Post-Draft NFL Power Rankings: AFC

Ndamukong Suh

Firstly, the reason this has taken so long is because the biggest format catastrophe in the history of anything happened to this post, and I had to re-copy everything to a new post. Woe is me.

Around and around the draft carousel went, as teams spent money and time attempting to draft either the player they needed or the best player available. Some teams did pretty well, others didn’t, to say the least (looking at you, Indianapolis). Now that mini-camp has started up and free agency has finished, let’s take a look at what I think the final standings for the 2015 NFL Season will look like.

AFC East

Tannehill Monday NIght

Obviously, I need to start with the AFC East, a division that has been dominated by the New England Patriots since the start of the millennium. However, 2015 provides optimism for the other three teams in the division – the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and New York Jets, even though the stats are saddening: the last time any AFC East team was in the Super Bowl was in 1993, and the Jets and Dolphins haven’t been since 1968 and 1984. Buffalo hasn’t won a playoff game since 1995 and haven’t been since 1999, and Miami has only made the playoffs once since 2000. It’s a sad state of affairs. However, as I said before, optimism reigns for this season, as all three teams made big moves in free agency, each signing a marquee player – DT Ndamukong Suh to Miami, RB LeSean McCoy to Buffalo, and CB Darrelle Revis to the Jets – each about as good as you can find at their respective positions. If the plug-and-play quarterbacks that Buffalo and New York have signed can guide the teams to consistent victories, the AFC East is bar none the most interesting division for 2015.

1. Miami Dolphins – (12-4)

Nov 2, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers during the first half at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-180266 ORIG FILE ID:  20141102_ads_su8_099.JPG

This one is admittedly a big stretch that is no doubt influenced by bias, but looking at the Dolphins’ schedule, it’s hard to imagine them starting anything but 6-0. However, I’ll be a little more sparing and give them a 5-1 mark, with their first loss coming in Week 3 against Buffalo. After an easy start, the Dolphins will likely go up to Foxboro and lose, and the only other losses I can see are at home against Dallas and at home against Baltimore, a team that has given Miami hell in recent years. The offense should be a good one this year, with additions such as Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, rookie Devante Parker and former Browns TE Jordan Cameron. Along with Ryan Tannehill, who should have a smooth year piloting Bill Lazor’s offense, and Lamar Miller, a 1,000 yard rusher, the offense should be looking to heights they haven’t been since Dan Marino retired.

As for the defense, it’s a top 10 unit, but there are obvious holes. The linebacking corps is one of them, and a question mark at cornerback is another. However, there are no qualms about the defensive line, which will undoubtedly be one of the best in football, featuring Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh along with second round draft pick Jordan Phillips.

Schedule-wise, the Dolphins start with an incredibly easy run of bottom feeders, then a slightly more treacherous run to finish. Miami plays only four playoff teams from 2014 all season, and only one on the road – New England.

Week 1 – @ Washington Redskins – Win (1-0)

Week 2 – @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (2-0)

Week 3 – Buffalo Bills – Loss (2-1)

Week 4 – New York Jets – Win (3-1)

Week 5 – Bye (3-1)

Week 6 – @ Tennessee Titans – Win (4-1)

Week 7 – Houston Texans – Win (5-1)

Week 8 – @ New England Patriots – Loss (5-2)

Week 9 – @ Buffalo Bills – Win (6-2)

Week 10 – @ Philadelphia Eagles – Win (7-2)

Week 11 – Dallas Cowboys – Loss (7-3)

Week 12 – @ New York Jets – Win (8-3)

Week 13 – Baltimore Ravens – Loss (8-4)

Week 14 – New York Giants – Win (9-4)

Week 15 – @ San Diego Chargers – Win (10-4)

Week 16 – Indianapolis Colts – Win (11-4)

Week 17 – New England Patriots – Win (12-4)

2. New England Patriots – (11-5)

Brady

For the New England Patriots, it’s been an interesting off-season, to say the least. Key departures and the Deflategate saga have taken the attention away from an otherwise standard process for the Patriots: cut the players who won’t help you, sign players that will. One player that will definitely help the Pats is Texas DE Malcolm Brown, a fabulous talent that slid all the way down to the 32nd pick, where the Patriots nabbed him. New England should continue their winning, but this time, it’ll be a little harder: the entire division is competitive, Tom Brady is getting old (and possibly suspended to start the year), and the team’s star defensive backs (along with their starting running back) are now gone. However, an easy schedule should help the Patriots slide into the playoffs at least one more time before Brady decides to hang it up.

As for the offense, it’ll be one name and one name only: Tom Brady. At least, after his imminent 4-6 game suspension, that is. Before that, it’ll be Jimmy Garoppolo, their second-year quarterback. The offensive line will be pretty good, and they’ll still have Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, but the running game is definitely a big question mark. Without the running game, the Patriots’ famed play-action pass game will fall flat, and this is typically what makes them lose games. Time will tell if this will truly become an issue, or if New England will keep on rolling.

The defense is more of a worry for New England fans, however, it’s not a big one. The notable big loss is shutdown CB Darrelle Revis, who signed with division rival New York. Up front, the loss of Vince Wilfork is crippling, possibly even more so than Revis, and even though Malcolm Brown will fill in admirably, it’s impossible to replace the massive Wilfork at nose tackle.

As for the schedule, one shocking wrinkle remains: this season, my prediction is that the Patriots will be swept by a divisional opponent for the first time since 2000: the Buffalo Bills. The Bills, this year, have a quarterback who was in the organization, a defensive-minded coach who now has Buffalo’s outstanding front four (something that gives the Patriots trouble, e.g. Super Bowls 42 and 46) to play with (and has experience playing the Patriots twice every year), and the versatile LeSean McCoy.

Week 1 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (0-1)

Week 2 – @ Buffalo Bills – Loss (0-2)

Week 3 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (1-2)

Week 4 – Bye (1-2)

Week 5 – @ Dallas Cowboys – Win (2-2)

Week 6 – @ Indianapolis Colts – Win (3-2)

Week 7 – New York Jets – Win (4-2)

Week 8 – Miami Dolphins – Win (5-2)

Week 9 – Washington Redskins – Win (6-2)

Week 10 – @ New York Giants – Win (7-2)

Week 11 – Buffalo Bills – Loss (7-3)

Week 12 – @ Denver Broncos – Win (8-3)

Week 13 – Philadelphia Eagles – Loss (8-4)

Week 14 – @ Houston Texans – Win (9-4)

Week 15 – Tennessee Titans – Win (10-4)

Week 16 – @ New York Jets – Win (11-4)

Week 17 – @ Miami Dolphins – Loss (11-5)

3. Buffalo Bills – (10-6)

EJ Manuel

The Buffalo Bills are right on the cusp of the playoffs, and if things swing their way, the AFC East might send three teams the playoffs. One crucial factor remains between the Bills and the post-season – their frighteningly awful quarterback situation. The four quarterbacks on their roster include Matt Cassel, E.J. Manuel, Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel.

