Today I woke up with a smile on my face because after seven long hot summer months of waiting the day has finally arrived. The 2016-’17 NFL season kicks off tonight with a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl and while I think it is the most underwhelming opening match up in years at least the NFL is back and we can take comfort in knowing that for the foreseeable future football will be on TV at least four days a week. I would love to see Denver open up their season in the post-Manning era with a win over a Carolina team whose quarterback I don’t particularly like going back to his time at Auburn but I don’t think that remotely possible. I think the Bronco’s defense will keep the game close but I think it will be one of those games where you just know they aren’t going to win because they just don’t have that explosive quarterback with the ability to make big plays, at least not now any way. Trevor Siemian will do okay but I don’t think he will come out and shock the world. I think he will make safe throws which ultimately won’t win them the game. I would love to see Paxton Lynch come in and take over the reins from Siemian after he underperforms and rally the Broncos to get the win but I don’t think they will be so quick to bench their starter for an unproven rookie quarterback. My prediction for tonight’s game is Carolina beats Denver 24-10 but Denver keeps it close at least for the first half.
Now let’s move on to the bigger predictions of who I think will win each division and then who wins Super Bowl 51 this year. Coming out of the AFC East this year will be the Patriots even with the four game suspension of Tom Brady. I really think the Jets are going to be decent this year and if it weren’t for some key suspensions in Buffalo I might pick them but I think New England wins the division by at least three games. Sorry Miami until you prove that you aren’t a joke underwhelms and underperforms every year I’m not going to take you seriously. Ryan Tannehill to me is like Sam Bradford in that you always hear about how much potential he has but he never lives up to it. When it’s all said and done I think New England marches easily into the playoffs at twelve and four.
Coming out of the AFC West I think it will be a tough and intriguing battle between the Chiefs and Raiders with the Kansas City ultimately being named the winner. The Broncos might surprise me with their defense carrying them as well as they did last year and Paxton Lynch may come in and have a phenomenal first year but I don’t foresee that happening. Kansas City doesn’t have the best quarterback but he is very consistent and with a good running game and some playmakers at receiver I think will be enough to power their offense to the playoffs. I also think the Chiefs defense is underrated and while they’re not the most flashy unit in the league they get the job done. Out of the AFC North I’m picking the Steelers but like the West I think it will be a close battle between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. I wish Cleveland would have a good season and now that RGIII isn’t a Redskin I’m allowed to cheer for him but if history has taught us anything it’s that we shouldn’t take the Browns seriously. Once Josh Gordon gets back it will be interesting to watch him and Robert Griffin III get some false hope for future seasons but they won’t be anywhere near the playoffs this year.
I think the Jaguars are going to win the AFC South this year behind their young strong armed quarterback Bortles, their two headed rushing attack of Ivory and Yeldon, a solid group of young receivers and a veteran tide end in Thomas. Their defense is okay but I think the offense will keep the pressure on the opposing teams so much so that they try and force big plays resulting in more turnovers for the Jags. I think the Colts will keep it close and will ultimately get one of the Wild Card spots for the playoffs but this is an exciting time to be a Jacksonville fan. Houston has the best defense in the division but with an unproven quarterback I don’t see them competing for a playoff spot this year. Tennessee will be a team to watch who could possibly turn into a serious playoff contender down the road but will not be one this year.
To recap my AFC picks; the teams I have winning their division and making the playoffs are the Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, and Jaguars and the two Wild Card spots are going to the Bengals and the Colts with the Raiders in a close fight until the end of the season but ultimately coming up short. I think Pittsburgh makes it through the playoffs and finds themselves in the Super Bowl where they will ultimately fall short.
I think the NFC East might be the second most competitive division in the NFL behind the AFC North solely for the reason that the teams are so bad that there is no clear cut winner. Full disclosure: I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan but when making picks I try to be completely objective and I honestly believe even with Tony Romo out for six to eight weeks Dallas could be in a position to win the East but unfortunately I don’t think they will. It physically hurts my stomach to say this but the winner of the NFC East is going to be the Washington Redskins. Kirk Cousins is going to have another good year and while it’s going to be ugly they are going to slither their way into the playoffs where they won’t win a game. I don’t think Philly has a chance behind their rookie quarterback Wentz and while the Giants have an explosive offense their defense is abhorrent and they won’t be in the playoff conversation. Sorry Eli.
Arizona is going to win the NFC West by a game over Seattle but don’t worry all of you who jumped on the Seahawks bandwagon three years ago you’re “beloved” Seahawks will make the playoffs as one of the Wild Card teams. The 49ers are still declining after the Harbaugh era and the Rams need a couple of years to be in playoff contention but will certainly be interesting to watch this year. The Packers are going to win the North this year and it’s not even going to be close. Sorry Minnesota fans, you probably were a Wild Card team with Bridgewater at quarterback but now that he’s out for the season I think the best you’re looking at is 8-8 which won’t be good enough to win the division or a Wild Card spot. The Lions and Bears will be in a heated battle for last place in the division with Cutler ultimately underperforming his way to the bottom.
The defending Super Bowl champion Carolina Panthers will once again win the NFC South this year but they won’t be the only team in the division making the playoffs. My second Wild Card spot in the NFC goes to the young, talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I don’t think they will make it far in the playoffs but they are headed in the right direction and will be a serious contender at some point during the Jameis Winston era. The Falcons just like every other year should be better than they actually are and the Saints won’t even be in playoff talks. Unfortunately Drew Brees is past his prime and their chance to repeat a Super Bowl with him are long gone.
So out of the NFC I have winning their divisions the Redskins, Cardinals, Packers, and Panthers with the Seahawks and Buccaneers getting spots in the playoffs as Wild Card teams. I think Arizona makes it to the Super Bowl and in a tight game beat the Steelers. Obviously a lot can change over the course of an NFL season but in my opinion this is how everything will end up. Now that I’ve looked inside my crystal ball and told you what is going to happen there is no excuse for you blowing of other commitments to watch football. You’re welcome.