Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Picks for Divisional Winners in 2016

My Picks for Divisional Winners in 2016

 With this post I’m going to look into the future and predict who I think will win each division in the NFL. No guarantee’s here, just my opinion. So here we go….

AFC East: As much as I hate to say it, I just don’t think the Bills, Jets or Dolphins have added enough, or the Patriots lost enough, for any of the three to seriously challenge for the division. Let’s face it, the Patriots, with Belichick and Brady have always been just enough to set the team apart. Even with Tom being suspended for the first four games, I just don’t see them falling enough to be in trouble. Garopolo may not be Brady, but I believe the rest of the team can carry them to at least a 3-1 through those four. I do believe Buffalo will be vastly improved for the second year, I just don’t believe it will be enough to unseat the Pat’s from their perch. But I will be hoping! Winner-New England Patriots

AFC South: I’m looking for resurgence for the Indianapolis Colts here. While the Texans should also be improved again, I believe that the return of a healthy Andrew Luck should help the Colts regain the upper hand. With Houston having another new starting QB this year, there’s always going to be a learning curve. I see Jacksonville as having a good year too, just not enough to challenge the top two. Tennessee, I believe is still a couple years away from seriously contending. Winner: Indianapolis Colts

AFC North: Could be one of the better divisional battles here. With the last couple year’s improvements of the Cincinnati Bengals, and the return of a healthy roster for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s a bit of a tough call here. Baltimore seems to have fallen a bit since the glory years of 2011-12, and I’m not sure they have the personnel around Joe Flacco to contend for another year. Cleveland? Well they’re still the Browns, so I wouldn’t expect much, sorry. Read the other day some crazy stat that Robert Griffin III would be like their 25th starting quarterback…since 2010!! That’s crazy! Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC West: Big changes here. With the Broncos owning this division for the last few years, it’ll be different seeing another team on top. The loss of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, and replacing him with Mark Sanchez (as it stands now) I just don’t see the Broncos being that tough offensively. Their defense will still be good, but I’m not sure the offense can do enough to help. The Raiders should be, again, vastly improved. With QB Derek Carr and receiver Amari Cooper having another year, the offense should be fun to watch. If they can get much out of their running back position with Latavius Murray, it should keep defenses honest. With Michael Crabtree at receiver also, their skill positions seem to be set. Then you look at the defense. With Khalil Mack being joined by Bruce Irvin the front seven should be solid. My only question mark with the Raiders will be their defensive backfield. I’m not too familiar with any of the players back there, but with that front seven, they may never get mentioned. The Kansa City Chiefs may push for the division, but I’m kind of leaning to them being a little like San Diego; past their prime. I’m still a big believer in Phillip Rivers, but don’t believe he has the supporting cast that he needs. Winner: Oakland Raiders

NFC East: Going to have to go out on a limb here, with no clear favorite in the division. The Cowboys might come back, if Tony Romo can stay healthy, which is a big if. The Redskins might contend, but I’m not a believer in Kirk Cousins, sorry. The Giants still have one of the top receiving corps in the league, as long as Victor Cruz can stay healthy, and a Manning is still a Manning. Hard to read them with the new coach. Same goes for the Philadelphia Eagles; new coach, quarterback (maybe? I’d stick with Bradford) etc. So I’m not sure if I wouldn’t be better picking a name out of a hat. Going this way just due to their offense. Winner: New York Giants

NFC South: Not sure the Saints, Falcons or Buccaneers can compete with the Panthers here. With Carolina getting their #1 receiver, Benjamin, back, the Panthers could be even better. Atlanta started out like a world-beater last year; they just weren’t able to finish it. Not sure if Matt Ryan isn’t on the end of his pro bowl years. In nine years he has taken a lot of hits, and their defense showed some serious holes in the second half of last year. New Orleans may be in the same boat with Drew Brees; he’s just been around for 16 years. Also Brees is operating on the last year of his contract, and it sounds like the team isn’t in a hurry to sign him to an extension. The Saints also lost wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. They still have Ingram and Spiller to run the ball, but the teams receiving corps does look a little thin. Buccaneers seem to still be a couple years away, to me. With Winston getting another year under his belt, and above average receivers (Evans & Jackson at Wide out, Seferian-Jenkins at TE), as long as they can keep Martin healthy at running back, the offense should be capable. The defense is another that could be the weak link on the team. Winner: Carolina Panthers

NFC North: Going against conventional wisdom here, at least a little. Start off saying I don’t think Detroit or Chicago have improved much over last year. With the Bears, I hear nothing. As for the Lions, it’ll be interesting to see how Stafford plays without retired Calvin Johnson. Stafford has always seemed to me anyway, to be an above average quarterback; I’m just not completely sold on him. He seems as ‘streaky’ as any quarterback I’ve seen in a while. Also don’t know if he has the supporting cast to compete with the Packers and Vikings. There they are, the two big dogs. Packers have been good for a long time now, and I don’t see much of a drop off, barring injury. I just think all the years are going to take a toll on the veteran players. The Vikings, on the other hand, have a much younger nucleus. With the exception of Adrian Peterson, all their other players seem very young and hungry. They remind me of the Seahawks from 2012; young and brash on defense, with a chip on their shoulder. I still believe, if the Vikings can keep Peterson healthy, the Vikings may well host Super Bowl 52, you never know. Winner: Minnesota Vikings

NFC West: Here we are: the home division of Super Bowl 51 winner!! Just hoping there. I don’t believe San Francisco can improve enough to seriously contend for the division this year. I do believe new coach Chip Kelly will be able to run “his” offense with Colin Kaepernick. I don’t have nearly the faith in Blaine Gabbert. I think the jury is still out as to whether Kelly can make his style offense work in the NFL; only time will tell. Niners’ defense has dropped a little also, in my opinion. As for the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams, starting a rookie QB is going to be tough having to face the Seahawks and Cardinals defense twice a year. But if any coach can get his team ready for a divisional game, it’s Jeff Fischer. As a Seahawks fan, that guy has caused more hair loss than anybody who doesn’t play for Seattle. Still, if they finish above 500, I would consider it a good year. So now we’re down to the Seahawks and the Cardinals. Being very competitive, almost carbon copy teams, it should be a good rivalry between the two. Even though I’m a LOT biased, I still give the slight nod to the Seahawks. With the entire teams focus and hunger throughout this off-season, OTA’s and training camp, I’m looking for something special. It just feels like the pre-season to 2013 all over again. Cardinals aren’t a slouch, mind you, and I’m a huge fan of Coach Arians and Larry Fitzgerald, but I believe what separates the two top NFC West teams are at quarterback. Not knocking him here, I’ve just never been a Carson Palmer Fan. I’m just not sure if he can take them to the ultimate goal. So…….Winner: Seattle Seahawks 

There you have it, my divisional picks for the 2016 season. May be way off, might be spot on? Either way, we’re coming up on preseason game #1 this weekend. It’s Football Time!!!   Until next time………….Go Hawks!!!

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