FOOTBALL?! IS THAT YOU? Where have you been all my life? Well, the last 7 months? You left me with nothing but the long, drawn out, unnecessary “Deflate Gate” conspiracy to last me until this very moment. Pretty Boy Tom Brady ended up sending commissioner Roger Goodell to an 0-5 record in big cases, and all is well in New England. We can hear Jimmy Garrapolo’s sigh of relief from Fort Lauderdale, FL because he simply wasn’t ready to take the helm in case Brady lost. You did, however, supply us with fireworks. Fireworks that are responsible for blowing 3 fingers off of two of the games young players; most notably Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants. Pierre-Paul still hasn’t signed his franchise tag that the Giants placed on him, and doesn’t plan on doing so until he feels he’s ready to play! See how boring life is without you, Football? I’m sitting here talking about flat balls and fireworks for dummies. Now that you’re back, I won’t waste time dwelling on the past. Instead, here is a few predictions on what this season has in store:
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs
I may be a bit of a “homer” since the Colts are my favorite team, but I always attempt to leave the bias out of my writing. Andrew Luck & the Colts have taken a step forward every single year since Luck has been at the helm, and I see no reason that with this off-season’s additions (Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Trent Cole just to name a few) the Colts shouldn’t continue to do so this season. Luck is slowly becoming the face of the NFL, and if the defense can show up against the elite teams the sky is the limit! The Patriots, fresh off a 9-month trial in the court of public opinion, will definitely be at the top of the AFC standings. If they play as upset as they were after “Spy gate”, the AFC East should be shaking in their tights right now! I expect Peyton Manning and his Broncos to take a step back, but still be formidable in a loaded AFC West. There were reports that Manning didn’t have feeling in his fingertips in OTA’s. Maybe he should quit tossing pizza dough with Papa Johns, and concentrate of tossing the pigskin at his “advanced age”. Joe Flacco is good enough to lead the Baltimore Ravens to the post season every season in the AFC North. The Browns & Steelers couldn’t stop my granny from scoring on them even if they tried, and I don’t expect Andy Dalton to be able to reach the playoffs this season in a very competitive AFC. The addition of a “REAL” wide receiver in Jeremy Maclin should at least add a win or two to a 9-7 Kansas City Chiefs squad. Finally, Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles can at least be the second option in the Chief’s passing attack. If you know me, you know that I despise the Miami Dolphins! However, The Mullets (as they’re infamously called here in South Florida) were my late grandfather Andrew Dennis’ favorite team. Through thick & thin, my granddadsupported them to the bitter end! They owe him a winning season for the first time since 2008. Rest in Peace Grandaddy!
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
Green Bay Packers
New Orleans Saints
In the NFC, the defending NFC champs should take the conference once again. They are the bullies of the league, and it’ll be hard for anyone to dethrone them even with the injuries the “Legion of Boom”. Even without Kam Chancellor! Without Jordy Nelson, one can still expect Mr. Discount Double Check and the Cheese Heads to claim their spot in the 1st round bye club, slightly edging Chip Kelly (who has become one of my favorite coaches) and his hellacious attacking style. Kelly, strapped with a new QBin former 1st overall pick Sam Bradford to go along with 2014 NFL rushing champ Demarco Murray & improved defense, should dethrone Murray’s former squad in Dallas for the division title. One can expect a bounce back year for Drew Brees and his Saints squad down in the Bayou. In an extremely watered down NFC South, he should easily run away with the division.
Without their workhorse in the backfield in Murray, I expect the Cowboys to take a teeny step back this season and continue the rotation of teams winning the NFC East. It’s never been a good thing for the ball to be in Tony Romo’s hands, even with probably the best offensive lines in the NFL. Replacing Murray with former top five pick Darren McFadden or newly acquired Christine Michael just won’t cut in my book. In Arizona, the departure of Todd Bowles could take a toll on the defensive side of the ball, but having Carson Palmer back healthy should boost the Cards into playoff contention.
