Finally, we can stop talking about contract holdouts, Vontez Burfect’s suspension, Johnny Football’s troubles, Deflate-gate part deux, OBJ versus Josh Norman, drug related suspensions, domestic violence arrests and just watch players do what they do best. If college football is the appetizer, the NFL has arrived as the main course.
The defending Champion Denver Broncos kicked off Thursday night in the Mile High City with a thrilling come from behind 21-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch.
For many the official kickoff of football season is when the latest edition of EA Sports Madden Football video game is released. The 2017 edition was released back on August 26th, and I’ve had some time to play around with it.
Due to the many key injuries and recent cuts to get the rosters down to 53 players, I’ve waited until the first roster update to set up a season in franchise mode to run a simulation as accurate as possible with this season’s schedule. I’ve also stayed true to the suspensions of Tom Brady, Le’Veon Bell and others. So here it is, I simulated the 2016 season and here’s what we can expect…. According to Madden, blame them if I’m wrong.
AFC Division winners: Even with Tom Brady sitting out four games to suspension the Patriots still finished 13-3 to win the AFC East and home field advantage in the AFC. Here’s a look at how each division shook out.
NFC Division winners: The NFC went as expected by most accounts. The Arizona Cardinals who are the popular choice to make it all the way to Houston for the Super Bowl, secured home field advantage with a 12-4 record. Even though the New Orleans Saints had the same record, the Cards held the tiebreakers for 1st place.
AFC Wild Card winners: The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. I don’t think it would be a surprise if the AFC North got two teams into the playoffs. Within the past five years they’ve gotten three in. The surprise is that one of the teams is the Ravens and not the Steelers who in this simulation had a 9-7 season.
Seeing the Tennessee Titans make the playoffs as the second AFC South team is a bit of a surprise. I think most prognosticators would’ve peg the Houston Texans or Indianapolis Colts to win the AFC South and represent the division in the tournament. Overall I like the direction the entire AFC South division is headed. All four teams have their franchise QB and are building stout young rosters on both sides of the ball.
NFC Wild Card winners: New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. It’s been a while since the Giants have been in the playoffs. They’re due. You know what happens when the G-Men get in. The Falcons need to get their franchise headed in a better direction going into a new stadium in 2017. This would be a good step if it really happens.
Rookies of the Year: The AFC offensive award went to Paxton Lynch, even though Denver had a 3-13 record. Lynch took the starting job from Trevor Siemian and threw for 3,160 yards, 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a QB rating of 71.7. The NFC offensive award went to Carson Wentz who led the Eagles to a 11-5 record. Wentz threw for 3,444 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions with a QB rating of 97.3.
The defensive awards went to defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of the 12-4 Arizona Cardinals for the NFC, and cornerback Xavien Howard of the 9-6-1 Miami Dolphins. Nkemdiche recorded 69 tackles (51 solo), 13.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss. Howard made 86 tackles (67 solo) and intercepted 5 passes and had 2 forced fumbles.
Defensive Players of the Year: Middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard of the Tennessee Titans won the AFC award collecting 143 combined tackles (108 solo), 2.5 sacks and 7 interceptions to lead Tennessee to a 10-6 record.
Cameron Jordan of the 12-4 New Orleans Saints won the NFC award. The defensive end collected 18.5 sacks, 3rd best in the NFL behind J.J. Watts 21.5 and Cameron Wake’s 20.5. Jordan also added 83 total tackles (66 solo), and 15 tackles for loss.
NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers won his second Most Valuable Player award by leading the NFL in passing yards (5,253), coming in third in TD passes (37) and throwing only 10 interceptions with a 104.9 QB rating.
NFL Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick–even though on the game he’s named Griffin Murphy–just did his job and led the Patriots to a 13-3 record, 3-1 without Tom Brady due to his suspension.
Wild Card round: The Wild Card round live up to it’s name. Wild. All four games were decided by one possession. The Giants were the lowest seed (#6) to win. What did you expect? If the Giants get in, they’ll make noise. That’s what they do. Eli Manning went 21 of 31 for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead New York over Philadelphia in a rivalry matchup and Odell Beckham Junior caught 9 passes for 139 yards. Here’s the rest of the Wild Card results.
Divisional round: The Cincinnati Bengals finally win a playoff game! In another thriller, Cincinnati beat the Kansas City Chiefs in a 48-41 classic. Andy Dalton was 26 of 35 for 236 yards and 4 touchdowns to help the Bengals get the playoff victory monkey off their backs. The shocker of Divisional weekend is the 13-3 Patriots losing in Gillette Stadium to the 10-6 Baltimore Ravens 17-7. Although it shouldn’t come as much of a shock, these teams have history and the Ravens have had the better of it in the playoffs lately. Here’s how the rest of the round looked.
Championship Round: In the NFC, Eli Manning once again has the Giants on the brink of going to another Super Bowl. Eli either misses the playoffs or wins Super Bowls, but that wasn’t the case in this simulation. Drew Brees and the Saints end the Giants season. While on the AFC side, for the second consecutive season, the Bengals found themselves in another playoff war with a divisional rival. Super Bowl 51: New Orleans Saints vs. Cincinnati Bengals. So not only do the Bengals win their first playoff game in over two and a half decades, they make it all the way to the Super Bowl. Only in virtual reality. I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’m a die hard Steelers fan. However, the Bengals trip to the Super Bowl ended like their other two appearances, in heartbreak. Drew Brees went 27 of 37 for 315 yards and a touchdown to bring New Orleans their second Lombardi trophy in a 35-21 victory.
Like I said, these predictions/simulation are on EA Sports and Madden. I’d be surprised if any of them happened. Except for Rodgers and Belicheck winning MVP and Coach of the Year. I’d expect that.