Sleeper Teams for the 2016 Season

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?

Image result for Blake Bortles 2015 season

(yibada.com)

Jacksonville Jaguars

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

Image result for jameis winston tampa bay

(NFL.com)

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 

Image result for dallas cowboys offensive line

(insidethestar.com)

 Dallas Cowboys

Here we go again. Despite the hype and talk about how good the Cowboys can be, they are probably the most highly lenient in terms of their performance on 2 players than any other team in the league. Those 2 players being Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Together Romo and Bryant hold the all time record for touchdowns from QB to WR. Yes, more than Aikman to Irvin, Staubach to Pearson, etc. The health of Romo and Bryant is very key as the Cowboys were missing both Romo and Bryant in 8 games. The Cowboys missed Romo for 12 games and in those games they went 1-11. But of course the talk around Dallas is how successful Ezekiel Elliott in his rookie season. Expectations are a little too high in my eyes, I see Elliott with a 1300 yard and 8 touchdown season which is pretty good for a rookie. The offensive line is going to be just as good this year as last year with the three headed monster of Tyron Smith, Zach Martin, and Travis Fredericks returning, three of the top 10 lineman in the league. Also La’el Collins coming in to his second year. Collins didn’t grade high in his blocking but if you really go back and watch the games from last year, you saw little 3-4 play spurts where Collins absolutely dominated at the point of attack and looked like he has the potential to be better than Zach Martin. Of course that will take a lot of consistency as well as improvement in his pass blocking. It will take more stepping up from the counter parts though for Dallas to reach the playoffs again. Guys like Brice Butler, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, etc. The defense however, I think is better already than in 2014. They are more athletic and younger with guys like Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence instead of Jeremy Mincey and George Selvie, Cedric Thornton instead of Nick Hayden, its already a plus they get Sean Lee back with Rolando McClain, and Byron Jones is probably the second best player on the defense. It’s going to take some consistency and staying healthy in order to even touch the stratosphere they were at in 2014, but with the same model with different pieces inserted, Dallas is shaped to have a stellar and bounce back year.

2015 Record:  4-12

2016 Prediction:  11-5

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