It's that time of the year again, when millions of Americans spend their Sunday's (and Monday nights) watching a bunch of grown men attempt to smash one another into the ground for the right to win the most coveted trophy in all of North American sports. Last season ended with one of the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history, as the Seattle Seahawks, and their vaunted defense, tamed Peyton Manning's historically great offense (or what was suppose to be a historically great offense). Hey at least Bruno Mars was good right?
With the new season just hours away from kicking off tonight, I just want to put my Divisional and Super Bowl picks on the record, so no one can question me come February. While everyone is very quick to put Denver and Seattle back in the big game for a second straight year, how many times has that happened in resent memory? Time to take the blinders off and view every teams real chance of winning the division and SuperBowl, not just the so called favorites. I will start with the individual divisions, then discuss the playoff match ups before picking my champion come season's end. Well here goes nothing.
I had a really hard time with this division, but I ultimately decided to go with the Bengals because I just think there the best team by default. Offensively, I think Andy Dalton will improve and honestly he has a nice arsenal of play makers around him this season in Bernard, Green and Eifert that should help him get off to a strong start this season. Defensively, the Bengals get back Geno Atkins, a top three defensive lineman in the entire league, and as a unit I think they are one of the strongest in the entire league. My biggest question mark with the Bengals lies in the afore mentioned Andy Dalton. While I think he will be better this season, will it be better enough to make a run at the Superbowl? Tough question, but we shall see. I have them at 11-5 and the 3 seed going into the playoffs.
As for the other teams, both Pittsburgh and Baltimore have the same flaws in my opinion. Both will struggle in all aspects of offense this season (particularly on the offensive line) and their once respected defenses have become not so respectable anymore. Can Joe Flacco and Big Ben carry their teams to the post season? Once upon a time I would have said yes but not this season unfortunately. In regards to Cleveland, I love their potential future just not their present. I really wish Josh Gordon had not gotten suspended (love watching him) but now sadly the Browns will be lining up on Sundays this fall with one of the worst offensive units in football. This is sad seeing defensively they are very above average and really do possess strong line play on both sides. At least the whole God hates Cleveland saying is starting to fade just a tad, what with Lebron coming home and bring Kevin Love with him. Theres hope Cleveland! Stay positive.
1. New England
3. N.Y Jets
Let's be honest does anyone see New England not winning the division while Tom Brady is playing quarterback for the Patriots? Not me. Honestly, it's not even just Brady. Key additions on defense such as Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, while also getting Mayo and Wilfork back on defense should have the Patriots producing in the top five defensive category in the NFL this season. Gronk is healthy (for now) and when he plays, the Patriots offense is just on a never level. I see a monster 13-3 regular season from the Patriots this season, giving them the one seed, as the schedule shapes out to be one of the easier in the league as well.
I really like Miami's chances of making the playoffs this season. I think the Richie Incognito controversy, proved to be too much of a distraction for the Dolphins last season and really wrecked their season. I think the focus will be laser sharp this season and I see Ryan Tannehill having a break out year. Their defense should be much improved from last season, with Dion Jordan in his second season, along with his counterpart Cameron Wake rushing the passer. Also, I really liked the Moreno signing at running back. He could really help take some of the pressure off of Tannehill. In the end, I see the Dolphins finishing up at 9-7 and sneaking into the playoffs as the 6 seed in the AFC.
I won't spend too much time on the Bills and Jets, both of whom I think will not be very good this season. I question both of these teams at the quarterback position (and that's usually a good indicator of why you have issues). For the Jets, Geno Smith struggled a lot last season and I don't see it getting much better and for the Bills E.J Manuel looked very questionable in the pre season (to be kind), leading many to question his status as the starter. The Bills did sign Kyle Orton just this last week, so Manuel's days may be numbered as the starter. Big Picture for this season, These teams will stay in games because of their defenses (which are both pretty solid) but unfortunately you have to score points to win games, so yeah sorry Buffalo and N.Y.
