2016 NFL REGULAR SEASON PREVIEW
It’s that time again. 32 NFL teams will embark on another 16 game regular season in hope of making the play offs. Thus giving them a chance at making SuperBowl 51 on February 5th in Houston, Texas.
With my limited NFL in-depth knowledge but massive 18 year love affair of watching and enjoying American Football. Below is my division by division season preview. The teams are placed in order of where I think they will finish in the division, with their 2015 season records in brackets.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (9-7)
NEW YORK GIANTS (6-10)
DALLAS COWBOYS (4-12)
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (7-9)
In a division where only one team had a winning record, I am expecting big improvements across the board. It was tough to choose the winner of this division and I expect it to be a closer battle this year, but I went for the experience of the Redskins to repeat last year’s triumph. Though I am not expecting them to play more than one game in the play off’s like last year.
There were a lot of pluses and minuses for the skins. QB Kirk Cousins surprised many and seemed to come good but Washington needed 4 consecutive wins at the end of the regular season to finish on their 9-7 record. With the offence looking good they have added to their suspect defence with most notably CB Josh Norman.
The Giants failed the make the play off’s for the fourth year in a row so new coach Ben McAdoo knows exactly what is required. They will always score points with the likes of QB Eli Manning and WR Odel Beckham Jr, but the defence is a problem and they have spent a lot trying to improve it but are free agents really the solution? Will be interesting to see.
Last year the Cowboys prospects ended when Romo got hurt. Which is the case again this year and possibly for half the season. The Cowboys could be out of touch by time he comes back. That said, they still have an elite team that will pull together for QB Dak Prescott.
The jury has been out on whether Sam Bradford is the QB to take the Eagles forward. Their disastrous time last year prompted a lot of changes. They have a decent offence but a poor defence which I feel will dictate their season. I predict a lot of high scoring defeats.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-6)
MINNISOTA VIKINGS (11-5)
CHICAGO BEARS (6-10)
DETROIT LIONS (7-9)
The Vikings piped the Packers by one game to win the division and that is the reason why I am going with the Packers this year. Packers are again one of my favourites and they look stronger with the likes of WR Jordy Nelson returning from injury, as well as some other interesting additions. With the consistent Rodgers at the helm. just like last year I feel the only thing that could stop them is crippling injuries.
I feel it will again be a two-horse race for this division as the Vikings again look strong. But losing their QB Bridgewater will be the difference and time will tell if back up QB Shaun Hill can shoulder that burden. The Vikings are a rough and tough team with a strong defence and good rushing game, which will be needed if they are to replicate winning the division.
The Bears improved on last years record by one game and even that was to my surprise. But it does indicate progress. They have improved their defence with some smart acquisitions and I see them improving further but it will probably be too much to expect them to fight for a play off position.
I feel this could be a transitional season for the Lions after losing some important players such as WR Calvin Johnson. They will have no choice but to try and go back to forming a solid defence led by sack merchant DE Ziggy Ansah but I suspect it could be a long season.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (15-1)
ATLANTA FALCONS (8-8)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-9)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (6-10)
I feel this division will be very much as you were. I cannot really bet against the Panthers who had a franchise record-breaking year. They must be hurting to fall at the final hurdle and will be determined to try go all the way again this year. Although I am expecting the Falcons to be much closer. For me Cam is still the man and he will learn from last years experience and improve. Although a return to the SuperBowl maybe one step too far.
In the end it was academic as the Panthers blew everyone away, but the Falcons started like a house of fire then faltered badly going from 6-1 to a 8-8 record, which much be addressed. I feel these lessons will be learned and that along with the experience of last year and the likes of WR Julio Jones will put them in good stead to push Carolina closer.
QB Drew Brees will do all he can to avoid a third straight year missing the play offs. He leads a very competent offence but often they are required to win the game for the defence which has been an ongoing problem. They are finally improving the defence with the likes of DT Sheldon Rankins, but time will tell if they can end with a winning record.
The Buccs improved on last season by 4 wins which is massive but still wasn’t enough to lift them off the foot of the table. I doubt any further improvement this term. On the plus side, they acquired kicker Roberto Aguayo who is meant to be pretty good.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-6)
ARIZONA CARDINALS (13-3)
LOS ANGELES RAMS (7-9)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-11)
I am looking forward to the battle for this division as it could be one, if not, the most competitive in the NFL. Although I am expecting the Cardinals to again be strong, I have a funny feeling the Seahawks have regrouped, are refocused and even with the retirement of RB Marshawn Lynch, could still have something to say. QB Wilson will continue his impeccable passing abilities while the defence who are still mainly intact will continue to be as menacing as ever.
The Cardinals with their strong, explosive offence will give anyone a game. They are good all around and must have been disappointed to lose the NFC championship game to the Panthers, especially after beating the Patriots to get there. Although injuries more than played its part. If they can keep impressive QB Carson Palmer healthy. Then get contributions from the likes of RB David Johnson in offence and the versatile safety Tyrann Mathieu in defence. They could put themselves in a position to finally get over that SuperBowl hump.
The new Los Angeles Rams will want some performances to match the limelight and hype of being back in LA. I am really not sure what we will get from the Rams. It could be very good or very bad. I doubt they will be ready to push the Cardinals or Seahawks or improve on last term and challenge for a play off spot. A winning record would be an achievement.
