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2015 NFL Predictions

September 13, 2015

AFC West                               Chargers

AFC North                              Steelers

AFC East                                Patriots

AFC South                              Colts

AFC Wild Card #1                 Broncos

AFC Wild Card #2                 Bills

NFC West                               Seahawks

NFC North                              Packers

NFC East                                Cowboys

NFC South                              Saints

NFC Wild Card #1                 Eagles

NFC Wild Card #2                 Vikings

AFC Champion                       Colts

NFC Champion                       Seahawks

Super Bowl Champion            Colts

MVP                                       Andrew Luck

Offensive POY                       Adrian Peterson

Defensive POY                       JJ Watt

Offensive ROY                      Amari Cooper

Defensive ROY                      Randy Gregory

The NFL season kicked off a few days ago and with it my excitement is at a fever pitch. Above are my predictions for the division winners, wild cards, conference champs, etc. I find that this year most of my stuff is rather middle of the road but that’s how I see the NFL shaking out this season so it’s better to predict what you believe will happen, boring or not, than go out on a limb you don’t trust and watch yourself get ridiculed when that limb comes crashing down.

Base Scenario

He's goofy, ugly, awkward and so damn good at football.

He’s goofy, ugly, awkward and so damn good at football.

I think most people are of the opinion that this is going to be the year of Luck. No it’s not some Chinese calendar gimmick, it’s the Colts Andrew Luck, a player who 2 years ago I anointed as the 2nd best QB in all of football, only behind the GOAT Aaron Rodgers (yes I do consider Rodgers to be the greatest QB of all time and think my opinion of him will become the consensus in 4-6 years). Luck is a scary player when you realize he’s taken mediocre squads to the playoffs 3 straight seasons and each year went a step further than before (lost in the 1st round in 2012, 2nd round in 2013, 3rd round in 2014). I like TY Hilton but honestly name another player on his roster from 2012-2014 that you’d put in your top 100 “I’d start a franchise around that guy.” Luck has a very good but a bit overrated WR due to his usage in Hilton, a below average offensive line that in 2013 had him hit far more than any other QB in the league, two mediocre tight ends that get too much credit due to where they were drafted at, a RB by committee of draft busts (Trent Richardson), free agent scrap heaps (Ahmad Bradshaw) and no name late round flier types (Daniel Herron, Vick Ballard, Josh Robinson) and then a defense that has no one of great distinction other than maybe Vontae Davis. It really has amazed me that Luck has been able to do so much with so little the past 3 years and is why I have the Colts winning the Super Bowl this year as in 2015 I actually think Luck has a decent squad around him. The additions of hungry, battle tested veterans like Andre Johnson and Frank Gore are going to be huge as it will allow Luck to have an actual running game as well as a secondary option in the passing game. Last year the Colts asked a little too much from Luck as he was leading the league in passing attempts by a wide margin midway through the season. They saw this too and cut his usage down dramatically, his 5 games with the fewest passing attempts were in his teams final 6 games of the season, yet in the end Luck still ran out of steam. He looked bad in late season blowouts against the Cowboys (regular season) and Patriots (postseason) when he was outscored 87-14 in those games but he also looked very mediocre in unconvincing wins against the Texans (regular season), Bengals and Broncos (postseason). This year he won’t be forced to throw it as much and will be in better situations when asked to throw due to a legit threat at the RB position and a true #2 WR for the first time in his career. My apologies to Reggie Wayne’s pride but Andre Johnson gives the Colts a weapon opposite TY Hilton that makes the Colts more dangerous than ever before. Teams won’t always be able to double team Hilton anymore and Luck will finally have a big WR to target in the red zone. I expect an 1,100 yard 13 TD type season from Johnson as I think reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated due to poor QB play from Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick. No wonder the guy got so angry down there. I expect the Colts to go 13-3, wrap up their division by December 1st and be rested and ready when someone comes to Indy in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Sometimes too much rest leading up to the playoffs is detrimental to a team but film junky Luck and veterans Gore and Johnson will be ecstatic for this time off and I expect it to be a huge boost for them in late January. I have the Colts being THE team of the NFL in 2015.

Secondary Scenarios

The Colts dominating the AFC and comfortably getting to the Super Bowl, where they win it, is my “base scenario.” For those of you who haven’t read me before or don’t know this arguing method it means that this is my most likely scenario probability wise yet the NFL is a complex organism with numerous moving parts so there are a few other scenarios that I could see occurring which wouldn’t surprise me at all. Below I discuss them each in depth and in order of likelihood from greatest to least.

