2015 NFL season predictions

September 2nd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Tyrod Taylor might just be good enough to guide the Bills to the playoffs

NFC Seedings

#1 Seahawks
#2 Packers
#3 Eagles
#4 Falcons
#5 Cowboys
#6 Giants

AFC Seedings

#1 Colts
#2 Chargers
#3 Ravens
#4 Bills
#5 Broncos
#6 Patriots

NFC Notes

— The NFC East could be the most competitive division in football in 2015, with the exception of Washington. When you look at the respective schedules there’s no reason why the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys can’t all post 9-11 wins. Can they all make the playoffs? Possibly. I gave the Eagles the nod for the division. Chip Kelly has had two 10-6 seasons in Philly with Nick Foles and Foles/Mark Sanchez at quarterback. Sam Bradford is an upgrade, DeMarco Murray is close to being underrated (big loss for Dallas) and Nelson Agholor was an inspired first round pick. In a tough division — if Bradford stays healthy (big if) — they can win the East. Washington ends the season hoping they’ll get the #1 pick. Odell Beckham Jr. continues his rise to become one of the game’s truly elite players. Dallas misses Murray more than they imagined.

— Minnesota and Detroit are trendy picks to make the post season but I’m not sure. The Vikings welcome back Adrian Peterson and it’s a huge boost — Matt Asiata’s 570 rushing yards was a team high in 2014. Combined with another year of experience for Teddy Bridgewater things are looking up. However, they finished 24th in DVOA for 2014 and their seven victories came against St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Washington, Carolina, the Jets and Chicago. All of those teams had a losing record (Carolina finished 7-8-1). This year they face the NFC West and AFC West and have a chance to start 0-4 or 1-3 against San Francisco (A), Detroit (H), San Diego (H) and Denver (A). They will improve, but will it necessarily show in the win column? As for Detroit, they’re clearly much weaker without Ndamukong Suh and Lions fans will be asking for years why they took Eric Ebron over Aaron Donald or Odell Beckham Jr. in last years draft. While they will take a step back on defense — expect some offensive improvement after a surprisingly average year for the passing game in 2014. I still think the NFC East teams have a chance to edge these two out of the post-season.

— 12 wins could secure the #1 seed in the NFC again this year and it looks like another battle between Green Bay and Seattle. Both teams will be tough to beat at home. The Seahawks always have a shot to go 8-0 or 7-1 in Seattle, meaning a 4-4 split on the road sets up 11-12 wins. They’re capable of that, even if they have to go to Dallas, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Minnesota and Green Bay outside of the NFC West. The Packers do not travel well and even had a couple of close calls at Lambeau against the Jets and Atlanta in 2014. There’s a decent chance both teams finish with equal records — making their week two encounter especially important if both end up competing for the #1 seed.

— I went with the Falcons in the NFC South. Dan Quinn gives them a physical edge they’ve lacked on defense, Matt Ryan is still a good quarterback and Julio Jones a perfect #1 target. In 2012 they went 13-3 with a similar core. I’m not sure they get back to those heights in 2015 — but they certainly could be favourites for the NFC South title and a playoff berth. Carolina will play tough to the tune of 7-9 wins and the Buccs will improve with Jameis Winston after some early teething problems. The Saints are in a bizarre state of flux — wanting to win now with an ageing Drew Brees while cutting or trading key players to save money for a rebuilding process. Brandin Cooks is going to see a ton of targets following the Jimmy Graham trade.

AFC Notes

— The Colts still look like a bit of a paper tiger because they rely so much on Andrew Luck. They’ve put numerous weapons around him on offense but don’t appear to have addressed several needs on defense with anything more than stop-gap options. Even so, they play in the awful AFC South and with the Patriots weakened (Brady suspension, Revis/Browner departure), Peyton Manning looking his age in pre-season and the AFC North teams beating each other up — they look like a shoe-in for the #1 seed. They’ll need it to make the Super Bowl — they won’t want another trip to New England that’s for sure.

