2016 NFL Preview: Post Season

Week one of the NFL season is in the books and it has left a lot of fans with either a good taste in their mouths or a very bitter one.  Wins and losses are important, but some wins (take the 49ers) are less telling than some losses (the Jets) were in week one about a team and its chances to win it all.  To help muddle through that confusion, take a look at my picks through out the 2016 postseason.  Note: This was created before the week one games began.  The picks are still the same, but some commentary has been added to address some week one information.

AFC seeding: #1 Patriots #2 Bengals #3 Chiefs #4 Texans #5 Jets #6 Ravens

Wild Card round: Chiefs defeat the Ravens, Jets drop the ball against the Texans.
Kansas City has such a strong defensive front and an offense that can do just enough, akin to the two Super Bowl winning teams of the past for the Ravens.  Baltimore will give a fight and will look vastly improved from last season, but the Chiefs defense will fluster Flacco in the fourth quarter, causing a costly interception that will be the difference-maker in this low scoring affair, KC winning 17-10.  Additional: Kansas City showed how much of a leader QB Alex Smith can be and how he can change a game in his performace againt the Chargers.  Add in RB Jamaal Charles and put LB Justin Houston back for the Chiefs, and this team will be prime for a stretch run.

The Texans will look to reverse their playoff woes with a first round win against the Jets and the combination of the new, high powered passing game that has been augmented by rookie WR Will Fuller.  The Jets defensive front seven is imposing and will not make life easy for the Texans, but the strength of the running game will help keep things off balance enough to expose the secondary that the Jets are putting out there.  Texans win 27-17.  Additional: The Jets showed exactly what I am talking about in the game against the Bengals on Sunday.  They looked so strong and the front seven caused havoc, but the defense was kept off-balance enough by a strong passing and running game combination that the secondary was exposed by WR AJ Green.  The Texans, however, got past the early hiccups and poured it on the Bears.

Divisional Round: Patriots out-last the Texans, Chiefs stay hot against the Bengals.
KC keeps the pressure on Dalton but the strength of the CB play allows the rush more time to pass through the Bengals offensive line.  Cincinnati is opportunistic, however, and will not just allow the Chiefs a chance to walk right through, but will cause short drives and limit the down-field passing by Smith.  He will have to play smart and use his legs, something he is quite capable of doing.  KC wins another close one, 23-20.  Additional: Bengals allowed many sacks against the Jets and the overall defense of KC is stronger than that of New York, especially in the secondary.  Watch for KC to keep the pressure up on QB Andy Dalton often.

New England will be ready for this Texans team after the regular season battle and will be ready for anything new added in to the mix.  And while the Texans have the opportunity to face the Patriots without QB Tom Brady in the regular season, they will most likely not have the luxury of that in the playoffs.  Brady will face a test from the tenacious DE JJ Watt, but he will find a way to work around his play and continue his post-season success.  Patriots win, 28-20.

AFC Championship: Chiefs will want to stick with what got them this far, a heavy rush defense and man-to-man work with the secondary.  The Patriots will keep doing what they do, making changes up front on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, making this a long chess match.  If there is a team that can work well in that situation, it is the Chiefs with coach Andy Reid and Smith helping to make adjustments.  And with the multi-dimensional running attack that the Chiefs run, it will allow KC to work the offense around the Patriots defense.  KC keeps it close, tight, and the game moves quickly as this game comes down to which team slips up first, and I think that the Patriots defense will slip first, allowing a game-winning FG drive for the Chiefs to win 20-17.

NFC seeding: #1 Panthers #2 Cardinals #3 Giants #4 Packers #5 Seahawks #6 Buccaneers

Wild Card round: Buccaneers power past the Giants, Seahawks knock off the Packers
Tampa Bay is a hotter team than many give them credit for and have a very balanced offense.  The bigger question is if the defense can stick with a top-tier WR threat like OBJ.  My thinking is yes, it can.  Tampa Bay runs away with this one, 31-17.  Additional: The way the Buccaneers handled the Falcons and WR Julio Jones proves my point.  Yes, a top WR will get his plays, and that is to be expected, but the rest of the defense will hold as the offense marches on.

The Seahawks have a questionable offensive line, but the Packers defense is not one for a heavy pass rush and has its faults.  And the Packers offensive line is not a top-five unit, either.  The opportunistic defense will cover up for a slow offensive start for the Seahawks and keep QB Aaron Rodgers off-kilter through out the game.  Additional: QB Russell Wilson’s ankle is worth keeping an eye on, but the offensive line woes for Seattle were highlighted by the pressure given to the Seahawks by the Dolphins offensive line.  Luckily, the defense is strong enough to keep the team in the game.

Divisional round: Cardinals outlast the Seahawks, Buccaneers shock the Panthers.
The Cardinals and Seahawks battle has been almost as fierce as the Seahawks/49ers battle was a handful of years ago and it says a lot about the Seahawks that they have been able to be so prominent over the years.  The new defensive rush, however, will give the Seahawks patch-work offensive line issues in this game and the secondary has the ability to stick with the Seahawks faster WRs while Wilson scrambles to try to make more time.  Meanwhile, the multi-headed offense that the Cardinals have will find the chinks in the armor of the Seahawks defense to win 14-10.  Additional: The Cardinals did not look as explosive against the Patriots on Sunday night.  If the team cannot fix the bugs, it will be a swift exit for Arizonia.

