2016 NFL Predictions

The preseason is finally over and the attention of fans can shift to the season opening Super Bowl rematch on Thursday. However, for those of us who really think we know what we are talking about, there is one order of business left, making official predictions for the upcoming season. Unlike most, I will pull these out after the season and either gloat or own up to it. I will give division winners and wildcards in each conference with brief explanations. The piece will end with my official 2016 Super Bowl prediction.

AFC Division Winners:

East: Patriots- Yes, they are a bit more valuable with Tom Brady missing a quarter of the season. Rather than winning 13 games, they may win just 11. The Jets, Dolphins and Bills are not getting anywhere close to that number.

West: Broncos- I will be the first to admit the quarterback situation is far from great, but it does not need to be. There is too much talent everywhere else on the roster for them not to be really good again. As long as Trevor Siemian does not lose games for the Broncos, they will win a lot of them.

North: Ravens- They were my Super Bowl pick last year. Injuries and close losses made that look really stupid. However, everyone is healthy, and thus, I am drinking the Kool-Aid again this year. Also, the free agent additions of wide receiver Mike Wallace and safety Eric Weddle suited team needs perfectly.

photo from baltimoresun.com

photo from baltimoresun.com

South: Colts- Honestly, I have no clue here. Every team in this division got better, with the possible exception of Houston. The issue is everyone was awful last year. Jacksonville is a year away. The Colts and Andrew Luck are the only somewhat proven commodity. That is the only logic I have.

AFC Wild Cards:

Chiefs- Until they find a way to start beating Denver twice a year, they are not winning the division. Despite that, their fundamentally solid, hard-nosed brand of football will continue to serve them well in 2016.

Bengals- This is process of elimination. Apart from the Pats, the rest of the AFC East is garbage. The same can be said for the entire AFC South, but someone has to win it. The AFC West is not getting three teams in. Realistically that leaves the Bengals and Steelers. Cincy’s defense gives them the nod in my book.

NFC Division Winners:

East: Cowboys- They were my Super Bowl pick prior to the Romo injury. That will likely cost them home field in some level of a playoff game, but I am done with the Giants after all the blown leads last year. The Eagles are a mess and I do not buy Washington’s dink and dunk offense. Assuming Dak Prescott can ride their stout run game to a few wins, Romo should be back in late October. Nine wins should do the trick in this division.

West: Seahawks- What is Seattle NOT really good at? They really hit their stride last year before running into the buzz saw that was Carolina. Russell Wilson is still in his prime. Thomas Rawls may actually be a backfield upgrade over the now retired Marshawn Lynch and only Denver has a better defense in the entire NFL.

photo from feelgrafix.com

photo from feelgrafix.com

North: Packers- The best days of the Aaron Rodgers era are long gone, but he along with a healthy Jordy Nelson should be enough to carry them to a division title, but it may be the last for this core of players. They started to slip ever so slightly last year.

South: Panthers- They cannot possibly be as good as last year. The law of averages just will not allow it. They do not really have much on offense other than Cam Newton. This team wins mostly on the strength of its defense. That will continue in 2016. Though Tampa Bay is really improving, I just cannot see anyone else in this division being a real threat right now

NFC Wildcards:

Bears- The defense was so bad last year that no one realizes that Jay Cutler had one of his best seasons as a pro. Most of his weapons are back and John Fox went out and got two fantastic linebackers to sure up the defense, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. Everyone has their sleeper team each year, the Bears are mine.

Cardinals- With an ageing roster, their best chance to win it all was probably last year, but Carson Palmer and the rest of the Over the Hill Gang should still sneak into the playoffs.

There you have it folks… Read ‘em and weep. I will take the Ravens over the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. I am ready for some football…. Are you?

If I Was a Betting Man…

I do not encourage gambling in any way. However, something was released yesterday that I thought would make for a great speculative article. Online sportsbook Bovada.lv released its projected win totals for all 32 NFL teams. So, I’m going to take a look at five teams and play a little over under with their projected win totals. These will be just a few teams whose numbers jump out at me.

Chicago (7.5 projected wins, over)- All John Fox does is turnaround bad teams in a hurry. He did it in Carolina and Denver, and he is at it again with the Bears. It is strange to say that the defense is the problem in Chicago, but that certainly was the case last year. They lost seven games last year when they scored 20 or more points. They finished 6-10. Fox knows what he is doing as he heads into year two.

The Bears signed two of the most underrated linebackers in football in free agency, Jarrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. Fox coached Trevathan in Denver. He was the unsung hero of that defense last year. Both guys have a nose for the football and are tackling machines. They will make the defense a lot better from day one.

Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffrey have become one of the most dynamic quarterback wide receiver duos in the league. Combine all this with a workable early schedule, and I say Chicago will be in the mix for a playoff spot this year.

Photo from usatoday.com

Photo from usatoday.com

Philadelphia (7 projected wins, under)-With a new coach and well-documented confusing quarterback drama, I see no way for them to reach seven wins. Things get even bleaker when you consider that the division rival Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins are loaded with offensive talent, and the Eagles made no significant changes to a defense that was in the bottom five against both the run and the pass last year. The Eagles traded up to pick second overall in the draft this year. I suspect they may be picking one spot higher next year, and will not have to trade to get it.

Baltimore (8.5 projected wins, over)- When healthy, they have one of the best offenses in the league. Last year though, no one was healthy. Quarterback Joe Flacco and ageless wonder wide receiver Steve Smith both missed most of last season with injuries. By the time December rolled around, they were literally signing quarterbacks and wide receivers off the street and starting them to finish out the year.

The one thing they really could have used was a wide receiver to stretch the field and go deep. They will be getting two. Former Steeler wide out Mike Wallace may be the best deep-threat in football. The Ravens snatched him up in free agency. He has somewhat disappeared after leaving Pittsburgh a few years ago, but Baltimore is a perfect fit. Flacco throws one of the best deep balls I have ever seen. There is also last year’s first-round pick Breshad Perriman who sat out all of last year due to injury. He has the speed to be an instant impact player. The defense is average. If the offensive personnel pans out, that is all they will need to be.

Carolina (10.5 projected wins, under)- This is more about the law of averages than anything else. This team lost just two games last year, including the Super Bowl. They won seven games by a single possession. That is the kind of thing that evens out the following year. Outside of Cam Newton, their offense should not scare anyone. Also, the defense is just a little bit more vulnerable with the unexpected loss of shutdown corner Josh Norman to Washington. They will still be very good, but will take a step back.

Photo from usatoday.com

Photo from usatoday.com

Minnesota (9.5 projected wins, under)- Mike Zimmer is a great coach and Adrian Peterson is a Hall of Fame running back. That does not change the fact that this team will go as far as young quarterback Teddy Bridgwater takes it. He still has not shown me a lot. As seen in last year’s playoff loss to Seattle, he lacks the arm strength to effectively throw through cold and windy conditions. Thus, I obviously do not think he is the long-term answer in Minnesota. They ranked 31st in passing offense last year. Adrian Peterson and that defense cannot do all the heavy lifting forever. Bridgwater is going to have to win them some games on his own this year, but I do not think he can do it. With Chicago poised to take a step forward, someone in this division has to take a step back. I think it will be Minnesota and to a lesser extent, Detroit.

Well, there you have it folks. Use this advice at your own risk. Let the endless speculation and second-guessing begin.

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