That Empty Feeling…
Last season went by super fast, and now we only have a few days until we’re really back in action. Before the greatest sport in the world begins again. Everyone should know by now that I’m a Bears fan, and at times my bias may show – but I’ve always felt I’m fair in the playoff predictions. Now, just like last year, my prediction process functions like this: I start by writing down every game, every week. Then I go over each and every game, and pick a winner for the game in question. That leaves me with a record for every team, following that I predict the playoffs, as it would play out with my predictions in mind. That is how I give you my complete predictions for this NFL Season. Final note before we begin, I’ve added a section for some specific awards I’ve tried to predict already – enjoy.
◊American Football Conference
Can Brady Pick The Broncos Apart?
Going over this division by Division, and I’m leading with the AFC North. I’m really starting to like what Coach Lewis is building in Cincinnati, and I’m stating that truthfully, well knowing that Andy Dalton got a deal that was.. Uhm.. Too big. I like what he has to work with though, and the Red Rifle HAS to start delivering big time. I think he will this year. I have him winning this division at 12-4 – and heading into the playoffs with the Baltimore Ravens (wildcard) at 9-7. These two teams beat out a lackluster Steelers team (7-9), and an overrated Cleveland Browns (3-13) team.
Now, going into the south we spot my division winners, the Indianapolis Colts (9-7). This division is not very good, frankly. The Colts are rather good, and limp into the playoffs with the defensively led Texans (9-7), through to the promised land through a wildcard. The Titans are irregular (4-12), and I don’t feel they have much to offer this year. I really like what Khan’s Jaguars are doing, building an interesting team – hopefully with Blake Bortles this year – however, I don’t see them getting more than 5 wins.
In the AFC Wild Wild West, the Denver Broncos are kings. And that does NOT change this year. I have them finishing 14-2, and they’re going straight into the AFC Playoffs with the no. 1 seed. The Chargers (7-9), Raiders (5-11) and Chiefs (6-10) all miss the playoffs – they’re just not that good… Yet. I see something in the Chargers; however, I don’t think they’re ready.
Finally, the AFC East features only one playoff contender – seeing as the wildcard spots have already been taken by the Ravens and the Texans. Here in the eastern division, I see the Patriots slowly, but surely, becoming very strong and very confident. They’re much better than the rest of their division I’m afraid. The Jets (3-13), Bills (4-12) & Dolphins (5-11) will have a tough year, and they could end up losing some coaches at the end of the year. Take all of this with a grain of salt though, as I’m primarily an ‘expert’ in the NFC North. If you can even say that.
◊National Football Conference
Beginning with the NFC North, my Bears will have an interesting season. Going up against a tough division with a new-look defense, after an abysmal season. However, Cutler has got an amazing offense to work with, and if the defense is league average – they can go far. I have them winning the division and going 12-4. Now, I have a few surprises in the NFC predictions – and the first one is that the Green Bay Packers won’t go to the Playoffs this year. I have them finishing 2nd in the division at 11-5, but you’re going to see better 2nd ranking records than that. To finish off the division I have the Lions (6-10) and Vikings (5-11) finishing 3rd and 4th.
This year I have high expectations for the NFC South. To me, it is one of the toughest years for the division contenders in a long time. Some things don’t change however, and the New Orleans Saints take the division at 14-2; Drew Brees is becoming the best quarterback in the league. I have the Panthers as a top team this year, and rank them at 12-4, and taking a wildcard spot in the playoffs. Finally, Lovie Smith’s Bucs (6-10) and Mike Smith’s Falcons (9-7) finish 4th and 3rd.
The strongest division in the NFL, the NFC West, will once again have participation in the playoffs from Seattle (13-3) and San Francisco (12-4) – but don’t count out the rest. I have a very strong Cardinals team finishing 7-9, and that’s not their season ceiling at all – while the Rams finish 10-6. If the 49’ers perform worse than 12-4, the Packers/Bears or Rams will take their wildcard spot.
Finally, the NFC East features a battle-hardened Washington squad, get ready to see RGIII take the division title. I have them finishing 10-6, beating out the 7-9 Eagles, who fall to the floor after a great rookie HC season for Chip Kelly. The Giants and Cowboys are not ready yet, at all, and both finish 4-12. However, the Giants could surprise some people if they get their quarterback some confidence.
Who Will Play At The University of Phoenix Stadium?
In the AFC Wildcard Round, the Ravens faces off with the Indianapolis Colts – and Joe Flacco’s experience and proven playoff success will lead them past Luck’s Colts. Meanwhile, the Patriots take a win, by beating the Houston Texans – who can only perform defensively against the NE-units. In the NFC Wildcard Round, the 49ers and Bears beat the Redskins and Panthers respectively.
The real competition begins in the divisional round, as I have the Broncos and Patriots knocking the Ravens and Bengals out, respectively. In the NFC, I have to make some tough decisions as my Bears face the New Orleans Saints and the defending Super Bowl champions face the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers will fall to the Seahawks, due to home-field-advantage – but it shouldn’t be the most entertaining game this round. The Bears offense will be doing everything possible to keep up with the Saints offense, but in the end will fall short…
For the AFC and NFC Championships, the matchups are as follows: The Patriots vs. the Broncos & the Saints vs. the Seahawks. All four quarterbacks has at least one Super Bowl ring, but it won’t be the offensive talents that decide these games. The defensive units in Denver and Seattle, will give us a Super Bowl rematch between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos.
This is what Peyton Manning needs, another try at another Super Bowl ring – trying to solidify his place in NFL history as the best ever. But it won’t be easy. The Seattle defense has NOT gotten worse, and they will have to do something special to keep up. In what I predict to be a very tight game, I have the Seattle Seahawks defending their Super Bowl title from last season – not due to Sherman, necessarily. But this team is set-up to win; and they will.
This year I’ve written a list of players that will be viewed as award-material. On the following list you’ll probably see some surprises that will shock you, or maybe you’re still infuriated at my Playoff Prediction – sound off in the comments. Some of the names have notes added to them, just in case you were wondering where I’m coming from when making these predictions.
- Most Valuable Player – Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints. For me, Drew is becoming the best quarterback in the NFL – I only see one guy better than him – Peyton. This year will be big for Brees – future Hall of Famer.
- Offensive Player of the Year – Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints.
- Offensive Rookie of the Year – Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers. Now, I almost picked Blake Bortles here in stead – a great young QB, but I’ve been liking what I’ve seen from Benjamin, and I cannot wait to see him in the regular season.
- Defensive Player of the Year – Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Carolina Panthers. The best middle linebacker in the NFL.
- Defensive Rookie of the Year – Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, Houston Texans. They may have some trouble offensively, but defensively they’re rock solid. This pick will go over well in Houston. Star.
- Coach of the Year – Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints.
- Comeback Player of the Year – Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Chicago Bears. Cutler’s last full season was in 2009 – and he only played 11 games in the regular season last year. Jay Cutler will return with a bang – with the best receiving duo in the NFL, Bennett & Forte. This unit has to succeed. Quick stat prediction? 25 Touchdowns, 16 Interceptions – 4.500 yards.