Wednesday, 6 January 2016

NFL Regular Seaon Review 2015

This might be a different review. As I will look back on the division predictions I made previously on my blog for both the AFC and NFC, and give my thoughts on each division, leading into an overview of the Wildcard playoffs

AFC East
Prediction: New England – Miami – Buffalo – NY Jets
Actual: NE – NYJ – BUF – MIA

The winner of the division was never in doubt post Deflategate, but the dominance of the Patriots as the best team in the AFC was put in jeopardy by their constant injury struggles. The loss of Dion Lewis was a big negative as with LaGarrette Blount also sidelined, New England have no pure running back although Steven Jackson can hopefully alleviate some concerns. The return of Julian Edelman will give added security on third down where the Patriots have been woeful of late.
As for the rest of the division, you felt this was the year a wildcard team could materialise, yet the Jets did what they do best and came up short at the end, albeit versus their former coach Rex Ryan who suffered with injuries and consistency in Buffalo. As for Miami, they fork out bundles of cash to free agents and get nothing back; Tannehill put into doubt his viability for a big contract and Suh did not beef up a defence that demanded improvement.

AFC North
Prediction: Baltimore – Cincinnati – Pittsburgh – Cleveland
Actual: CIN – PIT – BAL – CLE

This is my egg on face call as I picked the Ravens to go all the way, but the loss of Terrell Suggs in the first week depleted their defence which had a novice secondary, then Joe Flacco,  Justin Forsett and Steve Smith all ended up on IR, prompting a salvage mission of a season. At least they did not succumb to the wooden spoon behind the mess that is still the Browns. Either Johnny Manziel wants out or he is just bad, he might well be shipped or traded now.
Andy Dalton remains the new king of regular season by being pretty much regular and steady until a featured thumb led to AJ McCarron taking over. The Bengals defence was much touted but that fell away as the season went on. Great job by the Steelers to make the playoffs with a high octane offence with Antonio Brown to the fore. They are a team to avoid but the two rivals go head to head in Cincy in the playoffs.

AFC West
Prediction: Denver – Kansas City – San Diego – Oakland
Actual: DEN – KC – OAK – SD

Despite Peyton Manning having the worst statistical year of his life, more interceptions than touchdowns, the Broncos led by a stellar defence to take blame away from Manning before his injury and then the impressive Brock Osweilier meant the Broncos kept the Chiefs at bay and thanks to an OT victory over New England at home got the No.1 seed although the possibility of either the Chiefs or even the Steelers could give Denver fits. And does Manning start?
As for the Chiefs they won 11 straight to face Houston in the playoffs, rich reward to get the weakest AFC division winner. Andy Reid and Alex Smith have marshalled the team after the awful 1-4 start and the loss of Jamaal Charles to give KC an edge and toughness. The return of Justin Houston for the Houston match up is key perhaps.
San Diego were woeful, no potency on offence and with one eye on a move to Los Angeles, the team played home games to virtually away crowds. And it was pleasing to see the Oakland Raiders improve significantly to 7-9 thanks to a leap by Derek Carr and the rookie Amari Cooper. Although they lost steam, there is something brewing in Oakland. And thank Charles Woodson for an incredible career.

AFC South
Prediction : Houston – Indianapolis – Jacksonville – Tennessee
Actual: HOU – IND – JAX – TEN

The only division I predicted correctly as my punt on the Texans overpowering Andrew Lick came true. Well not really. In the worst division in the NFL, the Texans survived longest as the Colts could not do much without Luck and the Texans got enough from Brian Hoyer and then Brandon Weeden to advance, all without Arian Foster for most of the season, thank God they had DeAndre Hopkins have a great season.
Jacksonville showed significant improvement from Blake Bortles and their receiving core and a fully fit TJ Yeldon at running back next year will be interesting.
Tennessee had moments with Marcus Mariota but the lack of talent across the roster meant they have the number 1 pick in the draft and are in a position to get a host of picks as Mariota did look the part, but will he be reunited with Chip Kelly, who departed the Eagles.

