2015-2016 NFL Prediction Column

It’s that time.  After previewing each conference with rankings, one liners, and the few hot takes, it’s time to make predictions.  As always, we’ll go divisions by division, then will pick the playoff seeds.  I don’t go further than that.  Another note you should know:  For the NFL, and the NFL only, I go through every schedule, team by team, and pick how many wins they’ll earn based on their opponent.  It’s not just a number I pick.

Since we started the preview with the AFC, we’ll make picks in the AFC East first.  Also, there are no more wrap up paragraphs at the bottom of the standings.  Those were annoying and felt too hot take-ish.

AFC:

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots, 13-3
  2. Miami Dolphins, 8-8
  3. Buffalo Bills, 7-9
  4. New York Jets, 6-10

AFC South

  1. Indianapolis Colts, 12-4
  2. Houston Texans, 7-9
  3. Tennessee Titans, 6-10
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-13

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens, 11-5
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-6
  3. Cincinnati Bengals, 8-8
  4. Cleveland Browns, 2-14

AFC West

  1. Denver Broncos, 11-5
  2. San Diego Chargers, 9-7
  3. Kansas City Chiefs, 8-8
  4. Oakland Raiders, 4-12

 

NFC:

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles, 12-4
  2. Dallas Cowboys, 8-8
  3. New York Giants, 8-8
  4. Washington Redskins, 2-14

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons, 9-7
  2. New Orleans Saints, 8-8
  3. Carolina Panthers, 6-10
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3-13

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers, 13-3
  2. Minnesota Vikings, 9-7
  3. Detroit Lions, 7-9
  4. Chicago Bears, 6-10

NFC West

  1. Seattle Seahawks, 13-3
  2. Arizona Cardinals, 10-6
  3. St. Louis Rams, 7-9
  4. San Francisco 49ers, 6-10

 

Playoff Seeds:

NFC

  1. Seattle Seahawks (Tiebreaker over Packers)
  2. Green Bay Packers
  3. Philadelphia Eagles
  4. Atlanta Falcons
  5. Arizona Cardinals
  6. Minnesota Vikings

AFC

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Denver Broncos (Tiebreaker over Ravens)
  4. Baltimore Ravens
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. San Diego Chargers

Let’s do some other fun stuff!

MVP:

  1. Andrew Luck
  2. Tom Brady
  3. Adrian Peterson

Offensive Player Of The Year:

  1. Andrew Luck
  2. Tom Brady
  3. Adrian Peterson

Defensive Player Of The Year:

  1. JJ Watt
  2. Chris Long
  3. Justin Houston

Comeback Player Of The Year:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. Sam Bradford
  3. ———

Coach Of The Year:

  1. Chip Kelly
  2. Mike McCoy
  3. Gary Kubiak

Happy Kickoff Day!  

NFC Conference Preview

Welcome to Part 2 of this year’s NFL Preview.  Today we will look at the NFC Conference, and will break down everything.  I’m gonna run through a bunch of topics in this column, including rankings, hot takes, and one liners.

 Once both previews go up, you can guess my predictions.  Then you’ll see if you’re correct on Thursday.

Division rankings:

  1. NFC North
  2. NFC West
  3. NFC East
  4. NFC South

Even though the Bears won’t be great, the NFC North is the best division in the NFC.  We have possibly the best team in the NFL with Green Bay, and two teams who were very good last year.  The Lions and Vikings are both going to be good teams.  But one has to beat out the other…. More on that later.

The NFC West was the best division in football, but after two teams shifting their direction, it’s fallen behind.  They’ll still get two teams into the playoffs.

The next two divisions are clusters, but the NFC East has the better teams.  There’s more stability here.  We know what most of the teams are gonna be.   In the South, anything goes.  I honestly have no clue what will happen there.  There’s a case that all four teams could win the division.  Let’s hope that, whoever wins, has a record above .500.

Who’s gonna get fired first?:

  • Tom Coughlin
  • Jay Gruden
  • Sean Payton

Tom Coughlin is 69 years!  69!  Like, he’s old!  He may not be coaching long!  Maybe the Giants will get rid of him sooner than most expect.

This is a brink year for Coughlin.  New York hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011, when they won the Super Bowl.  They’ve been close since.  This team is always the one where we expect playoffs or we expect average.  They’re never bad, but never great.  Coughlin’s been running on the same level as Marvin Lewis, but Lewis has made the playoffs lately.  Coughlin hasn’t.  He has to this year, or his retirement will come earlier than he probably wanted.

I’m writing about the Washington Dysfunctionals (Hey!  We should change the name to that!  It represents the team itself and the city they play in!)  below, but Jay Gruden’s term as head coach might be a short one.  This organization obviously has no communication within, with visible riffs between owners, front office people, and Gruden himself.  It may not be the play of the team that forces Gruden out.

