Of course a lot of these will turn out to be wrong. But I will do the best to offer my opinion on what the standings could or should look like at the end of next season.
1. New England Patriots (13-3)
2. New York Jets (9-7)
3. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
4. Buffalo Bills (3-13)
-The Patriots with a pitiful receiving core still did quite well and finished at 12-4 last season. Granted the teams get better in the NFL every year, they plan on having Gronk back for most of the season and also updated in key areas such as their secondary on defense with the additions of Revis/Browner. An easy to hate but very well run organization. With Belicheck and Brady still in town, they are good for at least 12 wins.
-The Jets will always be decent or in the picture. Rex Ryan is an excellent coach and they upgraded their awful offense from last year with solid additions in Chris Johnson at RB and Eric Decker at WR. If Geno Smith is horrible again they can give Mike Vick a shot. There are few backups in the league as good as Vick. I don’t get the hate for this team and I see them having a solid season.
-The Dolphins are…the Dolphins. Not a bad roster but not impressive either. I like what Tannehill brings but I don’t see an elite quarterback in him (at least yet). They aren’t bad on either side of the ball, have a decent coach, and got rid of their stupid controversy that derailed their season last year. Having said that, I’d say 7-9 with an upside of above .500 at 9-7. They aren’t a lottery team but they aren’t contenders either. They could be near a wild card spot in the AFC at 9-7 though.
-Nothing about the Bills remotely impresses me. I saw a few flashes of brilliance in quarterback EJ Manuel last season but then he faded. They got rid of their top wide receiver and added in an unproven rookie Sammy Watkins. That is their whole offense plus CJ Spiller at running back. Meanwhile on defense (where they seemed alright last year unlike their offense) they got rid of their best player Jairus Byrd and Kiko Alonso tore his ACL. He’s done for the season after having a defensive rookie of the year-like season. Yeah, nothing to look forward about here. I expect them to be a lottery team.
1. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
2. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-10)
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
-Wow this is one of the worst divisions in the league. The Baltimore Ravens can only go up from their poor year last year where they finished 8-8. Their schedule does not scream tough and they are one of the most well run organizations in the league. I expect them to finish a tad above .500. Not contenders but back in the playoff picture. The addition of Steve Smith as a veteran presence for a few years will be intriguing. We’ll also see if Gary Kubiak is a good fit at the offensive coordinator position this year.
-The Bengals have finished above 10-6 the last few years and have looked good in the regular season. The problem is I’ve never been impressed. It’s only a matter of time before having Marvin Lewis in charge with Andy Dalton at the helm that they get worse and worse. They’ve proven they can’t win a playoff game or do damage in the postseason. I expect teams like that to go down eventually. Just like the Falcons and Texans went through last year. Not winning in the playoffs is demoralizing for a team when it happens year after year.
-The Steelers have an atrocious roster. It was only a few years ago where they were impenetrable defensively and you could not score more than 20 points on their defense. Last year, wow. They were bad on defense. They haven’t made any huge upgrades. They still do have a great personnel and I expect them to win a bit with Tomlin in charge and big ben at QB but they can’t be a playoff team with their lack of depth everywhere. I’d be shocked if they get a wild card.
-The Browns on paper have an elite defense and talent everywhere. The only problem is at quarterback they look bad. I can’t picture a team with the young Johnny Manziel or Hoyer at quarterback having huge success as well as missing Josh Gordon at wide receiver for a while. When a team has no offense but an elite defense they still don’t win much. That’s what will happen with the Browns. If they were to get a gem at quarterback one day they could take over this division. Until then they will remain bottom dwellers.
1. Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
2. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
4. Houston Texans (4-12)
-The Colts have finished both years with Andrew Luck at 11-5. They can only go up with him at quarterback. They added some solid pieces to their receiving core, have potential at the running back position with Richardson and Bradshaw, and a decent defense. The defense looked lackluster at times last season and then elite at other times. The question is if their defense can hold up or if there is depth on that side of the ball. If so, look out, they could be contenders soon enough.
-The Titans don’t really scream impressive to me on either side of the ball. They lost some key guys such as Chris Johnson to the Jets and Verner to the Bucs this year. Whisenhunt as the new coaching hire has proven he can lead teams as coordinator to a championship. I like the hire and if Jake Locker is healthy they can be decent. I expect them to be in the same position as the Miami Dolphins are. Not great but not that bad either. On paper they have an awful roster though.
