28
Jul
16

2016 NFL Predictions

I wrote this over three or four days as training camps started. During it, a few moves were made after I made projections for a division, such Anquan Boldin going to the Detroit Lions, or a move was made as I wrote it, such as the Los Angeles Rams releasing Nick Foles. Nonetheless, I hope I provide some unique insights, most of which are based on offseason moves in relation to the team’s performance in 2015 and how they will forecast a team’s 2016 season. . . . And I hope I don’t lose too many friends 🙂

 

2016 Regular Season

 

AFC East

Dolphins 2016Looking at Miami I see a weak secondary, a weak run game, one wide receiver, and one QB whose QB rating was 21st in the league in 2015. Good news, they made improvements to the defensive line (maybe) and the offensive line. Plus, a new coach. Meh. I say, “Meh,” to the Dolphins this year. Plus, Miami’s first seven weeks before their bye is challenging: at Seattle, at New England, vs Browns, at Cincinnati, vs Tennessee, vs Steelers, vs Buffalo. I don’t see more than two wins in that span. 4-12.

 

Jets 2016I don’t want to be hater, I want Ryan Fitzpatrick to succeed, . . . but he will return to his normal QB self. He will level out. His 2015 season was an outlier in a very average career. Also, Geno Smith has QB rating of 72.3 over his three years, so if he starts, there will also be a drop in QB play. Luckily, they picked up RB Matt Forte. He can run, catch, and block, and despite what so many are saying, I think he will continue being a very good RB. Plus, they’ll need him to help block, especially to support that weak right side of the offensive line. It’s the defense that will keep games close for the New York Jets. Their first seven games are rough: vs Cincinnati, at Buffalo, at Kansas City, vs Seattle, at Pittsburgh, at Arizona, vs Baltimore. Will they get one win in that span? 5-11.

 

Bills 2016Should I recuse myself when projecting Buffalo’s season? Probably, but I won’t. Instead, I will provide a Buffalo-Homer-Bias warning: I am biased Bills fan. Buffalo’s defense will return to its 2014 top-four defense in yards/game allowed and points/game allowed. Additionally, there should be a big drop in penalties from the 2015 season. QB Tyrod Taylor should keep improving, especially when he starts using Sammy Watkins more, as they did in the end of the 2015 season, getting 685 of his 1047 yards and 6 of his 9 TDs in the last six games. The big weakness I see is the right side of the offensive line. At this point, it looks like Reggie Bush will join Buffalo to replace Karlos Williams in his four-game suspension. He might not do much, but I hope Buffalo puts him in kick-off and punt return duties. I think he can help there. They will get two more wins than in 2015. 10-6.

 

Patriots 2016New England wins the division. They always win it, and the AFC East is weak this year. Do I have to say more? . . . Buffalo beats them once! And New England won’t be as dominate as in the past. They still have the core of their defense, which was 9th in the league in yards/game allowed and 10th in points/game allowed, and they’ll need that defense, especially in the first four games. While their current depth chart lists eight RBs, I don’t expect much from them, especially after week 4. The addition of TE Martellus Bennett might provide something comparable to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez of the past, and in the least, it will provide coverage problems for opposing defenses. 11-5. 

 

Team W L
Patriots 11 5y
Bills 10 6x
Jets 5 11
Dolphins 4 12

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

 

AFC North

Browns 2016Cleveland had a disappointed free-agency offseason, but they did well in the draft. Even so, this is a building year. Players to watch are RB Duke Johnson, rookie WR Corey Coleman, and TE Gary Barnidge. I don’t know what to expect from Josh Gordon (who will miss the first four games), as he’s only played six games in two years. I don’t expect much from the defense. Despite all that, the Browns will improve on 2015’s 3-13 season. They will start off slow, but improve as the season goes on. 5-11.