That’s about as bad as it gets.

However, almost every other position on the team is addressed: the team has a good offensive line, pretty good receivers, and one of the most dominating defenses in the league, one that will soon be orchestrated by defensive mastermind Rex Ryan. It’s not so much of a stretch to thing that Buffalo might finish with the top defense in the league.

On offense, the quarterbacks make it difficult. The running game, a unit starring Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, also doesn’t help matters much, as LeSean McCoy will have to do it all on his own. A mediocre running game (outside of McCoy) and an even worse play-action attack make it difficult for their passers – the awkwardly terrible Matt Cassel and the oblivious E.J. Manuel, presumably the two starters, barring injury. Sammy Watkins is a big plus on offense, but it quickly goes sour when you realize Buffalo could have had a much more profitable receiver from the 2014 draft – Odell Beckham Jr. Percy Harvin and Charles Clay will also help the offense run.

Defensively, the Bills have about as good as it gets. Free agency has treated this unit well, and the Bills will likely dominate defensively. Talent and coaching will be the pillars for this unit, as one of the fiercest of last year will become even better this year, assuming there aren’t any devastating injuries to their front line. Otherwise, they’re a clean-cut favorite to become a Top 5 unit next year, maybe even the best.

Much like the other AFC East teams, the Bills have a primarily easy schedule, facing the laughable AFC South and the one-team wonder NFC East. Divisional play, however, will be tough. The Dolphins and Patriots are both forces this year, and the Jets will likely play above their record – a team that knows Rex Ryan’s tendencies.

Week 1 – Indianapolis Colts – Loss (0-1)

Week 2 – New England Patriots – Win (1-1)

Week 3 – @ Miami Dolphins – Win (2-1)

Week 4 – New York Giants – Win (3-1)

Week 5 – @ Tennessee Titans – Win (4-1)

Week 6 – Cincinnati Bengals – Loss (4-2)

Week 7 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (5-2)

Week 8 – Bye (5-2)

Week 9 – Miami Dolphins – Loss (5-3)

Week 10 – @ New York Jets – Loss (5-4)

Week 11 – @ New England Patriots – Win (6-4)

Week 12 – @ Kansas City Chiefs – Loss (6-5)

Week 13 – Houston Texans – Win (7-5)

Week 14 – @ Philadelphia Eagles – Win (8-5)

Week 15 – @ Washington Redskins – Win (9-5)

Week 16 – Dallas Cowboys – Loss (9-6)

Week 17 – New York Jets – Win (10-6)

4. New York Jets – (6-10)

10/20/13 - New England Patriots vs. New York Jets: Jets quarterback #7 Geno Smith jumps to recover his fumble during the second quarter.

For the Jets, last season was difficult. Their passing offense was one of the worst in the league as quarterback Geno Smith isn’t developing the way he should, Percy Harvin failed to make an impact, and New York mailed it in to finish 4-12 after a bitter season. This year, the Jets have added many pieces that will help them improve, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and USC star DT Leonard Williams, who slid to them at the 6th overall pick in the draft.

Offensively is where the Jets struggle and have struggled in recent times, dating back to Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble days. Geno Smith, a second-round quarterback drafted in 2013, hasn’t panned out the way the Jets thought he would, and even though he had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 during a game against the Dolphins last year, it couldn’t hide Smith’s glaring weakness: turnovers. Smith turned the ball over 21 times in 2014, as opposed to his teammates’ 3. A small offensive overhaul was in order, something the Jets accomplished by signing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Brandon Marshall, and former Rams running back Zac Stacy was traded for a few draft picks. These are serviceable players, some that will greatly help out an offense that ranked last in passing, 28th in points scored and 24th in yards.

Defensively, the Jets are tough, with players like Sheldon Richarson and Muhammad Wilkerson up front. Although the selection of Leonard Williams was good and will fortify the front, some questioned whether or not it was worth it, since the Jets had other needs and were sturdy on their defensive line. However, if Williams pans out the way everyone thought he would, New York will have a brittle defensive line, much like their division rivals. The main issue with Gang Green’s defense, though, is definitely the defensive backfield: they ranked 30th in passing touchdowns allowed and 30th in interceptions with just 6.

Schedule-wise, the Jets are stuck in a buzzsaw of a division, and although they play the walkovers from every division, I don’t think it’ll be enough to save them. In other news, the Jets play the Giants, meaning it’ll be the battle of the Meadowlands once again.

Week 1 – Cleveland Browns – Win (1-0)

Week 2 – @ Indianapolis Colts – Loss (1-1)

Week 3 – Philadelphia Eagles – Loss (1-2)

Week 4 – @ Miami Dolphins – Loss (1-3)

Week 5 – Bye (1-3)

Week 6 – Washington Redskins – Win (2-3)

Week 7 – @ New England Patriots – Loss (2-4)

Week 8 – @ Oakland Raiders – Loss (2-5)

Week 9 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (3-5)

Week 10 – Buffalo Bills – Win (4-5)

Week 11 – @ Houston Texans – Win (5-5)

Week 12 – Miami Dolphins – Loss (5-6)

Week 13 – @ New York Giants – Loss (5-7)

Week 14 – Tennessee Titans – Win (6-7)

Week 15 – @ Dallas Cowboys – Loss (6-8)

Week 16 – New England Patriots – Loss (6-9)

Week 17 – @ Buffalo Bills – Loss (6-10)

AFC West

Chargers Chiefs

The AFC West is pretty well known for producing three pretty good teams – Denver, Kansas City and San Diego – and then one terrible team that loses at least 10 games every year – Oakland. The AFC West will fall a little this year, as coaching changes and age are catching up to the three good teams, while youth and a coach who finally knows what he’s doing have arrived to the terrible team that won’t lose 10 games this year.

