Fast-Forward to Divisional Round of 2015-16 NFL Season: Which Teams Deserve Your NFL Picks?

Kevin Stott

Thursday, February 5, 2015 2:24 PM GMT

Although many NFL bettors may assume that the divisional winners in the 2014 NFL season will most likely win their divisions again in 2015, this handicapper scrutinizes the stats before making assumptions.

Introduction
We’ve looked at both AFC and NFC Team Win Totals—which will be released in the next two to three months—as well as the AFC and NFC individual Divisional odds so this is a perfect time to do a quick look at each of the NFL’s eight divisions and make a gut prediction on the finishes in each, considering the two scheduled divisions each individual team will have to play, returning injured players, healthy QBs and all. Every season, a couple of teams that weren’t in the picture the previous season emerge as contenders or semi-contenders, and, no doubt the 2015 NFL season will probably be no different in that respect.

The 2015 NFL season is scheduled to begin on Thursday, Sept. 10 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts—part of NFL Kickoff 2015 Weekend—with the Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriots hosting an opponent to be named. As mentioned in our previous article on Super Bowl 50, the Big Game is scheduled to be held on Sunday, February 7 at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California—home of the San Francisco 49ers—and will be televised in the United States on CBS.

These projected final records of all teams in this story are just rough guesses from a distance, comparing each of the 32 teams records from last season with the expectations and realities of the coming one combined with the toughness, or lack thereof, in their 2015 opponents. When the real numbers are released in the spring, we will see if any of these early NFL picks have changed.

 

AFC East Projected

New England Patriots 13-3

Miami Dolphins 8-8

Buffalo Bills 6-10

New York Jets 4-12

The AFC East is a division that could look an awful lot like it did in 2014, although I see the Dolphins and Bills switching places in 2015. The AFC East plays the AFC South and the NFC East this season, and although that should help somewhat overall, this is, and will always seem to be a one-team division, probably even after Patriots QB Tom Brady has retired. New England has has seven games that could potentially give them trouble in 2015—Buffalo, Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas and Denver, all Away, and, tricky Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at Home. But with WRs like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola an a TE like Rob Gronkowski, this team could probably win all of those games (they won’t), roll to the AFC East division title once again, repeat as AFC champs, and then maybe, win Super Bowl 50 in that Suburb Of The City By The Bay.

 

AFC North Projected

Baltimore Ravens 12-4

Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6

Cincinnati Bengals 6-10

Cleveland Browns 3-13

The Teams in the rugged AFC North will, unfortunately for them, be playing and traveling to the teams in the AFC and NFC West in 2015, so don’t plan on every team in this division finishing above .500 like they almost did this past season. Whereas there seemed to be much parity in the AFC North last season, expect the proverbial cream to rise to the top and for the Ravens and QB Joe Flacco and head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin. These two teams should thrive in 2015 while the two teams from Ohio end up way under the .500 mark, despite both having promising seasons in 2014.

 

AFC South Projected

Indianapolis Colts 9-7

Houston Texans 9-7

Jacksonville Jaguars 5-10-1

Tennessee Titans 3-12-1

QB Andrew Luck and the defending AFC South division champion Indianapolis Colts could  be hard-pressed to have as good a season in 2015 like they did in 2014 when the Colts benefitted from going a perfect 6-0 against its own division. With hard Home games at the RCA Dome in Naptown against Houston, Super Bowl champions New England, Drew Brees and New Orleans and former team legend Peyton Manning and Denver, as well as road tilts versus Houston, Buffalo, Miami, Carolina and Pittsburgh, the Horseshoes really have a difficult schedule, even though this division did get lucky by getting the below-average AFC East and NFC South. It seems overall results in this division will look exactly the same in 2015 as they did in 2014, although I see Indianapolis fading some record-wise and Houston improving and the two teams having identical 9-7 records when all the dust clears, with TY Hilton and the Colts somehow winning the tiebreaker.

