It’s that time of year when I give out my season predictions and projections for all eight divisions,all 32 teams,and playoff and Super Bowl predictions,and my winner of Super Bowl 50. We are off and running,we’ll start with the AFC!
Denver Broncos 10-6
Peyton Manning is back for another season as the Broncos’ signal caller and they look to still be successful offensively. Wes Welker and Julius Thomas are gone,but they still have Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and have added Owen Daniels who is a very serviceable tight end. The defense looks to be good as well with rookie Shane Ray coming aboard. I think Denver will win this division again but are they good enough to get back to the Super Bowl? I don’t think so.
Having lost Ryan Matthews to the Eagles, the Chargers drafted Melvin Gordon to be the next man up in the backfield,with Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown helping out,of course. Philip Rivers still has his guys Malcolm Floyd and Keenan Allen to throw to, as well as Antonio Gates. The defense is okay at best,they still have Eric Weddle. I don’t see San Diego making the playoffs this year,though. But .500? Yeah,I can see that!
Yes,I have the Raiders finishing a lot better than they have in recent seasons. Jack Del Rio is a hell of a lot better improvement than Tony Sparano/Dennis Allen as head coach and will bring life into the locker room. Derek Carr had a pretty good year last year for a 3-win team and will have a new favorite target in rookie Amari Cooper to throw to. They should be an exciting tandem to watch. Latavius Murray will be the guy carrying the ball for the Raiders. The defense should do better under Del Rio’s guidance and Khalil Mack should continue to be a sack machine. I do think,however,they’re a season or two away from playoff contention. Baby steps!
The Chiefs had a nice year going 9-7 but missed the playoffs. Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles are still there and they’ve added Jeremy Maclin to the mix, but other than him and Travis Kelce,the receiving core looks below mediocre. I see Kansas City having a bit of a down year,but I am excited to see how well Eric Berry does after treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I really hope he has a great year and has continued remission.
Baltimore Ravens 10-6
There are many who think the Ravens will win the AFC North and I am one of them. A big surprise player last year for them was Justin Forsett,who should continue his great play this season. The receiving core is getting younger even with Steve Smith Sr. on the roster and a good quarterback throwing to them in Joe Flacco. The defense should continue to hold its own like always. It’s going to be interesting to see how they do this season.
The Bengals have made the postseason the last few seasons,but have lost in the opening round each time. Coach Marvin Lewis is hoping his squad can get over the hump and win their first playoff game since 1991. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are back and so is tailback Jeremy Hill,who is projected to have a great 2015. It’s going to be tough as always as Cincinnati is in a good division with Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the mix. I have them on the outside looking in this year as far as playoff hopes go,but I’ve been wrong before.
Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8
The Steelers have a very strong offense with Ben Roethlisberger,LeVeon Bell,and Antonio Brown leading the way on offense. Bell,however,will serve a two-game suspension to start the year. The defense is suspect as they let Dick LeBeau go as their longtime defensive coordinator and Troy Polamalu retired. This may be a down year for Pittsburgh as they are soul searching defensively.
I don’t think the Browns are going to be very good at all. For years and years,they’ve needed the right type of offense to succeed and they’re still searching for it. When your quarterback is Josh McCown,who has to be in his late 60s at this point, and your starting running back might not even be on the roster yet and your best receiver is Dwayne Bowe, you’re probably going to finish at or near the bottom of the overall standings in the NFL. There’s always next year,though,am I right?
After losing handily to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game,the Colts added many pieces to the puzzle in the hopes of winning a Super Bowl. Frank Gore came over from the 49ers, Andre Johnson comes over from the division-rival Texans, and linebacker Trent Cole comes from the Eagles to give an already talented Colts roster a boost. Will their presence give Andrew Luck,T.Y. Hilton and company enough to get over the hump and be in the Super Bowl? It might,it just might!
Houston Texans 7-9
The Texans were oh-so close to making the playoffs this season,but their problem remains the same,they’re without a legit starting quarterback. I don’t know if Brian Hoyer is the guy who can be that starting quarterback who can win games for you,but that’s Bill O’Brien’s choice for his team. Arian Foster will more than likely be splitting time with Alfred Blue for carries. Andre Johnson left for Indy and DeAndre Hopkins is now the top receiver for Houston. Their defense looks to be outstanding with J.J. Watt there as well as longtime Patriot Vince Wilfork joining that line with Watt. I do think,however,that it will be a bit of a down year for the Texans as they’re looking to see what the future holds for at least another year.
The Titans picked up a promising signal caller in Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. He will team up with Bishop Sankey,Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker on Tennessee’s offense. The defense is headed up by Brian Orakpo and Jason McCourty. I think Mariota will make a big impact on a Titans team that has needed someone to do so for years now. They will definitely improve on a year in which they won a total of two games last year,I see them tripling that total!
