NFL 2017-2018 Preseason Schedule

 

By: Will Stevenson

Can you feel it? Just imagine the droughts and sounds of the NFL season. Two-a-days, minicamps, veteran camps, seven on seven drills, torn acl’s, Non-contact injuries, position battles, and most importantly: Expert analysis of guys in shorts.

There are countless things that could irritate a football fan, but actual football isn’t one of them. So between now and the first preseason game, we have months to comb through every team, transaction and predict who will do what when the season rolls around. It will be exciting to see how the top drafted rookie quarterbacks find their footing on teams that made the playoffs last season: Chiefs and Texans. We all know how the preseason goes: Stars play in one or two games for a few series, then the backups. I also have an interest in fringe plays attempting to made rosters within the new safety guidelines for special teams.

So let us take a look at the preseason schedule. The competition will be early as starters make their way off the field after a few possessions, but don’t let that deter you from consuming the whole game. Position battles, overall team health, sheer talent, and a basic understanding of the team’s philosophy will be on display. So it’s not the Pro Bowl, but it’s damn near close for those first few series.

Not need to worry. Football is own it’s way, and it starts with the Hall of Fame Game on August 3rd with the Cowboys and the Cardinals.

 

 

NFL/Hall of Fame Game – AUGUST 3
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET NAT. TV
Thurs Aug. 3 Dallas Cowboys vs Arizona Cardinals 8:00 PM (ET) 8:00 PM NBC
WEEK 1 – AUGUST 9-13
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET
Wed Aug. 9 Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns 8:00 PM (ET) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Friday Aug. 11 Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Friday Aug. 11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Friday Aug. 11 San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs 8:00 PM (CT) 9:00 PM
Sat Aug. 12 Tennessee Titans at New York Jets 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 12 Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams 6:00 PM (PT) 9:00 PM
Sat Aug. 12 Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals 7:00 PM (MST) 10:00 PM
Sunday Aug. 13 Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts 1:30 PM (ET) 1:30 PM
Sunday Aug. 13 Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers 5:00 PM (PT) 8:00 PM
WEEK 2 – AUGUST 17-21
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET NAT. TV
Thurs Aug. 17 Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 17 Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars 8:00 PM (ET) 8:00 PM ESPN
Friday Aug. 18 Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans 2:00 PM (CT) 3:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys 6:00 PM (CT) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 New York Jets at Detroit Lions 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 19 New England Patriots at Houston Texans 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals 7:00 PM (MST) 10:00 PM
Sunday Aug. 20 Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:00 PM (ET) 4:00 PM
Sunday Aug. 20 New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers 5:00 PM (PT) 8:00 PM
Monday Aug. 21 New York Giants at Cleveland Browns 8:00 PM (ET) 8:00 PM ESPN
WEEK 3 – AUGUST 24-27
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET NAT. TV
Thurs Aug. 24 Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 24 Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Friday Aug. 25 New England Patriots at Detroit Lions 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Friday Aug. 25 Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks 5:00 PM (PT) 8:00 PM CBS
Sat Aug. 26 Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 New York Jets at New York Giants 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams 5:00 PM (PT) 8:00 PM CBS
Sat Aug. 26 Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos 7:00 PM (MT) 9:00 PM
Sunday Aug. 27 Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans 12:00 PM (CT) 1:00 PM FOX
Sunday Aug. 27 Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins 4:30 PM (ET) 4:30 PM FOX
Sunday Aug. 27 San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM NBC
WEEK 4 – AUGUST 31
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET
Thurs Aug. 31 Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers 6:00 PM (CT) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 New York Giants at New England Patriots 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs 7:30 PM (CT) 8:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos 7:00 PM (MT) 9:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM

Each NFC South Team’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the NFC South:

