Doug Baldwin

Doug Baldwin – Fluke or Legitimate #1 Receiver?

 

Over the second half of the NFL season, Doug Baldwin averaged just over 90 yards and 1.5 touchdowns a game (all statistics in this article came from profootballreference.com). It was, to say the least, an unexpected explosion of production from the 5th year receiver. Inevitably, almost as soon as the season was over, speculation began on whether it was an actual breakout season or simply a flash in the pan. So, can Doug Baldwin sustain that level of production next season and beyond?

The short answer is that yard-wise, he should be around the 1,000 yard mark again, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Baldwin has always been pretty productive on limited targets, and his yards per catch were not significantly different than in previous seasons. In fact, if you average out his 5 seasons, last year’s yards per catch are almost exactly the same (13.7) as his 5-year average (13.98). His targets were up due to a variety of factors: Jimmy Graham’s injury, injuries to Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls, and ever-improving chemistry with Russell Wilson. The place where we will see a drop-off is in touchdowns. Baldwin had 14 last year, 12 of which came in the last 8 weeks. It stands to reason that he will not keep up such a torrid pace; after all, his previous season high for TD receptions was 5.

So yes, Baldwin is a better receiver than he’s gotten credit for; however, he’ll probably have about half the TD receptions he had in 2015 while hovering around the 80 catch, 1,000 yard mark.

 

Keith Shaffer, Easy Streak Contributor

AFC Picks

AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers

They won’t be missing Le’veon Bell to suspension to start the season this year; as long as he, Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown stay healthy, that offense will be a juggernaut. Cincinnati will once again be competitive, but losing a couple of receivers on offense will hurt them just enough to keep them from being repeat division champs. The Ravens should bounce back from a down year and could be a factor, while the Browns are… well, at least Cleveland has Lebron.

 

AFC East: New England Patriots

Next.

 

AFC South (a.k.a. the division everyone tried to lose last year): Indianapolis Colts

The Colts should bounce back from a pretty disappointing season last year to win what is once again a very underwhelming division. The Texans will probably hover around 9-7 again this year, as Brock Osweiler is a functional but unspectacular quarterback.  The Titans and Jags will both be much improved, but there are too many holes on both of their rosters to expect them to contend. Then again, getting to 9-7 might be enough.

 

AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

This division could be a lot of fun to watch as I think every team has a legitimate shot at winning it. The Chargers won’t be as injury-prone as they were last year, and Philip Rivers still has plenty left in the tank. Oakland will keep improving and has some excellent weapons on both sides of the ball. Denver will inevitably fall off from last year’s high but should still be competitive due to their dominant defense.

 

Keith Shaffer, Easy Streak Contributor

NFC Picks

With the start of NFL preseason less than 2 months away, I figure now is as good a time as any to give you my NFL predictions for the upcoming season. Without further ado, here are my predictions for the winner of each division, starting with the NFC.

NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

This division is really a two-team fight between the Packers and the Vikings. The Lions have lost too much talent in recent years and the Bears just don’t have enough on the defensive side of the ball. That leaves the reigning division champs, Green Bay, and the up-and-coming Vikings. As hard as it is for me to pick against Aaron Rodgers, I love what Mike Zimmer is building on the defensive side of the ball. That will keep the Vikings in every game, and in a very tight race I think the offense is just good enough to win a lot of close games.

 

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

In all honesty, this division is an absolute crap shoot. Having said that, as long as Tony Romo stays healthy and Ezekiel Elliot can locate the giant holes that the offensive line will open for him, the offense will be one of the most potent in the NFL. Couple that with New York’s struggles in recent years, Philadelphia switching systems, and the fact that, in my opinion, the Redskins’ limited success last year was an absolute fluke… Dallas wins it by default.

NFC South: Carolina Panthers

This seems like an obvious choice due to the fact that Carolina was absolutely dominant all last season until the Super Bowl, but I think the race will be much closer than last year. Atlanta will continue to improve and will push the Panthers before ultimately falling short. The Saints should return to competence as that defense can’t possibly be any worse than it was last year. The Bucs should be better in Jameis Winston’s second year, but Carolina is simply too good to fall off enough to lose their grip on the NFC South.

NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians has been doing great work in Arizona, and I can’t see that stopping anytime soon. The defense will continue to be athletic and hard-hitting, while the offense will continue to put up points as long as Carson Palmer stays healthy. I would have been inclined to pick the Seahawks since Russell Wilson keeps getting better and they’ve once again kept the bulk of their defensive core intact, but that O-line might be historically bad. As good a coach as Tom Cable is, he can’t work miracles. Neither the Rams nor the 49ers should be a factor in the race.

 

Keith Shaffer, Easy Streak Contributor