I don’t know about this next one.  I guess it’s possible, but as of now, it seems unlikely.  If the Saints are an absolute tire fire in Week 6 or so, then there could be major changes.  But for now, I think most of the big changes will come after the season.

QB Rankings:

  1. Aaron Rodgers
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Matt Ryan
  4. Matthew Stafford
  5. Cam Newton
  6. Tony Romo
  7. Drew Brees
  8. Eli Manning
  9. Jay Cutler
  10. Colin Kaepernick
  11. Carson Palmer
  12. Teddy Bridgewater
  13. Nick Foles
  14. Sam Bradford
  15. Kirk Cousins
  16. Jameis Winston

One liners:

NFC East- The name itself is a headline

There’s a lot of mediocre divisions in the NFL, but the NFC East is the one mediocre division that 1) The media loves and 2) Always produces the headlines.  Literally, it seems almost every NFL head comes out of that division.  The Cowboys create headlines just because of the logo on their head.  The Redskins are a headline just because of the actual name of the team, which really isn’t that big of a deal, and have a never-ending QB controversy.  The Eagles are insane and may or may not have any clue what they’re doing, and the Giants have a quarterback with a famous last name and a stud young receiver, who just may be overrated because of one catch.  I mean, Good Lord!

The Packers will be fine

Jordy Nelson’s injury was catastrophic at first, and caused everyone (including me) to throw a fit about the preseason.  But once my Packer friends got over it (and everyone else), we all realized it wasn’t going to hurt Green Bay as much as we previously thought.

There had been an insane amount of injuries over the Summer, so everyone was already in a bad mood about the preseason coming along.  I remember at my fantasy football draft with my friends that I hosted, I said, after the draft was complete, that “You know, one of these guys that we just drafted will get hurt and be out for the season.”  Everyone moaned and groaned, but we all knew it was coming.  First went Kelvin Benjamin, 2nd was Jordy Nelson.

We can debate later whether the preseason is needed, but long story short:  Something needs to change.

My biggest takeaway from Nelson’s injury was “Man, how underpaid does Randall Cobb look now?”.  Cobb’s now the No.1 target for Aaron Rodgers with Nelson out, and re-signing him looks smarter than ever.  Green Bay also has 2nd year wide receiver Davante Adams, who’ll have more balls thrown his way, which should boost his production big time.  Jeff Janis could become a name people start to hear, as the Packers have been so good at finding good receivers out of nowhere.

The James Jones signing was pretty funny to me at first, because I thought he was a lot older than he actually was.  Turns out, I was thinking of NBA player James Jones.  I’m usually pretty good about not mixing names between sports, but they’re literally the exact same player, even though they’re in different sports!  I should write about this later…

Bottom line:  The Packers have Aaron Rodgers.  They have a really good running back, and plenty of weapons.  They’re gonna be fine.

The Rams will be good, but not good enough

I remember when all my 49ers friends were talking about how their team would be the first team to host the Super Bowl in the middle of 8th grade. Good times, aye?

Instead, they’ll be the worst team in the NFC West.  Yeah, I dropped that before the prediction column, but isn’t it pretty clear?

Seattle’s gonna be super, super good.  The Cardinals will be fine.  And St. Louis, well, there’s questions, but they could be good!  Here’s how:

Before I explain how good the Rams will be, I’m also gonna drop this:  Eight wins max for St. Louis.

After moving on from Sam Bradford, who never really did anything besides get paid a ton of money and blow out his knee every year, breaking Rams’ fans heart, St. Louis has gone in a new direction.  They got Nick Foles, who most people are skeptical on, but has the potential to be a viable starter while the Rams evaluate him more.  I don’t think Foles is the new face of the Rams, but he definitely has the reigns this year.  Foles won’t have to be great, but he’s gonna have to make some plays on offense.  I’m a tad worried about the St. Louis backfield, especially since they’re seriously injured heading into Week 1.  Tre Mason may not play.  Todd Gurley is out at least three games.  That’d leave Benny Cunningham starting, in what now looks like a train wreck of a backfield.

If the backfield, like I believe, underperforms, the Rams will have to rely on Foles and the defense to win games.  Oh yeah, on that defense.

Um, well, they’re pretty good!  Like, really, really good.  This defensive line, like Buffalo’s has backups that would start for the 49ers, who’s defensive line is atrocious.  Michael Brockers and Nick Fairley are listed at the same position on the depth chart.  They won’t play their line like that, but it shows you how deep they are.  The secondary could use some work, but this front seven will carry the load on defense.  Great defensive play will get this team to eight wins, but Nick Foles has to do more than we see coming if the Rams are gonna be better than I see them being.

