NFL Predictions: Superlatives & Inferiorities

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When doing in-depth predictions for each NFL team’s win-loss record just isn’t enough, there’s the tried & true “superlatives column.” It’s the typical article that guesses who will win all the important awards and accolades over the course of the NFL season. Guest blogger Neil & I like to take that concept to the next level with our “Superlatives & Inferiorities” guesses. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Who will lead the league in passing yards?
    • Neil: Andrew Luck (7/2 odds). Hard to imagine him not going over 5000 yards with their easy schedule and the number of receiving weapons. Also, their defense will be bad enough that the offense needs to score in the upper 20s/lower 30s most games.
    • Ross: Eli Manning (16/1 odds). I’m starting these picks off with a bit of a wildcard. But I’m imagining a world where the Giants are terrible defensively, causing them to constantly be throwing to keep up with their opponent; horrible running the football because honestly, what do we know about Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams being competent full-time NFL running backs; and they take advantage of a pretty easy schedule in terms of opponents’ pass defense. It’s not surprising that Eli’s total passing yards spiked in 2014 with it being his first year with Odell Beckham and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
  • Who will lead the league in rushing yards?
    • Neil: This is a tough one. I wanted to say definitely someone in the NFC North, either Lacy (Green Bay maybe runs a bit more without Jordy) or Peterson (comes back angry and with a vengeance), but I’m going to say Jeremy Hill (9/1 odds). They have a “run first” offensive coordinator, and they probably want to keep the ball out of Dalton’s hands as much as possible.
    • Ross: Jeremy Hill. My fantasy football co-owners can back up my claim that I’ve been rock hard over Jeremy Hill for months now. I was considering taking him with the #1 overall pick had I gotten it in any of my leagues. I’m just going out on a limb thinking the Cincy offense will closely resemble the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. Great offensive line, receivers who have to be respected by the defense, lack of a threatening #2 running back eating into the carries. The huge difference is the Bengals are going to do everything in their power to hide Andy Dalton, which just adds to the idea of a run-heavy clock-controlled offense all year.
  • Who will lead the league in receiving yards?
    • Neil: Let’s go with Julio Jones (6/1) here. Fairly easy division, good QB, clearly the top receiving option, plays in a dome.
    • Ross: Julio Jones. This is the biggest crapshoot of these first 3 superlatives because there are so many deserving receivers, but I’ll take Jones to finally win this title. You could convince me Randall Cobb is the right choice very easily though.
  • Who will be named regular season MVP?
    • Neil: Barring an injury, this is going to Andrew Luck (3/1). I think the league is just dying to give this to him.
    • Ross: J.J. Watt (20/1). Even though I think the J.J. Watt ballwashing by the media has reached annoying levels, I could easily see him breaking the sacks record this year while being Houston’s leading scorer on offense. And even if his season is just “good” by his standards, he’ll probably win if no QB breaks away from the pack.
  • Who will be named Offensive Player of the Year?
    • Neil: Andrew Luck (9/2).
    • Ross: Eli Manning (50/1). This award definitely goes to a quarterback or running back (Jerry Rice is the only receiver to be named OPOY in the 43 years they’ve been handing this title out). I might as well double down on jinxing the 2015 Giants so they don’t follow in the footsteps of the ’07 and ’11 installments of the G-Men.
  • Who will be named Defensive Player of the Year?
    • Neil: Seems like barring injury this is going to go to J.J. Watt (3/2) the next two or three years.
    • Ross: J.J. Watt. And if anyone says differently, they are wrong.
  • Who will be named Offensive Rookie of the Year?
    • Neil: Historically this is very much a RB’s award. I’m not sure Todd Gurley plays enough to win it though, and I’m not sure how Melvin Gordon is going to be used in San Diego. It would be easy to pick one of the top two draft picks, but I’m going with a dark horse and picking a receiver, Nelson Agholor (14/1).
    • Ross: Melvin Gordon (6/1). I came close to picking Amari Cooper because I’m mesmerized by his talent, but I’m worried about the Oakland stink rubbing off on him immediately. And if Derek Carr is bad, that’s a fatal blow to Cooper’s chances of putting up big numbers. The Chargers have been patching together their running game ever since perennial playoff crybaby LaDainian Tomlinson left town. Gordon finally gives them a legitimate stud runner.
  • Who will be named Defensive Rookie of the Year?
    • Neil: I’m going to go with Leonard Williams (6/1). The Jets defense should be on the field most of the game which will give him plenty of opportunity, and there are enough other players on that line to focus on that it should allow Williams to have some easy matches the first half of the season.
    • Ross: Vic Beasley (9/1). He’s supposedly a stud pass rusher on a team that’s had an anemic pass rush for what seems like the past 10 years. Beasley will collect the majority of sacks for the Falcons this year.
  • Who will be named Comeback Player of the Year?
    • Neil: Sam Bradford (14/1) if he stays healthy. Even if Peterson has a slightly better season, I’d think the NFL would rather give this to Bradford.
    • Ross: Carson Palmer (14/1). Ten of the past 14 winners of this award have been quarterbacks so I only ever considered Palmer and Sam Bradford. The winner will be whoever stays healthy longer. It’s that simple. And it’s a complete coin flip. Bradford has the better offensive line to protect him and an offense that revolves around getting the ball out of the QB’s hands quickly, but Palmer has the track record of actually playing full seasons at least at some point in his career. Tough call. (Is Jason Pierre-Paul a dark horse candidate for this award? Do the voters go for self-inflicted offseason injuries?)
  • Who will be named Coach of the Year?
    • Neil: Chip Kelly, Philadelphia (10/1). If Bradford stays healthy and Philly wins 10-11 games, people are going to be saying his offseason moves were genius.
    • Ross: Dan Quinn, Atlanta (14/1). He might not even end up being very good. It’s just that the juxtaposition of Quinn and last year’s coaching “effort” by Mike Smith might trick voters’ eyes into thinking Quinn is a coaching god.

