2016 NFL PREVIEW
Philadelphia Eagles 5-11
There is a certain Youtube blogger whose reactions to Eagles losses have become the stuff of legend. Happy to see Chip Kelly fired, his reaction to the hiring of Doug Pederson was priceless and with good reason. The Eagles hiring of Pederson should go better than Kelly as he clearly showed he had no idea about the pro game after tearing apart a solid team in just three season. However, the mess Chip Kelly left behind will take more than one year to fix. The Eagles are rolling the dice a bit thinking, Chase Wentz and this means a lot of growing pains as the Eagles will have a tough time just reaching five wins.
Jim Caldwell-Detroit Lions
Jeff Fisher-Los Angeles Rams
Marvin Lewis-Cincinnati Bengals
Mike McCoy-San Diego Chargers
Rex Ryan-Buffalo Bills
Coaches who will be looking for work after the season
Dallas Cowboys 6-10
Heading into the pre-season the question for the Dallas Cowboys was not if, but when Quarterback Tony Romo would be injured again. Unfortunately for the Cowboys that answer came before the season even started as Romo broke his back again. Since 2009 Romo has broken back three times, he has also suffered a broken collar bone and clavicle three times. Tony Romo is expected to miss 6-10 weeks, but as breakable as he has proven to be the Cowboys must seriously consider moving on as Romo should retire due to his breakability. The Cowboys struggled immensely without Romo just winning one of 12 games he missed. Dak Prescott will get the first chance to start and unless the Cowboys find lightning in a bottle 6-10 will have a separate meaning.
New York Giants 11-5
It's a new beginning for the New York Football Giants as Ben McAdoo takes over the coaching reigns from Tom Coughlin who won two Super Bowls in his 12 seasons at the helm. McAdoo is not unfamiliar to the team as he had been the Giants offensive coordinator the last two seasons. Over those two years, Eli Manning has had some of his best passing numbers. The issue last year for the Giants was late game decision making, clock management and defense as the blew several fourth quarter leads. The Giants spent a great deal of money addressing their defense which was one of the worst in the league last year. Even with an average defense, the Giants with their passing game should be able to win the NFC East.
Washington Redskins 7-9
Despite not winning a road game until late in the season and struggling all season just to reach .500 the Washington Redskins won the NFC East last season. Along the way Kirk Cousin proved once and for all he was a capable starting quarterback in the NFL. Helping Cousins is a talented group of receivers including Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed. What hurts the Redskins is they are not a real deep team and they often struggle when playing other strong teams. Last year the Redskins were able to win their division with by playing last place team's schedule and fattened up against teams with losing records. This year they face a first place schedule and will not have the same opportunities.
Detroit Lions 5-11
Woe is the state of the Detroit Lions, who have won just one playoff game since 1957. Back than Detroit was vibrant it turned out cars that were pieces of art like the Ford Thunderbird, as Bobby Layne guzzled his way through three championships. Layne was replaced by Tobin Rote in 1958 and since the Lions have been an Edsel ever since. Great players have come and gone, only to leave without as much as a playoff win as frustration as led the team to implode like a Ford Pinto. Calvin Johnson is the latest to call it quits, leaving the Lions once again lacking a star as they have to start getting out the drawing board once more.
Minnesota Vikings 7-9
No position in any sport is more important than an NFL quarterback. A team can have Super Bowl aspirations if they have a good one, while a poor one means, start preparing for the draft. When you have a good quarterback go down with an injury it is a blow that can destroy a season, and for the Vikings it is even more devastating when it happens in practice before the season ever starts. This was the year the Vikings were waiting for their new stadium is ready and Teddy Bridgewater is coming off a trip to the pro bowl, but with one odd step Bridgewater is now having his knee rebuilt as Shaun Hill steps in. Hill is a decent backup but has never been able to sustain success as a starter and the recently acquired Sam Bradford is too injury prone.
