10 bold predictions for second half of NFL season

To kick off the start of the 2016 season, we made bold NFL predictions for all 32 teams. Some of those are still on course to play out.

Of course, there is stuff nobody thought would happen currently taking place around the league. For example, the Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC with the best record at 7-1. Who thought that would be the case at the mid point of the 2016 season, especially with a rookie quarterback under center?

On the opposite side of the spectrum is a completed defeated Cleveland Browns squad on pace to finish the season without a single win.

There are also some standout NFL players on course to post some mind-boggling stats.

Now that all of the NFL teams have completed the first half of the season, here are some bold predictions for the second half.

1. Tony Romo retires after Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders play in Super Bowl 51

Tony Romo

This is a lot to take in right here. But the Cowboys (7-1) are becoming the team to beat not only in the NFC East, but the entire NFC.

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has breathed new life into last year’s deflated team. Yes. Last year’s four-win team with terrible backup quarterbacks now sports the NFC’s best record.

Prescott and the ‘Boys have tremendous schedule on tap and could realistically finish at 15-1.

And nearly equally as impressive in the AFC are the Raiders (7-2), currently leading their stacked division.

The Raiders and playoffs finally make sense in the same sentence. Derek Carr has been amazing, and his young offense currently ranks second-best in the league. Never mind those Denver Broncos that got steam-rolled by Oakland in Week 9.

There is only one obstacle that sits in the way at the end of the postseason. That would be Tom Brady and the currently 7-1 New England Patriots.

We’re boldly predicting that Oakland beats New England in the AFC Championship Game to face Dallas in the Super Bowl. In the end, backup quarterback Tony Romo won’t have played a single snap, but he will retire with a championship ring.

2. The Cleveland Browns tie historic stat with 0-16 finish

Each week, Browns fans get kicked when they are already down. A 0-9 season is on the books so far without much hope in sight.

And per the usual, the Browns’ revolving quarterback circus is still in town. The team has already started four quarterbacks due to injures. Currently, rookie Cody Kessler is under center.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BMhyaY8jujk/?taken-by=sportsnaut

Cleveland is scoring points. But, the team is just not winning no matter who its opponent is. Unfortunately, the Browns’ defense is crippling the team by allowing an average of 421.7 yards and 30.3 points per contest.

Cleveland’s offense simply cannot compensate for the farm the defense is giving up on a weekly basis. And a ridiculously late Week 13 bye to give the team a much-needed rest seems eons away.

There is no way to sugarcoat the misery and sorrow that lies ahead. The Browns appear to be doomed to a dreaded 0-16 record — something only the 2008 Detroit Lions have managed in the history of the NFL.

3. Allen Robinson has smashing comeback second half

Last year, Robinson finished his season with 80 receptions, 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. It was practically an unheard-of stat for a Jaguars receiver.

This year is quite the opposite. Robinson is on pace to end 2016 with 78 receptions, 884 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s still catching a similar amount of passes, but the yards and touchdowns are just not there. Just ask Robinson’s dissatisfied fantasy football owners.

Fortunately, Robinson has seen an increase in targets in his last two games, and his yardage has been on the rise. Quarterback Blake Bortles seems to have reestablished his rapport with Robinson.

Because Bortles is the king of garbage-time yardage, we are predicting an 1,100-plus yard, 10 touchdown finish for Robinson. To make this happen, he’ll need to average 85 yards and .75 touchdowns in each of his eight remaining games.

4. Chicago Bears sneak their way into first place in NFC North 

Jay Cutler

As preposterous as this sounds, the Bears (2-6) have a chance to win their division. Not many thought that Chicago would defeat the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8. But they did.

Returning from their bye, they face a list of fairly beatable opponents. Four home and four away games see the Bears playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings.

Realistically, any of these games could go Chicago’s way. And just as realistically, the Bears’ divisional competition could stumble.

The Vikings (5-3) are on a ugly three-game losing streak and have managed only 36 points in those losses.

In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (4-4) have tanked in three of their last four games. This includes two home-game losses to the Cowboys and Colts.

The Lions (5-4) have walked away with some puzzling losses as well, one of which includes folding to Chicago.

With eight games still to play, don’t count the Bears out just yet. If they can take advantage of their divisional rivals’ meltdowns and favorable schedule, they will achieve playoff status for the first time since 2010.

5. Odell Beckham Jr. will not finish as a top-10 receiver

Beckham currently ranks seventh among his fellow wide receivers with 676 yards. But he is going to be hard pressed to finish as a top-10 wideout by the season’s end.

If he keeps tallying receiving yards at the pace of a snail, OBJ will end 2016 with only 1,056 yards. This is taking into account the 47.5 average yards Beckham has recorded over his last two games.

Odell Beckham Jr.Other than two gigantic performances (121 and 222 yards), Beckham is just not catching enough passes. His current catch rate is 55 percent. This is down from 60.8 in 2015 and 70 percent in his rookie year.

