Football

NFL Playoff Picture Coming Into Focus

Week 10 has passed.  Every team has now played more games than games left.  It’s at this point that the playoff picture takes form.  Were starting to see the true contenders, and we’re also able to cross a lot of teams off.

If the season were to end today this is what the playoffs would look like in the AFC:

1. Pittsburgh

2. New England

3. Kansas City

4. Tennessee

5. Jacksonville

6. Buffalo

Pittsburgh & New England would get the first round bye.  Not a big surprise.  Kansas City would play host to Buffalo.  Tennessee would host Jacksonville in an AFC South showdown.  Something no one could envision at the start of the season.  With four wins a piece, Baltimore, Oakland, Miami, and the N.Y. Jets would all be on the outside looking in.

The NFC playoff picture would look like this:

1. Philadelphia

2. Minnesota

3. New Orleans

4. L.A. Rams

5. Carolina

6. Seattle

No one could have predicted that halfway through the season the top four playoff teams in the NFC would be Philly, Minnesota, New Orleans, and the L.A. Rams.  Philly & Minnesota would have the first round bye.  New Orleans would host the NFC playoff stalwart Seattle.  The top rated offense of the L.A. Rams would host the top rated defense of Carolina.

After looking at the schedules and other factors (experience, playing style etc.), I have made some predictions what the final playoff picture will look like.  Here it is:

1. New England Patriots: After a shaky start, the Patriots seem to be rounding into form. Don’t get me wrong their a flawed team defensively, but are you really going to bet against them?  It’s not hard to imagine that they will win out and once again have home field throughout the playoffs.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers have a cupcake schedule the rest of the way minus their match up with the Patriots mid December.  That’s the only thing that keeps them from the number 1 seed.  Once against the Patriots remain the Steelers kryptonite.

3. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs remaining schedule isn’t exactly a murderers row.  I could see them going on a nice winning streak to end the season.  The game they dropped to the Steelers in Arrowhead will prove costly, and keep them from getting a first round bye.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Yes, Im picking the Jaguars to take the AFC South.  I’m reluctant to make this prediction because of their major glaring weakness, Blake Bortles.  On the hand, they have one of the easiest schedules remaining, which includes games against the Browns, Cards, Colts, Texans, and Niners.  They also have one the best defenses in the league and a solid running game, something that’s important come December.

5. Tennessee Titans: I feel their is not much difference between the Jags and Titans.  The only reason I’m choosing the Jaguars to win the AFC South over the Titans has to do with the remaining schedule.  If these two teams meet in the playoffs it’s anyone’s guess who will advance.

6.  Baltimore Ravens:  I don’t think the Ravens are a good team by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see them squeaking into the final playoff spot.  Their remaining schedule is much easier than the other teams in the hunt for the final playoff spot.  If they do grab the final wild card spot they will be the team that everyone else will secretly fear.

On The Outside Looking In:  The Bills currently hold the final wild card spot, but I can’t see that sticking.  Their remaining the schedule is tough.  They have two face the Patriots twice and travel to Arrowhead.  The Raiders are another team that will make a run at the final spot, but ultimately end up short.

The NFC is a little more interesting.  The NFC North is still up for grabs. Ditto NFC South.  Can the Eagles handle the pressure down the stretch?  Will the upstart Rams be able to hold off Seattle for the NFC West?  Here how I think it plays out:

1. Philadelphia Eagles:  The Eagles tough remaining schedule will trip them up a little, but not enough to lose the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.   

2. New Orleans Saints:  The Saints have been one of the biggest surprises all season.  After losing their first two games they have ripped off seven straight wins.  The most surprising thing about the those wins is how much of it was a result of their running game and defense.  I think the Saints are just able to win a competitive NFC south and grab a first round bye.

3. Los Angeles Rams:  The Rams remaining schedule is brutal, five out of their last seven games will be against teams that are currently in the playoff picture.  With that said, I still believe this team is good enough to win the AFC West and possibly make a deep run in the playoffs.