  1. julio-jones             Atlanta Falcons- The Falcons have made it to the Superbowl this year so calling anything a need is a little bit of a stretch since they didn’t need it this year so far.  They definitely were one of the surprise teams to win their division this season and even when they did not many people believed in them along the way.  I too am guilty of this, but they have continually proved me wrong.  Their offense is just incredible to watch.  Matt Ryan has re-emerged as a top 5 quarterback in the NFL, Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman combine for a great 1-2 punch at running back behind one of the 10 best offensive lines in the league and Taylor Gabriel and Mohammed Sanu have proved to be excellent complementary pieces to one of, if not the, best wide receivers in the league Julio Jones.  Their defense has been solid in the secondary led by rookie Keanu Neal, linebackers led by rookie Deion Jones, and a defensive line led by second year player Vic Beasley.  The defense is incomplete though.  The defensive line doesn’t have a great run stuffer and the linebackers haven’t been good at stopping the run either so I think that the better option for them would be to take a big interior defensive lineman who can stuff the run and help the linebackers by clogging up holes.  The Giants this year were a great example of how a run stuffing interior defensive line can mask deficiencies by the linebacker corps and can make a weakness at two places into a relative strength.  If the Falcons get a disruptive interior defensive lineman, then this year could be just the tip of the iceberg of their potential.
  2. mike-evansTampa Bay Buccaneers- This team looked for a while that it could arrive to the playoffs a year too early, but a late season mini-slide kept them out and sets them up to break out in Jameis Winston’s third season.  Their offense looks like it is just about there already with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans complementing each other greatly as a deep thrower paired with a guy who makes 50/50 balls seem more like 75/25 balls in his favor.  They also have 3 of their 5 offensive lineman performing above average and 2 capable running backs when they are healthy in Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers.  They also have some pieces on defense, but not a complete unit.  Their biggest weakness on defense is similar to the Falcons as they need run defense as none of their front 7 players are great in that area.  So since they have the same core problem as the Falcons, their draft need is the same as the Falcons in a disruptive interior defensive lineman.  The Bucs already have one disruptive interior lineman in Gerald McCoy, but he too doesn’t excel in run defense.  If they can get a guy in the mold of a Michael Brockers, then they can have one of the best defensive interiors in the league which will limit what opponents can do on offense and help out the rest of their defense against the run game.
  3. Drew BreesNew Orleans Saints- Does anyone remember the last time the Saints had a defense that could stop anyone?  That would be in 2013 when they were 4th in yards against and scoring against.  That is a long time in football terms, especially when at the time people were still more focussed on their offense.  But since then, it seems like Drew Brees has had to play 16 games worth of first to 40 wins every year and however great Brees is, he can only do so much.  The Saints are still the same offensive juggernaut they have been since Brees and Sean Payton arrived to the team in 2006.  Brees threw for over 5,000 yards yet again which has seemed to become routine for him, they had the best rookie wide receiver in the league in Michael Thomas, and their offensive line isn’t too good.  Their running back situation isn’t ideal, but the Saints pass the ball short often enough to simulate a running game with their short passing game.  Their defense though needs help at just about every spot not taken up by either Jordan Cameron or Kenny Vaccaro.  What they need more than anything though is someone who can match up with an opponent’s number one receiver and help to at least slow him down so the offense can maybe just play some games of first to 30 wins.
  4. cam-newtonCarolina Panthers- This team had one of the biggest negative turnarounds of any team in recent memory, going from 15-1 and losing the Superbowl to 6-10 and a top 10 pick.  Some people might be quick to overreact and say that the loss of Josh Norman made the team fall apart, but his replacement James Bradberry played pretty well in his stead and Norman, however good he was in 2015, was not worth 9 wins.  The biggest part of the Panthers’ regression was the regression of Jonathan Stewart as a running back.  The Panthers are at their best when teams aren’t able to key on whether Cam Newton will run the ball, throw the ball, or hand it off to the running back on any given play.  With Stewart showing his age this season, teams were able to key in on Newton and shut down the Panthers’ offense.  If the Panthers are able to grab a guy like a Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook, then you can see this team get back to close to their 2015 form really quickly.

Previous articles in this series:

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

NFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

NFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-norths-biggest-draft-need/

5 things we learned from last nights game!

By Lawrence Edwards

 

The 2016 NFL season kicked off last night and it definitely did not disappoint. The defenses are really the groups who made this game interesting. Cam did have some success against Denver’s defense but Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were back wreaking havoc on Cam Newton. Last nights game kicked off the season in great fashion and here are some things we learned.