The Panthers will not be as dominant going in to the playoffs as last years squad was and the Buccaneers will take advantage of that.  The biggest edge will be the younger Buccaneers secondary, being able to once again limit an imposing passing game and keeping QB Cam Newton from extending plays.  The defensive line in Tampa Bay has the ability to do so; push the pocket smaller and smaller and keep Newton from bouncing outside.  Tampa Bay 21 Panthers 17.  Additional: The Panthers have a great new addition to the passing game in WR Kelvin Benjamin, but the defense looked a bit choppy, especially with RB CJ Anderson making a lot of passing plays, something the Buccaneers can do with RB Chris Simms.

Championship round: Cardinals use home-field advantage and a complete defense to be the team that ends the Buccaneers surprising run.  Tampa is not dormant in this game it lays the ground work for a pretty successful next few years, but the overall team inexperience in such a high pressure match-up wears down and a few mental mistakes cause Tampa Bay the game.  Cardinals move on, 28-24.

Superbowl: A Cardinals/Chiefs match-up promises to be an exciting one and one that might come down to another final drive.  The Cardinals will look to open it up downfield if the offensive line will give QB Carson Palmer time while the Chiefs will look to keep the score close and the passes small and underneath.  The Cardinals offense breaks through while forcing Smith to try to open the field, something that is not much of his forte.  Arizona gets its Super Bowl win, 27-17.

Additional, random thoughts: Saints and Browns look to compete for the first overall pick.  I know that is a surprise to say about New Orleans, but the defense really is that bad…  But I still expect Cleveland to be on the clock come the end of the regular season.

I know how popular it is to pick a QB to win MVP, and that is usually the case as the last non-QB to win it was RB Adrian Peterson in 2012 and before him was LaDainian Tomlinson back in 2006, and the last non-QB or RB to win it was in 1986 when LB Lawrence Taylor won the award.  But I have a feeling that this will be the first time a WR wins the award when Steelers Antonio Brown wins it.  Especially if he is able to put up 100 yards per game, no matter the supporting cast around him, and even more so if QB Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt and has to miss more games than he did last season.

I quite enjoyed some of the defensive play in week one, but the Vikings defense looked phenomenal.  Forcing turnovers and making defensive scores at an impressive clip.  Granted it was against the Titans, but if the Vikings defense can continue to be so stout and ball-hungry, it could be enough to compel Minnesota past Green Bay in the NFC North.


2016 NFL Preview: AFC North

With the 2016 NFL season getting ready to kick off tonight, many fans are still wondering who will win the division and make the playoffs.  Others are just wondering how well their favorite team will do.  Well, here is another outlet for the plethora of NFL fans in the world, looking for words on their favorite teams.  For those who are unfamiliar with my previews, here’s how it goes.  I give a blurb about each team, alphabetically, and then I give my prediction on how the division will look and the win-loss record.  I’ll do a final one with post-season berths and my Super Bowl predictions.  Up next is the AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals had a lot of players hit free agency this off-season and Cincinnati went after the players they thought were needed most for the team to continue to thrive in the AFC.  The Bengals resigned CB Adam Jones, SS George Iloka, LB Vincent Rey, among others, while allowing a handful of players walk with the bigger names being FS Reggie Nelson, WRs Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and OT Andre Smith.  The Bengals have depth at both the offensive line and the secondary to not be very concerned about the players who left, and drafted WR Tyler Boyd to replace Jones and Sanu.  Cincinnati also added more secondary depth by drafting CB William Jackson III in the first round and ILB depth with the third round pick of Nick Vigil.  The Bengals still have strength in the trenches, depth in the secondary, and impressive playmakers on offense, but are going to have to replace production from TE Tyler Eifert and limit the personal fouls/bonehead moves that sunk the team against the Steelers in the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns chose to not draft a QB with the second overall pick, but rather to trade back, many times, to stockpile picks, giving Cleveland 14 total picks with five of them coming in the first three rounds, as well as extra picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.  Cleveland did allow some higher profile players to walk away in free agency; WR Travis Benjamin, FS Tashaun Gipson, LB Karlos Dansby, C Alex Mack, and OT Mitchell Schwartz, to name a few, while the Cleveland signings were all pretty low-key sans the deal with QB Robert Griffin III.  Cleveland was also a team devoid of offensive talent last season, so the Browns spent five draft picks on WRs, including the first round pick of Corey Coleman.  Cleveland will also get WR Josh Gordon back after the fourth week of the regular season but until then, Cleveland is gong with the rookie Coleman and Terrelle Pryor as the top WRs.  The defense… is kind of a mess outside of Joe Haden.  And the new offensive line could be an issue for RG3 in his season with the Browns.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens were a team beset with injuries last year, helping the Ravens to fall to a low record and great draft slot that was used to help the offensive line that lost top OG Kelechi Osemele by drafting OT Ronnie Stanley, who is expected to be the week one starter for the Ravens.  The Ravens acquired a deep threat that was lost when WR Torrey Smith left last season to go to SanFran by signing WR Mike Wallace, and also won the sweepstakes for FS Eric Weddle to add to a defense that was already pretty strong, but will be without Matt Elam until his knee injury has healed.  The Ravens are looking for health this season; ravaged by injuries to almost all key players on the team last season, Baltimore is hoping the a healthy year combined with the new, young players added into the mix will help this team contend with the top of the AFC.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh has a big of a grey cloud over it right now in the NFL; because of the offensive potential with WR Antonio Brown, RB LeVeon Bell, and QB Ben Roethlisberger, many expect the Steelers to be a Super Bowl contending team.  And the offense, despite the setbacks with suspensions (Bell for three games, WR Martavis Bryant for the whole season), has the ability to be a top five offense in the NFL.  Health, however, is also a factor as Ben and RB DeAngelo Williams do not have age on their side, and Ben and Bell have both proven to be injury prone.  Not to mention the health problems with the only big free agent signing  of TE Ladarius Green with his ankle and concussion issues putting him on the PUP list to start the regular season.  The defense is also a bit suspect; the Nose Tackle position is unknown and that is, arguably, the most important position of a 3-4 defense.  The LB core got hit before the season stated when OLB Bud Dupree was placed on the IR, and the Steelers secondary is still arguably one of the worst in the NFL.  This will not be the “Steelers of old” where defense was supreme and games were won in low scoring affairs, but a team that may play in a lot of shootouts where no lead may feel very secure.

