My Gambling Nemesis: Guessing Each NFL Team’s Record (NFC)

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You know the drill by now. Guest blogger Neil and I have been competing in our own version of “Closest to the Pin” for four years now, and it pains me to have to say that the guy who spends every waking moment thinking about football (me) has a 1-3 record in this contest. Apparently I suck at predicting each team’s win total prior to the start of the season, or there’s some advanced math involved that Neil has used to crack the code on this game.

The rules are simple. We each guess the record of every NFL team, and whoever is closest to the correct record on the majority of teams wins the bet. The wager for 2016 remains the same as the past three years: Whoever wins gets to pick eight alcoholic beverages for the loser to consume during a 12-hour period during our annual Vegas trip in March.

I know our buddies who join us every year for this trip like it better when I lose because it’s much more entertaining (like when I did my best Tom Cruise impression three years ago and jumped from couch to couch at the sportsbook proclaiming to anyone who would listen that I loved my girlfriend and was getting ready to propose to her). But I’m seriously sick of losing this bet.

Let’s begin with the NFC teams.

Arizona Cardinals

Neil Prediction: 10-6

  • I’m starting to get a tiny bit nervous about how much of their season hinges on an older QB with an injury history.

Ross Prediction: 11-5

  • You have to try really hard to find more than 5 games this team loses in 2016. Short of a devastating injury, which is foolish to base season-long predictions on, this team is a lock for the playoffs.

Atlanta Falcons

Neil Prediction: 8-8

  • This feels like 11-5 or 5-11. Leaning towards the latter based on how last season ended.

Ross Prediction: 7-9

  • Even if you think they improved from last year (they didn’t), they play seven games against 2015 playoff teams. Check out their first eight games and you’ll quickly talk yourself out of any success for this team.

Carolina Panthers

Neil Prediction: 10-6

  • Probably not going 15-1 again, but we might not know how good or bad they are until the playoffs based on their division.

Ross Prediction: 11-5

  • I’m pretty sure I know Neil is thinking Carolina might miss the playoffs, so I can be pretty conservative with their win total and still get what I want. A five-game regression from last season seems like the worst case scenario.

Chicago Bears

Neil Prediction: 7-9

  • Who will be in the title hunt longer this fall: Bears or Cubs?

Ross Prediction: 8-8

  • These NFC North teams get a little bump this year because they face the NFC East and AFC South, possibly the league’s two worst divisions. There are reasons for optimism in Chicago, but it’s probably too much to ask them to be better than this.

Dallas Cowboys

Neil Prediction: 8-8

  • The division is soft enough that 8-8 might get a playoff spot, and they might be able to get half those wins without Romo.

Ross Prediction: 6-10

  • There’s no doubt in my mind that Dak Prescott isn’t walking into this league and firing off 8-10 wins. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Tony Romo will be rushed back too early, get injured almost immediately and end up playing in less than three full games in 2016.

Detroit Lions

Neil Prediction: 8-8

  • I actually think this team will surprise some people, but that probably means 8 wins.

Ross Prediction: 9-7

  • You’ll notice in my upcoming playoff predictions, I’m taking the Lions as the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs, but forced to make a specific prediction, I see them just above .500. They are better than most people are assuming, but I can’t picture them climbing up to 10 wins or more.

Green Bay Packers

Neil Prediction: 10-6

  • This team is probably slightly overrated, but no way to tell until the playoffs in their crappy division.

Ross Prediction: 11-5

  • I can actually see the path to 12 or 13 wins, but you gotta reserve a couple losses every year for the extremely subtle moments where Mike McCarthy proves he shouldn’t be an NFL head coach.

Los Angeles Rams

Neil Prediction: 7-9

  • This defense and run game deserve a better pass game. Also, can TMZ leak Jared Goff’s Wonderlic answers?

Ross Prediction: 5-11

  • They are a 6 or 7 win team, but are stuck in the NFC West and have to travel over 32,000 miles over the course of the season. By comparison, there are several teams that only have to travel 6,000 – 9,000 miles.

Minnesota Vikings

Neil Prediction: 8-8

  • I wish there was a way to know what Minnesota’s record would have been this season with Bridgewater because I think it is going to end up the same without him.

Ross Prediction: 7-9

  • With a healthy Teddy Bridgewater, I would have only given the Vikings 8 wins. I was pretty down on them compared to the rest of the world prior to the injury. I think the season comes completely off the rails in November when they get 4 games in 18 days: Detroit, at Washington, Arizona, at Detroit.

New Orleans Saints

Neil Prediction: 8-8

  • I wish this defense hadn’t been so bad last year. I would like them as a sleeper.

Ross Prediction: 7-9

  • Just like the last two years, Drew Brees and an above average passing offense drag this otherwise-awful team to enough wins to barely miss out on a top 10 draft pick.

NY Giants

Neil Prediction: 8-8

  • My “nothing really horrible has happened with them this summer so they win the NFC East” team.

Ross Prediction: 9-7

  • What looked like a tough opening schedule got incredibly manageable over the last two weeks. The Giants start in Dallas (no Romo) and then play in Minnesota in week 4 (the Hill/Bradford experiment). If they sneak into the playoffs, I think the softening of that schedule is going to be the main reason why.

Philadelphia Eagles

Neil Prediction: 6-10

  • Their week 1 game with Cleveland may determine the top pick in the next draft.

Ross Prediction: 5-11

  • They’ll be the worst team in the NFC East, possibly by a longshot. Easy overall schedule is somewhat negated by the NFL dicking them good: weeks 5 & 6 are road games, and then they play 3 consecutive teams in weeks 7-9 who are all coming off their bye.

San Francisco 49ers

Neil Prediction: 5-11

  • How bad must Kaepernick be as a passer if he can’t start in Chip Kelly’s offense?

Ross Prediction: 4-12

  • “With the 1st pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select…” The schedule includes eight matchups against top 7 defenses from 2015, and weeks 10-17 feature five road games and three home games against New England, the Jets and Seattle. That would be impossible even for an NFL-caliber team.

Seattle Seahawks

Neil Prediction: 11-5

  • I know every year they lose a couple important pieces, but enough of the defensive studs are still around that I think they have one more run in them.

Ross Prediction: 12-4

  • I think they’ve learned to prioritize getting the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and I feel like I went through their worst case scenario on the schedule and see 11 wins as their absolute floor.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Neil Prediction: 8-8

  • Is this the NFC sleeper or is Jameis Winston one year away? Yeah, one year away but frisky.

Ross Prediction: 7-9

  • Possibly the hardest task we have going into this season is figuring out what to make of last year’s up-and-comers: Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay. In all likelihood, one of them will go on to make the playoffs, one will stagnate and have a similar season to last year, and one will be a wreck. Clearly I’m expecting some stagnation from Tampa.

Washington Redskins

Neil Prediction: 7-9

  • Their 1st place schedule means their extra games are against Arizona and Carolina, which keeps them out of the playoffs.

Ross Prediction: 9-7

  • I’m actually expecting 10 or more wins, but why go any higher if I know Neil’s going to take them for 8 wins or less? I really thought they were competent last year in a non-fluky way, and they’ve gone ahead and added Josh Norman and a few other complementary pieces. Cousins won’t be a perennial Pro Bowler, but I don’t think he’s a one-season wonder either.

Check back later on Wednesday for the AFC side of things.

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