The answer is “Yes!” College football started this weekend, and the NFL starts on this coming Thursday! What have we been doing since last February?! If you answered like us, you likely can’t remember either outside of Conventions. Now though… we have Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and whatever day The League is on to celebrate America’s new past-time.
Anyways, being the professional sports analysts we are, we thought you couldn’t go into this season without reading what we thought of things – so here we go!
Because starting out simple is better, here’s how we think the divisions stack up:
- NFC North
- This division is set to be stacked this year with two teams in the top 10 (Packers, Bears) and the other two not so far behind… if Detroit ever gets their act together they could crack that ceiling, and Adrian Peterson is worth a top 20 ranking all by himself. With Rodgers, Cutler and Stafford – the NFC North is clearly the most talented at QB, and with all the other weapons these teams have on offense… Good luck to the rest of the league keeping up with them. I have no problem seeing two of the playoff teams in the NFC emerging from this division, I just hope my team (Da Bears!) beats out the Pack for the Division Title.
- NFC West
- I know I’ll probably take flak for this ranking, but even with top-ranked defending champion Seattle – they don’t have the power to be #1 as a division in my opinion: unfortunately St. Louis and Sam Bradford’s bum legs keep them down. Arguments were made in this ranking that San Fran could fall apart (I have them ranked around #5 as a team), and this division should be ranked below the following one – I just can’t make that jive in my mind either though; even if they did fall off – they’d have to fall off an awful lot to sink further. I, again, see two teams emerging from this division – and as long as Seattle beats Green Bay in week one I’m okay with Seattle being on top.
- AFC West
- Denver being in this division is the #1 reason for this ranking, in fact they do more than their part in making up for the Raiders. With two middle-of-the-road teams in San Diego and Kansas City this standing could change depending on how well they grow throughout the season. Denver should have no problem taking this division, and they spent some time and money making sure they were better on D this year than last. Bring it on Seattle.
- AFC North
- This is probably the division that showcases the NFL’s parity the best: I’m hard-pressed to separate Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Granted, they’ll all be at different points at the end of the season, but which team does well and which one falls apart – I couldn’t tell you. Will Dalton continue to grow? Will Baltimore regain its swagger from years past? Will Roethlisberger make it a season without going into the wrong bathroom? All questions that need to be answered. And all of that before we get to the one and only thing anybody really cares about from this division: WHEN WILL “JOHNNY FOOTBALL” PLAY?! Don’t know, but I can’t wait till he does! Here at the MoGT we’re split on whether he’ll succeed or not (I think he’ll do just fine), but we all want to see him take the field.
- NFC South
- Now we’re into no-man’s land – where a crop of mediocre teams and my unwillingness to dig any deeper than my fantasy football research requires me to suggest that both the southern divisions aren’t too far apart. The Saints should walk away with this division, and after that it’s one BIG?. The Panthers lost their receiving core, but have a great rookie in Kelvin Benjamin and the steady hands of Greg Olsen; Atlanta is all kinds of confusing to me these days; and the Bucs are led by a coach who couldn’t coach his way out of a wet paper sack and quarter-backed by a 34-year old perennial back-up – yeah, that’s a winning formula if ever I heard one.
- AFC South
- Indy is the creme of the crop here, but that’s not saying much when there’s a drought on and you haven’t had a decent harvest in a while. With another year under his belt, Luck should get this team to the playoffs easy. After that, let’s sit back and watch the grass grow or the rookies develop – it’s up to you. Tennessee is trying to turn into UW-midwest with Locker and Sankey, Jacksonville’s got some intriguing young talent in rookie QB Bortles and their receiving core, and Houston… I dunno, I just dunno. Two of these three teams should end up in the bottom five-six teams this year, I just won’t guess which ones.
- AFC East
- Here’s another division where the top dog should walk away with the playoff spot – dagnamit, these people made it easy for Tom Brady and The Cheater to get back into the race. After the Pats it’s a veritable crap-shoot (these last three divisions are paaaaainfully bad): with Miami, Buffalo, and the Jets making me want to cry. The Jets are bound to be terrible, Miami isn’t much better, and I’m trying to figure out who’s going to throw to rookie WR Sammy Watkins (I have absolutely no faith in EJ Manuel). The only thing I find redeeming in these three teams is that the Bills have a WSU alum on their roster (backup QB Jeff Tuel).
- NFC East
- Philly runs away with this like a “Chip Kelly college recruit runs from the scene of the crime”… allegedly that is. After that it’s another veritable who’s who of teams I don’t want to watch. It sounds like RG3 could be on his last legs in Washington, who do they have left in Dallas after Romo and Bryant?, and after the aerial display Eli Manning put up last year – I wouldn’t trust him in a game of catch.
My Playoff Picks
What would a season preview be without some predictions? A pretty bad preview – that’s what. So, in no particular order, here are the twelve teams I think make the playoffs this year – and the ultimate winner.
- San Francisco
- Green Bay
- New Orleans
- San Diego
- New England
- Green Bay vs. Denver
Well, I picked my team’s rival to go to the Superbowl – but it’s time for my dark horse teams!
- While some may argue that this is just a homer pick on my part, Da Bears are my NFC dark horse team. They’ve got all the weapons this year on offense that they did last year, it’s their second year in this offensive system (first time Cutler has been in the same system for more than one year since he came to Chicago), and a defense that should be better than last year’s. If there’s a team that could surprise more – I think this is the one that’s poised to do it.
- I believe in the ginger more than most people do, so I’m going to say Cincinnati is my AFC dark horse candidate. Dalton is right up there when it comes to young QBs, they’ve gotten better the past couple of years, and I think they may just be hungrier than some other teams. That makes them a dangerous team, and one I wouldn’t count out entirely until they’re eliminated.
Rookies To Watch
And lastly, every year we anxiously await the draft – one of the biggest sporting events in the US. And why? To see what teams pick up what young talent! Here are a few of the new faces we think you should keep an eye on this year – again, in no particular order.
- Brandin Cooks, WR – NO: What rookie WR wouldn’t love to play and learn with Drew Brees? With this kid’s talent, he could become a #1 that the Saints have been missing for years.
- Jadeveon Clowney, DL – HOU: He’s paired with J.J. Watt. This could be a dynamic duo that terrorizes quarterbacks for years to come.
- Blake Bortles, QB – JAX: He’s got talent, and the team has nothing to lose by throwing him on the field. Let’s see what kind of chemistry he can build with the young receiving core down there in Florida.
- Bishop Sankey, RB – TEN: Well, the team needed a running back and here he is. It’s probably both a good and a bad thing this team doesn’t have a good QB… at least if you drafted Sankey for your fantasy team… maybe. They could just stick 11 in the box every time – only time will tell.
- C.J. Mosley, LB – BAL: This kid is good. The way he sees the field and the way he hits – it’s great to see some talent back in the middle for the Ravens.
That’s it for us – how do you guys think the season is going to shake out? Let us know!
~ J.T. Riles ~