Predicting The 2016 NFL Season

Still my favorite post of the year!  Still don’t care how wrong I am!  Still got love for the streets, repping 253!  Still not loving police!  And so on and so forth …

Last year, I had the Seahawks over the Colts in the Super Bowl.  I got something like 2 division winners right, and maybe only half of the playoff participants.  And I had some MIND-BOGGLING picks, like the Rams & Lions & Dolphins in the Wild Card, and the Chiefs over the Broncos and Ravens over the Bengals as division winners.  In short, it was all bad; so let’s try to do better.  As usual, I’ll refrain from predicting actual records, and just list the teams in order of where they’ll finish in the standings in their respective divisions.

NFC East

Washington
NY Giants
Dallas
Philadelphia

I got the Redskins on a big ol’ come-up!  Mostly because I think Scot McCloughan is a roster genius and has turned around every franchise he’s put his hands on.  Their offense improved greatly over the course of the 2015 season and should play well going forward as long as Cousins stays healthy.  I think they’ll find just enough on defense to stay in games.  And, I think the Cowboys and ESPECIALLY the Eagles will be pretty bad this year.  Gods and clods in this division, as I have the Giants taking the next step and returning to the playoffs as a wild card.  I figure 9-7 should be good enough in this NFC to nab a 6th seed.

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

You hate to put all your hopes on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, but that’s essentially what I’m doing with the Vikings this year.  Granted, I don’t think he’s great, but I think he is good at limiting mistakes and playing within the flow of the offense.  With the team around him, I think he’s worth an extra 1-2 wins over his counterparts (in this case, Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford).  I just think Hill is doomed to get hurt at some point, and Bradford has the misfortune of not having practiced with the team all offseason.  Both guys are clear steps down compared to Bridgewater, which I think relegates this team to 7 or 8 wins at most.  That puts Green Bay in the driver’s seat by default, and a real contender for the top two spots in the NFC.  I like Detroit to play good offense and poor defense, and I like Chicago to play good defense and poor offense.

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
New Orleans
Atlanta

This feels remarkably easy, but Carolina is simply the most complete team in the division, period.  I think the Bucs take a big step forward this year – especially on offense – and I think they contend for that 6th seed, but I think they ultimately fall short on tie-breakers.  I don’t expect much out of Atlanta’s offense again this year, and I think their defense is considerably worse.  I think the Saints do enough on offense to win some games they should lose, but ultimately they need to do too much on defense to be competitive this year.  Maybe 2017.

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

This is the homer coming out in me.  By all rights, the Cardinals should repeat as division champs – they’re just as good as they were last year, if not better in certain areas, AND they have the easier schedule, by dodging Tom Brady and playing the Vikings instead of the Packers – but I just think the Seahawks are hungrier.  I also think the Seahawks are going to get off to a really hot start this year.  Combine that with the fact that Palmer is due for another devastating injury (with the outside chance that his psyche never recovers from that playoff dismantling by the Panthers last year), and let’s just say I’m hedging my bets by having the Cards make the wild card at something like 10-6.

Not for nothing, but I also think the Rams take a HUGE step back this year.  I think the 49ers shock some people – as they have the most negative hype I’ve seen in recent memory – and I think the Rams do so poorly that they have no choice but to fire Jeff Fisher and company (in spite of his recent contract extension).  I just think they can’t afford to waste Goff’s prime on a nothing coaching staff and will look to shake things up by bringing in the hottest offensive coordinator on the market this upcoming offseason (whoever that may be).

AFC East

New England
Buffalo
NY Jets
Miami

Keep picking the Pats until the end of time!  You want a shocker (and the clubhouse leader for the pick I’m likeliest to get wrong)?  I got Buffalo FINALLY breaking their streak as the team with the longest playoff drought!  I like Tyrod Taylor a lot, I like a desperate Rex Ryan, and I like how nobody’s giving this team a shot.  I think 9-7 (with tiebreakers) does it.  I don’t think Fitzpatrick has another year like 2015 in him, and he proves why paying guys like him $12 million per year is a fool’s errand.  I think Tannehill improves with Adam Gase as his head coach, but I don’t think it’s enough, as this team is pretty weak and unimpressive in most areas outside of the D-Line.

