If you happened to pay attention to a certain show (Fantasy JAM) on this very network this past Thursday, you would not only have heard NFL Network Analyst and former Super Bowl Champion Heath Evans make some very eye-popping predictions, but you would have heard my co-host Chad “the Buffalo” Setera follow that up with some of his own.
While I applaud both gentlemen for going out on a limb to make their predictions, sometimes your idea of what is going to happen in the regular season has to be grounded in some reality. That’s why if you didn’t listen to the show—shame on you, here’s a link as to what you missed—the only set of predictions on the show that will come true.
So for posterity’s sake, and so we can go back in February of 2016 and marvel at just how right I was, I am going to go over briefly my predictions here for the regular season all the way through Super Bowl L.
Let’s start in the NFC where the East used to be the crown jewel of the NFL. In 2016 they’ll be lucky to get one team into the post-season. With Tony Romo and Dez Bryant leading the way, I have the Cowboys finishing at 10-6 and the only playoff team in the East.
The South is a different animal entirely. 2014 was the first time one team had won back-to-back division titles in the brief history of this division, and even then it was an ugly 7-8-1 team that won it. This year will be much better in the NFL South, as the Panthers should win the division for the 3rd straight year despite losing Kelvin Benjamin, but that defense will prove how stellar it truly is. Joining the Panthers in the post season will be the 10-6 Saints. This is possibly the last hurrah for this team, and I think owner Tom Benson knows that, and so the Saints will be a tough team this last go around.
The North will once again go through Green Bay, and why shouldn’t it? They have the best QB in the NFL, a running game that has really found its legs under Eddie Lacey and a much improving defense. Even with the loss of Jordy Nelson this year, the Packers offense will not lose a beat, not with Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery and Devante Adams still catching passes and they will the NFC North and be the #1 seed in the NFC at 13-3.
The surprise out of the North is the other team that will make the playoffs, the Minnesota Vikings. With a full season under the belt of Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson healthy and running with a chip on his shoulder, look out for these guys. Their head coach is defensive guru Mike Zimmer, and he wills his squad at a robust 11-5 and in the playoffs.
Finally out west, where the 49ers fall from grace is complete, leaving just one team good enough to make the playoffs, the 13-3 Seattle Seahawks. I will say this, if Legion of Boom member Kam Chancellor does hold out all season, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Rams or Cardinals win this division and the Seahawks be left out in the cold.
Over in the AFC, the teams are a lot more bunched together, that’s not to say they aren’t good, I just think the talent level is spread out more. Let’s start in the East, which has basically been Bill Belicheck’s personal pincushion over the last decade or so. That changes this year, as there are three teams all capable of making the playoffs this year, as the poor Jets are the one squad that should already be making draft plans.
But I tell you what, the Bills, Dolphins and Pats are all good enough to win the division this year, and that’s why I have Buffalo breaking their 15 year playoff drought and going 11-5 to win the division. The Dolphins will also have a great season and at 10-6 be one of the Wildcards this year. Which means that the Patriots will miss the post-season all together this year, also finishing 10-6 but losing on a tie breaker system that is more complicated than the female orgasm.
The AFC North and South will both only have only the division winners making the post-season this year. With Big Ben and the Steelers having defensive issues and nobody quite knowing what to expect out of the Ravens, Marvin Lewis has his Bengals winning the division and making the post-season for the fifth straight. The problem with Lewis isn’t making the playoffs; it’s winning once he gets there as he is 0-5 in his last 6 seasons as head coach.
In the West, 3 of the 4 teams have really improved themselves, but what is ironic is the one team that hasn’t is still the best team in the division, that being the Denver Broncos. I believe they will go 13-3 this season, be the top seed in the AFC, while the Kanas City Chiefs will be the other playoff team from the West, and at 10-6 will sneak in as the 6th seed.
So a brief look at the seeding’s in the NFC and AFC:
|1 – PACKERS|
|2 – SEAHAWKS|
|4 – COWBOYS|
|5 – VIKINGS|
|6 – SAINTS|
|1 – BRONCOS|
|2 – BILLS|
|3 – COLTS|
|4 – BENGALS|
|5 – DOLPHINS|
|6 – CHIEFS|
So how will the post-season break down? I am so glad you asked. On Wild Card Weekend we will see the 3rd seeded Panthers up end division rival and 6th seeded Saints, while the 5th seeded Vikings will upset the Cowboys and move on.
Meanwhile the AFC will have one upset as well, as the Bengals will falter again in the playoffs and lose to the upstart Dolphins, while the Colts will take care of business and take down the Chiefs.
So that brings us to the Divisional Round, where as I see things, the Packers will end the Vikings magical run, while the Seahawks will be one and done this season, and the Panthers will finally get that monkey off their backs, and take down the Seahawks.
In the AFC, the Bills will do to the Colts what they do to them in Week 1 of the NFL season and beat them. Rex Ryan’s defense will prove too much for a game Andrew Luck and send him home licking his wounds, while the Dolphins will continue their upward trend, thanks in no small part to their unheralded defense and knock out Peyton and the Top seeded Broncos.
So the Final Four of the NFL will be the Packers, Panthers, Bills and Dolphins. Three of the teams will rely on their D to get it done, while the Packers have the game’s best QB under center.
So which two teams will be playing at Levi’s Stadium for the Vince Lombardi Trophy? Well Green Bay is called Title Town for a reason, and as good as the Panthers Defense is this season, it will not be good enough to take down Green Bay. Meanwhile in the AFC Home field Advantage has never been more obvious. Let’s see a late January game in Buffalo vs. a late January in Miami? I think we see how this plays itself out.
So Super Bowl L will feature a team that won the first two Super Bowls and a team that heartbreakingly lost 4 straight (OK only the first of the 4 was a great game, but still). So get ready Bills fans, because Super Bowl L means that the Packers win another title and Aaron Rodgers is going to Disneyland.
But it does prove that the Rex Ryan hire was the right move, and that last year’s heartbreak in Green Bay did not destroy the team.
So be sure to check back here in late January so I can gloat at how amazingly spot-on I was, and tune in to Fantasy JAM every Thursday night and listen to only person in the country that can control me, a little bit,