2015 NFL Predictions

Movie Quote of the Day:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

– Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Tom Brady hosting the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super bowl XLIX.
Tom Brady hosting the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super bowl XLIX.

The NFL season begins tomorrow which means it’s time for my predictions on the upcoming season. Like with college football, I try to avoid picking chalk and think a little outside the box. Check out my predictions:

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Major awards:

MVP: QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
OPOY: RB Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
DPOY: MLB Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
OROY: RB Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
DROY: DE Randy Gregory, Dallas Cowboys

AFC Division Winners/Wild Card Teams:

New England tight end Rob Gronkowski.
New England tight end Rob Gronkowski.

East: New England Patriots

Now that Tom Brady got his suspension lifted, there’s almost zero chance of any other team in the AFC East winning the division. The offense should be fine as long as Brady is healthy. The Patriots did lose running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in free agency, but they still have a plethora of backs to put in the game led by LaGarrette Blount. Outside of that, the Patriots maintained their key wide receivers and offensive linemen.

The Patriots do have some question marks on defense, particularly in the secondary. Their starting cornerbacks from last year, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, left during free agency. However, they did re-sign free safety Devin McCourty. The team also lost Vince Wilfork on the defensive line, but replaced him by drafting Malcom Brown in the first round. Bilichick always seems to field a decent defense no matter who is on the field.

The Patriots have a tough road schedule having to travel to Buffalo, Miami, New York (Jets), Denver, Dallas, Indianapolis, Houston, and New York (Giants). I’ll be shocked if the Patriots don’t lose three or four road games this year.

Record prediction (division record): 11-5 (4-2)

Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown.

North: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers will make a strong push to have one of the best offenses in the NFL this year. They’ll continue to have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, Le’Veon Bell at running back, with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton at wide receiver. The Steelers also drafted wide receiver Sammie Coates in the offseason. Their starting offensive line is still in tact, except for center Maurkice Pouncey who is out for a few weeks due to a leg injury. I expect Pittsburgh to have a top five offense.

The problem with Pittsburgh will be their defense. Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, and Jason Worilds all retired from football during the offseason. The team released defense end Brett Keisel as well. On top of all that, long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau left to go to Tennessee. They still have Cam Hayward to lead that defensive line, and linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier. Pittsburgh addressed some of those needs by drafting a pass rusher (Bud Dupree) in the first round, and two cornerbacks (Senquez Golson and Doran Grant) in the second and fourth rounds.

I expect Pittsburgh to win games because they have the best offense in their division. However, their defense will probably slow them down and cause them to lose games they shouldn’t. Their schedule isn’t too kind either with road trips to New England, San Diego, Kansas City, Seattle, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Cleveland.

Record prediction (division record): 11-5 (4-2)

Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck.

South: Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis added some weapons for Andrew Luck during the offseason. They added wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore. They also drafted wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round. Luck will have a ton of toys to play with and Indianapolis should have a potent offense. However, the offensive line is still an issue in Indianapolis.

The Colts didn’t really address their needs on defense. They signed linebacker Trent Cole to help with the pass rush and that’s about it. They needed some help in the run defense, but they did draft defensive end Henry Anderson in the third round who should help with that. I still wouldn’t expect much improvement to this unit though.

If Indianapolis weren’t in the weakest division in the NFL I’d say this team wouldn’t win more than 12 games. However, the AFC South is very weak and Indianapolis has the best quarterback in the division by a mile. The rest of the schedule is soft. Their toughest road tests will be trips to Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Miami. I think that Indianapolis gets through the regular season with ease.

Record prediction (division record): 13-3 (6-0)

Kansas City head coach Andy Reid.
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid.

West: Kansas City Chiefs

I don’t expect the Chiefs to have a great offense. Alex Smith is a decent quarterback, but he’s not anything special. They signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in free agency, and drafted the speedy wide receiver Chris Conley. Tight end Travis Kelce ought to have a pretty good season. They still have Jamaal Charles at running back who is just a star player. However, the offensive line in Kansas City isn’t very good. Andy Reid is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL; he’ll find a way to get this team to score enough points to win games.

The strength of the Chiefs is their defense; they were the seventh ranked defense last year. They return their key pieces on defense like outside linebacker Justin Houston, who led the league in sacks last year. They also drafted physical cornerback Marcus Peters in the first round. This defense might struggle at first with nose tackle Dontari Poe out with an injury. Although once he gets healthy, they’ll return to being great.

This pick might surprise some people, but I think Denver is going to hit a speed bump this year. I just think Peyton Manning’s days are done. Kansas City’s schedule is manageable with road trips to Houston, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Denver, San Diego, Oakland, and Baltimore. I think Kansas City will have a late surge because they have four home games in their final six games.

Record prediction (division record): 10-6 (4-2)

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.

Wild Card: Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore should have a better offense this season. Joe Flacco remains the quarterback, wide receiver Steve Smith returns, and they have a pretty good offensive line. The Ravens drafted wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams in the first and second round. Flacco should have fun with those weapons. The problem with this team is that they lack a great running back. Justin Forsett is good, but they could use someone a lot better.

