Finally the season is here! That means its time for my wisdom to be shared with all of you. In order of finish, and I will also do a week one prediction at the bottom:
New England Patriots
The perennial divisional winners will win it again, even with the absence of Tom Brady for four weeks. Those first four will be a key into the final record. I think Jimmy G. will do enough to keep the team at 2-2, mostly because the opponents, other than the Cardinals, are just not good enough to walk into Foxboro and win. Either the Bills or Texans will do it, cannot see the Dolphins win.
The Patriots are a solid team with some very questionable spots, and that is what will keep them from going back to another Super Bowl.
The offense is going to be real good once Tom returns, but they will struggle against teams with a good pass rush. That OL is a mess, maybe even messier than it was earlier this year in Denver. Just too many players banged up. The two-TE system is back, and it will generate points starting week 5 in Cleveland.
The Defense will miss Ninkovitch, as well as the pass rush that Chandler provided. The DBs are suspect, but can hold their own. Unfortunately, when Tom is being harassed and the score needs to stay in the teens, this group cannot deliver. Patriots have lived on the edge defensively for a long time, it has kept them from winning even more.
Tom Brady comes back and leads the team to a 9-3 record, totaling an 11-5 first place finish. That 11-5 should be enough for a #2 ranking in the playoffs, as I do not see any team in the AFC winning more than 11. If Jimmy falters, then this can drop to 10-6, but if Bills nor Texans deliver, than this is a 12-4.
New York Jets
The Jets are a much better team than most of our members would like to admit. They are returning just about everyone, plus some nice additions. Year two under Todd Bowles should make for a better team than 2015.
The Offense returns all its key players, with the exception of Chris Ivory. However, the growth of Bilal and the addition of Forte should be a better backfield. Key is going to be a healthy Clady, even if Ferguson had not played at a high level last two seasons. Marshall and Decker are still one of the best WR combos in the league. TE is a forgotten art in Chan’s system, mostly because he doesn’t have any. I expect a lot of passing, short to Forte and Enunwa, that will open up deep routes for Marshall/Decker.
The Defense is what will make this a very hard team to beat. TB has installed a much more efficient reliable system than Rex’s. The DL may be one the best 2-3 in the NFL. LBs are much faster than a year ago. An improved Leonard Williams will make this defense scary to play. I also expect Calvin Pryor to emerge and be a force.
Because this Defense is tough, they will bully themselves into a repeat of last year at 10-6. With the schedule being harder, 10 wins is a better season. The Jets will also be in the playoffs as a Wild Card. If they can take care of business with the Bills, this can jump to 11-5.
Bills may have the best roster Buffalo has seen in a very long time. Tyrod appears to be the Quarterback for years to come, but I don’t think the season will be a success or a disaster because of him.
The Offense was much improved last season, mostly due to the emergence of Tyrod Taylor. The shock to me was cutting Karlos, because he was the type of workhorse Rex likes. I think the OL got worst because of idiotic decisions by some, and that will hurt, especially on a team that runs first, passes second. Was are ok, but not scary behind Sammy. TE is useless, as he has had maybe one good year in his career.
The Defense last year was a total disappointment as players were blaming coaches and viceversa; generally this is the case when a unit under performs. They have tried to fix that by letting Mario go and used the first two picks on a replacement and a much needed MLB. Two great picks, but both are out for a while. I’m afraid the once formidable D is quickly fragmenting into a pedestrian unit. Bills beginning to look like the Jets D in Rex’s last two years.
Because Rex’s conservative play and passing only if he has to, this offense will not score a lot. The defense is not good enough to hold opponents down for a long time, and catching up in games, with the current personnel will not be easy. Bills will drop to 7-9 as the schedule is tougher than a year ago.
New head coach Gase will eventually help, but you cannot fix all the problems this team has had in one off season. Dolphins have been juggling the roster in a very big way, last 2-3 years. I think that all that juggling has hurt continuity almost everywhere.
The Defense is suspect, as it has been for a while. The DL is real good at rushing the passer, below par at stopping the run. The Linebackers are the worst in the division. The Cornerbacks are by far the worst unit on the squad. Jones is the best player not lined up at the line. This unit cannot stop teams from taking early leads, and that has been a huge issue that has had negative effects on the offense.
The Offense returns some very skilled players, and much maligned Tannehill. Ryan has been blamed for all the problems, but in reality he has been asked to take a beaten on a regular basis, and pass way more than he should, just to get back in games. The loss of Lamar Miller will be huge unless Foster drinks from the fountain of youth, or Jay becomes the RB everyone expected him to become, including yours truly. Letting Richard Mathews walk was a big mistake. Landry is the real deal, but the rest are just disappointments or unknown quantities. Parker needs to stay on the field and produce, but it looks like he will not. TE is good in name only, not sure what has happened to Cameron.
The schedule is tough, and improving on the record will be a tough task. The team is just not good enough to compete at the level fans want. Teams will continue to exploit this D by running so that it opens up big gains in the passing game. Dolphins will once again accumulate a ton of passing yards, but nothing to show for it. Gase needs a balanced attack, not sure he can deliver that without a reliable D. Dolphins will be lucky to finish with the same record as last year, 6-10.
Week one games:
Bengals @ Jets: 20-26
Bengals banged up, Jets D will force Dalton into mistakes
Bills @ Ravens: 17-20
Ravens better than most think, Bills banged up and missing too many pieces
Dolphins @ Seahawks: 13-30
Seahawks will run an array of RBs and Wilson will connect with his two targets
Patriots @ Cardinals: 17-33
Cardinals D will force Jimmy into numerous mistakes