Torsten’s NFC Division Winners:
NFC East: NY Giants – I don’t love any team in this division, but they always have a decent pass rush, a Superbowl winning quarterback, solid receivers, and a sure-as-hell-looks-like-a-stud running back in David Wilson. They’re not a great team, but still better than the others in this division.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers – Like in boxing and MMA, a champ is the champ until someone takes it from them… or they test positive for steroids… ok, so that was a terrible analogy. But you get what I’m saying. They’re the titleholders currently, and nobody else in the NFC North has improved enough to threaten them.
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons – Offensively stacked and then you add Steven Jackson as an improvement over Michael Turner, ok, I’m in. The defense still looks questionable but this team is going to score points by the boatload.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks – Both Seattle and San Francisco are excellent, but I think Seattle is a little deeper, especially on offense. Also, Seattle has a bigger home field advantage than San Francisco (the Rams didn’t tie Seattle on the road, now did they?) so I’ll give them the nod.
San Francisco 49rs – As a Rams fan, let’s not mince words. I hate the Niners. They’re a pretty stacked team though, especially on defense. They’re a virtual lock for 11 wins, with an upside of 14. And Frank Gore is still great after all these years. Who’d have thunk it?
Detroit Lions – Going on a limb here, but with that defensive line, and that offensive potential, how do they not win 10 games? They have to, right? They have the second-hardest division schedule in the NFC so that might hamper them, but if they stay healthy the potential for excellence is there.
AFC Division Winners
AFC East: New England Patriots – See Green Bay analysis above. I think they got weaker…check that, they are definitely weaker than last year. But they play in the easiest division in the history of sports. If Buffalo, Miami and the Jets didn’t have to play each other a bunch of times, they might combine for 8 wins. As it is, one of those crappy teams is going to back into 8 wins or more.
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals – Solid defensively, very strong-looking offensively, I think this is the year they take the next step. Giovanni Bernard and Tyler Eifert are going to give Andy Dalton the options apart from AJ Green he has sorely needed in order to thrive. No excuses now.
AFC South: Houston Texans – Wow, the AFC sucks. I mean really. This division is only marginally better than the AFC East, and that’s because it has Jacksonville instead of the Jets. That said, Houston is a good team with a solid defense and an incredibly easy schedule. That’s a recipe for success.
AFC West: Denver Broncos – But not by as much as you think. They’re missing some key guys defensively early on, and the running back situation is unsettled. But once Peyton Manning gets his way, and the superior pass blocking of Knowshon Moreno is starting at tailback, they’ll be all good. For my money, Denver is as good a bet as any to represent the AFC in the Superbowl.
Kansas City Chiefs – Their defense has been underrated because the inept quarterbacking kept giving up awesome field position. They addressed that with Alex Smith and all their problems will go away. Ok, not really, but the O-line, not bad to begin with, is improved with Eric Fisher, and the skill positions are talented too. They should easily get to 10 wins.
Baltimore Ravens – I have no doubt the defending Superbowl champs will regress. They’ve lost too much on both sides of the ball. That said, they’re still the defending champs, and until someone takes that from them, don’t count them out.
MVP: Peyton Manning – Cop out? Maybe… but the NFL awards selection process always seems to be a bit sentimental to me. So, when a late thirties qb, two years removed from multiple neck surgeries, leads his team to the Superbowl, who else is going to get it? I couldn’t think of anyone either.
Defensive POY: Aldon Smith – Smith disrupts the line of scrimmage like few players have. Reggie White, in-his-prime Michael Strahan, and Warren Sapp come to mind from my lifetime. Smith is an excellent bet to threaten the single season sacks record again this year. Admittedly, this was a close call between him and JJ Watt, who is also outstanding, but Smith is on the better team that will advance farther, and will therefore likely get more recognition.
Offensive ROY: Eddie Lacy – Eventually, this team is going to have to protect Aaron Rodgers. And I don’t just mean block better, I mean run the ball on goal-to-go downs and cut down on the hits Rodgers takes. Lacy really looks like the guy to be the bell cow back on a good offense. That means big numbers.
Defensive ROY: Alec Ogletree – Ok, maybe a homer pick here, but much like Vontaze Burfict racked up the tackles for Cincy last season, I think Ogletree will put up similar numbers for a Rams defense that seems designed to free him up for pursuit. I see a couple pick-sixes for him too this season, plus there isn’t a Luke Keuchly type of player out there head and shoulders better than everyone else from his class. It’s there for Alec’s taking.
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid – Remember what I said about the sentimentality of the awards selection stuff? Reid is a likable guy, and is taking over a team that’s in a prime position to make a huge improvement over last year. If KC makes the playoffs, how does he NOT win?
Shaun’s NFC Division Winners:
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys – Go ahead, call me a homer, I don’t care, this is the year….again. I hated the Frederick pick during the draft, but I am really liking it after watching him this preseason. Brian Waters will be able to contribute on that offensive line in a couple weeks. The Cowboys defense is going to be good, largely due to the most underrated LB in football Sean Lee.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers – The Packers will beat out a good Bears team this year. The passing game cannot be questioned, and they added two really talented running backs in the draft. The defense is ok. The only thing that makes me nervous if I am the Packers is the offensive line. It is terrible, and Rodgers backup QB is Seneca Wallace, who has been with the team less than a week.
