers
I wonder if a defending Super Bowl Champion has ever before lost both their starting QB and the backup?? That is exactly what the Broncos are facing with Peyton Manning’s retirement and Brock Osweiler’s departure in free agency. For awhile it looked like Mark Sanchez would be the man to bridge the gap until 1st Round pick Paxton Lynch becomes acclimated to the NFL, but Sanchez is…well…he’s Mark Sanchez…so he lost the job to unheralded second year man Trevor Siemien. These events have opened the door for the solid yet unspectacular Chiefs and the up n’ coming Raiders to make a playoff run. The Broncos’ defense will still be great, enough to keep them in the post-season conversation until the bitter end. The hapless Chargers did absolutely zero to improve on last year’s catastrophe, which is a shame because Phillip Rivers is a good quarterback and deserves better.
I’m not nearly as sold as others on the Super Bowl worthiness of my Steelers, but I do believe they’ll win the division. We’ll see if their secondary…an achille’s heel now for several years…can gel into something good. The Bengals are a solid playoff contender as long as QB Andy Dalton remains healthy. I expect the Ravens to bounce back a bit, but they’re not anywhere near the intimidating force they were a few years ago. The Browns keep trying to turn things arond but just can’t seem to get much right. Can RGIII experience a career renaissance in Cleveland?? Ehhhh…maybe…but I wouldn’t bet on it.
I believe last season to be an anomaly that the Colts won’t repeat, assuming Andrew Luck remains healthy, which of course was the problem in 2015. I like the acquisitions of QB Brock Osweiler & RB Lamar Miller by the Texans. My only question is the health of all-world defensive end JJ Watt, who underwent offseason back surgery. He is allegedly on track to begin the season in the starting lineup, but who knows what may happen there. The Jags and Titans are improving slowly. As Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota enters his second season he has a solid running game to lean on, but his receiving corps isn’t going to scare anyone. Jacksonville is probably a year or two away from making the necessary leap, but they are showing positive signs.
Playoff Teams: New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Houston, Cincinnati
AFC Championship: Pittsburgh vs. Kansas City
New York Giants
Tony Romo’s recent injury will likely cost the Cowboys a playoff spot, even if he is only out for half the season. I know everyone has fallen in deep like with Dak Prescott, but he is still just a rookie. The Giants finally have a new head coach after Tom Coughlin limped to the finish line, but to me that isn’t as big of an issue as the fact that I just don’t care for QB Eli Manning or their running game. The Eagles also have a new head coach, and their quarterback situation is uninspiring at best, with injury prone Sam Bradford looking to hold off the challenge of rookie Carson Wentz. That leaves the Redskins, who have a solid quarterback surrounded by talented weapons and a decent offensive line. The defense is intriguing as well, with the addition of cornerback Josh Norman.
San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams
Hey, Chip Kelly is back!! Well okay…I suppose he never really left, he’s just coaching in a different place. I see no reason to expect the Cards or the Seahawks to decline at all. Oh sure RB Marshawn Lynch is retired, but Seattle still has a couple of good running backs and they drafted a couple of rookies who might show us something. It’ll be a committee approach, but that’s alright unless you’re a fantasy owner. The Rams have made the long awaited move back to Los Angeles, and they begin the new era with #1 overall pick Jared Goff under center. There will be growing pains, and I don’t expect the team to have much success right now, but watch out in a few years. Kelly is now the head coach for the 49ers, but he doesn’t have a great quarterback. Maybe next year.
Green Bay Packers
The Minnesota Vikings were my original choice to take the division, but a season ending knee injury to QB Teddy Bridgewater has changed everything. It looks like the Packers will be back in the familiar position of cruising into the playoffs. The Lions will have to adjust to life without receiver Calvin Johnson, and the Bears continue to pretend that Jay Cutler is a legitimate NFL quarterback. That spells doom for both teams.
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I am far too lazy to do research and find statistics, but we all know that Super Bowl losers have a pattern of regressing the following season. I don’t think that’ll happen to Carolina though. Drew Brees has got to be seeing the end of his tremendous career inching closer & closer. I think he’ll have his eye on trying to make the playoffs where anything can happen. I will begrudgingly admit that Jameis Winston had a solid rookie season, meaning the outlook is improving for the Bucs, but I don’t think they’re there just yet. The Falcons look good on paper, but only 18 wins in the past three seasons indicate that appearances can be deceiving.
Playoff Teams: Washington, Arizona, Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle, New Orleans
NFC Championship: Arizona vs. Carolina
Arizona Cardinals 38
Kansas City Chiefs 27
Top 5 Picks in 2017 Draft
1 Los Angeles Rams
2 Detroit Lions
3 Chicago Bears
4 San Diego Chargers
5 Cleveland Browns