— The Chargers have been consistently good and tough to beat in the Philip Rivers era. Yet somehow they always end up playing the role of plucky outsiders, before falling after a surprise or two in the playoffs. This year they look poised to make a run for the AFC West title. Rivers has a new contract, they have weapons on offense and the defense looks better than it has been for a while. Their running attack will be better when Melvin Gordon hits his stride. Mike McCoy is an astute offensive coach. They could be an 11-5 team and that might be enough for a first round bye in the post-season. Denver, on the other hand, have looked great on defense in pre-season and struggling on offense. Manning just doesn’t look the same — not surprising aged 39. He can’t even feel the fingertips in his throwing hand any more because of all the nerve damage he’s suffered. There’s also a bit of an issue with a new offensive coach trying to put his mark on the team and Manning essentially running ‘his’ offense as usual. They can lean on the defense and win enough for the post-season — but winning on the road in the playoffs will be tough.

— The Patriots will be pushed in the AFC East and it looks like a much more open division this year. Rex Ryan and the Bills will cause a stir — and Tyrod Taylor has played at an extremely high level in pre-season. The Jets could be better with Ryan Fitzpatrick running the offense instead of Geno Smith and they’ll be solid defensively under Todd Bowles. Miami now has Suh up the middle — he’ll give Cameron Wake a shot to push for 15-20 sacks. Ryan Tannehill is still a thoroughly underwhelming quarterback though. The thing is, when Tom Brady is backed into a corner he plays his best football. He was being written off after a loss in Kansas City last season and came back to win the Super Bowl. This four game suspension, if upheld, is going to tick him off on a whole new level. If they start 1-3 — they can still finish 10-6 or 11-5 to make the playoffs. I gave the Bills the East though. Ryan had an early impact in New York, including an 11-5 season in 2010, before the act became tired with the Jets. He can have the same early success here too. Taylor has looked very sharp at quarterback, they have an assortment of weapons and an elite defense. They face Indianapolis (H), New England (H), Miami (A), the Giants (H), Tennessee (A), Cincinnati (H) and Jacksonville (A) before a bye week. Then it’s Miami (H) and the Jets (A). They could build a strong advantage in the East — and even the return of Brady might not be enough for the Patriots to catch them.

59 Responses to “2015 NFL season predictions”

  1. Trevor says:

    Rob I agree with your top 3 picks in the NFC and the Cowboys but would swap out the Falcons with Panthers in the South and think Minnesota could surprise this year and get a Wildcard spot.

    In the AFC I think you are spot on with those 6 with the perhaps the Ravens being replaced by the Steelers.

    If the Hawks can finish their first 4 games at 2 and 2 or better I think we are well on our way to a #1 seed. I think the loss of Nelson in GB will be bigger than people think. Parker looked good last year as a 3rd option but with Cobb now being the focus and him the #2 who knows how they will respond. Certainly helps having Rogers throwing to them though.

    • Colin says:

      The Panthers have nothing at WR or on the OL, and are relying on Cam Newton. That is a bad combination.

      • Trevor says:

        But the defense will be as good or better and the made the playoffs last year with the same issues. Granted the loss of Benjamin is big. That whole AFC South is a mess really.

        • Colin says:

          ATL has Matt Ryan and some weapons. I don’t think Carolina’s defense is enough to overtake them. Cam Newton won’t be able to carry that team with as little talent as they have on offense. He needs a run game and some weapons to be at his best.

          • CharlietheUnicorn says:

            I agree. Atlanta has the pieces to at least take the NFCS. They have a dynamic QB with some weapons. They should have a better rushing attack… and if the HC can sprinkle a little fairy dust from his Seattle days on their defense… they should be top 20.. which should get them into the playoffs.

  2. cha says:

    Good call not picking Arizona. I think Palmer is so fragile and they’ll really miss Bowles coordinating the defense.

    • Michael M. says:

      Arizona will go 6-10 and Bruce Arians will still win coach of the year…

      • Volume12 says:

        LOL. Tony Soprano wanna-be. Not sold on Palmer’s health, their run game, their secondary, and yes DC Todd Bowles will be a big loss. I do love S/LB Deone Bucannon though.