The Jaguars haven’t been very good for a while,but they could be better this season. They’ve got their second-year quarterback in Blake Bortles who now has Julius Thomas to throw to and wideout Allen Robinson is projected to have a good season. The tailback situation is pretty messy (Toby Gerhart,really?) and their defense hasn’t gotten much better considering that Dante Fowler,Jr.,their top pick this year is out for the season. I do think that Jacksonville will make some strides,but are still far from being a playoff contender.
Even with Tom Brady being suspended (as of press time), I still see the Patriots winning a lot of football games. Jimmy Garoppalo has looked tremendous in the preseason and the system this team has had in place forever is still second to none. Reggie Wayne joins a receiving core that needs a little bolstering. My big question,however, is who will be the starting tailback. Will it be Jonas Gray,who shined for a time last season, or James White,or someone else? Overall,I think this division is still the Patriots’ to lose.
The Dolphins have been on the brink of making the playoffs the last two seasons,this year I think they’ll punch their ticket in finally. They got much better defensively by bringing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh over from Detroit to join Cameron Wake on the line. Greg Jennings has come over from Minnesota in the hopes of a career rebirth as has Jordan Cameron,they’ll be catching passes from Ryan Tannehill who just got a contract extension in the offseason. As will rookie Devante Parker. Miami could win the division,but I think they fall short because the Pats are still pretty damn good!
My personal opinion of Rex Ryan is that he’s an overrated,mediocre coach. However, his team has a ton of talent. They brought over LeSean McCoy from Philadelphia to be the beast running back they’ve needed for a while now. Percy Harvin joins Ryan from the Jets and we all know what he can do. Sammy Watkins hopes to have a great sophomore season after having a very good rookie year and it’s been decided that Tyrod Taylor will be the starting quarterback. Oh yeah,their defense is pretty good,too with Mario Williams and Marcel Dareus on the defensive line. This may be the Bills’ year to finally end their playoff drought and make their first playoff appearance of the 21st century.
Rex Ryan is out,Todd Bowles is in,the Jets,however,will still be a mess. Their quarterback,Geno Smith,is out after a now former teammate sucker-punched him in the jaw,breaking it. Now Ryan Fitzpatrick is tasked with helping to lead the Jets back to the postseason. While they have excellent talent at wide receiver with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall, their tailback situation could use some help. Chris Ivory is decent,but not a star tailback. Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy are has-beens. Their defense is pretty good and they’ve welcomed back Darrelle Revis back to New York. Right now,I have the Jets having a bad season only because this is a team that is still in a rebuild and they still need a franchise quarterback to lead them back.
Now we’re moving to the NFC!
The Seahawks were one run play away from claiming a second straight Super Bowl victory last season. They’re returning with most of their core players back and have added tight end Jimmy Graham from the Saints to give their offense a lethal catch-passing weapon. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch look to continue their winning ways and I think they will. They’re still too good of a team to suffer from a Super Bowl hangover.
The Rams finally have a decent quarterback who’s not made of glass like Sam Bradford was. Nick Foles is the man under center. They also drafted Todd Gurley out of Georgia and are hopeful his injuries in college don’t hinder his professional career. Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham are also in that crowded Rams backfield. Foles’ main targets will be Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, and Jared Cook. Defensively they’ve added Nick Fairley from the Lions. He joins Chris Long on that defensive line. The linebacking core will be headed by James Laurinaitis and the secondary headed by Janoris Jenkins and Mark Barron. The Rams will be much better than years past and are hoping to end their long postseason drought!
The Cardinals had a terrific season but ended up falling short to the lowly Panthers in the Wild Card round. Carson Palmer is back after being lost to a season-ending injury and he hopes to lead Arizona back to the postseason. He’s got great receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. The defense is pretty good with Patrick Patterson and Tyronn Mathieu but lost Donnell Dockett to the 49ers. I think Arizona will have a good team, but it just might be a down year for them despite their best efforts.
The 49ers had a rough offseason. Letting your coach go,having players lost to retirement and legal troubles is not the best way to start a new year on a high note. The 49ers will try,though. Colin Kaepernick is in a lame-duck season where he’s either going to make it or break it. He does have help in newly-signed Torrey Smith,Anquan Boldin,and Vernon Davis. Carlos Hyde is now the primary tailback and looks to have a great season. The biggest question mark is the offensive line going into this season with the “retirement” of Anthony Davis. The linebacking core got decimated with the retirements of Patrick Willis ansd Chris Borland,but Navarro Bowman is back and looks to jumpstart his career. I don’t think the 49ers will be anything like they were in the Harbaugh era. Jim Tomsula has a lot to prove and big shoes to fill.
The Packers almost made it to the Super Bowl,but fell apart in the NFC Championship Game. Aaron Rodgers and the gang are hoping to be in that same position again,but they’ll have to do so without Jordy Nelson who is out with a season-ending ACL injury and Randall Cobb who injured his shoulder in the preseason as well. Davante Adams is just one of the many receivers who must step their games up if the Packers want any chance of a Super Bowl berth. Despite the injuries to Cobb and Nelson and the competition in the division, I think the machine that is the Packers offense will come through this year and the Packers win the division,but not by much.
