Sunday, September 6, 2015

2015-2016 NFL Preview - AFC Regular Season Standings and Playoff Predictions

Will the New England Patriots Repeat As Super Bowl Champions?

So this is it! This is the week that the 2015 NFL season begins! All of the NFL teams have reloaded in the 2015 NFL Draft and Free Agency and now it's time to see which team can execute.  Tom Brady will NOT be missing the season as a judge ruled this week that the NFL cannot suspend him for his role in the "deflategate" scandal.  There will be no Tebow Time in Philadelphia as the controversial quarterback was cut.

Now the question is how will the teams finish off this season? Here are my predictions for each division:

AFC East Regular Season Predictions

1. New England Patriots - This team has definitely gotten worse at the secondary with the loss of Darrelle Revis. EVERY team in the AFC East has also gotten better in the offseason. However, with Tom Brady no longer being suspended and Bill Belichick still at the helm, I don't see how you NOT pick them to win the division.

2. Buffalo Bills - New coach and defensive mastermind Rex Ryan gets to inherit one of the best defenses in the NFL that has only gotten better. Defensive line is ferocious. Their offense has improved dramatically now that they have Shady McCoy at running back and Charles Clay at tight end. The biggest question with this team right now is at the Quarterback position. If Tyrod Taylor is for real, this team will absolutely challenge the Patriots for the division.

3. Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins also have improved dramatically, especially at the defense end. Ndamukong Suh is a PROBLEM and pairing him with Cameron Wake is just downright SCARY! I love the pickup of Jordan Cameron at tight end. If they were in another division I think they would have enough to make the playoffs. However, I think the Patriots and Bills are slightly better this year and as a result they are going to just barely miss out.

4. New York Jets - Geno Smith is out for the next 6 weeks, but I actually think Ryan Fitzpatrick is an upgrade for them. However, it's going to be the same old story for Jets fans. Good defense. Not good enough offense. I see them improving upon their 4 and 12 record, but BEST case scenario for this team is another 8-8 season and in reality, I see them more at 6 or 7 wins and missing out on the playoffs once again.

AFC North Regular Season Predictions

1. Pittsburgh Steelers - The AFC North to me is going to be the most competitive division, even more competitive than the AFC East. It's really hard to pick a division winner here as I see 3 of the 4 teams here with a legitimate shot. However, I'm going to go with the Steelers. I see a slow start due to all the suspensions and a young defense taking time to get it together. However, after that, I see them going on a run and that run will be enough to get them over the finish line.

2. Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals are very deep, no question about it. A.J Green is a beast! I love the backfield of Hill and Bernard. I see Dalton improving as well.  Their pass rush should also be a lot better this year than it was last year where they got pressure but couldn't sack to save their lives. I'm very concerned about their secondary though. With that said they will absolutely challenge the Steelers and it would not surprise me a bit if they actually beat the Steelers out for the division.

3. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens certainly have the talent to win the division. They have the best defense in the division no question about it. Joe Flacco is a legitimate quarterback and he definitely doesn't get the credit that I believe he deserves. Honestly the ONLY reason why I'm not picking them to win the division is their schedule. FIVE out of their first SEVEN games are on the road and in an ultra competitive division, that might be the difference.

4. Cleveland Browns - The biggest problem for them is at Quarterback. Josh McGown to me is not the answer and I don't know if Johnny Manziel is ready. I also don't see a whole lot of playmakers on this team. Combine that with competing in arguably the toughest division in the NFL and you have the makings for another disappointing year for Cleveland fans.

AFC South Regular Season Predictions

1. Indianapolis Colts - Who in their right mind is NOT picking the Colts to win this division? They have arguably the BEST Quarterback in the NFL right now in Andrew Luck. Then to add insult to injury they have provided him with EVEN MORE WEAPONS giving him Frank Gore and Andre Johnson??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Offensive line and run defense is still a concern but I see them winning the division easily even if they remain an issue. If they can address these gaps? It's going to be a special season.

2. Houston Texans - I like Bill O'brien as coach. The defense is going to be scary as always headed by JJ Watts who is a once in a generation kind of player at the defensive end and now they are getting Jadeveon Clowney back from injury on top of that??? Sheesh! DeAndre Hopkins is going to be even better now that he is the number one option. However, I don't think they have enough at Quarterback to get the job done and Arian Foster is going to be out at least a month, making running back an issue as well. It's going to be a rough September/Early October and that rough period will be enough to make the difference of them not winning the division and not making the playoffs. They do have an easy schedule so that should help.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - This is a young team with a lot of young talent. I like Blake Bortles. I think he can definitely improve in his second year. I also like T.J Yeldon at running back and Allen Robinson at the WR position. I think they are still another year away from competing but finishing .500 is certainly doable for this team.

4. Tennessee Titans - They still aren't going to be good at all, but they should get slightly better. How can you not get better when you only won 2 games last year? Their defense is definitely better and I think Marcus Mariota is the real deal. They will still lose more games than they win though.

AFC West Regular Season Predictions

1. Denver Broncos - It's likely the last year of the Peyton Manning era and the other teams in the division have most certainly gotten better. However, the Denver Broncos still have enough weapons to finish atop of the division this year. I really like Wade Phillips running the defense over there as well. They should have enough to be able to get the job done.

2. Kansas City Chiefs - Derrick Johnson is back and that makes this defense downright scary especially pairing him up with Justin Houston he of the 101 million dollar contract. Marcus Peters at cornerback could win rookie of the year this year. Alex Smith is respectable if not spectacular. Jamal Charles is an ANIMAL. They will challenge the Broncos but I believe they will fall slightly short unfortunately for them.

3. San Diego Chargers - Philip Rivers has a much better offensive line to work with this year. The problem is they have a very difficult schedule and they play in a very difficult division having to play the Broncos twice and the Chiefs twice AND on top of that they have to play the AFC North too??? I think that's a little too much to ask to expect this team to be able to make the leap.

4. Oakland Raiders - I like the young core that they have built around this year. I expect running back Latavius Murray to have a BIG year this year because I especially like that offensive line that they are working with. With that said, I just don't think the Raiders have enough talent yet to compete in this competitive division.

AFC Playoff Predictions

Division Winners

New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers
Indianapolis Colts
Denver Broncos

Wild Card Winners

Cincinnati Bengals
Buffalo Bills

AFC Championship

Indianapolis Colts defeat the New England Patriots

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