Cincinnati Bengals: 12-4
Baltimore Ravens: 10-6
Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7
Cleveland Browns: 3-13

2016 NFL Preview: AFC East

With the 2016 NFL season getting ready to kick off, many fans are wondering who will win the division and make the playoffs.  Others are just wondering how well their favorite team will do.  Well, here is another outlet for the plethora of NFL fans in the world, looking for words on their favorite teams.  For those who are unfamiliar with my previews, here’s how it goes.  I give a blurb about each team, alphabetically, and then I give my prediction on how the division will look and the win-loss record.  I’ll do a final one with post-season berths and my Super Bowl predictions.  Up next is the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills:  The Bills were looking to upgrade on defense and… well it was a rough go-at-it this off-season.  Buffalo lost the aging DE Mario Williams to division rival Miami and drafted his replacement Shaq Lawson, who has been placed on the PUP list and will not play until at least week six.  Also, DT Marcell Dareus has been suspended for the first four games, and three line backers and a defensive back are all on the reserve/injured list, and also missing from last year’s squad is OLB Nigel Bradham and CB Leodis McKelvin; all of this really hits the team depth.  The offense is very similar to the squad that took the field last season and I am sure that the Bills would love to have a better year from WR Robert Woods and a healthy season from WR Sammy Watkins.

Miami Dolphins: Miami is expecting the offense to bounce back around new RB Arian Foster, and the incumbent WRs Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, and DeVante Parker as the Dolphins were content to allow WR Rishard Matthews and RB Lamarr Miller leave via free agency.  Other notables gone from Miami on the defensive side of the ball are DE Olivier Vernon, DE Derrick Shelby, and CB Brent Grimes.  Miami did bring in the aforementioned Williams, LB Kiko Alonso, and CB Byron Maxell in off-season moves, but on paper it looks like all Miami did was either get older or more injury prone, or both, for the offense and the defense.  The first round drafting of Laremy Tunsil was a boon for the Miami offensive line after his slide down the board due to a marijuana smoking video that was made viral right before the draft.

New York Jets: The Jets lost a big NT when Damon Harrison left for the cross-state rivals and got hit in the running back department when Chris Ivory left for JAX, but both positions were swiftly filled by the signings of RB Matt Forte, DT Steve McLendon, and DE Jarivs Jenkins.  New York was also able to get Muhammad Wilkerson to stay in town to pair with Sheldon Richardson (after his one game suspension for drag racing expires) to help create an imposing 3-4 defensive line for the next handful of years.  The linebacking core needed some help this off-season, however, but the Jets addressed that by taking linebackers in the first and third round of the draft this year.  The offense was saved by the Jets and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick meeting in the middle for a new contract, but the offensive line took a hit by the retirment of d’Brickashaw Ferguson, prompting New York to buy low on OT Ryan Clady, in hopes that he can bounce back to his level of play in the past years with Denver.

New England Patriots: In true New England fashion, the Patriots kept mainly quiet on the free agent market, the biggest signing being DT Terrance Knighton, who was cut after the third pre-season game.  The biggest move, however, was possibly bringing in TE Martellus Bennett to pair with TE Rob Gronkowski.  The offensive line was a focus this off-season, as illustrated by the trade of OLB Chandler Jones to the Cardinals for OG Jonathan Cooper, but the O-line was already hit when the team had to place OT Sebastian Vollmer and OG Tre Jackson on the PUP list to start the season.  New England is hoping a handful of cast-aways from other teams (like DE Chris Long and OLB Jabaal Sheard) can help smooth over the defense since the Patriots did not have a first round draft pick this past season.  Oh, and who can forget that QB Tom Brady will be missing the first four games.  Probably no one…  Although, when he comes back, he might just set the world on fire once more; it will be interesting to watch.