The Seahawks Fly Again

The Graham trade not the Jordy Nelson injury nor the Tom Brady suspension overturn was the most impactful event this offseason.

The Graham trade not the Jordy Nelson injury nor the Tom Brady suspension overturn was the most impactful event this offseason.

One is that the Seahawks come back even more motivated than last year, see another year of growth from already Top 10 QB, soon to be Top 5 QB, Russell Wilson and add superstar TE Jimmy Graham to their team to become a much better offensive team and a still fiercesome defense and win their 2nd Super Bowl in 3 years. That wouldn’t shock me at all as I really love the Graham addition and think Kam Chancellor will eventually cave in his holdout. Yet I agree with those, Troy Aikman being the the latest I’ve heard weigh in, who think Seattle could be emotionally scarred by their “oh so close” loss to the Patriots and might just struggle getting back in the fight. I think a similar situation played out with my own Texas Rangers following some excruciating losses in the World Series and what was once a young, up and coming team became bored and apathetic which led to its dismantling. Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner all are coming off recent massive extensions and could lose some of their drive. Cam Chancellor and Michael Bennett have both recently griped about their contracts and could tune out the “12th man theme song” to become selfish, locker room cancers. Or none of it could occur and the Seahawks could just become victims of a key injury, Lynch’s high usage finally resulting in his ineffectiveness or being in the most talented and deep division in football with 6 games against the Cardinals, Rams and 49ers resulting in a ho hum 11-5 type record. I don’t have the Seahawks falling off too much from last year, they are my NFC Conference Champ prediction after all, due to the Graham trade but I could see it happening. Their locker room chemistry is very unique and seems to be a key to their success so I could see some disfunction sidetracking this team.

The Cowboys actually don’t need DeMarco

Will the Cowboys in 2015 get Direct TV Tony Romo or Arts and Crafts Tony Romo?

Will the Cowboys in 2015 get Direct TV Tony Romo or Arts and Crafts Tony Romo?

Another secondary scenario I could see occurring is the Cowboys taking the next step. At the end of last season I had the Packers and Cowboys moving ahead of the Seahawks for the 2015 season yet the Graham trade moved the Seahawks back up past the Cowboys and the Jordy Nelson injury moved the Packers back behind the Seahawks and Cowboys. Last season the Cowboys shocked a lot of people by taking a team with an abysmal defense and coming off three straight 8-8 seasons to a 12-4 mark and a few unlucky bounces away from the NFC Championship Game. The four keys to their success was an improved defense under Rod Marinelli, an improved offensive line due to the addition of Zack Martin and the maturation of Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, the career year by DeMarco Murray and the career year by Tony Romo. The question now is how intertwined was Murray with the offensive line looking so good and Romo looking so in command. I don’t think many people realize how good Romo was last year. He led the NFL in completion percentage, well ahead of MVP Aaron Rodgers. He led the NFL in passer rating, one point ahead of MVP Aaron Rodgers. He led the NFL in yards per attempt, one of the favorite stats of NFL moneyball types, again slightly ahead of MVP Aaron Rodgers (Noticing a pattern here? Yes I think Romo deserved more MVP votes than 2 out of 50). He threw single digit interceptions for only the third time in his 9 years as a starter. He was one incompletion turned completion from being the 6th QB in NFL History with a 70% completion rate. He was one game not played, his first game against the 49ers where he didn’t look healthy yet from back surgery and ended up with 3 INTs, from having a QB Rating in the mid 120s which would have been the highest rating in NFL History. Tony Romo had one hell of a year. Can he do it again? I think that question can rightly be asked even if everything was the same this time around but with 2015 Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray not even on the team anymore, the question becomes even more understandable. I personally was for getting rid of Murray because he is not one of the 5 best running backs in the NFL but was asking for that kind of money. Yet when I said I was fine with Murray leaving I didn’t think it would result in this backfield of Randle, McFadden, Dunbar and recently acquired Christine Michael. I thought the Cowboys would make a genuine play for Adrian Peterson or take one of my 3 favorite running backs in the 2nd/3rd round range of the 2015 Draft where they had 2 picks (Duke Johnson, Tevin Coleman and Ameer Abdullah all intrigued me in that area of the draft). Now suddenly I’m left wondering if the Cowboys made a mistake in letting Murray leave. Yes he would have been overpaid but Romo has 2-3 years left of high quality football in my mind so maybe you just overpay Murray for that time frame so you can make sure and get 3 legit shots at a title. In 2018 when Romo is either retired or a shell of his former self I doubt we’d be bitching about Murray’s bloated contract if we had a ring somewhere in 2015-2017 to show for it. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in football and it isn’t just for run blocking so I expect Romo to have another great year and very possibly more MVP votes as his yards and attempts will go up, as will Dez Bryant’s catches and TDs, but the Cowboys were so successful last year due to their balance and their efficiency which I suspect will both take a hit in 2015. The reason they are my #2 most likely “secondary scenario” is because the offense might take a step back this year but the team overall might still be better due to the additions on defense of Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Sean Lee and Byron Jones. Last year the Cowboys best defensive end was Jeremy Mincey and is the reason why many point to their lack of a pass rush as the reason why the Packers beat them in the playoffs. This year Mincey might be their #4 DE as Randy Gregory has looked incredible in the preseason, Hardy is a Pro Bowler and is clearly their best DE and DeMarcus Lawrence has added weight and looks to be improved in his second year. To push your #1 DE down to #4 on the depth chart shows the kind of improvement the Cowboys have made this offseason and can be seen at LB as well with Anthony Hitchens being their 2nd best LB last year, Rolando McClain was clearly the best, yet might not even be starting once McClain comes back from suspension in Week 3. I see the Cowboys as a 12-4 team, winners of the NFC East and neck and neck with the Seahawks as the best team in the NFC. If the Cowboys make it out of the NFC it will be due to improvements on defense not offense as I think they will take a step back due to Murray’s departure. Nonetheless the Patriots just won a Super Bowl last year due to improvements on defense that took some of the load off Tom Brady’s shoulders so I still think the Cowboys have a legit shot at the title in 2015.

