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Old 09-07-2015, 07:35 AM   #1
Anthony
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Cool Anthony's 2015 NFL Preview

Predicted records in parentheses


AFC EAST

1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-3):
The Deflategate suspension was voided and Tom Brady's entire season has been saved - but this year they have to play the Broncos on the road, meaning that the road to Super Bowl 50 in the AFC goes through Denver, not Foxboro.

2. MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8): Are they picking up the 8-8, fart-out-when-the-playoffs-are-on-the-line banner the Cowboys finally dropped last year? Can't trust them despite the key addition of Ndamukong Suh, and Mike Wallace will be playing 60 minutes each week for Minnesota and not for them.

3. NEW YORK JETS (6-10): And they have had a "gate" of their own - Suckerpunchgate, which forces them to at least open the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback - and Fitzpatrick is one of two active NFL quarterbacks whose lifetime record as a starter comes out to exactly 6-10 per 16-game season (33-55-1), hence the predicted final record.

4. BUFFALO BILLS (5-11): Tyrod Taylor? You gotta be kidding: He was a lowly sixth-round draft choice of the Ravens, for whom he washed out. New team, same old offensive ignorance from Rex Ryan. Have yet to notch back-to-back winning seasons in this millennium - and won't do it here, either.


AFC NORTH

1. BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-6):
All they do is find a way to win - and if they find a way to win a division (which they in effect did last year because they went further in the playoffs than both the Steelers, who they beat in the wild-card round, and the Bengals, who lost in that round) in which all four teams will suffer greatly in the schedule this year, they have proven in the past that the sky can be the limit for them in the playoffs.

2. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-7): Their current offense may be their most prolific ever - but oh, that schedule: Toughest in the league at .578, and also a staggering .127 more difficult than last year's. Can't help but take a step or two backward - and RB Le'Veon Bell, who might literally be the greatest of all time in size/speed ratio, must sit out first two games due to a DUI suspension.

3. CINCINNATI BENGALS (8-8): The "Magicians" - Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton - probably won't be able to do their customary disappearing act in the playoffs again this time around, again because of the schedule.

4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (6-10): Any upside would have to come from Johnny Manziel - but Mike Pettine seems committed to Josh McCown, at least for now, and McCown is 7-20 as a starter since 2007. Also missing in action is Josh Gordon, suspended for the entire season for drinking on a flight to Las Vegas (doesn't Roger Goodell know that Prohibition was repealed 82 years ago?). Some other time.


AFC SOUTH

1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (12-4):
The key issue for this team is seeding: If they have to play two postseason games outdoors and in the cold weather, it's lights out once again. Not convinced that they can surmount this hurdle - but don't be deceived by the cosmetically-close two-game margin by which they won division a year ago: They are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the division.

2. HOUSTON TEXANS (8-8): Parlayed the league's steepest strength-of-schedule drop to a seven-game improvement in 2014 - but teams in this situation almost always give back at least a game or two the following season, and the glaring hole at quarterback remains unfilled. And they have still yet to win a game at Indy, so it's pretty hard to consider them any kind of serious threat to the Colts.

3. TENNESSEE TITANS (5-11): How long will it take for Ken Whisenhunt to destroy Marcus Mariota's self-confidence? At least they open the season with two winnable games, albeit both on the road (at Tampa Bay, then at Cleveland), and things don't get a whole lot tougher after that: Their schedule is the league's fourth easiest, and they take NFL's second-biggest SOS drop, both using the 2014 final records. This might help mask their many weaknesses.

4. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-15): You have to go back to baseball's 1958-61 Phillies to find a more persistently hapless professional sports franchise. This is the worst team in the NFL on paper, and should be the worst team in the NFL on the field.


AFC WEST

1. DENVER BRONCOS (13-3):
As Caitlyn Jenner proves, turnabout is fair play: They get the Patriots in their building this year (on November 29th) and that gives them a clear path to home field throughout the playoffs. But what then? That has always been the thing with Peyton Manning.

2. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-6): Survived a back-breaking schedule - and the embarrassment of being the first NFL team not to get a single TD catch from a wide receiver over the course of the entire season since 1945 - well enough, with another winning season and division exacta finish. Splittin' the difference between Fat Boy's 11-5 maiden voyage in KC and last year's 9-7 - and a playoff spot could come bundled with this year's deal.

3. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7): Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are both getting old, and a potential move up Interstate 5 serves as an unwelcome distraction. Completing hat trick of 9-7 third-place finishes, all under Mike McCoy, could be on the agenda - but if it does result in a second playoff berth in those three years, it's not so bad.

4. OAKLAND RAIDERS (2-14): Another rotten team, another suicide schedule. Their team motto figures to be "Thank God For Jacksonville." It's just as well that Al Davis isn't around to witness this dumpster fire.


NFC EAST

1. DALLAS COWBOYS (10-6):
Finally broke the 8-8 habit last year - but did too many players have signature years? And one of them definitely won't duplicate his 2014 effort - cornerback Orlando Scandrick, out for the season from a torn ACL suffered in training camp. Still should crack double digits in the win column, and win the division.

2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7): Went from runaway-league-leading 14.2 yards gained per completion in 2013 to 11.9 a year ago - and figure to fall into the single digits with tweener Jeremy Maclin departing in free agency and replaced by dyed-in-the-wool possession type Nelson Agholor, procured in first round of draft. This is no way to win in the chuck-rule era - and Chip Kelly's teams have a history of choking when it counts; and like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford's lifetime record as a starter also neatly comes out to exactly 6-10 per 16-game season (18-30-1; the quarterback for whom he was traded, Nick Foles, is 15-10).

3. NEW YORK GIANTS (5-11): You can't fool me this year, Tom. Your team is going the wrong way, and it's time for you to take your two Super Bowl rings and call it a career.

4. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (2-14): The only difference between Jay Gruden and David Shula is that Jay Gruden is the over-his-head younger brother of a Super Bowl-winning coach while David Shula was the over-his-head son of a Super Bowl-winning coach. And Hillary Clinton did a better job of managing her e-mails than Gruden is doing managing his quarterbacks.


NFC NORTH

1. GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-5):
Pretty much stood pat over the spring once again - but is their hand strong enough for them to take the pot? And Aaron Rodgers will have to get by without his security blanket, Jordy Nelson, who ripped up his knee in one of those lovely games that don't even count. Would appear to have another division crown and at least Elite Eight appearance left in them though.

2. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (9-7): How far along is Teddy Bridgewater as a project - and how much zeal for the game will the 30-year-old Adrian Peterson show after political correctness aborted his 2014 season? Their arrow is definitely pointing up - but 0-7 record against non-losing teams last year is cause for concern, especially with difficult '15 slate - opponents' winning percentage .539, up .064 from year ago.

3. DETROIT LIONS (8-8): Like Buffalo, they haven't had two winning seasons in a row in this millennium - and not since 1994-95 in fact. Defensive line lost three players with 32 '14 starts among them in free agency, where they did pick up long-time Baltimore mainstay Haloti Ngata, and weak running game will keep pressure on Matthew Stafford, who often turns it over when confronted with same. It doesn't add up to two playoff trips in as many seasons under Jim Caldwell.

4. CHICAGO BEARS (7-9): Jay Cutler is easy to make fun of, but it has been the defense that has failed this team of late, and now they're going to the 3-4 - seldom a good idea, particularly for NFC teams. Still, if they don't up and quit at the end of the season like they did last year, they could be respectable, although that won't even buy them a trifecta finish in this suddenly solid division.