By the Rams’ being good, I mostly meant that they’ll be so much better than last year.  Again, I don’t expect them to make the playoffs.

The NFC South is still a train wreck

What was the probably the worst division ever will be more of the same this season.  I don’t expect it to be as bad, but there’s a good chance the division winner wins 10 games or less.  No one’s strong enough!  Everyone has problems, and only a couple teams have true strengths.  Let’s figure them out!

Saints

Biggest strength: Running back

Biggest weakness: Defense

Drew Brees is a nice strength at quarterback, but this may be his last season in New Orleans due to their cluttered salary cap.  Plus, he’s got like one guy to throw to.  Trading Jimmy Graham was killer, especially for a team that had figured out how to correctly use him.  They got much needed offensive line help out the deal (plus they drafted Andrus Peat).  New Orleans is gonna pound the ball, and with Mark Ingram plus C.J. Spiller (who’s out for Week 1, FYI), it shouldn’t be a problem.

However, the Saints’ defense is filled with holes.  The linebacking core is shot, the secondary has a bunch of guys who’ve underperformed, and the defensive line has one good player.  There’s issues here, and they’re big enough to keep the Saints out of playoff contention.

Falcons

Biggest strength: Offensive weapons

Biggest weakness: Linebacker

While there are issues at running back, the Falcons’ offense is loaded with talent.  Matt Ryan is the most underrated quarterback in the league.  He puts up great stats every year, even if his team wasn’t great.  Now, Julio Jones is locked up.  Roddy White is productive (but needs to stay healthy).  Devin Hester makes stuff happen, and Jacob Tamme has been reliable for a long time.

The Falcons won’t have to the run the ball as much this season, and that’s a good thing since the offensive line is a work in progress.  This will be the best offense in the division.

Panthers

Biggest strength: Linebacker

Biggest weakness: Wide receiver, offensive line

The Panthers defense won’t be dominate like it has the past two seasons, but this linebacking core will be fun to watch, and will make necessary plays. No one else on this defense will.  I have complete confidence that Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis will destroy other team’s running games.  But that’s all this defense will be able to do.

Kelvin Benjamin’s injury was devastating, and is the biggest loss for any team this offseason.  That was Cam Newton’s No.1 target, and was supposed to be a breakout guy (again) this year.  That kills the Panthers’ offense.  Since the offensive line is a disaster, they won’t able to run the ball as well.  Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert are good, but aren’t good enough to survive with a bad offensive line.

Buccaneers

Biggest strength: Wide receiver

Biggest weakness: Linebacker

The Buccaneers got their franchise quarterback, and I believe there will be some great signs that he’s the one this season.  However, Tampa Bay’s just not equipped yet to win this season.  Their weapons core will help Jameis Winston tremendously, but there’s other areas that are a ways away. The defensive line is good, but this linebacking core features a grand total of zero names I’ve heard of.  Yeah, that’s a problem.

You’ll see my official pick for this division tomorrow, but I think it’s pretty clear who I’m taking.

Lions or Vikings?

This question is the biggest one in this conference.  I believe the NFC is much cleaner than the AFC, with more teams that have cleaner outlooks on this season.  You know how I feel about the Rams, so that’s clears up one of the Wild Card spots.  This is the other discussion that shapes the Wild Card.  I’ll say it now, but one of these teams will get the final playoff spot.  Here’s the case for both:

Vikings

Can we just start by saying that they have the best quarterback out of the 2014 NFL Draft?  Teddy Bridgewater was amazing last season, and beat everyone’s expectations.  This year, he has more to work with.  The Vikings don’t have to rely as much on their young QB either, since Adrian Peterson is back and ready to dominate.  Minnesota is gonna go with their running game first, and then transition to the pass with their new weapons.  Mike Wallace is fine, but is a big addition to a receiver core that was very weak last year.  The Vikings’ defense has the chance to be top ten in the NFL, and they addressed their biggest need in cornerback.  The Vikings are gonna be in contention all year long.  This is exactly what my friends wanted to hear.

Lions

OK, this isn’t exactly my case for the Lions to beat out the Vikings.  It’s basically the equivalent of a half court shot at the end of a basketball game.  I don’t have a lot of confidence in the Lions this year.  They lost one of the best defensive players in the league, which was only half of their dominate defensive line.  Nick Fairley left to go join the Rams, who really didn’t need him.  Haloti Ngata’s good, crap, Haloti Ngata’s great, but he can’t replace what they once had.

