Bold Predictions for the 2016 NFL Season – Is Your Team Super Bowl Bound?
Sports| | By Mauricio Castillo
Finally, the day has come. The draft, free agency, training camp, preseason – all done. Football fans rejoice, the 2016 NFL regular season is upon us. Tonight, in a special Super Bowl matchup, when the Carolina Panthers meet the Denver Broncos in Colorado, after months of waiting and collective exasperations and wild fantasy predictions, football returns at last.
To honor this wonderful occasion, here are our predictions for the season, including playoffs, the Super Bowl, and regular-season awards.
AFC DIVISION WINNERS:
AFC EAST – New England Patriots (2 seed): Bill Belichick’s Patriots continue their dominance as Jimmy Garoppolo leads the team to a 1-3 start, but then a scourge in the form of a vengeful Tom Brady returns to destroy the rest of the league on the way to an 11-5 record.
***Wild Divison Prediction: Geno Smith (New York Jets) takes over for Ryan Fitzpatrick by Week 6, and then subsequently loses the job to Bryce Petty mid-game in Week 8.
AFC WEST – Kansas City Chiefs (4 seed): Jamal Charles returns to form just in time to help drive the Chiefs to a 9-7 record, good enough to win the division.
***Wild Division Prediction: Melvin Gordon (San Diego Chargers) rushes for 1,200 yards and 9 touchdowns. Philip Rivers, on the other hand, sets new career-highs in sacks taken and interceptions thrown.
AFC NORTH – Cincinnati Bengals (1 seed): This race comes down to the wire, but the Bengals’ resurgent defense (and return of healthy offensive weapons) wins their tie-breaker with the Pittsburgh Steelers and an 11-5 record.
***Wild Division Prediction: Ben Roethlisberger throws for over 5000 yards and 38 touchdowns.
AFC SOUTH – Houston Texans (3 seed): Led by a lightning quick offense and a violent defense, the Texans dominate their division on the way to a 10-6 record.
***Wild Division Prediction: Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts) announces his retirement after rushing for a league-low (for a starting running back) 530 yards.
AFC WILD CARDS: Pittsburgh Steelers (5 seed), Jacksonville Jaguars (6 seed)
NFC DIVISION WINNERS:
NFC EAST – New York Giants (4 seed): An offense that averages 28 points a game leads the Giants to the NFC east title with a 9-7 record.
***Wild Division Prediction: Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys) returns from injury to post career-low numbers and lose the starting job to upstart rookie Dak Prescott.
NFC WEST – Arizona Cardinals (1 seed): The Cardinals put it all together this season and, even with a few Carson Palmer struggles, finish with a 13-3 record.
***Wild Division Prediction: After getting out to a 1-6 record, the Los Angeles Rams turn to rookie Jared Goff, who throws 14 interceptions but helps the Rams to an 8-8 finish.
NFC NORTH – Green Bay Packers (2 seed): Aaron Rodgers returns with a chip on his shoulder this season and leads the Pack to a 12-4 record.
***Wild Division Prediction: The Detroit Lions field a defense ranked #1 in passing touchdowns allowed.
NFC SOUTH – Carolina Panthers (3 seed): Cam Newton plays superhuman football to make up for a suspect defense and lead the Panthers to a 9-7 record.
***Wild Division Prediction: Statistically, Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) puts up higher numbers than any other quarterback in the division.
NFC WILD CARDS: Seattle Seahawks (5 seed), Detroit Lions (6 seed)
PLAYOFF/SUPER BOWL RESULTS:
AFC Wild Card Round:
-The Jacksonville Jaguars (6 seed) def. the Houston Texans (3 seed): In a huge upset, the Blake Bortles-led offense proves too much to handle for the Texans, 28-21.
-The Pittsburgh Steelers (5 seed) def. the Kansas City Chiefs (4 seed): Upset weekend continues as the Steelers obliterate the Chiefs, 35-17.
NFC Wild Card Round:
-The Carolina Panthers (3 seed) def. the Detroit Lions (6 seed): Matthew Stafford loses two fumbles and Cam Newton rushes for over 90 yards and a victory, 17-14.
