The time has finally come. Football is less than two weeks away so you know what that means.
This post will feature my predictions for division standings, both in the AFC and NFC. Final playoff standings, then I will give you my predictions for the playoffs and who will win Super Bowl 52 in Minnesota.
Let’s get started.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
The Steelers are the favorites in the AFC North once again and for good reason. They have the best wide receiver and running back in football, and they’re defense has improved this summer as well. I love their first round pick TJ Watt, and they were able to get a big time (and much needed) addition in their secondary with star cornerback Joe Haden. I see the Steelers cruising to a division title, and are the top threat to dethrone the Patriots in the AFC
2. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
I think the Bengals are primed for a step back. They lost two Pro Bowl players on the offensive line, Jeremy Hill is unreliable, Gio Bernard is coming off an ACL injury, and their defense is to volatile for me.
3. Baltimore Ravens (5-11)
The Ravens just haven’t been the same since they won the Super Bowl, gave Joe Flacco the biggest contract in NFL history, and had to gut their team afterwards. They’ve had a ton of injuries this off-season, including to their most important player Joe Flacco. They still don’t have a running game or a true number one receiver. I’d be surprised if the Ravens are a .500 team at the end of the year.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
I’ve been very vocal about how much I like how the Browns are approaching their rebuild. I love what they did this summer to upgrade their offensive line, I liked their draft, and I do think that DeShone Kizer can be the quarterback they’ve been looking for. I think they’ll be competitive in most games, but it’ll be at least another year or two before they’re true playoff contenders.
1. New England Patriots (14-2)
Taking a look at the Patriots schedule, and I don’t see many losses. Tom Brady shows no signs of slowing down, Rob Gronkowksi is healthy, and they were able to add Brandin Cooks to their offense. They’ve still got a solid defense as well, and a pretty easy schedule. The opportunity for another 16-0 season is right there for the taking.
2. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
The Dolphins last year were able to take the step forward we were all expecting. It came with a late run where it looked like QB Ryan Tannehill looked to have taken the next step in his progression. I’m not a fan of Jay Cutler leading the way, and I don’t like that they lost several key pieces to their defense this summer. I see the Dolphins taking a step back and possibly looking to find their next quarterback with the uncertainty of Ryan Tannehill’s knee.
3. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
All the talk surrounding the Bills is about rebuilding, but I don’t see that as the case. I think their defense will be better and more disciplined with the coaching change to Sean McDermott, and I think their offense is underrated as well. LeSean McCoy should have another good year, and they should have more reliable options with Jordan Matthews replacing Sammy Watkins. I think Tyrod Taylor is an underrated commodity as well. The Bills problem is their tough schedule and it will take some time to adjust to their new schemes.
4. New York Jets (1-15)
The Jets should have been better last year. But this year, they’ll be lucky to win 3 games. They have a good front seven, but their secondary is awful. And their offense could be historically bad. This isn’t what HC Todd Bowles was hoping for heading into what could likely be his last year.
1. Houston Texans (11-5)
The Texans have been widely known as the team that’s just a quarterback away. They may be starting Tom Savage to begin the season, but I believe they did indeed find their guy in Deshaun Watson. Their defense will be elite again now that JJ Watt is healed and Jadeveon Clowney showed he can stay healthy. They’re also helped by being in the weakest division in the NFL. I see Watson starting at some point this season, and DeAndre Hopkins will have a big bounce-back season.
2. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
The Titans seem to be everyones pick to take the next step and possibly win the division, but I just don’t see it. I do really like Marcus Mariota, but could they be too one dimensional? And do you trust Mike Mularkey as the guy to help Mariota grow? I don’t. Don’t be surprised if you see people calling for Mularkey’s head if the struggle early or miss the playoffs.