4. Minnesota Vikings:  I don’t like that their is a quarterback controversy.  I don’t like that controversy is over two quarterbacks that are mediocre.  I do, however, like the Vikings defense.  Their schedule down the stretch will be tough, but I still like them to take a wide open NFC North.

5. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers will ride the league’s #1 defense and a cupcake schedule to a wildcard spot.

6. Seattle Seahawks: Once again the Seahawks will make the playoffs, and once again they will be the wildcard team that no one wants to face.

On The Outside Looking In:  Atlanta has been up and down all season.  I think they make a push towards the playoffs, but ultimately end up short because of tough NFC South.  The loss of Zeke will hurt the Cowboys going forward and end up costing them a playoff spot.  The Lions have an easy remaining schedule, but I don’t trust them for a second.

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Midseason NFL Rankings

Put A Fork In Them

32. Cleveland Browns (0-8): I thought there was reason for optimism this season.  I thought the Browns were moving in a positive direction.  I was wrong.  It’s the same old Browns.  In fact, it seems worse than ever.  They just lost the only bright spot in their organization over the last decade, ironman Joe Thomas, and it’s looking more and more likely they will join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go an entire season winless.

31. San Francisco 49ers (0-8):  The Niners join the Browns as the only teams to be winless half way through the season.  However, the Niners winless record is a lot better than the Browns winless record.  Five of Niners loses have been by three or less.  I see the Niners getting their first win before the Browns, but either way it’s going to be another lost season.

30. Indianapolis Colts (2-6):  Their only two wins have came against the aforementioned Browns & Niners.  Brissett has done a fine job filling in for the injured Luck, but overall this team is a mess.  If their ownership is smart they’ll keep Luck out for the rest of the season, and look towards next year’s draft for some help on the offensive line.

29. New York Giants (1-6):  This is a lost season for the Giants.  The defense will keep them in some games, but their offense is devoid any talent since losing their top three receivers.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5):  This year’s sexy pick has disappointed so far.  Winston looks like he is regressing, and their defense ranks among the league’s worst.

On Life Support

27. Arizona Cardinals (3-4): First star running back David Johnson went down.  Then their starting quarterback, Carson Palmer breaks his arm.  Even with a healthy Palmer I didn’t think the Cards were going to make a run at the playoffs.  Now that he’s out for the season they don’t have a shot in hell.

26. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4):  The Bengals barely sneaked out a win against the 2-5 Colts at home.  Mathematically they still have a chance at winning the AFC North, but let’s be realistic, this team just isn’t very good.

25. N.Y. Jets (3-5):  After winning three straight the Jets have dropped three straight.  What’s worse, is that all three L’s were a result of blown leads.  This team isn’t going to make the playoffs, but at least they’ll be competitive, something I didn’t expect going into this season.

The Underachieving AFC West

24. Oakland Raiders (3-5): I thought the Raiders would come back to earth this season after going 12-4 last year, but I never expected them to fall this far.  Their offense, which was suppose to be their strength coming into the season, has looked average. Match that with an average defense, and you have a team, that’s well, average.    

23. Los Angeles Chargers (3-5):  In this unpredictable NFL season their is still one constant – the Chargers will find ways to lose games.

22. Denver Broncos (3-4): In my quarter poll I had the Broncos ranked #2, and even said they had a chance of making the Super Bowl.  Since then, they’ve gone 0-3.  They’re even rumors that Trevor Siemian will be replaced by Paxton Lynch, or even worse Brock Osweiler.  Rough.

So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance

21. Baltimore Ravens (4-4):  The Ravens offense came to life against Miami last Thursday scoring 40 points.  Before that game they had been a train wreck.  It’s hard to tell what offense we will see the second half of the season.  Will we get Joe Flacco of 2013 or will we get Joe Flaccid?