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

I like Roethlisberger to stay mostly healthy and put up huge numbers again.  I like the defense to do just enough, but the offense to ultimately carry them.  I think Andy Dalton takes a step back without Hue Jackson holding his hand.  I think Baltimore improves, but only to the 7 or 8-win range.  And, I think Cleveland gets another Top 5 draft pick to throw onto the pile.  Ultimately, I think the Bengals fall short of making the playoffs, with potential coaching casualties following.

AFC South

Houston
Jacksonville
Indianapolis
Tennessee

I think Brock Osweiler is a VAST improvement over all the QBs Houston had on their roster last year, and with the talent around him (particularly Lamar Miller’s breakout year), and that defense behind him, is enough to get them to 10 or 11 wins.  The key for Osweiler is to limit turnovers.  If he can do that (the way Hoyer & Co. could not), the sky is the limit for this team.  I like Jacksonville to take a big step forward and really contend for a wild card spot, but I think they’re probably another year away.  I’m also concerned about Bortles regressing, but I’ll avoid that conversation for now, as I’m counting on him in Fantasy to lead me to glory this year and beyond.  I think Indy is a trainwreck, and no amount of Andrew Luck will be able to carry this team to the playoffs, in what is a vastly improved division.  I think the Titans give the Colts a run for their money, but ultimately fall just short (because the Titans have garbage coaching, and no weapons on offense outside of TE).

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

I like the Chiefs for 12 wins and one of the top 2 seeds.  I like Oakland to be the team to make the jump into the other Wild Card spot.  I like Denver for about 8 wins (never thought their defense alone would be enough to carry them back into the post-season).  And, I like the Chargers to be playing in a city outside of San Diego in 2017.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. NY Giants

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I like the Seahawks because I’m a homer, and I like the Packers over the other three teams because I think they have the most favorable schedule (AFC South & NFC East are the divisions they have to play, while catching Seattle, Houston, Indy, and the Giants at home, and playing garbage Atlanta thanks to their 2nd place divisional schedule).

I like New England because they’re New England.  I like the Chiefs because I think they’re balanced and poised to take that next step.

Wild Card Round

Washington over NY Giants
Carolina over Arizona
Houston over Buffalo
Oakland over Pittsburgh

Divisional Round

Seattle over Carolina
Green Bay over Washington
New England over Oakland
Kansas City over Houston

Championship Round

Seattle over Green Bay
Kansas City over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Kansas City

What can I say?  I like me some Seahawks, and I like me some Super Bowls against AFC West opponents!

Seahawks/Vikings Preseason Game 2 Takeaways

You know what was ultimately my biggest takeaway from that game?  The Seahawks are going to fucking DESTROY Dallas next week.

I came away predictably impressed by Minnesota’s defense.  That unit as a whole is no joke.  I don’t know if, ultimately, their secondary is better than ours, but their front seven is pretty savage, from both run and pass rush perspectives.  I also erroneously came away frustrated, thinking that we’d have to play them again in the regular season, but it turns out they’re not actually on the schedule, and we won’t have to play them again until the playoffs.

I also think, yeah, the Vikings are GOING to make the playoffs.  Unless that defense suffers no less than 7 major injuries, they should easily carry what should be another pretty anemic offense.

One final bit on the Vikings:  I thought it was a real chickenshit move to not start Bridgewater.  Given their head coach’s non-answer to why he didn’t play, I can only assume it was because he was afraid that we’d further stunt his limited growth by making him look bad.  I mean, it’s not like he’s reached Adrian Peterson status where he can sit out the entire pre-season and then perform at an All Pro level in Week 1.  Since Bridgewater played in the first pre-season game, we know THAT level of insanity hasn’t been breached.  So, what else could it be?  If he was being disciplined for some team violation, the coach could have just said that, and left unsaid what the violation was.  But, no, this was a coach’s decision, and I think it was a mistake.  That kid needs reps against a legit defense if he’s ever going to grow.