3. Indianapolis Colts (6-10)
The Colts were once on track to become the class of the AFC with Andrew Luck, but now what? Nobody knows when Luck will be back, their offensive line is still one of the worst in the NFL, they’re still relying on a 34 year old running back, and they didn’t improve their defense. Unless Luck comes back early in the season and plays at MVP form, 6-10 could be the best case scenario, and Chuck Pagano is fired at the end of the season.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)
Last year I made the mistake of saying the Jaguars are on the rise and a playoff contender. I will not make that mistake again. Their defense may be playoff ready, but Blake Bortles has regressed to the point where they seriously considered starting Chad Henne. Unless he comes back in a big way, they’ll luckily be at the top of the draft to get their next QB of the future.
1. Oakland Raiders (13-3)
The Raiders are where the Colts were a few years ago. They have a star quarterback and an explosive offense, and should keep progressing in the playoffs. I just can’t understand why their defense hasn’t played up to their potential. They should be better this year, but even if they’re not, 12-4 seems like the floor of this team.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
For the most part I like the Chiefs. The Spencer Ware injury hurts, but consider me on the Kareem Hunt bandwagon. I don’t like the decision to randomly release Jeremy Maclin, but last years emergence of Tyreek Hill should be enough to fill that void. And their defense once again be one of the best in the league. I’ll say once again that I’m not a big fan of Alex Smith, and they’ll have a higher ceiling once Pat Mahomes takes over as the starter (not this year).
3. Los Angeles Chargers (8-8)
I like the strides the Chargers made last year. Melvin Gordon finally proved why he was worth a first round pick, Joey Bosa was a beast, and Melvin Ingram also became a dominant pass rusher. I still have a problem with the Chargers offensive line, and their top weapons never seem to stay healthy. If Rivers can stay upright, and Keenan Allen stays healthy, the Chargers should make their first playoff appearance since 2013.
4. Denver Broncos (6-10)
Their defense is elite, but their offense isn’t anywhere close. Trevor Siemian could be a solid backup in this league, but if you’re relying on him to lead your offense to the playoffs, I don’t think you’ll get there. The defense will have to carry this team, and they’ll likely be on the field too much to do so.
1. Green Bay Packers (14-2)
The Packers are far and away the class of this division and I fully expect them to be explosive this year. Adding Martellus Bennett was a welcome sight and I think Ty Montgomery will make an impact in his switch to running back. Hopefully the additions of Davon House and Kevin King will make their secondary at least competent.
2. Detroit Lions (8-8)
I like Matt Stafford as a QB, I really do. But the 9-7 record they had last year is likely their ceiling with the weapons he has at his disposal. With the big contract the Lions gave Stafford last month, they’ll be expecting continuous playoff appearances, but that’s just not realistic for this team. They need to get better running the football (ranked 30th in rushing YPG last season) and be less one dimensional on offense, and I’ll consider them a more serious playoff contender.
3. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
We all know the strength of the Vikings is their defense. They’re loaded on that side of the ball. The question with this team is their offense. Can Sam Bradford be consistent enough to lead this team to the playoffs? Bradford has never led a team to a winning record in his career, and I don’t expect that to change this year.
4. Chicago Bears (2-14)
The Bears this season will be very, very bad. Mitchell Trubisky has looked impressive against 4th stringers I’ll give him that, but there’s no chance he’ll be able to lead this offense out of a bottom 3 record (Neither would Mike Glennon). And with this kind of record, I’d be surprised if head coach John Fox lasted the full season.
1. New York Giants (10-6)
The Giants this year have a defense that should once again be near the top of the league. A fantastic secondary to go along with a great pass rush, that will set them up for success week in and week out. The key for this team will be Eli Manning’s consistency. He has the weapons on offense to be a passing juggernaut, and he needs to cut down on his mistakes to take this team to their ceiling.
2. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Man, this Elliott suspension is going to hurt this team. Sure, he’ll play week one, but I had the Giants winning that game with or without Elliott. After that, they could start the season with a 1-5 record it’s that tough. They’ve shuffled around their entire secondary, and they don’t have even an average pass rush. On offense, they’ll need Dak to take the next step and be the true leader of this team, and I’ll hesitate on that one.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
The Eagles have some very nice pieces. I like Carson Wentz, I like Alshon Jeffery as their #1 wideout, and I really like the signing of LeGarrett Blount this summer. Getting Ronald Darby in a trade with Buffalo was huge for their defense as well. The key for them will be Carson Wentz taking the next step. They have all the tools to be playoff team and it will be on the shoulders, or arm, of Wentz.
4. Washington Redskins (8-8)
It must be rough to be the team that finishes last in this division. I see it as being the toughest in the NFL, and if 4th place finishes at 8-8? That’s pretty cruel. The Redskins have talent everywhere on the roster, and I would probably have them as a playoff team if they had a second legit option at receiver, like let’s say, DeSean Jackson.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
Consider me all in on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’m a believer in Jameis Winston and I think he’s primed for a huge season. Mike Evans is a top 5 receiver and I love the addition of DeSean Jackson to this offense. I think their defense will be better than in years past, but their ascension will all be due to the play of Jameis Winston and their offense.
2. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Atlanta finally played to their potential last year winning the division and getting to the Super Bowl. I think they do well this year as well, but take a slight step back. I think it’ll be hard for Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman to repeat their career years, and that’s the reason for the step back, even if it is just a one game difference.
3. Carolina Panthers (9-7)
The Panthers took a big step back last season after getting to the Super Bowl the year before, but I love what they did this off-season. The addition of Christian McCaffrey will be huge, and the team’s decision to limit Cam Newton’s scrambling will help this team as well.
4. New Orleans Saints (6-10)
The Saints offense should be good again with Drew Brees leading the way, but once again, this defense looks to be awful. They finished 2nd to last in scoring defense last season, and didn’t to much to improve on that side of the ball. If their defense was even average they’d likely be a playoff team.
1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
The major hole on this team is their offensive line, but they should still be able to run away with the division. Their wide receiver group is probably the most underrated in the league, and their defense will be elite as usual. I think the difference with the team this year is that Russell Wilson will become a legitimate MVP candidate.
2. Arizona Cardinals (7-9)
On paper, the Cardinals have a great roster. They have a top 10 defense and legitimate weapons on offense, but I don’t trust their quarterback situation. Carson Palmer showed his age last year and I don’t think he lasts the season, that’s why I have them as a below .500 team.
3. Los Angeles Rams (6-10)
The Rams are in a similar situation to the Cardinals. I like their defense, and I’m a fan of their addition of Sammy Watkins. Problem is their offensive line is shaky even with the addition of Andrew Whitworth, and I can’t trust Jared Goff just yet. I don’t think there’s any way he can be as bad as he was last year, but with new coach Sean McVay coming in, I expect this offense to improve.
4. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
We have to be honest about this team this year. It is a complete rebuild job and this roster is as barren as any roster in the NFL. They have some decent young talent, but it will take at least two more drafts before they’re back to being relevant.
Final Playoff Standings
- New England Patriots (14-2)
- Oakland Raiders (13-3)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
- Houston Texans (11-5)
- Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
- Tennessee Titans (9-7)
- Green Bay Packers (14-2)
- Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
- New York Giants (10-6)
- Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
- Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
MVP: Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player of the Year: JJ Watt – Houston Texans
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year: TJ Watt – Pittsburgh Steelers
Coach of the Year: Dirk Koetter – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Comeback Player of the Year: Martavis Bryant – Pittsburgh Steelers
Fantasy Player of the Year: Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
NFL Playoffs Predictions
Oakland Raiders over Tennessee Titans
Houston Texans over Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots over Houston Texans
Oakland Raiders over Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC Championship Game
New England Patriots over Oakland Raiders
Dallas Cowboys over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New York Giants over Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers over Dallas Cowboys
Seattle Seahawks over New York Giants
NFC Championship Game
Green Bay Packers over Seattle Seahawks
Super Bowl XLII
Green Bay Packers over New England Patriots