The NFL season kicks off tonight with a rematch of the Super Bowl. Let me tell you that they won’t look like the same teams that played last February. As you will see tonight and in my NFL predictions, the quarterback position plays such a vital role in the success of a team. Yes, they are just one player but a very important player but a defense can rise to the occasion such as the Broncos did last year to win the Super Bowl.
So, this isn’t scientific and I wouldn’t place your bets on what I think but here are my predictions for the season:
*New England Patriots (11-5) – Tom Brady and the Patriots still have the ability to make another run at the Super Bowl. Even if they lose a step, they are still the best team in the division. The Patriots will have to survive Brady’s suspension in the first four games.
**Miami Dolphins (9-7) – Look for the Dolphins to surprise a few people with new coach Adam Gase. If Arian Foster can stay healthy and return to the runner he was healthy in Houston, it could be a playoff year for the fins.
Buffalo Bills (8-8) – The Bills have been hovering around .500 for the past few seasons. They just don’t have enough talent to end the franchise’s 16-year playoff drought.
New York Jets (6-10) – The Jets were 10-6 last year and missed the playoffs. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was a surprise star last year but it is doubtful he can repeat it. The Jets are going to rely heavily on their defense.
*Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) – Hopefully the Bengals learned from their playoff debacle against Pittsburgh. A healthy Andy Dalton can carry them. The Bengals really need to win a playoff game this year.
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) – Running game should be better. Defense is always tough. Everything will hinge on how healthy Ben Roethlisberger can be.
Baltimore Ravens (7-9) – QB Joe Flacco is back from last season’s knee injury but the Ravens still have holes to fill.
Cleveland Browns (4-12) – The Browns got rid of Johnny Manziel but it won’t matter. Robert Griffin III will have a comeback year but he won’t have much support. The Browns will still own the cellar of the division.
*Houston Texans (9-7) – The Texans signed QB Brock Osweiler from the Broncos but can he really carry the Texans? The Texans have the best defense in the division which should give them the edge.
Indianapolis Colts (8-8) – The Colts suffered when QB Andrew Luck went down last year but still battled for the division title. Even with Luck back, look for the same finish from the Colts this year.
Tennessee Titans (7-9) – The Titans have a running game now with DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry. But can the defense stop anyone?
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) – The Jaguars have some playmakers on both sides of the ball but the team plays up-and-down each week. Look for them to take a step back this year.
*Oakland Raiders (11-5) – The Raiders are poised to take over this division and be the surprise team in the NFL in 2016. If QB Derek Carr stays healthy, the Raiders could go a long way.
**Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) – Andy Reid has done a terrific job with this team. The Chiefs will have a well-balanced team and will challenge for the division title if the Raiders slip up.
Denver Broncos (8-8) – Peyton Manning is gone. Super Bowl MVP Von Miller held out. This team will not be the same as the one that beat Carolina in the Super Bowl.
San Diego Chargers (5-11) – All the fuss about the Chargers moving to Los Angeles but no one seems to care. QB Phillip Rivers can only do so much. It will be a long year for the lightning bolts.
*Dallas Cowboys (10-6) – Yep, Romo is hurt again but this won’t take the Cowboys by surprise. If rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott does well, the Cowboys should have enough to win this division.
Washington Redskins (8-8) – The Redskins edged out the rest of the division last season largely on the play of QB Kirk Cousins. It will be a challenge to repeat without a solid running game.
Philadelphia Eagles (7-9) – The Eagles no longer have Chip Kelly to kick around anymore. It is puzzling that the Eagles traded QB Sam Bradford to the Vikings before the season opener. You really have to wonder about the front office.
New York Giants (6-10) – Tom Coughlin is gone but he wasn’t the Gaints’ problem. The defense should be solid but the offense has not been consistent which rests on the shoulders of the remaining Manning in the NFL.
*Green Bay Packers (13-3) – The Packers are the team to beat in the NFC. You can never count the Packers out of any game. If you can’t put pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers, he will eat you up.
**Minnesota Vikings (10-6) – The loss of QB Terry Bridgewater to injury keeps them below the Packers but don’t be surprised if Sam Bradford does well. RB Adrian Peterson will keep the Vikings a playoff contender.
Chicago Bears (7-9) – The Bears upgraded their defense with LB Danny Trevathan from the Broncos but Jay Cutler is still their QB.
Detroit Lions (4-12) – WR Calvin Johnson retired and went to Dancing With The Stars. The Lions won’t be dancing in the playoffs this year. Another long season for Lions’ fans.
*Carolina Panthers (12-4) – The Panthers choked in the Super Bowl and won’t have a repeat of their 15-1 season but they are still the best team in the division. QB Cam Newton will still dazzle fans and embarrass opposing defenses.
**Atlanta Falcons (10-6) – If QB Matt Ryan has another year like he did in 2015, look for the Falcons to continue to struggle. The defense continues to be a weakness in spite of Coach Dan Quinn’s efforts.
New Orleans Saints (9-7) – The Saints still have QB Drew Brees but not much of anything else. Even bounty hunters aren’t afraid of the defense anymore which allowed 29.8 points per game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) – The Buccaneers were making gradual improvement but then fired Coach Lovie Smith. Not sure that was the best move.
*Seattle Seahawks (10-6) – This could be the Seahawks’ last run at a Super Bowl. If the Seahawks can develop a running game, they could go further.
Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Most magazines and media are making the Cardinals a Super Bowl-contender. I just don’t see it. They tend to start fast and fizzle down the stretch.
Los Angeles Rams (7-9) – The move back to Los Angeles won’t help the Rams in the standings. RB Todd Gurley will keep the Rams competitive.
San Francisco 49ers (5-11) – Now Chip Kelly is here but it won’t help. The 49ers continue on their downward spiral. It won’t matter if Kapernick stands on his head during the national anthem.
(*Division Champion **Wildcard Qualifier)
AFC Champion: New England Patriots
NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl Champion: Green Bay Packers