The Mad Scientist

Dance puppets dance!

Dance puppets dance!

There are few media commentators whom I treat their analysis like the gospel so it is interesting when three that I do (Troy Aikman, Kirk Herbstreit and Cris Collinsworth) wholeheartedly agree on a subject. In this case it is their opinion of Chip Kelly and the year they expect the Eagles to have in 2015. Aikman thinks Eagles QB Sam Bradford will be the MVP and, while I politely disagree, I do own him in both of my re-draft fantasy leagues as I do expect him to put up Top 7 QB type numbers. I understand Aikman’s opinion though as all you have to do is watch their 3rd preseason game where Bradford went 10-10 for 121 yards and 3 TDs in just one quarter of action, and against the Packers 1st team defense. When Kelly’s offense is in rhythm it is almost impossible to stop and I think his offseason of adding Murray, Ryan Matthews and Nelson Agholar in exchange for LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis is unique but has some underlying logic behind it. It’s funny to me how I will hear people say two things, both of which I agree with on their own yet together is nonsensical: “DeMarco led the NFL in touches last year. He’ll have a down year.” “Why would the Eagles sign Ryan Matthews? They already have 2 good running backs.” Yes I agree DeMarco will have a down year because the history of players coming off +350 touch seasons is not good….which is why they signed Ryan Matthews! Get it? No? Then leave this blog immediately. Yes? Okay good you can stay. Darren Sproles is 32 years old, Ryan Matthews is injury prone and DeMarco Murray was injury prone early in his career and is coming off a season where he was overused. It makes perfect sense to pair these guys together for the good of themselves as all three probably could use a non-workhorse back type situation in 2015. What intrigues me about Kelly is in the last 2 offseasons he’s gotten rid of 3 Pro Bowlers (DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis) as well as a solid starting CB (Cary Williams). What is the thread that ties those four players together? They all talk too much and have selfish, me first personalities. Now look at who he has brought in (Free Agents: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, Darren Sproles, Byron Maxwell, Connor Barwin. Draft Picks: Lane Johnson, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholar, Zach Ertz). All of these guys have the same thread as unselfish, hard working players. I mean the biggest discrepancy is going from DeSean Jackson to Jordan Matthews as Matthews was one of the squeakiest clean prospects I’ve ever graded and was replacing thug life Jackson. Of course the media made it out to be a racist thing which is ridiculous considering 6 of the 9 guys that I put on his additions list are black but it makes for a fun story and idiots like Jackson, McCoy and now Brandon Boykin continue to embarrass themselves by not letting the story die. Chip Kelly is an offensive guru and he knows what he wants. He wants a team of flexible, unselfish players who will do what they are told, leave their egos at home and work their asses off. He seems to have assembled it now as both his wide receivers have the speed to go deep and the size to run possession routes (flexibility) while also not being of the diva mentality prevalent in so many wideouts these days (unselfishness). His tackles both have the athleticism to play LT and be on an island themselves but also have the size and strength to play RT and dominate as run blockers (flexibility). His running backs all have the ability to be receivers out of the backfield and all have been in RB by committees before without complaint (flexibility and unselfishness). Let the media continue their brash talk of Chip Kelly, he just knows what he wants and seems to finally have it. Look out NFL, a team with no superstar player on it and with a half dozen interchangeable parts is coming at you with tempo. Good luck stopping it.

