Then I came across a site where, in about 10 minutes, I could run through every game on the schedule and the site would keep track of won-loss records, playoff seedings, tiebreakers, etc. So I figured WTF.
I filled it out and I laughed at some of my results. Pittsburgh 15-1? I think they win the division, but I don’t think they’re good enough to run the table to that extent. The bottom three teams in the AFC East (everyone but the Patriots) combining for seven wins? Nah. There’s some bad football going on, particularly in New York, but they won’t be that bad.
Nonetheless, when you set aside the records, or at least look at them with a grain of salt, the rankings came pretty close to what I was thinking I thought. So … WTF. Here are some of my thoughts – hopefully the nine of you who enjoyed these posts last year think it was worthwhile to return.
Explanation: Again, I don’t expect the Steelers to go 15-1. I don’t expect them to win the top seed. I do expect them to win the division and I could see them in a deep competition for the second bye. Baltimore could do a bit better. I’m uncertain about the QB and the run game but I really like John Harbaugh. They’re a wild card contender, as far as I am concerned.
I’ve thought Cincinnati was on the downhill slide for a couple seasons. The offensive line defections, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, will hurt an offense run by a barely good enough QB and Cincy will see the end of the Marvin Lewis era at season’s end. On the north side of Ohio, I think the Browns are finally headed in the right direction. That said, they’re playing a rookie QB and coming off a nearly winless season. Five wins would represent solid improvement.
This is another situation where the records are off a bit, but the order is spot on. I don’t think the Titans are quite ready to hit 13-3. But I do think Marcus Mariota and the smashmouth run game will continue improving, and I think the division is ripe for the taking. Tennessee is the best of the lot, in my eyes. Houston has a great defense, but until the QB situation is settled – and I think Deshaun Watson will eventually be the guy there – they’re going to struggle on offense. Houston may be a game or two better than .500, but this spot feels right. Jacksonville is in a similar, albeit younger spot. I like a lot of the talent the Jags have. I am close to giving up on Blake Bortles. A 6-10 mark could potentially show some improvement, but how the QB develops will be the main point in determining the success or lack thereof in 2017.
The Colts won’t be 1-15 bad – unless Andrew Luck is out for the season. Scott Tolzien is a stiff. But all signs point to Luck coming back. I also think the new GM Chris Ballard is making some good, behind-the-radar moves to make things better there. But he’s got a bit of a mess to clean up. The defense will still be bad and the offense will take a while to get up to full speed with Luck and center Ryan Kelly not yet healthy.
New England 14-2
New York Jets 1-15
The records went a bit off the rails here. I do expect some bad football from the bottom of this division, especially from the Jets, where 1-15 may not be off target. I see Miami and Buffalo both as closer to six- to eight-win teams. QB play among all three of these teams is an ongoing issue and there are not enough supporting parts on any of the teams to make up for that lack of a star at the helm.
That said, the Patriots remain the class of this division. In this case, I see 14-2 as very close to spot on. I think the Pats clinch the division by Thanksgiving and take the one seed in the conference.
Kansas City 11-5
Los Angeles 9-7
As bad as the East is, I think the West is this good. I do not see Denver going 14-2. The QB play won’t be good enough. And it’s possible the defense falls a notch. That said, this is still a top-notch, competitive team that will be right in the mix for the division and an upper seed in the playoffs. My pre-season picks puts the Broncos as the third seed. I can see it.
But Kansas City and, in particular, Oakland, will push Denver all season long. I am a huge fan of Derek Carr. I think Marshawn Lynch disappoints those who think he’ll come back and consistently show “Beast Mode” skills from the past, but he’ll be a threat at the goal line. The Raiders are close. Same with the Chiefs, though they’ll rely more on the defense for now. I am looking forward to the Patrick Mahomes era. I think he could be a really good QB. Soon.
The Chargers continue to have holes on the offensive line and Philip Rivers is aging fast. So, especially in this division, the window is barely open. But there is a crack. And if they can win some of the close ones they lost last season, the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers will not be an easy win for anyone.