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons – Steven Jackson is like an incredibly rich man’s version of Michael Turner. Jackson will really help the run game, and he is an underrated receiving back, and Jaquizz is a fantastic change of pace back. Umenyora is not a viable replacement for John Abraham, and the lack of a pass rush could hurt that secondary. That said, I don’t think there is another team in the division that is over .500, so the Falcons will run away with the division.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks – This is actually the easiest pick. Not saying picking Seattle over San Francisco is easy, but both are going to make the playoffs, and there is a good chance it comes via tie breaker after they end the year with the same record. If Seattle doesn’t have another losing record on the road this season (upset alert this Sunday, Carolina is better than you think and Seattle is worse on the road) then Seattle wins the division.
San Francisco 49rs – I grew up hating the 49ers, and I will not ever be accused of being a fan of them, but my family does have season tickets, and I have been able to see the hype over the final year at the ‘Stick. I don’t see them pulling off the division title, but they are still gonna win 10+ games.
Chicago Bears – This is tough. I think the Lions could challenge, so could the Giants and Rams, and I think the Panthers are gonna be good this year, but in the end, the Bears will get the final Wild Card. It looks like the offensive line isn’t terrible for the first time in about a decade, and I really think Alshon Jeffrey will establish himself as a viable #2 receiver.
AFC Division Winners
AFC East: New England Patriots – People thought the Patriots would struggle this year after losing Welker and Lloyd, seeing that Gronk is on the shelf for a few weeks, and, in case you haven’t heard, Aaron Hernandez apparently had a habit of killing people. Don’t worry, there are four rookies that will step up in a big way this year. Zach Sudfeld, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, and Aaron Dobson might be the most physically gifted rookie pass catching group to come along in some time.
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals – Gio Bernard is going to be special, Ginger Dalton has two really talented tight ends, and a superstar receiver. The defense might be the best coached D in football under coach Zimmer. The Bengals are going to be the cream of the AFC North crop for 5+ years to come.
AFC South: Houston Texans – Foster will be fine, Schaub is good enough, and DeAndre Hopkins will actually be a quality receiver opposite Andre Johnson. Add that to a D that had JJ Watt and a division that is terrible (spoiler alert, the Colts aren’t that good) and the Texans win the division easy.
AFC West: Denver Broncos – DeMarius Thomas and Eric Decker weren’t enough for Peyton Manning apparently, so they went and got Wes Welker. As much as I hate to say it, this is the best passing game in football. Their D would get torched the first six games of this season, if two of the games didn’t come against the Raiders and the Jaguars. The Broncos will have the best record in football, now excuse me while I go punch myself in the face for saying that.
Miami Dolphins – I am a believer in Tannehill. He reminds me a lot of Jay Cutler, and I mean that in a good way. He has underrated mobility, he can really gun it, and makes too many mistakes. The difference, Tannehill spent his first couple years in college as a wide receiver not a QB and has a ton of room to grow. He will, Miller will become a viable running back, and Wallace will really stretch the field.
Baltimore Ravens – This is a defense that lost Ray Lewis and Ed Reed….and got significantly better. Yeah, I said it. Now, the passing game will struggle some in the beginning of the season with the loss of Pitta and Boldin, but there is a 6-4 220 pound undrafted rookie named Marlon Brown who will emerge as a quality safety net over the middle for Flacco, opening up the long ball to Torrey Smith and the dump offs to the best running back duo in football.
MVP: Tom Brady – Remember earlier when I listed the number of guys the Patriots have lost in the passing game? Did you pick up on who they didn’t lose? Yeah, Tom Brady. He is going to have a great year, re-establish himself as the best QB in the NFL, and he will be able to complete touchdown passes to 10 different receivers, and more than 35 on the season with over 5,000 yards.
Defensive POY: Luke Kuechly – He led the NFL in tackles last year…as a rookie! The guy has nose for the ball like nobody I have ever seen, and I truly believe he will be the leader of a defense that will contend for a Wild Card bid. He will have 5+ picks, 3+ forced fumbles, 5+ Sacks, and 175+ tackles. Yes, he will have the single greatest defensive season of all time.
Offensive ROY: Tavon Austin – The guys is special. He has a Percy Harvin like skill set, only he is a better route runner. Austin will touch the ball more than 100 times this year, and will have several 50+ yard touchdowns.
Defensive ROY: Ezekiel Ansah – He is raw when it comes to football knowledge, but he is a freak athletically. The first ever play he experienced in the NFL, was a pick 6…in the preseason….against Mark Sanchez. Ok, so that isn’t really all that impressive, but his season will be.
Coach of the Year: Joe Philbin – The Dolphins will be in the hunt to win the division until week 14 or so, and the team will make the playoffs. The front office has been under a lot of scrutiny this season, but leading a team like this will make it easy for Philbin to win the award, even over Andy Reid if the Chiefs make the playoffs.