Monday, August 25, 2014

2015 AFC Playoff Predictions

1. New England Patriots (12-4): Now that the Patriots have added cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, New England's pass defense has quickly become one of the most intimidating in all of football. While Chandler Jones and the New England pass rush ranked 5th in sacks, they ranked 22nd overall according to Football Outsiders in pass pressure, which will need to improve in 2014. Quarterback Tom Brady suffered from a dip in productivity last season while adjusting to his new group of receivers, but with injury-prone tight end Rob Gronkowski ready for Week 1, and the recent addition of Brandon LaFell from Carolina, Tom Brady is bound to do much better in 2014 now that he has more experience with this young receiving corp.

2. Denver Broncos (13-3): On paper, the Denver Broncos are the best team in all of football, seeing how they have the best quarterback, a plethora of talented wide receivers, and many big names on defense. While they may have lost receiver Eric Decker and running back Knowshon Moreno during the offseason, the Broncos still have Demaryius Thomas, Juluis Thomas, and Wes Welker to help their star quarterback. Denver also signed Pro-Bowlers Demarcus Ware, TJ Ward, and Aqib Talib to improve an already above-average defense. Expect Denver to be the number one seed in the playoffs for the third straight season.

3. Indianapolis Colts (12-4): Quarterback Andrew Luck may not have thrown for more more touchdowns or passing yards compared to his rookie season, but he certainly became more efficient. Luck's interception total dropped in half from 18 to 9, directly leading to a 10 point increase in his passer rating. Historically speaking, a quarterback's third season is the breakout year, and with the recent addition of Hakeem Knicks, as well as the return of Reggie Wayne, Indy's receiving corp is sure to be strong in 2014.

4. Baltimore Ravens (11-5): The Ravens managed to miss the playoffs by one game after winning the Super Bowl in 2012. Things got even worse for running back Ray Rice this past offseason. While Rice suffered from a severe decrease in productivity last season compared to 2013, he was then caught physically abusing his girlfriend on camera, resulting in a two game suspension. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for the most interceptions of his career, as well as throw the lowest passer rating since he joined the NFL; however, with with Denis Pitta returning from injury, and receiver Steve Smith joining this already talented receiving corp, Baltimore's passing game is sure to improve from last year.  

5. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7): Andy Dalton recently signed a 6-year extension with the Bengals, which means despite his lack of success in the postseason, the Bengals are willing to stick with Dalton into the future. Receiver A.J. Green may be the star of this offense, but running back Giovani Bernard emerged as a breakout star in 2013. With the return of tackle Geno Atkins on defense, as will as the addition of cornerback Darqueze Dennard via the draft, the Bengals are still talented enough to earn a spot in the playoffs, but a run to the Super Bowl is very unlikely.

6. New York Jets (9-7): The New York Jets making the playoffs is certainly a gutsy prediction, seeing how the Jets are 14-18 in the past two seasons. While we would like to see Michael Vick as the starter, Geno Smith still led this team to an 8-8 season last year, and he is bound to do even better alongside Chris Johnson and Eric Decker. The defense has plenty of young talent, particularly their defensive line nicknamed the "Sons of Anarchy." Sheldon Richardson managed to win Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, and the defense as a whole certainly has a shot at propelling this team into the postseason.

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