AFC East Champ-New England
This division will not be a cake walk for the Patriots this season as Miami and Buffalo have gradually improved over the last few years and upgraded with some offseason acquisitions. However, the Patriots are still the defending super bowl and division champs and should continue to win the east this season as long as there is no major injury.
AFC North Champ-Cincinnati
The Bengals barely missed the playoffs last season and have been almost an afterthought going into this year with rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore overtaking them in the division last season. I expect Pittsburgh to take a step backward this season, with their difficult schedule, defensive losses and looming suspensions coming into the season. Baltimore is not a great regular season team but plays its best football late in the season. Cincinnati has been the opposite of Baltimore over the last few years. They have had very good regular seasons and don’t come through in the playoffs. But this is a regular season pick. The Bengals have very good talent offensively and defensively and should win the North for the third time in seven years.
AFC South Champ-Indianapolis
The Texans have great talent on defense but this is the least competitive division in the NFL and the Colts should win the south going away.
AFC West Champ-Denver
The AFC West has some fringe playoff teams like the Chiefs and Chargers. Even the Raiders are starting to build a respectable team. This is still Denver’s division though, at least for this season.
Wild Cards-Baltimore and Miami
There are a few certainties in life. There is death, taxes and the Baltimore Ravens sneaking into the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins started to have the look of a playoff team last year. They have a good nucleus of young talent on offense and just enough on defense to get them into the playoffs this season. I like them over the Bills based on their quarterback.
NFC East Champ-New York Giants
This division changes hands every season and one of the teams with lower expectations usually rises to the top of this division. The Giants were picked third this season behind the Cowboys and Eagles. However, the media is overlooking the fact that they now have two elite receivers with a healthy Victor Cruz. The Giants also have two very good coordinators in Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnuolo, who was the defensive coordinator for the 2007 championship season.
NFC North Champ-Green Bay
Not much needs to be said here. There are some good teams in this division like Detroit and a much improved Minnesota team. But this should be the Packers’ division for a fifth straight season as long as Aaron Rodgers stays healthy.
NFC South Champ-Carolina
The loss of Kelvin Benjamin was a big one for the Panthers and will probably impact their offense tremendously throughout this season. But this team is not built on offense like the Saints and Falcons and unlike those two teams, Carolina has an elite defense. That defense should propel them to a third straight division championship.
NFC West Champ-Seattle
The Seahawks will probably be the hungriest team in the NFL this season after coming up just short of a back to back super bowl championship. When you combine that with the best overall talent in football that is a hard combination for any opponent to overcome.
Wildcards-Arizona and New Orleans
The Cardinals are one of the best teams in the NFL but they have the unenviable task of being in the same division as one of the best two teams in the NFL. Unfortunately for them, until they can knock off the Seahawks, they will remain a wildcard team that will play their playoff games on the road. The Saints will be a fun team to watch this season and had an unusually bad home record this season. That shouldn’t happen again this season and they will score enough points to get a wild card berth.
AFC Wild Card Round
(5) Baltimore over (4) Cincinnati
(3) Denver over (6) Miami
AFC Divisional Round
(5) Baltimore over (1) New England
(2) Indianapolis over (3) Denver
(5) Baltimore over (2) Indianapolis
NFC Wild Card Round
(6) New Orleans over (3) NY Giants
(4) Carolina over (5) Arizona
NFC Divisional Round
(1) Seattle over (6) New Orleans
(2) Green Bay over (4) Carolina
(1) Seattle over (2) Green Bay
(1) Seattle over (5) Baltimore