What will for sure be one of the worst divisions in the entire NFL (just like it is every year) I'm going with the Colts by default. Yes I am a die hard Colts fans, is this a fan pick? Nope I still think there good enough to win this terrible division. They have improved on offense with the signing of Hakeem Nicks and the return of Reggie Wayne from injury. Trent Richardson can't possibly be as terrible as he was last season, so hopefully we should see some improvement at the running back position. Andrew Luck will continue to get better (which is scary seeing he carried the team already in his first two seasons to the playoffs) and like already mentioned he gets to play against this division for six games (major plus). Is the defense great? No not even close. Is there a possibility that the Colts offensive line is going to get Luck killed? Yes, very high actually. Are these problems enough to stop them from winning the division? No I don't think so. That just shows you how God awful this division truly is. I have the Colts finishing up at 10-6, which will be good enough to secure the 4 seed in the AFC.
I do see Houston improving a lot this season, but I just can't take them seriously with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at quarterback. Honestly, if they had a competent starting quarterback week 1, I would have picked them to win this division. I just can't do it though. It's sad too, seeing they have two awesome play makers on offense (Johnson & Hopkins) and a defensive line consisting of Clowney & Watt. Talk to me next year Houston. As for the other two, I just don't see it. Tennessee made some very questionable signings to say the least this offseason and I just don't trust Jake Locker enough. Jacksonville? Well, you know they will play hard and the future looks bright for Blake Bortles. Other than that? They have an awesome new big Board at their stadium!
2. San Diego
3. Kansas City
I won't lie, I had a tough time deciding here. First off, I think people are seriously over rating Denver for various reason's (we will get to that in a second) and also as someone who has rooted for Peyton Manning my whole life, He struggles against the Chargers for whatever reason. I don't think this is a give me division for Denver I really don't. However, I still think their going to pull it out because I still think that the statement "Were Peyton Manning in the regular season this week" is probably the scariest sentence that a opposing team can hear. He's just money September through December. Also, the defense is much improved and there deeper then they have been in past years. Now for those weaknesses. I think the running game will take a step back, i'm not totally sold on their secondary, and I don't really trust John Fox in big games. Those are three big weaknesses come the end of the season to have. I have them going 12-4, enough to get the 2 seed and win the division.
I really think San Diego is going to be good this season. A true sleeper. I think Phillip Rivers is back to being on the cusp of elite status, their offensive is super efficient, the defense will be much much better and lastly I love Kennan Allen (I think he's going to be a stud). There's so much to love with this team, and I think there a serious candidate for that team that could get really hot at the end of the year and somehow find themselves in the Superbowl. I have them going 11-5 (yep I said it) and grabbing the 5 seed in the AFC.
To put it simply, I think both of these teams are going to be awful. Kansas City won't be able to block anyone (they lost key pieces on the offensive line), I have never trusted Alex Smith, and Defensively they are going to take a step back. I feel bad for Jamal Charles, I really do. As for the Raiders? They are this years winner of the team that I think will be the worst in the entire NFL. Congrats Oakland keep on keeping on.
This was a very interesting division to gage. I'm going with the Packers because I think they have the most complete team. Offensively they are going to be top 4 in the league certainly and defensively I think they will be far more competent then the last couple of years. I look for Eddie Lacy to have a even better second year than his rookie season (which was spectacular in its on regard). Aaron Rogers might just win the MVP (if he can take it from Peyton Manning) but even if he doesn't the Packers will be just fine this season. I've got them going 11-5 and winning the NFC North. This should land them with the 4th seed in the NFC (I know, the NFC is loaded).
The Bears are a very interesting case. I think they will finish second, but this is completely based on the fact that I think their offense will score a ton of points. However, the defense is maybe the worst in the league. I'm worried this will, in a weird way, counter balance and lead them to have an 8-8 season. I'm going to just close my eyes and say that Cutler, Forte, Marshall and company will carry their lousy defense into the playoffs at 10-6 with the 5 seed.
The Lions and Vikings will be the bottom feeders in this division. While I think the Vikings are headed in the right direction, it's just not enough yet to make any noise in the division. The Lions might just be the most frustrating team in the entire league. I say this because I want to like them, I really do, but I just simply don't trust them. I could be wrong about this, but I just feel as if when the Lions are close to doing something right, they will inevitably screw it up (for example see last 4 games of last season).
