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NFL Preview

September 30, 2016

AFC East

1 New England Patriots:

 

The biggest question facing New England is how they will fare in the first four weeks without quarterback Tom Brady, inarguably one of the greatest passers of all time. If they can win at least 2 of those games, their road to the playoffs should be easy.

Predicted Record: 13-3

2 New York Jets:

The first half of New York’s schedule (versus teams including the Seahawks and Cardinals) is what will make or break their playoff hopes. This is just the test Coach Todd Bowles and veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to prove that they are legitimate contenders, and they should have a real shot.

Predicted Record: 10-6

3 Buffalo Bills:

After being one game out of the playoffs in 2014, the Bills took a major step back last year with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, going 8-8. With injuries and suspensions to many of their key defensive players, the Bills are likely to take yet another step back in 2016.

Predicted Record: 7-9

4 Miami Dolphins:

This is year five for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and having never made the playoffs in his first four years, it’s time for him to produce. However, results could be hindered since Miami traded its star running back Lamar Miller in the offseason, and 30-year-old replacement Arian Foster is coming off a torn Achilles; predict the Dolphins to be on the outside looking in once again.

Predicted Record: 6-10

AFC North

1 Pittsburgh Steelers

 

With the NFL’s best wide receiver (Antonio Brown), and a top ten quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger), along with a top five running back (Le’Veon Bell) to come back next week, Pittsburgh is golden. As long as they don’t struggle with injuries, the Steelers will be able to win the AFC North and contend for Super Bowl LI.

Predicted Record: 11-5

2 Cincinnati Bengals

Despite losing in the Wild Card round last year, Cincinnati’s starting quarterback Andy Dalton looks to be strong this year, as he started out last season (before a season-ending injury) with top 10-type quarterback statistics. If Dalton can repeat what he accomplished at the start of last year, the Bengals will be able to make it over the Wild Card hump.

Predicted Record: 10-6

3 Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are hoping for a bounce-back year from last season (during which they went 5-11) in 2016. However, the AFC North and the conference as a whole seems too tough for the team this year, so despite great coaching in John Harbaugh and a solid starting quarterback in Joe Flacco, the Ravens will miss the playoffs with an even .500 record.

Predicted Record: 8-8

Cleveland Browns

The Browns are already off to a bad start, as Cleveland has just placed starting quarterback Robert Griffin III on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Veteran quarterback Josh McCown will be taking Griffin’s place, so look for the Browns to have yet another disappointing season.

Predicted Record: 3-13

 

AFC South

1 Houston Texans

 

After winning the division last season, despite the lack of real quarterback talent, Houston is poised to remain first in the AFC South once again. By picking up former Denver Bronco Brock Osweiler, along with star running back Lamar Miller to replace the aging Arian Foster, the Texans—led by their fantastic defense—will be major contenders for the Super Bowl.

Predicted Record: 11-5

2 Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are on many lists to be 2016’s team on the rise. With many recent additions—such as quarterback Blake Bortles, Pro-Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson, and running back T.J. Yeldon—Jacksonville will miss the postseason, but it will be an important season of development and overall improvement for the team.

Predicted Record: 9-7

3 Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last year, which turned out to be very problematic for quarterback Andrew Luck, who had no protection. To make matters worse, the Colts secondary is depleted, with eight players currently injured; these weaknesses should keep the Colts out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Predicted Record: 6-10

4 Tennessee Titans

Although the Titans drafted their quarterback of the future in Marcus Mariota, they earned the worst record in the league last season. Picking up former Dallas Cowboy Demarco Murray and 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry to play running back should prove helpful, but it won’t be nearly enough to prevent the Titans from remaining at the bottom of the AFC South.

Predicted Record: 4-12

 

AFC West

1 Oakland Raiders

 

The Raiders are on many lists to be the breakout team of 2016. With a great young core in third-year Pro-Bowl quarterback Derek Carr, Pro-Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper, Pro-Bowl linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack, and Pro-Bowl running back Latavius Murray, this season is the team’s best chance to earn its first playoff appearance in 13 years.

Predicted Record: 11-5

2 Kansas City Chiefs

In the offseason, Kansas City lost their star linebacker Justin Houston until at least November, so look for their defense to be critically weakened. Though they’ll just miss the division title, expect the Chiefs to consistently play solid football offensively.

Predicted Record: 10-6

3 Denver Broncos

Denver head coach Gary Kubiak announced that Trevor Siemian would be the starting quarterback over veteran Mark Sanchez for the team following Peyton Manning’s retirement. The rather inexperienced Sieman should have help from 2015’s number one ranked defense, anchored by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.

Predicted Record: 9-7

4 San Diego Chargers

The Chargers are coming off of a very unsuccessful 2015 season, in which they only won four games. The team used its first-round pick on defensive end Joey Bosa, who has still not played after two weeks, and in addition to the loss of safety Eric Weddle to Baltimore, the defense will be severely weakened.

Predicted Record: 6-10

 

NFC East

1 New York Giants

 

New York has one of the most explosive offenses in the league with quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., receiver Victor Cruz, and running back Rashad Jennings. One of the Giants key vulnerabilities last season, however, was their defense, which looks to be solved this year with numerous key additions during the offseason.