Though I have never been the 49ers biggest fans, I feel a little sorry for them as the Kaepernick issue may distract the players from the obvious improvement that is needed. They are lacking in quality and even Kaepernick will probably not start ahead of Blaine Gabbert. They will however have first round pick DE DeForest Buckner to help improve a shaky defence.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4)
NEW YORK JETS (10-6)
BUFFALO BILLS (8-8)
MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-10)
It will be very hard to go against the Pats who are perennial favourites for the SuperBowl, with their strong offence and defence. But Brady’s four game “deflate gate” suspension could give the likes of the Jets hope to mount a real challenge. Maybe. I am still wondering how The Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC championship game and I am sure they are determined to put that right this year, providing Brady’s absence don’t hurt them too much. Like last year, whoever beats them will probably go all the way.
The Jets surprised everyone with a massive 6 game improvement on the previous season and was within one game of making to the play offs. With QB Ryan Fitzpatrick back with more experience, a few more intelligent adjustments and the Jets could be a real threat to the Pats…Or maybe just a chance at making the post season for first time in seven years.
The Bills, although had an even season record, done slightly worse than the previous season and that will put a bit of pressure on them this year. Although now they feel they have a QB in Tyrod Taylor to take them forward, they will need to improve on their defence if they are to make any kind of waves in a very average division.
For so long and far too often the Dolphins have promised much but continue not to deliver. They had a few fleeting moments but they were too few and far between. Now with another new coach, he must address whether QB Tannehill is the man to take them forward, along with a defence that leaks points. The fans must be very patient but mine has run thin and I will go as far as saying Miami could be the worst franchise in the league over the past decade
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5)
DENVER BRONCOS (12-4)
OAKLAND RAIDERS (7-9)
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-12)
The Chiefs were unlucky after winning their first play off game since 1993, as they ran into the Patriots in the divisional play offs and narrowly lost. I have said this for three seasons but the Chiefs are real dark horses. They were one of the most enjoyable teams to watch while they were on that impressive 10 game winning streak turning a 1-5 record around. I am expecting them to build on that this year. They have most of their team back with minimal changes and are very much a team in every sense of the word.
The reigning champions have made a lot of changes since winning the title but they still have Super Bowl MVP Von Miller as well as other important stars back. They have also added to their already formidable defence which they will rely on as they are not quite sure what they will get from new QB Trevor Siemian. But with their unexpected SuperBowl triumph I suspect he will be given time.
Rumour has it the Raiders have a young, exciting squad capable of making it to the post season but I am not so sure. I agree they have a young, exciting squad going forward but I still have questions whether the defence can hold out against the better teams.
The Chargers struggled big time last year and I can’t see any change this time, especially as they have lost a few names to pastures new. Although they did eventually acquire no3 draft pick DE Joey Bosa who will give them a boost but I see another long season ahead.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (10-6)
CINCINNATI BENGALS (12-4)
BALTIMORE RAVENS (5-11)
CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-13)
The Steelers will always be contenders in my book. They are looking fresher and much healthier as they had to endure a whole host of injuries that somewhat derailed their season. Though they did beat the Bengals in the wild card game before losing to the Broncos. They will maintain their free scoring offence with QB Roethlisberger still top-notch at 33. Though the defence is not exactly as solid as they once were, I still feel, like last year, if you beat them you have a chance of going all the way
The Bengals will be hurting from losing in the play offs to the Steelers after it all went so well in the regular season. That is becoming somewhat of a broken record. They have lost some notable names and faces but still have a play off quality team who will benefit from the likes of LB Vontaze Burfict while hoping QB Andy Dalton can really come good.
The Ravens surprised everyone by how bad they was last term. Winning 5 games less and losing 5 games more was an alarming turnaround which was mainly attributed to crippling injuries, no less to QB Joe Flacco. They have invested in youth to hopefully rid themselves of a similar season, but they will need the older heads to steady the ship. It is inevitable they will improve but I doubt it will be enough for a play off push.
It’s all change for the Browns and it needed to be as they were terrible last year. A new coach and QB Robert Griffin III will give everyone a lift for the coming year. Although their defence is still a worry and though they seemed to have brought in a few names looking to impress, I am not expecting it to improve drastically.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-8)
HOUSTON TEXANS (9-7)
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (5-11)
TENNESSEE TITANS (3-13)
I am going to go out on a limb and say the Colts will not have another disappointing season as last year. That disappointing season was mainly down to QB Andrew Luck missing 9 games. They have also improved and drafted in better players on the offensive line. So they are hedging their bets on Luck with better protection. I see Luck leading his team to many high scoring victories where a deep run in the post season is expected.
The Texans have finished with the same record for two seasons and though it shows they haven’t declined, it also shows no progress. Though they have JJ Watt leading the team in a pretty good defence, the issue have always been in offence. This is where new QB Brock Osweiler comes in. He is relatively inexperienced but they have spent big money on him and will need to see early dividends and him maybe creating an understanding with WR DeAndre Hopkins. Will be interesting to see who performs under pressure of expectations.
Jacksonville showed real progress last season with a very young but impressive offence. Now with a year under their belt together, I am expecting them to improve further. Just how much is debatable, but if the young offence can reduce mistakes and get WR Allen Robinson going. Along with their defence performing, they could be a surprise package.
The Titans struggled big time last term due to Heisman Trophy winner QB Marcus Mariota having an injured riddled season. Their defence didn’t do too badly but their offence struggle and that is why they drafted powerful RB DeMarco Murray. Though they do need improvements in all areas to obtain some sort of progress this term.