AFC Championship: New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts
Like I said in the introduction, I’m not going to over exaggerate here and count the Colts nor the Patriots out. Both teams are 2-2 and are in good position to secure wins within their respective divisions. What I won’t do is ignore the fact that the Patriots are playing horrendous football at the moment, and they need a quick turnaround in all 3 aspects of the game. The Colts, on the other hand, started off slow against two 3-1 teams in Denver & Philadelphia. They bounced back to win 2 straight division games versus Tennessee and at Jacksonville. If both teams get back to their winning ways, my prediction will be safe. If not, there may be a few “Halftime Adjustments”. When the dust clears in the AFC, we should all be staring at an all too familiar matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Patriots of New England. I’m sure the Patriots will be anxiously waiting for another shot at the whistle blowing Colts who first reported the underinflated footballs in last year’s AFC Championship game, thus, causing the drawn out “Deflate Gate” spectacle. This time, I have Andrew Luck & Co. finally getting over the Bill Belichick hump and advancing to his first Super Bowl appearance. I don’t anticipate the Patriots defense to stifle the Colts offense like it did a year ago without Darelle Revis(New York Jets) and Brandon Browner (New Orleans Saints) manning the corners. Luck should have no problem taking another step forward in his quest for greatness.
NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks
I know it’s super duper early, but we can’t overlook the elephant in the room: The Cardinals can beat anyone! The Cardinals are 3-0 and sit atop the NFC as the lone unbeaten team. They’ve beaten another surprise contender in San Diego at home, the N.Y. Giants on the road, and handed the 49erstheir second loss of the season. They’ve apparently leap-frogged an awkwardly struggling San Francisco team and are poised to replace them in the almost annual “Pre-Super Bowl” vs. the Seattle Seahawks. Ummmm.. There’s nothing really to report on the Seahawks. Even after stumbling against a ferocious Chargers team, they still are the team to beat until further notice. With addition of Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, I can’t convince myself to pick anybody over the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks until I actually see it being done. I tried to persuade myself to choose the Packers, but losing Jordy Nelson for the season would definitely take its toll in that equation. I do, however, think that Aaron Rodgers and the consistency of Eddie Lacy is good enough to survive the loss of Nelson and the Packers at least advance to the NFC Championship once again. But they were up 16-7 going into the 4th quarter over the Seahawks with Jordy in last year’s championship game. And that’s where I jump off the Packer Train! The Seattle Seahawks will soar into their third consecutive Super Bowl berth on the shoulders of #Beastmode and Ciara’s new boy toy. I meant, Russell Wilson!
Super Bowl Teams: Indianapolis Colts vs. Seattle Seahawks
I’m going to take the easy way out here, and just wait until we have more games to work with to change my prediction here. It’s definitely not looking too bright on one side of the fence though. And I’m not speaking on the behalf of the guys with the Horseshoes on the sides of their helmets neon green bearers. I’ve been going back and forth for weeks attempting to predict the winner of the NFC, and I must admit I’m stumped! I’m giving the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt since they’ve won it the past two seasons. I just feel like it’s Andrew Luck’s time! He has all the weapons he could ever ask for, and I think that alone will aid him to bring another Super Bowl championship to Indianapolis. You won’t find many writers that will disagree with me on that!
Offensive MVP: Andrew Luck, Colts
I’m pretty sure you’re tired of hearing about Andrew Luck by now, but I promise this is the last I’ll say about my favorite player! Luck is slowly becoming the new face of the NFL, and after 3 consecutive playoff appearances in his first 3 seasons, who can deny him that? No one! Luck passed for 4,700 yards and 40 touchdowns last season with an aging (and recently released) Reggie Wayne, emerging star T.Y Hilton, and rookie Donte Moncrief. With the additions of Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, and 1st round selection Phillip Dorsett, Luck now has weapons on weapons on weapons at his disposal. If everything goes as planned, Luck could easily become just the sixth QB in history to join the 5,000 yard club.