Onto more Seahawky things, I thought Christine Michael looked legit.  As a personal philosophy, I don’t like the Running Back By Committee, but as a Marshawn Lynch fanatic, I like the idea that it takes two quality running backs to compensate for the loss of Beastmode.  The Seahawks’ running game is in good hands this season.

Knowing full well Minnesota’s defense is great, I thought it was disappointing that we couldn’t score on them in the first half.  There are other great defenses on our schedule this season – like the Rams in Week 2, for instance – and it’s disheartening to see us struggle so mightily against these stout front sevens.  Of course, penalties and other mistakes don’t help matters much.  Russell Wilson looked like he reverted a little bit when the pressure was on – resulting in him taking a couple of sacks he probably shouldn’t have.  I was also a little scared to see Wilson get chopped down a couple times where – in seasons past – I remember him being able to get away from such forces.  Is he losing a step?  Maybe too early to go to that extreme, but he certainly wasn’t doing the type of Russell Wilson things we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

Regarding the offensive line, I thought the interior played another fine game.  But, both the left and right tackles were DISASTERS.  The more I think about it, the more we’re going to need to rely on the quick-strike passing game.  Teams already want to do everything they can to keep Wilson in the pocket, to prevent him from doing those aforementioned Russell Wilson things.  But, that’s made MUCH easier if our tackles are going to give defenders the edge on a constant basis.  Bradley Sowell is not a starter in this league, period.  Webb’s injury has forced the team to revert Gilliam back to the right side, which has to be fucking with his development like crazy.  Don’t expect the tackle positions to be even remotely competent anytime soon.

On defense, we still haven’t seen them play to their full potential.  Michael Bennett’s reps have been scaled back, what with it being the pre-season, and what with him being amazing.  I don’t know how much we’ve actually seen with Bennett, Avril, and Clark all rushing the quarterback at the same time, but it really hasn’t been a lot (if any).

I thought it was weird that Brandon Browner didn’t get any play with the starters.  If he’s supposed to have this “special role” with us, where we use him against opposing tight ends, then how about we at least TRY it in the pre-season to see where and how he fits in?!  Like usual, the middle short of the defense, as well as the tight end position, were the areas where we struggled.  That offense, with Shaun Hill and no AP, should have looked as inept as can be, but they ultimately managed to move the ball a little bit, to my dismay.  And score on us, where we were unable to score on them.

DeShawn Shead looked like the real deal.  So did Kelcie McCray.  This secondary is in good hands.

Still no sign of Tye Smith having any impact whatsoever.  To think, I had such high hopes in his Year 2.

Frank Clark continued to be Mr. Pre-Season, which is fun.  Jarran Reed looked strong up the middle, which is also fun.

Boykin almost led us to another second half comeback, then got smacked with a Pick Six, then almost led us to another MIRACLE second half comeback.  That kid’s got Quality Second Stringer written all over him (I just hope we don’t have to use him as a rookie, when the games start to mean something).

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

So, not a great week for Nolan Frese.  I saw at least two bad snaps to the punter (maybe three?) and one VERY high snap on a field goal opportunity, that messed with Hauschka’s timing, ultimately causing him to leave a long field goal a few yards short.  That also happened while some fans were passing around a video on Twitter of Clint Gresham on YouTube doing his long snapping magic.  Gresh is still out there, looking for work.  I’d consider it, if I were running the Seahawks …

The Seahawks Have A Job To Do

Well, the Rams really could’ve done us a solid last night.  But, instead they decided to shit the bed, smear the shit all around trying to half-assedly clean it up, then covered it with the comforter to try to hide the fact that they shit the bed.  But you know, and I know, and the Rams know, that the room still smells like shit and it’s only a matter of time before the maid comes in and discovers what the Rams have done, but by then we’ll be on a plane back home and …

I forget where I was going with this.  Let me back up.

The Cardinals just beat the hapless Rams last night.  In St. Louis.  Bumping them up to 11 wins and for all intents and purposes comfortably IN the playoffs in some capacity.  And now they get 10 days to prepare for us to come to town, but that’s a post for another week.

Right now, we’ve got some business to take care of.  Some trash to take outside.  Some lawn to fertilize.  The 49ers are in town this weekend, reeling from back-to-back losses to the Seahawks on Thanksgiving, and the Raiders last week.  They’re 7-6 and, I believe, will be eliminated from the playoffs with one final death blow.