Detroit has a powerful offense, but doesn’t have a solid running back (yet; Ameer Abdullah showed great signs in the preseason though).  This offensive line is very inexperienced, which is the last thing you need when you’re gonna have trouble scoring.  The Lions will have to get great production out of Ngata to compete with Minnesota, and will have to finish top five in the NFL in scoring.  Yeah, talk about a long shot.

We have to wait to judge Chip Kelly’s moves

What Chip Kelly has done this offseason has been crazy, amazing, inspiring, confusing, stupid… You could use every adjective in the world to describe this offseason.  However, Kelly’s made moves based on what he believes in, and has made them with his vision.  I like some of the things he’s done, and hate some of them.  However, Kelly knows what he wants.  He knows how it’ll work.  We don’t.  So we should probably wait to judge it.

NFL Prediction Column coming tomorrow……. 

AFC Conference Preview

Welcome to Part 1 of this year’s NFL Preview.  Today we will look at the AFC Conference, and will break down everything.  I’m gonna run through a bunch of topics in this column, including rankings, hot takes, and one liners.

 Once both previews go up, you can guess my predictions.  Then you’ll see if you’re correct on Thursday.

Division Rankings:

  1. AFC North
  2. AFC West
  3. AFC East
  4. AFC South

The AFC North is always entertaining, whether it’s due to terrible teams who are never good, shaky quarterbacks, or teams that are always in playoff contention.

I see three playoff contenders in the AFC North, and it’s likely that all three of them could slip in.  However, the AFC, like last year, is much more cluttered than the NFC.  Tom Brady’s suspension getting overturned (Thank God) cleared some things up, but still, in 3/4 of the AFC divisions, there’s at least two playoff contenders.

The West is more clear than the East, but there’s one precedent that could flip the whole spectrum of it (more on that later).

The AFC South has sucked for so long.   The Colts will dominate again, but the Titans finally have some way of direction now.

Who’s gonna get fired first?:

This is no fun for me, but guessing what coach will get fired first in this conference is something I must do.  OK, it’s kinda fun.

SportsBooks’ odds have Mike Pettine as the most likely AFC coach to get fired first at +650.  That’s respectable, but could the Browns really do that when they don’t have actual NFL players? More on that later too…  Here’s my candidates to get fired first:

  • Joe Philbin
  • Gus Bradley
  • Marvin Lewis

I hate putting Gus Bradley in there, because he’s very likeable and is a defensive mastermind.  However, if Blake Bortles doesn’t show much improvement, even after Julius Thomas comes back from his injury, I could see Bradley heading out of town.

This is a huge year for Joe Philbin as head coach.  He has to meet expectations now.  The Dolphins know, especially after paying Ryan Tannehill, that he’s (Tannehill) not the problem anymore.  If there is one, it’s Philbin.

This shouldn’t be a problem early in the year though.  The Dolphins schedule is insanely easy the first seven weeks of the season (there is a bye in there; Week 5.)  Something catastrophic would have to happen for Philbin to be fired before the halfway mark; that’s excluding an injury.

I swear Marvin Lewis’ job security comes up every year.  It’s because that’s how this team has always been.  They like being good, but not good enough.  They’ve never been good enough.  The Bengals are basically the Dodgers of football.  They’re very good in the regular season and have lots of talent, then the postseason hits and it allcomes apart.

It seems that, if the Bengals make the playoffs, then everyone is safe.  That’s how it’s been forever.  And it’s likely that’ll continue.

QB Rankings:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Andrew Luck
  3. Peyton Manning
  4. Philip Rivers
  5. Ben Rothlisberger
  6. Joe Flacco
  7. Andy Dalton
  8. Ryan Tannehill
  9. Alex Smith
  10. Derek Carr
  11. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  12. Marcus Mariota
  13. Brian Hoyer
  14. Blake Bortles
  15. Tyrod Taylor
  16. Josh McCown

One liners:

Could Cleveland suck any less?

Yeah!  Probably!  They’re the Browns, right?  First, swapping out Brian Hoyer for Josh McCown couldn’t be a more idiotic move.  Great role model for Johnny Manziel!

There’s nothing exciting about this offense.  They’ll struggle to put up points.  With a fill-in QB who’ll probably be hurt or benched by Week 6, an interesting but not-totally-sure-yet backfield, and no wide receivers, this team might be gaining yards like the Cardinals did in last year’s postseason.

Cleveland’s defense is more exciting.  The secondary is incredible strong, and is totally underrated due to the bad things revolving around this team.  Danny Shelton, the rookie nose tackle, is huge, and is destined to make contributions.  The weakest part is the defensive line, so Shelton should be quite a boost.

It’s unfortunate that an offensive this bad is going to kill this team.  There’s no way they win 8 games this year.  They downgraded almost every where on offense.  Maybe Johnny Football can provide some fun moments this season.

