The start of the 2016 NFL season is just over a week away when Thursday night football kicks off on September 8. Thankfully Deflategate has been decided and Tom Brady will serve his four game suspension to start the season and we can all move on. With that said, this is a QB league and this season will show it. The Cowboys and Colts welcome their starting QB’s back from injury whilst Denver farewell the retired Peyton Manning and the bitter Brock Osweiler to Houston. There’s going to be a big void to fill at QB this year for the reigning champs. With so much off season hype and personnel changes, we’ve scaled back the relevance to bring to you our complete conference predictions below.
The AFC West has the reigning champs, the Denver Broncos, who face a major question heading to 2016. Who will start at QB? Kansas City was the AFC West runner-up last year but won a playoff game. The Raiders and Chargers should be improved as well. This will be a competitive division in 2016.
You won’t often find the defending Super Bowl Champs replacing their top two quarterbacks. Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler left for Houston. They brought in Mark Sanchez and drafted Paxton Lynch. The defense resigned Von Miller and should again be one of the league’s best units. They’ll be asked to keep the team in a lot of games as the offense could have trouble scoring this year.
It’s hard to see the Broncos making the playoffs with an improved division and difficult schedule.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs ended their playoff win drought last season with a dominating 30-0 win in Houston. They lost offensive coordinator Doug Pederson who return to Philadelphia to become the head coach.
The Chiefs won ten straight last season. There are questions heading to 2016. Will Justin Houston return from a knee injury? Will Eric Berry be signed before the start of the season?
The offensive line came together during the win streak and was upgraded with Mitchell Swartz. With Jamal Charles returning from injury, the offense should be better than 2015. The Chiefs are again a playoff team.
The Raiders have had a great offseason adding several players expected to make an immediate impact. Can Jack Del Rio get all these guys on the same page week 1?
Reggie Nelson, Sean Smith and Bruce Irvin are added to a defense that should be much better.
If Derek Carr continues to improve the Raiders will be very good. There game week 1 in New Orleans will tell us a lot about this team. The Raiders will be better but the record may not show it.
San Diego Chargers
A 4-12 2015 has the Chargers ready to show they’re better than that in 2016. For Mike McCoy, they have to get better or he’s out as head coach. They might prove to be the forgotten force, after last years devastating run of injuries and if they can improve their running game they can be sharp improvers and a genuine contender. Joey Bosa was their top draft pick and is expected to improve the pass rush right away. Eric Weddle left in free agency so the secondary has a major hole to fill in 2016.
The Chargers will be better this season than last but they’re not ready to contend.
|AFC WEST PREDICTION|
|Kansas City Chiefs||9||7||5|
|San Diego Chargers||8||8||11|
It’s another season starting with can anyone beat the Patriots for the AFC East title? With Brady sitting out the first four games due to his 2014 Deflategate scandal, this is the chance for the rest of the AFC East to make their move. Brady will miss two division games against Buffalo and Miami.
The good news for the AFC East is they’ll get two playoff teams this season.
Rex Ryan brought in his brother Rob to help the defense. Mario Williams is gone and Shaq Lawson is in on that side of the ball. Will that be an improvement in the pass rush?
Tyrod Taylor tries to pick up where he left off last season. He’s 8-6 as a starter and has provided a steady hand which the Bills have lacked for years at QB. The 16 year playoff drought ends this year for the Bills.
Adam Gase is the new head man in Miami. He’ll look to jump start Ryan Tannehill and the offense. Averaging less than 20 a game last year, Gase really only has room to improve. Lamar Miller is gone but Arian Foster has arrived in Miami hoping to revive his career.
Mario Williams comes over from AFC East rival Buffalo. He joins Ndamukong Suh on the D-line in trying to wreck havoc in opposing backfields. Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell also join what should be an improved defense.
New England Patriots
It’s Jimmy Garoppolo’s time to shine. He’ll be in charge of the offense for the first four games as Tom Brady sits out for Deflategate. Bill Belichick is a great coach and will have this team ready for it’s Brady-less stretch to open the season.
Chris Long joins the defense which lost Chandler Jones. The defense will be counted on to keep the team early and keep the pressure off the offense at the start of the year.
The Patriots are still gonna win double digits game and should have a super motivated Tom Brady when he returns.
New York Jets
The Jets were able to resign Ryan Fitzpatrick on a 1 year deal on the eve of training camp. Hardly the scenario and confidence the team was looking for in moving forward. They were a 10 win team last season but have failed to add any real significance whilst there draw seems tough, there first 6 games especially. They could be 0-6 and calling crisis meetings.
|AFC EAST PREDICTIONS|
|New England Patriots||12||4||9|
|New York Jets||6||10||14|
The AFC North should once again grab two playoff spots. Will the Bengals stay atop the division? Can Big Ben make another playoff run with the Steelers? Can the Ravens and Browns improve upon disappointing 2015 seasons?
