By Assane Drame
Football is back and better than ever. We’ve all been yearning for it ever since Super Bowl 49 (when Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks for some reason decided to throw at the one with Marshawn Lynch as their Running Back, ultimately giving the New England Patriots the victory). Now we can all look to Super Bowl 50 which looks to be one of the biggest ever. Before we can start to think about the big 5-0, let’s project how each team in each division will stand out in the regular season. Starting with the all worldly NFC.
NFC East; 1. Cowboys 2. Eagles 3. Giants 4. Redskins
With everything that went on in this division, it could end up being a three team race. I would not be surprised if the Eagles took it or if the Giants make a run however, the way Chip Kelly revamped his whole team they could be either boom or bust. As for the Giants, they’ll be fun to watch thanks to Odell, Eli, & Cruz, among such but the Defense still has some holes and questions remain concerning the Offensive line. Dallas took a step back at the Running Back position (Thanks to Philly) and their Defense may be concerning considering injuries and suspensions. I trust the Cowboys though based on their offensive line and the coaching staff to get the job done. Not in the prettiest way but finding a way nerveless. Oh and what about the Redskins you say? Some things are better left unsaid.
NFC West; 1. Seahawks 2. Cardinals 3. Rams 4. 49ers
The same team who threw the ball at the one in Super Bowl 49 got better on offense with the addition of Jimmy Graham. This team is pretty much the same and may only have one weakness which is their offensive line. I also anticipate Kam Chancellor coming back from his holdout sooner rather than later. They should still be good enough to beat out Arizona and St. Louis. Arizona has the tools offense to be scary good like last year as long as Carson Palmer holds up. St. Louis has defensive line that will probably make opposing Quarterbacks tap dance in the pocket. Those two teams will probably make things interesting at some point in the season. As for whatever is left of the 49ers a team who lost EVERYBODY, it’s probably best for the franchise to literally take a nice sabbatical for a season or two and start fresh.
NFC South; 1. Saints 2. Panthers 3. Falcons 4. Buccaneers
Listen, anyone of these teams can win the division (yes even the Bucs), and that’s not a compliment to any of these teams. Matt Ryan and Cam Newton during division games will find out who is the better tap dancer, Drew Brees will be watching guys like Tony Romo and Andrew Luck pick apart holes in the Saints defense downfield, a unit which failed last year at pressuring the passer. The Bucs have issues in the secondary and rookie QB Jameis “crablegs” Winston is well a rookie. For now I’ll pencil in the Saints as the winner due to the fact that I just flipped a few coins on this division and that I prefer this team’s offense (running and passing) compared to rest of the teams.
NFC North; 1. Packers 2. Vikings 3. Lions 4. Bears
A hobbled Randle Cobb and no Jordy Nelson scares some but does not scare me. As long as Aaron Rodgers is the Quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, they’ll be fine. Eddie Lacy & DeVante Adams among such shall feast. The Vikings however, are on the rise. Adrian Peterson should take this Vikings offense and second year QB Teddy Bridgewater towards another tier. In addition to a stacked defense ready to blow. The Lions last year ranked number one in stopping the run. This year they see Peterson (twice), Lynch, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte (twice), C.J. Anderson, and DeMarco Murray. In other words, Ndamukong Suh will be missed. The Bears can only hope Jay Cutler gets his act together or else he’ll be the $126 million dollar reason the team goes 5-11 again and that’s just one problem with this team.
AFC East; 1. Patriots 2. Dolphins 3. Bills 4. Jets
What is the conclusion of Deflate Gate? Well Teflon Brady found a way to beat the system and is not eligible to play all of this season. Now he and Bill Belichick can look forward to a treat. Which is a competitive division. The team has to deal with a Jets team that won’t be a joke especially on defense. A Rex Ryan led Bills team with a top-tier defense and an improved offense. Also, a Dolphins team who’s defensive line is about to be terrifying. Not to mention Ryan Tannehill is about to let it fly. It’s hard to bet against the Patriots, but these teams are no longer going to take playing second fiddle. The Pats have weakened in their secondary as well. They’ll be able to get by but it won’t be in the prettiest of terms. (My friend told me one time that Gronk seems like the type to listen to a lot of Lil Wayne. It has nothing to do with this but I thought that funny).
AFC West; 1. Broncos 2. Chargers 3. Chiefs 4. Raiders
This division is all Denver. San Diego and Kansas City can make things interesting thought. Denver’s offense should be fine as long as Peyton Manning can (and will) run an efficient offense, he does not need any added zip on the ball, he just needs to outsmart defenses. Look for C.J. Anderson to get tons of looks running the ball. Combine that with a quietly good defense and Denver is set. While I don’t think San Diego will win the division, their backfield should help them reach the playoffs. Kansas City addressed a serious need by signing Jeremy Maclin but a tough schedule might hinder them. On the flip side, while the Raiders have studs in Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Latavius Murray, and drafted College stud in Amari Cooper, this team is still a few years away.
AFC South; 1. Colts 2. Texans 3. Jaguars 4. Titans
The Colts led by Andrew Luck will walk away with this division and that will keep happening for the foreseeable future. Indy is loaded on offense and their secondary is very solid as well. Two concerns would be will the offensive line do its job? And is a returning Robert Mathis & newcomer Trent Cole enough to stop the run? Other than that, they’ll enjoy a free trip to the playoffs. J.J. Watt who was probably built from a lab somewhere in New Mexico leads the Texans who are still a piece or two away, the Gus Bradley led Jaguars are four or five pieces away, and Titians with rookie QB Marcus Mariota seem to be many pieces away.
AFC North; 1. Steelers 2. Bengals 3. Ravens 4. Browns
While the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals go into a dog fight with each other, the Browns will likely call upon Josh McCown with a depleted receiving corps to win them football games and I’ll just leave it at that. As for the others, Baltimore’s offense should be good to go thanks to Justin Forsett, Joe Flacco, Steve Smith Sr, and a few rookies coming in although questions remain whether the secondary can rebound and if Tim Jernigan is a qualified replacement for Haloti Ngata. Pittsburgh’s offense should be dynamic (even with key guys serving suspensions) enough to win out the division. However, a deep playoff run won’t happen unless the defense improves especially the pass rush. Cincy fans have to be tired of the same old song and dance by now right? Will there be something cool and fresh to dance to in 2015, like an extended playoff run and not a one & done to go with an Andy Dalton playoff flameout? With Marvin Lewis at the helm probably not (yes he is STILL there).