4. N.Y. Giants
I really like Philadelphia in the NFC East. I think the team will flourish under Chip Kelley in year two of his scheme. LeSean McCoy will win the rushing title this season and Nick Foles may not just through 2 interceptions again but I think he will continue to shine as the starting quarterback. Defensively they looked solid in the preseason and realistically they really started to improve by the end of last season. I know the same team doesn't usually win this division two years in a row but i'm going against the conventional wisdom here. I think they finish 12-4 and take the 3 seed in the NFC.
The other teams in the division all have very distinguishable faults that I believe will hold them back from accomplishing much this season. First, Dallas will probably have the worst defense in the entire NFL this season (Which is sad seeing their offensive has the potential to be very good). Second, Washington might have to reevaluate the status of RG III, who looked very very shaky in the preseason and if he can't make it through this season then the Redskins will have a major problem on their hands. Lastly, the Giants will struggle on both lines and lets pray for Eli that he gets it all together (and doesn't turn back into the rain man).
1. New Orleans
2. Tampa Bay
I love this Saints team a lot. Drew Brees is prone to have a monster year, Rob Ryan will have that defense flying all over the field and Sean Peyton is still one of the best handful of coaches in the entire league. This team looked great in the preseason and Jimmy Graham looks to be poised to prove to the entire league that he is the most versatile weapon in all of football. I think the Saints finish 12-4 and win the tiebreaker with the Eagles for the number 2 seed in the the NFC.
The other 3 teams all very mediocre in my opinion. Tampa Bay will be much improved but at the same time it won't be enough to make any serious noise in the division. I think by next season though, that might have the potential to change under Lovie Smith. Atlanta might have some nice pieces on offense but unfortunately you won't find any on defense, which will be their achilles heel going into this season. Lastly, poor Carolina (and in particular Cam Newton) just lost way to many important pieces in free agency and retirement to even dream of competing in the NFC. I still have no clue who Cam Newton in going to throw the ball to on a regular basis and in the end it could end up being a disaster by season's end.
2. San Francisco
4. St. Louis
Seattle will remain on the top of this division. They in essence remain the same team from last year, with the exception of having Percy Harvin back healthy for an entire season (which might be terrifying for opposing teams). Marshawn Lynch will continue to be a beast and really there's no reason to think that Russell Wilson will not continue to improve. To put it simply, this team should be everyone's Superbowl favorites, not Denver. I have them at 13-3 to end the season, with the 1 seed in the NFC and again NFC West champions.
I know a lot of people are down on the 49ers this season but i'm not one of them. I think Jim Harbaugh will distill a sense of purpose in this team and motivate them into a playoff spot. Collin Kaepernick will just continue to get better and they will always be able to run the ball on offense. Defensively I think they will step back a tad, but not enough to hurt them severally at the end of the day. I have them at 9-7 just sneaking into the playoffs as the 6 seed.
Arizona just doesn't have the offensive line play nor the playmakers on offense outside of Larry Fitzgerald to really contend in this division for me. Also, no one can honestly say that they trust Carson Palmer in big moments right? Ok, just making sure. As for the Rams, I feel like they have a very solid team but just simply lack a competent starting quarterback (and thats even before Sam Bradford got hurt). It's worth noting though that they might just have the best defensive line in all of football with Quinn and Long anchoring the squad. There's hope Rams fans, you just need a quarterback.
Ok, so to recap heres how I think things will shape out in the Regular season:
New England 13-3 San Diego 11-5
Denver 12-4 Miami 9-7
Seattle 13-3 Chicago 10-6
New Orleans 12-4 San Francisco 9-7
New England 31 - Denver 28
Seattle 24 - New Orleans 13
New England 17 - Seattle 28
We will have a repeat. Seattle is just clearly in my eyes on another level then the other teams currently. They will have to work for it and I don't think we will see another blowout the likes of last season's Superbowl. Football is back and let the games begin! Thanks for reading.