It’s never too early to start predicting how the 2015-16 NFL regular season will pan out, especially with Week 1 just looming around the corner. All 32 teams are geared up to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 50, but each one of them will need to conquer their respective divisions first and foremost.
Read on as we get up-close with win predictions and analysis for each division in the league before we ultimately predict an eventual Super Bowl winner. And don’t you dare miss out on all the NFL games on tap; head on over to our special features on the complete TV schedule and the breakdown of each teams’ bye weeks this 2015-16 NFL regular season.[sc:Football ]
Divisional Picks and Predictions for the 2015-16 NFL Regular Season
|New England Patriots||11-5||10.5|
|New York Jets||3-13||7.5|
Not even Tom Brady’s four-game suspension at the beginning of the regular season will be enough to dethrone the New England Patriots atop the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills have a peculiar offense heading into the season (especially at starting quarterback), and the same could be said about the dysfunctional New York Jets.
The Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, have made great offseason moves to bolster their lineup, and are primed to end the Pats’ reign this season. However, until the Fins actually turn every pundits’ theories of them winning into actual W’s, New England is still the rightful -165 odds-on favorite to win the division.
|San Diego Chargers||9-7||8.5|
|Kansas City Chiefs||8-8||8.5|
Boy, did the AFC West suddenly get crowded, or what? Well as long as Peyton Manning is still calling the shots under center, the Denver Broncos are still the team to beat in the division, and are -175 favorites in doing so.
[sc:NFL240banner ]That’s not to take anything away from the young talents looking to become superstars in the NFL. The likes of running back Melvin Gordon (Chargers), tight end Travis Kelce (Chiefs) and wideout Amari Cooper (Raiders) could very well make immediate impacts during the regular season to keep their respective teams alive in the playoff hunt.
However, San Diego, Kansas City and Oakland are still a season or two away from becoming legitimate postseason contenders. That, and Manning’s impending retirement in the near future wouldn’t hurt their chances as well.
Expect another fight-to-the-finish out in the hotly-contested AFC North, as all teams (with the exception of the Cleveland Browns) have a viable shot of winning the division.
The Baltimore Ravens (+130), Pittsburgh Steelers (+180) and Cincinnati Bengals (+250) have each won three division titles over the past nine seasons, and the three-way rubber season this 2015 will decide who the most dominant team from the North will be. We’re banking on a late-season win for Steelers to claim the crown at the last minute, with the Bengals also making the playoffs as a wild card.
Make no mistake; the Indianapolis Colts (-550) will win perhaps the most predictable and lopsided division in the AFC. The Colts are absolutely loaded on offense, and they have a passable defense compared to the rest of their division rivals.
Only Houston’s defense outranks that of Indianapolis’, but the Texans’ own offense is in disarray with Arian Foster likely to miss majority of the regular season due to a groin injury and with no dependable quarterback at the helm. The Jaguars and the Titans are both young and unpredictable, but they’re still well behind the Colts (and to some measure, even the Texans) in terms of actual proven talent.
|New york Giants||8-8||8.5|
It’s going to be another wild season in the NFC East, as the Philadelphia Eagles (+110), Dallas Cowboys (+140) and the New York Giants (+400) are neck-and-neck-and-neck apart in the race for the NFC East’s jewels.
On paper, Chip Kelly’s maddening offseason moves look like masterstrokes. That is until his prized acquisitions actually turn out to be the damaged goods that they were heading into the season. Dallas is very well-rounded on both sides of the ball, but the departure of last season’s rushing leader in running back DeMarco Murray may turn out to be a costly move.
Eli Manning of the New York Giants has a lot of new toys that he learned how to play with last year, but the O-line, running game and the defense (in other words, pretty much everything else) remain questionable.
As for the Redskins, they’re just hoping that Robert Griffin III makes it out of this season in one piece.
|St. Louis Rams||6-10||8.0|
|San Francisco 49ers||5-11||6.5|
It’s not a matter of how the West will be won, but rather how the Seattle Seahawks – -300 favorites at becoming division champs – will win the West.
As good as Carson Palmer (given his age) and the defense are, the Cards are still a click or two behind than those of their counterparts in Seattle. St. Louis is a trendy pick to pull an upset with it’s equally intimidating D, but the team clearly lacks depth and experience on the offensive side of the ball. The 49ers, on the other hand, are still reeling from the mass exodus that occurred during the offseason, and it would take more than just a couple of lucky breaks for them to get back to the summit of the NFC West.
|Green Bay Packers||13-3|
The Green Bay Packers (-265) are expected to win the NFC North with ease, but don’t be surprised if the Minnesota Vikings (+375) make the division race an actual race. The Vikes have lots to be excited about this 2015 after a stellar performance towards the end of last season and the promise that second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater brings to the offense’s table.
Meanwhile, the Lions saw coveted defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, amongst other key pieces, leave the team in the offseason and have made no significant upgrades in their former players’ wake. The Chicago Bears have also made no big splashes in free agency, and remain a middle-of-the-pack team for as long as Jay Cutler is the team’s erratic starting quarterback.
|New Orleans Saints||8-8||8.5|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4-12||6.0|
Here’s another crapshoot: the NFC South – the league’s laughingstock of the previous season.
All jokes aside, it will be hard to accept that this division will have another champion with a losing record. The Atlanta Falcons – slim +170 favorites to win the South – have made the best strides during the offseason, most notably by hiring new head coach Dan Quinn. Quinn had a solid draft to boost the talent on defense (the team’s Achilles heel last season) and his offense saw no major setbacks from where they were at.
Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers (+225) took a big hit when 1,000-yard receiver Kelvin Benjamin got injured in the preseason and will miss the entire year, but their formidable defensive core is still intact. The New Orleans Saints (+210) are transitioning to a heavier running game, but the aerial assault, led by Drew Brees, remains potent. It’s the Saints’ defense, though, that raises a lot of red flags.
Heck, you can even throw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+550) into the mix this season. With the 2015 first-overall draft pick at this year’s draft and former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston running things on offense in Tampa, and with the bar set real low in the NFC South, the Bucs could very well prove that their team no longer sucks.
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