With the regular season just 10 days away, Grizzly Detail will go through our predictions for each of the NFL’s eight divisions, as well as our picks for the Super Bowl and the various awards available after the campaign.
To help decide where to startd, we looked at the Chicago Bears’ schedule, and since they start out playing the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, we’ll begin our predictions with the AFC East.
New England Patriots: 10-6
The Patriots are a team that has a lot of question marks, and the first and biggest one on the list is just how much more quarterback Tom Brady has left in the tank. He’s getting up there in age, his weaponry has diminished over the years, and even though the team made it to the AFC Championship Game last season, they were dispatched in short order by the Denver Broncos.
The other player that will have a big say in how New England’s season goes is Rob Gronkowski. The running game should be solid with Stevan Ridley taking goal line carries and Shane Vereen coming in as a Darren Sproles-type back, but if Gronkowski can remain healthy, then he is a huge target for Brady, and one that will force opposing teams to game plan for him.
Miami Dolphins: 8-8
On the offensive side of things, the Dolphins have a couple solid running back options in Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno, but both have question marks as to whether or not they can live up to their potential in the NFL. Quarterback Ryan Tannnehill does have plenty of guys to throw to, and Charles Clay might be one of the more underrated tight ends in the NFL in that department.
On defense, the Dolphins have a couple big play guys, including defensive end Cameron Wake and cornerback Cortland Finnegan, but the real question for them will be whether or not their rushing defense can make a step forward from last season.
They allowed nearly 2000 yards rushing, finishing 24th in the league in that category, and they also allowed 14 rushing touchdowns, finishing in a tie for 18th. In the first eight weeks of the season, the Dolphins will have to face some of the top backs in the NFL, with Jamaal Charles (Week 3), Eddie Lacy (Week 6), and Matt Forte (Week 7) all lining up against them.
New York Jets: 7-9
The Jets start out the season with a rough schedule, facing off against several playoff teams (Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos) and a couple more against teams looking to make the leap into contention this year, including the Bears. Quarterback Geno Smith will be looking to rise to the challenge in his second year in the NFL, and with the guidance of Michael Vick as his back-up, he could really begin to embrace both his passing and rushing abilities.
The Jets also added a couple of new pieces to help Smith along, with wide receiver Eric Decker coming over from Denver and Chris Johnson arriving from Tennessee.
On the defensive side of the ball, huge red flags are already popping up. The team’s pass defense was already weak last year, finishing 23rd in the NFL, but they will be even more taxed this time around as injuries have ravaged their cornerback corps. Add to that the ongoing drama with Dimitri Patterson going AWOL from the team before Friday’s game against the New York Giants, and it becomes clear that there is plenty of work for the defense to do to settle things down before the season opener.
Buffalo Bills: 6-10
The Bills have one of the league’s best rushing offenses, with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson helping lead the team to a second place finish in the league last season with 2307 yards. Unfortunately, their passing game was atrocious, finishing 28th in the league. To address that problem, they brought in wide receiver Sammy Watkins with a first round draft pick, but it’s unclear whether the Clemson phenom will be enough to reverse the team’s fortunes overnight.
Buffalo had one of the league’s best pass defenses last season, but also had one of the worst rush defenses, finishing 28th in the league in that category. Losing linebacker Kiko Alonso for the season isn’t going to help matters at all in that area, and that’s part of the reason why we picked the Bears to beat the Bills in Week 1 of the season.