It's time for that annual piece which inevitably I regret everything I put here and end up embarrassed for the entire sports-loving populace with my sham of a prediction set... I would say that if I was really bad at this, but I like to think I'm somewhat decent at predicting the future, at least in the NFL's case. So as a new season turns, it's time to see whether I need to open the review column in January with the first or second sentence.
AFC East: 1. NE 12-4 2. NYJ 9-7 3. MIA 7-9 4. BUF 5-11
The Patriots winning the AFC East? Why it might not even be that special anymore. The Jets have more offensive weapons and a strong enough front 7 to compete for a wild card spot, the Dolphins will flounder once again and Joe Philbin's job may be on the line, while Bills fans continue to wonder what they did with that lucky Blockbuster card of theirs from 1999...
AFC North: 1. BAL 10-6 2. CIN 9-7 3. PIT 8-8 4. CLE 4-12
The Ravens retooled offense should help out a defense that underachieved somewhat last season in order to get them back into the playoffs. While the Bengals may be the most complete team in the division on paper, something about them scares me off... may have to do with Andy Dalton's contract. The Steelers are slowly working their way out of cap hell, but it'll take longer to do so, and the Browns season will be over when Lebron takes the court at the Q again.
AFC South: 1. IND 11-5 2. JAX 7-9 3. TEN 6-10 4. HOU 5-11
The Colts may have the AFC's best record because of this division and the fact that their schedule overall is a joke. How far they go in the postseason is another question. Jacksonville will improve from last season no matter how many games Blake Bortles plays, while the Titans will finally learn that Jake Locker isn't the answer and the Texans' answer may still be playing in college.
AFC West: 1. DEN 12-4 2. SD 9-7 3. KC 7-9 4. OAK 4-12
The Broncos have maybe this year and next to win a Super Bowl before their cap comes crushing their dreams to bits, and this year may test their mettle effectively because of a brutal schedule. The Chargers surprised last season and may make the playoffs again, but dramatic improvement hasn't been shown. The Chiefs are primed for a big slide, while the Raiders hope Derek Carr doesn't end up like David in more ways than one.
NFC East: 1. PHI 11-5 2. NYG 8-8 3. DAL 6-10 4. WSH 5-11
The Eagles win this division easily because they are the team with the smallest sideshow around them. The Giants' revolves around their inept offense, the Cowboys' revolves around their hilarious lack of defense, and the Washington's revolves around everything that isn't football.
NFC North: 1. GB 11-5 2. CHI 10-6 3. DET 7-9 4. MIN 5-11
The Packers should they stay healthy are a Super Bowl contender again, mainly because their defense has finally improved after years of stagnation. The Bears may end up being a twilight zone team because while their offense is scary good, their defense is equally scary because it's so crappy. The same can be said for the Lions, and while the novelty of the Vikings have outdoor home games excites, Teddy Bridgewater can't because he'll be on the bench for too long.
NFC South: 1. NO 12-4 2. ATL 9-7 3. CAR 7-9 4. TB 7-9
Since no one ever repeats as the NFC South champ, the Saints will win it this year because they didn't a year ago. And it also may have to do with something relating to them possibly being the most balanced team in the league on both sides of the ball, too. The Falcons won't nearly be as bad as they were last year because they are actually healthy now, while the Panthers won't be as good as they were a year ago because they for some reason deliberately got worse (the cap might have something to do with that). The Bucs have LED clocks for uniforms, and still they have no QB because Josh McCown won't be that amazing outside of Mark Trestman's shadow.
NFC West: 1. SF 12-4 2. SEA 11-5 3. ARZ 10-6 4. STL 7-9
Remember when the winner of this division had 7 wins? Neither do I, and apparently neither do any of the teams because they are all loaded. The 49ers will have to battle defensive attrition early, but they should have the horses to do so. The Seahawks will regress slightly because of not only a Super Bowl hangover but some of the key pieces from last year are now somewhere else. Arizona has to be the best team to not make the playoffs in recent times, and they may repeat the feat again, while the Rams have no QB but an insanely good defense, which in this division doesn't bode very well.
AFC Playoffs: 1. NE 2. DEN 3. IND 4. BAL 5. CIN 6. NYJ
NFC Playoffs: 1. SF 2. NO 3. GB 4. PHI 5. SEA 6. CHI
Wild Card Round: 4. BAL over 5. CIN
3. IND over 6. NYJ
Divisional Round: 1. NE over 4. BAL
3. IND over 2. DEN
AFC Title Game: 1. NE over 3. IND
Wild Card Round: 5. SEA over 4. PHI
3. GB over 6. CHI
Divisional Round: 1. SF over 5. SEA
2. NO over 3. GB
NFC Title Game: 2. NO over 1. SF
Super Bowl: XLIX: New England over New Orleans
MVP: Andrew Luck
Defensive Player of the Year: Clay Matthews
OROY: Brandin Cooks
DROY: Ryan Shazier
Coach of the Year: Chuck Pagano
So let's see how these hold up...