A new season means a brand new slate for all 32 NFL teams, all of which who would sure love to call themselves NFL Champions. Being that we are 12 days away from the start of the 2015 season, I wanted to take a look at how everything is going to pan out.
1) New Orleans Saints (10-6)
After leaving last season with a sour taste in their mouth, the Saints immediately improved heavily this offseason. Their offensive line improved tremendously with the additions of Max Unger and Andrus Peat, two guys who should provide excellent protection for Brees in the passing game. The defense was also very active this offseason as well, adding guys like Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha and Brandon Browner. With Rob Ryan planning to simply the defense, I think most of the Saints problems will be fixed. Expect a return to the playoffs for the Saints in 2015.
2) Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
Dan Quinn was one of the best hires this past offseason in the entire NFL, definitely a win for the Atlanta Falcons. Quinn was one of the masterminds in Seattle that led that tough Seahawks defense, so we can expect big chances for Atlanta on that side of the ball. The doubts aren’t in the Falcons offense, but mainly with their defense. Improvements on that side of the ball should result in a winning record for the Falcons this season and a possible return to the playoffs.
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
Can defense alone win you football games in the NFL? Well, the Bucs will be a great test dummy for that theory this season as I believe it can. Last season the Bucs finished with the worst record in the NFL at 2-14. But, the closer we look, the closer we see that some games really weren’t that bad. The Bucs lost an amazing 8 games by 6 points or less, something that shouldn’t happen that much. With Doug Martin having a great preseason and rookie QB Jameis Winston proving himself, we could see a team that floats around 6-8 wins. Definitely a step in the right direction, I can see the Bucs finishing this season 7-9.
4) Carolina Panthers (5-11)
Just by looking at the Panthers upcoming schedule, it makes my eyes hurt. This team has to travel to Dallas and Seattle, while also hosting Green Bay and Indianapolis. Let’s also not forget that they have to play their divisions members twice, therefore making this a very tough schedule for Carolina. Not a very productive offseason for the Panthers, while also losing future star WR Kelvin Benjamin should make this season a nightmare for the Panthers. I’d be shocked to see this team finish above .500.
1) Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
In my opinion, one of the most underrated moves of the offseason was the Eagles addition of QB Sam Bradford. When healthy, Bradford has proven that he can be a top 10 QB in the NFL. Obviously, the key word in that sentence is “healthy,” but why can’t he? The addition of RB Demarco Murray should be huge for the Eagles, especially in Chip Kelly’s offense. With the slowly diminishing Cowboys defense, this should be the Eagles best chance in a while.
2) Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
Not a particularly a great offseason for the Cowboys should hurt them this year, especially the loss of their top RB Demarco Murray. This offseason has also been filled with the suspensions, contract drama and now even some key injuries. This season has already derailed for Dallas in my opinion, so expect Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to be the entire Dallas Cowboys team and finish 8-8.
3) New York Giants (7-9)
Despite the emergence of one of the top rookies out of last years draft, the Giants could only go so far. The Giants finished 6-10, and that seems about right for this year as well. The key to their success this year will be driven off of their offensive line play and running game. We know they can throw, but can they run? The defense hasn’t had to many major changes except the loss of Antrel Rolle and potentially losing Jason Pierre-Paul for the year with an injury. It’s fair to say we can look for another disappointing year for the Giants.
4) Washington Redskins (3-13)
Is there that much to say about the Redskins this year? Their ownership is shaky, their coaching is shaky and their quarterback situation is shaky. Yeah, that about sums it all up. I expect the Redskins to go with QB Kirk Cousins this season, and rightfully so. Robert Griffin III has been nothing short of terrible and the organization really doesn’t have a shot. Expect the Redskins to be a circus act, definitely a long shot from winning anything except worst record of the year.
1) Green Bay Packers (14-2)
It’s fair to say that to win the NFC, you’re going to have to go through Lambeau Field. Heading into this season, the Packers seem to be clicking on all cylinders. Led by Aaron Rodgers, I don’t see this team slowing down all year. Their offensive line is great, their running game is great and their secondary is honestly improved as well. Losing WR Jordy Nelson shouldn’t affect them as much as people think, look for the Packers to run away with it this year.
2) Detroit Lions (9-7)
The window of opportunity seems to be closing for the Lions as the years go by, with the core of their team seeming to get older. The NFL’s best run defense took a turn for the worse this offseason with the loses of Ndamukong Suh and C.J. Mosley. If Calvin Johnson and Joique Bell can stay healthy alongside Golden Tate, Matt Stafford and Ameer Abdullah, then maybe this team has a chance at a Wild Card birth.
3) Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
As the Lions and Bears continue to fall, the Vikings stock just keeps on rising. Getting back RB Adrian Peterson will be huge for this team, as QB Teddy Bridgewater continues to mature. They have a respectable defense that should produce many turnovers, which should reset the balance of how much time the defense stays on the field. If Bridgewater can continue to take the strides that everyone is seeing, this team is inching towards a playoff birth.
4) Chicago Bears (3-13)
The Bears really don’t have a direction right now, and that’s a bad thing. QB Jay Cutler is getting worse as the seasons go by, rookie standout WR Kevin White may miss the whole season and RB Matt Forte is approaching 30 years old. With a depleted defense and offensive line, don’t expect much of the Bears this season.
1) Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
Fresh off a Super Bowl defeat, the Seahawks to me look slightly worse. The addition of TE Jimmy Graham came at the expense of top C Max Unger. Losing Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn will also hurt as well, as they have had the top defense in the NFL the last two seasons. I can definitely see Seattle taking a step back this season, however they are still a step ahead of everyone else in that division.
2) St. Louis Rams (10-6)
Every year it seems like the Rams are improving, and this season might be their year to make waves. With one of the best defensive lines in the league, they can really make a name for themselves if their offense to play up to par. The Rams went out and traded for QB Nick Foles, who should provide the stability they’ve been needing at quarterback. They also drafted one of the top rated running backs heading into the draft in Todd Gurley. Expect to see a whole new Rams team this season.
3) Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
Like the Seahawks, the Cardinals also took a huge hit in the loss of a coach; Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. Alongside Bruce Arians, the two coaches made up one of the best coaching tandems in the league. Like many other teams, the Cardinals health will play a huge factor in how they finish this year. If RB Andre Ellington and QB Carson Palmer can maintain their health, a potential push for the division title is in reach.
4) San Francisco 49ers (5-11)
In one of the oddest off-seasons to date, the 49ers watched four players retire and a former Defensive Player of the Year get cut. Add this all up with a first year head coach, and watch the world implode. The 49ers defense will still be respectable, but the current state of their “so called” offense will be the question mark. QB Collin Kaepernick has shown to be one of the biggest falls from grace ever, just years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The NFC West should be a dogfight, but I just can’t see the 49ers attending.
NFC Playoff Predictions
Wild Card Round
(3) Eagles over (6) Cardinals
(4) Saints over (5) Rams
(1) Packers over (4) Saints
(3) Eagles over (2) Seahawks
(1) Packers over (3) Eagles
1) Indianapolis Colts (13-3)
Benefiting from one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, the Colts look to keep pace for the title of “Best team in the AFC.” After a rough 45-7 AFC Championship beatdown by the Patriots, the Colts look to make a name for themselves. An easy schedule should help this team have a great season, but against better opponents I worry about the play of their defense. If the Colts can figure out a defensive identity, they could easily be one of the best teams in the NFL.
2) Houston Texans (8-8)
The Texans are just a quarterback away from a playoff spot, they just need to get him first. Having Brian Hoyer as your starter just won’t cut it, so I don’t see this Texans team making any major strides this season. The Texans do however have a very great defense, led by star DE J.J. Watt. If Arian Foster can come back healthy, it won’t surprise me to see this team win 6-9 games. Get the consistency Houston, then we’ll talk.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
Gus Bradley seems to be making all the right moves so far in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars have had a great preseason and reportedly a great training camp. It all starts with QB Blake Bortles, who so far has looked great in the early appearances of just his second NFL Campaign. I’m not making a testament that the Jaguars are going to be a playoff team, but they are headed in the right direction.
4) Tennessee Titans (4-12)
Rookie QB Marcus Mariota has shown poise and potential, but this year we shouldn’t expect a huge fight from the Titans. Their offensive line is a question mark, which provides a tough challenge for a rwilookie quarterback and second year RB Bishop Sankey. Also, if the secondary can focus on not being weak to the pass, they could possibly increase their win total. In the long run, don’t expect much more than possibly 6 wins this season from Tennessee.
1) Miami Dolphins (11-5)
Didn’t see that one coming, did you? I absolutely love this Dolphins team, and I think this is their year to take the reigns of the AFC East. With the Patriots losing Tom Brady to suspension, the Dolphins should take advantage. The acquisition of DL Ndamukong Suh should add to this teams already great defense in a big way. The Dolphins have a legitimate chance at starting 6-0 this season, so let’s see what they can do.
