Back to the NFL, you darn right. We are just ten days away from the start of the 2016 NFL season as the Denver Broncos, a team that won Super Bowl 50 with an exceptional defense, attempt to be the first team since the New England Patriots to repeat as champions. Can it happen? Considering that Peyton Manning is retired, I believe it won't happen this season. Without further ado, here is my preview and predictions for the 2016 NFL Season.
NFE East: I had the Dallas Cowboys winning this division, and then Mr. overrated, overhyped, and now injury prone Tony Romo is out six to ten weeks. Who's my new favorite to win the NFC East? It's the New York Football Giants. With Ben McAdoo getting the head coaching job, the Giants' offense should get plenty of points this season as long as Eli Manning can protect the football. The defense will be something to watch. Washington was able to win this dreadful division thanks to Kirk Cousins stepping up at the end of the season. Can Cousins do the same thing and steal the division from the Giants? The one thing to look out for was the signing of Josh Norman, which helps the secondary, but the pass rush has to step up to be that top-notch defense this season. When it comes to the Cowboys, I don't think we'll see Dak Prescott play magnificent this regular season despite having the best offensive line in the division, drafting Ezekiel Elliott, and Dez Bryant being that playmaker. But, the defense is still a mess. Lastly, the Eagles are not strong contenders, as their goal is to rebuild the franchise around Carson Wentz. (1. New York Giants, 2. Washington Redskins, 3. Dallas Cowboys, 4. Philadelphia Eagles)
NFC North: Ah yes, a division that has two strong teams that can make the postseason. For the Packers, Jordy Nelson is coming back after missing out last season and Nelson's presence will be huge for the Packers offense because if they don't have their top receiver, they look lost as a team. But with Nelson back, I see the Packers as a strong Super Bowl team. With all the hype about the offense, the Packers defense looks pretty solid thanks to a good secondary. The Vikings bring old school to their football philosophy with a deep running game and a great defense, but if the offense wants to take it to the next level, Teddy Bridgewater needs to make big plays. John Fox was able to help out the Bears in his first term as head coach, but this team is still a work in progress. Alshon Jeffrey and Kevin White make a great one-two in the receiving game, but we know that Jay Cutler can be a mess sometimes, and they lost Matt Forte. The defense is not ready to be a 3-4 defense, but the linebacker position did get an upgrade. And for the Lions, it's going to be a rough year after Calvin Johnson retired and since Jim Caldwell is not a great coach, the Lions are my bottom tier team in the division. (1. Green Bay Packers, 2. Minnesota Vikings, 3. Chicago Bears, 4. Detroit Lions)
NFC South: This is an easy division to predict. Even though they did lose Josh Norman, I still have to put the Panthers in there as the favorite to win the NFC South. Cam Newton was a hot mess in Super Bowl 50, as the offensive line fell apart at the worse possible time. Then you have a Falcons club that cratered in the final half of the season, and they didn't get better in the offseason on the defensive end, which leaves pressure on the heart of the offense. Jamesis Winston is starting to look like an NFL quarterback, but he is not there yet, but he does have a nice support on the offense. I think their problem will be on the defense. And the Saints were a mess last season on defense, and they still have too many issues that puts Drew Brees in a pressure situation. (1. Carolina Panthers 2. Atlanta Falcons 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4. New Orleans Saints)
NFC West: The top two teams in this division strongly make a case to play in Super Bowl 51 this January. The Cardinals made it to the NFC Championship Game last season but got their butts whooped by the Panthers, as Carson Palmer was a mess in that game. Aside that, the Cardinals have the best roster in the NFL, and Palmer's goal is for him to stay healthy. With Marshawn Lynch retiring, it's Russell Wilson's team now, and he has a solid lineup, but the offensive line is weak. Still, the Seahawks will manage to have one of the finest defenses in the NFL, and they showed that last season with a big finish. Meanwhile, the Rams return to Los Angeles, as Jared Goff, and Todd Gurley becomes the future of the Rams franchise. Not to mention, they have the top defensive line in the NFL. And for the 49ers, yeah, I'll just skip. (1. Arizona Cardinals, No 2. Seattle Seahawks 3. Los Angeles Rams 4. San Francisco 49ers)
AFC East: Even with Jimmy Garoppolo starting the first four games of the regular season because of the Tom Brady's suspension, the Pats are still my favorite to win the AFC East. The team has a dangerous one-two duo with Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski playing the role of strong tight ends while they have the usual suspects in the receiving game and the backfield. Meanwhile, the defense should be solid, despite the pass rush being weakened after Chandler Jones got traded to Arizona. The Jets brought back Ryan Fitzpatrick after months of negotiating, but will he be even better in 2016? If that comes to fruition, they should be in the mix for a playoff spot with a strong defense and solid players like Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, and Matt Forte. When I continue my discussion on quarterbacks, Tyrod Taylor was great last season, but can he do it again? He has a strong running game, the dangerous Sammy Watkins, a good offensive line, and a decent defense, but the Bills need to have a strong start. Lastly, I like Adam Gase as the head man in charge of the Miami Dolphins, but unless this team starts off with some big wins thanks to Ryan Tannehill, I see the Dolphins at the bottom of the AFC East. (1. New England Patriots 2. New York Jets 3. Buffalo Bills 4. Miami Dolphins).