        Rams will better than Arizona I think. Although if St. Louis misses out on the playoffs again or finishes sub .500 it’ll be proof that investing so much draft capital in your D-line is not the way to build a contender.

  3. Trevor says:

    Rob

    What are your thoughts on the Fred Jackson talk? I think he might be a good addition as he is a good pass catcher and blocker and might make an ideal 3rd down back. Also would be great in the room with Marshawn and Michaels. I assume the delay is just trying to make the salary fit in the cap?

    • David Ess says:

      The delay could also be the fact that there is no point in signing him right now as he would most likely not play the final pre-season game as he would have to learn the offense. signing Jackson now would also mean for them to cut someone that they may still be evaluating. I’ve also heard that is they sign him now his contract is guaranteed instead of they wait till i believe after week 1 his contract would week to week. Non guaranteed.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think he would be a very shrewd addition. He’s a beast.

      • Tien says:

        Rob – If they sign Jackson, do you think it’ll be as Marshawn’s primary back-up while Turbin is out or do you think Jackson will be more of a change of pace/3rd down back. I’m still hoping that the light turns on for Michael this season.:)

  4. JeffC says:

    If we get the pre playoffs RW, 13-3 and another sb win. If we get the playoffs, sb, and preseason RW, 10-6 and divisional round loss.

  5. AndrewP says:

    With Arizona potentially a mess and SF a hot mess and the luck of getting a Kam-less Hawks in a week 1 early kick, my surprise WC might just be the Rams. Seriously, they could go 4-2 against the NFCW, then it’s just a matter of going 6-4 or even 5-5 the rest of the way to get into the playoffs (with games @Was & CLE/Tampa/Chicago are games they will likely be favored in). I know their OL is a mess, but the skill they have on offense is not a worthless pile of nothingness, and that D is going to keep them in games regardless. Combine that roster with that schedule and 9-7 10-6 is not laughable.

    • Michael M. says:

      I don’t think Foles is very good. The D is legit, and I’ve yet to stop crying over Aaron Donald falling into their lap, but the only way I see them making the playoffs is if Gurley gets healthy real quick then pulls an AP on everyone’s ass and runs for like 1500+

  6. CA says:

    Look out for KC too. Run game. Upgraded targets(Conley+Maclin). Great D. Great home field.

    • CharlietheUnicorn says:

      I’m kind of buying what the Raiders are selling. They may not make the playoffs, but I could see em in the 8-8 or 9-7 record range.

      • Volume12 says:

        The Raiders are one more solid draft from being perennial playoff contenders. IMO Khalil Mack is the best young defensive star in the game.

    • Trevor says:

      Yeah forgot about KC. The AFC West is loaded because Oakland looks to be turning things around as well.

    • cha says:

      Maybe I’m glutton for punishment but I kind of hope the Chargers get into the NFCW if the Raiders/Chargers LA stadium gets built and realignment is needed. They’d be a worthy foe for the Seahawks. They’re always a tough out.

  7. Phil says:

    Rob — off topic, but do you think there is any chance that the Seahawks go after Matt Barkley if he gets the short straw in his battle with Tebow? What about offering the Eagles a 7th round pick for him before Saturday’s roster deadline?

    • JeffC says:

      Not Rob but that means you’d have to cut a player on an already deep roster with lots of players in tight battles to keep a third string qb, and lose a draft pick that JS always covets.

      • Phil says:

        Sure — you would have to cut a player to add Barkley. I’d cut Archer and add Barkley without blinking. And, I might even think of cutting TJack and adding Barkley (making Barkley the #2 QB). I guess you would have to assess Barkley’s upside. That is, have we seen all that he has to bring to the table? Or, would he thrive in the Seahawks system under PC?

        The bottom line for me is the answer to the question, “If something was to happen to RW, would we have a better chance of winning — until RW heals — under TJack, or Archer, or Barkley?” Answering my own question, I’m not optimistic about our chances with either TJack or Archer at the helm, (but maybe Barkley isn’t the best backup available either). A secondary question would be, “Can we save some $$ under the cap by replacing TJack and/or Archer with Barkley?”

