The 2015 National Football League season is upon us and as we head into Week 1 action there are very few things that are guaranteed. One, and only one, NFL team will be crowned champion of Super Bowl 50 and only one team will hold the first pick in next year’s annual draft. Those are for sure. Who will lay claim to a Super Bowl title or the first draft choice remains to be seen. Here’s a look at the best bets on NFL teams this season.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots will win the AFC East Division title for the seventh straight season. The dynasty created by head coach Bill Belichick has won 12 of the past 14 division titles. With Tom Brady’s four-game suspension lifted, the Patriots do not have to go to backup Jimmy Garoppolo. That means Belichick and Brady will start fast as they cruise to yet another division championship.
After winning four straight AFC West Division titles, one would think that a coach has some job security. Not true in Denver. Team President and Hall of Fame QB John Elway decided to part ways with John Fox after the Broncos lost in the AFC Championship game. Enter Gary Kubiak, a former Bronco quarterback coach and the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator last season. Kubiak inherits what may be the most explosive offense in the NFL with 18-year veteran Peyton Manning at quarterback and Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryious Thomas at wide receivers. A running game that features Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, and C.J. Anderson makes the Denver offense even harder to defend. Add to that a defense led by DE DeMarcus Ware and LB Von Miller and a fifth straight division title is in the cards.
Yes, the Seattle Seahawks will play in another Super Bowl. After last year’s loss to the Patriots, head coach Pete Carroll’s squad will be looking for revenge. The team went out in the offseason and acquired arguably the league’s best tight end in Jimmy Graham. The former Saints TE offers Seattle another dimension in the passing game, one that would have surely helped on that fateful play at the goal line in last year’s Super Bowl. If you’re a Seahawks fan, reserve your Super Bowl tickets early. They are going back.
The ‘Skins will finish last in the NFC East. Head coach Jay Gruden will battle with quarterback problems all season. He recently named Kirk Cousins the starter over former first round draft choice Robert Griffin III. Colt McCoy was also in the mix and even started a few games last year. When Gruden and Washington can’t put it together, it will lead them right to the basement of the division.
The lowly Jags are doing their best to get better, but they will not win a game until at least Week 5. The season starts with NFC South contender Carolina. After a home game with the Miami Dolphins, there are road trips to New England and Indianapolis. Head coach Gus Bradley and his squad travel to Tampa Bay in Week 5. If they cannot win then, their next best shot at a victory will come in Week 9 against the New York Jets.
You can bet that the Packers will not miss a beat even without star wide receiver Jordy Nelson. With Nelson out for the season with an ACL injury, reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay offense will continue to tear up opposing defenses. Wide receiver Randall Cobb and running back Eddie Lacy will pick up some of the slack. Second-year pro Davante Adams will fill Nelson’s slot. Adams caught 38 passes as a rookie last season. The Packers will still have the ability to pound the ball on the ground with fullback John Kuhn and a powerful, and unheralded, offensive line. Expect Green Bay to battle Seattle in an NFC title game rematch.
Washington, Jacksonville, Chicago, Tampa Bay
One of these four teams will have the first pick in next year’s NFL Draft by virtue of their disastrous 2015 season. The Redskins, of course, have their quarterback woes and Jacksonville will have to battle through some key injuries to not finish dead last in the league. Chicago looked awful in the preseason. New head coach John Fox will turn the franchise into a winner, but the Bears just do not have the roster currently to do so. There is some offense with often overlooked running back Matt Forte and receivers Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal. The problem for Chicago is that Jeffery, Royal, and fellow receiver Marquess Wilson are all questionable for their Week 1 game with Green Bay. Any prolonged injuries could spell disaster for Chicago. The same holds true for Tampa Bay. The Bucs will start a rookie quarterback, top pick in this year’s draft Jameis Winston. As history shows, Winston will struggle. How much may determine where Tampa Bay finishes the season.
The Indianapolis Colts will continue their domination of the AFC South Division. Since the division started, the Colts have won nine of 13 championships. Quarterback Andrew Luck, one of the game’s best young QBs, will continue to shine in an offense built around him. Indianapolis picked up veteran running back Frank Gore as well as veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson. Gore will improve the running game, which struggled last season. Johnson pairs with T.Y. Hilton to give the Colts a solid one-two punch in the receiving corps. With three consecutive 11-5 seasons under their belt, the Indianapolis Colts may eclipse that total in 2015. Even if they do not, another AFC South title is a lock.