The Lions had a pretty good 2014 season. They did,however, lose Ndamakong Suh and Nick Fairley on defense. They did add Ameer Abdullah to their backfield and their high quality offense. With the Packers losing players in the preseason,this could be an opportunistic year for the Lions to make some noise and maybe even win the division,but I think they fall short of that. I do think they’re going to be good enough to make the playoffs for a second straight year.
Some folks have the Vikings in the playoffs. I’m saying “Not so fast!”. Sure,they’re talented on offense with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and the ever-explosive Cordarrelle Patterson and that guy named Adrian Peterson who was suspended for most of last season and they’ve added Mike Wallace,but I’m not convinced just yet if they’ve turned the corner on what was a disastrous 2014 season. I do think they’ll be fine defensively,but you do still have a young signal caller in Bridgewater and Peterson is another year older,will he be the same guy as before? Only time will tell!
Bears fans,Jay Cutler is still your team’s quarterback. No,really,he is! And how does that make you feel? Me,I think it’s anything but good. Not only that,but Brandon Marshall is no longer there and he,more than anyone on that team,wanted to win. But cheer up,Alshon Jeffery is still there and he makes amazing catches,at least he does when Cutler doesn’t throw one of his 18 interceptions per game. But hey,you guys drafted Kevin White,right? Yeah,about that! Maybe this year isn’t the year for you guys,there’s always next year,right?
Yep,I have the Falcons winning the NFC South this year. I didn’t initially,though,but the more I thought about it,the more it made sense. They have a new coach in Dan Quinn. Matt Ryan is back,Julio Jones is back and a lot richer. Their rookie tailback Tevin Coleman looks to be a promising ball carrier and I think the defense will be better with rookie Vic Beasley. Call me crazy,but I think Atlanta has enough in them to win the division.
The Saints had a very disappointing 2014 season. They’re a lot better than this and I think it will show this season. They still have a great head coach in Sean Payton and a guy who can make things happen in Drew Brees. They did trade away Jimmy Graham,but I’m sure Brees will have no trouble making someone new a star. I think Brandin Cooks is going to have an excellent year and the defense should be pretty decent this year as well. It’ll be interesting to see how well this team does.
The Panthers were the winner of a terrible division last season and were out of the playoffs very fast. They’ve now lost their star receiver,Kelvin Benjamin,for the season with an ACL tear and the rest of the receiving core (other than Greg Olsen) has to step up for Cam Newton in order for them to be successful. Luke Kuechly will continue to anchor the defense in the hopes that Carolina will get to their third straight playoff berth that could make or break the status of Ron Rivera’s job as coach of the team should they not make the postseason. I think they fall short this season.
Tampa Bay is still in a rebuilding mode,but they picked a guy in Jameis Winston who should give this offense a boost as well as a boost in ticket sales. He does have weapons in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson and he will hope to rely on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Gerald McCoy will continue to anchor the defensive line. I think the Bucs will improve in many facets,but are still away from being a playoff team.
The Cowboys won the division last yar,but fell short in the playoffs. This year the offense isn’t as good with DeMarco Murray gone and Darren McFadden replacing him (Yikes!). They still have Tony Romo, Dez Bryant,and Jason Witten,though. The defense took a big setback with losing Orlando Scandrick for the season with an ACL injury and hopefully Shaun Lee stays healthy,something he hasn’t been able to do in recent seasons.
The Eagles doubled up on tailbacks after trading LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso by signing DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews from Dallas and San Diego,respectively. Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor will lead the receiving core. The question mark is who will be their signal caller. Philadelphia has Sam Bradford,Mark Sanchez,Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow. I’m guessing Bradford will be the guy,if he is, he better watch his knees made of glass. With the firepower on offense, the defense seems above average,and just above average. I’m just not feeling the Eagles’ chances at the postseason at this moment,it just feels like they took many steps backwards.
As most people know I hate the New York Giants and Eli Manning. My prediction for them,though, is a realistic one each year because this team continuously underachieves. Odell Beckham,Jr.,however,is a freakin’ stud and his mediocre quarterback Eli Manning should be lucky to have his ass around. I also don’t think the defense outside of Prince Amakamura is very good and that more than anything will hinder them. Tom Coughlin will still keep his job,though.
Where do I begin with the Redskins. This team is a goddamn mess! Their self-proclaimed “best quarterback in the league” Robert Griffin III is made of glass, their defense is overrated, they have an unstable ownership and front office. It’s just not looking good over there. Sure,they still have talented players in Alfred Morris and DeSean Jackson and a decent offensive line,but what else ya got? No,really,I’m asking!
Wild Card Weekend
Denver over Buffalo
Baltimore over Miami
Detroit over Atlanta
New Orleans over Dallas
Indianapolis over Baltimore
Denver over New England
Seattle over Detroit
Green Bay over New Orleans
Indianapolis over Denver
Green Bay over Seattle