AFC North: To me, the AFC North is the toughest division in the NFL, and I'm going to explain why with three teams that can make the postseason. First, the Steelers have a great offense, and if the defense can get a strong pass rush, the team can fix their holes in the pass rush. Plus, the Steelers got the duo of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. The Bengals have been lobbying us that they're the best team in the AFC North with a deep roster, but they fail to win a game in the postseason. Don't get me wrong; the defense is strong, and they have some good players on offense, which includes A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but Andy Dalton can't be that choke artist in the postseason. The Ravens should bounce back after a rough 2015 season, but this club is still solid. And for the Browns, even though they got Hue Jackson, they still have a bad roster, and I can only see them win two games this year. (1. Pittsburgh Steelers 2. Cincinnati Bengals 3. Baltimore Ravens 4. Cleveland Browns)
AFC South: The AFC South was a laughing stock last season, but I believe progress will be made this season, and the reason is that the Texans got themselves a quarterback. Now, I don't believe Brock Osweiler is a franchise quarterback just yet, but he is better than what they had in Houston last season, and they got DeAndre Hopkins and plenty of speed in the passing game. Not to mention, an unproven running back in Braxton Miller. With that said, the defense has that one big playmaker and his name is J.J. Watt. The Jaguars are rising especially if Blake Bortles continues to get better, and his cast has improved, and the defense has pieces. With that said, can this team save Gus Bradley's job? We'll have to wait and see. With Andrew Luck back at 100 percent, I'm not sold on this Colts club because the offensive line is a work in progress. Does Frank Gore have anything left in the tank? And the Colts did nothing to improve on defense. Mike Mularkey was a bad hire by the Titans and while the Titans have Marcus Mariota, this team needs to work on their progress and this team is doomed this season. (1. Houston Texans 2. Jacksonville Jaguars 3. Indianapolis Colts 4. Tennessee Titans).
AFC West: The AFC West should be a fun and competitive division with two solid clubs. I'll be honest, this was a tough prediction for me, but I had made my decision on who wins this. My winner of the AFC West is going to be the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs went on to win nine games and now that Jamaal Charles is back, the running game is going to get a tad better. Alex Smith may not have the weapons to work with and after losing players in the secondary, they still have a stop unit. The Raiders are rumored to go to Las Vegas, but the club has a rising quarterback in Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. They also made some key upgrades in the defense. The Chargers still have to deal with this Joey Bosa mess, but the Chargers will finish in the bottom two, but if they have luck on getting healthy, which includes a returning Keenan Allen and Phillip Rivers playing a veteran role, they'll be in the mix to contend in the division. Remember when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50? Well, Super Bowl 51 won't be in their reach because of a mess in their quarterback situation. However, the defense is still good, but this is not the same unit that won them the Lombardi Trophy this season. (1. Kansas City Chiefs 2. Oakland Raiders 3. San Diego Chargers 4. Denver Broncos)