In just 2 days, the NFL returns to our screens, and a new season of highs, lows, cheers, and jeers begins. Last year we saw unlikely winners in the Denver Broncos which allowed Peyton Manning to retire on a high, and we saw the emergence of young guns, and teams on a revival. I’m going to briefly look at all of the teams and their prospects for the season, before ultimately looking stupid by trying to predict what will happen.
Firstly, the NFC East, and the division of my team, the New York Giants. This is probably the hardest of the divisions to predict, with all 4 teams fairly evenly matched. The Redskins took the division last year, and have managed to hold on to their big guns, although Alfred Morris left for Dallas. The Cowboys as usual are struggling to keep their squad fit but boast two impressive lines, and the Eagles once again are trying to build under a new coach so are unpredictable. My pick will have to be the Giants; not only because they’re my team, but we have vastly improved our defence in the off-season, and the combination of Manning/Beckham Jnr is destructive.
Now the NFC North, last year won by the Vikings in the final week. The Vikings last year benefitted from an out of sorts Packers, and a feeble Detroit who started 1-7. This year I think the division will be completely different, but with once constant, the Bears finish 4th. They haven’t significantly strengthened, and are far too weak on both sides of the ball. Losing Bridgewater to injury will be a huge blow to the Vikings and will make them much more reliant on an ageing Adrian Peterson, although they do boast an impressive defence. For me it’s a shootout between the Packers and Lions, with the Packers edging it in the final couple of weeks, and the Lions also making the playoffs.
The NFC West is another hugely competitive division, with arguably 3 teams fighting for top spot. I’m immediately giving the 49ers no chance, and I think the Rams will just miss out on the playoffs once again. Last year the Seahawks got off to a slow start, and the Cardinals came out flying, but I see things different this year. I do think both of these teams will make it to the playoffs come January, and I think the Seahawks will edge the division. Seahawks trio Wilson, Rawls, and Baldwin will light up the league once again, and should achieve a bye.
The final NFC division, the NFC South, looks a lot easier to predict. Last year the Panthers walked the division, and went on to lose in the SuperBowl to the Broncos. The Panthers have lost a couple of their big players this year, but I still expect them to take this division with ease, with the other 3 teams tightly bunched. The theme within the other 3 teams are leaky defences, and if one of them could sure up that side of their game, they’d be in with a chance.
Now onto the AFC, and we’ll start in the East. A division which has been ruled by the Patriots for over a decade. And I can’t see that changing this year. Even though Brady misses the first 3 games, he and the Patriot spine should comfortably take the division; although I don’t see them near the SuperBowl. The Jets and the Bills should take fairly even records, and I expect the Dolphins to once again prop up the division after letting young talent go in the off season.
The AFC North is arguably one of the strongest divisions in the league, and is a tough one to call. Last year both the Bengals and the Steelers made it through to the playoffs, and I would put money on the same results again. The Browns are a better team this year, but I think they’re 1-2 years away from a playoff push. The Ravens are a tough team to call, and pride themselves on a tough defence, but I don’t believe they have enough on offence. For me the Steelers are pretty much the complete team, especially on offence where they boast Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell, and DeAngelo Williams. I see them taking the division, but Bengals also make the playoffs.
The AFC West is another tough division to call, with 3 teams fighting for that top spot. Like the 49ers I am immediately ruling out the Chargers, who are far too reliant on Rivers. The Broncos are a much weaker team than last year, and although many defensive figures remain, I believe they will struggle this year. The Chiefs last year were the most improved team, and I can see another solid year, especially if Jamall Charles can stay fit. I see them grabbing a second playoff spot, but just finishing behind the division winners, the Raiders. Yes, I said it. The Raiders will win the AFC West. They’re a young talented team with huge potential. I can’t see them reaching the SuperBowl yet, but they will give it a push.
Finally, the AFC South. A division which last year was won through a tough defence, rather than an irresistible offence. And for me the Texans have only improved from there. Osweiler and Miller sure up the offence, and I believe they take this division again. The Colts are a team who 2 years ago were close to the SuperBowl, but now seem to be heading backwards. Like the Raiders, the Jaguars are a young improving team, and I see them making the playoffs in 1-2 years, and the Titans should once again prop up the division in last place.
So there’s my predictions for the 8 divisions, and now for the SuperBowl. I’d love to be able to tell you that my beloved Giants will make it to the big game, but I really cannot see it quite yet. My prediction for the SuperBowl is that we will have the Steelers from the AFC, and the Seahawks from the NFC, with Big Ben lifting the Lombardi Trophy for the Steelers.