Matt and Jake Present: 2016 NFL Crystal Ball

Matt and Jake are bringing the heat as they give you their unadulterated take on all 32 NFL teams going forward. Are the Ram’s this good? Can the Cowboy’s sustain? Who will beat the Patriots? We got you covered.

With the first quarter of the 2016 NFL season packed away, we have seen just enough to tell you the fate of all 32 teams going forward. Spoiler Alert: The 3-1 Rams are still bad. 

By Matthew Jarecki and Jake Randall

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Buffalo Bills (2-2)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

I have a hard time taking Rex Ryan seriously. I (and possibly the Bill’s owners) picked his Bills to lose both of the last two weeks against teams with better head coaches. To some extent, I will have to eat my words this season. It appears Rex and Rob have fixed this defense. Meanwhile, new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn is implementing the ground and pound offense that brought success to the 2009-10 Jets. With a limited Tyrod Taylor, and limited defensive talent, the Bills will not beat many good teams this year, but their schedule going forward bodes well for them. Remaining games include the Rams, 49ers, Dolphins (twice), Jacksonville, Cleveland, and the Jets.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 8-8

Like Matt said weeks back, the Bills 8-8 circus is in progress. The win over Arizona was impressive; and sure, the Bills shellacked my Patriots last week, but looking at the schedule moving forward — this team will have to stay healthy and just as productive to go above .500. The Bills have beaten two good teams, but also been topped by a few not-so-good teams, and this is the memento I use looking forward. I have the Bills losing 3 straight in weeks 8 to the Pats, 9 to the Seahawks, and 11 to the Bengals — 10 being their bye. So, on that note we are at 5 loses on the season and count on another against the Steelers week 14. In order to prove me wrong they’ll need to win 7 of the other 8 games and I don’t see that happening. Sorry Bills, it’s still not your year.

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Miami Dolphins (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record:  5-11

What does this team have going for it? Somebody tell me? For the last three years this Miami Dolphins squad was supposed to “take the leap” into the playoffs. Instead we’ve seen Miami take 3rd or 4th place in the AFC East since 2013. The Ryan Tannehill thing ain’t workin’, the defense is 28th in the league in total yards given up, and Adam Gase is the youngest coach in the League. 

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 7-9

The Miami Dolphins are bad so far, but I still don’t know that they are that bad. The one thing I think we all agree on is Ryan Tannehill has plateaued; and not at a point good enough to win a Super Bowl. But, I do believe the weapons on offense and the potential of the defense can award them a few unexpected wins. This Dolphins team is “that” team that starts beating playoff contenders down the stretch. The reason I say 7-9 is because the defense will improve, and Ryan Tannehill has the weapons in Landry, Stills, and Parker to put up enough points to win a few close games. Still, a far from spectacular season, though.

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 New England Patriots (3-1)


Matt’s Take

Final Record: 13-3

The narrative before the season was, “if the Patriots can get through the first quarter of the season at 2-2, they should be OK.”. Instead, Bill Belichick coached his team to an impressive 3-1 start. Tom Brady comes back with something to prove this week, and Bill Belichick’s teams are known for being the most dangerous post-thanksgiving. To me, there are only 3 lose-able games for New England left: At Pittsburgh, Seahawks at home, and at the Broncos. Don’t be surprised if New England wins out.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 14-2

Brady’s back and Brady’s mad. Need I say more? The “us against the world” mentality due to Spygate carried them to the 16-0 regular season we all remember, and barring the infamous “helmet catch” that team would be unanimously considered the best ever. Now, after Deflategate (a more personal shot at the team) you know Brady and Belichick would love to smirk at Goodell as he hands them the Lombardi. I say the Patriots lose a game to either the Steelers, Hawks, or Broncos — leaving them at 14-2.
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New York Jets (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 7-9

Ryan Fitz-magic, as he is known to do, has morphed into Ryan Fitz-tragic and has thrown 9 picks in the last 2 games. Meanwhile, that defense has taken a step back, sitting at 16th in the league in total yards surrendered. The Jets still have a dominant D-line, but their secondary is ranked 27th in the league. While New York has decent pieces on offense, the most important piece, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is showing the world why the Jet’s were smart not to give him a long-term deal.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 7-9

Fitz has been the downfall of this team thus far. The defense can be solid even with the “declining” Revis due to that defensive line. Why is Fitz the downfall? Not even the Broncos defense can sustain a W if they’re put on the field 9 extra times in 2 games. Those big guys up front get tired, opening up the run game and setting up play-action. When that’s the case, say bye-bye to the pass rush and the ability of the secondary to sit on, and jump routes when they need to be on their toes for a run. Fitz, hear me out. Stop trying to be the guy everyone said you were last year. You’re still the guy who has played for nearly every NFL team. You’re a borderline starter; start being a game manager and stop trying to be a game changer. Unfortunately, that means not throwing interceptions.

