Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Unofficial Official First NFL Prediction

And so the 2016 preseason concludes and the unofficial official first NFL prediction of the season is offered.

Panthers over Broncos - The Broncos looked somewhat like the 2013 Ravens in they come into defending their title with a massive overhaul, this one at the quarterback.   Mark Sanchez was signed as the Name quarterback and he promptly played his way to the bench (and subsequently got cut) behind Trevor Siemian while Paxton Lynch looks to redshirt this year.   The Panthers come in after an uneven preseason and a downright abysmal performance by Cam Newton in the third game, but that shouldn't be enough to stop a Panthers team that hasn't gone through the instability the Broncos have.

Ravens over Bills - 2015 was a dismal season for the Ravens and they face a Bills team that has shown sign of improvement. Past breakdown of discipline (which led to some public player complaints) remains a staple of Rex and Rob Ryan as they face Rex's old team.

Packers over Jaguars - The improvement of the Jaguars is legitimate, but it hasn't reached the point yet of being able to consistently hang with or stop a high-powered offense like the Packers. Aaron Rodgers gets Jordy Nelson back while Blake Bortles has two ace receivers.

Chiefs over Chargers - A decidedly lifeless preseason and the ugly contract fight with pass rushing rookie Joey Bosa permeated a Chargers team demanding a new stadium rather than actually rebuild Qualcomm, and Philip Rivers' empty 4,700 yards in 2015 atop a mediocre decade indicate he isn't the answer anymore. San Diego hits the ground against a Kansas City team that won eleven straight and broke through for their first playoff win since Joe Montana's 1993 season - and ironically against the same city (Houston) that Montana shot down all those years ago.

Buccaneers over Falcons - Matt Ryan continued to show nothing in the way of improvement in the preseason or the previous three seasons and they get an improving Bucs squad to open their last season at the Georgia Dome.

Texans over Bears -  The Bears at times looked very undisciplined this preseason and they are stuck with Jay Cutler, who will never amount to anything beyond a volume stats whore with nothing in the way of substantive achievement.   Brock Osweiler bolted the Broncos for Bill O'Brien and the Texans (and a fat contract), and as preseason went on began to show reason to have faith in him.  

Saints over Raiders -  The end of Oakland as home of the Raiders looks like a done deal with Las Vegas slated to build a new stadium (we think) and the Las Vegas Raiders name now trademarked.   The Raiders are an improving outfit with Derek Carr and they should show fight against a Saints team that was atrocious on defense last season and didn't put up enough offense to overcome it; the Saints have to overcome recent home field disadvantage as they've lost seven of their last sixteen home games. 

Bengals over NY Jets  - The Jets got Ryan Fitzpatrick back but his ceiling is lower than most other quarterbacks and the Jets get a Bengals team that has two quality quarterbacks at least as far as the regular season goes with Andy Dalton. The Jets under Todd Bowles are no pushovers, though, with a culture of discipline the Jets organization hasn't seen since the Parcells period.   

Eagles over Browns -   The Eagles are rebuilding after a surprising collapse of Chip Kelly's regime and have shown something under Doug Pederson; they get the perpetually-unachieving Browns first, debuting Redskins washout Robert Griffin III.

The Titans enter 2016 with some momentum

Titans over Vikings - The Titans enter 2016 with some momentum from preseason after a strong game against the Raiders and overall, and with Marcus Mariota looking to continue improvement, a potential draft steal of steals in receiver Tajae Sharpe to go with genuine receiver depth for the first time in a long time, and a much-improved running game with Derrick Henry and veteran DeMarco Murray looking like a real deal. Here though they get a more opportune opportunity with a Vikings team that not only lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the season but whose reaction to his injury - cancelling practice and then seeing Mike Zimmer crying in the press conference - is indicative of a weak outfit; a strong team that lost its quarterback would see him leave in the ambulance and then the team would immediately resume practice - in Belichick-speak it's called Next Man Up. The shocking trade with the Eagles means Sam Bradford takes over a talented roster and if the Vikings can salvage anything out of this season Bradford has to step up his game - and stay healthy.

