- Denver Broncos (12-4)
- San Diego Chargers (9-7)
- Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
- Oakland Raiders (5-11)
Analysis: This should be another easy divisional ride for the defending division champion Broncos. Peyton Manning was embarrassed in last season’s Super Bowl, and you don’t want to embarrass Manning. I feel for the rest of the teams in the division.
Speaking of which, I think the Chargers will put together another solid campaign. As long as Phillip Rivers is still slinging the rock, the San Diego will remain competitive. The Chiefs will still be competitive under Andy Reid. “Big Red” and co. awarded QB Alex Smith with a well-deserved suspension, though I think KC will take a step back this season. As for the Raiders, I like that they FINALLY have a sense of direction, but the talent is simply not there. Having rookie QB Derek Carr start the season is a good way to jump-start the future.
- Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (10-6)
- Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
- St. Louis Rams (7-9)
Analysis: Though I think San Fran will give Seattle a fight in this division, I still like the Seahawks to come out on top. There is one thing being fat and happy after a Super Bowl win, but I think Seattle is still motivated to defend its title. Hell they might be even HUNGRIER. The defense remain intact with Richard Sherman and Cam Chancellor leading the way, though I think the key to Seattle being scarier is on offense. If QB Russell Wilson continues to improve his play, look the hell out.
The 49ers will be so depleted defensively via injuries (Navarro Bowman) and suspension (Aldon Smith and probably Ray McDonald), I don’t see them recovering enough to overtake the Seahawks. That’s just too tough to overcome, even with a coach like Jim Harbaugh running the show.
The Cardinals simply do not have the same defensive firepower from last season, especially after losing Darnell Dockett to free agency. Arizona’s secondary will keep the defense rolling a bit, but the Cardinals will not be sneaking up on anyone this season.
Sucks to be the Rams. St. Louis is a well-coached team, and would be a playoff team if it competed in the NFC East and North last season. Hang in there St. Louis, …hang in there.
Happy late-ass Labor Day from The Klown Times. Be sure to get your BBQ on, drink your asses off – but DO NOT drink and drive like selfish dummies.
Today not only will I preview the one remaining power conference (sorry Pac-12) and the “Group of Five” conferences (MAC, Mountain West, American, Sun Belt, and Conference USA), I will tell you guys who I think will make the inaugural College Football Playoff and who will be the first champion.
I will first list the power conferences I’ve already previewed with only the conference champs. In case y’all want to learn about the other teams in those conferences, I’ve provided links to each of those conferences’ previews (reading is fundamental, you know?). Again, with apologies to the Pac-12, I will only list the predicted order of finish. The “Group of Five” will be given the same treatment.
So, without further ado…
Atlantic Coast Conference: Florida State
Big Ten: Michigan State
Big 12: Oklahoma
Southeastern Conference: Alabama
- Oregon State
- Washington State
- Arizona State
Pac-12 champions: Oregon Ducks
MAC (#MACtion): Bowling Green
Mountain West: Utah State
Conference USA: Marshall (“We Are MARSHALL!”)
Sun Belt: Louisiana-LaFayette
College Football Playoff participants: Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma
College Football Champion: Alabama Crimson Tide
- Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
- Houston Texans (6-10)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
- Tennessee Titans (4-12)
Analysis: The Colts should moonwalk to the division title. Take a look at the rest of the division – it’s God-awful.
The Colts have a stud QB in Andrew Luck. They are talented at WR, led by the ageless Reggie Wayne. Their defense ain’t half-bad either.
But the rest of the division? Ewwwwww. While the Jaguars are steadily improving, and the Texans have Javedeon Clowney, those teams will still suck.
As for the Titans, not even an exorcist could bless their season.
- New Orleans Saints (12-4)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)
- Carolina Panthers (7-9)
- Atlanta Falcons (5-11)
Analysis: Much like the AFC South, this is a one-team division. The Saints are still loaded offensively, still employ Drew Brees, still have Sean Payton as head coach, and still play in the Superdome – one of the best home-field advantages in all of football. And much like the Colts, New Orleans is improving defensively. In fact, they are pretty damn good thanks to coordinator Rob Ryan (who inexplicably does not have a head coaching job).