NFC East
Prediction: NY Giants – Dallas – Philadelphia – Washington
Actual: WAS – PHI – NYG – DAL

The toughest division to call provided the biggest surprise as the Washington franchise won the NFC East and ask Do you like that? Yes, Kirk Cousins we do. A 6-2 record at home and a formidable fortitude lead to the 10 win season, they could well spring one more surprise versus the Green Bay Packers this weekend. Washington are red hot at home and Green Bay have had their issues on the road.
The division was a cluster stuff of sub par football. The New York Giants should have been 9-7 instead of 6-10 and sending Tom Coughlin to his next job of haunting Bill Belichick and Tom Brady permanently. The Giants had no run game to take some pressure off of Odell Beckham Jr.
The Eagles were a mess in terms of personnel and the contract to DeMarco Murray was a mistake in light that Ryan Mathews was the better back, Chip Kelly’s exit in Week 17 was. It surprising though he does deserve another crack somewhere be it San Francisco or Tennessee, the most likely destinations.
Dallas suffered as their best players Tony Romo and Dez Bryant missed significant periods of the season, if fully fit they can hit certain heights next year and the Number 5 pick in the draft is a blessing without forking out in free agency again.

NFC North
Prediction: Green Bay – Minnesota – Chicago – Detroit
Actual: MIN – GB – DET – CHI

I correctly called the Vikings a playoff team yet they get the Seattle Seahawks visiting having won the division by winning in Lambeau in Week 17. Minnesota have shown just enough edge in their play and the returning Adrian Peterson has given them a winning edge. Can they go all the way is hard to say. Green Bay started off great but have looked anything but convincing with solid performances meeting woeful ones especially the road shocker at Arizona.
Detroit ended 7-9 and but for some rub of the green and defending Hail Marys better they could have nipped the Packers to the playoff berth yet they have big question in the offseason concerning free agent Calvin Johnson. And Chicago go from bad to worse, a boat of injuries denied them momentum but they need some leadership and free agent finds you feel to inject life into them.

NFC West
Prediction: Seattle – Arizona – St. Louis – San Francisco
Actual: ARI – SEA – STL – SF

Credit to the Arizona Cardinals who were the better team in the division although when the Seahawks woke up - or removed Jimmy Graham from their offence – they reminded why they are a force to be
reckoned with. Seattle much like Pittsburgh are the team you want to avoid.
St. Louis flattered to deceive despite a great defence, Nick Foles did not do enough to get plays out of their star players although Todd Gurley is the perennial silver lining for the Rams.  San Francisco sank you felt but still had five wins with Blaine Gabbert after Colin Kaepernick was disposed of, they sacked Jim Tomsula and are now flirting with the idea of Chip Kelly, who might give them a shot of adrenaline but in this division you need muscle and composure exemplified by the Cardinals and Seahawks.

NFC South
Prediction: Carolina – Atlanta – Tampa Bay – New Orleans
Actual: CAR – ATL – NO – TB

Carolina have the best record in football, 15-1, and they deserve immense credit due to the great balance of a lock down defence led by Josh Norman and Luke Kuechly, but certain MVP Cam Newton has done wonders considering his receiving core is not on par with other teams, Ted Ginn Jr?!? but Greg Olsen is probably the second best tight end now behind Gronkowski.
Atlanta started 5-0 and did not make the playoffs. Who is to blame? They remained competitive but the play of Matt Ryan with countless turnovers in the red zone did a disservice to a teams record but overall did not deserve a playoff berth.
The party is over in New Orleans as Sean Payton is likely departing, poor Rob Ryan defence led to terrible losses from which no team can recover. And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got some great momentum for themselves in Jameis Winston’s rookie year – a lot of the team return next year and they could well grow into a viable play off threat much like the Vikings did this year.

Play off Predictions
Washington over Green Bay
Kansas City over Houston
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Seattle over Minnesota

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