Wednesday, September 09, 2015

American Football Conference Predictions

AFC East

1) *Patriots. They will not be a Super Bowl contender. For all the talk about Belichick being a genius and coaching up diamonds in the rough the truth is he need two top flight free agent corners – Revis and Browner – to make it last year and now both are gone. Brady should have been suspended anyway (not really - the NFL botched due process, but he did cheat).

2) *Dolphins. For the record this is less about the addition of Suh (who will improve the team if not make it $114 better) than it is about my expectations for the improvement of Tannehill at QB (who quietly had - 66% completions, 4,000 yards, more than 2-1 TD to INT ratio, and a 92% QB rating last year).

3) Bills. I see them about .500. Don’t have that much faith in Rex even though I know the D was good last year and the offense should be a little better.

4) Jets. I like Bowles, but not the talent on the roster – especially the offense. What does it say about a team if the starting QB being sucker punched in the locker room makes the offense better??

AFC South

1) *Colts. By default as this remains the Andrew Luck show (or if you prefer Andrew and the Luckettes). I am not impressed with adding Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and Trent Cole – this isn’t 2010. 1st round pick Phillip Dorsett may help, but most likely not in his already injury riddled rookie year.

2) TIE Jaguars and Texans. Surprised?

a. The Texans have a good RB in Foster (assuming he comes back from surgery soon), potential budding star DeAndre Hopkins at WR, and a fairly talented defense (JJ Watt is good, but the hype around him hides that there are some holes around him). But Brian Hoyer has proven himself to be a high effort guy suitable to being a backup QB who can fill in for a few games – but not a starter. I bet Mallet is starting by the end of the season. They might squeak into the playoffs – especially if Jadeveon Clowney is healthy.

b. You may not realize it, but Jaguars are a team up the upswing. Bortles should improve, the team is very young, but not untalented. I am not saying playoffs (in 2015 anyway), but I am saying their most wins in the last five years. It would have helped if their two biggest pickups (Julius Thomas and Dante Flowler) had not gotten hurt.

4) Titans. I like Ken Whisenhunt, but not Marcus Mariota transitioning from the Spread with unproven (to be kind) RBs and no WRs outside of Kendall Wright (who is no sure thing himself). This team was using that is left of Hakeem Nicks as a starting WR all preseason and then cut him. Not auspicious. If healthy, Brian Orakpo is a good pickup.

AFC North

1) *Steelers. I considered the Ravens quite a bit, the defense is not lock to be good (which I blame on talent, not the fired Dick LeBeau), and two of their top three offensive weapons are gone for most or all of September. But in the end I went with Pittsburgh because they have the better QB (Flacco is not elite and not at his level), a great WR, and Baltimore as NO weapons on offense.

2) Ravens. Speaking of no weapons – when I see a team trying to milk one last season out of Steve Smith (who is border line Hall of Famer) and hoping Justin Forsett can repeat the career year he had after six nondescript seasons I don’t jump on board. Their 1st round pick at WR was hurt all preseason as well.

3) Bengals. They have no shortage of weapons on offense and an impressive DL, but by this point I think Andy Dalton has gotten about as good as he ever will. If they stay healthy they might squeeze into the playoffs.

4) Browns. Wow – just wow. Where are you when Josh McNown brought in as your savior? Dwayne Bowe? Brian Hartline? Last year’s draft is already pretty clearly a bust.

AFC West

1) *Broncos. I know they lost some talent on offense, but they still have plenty and their RB situation is more settled now than it was a year ago. More importantly that defense is better than you realize – although power running teams will be able to hurt them.

2) *Chiefs. I debated a bit over this but here is the score 1) arguably the best RB in league 2) a coach who knows how to get to the playoffs (if not through them) and improved the team 3) QB who doesn’t make game losing mistakes (if not game winning plays). Did you know that Alex Smith hasn’t thrown more than 7 picks in the last four seasons? He has had 71 TDs in that span (45 games). 4) They improved at WR by signing Jeremy Maclin. 5) They get Eric Berry back from cancer to a defense that has some great pass rushers.

3) Chargers. Does adding Stevie Johnson as the third WR and Melvin Gordon at RB make them much better? I tend to doubt it, but they were 9-7 last year (actually have been within a game of .500 for 5 straight season), so if they make the playoffs we can’t call it a shock as they didn’t lose much in free agency.

4) Raiders. While they are still in their perennial 4th place, they do feel as though they are slowly inching better. Very slowly. Derek Carr throwing to Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is an improvement over Terrelle Pryor (now a receiver on the Browns) throwing to Rod Steeter and Denarius Moore. Latavious Murray is totally unproven despite the hype. And I feel I should point out that gave $2+ million in signing bonuses and guaranteed money to Christian Ponder and Trent Richardson in free agency – and neither made the team.


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