        Responding to your last comment, we’d only lose a draft pick under the second of my two scenarios — if we didn’t wait for Barkley to be cut, but worked out a trade for him instead. I presented this as an option because it might force the Eagles’ hand if they are leaning towards keeping Barkley and cutting Tebow. If they can pick up a 7th pick for Barkley, they might jump.

        I’m curious about Barkley because he was once so highly regarded by lots of folks on this site — including me. After he injured his shoulder late in his senior year at USC, his game suffered and interest in him seemed to drop. I don’t follow the Eagles so I don’t really have any opinions on why he hasn’t had more success under Chip. Chip was certainly familiar with Barkley’s skills — having played against him every year he was at USC.

        • JeffC says:

          Archer was never going to make the team. I’m talkiing about cutting one of the corners, olinemen, dlinemen, or WR for the sake of Barkley. It won’t happen.

        • JeffC says:

          We would lose a pick. Trading that 7th rounder for Barkley. Unless I’m missing something in your second argument.

          • Phil says:

            Option (1): wait until Barkley gets cut, pick him up — no loss of draft pick. Option (2): trade for Barkley, lose a draft pick.

        • JeffC says:

          I do get the cap argument though. At some point, you don’t want to pay Tjack and you want someone to develop behind Wilson who is also a potential guy to start, and perhaps even sucker a team like the Matt Schaub deal.

        • Phil says:

          Answering my own question, TJack’s 2015 contract of $1.5 million is apparently all dead money. So, I guess we better be committed to TJack unless we somehow free up more cap and then decide that another backup qb is more important than, for example, another RB.

    • Michael M. says:

      Don’t see it. Of all the significant QB’s acquired by the JS/PC regime (Russ, T-Jack, Whitehurst, Daniels), what are the common traits? #1 Above average mobility #2 Stronger than average throwing arm. Barkley doesn’t look to have either of these things.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I still like Barkley but Seattle went for a very different QB in Wilson and I think it’s vital they have a backup with at least a somewhat similar skillset to avoid major change to the game plan if RW ever gets injured.

      • Phil says:

        Rob – thanks for responding. I agree that the best option would be to have a backup who has similar skills to Wilson. But, I don’t think that either TJack or Archer has those similar skills, so until we find a QB who does (and who we can afford to acquire and keep on the roster as a backup), would Barkley be a “better” backup than either TJack or Archer?

        • CHawk Talker Eric says:

          After RW, it’s a bit of pick yer poison with the backups, although I’d argue that TJack has a strong arm and better than average mobility.

          As between Archer and Barkley, it’s difficult to say. Just because Barkley was a bit of a college QB celeb (at least until his injury), doesn’t mean he’s the better prospect. Neither he nor Archer have done anything to distinguish themselves since entering the League, and at this point, Archer knows SEA’s system.

          • Phil says:

            “Pick your poison” pretty much says it all. I’m uncomfortable going into the season with the backup QBs we have. My original post was neither pro nor con Barkley. But, if he’s not the guy, then I hope we find someone healthier (and better) than TJack.

        • Rob Staton says:

          I think Jackson is somewhat similar — he could potentially do a little read option. I think Barkley could be a better backup but would need time in the system.

          • Volume12 says:

            Looking back, they probably should’ve added QB Tyrod Taylor last year. But, hindsight is always 20/20 as they say.

        • Ho Lee Chit says:

          TJack has the respect of the locker room and has lead the team before. That counts for a lot. I believe the team believes they can still win with him as QB. He is 32 years old, however. He also was on the FA market this year and there was no interest around the NFL. He fits in Seattle because he knows the system.

          As for a younger model like Russell Wilson… keep your eye on Vernon Adams the Eastern Washington QB that just won the starting job at Oregon. He is a fifth year senior and will be in the draft next year. I hate to wish injury on anyone but it sure would be nice if we could keep Adams off the radar of the other teams looking for an RW clone. I expect Adams will be gone by the time we pick. He may win the Heisman this year playing at Oregon.

  8. Michael M. says:

    The one semi-conspicuous omission is the Steelers missing the playoffs altogether, which would be awesome. I can see it happening too. While most of the outside observers are already crowning them just because they sport great fantasy players, their defense looks like it could be a complete trainwreck.

