With New England and Pittsburgh providing a great start to the 2015 NFL season this past Thursday night, a full schedule of games is about to slam into gear this Sunday. Ahhh! Join me in a sigh of relief; the dark times between seasons is finally at an end...
The AFC East...
Since "The Brady" has come out of his battle filled with competitive air, here's my prediction for the AFC East this year:
With a quarterback, and fewer defensive line foibles, the Jets would make this division a scramble. But this is the New York Jets we're talking about here, right? So - to me - this division is a three team race right now: New England, Miami and Buffalo.
Like every year, Tom Brady is key here. Rodger Goodell stood his ground - and lost. Even though I don't agree with the judge's decision, it's neither here nor there at this point. Their home win against the Steelers got them off to a good start, but let's not forget the losses on defense for the Patriots too. This off season saw the exodus of quite a few players, most notably Darrelle Revis. The Patriots' secondary is looking rather sparse? Losing Vince Wilfork will come back to haunt them too. The Patriots are thin defensively, and it's going to be telling as the season winds on...
Miami made a huge splash landing a "guy named Suh"...
Loads of cash landed arguably the best pure defensive tackle in the NFL. Yes, he's been known to trip and stomp on players. He pays fines by the boatload, and get's the NFL front office grinding their teeth. But his name is
Miami has had a tough defense against the run for the last couple years, so I don't see this changing. Where they could be interesting to watch is on the other side of the ball. Ryan Tannehill just got paid, and he has some shiny new toys to bring the Dolphins' offense to life.
The Buffalo Bills are all "Rex-ed up", which means they don't have a quarterback, but their defense will be top notch. The addition of running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy - a result of the now infamous "Kelly Purges" - should be key for the Bills in 2015. If McCoy gets going - he's currently injured - the Bills should be sitting pretty. A good wide receiver corp, newly crowned #1 quarterback Tyrod Taylor should fair well enough to manage the helm.
The New York Jets could wind up be the spoiler in this division. If they sort out their "Jets-esk" foibles, the defense could be on of the Top 5 in the NFL. It's the pesky quarterback situation that's going to ground the Jets...
|New England Patriots||9-7|
|New York Jets||6-10|
The NFC/AFC West...
While the NFC West has lost some of its "best division in the NFL" luster, it may very well remain the most competitive. Counting San Francisco out would be a mistake. Credit a deep roster for being able to emerge from - what has to be - the worst off season in NFL history. Keep an eye on Eli Harold. Taken in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft, he may turn into a success or fail point for the 49ers defense this season. Linebacker is a decimated position for the City by the Bay. Ahmad Brooks is hanging on by an off season debacle boot-strap, and inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite was about to be shuffles off before the retirement carnage began.
Seattle's boat has some leaks, but I don't think they're enough to founder this talented crew. Still, don't look for the Seahawks to slide their way to an easy division title. Arizona and St. Louis are - once again - some of the most intriguing teams to watch. Both could upend the Seahawks, and shock the NFL world.
Arizona is riding Carson Palmer here, and anyone who thinks they're getting to the post-season promised land without him is a fool. What does give them an inside edge, is one of the better offensive lines you'll see this season. Who'll emerge as the "go to" running back is anyone's guess. Bruce Arians is going to run the football more than ever to take heat off of Palmer.
St. Louis is going to be trouble for any team they face. Many believe this is a "make or break" year for head coach Jeff Fisher, but not me. I do think he's at the point where he needs to show he understands all the talent on the roster he's built. If there's a single position on this team that could wind up haunting the St. Louis Rams all season, it's Center. Whoever they start is going to get absolutely pounded on every play. In their first game of the 2015 NFL season, look for Seattle's Bobby Wagner to lead the charge against the poor young man snapping the ball to quarterback Nick Foles.
The AFC West is going to quietly slide into mentions of the best defenses around. Denver's defense is going to be a quarterback sack machine. You heard it here first: They will break the 1984 Chicago Bears record of 72 sacks this season. Oakland's defense is on the rise, even without the odd signing of a soon-to-be suspended Aldon Smith. A favorite of mine in the 2014 NFL Draft, Khalil Mack is leading an edgy defense into respect. Kansas City will be a Top 10 to 15 defensive team, and San Diego will be the land of "plus turnovers".
AFC West Champs: Denver Broncos
AFC South Champs: Indianapolis Colts
AFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC East Champs: Buffalo Bills
NFC West Champs: St. Louis Rams
NFC East Champs: Dallas Cowboys
NFC North Champs: Green Bay Packers
NFC South Champs: New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys: 34-17
Enjoy the games this weekend!