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  • Who will be the First Coach Fired?
    • Neil: This is a tough one this year. So many candidates. Here in the Bay Area, rumors that Jim Tomsula has already lost the Niners locker room are starting to circulate. I’m not sure San Francisco feels like they have to give him a full year. I could see Jeff Fisher being in trouble if St. Louis gets off to a slow start, but I think their defense will get them wins until their offense can become average. Jay Gruden probably gets a full year to see what he can do with Kirk Cousins; however, the entire Washington scene seems to be getting worse by the day. I think it ends up being Marvin Lewis or Mike Pettine. We know the Cleveland ownership does not like to let coaches do too much building and their QB situation is a mess so they should be fairly bad this season. If Cincinnati starts off bad, do they axe Lewis before the end of the year in an effort to sell A.J. Green on the idea of, “Hey look, we’re changing, you should stay here!”? Cincy’s schedule starts easy enough that I think Mike Pettine is the first gone (+275).
    • Ross: Jay Gruden (3/1). By my count there are 13 coaches who could find themselves on a very hot seat by season’s end, but there are only two options for in-season firing: Gruden and Joe Philbin. The only hesitation I have on Gruden is that he might quit in October and I’d lose this prediction on a technicality.
  • Who will be the First QB Benched Due to Ineffectiveness?
    • Neil: I think Pettine feels more pressure to be good this year than Rex Ryan does, so I think it’s Josh McCown first. How awesome would it be if the right answer turns out to be Peyton Manning?
    • Ross: Kirk Cousins. I would not put it past Jay Gruden to change QBs every week, rotate all three guys regularly, and do everything short of chug whiskey on the sidelines.
  • Will there be an off-the-field controversy at any time during the season that dominates the news? (Just Kidding. It’s the NFL! Of course there will be! The question is, what kind of controversy and how far along into the season?)
    • Neil: The controversy is going to be around moving teams to LA. Although I’d prefer something that results in Jim Irsay getting a lifetime ban.
    • Ross: I’m pretty sure it’ll be concussions and head injuries. The NFL has done a masterful job creating decoy news to distract from the ongoing head injury issues over the past few years (Deflategate, Bountygate, relocation rumors, feigned outrage over marijuana smokers). But unfortunately I think we’re overdue for some incident on or off the field to shove head trauma back into the limelight. Whatever it is, I’m sure Goodell will handle it with great aplomb.
  • Over or Under 7.5 head coaches who totally botch the math throughout the season when deciding whether to go for 1 point or 2 points after a touchdown?
    • Neil: Waaaaaaaay over. I’m already mad about it. It is going to be my pet peeve all season, and I am going to bring it up a lot so be prepared. Let me start here: Every time the first score of a game is a touchdown and the scoring team does not go for two, I’m going to be giving out exaggerated eye-rolls.
    • Ross: I’m taking the over because more than 10 coaches immediately came to mind when thinking about this answer. Half of those ten will screw up because they like to play way too conservatively. The other half will mess up out of sheer ineptitude and terrible decision making.
  • Who will be the last undefeated team?
    • Neil: Indianapolis is the last undefeated team. Their first loss is exactly on 18-October.
    • Ross: Miami. The Dolphins aren’t even a lock to make the playoffs, but their starting schedule makes it impossible not to pick them: @Washington, @Jacksonville, Buffalo, NY Jets, @Tennessee, Houston, @New England. That’s a pretty simple path to 6-0 before that game against the Patriots.
  • Who will be the last winless team?
    • Neil: I’m going to go with the 49ers. If they can’t beat Minnesota opening weekend, I have no idea when they get their first win.
    • Ross: San Francisco. In last week’s NFL column I said, “If ever there was going to be a surprise 0-16 team, [San Francisco] would be the one.” I still believe that. If they can’t handle Minnesota at home to open the season, we could be talking about an 0-8 49ers team heading into a home game against Atlanta in week 9.
  • Which team will have the 1st overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft?
    • Neil: Cleveland (9/1). It is hard for me to see the McCown/Manziel/Pettine situation ending in anything other than the first pick.
    • Ross: Tennessee (5/1). You’re in uncharted territory when teams like Jacksonville and Oakland are light years ahead of you in competitiveness. Good job, Titans.
  • If you knew in advance the Patriots weren’t going to win the Super Bowl this season (let’s say, for instance, the NFL had an axe to grind with them and the league made sure the referees created calls to “help” the Patriots lose), which team would you be rooting for?
    • Neil: St. Louis. Two reason: 1) I think their defense is going to be dominant this year…able to win games by themselves. I mean, Nick Fairley is coming off the bench. It is fun to root for teams like that, and 2) If St. Louis wins their second Super Bowl and the NFL tries to move them to LA, there is no way Goodell comes out of the situation as Commissioner.
    • Ross: This is easy. I want the outcome to be whatever would be most embarrassing for Roger Goodell and the NFL. This year it would be either the Saints winning after Goodell railroaded them with Bountygate, or it would be St. Louis winning while the league is stealing the team and moving it to LA. (Editor’s Note: On second thought, New Orleans seems to be one of the few teams that has yet to have a current or former player/coach/executive blame a loss to the Patriots over the last 15 years on some convenient excuse so I’m all-in on them.)

We’ll be back in the next 24 hours with our final predictions for the season: Playoff Teams & Super Bowl Matchup. We are now within 55 hours of actual, meaningful football. Get excited.

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