Written By: Trevor Lightfoot @TrevorLightfoot
Ahhh. Don’t you just love this time of year? The MLB regular season is finally starting to become relevant, basketball is about to come out of hibernation, and the first school bell of the year has finally perforated through dormant campuses around the nation. Yet above all else it is the freshly cut grass of the football field, the relentless media coverage, and the promise of a new NFL season right around the corner that has seemingly everyone making bold predictions about what will happen between the hash marks this year. Well, we want in on the action, too. That’s why we’ve gone all-in with our best, possibly horrible, predictions for what to expect this year. Without further ado, please enjoy Wheelhouse Factory’s two touchdown’s worth of outlandish predictions for the 2015 NFL season.
Note: We at WHF like being right as much as the next opinionated website, but we also know how to face the music and admit it when we’re wrong. That’s why after this season, the Wheelhouse team will go back and check over all fourteen predictions to see which ones we somehow got right, which ones we were somewhat close on, and which ones were just Hail Marys to begin with.
Number 1: The New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and New England Patriots will make the playoffs
I know, I know … this is a dicey one to lead off with. But just hear me out here. The Jets have had a busy offseason. The organization fired Rex Ryan and hired Todd Bowles to replace him. They also added major pieces to the roster such as Brandon Marshall, David Harris, Darrelle Revis, and Antonio Cromartie. The good news for Jets fans is that these additions were made to pay dividends immediately. Coach Bowles is coming off a season where he basically could have walked on mirage water in Arizona. During his two-years as defensive coordinator he was faced with tremendous adversity thanks to a seemingly perpetual string of injuries while also coaching against the best players in the strongest division in football. Now, coaching is one thing, but players still play the game, right? The players added to the Jets roster are veterans with just enough juice left in the tank to make a solid playoff push. The Jets probably won’t win the division; I mean the Patriots still have Brady and Belichick. The silver lining is that over the past three seasons, wildcard teams in the AFC have only had to win 10.16 games for a playoff birth. If the Jets can take full advantage of their schedule, which is the 15th weakest, then 10 wins is not out of the range of possibility. The biggest question mark, however, is only the most important player on the field; quarterback Geno “Pick 6” Smith.
UPDATE: It is the preseason so techincally we can change our predictions if we want to. But in this case the broken jaw of Geno Smith, tragic and outlandish in its own right, makes us want root for Todd Bowles and the Jets to find a way to overcome this adversity. The prediction stays.
The Bills are one of the most intriguing teams entering the 2015 NFL season. First year Head Coach Rex Ryan has a stout defensive line and offensive power for days. Players new to the roster such as LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, and Sammy Watkins will all benefit from the QB upgrade of Matt Cassel. If there was ever a year for optimisim in the snow-stock-pile city of Buffalo, it’s this year. The Patriots are the big-bad bullies of the AFC East. Almost every season for the past fifteen years, the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets have had to cower away from the spotlight and survive in the cold, dark shadow of Tom Brady and the Patriots. To their credit though, New England as also built an organization that has put on a clinic in terms of bringing in the best personnel fit for position needs while also parting ways with distractions. The Patriots may be coming off a miracle Super Bowl victory, but it’s worth noting that the Deflategate saga may have taken some of the air out of the celebration. However, history has shown that despite all of the impediments, the Patriots will almost definitely be back in the playoffs in 2015. You can bet that Rex and the Bills will jump at any opportunity to knock them off of their proverbial pedestal.
Number 2: A quarterback will throw for more than 5,500 yards, breaking the all-time single season record
Matthew Stafford has two things going in his favor entering the 2015 season. Number one, Calvin Johnson is healthy and ready to do Megatron things and two, he still has an absolute cannon of an arm. Over the last four seasons, Stafford has averaged 4,728 yards per season, and for some reason it seems like he is just scratching the surface of potential. With the NFL trending more and more toward pass-happy nirvana, the single season passing record is bound to be broken, and we believe the gunslinger from Detroit has what it takes.