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Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

The Raven’s defense is good, but not that good. In their first three games of the season the Ravens faced three of the worst offenses in the NFL, (although Cleveland is actually ranked 12th?), which helped them to a top 10 standing in most defensive categories. When they faced an elite offense week 4 vs Oakland, they allowed 28 points and lost the game. That being said, Derek Carr had his lowest passing yardage of the season. The key to this team going forward will be their offense. Can they find an identity? This team will be the second-best team in the AFC North, grabbing a wildcard spot. 

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

The AFC North is tough — well, 75% tough. The Ravens lack of a running game will be their downfall this year. I think teams will be able to make the Ravens’ offense 1-dimensional; and their pass offense won’t be too prolific that other teams can’t stop it. Every Baltimore game thus far has been decided by a touchdown or less; even though they’ve played the Browns this year. I don’t see the Ravens upsetting Pittsburgh, and I think the Bengals match up favorably to the Ravens. We’ve seen the peek of Baltimore this year.

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 Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 8-8

The Bengals have taken a slight step back this year defensively, and when you mix that with a limited Andy Dalton and a tougher-than-expected schedule going forward, it spells 3rd in the AFC North. Nobody is afraid of the Bengals running game this year, and teams will be on high alert for the Dalton – Green connection that makes this offense hum.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

This is a good football team. The defense is solid, and even more so with the return of Vontaze Burfict. Meanwhile, the offense is still producing without Tyler Eifert. When Eifert returns he will continue to wreak havoc in the red zone as well as keep the linebackers honest so they can’t take their first step towards the backfield. I like the Bengals to do what they always do, win games they should lose and lose games they should win; as well as finish the year just well enough to make the playoffs.

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Cleveland Browns (0-4)

 Matt’s Take

Final Record: 2-14

Cleveland will beat the Titans and Chargers this year. That’s it. The Browns are the youngest team in the NFL, and they do not have a quarterback. So, while it has been a pretty classic Browns season, people need to watch out for what Hugh Jackson does with this team going forward. I would assume that few people have watched the Browns as closely as I have (don’t ask), but if they had they would know that Jackson has his Browns playing hard,  and they’ve been in games until the end. Give this team a few peices, and they could actually be formidable in coming years.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 3-13

This team needs a makeover in so many facets. First off, the team is bad and traded out of the opportunity to draft a QB because they were so confident in RGIII. Of course, history repeated itself thereafter, as it does so often. But, more importantly, why are they still named the Browns? I get the history there in Ohio, but they’re the NFL’s version of the Cubs. They’re riddled with bad luck (from losing Belichick, to getting blue balled by one year of Josh Gordon dominance), and the fact that the NFL’s “shittiest” team is named the Browns is irony overload (get it?). I wish I could say they’d go win-less, but they do have some flair so I pitched ’em a couple of W’s.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 12-4

If Big Ben stays healthy, this team will sit atop the AFC North and have a chance to make a deep playoff run. With a top 3 quarterback, the best receiver in the game, and a top 5 running back, this offense can win so many ways. There’s been a lot of talk about this team’s dreadful pass defense, but they cleaned up against the Chiefs, and stopping the run has been a strength of this Steelers defense — that will serve them well as the season wears on. While I’m a fan of Mike Tomlin, the coaching of this team is what worries me; especially in the playoffs. Pittsburgh has only won the AFC North once since 2011 with the best quarterback in that division.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 11-5

I love watching this team. Antonio Brown consistently blows my mind as he works wherever he wants to on the field, against anyone that guards him, and still gets open. Put 2 on him? That’s another wasted defender. The defense is a little spotty though. Carson Wentz isn’t that good and lit them up. There are too many high octane offenses in the NFL to try and outscore the league, especially come playoff time. This Steelers team will go as far as their defense can take them.

