A Quick NFL Season Preview

Nick already shared the NFL Playoff Predictor earlier this week and I will roll out my predictions for the upcoming season, along with some thoughts about why I concluded that the teams would finish the way they would.

AFC East
New England 11-5 *
NY Jets 9-7
Buffalo 7-9
Miami 5-11

I have the Patriots going 3-1 to open the season because three of the games are at home against teams they should match up well against (the loss would be the opener against Arizona, a road loss). However, I see both the Jets and Bills beating the Pats in the division games they host, plus NE must travel to Pittsburgh and Seattle (I have those as losses, too). Meanwhie, the Jets get caught in a flood of 9-7 teams, as you will see as I go over the rest of my predictions.

AFC North
Pittsburgh 13-3 *
Cincinnati 11-5 *
Baltimore 9-7
Cleveland 2-14

The Steelers benefit from hosting games against the tougher teams on their schedule, while the Bengals have to go on the road for several of them, with the Broncos the only exception. I expect Baltimore to be improved now that everyone is healthy, but they’ll get caught in that flood of 9-7 teams I referred to earlier.

AFC South
Indianapolis 10-6 *
Jacksonville 9-7 *
Houston 9-7
Tennessee 1-15

The Colts should have enough to win the division again, with the Jaguars being the surprise team that slips into the playoffs, winning enough of the tiebreakers to get that sixth wild card spot. So, yes, I see the Texans with a winning record under Brock Osweiler, but losing on tiebreakers amid a flood of 9-7 teams.

AFC West
Denver 12-4 *
Oakland 9-7
Kansas City 8-8
San Diego 6-10

For the record, I have the Broncos losing road games to Cincinnati, New Orleans, Kansas City and Oakland (keep in mind the Broncos get to host Carolina, the toughest of the NFC South teams, but have to go to New Orleans, where the Saints usually play their better games). The Raiders I see as yet another team getting caught in a logjam for that final wild card berth, while I don’t think the Chiefs will be as good as people think. Losing Justin Houston for the first few games is going to be a serious blow to their pass rush and my philosophy is you need that more than quality cornerbacks in order for your defense to thrive.

NFC East
Dallas 10-6 *
NY Giants 7-9
Washington 7-9
Philadelphia 4-12

I think the Cowboys will get enough wins outside their division to claim it and overcome the 3-3 record I see them posting in the division. In fact, I have every NFC East team going 3-3, because I can see the Eagles sneaking out some division wins, but having trouble beating the teams outside the division.

NFC North
Green Bay 14-2 *
Minnesota 8-8
Detroit 6-10
Chicago 5-11

No, I don’t think getting Sam Bradford is going to put the Vikings back into playoff contention. Bradford just hasn’t shown me anything to demonstrate that he is an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater. While I don’t believe Bridgewater has hit his ceiling, I think Bradford has, and that’s an average-to-good quarterback who really needs a lot else to fall into place to excel. And I have a feeling that Adrian Peterson is about to decline… true, he played well last year, but keep in mind that he missed most of 2014 and thus had fewer rushing attempts going into 2015 than he might have had otherwise.

NFC South
Carolina 13-3 *
New Orleans 9-7 *
Atlanta 7-9
Tampa Bay 4-12

I don’t believe the Panthers fall off the face of the earth because their division isn’t that good. I do expect the Saints to hand them a loss in New Orleans and that the Broncos will beat them, but they get Kansas City at home and I’m not sure Oakland matches up well against Carolina. Remember that the Panthers still have their pass rush intact and that can help overcome the issues they may have in the secondary. The only thing I don’t see the Panthers duplicating is the amount of interceptions they had last season.

NFC West
Seattle 12-4 *
Arizona 10-6 *
Los Angeles 8-8
San Francisco 1-15

I think Arizona is about to regress this season, because I wonder if Carson Palmer may be declining. There is enough talent for the Cardinals to get into a wild card berth, plus they are coached well. But the Seahawks are in good position to regain the division because their defense remains mostly intact and I think Russell Wilson is only going to keep improving.

And that brings us to my projected playoff brackets.

AFC Wild Card
Indianapolis over Cincinnati
New England over Jacksonville

NFC Wild Card
Dallas over Arizona
Seattle over New Orleans (UPDATE 9/7/16: I originally listed New Orleans over Seattle, but that was wrong. As you’ll see below, I had Seattle against Green Bay in the divisional round.)

AFC Divisional Round
Denver over Indianapolis
Pittsburgh over New England

NFC Divisional Round
Green Bay over Seattle
Carolina over Dallas

Conference Championships
Pittsburgh over Denver
Green Bay over Carolina

Super Bowl 51
Green Bay over Pittsburgh

No, I don’t see the Broncos running the table this time around. They would get the No. 2 seed under my predictions and the Steelers will be a tough team to beat at their place. As far as picking Green Bay goes, I’m not a fan of it not just because I want to see the Broncos win, but because I don’t trust Mike McCarthy, who seems to coach not to lose in the playoffs. But I like Aaron Rodgers and want to see him get another ring, so I’ll put my faith in the Packers for the time being.

At any rate, you can review my season predictions here to get an idea about how I picked the games.

Tomorrow, I’ll have another feature that I have been working on this afternoon that I think you’ll have some fun with.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.