Patriots: 12-4
Jets: 11-5
Bills: 6-10
Dolphins: 5-11

2016 NFL Preview: AFC South

With the 2016 NFL season getting ready to kick off, many fans are wondering who will win the division and make the playoffs.  Others are just wondering how well their favorite team will do.  Well, here is another outlet for the plethora of NFL fans in the world, looking for words on their favorite teams.  For those who are unfamiliar with my previews, here’s how it goes.  I give a blurb about each team, alphabetically, and then I give my prediction on how the division will look and the win-loss record.  I’ll do a final one with post-season berths and my Super Bowl predictions.  Up next is the AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts: A team that struggled mightily on the offensive line did not address that need via the free agent market, but instead through the draft.  Four of the Colts nine picks were on the offensive line, including the first and third rounds.  Offensive line needs were big as the Jaguars worked hard to upgrade the front seven and the Texans have J. J. Watt.  The upgraded offensive line and the hopes of QB Andrew Luck staying healthy all season and a return to form from RB Frank Gore, has the Colts thinking that the offense will once again be one of the more prolific ones in the NFL.  The defense, however, still looks to be one of the more problematic of the NFL, but adding CB Patrick Robinson was a nice touch.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars did not waste any time tying to improve through the free agent market, adding many players but none bigger than DE Malik Jackson.  Just like Oakland this season and Philly in the past, having an amazing shopping spree on the free agent market does not always equal to wins.  The offensive line looks shaky for Jacksonville and heavy pressure will not allow QB Blake Bortles to throw to his plethora of targets including, but not limited to, WRs Allen Robinson and Allen Hurnes, TE Julius Thomas, and RBs T. J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory.  The Jaguars also addressed the defense via the draft with all but one pick of the seven total owned being used on a defensive player.  Jacksonville is also taking a gamble on Myles Jack in hopes that his injury past will not harm him and also the Jaguars are hoping that last year’s first round pick of Dante Fowler Jr. is able to play to the elite level that the team was expecting before he tore his ACL last year.

Houston Texans: Hoping to win a division title and not be destroyed in the first round of the playoffs, the Texans hit hard both the draft and the free agent market to bring in assets to the uninspiring offense from last season  RB Lamar Miller and QB Brock Osweiler were the big names signed but the Texans also signed two offensive linemen for depth, drafted two wide receivers in the first and third rounds, and a center in the second round.  Houston is looking to improve the passing game that centered around WR DeAndre Hopkins, have more health and consistency from the running game, and continue to have a dominant defense around DE J. J. Watt.

Tennessee Titans: Had a more quiet off-season when compared to the Texans and Jaguars, but did make a big splash by trading with Philly for RB DeMarco Murray and drafting back in the draft, off of is number one pick slot, using the vast bounty of picks (10 picks total, five in the first three rounds) to add to many aspects of the team.  The offensive line got a first round draft boost in OT Jack Conklin and a new number 1 WR was brought in via free agency in Rishard Matthews.  The defense was mostly left alone when it came to starters, but depth was added due to the plethora of picks that the Titans held this year.

Texans: 10-6
Jaguars: 8-8
Colts: 7-9
Titans: 5-11

2016 NFL Preview: AFC West

With the 2016 NFL season getting ready to kick off, many fans are wondering who will win the division and make the playoffs.  Others are just wondering how well their favorite team will do.  Well, here is another outlet for the plethora of NFL fans in the world, looking for words on their favorite teams.  For those who are unfamiliar with my previews, here’s how it goes.  I give a blurb about each team, alphabetically, and then I give my prediction on how the division will look and the win-loss record.  I’ll do a final one with post-season berths and my Super Bowl predictions.  Up next is the AFC West:

Denver Broncos: This team got hit harder than most Super Bowl champions do the following off-season, losing nine players to free agency, two of them rated in the top 10 by NFL.com, five of them rated in the top 100.  Those five players are: SS David Bruton (97), G Evan Mathis (61), QB Brock Osweier (13),ILB  Danny Trevathan (9), and DE Malik Jackson (1).  Yes, the team was able to keep Von Miller under wraps, but the defense took a hit in free agency, even more so when you consider how injury prone OLB DeMarcus Ware is at this stage of his career.  The offense added T Russell Okung to help the line but it is pretty much the same as last year… except for the fact that the Broncos are starting a QB with no NFL experience in Trevor Siemian.  While the job for the long-term future looks to belong to Paxton Lynch, it will still be hard for the Broncos to improve on a pretty lackluster offense this year.  One asset for the young Denver QBs is the plethora of targets in Denver with Demaryius Thomas (if he can keep the drops down this season), Emmanuel Sanders, and RB C.J. Anderson.