    Rob, might I ask why you’re so down on Tannehill? I mostly watch Redzone on Sundays, so I haven’t seen a ton of complete games from him, but the stats look pretty good to me. He’s improved his Yardage, Passer Rating and TD% in each of his first 3 years (granted he was relatively new to the position, so he had more room to grown than other players might) as well as lowering his INT% each season. I like the addition of Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron (if he can stay healthy) who the Seahawks themselves were rumored to have interest in last year. Plus Jarvis Landry is a boss.

    The stats are telling me he could be on the brink of a breakout year. What are you seeing that makes you believe otherwise? Thanks!

  9. peter says:

    Rob, excellent post! You’ve got to be excited for tomorrow college football baby! I wonder about Indy and luck with hindsight looking towards manning. The paper tiger for me is that they never are challenged 6 times a year with that horrible division. When they make the playoffs like in mannings time facing a team like the chargers who on paper have a tougher schedule, per example, the colts seem at a loss to make adjustments against tougher squads. The Luck/ Wilson debate can rage forever but when reviewing the teams as a whole Seattle was a wild card at 11-5 and were one play better then an extremely good 49ers to make the superbowl.

    I could be wrong but I think the worst team in the NFC west year is going to be as good as the second best team in the AFC south. The titans have no identity yet. The Texans are a quarterback plus other parts away from competing and who is Jacksonville at this time? I just see the colts going to the playoffs every year and at least for a while meeting their maker by an out of division foe that is quite a bit tougher.

    The bills could be something this year. I’m drinking their defenses kool aid, and rex seems like a buffoon but that buffoon got a mediocre to bad Sanchez to the AFC championship game.

  10. Tien says:

    Rob,

    I think I agree with your first five picks for the NFC but I’m a little surprised that you think the Giants are good enough to make the playoffs. Their OL is kind of a mess so I’m not sure Eli will have the time to use Odell effectively. Their D is horrible. Their pass rush was already meh before the JPP injury. LBs are mediocre and the secondary sucks. I just don’t see them winning a lot of games so I think an NFCN team (Lions or Vikings) or either the Cardinals or 49ers (yeah, one of the worst offseasons ever but they still have a lot of talent) will take that last playoff spot in the NFC.

    The AFC looks tough this year and all of your picks are worthy; however, unless Tyrod Taylor can actually play well in the regular season, I don’t see the Bills going anywhere. Also, though the Steelers’ D is their downfall that offense is good enough to outscore almost anyone so I can see them and the Ravens flip flopping in their division.

    Cannot wait for the season to start!!

    • Rob Staton says:

      OBJ could be a generational talent he’s that good. I think he showed that last year despite similar issues for NYG. I think they have a chance to have a much more solid year. They improved last season, certainly compared to the 2013 Seattle game.

      • Volume12 says:

        I think they’ll be better too, but that defense is a mess. Their secondary is so banged up, not much of a pass rush, I’m not sure they can hold up to the passing attacks of Philly and Dallas.

        Crossing my fingers that OBJ jr isn’t a ‘half the year’ type player, because I’m with ya in regards to him being one of the best in quite some time.

  11. JeffC says:

    Tom Brady wins again.

    • Rik says:

      Sheesh! Cheats for how many years, destroys his phone to get rid of evidence, then walks off smirking into the sunset. He gets no respect from me. Don’t much like cheaters.

    • Rik says:

      On the other hand, he’s got to face a lot of really big, really fast defensive linemen who probably don’t like cheaters either.

    • AlaskaHawk says:

      Time for Goodell to quit acting like a dictator. Never could understand why the owners didn’t put him in his place. He got the player contract they wanted, that is the end of his usefulness. Instead they have rewarded him with a big paycheck and golden parachute. If he left tomorrow he would be a happy and well paid man.

      Anyway – here is a simple idea. Give all disciplinary hearings to an independent attorney. Let someone who is unbiased decide on the cases.

