By: Monte Perez
We are two weeks away from the start of the 2016 NFL Season. 2 years ago, I predicted 7 out of 8 division winners, last year I was 6 out of 8. I don’t want to keep trending downward so I have my work cut out for me this season. I am going to paraphrase from the 1985 movie the Breakfast Club,” Fans see their teams as they want to see them. But, The Sports Whisperer has broken down every division – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.”
AFC East: New England Patriots (Projected Finish 12-4)
There is a reason NE has won the division 12 out of the last 13 years, they are just smarter and better than everyone else. Tom Brady is going to come back off the 4 game suspension and average 3 touchdowns per game. Adding TE, Martellus Bennett to play on the opposite side of Rob Gronkowski will make this offense unstoppable.
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers (Projected Finish 11-5)
The Steelers have the best “Big 3” in the NFL. QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, and RB Le’Veon Bell. This team has adjusted to Todd Haley’s offense and when healthy no one will outscore them. If their young defense can adapt quickly, they could be one of the best teams in all of football.
AFC West: Denver Broncos (Projected Finish 11-5)
The Broncos were reminiscent of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens last year. They won a Super Bowl with defense and a below average quarterback. I don’t know if that formula can have long-term success. Only three teams since 1997 have won a title with a “game manger” under center. Peyton Manning was atrocious last season. He had 9 touchdowns 17 interceptions and his completion percentage was just over 59. Mark Sanchez should put up better numbers and win some games with offense. I love the direction the Raiders are going but I think they are a year or two away. The Kansas City Chiefs will never be a legitimate threat as long as Alex Smith is their starting QB.
AFC South: Houston Texans (Projected Finish 9-7)
This division is a year or two away from becoming the best in the NFL. Their quarterbacks are all young and talented. Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles and newcomer Brock Osweiler all have their best years ahead of them. I like Houston to win this division but I wouldn’t be shocked if any team wins it. The Texans have the most talent on both sides of the ball and should advance to the playoffs.
AFC Championship: Steelers 27- Patriots 23
NFC East: New York Giants (Projected Finish 11-5)
Ben McAdoo has this team focused and determined. The Giants spent over $200 million in free agency. If the right side of New York’s O- line can be reliable, they can win the NFC East. Eli Manning has improved every year under McAdoo’s system and I expect him to have a monster year with Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie WR, Sterling Shepard. A linebacker needs to step up to complete their improved defense.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers (Projected Finish 12-4)
The Packers have come into camp with an attitude and on a mission. QB Aaron Rodgers had a down year in 2015. He had his lowest completion percentage since 2007 (60.7) 31 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. That is a career season for most QB’s but not or Rodgers. I expect him to get back to his old form and throw over 65% around 40 touchdowns and over 4,300 yards passing. WR Jordy Nelson appears to be back to old form and RB Eddie Lacy has lost over 20lbs. Their defense is not great but when they are in the lead they can pressure the opposing QB which could lead to a huge turnover margin.
NFC South: Carolina Panthers (Projected Finish 11-5)
Cam Newton proved all the critics wrong by leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl and winning the MVP Award. Newton had 45 total touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He still struggles with his accuracy only completing 59.6% for his career but he is improving. Teams won’t be shocked or overlook Carolina this year so they take a step back. They are still the class of the division because Atlanta, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay all have weaknesses.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks (Projected Finish 12-4)
Marshawn Lynch is now gone from the Seahawks and this is now Russell Wilson’s team. That is a good thing for Seattle. For 4 straight years, Seattle has been in the playoffs because of Wilson. His career numbers are mind boggling. 64.7% completions, 118 total touchdowns and only 34 interceptions. As long as Richard Sherman is in the secondary, Seattle will always have a great defense because QB’s don’t throw to his side. He cuts the field in half because of his defense. I like Arizona to make the playoffs but as long as Carson Palmer is their starting QB they will never get to a Super Bowl. How does Rams Coach Jeff Fisher still have a job? He is entering his 22 years as a coach and has only had 6 winning seasons. He is stealing money.
NFC Championship: Packers 24 Seattle 20
Super Bowl: Packers 27 Steelers 23
Green Bay will win the Lombardi Trophy
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