 

Bengals 2016Cincinnati will drop off drastically as their wide receiving corps took a big hit with the loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, though the latter will be less hurtful. Brandon LeFell and Tyler Boyd can’t make up for them, but the Bengals have a pretty good offensive line. Still, I see Dalton plunging this season. I think he’s overrated. The addition of Karlos Dansby to the defense should be helpful, especially with Vontaze Burfict out the first three weeks on suspension. 8-8.

 

Ravens 2016Baltimore will definitely improve after an injury-filled 2015 season. Plus, they have some new receivers in Mike Wallace and 2015 first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman. Also, the addition of TE Ben Watson should be an upgrade from Crockett Gilmore. It should be enough to make Baltimore better than Cincinnati. I like their defense, too, it’s above average, but not great. The only weak spot is right CB Jimmy Smith. 9-7.

 

Steelers 2016Pittsburgh should win the division with the return of Le’Veon Bell, but he won’t be used as much as in the past, and not at all in the first four games. Because DeAngelo Williams did so well in 2015, Pittsburgh will use Williams to relieve Bell and save Bell for the playoffs, at least that’s what I anticipate. Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller are gone, which are two of the Steelers top three receivers in 2015, but maybe the addition of Ladarius Green can effectively replace Miller, and hopefully will be used more than he was in San Diego. I still like their offense a lot, and they should be able to score more than their defense allows. 12-4.

 

Team W L
Steelers 12 4z
Ravens 9 7
Bengals 8 8
Browns 5 11

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

 

AFC South

Titans 2016Tennessee did some good offseason work. They got a good RB in DeMarco Murray, so now maybe they will have an RB who gets more than 520 yards and an offense with more than 1485 rushing yards (25th in the league in 2015). They also picked up WR Rishard Matthews to complement Dorial Green-Beckham, Kendall Wright, and Harry Douglas. It’s not much, but it might bump them up from 25th in passing. They also improved their offensive line with draft pick Jack Conklin. The defense is decent, as they were 12th in yards/game allowed, even though they were 27th in points/game allowed. They should be a little better than last year. 5-11.

 

Texans 2016Why does everyone like Houston every year? I don’t get it, and last year, they barely made the playoffs. They have a great defensive front seven, and a great receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, but what else? RB Lamar Miller will be upgrade from Alfred Blue and a fading Arian Foster, and he may even rush for 1000 yards, maybe, but QB Brock Osweiler will certainly struggle. I don’t see it happening for Houston this year. 7-9.

 

Colts 2016Oh, Indianapolis, fifty straight games with a one-hundred-yard rusher, a decrepit defense, and a troubling offensive line. Andrew Luck maybe be great, who can tell with that offensive line, but he can’t do it alone, especially with his lackluster WR corps (save T. Y. Hilton). RB Frank Gore should be decent and hopefully will have less turnovers. I don’t anticipate a .500 season, even in this weak division. Good news for fantasy football players, Luck will get lots of passing yards as they will play from behind often. 7-9.

 

Jaguars 2016Jacksonville is everyone’s darling this year, and they are for me, too. Let’s look at it this way. In 2015, they lost five games by six or fewer points and another by seven points. They also had, maybe, the best offseason of any team, especially in the draft. There’s nowhere to go but up, especially in this mediocre division. They have a great bunch of receivers and tight ends, depth at running back, a fine quarterback, and a much improved defense, with the addition of DT Malik Jackson (to do some sacking and run stopping) and CB Prince Amukamara and S Tashaun Gipson. And don’t forget their defensive draft picks: CB Jalen Ramsey, LB Myles Jack, and DLs Yannick Ngakoue and Sheldon Day. This will be a fun team to watch. 10-6.

 

Team W L
Jaguars 10 6y
Colts 7 9
Texans 7 9
Titans 5 11

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

 

AFC West

Chargers 2016Many people are saying San Diego will be better than 4-12, but their offensive line, which allowed 40 sacks, didn’t change much, except for an upgrade at center with Matt Slauson, and the defense hasn’t changed much either, though they added Joey Bosa but lost Eric Weddle. Perhaps, we should expect a similar 2016 season. [Fantasy side note: Keenan Allen will get over 100 receptions and he may be one of the top receivers this season, especially considering that the Chargers will pass a lot without a run game and being down often.] 5-11.

