It's the most wonderful time of the year, if you're an NFL junkie, gambling junkie, and/or fantasy football junkie. I mean, is there anything better than NFL? Screw boring baseball! Give me my football! Anyway let's get started, yeah?
The Bottom Feeders: Washington Redskins (2-14) Chicago Bears (3-13) Atlanta Falcons (4-12) San Francisco 49'ers (4-12) Cleveland Browns (3-13) Tennessee Titans (4-12)
With the 1st pick of the 2016 draft....The Washington Redskins (if that's still their name). The Skins, like always are a complete disaster under ego-maniacal owner Daniel Snyder. This whole RG3 thing is an absolute nightmare for all parties involved. I don't see the rest of these teams mentioned doing much of anything either. The 49'ers lost too much, the Browns division is to tough for them to compete in. I'm a little surprised I had the Falcons being so bad, but what can I say? I don't think they have much going on besides Julio Jones. I thought a while about the Titans as a major sleeper, if Marcus Mariota is as good, as some may think, then why not right? But, as always, I go through every teams schedule and I only found four wins in theirs. And the Bears? Well, Jay Cutler is still the QB and the defense still stinks.
Mediocre Teams With Upside: New York Giants (6-10) Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) Oakland Raiders (5-11) New York Jets (7-9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)
Last year, the Jaguars were my super-sleeper pick, which was a laughably bad pick in retrospect. I think they'll be half-way decent this year, but I'm definitely gun-shy about picking them for the playoffs again. The Jets defense will keep them in most games, but Ryan Fitzpatrick won't strike fear into any opposing defense. I like the Raiders and legitimately feel like they could surpass the 5-11 mark I gave them, by a few games. The Giants, I feel are kind of meh, I could see 2015 being the end of the Tom Coughlin era. The Bucs will definitely be better than 6-10 with King Crab Legs Jameis Winston, but are probably still a year or two away from being a threat.
The Decent/Good Teams That Won't Make The Playoffs: St. Louis Rams (9-7) Buffalo Bills (8-8) Kansas City Chiefs (8-8) Houston Texans (9-7)
I kind of wanted to put the Rams in the playoffs, I love their defense, but like always they just won't have enough offense to get over the hump. I think I could probably say the same about these other teams. In fact, I should just name this category 'Teams with really good defenses, that are lacking firepower and/or a QB you can trust'
2014 Playoff Teams That Won't Make It Back In 2015: Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) Denver Broncos (8-8) Arizona Cardinals (9-7) Dallas Cowboys (8-8) Carolina Panthers (7-9)
Every year on average, there's always around five new playoff teams that weren't there the year before. This means that there have to be five teams that won't make it back the next year. I know the Steelers may be a shock to be on the list. Their offense should be one of the top units in the league, but while the offense is scoring over 30 points a game, the defense will be giving up the same, if not more. Also, the Steelers schedule is easily the most brutal I went through, these are their last six games (@Seattle, Indy, @Cincy, Denver, @Baltimore, @Cleveland). The Broncos might be another shock, but I'm of the believe that Peyton Manning could finally be history. The Cards will still be good, but they'll just miss the cut in a very competitive NFC. The Cowboys might miss DeMarco Murray more than they thought, the loss of Orlando Scandrick is also devastating for a secondary that wasn't that good to begin with. And of course the Panthers, won't be able to overcome the loss of their biggest weapon from last year Kelvin Benjamin.
Your 2015 Playoff Teams: Indianapolis Colts (13-3) Baltimore Ravens (12-4) New England Patriots (11-5) San Diego Chargers (10-6) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) Miami Dolphins (10-6) Green Bay Packers (13-3) Seattle Seahawks (11-5) New Orleans Saints (11-5) Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) Detroit Lions (11-5) Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
A lot of the usual suspects here, we know they're good, so no need to really talk about them. Instead, I'll focus more on the five new playoff teams. First the biggest surprise might be the Saints at 11-5. My thinking for that, is that they play in a weak division and will focus more on the running game, which is probably what they should have done a few years ago, instead of having Drew Bress through 50 times a game and get killed behind a crappy o-line. Max Unger, might be the most under-rated trade of this off-season. Because of my lack of faith in the Broncos, I just replaced them with the next best team in the Chargers. People have been picking the Dolphins to make the playoffs the past few years, but I rightfully wasn't buying in. I believe now is the time, they finally make it back to the playoffs. Their defense is great and Ryan Tannehill has gotten better every year, they also added some nice new weapons for him (Kenny Stills, Devante Parker, Jordan Cameron). I'm also finally buying into the Chip Kelly Eagles (somewhat) as I feel they'll have more firepower to overtake the Cowboys and Sam Bradford might actually stay healthy (don't hold me to that). I was a little apprehensive about including the Vikings in the party. It seems like when everyone and their brother anoints a team a 'sleeper' then they no longer are a sleeper. Ultimately, I just like the talent and the coaching to much to keep them out.
Wild Card Games:
AFC: Patriots over Dolphins. Bengals over Chargers
NFC: Lions over Eagles. Vikings over Saints
Divisional Round Games:
AFC: Colts over Bengals. Ravens over Patriots
NFC: Packers over Vikings. Seahawks over Lions
Colts over Ravens. Packers over Seahawks
Packers over Colts
First of all, the Bengals and Lions will both get of the schneid with road playoff victories. The Bengals will then be beaten senseless by the Colts the following week, while the Lions will go down swinging in Seattle. The Patriots will handle business at home against the Dolphins and the Vikings will shock the world, with an upset win in New Orleans. The Ravens will avenge their playoff loss from last year, this time at home against the Pats. The Packers will easily dispatch of the upstart Vikings in Lambeau. Although, I'd love to have my Ravens win the Super Bowl and get Steve Smith a much deserved ring, I have a superstition of picking them to win the big game, I will never do it. So, I'll say they'll fall short in Indy, where they still haven't won a game to this point. The Packers will get vengeance against the the Seahawks (in Green Bay this time) and go on to the Super Bowl like they should have last year, before the one of the biggest choke jobs of all time. The Packers will then go on to defeat the Colts in the Super Bowl, because they're the more complete team with the more accomplished QB.
I had the idea of picking the Packers as my Super Bowl winner for a few weeks. I was a definitely a little scared off by the Jordy Nelson injury, but I feel like they'll be just fine anyway. They still have one of the best QB's and best home-field advantages in the game. That's it, enjoy the 2015 NFL season and let me know what you think of my picks in the comments below, or on Facebook, or wherever else.
I dedicate this article to my father. You've been begging me to write a 'Real NFL' article. Here you go, I do hope you have some of that delicious cinna-stick vodka for Week 1.