  • Kelvin Benjamin is back! On Carolina’s opening drive, after a forced fumble on rookie running back Devontae Booker, Cam Newton led Carolina down the field and capped off the drive with a touchdown throw to Kelvin Benjamin, who looks like a giant out there next to opposing defensive backs. He finished with 6 receptions for 91 yards and 1 TD. He was hit in the back of the legs early in the game and sat out a series but returned to the game and finished unscathed. Newton will enjoy a pretty good season this year with Benjamin back to go along with Greg Olsen.

 

  • Carolina’s defense didn’t miss Norman much so far. The Panthers were beat by Denver’s defense and the legs of C.J. Anderson (more on him later). Charles Johnson forced a fumble on the Denver’s first drive allowing Cam to strike early, rookie corner Bene Benwikere had a nice leaping interception which was short armed by Trevor Simean after Luke Kuechly and company put the heat on him. Panthers defense also got another pick when DT Star Lotulelei tipped a pass up in the air and Thomas Davis came up with it. Carolina’s defense should be just fine going forward. The rookie corners passed their first test of the season.

 

  • C.J. Anderson is the real deal. A few years ago when Anderson first came on the scene with Ronnie Hillman, there was a lot of talk about Denver running backs only being good because of the presence of Peyton Manning. That may have held true for Knowshon Moreno but Anderson had a different story to tell. His first season as the true lead in back in Denver’s offense if off to a great start. Anderson proved that his talent is all him and not tied to Manning. He finished with 20 carries for 92 yards and 1 TD and 4 receptions for 47 and a TD. Anderson played well against a stout defense and was by far Denver’s star performer on offense last night. Anderson is in for a big year because Simean will be leaning on him heavy in the run game and on check downs and short passes.

 

  • The Broncos will be just fine with Trevor under center as long as that defense doesn’t miss a beat. Despite the two INT’s – both which were caused just by great plays by Carolina’s defense and not mistakes by Simean – Trevor looked calm and poised in the pocket. Early in the game he smartly pump faked a rushing defender on a screen pass to get the ball in the hands of Demaryius Thomas. His throws were on target and he was getting the ball out of his hands extremely quick. With Denver’s dominant defense, Simean will only need to control the game and take advantage of the opportunities and short yardage situations the defense will create for him. Simean did well in his first test against one of the leagues top defenses.

 

  • Denver’s defense will not miss the departures of Danny Trevathean and Malik Jackson. Some people thought Denver’s defense would take a slight step back because those two were key pieces in their Superbowl run last season, but Denver showed that as long as Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are healthy and wreaking havoc in opposing backfields, the Broncos are going to be just fine this year. They will still compete for the division title.

I seriously think you should jump on this wave!

By Lawrence Edwards

OK, before I get started let me tell you that this isn’t a fad that will quickly fade out, nor is it a get rich quick scheme. It’s simple, I am not forcing you or trying to persuade you to do anything. I just want to share with you something that I know sports enthusiasts every where will enjoy and offer you the opportunity to be apart of something or get ahead of everyone else on a trend that is about to take the world by storm. From Football to Cricket we have something every sports will fall in love with. You have two options: Affiliate or Player. I will go in to great detail about both and most importantly the coming of a game changing sports app by United Games that is going to absolutely blow your mind!

Now what we are talking about here is an app that will let you enjoy your favorite sport interactively while watching the game. This app is going to bring a new dynamic way of playing of enjoying sports. It’s not just going to focus on the major sports but every sport.  The point is to get everyone to enjoy sports better, not just the people who have time for drafts and 4 different fantasy leagues or the ones who are good at selecting the right combination of players in order to enjoy the experience.

Now, as I previously mentioned you have two options to join this wave, either as a player or an affiliate. If you want to just be one of the first to enjoy the experience of this game changing app then sign up as a player for free. You will be a pre-registered player and once the app launches within the next 5 weeks you can begin enjoying your interactive sports experience and start earning some rewards and points. I don’t know about you but once I started playing fantasy football and basketball, the game became THAT much more interesting to me. I began to pay attention to things that I didn’t before. This interactive app will award every real sports fan the same experience but much better – did I mention that some of EA Sports former developers are building this thing? – Get ahead of the trend, this app is coming and it’s going to change the way we enjoy sports forever and it will be the first of it’s kind, share it with your neighbors, share it with your family, if they love sports, chances are they will love this!