The 49ers aren’t a good team.  I don’t need to tell YOU that, but I will, because it’s so much fun.  It’s so much fun to watch Jim Harbaugh struggle.  To watch his house of cards tumble all around him.  Yes, these 49ers lost to the lowly Raiders.  Yes, they were held to 3 points by a resurgent Seahawks defense.  But, keep going back, you’ll notice a delightful trend.  Like a hard-fought 4-point victory at home against RGIII and the Redskins (the since-benched RGIII, that is).  Like another hard-fought 6-point victory against the Giants.  Like an overtime win against the ridiculous Saints.  Like a 3-point loss at home to the Rams.  It goes on and on.  Their most-impressive wins are either Week 1 at Dallas, or Week 4 at home against the Eagles.  And, I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s not September anymore.

Remember at the start of the season when we looked at these three games specifically – at Frisco, at Philly, back home vs. Frisco – as the most difficult games of the year?  And then, when we lumped the Cardinals into the mix, grudgingly accepting them as a threat even while keeping our doubts about us, marking this 5-game stretch as not only critical, but possibly lethal to our chances?  AND LOOK AT US NOW!  We are in a VERY solid position to go 5-0 in this stretch, as long as we can stay healthy and continue T’ing C of B.

Just two weeks ago, the Seahawks held the 49ers to 3 points in their home stadium.  What has changed?  Nothing has changed.  In fact, the Seahawks are looking HEALTHIER than they were two weeks ago, as there’s a 50/50 chance Max Unger returns this week.  He’s been practicing, after all, so we’ll see.

In that last game, we held them to 164 yards and 4/11 on third down.  We took the time of possession by a good ten minutes and, in spite of giving them an 85-yard edge in penalties, we still dominated them in every facet of the game.

Now … the game is being played here.  In Seattle.  Where the 49ers have not only struggled in recent years, but they’ve been laughed off the face of the fucking Earth.  Usually it’s blowouts.  Obviously, in the NFC Championship Game last year, instead of a blowout, we were able to treat them to a heartbreaking, demoralizing finish.  Either way, the 49ers haven’t had success here in the Russell Wilson Era.  So, what makes you think they’re going to have success this weekend?  When they’re in the middle of their worst stretch of play since Jim Harbaugh was hired, while at the same time our defense is back to its 2013 level?

Am I the only one who thinks this is a no-brainer?  Obviously, I’m not, because Vegas has pushed the spread on this game to over 10 points, the last time I checked.  It’s the most the Seahawks have ever been favored over the 49ers since Pete Carroll has come to town.

I’m pretty comfortable in saying the Seahawks are going to win comfortably.  The only way I can see them keeping it close is if we’re sloppy with the football, giving it away and whatnot.  If our offense is struggling the way the Rams struggled to move the football last night, then maybe I could see the 49ers hanging around.  But, we’re not employing Shaun Hill and the Loser Brigade.  We’ve got Russell “Always Finds A Way” Wilson.  Even if we struggle in the red zone again, we should be able to put up enough field goals to make this a laugher, with the way our defense has been rolling.

The 49ers are the least of my concerns.  They’re a beached whale gasping its dying breaths.  Colin Kaepernick has regressed to the point where he can’t get out of his own way and stop turning the ball over on ill-conceived throws.  Michael Crabtree is so far below mediocre, you could pull a man off the street and get blanket coverage.  Frank Gore is on his way out of the league.  The offensive line is a mess.  Their linebackers are all backups on any other team.  They have a little shred of respectability in their run defense, and some marginal talent in their secondary.  But, my money is on the Seahawks having their way with them.

It’s going to be a great day on Sunday.  We’ll close the book on the 2014 San Francisco 49ers.  We’ll be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Jim Harbaugh’s reign with that team.  And, we might be looking at one of the last days of Colin Kaepernick:  Franchise Quarterback.  If he doesn’t get out of the tailspin he’s been in, you could be looking at a career-backup for some other team.

I wonder how he’d feel about playing behind Russell Wilson for pennies on the dollar …