San Diego Chargers: One of the biggest issues for the Chargers in 2015 was the lack of health on the offensive line.  The Chargers did not do much to address that; the only two moves for the offensive line was the third round drafting of C Max Tuerk and seventh round OG Donavon Clark.  San Diego did spend some off-season time working on the defense, drafting DE Joey Bosa third overall (messy contract talks non-withstanding), and bringing in CB Casey Heyward to try to help offset the loss of SS Eric Weddle and also signed DT Brandon Membrane to attempt to bring more pressure off the line.  The Chargers also did not waste much time replacing TE Ladarius Green by drafting TE Hunter Henry in the second round, nor was much time wasted in finding a new number two WR when San Diego brought in Travis Benjamin.  A bounce back year from the defense, offensive line, and RB Melvin Gordon will go a long way if San Diego hopes to make the playoffs this year, but just by staying healthy this team should stick in the race through the season.

Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City did most of its off-season work by trying to keep key defensive players in house, making the biggest loss for KC being the Raiders snatching up CB Sean Smith.  The Chiefs then drafted Keivarae Russell in the second round, after shoring up the defensive line depth with the first round draft of DT Chris Jones, to add to some impressive depth in the secondary.  The biggest worries for KC will be if the team can stay healthy, mainly LB Justin Houston (he will not play until at least week six) and RB Jamaal Charles, and if the passing game can evolve despite not really having a third pass catcher after WR Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce.

Oakland Raiders: Oakland was one of the biggest and flashy-est teams this off-season when the team signed ILB Bruce Irving, CB Smith, and FS Reggie Nelson to shore up the defense, and brought in OG Kelechi Osemele for the front line.  Oakland also went defense heavy in the first three rounds of the draft, using all three picks to add to the defense, one in the secondary and two on defensive ends.  Oakland was looking for playmakers to put out on the field aside from Khalil Mack and brought in a good handful, while adding to the offense in a way that the team thinks will help QB Derek Carr evolve with WR Amari Cooper and RB Latavius Murray.  Being flashy in the off-season, however, does not always translate into wins.  Just ask the Eagles…

Kansas City Chiefs: 11-5
Oakland Raiders: 9-7
San Diego Chargers: 8-8
Denver Broncos: 7-9

2016 NFL Preview: NFC West

With the 2016 NFL season getting ready to kick off, many fans are wondering who will win the division and make the playoffs.  Others are just wondering how well their favorite team will do.  Well, here is another outlet for the plethora of NFL fans in the world, looking for words on their favorite teams.  For those who are unfamiliar with my previews, here’s how it goes.  I give a blurb about each team, alphabetically, and then I give my prediction on how the division will look and the win-loss record.  I’ll do a final one with post-season berths and my Super Bowl predictions.  Up next is the NFC West:

Arizona Cardinals: A team with a small free agent signing class (only two: G Evan Mathis and DB Tyvon Branch) but a huge trade to bring OLB Chandler Jones to the defensive front that struggled to bring a lot of pressure last season.  Add him to the drafting of DT Robert Nkemdiche and the healthy return of Tyrann Mathieu, and the Cardinals defense looks to be stout.  I will say this, it does have a little bit of a depth issue in the secondary, especially at CB.  The offense is strong with depth at both the WR and RB positions and a strong offensive line.  If QB Carson Palmer can stay healthy and he is able to milk a little bit of production out of the TE position, the Cardinals will make a deep run.

San Francisco 49ers: SanFran had a rough season last year and I do not think it will get all too much better this year.  There should a be a little more coming out of the RB position now that Carlos Hyde has a season under his belt, but for a team needing change after last season, the 49ers were pretty uneventful this off-season.  The defense is a bit of a mess outside of Navarro Bowman and the offense is hoping that something clicks that was unable to do so.  And let us not forget the attention that is going to be dogging the team all season long due to the stance that Colin Kapernick is taking and his way of doing so, no mater if you support it or not (a topic I will not disclose my opinion of on this post).  I will say this, though, I am interested in seeing if DE DeForest Buckner can be successful on this team.

Los Angeles Rams: A team with one of the strongest defensive lines and one of the strongest front sevens in the NFL lost two members of an already weak secondary in Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod and did not do too much to replace them.  Pressure from the high powered front seven will help, but it is not going to prevent the secondary from being exposed.  And I know that the Rams really wanted to draft the next franchise QB in Jared Goff, but the Rams then did not draft again till the fourth round in the draft (slot 12) and that has really weakened the depth of the team.  The receiving core is weak outside of Tavon Austin who, while is fast and looked impressive at the end of the season, is better suited to be a number two guy.  And without having a first round pick in 2017, it will not help the Rams much to be a bad team as it hinders a swift rebuild.

Seattle Seahawks: None of the NFC West teams were overly active this off-season and the Seahawks flurry of smaller moves lead the pack, but the Seahawks focused more on the draft to make the team strong, having 10 total picks with five of them being in the 3rd round or earlier.  Seattle is looking to expand the passing game after having Doug Baldwin break out at the end of last season as well as hoping that Jimmy Graham (who, oddly enough, is listed 4th on the team’s official depth chart, as is RB Thomas Rawls) can come back from his injury and down season last year and be the big asset that the Seahawks traded for.  The offensive line got a boost from the team’s first round draft pick of OT Germain Ifedi, but this line started to crack last season and the same thing could happen again in 2016.   The defense is strong and is a great combination of youth and veterans, especially on the defensive line.  It may not be as daunting as it once was and may no longer be the number one NFL defense, but it still is a very powerful group.

