It all starts tonight, when the Steelers face the Patriots in the NFL-Thursday Night opening game of the season.
Time to Pick’Em Pal. My choices for the Divisional races.
Until somebody beats the Patriots, they still have to be the choice team, but as time has evolved, this seems like it is Tom Brady against the world. The last shred of defense is gone, Vince Wilfork, the draft picks haven’t really panned out, there is no star running back and no Pro Bowl receiver. Buffalo will be fun to watch, run the ball, go get the ball with Rex Ryan’s defense. Bluster and Belligerence, but he has risky EJ Manuel at quarterback. The Jets have defense and a new coach, but a QB quandary, Geno Smith-vs-journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins have Ryan Tannehill, a budding superstar, but holes elsewhere. Pick: New England.
Cincinnati has all this firepower in season, but is a failure post season. Maybe this is the year Andy Dalton breaks the jinx. Pittsburgh has Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but the defense is deplorable. Cleveland has fixed half the team (defense) but not much else. Baltimore seems to be in transition, always changing parts vis free agency, but Joe Flacco is still there. Wide open division. Pick: Cincinnati.
Indianapolis has been building towards greatness-this is the year it arrives. For one year at least, Andrew Luck can now lean on other veterans, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Trent Cole will all be difference makers. Everybody else is in grow mode. Houston has tons of talent on defense, but little to work with Brian Hoyer on offense. Jacksonville is tough on defense, but Blake Bortels does not have much help with the ball. Tennessee will be fun to watch as Marcus Mariota grows on the job. Pick: Colts.
Is there a changing of the guard in the offing? There are so many new things around Peyton Manning, including four new offensive lineman, no pass catching tight end, young running backs, and a coach who wants him to take snaps under center. The Sack Attack pass rush, now designed by legendary Wade Philips will be fun to watch. San Diego has added much to help Philip Rivers, but has gotten younger and more inexperienced on defense, and that is a negative. The Raiders have new leadership, Jack DelRio, lots of young player, with Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, and hope. Kansas City seems stuck in old school mode, run ball, try to win with defense, inability to get down the field. Has time passed Andy Reid by? Pick: Denver
The Eagles, always in constant change, have great skill, with RBs-DeMarco Murray-Ryan Mathews-Darren Sproles, a new WR package, athletes on defense. Will Sam Bradford, coming off two knee surgeries, stay on the field? Dallas has firepower upfront of Tony Romo, playmaker receivers, but not much of a run game, and defense with a history of injuries. This may be the last hurrah for Giants coach Tom Coughlin and his QB-Eli Manning. Injuries have wrecked the team, and outside of the Cruz-Beckham WR-group, is there anything there? The Redskins soap opera goes on and on. Kirk Cousins has his chance at QB, but the RG3-saga won’t end. Defense has talent but injury history too. Pick: Eagles.
The Packers always develop from within. But they are hurting inside now with injury issues at WR and RB. Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb has to stay healthy, as does LB-Clay Matthews. The Vikings are coming, and now you add Adrian Peterson to newly acquired Mike Wallace and fast developing QB-Teddy Bridgewater, and they will be fun to watch. Defense is a question. In Detroit we keep waiting for it all to come together around QB-Matthew Stafford and WRs Calvin Johnson-Golden Tate. Massive changes on defense. They will score, but they will give up points too. Chicago tries to match old school coach John Fox and free spirit quarterback Jay Cutler. Good Luck with that. Pick: Packers.
A new era in Atlanta after two horrible seasons. QB-Matt Ryan has Julio Jones, but not much else unless these rookie RBs pan out. Tampa Bay is giving the ball to QB-Jameis Winston, but will he be a big play guy or a turnover machine? Transition is a tough thing to watch and many think that is what Drew Brees is about to experience in New Orleans, where his offensive pieces are not what they used to be, and the defense has been non-existent. Carolina lacks help at WR and RB for Cam Newton. Coach Ron Rivera has kept this thing afloat for a couple of seasons, but it might sink this year. Pick: Falcons.
Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch carry the Seahawks. They do have young, athletic wideouts, but a leaky offensive line. Over a two year period, alot of key defensive players have left, and you wonder if you wake up one morning and the Richard Sherman crew is no longer what it used to be?. Arizona is on the brink of greatness, with talent in various places. If Carson Palmer stays on the field this year, they should go deep into the playoffs. The Rams have enormous defensive talent, but injuries at RB and a new QB in Nick Foles. They might be a year away. San Francisco has nothing but Colin Kaeperneck. Make a list of the players who have left over the last two years, and tell me how they compete? Pick: Seattle.