Green Bay Packers 13-3
Over last decade no team in the NFC has been more consistent than the Green Bay Packers, as they are lock for the postseason nearly every year. Aaron Rodgers has followed up Brett Favre much the same way Steve Young followed Joe Montana in San Francisco bring a second era of sustained excellence. However, the time Rodgers has to bring another championship to Titletown may be running short as several key players are starting to get to ends of their careers. Nonetheless the Packers as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy have to be considered a serious threat to win the Lombardi Trophy every season and if Jordy Nelson is able to get back on track after missing 2015 those odds will increase.
Chicago Bears 8-8
Last year had to be one of the most frustrating in the history of the Bears, as they emerged as solid road dog, winning five of eight away from Soldier Field. However, at home they struggled, posting a 1-7 record at home. It's been a bad stretch for the Bears who have not played in the postseason since losing the NFC Championship to the rival Packers in 2010. Along the way for the entire ride has been Jay Cutler who despite setting a number of franchise record often wears the scorn of fans in Chicago. Cutler quietly had one of his better seasons last year and with John Fox signing Danny Trevathan the Bears defense is steadily improving. The Bears could be a dark horse playoff team this year as a result.
Atlanta Falcons 8-8
No team is more Helter Skelter than the Falcons, one moment they look like Super Bowl contenders and the next like a team that can't win a game. The Falcons started the season with five straight wins, but later lost seven straight as they finished at 8-8 in 2015. They got a great season from Julio Jones and a breakout year from Devonta Freeman, but the inconsistency of Quarterback Matt Ryan has to be a concern. Ryan who was picked with the third pick overall in 2008 has seen his stats diminish in the last few seasons, as he has thrown far too many interceptions. Hoping to take pressure off Ryan, the Falcons concentrated on improving the defense. Still this is a middle of the road team that has 8-8 written all over it.
Carolina Panthers 11-5
Last year was a magical season for the Carolina Panthers, as they won their first 14 games and waltzed to the Super Bowl, where perhaps done in by overconfidence they were beaten by the Denver Broncos. In his fifth season Cam Newton had a year for the ages, winning Offensive Player of the Year and the NFL MVP award. If he continues to mature, there is likely more awards to come for Cam as his arm has developed into one of the league's best while he is still a true dangerous double threat with his legs. The Panthers also a solid defense led by the indispensable Luke Kuechly. The Panthers could return to the big game, but it will be tougher with a target on their back and the loss of star corner Josh Norman.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-7*
Selected with the first overall pick Jameis Winston showed a lot of promise in his first NFL season, as the Buccaneers took a big step forward from a 2-14 disaster in 2014. Add in a solid running game led by Doug Martin, a pair of stud receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans and the Buccaneers are one of the best young teams with a bright future ahead. The Buccaneers are also impressed by Dirk Koetter's offensive schemes that they fired head coach Lovie Smith out of fear somebody else would make him their head man. The Buccaneers main concern is defense and additions like Robert Ayers should make that unit better as they sail for the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
New Orleans Saints 7-9
Another wildly inconsistent team, the New Orleans Saints if everything clicks can challenge for the NFC South. With Drew Brees reach the age of 37, the Saints can also crumble and get a very high draft pick. Brees is still at his best one of the best passers in the NFL, as we saw when he lit up the Giants last year, throwing seven touchdown passes. However, those days are becoming less and less common as the rigors of a long NFL career are taking their toll on the future Hall of Famer. The Saints need Brees to lead the league in passing again, anything less will be a disaster as their defense will be among the worst in the NFL.
Arizona Cardinals 11-5*
The Arizona Cardinals have all the pieces to win the Super Bowl if everybody can stay healthy. They have a strong offense, that is incredibly balanced. David Johnson out of the backfield has turned into the perfect weapon, being able to not only carry the ball but make big catches, while Larry Fitzgerald now a grizzled veteran is still a great big game receiver. On defense, the Cardinals secondary is second to none, as they will battle the Seahawks all season for superiority in the West. The only concern is at quarterback where Carson Palmer has yet to shown the ability to make the big mistake in the playoffs. If Palmer can overcome the yips in big games the Cardinals can win it all, if not it will be a quick postseason letdown.