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Houston Texans (3-1)

 Matt’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

The Texans are an above average team that will benefit from a horrible division this year. There are so many bright spots on this team; from Lamar Miller, to their dominant receiving core, to their sixth ranked defense. The dark spot: Brock Osweiler is a poor man’s Jay Cutler (that’s saying something) with a rich man’s contract (and he has a misspelled tattoo on his arm). This team is going to need to win games by controlling time of possession, and luckily they have the defense and running game to do that. Expect an early playoff exit.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

The Texans are a team that will score just a few more points than they let up — a winning recipe. Losing J.J. Watt is obviously devastating for the defense, but between Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, this team can cope. That being said, this is another team that will go as far as their defense will take them; which I agree is a brief playoff run. Unfortunately, Brock Osweiler is too inexperienced to carry this team. Brock needs to exhibit better decision making and more consistency, aka less picks, not just bombs to Will Fuller. Brock is the glaring weak spot until he can prove himself — oh, and P.S. — would you guys please let Lamar Miller in the end zone? My fantasy self is begging you.

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 Indianapolis Colts(1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 7-9

In 2012 Andrew Luck led the Colts, who were 2-14 the year before, to an 11-5 season. This kid was a prodigy. The next step for his franchise was to fortify that offensive line, draft key pass rushers and offensive weapons, and dominate a weak AFC South, right? Well, to Ryan Grigson’s credit, he actually has drafted O-line, D-line, and wide receiver high in each draft since 2012. Unfortunately, the failure of those draft picks is also accredited to Grigson, and they have massively under-performed. Along with the Browns, this is the worst roster in the league. The Colts will win 7 games on the shoulders of Grigson’s best draft pick, Andrew Luck.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

T.Y. Hilton is not a #1 wideout. He’s Randall Cobb but in Indianapolis. I strongly think this team needs a solid outside wide receiver (a refurbished Josh Gordon, perhaps?) to better compliment T.Y., who could stay in the slot where he should be. But, there’s no way a Josh Gordon could flourish in this organization; as Matt touched on as well — this team needs a front office redo. Their defense is bad – due to shady drafting and a lack of off season spending, and Andrew Luck needs a more dynamic running game than just Frank Gore. The unfortunate reality for this team is they get down early, and Andrew Luck is forced to bring the team back week-in week-out. Due to key loses, Indy will miss the playoffs.

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Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 7-9

I predict that this will be Gus Bradley’s final year in Jacksonville. Bradley is actually slowly improving this team’s defense (ranked 7th in the league), but in today’s NFL, the Jags will, and should, conclude that he has not done enough. Why? Because while his defense has slowly gotten better, the most important part of any 2016 NFL team is undoubtedly the quarterback, and Bradley’s coaching staff has sadly neglected Blake Bortles’ growth. This team will not beat good teams this year. Simple as that. This roster is loaded with talent, and if the right coaching staff is implemented, this team could explode in 2017-18.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

I like this team, a lot. I can’t wait to see the Jags and Raiders battle it out for years-and-years to come. Right now, they are a team that is just too young, but they will vastly improve with time. Bortles has shown a bit of regression thus far in 2016, and his decision making needs to improve, as he’s tied for third in the league in interceptions (6). He can’t task such a young defense with handling so many extra possessions. But the real issue here isn’t the coaching staff (what a cop out answer by Matt, am I right?) , it’s the lack of a run game. Get the run started early so that teams can’t send too many blitzes and have to honor the play action. Blake Bortles was the worst QB in the NFL at dealing with the blitz in 2015 per Football Focus. This team needs balance, not a new coaching staff.  Oh, and they’ll slide past Indy and Houston to win the division.

