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The Pick Six

A collection of one man's (perhaps misguided) opinions on everything NFL

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Two sentences sum up New England's off-season. First, "Oh my God, just let it die, Goodell" and "We're on the Jimmy G." In case you've been living sans-society, Tom Brady has officially given up and will accept a 4 game suspension for his alleged role in DeflateGate. Whether or not you agree with this is irrelevant, because it's happening, and it's time to move on (finally).  

But while the Pats were waiting for the saga to play out, they reloaded their roster in what appears to be the last major push to win Brady/Belichick their fifth ring together. They signed Martellus Bennett to be the opposite big man TE to Gronk, they traded away talented-but-controversial DE Chandler Jones for O-linemen Jonathan Cooper in hopes of protecting Brady more, they also signed another small, shifty receiver in Chris Hogan as well as picked up DE Chris Long. So in typical New England fashion, the Patriots have made a bunch of little tweaks in hopes of becoming even more potent offensively.

Of course, there is the Brady suspension to deal with. He will be out the first four games, which is a nice little segue into the schedule breakdown.

New England Patriots 2016 Schedule

Week 1: @ Arizona (Sunday Night)

Week 2: Miami

Week 3: Houston (Thursday Night)

Week 4: Buffalo

Week 5: @ Cleveland

Week 6: Cincinnati

Week 7: @ Pittsburgh

Week 8: @ Buffalo

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Seattle (Sunday Night)

Week 11: @ San Francisco

Week 12: @ New York Jets (Sunday Night)

Week 13: Los Angeles

Week 14: Baltimore (Monday Night)

Week 15: @ Denver

Week 16: New York Jets

Week 17: @ Miami

Random Thought: This may be the toughest schedule the Patriots' have had in years.

Home Schedule: First off, three of the first four games of the season are at home (and without Brady). The Dolphins, Texans, and Bills all will feature defensive lines that will be centered around getting to the quarterback. The good news, though, is that since those games are at home Jimmy Garoppolo won't have to worry about crowd noise while conducting his offense. I don't expect those three games to be easy; of the group I would say the Texans will be the easiest out. Why? Because it's a Thursday Night game and the away team has a huuuuuge disadvantage, plus I think their offense will be as mediocre as it was last year, maybe even worse now that everyone knows to clamp down DeAndre Hopkins. The next few home games are Cincinnati, Seattle, and Los Angeles; all three boast strong defenses with two of the three being serious Super Bowl contenders. I have a feeling the Seahawks game will be one of the most intense games of the year, and since it's Sunday Night, it will be like playing at 5pm for the visiting team. Lastly the Pats have Baltimore and the New York Jets, both of which consider themselves rivals, both of which have been thorns in the side of fans in the past decade or so. Not an easy home schedule at all.

Away Schedule: Arizona to open the season would have been a "Super Bowl Preview" as news channels and broadcasters like to say...if Brady was playing. Cleveland should be a gimme considering that's the Brady Return Game (although, Cleveland has put up a heckuva fight against the Pats the last two outings, winning one). Pittsburgh will be a tough game, because by that point LeVeon Bell should be back from his suspension (if there is one) and will be fresh. The Super Ryan Brothers will have Buffalo pumped up when the Pats visit in Week 8. San Francisco should be a gimme game, the Jets always play the Pats tough, Denver has not been Brady's happy place, and ditto Miami. 

Conclusion: There are very few "gimme games" on the Patriots' schedule this year. Even if the entire first string hits IR by Week 5, I don't imagine the Pats losing to the Browns or the 49ers. This season, like last season, will come down to the overall healthy of the team. If Gronk, Edelman, and Brady stay healthy throughout the season then the Patriots have a legitimate chance to secure the #1 seed. But this is a very top heavy team, and as we saw last year, after the starters go down there isn't much depth behind them. 

Ceiling: 12-4

Floor: 6-10

My Guess: 10-6

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2016 Team Preview: Minnesota Vikings

The last time we saw Minnesota, we watched as the Vikings trotted off the field after Blair Walsh shanked a frozen football wide left in what should have been a great victory over the Seahawks. Of course, whether or not the Vikes would have stood a chance against the buzzsaw known as the Panthers is a different debate, but aside from losing the Super Bowl on the last play of the game, that might be the absolute worst way to end a season. Last season the Vikings were a surprise; I don't think very many people outside Minnesota thought they legitimately stood a chance to win the division barring a major injury to Aaron Rodgers. But even with a healthy QB in Green Bay, the Vikes were able to win the division, announcing that they were to be taken seriously. Of course, this season is a little different, as I can imagine the players and fans are eager to take that next step. After all, Adrian Peterson isn't getting any younger. 

Unlike many teams around the league, Minnesota has a good core of young players in Teddy Bridgewater, Steffon Diggs, Anthony Barr, and others. The defense is solid despite the loss of Jared Allen to retirement, and of course Adrian Peterson is arguably the best running back in the league (still!). The biggest question for this team is whether or not Bridgewater can take the next step and start airing the ball out. If he gets comfortable with deep and intermediate routes, watch out, the Vikings will be very tough to beat.

Minnesota Vikings 2016 Schedule

Week 1: @ Tennessee

Week 2: Green Bay (Sunday Night)

Week 3: @ Carolina

Week 4: New York Giants (Monday Night)

Week 5: Houston

Week 6: BYE

Week 7: @ Philadelphia

Week 8: @ Chicago (Monday Night)

Week 9: Detroit

Week 10: @ Washington

Week 11: Arizona

Week 12: @ Detroit (Thanksgiving)

Week 13: Dallas (Thursday Night)

Week 14: @ Jacksonville

Week 15: Indianapolis

Week 16: @ Green Bay

Week 17: Chicago 

Random Thought: Of the other 7 divisional winners from a season ago, Minnesota gets to play 4 this season. Lucky them.