 

Broncos 2016Denver won’t repeat as Super Bowl champions, and they won’t repeat as division champions. Heck, they won’t make the playoffs. Not only did they lose Peyton Manning (who only averaged 224.9 yards/game and had a dismal 67.9 QB rating), they lost two key players on their defense, DE Malik Jackson and LB Danny Trevathan. Additionally, they retained C. J. Anderson when they could and should have traded him. Their 17th ranked running game did not improve in the offseason, their passing game did not improve, and their defense became weaker. There will be sad fans in Denver. [Side note for fantasy football players: I heard a commentator say, “Mark Sanchez has never had a 1000-yard receiver or a receiver who caught more than 8 TDs.” That means, Demaryius Thomas’ and Emmanuel Sanders’ fantasy value will decrease.] 8-8.

 

Chiefs 2016Kansas City’s offense in 2015 was 27th in yards/game, with 331.2 yard/game (203.4 passing (30th) and 127.8 rushing (9th)), but, surprisingly, ninth in scoring, at 25.3 points/game. Coupled with a top-five defense and an amazing 10-0 run to end the season, they made it to the playoffs. This will change some, and this type of play won’t be good enough to win the division, unless they start getting more big pass plays, and it certainly won’t be enough to get deep them in the playoffs, even with a solid run game. The run game will probably feature Jamaal Charles less and focus more on run by committee, based on last year’s running success and to extend the career of Charles. Charles will still get the bulk of carries, but a little less than in the past. 9-7.

 

Raiders 2016Too often I expect Oakland to be good, and too often they disappoint. I have those high-expectation feelings again . . . but this time it’s different . . . really . . . I think. They have a great offensive line, a rising QB in Derek Carr, a star (or soon to be star) in wide-receiver in Amari Cooper, and a solid running back in Latavius Murray. Even though a similar 2015 offense averaged only 333.5 yards/game (24th in the league), and 22.4 points. games (17th in the league), this offense has more experience and will blossom in 2016. The defense has also improved, especially in the secondary by adding CB Sean Smith and S Reggie Nelson and drafting S Karl Joseph. The one weakness in the Raiders is their linebackers. Overall, this team appears set to win the division . . . I think. 11-5.

 

Team W L
Raiders 11 5y
Chiefs 9 7x
Broncos 8 8
Chargers 5 11

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

 

NFC East

Eagles 2016Philadelphia will surely be at the bottom. The question is: how badly will they bottom out? If they win, it won’t because of their offense, thought I expect Sam Bradford to be a top-20 quarterback, which isn’t saying much. 4-12.

 

 

Redskins 2016No team has won the NFC East in back-to-back seasons since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003 and 2004 (they also won in 2001 and 2002), and Washington will keep that streak alive by not repeating as division winner. The best thing Washington did offseason was to improve their secondary with the addition of CB Josh Norman and S David Bruton, but their offensive run game seems weak in Matt Jones. They will start the season looking good, but the middle and end of the season will overwhelm them. 7-9.

 

Giants 2016If games were 58 minutes long, the 2015 New York Giants would have been 10-5-1, but games are 60 minutes long, and New York ended up 6-10. The Giants will be better in 2016, especially with a 2015 offense that was 8th in yards/game and 6th in scoring. Plus, their defense, which was last in yards/game and 30th in points allowed/game, should improve with their offseason additions, such DE Olivier Vernon, and more stability on the defensive by not having 14 different players play on the line. They’ll be better, but only to .500. 8-8.