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 Tennessee Titans (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 5-11

Tennessee is a middle of the road team in every way, from offense to defense. Marcus Mariota is locked in an offense that is not accentuating his talent; the result of a scheme aimed towards keeping things conservative, and a lack of receiving weapons. I will cut this organization some slack because I’m assuming that Mike Mularkey, who has a record of 19-41 as a head coach, is a stop-gap until the Titans can find the right coach going forward. Until that happens, this team will continue to be lumped in with a slew of bad teams in the AFC South.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 6-10

I think this boils down to the lack of solid DB’s (ranked 30th by PFF) and no true WR1 talent. Teams are able to throw on them more than Mularkey and Mariota can figure out how to throw on their opponents. That’s a losing recipe in today’s NFL. Here’s my 2 cents. Go get a couple small and quick recievers to work as Mariota safety nets and sure options, — you know, the Julian Edleman and Cole Beasley type — as well as a bonafide WR1 threat on the outside to draw safety consideration. Than a couple reliable, or at least acceptable, cornerbacks to complement that D-line and I think you’re on the road to a winning record. Your back office can thank me in the offseason.
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Denver Broncos (4-0)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 13-3

Wow. This defense is up there with the early 2000 Buccaneers, the mid 2000 Steelers, and the 2013 Seahawks. In fact, this Broncos defense might be better than all of them. Everyone, including myself, was focused on Denver’s quarterback instability going into this season. We must have forgotten that Peyton Manning was a below average quarterback last year. Currently the Broncos defense is still rolling, but the scariest part about this team might be that quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch are providing more offense (and less turnovers) than Peyton Manning of 2015. Every AFC team should be scared.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 14-2

This defense never fails. I have been forced to become a Von Miller fan because he is way too fun to watch; and even losing two key pieces this defense hasn’t missed a beat. But, even though their QB play is better than last year, it’s not going to be good enough to hold out for an undefeated season. I like how Kansas City and New England match up against the Broncos and I see them dropping 2 this year. Barring an upset in the playoffs, this is a Super Bowl bound team.

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Kansas City Chiefs (2-2)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

Kansas City has a great coach in Andy Reid, but their season will be affected by the decline of an aging defense, the limitations of Alex Smith, and the emergence of another AFC West team, the Oakland Raiders. Games that seemed win-able at the beginning of the season, such as at the Falcons and Raiders, now look grueling. The hope for this team lies in the possibility of an offensive identity shift now that Jamaal Charles is ready to go for week 6. A run-heavy attack going into the colder months of the season, along with a 3 game home streak to end the season will push this team to 10-6, and their last playoff appearance with Alex Smith. The Raiders are coming — just not this year.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

Marcus Peters is one of my favorite players to watch is this league. He’s probably the reason a lot of these loud CB’s have given up the talk. He’s a real deal playmaker playing on a real deal defense. Unfortunately, Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce aren’t enough of a passing game to keep defenses truly honest to both sides of the playbook. As in years past, that offense will limit them in the win column, as well as the playoffs.

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Oakland Raiders (3-1)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 8-8

Like most of the country, I love Derek Carr. Unlike most of the country, I think it’s a year too early for the Raiders to clinch an AFC wildcard spot. That offense is cruising, but that defense is giving up more yards than anyone else in the league, and their schedule going forward is gruesome. To put that schedule into perspective, their easiest games will be vs San Diego, at Jackonville, vs Buffalo, and vs Indianapolis. I just don’t see Oakland’s defense allowing them to win more than 8 games this year.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

I give them an 9-7 record only because this team has too much potential for me to give them a .500 record. Their defense is straight up garbage thus far. But, Raiders fans, I have good news. The defense will turn it around a bit. Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith are much better players than they have shown so far. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin need to step up the pressure and give those ball hawks on the back end more opportunities to make plays, and create field position for the offense. Don’t be surprised to see this team in the 10 win seat this year.

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San Diego Chargers (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 6-10

Phillip Rivers’ career is strange. He just keeps producing, and the Chargers just keep being bad. I mean, what else can I say about a team that’s had a top 5 quarterback since 2010, but hasn’t won more than 9 games in a season in that time-span. The Chargers will win 5 more games this year despite a poor team. Unless the Chargers luck-into another great quarterback, the next 20 years will be bleak for this poorly run franchise.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 7-9

I’d probably go with an 8-8 record because of Philip Rivers, but after reading Matt’s depressing segment I guess I’ll go 7-9. Realistically, this offense is depleted by injury and the defense couldn’t be any more average — tied for 14th in total offense allowed (and just lost Jason Verrett for the year). The one silver lining to this year’s disappointing Chargers team will be the emergence of Melvin Gordon, so there’s that, I guess.

