This much we know: One NFL team out of 32 is going to win Super Bowl 50.
Past that, it’s way too early to know much of anything entering the 2015 NFL season.
In a league where parity reigns and new playoff teams emerge every season, it’s too early to really say which teams will be playing into January and which ones will begin their draft preparations a bit earlier than the rest.
Things happen. Circumstances change due to injuries, coaching issues, bad (or nonexistent) calls on the field or even a full-blown choke job. Sometimes a miserable start blossoms into a late-season rally. Big things will happen, in good ways and bad, that might dramatically change the fortunes of a team, player or coach.
But we’ve studied the tape. We’ve spoken with players, GMs and coaching staff. We’ve heard all sides of the story and we’ve come up with our own observations while visiting training camps.
The games will be decided on the field. This much we know. But as we knock the dirt out of our cleats and prepare for another NFL season, here are our predictions for 2015.
Super Bowl Champions
Jason La Canfora — Packers: They overcome the loss of Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers plays out of his mind and they take advantage of some recent NFC powerhouses being on the decline. And, most importantly, they win the head-to-head game with Seattle which gives them home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.
Pat Kirwan — Packers over the Colts
Pete Prisco — Packers over the Patriots
John Breech — Broncos over Eagles: Peyton Manning is too old to carry the team, which usually would be a negative thing, but it’s good news for the Broncos this year because he shouldn’t have to. The Broncos should actually have a good run game — and there’s a good chance Denver’s defense will be able to carry the team when Manning’s 39-year-old body starts to fall apart in Week 13. It feels like Manning has one more great season in him and I think we’ll see it in 2015.
Will Brinson — Eagles over Colts: Chip Kelly has been working like a mad scientist this offseason and the result is an unknown. Except to him. He has a plan and that plan involves a quarterback with quick-strike accuracy and a deep ball in Sam Bradford, two north-south running backs in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, and a pair of precise route runners who fit his offense in Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholar. The gamble is everyone stays healthy, but that’s always a gamble in the NFL. The Eagles’ improved defense turns them into a surprisingly high-end unit that is capable of dominating on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck just throws everyone on his back again and takes an incredibly talented team to the Super Bowl. With Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett, Donte Moncrief, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, Luck has one of the best skill-position groups in the NFL at his disposal.
Jared Dubin — Packers over Patriots: I momentarily considered moving away from the Packers as my pick after the Jordy Nelson injury, but then I remembered that Aaron Rodgers exists. You could do worse than predicting the best quarterback in the game to lead his team to a Super Bowl win. Nelson is incredible, and not nearly the Rodgers-only creation so many people think he is, but Rodgers just happens to be one of the few guys good enough to overcome the loss of a player of Nelson’s caliber. Between him, Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb, I think there’s still enough there to get the job done.
Sean Wagner-McGough — Patriots: Tom Brady won’t miss any games and Bill Belichick is still a genius. The loss of Darrelle Revis hurts, but at this point picking against Belichick just seems silly. One way or another, you know the Patriots will at least be in a position to make a run in January. Outside of the Colts, I don’t see a clear AFC team that can take down the reigning champs. And once the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, I’ll take Brady in any matchup.
Ryan Wilson — Packers: The Packers make up for last year’s Marty Schottenheimer-inspired performance against the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game and put the offense in the eminently capable hands of Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay’s defense isn’t great, and that’s a concern — until you remember that New England’s defense is worse, having lost many key contributors off last year’s Super Bowl team.
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