 

Cowboys 2016I expect Dallas to run quite a bit with three good RBs (Ezekiel Elliot, Darren McFadden, and Alfred Morris) and a solid offensive line, plus they will run so QB Tony Romo will last the season. Dallas added Cedric Thorton to help the run defense, but they lost Greg Hardy. With an average CB in Brandon Carr and return of average CB in Orlando Scandrick, the defense is suspect. 10-6.

 

Team W L
Cowboys 10 6y
Giants 8 8
Redskins 7 9
Eagles 4 12

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

 

NFC North

Lions 2016Detroit will stagger in 2016 in part because of the loss of Calvin Johnson, but more because Matthew Stafford continues to underwhelm. I heard one commentator say he will be better and more consistent in the absence of Johnson, but I doubt that having watched him play year after year. 6-10. [This prediction was made before the addition of Anquan Boldin.]

 

Bears 2016Chicago had a very good offseason, especially at linebackers by picking up Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and drafting Leonard Floyd. However, they did lose a good center with Matt Slauson and good RB in Matt Forte. Can Jeremy Langford perform well all season? We’ll see, but there will probably be a decline. And even though they retained WR Alshon Jeffrey, how reliable is QB Jay Cutler? From past experiences, not very reliable. The Bears will improve from 6-10, but not enough to contend for the division. 8-8.

 

Vikings 2016Minnesota should only improve on offense with the addition of Laquon Treadwell. He won’t stretch the defense, but he will be good on third-down conversions and in the red zone. Stefon Diggs will be the one to stretch the field. Also, Bridgewater should keep improving. All of this means that Adrian Peterson should have more room to run as defenses won’t have eight in the box anymore, as they will have to account for Treadwell. Also, I see their defense being a top-ten defense, up from number 13 in 2015. However, their record will remain unchanged. 11-5.

 

Packers 2016Green Bay’s offense will be better than last year, but their defense is iffy. They will win the division because of a soft schedule, but they won’t be as good as their record. Even though Jordy Nelson returns, I expect Aaron Rodgers to spread the ball around, and I expect a streamlined Eddie Lacy to be more effective in the run game. Clay Matthews should return to his former QB-sacking self as he returns to his more natural position at outside LB instead of middle LB. 12-4.

 

Team W L
Packers 12 4y
Vikings 11 5x
Bears 8 8
Lions 6 10

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

 

 

AFC South

Saints 2016New Orleans is a fading team, which is sad. The bright spots are Drew Brees and Mark Ingram (who averaged 97.8 yards/game in rushing and receiving), but will the offensive line (perhaps the team’s biggest weakness) be able to protect Brees and run block? Maybe drafted wide receiver Michael Thomas will help the offense, but the defense, especially the weak linebackers, will let up points that the offense might not be able to outscore, especially when the defense faces Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, and Matt Ryan twice, plus Derek Carr, Eli Manning, Russel Wilson, and Carson Palmer. It will be a long season for New Orleans. 6-10.

 

Buccaneers 2016Tampa finished 6-10 with a rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, 1400-yard rusher Doug Martin, and improving 1200-yard receiver Mike Evans. Hopefully, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins builds on his end-of-the-season run of 338 yards and 4 TDs in seven games, this offense will have some explosive games. In the offseason, they improved the defensive line with the addition of DE Robert Ayers and second-round draft pick DE Noah Spence. With all that in mind, they have a new head coach in Dirk Koetter, who hasn’t coached in ten years and that was at the college level. Tampa is on the upswing and could provide some upsets against the better teams, including, even, maybe, Carolina. 8-8.

 

Falcons 2016Atlanta started 2015 with a 5-0 run, and then fell apart. The 2016 Falcons should be somewhere between those two extremes of 2015. With that in mind, they will have 38 new faces, including 6 drafted rookies. They seemingly improved everywhere that needed improvement, and the offensive line should be good. All of this will get them into second place in the division, after a slow start to the 2016 season. 9-7.