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Dallas Cowboys (3-1)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

As shaky as this organization is perceived to be, and despite enabling an overrated Dez Bryant, this team has done a remarkably good job staying competitive during Tony Romo’s annual injury hiatus. Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott look like the second coming of Emmit Smith and Troy Aikman thus far, and their time of possession has helped a mediocre Cowboys defense stay off the field. I see Dallas sitting at 4-3 going into week 8, as Tony Romo returns from a broken bone in his back. With Romo on the field, and Elliot rolling, this team could be dangerous down the stretch.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 8-8

Dak looks awesome. Zeke looks awesome. It’s a bright future for this organization. The unfortunate piece for them this year: Dak won’t promote the scoring that Tony Romo has in the past; and this defense is still terrible. Take a look around the league where game managers “flourish.” KC, Minnesota, Denver, Philly — all of those quarterbacks don’t wow you with their play, but they do enough to score what little points they need to, due to dominant defenses. This defense needs a core to build around; and it could just be Jaylon Smith.

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New York Giants (2-2)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

The Giants are a fringe playoff team this year that could be dangerous if they clinch an NFC wildcard spot. Defensively, they are stingy against the run, which will serve them well in later months of the season. Their offense has weapons across the board, but Eli Manning, their most important and most experienced weapon, has 4 TD’s to 4 interceptions. Add that to a -8 turnover differential, a leaky pass defense, and Eli Manning deflecting his problems onto Odell Bekham Jr., and this team has some major concerns. That being said, the Giants always find a way to stay competitive in the NFC East. They have 12 games left to get things straight.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

This team is fun to watch,  so they have that going for them. The pieces are in place for the Giants to be very competitive this year, and make a playoff go for the first time since 2011. I think Odell can figure his emotions out and learn to get rid of the tears before the game. That defense is improved, but are still giving up ~20 points per game and cannot get to the passer. The fortunate part here for the G-men is that their offense is high octane enough to put up more than 3 scores a game. Top 10 defenses will be this team’s downfall, due to a measly running game. One dimensional doesn’t work in the NFL today.

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Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

Who would have predicted this 3-0 start for the eagles? Head coach Doug Pederson and Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz have taken a roster that went 7-9 in 2015, and fired off 3 straight wins to start the season. Oh yeah, and they’re starting a rookie quarterback. While I believe in the intangibles that Carson Wentz’s coaches and teammates rave about, I also believe that Doug Pederson has done a remarkable job putting this kid in winning situations. Carson Wentz has the same advantage as Alex Smith: running an offense full of short, high-percentage throws. What we’ve yet to see is whether or not Wentz can make those deep sideline and middle of the field throws that Alex Smith struggles with. The untold story of this Philadelphia team has been their defense, which tops the NFC East. Doug Pederson’s coaching, a top 10 defense, and the surprisingly good play of Carson Wentz will lead this team to a division title.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

This defense is solid, and that will earn them their wins. Wentz is just a system guy, who I must say has executed his Pop Warner game plan effectively, but hasn’t been tested by a good defense (the Steelers looked all too Pop Warner themselves). The more tape that comes out on how to disrupt this kid, the worse this team will get. Even with a top 10 defense, the Eagles will not make a trip to the playoffs. The Wentz wagon is coming to a crashing halt.

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  Washington Redskins (2-2)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 6-10

What is the Redskins identity? I’m not sure they know. The Redskins are a poor man’s Atlanta Falcons, with less talent at all offensive skill positions, and a 27th ranked defense (compared to Atlanta’s 28th). I think coach Jay Gruden has done a good job bringing stability to an organization that is unstable in nature, starting with owner Daniel Snyder (the way less like-able Jerry Jones). With a tough schedule going forward, Washington simply does not have enough talent to win more than 6 games this year. Kirk Cousins is proving that the franchise tag was one of the few good decisions the Redskins front office made this off-season.

Jake’s Take

Final Record:  8-8

 Damn, 6-10 is harsh. Cousins carried me to my fantasy championship last year so I can understand why you want to shoot him down, Matt. But, this receiving core is top 5 in the league and will continue to be accentuated by better quarterback play from Captain Kirk. Josh Norman and the defense need to play just well enough for this high powered offense to seal the W. That being said, I don’t have enough confidence in a historically shotty defense to believe that adding Norman fixes the problem. The ‘skins will lose most shoot outs, but win some games they aren’t supposed to against weak offenses and strong defenses. Beware Philly.