Baltimore always has great defenses, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change this year. They should have a great defensive line with defensive ends Chris Canty and Timmy Jernigan, and nose tackle Brandon Williams. Along with a solid group of linebackers with Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley in the inside, with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs coming off the edge. However, the secondary will lack playmakers outside of Lardarius Webb.

Baltimore should have the best defense in the AFC North, but I don’t think that they’re going to have the horses on offense to keep up with Pittsburgh. Also, their schedule is brutal. In Baltimore’s first eight games, they have road games in five of those games. Their first two games are on the road across the country in Denver and Oakland. After that, the schedule gets more manageable. The Ravens only have three road games in their last eight games. They’ll struggle at first, but they’ll have a late surge.

Record prediction (division record): 10-6 (4-2)

Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Wild Card: Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have a chance to be one of the better offenses in the NFL. I’m a believer in Ryan Tannehill. He’s got better every year he’s been in the NFL. He has some weapons this year after the Dolphins traded for wide receiver Kenny Stills, they signed tight end Jordan Cameron and wide receiver Greg Jennings. They also drafted wide receiver DeVante Parker in the first round and they have wide receiver Jarvis Landry who has the potential to be a dynamic player. Running back Lamar Miller showed last year that he could be the guy at running back. Plus, the offensive line should be improved.

The Dolphins should have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL after they signed Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Suh and defensive end Cam Wake will be lethal for opponents. Their linebackers are decent, but not great. The secondary will be Miami’s weakness. Cornerback Brent Grimes is a great player, but is getting old. They also lost free safety Louis Delmas for the season due to injury.

The Dolphins SHOULD be a much-improved team after being very aggressive in free agency. If they’re not, it’s a coaching problem. I picked Miami to be a playoff team last year and they disappointed me. However, I think Tannehill has the weapons to have a top 10 offense in the NFL. Their defense will be pretty good too. Their schedule is favorable. Their tough road trips will be New England, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and San Diego.

Record prediction (division record): 10-6 (4-2)

NFC Division Winners/Wild Card Teams:

Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant.

East: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys did lose running back DeMarco Murray during free agency. However, just about every other piece of their offense returns. Tony Romo is still the quarterback, they have pretty good receivers led by Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten is old but he’s still a great player, and don’t forget about the offensive line that is the best line in the NFL.

I expect the Cowboys to be better on defense. Their best player, linebacker Sean Lee, returns after a torn ACL in 2014. They signed defensive end Greg Hardy to help with the pass rush. They also drafted cornerback Byron Jones and defensive end Randy Gregory (who was supposed to be a top five pick) with their first two picks of the draft. The Cowboys will miss cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who tore his ACL a few weeks ago and will miss the season.

I don’t care for Dallas’ decision of a “running back by committee” instead of having a true starter. I think it could catch up with them, but it won’t hurt them too bad due to their offensive line. Dallas’ defense made a huge stride last year without Sean Lee, and I expect improvement. The NFC East will be a tougher division this year than it was last year. Their schedule is manageable too, with tough road trips to Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York, Miami, Green Bay, and Buffalo.

Record prediction (division record): 10-6 (4-2)

Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews.
Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews.

North: Green Bay Packers

No Jordy Nelson? No problem. As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, this is Green Bay’s division. The Packers will still have a potent offense with running back Eddie Lacy and wide receiver Randall Cobb. They have a great offensive line as well. With Jordy Nelson out for the season, I expect wide receiver Davante Adams and tight end Richard Rodgers to make a big leaps. Keep an eye on rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery, and second-year wide receiver Jeff Janis to help replace Nelson too.

Green Bay didn’t address their major defensive needs in the offseason, but they did fill holes in their secondary depth after they didn’t re-sign cornerbacks Tramon Williams, Davon House, and Jarrett Bush. They used their first two draft picks on versatile defensive backs Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Green Bay has glaring holes in their run defense, but they plan to plug Clay Matthews in at inside linebacker along with Sam Barrington who played well in 2014. The Packers also get nose tackle B.J. Raji back after he missed the 2014 season due to injury.

I believe that by the time the season is done, Green Bay will have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. However, I’m not sure what to expect from their run defense. When Clay Matthews moved to inside linebacker last year, it was a huge impact for this defense and it vastly improved. The Packers also have a favorable schedule with road trips to Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Carolina, Minnesota, Detroit, Oakland, and Arizona.

Record prediction (division record): 13-3 (5-1)

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.

South: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons will continue to have a great offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan. He still has wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White to throw to. The offensive line should be improved. They also made some interesting draft picks who I think will make impacts on offense. Running back Tevin Coleman and wide receiver Justin Hardy were solid players in college; I think with Matt Ryan as their quarterback they’ll be able to transform their game in the NFL.

