Sep 07 2015

The 2015 NFL Hypothesis Report

The NetworksUnited is STILL on!

Which means the Hypothesis Report is active!

Now, the biggest difference between this year and most years is that I’m working at NFL Media now. 1 While this doesn’t figure into my day job, the reality is that I’m there partly due to the work I’ve done for years to familiarize myself with the league every season. My true fans know what it is!

Also worthy of note: I don’t have a team. I’ve never needed to address that, but being in Los Angeles for six years, I’ve had to reaffirm my preference to be objective – which is more like a resistance to subjective, traditional fandom. I like some teams more than others, and some players more than others. I react passionately to storylines, some because they are repulsive and overplayed 2 The Eagles are okay, but don’t go after me because of things they do, ya’heard. I’m from Philadelphia, but I’m not on any team’s payroll. I’ll enjoy my pork and beans all the same.

Caution: If pressed, I will shake salt on your squad. All love and respect, just putting the yellow markings out there!

For those who need the introduction to the NFL Hypothesis Report:

  • I’ll share with you my picks, but understand that it is simply a hypothesis; a barometer if you will.  Once again, I picked all 256 regular season games on the NFL schedule.
  • I predict all of these games before the regular season and don’t change a single pick until the playoffs, no matter how drastically different a team can get over the course of a season.
  • In the scientific method, my hypothesis are these predictions based off of nine factors: passing offense, rushing offense, offensive line, pass rush, run defense, pass defense, and special teams, as well as coaching and intangibles.  I don’t grade the last two factors but they figure into my game-to-game matchups.
  • The games are the experiment that tests every prediction.
  • Crazy stuff happens in games, and it’s a field day for people like me to break it all down.  That’s where I go to work: ANALYSIS.
  • I hold myself accountable for my outrageous methodology, but respect the 2014 record: 151-104-1.  If you picked all 256 games before the season last year without changing a single pick, then you’re on my level.

In the interest of brevity, I’m going to once again keep the analysis of the teams here to a sentence. Included for your edification are the grades that I concluded after the preseason ended last week.

EAST -> NE (11-5, 4th in AFC), BUF (9-7), NYJ (7-9), MIA (6-10)

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 9.58.06 PM

– The Patriots are bringing the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick combo back for a 16th season, and they’ll have to go back to covering for an overhauled secondary.

– The Bills are going to run and rely on the most well-rounded defense in the division, which will have to cover up their effort to forego a reliable air offense.

– The Jets haven’t had consecutive losing seasons since 1994-1996; it’s hard to trust what is an annually poor pass offense, but the return of Darrelle Revis should lead to a bounce back year defensively.

– A few people are high on the Dolphins after they remodeled the receiving corps and signed Ndamukong Suh, but Suh has been on talented teams before that underachieved.

NORTH -> BAL (13-3, 1st in AFC), CIN (9-7), PIT (7-9), CLE (5-11)

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 10.27.58 PM– The Ravens return one of the league’s best offensive lines to go with a defense that just needs the secondary to hold up.

– Andy Dalton has started 64 straight games, a Bengals QB record, but this team may be too soft in the front seven to let him start a fifth straight playoff loss this season.

– The Steelers have an explosive offense, but they won’t be at full capacity until late in the season, and the likely poor defense is a result of years of terrible drafting on that side of the ball.

– The Browns have a good offensive line and a confident secondary, but they may have the worst corps of skill position players in the league… again.

SOUTH -> IND (13-3, 2nd in AFC), HOU (11-5, 5th in AFC), JAX (6-10), TEN (4-12)

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 10.47.04 PM

– The Colts are still average defensively and overly reliant on their transcendent quarterback, but at least Andrew Luck has some viable veteran weaponry as he tries to save his team from postseason beatdowns.

– The Texans are going to struggle to score this season, but so are their opponents, especially if Jadeveon Clowney can take the heat off J.J. Watt and bring it to opposing backfields.

– The Jaguars need their recent high draft picks that still have functional ligaments to form a core after an NFL-high four straight seasons of at least ten losses.

– All eyes will be on rookie QB Marcus Mariota, but the Titans need to figure out who is helping him make plays this season, especially on the ground.

WEST -> DEN (13-3, 3rd in AFC), KC (11-5, 6th in AFC), SD (2-14), OAK (1-15)

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 11.05.59 PM– The Broncos offense will be much different than the previous three seasons with QB Peyton Manning, but they could have one of the league’s stingiest defenses as well.

– If the Chiefs can force more turnovers to go with their solid defense and special teams, then it should complement the conservative offense well enough.