At the mid-season point, 12 other wide receivers are within only 100 yards of catching up with Beckham. It is certainly feasible that Beckham slips a few notches down in the rankings while other guys gain traction.

Fans of OBJ’s kicking net explosion have likely not seen the last of his temper tantrums.

6. Christian Ponder will keep the 49ers from finishing 1-15

It has been since Week 1 that the 49ers posted a win. Blaine Gabbert got benched after showing what we all knew — he’s just not a starting-caliber quarterback. And Colin Kaepernick has now started in three games.

Since getting the nod, Kap has offered a mixed bag of results. After completing less than 50 percent of his passes in Weeks 6 and 7, he improved in Week 9. He finished the day with a total of 398 yards after completing 61.54 percent of his passes. He also scored two touchdowns.

Keep in mind folks, that this was against the New Orleans Saints defense. A defense that ranks 25th in the league and tends to bring out the “elite” in opposing quarterbacks.

Kaepernick and Co. don’t exactly have a cakewalk schedule on tap. Their next two matchups are against the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots. Should the losses keep pouring in and Kap continues to struggle, the team will probably consider Christian Ponder.

Ponder was quite impressive in the preseason when he completed an average of 64 percent of his passes and scored four touchdowns compared to one interception. If the 49ers do not manage a win in their next few games, a second quarterback swap to Ponder could be in the works. And from what we’ve heard, at least some on the team might be quite happy about that.

7. New Orleans Saints will make the playoffs

Drew Brees

The Atlanta Falcons lead the NFC South with a 6-3 record. It would take some shifting of the tides within the division for Atlanta to fall behind — something we don’t expect to happen. So, while they head to the NFC divisional playoffs as a top-two seed, the New Orleans Saints will make the playoffs as a wild card.

Quarterback Drew Brees has his offense currently running third-best in the league. It is averaging 30.3 points per game, which is second only to Atlanta.

On the defensive side, the Saints’ anemic pass rush should improve now that rookie defensive tackle, Sheldon Rankins has been activated.

The Saints have a favorable schedule down the home stretch as well. Other than playing Denver and Atlanta, the Saints do not face any teams that have won more than four games at this point.

Outside of the Dallas Cowboys and Falcons, no NFC teams are exactly dazzling. This is why we see New Orleans finishing strong and advancing to a Wild Card Game.

8. Tom Brady finishes season with zero interceptions

A goose egg is usually never a good thing when it comes to football stats. But, the zero currently residing in Brady’s interception column is a beautiful thing.

Brady’s four-game suspension obviously didn’t affect his ability to play at a high level. He appears to be in perfect physical condition and is averaging 329 passing yards per contest after four weeks. Tom Terrific is also completing 73.1 percent of his passes and has attempted 134 throws so far.

There has not been one pick in sight while he’s thrown 12 touchdowns in his first four games back. Boldly, we are predicting that Brady remains perfect in this stat. He has eight more games to go. The toughest defenses he will face are those of the Ravens and Denver Broncos. Baltimore has nine interceptions on the books and Denver has eight.

If Brady can remain perfect without a pick, he will make NFL history.

9. Melvin Gordon scores 22 combined touchdowns

Gordon failed to cross the end zone once in his rookie year. He was essentially a bust, especially when it came to fantasy football.

Now, Gordon is on fire. He has 11 combined touchdowns to date. This includes two receiving scores. Defenses simply have no answers for allowing Gordon to waltz into the end zone at least once on a weekly basis.

Mike McCoy, Melvin GordonAt this pace, Gordon is on track to score 20 touchdowns. We are going to throw in a couple bonus touchdowns to add to this number. Among some of the exploitable rush defenses Gordon faces are those of the Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raiders and Browns.

Along with easily topping 1,300 rushing yards, 22 scores will grace Gordon’s sophomore stat line.

10. Jared Goff and Los Angeles Rams claim the NFC West

The Rams are losing more than they are winning right now, sporting a very Jeff Fisher-like 3-5 record. Not surprisingly, fans are demanding a change in quarterback as Case Keenum’s struggles have greatly contributed to the misery.

But week after week, Fisher has continued to stand behind Keenum, who cannot personally be held responsible for the team’s woes.

That said, it is not rocket science to conclude that Keenum is not getting the job done. After eight games, Keenum has a 77.2 passer rating. While he is averaging a decent 250.5 passing yards per game, his horrible 9:11 touchdown-to-interception ratio has been a problem.

The million dollar question is this: Jow much longer will rookie Jared Goff ride the bench?

Jared Goff

At this time, it appears Fisher is content at leaving Keenum under center until the Rams are out of playoff contention. What kind backwards line of thinking is Fisher following when the NFC West is still up for grabs? There is no real front runner yet. Seattle is 5-2-1 and Arizona sits at 3-4-1.

The only thing we know for certain is that the 49ers are going to lose the division.

Why not take the training wheels off of Goff and get him out there? Despite Fisher’s decision to stick with Keenum for now, we are predicting a change of heart soon enough.

This is by far the boldest prediction here. Goff will come in and shine, leading the Rams to win the NFC West.