Written by: LaShawn Encarnacion aka The Dark Knight of Sports
Tonight the 2015 NFL season kicks off with the defending Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots WITH Tom Brady take on the AFC North favorites, the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight. Football is in the air and there is a ton of predictions coming from all angles, including from Nuts & Bolts feature writers. So its time The Dark Knight of Sports gives his predictions, from division winners to Super Bowl predictions. MVP awards, ROY’s and offensive and defensive players of the year.
The first conference to get the dissection is the NFC. NFC breaks down like this:
NFC West Division Winner: The Seattle Seahawks
With most re-signed and the addition of tight end Jimmy Graham, it gives quarterback Russell Wilson another target to throw to. Combined with Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin on the outside and an up and coming speedster of Tyler Lockett, the offense just may be closing in on the level of greatness the defense already is. X-Factor is the backup running back Fred Jackson who signed a one-year deal, gives a very solid 2nd option to Marshawn Lynch.
NFC Wildcard slot in NFC West: Arizona Cardinals
A team that was left out of the playoffs with 10 wins two years ago and last season at 11 wins got out-stead by the Carolina Panthers in the Wild Card game. Carson Palmer coming back healthy with a wide receiving core that contains a healthy and paid Larry Fitzgerald, up and coming John Brown who is the speedster of the bunch and if Michael Floyd gets the green light, he makes three. The Cardinals defense continues to be the staple of the Cardinals game plan as head coach Bruce Arians continues to work wonders. X-Factor is at the running back position. Andre Ellington is the main back but the question is durability and health. When healthy, he can give you over 1,000 yards rushing and over 10 touchdowns, which just adds another weapon on offense.
NFC North Division Winner:
The Green Bay Packers are the clear-cut favorites to win the NFC North because of the baaaaaaaaad man that is Arron Rodgers. Granted Jordy Nelson, his favorite target is out for the season, but there is still Randall Cobb, who is ready to go. Davonte Adams and a returning James Jones add more weapons for the leader of the Packers. THEN add in Eddie Lacy, who continues to give the Packers that solid running game that allows Aaron Rodgers to make the plays that are so effortless. The Packers defense is much improved over the last two seasons and is ranked in the top 10 again this season.
NFC Wild Card slot two from NFC North:
The Detroit Lions may have lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, but that does not take away from their offensive prowess. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are the main faces, but the emergence of Golden Tate last season helped take some of the coverage OFF Megatron and that trend will continue this season, especially with the addition of rookie Ameer Abdullah out of Nebraska. This rookie has speed and vision that are scary for any defense. With questions of Joaqin Bell’s healthy, Abdullah took full advantage of the preseason to make his mark. On the defensive side, Suh and Fairley were replaced with former Ravens defensive tackle, Haloti Ngata and Jason Jones, while may be seen as a downgrade, think about the penalties that were accumulated by the duo of Suh and Fairley and you will see it is actually an upgrade. Keeps the Lions from beating themselves a whole lot less this season.
NFC South Division Winner:
It is not often that one team dominates the division when it comes to the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers recently have taken the title back-to-back but over the last decade it has not happened all that often. AND there is always one team that somehow goes from worst to first in the NFL. So here is where this team comes from. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will WIN the NFC South and here’s the logic behind the pick. The first is the coach, head coach Lovie Smith, who has the experience and now has the pieces around him to make the team competitive. Pieces that include his quarterback of the future, Jameis Winston and a healthy running back in Doug Martin, who is looking for a new contract and coming out of the preseason, is looking like his rookie year self which lit up the league. Combine that with two tall targets in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson and you have the pieces on offense. THEN we get to Lovie’s Tampa “2” defense where that secondary is heavy with former Bears who were with Lovie Smith, then add the front seven that has arguably the best pass rusher in Gerald McCoy and you have the reason for the pick. May be the “long shot pick” but the logic is very sound.
NFC East Division: The Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly seem to have the NFC East in hand with the Dallas Cowboys still having questions at the running back position and holes on the defensive side. The Eagles defense is ranked in the top 10 in most fantasy football leagues and should continue into the season. Sam Bradford at quarterback is the biggest question mark and if he can stay healthy. But when healthy, he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the game. Add in DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles behind the QB and that is some solid protection. Wide Receiver Jordan Matthews will continue to get more targets as he is an obvious mismatch for most defenders and tight end Zach Ertz looks to continue to develop his blocking skills while catching balls in the middle of the field. X-Factor is rookie wide receiver is Nelson Agholor out of USC being able to catch some outside balls giving another viable weapon for Bradford while taking coverage off Matthews and Ertz.
NFC Championship match-up: Seattle Seahawks vs Green Bay Packers
In the end, the defense of the Seahawks and Packers along with taking care of the football with their established running games and limiting their turnovers will get these two teams to the NFC Championship. Granted the Cowboys and Eagles can make a case but these two teams are the most complete and their quarterbacks have been there before on the big stage. Who comes out top? The Seattle Seahawks have unfinished business from last year’s game against the Patriots and will not be denied. Seattle Seahawks WIN the NFC Championship and headline Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, CA.
NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year: Nelson Algohor
NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year: Randy Gregory
NFC Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
NFC Defensive Player of the Year: Gerald McCoy
Up next is the AFC break down and if you noticed while reading the NFC breakdown and awards, I did NOT predict the NFL MVP from the NFC and there is a reason for that as we move onto the AFC, so be sure to catch the next issue.
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