The Texans should tank

This was meant to be a column by itself… I’ve been saying this all Summer to certain people.  I even had a friend try to help me come up with ways the Texans could tank without it being too noticeable.  Before we get into that, let’s lay out why Houston should throw away this season.

The Texans’ defense is pretty good, and with additions made to the front seven this Summer, they’re great for fantasy.  I’m jealous of the guy in my fantasy league who has them.  There’s a big hole though;  The secondary has a lot of guys who are washed up, raw, or unheard-of names.  It’s gonna be awhile before this secondary becomes good.  Bottom line:  The defense may be good enough to salvage the season.

Arian Foster coming back sooner than expected (could be back for Week 4) is huge, because Alfred Blue is just not good at football.  I was talking to someone about fantasy football and they brought Blue up…. He was drafted in this person’s league.. Like, actually drafted.  Then I explained that Alfred Blue runs into the people trying to tackle him, not away from them.  Yeah, Blue starting for three games isn’t the best way to open the season.

There’s nothing any better at quarterback.  Brian Hoyer is the starter, Ryan Mallet isn’t good enough (and after throwing a tissy-fit about losing the job, he showed up late to practice the next day), and Tom Savage is very, very big question mark.  So Houston should be in the market for a quarterback in next year’s draft, right?  RIGHT?

Next year’s QB class has some very nice names in it, but there’s one that would be perfect fit for Houston, giving who their head coach is.  It’s Christian Hackenburg, who had an amazing freshman season at Penn State when Bill O’Brien was head coach.  You see what I did there?

Now, some would say that Houston wouldn’t need to tank to get Hackenburg.  He’s the 4th ranked QB in the 2016 Draft class, per CBS Sports’ rankings.  However, I’m expecting at least two quarterbacks to go in the top ten of next year’s Draft.  I feel like Hackenburg is gonna be one of them, and I think the Texans are gonna take him.

The Patriots are good, but so are the Colts

Whatever happened to Tom Brady was gonna shift my picks in this conference.  Had he been suspended, the AFC would probably been the Colts’ to lose.  Now that Brady is free (and even though I’m not a Patriots’ fan, I was on his side), New England is the team to beat.  Like always.

After demolishing the Colts in the AFC Title Game (the game that sparked the DeflateGate firestorm), and winning the Super Bowl, New England was sitting pretty.  The Colts though, were making moves.  Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and Trent Cole all joined Indianapolis in the offseason.  They also drafted Philip Dorsett.  And let’s not forget, they have Andrew (The Giant!) Luck.

The Colts made moves this offseason to finally beat the Patriots in the AFC Conference Title Game.  And they’ll probably pay off over the course of the year.  Up until that title game.

I think it’s pretty clear the Colts are more talented than New England this season.  It’s like the Timberwolves this NBA season:  They’re super talented, but aren’t good enough yet to compete (the conference doesn’t help Minneosta).  Remember though: The Pats have Tom Brady, and he’s playing all 16 games.  It doesn’t matter what kind of team you have around him:  He’s Tom Brady.  He’s going to win at least 12 games a year.  And he’s going to kill everyone.  Especially this year.

So after putting some hope into Colts’ fans, I pretty much just ripped it away.  Indy’s division helps so much, and it could overrate them.  The Colts will make the playoffs, and’ll play deep in the playoffs.  But for now, the Patriots stand in the way.  And as long as Tom Brady’s there, they will be in the way.

Raiders, Titans on the road to competency

What?  Is this real life?  The Raiders and Titans are gonna be good, or at least watchable?!  What is happening?!

I was on the Jameis Winston side of things when the Draft came around.  I felt like both QBs would be good, but Winston would develop more quickly and would be more successful.  It was only the preseason, but if my thinking was judged off of it, I wouldn’t have looked so great.

Marcus Mariota was phenomenal during the preseason.  It wasn’t only how well he did, but how fun he is to watch.  Yes, the rookie appeal is there, but Mariota was the type of player that made me only focus on him.  I draw away from the play while watching sports;  Mariota didn’t make that happen to me.  He’s really entertaining, and if you’re the Titans, that’s what you want.

The Raiders have sucked for so long that I finally started feeling bad for all my Raiders friends.  But then these past two drafts happened and now I’m jealous.  The amount of young talent they have on offense is outstanding.  They’ve got guys at every skill position.  Derek Carr should take steps up this year.  Amari Cooper will be huge for Carr and the team itself, and I won’t lie:  Latavis Murray is very intriguing.

Oakland finally has some hope.  It’s still gonna take some time, but at least they’ll be watchable this year.  You’re almost there guys.

The Bills and Jets are a quarterback away

This is a sad, sad conversation to have.  It sucks that the AFC East could be the best division in football if these two teams had a quarterback we trusted and knew about.  That’s just not the case.