Seahawks over Dolphins - The Seahawks showed why they're still NFC West controllers with some eye-popping play by Russell Wilson in - of all things - preseason. Of course Wilson had already built a potential Hall Of Fame resume the previous four seasons so game-winning play is old hat for him. He gets a Dolphins team showing lifelessness with Ryan Tannehill playing his way out of the league.

Cowboys over NY Giants - Even without his back injury, Tony Romo looked like he was becoming rookie Rayne Dakota Prescott's backup for the Cowboys, but the back injury has merely accelerated the timeline of the Dak Prescott era. The Cowboys' overall roster has looked strong, especially the O-line, and Prescott's play in preseason has been encouraging overall; he gets his first chance to make something of it as he takes on perennial foe the New York Giants, who've looked strikingly sloppy on all sides of the ball during preseason.

Colts over Lions - Some oddly schizophrenic play by the Colts this preseason may raise a few doubts for 2016 after a subpar and injury-shot 2015. Andrew Luck has been spectacular yet he has also been woefully inconsistent, with roughly half his wins coming against division foes and his play against the AFC East in particular has been outright worthless. He opens 2016 against the Colts' former coach Jim Caldwell, who leads a Lions team that has looked weak in the preseason. Matthew Stafford also has a bad reputation - 3-40 - against quality opponents in his career and the last time he faced the AFC South the games themselves were super-competitive yet he ultimately failed to deliver the wins.

Patriots over Cardinals - The four-game Brady suspension starts and Jimmy Garoppolo takes over under center with some solid play in his first two preseason games and some struggle against the Panthers while not playing against the Giants; the overall offense has looked curiously raw with some poor O-line play, several key injuries, and an old problem resurfacing - inability to get quality play from well-regarded free agent pass catchers. Loudmouthed tight end Martellus Bennett was signed from the Bears but has been all but irrelevant in the preseason and a fumble against the Giants got him benched a la butterfingered ex-Patriot Stevan Ridley. The performance of Tom Brady in his two preseason games merely showed how behind his backups are and also illustrated his own rustiness as he needed the entire first half against the Giants to establish unit cohesion and rhythm.    The Patriots thus get a Cardinals team that is certainly very good but which people seem to overrate somewhat; it's still a Carson Palmer team and he has to face a far-improved Patriots defense with ex-Brown Barkevious Mingo arriving via latter-August trade suddenly exploding late in the preseason. 

Steelers over Redskins - The Steelers are not what they were in 2010 or in 2011 before falling in the famous 3:16 Game loss to the Broncos; in fact that loss began a striking slide into mediocrity for the Steelers (29 losses, two of them playoff losses, in the last four seasons) as their shaky win over the Bengals marked their first playoff win since 2010 yet merely made their subsequent loss to the overrated Broncos little in the way of any surprise. They hit the season against a Redskins outfit that showed real improvement but still has a reputation for collapsing when asked to handle success.

Rams over 49ers - Colin Kaepernick not only insulted the intelligence of the human race by refusing to stand for the national anthem and justifying it by claiming non-existent oppression of minorities (his own upbringing disproves his premise) but in doing so atop miserable play the previous two seasons and his trade demand when the Niners changed coaches he proved to other NFL clubs that he is not a leader or a reliable player - he is a spoiled petulant brat once heralded as potentially the greatest quarterback the league could see but whose game is just freelancing and relying on athleticism over intelligence. Blaine Gabbert showed the beginning of a career turnaround with some solid play taking over halfway through 2015 but he has a tough test against a Rams team getting more than deserving attention for moving to Los Angeles - the worst sports market in the country as shown by the failure of the Rams and Raiders there before atop the more-recent failure of California Speedway, the collapse of popularity for the Lakers, continuing mediocre fan support for any of its other pro teams, and some ugly fan set-tos during Rams preseason games at the long-outdated Memorial Coliseum. The Rams have been a mediocre team the last four seasons with just 27 wins, but some of them (such as over the Colts and Broncos) have been eye-openers. Jared Goff has shown struggle as a rookie and likely won't see action at least in the season's first half.

We thus await the 2016 season.

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