A new NFL season is upon us and unlike in previous seasons, I will be offering my predictions in a more condensed format.
The order of the teams is my projected finish.
Patriots: No Brady the first four games, but shouldn’t be a problem in a relatively weak division
Jets: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick inked an extension after a career season of 3,905 passing yards and 31 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions, but might not duplicate that performance due to matchups with the AFC North and NFC West
Bills: Denied the Jets a playoff spot in the final game of the season. Rex Ryan has made the Bills a tough out, but can the offense do enough to end the league’s longest playoff drought
Dolphins: The Dolphins have flirted with mediocrity for too long. I don’t expect that to change this season.
Steelers: Super Bowl darkhorse, probably would have made a championship run last season if not for injuries to Brown and Bell. Speaking of Bell, he will miss the first three games of the season serving a suspension
Bengals: Expect changes if the Bengals can’t win a playoff game
Ravens: Wouldn’t be shocked if they won the AFC North, contender for comeback team of 2016
Browns: Since 1999 the Browns have started 24 different quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III is now number 25
Colts: healthy Luck makes them the AFC South favorite
Texans: Defense is playoff caliber, but is Brock Osweiler the answer at quarterback?
Jaguars: Franchise has been quietly rebuilding but might be a season away from being a division title contender
Titans: Former NFL Offensive Player of The Year DeMarco Murray hopes for a comeback with the Titans
Chiefs: The Chiefs might have the tools to unseat the Broncos and win the AFC West for the first time since 2010
Broncos: has most of their number-1 ranked defense intact from last season, but I expect team will experience a Super Bowl hangover
Chargers: Phillip Rivers is this generation’s Dan Fouts, had a lot of talent surrounding him but team could never put the pieces together for a championship
Raiders: Never finished with a better than .500 record since 2002, the season when they last made the playoffs. There is talk that the Raiders might make the playoffs this season.
Cowboys: Romo’s back injury has pressed rookie Dak Prescott into the starting role for at least the first 6 weeks of the season. Prescott has performed well during the pre-season completing 78% of his passes, throwing 5 touchdowns, rushing for two, and no interceptions.
Giants: Might win the NFC East due to Romo’s injury and the other teams’ ineptness
Washington: Won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record. Since 2002 when the NFL expanded to 32 teams and realigned to its current format, Washington has never won the division in back-to-back seasons let alone make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Eagles: A rebuilding effort might be needed in the wake of the Chip Kelly Era
Packers: Still have Aaron Rodgers. The return of Jordy Nelson gives the Packers back an offensive weapon. And if Eddie Lacy keeps the weight down, the Packers should be in the thick of it come January.
Vikings: A horrific knee injury to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater during a non-contact practice just ended the Vikings prospects at challenging the Packers for the division crown. Making the trade for Sam Bradford at least stabilizes the position somewhat. On the plus side, the team has a new stadium to play in.
Lions: Getting to .500 would be a success
Bears: Their offensive woes in the pre-season is a concern
Panthers: Won’t go 15-1, but will win the NFC South
Falcons: Matt Ryan-Julio Jones is a dangerous combination that keeps opposing secondaries awake at night
Buccaneers: Are the pieces there for a playoff spot in Tampa? Probably not this season but is certainly a team to watch.
Saints: The successful 10-year era of Drew Brees and Sean Peyton (2 NFC Championship Game appearances, 1 Super Bowl win) might be coming to a close soon.
Seahawks: Right now giving the edge to Seattle for the division due to Russel Wilson and the Legion of Boom
Cardinals: Cardinals defense and running game is no joke, will make the playoffs as at least a Wild Card team
Rams: back in Los Angeles for the first time in 22 years, a combination of a rookie quarterback and strong running game should keep the Rams in playoff contention
49ers: Chip Kelly resurfaces in San Francisco, could be his last shot in the pros