1. Kansas City Chiefs – (10-6)

Alex Smith

The Chiefs are a confusing team to rank – it seemed they were still recovering from 2013’s playoff meltdown against Indianapolis all of last year. Their receivers didn’t catch a single touchdown, Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles had down seasons – but you’d look up at the scoreboard and notice that the Chiefs were beating you 34-14. Kansas City found ways to win games pretty handily without looking that good, and they still had a winning record, but didn’t make the playoffs.

Offensively, the Chiefs are same-same, with Alex Smith playing well, and Jamaal Charles being Jamaal Charles. The big addition to the offense is former Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin. Despite the fact that he might not catch a touchdown, Maclin will open up an offense that had a few dry spells during 2014.

On defense, the Chiefs are very good, especially Justin Houston, whose contract has yet to be decided. Houston is probably the best pass-rushing linebacker in the league, and he fits well in the Chiefs’ scheme.

In terms of schedule, the Chiefs will start slow but right the ship in time to win the division. Three of their final four games are played at home, which may help if the Chiefs need to squeeze out wins that late to win the AFC West.

Week 1 – @ Houston Texans – Win (1-0)

Week 2 – Denver Broncos – Loss (1-1)

Week 3 – @ Green Bay Packers – Loss (1-2)

Week 4 – @ Cincinnati Bengals – Loss (1-3)

Week 5 – Chicago Bears – Win (2-3)

Week 6 – @ Minnesota Vikings – Win (3-3)

Week 7 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Win (4-3)

Week 8 – Detroit Lions – Win (5-3)

Week 9 – Bye (5-3)

Week 10 – @ Denver Broncos – Loss (5-4)

Week 11 – @ San Diego Chargers – Win (6-4)

Week 12 – Buffalo Bills – Win (7-4)

Week 13 – @ Oakland Raiders – Loss (7-5)

Week 14 – San Diego Chargers – Win (8-5)

Week 15 – @ Baltimore Ravens – Loss (8-6)

Week 16 – Cleveland Browns – Win (9-6)

Week 17 – Oakland Raiders – Win (10-6)

2. Denver Broncos – (9-7)

Gary Kubiak

There might be trouble brewing in the Mile High City. John Fox, the Broncos’ head coach, just left to go coach the Chicago Bears, and Gary Kubiak has stepped in to replace him. Kubiak is a coach that I’d be afraid of if he coached my football team – I have about as much confidence in him as I do in Gus Bradley. Despite two division titles with the Texans, people forget that Kubiak coached 7 3/4 seasons with Houston – the two division title seasons coming as his only winning seasons aside from 2006.

On the offensive side of the ball, Denver has been supremely downgraded since their 2013 juggernaut – 1,000 yard rusher Knowshon Moreno went to Miami, got injured and hasn’t been resigned, and TE Julius Thomas is now a Jaguar. Their group of receivers now lacks Wes Welker as well. Then, of course, there is the ever-present force that is Peyton Manning, an ever-present force that is now 39 years old. Although a 400+ point scoring offense is always possible with Manning, and even more so with former offensive coordinator Kubiak, there are reasonable doubts about Denver’s offense that will have to be disproved throughout pre and early regular season.

Defensively, it’s been a question mark for years. Although the defensive line might not be so great, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Brandon Marshall and rookie Shane Ray make up a consistently dominating linebacking corps. Otherwise, there isn’t much to talk about on the defensive side.

Schedule-wise, Denver will have a tough 1st place divisional winner schedule – something that might cost them the former in 2015. Denver plays 5 of its first 8 games on the road, in places like Lucas Oil Stadium, Arrowhead Stadium, Ford Field and an increasingly rabid O.co “Black Hole” Coliseum.

Week 1 – Baltimore Ravens – Loss (0-1)

Week 2 – @ Kansas City Chiefs – Win (1-1)

Week 3 – @ Detroit Lions – Win (2-1)

Week 4 – Minnesota Vikings – Loss (2-2)

Week 5 – @ Oakland Raiders – Win (3-2)

Week 6 – @ Cleveland Browns – Win (4-2)

Week 7 – Bye

Week 8 – Green Bay Packers – Loss (4-3)

Week 9 – @ Indianapolis Colts – Loss (4-4)

Week 10 – Kansas City Chiefs – Win (5-4)

Week 11 – @ Chicago Bears – Win (6-4)

Week 12 – New England Patriots – Loss (6-5)

Week 13 – @ San Diego Chargers – Win (7-5)

Week 14 – Oakland Raiders – Win (8-5)

Week 15 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (8-6)

Week 16 – Cincinnati Bengals – Loss (8-7)

Week 17 – San Diego Chargers – Win (9-7)

3. Oakland Raiders – (7-9)

Derek Carr

This is certainly a tough call, placing Oakland above perennially-winning San Diego, but Oakland (to me, anyways) seems like a team with promise. After several head-shakingly unfortunate seasons involving the incompetence of HC Dennis Allen and several bad drafts by GM Reggie McKenzie, Oakland hit it big with their first two picks: LB Khalil Mack, and QB Derek Carr, two of the finest rookies in the league last year. Mack, if he continues to progress the way the Raiders want him to, seems like a Harry Carson-type talent, and while Derek Carr might not turn out to be a Hall of Famer, he could see some Pro Bowls in his future if he grows similarly. However, we can’t ignore the fact that this is a team that started 0-10, ranked last in rushing yards, gave up 28.2 points per game and averaged just 1.21 points per offensive drive. They also lost 52-0 to the Rams.

Obviously, there’s some work to do.

Going from 3-13 to 7-9 seems tough, but it seems not-so-impossible when you say “a four game improvement”. Teams rebound all the time from awful seasons; just look at Houston, winning 7 more games than they did in 2013. The ’96-’97 Falcons improved from 3-13 to 7-9, and two teams have gone from the top 2 draft picks (’98 Colts, ’07 Dolphins) to winning their division the following year.

On offense, Derek Carr will undoubtedly be the catalyst. The second-round pick became the first rookie quarterback to throw for over 20 touchdowns since Cam Newton, combined with only 12 interceptions, the same number as Ryan Tannehill and less than a considerable amount of others. He is armed with two exciting talents at wide receiver: rookie Amari Cooper, and former 49er Michael Crabtree, who, if he shuts up and plays well, will certainly help the Raiders for at least 1 year, probably more.