Predicted Record: 11-5

2 Philadelphia Eagles

After making significant coaching changes to the team during the offseason, the Eagles traded up in the draft to pick North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. Along with receivers Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, as well as running back Ryan Mathews, Wentz should have an easy time running the offense.

Predicted Record: 10-6

3 Dallas Cowboys

Although starting quarterback Tony Romo is out for the foreseeable future, rookie replacement Dak Prescott is filling in very well, with 519 yards through two games. With the quarterback position solved (for now), Dez Bryant back from his injury, and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys offense should improve despite a considerably lacking defense.

Predicted Record: 9-7

4 Washington Redskins

After barely squeaking into the playoffs in 2015, Washington will be more hungry than ever to further prove themselves to the doubters. While they have improved on defense, the Redskins lost Pro-Bowl running back Alfred Morris, so unfortunately, the only thing they’ll prove was that last season was indeed a fluke.

Predicted Record: 5-11

 

NFC North

1 Minnesota Vikings

 

Minnesota has one of the best defenses in the NFL, and with a high-powered offense featuring running back Adrian Peterson, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and new quarterback Sam Bradford (who’s filling in for injured Teddy Bridgewater), expect a triumphant season for the Vikings. While it will take Bradford time to mesh with his new team, the stellar defense will be able to handle the extra time on the field.

Predicted Record: 12-4

2 Green Bay Packers

Over the offseason, the Packers have retained key offensive and defensive players, and have added tight end Jared Cook (from L.A.) to help their passing attack. Expect their top-15 defense to do just as well this year, but due to the Vikings continued rise, Green Bay will lose the division for the second consecutive year.

Predicted Record: 11-5

3 Detroit Lions

The Lions suffered a huge loss when wide receiver Calvin Johnson announced he would be retiring. Due to the loss of their lone true superstar, the Lions offense should regress a bit, but with their promising defense, it will be more like the 6-2 second half of 2015 than the miserable 1-7 first half.

Predicted Record: 7-9

4 Chicago Bears

The Bears defense is unreliable and the only real bright spots on this Bears team are wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (who is consistently injured), and running back Jeremy Langford. Under quarterback Jay Cutler’s mismanaged offense, look for the Bears to be at the bottom of the NFC North yet again.

Predicted Record: 5-11

 

NFC South

1 Carolina Panthers

 

They’ve retained most of the key players that led them to their historic Super Bowl run, with the exception of superstar cornerback Josh Norman. With the return of star receiver Kelvin Benjamin—who should rejuvenate the Panthers’ passing game—look for Carolina to have yet another stellar season behind 2015 MVP Cam Newton.

Predicted Record: 13-3

2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Young Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and receiver Mike Evans look to be promising team leaders this season. Tampa Bay’s defense has done well and should continue to do so, so Tampa Bay will only continue to improve throughout the season.

Predicted Record: 9-7

3 Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have many offensive weapons, including elite receiver Julio Jones, running back Devonta Freeman, and quarterback Matt Ryan. Their main weakness, however, is their defense, which was ranked in the bottom half of the NFL last year; the Falcons will have a great offense, but their defense will hold them back yet again.

Predicted Record: 5-11

4 New Orleans Saints

The Saints have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Drew Brees, and one of the NFL’s best receivers in Brandin Cooks. But in 2015, New Orleans had a historically awful defense, allowing close to 7,000 total yards; it’s a shame that Brees is wasting away his last great years in New Orleans and will be at the bottom of the NFC South.

Predicted Record: 4-12

 

NFC West

1 Arizona Cardinals

 

The Cardinals are arguably the most complete team in the NFL, with no major flaws at any position. Their star quarterback, Carson Palmer, will be looking to prove that he doesn’t choke under pressure, and star receiver Larry Fitzgerald is looking to finally bring the Lombardi Trophy home to Arizona.

Predicted Record: 14-2

2 Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks had a very successful season once again in 2015, but suffered a critical loss in running back Marshawn Lynch to retirement, not to mention the loss of linebacker Bruce Irvin (to Oakland), which will hinder their defense. Seattle should make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, but in the Wild Card spot this time around.

Predicted Record: 12-4

3 Los Angeles Rams

The NFL is finally back in Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean the Rams are a great team. They traded up to draft quarterback Jared Goff, but he ended up being the third string quarterback by week one; instead, they’ll have to rely on Case Keenum, who has a 6-11 career record, so you can expect yet another mediocre season from coach Jeff Fisher.

Predicted Record: 6-10

4 San Francisco 49ers

Aside from all the controversy surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the National Anthem, San Francisco is an awful team. Starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert is currently 9-28 in his career, and with their atrocious, 29th-ranked defense as of last season, the future for the 49ers is looking very unfavorable.

Predicted Record: 3-13

 

Playoffs

 

AFC NFC

  1. New England Patriots 1. Arizona Cardinals
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 2. Carolina Panthers
  3. Oakland Raiders 3. Minnesota Vikings
  4. Houston Texans 4. New York Giants
  5. Cincinnati Bengals 5. Seattle Seahawks
  6. Kansas City Chiefs 6. Green Bay Packers

 

AFC Championship NFC Championship

Steelers at Patriots Seahawks at Cardinals

 

Super Bowl LI

    Cardinals over Patriots

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