 

AFC West Projected

Denver Broncos 10-6

Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

San Diego Chargers 8-8

Oakland Raiders 4-12

Unfortunately for the NFL teams that call the AFC West home, they all have to play the bruising AFC North and the respectable NFC North this coming season. So, overall win totals should be down a couple of games. Legendary QB Peyton Manning is indeed returning to Denver, but the Broncos have to play Baltimore, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Super Bowl champions New England all at Home and then Pittsburgh, Detroit and Indianapolis on the Road. The Chiefs should improve a little bit with a focus on scoring in the air, but, like the AFC South and the NFC North, this division could look identical to the final 2014 standings and having to play teams like the Ravens, Steelers, Packers and Lions means these four teams could be all pretty beat up come next January.

 

NFC East Projected

Philadelphia Eagles 11-5

Dallas Cowboys 9-7

New York Giants 7-9

Washington Redskins 4-12

The feeling here in the NFC East is that the Cowboys won’t have a season as good as they did in 2014, while the Eagles will be the beneficiary of Dallas’s rugged schedule. QB Tony Romo and the Cowboys have to play the three toughest teams currently in the NFL next season—the Super Bowl champion Patriots and last year’s titlists, the Seattle Seahawks—both at Home—and Dallas also has to play Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Lovely. A plethora of pain awaits. Jerry’s Boyz also have have a date with the New Orleans Saints and QB extraordinaire Drew Brees in The Big Easy, and, with them damn Eagles on tap twice, the Cowboys schedule is absolutely loaded with landmines.

 

NFC North Projected

Green Bay Packers 12-4

Detroit Lions 9-7

Minnesota Vikings 6-10

Chicago Bears 5-11

The Green Bay Packers have an extremely tough schedule in 2015, having to face San Francisco, Arizona, Denver and Carolina all on the Road and the NFC champion and 2013 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City, San Diego and Dallas all at Home at Lambeau Field. But the Cheeseheads are the class of the league and one of the best teams in football and the NFC North should have an identical order of finish in 2015 as it did in 2014, with only the Bears and Vikings possibly switching predicted places and records. Not much to be seen or talked about here. As it almost always is, the NFC North is the Green Bay Packers to lose.

 

NFC South Projected

New Orleans Saints 9-7

Carolina Panthers 9-7

Atlanta Falcons 7-9

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-13

This division should be a dogfight between its two best teams, the almost accidental defending divisional champion Panthers and the Saints and the two could end up with the same record, something they almost did in 2014 (Panthers 7-8-1, Saints 7-9). Atlanta will fall while Tampa Bay will look a little bit better, but that’s not saying much in the context of this particular division or where that team (the Falcons) could potentially be. Playing the teams from the AFC South and the NFC East should be good thing for the NFC South this 2015 NFL Season, and the Panthers and Saints may surprise everyone as they can both hang with the strongest teams in the NFC—including defending conference champion Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson and the legendary Packers and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers—and have solid QBs (Cam Newton and Brees, respectively) to lead them.

 

NFC West Projected

Seattle Seahawks 12-4

San Francisco 49ers 10-6

Arizona Cardinals 8-8

St. Louis Rams 7-9

One of the toughest, if not thee toughest divisions in the NFL, the NFC West will again go to the team with the best defense in the league, those Seattle Seahawks. But Seattle has a tough Home non-divisional schedule this coming season with Home dates against Carolina, Detroit and Pittsburgh at CenturyLink Field along with challenging Road tilts against Green Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Dallas. With DL coach Jim Tomsula taking over in Frisco, the Niners should bounce back a bit while the Rams should improve some and the Cardinals could have a major slip, despite getting QB Carson Palmer back from a torn ACL injury. The big thing for the Seahawks, who had the #1 Rushing attack in the NFL, will be re-signing RB Marshawn Lynch, something the club is currently in the process of trying to accomplish.

 

2015 NFL Predicted Divisional Winners: Eagles (NFC East), Packers (NFC North), Saints over Panthers via Tiebreaker (NFC South), Seahawks (NFC West); Patriots (AFC East), Ravens (AFC North), Colts over Texans via Tiebreaker (AFC South), Broncos (AFC West)