The start of the 2015 NFL season is officially underway and it’s time to predict who we may be seeing in the postseason this season. First I will give my take on each division while ending the column by predicting who will ultimately take home the Lombardi Trophy in 2015.
- Philadelphia Eagles (Even Odds to win NFC EAST)
- Dallas Cowboys (+ 170) Wild Card Team
- New York Giants (+ 500)
- Washington Redskins (+ 1400)
I don’t think it is any secret that the offseason decisions of Chip Kelly will decide who takes home the NFC East Crown in 2015. While I don’t often take to much stock into what happens in the preseason it is hard to argue that there was anyone more dominant than Philadelphia. The biggest positive Chip Kelly has brought to the Eagles was positive locker room chemistry. He didn’t care how talented LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson were, he knew they were cancers to the teachings he was installing into his system. Can Sam Bradford lead this team to a division crown? Absolutely, this team is filled with talent on the offensive side of the ball including Jerry Rice’s blood relative Jordan Mathews who is about to take this league by storm.
While the Cowboys may be the favorites to repeat it is hard to argue they can repeat on a 12-4 season from a year ago without DeMarco Murray who by the way is in Philadelphia. While Murray won’t put up the 1,800 yards in Philly it also just as unlikely that anyone on Dallas’ team can do the same. Could Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle, or Christine Michael have a sneaky good season in Big D? Sure, but quarterback Tony Romo will likely have to shoulder more of the load which gives me all the reason to pick Philadelphia as division winners. I still believe Dallas will find a way to sneak out a wild card playoff birth. As for the Giants and Redskins I don’t see either competing for a playoff spot this season. The Giants have the best chance but the decision to keep the ancient Tom Coughlin likely keeps New York in it’s annual boring 8-8, 7-9 season.
- Green Bay Packers (-220 Odds to win NFC NORTH)
- Minnesota Vikings (+ 425) Wild Card Team
- Detroit Lions (+ 450)
- Chicago Bears (+1800)
Make no mistake about it the loss of Jordy Nelson is devastating to the Packers but does anyone really believe Aaron Rodgers will let them lose this division? Probably not, the more interesting part of this division is whether the other three teams can fight for a playoff spot. In my opinion I believe that team will be the Minnesota Vikings. Are the Vikings more talented then the Lions per say? No, but their leadership is what I believe makes them a playoff team in 2015. The combination of Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner has this team believing in themselves. The x factor may in fact be Adrian Peterson. You better believe he will be motivated after sitting out last season. The Lions are also contenders to make the playoffs after doing a year ago but I simply can’t pick lame duck head coach Jim Caldwell to repeat on those aspirations. Then again maybe that’s me being bitter about his play calling during his tenure as a Ravens offensive coordinator. Last but not least the Bears well that’s a story for another day but could be better than many people expect.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+ 600 Odds to win NFC South)
- New Orleans Saints (+ 175)
- Atlanta Falcons (+ 200)
- Carolina Panthers (+275)
The NFC South is arguably the hardest division to predict as each team could finish anywhere from first to worst. In this prediction I’m willing to go out on a limb and say the league’s worst team in 2014 wins the division in 2015. Let’s not forget Carolina won it a year ago with a record of 7-8-1. For Tampa to win the division Jameis Winston is going to have to bring it in his rookie season. While I do believe Winston has what it takes to become a successful pro his sluggish footwork in the pocket has me awfully concerned. With big play threats Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson on the outside and head coach Lovie Smith honing the defense in year two it is hard to argue the Bucs don’t have what it takes to win the NFC South.
I struggled picking this division as I believe Atlanta and New Orleans also have a chance to return to the postseason. Falcons new offensive Kyle Shanahan has what it takes to make the Falcons offense deadly while picking the Saints with Drew Brees and Sean Payton could be enough on it’s own without Jimmy Graham. The Panthers on the other hand may be in for a rude awakening. The loss of Kelvin Benjamin is enough to make this team go from first to worst as they did start the 2014 season at 3-8-1 a year ago.
- Seattle Seahawks (-300 Odds to win NFC West)
- St. Louis Rams (+700)
- Arizona Cardinals (+500)
- San Francisco 49ers (1600)
While picking the Seahawks to win the division for the third year in a row this year makes sense but that doesn’t mean things will come easy for Seattle in 2015. The best defense in the division may actually reside in St. Louis where the Rams have been building an intimidating defensive unit. Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, and Alec Ogletree is nothing to joke about. The Rams season will rest on the arm of Nick Foles as we will finally get to see how good he really is outside of Chip Kelly’s offense. In case anyone forgot they also added the best college running back since Adrian Peterson in Todd Gurley this offseason.
The best offense in the division may in fact be the Cardinals as they were firing on all cylinders when Carson Palmer was healthy last season. Head man Bruce Arians is an offensive genius and will have this team ready for this season. After all he may have added one of the offseason’s best sleepers in former two thousand yard rusher Chris Johnson. The lone team remaining the 49ers could contend for the number one overall pick, that is how bad I think they could be this season. The loss of Jim Harbaugh can not be overstated.