Home Schedule: It's not going to be an easy ride for the Vikings at home this season. Week 2 against Green Bay on Sunday Night is the inaugural game before returning two weeks later on Monday Night against a revamped Giants team looking to make one last serious push before Eli is done. Houston is most likely the favorite to win their division. Who knows what Detroit will bring; even if they have a losing season the Lions can still be pesky in divisional play. The Arizona game could go  along way in determining playoff seeding, and might be quite the game to watch assuming both sides are still healthy (looking at you, Palmer). Ditto for Dallas (Romo, Witten, Dez). Indianapolis I expect to have a down season, even if Andrew Luck returns to his 2014 form. And then of course the last game of the season against Chicago, which very well could be a "do or die" game for the Vikings. If everyone still has their quarterbacks throughout the season, this is a really tough schedule. But, the one upside is that Manning, Palmer, and Romo are all over 35 and have injury histories.

Away Schedule: Tennessee should be better this year, but as I've said in other posts, they are still a few years removed from being consistently competitive. Carolina will be vying for the #1 seed again, and this game may help decide playoff seeding. Philly is in a transition year, meaning the Vikes should be favored in that game. Monday Night in Chicago will be a tough game, as prime time NFC North games usually are. I feel like the Washington game will be hard fought. Detroit, once again, who knows. Jacksonville is the trendy pick to be really good this year (I agree) and should be a tough out. And then the main event, the last away game of the season against Green Bay that, in my opinion, will ultimately decide who wins the division. Overall the away schedule is a bit of a roller coaster between the best teams (Carolina, Green Bay) and the most likely worst teams (Tennessee, Philly) in the NFL.

Conclusion: If the Vikings stay healthy and Adrian Peterson shows no drop off in play, the Vikings could have a repeat of last year. Unlike last season, though, they play the top teams in the other NFC divisions in Arizona and Carolina, both games could mean the deciding factor in playoff seeding. But for that to matter, one thing needs to happen: Teddy Bridgewater needs to throw downfield more. The Madden Play "HB Dive" with Adrian Peterson only works for so long until the defense starts forcing the QB to do something.

Ceiling: 11-5

Floor: 5-12

My Guess: 9-7

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2016 Team Preview: Miami Dolphins

Miami has the Dolphins, the greatest football team...

Well, not really.

Last season was a season to forget for Dolphins fans. The first four games of the season were painful to watch, and if not for a punt return for a TD against the Redskins, Miami would have started 0-4. Of course they fired Joe Philbin finally, and then won a couple of blowouts, before teeter-tottering between being competitive and being completely out-coached en route to a 6-10 record. During the off-season Miami lost a couple big free agents in DE/LB Olivier Vernon and RB Lamar Miller, while picking up some role players all around and DE Mario Williams. Sure, a d-line that features Williams, Suh, and Cameron Wake looks pretty formidable...if this was 2011. Miami got a steal in the draft when projected #1 pick Laremy Tunsil dropped (because of his gas-mask marijuana video), though the jury is still out on the others. There is hope, though, since Miami hired QB specialist Adam Gase to be their head coach. Who knows if he will do a good job or not, but at least we will known definitively by the end of the year if Ryan Tannehill is worth keeping or not.

So with no further adieu, let's look at the schedule for this season:

Miami Dolphins 2016 Schedule

Week 1: @ Seattle

Week 2: @ New England

Week 3: Cleveland

Week 4: @ Cincinnati (Thursday Night)

Week 5: Tennessee

Week 6: Pittsburgh

Week 7: Buffalo

Week 8: BYE

Week 9: New York Jets

Week 10: @ San Diego

Week 11: @ Los Angeles

Week 12: San Francisco

Week 13: @ Baltimore

Week 14: Arizona

Week 15: @ New York

Week 16: @ Buffalo

Week 17: New England

Random Thought: 4 straight home games with a bye in the middle of the season is super rare, which could work in Miami's favor.

Home Schedule: Cleveland, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, San Fran, Arizona, and then the AFC East teams. Three of those are "should wins," Arizona might be a win if Palmer is out for the season by Week 14 (not rooting for it, just being a realist), New England might have the division locked up before Week 17 (like last year) and Miami always plays them tough. Pittsburgh will be the biggest test for Miami at home, as the Steelers have the offense to put up 50 and the Dolphins have the pass defense to let up 50. Overall, could be better, but definitely could be worse (see "away schedule").

Away Schedule: Seattle, New England, Cincinnati. Before I go any further, let's just start there. Seattle will be rocking opening day and is damn near impossible to beat in Seattle anyway. New England is also practically invincible at home, although without Brady there is a chance the inexperience of Jimmy G at QB can be taken advantage of by a veteran d-line like Miami's. And then Cincinnati on Thursday Night, yet another contender (and this time on a short week). If Miami wins one of those they should be ecstatic. Then San Diego, LA, and Baltimore. San Diego wasn't that great last year, but Miami hasn't fared so well in SD for the past few seasons. The Rams could be a tough game, or they could be a pushover, and the Ravens should be better than last year simply because half of their team probably won't be on IR by Week 13 again. Miami could go 3-0, 2-1, 1-2, or 0-3 during this stretch, depends on the breaks. And then of course the Jets and Bills, both of which will play Miami hard, so who knows how those games will go as well.

Conclusion: This season largely depends on whether or not Tannehill can take the next step and if the Miami defense can keep pressure on opposing QBs. The defense is too thin in the back to let QBs have all the time they need, and the Dolphins play 4 Super Bowl winning QBs this season (Wilson, Brady, Roethlisberger, and Flacco) as well as Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, and Carson Palmer. 

Ceiling: 11-5

Floor: 3-13

My Guess: 8-8

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