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Chicago Bears (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 4-12

Jay Cutler’s time with the Bears is up, and I think everyone in Chicago knows it. For some reason, though, I have a feeling that a poorly run franchise will give him one last go-around in the near future (Dolphins?). As for the Bears, I’m extremely dis-interested. We are talking about a bad team coached by possibly the most boring man in the NFL, John Fox, being quarterbacked by the most average quarterback in the league in Brian Hoyer. I’m so sorry Bears fans.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 5-11

First off, let’s get Cutler out, and a solid WR opposite Alshon Jeffrey. He’s not good enough to be the one and only option in this offense. I get it, Kevin White was that guy. But what I’m saying is don’t bet on the glass canon; to be honest, I think White would be Fitzgerald-esque in the slot. Oh, also the defense is still bad. A bad QB and bad defense is exactly what leads you to be one of the NFL’s worst teams.

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Detroit Lions (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 8-8

Sadly, it looks like the Lions will never get it together. Every year it looks like Detroit has a chance to contend, but they consistently under-perform. To me, The Lions are a prime example that culture matters a lot in sports. Can you imagine if Matthew Stafford, with his immense talent, was drafted by an organization like Green Bay, New England, or Pittsburgh? To me, championships would have followed. Unfortunately for Stafford’s Lions, Minnesota and Green Bay have superior front offices and coaches. Detroit will win their share of games, but contending in the NFC North will be difficult for the Lions this year, and the foreseeable future.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 6-10

This team is just too spotty to contend for a playoff spot. The division is so much better than they are, even though Marvin Jones is showing out as “minitron”. This team is already battling injuries, and the defense isn’t stout enough to carry a bleh offense. It’s just kind of a team you wouldn’t care to watch.

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 Green Bay Packers (2-1)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

Green Bay will be an exciting team to watch going forward, with a chance to make a deep playoff run. Aaron Rodgers continues to be one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and he now has his safety-net receiver back in Jordy Nelson. But there are two aspects of this Packers team that will serve them very well in the later months of the season. The Packers (and Eddie Lacey) can pound it, and nobody can pound the ball on them. While Lacey is averaging a remarkable 5 yards a carry, the Packers are only allowing 1.8 yards/carry on the ground (best in the league). Those stats will matter immensely late in the season, as the Packers play in the coldest division in football. Look for Green Bay to clinch an NFC wildcard spot.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 11-5

Jordy Nelson’s return seems to have reinvigorated Aaron Rodgers, and Eddy Lacy isnt six-months pregnant this year. While their offense looks improved, that pass defense is bad news. Their run defense is solid, like, really solid. How solid you ask? They allow an average of 42.67 yards per game. I know, wow. But, what’s even more amazing, the number 2 team on that list allows 70.25. It’s not even close. But a number 1 rush defense plus a number 28 pass defense equals a bad defense… Perhaps teams don’t run the ball because the secondary can’t defend a pass? This young secondary of Randall and Hyde need to step it up for this team to make a deep playoff, or even, Super Bowl run.

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Minnesota Vikings (4-0)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 14-2

That’s right. I see only 2 lose-able games for this astounding Vikings defense going forward: At Detroit, and at Green bay. I mean, they’ve already stifled Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Eli Manning. Not to mention that dude named Sam Bradford isn’t that bad at throwing a football. The Vikings’, and Bradford’s play this season, are yet another example of why culture matters in the NFL. After being under-developed in St. Louis, and taking a quick detour to in-flux Philadelphia, Bradford landed on one of the best rosters in the NFL, and he is taking advantage of it. This team has a chance to end up in the Super Bowl. Go-ahead, call me crazy.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

There’s a trend developing here… Minnesota is as strong as their defense can maintain. That young unit is astounding and I can’t give them enough credit. Xavier Rhodes is coming out as a dominant big man on the outside, and Kendricks and Barr in the middle is a perfect blend of speed, smarts, and strength. Linval Joseph and Everson Griffin make it a nightmare to try to run or pass — basically it’s just a great defense, right? But here’s my concern and I’m not sure why more people don’t share it with me. Is Sam Bradford really going to get his slate wiped clean that easily? Are you telling me if Sanchez won a couple games with the Broncos you’d forget about the butt-fumble?  Exactly, let’s refrain from the praise and make him earn it. I’m not sold on this offense without Adrian Peterson and that receiving core at all. It’s worked thus far, but right now will be the peak of their success this year. Green Bay will still take the division.