20. Washington Redskins (3-4):  The Skins already have three losses in their division.  Two losses to the 7-1 Eagles and a loss against a Cowboys team who seems to be hitting their stride.  The rest of the schedule doesn’t look very promising and the injuries just keep piling up.  Yes, it certainly does seem to be raining shit on the Washington Redskins right now.

19. Chicago Bears (3-4):  The Bears are a throwback to a different era.  They play tough defense, rely on the ground game, and only throw the ball 10 times a game. For the Bears to win they need to grind out games.  Could they grind out enough wins to grab hold of an Aaron Rodgersless NFC North.  It’s not inconceivable.

18. Detroit Lions (3-4):  The Lions started hot out of the gate.  At the quarter mark of the season they were 3-1, and looking like one of the better teams in the NFC.  Since that point, they’ve gone 0-3.  The Lions could still win the NFC North, but I wouldn’t put my money on it.

Illusions

17. Green Bay Packers (4-3): The Packers are 4-3, and in second place right now in the NFC North.  However, those 4 wins came while Aaron Rodgers was starting.  With Rodgers likely out for the year I can’t see them even sniffing the playoffs.

16. Tennessee Titans (4-3):  The Titans have been average at best this season and they somehow lead the AFC South.  I can’t see this sticking.  When it comes down to it, the Titans are just a middle of the road team.

15. Miami Dolphins (4-3): The Dolphins are the biggest illusion of this group. How they have won 4 games this season is anyone’s guess.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3): By far, the hardest team to get a read on this season.  One week they look like World beaters the next week they are getting blown out.  They have a great defense and strong running game, but they also have Blake Bortles at QB.  Then again, anything can happen in the AFC South.

13.  Minnesota Vikings (5-2): Yes, The Vikings have one of the best records in the NFL, and yes, they lead the NFC North.  With that said, I still don’t trust this team.  Their defense is great, but whose their QB going forward? Keenum? Bridgewater? Bradford? Bueller?

12. Atlanta Falcons (4-3):  I’m thinking the Super Bowl hangover may be real.  The Falcons have looked all out of sorts this year.  The high flying offense from last year hasn’t been able to get going.  I still think they could get it together and win the NFC South, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them finish .500 either.   

11. Carolina Panthers (5-3): The Panthers are 5-3, but they don’t feel like one of the elite teams in the NFL.  You never know if you’re going to get good Cam or bad Cam, and their running game is nonexistent.  Still, I think the Panthers have the highest ceiling of anyone in the NFC South.

Good Not Great

10. Houston Texans (3-4):  I feel like the Texans are better than their 3-4 record.  Their losses, other than Jacksonville, have been against the league’s best (New England, Kansas City, Seattle).  Two of those games they could have won if not for the heroics of Tom Brady & Russell Wilson.  I think the Texans will end up winning the AFC South because they have finally found their Quarterback.  Dashaun Watson already looks like an absolute stud.

9. Dallas Cowboys (4-3): The Cowboys seem to be hitting their stride.  Their defense is playing better and Ezekiel Elliot is starting to look like he did last season.  But how long will it last?  The Cowboys offense could take a serious hit if Elliot does end up getting suspended.

8. New Orleans Saints (5-2): After losing their first two games the Saints have won five straight.  The most surprising part of this five game winning streak is that they’ve been winning by playing good defense and running the ball.  Drew Brees hasn’t even hit his stride yet and their still winning games.  If he does, then the Saints should be clear cut favorites to take the NFC South.

7. St. Louis Rams (5-2):  What a difference a year makes.  Last year, it looked like Goff was the next Ryan Leaf and that Gurley was a one hit wonder.  Fans were putting pressure on the organization to fire Jeff Fisher, and wisely they listened.  This year the Rams are a whole new team.  Both Goff and Gurley look rejuvenated under Sean McVey and the defense is rounding into form.