Defensively, there’s little to gush about, aside from the play of LB Khalil Mack, a great pick from the 2014 draft that will most likely take strides in 2015. Mack ranked second on the team in sacks and was the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Otherwise, it’s bleak. The unit ranked last in points, as well as ranking third-worst in turnovers forced and fumbles recovered. Oakland’s defense will likely be the reason for losses in 2015, although defensive-minded coach Jack Del Rio will help them escape another disaster.

Scheduling, the Raiders got screwed, playing just 5 teams with losing records in 2014 all season despite their last-place finish in the AFC West. Fortunately, however, Oakland plays almost all of these winning teams at home and most of the crappy ones and 9-7-ish teams on the road.

Week 1 – Cincinnati Bengals – Loss (0-1)

Week 2 – Baltimore Ravens – Loss (0-2)

Week 3 – @ Cleveland Browns – Win (1-2)

Week 4 – @ Chicago Bears – Win (2-2)

Week 5 – Denver Broncos – Loss (2-3)

Week 6 – Bye

Week 7 – @ San Diego Chargers – Loss (2-4)

Week 8 – New York Jets – Win (3-4)

Week 9 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (3-5)

Week 10 – Minnesota Vikings – Win (4-5)

Week 11 – @ Detroit Lions – Loss (4-6)

Week 12 – @ Tennessee Titans – Win (5-6)

Week 13 – Kansas City Chiefs – Win (6-6)

Week 14 – @ Denver Broncos – Loss (6-7)

Week 15 – Green Bay Packers – Loss (6-8)

Week 16 – San Diego Chargers – Win (7-8)

Week 17 – @ Kansas City Chiefs – Loss (7-9)

4. San Diego Chargers – (5-11)

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, right, fumbles the ball as Kansas City Chiefs safety Jon McGraw stops him during the second quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A confusing entry indeed.

San Diego hasn’t finished 4th in the division since 2003, and haven’t had less than 7 wins since that same year – just two years after the Seattle Seahawks were removed from the division. San Diego has had two straight winning seasons as well, and have a good foundation – so why in the hell have I placed them below the lowly Raiders, a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2002? Simply put, the Chargers are mediocre. They’re uninspiring on defense and are a one-man show on offense. Their 9-7 record might not say so, but the stats do: in 2013, the Chargers won their games by an average of 3 points. In 2014, they had a point differential of 0, with their Pythagorean estimated wins stacked at a perfect 8.0-8.0, and although 9-7 two seasons in a row might seem pretty good, 18 wins out of 32 doesn’t have that same shine to it. San Diego, although it might not seem that way to others, seems like a team in decline. They went 2-4 in divisional play in 2014, beating the Raiders twice. They also had only one Pro Bowler – safety Eric Weddle. They went 4-6 down the stretch, and missed the playoffs after starting 5-1. The Chargers had only 5 draft picks, picks they didn’t use incredibly wisely – Melvin Gordon went too high (in my opinion), and Denzel Perryman is the best player they drafted. Finally, rumors of Phillip Rivers being traded haunted the organization for around 2 months, all the way through the draft – leading many to believe that Rivers and the Chargers’ front office have mutually lost confidence in each other.

On offense, the Chargers are usually pretty good. Phillip Rivers is a very good quarterback, a very good one who eventually wore down due to lack of support in the running game and offensive line. Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd anchor the receivers, but the offensive line is still bad. Although Melvin Gordon will be a good running back, the Chargers could have certainly grabbed a bigger need with their first round pick, a valuable commodity to a team with only five.

On defense, the Chargers give up about as many points as they score (literally). The defensive secondary is undoubtedly the strong suit, with safety Eric Weddle, Jason Verett and Brandon Flowers nailing down that area. The linebackers are unspectacular, and the defensive line was a big reason for the Chargers’ 5-1 -> 9-7 slide, but we know San Diego will be tough against the pass. Scheduling, the Chargers have to play tougher AFC West teams as well as the powerful NFC and AFC Norths. San Diego will need quite a few exceptional performances to beat teams that are, frankly, better than them.

Week 1 – Detroit Lions – Loss (0-1)

Week 2 – @ Cincinnati Bengals – Loss (0-2)

Week 3 – @ Minnesota Vikings – Loss (0-3)

Week 4 – Cleveland Browns – Win (1-3)

Week 5 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (1-4)

Week 6 – @ Green Bay Packers – Loss (1-5)

Week 7 – Oakland Raiders – Win (2-5)

Week 8 – @ Baltimore Ravens – Loss (2-6)

Week 9 – Chicago Bears – Win (3-6)

Week 10 – Bye

Week 11 – Kansas City Chiefs – Loss (3-7)

Week 12 – @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (4-7)

Week 13 – Denver Broncos – Loss (4-8)

Week 14 – @ Kansas City Chiefs – Loss (4-9)

Week 15 – Miami Dolphins – Loss (4-10)

Week 16 – @ Oakland Raiders – Win (5-10)

Week 17 – @ Denver Broncos – Loss (5-11)

AFC North

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 6:  Brian Hoyer #6 of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass during the second quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 6, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

The AFC North is like the NFC East in the sense that every divisional match-up between any of the four teams is an intense rivalry game. You have the Battle of Ohio, the brutal Steelers-Ravens confrontations, and a three-way heat between three teams that have been duking it out since 1970: Cincinnati, Cleveland (or, at least, their second rendition), and Pittsburgh. The AFC North is also famous for being notoriously difficult to gauge before the season begins, but let me try my best.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Ben Roethlisberger

A toss-up between Pittsburgh and divisional rival Baltimore tops off the AFC North list, as the race will likely be between the two at season’s end, and could even be decided by strength of schedule or divisional record. Both teams have the coaches, both teams have the tools, and both teams have the quarterbacks, no matter how stupid (Roethlisberger) or boring (Flacco) they are.

Pittsburgh’s offense, once it got into high-gear around mid-season, brushed the ceiling of 2007 Patriots levels of dominance. Ben Roethlisberger’s 12 touchdowns over two games against Indianapolis and Baltimore set a new record – one that had been set way back in the AFL by Tom Flores (later a head coach for Los Angeles and Seattle). Roethlisberger, a veteran quarterback, has all he needs in his offense in two players: WR Antonio Brown, and RB Le’Veon Bell. The latter, however, has run into troubles with marijuana and will have to face some disciplinary actions. The offense will also likely feature rookie WR Sammie Coates from Auburn, or as he’s better known, the “Kick-Six Guy”.

