Way to Early NFL Pre-Regular Season Postseason Predictions

Staff Writer: Ramon Elortondo 

After a little over seven months of the NFL offseason, teams are starting to take shape. 53 men rosters are perfected to get the best 53 out of the field for September 7, the start of the regular season. Let’s take a gaze at my crystal ball for each division from the AFC and NFC.  

AFC East: At this point it’s pretty obvious who comes out of this division. The New England Patriots have tormented the rest of the division since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick started their dynasty together in 2000 when Brady was drafted in sixth round. The next team that is closest to challenging the AFC East kings are the Miami Dolphins. Last year, new coach Adam Gase and developing quarterback Ryan Tannehill finished with a 10-6 record and look to be on the come up. Although they are going to have to overcome a series of injuries suffered in training camp, Jay Cutler has instilled hope in the franchise and are a big contender for a wildcard spot in the AFC.  

“I don’t think anyone suffered more injuries to key players more than the Dolphins this training camp. They lost their franchise QB, starting middle linebacker, and starting corner all in a span of 2 weeks.” Said Dolphin fanatic Justo Elortondo. 

Justo and I both share that even with all the injuries that have come, the Dolphins have enough at challenging for that final spot in the AFC wildcard. The last two teams, the Bills and the Jets are almost tanking and have no shot.  

AFC North: It seems to be the same story every year in this league. Built from the inside out, the AFC North pride themselves on good defense and playing with the most aggressive style out there. These cold weather teams ground and pound and hit hard. Look for the star-studded offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers to repeat as division champs. Their offense looks to be one of the best in the league with pro bowlers such as Le’veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and super bowl winning quarterback Big Ben. The Ravens always make noise and are competitive, and are one of the other teams in the AFC that will be competing for one of the two wildcard spots at the end of the regular season. As for the Bengals, and injury derailed season brought a once playoff team down to Earth, and I expect them to stay there. The defense is old is more of a water pistol than the red rocket. Lastly, the Cleveland Browns. Once the joke of the NFL that had nothing going for them, finally seem to be turning things around. Don’t expect them to playoff appearance in the near future though, they still have a lot of work to do, but definitely expect improvement from previous years. 

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 7.18.12 PM

 

Joe Flacco and the Ravens at the goal line against in-division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Photo courtesy of creative commons, gathered by Emily Hailstone. 

AFC South: This was one of my hardest division to predict. The crystal ball’s vision was blurry for the AFC South, the once joke division of the NFL now has three decent teams that have solid chance at making it passed December and into January, and who knows, maybe February, where the Super Bowl will be held in Minneapolis. The team I see getting out of this division is the once joke of a franchise Tennessee Titans. Marcus Mariota is the real deal. Their running game is legit, not to mention a young and talented defense. In second place, the Houston Texans. That defense is one of the best in the league, but it will have to carry that team. They don’t have a proven quarterback, which makes the offense shaky. Although the defense might keep them in a lot of close games, I don’t see them winning enough to top the Titans or any of the wildcard teams this year, even though they won their division last year. Then there is the Colts. In my opinion the worst roster in the league. Saved by a great quarterback, the rest of the roster is horrendous. Andrew Luck can only do so much. The Jaguars, maybe the worst team in the NFL offensively are led by the worst quarterback in the league. I don’t see how Blake Bortles hasn’t seen time on the bench already. Signing the controversial quarterback from California may be the only chance for this franchise at having a positive record, if that. 

AFC West: Maybe the most competitive division in the league, every team offers a realistic shot at a postseason appearance. The Oakland Raiders broke through last year with a great record at 12-4, but what the average fan doesn’t see behind that record is that they won nine one-possession games. Although they earned those wins, it comes some luck as well to win at the end of games. The best quarterback in the division Derek Carr leads a high-scoring offense, but is brought back by a sub-par defense that premiers Khalil Mack…and that’s it. The back seven is one of the worst in the league. I don’t see them repeating such a successful year, but definitely a shot at the wildcard because the winner of the the AFC West will be the Kansas City Chiefs. Alex Smith, although not as flashy as some of the other quarterbacks in the league, is very reliable and doesn’t lose games. The defense is led by a great secondary and Justin Houston rushing the passer. Quietly finishing with a 12-4 record last year, don’t be surprised if they repeat. The Broncos pose the same problem as the Texans in the AFC South. Maybe the best defense in the league, but absolutely no quarterback. It seems as though John Elway whiffed on drafting Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. The new kids in town in Los Angeles, the Chargers are quietly very solid, but a turnover machine at QB, and an average defense will leave them in the middle of the pack, finishing third in the division. 