6. Buffalo Bills (5-2): Are the Buffalo Bills actually good?  I think they might be legit.  They have one of the best defenses in the league.  The rushing game is taken off from where it did last season, and while Tyrod Taylor may not be the best quarterback in the NFL, he’s not going to hurt your team either.

The Contenders 

5. Seattle Seahawks (5-2): No rushing game. No offensive line. No problem.  Russell Wilson continues to do Russell Wilson things, and as long as he’s under center this team will always be a contender.

4. New England Patriots (6-2): No Edleman. No Hightower. A 32nd ranked defense.  No problem. As long as Brady is under center and the Hood is on the sideline this team will always be a contender.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2): It’s looking more and more likely that the Chiefs will take the AFC West.  Of course, it seems that this team won’t be taken seriously until they win a playoff game against the Pats or Steelers.  Is this the year?

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2): When they look bad, boy do they look bad. However, when the Steelers are firing on all cylinders their almost impossible to stop.  When it comes down to it the Steelers are their own worst enemy. As long as they don’t beat themselves they’ll have very good chance at going to their 9th Super Bowl.

1. Philadelphia Eagles (7-1):  All season it seems like people keep waiting to see the Eagles fall yet they just keep winning.  At this point of the season they are the most complete team in the NFL.  Wentz looks like one of the leagues best QB’s in only his second year and the defense is reminiscent of the Eagles defenses in the early 90’s.

26 Thoughts On Week One In The NFL

One week down. There’s been a few surprises and already a handful of injuries.

It’s hard to get a real feel for any team after only one week.  It usually isn’t until a quarter way through the season that we can get a feel for the contenders and pretenders.  However, this won’t stop me or any other armchair quarterbacks from jumping to conclusions.

Here are a few of my thoughts from week one in the NFL:

1.  So much for the 16-0 talk.  The Patriots got absolutely dominated by the Chiefs.  The loss of Edelman is obvious.  The lack of pass rush is going to hurt them all season.  Belichick will figure it out, but I don’t think the Patriots are the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl anymore.

2.  Since I’ve been watching the NFL the Chiefs seem to be the same team.  They play good defense, run the ball well, and have a game manager at quarterback.  Every couple of years they will get a first round bye and then lose a low scoring game in Arrowhead.  Will it change this year?  Their week one win over the Patriots suggest that this year’s Chiefs may be different.  But I doubt anyone takes them seriously until they win against a legit team in the playoffs.

3.  Carson Palmer looked terrible on the road.  David Johnson is out for 2-3 months.  It’s only week one, but things are already looking dire for the Cards.

4.  I thought the Lions would regress this year because they wouldn’t have the same luck as last season in close games (8 of their 9 wins were comebacks). Then the Lions go out week one and win another game in which they trailed entering the 4th quarter.  Maybe it’s not luck.

5.  Minus the terrible interception to Kerrigan, Wentz looked really good on Sunday.  With addition of Jeffery and the improvement of Agholor,  Wentz finally has some offensive weapons.

6.  The loss of Jackson and Garcon is going hurt to the Redskins this season.  Cousins looked mediocre most of Sunday’s game.  The offseason addition of Pryor is seeming to help him out.

7.  I expected the Falcons to thrash the Bears, but they barely got out of Solider Field with a win.  Then again, a win is a win.

8.  The Bears played better than I expected.  Glennon played better than I expected.  He would have got his first win as a Bear if his receivers could catch the ball.  Maybe Trubisky won’t be starting by week 5.

9.  I knew Savage would lose his starting job, but I didn’t think it would happen after only one half of football.  Different season, but still the same old problem for O’Brien.  The lack of quality quarterback is killing this team.

10.  The Jaguars had one of the most surprising wins of week one.  My OROY pick, Fournette is already looking good.

11.  The Jets are who we thought they were.

12.  Yes, the Bills won on Sunday, but it was against the Jets.  There’s still no way to tell if this team is mediocre or just bad.