2) New England Patriots (10-6)
If QB Tom Brady wasn’t suspended for the first four games, this may have been a different outcome for me. Coming off another Super Bowl victory, the Patriots look to continue their string of dominance in the this league. My biggest concern with the Pats is their lack of depth at running back and wide receiver. I know last year they were able to overcome that, but I don’t know if they can do that again. The losses of CB’s Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner should hurt the defense deeply, so this season will be a question mark for the Patriots.
3) Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Newly acquired Head Coach Rex Ryan is bringing a whole new mentality to the Bills, but will it work? The obvious problem with the Bills is the quarterback situation, which will play into how the Bills finish this season. Based off of his preseason play, lifelong backup QB Tyrod Taylor has been named the starter. Even after the big offseason acquisition of RB LeSean McCoy, the Bills offense should linger.
4) New York Jets (5-11)
I think it’s fair to say that the Jets season ended when their starting quarterback was injured via a teammate punch. But seriously, this team is headed down a road to no where. Injuries and suspensions have already affected their team, before Week 1. Sorry Jets fans, maybe next year.
1) Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
The “is Joe Flacco elite” question still lingers around every season. The Ravens have quietly been very consistent over the last few years, with a 40-24 record going back to 2011. With the new-found talent of RB Justin Forsett, along with their great offensive line; we shouldn’t expect anything different this season from the Ravens.
2) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Despite the displeasure of QB Andy Dalton, the Bengals always seem to find a way to sneak into the playoffs. One of my favorite younger players in the NFL is RB Jeremy Hill, so don’t be shocked when he continues his dominance this season. The Bengals defense keeps their consistency along with their offense, a Wild Card could possibly be in the cards again.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)
Like many of the other teams in the NFL, the Steelers are hampered by suspensions. Pro Bowl RB Le’Veon Bell is out for the first two games, while WR Martavis Bryant will sit out the first four. This is huge for this team, as they will mainly rely on their offense to win games. The Steelers have a particularly weak defense, paired with an offense riddled with suspensions should equal to a chance to miss out on the playoffs.
4) Cleveland Browns (6-10)
Heading into Week 13, the Browns were 7-4 and staring a playoff berth in the face. Then, like everything else the Browns do; it crumbled to the ground. The Browns went out and signed QB Josh McCown, which is definitely a downgrade from Brian Hoyer. The Browns defense may carry the load some games, but not for the whole season.
1) Denver Broncos (10-6)
Definitely one of the harder divisions to pick, the AFC West could honestly go three ways. This season should be the Broncos last on top, for many good reasons. QB Peyton Manning isn’t getting younger, which their surrounding cast isn’t as well. They have a great receiving core and a solid defensive core that should keep this team in contention all year. If RB C.J. Anderson can repeat on last year’s breakout, this could be a dangerous team.
2) Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Health is a big part in success for the Chiefs, as it always seems like RB Jamaal Charles has something lingering. The Chiefs made it a point this season to make some key moves, acquiring WR Jeremy Maclin and resigning OLB Justin Houston. Offensive Line play should play a big part in if this team has success, so it will be a thing to watch.
3) San Diego Chargers (9-7)
The Chargers haven’t made any large acquisitions over recent memory, yet they always seem to be in the hunt. Rookie RB Melvin Gordon should play a large part in the offense as an aging Phillip Rivers continues his consistent work. The run defense is definitely something they need to improve on to play in this division, so it will be interesting to see if the Chargers once again sneak into the playoffs.
4) Oakland Raiders (6-10)
One of my favorite up and coming teams in this league is definitely the Raiders. Led by second year QB Derek Carr, this team’s identity has changed completely. Drafting WR Amari Cooper will be one of the biggest moves the team made all offseason.Multiple coaches and analysts are praising Cooper as the next big thing, and they aren’t wrong. A defense filled with young and old, they are that close to being a .500 team. Just be patient Raider Nation, just be patient.
AFC Playoff Predictions
Wild Card Round
(3) Ravens over (6) Bengals
(5) Patriots over (4) Broncos
(3) Ravens over (2) Dolphins
(5) Patriots over (1) Colts
(3) Ravens over (5) Patriots
Super Bowl Preview
As you can see, I have the Green Bay Packers playing the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl 50. Now I know this may be an odd pick, but it’s just how I could see it playing out. The Packers are really a force to be reckoned with. The argument could be made that they have the best running and passing game in the NFL, which is something not to be taken lightly. Being led by the best QB in the NFL doesn’t hurt either, as Aaron Rodgers is just a natural leader. The Ravens I like a lot this year, despite losing DL Haloti Ngata. They are coached well all around, which plays a huge factor in my decision. Despite the somewhat underdog Ravens this year, I just can’t see the Packers being stopped.
Packers over Ravens, 34-23