- New England Patriots (-190 Odds to win AFC East)
- Buffalo Bills (+600) Wild Card Team
- Miami Dolphins (+325)
- New York (+1200)
The AFC East is more wide open than ever! I’m here to tell you that in fact is not the case and the Patriots should be clear favorites. Whether Brady won or lost his appeal for his 4 game suspension the Patriots were going to be my pick all along. Sure the Bills added Rex Ryan and LeSean McCoy, sure the Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh, sure the Jets added Revis and Cromartie but does it really matter? No, because it is simple the Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Ultimately I see the Bills as the team that can really push New England for one simple reason, Tyrod Taylor. Taylor was blessed to be drafted by a great organization and got to sit and learn in Baltimore for 4 years. While that doesn’t seem ideal it may have saved his career and now has what it takes to make the Bills playoff contenders. While the other two teams may have “won” the offseason it may not necessarily be a good thing. Teams are built through the draft, not free agency.
- Baltimore Ravens (+150 Odds to win AFC North)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (+200)
- Cincinnati Bengals (+250)
- Cleveland Browns (+1200)
Is there a better orchestrating general manager in all of sports than Ozzie Newsome? Year after year Newsome watches his team get poached during free agency yet constantly finds a way to rebuild the right way through the draft. Not only does he build the right way but his team is filled with maniacs who are hungry year after year. Is there a better receiver personality in the league than Steve Smith? Was there a better gem in all of football than 5’6″ Justin Forsett last season? Is there anyone in the league more frightening than Terrell Suggs? The Ravens have their eyes set on hosting a home playoff game this season and a division title would give them just that. The Ravens are the one team nobody wants to see during January for obvious reasons that go beyond Joe Flacco’s postseason transformation.
The Steelers and Bengals both made the playoffs last season but my gut tells me they both will find themselves at home this postseason. The Steelers defense looks abysmal following the departure of long time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau while the Bengals just seem like a ticking time bomb with Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis. I still have no idea how Lewis has his job after going 13 years without a postseason victory (0-6). Finally the Browns are almost destined for last for obvious reasons.
- Indianapolis Colts (-400 Odds to win AFC South)
- Houston Texans (+425) Wild Card Team
- Tennessee Titans (+1600)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (+1600)
The Colts are going for it in 2015 and are obvious favorites in large part thanks to Andrew Luck. After adding Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and Trent Cole it is hard to argue against the Colts as they may be favorites to win the AFC. As for the rest of the division I believe the Houston Texans will be the other wild card team in the playoffs.
The Texans were this year’s hard knocks team as you can see that this team is being lead by a winner in Bill O’Brien. It’s amazing to see the difference between hard knocks from a year ago as it was evident the Falcons were losers under Mike Smith. O’Brien is a fiery guy who has these guys believing. If the Texans playoff hopes come to fruition it may have to come on the heels on backup quarterback Ryan Mallet who I have always been a believer in since his time at Arkansas by way of Michigan.
The seller dwellers will likely be the Titans and Jaguars. I have been on the record for saying Marcus Mariota will be a bust making the Titans season forgettable. The Jaguars seem to be a team without a sense of direction as Blake Bortles will really have to develop if this team has any plans of being respectable.
- Denver Broncos (-150 Odds to win AFC West)
- San Diego Chargers (+375)
- Oakland Raiders (+1200)
- Kansas City Chiefs (+325)
Does Peyton Manning have one more season left in him? Maybe but the recent scheme change to Gary Kubiak has me worried. Kubiak’s offense is at it’s best with a mobile quarterback running zone runs and naked bootlegs, Manning doesn’t operate that way……. Would it surprise me if Manning truly is finished? No, but it is never a smart thing to be against the veteran quarterback.
The boldest prediction on the list is picking the Raiders to not finish last. For the first time in a long time the Raiders have a reason to be optimistic about the future scoring perennial pro bowlers in consecutive drafts (Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper). Can new head coach Jack Del Rio bring the defensive unit up to par while allowing 2nd year man Derek Carr to continue to improve with shiny new toy Amari Cooper? Maybe they are a year away but things are looking up for Oakland. As for Kansas City and San Diego it appears both teams are wild card contenders but nothing more. I tend to favor San Diego as I think Andy Reid may have this team looking a little better then they really are.
- Indianapolis Colts 1. Seattle Seahawks
- New England Patriots 2. Philadelphia Eagles
- Denver Broncos 3. Green Bay Packers
- Baltimore Ravens 4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Buffalo Bills 5. Dallas Cowboys
- Houston Texans 6. Minnesota Vikings
Denver Broncos defeat Houston Texans Baltimore Ravens defeat Buffalo Bills
Green Bay Packers defeat Minnesota Vikings Dallas Cowboys defeat Tampa Bay Bucs
Baltimore Ravens defeat Indianapolis Colts New England Patriots defeat Denver Broncos
Seattle Seahawks defeat Dallas Cowboys Philadelphia Eagles defeat Green Bay Packers
Baltimore Ravens defeat New England Patriots Seattle Seahawks defeat Philadelphia Eagles
Super Bowl 50:
The Baltimore Ravens defeat Seattle Seahawks to win Super Bowl.
Could the story line be any better? Steve Smith goes out on top during his swan song year, while Seattle appears in its third straight Super Bowl. Does Breshad Perriman have enough to replace Torrey Smith? Can Timmy Jernigan successfully replace Haloti Ngata? Can C.J. Mosley take the next step to become the leader of the Ravens defense just as Ray Lewis was years ago? The Ravens are as good of a pick as any in NFL that is filled with league parity.
NFL MVP: Andrew Luck
Defensive Player of the year: J.J. Watt
Offensive Player of the year: Jeremy Hill
Offensive Rookie of the year: Nelson Agholor
Defensive Rookie of the year: Leonard Williams
Head Coach of the year: Chip Kelly