Diving into the NFL pool

Step right up and place your bets.
A fitting opening to my almost annual column predicting the outcome of this year’s NFL season, which begins tomorrow night when the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Billions upon billions of dollars are bet every year on professional football, which still rules America’s airwaves (and Canada’s, for that matter) on Sundays each fall.
I kindly would suggest that if you are one of those who is willing to drop a buck or two down on the outcome of the upcoming campaign, go elsewhere to acquire your expertise.
My record in previous years has been less than stellar. But, in keeping with the definition of insanity, I seem to keep doing the same thing over and over again.
Therefore, I offer you my soon-to-be-proven-wrong guesses on what will unfold in the 2015 NFL season.
Remember, you’ve been warned.
NFC East
1. Dallas (10-6)—No top cornerback, no running game to speak of, and the karma of signing Greg Hardy. Call this blind loyalty.
2. Philadelphia (9-7)—And that’s only if Sam Bradford stays healthy for 16 games (good luck with that).
3. N.Y. Giants (7-9)—If Eli Manning has a big contract year, they might swipe second from Philly. But that defence? Yeesh.
4. Washington (3-13)—Not one regular-season snap yet and “Team Turmoil” already is at full boil. Oh, and change the nickname already.
NFC North
1. Green Bay (11-5)—Jordy Nelson’s loss will hurt but not cripple a deep Packers’ attack.
2. Minnesota (9-7)—Adrian Peterson’s return will help but the O-line needs to keep Teddy Bridgewater alive and healthy.
3. Detroit (6-10)—Holes on the defensive line and a quickly-aging “Megatron” at wideout means the Lions are (Optimus) prime candidates to slump.
4. Chicago (4-12)—Jay Cutler has one reliable wideout and no chance. He and John Fox will be pining for the good old days in Denver.
NFC South
1. New Orleans (10-6)—Only because Drew Brees is still Drew Brees and I don’t believe anyone else in the division is better right now.
2. Atlanta (8-8)—They have a new head coach in Dan Quinn but nothing spectacularly new on defence.
3. Tampa Bay (4-12)—Jameis Winston will have a rocky rookie year and the Bucs are still yuck in their secondary.
4. Carolina (2-14)—Cam Newton has a fat new contract and, with Kelvin Benjamin gone for the year, nobody to throw the ball to.
NFC West
1. Arizona (13-3)—Basing this completely on Carson Palmer staying healthy for 16 games (it’s got to happen one of these years).
2. Seattle (10-6)—The motivation of losing the Super Bowl on the last play will be balanced out by a secondary nowhere near as scary as in the recent past.
3. St. Louis (9-7)—A killer defensive line and a decent QB upgrade in Nick Foles. But I’m in show-me mode with the Rams.
4. San Francisco (1-15)—The only guy who didn’t walk out or get fired from the ’Niners this off-season was the groundskeeper. This will not end well.
Wild cards—Seattle, Minnesota
NFC Championship—Arizona over Green Bay (the Cardinals have been knocking on the door; time to kick it in).
AFC East
1. New England (15-1)—The Super Bowl champions have a revenge-minded Tom Brady back. The rest of the league is going to be very sorry about that.
2. Miami (9-7)—Ndamukong Suh will bring more oomph to the D but scoring still will be a problem for Ryan Tannehill and Co.
3. Buffalo (8-8)—The Bills will show a little running game improvement (LeSean McCoy) can go a long way.
4. New York Jets (3-13)—The Jets’ team chemistry is pathetic. Its offence may be even worse.
AFC North
1. Cincinnati (10-6)—The Bengals have a formidable offence and should expect to play better defence this year.
2. Pittsburgh (9-7)—If the Steelers can play any kind of defence at all, their offence post-suspension (Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell) should keep them in most games.
3. Baltimore (7-9)—Joe Flacco loses his downfield weapon in Torrey Smith and the Ravens are far from the Ray Lewis-led renegades of Super Bowl years past.
4. Cleveland (2-14)—The Browns have an old Josh McCown and an abysmal Johnny Manziel at quarterback. That’s all that needs to be said.
AFC South
1. Indianapolis (12-4)—The Colts are better on offence (Frank Gore, Andre Johnson). But without better run defence, they still are an early-round playoff victim.
2. Houston (10-6)—Brian Hoyer will be better at the pivot spot than most think. And you go tell J.J. Watt the Texans can’t play defence (be my guest).
3. Tennesssee (5-11)—Marcus Mariota could surprise a few people as a rookie starting QB. But the Titans’ defence couldn’t stop traffic with a barricade.
4. Jacksonville (3-13)—Gus Bradley is a likeable head coach. When he realizes Blake Bortles is not a starting QB, I will like his team more.
AFC West
1. Denver (12-4)—The Chiefs and Chargers are the more popular picks here. But something tells me Peyton Manning has other ideas this season.
2. San Diego (11-5)—I am keen on the crew from Surf City if Philip Rivers throws like he can and stashes his blame game routine when things go wrong.
3. Kansas City (8-8)—No Chiefs’ wide receiver caught a touchdown last year. Bringing in Jeremy Maclin doesn’t turn Alex Smith into Joe Montana overnight.
4. Oakland (3-13)—Call it a hunch that Derek Carr has a sophomore slump at QB and the Raiders continue to be the Raiders on defence.
Wild cards—San Diego, Houston
AFC Championship—Indianapolis over New England (the ultimate “Deflategate” payback for Andrew Luck and the Colts).
Super Bowl—Indianapolis 31, Arizona 27 (Gore and Johnson reward the Colts for signing them and capture their long-sought championship rings in the process).

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail