I never feel like the NFL season has finally got here until I do my fantasy league draft. Just last night I completed the draft for my league that I have been part of going on ten years now, and have gone to the championship in the last three years straight, winning two of them! Enough about my legendary fantasy skills, let's take a closer look at the 2015 NFL season and see if I can make some sort of prediction on the guys who are actually playing football for the next few months.
Of course, like clockwork, every NFL season begins with the defending Super Bowl champs and the runner up as most people's favorite to make it back and rematch each other. I think we have seen that happen what, twice in the last 30 years maybe? Anyhow, I see this season playing out much differently than your average Joe fan thinks. Let's start with the AFC since they are home to the NFL's current champion.
The New England Patriots will enter this season slightly behind the 8-ball with Tom Brady being suspended for the whole deflate gate deal. I, personally, believe this entire ordeal has been blown out of proportion. They beat the Colts like 70-7 or something and ran the ball down their throats. They could have played the game with soccer balls, baseballs, or bowling balls, it would not have mattered. With that said however, the witch hunt has ended and it looks like the Patriot haters will finally somewhat rejoice this season, or at least for the first four games.
The Patriots have absolutely dominated the AFC East going on the better part of 10-12 years and many feel this will not end anytime soon, or at least until Brady and Belichick are gone. I am not too sold on New England being the head and shoulder favorite in 2015, and I think there is one team this year that will give them a run and challenge them for the division crown. Who you ask? The Miami Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill has gotten better and better each season he has been in the league and with Lamar Miller at running back and other weapons like Greg Jennings and Jordan Cameron, Tannehill could elevate his game to the next level. Not only does Miami look good on the offense for the first time in ages, their defense made a major upgrade when they signed Ndamukong Suh in the offseason. The attention that Suh will get should make life much easier for guys like Earl Mitchell and Olivier Vernon. The rest of the AFC East is a dumpster fire. Of course the Bills will have a top 10-12 defense but their offense is absolutely horrible and I do not see them competing in the long run for this division. Oh, and the Jets..LOL.
To me, the most interesting division in the AFC is the AFC North. All four teams, well, three and a half of the teams have the ability to win this division. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Baltimore are all not only division contenders, but any of those three could find themselves right in the mix for the AFC crown come January if they stay healthy. In the entire division, the only team that I feel doesn't have a shot to compete is the Cleveland Browns. Until they get their quarterback situation repaired, I do not see them going any better than 5-11 or 6-10 anytime in the coming years. For this season, as much as I like the talent of the Bengals, I am going with the Steelers to get back on top of the AFC North and head into the playoffs, maybe even with a bye. Yes, bold, but it is just a gut feeling.
The other two divisions in the AFC, the south and the west don't have too many teams that can compete on the AFC scale with the exception of the Colts and the Broncos. Yeah, the Texans and Chargers could potentially make a little noise, but once we get through Christmas and head into 2016, I am fairly confident that it will be the Colts and Broncos being the talk of their division and quite possibly the entire AFC.
AFC 2015 DIVISION PREDICTIONS:
AFC Playoff Picture
Bye Week: Colts/Broncos
Wild Card: Chargers def Bengals and Steelers def Texans
Divisional: Colts def Chargers and Steelers def Broncos
AFC Title Game: COLTS def STEELERS
AFC Champion: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Now that we have the AFC predictions out of the way, lets take a division by division look at the NFC. I prefer we start in the NFC East which to me is one of the most intriguing divisions in the entire NFL coming into the 2015 season. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants all believe they have a shot to win not only the East, but the Super Bowl. I am sure the Redskins fans are confident too, but they have as good a chance as the Titans do in the AFC. The Cowboys still have Romo and Dez on offense along with a stellar offensive line and a pretty good defense. Just last season, the Cowboys were a true contender but they fell short in the playoffs to the Packers. This season, we hear a lot of chatter about Dallas being not only an NFC contender, but a realistic contender to take home Super Bowl 50. The first four games will give us an indication of how good this team really is when they face off against the Giants, Eagles, Falcons, and Saints. Anything worse than 3-1 in that opening stretch and it will appear that the Cowboys are again primed to go 8-8. The other team in the East that feels they have a shot at the Lombardi Trophy is the Philadelphia Eagles. I tell you what, I live in Atlanta and I have heard more Eagles fans this year talking trash than I have in my 37 years combined. I am hearing 15-1, 16-0, and 14-2 from ALL OF THEIR FANS that I encounter. Guys, relax. Yeah, Chip Kelly has a cute little offense he runs, but lets not forget that you are relying on Sam Bradford and an average defense to get you to the promise land. Pump the brakes a little, please.
Enough about the east, the other interesting division is the South. Remember, just last season, the Atlanta Falcons were one win away from winning the division with a 7-9 record. A week 17 thrashing to the Panthers sent Carolina into the playoffs with an 8-8 mark, but, they did happen to win a game and move on to the divisional round. This should be yet another interesting year in the NFC South. The Panthers are most people's favorite to win it, well, that was until Kelvin Benjamin went down for the season, now Cam Newtown has a group of no name wide outs, an average (at best) running back, and a pretty decent tight end (Greg Olsen) to look to. I think the Benjamin injury has made the South an absolutely wide open division, especially for the Saints and Falcons who were the ones looking up at the Panthers. Tampa still has a way to go but hey, with Jameis Winston as their starter, just maybe he can light a fire under them and make some noise too, you never know. This division will most likely come down to the final week, and I could seriously see any of the four teams doing it.
The NFC North is another fun division. Now, when I say all four teams have a shot, THIS is the division that I'm talking about. The Packers, Bears, Lions, and Vikings, wow. I could see any of these teams going 11-5 to 8-8. Seriously. Of course, on paper, the Packers are the favorite, but now that Jordy Nelson has gone down, it makes things just a tad tougher on Aaron Rogers, and lets not forget, the Packers defense has never really been lights out. The Lions have lost some defensive weapons, in particular, Ndamukong Suh, but their offense will still be high flying with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson playing "go deep and I'll throw it to you" 10-12 times a game. The Vikings have Adrian Peterson back and second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater appears ready to make that next step and improve his game even more. Then there is always the Bears. They seem to be the forgotten team year after year, but they do have a legit shot at this division. If Jay Cutler can cut down on the interceptions, and if Matt Forte can keep doing what he does, I can easily see the Bears going 10-6 and making a playoff push later in the season.
Now to the NFC West, which has been the more dominant division in the last 3-5 years. With that said, I can see this again being the case, but not because of the 49ers and Seahawks, but more because the Cardinals and Seahawks are absolutely legit on both sides of the ball. Not only are Arizona and Seattle the top two on paper, but the Rams are starting to believe they have a shot to make a run at this thing too. They now have Nick Foles, Todd Gurley and a pretty decent defense. The Rams could turn some heads and ruin the 2015 season for quite a few NFC teams. When the smoke clears, one would think the Seahawks will be on top, but I don't know. They have lost their defensive coordinator to the Falcons along with a few key defensive players. The core studs of the defense are still in place but I don't think things will be as easy as they have been in the last few seasons.
The NFC is going to be a lot of fun to see play out in 2015, and here are my bold and probably horribly incorrect predictions of each division and playoffs.
NFC 2015 DIVISION PREDICTIONS:
NFC Playoff Picture:
Bye Week: Seahawks/Packers
Wild Card: Falcons def Cardinals and Eagles def Cowboys
Divisional: Packers def Falcons and Seahawks def Eagles
NFC Title Game: Green Bay Packers defeat the Seattle Seahawks
Super Bowl 50 Prediction
Green Bay Packers beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-23
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