Cardinals: 13-3
Seahawks: 11-5
Rams: 7-9
49ers: 3-13

2016 NFL Preview: NFC South

With the 2016 NFL season getting ready to kick off, many fans are wondering who will win the division and make the playoffs.  Others are just wondering how well their favorite team will do.  Well, here is another outlet for the plethora of NFL fans in the world, looking for words on their favorite teams.  For those who are unfamiliar with my previews, here’s how it goes.  I give a blurb about each team, alphabetically, and then I give my prediction on how the division will look and the win-loss record.  I’ll do a final one with post-season berths and my Super Bowl predictions.  Up next is the NFC South:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers kept the offense pretty much intact last season, adding G J.R. Sweezy as the only big move this off-season, to try to keep it as similar as possible for QB Jameis Winston as he continues to grow from his 2015 season, that did end in a impressive fashion.  The defense did see a plethora of players added to it as the team drafted CB Vernon Hargreaves III and OLB Noah Spence and signed DE Robert Ayers and CB Brett Grimes to help shore up some weak spots from last season.  I expect the offense to take a step forward in Tampa and the defense, still being led an imposing duo of DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte Davis, has a chance to turn some heads this season.

Atlanta Falcons: A team of inconsistency last season that did not ignore that fact this off-season by bringing in C Alex Mack, DE Derrick Shelby, WR Mohammad Sanu, and OLB Courtney Upshaw, along with others in a flurry of off-season activity while not losing too much.  Sanu’s contract was big and slightly worrisome, but WR Julio Jones is there to take some pressure off and it will not be very hard to surpass the production, or lack there of, from Roddy White last season.  Atlanta did not have many draft picks, but three of the first four picks were used to help upgrade the defense for the Falcons that was a weakness last season.  The biggest worry is if the Falcons are going to be able to over come the inconsistency that plagued the team last season, something that could be an issue that runs higher than the free agents, but into the QB and coaching territory.

Carolina Panthers: Another team that had the biggest move for it come from a return from injury and not a signing in Kelvin Benjamin’s return from his own injury.  Obviously, the Panthers made it pretty far without him but Benjamin could help the offense evolve as the passing core last year was almost scratched together, or it could make the offense take a step back as last year it was planned around not having Benjamin and his skill-set, as weird as this will sound, may not fit.  The Panthers only lost one big name in the Josh Norman events, but Carolina seems pretty ready to replace him after using its second, third, and fifth round draft picks all on CBs.  This is a strong defensive unit without Norman and the off-season moves, what few there were, were geared towards adding depth as the Panthers drafted a DT in the first round and signed another one earlier in the off-season.

New Orleans Saints: This teams has been needing defense help since it won a Super Bowl and while the Saints brought in DT Nick Fairley and MLB James Laurinaitis while also drafting three defensive players out of five draft picks (two of them being defensive tackles), the defense is still very weak.  Cameron Jordan is the only other imposing player on the front seven and the secondary had to cut away Keenan Lewis who, while has talent, is one of the most injury prone players in the league right now.  The offense will put up points, there is no denying that fact, but the Saints are going to struggle stopping anything stronger than a nosebleed.  And if the offense stumbles in any way, it will be hard for Saints fans to watch, even more so if it causes QB Drew Brees to want to leave to find a team that is closer to winning.

Panthers: 13-3
Buccaneers: 10-6
Falcons: 7-9
Saints: 3-13

2016 NFL Preview: NFC East

With the 2016 NFL season getting ready to kick off, many fans are wondering who will win the division and make the playoffs.  Others are just wondering how well their favorite team will do.  Well, here is another outlet for the plethora of NFL fans in the world, looking for words on their favorite teams.  For those who are unfamiliar with my previews, here’s how it goes.  I give a blurb about each team, alphabetically, and then I give my prediction on how the division will look and the win-loss record.  I’ll do a final one with post-season berths and my Super Bowl predictions.  Up next is the NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys: Dallas had a pretty quiet off-season, mainly keeping players in house and using the draft to bring in some needed pieces, mainly RB Ezekiel Elliott from the first round and OLB Jaylon Smith in the second, depending on how he can come back from his knee injury.  The defense is going to need whatever it can get from Smith after already losing Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory to drug suspensions as well as a question mark from the very talented, but oft-injured, LB Sean Lee.  The offense is already off to a shaky start as Tony Romo may not be an impact player for the Cowboys yet again.  The offensive line in Dallas is strong, but it seems to be a better rushing O-line than a pass-blocking one.  Rookie QB Dak Prescott may not have to do all too much thanks to the Cowboys running game, but it also makes the offense a bit one-dimensional.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles did not add a pass catcher in the draft, but brought in WRs Ruben Randell and Chris Givens via free agency as well as trading for the wild-card that Dorial Green-Beckham (DGB).  If Carson Wentz works well with DGB and Jordan Matthews, it could set up a nice, long-term offensive connection that will help the Eagles be successful in the NFC East.  Not to forget that the Eagles are expecting bigger numbers out of second year WR Nelson Agholor.  On the defensive side of the ball, well every year I want to believe that the Eagles have done the right things to add to it and every year it would seem that I was wrong.  So I will be honest with you, I don’t really know what to expect from it.  The Eagles did bring in some interesting names (SS Rodney McLeod and OLB Nigel Bradham top that list) to work with Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks.  The trade of Sam Bradford not only gives the Eagles the 1st round that was lost when Philly traded up to get Wentz, but it also gives Wentz a chance to show everyone what he can do come week one.