Number 3: Larry Fitzgerald will have over 1,000 receiving yards
The Cardinals wide receiver hasn’t been able to crack the 1,000-yard receiving threshold since 2011, but we have high hopes for this year. Is it wishful thinking for a brief return back to the glory days of Fitz’s prime? Perhaps, but maybe just maybe he has enough left join the 1,000-yard club one more time. The Cardinals have an upper-echelon quarterback in Carson Palmer who has now had three seasons to build chemistry with the team’s top-tier receiving core (Michael Floyd, John Brown). Combine that offensive power with the fact that the Cardinals signed Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham and there may be enough there to take the “line of scrimmage” spotlight off of Fitz. Give him just a few single coverage opportunities a game, and Larry will make the most of it.
Number 4: There will be a post-game fashion meltdown at some point this year
So this one is a little tricky to “predict”, but here it goes. Fashion continues to weave its way into the fabric of the sports world. Regardless of the sport it seems like post game attire is becoming just as important as the performance during the actual game. With the pressure to “look” the part turning into a necessity, there’s no doubt that a meltdown is looming. If we had to guess (and we do) who will be the first to crack, it’s probably going to be Eli Manning. It’s always the polite, reserved ones you have to watch out for. Can’t you see him turning into Gob from Arrested Development after a big game that ended in a questionable call? “Oh you’re going to sit there and ask me questions while I wear this $4,500 suit?! Come on!”
Number 5: Tony Romo and the Cowboys will be making a triumphant return to the playoffs, despite losing Murray
You can’t just trade a guy that rushed for 2,966 yards over the last two seasons and expect to make the playoffs can you? There’s no question that the player who benefited the most from Murray’s exceptional performance was Tony Romo. Using Murray as leverage to dupe the defense, Romo was able to stay healthy and dominate offensively with 34 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. But that’s not the full story. The Cowboys also dramatically improved the offensive line, giving Romo better protection with 17% less sacks than the prior year. Unlike Murraym the majority of that offensive line is still intact, giving us every reason to believe that the Cowboys are still a playoff team.
Number 6: Colts will beat the Patriots in the playoffs
Indianapolis is another team that made some interesting moves this offseason by picking up THE U connection with Frank “Don’t Call Me An Eagle, I Was JK” Gore and Andre “Original Transformer” Johnson. The Colts also have the second easiest schedule in the NFL. Of course these factors alone are obviously not enough to make an argument that the Colts will avenge that devastating 45-7 loss in the AFC title game last season, a.k.a. the Deflate Gate game. One interestes element about that game, however, is that it shed light on just how important resting players can be in a physical, tactical game like football. More than home field advantage or coaching schemes, the playoffs are all about the sustainability of players. Over the last two seasons, The Patriots have had a bye in the playoffs, while the Colts have been forced to player four additional quarters. This is the year the tables finally turn in favor of Andrew Luck and Co. when they defeat the Patriots by using their easier schedule to land that all-important bye.
Number 7: Giants will somehow, someway make the playoffs
The NFC East is one of the most interesting divisions in the NFL this year. With Chip Kelly and the Eagles making several questionable high-risk offseason transactions and the Cowboys doubling down on Romo, the door is going to be wide open for division supremacy. Between the hyper-athletic gymnast play-making ability of Odell Beckham Jr., the sultry salsa dancing of Victor Cruz, and the simmering potential behind the all important “contract year” of Eli Manning there’s plenty of room to be optimistic the Giants are due for another playoff run.
Number 8: Buccaneers will make the playoffs
Last year not a single team in the NFC South won more than seven games and a sub 500 team won the division. The Saints have an aging quarterback and just traded away one of the league’s most prolific players in Jimmy Graham. Sure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have only won two games last year, and let’s not let smokescreens to cloud our judgment, they were downright awful. The bright side is that this a new season and the Bucs have one of the weakest schedules in the league. They also have a new quarterback in Jameis Winston, towering wide outs Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans who can go up and get any nerve-riddled overthrows from the young fella, and a healthy Doug Martin for the first time in ages. With such a weak division, don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay shocks the world.
Number 9: 49ers will be in last place in the NFC West
The NFC West is absolutely terrifying (again) this year. The Seattle Seahawks have reached the Super Bowl two consecutive years and the Arizona Cardinals are coming off of two straight double-digit win seasons, the second of which included the motto “next man up” as the battle cry because of all the injuries the team suffered. This year the Seahawks and Cardinals have not made any major changes to indicate that the last two years were a fluke, and the St. Louis Rams have one of the strongest defenses in the NFL. While the rest of the division has been strengthening their respective arsenals, the 49ers have lost just about everyone under the sun and have a quarterback who has regressed more noticeably than LeBron James’ hairline. Boasting the third most difficult schedule this year, it will be a miracle if Coach Tomsula and lead this to 500 record.
