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.
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.
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
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?