This is my 18th season projecting NFL regular season and playoff results. As per my tradition, I select the two teams I expect to win each division and conference after I preview all teams. Only two times (Super Bowl 34 and Super Bowl 38) was I unable to project at least one of the teams that end up in the Super Bowl. But on the flip side, the last eleven straight seasons has had a team that has gone from Worst to First to make the playoffs in the NFL and I only projected 4 of those. So my formula is flawed but oh well, no one is perfect.
Quick cheat sheet to my system
*“Projections” – My resulting win/loss record after going through the full team’s schedule.
*“Plus/Minus Win/Loss differential” – The “plus” is how many more wins they could get, minus being how many fewer wins they could get. These are based on what I label as “swing” games that could go either way.
Here is my preview of the AFC East:
2015 Projected Record: 8-8
Win/Loss Plus-Minus Variable: +3/-2
Make or Break Games: 9/20 vs Patriots; 10/4 vs Giants; 11/12 at Jets; 11/29 @ Chiefs; 12/27 vs Cowboys
Synopsis: There’s a new culture in Buffalo under new Head Coach Rex Ryan. Ryan brings energy and attitude lacking from recent previous head coaches. We know that under Rex’s direction his team play good defenses and this year will be no different. The Bills have a solid balance of young and veteran talent on the defensive side of the ball. At worst this will be a top 12 defense in the NFL this season.
The biggest question marks revolve around the offense. Tyrod Taylor has been named the starting Quarterback for 2015 and this will be his first season in the NFL as a starting QB. Also coming into the season there are injury concerns for All Pro Running Back LeSean McCoy with uncertainty exactly how his injury will affect his play during the season. If the Bills offense plays up to their potential and the defense executes consistent, this is a potential playoff team.
2015 Projected Record: 8-8
Win/Loss Plus-Minus Variable:+3/-1
Make or Break Games: 9/27 vs Bills; 10/25 vs Texans; 11/22 vs Cowboys; 11/29 @ Jets; 12/6 vs Ravens; 1/3 vs Patriots
Synopsis: In 2015 the Dolphins have the opportunity to take a step forward and contend for the playoffs. The real key is the progression of whether Ryan Tannehill will make or break Miami’s season; if Tannehill will continue his development, you can expect a big season from the Dolphins. The team has surrounded Tannehill with new weapons such as Wide Receivers Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings along with former Pro Bowl Tight End Jordan Cameron.
Looking at the Dolphins schedule they have the chance to start their season 6-0 thanks to several returning starters on defense. As for any NFL team, so much is dependent on the play of their Quarterback this season and time will tell how much Tannehill has grown as a professional.
New England Patriots
2015 Projected Record: 12-4
Win/Loss Plus-Minus Variable: +1/-3
Make or Break Games: 9/20 @ Bills; 10/11 @ Cowboys; 10/18 @ Colts; 11/15 @ Giants; 11/29 @ Broncos; 12/6 vs Eagles
Synopsis: The defending Super Bowl champions have dealt with an offseason full of distractions thanks to “Deflate Gate”. Now that saga has been put on the back burner, the team can get back to focusing on football with their starting Quarterback, Tom Brady. They must now overcome injuries, suspensions, and players lea
ving via free agency to get back to the playoffs to defend their title. Despite everything, this is still a talented team with a future Hall of Fame Quarterback (Tom Brady), the top Tight End in the NFL (Rob Gronkowski), one of the most dynamic Defensive Ends in the NFL (Chandler Jones), and one of the most consistent Kickers in the league (Steven Gostkowski). A well-rounded team always has a great chance to make a playoff run and the Patriots are well-built for another Super Bowl run.
New York Jets
2015 Projected Record: 5-11
Win/Loss Plus-Minus Variable: +2/-2
Make or Break Games: 9/13 vs Browns; 10/18 vs Redskins; 11/12 vs Bills; 12/6 @ Giants; 12/27 vs Patriots
Synopsis: Todd Bowles’ first season as Jets Head Coach does not look very promising. Before the Bye Week the Jets have three tough games: Playing at the Colts (a perennial playoff team), home versus the Eagles (One of the top offenses in the NFL), and then go play the Dolphins in Miami (divisional rival). Later in the year they have to play at New England, at Oakland, at Houston, and at Dallas; all tough matchups also.
Their starting Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is a solid player but he is not the type of player who has shown he can carry a team on his back. The strength of the Jets will be their defense; the combination of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie as the starting Cornerbacks is one of the best combos in the NFL. Also their front seven lead by dynamic Defensive Lineman Muhammed Wilkerson and rookie Leonard Williams will help keep games close for the Jets this season. But in the end, that tough schedule may be too much for them to overcome.