Now if you are interested in becoming an affiliate of United Games and getting the opportunity to not only get ahead of the trend but earn some money while doing it, then this the route you want to go. Now let me tell you this isn’t a pyramid scheme or something wild like that, if you don’t want to be an affiliate then you don’t have to. We aren’t trying to recruit people for money, we are just offering an opportunity to earn some income based off of people just playing the game. Now when this was brought to me a few weeks ago I had my initial negative thoughts. I was told that I can become an affiliate for free, feel it out see if I like it and if I do I would have to pay a one time fee of $30 to stay an affiliate and $9.99 a month to maintain my affiliate site and if I don’t just simply cancel no harm done. Now I’m no easy person to convince to join things, so I did my own research before I agreed to sign up for anything. Now I hate selling things, I’m terrible at it, so the fact I didn’t have to sell a product and it was an app – I’m a huge tech junkie – helped me decide to really read up on it. So I did my research and found that this app could really be something special and I don’t have to pay my fee until the app launches in 4-5 weeks at the time of this writing. I figured, what can I lose? I can jump on board playing a new fantasy app and maybe earn some money while doing it. Every time you share the app and someone signs up, whether as an affiliate or a player, and starts buying or earning tokens, you get a piece of the pie, NICE! Another selling point for me was the fact that in order for you to earn income you have to fill out tax form 1099. That right there let me know it was legit. Now United Games is offering this opportunity only up until the app launches in 5 weeks. Once it goes live, the affiliate opportunity will be no longer offered. You will only be able to download and use the app.

Whether you sign up to be a player or an affiliate I can assure you that this app is going to change your sporta experience. The point of this blog is to get the word out that a Giant is coming and to offer, what I believe to be a grand opportunity to be apart of the next big thing. If you like what you heard here today feel free to drop a comment, email me (lawrence.edwards115@gmail.com) or if you got here through my Facebook link, just shoot me a DM and I will happily send you a link to be an affiliate or a free player so you will be all set to go when the app launches. Once you click the link there will be more information for you to read through to get an even better understanding. You’re going to love this!

Here is a one page info sheet you can look at to get more information. Feel free to contact me with questions.

 

It’s all about the Benjamin…

kbenjamin-inside

Sports Elite


By William Dobbs

After having his sophomore NFL season cut short in training camp last year Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is poised to be a difference maker once again in the Carolina offense.

The 6’5″ first rounder from Florida State made an instant impact in his rookie season. Kelvin and quarterback Cam Newton quickly built their chemistry which led to a rookie year amassing 73 receptions for 1008 yards including 9 trips to the end zone, setting new rookie franchise records in each category. But a torn ACL in training camp last year left Benjamin sidelined throughout all of the most successful season in Panthers history. “I just wanted to go catch a few balls” said the receiver as he watched his teams offense shrink in a 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

Well if this first week of training camp is an indication of what’s to come for Benjamin he is definitely on track to regain his role as Newton’s favorite target. The Panthers finished last year with the #1 scoring offense in the NFL with Kelvin sidelined. League MVP Cam Newton spread the ball throughout his receiving core and kept opposing defenses guessing. 9 different Panther receivers had at least 10 receptions last season with 8 of those receivers recording touchdowns.

Greg Olsen lead the team with another 1000 yard receiving year, his second in as many years. The Panthers also got contributions from Ted Ginn Jr, Jerricho Cotchery, and rookie Devin Funchess, all recording at least 400 yards and combining for 18 touchdowns. Add Benjamin back this already potent offense, healthy and in better shape than ever and there is no reason the Panthers should not continue their reign at the top of the NFC South.