Due to Geno Smith’s broken jaw, in which was the stupidest story to happen in the NFL since DeflateGate (Oh wait!  That was only seven months ago!  This league is ridiculous.  Why do I care about this crap?), the Jets are gonna be starting Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB.  That’s fun.  I wrote extensively about what the Jets could do with a little Fitzmagic, or some Bryce Petty playing time.  But what could the Jets be with say, a Mark Sanchez?

To try and not bring back bad memories, we’ll use another QB.  How about this Jets team led by Jay Cutler?  Cutler’s clearly declined in the past two years, but he’s still okay.  In my NFC Preview coming tomorrow, he’s surprisingly high on the QB ranking list.  Why?  Because he’s good enough.  He’s a game-manager.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is not.  Fitzpatrick does things that makes his team lose.   Game managers do enough to win the game.  And with what the Jets have besides their QB situation, this would be a good enough team to win 10 games with a suitable QB. Unfortunately, that won’t happen this season.

The Bills are in a different situation.  They have plenty of options at QB, just none that are good enough.  A three man race in Training Camp led to Tyrod Taylor getting the starting job, and Matt Cassel, who was traded to the Buffalo from Minnesota in the Spring, getting cut.

I’ll be completely honest.  I’m pumped to see Tyrod Taylor play.  He was very fun to watch in the preseason.  He’s mobile and makes smart throws; that’s why he won the job.  The Bills saw what I saw:  The chance for a late round pick to make an impact.

However, I just can’t hop on yet.  We have to see what Taylor truly is.  And since we haven’t seem much of him, we can’t have high expectations.  It’s fun to speculate on what Taylor may be able to do in the NFL, but again, he hasn’t played meaningful games.  That step has to come first.

Besides the QB question, the Bills have an amazingly talented team.  They’ve got three young receivers, the 2nd best running back in the league, and a defensive line where the 2nd stringers would start for the 49ers.  Like, this team could be really good.  But I… ugh.. just can’t do it!  It kills me to say it; it really does.  I want to like this team so much due to the overload of talent.  But you have to have a quarterback to win football games.  That part of the Bills is the only one in question.

Broncos doubts

You saw above where I ranked Peyton Manning in the AFC quarterbacks.  He’s high, as he should be.  But I’m worried this could be the end for him.  We saw it at the end of last year.  16 games is tough for him to hold up for.  The arm strength just wasn’t there, and it’s why the Broncos exited the playoffs early.  I thought Manning was gonna retire after last season, and I guess the Broncos did too.

That should give you a good idea on how I feel about Denver this year.  My confidence isn’t too high.  I have this feeling that we’ll be in Week 9, and Denver will be struggling.  Their schedule is tough in those first 9 games (BAL, @KC, DET, MIN, @OAK, @CLE, GB, @IND), but they do have a bye in Week 7.  That should give Manning some much needed rest.

However, even with my doubts on the Broncos, I have to go into this season with the mindset of “Oh yeah, it’s Peyton Manning”.  It’s hard for me to believe he’ll be the Peyton Manning we’ve seen in the past, but I’m gonna treat it for now as a ‘See it and believe it” type thing.

NFC Preview coming tomorrow……

College Football Playoff Prediction Column+Other Picks

Last year, I went through every bowl game, and made picks.  It was a pain.  This year, I’m only picking the New Years Six bowls.  Before I jump into that, let’s identify the playoff contenders in each of the Power 5 conference, plus my non-Power 5 contenders.

Big 12: TCU, Baylor

Big Ten: Michigan State, Ohio State

ACC: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State

Pac-12: Oregon, Stanford, USC

SEC: Georgia, Alabama, Auburn

Non Power 5 contenders: Notre Dame, Boise State

Now let’s recap the Conference winners, since they’ll get first look at a playoff spot.

Big 12: TCU

Big Ten:  Ohio State

ACC: Clemson

Pac-12: USC

SEC: Georgia

Non Power 5 contender records:

Notre Dame: 9-3, Boise State: 10-2

Alright, I’m gonna predict the New Years Six Matchups, and the National Championship.  I won’t pick a National Champion, however.

New Year’s Six:

Peach Bowl: Clemson-Stanford

Sugar Bowl: Baylor-Alabama

Rose Bowl: Michigan State-Oregon

Fiesta Bowl: Boise State-Auburn

Playoff:

Semifinal #1 vs. #4: Ohio State-Georgia

Semifinal #2 vs. #3: TCU-USC

Championship: #1 Ohio State-#2 TCU

Now that the picks are out of the way, let’s do some even more fun stuff!