New York Giants: The Giants had a very busy off-season, saying goodbye to WR Randell, CB Prince Amukamara, and DE Robert Ayers.  The defense was not ignored, however, with the resigning of Jason Pierre-Paul and the signings of NT Damion Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Oliver Vernon, as well as the drafting of CB Eli Apple (a player I was, personally, high on for the 2016 draft).  The Giants also added a WR to step up if Victor Cruz is not able to play well enough to keep coverage away from OBJ by drafting Sterling Shepard.  On paper, that makes the Giants a pretty strong looking team, but one weakness is the linebackers.  New York is hoping that Harrison, JPP, and Oliver can neutralize the running game from the line and that the revamped secondary can give that same group time to bring heavy pressure  and disrupt the play.

Washington Redskins: Washington had one of my favorite free-agent signings of the off-season in CB Josh Norman.  While he may have been just a “system guy” down in Carolina, he does give Washington an interesting name and a player that others teams will respect in the secondary, something that the Redskins were missing.  The rest of the defense, however, looks to be pretty average.  If Washington hopes to have a repeat season, it needs to work with Norman’s strengths and hope that he is more than a “system guy”.  The offense is pretty much the same, except for the loss of RB Alfred Morris as Washington looks to let Matt Jones build on his rookie season, and the drafting of Josh Doctson, who may be off to a slow start this season as he missed most of training camp.

New York Giants: 11-5
Washington Redskins: 8-8
Dallas Cowboys: 6-10
Philadelphia Eagles: 4-12

2016 NFL Preview: NFC North

With the 2016 NFL season getting ready to kick off, many fans are wondering who will win the division and make the playoffs.  Others are just wondering how well their favorite team will do.  Well, here is another outlet for the plethora of NFL fans in the world, looking for words on their favorite teams.  For those who are unfamiliar with my previews, here’s how it goes.  I give a blurb about each team, alphabetically, and then I give my prediction on how the division will look and the win-loss record.  I’ll do a final one with post-season berths and my Super Bowl predictions.  First will be the NFC North:

Chicago Bears:  Chicago’s biggest move this off-season was to keep TE Zach Miller in-house after trading TE Martellus Bennett to the Patriots.  Chicago is hoping for a healthier offense, mainly in the form of WR Kevin White who missed all of last season, and that the defense can rebound from its subpar season last year.  The defense, however, is a bit of an issue.  The linebackers might be the strongest group, but the depth up-and-down is hurting and the defensive line has 5.5 sacks between the estimated top-4 men, which is an issue for any 3-4 style defense.  The offense will be interesting to watch, however, with White paring up with Alshon Jeffery and Miller, and Jeremy Langford, the surprise star last season for Chicago, will need to justify Chicago’s choice to let Matt Forte walk.

Detroit Lions:  Losing one of the best wide receivers of this generation is a hard blow to absorb, but even-more-so for Detroit when Calvin Johnson chose to retire.  Detroit is putting its faith in Golden Tate and the rest of the incumbents by not bringing in a new star WR, but by augmenting the passing game around him by signing Marvin Jones this off-season and not doing anything else to really help the offense grow.  Detroit was also able to bring back a key member of the defensive line last season by keeping Haloti Ngata around and brought in the heir-apparent with the second round drafting of DT A’Shawn Robinson.  Pressure will be key for the Lions, however, as the secondary isn’t very imposing and the linebackers are average.

Green Bay Packers: Green Bay had a very quiet off-season, only bringing in TE Jared Cook, but also only lost two players, the big one being CB Casey Hayward.  The offense did not need much added to it since WR Jordy Nelson is healthy and ready for the 2016 season.  The offensive line could use a lift, however, as Green Bay quarterbacks were sacked 47 times last year.  The Packers also used four of their first five picks in the NFL draft this season to help the defense that could honestly go either way.  Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews are still proving to be strong linebackers and the secondary has some strength to it with Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and Sam Shields in the back, but the rest of the supporting cast is a bit of a question.

Minnesota Vikings: I was a big fan of the Vikings first two draft picks, WR Laquon Treadwell and CB Mackenzie Alexander.  Treadwell adds a strong second WR to assist Stefon Diggs and Alexander adds depth to the secondary that already has two strong starters in Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman.  The biggest issue with Minnesota is the loss of Teddy Bridgewater.  I was expecting him to really help the Vikings become Superbowl contenders this season but with Sam Bradford now at the helm, at the cost of a first and fourth round pick no less, it makes me wonder what kind of offense that the Vikings will run.  The running game will be leaned on more than anticipated after the draft, but it will come down to what kind of player Bradford becomes.