The Buccaneers will be one of the big surprises this season. They have acquired more talent over the off-season. Rookie WR Mike Evans will be a huge addition offensively. They are decent defensively. And they have under-stated Lovie Smith coaching the team. That to me spells improvement.
Meanwhile in Charlotte, the Panthers are devoid of offensive talent – especially at wide receiver. Aside from TE Greg Olsen (who will be triple-teamed), who will poor Cam Newton throw the ball to? And the front office, namely general manager Dave Gettleman, did not re-sign many of its starters in the secondary, though the Panthers’ front seven will still be good.
The Falcons are just too soft to comment on. A one-dimensioned offense + a leaky defense = a helluva lot of losses.
- Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
- Cleveland Browns (7-9)
Analysis: This is one of the toughest divisions in football (the other being the NFC West). This is easily a three-team division. What separates the Ravens, my Steelers, and the reigning division champ Bengals are their schedules. All three teams contend with the patsy NFC South and horrific AFC South this season, and all three should win at least six games apiece from those two divisions alone. The Ravens have the easiest conference games with Miami and San Diego, while my Steelers have the Jets and Kansas City, and the Bengals contend with New England and Denver (ouch!).
The Bengals are better than they were last year, but those tough two games will be the death of them in terms of repeating as division champs. Coach Marvin Lewis also has to prove that he could win without his top two lieutenants Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden, both of which are now first-time head coaches.
The Ravens and Steelers are going to bounce back in a big way. Baltimore now employs the fiery Steve Smith at wide receiver, who should help QB Joe Flacco tremendously. As long as Ray Rice focuses on regaining his form at RB instead of beating the hell out of women, Baltimore’s offense should rise again.
As for my Steelers, as long as Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrett Blount stays off the weed, Pittsburgh will be in good shape. They finally got younger on defense, and if they learn how to stop the run and get to the opposing QB like old times, all the better.
Poor Cleveland. Their top-10 defense’s efforts will be wasted by a moribund offense. At least the Browns made the right decision in benching Johnny Manziel. No use sending him out there to get himself killed without any offensive weapons to speak of.
- Green Bay Packers (10-6)
- Chicago Bears (10-6)
- Detroit Lions (7-9)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
Analysis: Here is all you need to know about the NFC North – the Packers, Bears and Lions will score points at will on everyone, but their alleged defenses will give those points all back to the opposition. Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler will play at higher levels this season. It’s just that both of their teams (Green Bay and Chicago, respectively) will not be able to stop many teams.
Green Bay gets the nod here because its defense is slightly less horrific than Chicago’s.
The Lions are very talented, but get in their own way. Detroit is a highly penalized team, which means they have no discipline (see Ndamukong Suh). QB Matthew Stafford is very talented, but turns over the ball WAY too much for the Lions to succeed. That’s too bad because WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson is perhaps the most unstoppable force in the NFL.
The Vikings got the right man in Mike Zimmer leading the team. He will bring some much-needed discipline and accountability to Minnesota. I like the way QBs Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater look in the preseason. The Vikes will be a work in progress and need to be more talented on both sides of the ball before they make any noise in this division.
As with every season, there are a lot of new storylines heading into the regular season. Lots of coaching changes. Lots of first-time NFL coaches (Jay Gruden, Mike Zimmer, Mike Pettine). Hideous new uniforms (thank you very little, Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
This season I will do bi-divisional previews from both conferences, starting with the AFC and NFC East. Now, without further ado…
- New England Patriots (12-4)
- New York Jets (8-8)
- Miami Dolphins (8-8)
- Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Analysis: The Patriots are clearly the class out of what has to be one of the three most putrid divisions in football. The Pats have the best offense, the best defense, and easily the best QB in Tom Brady in the division. Hell the Patriots could moonwalk their way into a division title.