Heisman Trophy: 

  1. Ezekiel Elliot
  2. Trevone Boykin
  3. Nick Chubb

Most disappointing team:

  • Notre Dame
  • Alabama
  • LSU
  • UCLA

Most surprising team:

  • Georgia Tech
  • Arizona
  • Wisconsin

Let’s hope for an awesome college football season.  Again, there is no What To Watch For or Sucks To Be You for Week 1 due to the lack of top 25 matchups and myself being out of town for Labor Day weekend.  All regular content will resume in Week 2.   Have a good Labor Day weekend….

Breaking Down The Power Five Conferences

ATT Stadium

Thursday, college football is back.  Three top 25 teams (per AP Poll) kick off their season.  Since there’s only one matchup between top 25 teams in Week 1, there won’t be a What To Watch For, plus, I’m out of town for Labor Day weekend.

I’ve written two columns previewing this season.  Here’s the Grand-Daddy of Them All:  The five conference previews.

ACC:

The ACC has three ranked teams coming into the season, and all three seem like playoff contenders.  However, Sportsbook doesn’t seem to like Georgia Tech this year, as they have Virginia Tech and the Yellow Jackets at the same odds for the conference.  Let’s remember that Georgia Tech was the 12th highest scoring offense in the country last year!

I think it’s gonna come down to the three ranked teams:  Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech.  Duke was a nice surprise last season, as they were high as No.19 in last year’s AP Poll.  This has been Florida State’s conference for awhile.  It’s gotten much stronger, but not anywhere close to a super-conference.  Three playoff contenders is a start though.

Florida State never seems to have a quarterback issue, and even with Jameis Winston in the NFL, they’ll be fine at that position.  They landed Everett Golson from Notre Dame, and have Sean Maguire. Just yesterday, they named Everett Golson the starter.  Personally, that’s who I’d go with.  There is the saying “If you have two starting quarterbacks, then you don’t have one!”, but both of these guys Florida State has are pretty good.

Landing a transfer, especially of Golson’s caliber, is a big deal.  So, why wouldn’t you play him?

It’s gotta suck for Sean Magurie, who was pretty good last year when he played!  He just keeps getting over-taken and kicked out by other guys.

Clemson has lost a lot of talent over the years, so much that is was amazing they never won a National Championship with that group.  They’re healthy this year, starting with quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Cole Stoudt played well in his absence, but the Tigers’ offense is much more fluid with Watson.  He averaged 10.7 yards per pass last season!  That’s a first down every throw!

Clemson’s biggest losses of talent came from the defense side, with Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony in the NFL.  Those were the leaders of that defense last year.  Someone has to step up.

I’m taking Clemson in the ACC.  Florida State has a ton of talent still, but has an easier schedule.  The Tigers won’t be perfect, but they’ll be darn close.  Bottom line:  They’ll be more impressive.

Big Ten:

Big Ten: Bully :: ACC: Nerd

That’s how these two conferences stack up against each other.  The Big 10 may have less playoff contenders, but that’s not all they have.  There’s multiple good teams in this conference.

It’s so unfair, especially this year, that Michigan State and Ohio State are in the same division within their conference.  The Spartans are the 5th ranked team in the country per the AP Poll, as Ohio State is clearly No.1.

The Buckeyes are probably going undefeated.  As of now, they’re only ranked opponent is the Spartans.  It doesn’t matter if they have players suspended for the first game, it doesn’t matter who’s playing quarterback.

Should we answer that question?  I feel like we should.

I can’t believe it hasn’t been announced yet, and I’m so glad I get to talk about it.  The Buckeyes have two guys who could lead them to the title game, one already did, and one led them into position to do it.  J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones’ stats were eerily similar, but Barrett’s leadership and experience is a nice advantage.  Barrett’s mobility is better than Jones’… I mean, Barrett ran for 938 yards last year while throwing for 2,834 yards!

Cardale came in as a 3rd string quarterback, and won three huge games.  He’s clutch, has a huge arm, and had he came out probably would have been drafted after three college games.  He’s still got a ways to go, especially with pocket presence and maturity, but this guy makes things happen.

At this point, I think it’s clear who’s gonna be starting.  Urban Meyer’s gonna pick J.T. Barrett.  That’s who I think should start.  And God forbid he gets hurt, Ohio State will be fine.

The Spartans are gonna be good this year, but they won’t make the Playoff and won’t win the conference.  Yes, they have the best QB prospect in the upcoming Draft, but Ohio State just too good.  That’s all there is to it.

It should be pretty clear who I’m picking in this conference.

Big 12:

Hey look!  It’s the conference that got screwed by the committee last year even though it was kinda their own fault!  Alright, the Big 12 does need a conference championship game that takes two division winners and makes them play each other. But if we had an eight team Playoff, we wouldn’t be as up in arms about it, because both teams would have made it.