Seattle Seahawks 12-4
Last year it was clear the Seahawks had a Super Bowl hang over as they struggled in the first half. However, a strong second half and emergence of Russell Wilson has them once again a favorite in the NFC. The Seahawks main worries are replacing Marshawn Lynch and Bruce Irving who signed with the Raiders. Irvin should be quick to replace as the Seahawks restocked their defense in the draft, but finding another bruising back like Beast Mode will be a tall order. One thing that may help is a bounce back year from Jimmy Graham, who struggled in his first season in Seattle before injuring his knee. If he can regain his dominance from 2013 the Seahawks will be hard to beat.
Los Angeles Rams 8-8
The Rams are home, back in Los Angeles after a 21-year stay in St. Louis. In a few years they will have a stadium that will be the envy of the league, but for now they are at the ancient LA Coliseum. Football fans who have been starved of the NFL for two decades are thrilled that the NFL is back in the second largest media market as political haggling made the hiatus longer than anyone could have imagined. The Rams hope that by the time their stadium at Hollywood Park is ready they will be an elite team. As for now they are stuck in the middle. Jared Goff the top overall pick will eventually start, but in a tough division it's hard to imagine them being better than 8-8.
San Francisco 49ers 4-12
For the San Francisco 49ers the collapse has been quick and stunning as they have gone from three straight NFC Championship Game appearances to being one of the worst teams in the NFL in a blink of an eye. A more stunning collapse is the plummet of Quarterback Colin Kaepernick who took over as a starter in 2012 and took the Niners to Super Bowl XLVII, a year later he fell just short. A shaky 2014 saw Kaepernick and the 49ers miss the playoffs, and last year he lost his starting job. Now he is refusing to stand for the National Anthem and remaining seated as Blaine Gabbert starts yet again. Maybe Colin Kaepernick needs to worry about his career more as the Niners again look to be in for a long season.
New York Jets 7-9
The Jets season could be over before it starts as they face a gauntlet of six 2015 playoff teams to begin the season. If they somehow get through those six games with a winning record the Jets could be in line for a successful season. However, that may be a tall task as the Jets lost several key players from last year's 10-6 team including leading rusher Chris Ivory and runner stopper Damon Harrison as they were hamstrung by the salary cap. The Jets also had trouble re-signing Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who did not agree to return until just before the start of training camp. With all these obstacles it is hard to imagine the Jets landing at their postseason destination.
New England Patriots 11-5
Deflategate is finally over and Tom Brady is going to miss the first four games of the season, but that will not matter by the time the season is over as the Patriots again be one of the teams to beat in the AFC East. The Patriots sustained excellence is unmatched but it is not without good fortune as the AFC East as been the weakest division since realignment in 2002. In that time the Jets, Dolphins and Bills have a total six playoff appearances. It would be like allowing Alabama to compete in the Sun Belt Conference. The Patriots even if they go 1-3 without Brady will roll through the back end of their schedule and will hit the playoffs with a nice head of steam.
Buffalo Bills 6-10
No team has a longer playoff drought than the Buffalo Bills, who have not played in a postseason game since the Music City Miracle following the 1999 season. The Bills have not had much stability over the last 16 years as they have a non-ending coaching carousel. Rex Ryan in just his second season is said to already be on the hot seat as he made several changes to his staff including bringing in his twin brother Rob Ryan. The problem is the Bills don't have enough pieces to be a serious contender no matter who is wearing the head sets. The defense has some talent especially in the secondary, but they don't get enough pressure on the quarterback. Meanwhile, their own QB Tyrod Taylor is not a playoff caliber single caller.