Defensively, the Steelers struggled mightily last season, ranking 23rd in turnovers, 27th in passing yards allowed, 28th in passing touchdowns allowed, 25th in defensive interceptions, 29th in net yards gained per pass attempt, and 25th in yards given up per rush.

That’s crap.

It’s even worse when you consider that three of Pittsburgh’s already ineffective defensive backs have disappeared: Safety Troy Polamalu retired, as did CB Ike Taylor, and CB Brice McCain is now in Miami. This leaves the secondary in tatters, and without an impact player, the great quarterbacks Pittsburgh will have to play (Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco twice, Peyton Manning) will abuse it. The Steelers drafted LB Bud Dupree out of Kentucky, a good linebacker who is designated to start pretty early on. While this won’t transform Pittsburgh’s D into the Steel Curtain they had in the 70’s, it’ll help in the run department, an area where they were already strong in terms of yardage.

Scheduling, the Steelers got backhanded in the sense that just about every quarterback they play is a Pro Bowler. The lineup is as follows: Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick (?), Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Derek Carr (I guess), Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton again, Peyton Manning, and Joe Flacco again. That’s a brutal stretch. This includes five out of seven road games to start the year.

Week 1 – @ New England Patriots – Win (1-0)

Week 2 – San Francisco 49ers – Win (2-0)

Week 3 – @ St. Louis Rams – Win (3-0)

Week 4 – Baltimore Ravens – Win (4-0)

Week 5 – @ San Diego Chargers – Win (5-0)

Week 6 – Arizona Cardinals – Loss (5-1)

Week 7 – @ Kansas City Chiefs – Loss (5-2)

Week 8 – Cincinnati Bengals – Win (6-2)

Week 9 – Oakland Raiders – Win (7-2)

Week 10 – Cleveland Browns – Win (8-2)

Week 11 – Bye

Week 12 – @ Seattle Seahawks – Loss (8-3)

Week 13 – Indianapolis Colts – Win (9-3)

Week 14 – @ Cincinnati Bengals – Win (10-3)

Week 15 – Denver Broncos – Win (11-3)

Week 16 – @ Baltimore Ravens – Loss (11-4)

Week 17 – @ Cleveland Browns – Win (12-4)

2. Baltimore Ravens (12-4) (Interchangeable with Pittsburgh)

Justin Forsett

This is how the division usually ends: Pittsburgh and Baltimore on top, with Cincinnati pretending they can be good until they get into the playoffs and trip over their faces, and Cleveland doing…whatever it is they do. Baltimore was as tough as ever last year, landing Steve Smith and saw it instantly pay dividends. John Harbaugh has done an excellent job maintaining success, and at some points of last year, the team played about as well as the team’s 2012 Super Bowl team.

On offense, the stupendously dull (but extremely talented) Joe Flacco is still calling the shots. Ray Rice is probably headed elsewhere, most likely Dallas, but Justin Forsett stepped in and performed very well during Rice’s suspension. Steve Smith probably still has a good year left in him, and Ozzie Newsome did a good job retooling the offense through the draft, taking WR Breshad Perriman (son of Brett) and swiping Minnesota’s outstanding TE Maxx Williams after he slipped to the second round.

Defensively, the Ravens are the best in the division, and one of the best in the league on their best days. C.J. Mosely, Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs anchor a strong linebacking corps, but a weak secondary is Baltimore’s achilles heel on their defensive unit.

On their schedule, there isn’t much of note. The AFC North now plays the NFC West, which is a break now that the Rams are still the Rams and the 49ers have been decimated throughout the offseason. Curiously, Baltimore plays Miami for the third year in a row.

Week 1 – @ Denver Broncos – Win (1-0)

Week 2 – @ Oakland Raiders – Win (2-0)

Week 3 – Cincinnati Bengals – Win (3-0)

Week 4 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (3-1)

Week 5 – Cleveland Browns – Win (4-1)

Week 6 – @ San Francisco 49ers – Win (5-1)

Week 7 – @ Arizona Cardinals – Win (6-1)

Week 8 – San Diego Chargers – Win (7-1)

Week 9 – Bye

Week 10 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (8-1)

Week 11 – St. Louis Rams – Loss (8-2)

Week 12 – @ Cleveland Browns – Win (9-2)

Week 13 – @ Miami Dolphins – Win (10-2)

Week 14 – Seattle Seahawks – Loss (10-3)

Week 15 – Kansas City Chiefs – Loss (10-4)

Week 16 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Win (11-4)

Week 17 – @ Cincinnati Bengals – Win (12-4)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)

Bengals Fans

This might be the season where the Bengals finally run out of gas, and don’t get the opportunity to rip the hearts out of their fans by losing to a beatable team in the playoffs. Andy Dalton is running the patience of pretty much everyone in the organization, and many think his time is close to done – similar to HC Marvin Lewis.

Other than that, it’s a dandy time in Cincinnati. The team is always good and always in contention for a division title, but usually don’t own the title by season’s end – they’re stuck in a division with the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots of the NFL, the Steelers and Ravens.

The team that hasn’t won a playoff game since January 6th, 1991 against a team that doesn’t even exist anymore has the main reason for their woes taking snaps on offense – QB Andy Dalton. While Dalton has made Pro Bowls in 2012 and 2014, has thrown 33 more touchdowns than interceptions, and owns a 40-23-1 starting record, the most telling stats are in the playoffs. In 4 playoff games, Dalton has completed 55.7% of his passes for 873 yards, a single touchdown, 6 interceptions and 12 sacks through four brutal playoff losses. Dalton has the tools: WR A.J. Green, for example. This has got to be the year where the offense really clicks, Dalton proves himself, and the team excels. The team spent draft picks on rebuilding the offensive line.

Defensively, the Bengals have been unspectacular for a long time. While they consistently do enough to win, they’re not a great or even particularly good unit. They’re average, but they can win, and that’s always enough for Marvin Lewis and company.

Schedule-wise, Cincinnati runs into some tough road games, some teams on the rise, and some pretty darn good defenses, particularly those of Buffalo and Seattle.

