|Will Russell Wilson and Tom Brady meet up again in another Super Bowl?|
I love predictions because they are useless. Yep. I'm writing this knowing it is pointless. We all can make these predictions with educated guesses ... and some picks will be spot on and some will be way off.
Knowing this, I'm making my predictions is a very unlike-me way. Instead of burying my head in stats and books and articles, I am just going to go by one main point: Starting quarterbacks.
Yes, I'm just going by the quarterback play. I know, I know, there are some great defenses and running backs and coaches and blah blah blah blah. Who cares? I mean, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, Andy Dalton ... and whoever the Cardinals QB by the end of the season ... guided their teams to the playoffs. Yeah, some good ones didn't, but it's hard to argue that you need some really good play behind center to make the postseason in this pass-heavy league.
So I will blind myself to most of the other parts of the roster and use the quarterback as my main reasoning for ranking these teams.
Yeah, you can say Eli Manning has accomplished way more than Tony Romo ever will. You can say that Eli is a better quarterback. I'll buy that. However, Romo had a great season last year while Eli had some up and down moments. Both have outstanding receivers to get the ball to. I'm just hitching to the fact that Romo will have better opportunities. Sam Bradford is now the starter in Philly and when he stays healthy, he's not too shabby. He just can never stay healthy. RG3 is getting another shot in Washington and who knows what we will get. By the way, the starting QBs in this division are two #1 overall picks and a #2 overall pick. Yet my top passer in these ranking is the guy that went undrafted.
Drew Brees is clearly on the downside of his career, but dude is still a stud. He's lost some weapons, but he knows how to play. I love Matt Ryan and his two big-time receivers ... it is just something doesn't click all the way in Atlanta. Cam Newton is a playoff veteran now and is climbing into the upper levels of NFL QBs. He just isn't there with Brees or Ryan yet. That leaves Jameis Winston, the overall #1 pick from this draft. I really like him, but a rookie taking over a bad team is always a tough deal.
This is where my philosophy could trip me up. I like the Vikings more than the Bears to make noise this season, but I think Jay Cutler is a bit better than Tedy Bridgewater right now (but maybe not for long). We'll see. Aaron Rodgers is, to me, the best in the biz right now. Matt Stafford's roller coaster career should see him have a pretty good season in 2015.
Russell Wilson is the class of this division. Carson Palmer is the cagey old vet who did a great job running Arizona's offense last season before suffering a season-ending injury. I haven't been sold on Colin Kaepernick, but he is talented. So is St. Louis' Nick Foles, who apparently wasn't good enough to stop Philly from taking on a guy that is always hurt to replace him.
Even if Tom Brady truly misses a month of the season, their QB situation is still better than anyone else in this division. I do like Ryan Tannehill in Miami and agree with the experts that he's going to take a big leap this season. Buffalo is a trendy pick and Matt Cassell isn't bad. He's not the guy you really want to lead your franchise, but he's better than E.J. Manuel and Tyrod Taylor. Oh, and better than anyone the Jets are putting out there. Geno Smith? Ryan Fitzpatrick? Doesn't matter.
Andrew Luck is so much better than anyone in the AFC South that it isn't even funny. I mean, can you even name the quarterbacks for the other three teams? Houston's QB is ... Brian Hoyer! Hoyer had his moments as the starter in Cleveland last year. Blake Bortles is entering his second season as the starter in Jacksonville and he has next to nothing to work with. Marcus Mariota is now the head man in Tennessee ... I think. He looked a bit off in his first preseason game and Zach Mettenberger could end up getting the regular season nod as the starter.
Big Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco are Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, making this the lone divisions with multiple starting QBs who won Super Bowls as starters. Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his four seasons in Cincinnati. And Cleveland? Well, Josh McCown is now their starter and not Johnny Football.
I think, as many do, that we could be seeing the end of Peyton Manning's career. He still plays at such a high level, but he really tails off as the season moves along. Philip Rivers had an MVP-type of season before his own second half troubles last season. Alex Smith is still chugging along in Kansas City. Derek Carr is still getting the nod in Oakland and he could turn into a pretty decent starter.
SUPER BOWL: PACKERS OVER STEELERS
Why? Well I think losing Brady will hurt the Pats chances at getting home field advantage for an AFC championship game. I also think the Packers are the best team in the league. I hate the Steelers defense, but this just has a feel that Big Ben and Pittsburgh buck the odds and move onto another Super Bowl.