Okay, I don't have much of any excuse as to why I haven't posted anything in months. I'm sure there aren't more than three or four people who even regularly read this blog anyway, but those precious few who do read my posts and maybe even look forward to them, I am sorry for casting this blog aside. Hopefully this post will get me back in that groove to write more regularly.
Anyway, my NFL predictions have been an August staple the last few years, so let's go for round five of them.
1. The Denver Broncos will miss the playoffs. Gotta go balls out with this one. They were the #1 seed in the playoffs in the 2012 postseason and got bounced in that bug nuts crazy legendary playoff game. The next year, they got all the way to Super Bowl 48, but were utterly humiliated. Last year, they were upset yet again by the Colts in the Divisional Round (any Broncos fan reading this post probably already wishes a vicious, violent death for me for forcing them to relive those memories). The football gods giveth and the football gods taketh away, and they will take from the Broncos in 2015. Their offensive line is really, really bad to say the least, and not even Gary Kubiak can fix it this year. They won't be bad per se, but a season finishing around 8-8 will feel like a major step backwards for a team who won the division each of the last three seasons and appeared (technically speaking) in the Super Bowl during that span. A disappointing season will especially sting because...
2. It's the final swan song for Peyton Manning. The writing is on the wall. He turned 39 years old in March, which is old by any NFL standard. That is not to imply his performance on the field will suffer, but I expect he will take quite a beating by defenses with a below-average offensive line protecting him. His team will have a grueling season, struggling with two other very good teams in their division. It won't be the kind of final season Manning wants for himself, but he'll face the reality that his career will end on a fairly sour note.
3. The New York Giants will win the NFC East. Normally, I try to pick at least one last-place team to rebound the next season to win its division outright. That trend held up for over a decade in the NFL, but came to a screeching halt last year. The Giants didn't finish in last place in their division last year either, but they were a pretty bad team in 2014. The point is, their offense will be one of the most prolific in the league with Odell Beckham, Jr and Victor Cruz as their top two receivers with Mario Manningham in the slot. NFC East defensive backs, you go have fun with that.
4. Marvin Lewis will be fired as Bengals head coach before the end of the season. Pop quiz, hotshot: Which head coach in the league has the second longest tenure at his job behind Bill Belichick? Yes, it's Marvin Lewis, and why he's hung around in Cincinnati as long as he has is a mystery to pretty much everyone except for Mike Brown. Whatever faith Brown has in Lewis and his design for the team will fade when the Bengals finally figure out Andy Dalton is not a winner at quarterback this year. The Ravens and Steelers will duke it out for the division title in 2015, and the Bengals will finish under .500, leading to Lewis finally losing his job.
5. The New England Patriots will finish with their fewest wins since 2009. In 2009, the Patriots had "only" 10 wins, and had at least 11 wins every year since. Ten wins is still pretty respectable in the NFL, and usually is enough to get a team to the playoffs (it's worth noting that the Patriots still won the AFC East in 2009 too). Tom Brady's suspension will force the Patriots to start the season very slowly, and I wouldn't be surprised if they won only one game in their first four while they wait for Brady to return. Brady will certainly play with a major chip on his shoulder once he returns, but the Patriots lost both their starting cornerbacks in free agency this past spring, so my prediction is more about their losses on defense than not having Brady for all 16 games. Still, I do expect them to win the AFC East, but that's mostly due to being in a weak division: the Bills have major quarterback issues, the Jets won't have Geno Smith until at least October thanks to IK Enemkpali, and the Dolphins are the Dolphins.
6. Jameis Winston will break the NFL rookie QB record for TD passes. The current record is 26 TD passes, held by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson. Winston already has some quality targets in Tampa, including Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. However, the bigger reason why I think he'll have such a great rookie season is largely due to his work ethic. I don't think the Bucs are ready to make a playoff run just yet (something I learned the hard way last year), but they will be one of the more improved teams in 2015.
7. The San Francisco 49ers' defense will give up the most points in the league this season. Let's take a quick head count of the losses the 49ers have had on defense since last year: CB Perrish Cox, CB Chris Culliver, DT Justin Smith, LB Chris Borland, LB Patrick Willis, and LB Aldon Smith. Those losses are a mixture of free agents leaving, players retiring, and players being cut, but the combined losses will translate to a defense that just won't be able to stop many offenses across the league. The narrative gets even worse when you stop to think about the teams the 49ers have to face in 2015; in addition to their divisional rivals, they have to play the Steelers, Ravens, Packers, Giants, and Lions, just to name a few. The coaching staff and front office may have to start looking at who the top defensive players coming out of college are expected to be this year since the 49ers are almost destined to get a top-five pick in the next NFL Draft come April 2016.
8. The Jacksonville Jaguars will finish with their best record since 2010. The moment that #3 overall draft pick Dante Fowler went down with a torn ACL made most everyone think, "Well, that's the Jaguars' luck for you." Despite his injury and inability to contribute this season, I still think the Jaguars will be another very improved team over last year and finish around 8-8. They're still a couple pieces away from truly competing for the playoffs, but they will give their fans something to get excited about for the first time in a very long time.
9. Philip Rivers will be the league MVP. Once upon a time, I had previously predicted that Philip Rivers would be the NFL MVP. At the risk of repeating past mistakes, I'm making the same prediction for this season. The Chargers have a chance to have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league this year along with the Giants, Packers, and Colts. Rivers could put himself in a position for a hefty pay day if the Chargers don't work out a new contract with him before the season starts.
10. The Green Bay Packers will defeat the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 50. The city of San Diego could be forced into a very bittersweet season if reports that the Chargers leaving for L.A. are true. The upside is that NFL fans would be in for quite an offensive show equipped with fireworks if this match up happens in Santa Clara in February. However, if the Chargers are as good as I expect them to be and get all the way to the Super Bowl, Chargers fans will have plenty of reason to be bitter towards owner Alexander Spanos and GM Tom Telesco. On the other side of the spectrum, Packers fans will be able to celebrate yet another Super Bowl championship for their team.