How good is Aaron Rodgers?

Yes I anointed this weirdo as the GOAT.

Yes I anointed this weirdo as the GOAT.

I’m of the opinion that Rodgers is currently playing the QB position better than anyone has ever played it and he will eventually go down as the greatest QB of All Time. Now that is a mighty big statement and it will require him to win a few more titles and MVPs awards, both of which could be thwarted by Andrew Luck who himself I suspect will go down as one of the 5 greatest QBs of All Time himself. Yet in all likelihood the Jordy Nelson injury has prevented Rodgers from adding either for the 2015 season as his defense is too mediocre for the Packers to go far without a Top 5 offense. What will interesting though for this season is the fact that Randall Cobb is injury prone and likely will miss a chunk of the season himself so at some point in 2015 he will be without his best two wideouts and will still have to carry a mediocre defense on his back. I fully expect him to succeed in this task and it’s why I rate Rodgers as the best QB in the NFL and why I rated Luck as the 2nd best for the past two years despite many QBs having better stats in that time frame. To me the elite QBs like Rodgers, Luck and Brady can win no matter what team you put around them. Peyton can’t win in cold weather, can’t win against good defenses and gets blown out every few years in the playoffs. Brees puts up huge stats against bad teams but often is mediocre against good teams and too often misses the playoffs. Russell Wilson has never had a bad team around him. Phillip Rivers and Romo put up great stats but just have too few playoff wins. For years Brady won with wideouts like Troy Brown, David Givens and Deion Branch. He never complained about Manning getting 1st round picks added to his offense every year and just dominated the Colts in the playoffs. No matter what team was around Brady it always ended with a division title and a trip to the AFC Conference Championship or Super Bowl. Yes he lost his fair share, usually because he was the less talented team, but he always kept his team in the hunt. Rodgers and Luck have taken over that mantle from Brady of, “Hit him a thousand times, injure his top option, double his second option (now 1st option) on every snap, have them down the entire game and you’re still expecting him to make a run in the 4th quarter.” I highly doubt the Packers season will end well as they just don’t look that good on paper but they still do have Rodgers so I suspect he will cobble together a Top 5 offense somehow and lead them to another division title. A division title means playoffs and at that point anything can happen because who really wants to face the best QB in the NFL in the playoffs?

Tertiary Options

Peyton: These young guys are getting good aren't they? Brady: I'm sorry I wasn't listening. I was just remembering beating the Seahawks in the Super Bowl one year after they utterly embarrassed you.

Peyton: These young guys are getting good aren’t they?
Brady: I’m sorry I wasn’t listening. I was just remembering beating the Seahawks in the Super Bowl one year after they utterly embarrassed you.

That is my base scenario (Luck’s coming out part) and my top 4 secondary options off that base case (Seahawks stay on top, Cowboys take another step, Chip Kelly solves the NFL riddle, and Aaron Rodgers doesn’t need a supporting cast). There are of course other options I haven’t mentioned and they all could come to fruition as well, though they are lower in likelihood. These are below and in order of their probability:

  1. One of the old guard quarterbacks, Brady/Manning, picks up one last title. Reality check: Brady’s defense to me lost too much this offseason (gave up 464 yds in season opener) and Manning just doesn’t have it anymore. It will be Manning’s last season and he will have a career low in many categories as they become a run oriented offense.
  2. Cardinals were 6-1 last year before Carson Palmer was hurt. A healthy Palmer combined with their defense finally pushes through. Reality check: A Palmer led offense has never been an elite one in the NFL and the Cardinals are a very good defense but not a Seahawks or Rams great defense.
  3. The Steelers had the NFL’s leading passer, leading receiver and second leading rusher. Their triplets creation will take another step this year and become the NFL’s top offense. Reality check: The Bell suspension, Bryant suspension and a defense that is too young and lacks talent in a lot of spots will all hold them back.
  4. The Ravens win a Super Bowl every blue moon and are never the favorites. Reality check: Flacco is still clutch so it could happen but it usually occurs on “down” years for the NFL and this year I see too many talented teams for a mid level team like the 2008 Giants or 2013 Ravens to steal a title.
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One Comment
  1. peter permalink

    This is a comment about the 2016 draft. I am curious about the big 4 receivers (Treadwell, Coleman, Doctson, Fuller)? Is Doctson the son of Jordan Matthews – not enough burst?

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