Number 10: The Super Bowl teams from last year will have a dismal first quarter of the year
For completely different reasons, the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are on a path to begin the season in absolutely grueling fashion. The optimist will note that the Seahawks finally signed Russell Wilson to a big time contract. With that obstacle out of the way, the pessimist can step in put a Debbie-Downer parade. The reason for the sudden mood swing? Seattle begins the year with two difficult road games against the Rams and Packers. Then they are tasked with preparing to face the Bears and Lions to round out the first quarter of the season. The Patriots have a much different situation brewing on the other side of the country. Full of mystery, unquestionable talent, and a steady stream of newsworth storylines, the Patriots and specifically the coaching staff, prefer to stay private. I can only imagine what the never-ending Deflategate saga has done to deteriorate team focus. Quarterback Tom Brady may miss the first four games of the season and with that kind of unknown pressure on both the backup QB and the coaches, who knows how things will shake up. New England has an easier schedule overall, but the first four games and against four somewhat formidable opponents: Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Dallas. We predict that collectively the Seahawks and Patriots combine for a 0.375 winning percentage (three-and-five) over the aggregate eight games between them.
Number 11. Big Ben will hint at wishing Bruce Arians became the Steelers head coach instead of Mike Tomlin
For Arizona Cardinals fans, the hiring of Bruce Arians was a sweet, unexpected surprise. Since his hiring, Cardinals have enjoyed some semblance of sustained success for arguably the first time in franchise history. We all know what happened in Indianapolis, and no one can question how important Arians was to that organization during Coach Pagano’s cancer recovery. But before that heartwarming story happened, Arians was the longtime Offensive Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The relationship between Arians and the Steelers was as strong as Christian Bale’s commitment to perfecting the Dark Knight voice. That is, until he was wrongfully forced out by the organization after suffering a playoff defeat at the hands of Tim Tebow’s Broncos. Ever since that moment, there has been an unspoken (at least publicly) grudge between the Coach Arians and Tomlin Regime. Since that injustice, Coach Arians has been named NFL Head Coach of the Year and the Steelers have looked foolish for letting him go in the first place. Caught in the middle of all of this drama is Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. An interesting caveat to all of this is that Arians and Big Ben have a great relationship. When Big Ben was drafted, he and Coach Arians formed a bond that continues to be strong to this day. One can’t help but wonder if Ben still holds a bit of a grudge against the Steelers for not giving Arians a chance at head coach. We can’t wait to see what the media microphones pick up in week leading up to this highly anticipated matchup.
Number 12. Adrian Peterson will rush for over 1,200 yards
Only six players rushed for over 1,200 yards last year, and maybe if AP graced the field that number would have been seven. Adrian Peterson has had the better part of a year to prepare for a return to the field and all reports indicate that not much has changed. The Vikings held strong this offseason when AP attempted to wiggle himself away from Minnesota. With Bridgewater’s development and the signing of Mike Wallace to stretch the field things are looking up for Peterson and company. Not to mention the fact that AP has already had to overcome the daily monotony of sitting out a year before. After an ACL injury Peterson almost broke the all time single season rushing record.
Number 13: There will be a 65-yard field goal made
From 2009 – 2014 the longest field goals of each season look like this: 61-yards, 60-yards, 63-yards, 63-yards, 64-yards, 58-yards. Kickers have been dancing around that arbitrarily designated magic number of 65-yards for quite a while now and we think Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein is the man for the job. He has the benefit of kicking indoors and has already proven that he has the power to go passed 60-yards.
Number 14. Marshawn Lynch will give a real interview
Marshawn Lynch has made a name for himself in several ways. He uses ferocious “beast most” tactics to jump starts the Seahawks offense, he may or may not hold the Guinness World Record for most Skittles consumed over the course of an NFL career, and most infamously he transforms into robotic mannequin trapped in a perpetual game of Copy Cat with himself. We predict that Lynch will somehow break this habit to give the locker room interview of a lifetime.