 

Panthers 2016Carolina will win the division, as they are a solid team. QB Cam Newton might even throw more TDs than last with the return of WR Kelvin Benjamin. Even if he doesn’t, the defense is good enough to stop other teams from scoring more than Carolina’s offense. They will be hurting in the run game and by the loss of CB Josh Norman, but they should still rule this division. 11-5.

 

Team W L
Panthers 11 5y
Falcons 9 7
Buccaneers 8 8
Saints 6 10

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

 

 

NFC West

49ers 2016What good can be said about San Francisco? They have a good defensive line, good safeties, AND Navarro Bowman. That’s a plus because they will be on the field a lot, with this very underwhelming offense. 2-14.

 

 

Rams 2016I write this division review about 30 minutes after St. Louis Los Angeles released Nick Foles. I assume Jared Goff will be the starting QB. Yikes. Good news, they have RB Todd Gurley and a solid defensive front seven. Bad news, they don’t have stand-out receivers (unless Tavon Austin finally steps up), and they lost half of a solid secondary in S Rodney McLeod and CB Janoris Jenkins. This will be a building year, again, but they will fewer games, but, at least, they won’t finish last. 5-11.

 

Seahawks 2016Seattle’s defense has been solid in the past and will continue to be solid, but maybe not quite as solid, but solid enough. The passing game should be better than last year, even with Doug Baldwin and Jevon Kearse, who are improving. It’s the offensive line and RB that seem of most concern. Seattle didn’t improve their offensive line, and it’s fairly weak. Last year, the offensive live gave up 46 sacks, and I expect QB Russell Wilson to be scrambling often in 2016 and he might be sacked more. RB Thomas Rawls looked good year last year, averaging 5.6 yards/carry, but there will most likely be a decline in that. Seattle will be good, but not good enough to win the division. 11-5.

 

Cardinals 2016The only thing to not like about Arizona is their tight end. As long as QB Carson Palmer stays healthy, this offense should be as impressive as last year (second highest scoring offense), and maybe even lead the league in scoring, especially with rising RB David Johnson. 12-4.

 

Team W L
Cardinals 12 4z
Seahawks 11 5x
Rams 5 11
49ers 2 14

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

 

2016 Regular Season Standings

x=wildcard. y=wins division. z=wins conference.

AFC

AFC EAST

Team W L
Patriots 11 5y
Bills 10 6x
Jets 5 11
Dolphins 4 12

AFC NORTH

Team W L
Steelers 12 4z
Ravens 9 7
Bengals 8 8
Browns 5 11

AFC SOUTH

Team W L
Jaguars 10 6y
Colts 7 9
Texans 7 9
Titans 5 11

AFC WEST

Team W L
Raiders 11 5y
Chiefs 9 7x
Broncos 8 8
Chargers 5 11

 

NFC

NFC EAST

Team W L
Cowboys 10 6y
Giants 8 8
Redskins 7 9
Eagles 4 12

NFC NORTH

Team W L
Packers 12 4y
Vikings 11 5x
Bears 8 8
Lions 6 10

NFC SOUTH

Team W L
Panthers 11 5y
Falcons 9 7
Buccaneers 8 8
Saints 6 10

NFC WEST

Team W L
Cardinals 12 4z
Seahawks 11 5x
Rams 5 11
49ers 2 14

 

2016 NFL PLAYOFFS

(Conference rank in parentheses. Winners in bold.)

Wildcard Weekend

Chiefs (6) at Raiders (3)

Bills (5) at Jaguars (4)

 

Vikings (6) at Panthers (3)

Seahawks (5) at Cowboys (4)

 

Divisional Playoffs

Bills (5) at Steelers (1)

Raiders (3) at Patriots (2)

 

Seahawks (5) at Arizona (1)

Panthers (3) at Green Bay (2)

 

Conference Championships

Patriots (2) at Steelers (1)

Panthers (3) at Arizona (1)

 

Super Bowl LI Logo

 

Steelers 2016 vs. Arizona Cardinals

 

Arizona wins Super Bowl LI

//


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