In an interview with Neil McNeil of KSAT Iowa, Ben Carson was asked how he would deal with Islamic extremism in the United States. His response has raised some eyebrows, and some tempers. Continue reading
Since 2001, the New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East, winning twelve titles in fourteen years. During that time the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins each have one. With the Patriots coming off another Superbowl victory, they are still the biggest target in a division that has improved all-around. This may be a year where another team could sneak in and steal the division, but do not expect the Pats to go down without a fight. Continue reading
Over the last decade, no division has been as competitive as the NFC East. In that time, every team has won the division at least once, and not one team has repeated as champion. Last season the Dallas Cowboys won the division, edging out the Philadelphia Eagles. I expect the division to be competitive again, with the same two teams vying for the top spot. I expect the streak of no repeat champions to continue at least one more year.
Division Winners – Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly has had a busy offseason. First, he went out and traded his starting QB Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for often injured QB Sam Bradford, whom Kelly says fits better in the offseason. Then, Kelly traded superstar HB LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for LB Keko Alonso. After failing to sign WR Jeremy Maclin, who had a breakout season last year, questions started swirling around Chip Kelly, his practices, and his ability to lead this team. In response, the Eagles stole last year’s rushing king, HB DeMarco Murray from their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
Kelly has answered his critics so far with a strong preseason. Bradford looks really good in this fast paced offense. Rookie first round pick (#20 overall) WR Nelson Agholor looks like he will be able to contribute right away. And with the addition of HB Darren Sproles, this offense has a bunch of reliable options for Bradford. If this offensive line can come together and get Murray even half the production he had a year ago, the Eagles should be in a good position this year.
Second Place – Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo had the best season of his career a year ago. Part of that was aided by the fact that they had the best rushing attack in the league, behind what is easily the best offensive line Romo has ever played with. But now the biggest contributor from a year ago, DeMarco Murray, is in Philly. They signed HB Darren McFadden to replace Murray, and McFadden is a completely capable back, but his issues have always come from the fact that he is made of peanut brittle, and will likely spend more time on the injury list than the field.
WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten will still make a bunch of plays for this offense, but the unit as a whole will take a step back. The defense, however, looks like it will be much better than a year ago. Even though they lost their best corner, CB Orlando Scandrick, to a torn ACL in the preseason they should still be better than they were. Their first round pick (#27 overall) CB Byron Jones should help fill some of the void left by Scandrick. And their second round pick (#60 overall) OLB Randy Gregory was a steal at that point after slipping out of his first round projection. This team will struggle this year, but they have too much talent, and could still make a playoff push.
Third Place – New York Giants (7-9)
The New York Giants have had a few down years in a row, and this season Tom Coughlin hopes to bounce back and return to the playoffs. Former Superbowl MVP QB Eli Manning will lead an offense that is short on talent and playmaking ability, with the exception of maybe two players. WR Odell Beckham Jr. made a name for himself a year ago with some big plays and one incredible one-handed catch along the sideline. WR Victor Cruz hopes to stay healthy and return to the form he was in during the Giants’ last championship run, but injury problems have already affected his progress.
The biggest free agent acquisition for the Giants might be former New England Patriots RB Shane Vereen, a versatile back who can excel in the passing game as well as carry the rock. They helped bolster their offensive line with their first round pick (#9 overall) OT Ereck Flowers from Miami. Then, in the second round (#33 overall) they grabbed perhaps the best safety in the draft, SS Landon Collins from Alabama. Though they have improved certain positions, this is still a team that lacks talent at skill positions, and I do not expect them in the playoffs this year.
Cellar Dwellers – Washington Redskins (2-14)
After a few tumultuous years in the nation’s capital the Washington Redskins have moved away from their franchise #2 overall selection in 2012, QB Robert Griffin III. They have named Kirk Cousins their starter moving forward. While RG3 has struggled to stay healthy he is the better quarterback, but neither can succeed, or likely even stay healthy, behind this porous offensive line. Griffin will find a home elsewhere and can still be productive, but this Redskins team will not be any good no matter who is throwing passes.
The Redskins have gotten tougher on defense, adding DT Terrence Knighton from Denver and SS DaShon Goldson from Tampa. With OLB Ryan Kerrigan returning from injury, if he can stay healthy this could be a fearsome defense. However, the offense will continue to struggle and if they play from behind, HB Alfred Morris will get less touches and it will fall squarely on Cousins’ shoulders. I just do not think there is enough around him to get the job done this season.
Over the past decade, the AFC North has been the most competitive division, spawning some of the fiercest divisional rivalries. This season we should expect more of the same, as three teams in the division have a really good chance of making the playoffs or more. The Bengals have won two straight titles, but this year the competition looks like it may be even tougher. Continue reading
The NFC North got two teams into the playoffs last season. The division champion Green Bay Packers (12-4) came a few minutes away from a Superbowl appearance, and the Detroit Lions (11-5) lost in the first round. This season, I expect the teams at the top to stay at the top, but I believe the gap is closing. Injuries and free agency departures could close the gap even more.