13.  The Titans (this year’s sexy pick) played the Raiders tough, but ultimately the Raiders were too much for them.  They did what legit playoffs team do, win tough games on the road.  I should have never doubted the black & silver.

14.  Everyone seemed to be writing this Bengals off this season, which I didn’t agree with until I saw highlights from Sunday’s game against the Ravens.  The defense didn’t look good, the offense got blanked, and Dalton threw 4 interceptions with a passer rating of .6!

15.  I thought the Ravens would have one of the top defenses in the league this year.  They sure looked good on Sunday shutting out the Bengals on the road.

16.  Yes, the Steelers won, but it feels like they should have won by more.  They let the Browns hang around and barely escaped with a victory.  This seems to be the Steelers MO.  They play down to their competition.

17.  Kizer wasn’t spectacular, but he looked better than any of the other quarterbacks the Browns have trotted out opening day in the past decade.  There is reason to be optimistic in Cleveland.  These don’t seem like the same old Browns.

18.  A Luck-less Colts may be the worst team in the NFL.

19.  The Rams beat a Luck-less Colts team, but still it was an impressive win.  Who saw h Goff putting up better numbers than Brady in week one?

20.  I didn’t see any highlights of the Panthers vs. Niners game.  Judging by the stats the Panthers did exactly what I thought they would do – handle a bad team on the road.

21.  I had both the Seahawks and the Giants going deep into the playoffs.  Both teams seem to be in similar positions.  They both have top 5 defenses, but lousy offenses, especially when it comes to offensive line play.  I think both teams can still make the playoffs, but they’ll be a quick out if they can’t fix their problems up front.

22.  I know it’s early, but I’m already declaring the Green Bay Packers the best team in the NFC.

23.  Maybe it helped that OBJ was out.  Maybe it was the poor offensive line play by the Giants, but the Cowboys defense looked good.  Prescott seems to be picking up from where he left off last season.  He’s legit which means the Cowboys are a legit Super Bowl team.  I should have never doubted them.

24.  Poor Brees.  If only he had a defense.  It’s only one game, but the Saints defense seems to once again be abysmal.

25.  Maybe it had to do with playing the Saints defense at home, but the Vikings looked good offensively.  We knew there defense was good, but the biggest question mark was their offensive line.  They showed up Monday.  So did Bradford.  Ditto rooked running back Cook.

26.  The Broncos narrowly escaped with a victory over the Chargers.  The AFC West is going to be an extremely tough division this year.   

2017-2018 NFL Over/Under Predictions, Super Bowl Pick, & Awards

It’s less than a week till football season starts.  Here are my over/under win predictions for all 32 teams along with my Super Bowl pick & Awards:

AFC EAST

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Vegas over/under: 12.5

The loss of Julian Edelman will hurt more than some might expect.  There defensive front seven is average at best.  With that said, they’re still the Patriots.  Brady & Belichick are still there.  The offense is loaded, especially the backfield.  There is no reason to think they won’t be playing deep in January once again.

Prediction: Over 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Vegas over/under:  7.5

I don’t think there’s any drop off from Tannehill to Cutler.  This offense has a lot of weapons, and it’s going to be good.  The defense is another story.  Last year, the Dolphins were a wildcard team at 10-6.  I feel like that record was a bit of a mirage.  The Dolphins were 8-2 in one score game last year, and the majority of those wins came against a soft schedule.

Prediction: Under

BUFFALO BILLS

Vegas over/under: 6

The Bills will be one of the better defensive teams in the league.  Offensively, they will be one of the worst.  Outside of Taylor and McCoy this offense doesn’t have much talent.  It will be another mediocre year in Buffalo.  Six games feels right for this team.

Prediction: Push

NEW YORK JETS

Vegas over/under: 4.5

There is nothing to be excited about as a Jet’s fan other than the high probability of getting the number 1 pick next year.  It’s hard to see this team even winning a game.