– The Chargers simply have way too many depth issues on both sides of the ball, and it would not be shocking if QB Philip Rivers is unable to start every game for the tenth straight season.

– Whatever plays Khalil Mack and rookie WR Amari Cooper don’t make will leave the Raiders with problems all season on both sides of the ball.

WILD CARD -> DEN over KC + NE over HOU



EAST -> PHI (14-2, 1st in NFC), DAL (10-6), NYG (6-10), WAS (5-11)

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 11.29.42 PM

– Even with an untrustworthy secondary and the most fragile starting QB in the league, the Eagles have a blend of toughness and balance that could allow the team to take a big step forward.

– The Cowboys still have WR Dez Bryant and QB Tony Romo to lean on, but they are the first team to lose the previous season’s rushing leader due to free agency, while their overachieving yet mediocre defense face a lack of depth and talent at every level.

– The Giants are supposed to win the Super Bowl this year, but their superstar WR is on the cover of Madden, while the team’s best defensive player is unfortunately down a digit.

– The Redskins improved the defensive line, but the secondary is still suspect, and they are a safe bet to use multiple starting QBs this season.

NORTH -> GB (13-3, 2nd in NFC), DET (11-5, 5th in NFC), MIN (11-5, 6th in NFC), CHI (7-9)

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 11.49.43 PM– The Packers may have lost their best WR, but they still have an MVP QB, while the annually poor run defense shouldn’t cost them too much before the postseason.

– The Lions haven’t made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1993-1995, but the coaching staff has enough talent to get it done this season especially against the run.

– The Vikings improved at the end of the 2014 season as QB Teddy Bridgewater came into his own, and that trend should continue on into this season if RB Adrian Peterson still runs like an MVP.

– The Black & Blue division needs a cellar dwellar, and a Bears team in transition on defense while waiting out the remainder of QB Jay Cutler’s contract will struggle to keep their ten-year streak of not having consecutive losing seasons alive.

SOUTH -> NO (8-8, 4th in NFC), CAR (6-10), TB (5-11), ATL (4-12)

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 6.52.42 AM– The Saints haven’t had consecutive losing seasons since Mike Ditka and Ricky Williams were together, although they’ll need Sean Payton and Drew Brees to be great with a shallow group of playmakers and a front seven that has been vulnerable for years.

– The Panthers were the beneficiaries of a weak division last year, but their relative improvement defensively figures to be cancelled out this season due to what may a bottom-five pass offense.

– The Buccaneers should get improved coaching this year after having issues at offensive coordinator distract Lovie Smith from the defense, but the offensive line figures to lead to many mistakes from rookie QB Jameis Winston.

– Matt Ryan to Julio Jones should be a lethal connection, but there’s little else that the Falcons can feel too good about this season under new head coach Dan Quinn.

WEST -> SEA (12-4, 3rd in NFC), STL (7-9), SF (6-10), ARI (3-13)Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 7.14.34 AM

– The Seahawks have major issues on the offensive line and with Kam Chancellor’s contract that will keep them from hosting multiple home playoff games, but by the end of the season they’re going to be a tough out due to an improved receiving corps and defensive line.

– The Rams want to be a run-heavy team behind an offensive line that figures to be abused early, and the pass rush isn’t enough to make up for what has become a mistake-prone team.

– Everyone focuses on what the 49ers lost, and while there is still experienced talent on every level, they’ll struggle to reach .500 with their backup coaching staff.

– The Cardinals keep raising expectations due to the presence of Bruce Arians, but the defense figures to take a step back while the offensive line looks extremely hazardous to Carson Palmer’s chances of starting the entire season.

WILD CARD -> SEA over MIN + DET over NO




I’ll make an effort to be around at least once a week to explain how things are going throughout the 2015 season, but the table has been set here! In addition to #TheNU you should follow me @LawMurrayTheNU since I’m obviously going to be in the middle of this all year. I’ll leave you with some award predictions:

MVP: Colts QB Andrew Luck

Offensive Player of the Year: Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles

Defensive Player of the Year: Lions OLB DeAndre Levy

Coach of the Year: Ravens head coach John Harbaugh

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Raiders WR Amari Cooper

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Broncos OLB Shane Ray

Comeback Player of the Year: Eagles QB Sam Bradford

Super Bowl MVP: Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch

(Dylan Young/Deeyung Entertainment)

(Dylan Young/Deeyung Entertainment)

Show 2 footnotes

  1. It should go without saying: my views don’t represent any part of the NFL or NFL Media. Don’t put that on my head!
  2. I.e.,: most narratives involving quarterbacks.

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