-The Seattle Seahawks (5 seed) def. the New York Giants (4 seed): Russell Wilson and Christine Michael combine for over 200 yards rushing and 4 total touchdowns as the ‘Hawks crush the G-Men, 28-13.
-The Cincinnati Bengals (1 seed) def. the Jacksonville Jaguars (6 seed): Two Blake Bortles-interceptions in the 4th quarter bury the Jags, 21-17.
-The Pittsburgh Steelers (5 seed) def. the New England Patriots (2 seed): Defense gets thrown out the window as Antonio Brown takes a slant route 75 yards to the house in overtime and the Steelers win a shootout, 37-31.
-The Arizona Cardinals (1 seed) def. the Seattle Seahawks (5 seed): The Cardinals defense shows up to bottle up Russell Wilson on the way to victory, 17-13.
-The Green Bay Packers (2 seed) def. the Carolina Panthers (3 seed). The young corners of the Panthers get a lesson in pass coverage by the trio of Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and, surprisingly, Jared Cook, 27-17.
-The Pittsburgh Steelers def. the Cincinnati Bengals: The Steelers get sweet revenge as Big Ben throws two touchdowns and Le’veon Bell rushes for two more, 28-21.
-The Arizona Cardinals def. the Green Bay Packers: A last-second 48-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal is the difference maker as the Red Birds defeat the Pack, 27-24.
-The Arizona Cardinals def. the Pittsburgh Steelers: In a rematch of Super Bowl XLIII, Carson Palmer shakes off two first-quarter interceptions to throw three touchdowns, and the Arizona defense holds off the Steelers’ vaunted passing attack just enough to win, 31-27.
***Super Bowl LI MVP – Larry Fitzgerald: Third-down conversion after third-down conversion, along with a crucial fourth-down touchdown, earn the legendary Cardinals receiver MVP honors.
REGULAR SEASON AWARDS
Most Valuable Player – Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers: With a 32:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Rodgers leads the Pack back to the NFC Championship.
***Dark Horse Candidate – Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers: With Martavis Bryant and Le’veon Bell missing time due to suspensions, Brown solidifies his title as best in the world with 2080 reception/return yards and 13 total touchdowns.
Offensive Player of the Year – Ben Roethlisberger, Quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers: Compensating for a shoddy defense, Big Ben puts up gaudy passing yards en route to the Super Bowl.
***Dark Horse Candidate – Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings: The ageless Peterson puts up another 1000-yard rushing season, while also scoring 15 total touchdowns as the focal point of a Vikings offense without its starting QB.
Defensive Player of the Year – Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Los Angeles Rams: Donald begins to tug at J.J. Watt’s “Best Defensive Player” title with another stat-sheet-filling season.
***Dark Horse Candidate – Harrison Smith, Free Safety, Minnesota Vikings: The “quarterback” of the Vikings defense puts the team on his back and leads the league in interceptions this season.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys: The rookie runner out of Ohio State breaks the rookie rushing record and scores 13 touchdowns.
***Dark Horse Candidate – Will Fuller, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans: Showing an immediate rapport with QB Brock Osweiler, Fuller leads the league in receptions of 20+ yards.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Darron Lee, Linebacker, New York Jets: A speed demon, Lee starts out as a great pass defender only to show his sack ability in the second half of the season.
***Dark Horse Candidate – Robert Nkemdiche, Defensive Tackle, Arizona Cardinals: After stumbling out of the gate, Nkemdiche shows off his instant-pressure ability and is a crucial piece of the Red Birds’ Super Bowl run.
Coach of the Year – Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars: The young, talented Jaguars stun the world by making it to the AFC Divisional round, showcasing a maturity bred from Bradley’s coaching.
***Dark Horse Candidate – Ben McAdoo, New York Giants: McAdoo’s offensive system and rapport with QB Eli Manning lead the Giants back to the playoffs.
Comeback Player of the Year – Jordy Nelson, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers: Nelson’s knee injury ruined his entire 2015, but he returns to receive for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
***Dark Horse Candidate – Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns: The RGIII experiment works, as the passer throws for over 3000 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Well, that’s it (tries to balance beers, nachos, and wings in hands), so bring on the action!