You’ve seen our predictions for the NFL season. I’m here to give you 10 more picks, but these aren’t the safe variety.
Consider these your 10 long-shot picks, the bold predictions for the 2016 NFL season.
How did last year’s bold predictions work out? Well, hmm. I said Johnny Manziel would establish himself as the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback of the future. I said Adrian Peterson would have a disappointing season. One header said “There will not be an NFL team in Los Angeles in 2016.” And I went out on a limb and said the Patriots wouldn’t make the playoffs.
Hey, these are long-shot picks; winning percentage won’t always be great. Except this year. Feeling a 10-for-10 coming in these bold predictions:
Antonio Brown will be the first receiver to win NFL MVP
I’ll be honest, I thought Jerry Rice won one. Nope. (Rice should have won in 1987, and did win MVP awards from Sporting News and Pro Football Writers Association, but not the officially recognized AP award.) A kicker has won an MVP award — the strange Mark Moseley one in 1982, which I think was the voters trolling the NFL over the strike that season — but a receiver never has.
Brown will be the first. Which leads us into bold prediction 1A …
Brown will break NFL records for receptions and yards
In the 12 games Brown played with Ben Roethlisberger last season he had 119 receptions, 1,599 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s a 16-game pace of about 159 receptions and 2,132 yards.
I think Brown breaks Marvin Harrison’s receptions record of 143, and Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 yards. He probably would have last season if Roethlisberger didn’t miss four games due to injury. I think Brown gets 2,000 yards, and that’s the type of round number that would finally get voters out of their “quarterback or running back?” MVP mindset. OddsShark.com says Brown’s odds to win MVP are sitting at 33-to-1, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.
Brown is going to make a lot of history this season.
Jared Goff will not throw a touchdown pass this season
I was going to predict that Goff, the Los Angeles Rams’ quarterback and first overall pick, won’t start a game this season. But that’s too bold; 22 of the last 24 quarterbacks taken in the first round started at least one game as a rookie. The pressure will be too great for the Rams to not start Goff. He’ll start at some point.
But I’m not sure how good he’ll be. He didn’t look ready in the preseason. And the fact that the Rams said at the end of the preseason that Sean Mannion was ahead of Goff and would be the team’s backup tells us the Rams weren’t too impressed by Goff either. Think about it this way: The easiest path for the Rams was to at least name Goff the backup. The Rams had to have wanted to name Goff the backup, just to avoid everyone in the NFL wondering what is happening. But they couldn’t justify doing it.
Goff will play. History tells us that. I just don’t think he’ll play well, at least this season. And we’ll see about 2017 and beyond.
Dak Prescott and Tony Romo won’t be the only quarterbacks to start for the Dallas Cowboys
Prescott looked great in the preseason, but let’s look at some history. The last quarterback drafted outside the top 130 picks to start in Week 1 as a rookie was Randy Hedberg for the 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to Five Thirty Eight. Yes, the Randy Hedberg! And how did ol’ Randy do? Zero touchdowns and 10 interceptions with 244 yards in seven games. He had four games with at least 10 attempts in which he posted a rating of 4.9 or worse. Wow. Hedberg was out of football in 1978 and beyond.
Since Hedberg, the only rookie quarterbacks not picked in the top 100 to start Week 1 are Kyle Orton, Steve Beuerlein and Chris Weinke. Their rookie ratings, respectively: 59.7, 66.6, 62.0. If Prescott, a late fourth-round pick, is even average as a rookie he’ll be a historical outlier. Even if he’s not a total disaster it’ll be relatively historic. So no matter how good Prescott looked in the preseason, let’s assume there are some serious struggles coming.
Add in that we have no idea if Romo can stay healthy anymore, and I think we’ll see Mark Sanchez (or who knows, maybe someone else) for at least a game or two.
The Houston Texans are going to be this year’s Carolina Panthers
I’m not picking the Texans to go 15-1 or anything, like the Panthers did last year, but the Texans will be your elite team you didn’t see coming.