It’s no secret that I LOVE the Indianapolis Colts and their young gunslinger Andrew Luck! And yes, I’m very biased, but Luck is backing up my predictions with his stellar play as of lately. He (and the entire team) started a little slow in close losses to Denver at home and against the Eagles in Indy, and most of it is on Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton. His persistence in trying to be a run-first team put the Colts in a hole early with bad play-calling. He’s finally realized what he has in Luck, and has truly opened the playbook the last 2 weeks. Luck is #1 in the NFL in passing yards & touchdowns, along with the league’s “easiest schedule”, and is on pace for 5200 yards passing & 52 touchdowns. Those are MVP numbers “If I do say so myself” *Jay-Z voice*
Defensive MVP: J.J. Watt, Texans
While Earl Thomas hasn’t disappointed, J.J. Watt has been a #Beast ! I know it’s very early, but I haven’t seen him not disrupt a single play this season. Watt can do it all registering 2 sacks, 4 pass break ups, and an interception returned for an whopping 80 yard touchdown last week against Buffalo. While I don’t expect the Texans to win many more games, Watt’s production should skyrocket! Watt is the best player to line up on the defensive side of the ball. Until I see somebody at least slow him up, I’m pushing all my chips to the middle of the table and going all in on Watt for defensive MVP! Not to mention, the arrival of veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork and the return of the 1st overall pick in last year’s draft Jadaeveon Clowney should help make things much easier for Watt. Not that he needs a sidekick or anything, but I’m sure he’s not complaining one bit!
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Amari Cooper, Raiders
While Cooks is no slouch, catching 23 passes for 200 yards & rushing for 50 more in a pass-happy, but underachieving offense, Benjamin is simply making more plays. Albeit, he’s a 1st round pick and much is expected from him, and he has shocked most critics including myself. I never thought he’d stink up the joint, but I never envisioned this kind of start for him. Benjamin is on pace for nearly 80 catches & 1300 yards. 3 syllables: A-ma-zing! I could almost make the same argument for Sammy Watkins (17 receptions, nearly 200 yards, 2 touchdowns), but his numbers have declined since his breakout game against Miami. The top QBs in the draft could also contend, with both Blake Bortlesand Teddy Bridgewater making their 1st NFL starts this past week. Bridgewater had the better showing (throwing for 317 yards and ZERO interceptions); Bortles had an impressive 1st start as well throwing for 253 yards & a touchdown.
The Oakland Raiders have been looking for a legitimate #1 receiver since the Ghost of Randy Moss showed up (or left) in 2006. They’ve swung and missed on numerous receivers in recent history, but I think they have something special in Amari Cooper. He is such a polished receiver compared to recent young receiver entering the league flaunting superb hands & precise route running. I’ve tried to convince myself that I’m trippin’, but he reminds me of Jerry Rice. While he’s not quite at the level of arguably the greatest receiver to play the game, Cooper has the potential (and quarterback in Derek Carr) to put up stellar numbers en route to earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Leonard Williams, Jets
Williams was the best defensive prospect in the draft, and he’ll have many opportunities to show everyone while playing on one of the best defenses in the NFL this season. His situation reminds me of the one that last season’s Rookie Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald found himself in when he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 NFL Draft. With so much talent surrounding him, he usually dominated solo blocks en route to a 9 sack season. The craziest part of this is that I think that Williams may be an even better prospect coming out of college than Donald. Yeah… I’ll just let that marinate until the 1st quarter review. I’m just going to be frank here, and say that Aaron Donald hasn’t lived up to expectations in the 1st quarter of the season. But, man oh man, has Kyle Fuller made a name for himself in just 4 games, registering 3 interceptions and is tied for the league lead. That’s right! No Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis, nor Patrick Peterson, but a rook holding it down! I could also make an interesting argument for Baltimore’s CJ Mosley, who is currently a Top 15 tackler & already has 2 sacks through 4 games. That’s reminiscent of how Luke Kuechly began his statistically monstrous career!