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Atlanta Falcons (3-1)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

I love that people are going crazy about the Falcons. It’s almost as if the media has amnesia about Atlanta’s 5-0 start last season. Listen, people: They’ve beaten the Raiders, Saints, and the depleted Panthers. Those are two of the leagues worst defenses, and a Carolina team that is sorely missing Josh Norman. This Atlanta team will come back down to earth in the next two weeks, as they face two of the league’s top 5 defenses outside, and on the road. Don’t get me wrong: Atlanta’s offense is real. But their defense is ranked a leaky 29th, and dome teams have a tendency to be too coddled to win cold, rough-nosed December games.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

We’ve seen how dominant this offense can be with the dynamic of that ground game and the sheer freakish abilities of Julio Jones, and that will overpower some teams and lead the some W’s — it’ll be hard to keep up with Atlanta in any shootouts. But I haven’t bought Matty Ice being any better than an Andy Dalton. These teams have weapons, but their defense is not championship level, and that’s ultimately their downfall. I mean, 4 sacks in 4 games is putrid. A few solid defensive-centric drafts could leave this team in a nice position assuming they can keep their offensive pieces in place.

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Carolina Panthers (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

Much like the 2015 Seahawks after their Superbowl loss, the 2016 Panthers have started off surprisingly slow. Much like those Seahawks, the Panthers are about to find their swagger again, when Cam Newton and Jonathan Steward return from injury. 9 of their last 12 games will be against defenses ranked in the bottom half of the league. The concern for this team going forward will be their secondary, which is giving up 8.6 yards a catch (30th), and just gave up 300 yards to Julio Jones alone. Carolina is the best team in their division, but the NFC is simply too deep to make a playoff run with that pass defense.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

Carolina, why couldn’t you hold it together — just so Josh Norman’s ego could deflate a bit? He’s getting roasted by the likes of Terrelle Pryor and OBJ’s hand yet everyone is saying he got the last laugh of this break up. Cam Newton is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but the team was too reliant on Newton repeating his numbers last year to even think they had a chance at beating good teams this year. The secondary is just too spotty to fly with the best of ’em. Ta-da Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. That will continue to be their fatal flaw, and as Matt said, be their season’s setback.

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New Orleans Saints (1-3)

 Matt’s Take

Final Record: 5-11

The Saints, and Drew Brees are on a very similar path to that of Phillip Rivers and the Chargers. I just don’t get it. You would think these franchises would want to bolster their respective defenses too give their aging legends – who are still some of the best quarterbacks in the league – a better chance to win games. To me, it comes down to two lazy front-offices who have become too reliant on their star quarterbacks for wins. But hey, I’m just an opinion guy, what do I know. As for the Saints season going forward; teams that are able to slow down Drew Brees will end up winning more times than not, because the Saints 30th ranked defense is embarrassing (once again). If I were Drew Brees, I would end my career with the Jets – just saying.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 6-10

Brees, while still an elite QB, isn’t but a shell of his former self. He throws way too many picks for him to be a true contender. You just don’t get away with that at the top of the league. It’s been a long time that a purely offensive team took home a Lombardi. Sean Payton seems to his lost his touch also. I think it’s a bit downhill from here for this team — they need to start by building a reliable defense while they still have Brees and if they’re lucky, it’ll be primed for their next QB of the future.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 8-8

I thought this was going to be the year that Jameis Winston, and his Buccaneers broke out to claim an NFC wildcard spot. Three straight losses (which is about to turn into 4) has helped me come to the conclusion that this team, and this quarterback, are not ready to take on the upper echelon of the NFL. There’s hardly a question that Winston can be a star in this league, and I think the Bucs will have some quality wins this season, but this is not the season for Tampa Bay to make a playoff run. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Tampa Bay approaches their drafts, keeping in mind they already have a franchise quarterback-wide receiver duo, and an offensive-minded head coach.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 8-8

This team just wreaks of average, so .500 is fitting. Jameis has a lot to prove in order to become a contending quarterback, and this defense could use a few more pieces before they’re true playoff contenders. I do suspect this team to knock a few teams out of playoff contention down the stretch, though. Sorry, Cowboys.