New head coach Dan Quinn’s strength is defense. I’ve loved who the Falcons have drafted the last two years to improve their defense with defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, defensive back Dezmen Southward, linebacker Vic Beasley, and cornerback Jalen Collins. They still have cornerback Desmond Trufant, who is a rising star. I think this defense takes a big leap in 2015.

The NFC South is a terrible division, I expect a lot of chaos and I think the Falcons are the team that’s going to emerge. I like the moves that the Falcons have made the last two years. Their schedule is manageable with road trips to New York, Dallas, New Orleans, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Jacksonville.

Record prediction (division record): 9-7 (4-2)

Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch.

West: Seattle Seahawks

Seattle’s offense should be improved after the team traded for tight end Jimmy Graham. They still have quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch. They also added running back Fred Jackson a few days ago. The question marks on this team will be wide receiver and offensive line. There’s not really a consistent wide receiver for Seattle outside of Doug Baldwin. The offensive line was already suspect, but they traded away All-Pro center Max Unger in order to get Graham. Now the offensive line could really be in trouble.

As always, the defense should be stellar in Seattle. However, strong safety Kam Chancellor is still holding out and waiting for a new contract. The rest of the defense in still in tact led by cornerback Richard Sherman and linebacker Bobby Wagner. There is a hole in the interior defensive line after the team had to release defensive tackle Tony McDaniel due to salary cap issues.

As long as Seattle’s defense is healthy, they’ll continue to be the top team in the NFC West. Their schedule won’t be easy though. The Seahawks have to travel to St. Louis, Green Bay, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Dallas, Minnesota, Baltimore, and Arizona. As everyone knows, this Seattle team is nowhere near the same team when they’re not in Seattle.

Record prediction (division record): 11-5 (5-1)

Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly.
Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly.

Wild Card: Philadelphia Eagles

The biggest question mark in Philadelphia is the quarterback. They traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford. Whether or not Bradford can stay healthy will make or break Philadelphia’s season. The Eagles have a pretty good offensive line. They signed running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. They also drafted wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who is a playmaker. They have a great pair of tight ends in Brent Celek and Zach Ertz.

The problem with Philadelphia the last few years has been their defense. The Eagles made some moves in the offseason that might give them one of the best front seven’s in the NFL. Their defensive line is solid with defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton, along with nose tackle Bennie Logan. Their new asset, linebacker Kiko Alonso, will help in the run defense. They added help in the secondary signing cornerback Byron Maxwell and drafting cornerback Eric Rowe.

I’m interested to see how Philadelphia’s moves in the offseason will work out. The last time the Eagles were aggressive in free agency and spent a lot of money, it didn’t work out for them. Their road schedule won’t be easy with trips to Atlanta, New York (Jets), Washington, Carolina, Dallas, Detroit, New England, and New York again to face the Giants.

Record prediction (division record): 10-6 (4-2)

Arizona head coach Bruce Arians.
Arizona head coach Bruce Arians.

Wild Card: Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL. The biggest question mark is at quarterback, will Carson Palmer recover from his ACL injury? The Cardinals upgraded their offensive line in the offseason signing guard Mike Iupati and drafting tackle D.J. Humphries. They still have wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown. They also have a plethora of running backs led by Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, and the rookie David Johnson.

The Cardinals’ defense should be solid once again. The strength of this team is their secondary led by cornerback Patrick Peterson and free safety Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals boosted their linebacker unit by signing Sean Weatherspoon to play inside and drafting Markus Golden to help with the pass rush. The defensive line is the biggest hole, but they still have defensive end Calais Campbell.

The Cardinals shocked everyone last season. If it weren’t for injuries, the Cardinals probably would’ve had home field advantage in the postseason. The road schedule isn’t kind to Arizona. They have to travel to Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.

Record prediction (division record): 10-6 (4-2)

NFL Playoffs

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Weekend:

AFC:
#5 Ravens vs. #4 Chiefs
#6 Dolphins vs. #3 Steelers

NFC:
#5 Eagles vs. #4 Falcons
#6 Cardinals vs. #3 Cowboys

Divisional Round:

AFC:
#5 Ravens vs. #1 Colts
#3 Steelers vs. #2 Patriots

NFC:
#6 Cardinals vs. #1 Packers
#5 Eagles vs. #2 Seahawks

Championship Weekend:

AFC: #3 Steelers vs. #1 Colts
NFC: #2 Seahawks vs. #1 Packers

SB50

Super Bowl 50:

#2 Seahawks vs. #1 Colts

Super Bowl Champion:

#2 Seahawks

I can’t bring myself to pick anyone else but Seattle. They have the defense and their offense should be improved. I don’t think Indianapolis did enough in the offseason to upgrade their defense. I think New England lost too much on defense to compete for another Super Bowl. If the Packers still had Jordy Nelson they’d be in great shape, but I don’t trust Green Bay’s defense to get it done. The only thing going for the rest of the NFL is that the odds are against Seattle to make it to the Super Bowl for a third consecutive season.

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s