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Old 09-04-2016, 01:22 PM   #1
Anthony
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Cool Anthony's 2016 NFL Preview

Predicted records in parentheses


AFC EAST

1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-5):
A 2-2 instead of a 4-0 start in Tom Brady's Deflategate-driven absence would figure to cost them valuable playoff seeding, but will not endanger their death-grip hold on the division.

2. BUFFALO BILLS (7-9): Tyrod Taylor's complete lack of arm strength leaves Sammy Watkins' breakaway speed to wither on the proverbial vine - and Rob Ryan working for Rex Ryan? Oh, brother!

3. NEW YORK JETS (6-10): Running the ball will really, really be their forte now that they have Matt Forte, especially with their, to put it politely, pedestrian quarterbacking. And they take the biggest class jump in the league when it comes to the schedule - an imposing 90 percentage points, using last year's records (their 2015 opponents had a .441 winning percentage; their 2016 foes, .531).

4. MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-11): Unless Adam Gase proves to be the biggest miracle worker since Annie Sullivan, the anything-but-noble Ryan Tannehill experiment in South Florida figures to come to an end with this season.


AFC NORTH

1. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (12-4):
Back in the days when offense sold tickets but defense won games, they had a great defense and often a not-so-great offense; now, with offense in general and passing offense in particular being the be-all-and-end-all, they have a great offense and a not-so-great defense. But great enough to make a deep playoff run?

2. CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-5): What will it take for them to fire Marvin Lewis for his still-winless ways in the playoffs? Maybe what would be his eighth career one-and-done will do it.

3. BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-9): They're always one of the hardest teams to make seasonal picks for, since they have a history of winning when least expected - and falling flat on their faces when they appear to be sitting on a big effort, the way they did last year. The truth is that they are still in search of an identity since Ray Lewis retired.

4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11): Out with Johnny Manziel and in with ... RG3? Hue Jackson was responsible for one of Oakland's only two non-losing seasons - both 8-8 - since 2002, but that will be a tough contract to make with this team, and even evading a sixth consecutive last-place finish (Tampa Bay is on the same hot seat) that would tie Buffalo's half-dozen straight cabooses from 2008-2013 as the longest such streak in NFL history, will prove quite a chore.


AFC SOUTH

1. HOUSTON TEXANS (13-3):
Comparing even Brock Osweiler to what they've had recently at quarterback is like comparing Windows 10 to Windows NT - and with one of last year's conference title game participants struggling at the position for the first four games and the other for all 16 games, the league's premier defense can get them at least a Final Four appearance as well as the division title they won even last year.

2. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (7-9): Blake Bortles and his can-do young receivers had a take-off season a year ago, and if the defense improves even a little - and it got a heavy infusion via the 2016 draft - they are on course for their best record and first division exacta finish since 2010.

3. TENNESSEE TITANS (6-10): With both DeMarco Murray (traded for) and Derrick Henry (drafted) acquired over the spring, it's no secret what's on their agenda: Run the ball down the other team's throats and keep a defense that allowed 861 points the last two years (only New Orleans gave up more) off the field. Marv Levy tried this approach in Kansas City in 1978-79, and the result was an 11-21 record in those two years - and the league has gotten a lot less run-friendly since then.

4. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (5-11): Remember that Andrew Luck had the worst passer rating in the league at the time he went down with his 2015 season-ending shoulder/kidney injuries. So, as they say in horse racing, instead of being a "Troubled Trip Team," they are the year's "Dunce Cap Team": If they so much as make the playoffs - and with the NFL's oldest roster in terms of median age - then this observer will happily wear the dunce cap.


AFC WEST

1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (13-3):
They must be getting major kicks watching those "Peyton on Sunday morning" commercials - because with him not playing on Sunday afternoon anymore, the division, and quite possibly a lot more than that, is theirs to lose.

2. OAKLAND RAIDERS (9-7): Can echo Jacksonville with a best record and highest division finish in a while - and a much longer while 'cause they haven't graced either winning-season or first-division territory since 2002! And a potential playoff spot could be bundled with the software, with young guns on both offense (quarterback Derek Carr) and defense (defensive end/linebacker tweener Khalil Mack) leading the way.

3. DENVER BRONCOS (8-8): Suffice it to say that their fans are not exactly going ape with the prospect of Trevor Siemian - who will be the first Northwestern grad to open a season as a starting quarterback since Otto Graham in 1950! - taking over for P-Man at quarterback. This and the defending defensive champions make the defending Super Bowl champions an "under" bettor's delight - but you won't get to bet the "under" on them in the playoffs, because they won't even make it.

4. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (3-13): Joey Bosa was the last first-rounder to sign his rookie contract. He knew what he was doing. You gotta feel for Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates.


NFC EAST

1. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (10-6):
They pretty much won the division by attrition last year - and with Tony Romo injured again and Tom Coughlin no longer fining players for showing up early to team meetings, why not two years in a row? Another 4 seed and first-round home loss in the playoffs still loom inevitable, though.

2. DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8): Romo is expected to miss "six to ten games." If it turns out to be on the low end of that range, they could finish with a record at which they are no strangers to finishing.

3. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (6-10): Batman had his utility belt. Felix The Cat had his bag of tricks. Howie Roseman has his eraser - which he is using to eradicate all of Chip Kelly's blunders: First DeMarco Murray, then Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell - and most recently, Sam Bradford. But still no deep threat at wide receiver, and no power runner for short yardage and goal line - chronic deficiencies that directly cost them two or three games every year, and this year should be no exception.

4. NEW YORK GIANTS (5-11): Sure, Eli Manning can move the ball down the field with the best of them - but he can also move the ball into the hands of opposing defensive backs with the worst of them, and he will get many more chances to do both in the new offense being installed by incoming head coach Ben McAdoo, who is following a tough act indeed and has a great deal to prove.


NFC NORTH

1. GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3):
Who knew that losing some slow white receiver to a preseason injury could make all the difference in the world? Yet it did for them last year; and if he can make anything close to a full recovery he might be the MVP in the Super Bowl - after his team gets there, and wins it.

2. CHICAGO BEARS (10-6): There has to be at least one surprise team every year - and they're it, taking the NFL's biggest class drop schedule-wise - a .547 SOS in 2015, .461 in 2016 based on the 2015 records - and with Jay Cutler coming off notching his best touchdown-to-interception ratio of his career (he tossed 21 TDs to just 11 picks in '15).

3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-9): Sam Bradford has never led a team to even a .500 season - so why now? At 31, Adrian Peterson is the same age at which Curtis Martin won the NFL rushing title in 2004, so he's still in known lines. But how far can a running back single-handedly take a team in today's pass-happy game?

4. DETROIT LIONS (6-10): Any optimism that last year's out-of-character for them late-season rally might have generated is canceled out, and then some, by Calvin Johnson's retirement. Jim Caldwell's likely swan song.


NFC SOUTH

1. CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4):
No Super Bowl runner-up has gotten back there the following year since Buffalo's four-peat of Super Bowl losses to open the 1990s, and only two have even reached the Final Four. Might manage the latter - but not the former if they do have to go play on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field on January 22nd.

2. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-7): Their Diogenes-like search for a decent defense continues, and Drew Brees has hit the "cursed" age of 37. Looks pretty solid to complete division exacta, but dicey at best for the playoffs.

3. ATLANTA FALCONS (5-11): Could manage only a two-game step upwards off league's biggest strength-of-schedule drop last year, and this year they take the NFL's second-biggest jump. Neither Dan Quinn nor Matt Ryan might be around for the 2017 unveiling of their new stadium.

4, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12): Despite engineering a four-game improvement in record from 2014, Super Bowl-placed head coach Lovie Smith was fired, and neophyte Dirk Koetter takes over. And just wait til Jameis Winston starts throwing those head-scratching interceptions.


NFC WEST

1. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (12-4):
The loss of Marshawn Lynch is a definite blow, but key conference rivals have issues of their own and modest statistical rise in schedule difficulty may be more apparent than real, in that seven of their ten out-of-division games look like total gimmes. Christmas Eve showdown vs. Cards will likely decide the division - and it's in 12th Man's Land.

2. ARIZONA CARDINALS (12-4): Carson Palmer will turn 37 three days after the aforementioned putative division title game, but it will be a much older 37 than Brees. At least Palmer has the league's speediest receivers (13.5 yards per completion in 2015, the only team to top 13) at his disposal - providing he stays in one piece.

3. LOS ANGELES RAMS (6-10): For a head coach who has six winning seasons in 22 years, Jeff Fisher has an unusually good reputation - and one that is getting further tarnished by his having swung a future-mortgaging trade for Jared Goff, who was 14-23 at Cal (the same college that Kyle Boller attended and was 14-26 there, and also having been the subject of an extremely similar draft-day deal), including 0-12 against USC, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon, and will enter the regular season behind both a 5-10 NFL starter (Case Keenum) and a fellow 0-0er (Sean Mannion) on the team's depth chart. Returning to both natural grass and outdoors at home, upon which they were 34-61-1 and 40-84-1 respectively during their sojourn in St. Louis, won't help either.

4. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (3-13): Now I'm not saying that Colin Kaepernick and his 31-22 record as a starter being placed behind both the 8-27 Blaine Gabbert and the 14-21-1 Christian Ponder on Chip Kelly's season-opening depth chart is the latest manifestation of the blatant racial bias that Kelly displayed in Philadelphia. Oh, wait - I actually am. At least the Yorkies had enough common sense to keep Kelly from making player-personnel decisions.


PLAYOFFS (Home teams in CAPS):

AFC Wild Card:
PITTSBURGH over Oakland
........................... NEW ENGLAND over Cincinnati

NFC Wild Card: SEATTLE over Chicago
........................... Arizona over WASHINGTON

AFC Semifinals: KANSAS CITY over New England
............................ HOUSTON over Pittsburgh

NFC Semifinals: GREEN BAY over Arizona
............................ CAROLINA over Seattle

AFC Championship: Houston over KANSAS CITY

NFC Championship: GREEN BAY over Carolina

Super Bowl LI: Green Bay over Houston

Last edited by Anthony; 09-07-2016 at 08:09 PM.
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