1) The AFC East is still the New England Patriots’ to lose. I think they’ll be OK with Tom Brady sidelined for 4 games, they’ll just adjust their game-plan with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. They start out on the road in the season opener, but then three straight at home should be enough for them to at least start 2-2 until Brady is back.
2) The Pittsburgh Steelers have three legit offensive player of the year candidates in Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Bell is suspended for three weeks, but if he’s healthy for the other 13 games, he’ll get a thousand yards on the ground with 70 receptions. Brown might push for 2,000 yards receiving and Big Ben is the trigger man that makes the offense go. I think they hold off the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North crown.
3) I think the AFC South belongs to the Houston Texans again. It may take them a few weeks to find their stride on offense, but once they get everyone healthy and the new faces acclimated, I think they hold off Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
4) The Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos will be breaking in a new quarterback, and even though they have a stellar defense and a solid running game, I think QB play will prevent them from repeating as AFC West Champs. This year the Kansas City Chiefs will reign over what should be a very competitive division.
5) Even with Tony Romo hurt again, I think the Dallas Cowboys have enough to climb out of the cellar and take the NFC East. They’ll pound the ball behind that great offensive line and ease rookie QB Dak Prescott into the swing of things.
6) The Carolina Panthers are just too good not to repeat in the NFC South. I know the Super Bowl loser occasionally has a hangover the following season, but the only thing that will stop them from another division title is a rash of injuries, and even then coach Ron Rivera may keep them afloat.
7) The NFC West is a two team race, but I think the Seattle Seahawks will overtake the Arizona Cardinals this year. Both teams have good coaching, solid defenses, solid rushing attacks, and really good quarterback play, but I think Seattle’s Russell Wilson will be the league MVP this year.
8) I really wish I could predict great things for the 2016 Chicago Bears, but I just don’t see a division title for them in a tough NFC North. I think the Green Bay Packers will rebound to reclaim the division they won from 2011-2014. The loss of Teddy Bridgewater will obviously hurt the Minnesota Vikings, but I think Sam Bradford is a competent QB.
8a) Twitter GMs really went hard at the Vikes when it was announced that they traded for Bradford, and while I think they gave up way too much for him (a 1st and a conditional 4th) I think he’ll be fine working in an offense with Adrian Peterson. People talk as though Bradford is the worst QB to ever play the game, and that’s just silly. HE has some accuracy issues from time to time, but he’s a career 60% passer with an 87.9 passer rating over his last 2 seasons.
9) My Wildcard picks are the Bengals and the Broncos in the AFC and the Vikings and the Cardinals in the NFC. In looking back over my playoff predictions, I only have one different team over the 2015 field, so that tells my I’m probably wrong!
My Super Bowl pick is the Seahawks over the Steelers in a rematch of SBXL.
10) Now for a more specific Bears prediction, I think the team hovers around .500 all season long and when networks start putting that Playoff Teams graphic up, the Bears will be one of the “in the hunt” teams. A break here or there and the Bears could sneak into the playoffs, but I think 8-8 is where they’ll end up.
I think their defense will push to be a top 5 unit and everything offensively hinges on their o-line staying healthy and quickly coming together.
Now it’s your turn, make your picks for the 2016 season!