Miami Dolphins 5-11
This is a make or break season for Quarterback Ryan Tannehill who has yet to impress in four seasons in Miami. No with a new coach in Adam Gase, Tannehill needs to show signs of improvement or the Dolphins need to start from scratch. Last year after showing signs of steady improvement in his first three seasons, Tannehill struggled as the Dolphins were one of the league's biggest disappointment. The Dolphins also need their defense to bounce back off a poor season as they were often run over in 2015. The fact is the Dolphins always underperform expectations and with expectations set low this year, it is more likely they will be looking for a new quarterback in the draft at the end of the year as they again suffer double digit losses.
Pittsburgh Steelers 13-3
Last year was a season of transition of the Steelers as they got stronger at the end of the year and had a good showing in the playoffs. This was despite the departure of several key defensive stalwarts and an injury to Running Back Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers will be without Bell at the start of the year due to a suspension, but as long as DeAngelo Williams is in the back they should be fine. With Antonio Brown leading the way the Steelers have some of the best receivers in the game, which in turn gives them one of the league's high powered offense. If Ben Roethlisberger is able to avoid a big injury there is no telling how far the Steelers can go as they will be a serious Super Bowl contender.
Cincinnati Bengals 11-5*
From September to December the Bengals have been one of the NFL's best teams over the past five seasons. However, when the New Year arrives with the postseason they look more like the clawless kitties they were for most of the 1990's and early part of 2000's. I am not sure what the issue is, but Marvin Lewis just can't win the big game as he has lost seven times without a win setting a new NFL record. Last year's Wild Card loss was particularly disturbing as the Bengals became undisciplined and melted down in the final minutes. Vontaze Burfict will miss the first three games as a result of his hit on Antonio Brown. Still they should be strong enough to get to the playoffs but that will bring only more pain.
Baltimore Ravens 8-8
The Baltimore Ravens racked up the medical bills in 2015, as 22 players were listed on injured reserve by the time the season is over. The Ravens lost just about every key player, including their top pass rusher Terrell Suggs who went down in Week 1. In going 5-11 the Ravens lost a lot of agnozing close games despite the rash of injuries which also claimed Steve Smith Sr, Justin Forsett and Joe Flacco. No team that sustains that many injuries can be successful. Just by staying healthy the Ravens will be a better team this year, but with the Steelers and Bengals still a head in the AFC North it will be hard for them to get back to the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns 1-15
Since returning the Browns have had nine different coaches and 25 starting quarterbacks. Hue Jackson could be the right guy to turn things around while Robert Griffin III is likely just the latest in a long line of losers. Patience is what is needed in Cleveland now as the Browns that take the field this year resembles an expansion team that could possibly lose all 16 games. However, with a stockpile of draft picks the Browns are adding the pieces needed to turn things around they just lack that foundation franchise player. Hitting rock bottom this season will be the best thing that can happen as they should be able to get that foundation in next year's draft. They just need to allow it to grow before going in a new direction again.
Indianapolis Colts 9-7*
Last year was a big disappointment for the Colts as they struggled to an 8-8 record with Andrew Luck spending most of the year sidelined with various injuries. The biggest problem was a weak offensive line that nearly got Luck killed as he suffered a lacerated kidney. The Colts hope they fixed the line in the draft as they picked Center Ryan Kelly in the first round and drafted three other lineman. If Luck is able to stay upright and healthy the Colts should get back on track and return to the playoffs. However, even the best offensive lines need at least a year of working together to become a cohesive unit. The Colts still have their problems even if the line clicks as their pass rush has been at times non-existent.
Jacksonville Jaguars 7-9
Things beginning to turn for the Jaguars who have struggled much of the last ten years. Last season Blake Bortles made significant improvements, setting a franchise record by passing for 4,428 yards as Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns emerged as one of the NFL's best pass catching duos. In the off-season the Jaguars spent a significant amount of cap space addressing their defense. Among the players the Jaguars signed was Malik Jackson who played a key role in the Broncos Super Bowl championship scooping a fumble for a touchdown. The Jaguars also added Prince Amukamara and Tashaun Gipson to improve the secondary. Still they don't appear to be a playoff team, but they will inch closer and will be a tough match for anyone.
