Familiar faces will dominate NFL

By: Isaac Turner-Hall

NFC North

I chose the Packers to win the NFC North because they are one of the deepest and most complete teams in the NFL, with their defense led by Clay Matthews, and Julius Peppers is also returning as well as B.J. Raji who missed all of 2014 with a torn bicep. Of course, the best quarterback Aaron Rodgers and one of the best offensive lines in the league are also highlights for the Pack, in addition to one of the hardest hitting backs in the NFL, Eddie Lacy. Their offense is looking like a finely tuned machine. They only added to their riches in the draft by picking two defensive backs in Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins, and they gave Rodgers another weapon by picking Ty Montgomery in the third round. Even with losing Jordy Nelson, they are still the overwhelming favorite to win the North.

NFC East

The Eagles have been one of the most active teams this offseason, making many changes to their roster including trading runningback Lesean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso. They also signed Demarco Murray and Ryan Matthews to replace Lesean McCoy, and they traded quarterback Nick Foles to the Rams for quarterback Sam Bradford. They addressed the loss of Jeremy Maclin in the draft by selecting Nelson Agholor, who has a similar playing style to Jeremy Maclin. With a revamped offense and very dangerous and advantageous defense that scored seven touchdowns and forced 16 fumbles last season, the Eagles look to take the crown away from the defending NFC East champions the Dallas Cowboys.

NFC West

The Carolina Panthers have been to the playoffs in consecutive seasons and last year made the playoffs with a losing record (7-8-1). This year, the Panthers made very few moves during the offseason, and their two biggest additions came in the draft. Shaq Thompson, who played runningback and linebacker at Washington is a very quick player who could develop into a great linebacker if he gains bulk, and his versatility means that he could make the switch to safety if he fails to add the bulk. Their other key addition is Devin Funchess who is a tight end that they may switch to wide receiver because of his stellar speed (4.47, 40). The Panthers are playing in one of the weakest divisions and have one of the easiest schedules in the league, so that’s why they are my pick to win the NFC West.

NFC South

The two-time defending NFC Champions are looking to go to the Super Bowl for a third straight season, but they must go through a tough schedule to do so. They must play nine teams this season that made the playoffs and 11 teams that won at least 10 games last season. Last season the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch led the league in rushing, and Russell Wilson now has a great receiving threat in Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks offense is looking ready for another solid year. and their defense is still strong despite losing Byron Maxwell. They also still have a great defense led by players like Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner. If the Seahawks can put all of the pieces together, they could be dangerous come January.

AFC North

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to return to the former glory of a couple of years ago this season.  With “Big Ben” Roethlisberger manning one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, and with two of the most talented players at their respective positions in wide receiver Antonio Bryant and running back Le’veon Bell, the Steelers are looking to dominate the down AFC North this year with the Bengals being the only admirable competition. The defense has plenty of questions this year such as the young linebacking core that features first round draft pick Bud Dupree out of Kentucky, but even though the North is down this year, the Steelers still aren’t the hands down favorite to win the North, but come season’s end, they might be dangerous to make a run late into January.

AFC East

The defending Super Bowl champions had no time to celebrate their victory because of Tom Brady and Deflategate, but now that Tom Brady doesn’t have to serve a four-game suspension anymore, they are my pick to win the AFC East. The Patriots have been in the top four in PPG in the last five years, and they are the most successful team in the past 14 years, with four championships. The Patriots are dangerous every year, even though teams like the Bills and Dolphins are on the rise and might want to try and play spoiler and steal the division away from the defending champs.

AFC West

The Broncos and Peyton Manning are looking to finally put all the pieces together and get to the Super Bowl like they did two years ago. The Broncos have won four consecutive AFC East titles, and they have the schedule to make it five, with a new head coach in Gary Kubiak, who took the job after John Fox left for Chicago. Even though they lost Julius Thomas, Peyton still has a pair of deep threats in Demaryius Thomas and in Emmanuel Sanders, and with arguably the best defense in the league, Peyton and the Broncos are finally looking to get that elusive Lombardi Trophy.

AFC South

With Andrew Luck leading the team and now that he’s finally developed into an elite quarterback with the right talent around him like wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore, the Colts seem to be the team to beat in the AFC this year. Not only did they add to their deep receiving core in the free agency, but they also made some good moves in the draft by picking Phillip Dorsett out of Miami. The Colts do have one glaring flaw, and that’s on defense, specifically in the run game. They have a young, inexperienced defensive line with Robert Mathis being the only player with more than six years of experience in their front seven, but with great corners in Vontae Davis and Greg Toler, the Colts are going to be a very dangerous team with or without a D-Line.

Super Bowl

The two teams that I feel will meet up in San Francisco in February are the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys, both of these teams have been trying to make it to the big game for years, with each team coming extremely close in the past years. The Cowboys got knocked out of the playoffs last year against the Packers with a controversial call that refs apologized for after the game, and the Broncos actually made it to the Super Bowl two years ago where they got thrashed by Seattle and their “Legion of Boom,” 43-8.

I pick the Cowboys to make the Super Bowl as a Wild Card, but it would be no surprise if the Cowboys won the division. My pick to win it all is the Denver Broncos, with Peyton Manning finally putting all of the pieces together to get his second Super Bowl ring in a great offensive shootout in the “Golden Super Bowl”.

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