Can the Ravens bounce back from a 5-11 season? Getting Terrell Suggs back and signing Eric Weddle will help the defense but the Ravens still needs playmakers on offense.
Steve Smith Sr. returns for another season with Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson joining him as top targets for Joe Flacco. Can they count on winning games with two aging receivers as their downfield threats?
The Bengals had a great regular season again in 2015 but melted down in the playoffs. Terrible penalties cost them a 18-16 home loss to Pittsburgh last season. Are they ready to finally take the step forward and win playoff games?
Karlos Dansby joins the defense that returns 9 starters. He should have an immediate impact and hopefully can be a leader to fill the void by the loss of Reggie Nelson.
Plenty of changes in Cleveland. Hue Jackson takes over the Browns and RGIII was brought in to compete for the starting QB position. The Browns have a long way to go to become competitive weekly in the NFL. The roster lacks talent but Jackson could turn things around if given time.
Le’Veon Bell is facing suspension and is set to miss the first three games of the season. The Steelers should be okay without him. They add Ladarius Green on offense to replace a retired Heath Miller. Green should be an excellent compliment to Antonio Brown and could become a favorite target for Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers should put up a lot of points again and if the defense can improve against the pass, they could be Super Bowl contenders.
|AFC NORTH PREDICTIONS|
The Texans took advantage of Andrew Luck’s injury and beat out the Colts for the AFC South title in 2015. The quarterback position will be a focus for all four teams in the division. Two young QB’s will look to make steps forward while two experienced signal callers will look to get their teams back to the top of the division.
The Texans won the division but laid an egg in the playoffs as the Chiefs beat them 30-0 in Houston. The Texans focused on upgrading the offense in the offseason.
Brock Osweiler is the new starting QB in Houston, Lamar Miller is the new starting RB and Braxton Miller was drafted to create some big plays for the offense.
Andrew Luck returns from an injury shortened 2015. The Colts still finished 8-8 and are confident they can be a playoff team once again with Luck back.
First round pick Ryan Kelly out of Alabama will start at Center and be in charge of making a seamless transition to hiking the ball to Andrew Luck.
The Jaguars are the team to watch out for in 2016. They look like they’re ready to challenge teams each week and should be much improved in 2016.
Blake Bortles made strides in his second season and is poised for a breakout 2016 with his young wideouts.
The defense adds rookies Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack who should make plays right away. Last year’s top pick Dante Fowler will make his NFL debut following an injury. Malik Jackson was brought in to anchor the defensive line.
DeMarco Murray was acquired to ease the pressure on Marcus Mariota. The Titans will look to run the ball and hopefully keep defenses guessing so Mariota can have more chances to make plays.
The Titans still need to add depth to be contenders. They’re going to have trouble coming from behind in games because of their lack of big play ability in the passing game.
|AFC SOUTH PREDICTIONS|
The Redskins won the division last year behind steady QB play. Can they repeat as NFC East Champs in 2016 playing a first play schedule? We only predict one NFC East team to have a winning record so only one playoff team comes from this division.
Injuries decimated the Cowboys last year as their top two offensive weapons were lost for weeks at a time. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are back and the Cowboys welcome in rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott to run behind one of the league’s best lines. The Cowboys will be much improved from last year’s 4-12 record.
New York Giants
Tom Coughlin is out and Ben McAdoo was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach. The Giants spent the offseason improving the defense. Steve Spagnuolo has new pass rushers and defensive backs in hopes of recreating some of the great defenses he had in New York years ago.
The Eagles pulled the plug on the Chip Kelly experiment after what seemed to be too many personnel mistakes. Doug Pederson, an Andy Reid assistant, returns to Philly as head coach.
The big question for the Eagles is who will be the QB. Sam Bradford returns, but Pederson brought Chase Daniel with him from Kansas City and drafted Carson Wentz second overall.
The RGIII era is finally over in DC. This is Kirk Cousins’ team and he has high expectations this season after setting a franchise record for passing yards in 2015.
The ‘Skins brought in Josh Norman, the all-pro corner from Carolina. He’ll be tested in this division with Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. occupying four games.
|NFC EAST PREDICTIONS|
|New York Giants||7||9||18|
This should be a very competitive division in 2016. It sent two teams to the playoffs last year and we predict the same this season.
John Fox enters his second season as head coach in Chicago. He lost his offensive coordinator Adam Gase to the Dolphins. Kevin White, the Bears former first round pick, missed all of 2015 due to injury. Will he become the go-to receiver for Jay Cutler?
