The AFC one went pretty well. I'm starting this with 1 hour and 22 minutes left before Kevin begins administrative work and the season begins.
Packers - 12-4 (9-7 in '19)
Bears - 10-6 (9-7 in '19)
Lions - 5-11 (13-3 in '19)
Vikings - 5-11 (4-12 in '19)
Do the Packers really have a franchise QB? All signs point that way, with a perhaps MVP season last year (who knows?) and a fresh 5 year contract extension, Baby Face Glennon looks to continue his torrid stretch with all of the same weapons on offense. Doug Martin has a new FB in front of him, and a new backup RB behind him in former Seahawks starter Knile Davis. Full steam ahead Packers, is this the year they transition more to the passing game? Ever tweaking, I like the stability Kevin has reached, and how good these guys are. Division winners is what I expect.
Da Bears aren't quite the same. Andrew Luck is in town, showing off his arm strength for drooling team execs. Collin Klein played quite well with the same targets, and theoretically Luck should exploit the deep ball skills of Jorge Lloyd and AJ Green better than Collin ever did. With the only change being likely an increase, I like the Bears as a WC or division contender.
The Lions have moved on from Stafford for the first time ever in the GZL. Marcus Mariota found some magic in key moments last season, but is going to be far less consistent (and frankly less good) than Stafford who really carried the Lions a year ago. It's too bad, because this is one of the last years Adams and Gettis will be good. Or maybe this is a good plan, get the WRs to get Mariota as developed as possible. This is the biggest predicted drop in performance. If I did my job more thoroughly, maybe I could find another candidate for a team that will jump that far down in W-L record.
The Vikings. Nick Foles gained another big piece at WR. Tyler Boyd. Somehow Boyd was not given an increase in speed this year but he's still a special player as he is. Or will be when his skills catch up. This year still expect Foles to struggle at times behind that OL on this team. He has another couple of years before he reaches maturity himself.
Redskins - 12-4 (11-5 in '19)
Eagles - 9-7 (8-8 in '19)
Cowboys - 7-9 (6-10 in '19)
Giants - 5-11 (7-9 in '19)
The World Champ Redskins had some impressive offseason woes in managing their salary cap. However they were able to retain every important skill player except DJ Williams, their TE. Stanzi and Griggs should continue to thrive as the winningest group in Washington goes for their third straight year of double-digit wins.
A young offense, the Eagles look like a team on the rise to me. McNabb is nearly ready to entire the good to elite category, while Jeremy Hill enters his third year after a very strong second season. The addition of Jeff Fuller to the already talented Hankerson & Cooks duo means nothing but good things for this group. Colin Kaepernick will possibly have a chance to win a starting job this year over McNabb, and if not will be a fantastic backup.
The Giants have doubled down on the Manziel move, adding Pryor as a backup or competitor to him at QB. The loss of DeSean Jackson at WR isn't horrible, as Jaelen Strong is ready to step up and be a top guy. But Strong and the rest lack high-level skills and awareness, which Manziel will sorely miss. The RB position is very athletic and intriguing, but not polished or dominant in RB skills. No one here is carrying this young offense to the above-average level. All in all, I see a repeat of 7 wins as a struggle this year.
Mark Sanchez essentially played 13 games last season. He's 34. The 'Boys just drafted Connor Cook. If Sanchez stays healthy (reasonable), and starts all season, he may repeat last year's mind-boggling 11 TDs, 8 INTs, and only 6.61 YPA. This WR group is deep, but no creme is rising to the top. Low awareness, lack of polished hands, they have some intriguing athletes but no stars. Sanchez did pretty well considering. Melvin Gordon has been quite good in his first two years, and perhaps the team can put more of the load on him this year and be competitive. I see an attempt at .500, but falling short as this division starts to grow at the top.
Buccaneers - 10-6 (12-4 in '19)
Saints - 8-8 (6-10 in '19)
Panthers - 6-10 (6-10 in '19)
Falcons - 4-12 (5-11 in '19)
Emotion trumps logic in everyone's life at times. The Buccaneers had just about finished rescuing Tannenhill and putting him on the path to elite. This year I expect the Broncos to benefit from that, while the Buccs start the grooming process over with...Jameis. Mike Evans is most of the way to being a stud, Green-Beckam will be someday (but will do cool things now), and this team has to rely on Todd Gurley to carry more of the load this year. Athletically a bigger Doug Martin here, I expect him to keep them in games. If the Buccs are patient, that means 10-6 with this roster and another playoff appeance. but the schedule has been set back for the next SB run for I think two more seasons.
Tyler Wilson to Marlon Brown will continue to be the star attraction. I see Brown reaching 1200 yards this year as Wilson has reached the franchise QB level. The rest of the offense is more ordinary. The Saints did pick up Cameron Shaw, who is 6'5" and athletic, but still somewhat raw for a 5 year vet. If they find balance between Rodgers in the run game and Wilson throwing, this team can threaten to join the wild card race, or even push the Buccs if TB struggles enough at the QB position. Cause the defe....never mind.
When a team has a QB at the top of his game (Matt Barkley) and plenty of arm talent, and gives him TWO high-level RBs...how do they lose 10 games? I don't know the answer, but after moving on from Torrey Smith and Gerrard Campbell, I expect their good not great WR corps to hold them back even more. Johnathan Franklin is a very good HB, but that's still a move I dislike. The Panthers should have been ahead of the Saints a year ago, but now I see them falling behind.
The Falcons bring up the rear here, despite having a fantastic young QB/HB duo. Lack of WRs is the problem. With proper love and attention, Anthony Perez would just now be getting to a star level, but he's in danger of becoming a coulda-shoulda. Brandon Tate led the team in yards and was the "deep threat," but is getting old. The Falcons need to poung the ball and let Bo throw the ball over the top to speed, and avoid any attempts at a timing-based passing game. Cubby is a pretty nice option to turn to for that, but still trails Ezekiel Elliot significantly in running back skills. He just doesn't break enough tackles to carry a team with consistent gains yet in my opinion. Developmental year.
Rams - 12-4 (12-4 in '19)
49ers - 11-5 (12-4 in '19)
Seahawks - 9-7 (4-12 in '19)
Cardinals - 5-11 (6-10 in '19)
Will the Rams still run the ball without LaVonte Bell? Will it matter? I say no. Brandford to Stephen Hill, Donald Lake, and OBJ is the scariest proposition in the game. The Buccaneers will be scarier, but over the course of a season, and with that QB, the Rams will again prove to be so potent it's ridiculous. Instant offense cures a lot of ills.
Geno Smith, Terrance Williams, Josh Gordon. This group was a revalation last year. If the 49ers follow through on moving Williams, they drop below Seattle. Currently, I have the 49ers as a division contender and likely the first WC spot in the NFC. The run game should look good enough with Sims once again.
A lot of changes here, will they be good ones? Cam Newton is at the top of his game, but couldn't carry some unspectacular wide-outs a year ago. Rookie Armani Chance joins Eddie Lacy as the big additions to this offense. It looks like a shift to pounding the ball, and we'll see if that's a positive for this team. I have it as an increase, but maybe not enough.
Christian Ponder is still a star (future HOFer), and Julio Jones and Chip Hankderson will be a great duo at WR. But the running game will be mostly average with Tre Mason, and no real upgrades happened to this offense. In a really tough division, more balance or more potency is needed. Neither was added.