Houston Texans 10-6
As the season begins the health of J.J. Watt has to be a concern for the Texans as he is recovering from back surgery in the offseason. Watt has carried the Texans the last two seasons winning Defensive Player of the Year three of the last four seasons. One thing that may work in Houston's favor is their offense should be significantly better with the addition of Quarterback Brock Osweiler. Last season the quarterback position was a disaster for the Texans as Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer battled at the start of the season. Mallett got the first crack but lost eventually Hoyer became the starter as Mallett sulked and was released. Neither with the Texans this year, as the stability Osweiler brings alone will be a big upgrade.
Tennessee Titans 5-11
There is no doubt the Tennessee Titans are a mess with a total of five wins over the last two seasons combined. The Titans who already got a franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota who was taken second overall in 2015. Mariota showed positive signs last year before ending the season with a knee injury. The Titans spent this year's draft on protecting Mariota, by selecting Tackle Jack Conlin from Michigan after trading away the number one pick to the Rams. They also signed Texans Center Ben Jones as a free agent. However, they still need to find more talent to get back into playoff contention. The good news for the Titans is they should at least equal those five wins this year alone.
San Diego Chargers 5-11
Much like the Raiders, the Chargers could be in their final season in their current city as San Diego fans will have their eyes on the November election for a ballot initiative to build a new stadium. If the proposal is defeated the Chargers will likely use their option to move to Los Angeles and share with the Rams. Latest polls have support for the stadium trailing badly, as voters are sick of spending public money on private stadiums. Just like the uncertainness will distract the Raiders it will distract the Chargers. San Diego is an older team and not getting any better as Antonio Gates is clearly in the twilight. Philip Rivers had a solid season last year but often he self-destructs when frustrated and another 5-11 season will be very frustrating.
Kansas City Chiefs 11-5
Last season was a year of streaks for the Kansas City Chiefs as they lost five straight after opening the season with a win in Houston. Just as it appeared the season would be over before Halloween the Chiefs turned things around and won their next ten to make the playoffs. In the playoffs the Chiefs returned to Houston and won their first playoff game in two decades. The Chiefs strong finish gives them renewed confidence this year as the return of Jamaal Charles gives them one of the best backfields in the NFL. Their defense is also getting stronger and played a key role in the turnaround last year, put those together and the pieces are coming together for Kansas City to be a Super Bowl contender.
Oakland Raiders 7-9
The Raiders are on the verge of becoming a good team, the only thing holding them back is inexpierence and their stadium situation. Quarterback Derek Carr, Running Back Latavius Murray and Wide Receiver Amari Cooper are all developing into star players, while the defense is improved thanks to the addition Linebacker Bruce Irvin. However, they are one year away from being a real contender and by the time they make the playoffs the Raiders will likely be in another city. The proposed move to Las Vegas seems quite intriguing for the Raiders who have never truly had a stadium of their own. Meanwhile the Oakland Alameda Coliseum remains the worst stadium in the league and its poor conditions will cost the Raiders at least a game or two.
Denver Broncos 8-8
The Denver Broncos have been in this position before a defending Super Bowl Champion trying to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback. That season following their win in Super Bowl XXXIII the Broncos lost their first four games and finished 6-10. The Broncos have a tough early schedule and can go 0-4 again especially with Trevor Siemian starting at quarterback after Mark Sanchez failed miserably in the preseason as they have been reeling ever since Brock Osweiler's shocking departure. Eventually Paxton Lynch will take over, but getting back in the playoffs will be a tall task for the first round pick. The only saving grace for the Broncos is still have one of the league's top defenses and should be in every game.
Coach of the Year
Comeback Player of the Year
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Offensive Player of the Year
Green Bay Packers
Predictions Made: September 5, 2016
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