NFC East: The NFC East makes an argument for being the best division in the league as well. Last year, America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when the starting QB Tony Romo went down, and 4th round draft pick Dak Preskott took over as poised as anyone in the league. He did an amazing job behind one of the best offensive lines in football and sidekick rookie of the year candidate running back Ezekial Elliott. Zeke will be back after a six-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. The problem with the Cowboys this year is the have one of the most difficult schedules in the league, and in division rival, the New York Giants are also one of the best teams in the league. With the offseason addition of Brandon Marshall, he adds to an already stacked wide receiving corps and high-powered defense. I have the Giants winning the division with a 12-4 record followed by the Cowboys at 11-5. The last two teams in the division are the Eagles and Redskins, who are no joke. Last year’s second overall pick Carson Wentz has shown flashes of greatness some didn’t expect but they don’t have the talent to compete with the other super powers that make up the NFC East. Then there is the Washington Redskins. Led by Kirk Cousins, at best they’re average, and will struggle to compete in their division. 

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Dak Prescott leading the huddle surrounded by his offensive line and star receiver Dez Bryant. Photo courtesy of creative commons, gathered by Emily Hailstone. 

NFC North: The most talented QB in the league, Aaron Rodgers, is poised to have one of the best offenses in the leagueLike the past years, they will have no trouble in making the playoffs as the best team in the North. After the Packers, I see the Vikings, who drafted Dalvin Cook from Florida State, having a great year along with that defense. Expect to see make some noise for a Wildcard spot at the end of the year. The Lions and Bears are rebuilding, although talented, their defenses aren’t so great. It seems that it is the same story every year for the NFC North, and it’s no different this year. 

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 7.19.09 PMThe Green Bay Packers huddled up before taking on the Seahawks. Photo courtesy of creative commons, gathered by Emily Hailstone.  

NFC South: Division that is home to the choke masters of last year’s super bowl, the falcons hope to not have the infamous post super bowl slump. 

When talking to die-hard fan of his home town team the Atlanta Falcons, Shane Zachos, he said “After blowing that 25-point lead in the super bowl last year, we’re coming out angry and hungrier to win one more game and win it all this year.”  

Their mastermind at offensive coordinator left for a head coaching job in San Francisco with the 49ers, and many believe that will have a major effect on how well that offense does compared to the numbers they put up last year. The reigning MVP Matt Ryan looked sharp in pre-season, and so did the rest of the offense. Can the Tampa Bay Bucs challenge for a spot at the top of the NFC South? The division has a track record of interchanging their winner so who knows what could happen this year. In my opinion Jameis Winston will have a MVP candidate type season, and lead the Bucs to surpass the Falcons for the number one spot. The team is loaded with talent and after all, I don’t expect Matt Ryan to keep his level of play two seasons in a row. Carolina will improve from last year, but inconsistent play from their secondary will hold them back. As far as New Orleans, the overhyped addition of Adrian Peterson will slightly improve the run game that already had a quality back in Mark Ingram, who is better than AP from the backfield anyway. Their defense is horrific and will finish last in spite of having an aging Hall of Fame QB. 

NFC West: Last but not least, the NFC West. Home of the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Seahawks, last year won by Seattle. What once used to be one of the best divisions in football, now is filled with a lack of talent mostly. The Seahawks will come out on top, but will have a record that may surprise some people at how low it will be in my opinion. After losing their starting left tackle to an already poor offensive line, the Seahawks will struggle to get the run game going. I have them finishing with a 9-7 record, barely topping the Cardinals at 8-8. Then the Rams and 49ers, who were two of the worst teams in the NFL last year. Jared Goff struggled last year, and a bad O-line doesn’t help his cause. Then the team from San Fran is desperate for talent everywhere, after losing Colin at QB last year, the matter has only gotten worse. Don’t be surprised if they finish with one of the worst records in the NFL.  

AFC Playoff Picture 

  1. New England Patriots: 15-1 
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers: 12-4 
  3. Kansas City Chiefs: 11-5 
  4. Tennessee Titans: 10-6 

Wildcard 

  1. Oakland Raiders: 10-6 
  2. Miami Dolphins: 9-7 

First Team Out 

  1. Baltimore Ravens: 9-7 

NFC Playoff Picture 

  1. Green Bay Packers: 12-4 
  2. New York Giants: 12-4 
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11-5 
  4. Seattle Seahawks: 9-7 

Wildcard 

  1. Atlanta Falcons: 10-6 
  2. Dallas Cowboys: 10-6 

First Team Out 

  1. Minnesota Vikings: 9-7 

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