I don’t think anybody is as excited as I am for the upcoming 2016 NFL Season. So many great moves were made, some expected, and some very unexpected. A lot of questions surround the upcoming season. Like, how will Josh Norman perform in a new system? And can he prove he can be a lockdown corner for years to come? Can Denver repeat the same success on Defense? Questions surrounding the upcoming rookie class and more. One question I will answer in this post though is: Who is the sleeper teams this upcoming season?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are probably the most popular sleeper team out there. Not only did they enjoy the successes of having a coming of age season, but also a very successful offseason. Blake Bortles is obviously the key to a breakout year for the Jaguars, all eyes will be upon him to see how improves off a 4400 passing yard and 35 TD season. Since the draft process and the first game I laid my eyes upon Bortles at UCF against Louisville. I saw him as a Ben Roethlisberger player and he certainly gave everyone a glance at the immaculate potential he has. But even more eye opening was the breakout year from Allen Robinson. Robinson, the 2014 2nd Round Pick out of Penn State, enjoyed a marvelous 80 receptions, 1400 yards, and 14 Touchdown season. Jacksonville is certainly set up for success on the offense between the connection of Bortles and Robinson, and quality contributors such as Marquise Lee, Allen Hurns, TJ Yeldon, and Deshard Robinson. Defensively is where the breakout season is going to come have to come from in order for Jacksonville to push Houston for the AFC South crown. The Jags basically acquired 3 first round picks in this past years draft with the selections of Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack, as well as the return of Dante Fowler, who suffered a Torn ACL before his rookie season even began. With some nice shiny new toys for Gus Bradley in Prince Amukamara, Malik Jackson, and Tashaun Gipson. Jacksonville is primed for a breakout season with a few upsets on track.
2015 Record: 5-11
2016 Prediction: 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay is one of those teams that is on the cusp of breaking through and possibly making the postseason because of one player: Jameis Winston. Yes I know, it may seem a little over the top to label a young player that big of a game changer this early in his career but just look at the stats. Tampa went 6-10 last year with a defense that quite honestly was just awful. The defense allowed 26.1 points per game (26th in the NFL), and 240 passing yards per game (16th in the NFL). Jameis Winston, dear god, I say it in his rookie season threw for 4,042 yards and 22 Touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions while completing 58 percent of his passes. For a rookie, that’s pretty good if you ask me compared to the projections attached to him before the season began. Of course a big portion is going to be the health and growth of both Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Two big athletic targets that can not only stretch the field but attack the middle of the field as well, which is huge with the amount of press man to man coverage and all out blitzes being ran in today’s game. Dirk Koetter is an established coordinator in the league but it will be intriguing to see how he handles managing an entire team for the first time. The defense will be a major key. I loved the addition of both Vernon Hargreaves and Noah Spence. Two guys who I felt were the best at their position in the draft. The development of Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David will be key for the front seven and the consistency of Brent Grimes and Alterraun Verner will be very key as well. Tampa is set up for a very successful and breakout year, and it will ride very heavily on the development and strides taken by the bad man named Jameis Winston.
2015 Record: 6-10
2016 Prediction: 9-7