Prediction: Under

AFC NORTH

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Vegas over/under: 10.5

If Roethlisberger and Bell can stay healthy for a complete season, and Martavis Bryant can stay away from the drugs than this offense will be unstoppable.  The defense is average, but that might not matter with all the points their offense will be putting up.  If they can avoid their usual midseason swoon they will win the NFC North with ease, and quite possibly get a first round bye.

Prediction: Over

CINNCINATTI BENGALS

Vegas over/under: 8.5

A lot of people are writing off the Bengals already.  I’m not one of them.  I don’t necessarily think they’ll be a playoff team, but I don’t think they’ll be as bad as they were last season either.  The defense will be better, and Dalton will look more like the Dalton from two years ago than the Dalton we saw last year.

Prediction: Over

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Vegas over/under: 9

I would have more faith in the Ravens if I knew the extent of Flacco’s back injury.  I have a feeling the Ravens are going to resemble the Ravens of the early 2000’s.  There defense is going to be really good. Their offense will struggle.  There going to have a lot defensive struggles where Justin Tucker will be relied on heavily.

Prediction: Push

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Vegas over/under: 4.5

There is reason for optimism in Cleveland.  Myles Garrett already looks like he’ll be an elite pass rusher for years to come.  They may have something at Quarterback with 2nd Round pick DeShone Kizer.  With that said, there still a long way from being a contender.

Prediction: Under

AFC SOUTH

TENNESSEE TITANS

Vegas over/under: 8.5

I’m reluctant to say Tennessee will win the AFC South because they seem to be the trendy pick this year.  The Jaguars were last year’s trendy pick, and we saw how that turned out.  But I think Tennessee is different because they have a legitimate Quarterback in Mariota.  It also helps that play in the AFC South

Prediction: Over

HOUSTON TEXANS

Vegas over/under:  8.5

The Texans may have the best defense in the NFL.  A healthy Watt & Clowney together is a terrifying thought for any offense.  The defense will keep them in a lot of games, but they will be once again  done in by the problem that has plagued them since they entered the league – they don’t have a legitimate quarterback.

Prediction: Under

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Vegas over/under: 9

Ultimately, that fate of Colts rests on Luck’s shoulder.  If he’s able to stay healthy for the entire season they’ll be mediocre.  If he’s missing time due to injuries this team could be in the same boat as the Jets.  Outside of Luck, there just isn’t much to be excited about with this team.

Prediction: Under

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Vegas over/under: 6

The Jags have a young talented defense that should rank among the NFL’s best.  They also have what many think will be a Rookie of Year candidate at running back with Leonard Fournette.  Unfortunately, Blake Bortles is still their quarterback.  Until they make an upgrade at quarterback this team will be bottom dweller in the AFC.

Prediction: Under

AFC WEST

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Vegas over/under: 7.5

The Chargers have been unusually unlucky the last couple of years.  In 2016, they were 1-8 in games that were decided by a touchdown or less.  They were also devastated by injuries.  You have to think the Chargers luck will turn around this year.  They have lot tons of talent on both sides of the ball, and Rivers is still a beast.  The Chargers are my dark horse pick to win a tough AFC West this year.

Prediction: Over

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Vegas over/under:  9

The Chiefs may be one of the most boring teams in the NFL, but their still solid.  They’ll be a playoff team once again by playing good defense and not shooting themselves in the foot on offense.

Prediction: Over

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Vegas over/under: 10

The Raiders were one of the luckiest teams in the league last year.  Unlike division foe the L.A. Chargers, the Raiders were 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less.   I don’t expect the Raiders to be as lucky this season, but expect them to be a playoff team.

Prediction: Push

DENVER BRONCOS

Vegas over/under: 8.5

In any other division the Broncos would probably be a playoff team.  They still have one of the best defenses in the entire league.  Their offense is what will hold them back in uber competitive AFC West.