Packers: 10-6
Vikings: 9-7
Lions: 7-9
Bears: 5-11

What Power do the NFL Players Really Have?

Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Players Association (NFLPA) representative, Ramon Foster, said it pretty well today when he warned the other players of the NFL to save their money and prepare for a battle with the NFL.  The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has always favored the NFL as the NFL was the side with all the power during the last work-stoppage.  When it expires in 2021, after the 2020 season, if the NFLPA wants to create any change, it needs to take advantage of the next handful of years and get organized.

Face it, the NFLPA is a mess right now and might be the weakest Players Association out of the big four major sports (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL).  Having five seasons, in theory, gives the NFLPA a chance to come together, get organized, and become prepared.  The NFLPA has already lost big in individual cases (Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson) and even lost a small group fight in the resistance by James Harrison (mainly), Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, and Mike Neal in fighting against the NFL’s wishes to investigate the Al-Jazeera report that was recanted.  Due to these recent losses (with two of them happening in a federal court), the players need to look at how two of the biggest stars in the NFL lost in an individual effort to challenge the power of Rodger Goodell and the NFL and make a push for unity in the NFLPA.  And yes, that starts by saving money.

Why?  Well it is pretty simple.  The players and the NFLPA have a pretty powerful weapon: a strike.  First of, the strike is different than a lock-out.  Yes, they accomplish the same things in the end: a stoppage in work until negotiations have finished.  The lockout, however, is the owners weapon while the strike is the weapon of the players.  When the NFL owners imposed a lockout in 2011, they held the power.  They were willing to risk ticket sales, some bad PR, some sponsorship and TV money, etc… to put pressure on the players by taking away their pay-checks.  The NFLPA was vastly under-prepared for this and they suffered in the last negotiations.  Players did not have money ready for this, there was no emergency fund, and the anti-trust lawsuit the players filed against the NFL moved slower than molasses because the courts did not wish to have any say in the labor dispute and thus forced more and more negotiations until the NFLPA knuckled under on a few aspects, mainly discipline, so the pay checks could start flowing once more.

If the NFLPA strikes as soon as the current CBA expires (which is at the end of the 2020 league year), the tables are then turned on the owners.  The players are now the ones willing to risk their own money to create change.  And forcing the owners away from sponsorship and TV money is now a much bigger deal than it was in 2011.  Ticket sales, merchandise sales, concessions, and bad PR is also bigger now that it was in 2011 thanks the the boom that the NFL industry has been, and this is only five years after the creation of the last CBA.  Losing such finances will be very hard on the owners and Goodell and it will be even more difficult to spin it in a good fashion on the PR side.

The owners will have lost the ability to go to sponsors and TV conglomerates and say “we are doing this for the future” because that power will be out of their hands.  It will then turn around on the owners; the sponsors and the TV conglomerates, the cities that might have more unemployment to deal with and face a loss in tourism money as well as jock-tax (tax that players pay when they travel to play in other cities), the warehouses and stores stocked full with NFL apparel but cannot move it, and other such members of the NFL industry will now be questioning the owners and the league.  There will be more outside pressure on the league to get something done than there was last time because the NFL will not have the ability to calm down those with the big-money with promises that the NFLPA will knuckle-under as was done last time.  And this does not even include the fans.

The fans will be difficult to deal with.  The players can go on TV, make radio appearances and show up on social media, to point out that the NFL has been unfair and that the strike is necessary.  Players can go around and talk to the fans, give autographs, and make good PR appearances.  The owners can do that, but there is a lot more owners than players in one media area.  And most people are not clamoring to get an autograph of an owner over that of the star QB.  The owners also have to deal with season ticket holders and pre-ordered tickets to explain to them why there might not be games in 2021 that those people already paid for.  Not to mention the fans who will overall be irate because of a possible lack of playing in 2021.  Yes, there will be fans who elect not to follow the storyline and only see that there might not be any football.  Yes, there will be fans who will simply call the players greedy or whiny and expect them to just roll over and let the games play.  But the NFLPA has already done this once and I am willing to believe that a large majority of fans see the issues with the league and will understand any actions the players need to take.

Foster said it well today; players need to save up, or have the NFLPA do it for them, and be ready to fight.  Richer players will need to help take care of poorer players.  Some players might even need to take a temporary job or may use this time to finish an education if that is needed.  Like Foster, I believe that there will be either a strike or a lockout after the 2020 NFL season has concluded.  I also believe that the fight over the next CBA will be much nastier and longer than the one in 2011 was.  I expect there to be a stoppage in the NFL that will cost some, if not all, of the 2021 NFL season.  And I am ready to sacrifice that season to bring change in the NFL, if it is brought correctly.  I will be watching this with a considerable amount of interest and hopes that the NFLPA will adequately prepare itself for this battle.

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