Week 1 – @ Oakland Raiders – Win (1-0)

Week 2 – San Diego Chargers – Win (2-0)

Week 3 – @ Baltimore Ravens – Loss (2-1)

Week 4 – Kansas City Chiefs – Win (3-1)

Week 5 – Seattle Seahawks – Loss (3-2)

Week 6 – @ Buffalo Bills – Win (4-2)

Week 7 – Bye

Week 8 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (4-3)

Week 9 – Cleveland Browns – Win (5-3)

Week 10 – Houston Texans – Loss (5-4)

Week 11 – @ Arizona Cardinals – Loss (5-5)

Week 12 – St. Louis Rams – Win (6-5)

Week 13 – @ Cleveland Browns – Win (7-5)

Week 14 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (7-6)

Week 15 – @ San Francisco 49ers – Win (8-6)

Week 16 – @ Denver Broncos – Win (9-6)

Week 17 – Baltimore Ravens – Loss (9-7)

4. Cleveland Browns (1-15)

New Browns Uniforms

A tidal wave of ineptitude is headed for Browns fans, and it’s been building over the off-season. From the endless ragging on the new logo, to the high school uniforms, to the departure of Brian Hoyer, to the suspension of Josh Gordon, the rehab of Johnny Manziel and a poor draft have haunted the Browns throughout the year, and the season is about to bear the brunt of it. While it’s hard to predict the worst team in the league, there are usually signs early on. There hasn’t been a 1-15 team since 2009, but this team certainly has the capability. The Browns lost their last 5 games in a row after a 7-4 start, and it reminded me of another historically awful team: the 2008 Detroit Lions. Their 2007 team started 6-2 before losing six in a row and finishing 7-9. Same record, same brand of losing. Since 1978 (the introduction of the 16 game schedule), a handful of teams have gone 1-15. They are (in chronological order):

1980 – New Orleans Saints

Why: The team ranked last or 27th in ten out of fourteen defensive categories, giving up over 3,000 rushing yards and scoring just 18.2 points per game. The team also ranked last in rushing offense.

1989 – Dallas Cowboys

Why: A rookie head coach, two rookie quarterbacks and an aging defense doomed Dallas to a last-place finish and a last-place offense. The team ranked last in turnovers, with a -25 differential.

1990 – New England Patriots

Why: Three awful quarterbacks, a fossil of a coach, a poor offensive line, the NFL’s worst rushing defense and some of the worst fan support in NFL history were the linchpins for New England’s 1-15 crumble after starting 1-1. New England played 11 games in which they never held a lead, and their -265 point differential is still the third worst in NFL history.

1991 – Indianapolis Colts

Why: Second-year quarterback Jeff George ranked last in yards-per-completion and took 56 sacks. The running game was stagnant, the team had the worst second-half defense in the league, and Indy set the record for fewest points scored in a season with 143. The team was the worst against the run and gave up the most yards in the league. Their projected W-L projection sits at 1.4-14.6.

1996 – New York Jets 

Why: HC Rich Kotite’s second year in New York is still the worst in franchise history; it was so bad, the players were laughing at themselves in film sessions by the end of the year. Three ineffective quarterbacks (including one high-priced free agent bust), a turnover differential of -20 and the worst defense in Jets history initiated a season-long stream of boos from the New Jersey Meadowlands. In three late-season contests, New York was outscored 104-30. It took a 199 yard rushing day from Adrian Murrell to pull the team over the Cardinals.

2000 – San Diego Chargers

Why: The NFL’s worst defense and the worst rushing attack in NFL history put the burden on the worst quarterback in NFL history – Ryan Leaf – to try and win games. They did so only once, a 17-16 squeaker over Kansas City. Their turnover differential was -28.

2001 – Carolina Panthers

Why: A rookie quarterback forced into 15 starts and a sluggish defense saw Carolina lose 15 straight after an explosive opening day debut over Minnesota – their only triumph of the season. Even more stunning is the fact that this happened under George Seifert, the coach behind San Francisco’s exceptional 1989-1996 teams. 

2007 – Miami Dolphins

Why: HC Cam Cameron’s only season (thankfully) coaching a team didn’t go well. The team was unmotivated and not together, turning the ball over and dragging through an 0-13 start. Their only win was in overtime against the Ravens. Miami averaged just over 16 points per game.

2009 – St. Louis Rams

Why: St. Louis ranked 31st in offense and last in defense, with their only win coming over pathetic Detroit. The team passed 20 points only once, and the Rams still haven’t had a winning season since then.

There we have it. I feel like Cleveland is going to join this crew – or, at the very least, the Top 5 in the 2016 NFL Draft.

On offense, it’s bleak. Brian Hoyer, the only serviceable quarterback, is now a Houston Texan. HC Mike Pettine now has to turn to Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown, two quarterbacks who, quite frankly, can’t really play, at least from what we’ve seen from Manziel. The Browns’ top rusher, Terrance West, had just 673 yards. To make matters worse, Cleveland’s top receiving weapon, Josh Gordon, has been suspended for substance abuse, and Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe are being asked to fill in. We’re looking at a sub-200 point unit here. Be prepared to break out the paper bags.

Defensively, the NFL’s worst against the run is going to have to play some serious shutdown defense in order to pull their team to at the most a few wins. Last year, the defense did just that, propelling Cleveland through a few gritty wins, mainly via the play of the secondary on a few occasions.

In terms of schedule, it’s hard to find a team that the Browns can beat, but thank god for the Titans.

Week 1 – @ New York Jets – Loss (0-1)

Week 2 – Tennessee Titans – Win (1-1)

Week 3 – Oakland Raiders – Loss (1-2)

Week 4 – @ San Diego Chargers – Loss (1-3)

Week 5 – @ Baltimore Ravens – Loss (1-4)

Week 6 – Denver Broncos – Loss (1-5)

Week 7 – @ St. Louis Rams – Loss (1-6)

Week 8 – Arizona Cardinals – Loss (1-7)

Week 9 – @ Cincinnati Bengals – Loss (1-8)

Week 10 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (1-9)

Week 11 – Bye

Week 12 – Baltimore Ravens – Loss (1-10)

Week 13 – Cincinnati Bengals – Loss (1-11)

Week 14 – San Francisco 49ers – Loss (1-12)

Week 15 – @ Seattle Seahawks – Loss (1-13)

Week 16 – @ Kansas City Chiefs – Loss (1-14)

Week 17 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (1-15)

AFC South 

Bortles

What can be said about the AFC South?

Well, let me make a haiku.

One team is awesome

Three teams are just plain awful

The Colts always win.