The Lions won three in a row to close out the 2015 season and 6 of their final 8. Calvin Johnson surprisingly retired in the offseason leaving questions on offense. Marvin Jones was signed in free agency away from Cincinnati and will be expected to fill Johnson’s shoes.
Green Bay Packers
Jordy Nelson was lost in training camp last year and his loss had a big impact on the offense. They fell to 15th in scoring after finishing 2014 as the top scoring team in the league.
Even without Aaron Rodgers’ top target last year, they still made the playoffs and won a playoff game on the road. The Pack will be back in the playoffs in 2016.
The Vikings capped the regular season with a huge road win in Green Bay to win the NFC North. They followed that up though with a disappointing home playoff loss the next week to Seattle on a missed FG in the final seconds. The Vikings are in their new stadium this year which should help energize them heading to 2016. They’ll be back in the playoffs.
|NFC NORTH PREDICTIONS|
|Green Bay Packers||10||6||8|
The reigning NFC Champions reside in the NFC South. Carolina dominated throughout the 2015 season only to put in a dismal performance at Super Bowl 50. Will they have a Super Bowl hangover?
Alex Mack was brought in to anchor the offensive line and help protect Matt Ryan. Ryan should be much improved in year 2 under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Dan Quinn enters his second season as head coach in Atlanta and should see an improved team though their record may stay the same as 2015. The schedule is tough but the Falcons will be good enough to be in the hunt for a Wild Card spot as they close out the Georgia Dome.
The Panthers were 15-1 last year but it was all forgotten after a Super Bowl loss. Cam Newton is back to lead the offense which will get Kelvin Benjamin added to it after he was lost to injury in 2015.
The defense lost John Norman but gain Brandon Boykin. That’s a bit of a down grade but Ron Rivera will still assemble one of the league’s best defensive units. The Panthers are still the best team in this division.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints simply must get better on defense. They were last in points per game and second to last in yards allowed last year. That’s just too much pressure to put on the offense every week. They addressed the defense in the offseason and hope James Laurinaitis and Nick Fairley can help it improve immediately.
The offense lost Benjamin Watson and Marques Colston but gained Coby Fleener and CJ Spiller. Will the new guys gel with Drew Brees right away? A lot of questions in New Orleans make it hard to see a winning year for the Saints.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dirk Koetter was promoted to head coach from offensive coordinator. He looks to help Jameis Winston improve on a good rookie season. The offense should be good in Tampa but the defense has question marks. This will be an improved team but they’re not quite playoff caliber yet.
|NFC SOUTH PREDICTIONS|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8||8||25|
|New Orleans Saints||6||10||24|
The NFC West has been sending two teams to the playoffs regularly and this year should be no different. The Cardinals and Seahawks should again be the class of the division.
The Cardinals seemed to get over the hump and became division champs in 2015. They won a playoff game in OT but followed that up with a blowout loss at Carolina in the NFC Championship. The schedule is tough for the Cardinals this year.
Bruce Arians is one of the league’s best coaches and should again have a great offensive attack in Arizona. Can he reset Carson Palmer following his disastrous playoff performance at Carolina?
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were a big story in the offseason as they moved from St. Louis back to LA. They then traded up in the draft to take Jared Goff #1 overall.
Will Goff be the starting QB this season? Case Keenum is scheduled to start the season at QB but you know Goff will take the reigns at some point. Either way, the Rams are going to lean heavily on Todd Gurley to run the football.
The defense has several new faces but is still anchored by Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn.
San Francisco 49ers
Chip Kelly begins his coaching tenure in San Francisco with several questions. Will Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick be the starting QB? Can we win with what looks to be one of the least talented rosters in the league? It’s going to be a big adjustment year for the Niners. They’ll adapt to the Kelly system but that’s going to mean a lot of losses.
The Seahawks struggled at the start of the 2015 season but rallied, made the playoffs and won on the road in the Wild Card round.
Marshawn Lynch rode off into the sunset after last season. Injuries last season helped the Seahawks prepare for life without Lynch. Thomas Rawls will be expected to fill the role of Lynch this season.
The defense still have the playmakers to make the Seahawks contenders. They know they’re as good as any team in the league and with the pressure of back-to-back Super Bowl trips off of them, they should be ready for 2016.
|NFC WEST PREDICTIONS|
|Los Angeles Rams||6||10||23|
|San Francisco 49ers||3||13||31|
SUPER BOWL LI WINNER
|New England Patriots||9.00|
|Green Bay Packers||11.00|
|Kansas City Chiefs||26.00|
|New York Giants||41.00|
|New York Jets||41.00|
|Los Angeles Rams||67.00|
|New Orleans Saints||67.00|
|San Diego Chargers||67.00|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||67.00|
|San Francisco 49ers||101.00|