-I really like what the Jaguars are doing as an organization lately. A year ago people said how they would be shocked if the Jaguars did not get the number one overall pick or finish with a win even. They had awful depth. They had a terrible roster. Where could they possibly go? They finished 4-12 and coach Gus Bradley did an amazing job. Finishing with four wins with that awful roster was remarkable. I think drafting Blake Bortles at quarterback was a wise move. He has shown shades of being similar to Big Ben of Pittsburgh. That position is the most important in football and if he turns out to be a decent pick, they could only go up. Thank god they got rid of Blaine Gabbert. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years these guys are battling the Colts for control of the AFC south.
-The Texans have all the pieces on both sides of the ball but just like the Browns they have no one to play quarterback. Bill O’ Brien is a decent hire for this team since has has experience being a quarterback coach but I can’t see a team with freaking Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or the newly drafted Tom Savage having much success at all. They could have an elite defense but they desperately need a quarterback.
1. Denver Broncos (13-3)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
3. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
4. Oakland Raiders (4-12)
-I really feel guilty about ranking the Broncos this high. Having said that, their schedule looks relatively winnable this season and they are still better than the rivals in their division. The only tough teams they play are the 49ers and Colts (at home however), the Seahawks (a game they will lose for sure at century link), and Patriots in foxborough (another game I can’t see them winning). That automatically makes them good for at least ten wins. Peyton Manning is the best quarterback ever in the regular season and they upgraded their mediocre defense from last year with the additions of Aqib Talib and Demarcus Ware. I still don’t see them coming close to a super bowl despite the good regular season. That beating in the super bowl will eventually haunt them.
-The Chiefs started off strong last year and then ended miserably. They should have been around 13-3 last season with their easy ass schedule. This year I expect them to still be decent but not as good as they face tougher opponents. It’s still a winnable schedule. Alex Smith is under rated and they have good pieces on offense. Their defensive coordinator needs to get his ass together. All the talent in the world yet they finished the season looking like idiots on that side of the ball against the Colts in the playoffs.
-The Chargers are a decent built team. Mike McCoy was an excellent hire and helped Phillip Rivers pick up his seemingly lost game. They aren’t threats or contenders but I expect them to be wildcard favourites again this year.
-The Raiders have the toughest schedule in the league. I feel bad for them. But when I think logically and look at their schedule, they still can win a few of their games. I think they can win against Buffalo and Miami at home and possibly beat Cleveland and/or St. Louis and the New York Jets on the road. They added Matt Schaub at quarterback who is still a decent quarterback. He will make the team decent in the regular season, just not in the post season. The Raiders would be thrilled to even make it close to the post season. They also added veteran presence on their defense and I think Khalil Mack will be the most NFL ready draftee this year. He could have a defensive rookie of the year like season. 4-12 will be a success with their tough schedule.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
2. New York Giants (9-7)
3. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
4. Washington Redskins (5-11)
-The Eagles will only go up from last season. Chip Kelly has to be one of the best coaching hires in recent memory. The guy is a winner. He got the team to win the division and found a gem at quarterback in Nick Foles. I think they will improve next year with Kelly at the helm. Expect them to have close to the top ranked offense and an alright defense. These guys will be exciting to watch and possibly contenders.
-The Giants made some decent moves on their weak secondary from last year. They were very bad last year yet still finished 7-9. They can’t be any worse than they were last year starting out 0-6. I expect them to get a wildcard spot and make the playoffs soon enough (where they are always dangerous).
-The Cowboys have finished 8-8 in the last few years but I can’t see it being that way again. Eventually they will get worse since they have not upgraded much on their roster while their division rivals get better and better. I see them being around 6-10. They definitely aren’t better than the Eagles or Giants.
-The Redskins are a tough prediction. It really depends on RG3. Can he repeat what he did in his rookie year? He looked awful last season and they were a trainwreck as a team. Yet they also added some good players on offense. Desean Jackson at wide receiver has to make them only better. If RG3 is healthy and plays well they could even be near a playoff spot. I will go with the same prediction and say that they have a mediocre year. Their defense still does not look good on paper.
1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
2. Chicago Bears (9-7)
3. Detroit Lions (7-9)
4. Minnesota Vikings (2-14)
-The Packers with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback are always contenders for the lombardi trophy. No question about it. Unless he goes down, they will be good for at least ten wins. They are still better than their division rivals. They will be good once again.
-The Bears impressed me last year on offense. But the problem is their defense still doesn’t look great on paper. They need to improve on that if they want to contend. 9-7 is a solid bet. They are good but not great.