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2016 NFL Season Preview and Predictions

By Brian Jones

For football fans everywhere there are certain points on the football calendar to look forward to and tomorrow is definitely one of them as training camp for all 32 teams gets underway. Before the first official whistle gets blown, however, I’m going to make some bold predictions and give some random opinions on this upcoming season. The Road To The Super Bowl officially starts tomorrow and only one team will win it all. Here is how I believe things will shake out, starting with the AFC and NFC West Divisions (all divisions in predicted order of finish with record):

AFC West

Oakland Raiders (11-5)

Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)

Denver Broncos (7-9)

San Diego Chargers (4-12)

No, that’s no typo and yes, I have Oakland winning 11 games and the division. Seriously. The Chiefs have key injuries on both sides of the ball, a game manager at quarterback and key injuries from players on both sides of the ball. The Chargers are still a mess unto themselves and the Broncos are deciding if Mark “Butt Fumble” Sanchez or Trevor Simian will be their starting quarterback this season (Von Miller can’t do it all). It all adds up to Oakland taking this division and making their first playoff appearance in 13 years.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (12-4)

Seattle Seahawks (11-5)

Los Angeles Rams (6-10)

San Francisco 49ers (1-15)

So we got 2 teams that’ll contend for home field advantage and the Super Bowl, one team that’ll contend for pride and little else and one team what will likely be the league’s doormat this season. Seattle and Arizona will fight to see who wins the division while the Rams will look the part of a competitive team but have Jeff Fisher still leading them down the wrong path. Meanwhile, can San Francisco win a game this season (they have a chance to go 0-16)?

NFC South 

Carolina Panthers (10-6)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)

Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

New Orleans Saints (7-9)

Carolina ran away with the division and the NFC last season and still have the pieces in place to make another Super Bowl run as one of the NFL’s more competitive divisions continues to rebuild. Atlanta’s late season nosedive still has me concerned and New Orleans is in a bit of a transition on both sides of the ball. Tampa Bay’s successes will hinge on Jameis Winston and his continued development. With everything considered, Cam Newton and Carolina win the division with little trouble this season.

AFC South

Houston Texans (11-5)

Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7)

Tennessee Titans (6-10)

This division could go one of 3 ways – the Colts, Jags or Texans could win the division crown. Houston has the most talent and better overall roster (on paper) and they are the pick here. Andrew Luck can’t stay healthy and is turnover prone while Jacksonville has the pieces to win but may not be ready. Tennessee is still rebuilding and won’t be in the division basement for long. Texans should win the division for the second straight season but don’t at all be surprised if Indianapolis or Jacksonville find a way to pull it off.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (11-5)

Minnesota Vikings  (11-5)

Chicago Bears (7-9)

Detroit Lions (5-11)

Another division with 2 playoff caliber teams and 2 doormats. Minnesota is a few players away from becoming a Super Bowl contender while Detroit and Chicago both have gunslingers at quarterback with Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler…but both teams have marginal defenses and little else to fall back on. Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers and that, along with a championship-caliber roster, will keep Green Bay in the driver’s seat in the division but Minnesota will be there all season to contend for the division crown.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)

Cleveland Browns (4-12)

This division is about hard-hitting defenses and explosive offenses and this season will be no different. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco should recover from his ACL injury while Pittsburgh will bring back a healthy roster after injuries hampered them down the stretch last season. Both teams have the defenses and overall talent to win it all in 2016. The Bengals lost a lot of talent in free agency and didn’t do much to replace it. That will show this season as the Bengals will take a step back. Browns fans may want to have the Cavaliers’ championship parade on standby because there’s not going to be a lot to cheer about in Cleveland as another rebuilding project gets underway.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

New York Giants (9-7)

Washington Redskins (7-9)

Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)

Yes, you read that correctly, I said Dallas will win 10 games and the division. Until Kirk Cousins can beat a team with a winning record you can put much stock in Washington’s chances this season. The Eagles are in a full rebuild now so don’t expect much from them either. The Giants made upgrades on defense and possibly have Victor Cruz returning on offense but if Dallas can stay healthy and keep Tony Romo in one piece that will be enough for them to win the division this season.

AFC East

New England Patriots (13-3)

New York Jets (8-8)

Miami Dolphins (6-10)

Buffalo Bills (6-10)

This was the easiest division to predict. Most think that since Tom Brady is suspended for four games the rest of the division will get off to a fast start and take advantage, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. The Jets have all the pieces and no quarterback while the Dolphins don’t have enough talent to keep up. Buffalo has the talent but can Rex Ryan do enough with it to save his job? How will things play out? Brady comes back, plays angry on the way to 13 wins, league MVP and another AFC East division title in his pocket.