The Big 12 has three teams ranked in the preseason AP Poll: TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma.  We know how last year played out.  It’s very likely that it comes down to the November 27th game between the Bears and Horned Frogs again.

Baylor lost their star QB Bryce Petty to the (sigh) Jets (where he should be starting), but have tons of talent else where.  Their defense is still very good… Just remember, they have this dude.

That’s Shawn Oakman, who’s a beast and is probably gonna go top ten in the 2016 NFL Draft.  He’s pretty good!  Don’t screw with him!

Baylor’s front seven is a tad small besides Oakman, which is concerning against the high-yardage offenses of their conference opponent’s.

Baylor has a a hole at QB, but a lot of people like Seth Russell.  He’s a junior, and knows the system.  Baylor isn’t changing their scheme this year.  But I still have my doubts about the defense.  You probably know where I’m going next.

TCU got screwed last year, like Baylor.  I’m not gonna go through who was better than who.  They both should have made it, no matter what happened with the conference title.

But this year, TCU is looking for revenge.  And they have a pretty good shot at getting it.

It starts with Trevone Boykin, who’s an early Heisman candidate.  The guy is a play-maker.  He can do it in the pocket and outside it, or on the run. Boykin can do it all.  They have a great backfield (Boykin’s legs help too).  Aaron Greene averaged 7.1 yards a carry last year (!!!!).  The Horned Frogs were a great offense last year, 5th in the country in terms of total yards.  They’re gonna be up there again this year.

TCU’s defense was much better than Baylor’s last year, and that may continue this year.  I still think this will be settled between the offenses.  Baylor has the better players defensively, but I don’t know how much I can trust them elsewhere.  That’s my main worry for the Bears.  I’m taking TCU in the Big 12.

Pac-12:

The Pac-12 is so good this year, oh man.  I’m gonna lay it out right from the beginning… There’s a lot of contenders.

“You’ll be… Pretty good!!!”

  • Oregon
  • Stanford
  • USC

This category of the Pac-12 are the best of the conference.  It’s unbelievable that only one of these teams is gonna win the conference.  All three teams have quarterbacks.  Oregon, Vernon Adams.  Stanford, Kevin Hogan.  USC, Cody Kessler.

“Good, but not playoff worthy”

  • California
  • Arizona State
  • Arizona
  • UCLA

UCLA lost Brett Hundley to the NFL, but has a very talented core still.  I’m not sure how much better they’ll be than these other three however.  The Pac-12 has six teams ranked in the preseason poll.  These are the mid-ranked teams.  None of these teams are gonna be making the Playoff, but they’ll be fun to watch this year.

“(Chris Berman voice) Ehhhhh”

  • Washington State
  • Washington
  • Utah

Doesn’t it seem like we feel like this every year about these three?

“Ew.. Go away”

  • Colorado
  • Oregon State

So who’s winning this thing?  Well, Stanford lost the least talent, and has the most experience.  Oregon has a new QB, who’s good, but is playing against much better teams (originally coming from the FCS).  USC has one of the top QBs in the country.  And who’s ranked the highest??

Yeah, USC’s gotta chip on their shoulder this year, but they’re gonna use it to their advantage.  The Trojans are winning this conference.

SEC:

Let’s face it, folks!  The Pac-12 is better than the SEC this year.  You could make a case that the Pac-12 has seven playoff contenders, with three big time teams.  Somehow, the SEC got three teams in the top ten of the AP Poll.  It probably won’t be like that in December.

For this conference, to sort it out, I’m gonna go through the biggest strength with every team that should be good, plus who I want to throw in.

Georgia:  The Bulldogs lost their QB for the second straight year, but have an insane run game.  Georgia did well last year, especially within the conference, and it’s likely they’ll do the same this season.

Auburn: Ready for another Nick Marshall like QB?  Yeah, me neither.  But if the receivers can produce like they did last year, they’ll be fine.

Alabama: Remember the slogan “Defense wins championships?”  Yeah, Alabama this year should hope that’s true.  They have other playmakers on offense, but the quarterback situation isn’t fantastic.

Missouri: They have a lot of young guys, and have some injuries to deal with early, but Maty Mauk is good.  He’s not great, but he’ll get the job done.  I really liked him two years ago.  I’ve tailed off a bit on the wagon.  The Tigers will be fine.

LSU:  Not really going into strengths anymore, but how in the world were they ranked 14th in the AP Poll?

Winner: Georgia.  No matter how the QB play is, they’re gonna be good.  The SEC is no longer the SEC we thought it was.  Step off, Bama.

A prediction column will be up prior to Thursday night’s games…..