There you have it. The Colts are 33-15 post-2011. The Texans are 23-25, the Titans are 15-33 and the Jaguars are 9-39

Holy paper bags, Batman!

Okay, maybe I’m overdoing it a bit. The Texans’ record is skewed due to a fluke 2-14 season in 2013, mainly due to Matt Schaub –

*Unanimous sitcom boos*

Quiet down, live studio audience. Before that, the Texans had gone 22-10 and won two playoff games. In 2013, they were poised to rise higher, but it didn’t happen that way. Bill O’Brien, the new coach for 2014, has righted the ship, but the same can’t be said for the Jags and Flaming Thumbtacks.

1. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

TY Hilton

The Colts, after their ugly 2011 season, have risen back up to the top of the AFC South. Of course, that’s about as prestigious as being the principal of a home school, but I digress. After Andrew Luck’s emergence in 2012, he’s only gotten better through the years, and he’s my favorite to be the first to break the 6,000 yard passing mark. The question is: will it be this year?

The Colts have really upped the ante in terms of offense – but not in the area they needed most. Despite taking only 27 sacks, Luck saved his offensive line on paper by getting the ball out of his hand quickly. I would go so far as to say he was knocked down at least once every three throws. Other than this, the Colts went out and got San Francisco RB Frank Gore, who, despite his age, can really be an improvement, at the very least over the appalling Trent Richardson. Andre Johnson got bored of Houston, and decided to travel north, where he has reportedly found interest in the game once again, which is good for Andrew Luck himself and WR T.Y. Hilton – it takes away the double teams that crippled the Colts all season long. The running game was stagnant in 2014, and the pressure is on Frank Gore to improve a unit that ranked 22nd in yards, 24th in touchdowns and 25th in yards-per-carry.

Defensively, the Colts were…poor. Indy gave up 23.1 points per game, ranked 21st in defensive interceptions and 23rd in yards-per-rush. They were also mashed 87-27 in two confrontations with the Patriots, giving up a combined 423 rushing yards in those games.

In desperate need of a safety, the Colts had Alabama S Landon Collins available at pick #29. The 2015 draft featured some dumb moves: Washington took an offensive guard, raising the question as to whether or not their defense will give up over 500 points this year, the Browns made another Browns move, and then there were the Colts. Instead of addressing a need, the Colts took WR Phillip Dorsett from Miami FL. In training camp, Dorsett is supposedly fighting for the third-string spot.

Whatever for?

Last year, we saw the Colts utilize a serviceable rookie in Donte Moncrief. You have TE Coby Fleener anyways, the last thing you need on this team is more receiving depth.

Four picks later, the Giants nabbed Collins. I have a bad feeling that Indianapolis’ defense will only become worse this season, without any real improvement that could be seen through free agency, and it’s the only thing holding me back from seeing the Colts winning 12, 13 or even 14 games.

Schedule-wise, the Colts have it easy, playing six silver platter divisional games and the dreary NFC South teams.

Week 1 – @ Buffalo Bills – Win (1-0)

Week 2 – New York Jets – Win (2-0)

Week 3 – @ Tennessee Titans – Win (3-0)

Week 4 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (4-0)

Week 5 – @ Houston Texans – Loss (4-1)

Week 6 – New England Patriots – Loss (4-2)

Week 7 – New Orleans Saints – Win (5-2)

Week 8 – @ Carolina Panthers – Loss (5-3)

Week 9 – Denver Broncos – Win (6-3)

Week 10 – Bye

Week 11 – @ Atlanta Falcons – Win (7-3)

Week 12 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Win (8-3)

Week 13 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Loss (8-4)

Week 14 – @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (9-4)

Week 15 – Houston Texans – Win (10-4)

Week 16 – @ Miami Dolphins – Loss (10-5)

Week 17 – Tennessee Titans – Win (11-5)

2. Houston Texans (10-6)

Texans

Like the picture, another near miss might be in store for the Texans in 2015. The one-game difference that separates the two is unquestionably the quarterbacks. Andrew Luck does not play for Houston. Brian Hoyer, Tom Savage and Ryan Mallett play for the Texans. I’ll stop there.

On offense, as I just said, the quarterbacks are weak, as they’ve pretty much always been for the Texans. However, Houston still has the two-headed monster in their backfield of Alfred Blue and Arian Foster, as well as a re-tooled receiving corps with Cecil Shorts III and Jaelen Strong. Other than that, there’s not much to say about this one.

On defense, this is where Houston really shines. If Jadeveon Clowney gets healthy and plays like Houston wants him to, the Texan defense will be the best in the NFL, likely bar none. The defensive line now features Vince Wilfork alongside J.J. Watt, the first player since Lawrence Taylor legitimately deserving of the NFL MVP Award. The Texans also scored Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson, likely the best zone coverage corner in the draft, and LB Bernardrick McKinney will help anchor the linebackers.

On their schedule, the Texans can take the same liberties with the other two paste-eating AFC South teams that the Colts can, but in a different way: the Colts just attack them every time, while Houston just chews through the Tennessee and Jacksonville offensive lines like paper. Houston also has the NFC South to not care about. So there’s that. However, Houston is looking at a semi-collapse, going from 3-4 after a 7-2 start.

Week 1 – Kansas City Chiefs – Loss (0-1)

Week 2 – @ Carolina Panthers – Win (1-1)

Week 3 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Win (2-1)

Week 4 – @ Atlanta Falcons – Win (3-1)

Week 5 – Indianapolis Colts – Win (4-1)

Week 6 – @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (5-1)

Week 7 – @ Miami Dolphins – Loss (5-2)

Week 8 – Tennessee Titans – Win (6-2)

Week 9 – Bye

Week 10 – @ Cincinnati Bengals – Win (7-2)

Week 11 – New York Jets – Loss (7-3)

Week 12 – New Orleans Saints – Win (8-3)

Week 13 – @ Buffalo Bills – Loss (8-4)

Week 14 – New England Patriots – Loss (8-5)

Week 15 – @ Indianapolis Colts – Loss (8-6)

Week 16 – @ Tennessee Titans – Win (9-6)

Week 17 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (10-6)

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)

Bortles fumble

There’s a reason why when you search “2014 jaguars” in Google, cars come up in the images. The Jags have been one of the most badly-run franchises in the league recently, and the mood in Jacksonville has been sour to say the least. Jacksonville hasn’t had a winning season since 2007. A dingy, usually empty stadium and (arguably) the worst uniforms in the league add to the shame of possibly the ugliest team week-to-week on the field. Let’s try to be positive for a moment, shall we?