Division Winners – Green Bay Packers (12-4)
The Green Bay Packers were one strong half away from winning another NFC title and appearing in their sixth Superbowl. But in the end the Seahawks were the better team. That loss has been eating away at this team all offseason, and I expect them to come out firing. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is ready for the season to start, but he will be without his favorite target, WR Jordy Nelson, after a season ending knee injury.
Green Bay has struggled on defense the past few seasons, namely in the passing game. That is why they have been drafting to improve their defensive secondary. After picking up Hasean Clinton-Dix in the draft last season, they spent their first two pick on secondary players this year. Their first pick (#30 overall) was Damarious Randall, a Free Safety from Arizona State, and their second pick (#62 overall) was CB Quinten Rollins. This team should be improved on defense, and they will once again compete for a title.
Second Place – Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
The Minnesota Vikings will have superstar HB Adrian Peterson back from suspension and they hope he will be well-rested. Second year QB Teddy Bridgewater seems to be progressing nicely and looks to make major strides this season. Add WR Mike Wallace to a receiving corps that already included the speedy but inconsistent WR Cordarrelle Patterson, and the Vikings could be a high-powered offensive team this season.
The Vikings should also make some progress on defense this season. They drafted CB Trae Waynes, the best corner in the draft, in the first round (#11 overall). They spent their second pick (#45 overall) on LB Eric Kendricks, a solid talent from UCLA. This team is making an effort to get better, but they are in a tough division and have a difficult schedule this year. If things work out perfectly for them, they may win more than half their games and possibly compete for a playoff spot, but that is doubtful.
Third Place – Detroit Lions (8-8)
The Detroit Lions will miss DT Ndamukong Suh this season. He was a monster in the middle that made other defensive players’ jobs much easier. They hope to replace him with Haloti Ngata because they like people who start their names with weird letter combinations involving “N”. Ngata is a great player, but nobody in the league brings what Suh brough, a combination of toughness, athleticism, and physicality that just cannot be matched in the NFL today.
Suh was the anchor of one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL last season. And we know how productive their offense has been. But WR Calvin Johnson has been battling age and injury, and HB Reggie Bush is no longer with the team. They did add Nebraska HB Ameer Abdullah, but I still do not trust QB Matthew Stafford to win big games, and I see the Lions having trouble moving the ball and scoring points this season. Do not expect to see them playing in January.
Cellar Dwellers – Chicago Bears (3-13)
The Chicago Bears hired former Broncos and Panthers coach John Fox as their new head coach, so they will eventually be a good team. Unfortunately, that will not be this year. Jay Cutler (yes, I have finally given up on him) is still the quarterback, and until they change that, they will never be truly competitive. Especially since he will have to do it this season without his favorite target, WR Brandon Marshall, whom they traded to the New York Jets.
The Bears were very active in free agency, but did not land any big names that should have an immediate impact. This defense has trended downward the last few seasons, and that trend will continue this season. They did draft WR Kevin White, a dynamic runner who can stretch the field, in the first round (#7 overall), but he cannot fill Marshall’s shoes this season. While HB Matt Forte is a must have in your fantasy league, he cannot carry this offense alone. Expect the Bears to have their worst season in the last decade.
For the last four seasons the Denver Broncos have been the kings of the division. Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers made a push to dethrone them, but to no avail. There were questions surrounding whether Peyton Manning would come back for another season, and his decision to return all but ensured another division title for Denver, who may have an easier time this season than last. Continue reading
The NFC West was one of the toughest divisions in the league last season. They have had a team in the Superbowl each of the last three seasons. That includes the two-time defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, who after a slow start, pulled the division out from the Arizona Cardinals in the last few weeks of the season. There have been major changes within the division, and some teams who used to be competitive may have fallen from grace. Continue reading
Since the formation of the AFC South in 2002, thirteen years ago, the Indianapolis Colts have dominated the division, winning nine titles, including the last two years. The Houston Texans have been their biggest competition over the last few seasons, but that may begin to change. The Tennessee Titans have high hopes for rookie #2 draft pick QB Marcus Mariota, who has invigorated a struggling franchise. The Jacksonville Jaguars, another struggling franchise, hope to turn it around behind second year QB Blake Bortles. Even with all the advancements by other teams, not much has really changed in this division. Continue reading
By record, the NFC South was the worst division in football a year ago. They did not have a team with a winning record, and the Carolina Panthers won the division with a 7-8-1 record, giving them two straight division titles. This season, the teams look to rebound, and could have three teams fighting for a playoff spot. While most of the hype has been about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their #1 overall pick QB Jameis Winston, the rest of the division has quietly made improvements that may make this the toughest division in the NFL this season. Continue reading