So there it is, my fearless predictions on how this season will play out…but before I wrap this up here are my predictions on how the championship games and Super Bowl will play out:

AFC Championship: New England over Houston 35-27

NFC Championship: Arizona over Carolina 38-33

Super Bowl LI: New England over Arizona 37-27 (Tom Brady wins MVP)

I’m aware that most, if not all, of what I’ve laid out here may  or may not come true (that’s why they’re called predictions)…but just to be fair we’ll revisit this the Tuesday after the regular season and the Tuesday after the Super Bowl to see how right (or wrong) I was. Football is FINALLY back and this season promises to be another good one full of big games, interesting storylines and excitement that only the NFL can provide. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how things play out this season.

A NEW ERA!

Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Luke Kuechly, Marcus Peters, Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald! Ladies and gentlemen, we are, and have been for the last 4 years, witnessing the rise of a new era! Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Peanut Tillman? Gone, retired, sipping mojitos on a beach with open toe sandals on. The more the years go by the more we see long time NFL greats leaving the game and opening doors for the infusion of young talent like the names mentioned above. It has been happening right before our very eyes and I just really sat back and thought about it. Pretty soon there will be a time when we could be watching Derek Carr and Blake Bortles duke it out for the AFC Championship. Yup, it won’t be Big Ben vs Tom Brady or Peyton vs Tom Brady, but Bortles and Carr. An older Tom Brady will be at special games being honored right before he takes a seat to watch someone else quarterback his team, maybe even Garappolo.

 

Last year Blake Bortles threw 35 TDs and 18 INT in just his second season in the NFL. He had plenty help from some more young talent in WR Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Two up and coming pass catchers that have already made for a pretty decent duo. Could they give Jacksonville a modern day Jimmy Smith and Keenan Mccardale type combo? Oh the potential!  Jacksonville has been quietly building itself to compete in this new era and they are looking to be a staple in it for a while. I didn’t even mention the young talent on the defensive side of the ball… I’m telling you, a time where the Patriots are 4-12 and Bortles is leading the Jags to constantly contending in the playoffs could be close. I know Pats fans won’t like that last sentence right there.

 

While I am on the subject of young QB’s and young teams, let’s take a flight out to the west to where there the dawn of another era has possibly begun. Derek Carr also broke the 30 touchdown threshold last season with 32 of his own, against just 13 INT’s. Carr has shown he is the guy for Oakland to build around and they are already headed in that direction. The raiders have youth all around. Young pass catcher Amari Cooper is coming back for his second season, which I believe will be his true breakout year, and you can’t forget about TE Clive Walford. Throw in RB Latavius Murray and the fact they have the best young defender and soon to be best defender in the NFL period, in Khalil Mack, then you can clearly see the Raiders are setup nicely for this new era. You’ve heard of black holes in space? Well the Raiders are setting themselves up to be one here on earth, sucking up any team in its path.

 

A new era! It’s been unfolding right before us for some time. We saw Russell Wilson win the SB in his second NFL season in 2013 and lead them back there again the next year, resulting in a loss however, but still he got them there back to back. Pretty impressive for your first three years if you ask me. Cam Newton nearly led Carolina to an undefeated championship season. Despite the loss in the super bowl, it was a rather impressive season and I believe he will be back sooner rather than later. Rookie Marcus Peters of the Kansas City chiefs had 8 interceptions in 2015. Good enough to be tied for the league leader alongside Reggie Nelson.  There are plenty other names I can throw out here too. In fact, there are too many young players on their way to greatness to name, but the point of all this is to open the eyes of your everyday NFL fanatic to the fact that the NFL that some of us grew up with is quickly changing. Players are more talented than ever now. Before you know it you’re going to be watching “A Football Life” in 2026 about how Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were the best QB’s to play the game. Basically what I am trying to say here is… Open your eyes and don’t blink, because this isn’t your fathers NFL anymore!

 

By Lawrence Edwards