This is the video and script for my first vlog episode, Riker’s Rants NFL Edition.
Hey guys! The NFL season is just around the corner, with a Super Bowl rematch this Friday between the Panthers and Broncos. Today I’ll discuss my playoff teams, how the playoff games will turn out, and take a break to discuss my award ballot before revealing my Super Bowl LI prediction. Let’s dive right in!
Disclaimer: My original predictions picked the Vikings to win the Super Bowl, but the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater shook up the whole playoff picture.
AFC East– New England Patriots
Can’t say this was much of a shocker, can you? Tom Brady will be on the sidelines for the first four games of the season because of the DeflateGate suspension, but he’ll slide into the lineup smoothly and lead the Patriots to another easy division title. I mean, when have the Patriots not won the division?
NFC East– Washington Redskins
As a Cowboys fan, I can’t believe I’m saying this and part of me just wants to jinx the team, but the NFC East is the worst division in football and Washington has built the most solid team. They don’t do anything great, but if quarterback Kirk Cousins has another strong year, the Skins should be division champs for the second straight year. I wish I could pick Dallas, but defense is needed to win games. New York’s free agency spree doesn’t seem stable, and I think Philly will pick at the top of the draft.
AFC North– Pittsburgh Steelers
This is the year that the Steelers wreck the league. Ben Roethlisberger will have an MVP season and receiver Antonio Brown will put up historic numbers. If rusher Le’Veon Bell stays on the field, this will be the best offensive trio of this generation. Ryan Shazier and the defense took a step forward last year and make Pittsburgh into a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
NFC North– Green Bay Packers
I picked Minnesota originally, but without their starting quarterback, the Vikings are back in 8-8 range. The Packers had a down year by their standards in 2015, but any offense quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers is elite and the defense really improved last year.
AFC South– Indianapolis Colts
Last year was a dumpster fire for the Colts, with Andrew Luck battling injury and mediocre performances from all over the field, on the sidelines, and in the front office. I think it is safe to say that 2015 was an anomaly and Indianapolis will revert back into the team we saw reach three straight playoffs. They’re not balanced or deep, but they have Luck on their side.
NFC South– Carolina Panthers
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise either. The Panthers were the class of the league last year, winning their first fourteen games, but were foiled in their Super Bowl quest by the Broncos. Despite the loss of All Pro corner Josh Norman, I think that Carolina will be better this season and a scarier opponent in the playoffs.
AFC West– Denver Broncos
Kansas City and Oakland are both very respectable picks, but I take one look at that Denver defense and can’t stand the idea of another team winning the division. They lost a lot of players, but linebacker Von Miller will add Defensive Player to the Year to his collection and the offense will improve with rookie Paxton Lynch at the helm.
NFC West- Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals were obliterated by the Panthers in the playoffs last year, but they are definitely the team to beat in the NFC. Unless the injury bug hits hard and takes out quarterback Carson Palmer and safety Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona has no weakness and should roll through the regular season. I’d take the Cardinals over the Seahawks to win the division seven days of the week.
AFC Wild Card– Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati has an elite roster, but they aren’t a true contender in the Super Bowl race until they win a playoff game. That task becomes harder with the loss of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, but quarterback Andy Dalton is back and the Bengals should be able to secure their sixth straight playoff bid. But will it be another first-round loss?
AFC Wild Card– Houston Texans
The Ravens, Jets, Raiders, Chiefs, and Jaguars all received serious consideration, but the Texans are the best team of the bunch. Think last year’s Houston squad that won the division, but add a promising quarterback in Brock Osweiler and healthy, top-tier running back Lamar Miller. Hard not to trust the Texans.
NFC Wild Card– Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have problems, especially on the offensive line. But with Russell Wilson at quarterback and the stingy Seahawks defense still intact, the Seahawks are still a playoff-worthy team.
NFC Wild Card– Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’m going out on a limb, as the Bucs haven’t reached the playoffs since 2007, but Tampa Bay has tantalizing potential. Quarterback Jameis Winston looks like the real deal, and with help on offense from the Muscle Hamster and receiver Mike Evans, the Buccaneers are scary on offense. The defense could also rank in the top ten, with All Pro talents like Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David. Depth and experience is an issue, but I’ll take them over the Vikings, Giants, Bears, Cowboys, and Rams.
Now for the playoff games…
Panthers over Buccaneers- In a battle of the two NFC South teams, the clearly better team dominates.
Seahawks over Redskins- Russell Wilson carves up Washington and the defense shuts down Kirk Cousins.
Texans over Colts- In this division rivalry, the six seed comes out on top as Houston avenges last year’s 30-0 massacre.
Broncos over Bengals- I mean, we’re talking about the Bengals here. They don’t win playoff games.
Panthers over Packers- This would be a great Super Bowl matchup. Instead, it is an instant classic and the better defense wins.
Cardinals over Seahawks- The Cardinals soar past the Seahawks, who severely miss Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch.
Patriots over Broncos- Von Miller gets to Tom Brady, but the Patriots’ defense saves the day and scores a few points of its own.
Steelers over Texans- Big Ben torches the Houston secondary and the Texans can’t keep up in a shootout.
I’ll get back to the playoff games later, but first my awards ballot…
MVP– Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers- Number seven wins his first MVP award and stays healthy for the first time ever.
Defensive Player of the Year– Von Miller, Denver Broncos- The Super Bowl MVP adds to his hardware, registering 20 sacks and a ton of highlight reel plays.
Rookie of the Year– Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys- The Boys may not be good, but their rookie running back is not to be messed with.
Defensive Rookie of the Year– Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars- I’m going with the best player who actually attended training camp. I’m talking to you, Joey Bosa.
Coach of the Year– Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers win 13 games, but it is the development of the defense that gives Tomlin his first C.O.Y. award.
Comeback Player of the Year– Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts- Luck will lead a subpar roster to another division title.
And now, the big game. The Cardinals take revenge on the Panthers in a 20-17 victory, while New England holds the Steelers under 30 points with a 34-29 win. Yes, in Super Bowl LI in Houston, Tom Brady and the Patriots will take on Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. Brady is the Super Bowl legend, but Palmer validates his career with a 300-yard passing effort and Larry Fitzgerald cements himself as the best playoff performer of the century. Cardinals 29, Patriots 23, with Fitz as the MVP.
There you have it- Arizona over New England in the Big Game. Who is your pick to take Super Bowl LI? Which of my predictions stink like gym socks? Comment below and make sure to subscribe. See you ‘round!