The word “bold” can be used to describe a person, action, or idea, and it is defined as “showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.”
By no means would I classify myself as confident and courageous. In a bar fight, I would identify more as a Clifford Franklin than a Danny Bateman. So, in this circumstance we are certainly not describing a person.
Instead, we are here because of ideas. It would be easy for me to sit back and tell you the Carolina Panthers will win the NFC South, and that Aaron Rodgers will throw for a lot of yards, but who wants to read that?
No NFL season goes exactly the way it’s supposed to; raise your hand if you envisioned Houston and Washington winning their respective divisions last season. How about the Panthers going 15-1?
Didn’t think so.
But you can’t be blamed for that; you can’t predict the unpredictable.
Or can you? I hope so, ’cause that’s basically what I’m trying to do today with 12 bold predictions for the upcoming NFL season.
While I may not have the “cojones,” these predictions sure do.
Alongside each proposition, I list the objective odds that it will happen, just to drive home how bold and audacious my predictions really are. But don’t let the odds mislead you. I am stating that these things will happen! (There’s no need to remind me of this post in December, of course.)
12 Bold Predictions
1. The Jacksonville Jaguars win the AFC South
Odds it happens: 7/2
The Houston Texans made a lot of moves to bolster their roster, and the Indianapolis Colts will enjoy a healthy Andrew Luck in 2016. But I can’t stop thinking about Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler Jr., and Myles Jack all suiting up defensively for the Jags. The addition of Chris Ivory will provide Blake Bortles with an established runner to relieve some pressure, allowing for a more balanced attack.
2. Matt Stafford throws for 4,800 yards
Odds it happens: 9/1
This is a milestone that the Lions pivot has only conquered twice in his seven years. He hasn’t topped 4,300 yards through the air since 2013. Can he really accomplish it now that future Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson has retired?
Stafford’s favorite play may have been heaving it up to Megatron in triple-coverage, but wouldn’t you do the same thing if you had a receiver that came down with it more often than not? Without that luxury, Stafford will prove his doubters wrong and remind us all why he was the first-overall pick in the 2009 draft, even with Golden Tate as his top target.
3. Chip Kelly’s 49ers finish top-five in points
Odds it happens: 10/1
Chip’s offense works best with a mobile QB. He’s yet to have one in the NFL. (Michael Vick doesn’t count; he no longer had the burst in 2013.) Whether it’s Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick under centre in San Francisco, Kelly will finally have that threat of a quarterback pulling the ball and running it himself.
4. Mark Sanchez leads Denver back to the Super Bowl
Odds it happens: 20/1
That’s right, “Butt-Fumble” is taking the Broncos back to the Super Bowl! That heading may be a little misleading, though, it will be the defense that “leads” them there. Sanchez will just be along for the ride. Is it bold to say he puts up better numbers than Peyton did in 2015?
5. The Carolina Panthers do not win the NFC South
Odds it happens: 5/2
Cam Newton had a career season in 2015, and I don’t think he can repeat it. The Panthers enjoyed a very favorable schedule and won a lot of very close games. Unfortunately, 2016 will not be as kind, and parity will strike again.
6. Kirk Cousins breaks the single-season record for completion percentage
Odds it happens: 25/1
Drew Brees currently holds the record with a 71.23 completion percentage in 2011. Last season, Cousins completed just under 70-percent of his passes, and that was with a slow start to the season. He doesn’t get enough credit for his accuracy, but now with just under $20 million worth of confidence going into 2016, the former Spartan will only get better.
7. The Steelers attempt 30+ two-point conversions
Odds it happens: 1/1
This is partly because they have no reason to trust a kicker after the horrors of last season, and partly because Todd Haley is both creative and aggressive. The Steelers attempted 11 two-point conversions last year, but they (well, Ben Roethlisberger) have publicised their interest in leaving their kicker on the sidelines more often. Given all the TDs the Steeler offense is going to put up, they should have ample opportunity to reach 30 two-point tries.
8. Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin combine for 3,500+ yards from scrimmage
Odds it happens: 19/1
I was originally going to predict that Todd Gurley would win the rushing title, but didn’t feel that was bold enough. I think this should do the trick.
9. Antonio Brown has 2,000+ yards receiving
Odds it happens: 25/1
A lot of receivers say (and even more think) they’re “always open.” Brown is the one guy who actually is.
Calvin Johnson came close to eclipsing 2,000 in 2012 when he set a new single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards. Brown will break that and the 2,000-yard ceiling. Maybe then he’ll start getting a little MVP consideration.
10. The Buffalo Bills end the longest playoff drought in North American sports
Odds it happens: 5/1
The sports world would feel worse for Bills fans – whose team hasn’t reached the post-season since 1999 – if they weren’t suplexing each other through flaming tables. (It makes you wonder if Bills Mafia actually knows about this drought.)
With Tom Brady suspended for four games, now is as good a time as any to break that dubious streak. A playoff appearance will only expand Rex’s ego, but it will be great for the city and maybe, just maybe, wash the taste of the Music City Miracle out of their mouths.
As for the four consecutive Super Bowl losses, there’s not enough Listerine in the world.
11. Jordy Nelson leads the league in targets
Odds it happens: 7/1
After last season, why would Aaron Rodgers throw the ball anywhere else?
12. Five running backs eclipse 1,500 rushing yards
Odds it happens: 15/1
Only two backs have accomplished the feat over the last three seasons, and not a single one did it in 2015. I’m banking on Ezekiel Elliott here.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Blake Bortles) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)