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Arizona Cardinals (2-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 9-7

Carson Palmer is missing a few throws that he was making last season, this defense has started off slow, and the Cardinals have not looked like an Arians-coached team. Fortunately for the Cardinals, I think they’ve realized running back David Johnson is a once in a generation player, and I think they’ll ride him to an NFC wildcard spot. This team has too good of a front office, head coach, quarterback, running back, and secondary to fail this season.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

Pump the breaks NFL. This is a great team like we all thought. Remember when Peyton Hillis, Colt McCoy and the Browns whooped up on Brady, and our rookie TE tandem? Yeah, inexplicable things happen in the league. This is one of them to me. But, never fret, the Cardinals are going to be in a race at the end of the year for the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Cards at 3-5 at their week 9 bye. Luckily, weeks 10-17 have 5 easy wins with only 2 tough games against Minnesota and Seattle. I’ll give them a win against Minnesota leaving them at 10-6. The end of the year fight with Seattle for the division champ will be awesome. Get ready.

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Los Angeles Rams (3-1)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 6-10

The Rams will win 3 more games this season. Case Keenum has played about as well as he’s physically capable of playing in the last 3 games. That will change. Jeff Fisher has rallied his troops to win some games the Rams should never have won, and I give him a lot of credit for that. Now, however, the Rams are about to go on a nine game out-of-division run, which spells trouble, because they went 3-7 out of division last year. This will be Jeff Fisher’s last year in LA. Going forward, it would behoove the Rams to find a head coach who can groom Jared Goff, the future of this franchise, as they get set to move into their new stadium.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 7-9

Unfortunately the City of Angels didn’t bless this team with much skill. That group of WR’s has played just as beyond their means as Case Keenum has, and nobody expects that to continue. But, that defense is young-and-hungry, and will carry the Rams to enough of those ugly one digit to one digit wins for Jeff Fisher to earn himself another year in The Big Orange. Also, count on 3 or 4 starts out of Mr. Cool, Jared Goff.

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San Francisco 49ers (1-3)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 5-11

Can you believe this team, led by Blaine Gabbert, is tied for 5th in points scored? Well, if you’ve observed closely what Chip Kelly’s done since his first year with the Eagles, you aren’t surprised. The problem with this team: not enough talent. There just will not be much to discuss pertaining to the 49ers until Chip Kelly has a few off-seasons to build this team the way he see’s fit. Oh, and all you people screaming for Kaepernick: physically, the guy looks like a shell of himself. If 49ers coaches thought Kaepernick gave them a better chance to win, he’d have been the starter week 1. That being said, Kaepernick will get his shot this season… it can’t get much worse than Gabbert

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 3-13

Matt’s a Chip Kelly lover so disregard his piece. Chip, you’ve been figured out. The same way the once dominant West Coast offense was, and the early Michael Vick was. The NFL is tough to fool when enough tape gets put out. Chip won’t bring wins, their WR core is a joke and with Novarro Bowman out for the year, the defense is even more laughable. This team needs to trade away Kaepernick, before teams get a chance to see him bomb. Don’t even let him play, just trade him and stash the draft picks, San Fran.

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Seattle Seahawks (3-1)

Matt’s Take

Final Record: 10-6

This Seattle team is dangerous. Over the last two games the Seahawks stopped trying to force the run, and let Russell Wilson take over, just as a Superbowl winning, 5th year signal caller should do. Jimmy Graham is back, Christine Micheal looks explosive, and we haven’t even gotten to that defense yet. The Legion of Boom is ranked top 5 against the run and the pass. I would argue that there is no better offense/defense/head coach combination in the NFL right now. Look out for Seattle to win the NFC West and go deep into the playoffs.

Jake’s Take

Final Record: 11-5

I have taken more of a liking to this team ever since Richard Sherman shut up. Play with your pads or I’ll link your Super Bowl cry meme. This defense is consistent and speaks for itself. My issue here is the lack of depth catching Russell Wilson’s passes. If Jimmy Graham can keep this recent production up, the running back position stays solid, and Doug Baldwin keeps sliding around the field catching balls, this team is scary.

About Matthew Jarecki (196 Articles)
Student at Northern Arizona University. Beginning my sports writing career with Outside the League

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  1. NFL Week 6: Unfiltered Preview – Outside the League

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