NFC SOUTH

1. ATLANTA FALCONS (12-4):
They take the biggest drop in strength of schedule of any NFL team (and also have the easiest schedule without taking last year's schedules into account), and in this millennium that has produced an average 3.3-game improvement the following year (3.9 not counting when the 16-0-the-year-before New England team made the drop in 2008) - and last season's beneficiary, the Texans, zoomed seven games, and did it without a quarterback, which is hardly the case here, with Matt Ryan. Get ready for big balloons!

2. CAROLINA PANTHERS (10-6): Didn't break their no-two-winning-seasons-in-a-row jinx in 2014 (they have never recorded such a pair in franchise history!) but that didn't stop them from both becoming the first defending NFC South champion to repeat in the division's history, and advancing to the Elite Eight when their wild-card opponent didn't have a serviceable quarterback. Three in a row may be a bridge too far, but huge class drop in schedule that the entire division takes this year puts them in prime position for a playoff run of some sort.

3. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-6): Like the Eagles, they will try to outscore people every week - but unlike that team, they do have the all-important speed at wide receiver, and Mark Ingram might at last break through with a thousand-yard season after just missing in 2014, which apparently was good enough for him to be rewarded with a bountiful (just couldn't resist!) new contract. Can cap a stunning worst-to-first turnaround for this division.

4. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-11): They host Tennessee on opening day, and figure to have the same 2015 journey as the Titans - a somewhat improved record only because of a soft schedule worthy of Kitchen Queen paper towels. Jameis Winston must avoid costly interceptions (he had 18 in his senior year at Florida State) - otherwise he will go from crab legs to crab apples.


NFC WEST

1. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (12-4):
Not since Buffalo lost those four straight Super Bowls to start the '90s has a Super Bowl runner-up gotten back there the next season - and league's premier secondary may be without two 2014 starters: Definitely Byron Maxwell, who became one of Kelly's heroes in Philly, and possibly Kam Chancellor, who is holding out and may be traded. Other, better SB losers have fallen victim to this trend, so they can too - but not before another virtually inevitable gracing of the Elite Eight, and probably the Final Four.

2. ARIZONA CARDINALS (9-7): Their crash-and-burn to end last season may leave some very real lasting scars, and Carson Palmer has never been able to stay healthy, prompting them to trade for fellow USC alum Matt Barkley. They have also had to move on from their team leader on defense, Darnell Dockett. They will struggle to remain on this side of .500 with tougher-than-average schedule.

3. ST. LOUIS RAMS (8-8): Gave up on Sam Bradford, trading him for Nick Foles, who the Eagles gave up on despite his having been a human passing-yards factory in 2013-14, before a blitzing linebacker ended Foles' latter season. Foles will appreciate Tavon Austin's blinding speed, but defense comes off uneven campaign and Todd Gurley must justify his first-round tab with recovery from devastating ACL injury at Georgia. Correct pick on this record would mean their best season since 2006 - and they might just about make it.

4. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (4-12): Jim Tomsula? Really? Guess they know that some major downtime is coming, and they're biting the bullet. Colin Kaepernick now scares nobody, and a whole parade of others, mostly on defense, have left town courtesy of free agency, retirement, and the criminal justice system.


PLAYOFFS (Home teams in CAPS)

AFC Wild Card: INDIANAPOLIS over San Diego
........................BALTIMORE over Kansas City

NFC Wild Card: GREEN BAY over New Orleans
........................Carolina over DALLAS

AFC Semifinals: Baltimore over DENVER
........................NEW ENGLAND over Indianapolis

NFC Semifinals: ATLANTA over Carolina
........................SEATTLE over Green Bay

AFC Championship: Baltimore over NEW ENGLAND

NFC Championship: ATLANTA over Seattle

Super Bowl 50: Baltimore over Atlanta

Last edited by Anthony; 09-07-2015 at 07:52 AM.
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Old 09-07-2015, 10:46 AM   #2
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Interesting, but I don't see the Cowboys being that good. No one else in the NFC East is, either, so you might be right.
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