On offense, the Jaguars have hitched their wagon to Blake Bortles and can’t afford to let this blow up like recent draft picks have. Bortles’ first season was a mixed bag, as he was forced into the starting job via injury to Chad Henne and steered his team to a 31st ranked pass attack – only the Jets did worse. Free agent TE Julius Thomas will help in this department, as he did in Denver, but will have to do it without Cecil Shorts III attracting attention. However, Bortles also took 55 sacks, as the offense line did pretty much nothing right – Jacksonville ranked 21st in rushing yards and 24th in rushing touchdowns.

On defense, Jacksonville had perhaps the worst yardage defense last year – maybe that’s not fair to say, as they did rank 26th in that department, but this is a defense that forced just 20 turnovers, intercepted 6 passes in 16 games and gave up over 2,000 yards on the ground. The big addition in free agency was former Dolphin DE Jared Odrick. Through the draft, the Jags got all excited with Florida LB Dante Fowler Jr. – only to have him tear his ACL on the first practice play. Basically, they’re back to square one, maybe worse.

Week 1 – Carolina Panthers – Loss (0-1)

Week 2 – Miami Dolphins – Loss (0-2)

Week 3 – @ New England Patriots – Loss (0-3)

Week 4 – @ Indianapolis Colts – Loss (0-4)

Week 5 – @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Win (1-4)

Week 6 – Houston Texans – Loss (1-5)

Week 7 – Buffalo Bills – Loss (1-6)

Week 8 – Bye

Week 9 – @ New York Jets – Loss (1-7)

Week 10 – @ Baltimore Ravens – Loss (1-8)

Week 11 – Tennessee Titans – Win (2-8)

Week 12 – San Diego Chargers – Loss (2-9)

Week 13 – @ Tennessee Titans – Loss (2-10)

Week 14 – Indianapolis Colts – Loss (2-11)

Week 15 – Atlanta Falcons – Win (3-11)

Week 16 – @ New Orleans Saints – Loss (3-12)

Week 17 – @ Houston Texans – Loss (3-13)

4. Tennessee Titans (2-13-1)

Jake Locker 2

This is a Week 17 game from 1989 between the 3-12 Falcons and the 6-9 Lions.

Why am I showing you this?

Just take a look at the crowd. On a 17 degree day, in dumpy Fulton County Stadium, few bothered to show up to watch their 3-12 team with no running game or pass defense to speak of. The offense was guided by a rookie quarterback and scored just over 17 points per game. Only 7,792 fans showed up, still the lowest total in Atlanta Falcons history. 25,000 tickets were sold, and although Hank Stram guessed half decided to come, it was much less.

These are the crowd levels that you can expect for the Titans in 2015, as sad as that is. This is a boring, listless football team that didn’t exactly improve itself through free agency and is going to have to endure a few tough rebuilding years. Unfortunately for the few impatient Titan fans remaining, the toughest year might be this one.

The offense is going to be one of the league’s worst, unless Marcus Mariota can sprinkle his pixie dust on a unit that is busy playing checkers while the rest of the league has moved on to chess. The unit, thanks mainly in part to second-rate quarterback Jake Locker. Now that he has retired, the Titans have to rely on Oregon superstar Marcus Mariota, who put up some mind-boggling numbers running the spread. Whether or not he’ll be able to adjust to the pro game is anyone’s guess. Last year, the Titans ranked 22nd in passing offense, 29th in yards and 26th in rushing. They also ranked 30th in points scored. Ironically, their best game offensive game came with a catch – they blew a 28-3 lead at home to the Browns in Week 5. Rookie WR Dorial Green-Beckham, while exceptionally talented, has a penchant for getting into trouble, and my best advice to the Titans that doesn’t affect them in any way is to let him sit for a year and let him sort himself out.

Defensively, there’s also little to cheer about. Last year, the Titans ranked next-to-last in first downs and rushing yards allowed. They ranked 27th in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed. They forced just 4 fumbles all season.

That’s pathetic.

So what was Tennessee’s solution to defense? Well, they went out and got Brian Orakpo, who, while healthy is serviceable, but you have to remember that he played on a Washington defense that gave up 916 points in the past two seasons – the exact same amount that the Eagles have scored over that same span. The Titans also waited until the fourth round to finally select a defensive player, at pick #100. That isn’t going to bode well at all.

So, looping back to my Falcons explanation, that’s how I think the Titans season will end.

On a cold December day, in dumpy LP Field, few will bother to show up to watch their 2-11-1 team with no running game or pass defense to speak of; their offense guided by a rookie quarterback that can manage fewer than 20 points per game. Only 15,000 fans or fewer might show up, maybe the lowest total in Titans history. 20,000+ tickets will be sold, and although half that number might come, it might be much less.

As for the Tampa Bay game, I thought long and hard over who would win the battle between the stoppable force and the movable object. In my opinion, it’ll be a 5-5 tie or something. Predicting ties are impossible, so it might be more accurate to think it’ll be a 14-13 game, and it’s really a toss-up. However, we might get to see a Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota battle.

Tennessee is the only team I could find that could possibly lose to Cleveland.

Week 1 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tie or something (0-0-1)

Week 2 – @ Cleveland Browns – Loss (0-1-1)

Week 3 – Indianapolis Colts – Loss (0-2-1)

Week 4 – Bye

Week 5 – Buffalo Bills – Loss (0-3-1)

Week 6 – Miami Dolphins – Loss (0-4-1)

Week 7 – Atlanta Falcons – Loss (0-5-1)

Week 8 – @ Houston Texans – Loss (0-6-1)

Week 9 – @ New Orleans Saints – Win (1-6-1)

Week 10 – Carolina Panthers – Loss (1-7-1)

Week 11 – @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Loss (1-8-1)

Week 12 – Oakland Raiders – Loss (1-9-1)

Week 13 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Win (2-9-1)

Week 14 – @ New York Jets – Loss (2-10-1)

Week 15 – @ New England Patriots – Loss (2-11-1)

Week 16 – Houston Texans – Loss (2-12-1)

Week 17 – @ Indianapolis Colts – Loss (2-13-1)

NFC Standings coming soon.

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