      • AlaskaHawk says:

        P.S. Now that Brady has won, maybe the owner should sue the NFL to recover his million dollar fine and loss of draft picks. There was obviously some intimidation going on between the NFL and the owner.

        • Steele says:

          Not only did I expect Brady to escape all punishment, but I expected the Pats to win at least 3 of the 4 suspension games anyway with Garopolo.

          They may have lost Revis and Browner, but they improved the rest of their roster. Their secondary is no weaker than it was prior to Revis/Browner, which is not bad at all. If SB hero Butler emerges, they will not miss a beat.

          My hope for a Seahawks-Pats SB rematch is not out of the question. The problem is, I do not think the Hawks greatly improved themselves enough in this offseason, got worse at OL, and Kam may have successfully compromised the season.

          • Tien says:

            Disagree Steele. Our OL is a frickin’ mess but we always freak out about the OL at the beginning of every season also. I’m hoping that after some growing pains (with Wilson still mobile and upright!), the OL gels into something that is adequate/middle of the pack. If the OL is even league average, Wilson, Lynch, and our improved receiving corps should be good enough to make our offense much more dangerous this year. On defense, from what I’ve seen of the preseason thus far, our DL is much improved, in both talent & depth! If the DL stays healthy & plays up to their potential throughout the season, this line will probably be better than the one we had when we won the SB. And if for some reason Bennett or Avril was to miss some time, we wouldn’t be in dire straits like we were in the past. The LBs are as good, with another year of flavoring. As for the secondary, either Simon(!!) or Cary Williams will adequately replace Maxwell. It looks like Blackmon or Burley will also adequately replace Lane in the slot. We may lose a little without Kam, the intimidator in the middle, and while I think Kam is awesome, I don’t think he’s as irreplaceable as ET or Bennett. My guess is without Kam, we’re still in the Top 5 or 3 defenses in the league. With Kam, we’d be the best D this year and potentially one of the best ever. That depth and talent on that DL & LB corps really excites me!! The obvious caveat of course is that they stay relatively healthy.

            • Tien says:

              I do agree that our OL got worse but I also think it’s reasonable to believe that our inexperienced linemen will gel into something adequate as the season progresses.

              • AlaskaHawk says:

                It looks like the defensive line is better then last year. Linebackers are looking good, with a couple backups waiting for their chance. We haven’t even seen the legion of boom yet, they have been playing back ups in the secondary.

                Kick returns are improved with Lockette. That just leaves the rest of the offense which looks like a hot mess. They will improve as the season progresses. It’s just a shame that seahawks can’t get a handle on the offense in training camp.

                When will Wilson stop getting sacked or stripped on his 10 yard line? When will the offensive line start working together? When will Chancellor start playing? Stay tuned for more drama on the Seahawks.

                • Volume12 says:

                  He gets sacked on his 10 yard line because he has no room to operate. Hence the added importance of Tyler Lockett. RW likes to go backwards to improvise, but won’t up against the opponets goalline.

                  Hopefully Archer can put together a competent drive or two and not run sideways to the sideline. He’s got good mechanics, unlike a lot of QBs coming out of college, but his accuracy is awful!

          • Steele says:

            Look at the talent that the Pats acquired and drafted. They are names I wanted to see the Hawks get but they didn’t. Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom. Dom Easley is healthy in yr 2, and will step up. This is D line depth, and improved pass rush. Their O line adds Shaq Mason and Tre Jackson. Scott Chandler joins, giving them the two-TE tandem they haven’t had since Gronk had the mass murderer playing opposite him. Reggie Wayne will make smart plays at WR, and they didn’t even need another WR.

  12. Volume12 says:

    I’d agree with most of this. Although every year 5 teams make the playoffs that didn’t the year before. Philly, Buffalo, Atlanta, and the Giants make 4. Who that 5th team is, I have no idea, but should be fun to watch regardless.

    As for tonight, CFB is back!

    I’ll have me eyes on Minnesota’s pair of CBs, perhaps the most underrated duo in the country. Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray. Murray looks like he could step into the league and contribute right away. While Boddy-Calhoun has more potential. Should be a fun matchup against TCU’s weapons at wideout.