The Texans have a good coach. Brock Osweiler can be a competent quarterback (he won’t be “worth” $18 million a year, but I’m not fixated on his contract). Lamar Miller helps the run game. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best receivers in football. J.J. Watt will return from back surgery and play in Week 1. Jadeveon Clowney has shown signs he’s ready to take a big step. It all adds up. The Texans will be very good.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will be this year’s chic pick who disappoints
The buzz on the Jaguars has died down some since the middle of the offseason, but I still think many believe they’ll be the breakout team this season. Not this year. I could see the Jaguars failing to improve much, too.
We don’t really know yet if Gus Bradley is a good coach. Blake Bortles put up good numbers last season, but almost all his best work came in garbage time. I think the Jaguars could take a nice step and still miss the playoffs. I also think they could be really disappointing and there’s a new coach in 2017.
Jameis Winston is considered a top-10 quarterback (or higher) by season’s end …
I’m buying Winston as one of the league’s future stars. Go read Greg Cosell’s breakdown of him if you need to be convinced, as well.
But how fast can it happen? This year seems possible. Winston has shown the desire to improve rapidly, and we’ve seen him play at a high level for many years now, going back to Florida State. The guy won a Heisman Trophy as a freshman, after all. By the end of this season there will be no question.
… and so will Derek Carr
As much as I like Winston, I think I’d pick Carr over him. The Oakland Raiders will go to the playoffs this season, Khalil Mack will win defensive player of the year, and Carr will be the quarterback who takes the biggest leap in our consciousness. I like everything about him, and like his supporting cast too. He’ll be in the MVP consideration this season.
Robert Griffin will be the Cleveland Browns quarterback … in 2017
Griffin has looked a lot more confident in the preseason, and you have to wonder how much a lack of confidence affected his Washington Redskins career. Hue Jackson has shown he knows how to put quarterbacks in positions to succeed. And Griffin has a lot of good weapons to work with this season, especially when Josh Gordon returns from a four-game suspension.
I think Griffin turns his career around to the point where the Browns trust him going into 2017 too. The problem for Griffin will be if the Browns get the first overall pick, and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson or someone else who emerges tempts them. The funny thing is, Griffin can help his job security by playing well and leading the Browns to enough wins that they’re not drafting first next spring. And he might do that.
Get used to this title: “San Antonio Raiders”
The Las Vegas Raiders idea is great on paper, and I’d love an NFL team in the happiest city in the world. The problem is, I don’t think a stadium will ever get built.
The plan includes $750 million in public money. That would be a record for a sports stadium. Even though it would come from a hotel tax, locals don’t seem to want it. And Sands Corporation CEO Sheldon Adelson has already said if his group doesn’t get the $750 million then the plan is off. That’s the way Vegas is; big projects get proposed all the time, and then just die quietly. This one is just getting more attention because it includes the NFL. You can see where this is going.
So ask yourself a very simple question: Where are the Raiders playing in 2020, if not Las Vegas? I have no idea. I don’t think the San Diego Chargers are going to get their stadium either, and they reluctantly become the Los Angeles Rams’ tenants. I don’t think there will be a third team in L.A. I don’t think Oakland is going to build the Raiders a stadium. I think the Raiders and 49ers would rather play in a local park than have to share a stadium. So where does that leave the Raiders?
Well, San Antonio showed real interest. Maybe that was just a negotiating ploy by the Raiders, but it might become their best option. Ask yourself another question: Who else has shown any real interest at this point?
Tom Brady and Drew Brees will start to act their age
Brady and Brees both make my top-10 all-time quarterbacks list. Both might squeeze into my top five, though that’s a tough group to crack. I think Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time and Brees checks every single box a quarterback could possibly check.
With that out of the way (to avoid your “Hater!” comments), I think by the end of the year we might understand both are on their way out. I’m not expecting a 2015 Peyton Manning collapse for either, but Brees is 37 and Brady is 39. The history of quarterbacks playing at a high level at those ages isn’t good, especially for Brady. Only one quarterback who was 39 or older had a truly great season, and that was Brett Favre’s magical 2009 with the Minnesota Vikings.
I’m going with history here and saying that by the time the season is done, we’ll know that Brees and Brady are on borrowed NFL time.
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