Prediction: Over

NFC EAST

N.Y. GIANTS

Vegas over/under: 9

The Giants have a Top 5 Defense.  They have a great trio of receivers.  They have a future hall of fame quarterback.  Their only question mark is their offensive line.  If  their line can be at least average than they will win the NFC East and a team no one wants to face in the playoffs.

Prediction:  Over

DALLAS COWBOYS

Vegas over/under: 9.5

The Cowboys offseason has been a circus.  You have to wonder if all the drama will effect the team.  Then again, there always seem to be drama surrounding the Boys.  Not having Zeke for first 6 games will definitely hurt.  Their defense is still questionable.  I expect the Boys to decline in 2017, but still be in the hunt for playoff spot.

Prediction:  Under

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Vegas over/under: 8

I expect Carson Wentz to improve this season.  He finally has some offensive weapons to help him out.  Philly’s front four is one of the best in the NFL and should get plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  They will be in playoff mix towards come December.

Prediction:  Push

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Vegas over/under:  7.5

Losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon will be tough on Kirk Cousins.  The running game is still suspect.  The defense is just average.  It’s really hard to get excited about this team.  I expect another season of mediocrity.

Prediction: Under

NFC NORTH

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Vegas over/under: 10

As long as Rodgers is healthy the Packers are Super Bowl contenders.  I can easily see this team winning 12 games.

Prediction: Over

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Vegas over/under: 8.5

If the Vikings want to reach the playoffs again their offensive line is going to have to improve.  A lot of people write off Bradford, but I think he did pretty well last season considering he had to learn a new system on the fly and that he was constantly under pressure.  Everyone knows the Vikings defense will be good.  We don’t know if the offensive line will be able to protect Bradford and open up holes for rookie running back Dalvin Cook.  If they can, the Vikings will be a playoff team.  If not, it will be another season of mediocrity.

Prediction:  Over

DETROIT LIONS

Vegas over/under: 8

The Detroit Lions were another team that benefited from a lot of lucky breaks last year.  Eight of their nine wins were forth quarter comebacks.  Most of those comebacks were against non playoffs teams.  I don’t expect the Lions to be as lucky this season.    Stafford is good.  They have a few intriguing offensive weapons.  Their defense is questionable.  Overall, their a middle of the pack team.  Eight wins seems about right.

Prediction: Push

CHICAGO BEARS

Vegas over/under:  5.5

The Bears opening schedule is brutal.  I won’t be surprised to see Trubisky starting by week 5.  It’s going to be another rough year for Bears fans.

Prediction: Under

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA FALCONS

Vegas over/under:  9.5

Super Bowl hangover?  I don’t think so.  This offensive is too talented.  Their young defense will only get better.  I expect them to be repeat as AFC South Champs, but just barely.

Prediction:  Over

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Vegas over/under:  8.5

I expect Newton to have a bounce back year.  Christian McCaffery will help in the running and passing game and may be candidate for rookie of the year.  The defense is still stout.  They have arguably one of the best front sevens in all of football lead by All Pro linebacker Kuechly.

Prediction:  Over

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Vegas over/under:  8.5

The Buccaneers seem to be this year’s sexy pick to become one of the elite teams in the NFL.  I don’t think they’re elite yet, but I do think they’re a playoff team.  I expect Winston to make another big jump in his 3rd season.  The addition of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard helps.  Their defense is starting to look like the defenses Tampa Bay had in the late 90’s early 2000’s.

Prediction:  Over

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Vegas over/under:  8

The Saints will finally break their streak of 7-9 records.  However, they still won’t be good enough to make the playoffs.  The defense, for what seems like a decade now, will continue to be their kryptonite.

