LOS ANGELES, September 7, 2016 — After seven agonizing months, the wait is finally over. The National Football League is back. The only thing left to do before watching every moment of every game is to predict what will happen. In predicting records, it involves more than just seeing a team and saying that they look like a 6-10 or 10-6 team. All 256 games must be looked at, since they are all individual contests.
The Raiders and Packers are not as good as their records will be, but they have fairly easy schedules. The Bengals and Chiefs are good teams with very tough schedules. With Buddy Ryan and Dennis Green smiling down on us from football heaven, here are the predictions for all 32 teams in the regular season and playoffs.
New England Patriots — Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games, but that will just make him mad. That is not good for the rest of the league. 12-4
New York Jets — They overachieved last year and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s lengthy holdout this offseason will not help matters. Expect them to regress back to the mean. 8-8
Buffalo Bills — We love Rex Ryan, but he just does not have the talent to compete with the elite teams. 7-9
Miami Dolphins — Adam Gase could turn out to be the second coming of Vince Lombardi, but the Dolphins inspire nobody. 2-14
Pittsburgh Steelers — Smashmouth Mike Tomlin football is back in the Steel City. Big Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and he has a running game. 11-5
Cincinnati Bengals — The Bengals have talented head cases, especially on defense. This year they have a brutal schedule. 8-8
Baltimore Ravens — Last year’s collapse was an aberration. John Harbaugh will return the Ravens back to elite status, but it will take one more year. 7-9
Cleveland Browns — The Browns are losers, but Hue Jackson is a winner. He will turn this team around and end the losing culture. He will just need two years to do it. 6-10
Houston Texans — Brock Ostweiler was given 72 million dollars, or about one million dollars for each pass he has completed. He has a defense, but this team will rise or fall on his play. 8-8
Indianapolis Colts — Andrew Luck was given offensive line help, and apparently the dysfunction between coach and general manager is over. Luck still needs more talent around him. 6-10
Jacksonville Jaguars — Blake Bortles always looks like he is about to break out, and then he does not. Until the Jaguars prove they can win, their potential improvement should invite skepticism. 5-11
Tennessee Titans — Marcus Mariota can play, but there is no evidence that Mike Mularkey can coach. After a 2-14 season, modest improvement is possible. 5-11
Oakland Raiders — After improving from 3-13 to 7-9, they became offseason darlings. Despite an unimpressive preseason, they have an easy schedule. Derek Carr and Khalil Mack are for real. 12-4
Denver Broncos — The defense may not be lights out like last year, but quarterback is a pure question mark. Peyton Manning’s retirement will not kill them like John Elway’s retirement did. 11-5
Kansas City Chiefs — They may be the most talented team in the division. Andy Reid is a winner at coach. A rock hard schedule and weak link quarterback Alex Smith means another playoff exit. 10-6
San Diego Chargers — Nobody knows if Mike McCoy can coach. Philip Rivers can still play, but he just does not have nearly enough help around him to stay competitive. 4-12
AFC Playoff seedings:
1) Patriots 12-4
2) Raiders 12-4
3) Steelers 11-5
4) Texans 8-8
5) Broncos 11-5
6) Chiefs 10-6
Wildcards: Chiefs at Steelers, Broncos at Texans
Divisionals: Steelers at Raiders, Broncos at Patriots
AFC Title Game: Steelers at Patriots
AFC Champion: Patriots
Barring any surprises, nobody will threaten the Patriots in the AFC. They are the only elite team in a fairly weak conference.
Dallas Cowboys — Even without Tony Romo, Dallas benefits from playing in the woeful NFC Least. If Dak Prescott is even half as good as advertised, Dallas can stagger to the division crown 9-7
New York Giants — Eli Manning just does not have enough help. Tom Coughlin knew how to motivate players. Nobody knows if Ben McAdoo can coach. 8-8
Washington Redskins — Washington severely overachieved last year. Either Jay Gruden really is that good, or reality will bring this team back down. 4-12
Philadelphia Eagles — Doug Pederson might not even know who Doug Pederson is. He coaches this team, and they are a mess. 4-12
Green Bay Packers — The Packers have been gift-wrapped an easy schedule. As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, this team will roll. 14-2
Minnesota Vikings — This team had Super Bowl potential until Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season. Mike Zimmer relies on smash mouth Adrian Peterson runs and hard-nose defense. 11-5
Detroit Lions — They finished 6-2 last year, and Jim Caldwell is a good coach. Martha Ford is off to a strong start as owner. The Lions would make the playoffs in most other divisions. 10-6
Chicago Bears — Jim Fox is a winner, but there is no evidence that Jay Cutler will ever get his head right. Matt Forte is gone and Brian Urlacher is retired. They may need 45 new players. 4-12
Carolina Panthers — They are not going 15-1 again. They lost lockdown corner Josh Norman. Cam Newton will want vindication after a bad Super Bowl, but Carolina has a tough schedule. 10-6
New Orleans Saints — This may be the swan song for Sean Payton and Drew Brees in the Big Easy. The salary cap has drained this team from its glory days, especially on defense. 8-8
Atlanta Falcons — Last year Atlanta started 5-0 before falling to 8-8. They have elite players, especially on offense. A tough schedule has them a year away before improving. 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Despite improving from 2-14 to 6-10, Lovie Smith was fired. This stunning move will delay further improvement, even with Jameis Winston looking good. 7-9
Arizona Cardinals — This team is on a mission. They are loaded at every position and Bruce Arians is willing to take the big risks. If Carson Palmer stays healthy, they can win it all. 13-3
Seattle Seahawks — As long as Pete Carroll is in charge and Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor lead the Legion of Boom, Seattle is dangerous. 12-4
Los Angeles Rams — Jeff Fisher has a ton of talent on defense, but Jared Goff will need time to develop. The Rams are one year away, and Fisher deserves that extra year. 8-8
San Francisco 49ers — Between Chip Kelly and Colin Kaepernick, what could possibly go wrong? This team is so bad that Blaine Gabbert leads it. If they win, Kelly is a genius. 4-12
NFC Playoff seedings
1) Packers 14-2
2) Cardinals 13-3
3) Panthers 10-6
4) Cowboys 9-7
5) Seahawks 12-4
6) Vikings 11-5
Wildcards: Vikings at Panthers, Seahawks at Cowboys
Divisionals: Panthers at Cardinals, Seahawks at Packers
NFC Title Game: Cardinals at Packers
NFC Champion: Cardinals
Green Bay will get revenge on Seattle for a couple years ago, but it will brutal. Picking warm-weather Arizona in the frozen tundra is dicey, but they have so many weapons. They are on a mission, and they have the right combination of talent and coaching to destroy everything in their path.
Super Bowl XL Champion: Arizona CardinalsClick here for reuse options!
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