The September I-95 Sports Net Sports Report is among my favorite because I get to prognosticate about my favorite sport, football! Without further adieu, here are my 2016 NFL TEAM predictions:
The GREEN BAY PACKERS have been the class of this division for years, with the MINNESOTA VIKINGS nipping at their heels. I’ve read a few articles that list the CHICAGO BEARS as a sleeper this season even though they’ve lost a few players. Something about Head Coach John Fox doing VERY well the 2nd season he takes over a team, hmmmm. As for the DETROIT LIONS, they’ll individually be very good statistically for your fantasy football teams (Stafford, Tate, Jones) but not so in the standings. The PACK get my pick here but it could be much closer if Jordy Nelson doesn’t return to form. Also still not a believer in VIKINGS QB Teddy Bridgewater. Pick: Green Bay Sleeper: Da Bears
The CAROLINA PANTHERS went all the way to the Big Show in February. They in turn lose mouthy CB Josh Norman yet get back young promising WR Kelvin Benjamin. The NEW ORLEANS SAINTS will be interesting since they’ve yet to sign aging yet still productive QB Drew Brees to a new contract even though Head Coach Sean Peyton did. The ATLANTA FALCONS added some pieces on both sides of the ball (pick former Rutgers WR Mohammed Sanu as a WR3/Flex, you won’t be sorry!) yet still seems stuck in the middle of the pack. The TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS are young and hungry with a new head coach and defensive philosophy. Simply a no-brainer here!
Pick: Carolina Sleeper: Bucs
Many sports “experts” see one of this year’s Super Bowl entrants coming from this division, either the ARIZONA CARDINALS or SEATTLE SEAHAWKS. I tend to agree though that offensive line for the Seahawks is, well, offensive! Barring any serious preseason injuries (this article was written before the all-important 3rd game of the preseason), the Cardinals seems to be a complete team. Very good QB, stable of RB’s and WR’s and a stout, aggressive defense will be their recipe for their success. I foresee the LOS ANGELES RAMS surprising some teams in front of their electric new fans hungry for football but until they develop their new franchise QB and a passing game, they’re a step behind the division leaders. As for the SAN FRANCISCO 49’ERS, it’s all about growing pains under a new head coach. If they can get anything out of Colin Kaepernick, they could win 5-6 games.
Pick: Arizona Sleeper: LA
Good thing I did not watch the first two preseason games of the NEW YORK GIANTS, otherwise I’d be scared to predict what I think. The owners spent a ton of money upgrading one of the worst defenses in the league last year so it’s almost inevitable that they are better there. The offense should be better due to draft depth at WR, TE and RB. The issue for 2016 is whether or not first time Head Coach Bob McAdoo can change the culture of mediocrity that has permeated this team since their last Super Bowl win. Their neighbors down I-95 (shameless plug!), the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES are in total reset mode with a new head coach and QB of the future. Their more distant neighbor down I-95 (did it again!), the WASHINGTON REDSKINS, seemed poised for a good season. Though QB Kirk Cousins didn’t get that mega-contract (yet), they added CB Josh Norman to go against ODB & Dez four times a year to a team that won the division last season. For the DALLAS COWBOYS, the company line the past few seasons goes something like “they’ll go as far as Tony Romo will take them.” Maybe they transition into the old Giants teams of the late 80’s-90’s with a power running game behind a great offensive line. My concern is their defense, with many of their starters suspended for the first quarter of the season.
Pick: Washington Sleeper: Giants
Just like the NFC South, two of the AFC North teams are fashionable picks for the Super Bowl, the CINCINNATI BENGALS and the PITTSBURGH STEELERS. Faithfully, I can never put the Bengals into the Super Bowl when Head Coach Marvin Lewis and QB Andy Dalton have yet to win a single playoff game. For the Steelers, great offense and young, hungry rebuilding defense smells like a run next season, especially with WR Martavis Bryant out for the season. The CLEVELAND BROWNS, with their fans still celebrating the Cavs NBA title, should find their football team more interesting than passed years. I like a resurgent RGIII as the building blocks for this team with Hue Jackson at the helm. One of the most hard-to-read teams in the NFL this season is the BALTIMORE RAVENS. They were decimated with injuries last season. They added some veteran pieces along with a good draft. Their key? How does QB Joe Flacco return from a major knee injury?
Pick: Pittsburgh Sleeper: Ravens
Probably the most intriguing division in the NFL since three out of the four team’s are contenders. Who’s NOT a contender this season? The TENNESSEE TITANS but they are young and aren’t far off. For the other three, you have the HOUSTON TEXANS with a new franchise (?) quarterback and stud running back to go along with speedsters on the outside and a staunch defense. Next is the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS who welcome back QB Andrew Luck from a rash of injuries and bad play in 2015. Not a big fan of Frank Gore being their lead RB but the receivers (Hilton, Moncrief) are no joke. There are some questions on the defensive side too. Now the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS are another fashionable pick for 2016 but to make the playoffs, not necessarily for a Super Bowl run. Young stud QB, check. Running Back tandem, check. Young stud WR’s, check. Young aggressive defense, check. You get the picture here!
Pick: Houston Sleeper: Jacksonville
Home of THE most fashionable pick of 2016, the OAKLAND RAIDERS and I am buying into the hype too! This team, very similar to the Jags, has all of the pieces in place including some stud offseason signings. With the defending Super Bowl Champion DENVER BRONCOS having the usual attrition of players plus a new QB to groom, they are expected to take a step back. Then again, was Peyton Manning any better than what to expect from the QB’s this year? The SAN DIEGO CHARGERS may be dreaming of a move to Los Angeles but their team didn’t exactly improve much. Finally we have the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS who had one heck of a 2015 season including the bad start, 10+ game winning streak and getting kind of close to knocking off the Patriots. One major concern for the Chiefs is the health of stud LB Kevin Houston.
Pick: Oakland Sleeper: Denver
Will the BUFFALO BILLS or MIAMI DOLPHINS challenge the always excellent NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS? Tom Brady’s four game suspension looms over this division like an Atlantic Ocean hurricane. Will it affect the Patriots and cause havoc over the division or will it go out to sea and mean nothing? The Bills seem to have a more complete team after going 8-8 last season. The Fins have a new head coach in Adam Gause who is supposed to transform Ryan Tannehill into an elite QB, but that’s no guarantee. Now our NEW YORK JETS figure to be a wild card in the division after going 10-6 and missing out on the playoffs. The first six games or so are brutal but if they are good as they claim, then all bets are off. All four of these teams are capable of winning this division so the head to head battles could be epic!
Pick: New England Sleeper: Buffalo
AFC Wildcard: Colts at Raiders (x); Bengals (x) at Texans
NFC Wildcard: Giants at GB (x); Seattle (x) at Washington
AFC Divisional: Bengals at Pittsburgh (x); Oakland at NE (x)
NFC Divisional: Seattle at Arizona (x); Green Bay at Carolina (x)
AFC Championship: NE at Pittsburgh (x)
NFC Championship: Carolina at Arizona (x)
Super Bowl: Arizona over Pittsburgh
As always if you have any fantasy football questions or want to reply to this article, feel free to tweet me @i95sportsnet or @bobbyblackjack. Hold tight sports fans, football is almost here!!!!