Prediction: Push

NFC WEST

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Vegas over/under: 10.5

I expect the Seahawks to make another Super Bowl run this year.  Wilson is supposedly in the best shape of his life.  Earl Thomas is back and with addition of Sheldon Richardson the defense looks like it’s dominant self.  Of course, the biggest question is still the offensive line.  If the line can protect Wilson there is no reason they can’t win another Super Bowl.

Prediction: Over

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Vegas over/under: 8

The Cards weren’t as bad as their record last year.  They were 2-5-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less.  Most of those losses resulted because of missed kicks.  I think the Cards have a little more luck this season.  They have a new kicker.  They have tons of talent on both sides of the ball.  The only thing I worry about is 37 year old quarterback Carson Palmer.  Will he drop off a cliff this season?

Prediction:  Over

LOS ANGLES RAMS

Vegas over/under: 5.5

I don’t have much faith in Jared Goff.  I do have faith in their defense though. Aaron Donald (sign this man) and company should keep the Rams in a lot of games.  I expect Gurley to have a bounce back year.  With that said, they still won’t be that good.

Prediction:  Over

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Vegas over/under:  4.5

They’ll be better than they were last season, but not by much.  Niners fan should be optimistic about some of the players on defense.  The offense is another story.

Prediction:  Under

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

AFC SEEDINGS

1. New England

2. Pittsburgh

3. L.A. Chargers

4. Tennessee

5. Kansas City

6. Oakland

NFC SEEDINGS

1. Green Bay

2. Atlanta

3. Seattle

4. N.Y. Giants

5. Carolina

6. Tampa Bay

AFC WILDCARD

L.A. CHARGERS Over Oakland:  Rivers narrowly outduels Carr in a shoutout.

Kansas City Over TENNESSEE:  The Chiefs win a boring defensive struggle against the Titans.

NFC WILDCARD

SEATTLE Over Tampa Bay:  A low scoring smashmouth game between a team on the rise and a team that’s been the class of the NFC for the last few seasons.  Experience wins.

N.Y. GIANTS Over Carolina:  The Giants defense frustrates Newton all game, and Manning makes enough plays to set up a rematch with the Packers.

AFC DIVISONAL

NEW ENGLAND Over Kansas City:  The Chiefs don’t have enough offense to match Brady & Co.

PITTSBURGH Over L.A. Chargers:  Another high scoring game for Rivers & the Chargers, but this time it doesn’t end in their favor.

NFC DIVISONAL

GREEN BAY Over N.Y. Giants:  A close game that comes down to a clutch drive orchestrated by Rodgers.

Seattle Over ATLANTA:  The Seahawks defense is able to  slow down the Falcons offense.  Wilson makes enough plays to advance them to Conference Championship.

AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP 

NEW ENGLAND Over Pittsburgh:  The Patriots continue their dominance of the Steelers in the playoffs. 

NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

Seattle Over GREEN BAY:  The Packers season starts off with a win against the Seahawks in Lambeau.  It ends with a loss to the Seahawks in Lambeau.

SUPER BOWL LII

NEW ENLAND Over SEATTLE:  Another wild game results in Patriots repeating as Super Bowl Champions.

AWARDS

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Leonard Fournett, Jacksonville:  Fournett will get the ball at least 20 times a game because of the incompetence at quarterback postion in Jacksonville.  He’s going to put up big numbers.

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Rueben Foster, San Francisco:  The Niner’s defense will be on the field a lot this season, which means Foster is sure to rack up huge tackling numbers.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

David Johnson, Arizona:  Johnson will have another big season and end up with the most yards from scrimmage.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Joey Bosa, L.A. Chargers:  Bosa becomes a household name with a breakout season for a surprisingly good Chargers defense.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

J.J. Watt, Houston:  After missing most of last season with a back injury Watt will be back to his dominant self.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Anthony Lynn, L.A. Chargers:  As a rookie head coach, Lynn leads the Chargers from worst in the AFC West to first.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh:  Big Ben wins his first MVP after passing for 5,000 yards and leading Steelers to one of the best records in the league.