The Jets continue to be hilarious to me offensively. Do they REALLY think Geno Smith gives them a better chance to win the Michael Vick? If Smith is the answer at QB for New York, then what the hell is the question. It’s too bad the above-average Jets defense will be asking themselves that same question all season.
Both the Dolphins and the Bills figure to bring up the rear in the division. Miami is a complete cluster-fuck right now. They already have offensive line issues, no running game to speak of, and a wide receiver who is clearly not earning his contract in Mike Wallace. Miami also has chemistry issues in the locker room, as illustrated by the “Bully-gate” scandal last season.
Well, the Bills are trying to get better, though they suck too at the moment. At least they have a stud to build on for the future in Sammy Watkins.
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
- Washington Redskins (9-7)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-9)
- New York Giants (5-11)
Analysis: This division should easily come down between the Eagles and Redskins. Philly’s offense had everyone buzzing last season, and should only be “scary better” in its second season under head coach Chip Kelly. Though teams have had a full offseason to game-plan for QB Nick Foles, he is proving to be the real deal and excels in Kelly’s system.
The Redskins should compete in this division, even though QB Robert Griffin III has struggled so far this preseason. I believe in new head coach Jay Gruden. If he got Andy Dalton to play well in Cincinnati (playoff games notwithstanding), then Gruden should work wonders with RG3. And, there is that fellow named DeSean Jackson who is now part of the fold. Plus the defense is a lot healthier and should make amends for last season.
The Cowboys and Giants are atrocious. Eli Manning should be put on notice after last season’s debacle (and poor showing this preseason), and Tony Romo should go on strike for having to carry the load for a bad team. Speaking of Dallas, I’m just waiting for fans to run Jerry Jones’ ass out of town.
Hell I might as well say so now since Kevin Love is now officially a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers by way of a 3-team trade that saw the top overall pick Andrew Wiggins dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves and a few scrubs sent to the Philadelphia 76ers.
To me, there is nothing NOT to love about the trade – at least from the Cavs’ point of view. Cleveland receives one of the most talented young big men in the game that produces 20+ points, 10+ rebounds night in and night out. In Love, LeBron James finally gets a productive big man who could bang down low and score on the perimeter. This also gives Cleveland a new and improved “Big Three” that includes James, Love and point guard Kyrie Irving.
Now the Cavs’ projected starting lineup includes Irving, Dion Waiters, James, Love and Anderson Varejao. That group should win AT LEAST 57 games this season.
I mean, look at the rest of the East.
The Miami Heat, led by Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, want to try and prove James wrong for leaving them, but I do not trust Wade’s knees. The Charlotte Hornets and Washington Bullets – ERRRR I mean “Wizards” – are good up-and-coming teams, but are too green to make some noise in the playoffs. The Indiana Pacers will be without Paul George for most of next season thanks that horrific injury during a Team USA scrimmage. And my New York Knicks are a one-man band with Carmelo Anthony leading the way.
The Chicago Bulls figure to be the Cavs main rivals to win the East, but Derrick Rose’s knees may betray him once again.
In other words, the Eastern Conference is the Cavs’ to lose.
Now I know what some of you all may be thinking: what about Wiggins? Look, I know Wiggins is going to be a stud in this league. He is tenacious on the defensive end. His upside is off the charts. He may be the next superstar in the NBA.
However, Wiggins is not the best ball-handler at this point of his career. His jump shot is not consistent, and he frankly needs a bit more meat on his bones. In short, Wiggins may take a while – by that I mean at least 2-3 seasons – to develop into a bonafide star in this league. Something tells me that James does not want to wait a while for Wiggins to help him win a third NBA title.
Enter the need to acquire Love.
The Eastern Conference is going to be hella fun to watch this season. It’s as wide open as it’s been in years. In getting Love, the Cavs are going to take advantage of that wide-open landscape.
I’d be beyond shocked if Cleveland does not represent the East in the 2015 NBA Finals.