-The Lions look amazing on paper on offense. I see them being near the Chicago Bears in the division. You could honestly switch them around. The only thing is that I think Trestman is a better coach than Caldwell and Cutler is also better than Stafford at quarterback. That makes a big difference.
-The Vikings don’t look good at all on paper. There is simply nothing to look forward about for them unless you look at a few of the pieces they have on offense. Yeah they hired a new coach Mike Zimmer but he hasn’t proven anything yet. The lack a good quarterback. Fans will tell you how they drafted Teddy baby hands Bridgewater but just like Zimmer he hasn’t shown anything yet. I had to pick one team being atrocious this year and it was between them or the Buffalo Bills. I predict their division rivals to smash them as well as most of their other opponents. Sorry Vikes fans.
1. Carolina Panthers (13-3)
2. New Orleans Saints (10-6)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
4. Atlanta Falcons (3-13)
-The Panthers are an interesting team to watch. Last year I said how they reminded me of the early 2000s Ravens. A defense that was physical and chippy as hell. Yet they have their quarterback. Cam Newton has shown when he is confident or playing with confidence he can easily take over games. They got rid of most of their receivers which is a bold move. Cam Newton is still Cam Newton no matter who he has to pass to. I think getting rid of Brandon Lafell to the Patriots was a good move. The guy dropped more than he caught. They should have kept Steve Smith though. Kelvin Benjamin may turn out to be a wise pick and a threat with Cam Newton passing to him. Cam Newton will only get better. The guy will become a top five quarterback in the league soon enough. Their defense still looks lethal on paper. They look like the team who have gotten better over the years. That playoff game against the 49ers was a learning experience. Look out, these guys could be threats next year.
-The Saints are the Saints. Sean Payton is still there and they upgraded their secondary by adding Jairus Byrd from Buffalo. The only question I have is when will Drew Brees slow down? He’s getting old just like Tom Brady is. Eventually he will pass the torch. This team does not look like the powerhouse they were a few years back when they were superbowl contenders. I still expect them to make the playoffs but I think the Panthers are a better team than them for now in this division.
-I like what the Bucs are doing for their team just like the Jaguars. Lovie Smith is an excellent hire. Their defense showed flashes of brilliance last year. Greg Schiano was a real idiot. They have talent everywhere. They just need that quarterback. Call me crazy but I did not mind Mike Glennon at all last year. Josh McCown was good as a backup on Chicago too. If either one can repeat what they did last year or improve than look out, the Bucs could be good on both sides of the ball. I expect with Lovie there that they will have an elite defense. They have so much talent on defense.
-The Falcons to me are one of the most over rated teams in the league. Not once have I seen anything about them that impressed me in years. A few years back they were the top team in the NFC. I recall them having an easy schedule that year. Then last year they finished at 4-12 and were completely exposed. People complained about how they were banged up. To me their defense has always sucked. The loss of Julio Jones was huge however. He will be back this year. But their defense will still suck. They definitely aren’t as good as the other teams in their division. Coach Mike Smith is a goof. I expect it to only be a matter of time before he’s fired. Sorry Falcons fans but the truth hurts. Just like the Vikings I expect their division rivals to beat up on them just like last season.
1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
2. San Francisco 49ers (11-5)
3. St. Louis Rams (9-7)
Arizona Cardinals (7-9)
-The toughest division in football. The Seahawks were world champions last year and I expect them to be in the same position this year. They haven’t downgraded and kept most of their core. They will look dangerous on defense again. With Harvin healthy their offense could improve. The big question is if they can stay the same from last year. If so, they will be in the picture again.
-I’m a self admitted 49ers hater and not sure about this season. I’m probably the worst person to judge. The cold hard truth is that they are built similarly to the Seahawks and should be neck and neck with them. Another part of me says how they should go down soon enough. They have gone to four straight NFC championship games. I can’t recall the last time a team went to five. I honestly don’t expect them to. And Colin Kaepernick is the most over rated quarterback in the league. I think he should be figured out soon enough. Navarro Bowman is a classy individual and it sucks he is out for the rest of the year. No doubt that is a big loss. Aldon Smith also might be out for the rest of the season due to his off-field antics. Another big loss. Who knows if they will improve after the Seahawks beat them in the NFC championship game or not.
-I’ve always said it’s only a matter of time before the St. Louis Rams reach above .500. This is the year I expect them too. Good young talent on both sides of the ball and coach Jeff Fisher at the helm. They will only go up from here.
-The Cardinals seemed to over achieve last year and they lost Karlos Dansby and Darryl Washington on defense. I can’t expect them to be as tough as they were last season.